One of our all time favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, will be coming to life in a television adaptation that is scheduled to premiere on Starz this April 30th. Over the course of this week, we will be looking at how American Gods, the real-life gods that inspired the characters, and some of Gaiman’s other work have found their way into the world of tattoos. Once you've become familiar with Loki, be sure to go back and meet Anubis, Kali, and Odin.
Because of all the bizarre tales about him and his reputation as a trickster, Loki is one of the most widely admired gods in the Norse pantheon. He has been depicted in numerous art forms, ranging from ancient carvings like those found in the Snaptun Stone (1000 CE) to 19th century paintings and drawings by illustrators such as Mårten Eskil Winge and Johannes Gehrts. Over the course of the last century, Loki's best known incarnation is his portrayal in Marvel’s comics and recent films. His foray into the realm of pop culture has led to him becoming a fixture in the world of body art as well.
Contrary to popular thought, Loki is not Odin’s son, being born of the jötunn Fárbauti and deity Laufey. He is the father of Hel — the Norse god of the underworld — the giant wolf Fenrir, and Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse. Throughout the many tales about Loki, he’s typically situated as being at odds with other deities, hence his notoriety as a villain. He’s most well known for his power to shapeshift, which he uses to fool his peers and bring about their demise during Ragnarök (a battle between the gods that results in the destruction of the world).
In keeping with Loki’s magical abilities, tattooists have depicted him in a wide variety of forms, ranging from Lego figurines to Tom Hiddleston. Some model their illustrations of the nefarious god on comic book depictions of him by artists like Jack Kirby, but the majority of portraits take after the Thor movies, as seen in the realistic pieces by Max Pniewski and Silvano Fiato. Though this popularized version has supplanted old incarnations of Loki, a few of the tattoos here honor specific elements from ancient myths. Josh "T-Rex" de Jonge’s new school illustration, for instance, shows a scene from the Poetica Edda, in which Loki is bound with his son’s entrails while a snake secretes venom on him, his pain creating earthquakes. Eat your heart out, Hollywood.