PBP Weeks 24-25: L—Luck

I ran across this. Richard @connexions, The blog of Richard Hall, a Methodist Minister in Wales asks about the “Etymology of ‘luck’?” He asks:

Anyone out there got an OED? Last night on GodTV, Kenneth Copeland said that the origin of the word “luck” could be traced to “Lucifer”. I’m as sure as I can be that he was talking out of his hat, but if someone could give me chapter and verse (as it were), I’d be grateful.

Why am I bothered?

This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve come across high profile preachers just making stuff up, and their congregation [strikethrough] audience just lapped it up. It irritates me no end.

There is a really interesting conversation in the comments section. Most of it is very well thought-out. Like “Tony Bluegrass” who, early on, points out that “[luck is] from a teutonic [sic] root. Lucifer is from the Latin for light, in turn from the Greek leukos “white”. So unless he can show that glucklich, gelucke, etc are derived from light and white, no chance.”

Some of it is just plain ridiculous. “Maybe” posts:

I had heard that the connection between Lucifer and ‘Luck’ was Scandanavian [sic] in origin (a derivitive [sic] of german [sic]) that was a derivation of Loki. So, an old Norseman may say “Good Loki”, meaning may that Trickster Loki be good to you instead of bad, since you never knew what he was going to do. Loki then, from a Christian perspective, is then the Norse representation of Lucifer, just as “The Great Spirit in the Sky” worshipped [sic] by Indians [WTF!? sic!!] is God.

Then there’s stuff in between. I mean, it’s an attempt at being thoughtful enough but so full of illogical shite that I don’t know what to do with it. “Bishop Jackson” writes:

As usual, people miss the deeper spiritual point. Whether the etymology of luck can be directly traced to Lucifer or not, the concept of “luck” presupposes a random universe rather than one in which God moves in the affairs of those who seek His help. If I have God, I do not need luck. If I need luck, I do not respect God’s power to help me. From a biblical [sic] and Christian perspective, luck is directly tied to Lucifer as a way of relating to the world without God. I never use the word. To me, while it is used with the best of intentions, it is a form of blasphemy, particularly when used by the believer in Jesus Christ, whose hope and trust should be solely in Him. I know it is is done mostly out of habit and without mal-intent, but Christians really ought to know better.

“Doxology Data,” “Jon,” and “Symphathy” [sic, for Christ’s sake; don’t y’all have SpellCheck?] agree, saying (respectively):

Bishop Jackson – well said! I do not use the word, either – for the same reason. There is BLESSING and CURSING, not luck. Death and Life. The law of sin and death or the law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus. Christians should NOT use the word “luck”!

and

SHOUTOUT to Bishop Allen, sticking to his guns amidst a sea of evidence to the contrary. That has to be considered as some sort of dedication.

and

The basis of the statement is from the [W]ord. God called that we walk in blessing. No where in the bible [sic] do we speak of living by luck. If we recognize that nothing happens by chance, we will understand the origin of the word luck.
Refer to: – Deutronomy [sic] 28:1 – If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. . . .

The closest any of the comments came to answering the question from a real etymological perspective are “Beth” and finally “Cindy” who posted from the Online Etymological Dictionary, not exactly an authoritative text. Folks like “DmL” give it a whirl, but don’t really know what they are reading aside from the origins–even at that.

I happen to be a “dirty Heathen” who uses the word “luck” in a religious framework and am in dialogue about Loki on a regular basis. I also own an OED.

This is the most updated digital version.

This is the most updated digital version.

And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to post my comment on a Christy blog post, believing it would start a firestorm of unrelated anti-Pagan commentary and undesirable off-topic “prayers” for my “soul,”  so I will just speak my piece here. Call me a wimp, but I’d rather play on home-turf this round.

Let’s start with the etymology since that’s what “Richard” was asking for the whole time. We can’t really use the modern word, “luck,” since it doesn’t appear until post-Christianity (15th c.).

Basically, the contradictory commentary above takes a long time to say that, “The ultimate etymology of Middle High German gelücke . . .is obscure. . . . nothing could be more plausible than Paul’s view. . . that the word is connected with [success] . . . But morphologically this assumption seems quite inadmissible. . . .” In other words, “We want to think it always meant success, but we can’t prove a connection based in scholarship.” In other other words, there’s no real connection between “luck” as we use it today and “luck” as it meant before the Middle Ages.

The next part is more helpful: “Formally, the word might be cognate with louk v.1 or louk v.2, or with German locken to entice. . . but no probable hypothesis seems to have been formed to connect the meaning of the noun with that of any of these verbs.” 

So the verb is one thing, the noun another? Maybe.

You see, locken–a verb for “entice” is related to the word “lokkur.” Lokkur in turn is  part of the word “vordlokkur,” which means “guard lure” and is used to describe the practice of calling guardian spirits through song. (See this post and this post for more info.) Further, louk–a verb for bind or lock–also means “to pull up” or unroot. Nothing to do with success.

In order to figure out what “used to mean luck” we need to reverse-engineer the term.

Something that happened by chance, something that had to do with success was “spéd” or “speed” as in “godspeed” or god spēdan (“may God cause you to succeed”). Wonder if Kenneth Copeland minds that term?

Speed

Another term is “wígbléd” which translates as “battle branch” or “battle blossom.” (Nothing to do with bleeding–that’s “blédan.”) Because OE is a language full of imagery, I’m going with the more figurative interpretation of the kenning: “the fruits of war.” How I would lurve to see conservative Christians claiming that the fruits of war or the branches of strife are related to Satan.

They aren’t related–but neither is “luck” related to “Lucifer,” so . . .

You see, to imagine that a Teutonic word would end up in a Hebrew lexicon at all is pretty far-fetched. Maybe’s comment about Loki made me laugh so hard I nearly peed myself. How, pray tell, can a pre-Christian culture predict the attributes that were to be given to “the adversary”? To Christians, I say, “Y’all are the one’s who made Loki into Lucifer (and who made Lucifer into Satan, BTW)–don’t blame us for your silliness.”

Let me go off on a side rant for a second, OK? 

In Arabic, the Shayṭān, like other djinn, are created out of “smokeless fire or from the pure flame of fire.” But that’s not exactly the same as Satan. The name Satan comes from the Hebrew term ha-satan , meaning simply “the adversary.” In the Torah and Talmud this term is used to describe the unnamed enemies of the Israelites (see Zechariah). And in Job, “Satan” is used as a term to refer to idea of Satan as the “prosecuting attorney.” Note that the Satan figure of Job is completely obedient to God. He is in no way evil, he just has a job that some might find distasteful. Like The Bad Witch. Satan is a figure from Jewish aggadh–or lore–didactic texts geared toward teaching rather than law-giving. Never is the devil referred to as the evil one. And the concept is never connected to the figure of Lucifer–this is a medieval inference. Lucifer is translated from heylel, meaning “light bearer.” (The Latin is  “the morning star,” which is the planet Venus. The Greek, heōsphoros, is also “bringer of dawn.”) But that’s also a term used for Christ. Clearly, neither Satan or Lucifer were ever intended to be proper nouns.

Loki on the other hand. Totally an individual.

I can see where Satan and Loki could be connected (but not Lucifer–the light-bringer is Baldr). Loki is a trickster character and adversary to the gods. He mucks things up and forces the gods to problem-solve. Loki is a figure for human progress and the impetus for change (antithetical to the desires of the “Golden Age Aesir” who wanted nothing more than to eat Adunna’s apples and play bounce-the-Mjolnir-off-Baldr–kinda like Adam and Eve in Eden). In no other culture/religion is the “trickster” considered “evil.” Only Islam and Christianity. The Ha-Satan, the adversary, the challenger, the prosecutor, gets turned into “The Devil” (Old English dēofol from Latin diabolus, “slanderer” or “accuser”). Because it is only after Christianity that we get a portrayal of Loki–the troublemaker, the adversary, the gad-fly–no wonder he get’s a bad name. Maybe I’m just protective of my “goad” gods.

Back to luck.

The concept of “luck” as a Teutonic idea relates to the Northern European pre-Christian Pagan collective spiritual health of a tribe, clan, or kindred. Seems to me, some Christians on Richard’s blog thread are a little out of luck.

Ironically, the luck of the tribe was intimately connected to their relationship with the divine. It was only after the Romanization of tribal areas (and their languages) that luck became ascribed to connoting randomness. Previously luck had been counted as divine reciprocity for intentionally thewful (lawful, respectable, etc) behavior. Kinda like getting your god’s blessings for obeying your own commandments. (Here is Swain Wodening’s description of the interplay of “Wyrd, Luck, and Frith”–and here is Defunct Paradigm’s discussion of the relationship between “Wyrd, Orlæg, Worth, Honor, and Luck“–to both of these conversations, I would add Gefrain.) Of course it went the other way too–“luck” is also affected by *not* behaving righteously. Today we call that “bad luck.” Then, it was just *your* luck–that luck which you accumulated by your actions in the face of divine judgment.

So the claim that “the concept of ‘luck’ presupposes a random universe rather than one in which God moves in the affairs of [humans]” and that the concept of luck connotes disrespect for divine power and that believing in “luck”  is “a way of relating to the world without God” is fundamentally flawed based purely on a misunderstanding of the word “luck.”

Of course Christianity vilified all that was not theirs, so no surprise. (And I’m not even blaming modern Christians, rather this is an Early Medieval phenomenon which was passed down through half a millennium.) It makes sense that “luck,” a heathen concept for the blessings of (our) divine would become translated as anti-theistic nose-thumbing by those who want to impugn heathen ethics.

“Good Loki,” said no Norseman ever. “Godspeed,” on the otherhand? Turns out even modern “luck” is still attributed to the divine.

Waes tu hael, good luck, godspeed, blessed be.

~E

pbp4

 

This post is part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Project, “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing your spiritual and magickal path. . . . Each week there is a specific prompt for you to work with in writing your post, a prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet . . . .” (http://paganblogproject/)

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