The Loki Stone is an 8th-century carved image of the Scandinavian god Loki, bound and chained. It is one of only two known carved figures of this type in Europe and the only one in Britain. We don't know how the stone got to Kirkby Stephen, but it is a reminder of the Norse influence in this region before the Norman invasion in 1066.
We don't know where the stone was originally located. It was moved several times over the centuries, and for many years it was among a collection of old tombstones outside the eastern part of St. Stephen's Church, open to the elements. Fortunately, it has now found a home inside the church, directly across from the south door, from where visitors can see it immediately upon entering.
The stone is about 1 meter high and is rectangular in shape. It has been dated variously between the 8th and 10th centuries, but the most commonly accepted date is from the 8th century. One aspect of the carving is that it continues on top of the stone. That is, the figure of Loki is on the surface facing you when you look at the stone, but the carving continues on top of the stone, as if the vertical surface was not large enough to convey everything the sculptor wanted to show. The sides of the stone are carved in a simple interwoven geometric pattern.
Loki Laufeyarson is a Norse god (Viking) and an important figure in Scandinavian mythology. Loki, son of the giants Farbauti and Laufey, is a trickster, a joker, and a villain. One of his tricks went too far and ended up killing the son of the god Odin, his half-brother. For this he was chained and imprisoned in the underground. In this sense, Loki can be seen as the very crude Norse equivalent of the Christian Satan or the Egyptian Seth. Unlike Satan, however, Loki was not an evil figure, but a deceiver, a master of deceit and deception, known for playing tricks on the gods. He could change form into a bird, a fish, an insect, or take the form of any man or woman. People never knew when they could deal with Loki, for he could take any form he chose. Often, however, Loki's plots and tricks fail and have unpleasant consequences for Loki.
One of the most famous stories about Loki has to do with the death of Baldr, Odin's second son. Baldr was the fairest and most merciful of the gods. Loki made a dart out of mistletoe, the only plant that did not swear not to harm Baldr. He tricked Baldr's blind brother, Hur, into throwing the dart at Baldr, killing him. The gods killed Loki's child, Narfi, and used Narfi's insides to tie Loki to three large stones. Above his head they placed a poisonous snake, whose venom was to drip on his head.