Sunday, August 3, 2014

Who Is Lugh, and What's Logi Got to Do With It?

I created a slight neoPagan controversy when I posted a link to "The Loki in Lughnasa," a post I wrote in 2012, on Tumblr. That post relied heavily on Barbara J. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, a source I have learned is highly questionable. Since August 1st, I learned that:

- The Celtic god Lugh (sometimes spelled without the "h") is not a fire god.

- The association between the Norse god Loki and the Norse fire giant Logi is an error.

- No solid evidence links Loki in Norse mythology to Lugh in Celtic mythology.

So, who is Lugh? What is he the Celtic god of? Who is Logi? And who confused Logi with Loki? We'll look at each of these questions in turn.


In my very first Lughnasadh post, written in 2010 when I was still fairly new to blogging, I wrote:

"The Irish consider it the feast of the god Lugh, who consecrated it in honor of his foster-mother's death. Lugh's foster-mother Tailtiu, "The Great One of the Earth," represents the land of Ireland itself. Thus, her death is symbolic of the harvest: the crops sacrifice themselves so human beings and animals can live. Tailtiu's death was celebrated with feasting, Olympic-style games, bonfires and handfasting ceremonies. Where corn is harvested, the goddess is often visually represented by making corn dolls."

Contemporary corn doll depicting Lugh. Creative Commons image by MountainAsh333
Unfortunately, I didn't happen to note the source of that information. I did better in 2013's Mabon post, when I referred to Lugh's article at Encyclopedia Mythica. It says:

"Lugh is the Celtic lord of every skill. He was patron of Lugodunum (Lyons) in Gaul. He and his nature goddess consort (Rosmerta) were worshipped during the 30 day Lugnasad midsummer feast in Ireland. Fertility magic during this festival ensured ripening of the crops and good harvest. He was called Lamfhada or 'of the long arm' in Gaelic because of his great spear and sling. His animal attributes were the raven and the lynx. Lugh mirrors Hindu Karttikeya, the spiritual warrior, and Roman Mercury, the swift messenger. His exploits are recounted in the Tain Bo Cuailnge, the Cattle-raid of Cooley." - Dave Buchert

So Lugh is a skilled warrior, a swift messenger, and a fertility god. Well, that's minimally informative. Wikipedia is user-generated, and therefore not the most reliable source, but it tells us that:

- Lugh's Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes. As you may recall from this post, Lleu Llaw Gyffes was the son of the goddess Arianrhod. She cursed him never to marry an earthly woman, so instead he married the unearthly Bloddeuwedd, made from nine different flowers.

- His father, Cian, is of the Tuatha Dé Danann, or "tribe of the goddess Danu." His mother, Ethniu, belongs to the Fomorians, the mythical people who were said to have inhabited Ireland before the Celtic people got there.

- Lugh was given to a foster mother, Queen Tailtiu, to raise, possibly because of a prophecy that his maternal grandfather would be killed by his grandson. Lugh's grandfather Balor was said to have a poisonous eye that killed everyone he looked on it with.

Cú Chulainn by J.C. Leyendecker. Public domain. 
- The king of the Tuatha Dé Danann appointed Lugh to his court because he had so many different skills. The Tuatha Dé Danann are being oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh agrees to help the Tuatha Dé Danann regain their freedom.

- In a battle against the Fomorians, Lugh uses a slingshot to shoot out his grandfather Balor's evil eye, causing the Fomorians to lose the battle.

- During the battle, Lugh spares the life of Bres, a former king who agrees to teach the Tuatha Dé Danann the secrets of agriculture. However, Lugh ultimately killed Bres by causing him to drink the poisonous "milk" of 300 wooden cows Lugh had made.

- Later in his life, Lugh instituted the Olympic-style games in memory of his foster mother. August 1 was the conclusion of the games.

- Lugh had several wives, including the daughter of a British king. One of his wives had an affair with Cermait, son of the Irish father-god The Dagda. Lugh killed Cermait, but then Cermait's three sons killed Lugh.

- In some versions, Lugh is the father of the Irish hero Cú Chulainn. When Cú Chulainn is severely wounded in battle, Lugh arrives and heals his wounds.

Mythography says the confusion of Lugh with a deity of the sun may have to do with his nickname, "Shining One." However, the nickname was probably in reference to all his various skills. It also says Lugh ascended to become the leader of Tuatha Dé Danann when the god Nuada was killed in battle.

So that's Lugh - a mythological figure who may have been based on a historical king, but was said to have belonged to the divine tribe of the goddess Danu.

Public domain image by John McColgan.

Wikipedia says that Logi means "fire" in Old Norse and that the mythological Logi was a fire giant. It says the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlson describes the eating contest between Logi and Loki. They competed to see who could most quickly eat meat from the bones, and Logi won by consuming meat, bones, and trencher all alike. Not only was Logi a fire giant, he was also the personification of fire itself.

Logi has two brothers, one who rules over the winds and another who rules over the sea. In astronomy, Loge (an alternate spelling) is one of the moons of Saturn. adds that Logi was called High-Logi because he was so tall. His wife was named Glow, and they had two daughters named Ashes and Embers. After the death of his wife and daughters, Logi lived alone in a black-rock cave in Muspellheim (the land of fire).

So it seems unlikely Logi has anything at all to do with Lugh. Lugh has an association with blacksmiths, who do use fire, but that has more to do with Lugh's many skills than it does to any elemental connection Lugh might have.

Loki and Sigyn in a painting by Mårten Eskil Winge. Public domain.
The Confusion of Logi With Loki

According to,Wagner named a character in the Ring opera cycle Loge and gave him the characteristics of the mythological Loki. Wagner's Loge is a fire sprite.

Wikipedia's Loki article says Jacob Grimm referred to Loki as a "fire god" in 1835. It also says:

"Famously, Loki appears in Richard Wagner's opera cycle Ring of the Nibelung as Loge (a play on Old Norse loge, 'fire'). He is depicted as an ally of the gods (specifically Wotan's assistant rather than Donner's), although he generally dislikes them and thinks of them as greedy, as they refuse to return the Rhine Gold to its rightful owners. In the conclusion of the first opera Das Rheingold he reveals his hope to turn into fire and destroy Valhalla, and in the final opera Götterdämmerung, Valhalla is set alight, destroying the Gods."

Wagner completed Das Rheingold in 1856, post-Grimm. Collin Cleary's essay "Wagner's Place in the Germanic Tradition" clearly points the finger at Grimm as the source of the confusion between Logi and Loki:

"The Grimms often made imaginative links between names and other elements in the sources they utilized, and this seems to have emboldened Wagner to do the same – achieving a kind of fusion of German and Scandinavian elements. Indeed, some of the inferences or connections Wagner has been criticized for actually have their origin with the Grimms. For example, Wagner also includes a character named 'Loge,' who is the equivalent of the Scandinavian Loki. In fact, there is scant evidence that there was a Loki figure in the German mythological world. However, Jacob Grimm postulated 'Locho' or 'Loho' as possible German equivalents. Wagner didn’t particularly like either, and settled on 'Loge.'

"Purists have long railed against Wagner, however, for making his Loge/Loki a god of fire. Again, however, this has its origin in Grimm. In Scandinavian myth there was a fire giant named Logi, and Grimm thought that there might be a connection to Loki. (More recent scholarship doesn’t support this.) We find the origin of Wagner’s Loge in these words of Jacob Grimm: 'Now a striking narrative . . . places Logi by the side of Loki: a being from the giant province beside a kinsman and companion of the gods. This is no mere play upon words, the two really signify the same thing from different points of view, Logi the natural force of fire, and Loki with a shifting of the sound, a shifting of the sense: of the burly giant has been made a sly, seducing villain.'"

The Brother Grimm. Public domain. 
There we have it: Lugh is not Logi, Logi is not Loki, and Loki is definitely not Lugh.

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