While I don’t participate in #JulyForLoki as originally intended–that of a daily blogging project–I did choose to turn the focus of the blog more on Loki than usual. My other project, when I asked, seemed to throw a lot of harvest-y stuff at me. Apparently I am supposed to lovingly stare at my pumpkins…devotionally? Or give Loki a pumpkin? Who knows.
Frey and Thor are getting pumpkins. Loki can have one too. Especially since I made fish emulsion for the pumpkins out of freebie lox that got nasty. Symbolism.
Lokabrenna as a holiday is a thoroughly modern invention, popular among Lokeans for the fact that Loki doesn’t really get any feast days, days of the week, (no, Saturday is not Lokadagr) or any special mention at known rituals from the historical record. But irrespective of whether he was worshipped then, he’s worshipped now. I am a fussy jerk about many things, and get more recon as time goes by, but honoring Loki is…well, honoring Loki.
The name of that celebration, and therefore the reason for the season, comes from the Old Icelandic name for the star Sirius. I’ve seen translations of the name run from the matter-of-fact and charming “Loki’s Torch” to the more severe “Conflagration of [as in “made by”] Loki,” which seems to reference Ragnarok. There doesn’t seem to be any surviving lore contemporaneous with the original heathen practice that totally clarifies this, beyond the implication of Ragnarok.
For more thorough overviews of the history of Sirius’s association with Loki, I’d recommend Lokavinr’s post on the subject, and the Lokabrenna tag on GrumpyLokeanElder’s WordPress archive.
Because Lokabrenna is named for Loki, and there was a precedent for celebrating the heliacal rising of Sirius in a few other cultures (the Egyptians, for example–though other cultures have other heliacal risings of note), a modern celebration was put together to honor Sirius’s supposed contribution to the heat of the dog days. The idea being, allegedly, that Sirius being out during the day in the summer would enhance the daytime heat. Its rising just before the sun signals the beginning of its reappearance in the night sky–and therefore the return of cooler weather.
Personally, I’m down for this, as someone who likes to pick out the clusters of stars that would have been constellations known to the Vikings. (The VikingAnswerLady page on that is worth a look.) And it would have almost exclusively been stars visible in winter, given that summer means near-constant sunlight.
Because the dog days are variable, but do tend to take up most of July, devoting the entire month to Loki in anticipation of Sirius/Lokabrenna’s rising is a simplification for practicality’s sake. Not everyone has the time, patience, or even just the spoons to calculate the exact time, and then have a ritual on top of that.
If you happen to be one of those people who does like to figure out exact times, though…
The Boring Math
The Heliacal Rising of a star is (as previously mentioned) the event in which it rises just prior to the sun after having been absent from the night sky. Heliacal risings mark the transition from the star’s invisibility during daytime hours, to its resumed visibility in the night sky.
There’s a handful of tools available that will vastly simplify the process for you. The one I am most familiar with is the Heliacal Rising Simulator, which allows you to punch in your latitude, choose from marking twilight (astronomical) or sunrise as a frame of reference, and fiddle with a date slider to figure out which date most closely aligns with Sirius’s heliacal rising. I would recommend dawn as your frame of reference, though nautical or civil dawn may be more practical than astronomical dawn.
There will be many, many tabs open while you research this.
It will be worth it. I promise. There is nothing quite like witnessing a star’s return for yourself. And then you have the added benefit of having a whole bunch of free time, because you got up before the sun.
So when you’ve picked your date and you’re ready to head out, brew yourself a big pot of coffee. Pour Loki a cup while you’re at it.
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2 thoughts on “Lokabrenna: the Historical, the Modern…and the Boring Math.”
If you don’t mind my saying, you are such a nerd about research…and that is why I love your blog.
I mean, I consider myself a nerd too and I like to do research for my blog posts* – but you…you outclass me in the details and I love it.
Thanks for writing this post!
And if it’s not too much – I did laugh at the pumpkin/fish emulsion/bad lox devotional thing.
Sounds nasty but in an interesting way 🤔
*I realize I let my emotions get in the way of my research. My emotions get in the way of a lot of things. Just ask Loki. He’ll tell ya all about it; that’s what I’m known for. Lol.
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That’s very high praise, thank you! I spent the first four years of Heathenry just kind of winging it, and then realized research is immensely satisfying. So I always try to forward what I learn to streamline the process for other people lol.
And YES, whew, fish emulsion is super gross and smells terrible lmao. But my pumpkins love it for the nitrogen and phosphorus, and the salmon thing is funny, so it’s worth it.
And tbh, despite my obsession with the academia, there’s a lot of moments where I feel like my heart’s gonna explode because GODS?!?! GODS. That can distract even the most bookish of bookworms, lol. So, no shame in that, I think!
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