This is How I Rant

I’m incredibly angry, which is a typical reaction to coming across an article that insists that Loki doesn’t exist. The article I’m talking about can be found in the Vor Tru magazine, volume 97, on page 17, and was written by Kollr Logmather, the allsherjargothi of the Asatru Alliance.

Loki is called a “fabrication.” Now, I obviously have several issues with this, but the most important issue to address is the fact that there are people out there who say Loki was made up by Christians in order to make conversion easier.

Except if you think about that argument using even an iota of intelligence, it’s easy to see the flaws in it. I mean, Loki didn’t need to be “made up” in order to scare Pagans into converting to Christianity when they were being threatened with death if they failed to convert. There was no need to invent another nemesis when Satan is supposed to be the embodiment of pure evil. That theory is, in a word, ridiculous.

I’m not usually dismissive of other people’s views, but I can’t abide the disrespect directed towards Loki. I get irritated by the people who claim Loki is the equivalent of a Norse Satan, but at least I can understand where they are coming from. At least I can catch a glimpse of their perspective and understand that they are simply unable to understand Loki’s real nature. What I can’t understand – what I don’t want to try to understand, if I’m being honest – are those who try to claim that Loki doesn’t exist.

That’s like saying Odin doesn’t exist. Any real polytheist – and yes, I’m drawing lines in the sand here – will acknowledge the existence of all the Gods in all pantheons. That’s what it means to be a polytheist. If someone is going to follow a polytheistic faith, it’s kinda imperative that they are actually polytheists. Just because you don’t like a god doesn’t give you the right to claim that god doesn’t exist.

Especially when there are enough people in the “Loki cult” who have interacted with Loki to discredit the statement that Loki is a fabrication. If you can’t tell by now, I’m incredibly pissed off. I didn’t realize how anti-Loki the Asatru Alliance was before I ordered a one-year subscription to Vor Tru (luckily it’s only 4 issues). If I had know their stance on Loki before I ordered the subscription, I wouldn’t have ordered it – that’s the bare minimum of respect I feel is required for the Gods that I honor.

Once I came across that article, I was so disgusted that I couldn’t even finish reading the magazine. I was unimpressed with Vor Tru before I got to that article, so all the article did was piss me off and give me the material for this post. I can give you a list for why Vor Tru is a terrible publication: terrible grammar, no depth to any of the articles, no quoted research or references, all the articles highlight opinions rather than facts, and so on. That, to me, is the hallmark of an unprofessional publication. That it is supposed to be the reflection of the face of the Asatru Alliance pisses me off because reputation matters.

Most people will brush off the idea of reputation, but reputation is incredibly important. Your reputation is, to some degree, where your honor comes from. Your integrity is what builds your reputation, and the two of them together is what determines your honor. And, in my opinion, the Vor Tru magazine lacks integrity. If the magazine that is supposed to be the reflection of the Asatru Alliance lacks integrity, then it tells me the Asatru Alliance lacks integrity, and it makes me very, very glad that I never chose to join that organization.

In contrast, the Asatru Community, which I am a part of, immediately took action against those who offered insult to the Lokean group (and, by the way, in case anyone is unclear on this little tidbit, an insult offered to a God’s worshipers is an insult offered to the God being worshiped) in order to uphold the bylaws of the organization.

Let me reiterate – if the article in question had been professional, I wouldn’t be this irate. If there had been references to actual research and a professional presentation, I wouldn’t be completely pissed off. But when there are people writing for Vor Tru who make it a point to point out that they are “real” Heathens instead of “posers like the Facebook Heathens,” I can’t be silent. Actually, I refuse to be silent.

I don’t care what you believe, but I hate those people who are ignorant enough to think that it is okay to elevate themselves because they believe the “right way.” And that’s what it really comes down to, in the end. If you’re going around telling people that they should and shouldn’t worship certain Gods or that they aren’t “real Heathens,” what you are doing is proudly and arrogantly standing up on a podium and saying the equivalent of a, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, I’m right and you’re wrong, and that makes me the best.” And, to all those people out there doing that, this is me saying fuck off.

Loki & Polytheism

Laine Delaney has posted a new article about Loki on her patheos blog, The Lady’s Quill, and that post can be found here.

I thought it was a good article that raised a a good point. The point she made was that it can be difficult for American Heathens who grow up in a predominantly Christian culture to transition into a polytheistic worldview. That actually echoes what I’ve been reading in the book I mentioned previously, “The Deities are Many: A Polytheistic Theology,” by Jordan Paper.

In the introduction, he states, “Due to the mind-set of singularity normative to monotheistic thinking, it is difficult for beginning Western researchers of polytheistic traditions to understand that in these traditions the numinous are actually multiple. For example, a few years ago I was at an international religious studies conference in South Africa. Several graduate students studying African religions approached me regarding their problems in comprehending the fullness of these traditions. If the rituals are oriented toward the ancestors, then how can Earth, and so on, also be numinous? And what about the deities (who are dead human beings in these traditions)? What needed to be understand is that all of these can be numinous simultaneously, without contradiction and without conflict; this is the essence of polytheism.” 

That is perhaps the best way that I have ever seen the difficulty between monotheistic and polytheistic thinking explain. In her article about Loki, Laine points to the difficulty people transitioning from a monotheistic faith with a sense of absolute good and evil to a polytheistic faith where good and evil are far from absolute and every deity shares equally in both. It is far easier to scapegoat one of the gods into a figure of absolute evil than try to understand evil as a relative (rather than absolute) concept.

When put in that context, it is easy to understand why Loki gets put in a box labeled “evil, do not touch,” by so many Heathens. Monotheistic thinking and polytheistic thinking are 100% non-compatible. In the United States, where the majority of people are monotheists, the culture reflects that as the norm. It’s easy to see the monotheistic imprint of the Western world in nearly everything. The superhero movies we have that everyone loves are often set to the tone of “here’s this one guy that saves the world,” and it’s a very monotheistic way to look at the world. There are exceptions, of course, but the theme is a very familiar one.

So when a person turns away from a faith like Christianity that considers itself monotheistic, that person also has to confront an entirely new ideological framework. It is very easy to fall into the patterns of thinking that the monotheistic culture around us engenders – absolute right vs absolute wrong – and turn a god like Loki into a figure of absolute evil.

Yet, if there is one thing that a polytheist shouldn’t do it’s to try and corral their ideals into two distinct corners. I’ve come across the argument that duotheism and polytheism are separate ideologies, and I’ve been reflecting on that for awhile now in order to decide whether I agree or not. I find that I do agree – duotheism and polytheism aren’t the same type of ideology at all. “Duo” means “two,” “poly” means “many.”

It could be argued, in fact, that Christianity is a duotheistic faith rather than a monotheistic faith. Christians believe in a God and they believe in Satan. They don’t worship Satan, but they believe he exists, and because he is the Christian God’s primary adversary, he can be considered a god in his own right. That is a duotheistic framework, and that framework cannot be applied to polytheism.

When we think about polytheism, especially since we live in a monotheistic culture (or duotheistic, however you choose to look at it), we need to remember that poly means “three or more.” And once you have three deities who all differ in modality, the question of absolute right and absolute wrong disappear. Between three people, there are going to be issues where there are three separate arguments, and that doesn’t allow for a either-or type of scenario.

Yet because we live in a monotheistic culture, a lot of new Pagans (and new Heathens) try to apply the concepts of absolute right and wrong to polytheistic concepts. It’s no wonder so many people end up hopelessly confused as they try to muddle through. It took me years to fully mentally integrate myself into a polytheistic modality of thought – monotheistic thinking no longer makes sense to me. But there is definitely a transitory period that every new Pagan must experience before a polytheistic modality becomes commonplace.

That transition is made more difficult by the fact we live in a monotheistic culture. If I am out in a storm, I see Thor’s hand at work. If I see someone helping a homeless man, I see Tyr’s hand at work. When I come across beautiful poetry, I see both Odin and Bragi. When I see beautiful clothes, I see Freyja. When I meet someone whose compassion makes her an excellent mother, I see Frigga at work. When weird things happen (like snacks getting caught in a vending machine), I see Loki at work. I see all of these things because I see the world through a polytheistic lens. What monotheists see, when these things happen, is, at best, coincidence.

In my experience, polytheism eradicates the concept of coincidence. Things don’t happen just because they happen – there’s a reason for even the tiniest events. This isn’t the type of worldview that the dominant monotheistic culture in the United States employs, and that means that the majority of people cannot understand polytheism. They don’t have the foundation for a polytheistic framework, and it takes years to properly develop one after being exposed (especially if force-fed) a monotheistic doctrine.

That, I think, is why there is so much fear and misunderstanding directed towards Loki. As a God that is neither good nor evil, but amoral (some of you may remember the post I wrote about how I view the Gods to be amoral by human standards), His nature is wholly outside of the expectations and understanding of the dominant monotheistic culture. That’s probably the reason those who are called to Him are those who, in some ways, already stand outside that culture due to certain aspects of who they are, such as sexuality and gender identity.

Those of us who were part of minorities before becoming Pagan already felt like we didn’t belong to the dominant culture, which means we never fully embraced the monotheistic construct of that culture. In turn, that made it easier for us to transition from the monotheistic framework to the polytheistic one, and that is why it so much easier for us to understand Loki than it is for others.

Consequently, however, once a polytheistic framework is fully adopted, it is virtually impossible to understand the monotheistic framework so many people bring with them into polytheistic paths. That may be why so many Pagans choose Wicca over other faiths – although there are Wiccans who are polytheists, Wicca itself is a duothestic faith that operates on a God & Goddess structure. It is much easier to go from believing in one God to believing in one God and one Goddess than it is to go from believing in one God to believing in multiple deities of different genders. Then throw in the wights and spirits, and you have a recipe for a very confused new pagan.

What I have seen, over and over, throughout the years, is that for a lot of people, Wicca is a gateway spirituality. I don’t mean to discredit Wicca at all – I think Wicca is a beautiful faith, and I commend those who follow that path. But I have seen that many people start with Wicca when they turn to Paganism and then they, for a lack of better word, outgrow the faith. They need more. Two deities aren’t enough.

Even if Wicca is only ever used as a gateway spirituality, it is a vital, intrinsic tradition among Paganism. We need Wicca to serve as the foundation for a transition from monotheism to polytheism; it is the bridge between the two worlds, and it is the only one that exists. There are a lot – a LOT – of Heathens who make disparaging remarks about Wicca, and that really needs to stop.

I remember one of the very first Heathen groups I joined talking about how Wicca wasn’t a “real” religion because there was no lore. There was so much pride in the fact that Asatru has its own lore and a historical foundation, which would have been fine if it hadn’t been accompanied by a “look how much better we are than Wicca!” attitude to accompany that pride.

Back then, I was too new to Heathenry to be able to make a rational argument against that attitude, but after six years walking this path, I can make that argument today. Wicca may not have the historical foundation that Asatru does, but Asatru’s lore has been decimated by the way it was passed down through a Christian writer. Too much monotheism has bled into Asatru as a result of the lore, and it is because of that stain on our lore that gods like Loki are so misunderstood.

Being Pagan is hard enough, but to turn to Heathenry and then have to constantly reinterpret the lore through polytheistic eyes (when it was interpreted through monotheistic ones originally) that the majority of new Heathens do not yet possess – that approaches a level of insanity. The Norse myths have been rewritten for a monotheistic audience, and Heathens are, for the most part, polytheists.

Because of the difficulties found within Heathenry, I will always identify myself as a polytheist first, pagan second, and heathen third. The reason for this is that polytheism is the framework on which my spirituality is built, paganism is broad enough to encompass multiple belief systems, and heathen, for me, just lets people know that the Norse pantheon of Gods is the pantheon I put before the other pantheons.

Polytheism, like the deities themselves, is very complex, and it is important to understand that the level of complexity found within a polytheistic framework is incredibly difficult to develop when surrounded by a dominant monotheistic culture.

 

 

The Fine Line

I’ve talked before about how a lot of the practices I employ are shamanistic in nature. For those who are unaware, I was born into a family of Empath-shamans and was raised learning how to employ shamanistic techniques. I grew up thinking that the techniques were Empath techniques until I met a few Empaths and realized that the major work that Empaths do was the basis of all the work that I do. In other words, I take empathy into the realm of shamanistic practice because that is what I was raised being taught to do. My teacher was my mother, and, in my family, the shamanistic gift is passed through the maternal line (through the paternal line comes the gift of prophecy).

There were three very important lessons that I was taught when I first started learning. The first was that it was vital that I learn not to judge others for things they couldn’t control. I was taught that everyone was different, that different people viewed the world in different ways, and I needed to learn how to see the world through many, many perspectives.

That lesson may seem pretty straightforward, but it isn’t. When my mom told me that I had to learn to see the world through many different perspectives, she didn’t just mean I needed to consider the situation of each person I came across. She meant I had to learn what it felt like to live within their skin. I had to learn to merge my aura with the auras of others, and I had to learn how to compartmentalize my mind so that I could truly shift into the mentality of another person. I can’t say much more than that, however, as the techniques I use are ancestral ones.

That actually brings me to the second lesson I was taught, which was that the more I discussed a technique with others (those outside my family), the weaker the ability would become. For years, I was terrified of talking to people about being an empath (I didn’t know I was using shaman techniques until I was in my 20’s). I eventually learned that it was okay to talk about empathy – that is the surface level of the type of shamanism that I have inherited – but I have to be careful not to discuss the unique techniques I use that are purely shamanic in nature.

For example, I can teach people the process of learning how to dreamwalk, but I can’t disclose the methods I use to cross from this realm to another realm – it feels forbidden. And it’s a feeling that resonates in my soul – it’s not a feeling that comes from any sort of external source. There are methods I can suggest to others because they are common knowledge, and they do work, but they aren’t as effective.

It can be rather frustrating to not be able to talk about certain things because sometimes I’d really like to share the things I know. I’m the kind of person who always wants to share everything. It took me until I was in 4th grade before I realized that when people said things to me about other people, I was supposed to keep those comments to myself. To be fair, I grew up in a household where I was taught that if I wasn’t comfortable saying something to someone’s face, I shouldn’t say it behind their back. When I was younger, I thought everyone behaved that way, so the idea of keeping secrets was incredibly foreign.

I love to share. I love to tell people about the things that I experience whether those stories come from my mundane life or my spiritual life (which are very intertwined). But I can’t. When I go world-walking, I am oath-bound not to reveal what is going on in the nine realms without explicit permission from the deities involved. In some cases, I am not permitted to even give the names of the deities who have asked for my help. The most I can say about what is going on in the nine realms is “Things are hectic right now, so the Gods may take longer to respond than usual,” which is what I would have said at the beginning of the year. Crazy things were happening – bad things. Things that threatened to shake the stability of certain realms. Things which are currently in the process of being mended, which is why the Gods are hanging around a bit more than They were.

And I hate that I can’t be more specific – I had to rewrite the last three lines until the Gods were satisfied I wasn’t giving too much away. I’d love to be able to tell everyone exactly what is going on, but I can’t. The oaths that bind me aren’t ones that I myself have given the Gods, but oaths that originate with far-distant ancestors.

I mostly wanted to bring this up (I’m sure some of you are asking why I’m talking about something I can’t actually talk about) because I feel it important to explain why shamans and certain godhis/godhas don’t share all the UPGs they experience. I’m sure it’s just as frustrating for those on the receiving end of comments like, “I can’t tell you that,” or, “All I can tell you is its hectic/calm/etc,” as it is for me when I have to make those kinds of comments. It’s really difficult when I come across UPGs that don’t match what I’ve seen while worldwalking or when I come across UPGs that are true but revealed without evidence that thought has gone into the decision to share them or not.

I’ve been thinking about this since I started reading “The Deites are Many: A Polytheistic Theology,” by Jordan Paper, and I was struck by the part in the introduction where he explicitly says that there are some things that he absolutely cannot talk about. When I read that, I was astonished to find someone else who understands the difficulty of sharing without sharing too much. So far, the book is amazing.

Now, if you’ll remember, I mentioned three rules, and I’ve only discussed two. The third rule my mother taught me was that the most difficult people to understand are those we are closest to because we tend to blind ourselves to their faults (especially lovers and close friends). Because of that, there is an intrinsic instability to energy work performed on the behalf of other family members or incredibly close friends (i.e. you would die for them type of close). It isn’t impossible, it’s just very, very difficult.

The main reason it’s so difficult is because we make assumptions about family members that we don’t make about outsiders. Most of us assume that our families will support us, and when that assumption proves false, it is devastating. We have certain concepts of their behavior and personalities which make it difficult to truly understand what they need or desire out of life.

In general, people tend to think that it is the opposite – that energy work is easier when done for family members. In reality, however, it is much easier to wreak havoc by trying to help out where we aren’t wanted. I’m reminded of the section of the Havamal where it says (paraphrased), “Often he saves for a foe what he has planned for a friend, for much goes worse than we wish.” Or to put in terms everyone will understand, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It’s the same concept.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the most important lessons that I was taught that still underlies the framework of the shamanic work I do today. I will answer questions, where I can, but please be aware that there are some things that I just can’t tell you. It isn’t that I won’t tell you – it’s that I’m oath-bound not to share certain things. And the one thing I don’t do is break my oaths (even when those oaths are ones made by my ancestors).

Loki’s Wyrdlings

I mentioned in my last post that I started a facebook group called Loki’s Wyrdlings that is meant for Lokeans and other Heathens/Pagans on the fringes of the mainstream traditions. I’d like to thank Karlesha Silverros for planting the idea in my head.

The group was really started by both me and Karlesha, and the response has been amazing (and terrible in places). I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but we started the group last night, and we already have 17 members. The fact that so many people have joined within 24 hours of the launch of the group is humbling.

And it’s humbling because it speaks to the need that exists. It isn’t that I wasn’t aware of the need before – I was. But where that fact was an abstract awareness before, it is a concrete awareness now. People need this group. We need this group in order to offer support to those who are often turned away from other places.

I posted in the Asatru Community facebook group about the new Loki’s Wyrdlings group and was told that those who worship Loki should “get out.” Apparently, much harsher and ruder things were said, but I was preoccupied with doing schoolwork and attending an awesome broadcast on leadership delivered by Kat Cole which I went to because I am a member of the National Society of Leadership.

In another facebook group where I posted about the group, I was told that I was “in the wrong place,” and that a more appropriate place for the post would be “in a bog.”

There is a lot of hatred towards Loki and a lot of persecution of Lokeans. I saw another poster mention that the term “worship” is often attacked when it is used in place of the word “honor,” and I recognized the truth of it because I have seen those attacks and been the recipient of them myself.

Now, while the post I placed in the Asatru Community was taken down, the admin who initially approved it did write a long apology for the behavior of those who had been offensive in their replies (which then got the post removed). I appreciated her willingness to apologize for behavior she hadn’t extended, although I didn’t think she needed to apologize for the behavior of other group members. I’m a strong believer that each person is only responsible for the actions they take, not for the actions of those around them. Still, it was commendable.

That the apology was necessary to begin with was the sad part. It demonstrated to me just how much Loki is misunderstood and hated. Which I already knew, but seeing that sort of resentment directed towards an entire group instead of just an individual is much scarier than dealing with resentment on a one-on-one basis.

Anyway, I’d like to ask any of the Lokeans who read my blog to promote the group on their own blogs, if you all are willing to do that. It would be greatly appreciated, and I have a feeling it is something our community desperately needs.

 

Loki’s Stave and Facebook Group

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Loki’s Stave 

Dagulf Loptson

*

Listen to the words of the closer, the blazing one,

I who have borne witness to human evolution

since man first claimed my power.

 *

You have no cause to fear me, for I am already within you.

I speak to you from the depths of your intellect,

I call to you from your secret desires,

I sleep within the blood in your veins.

 *

My voice is in the crackle of the flame,

and the laughter of the innocent,

and the hiss of the serpent.

 *

I am the bright companion of thunder,

and I strike with inspiration.

I am the spark of genius that drives you towards greatness;

To abandon me is to embrace the darkness of ignorance.

 *

I am an all-consuming pleasure

that reddens your flesh with my embrace;

I give you the color of gods

so you’ll remember that you are divine.

 *

I excite your nerves and heighten your senses,

Driving you toward divine madness and the bliss of chaos.

To love me is to be consumed by me on a holy pyre,

where I devour your repose, to give you rebirth.

 *

I am the vulture who strips away that which is putrid

and makes bones white and new.

I am the dark brother who illuminates,

I am the wise fool who knows all and believes nothing.

 *

I am the rising star Sirius

who walks upon the bridge of heaven:

The harbinger of life and the harbinger of death.

I am the space between boundaries

who belongs everywhere and nowhere.

I am the spider in the web

and master of my own fate.

 *

I am the battler of gatekeepers,

for I know that all boundaries are illusions.

I end the world to prove there are no endings.

There can be no lies if there is no truth.

 *

I am the father of the broken.

I am the mother of the monstrous.

I comfort my children with the warmth

and avenge them with my flames;

for I know what it means to suffer.

 *

I am the primordial serpent

Who writhes in the abyss.

To conquer me is to win the wyrm’s hoard:

gleaming gold, which is the fire of knowledge.

 *

I am the father of witches

and the master of molding and shaping;

place crude metal in my forge

and I will give you treasure in return.

 *

If you understand nothing else,

remember this secret:

To know me is to know yourself

And to know yourself is to know my ecstasy.

 


I’ve created a  facebook group for those who are interested in discussing Loki and the Lokean path. It is also meant for Pagans/Heathens who are on the fringes of the mainstream community. Feel free to join and download your own copy of the “Loki’s Stave” poem with some nifty formatting.

Loki apparently wants more publicity, so we might as well give it to Him. 😉

As for the formatting of this page, it’s either WordPress being a pain or Loki just having some fun.

Communing with the Gods

I’ve seen a lot of confusion on message boards and in blog posts about what communication with the Gods feels like. Or confusion about how it’s possible to talk with the Gods at all, given that They aren’t omnipresent.

There is this highly held taboo in many Heathen circles about talking to the Gods like They are omnipresent, like they are similar in nature to the Christian God. In fact, there is so much negativity towards the very idea of communicating with the Gods in a friendly way is often harshly ridiculed.

Instead, there are recommendations made to offer sacrifices to the Gods on the necessary days in order to placate Them. Heathens, especially, are told to focus on working with the wights and ancestral spirits instead of trying to develop deeper relationships with the Gods. We’re told that the Gods only choose certain people to work with, so there’s no point in trying to pursue a relationship with one of the Gods if it’s just going to be futile.

Working with wights and ancestral spirits is wonderful – I feel like I should work more with the wights and my ancestral spirits more often, but that is a byproduct of being made to feel like I’m somehow doing something wrong by working more with the Gods than with the wights.

No one needs to feel guilty about working with the Gods. No one needs to feel that they aren’t good enough to approach the Gods. Every God has His or Her unique type of worshipers. Loki has the fringe groups. Odin has the leaders. Freyr has the nobles. Tyr has the lawmakers. Ullr has the skiers. Mani has the sensitive. Freyja has the vain. Frigga has the mothers… I could go on forever. For every role you take on, there is a God or Goddess that would be more than happy to meet you.

This idea that the Gods aren’t interested in human affairs is nonsense. Yes, the Gods are busy with Their own challenges. That doesn’t mean They don’t get the messages sent to Them. I mentioned before that the Gods aren’t omnipresent. They can’t occupy the entirety of the universe at once. But Their names are tied to Their wyrd threads, and They receive the prayers we send even when we can’t feel Them.

Perhaps this is a bad analogy, but most people can relate. You know those moments when something really good or something really bad has happened and you can feel it so deeply within your soul that you know exactly what it is and who it has happened to? That’s the type of connection that a prayer said to a God generates automatically.

Now, while there are others out there who would say not to try to talk to the Gods like Christians talk to their God, I am not going to lend my voice to theirs. Because why should it matter if we use the same technique to talk to our Gods that the Christians use to commune with their God? I highly doubt that the Christian God is going to somehow forget that he isn’t Odin, Loki, Freyr, or any other God that doesn’t share His name, so what is there to lose?

Oh, but the Gods can’t hear us if we try to talk to Them like that; they ignore us because they find it offensive. Really? Have you tried it? I talk to the Gods in my head all the time. Do They answer back? Not usually in words, but I do sometimes get impressions and sensations. It’s much easier to send an impression than a verbal message via the threads of wyrd.

I think that Heathens forget that the wyrds of men and the wyrds of Gods can and do intertwine. We are all connected through the web of wyrd, and every person has the ability to sense that web. Every person has the ability to send and receive messages through the threads of that web. If you’ve ever heard the phone ring and known who was on the other side before you saw the caller id, you’ve experienced what it feels like to receive an impression through the threads of wyrd. If anyone has ever told you that they just knew it was you on the other end or that they just knew you were going to arrive, then you have sent messages through the threads of wyrd. The Gods are part of the web of wyrd, and everyone can send and receive messages through the web, including the Gods.

On message boards, I’ve often seen it said that Heathens shouldn’t pray to the Gods because it’s too Christian of a practice. I understand that there is some leftover resentment towards Christianity because the Roman Catholic Church did its best to wipe out all polytheistic communities during the Crusades. But guess what? They failed, and they aren’t trying to wipe us out anymore. Trying to convert us, yes, but their faith requires they do that, and not all denominations of Christianity believe in forced conversions.

There is such an anti-Christian atmosphere in any Pagan circle that it’s no wonder so many Christians end up resenting us. We ostracize them; we demonize their religion the way that they used to demonize ours. And I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that – I view Christianity, for the most part, as a very cult-like faith. I tend to think people who follow Christianity are either ignorant or complacent – sheep in sheep’s clothing. But I don’t think that because of the religion itself – I think that because most of the Christians I have met don’t even try to think for themselves. They just take it as writ that the Bible has all the answers. That is what gets under my skin.

And it gets under my skin in Heathenry, too. There are Heathens who view the lore as the end-all, be-all of the way Heathenry should work. Anything outside the lore is considered taboo, nevermind the fact that the lore we have was written specifically for a Christian audience, so there’s no telling how much of the lore was altered. If you need a book to give you all the answers, then you’re not thinking hard enough.

That’s why I hate it when I see people talking about how Heathens shouldn’t offer prayers to the Gods or even approach the Gods without working deeply with the wights and ancestral spirits. I don’t know what kind of ancestral work others do, but the way I view ancestral work is this: they passed on the legacy of my bloodline to me, and now it is my responsibility to live my life to the best of my ability. I don’t need to consult with my ancestors to figure out how I should live my life – there are some ancestors I’d like to converse with just to learn more about their lives. But nothing should feel like a requirement. 

I found an article earlier about how the eight High Days are often held in the honor of a particular God or Goddess even when the practitioner (in a group or as a solitary practitioner) has no real connection with that deity. The reason that the practitioners hold these rituals are because that’s what’s expected. That’s what is required because those days are holy only to certain deities.

Just to throw this out there – no one is required to honor a deity they aren’t connected to. To me, making an offering to a deity that I’m not connected to personally in order to honor a particular High Day would horrify me because it would strike me as being incredibly rude. I don’t make offerings to Thor because we aren’t close, and He doesn’t want anything from me. I can feel Him around, sometimes, because He is still the protector of all Heathens, and I’m not exempt from His protection just because we barely get along.

That’s another thing – there are going to be Gods that don’t like you, and there are going to be Gods that you don’t like. It took me a long time to accept that one of the Gods I am never going to be able to be anything more than civil with is Thor, since He is considered one of the most important Gods within Heathenry. For a long time, I thought that the lack of His friendship meant that I could never properly be a Heathen because it seemed to me that He was the one God that all Heathens should be able to turn to.

But I don’t fall into any of the categories that most of His worshipers fall into. I’m not a farmer (and I don’t garden); I’m a scholar. I’m not a warrior, I’m a shaman. My strength isn’t borne from physical prowess, but from intellectual prowess. I’m not right for Thor’s path, and His path isn’t right for me. The paths I do walk, however – the paths of Odin, Loki, Freyr, Ullr, Mani, Freyja, Sigyn, Tyr (thus far) – are the right paths for me to walk, and I am the right person to walk them.

So many of us try to conform to the expectations of the mainstream when we don’t have to. We can forge our own paths, and we can use whatever method of communication we want to use in order to commune with the Gods. Sometimes the communication will come in the form of verbal words (that’s the rarest kind), other times it will come in the form of impressions or visualizations or impulses. Those impressions can come during ritual or just during everyday life. The Gods always get our messages, so we should never be afraid to talk to them.

I personally make it a point, when I ask for anything from the Gods, to add the condition, “If you are willing,” to the words said in ritual or prayer. I like it better than using “please,” because “please” seems too much like desperation when used within the context of a prayer. I dislike “please” because it makes me feel like I am annoying the Gods due to the pleading nature of the word. And using the phrase, “If you are willing,” makes it much easier to accept a negative response. Generally, when we say “please” in real life, we don’t expect to hear “no,” in response. That’s another reason I prefer the phrase, “If you are willing.”

Overall, however, the point I am trying to make here is that there is no wrong way to communicate with the Gods. The biggest problem people have with hearing the Gods is questioning whether they are making up the communication or really receiving a message. The only way to resolve that is to understand that the Gods can communicate through your imagination as easily as They can communicate through any other means. Once you stop trying to stop filtering out your imagination, you stop filtering out the Gods. Once you stop filtering out the Gods, you start understanding which messages come from the Gods and which messages come from your psyche trying to trip you up.

So figure out which Gods speak to you the most. Which Gods struck a chord with you when you read Their myths? Whose personality meshed the most with yours? If you don’t know where to start when it comes to approaching a God, pretend to have a conversation with that God. In your head or out loud, it doesn’t matter. If you’re interested enough in developing a real relationship with that God, and the God in question isn’t one of the more antisocial Gods, then chances are good that the deity will eventually get back in touch.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t happen instantly, even if you already understand what I mean by sending and receiving impressions of intent through the threads of wyrd. Any trained high-level Empath does this type of sending and receiving naturally, so if you’re an Empath, you have to learn how to send messages across planes (which is less difficult than it sounds, thankfully).

For those who don’t feel confident in their sending skills, it might take longer for the message to reach the God you’re trying to contact, but the message will still reach Him or Her. Think of it as writing a letter to someone that you’d really like to meet – or, conversely, write a letter and burn it as an offering to that deity. That’s one of the fastest ways to get a message to the Gods, and we have Loki to thank for that little trick.

To reiterate my main point – there is no wrong way to communicate with the Gods. No matter what type of message you send or the medium you use, the Gods will hear you. Whether or not They respond, well, that is up to Them. If They don’t respond to you, then view the non-response as the message it is: “You aren’t suited to my path, try another.” Try not to view a non-response as a negative occurrence – chances are, the Gods already know who you are, and there is a particular deity’s path that will be a perfect fit for you. Perseverance is the key in communing with the Gods – if you give up on Them, then why should They not give up on you?

 

Priesthood, Change, and Differences

I’m hugging the line that runs between doubt and self-confidence because I think I feel ready to take on the burden of responsibility that being priest to the Gods entails. I have the rationale to know that I understand enough to impart the wisdom of the Gods to those who need help hearing Them, but I am also fearful that I will misrepresent one of the Gods or not make the messages clear enough. I think that is part and parcel of the responsibility  I’ve decided to carry.

There are those who will criticize me for even daring to refer to myself as a priest (if I’m being P.C. priestess, but priest has always sounded like a gender-neutral word to me, so I’m going to use priest instead). They will criticize me because I am not part of a kindred, I didn’t go through a traditional apprenticeship, and I’m not very involved in the larger Pagan community because of where I currently live. There will be those who say that a priest is granted the power to impart the wisdom of the Gods by the community around them, but I disagree. The power to impart the wisdom of the Gods is granted by the Gods Themselves.

Now, I will agree that it is far easier for those already part of a community to be seen as more of an authority figure than someone who is on the fringes of that community. I will agree with that only insofar as the central community goes. But the people on the fringes of a community see the parts of the community where the rifts really exist, while those in the community who sit in its center can ignore the needs of the ones that just barely fall within the lines of that community.

That’s where I fall. It’s not that I don’t care about the central Pagan and Heathen communities; it’s that the central communities already have the authorities they need. There are High Priests/Priestesses and Godhi/Godha within the central communities doing wonderful work. The resources are plentiful.

But out here on the fringe where solitaries hang out, where Lokeans tend to gather, where those who just don’t seem to fit anywhere else, there are precious few resources available. Every time I find a new book on Loki, I devour it because there are so few. I can barely think of five books that do Loki justice, and I know there are hundreds of Lokeans out there who have to bear the same frustrations that I do.

Even in a community that is supposed to be inclusive – the Pagan community as a whole – there are outsiders. People whose beliefs just don’t quite mesh with the rest. And I’m no exception to that. In fact, when it comes to being someone who doesn’t quite mesh, I’d say I could be the poster-girl.

I’m an aggressive woman with next to no ability to be submissive – I chafe under the hierarchies imposed upon me because I hate being told what to do. I’m pansexual, though I usually stick to the bisexual identifier when people ask because most people at least understand what that means. I spent my years from 12 – 22 being an eclectic Pagan before I came to Heathenry, and I am now 28. I’ve never sought out a coven, never belonged to a kindred, and I’ve never felt the need to seek a teacher. The only teachers I’ve ever had, in regards to my faith, are the books I’ve read and the wisdom the Gods themselves have imparted to me.

I have everything I need to be a priest to the Gods, but I can’t say for certain that I have everything I need to be a good one. I will always strive to be the best that it is possible for me to be, and hope that I won’t be found lacking. There will be those who say that I lack the fundamental aspect of priesthood – a community to preach to. But I don’t think that matters as much as others like to say it does.

The primary responsibility of being a priest is to be a living example of the wisdom that the Gods choose to impart. There is the responsibility to be a voice among all the other voices saying, “This path, too, is valid.” Not better, not preferred, but valid. To be able to stand up and tell other solitary Pagans, especially solitary Heathens, that it is okay to be solitary. That it isn’t necessary to be part of a community to walk with the Gods. That it’s okay to believe differently than the people around you.

I don’t need to be a priest for the mainstream Pagan community; there are enough there already. I’m interested in the fringe groups, the people who have been told that the way they worship is wrong, that the practices they indulge in aren’t acceptable within their faith, that the Gods they honor can’t be honored at communal events. These are the people who are the dearest to me because these are the only people who can cause change.

My soul is sworn to Odin, but my heart is sworn to Loki. The relationship between Odin and Loki is so grossly misunderstood that correcting those misconceptions will take many lifetimes. Especially when there are Heathens out there equating Loki with Satan and trying to banish Him from community events. Where Loki is banished, nothing can change. Nothing new can occur. Loki is where change comes from. He is where hamingja comes from. I’ve discussed hamingja before, so I won’t go into it here, but Loki’s role is pivotal.

The problem we currently face on the fringes of Paganism and Heathenry is the stagnation of it. There are a lot of people who start down Pagan pathways only to turn back to Christianity a few years later because Paganism is too hard a faith to follow. We have to acknowledge that we live in a society that values convenience over conscience, and we live in a world where self-accountability has become all but obsolete.

Introductory Paganism books fail to disclose to the readers that Pagan paths require a huge sacrifice from the start. I’m not talking about sacrifices to the Gods; those are different. No, what I am talking about is the sacrifice that comes when you have to give up the concept of finding an easy faith to follow. The sacrifice that comes from accepting that the only person that can be held accountable for the actions you make is yourself. That’s a huge sacrifice in a world that is more interested in placing blame than accepting responsibility. There is little wonder that people turn away from Paganism when they realize that easy answers can’t be found.

That’s just one of the problems, and that is a problem those in the more central Pagan communities need to address. What I need to address – what the fringe groups need to address – is our lack of contribution. I don’t mean getting involved in the bigger groups – I mean individual contribution.

There are thousands of solitary practitioners, but few of us lend a voice to the debates going on in the mainstream Pagan community. And why should we? Those debates, in the end, don’t matter to us. After all, we’re solitary, so we do things our own way. That’s the mentality I’m talking about.

Because most of us aren’t disinterested in the bigger issues. Most of us would love to lend a voice, but we’ve been shot down and ignored and told that what we believe is wrong so often that we just tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter. We sit back and we let the mainstream communities tell us that the way we practice is wrong, that we can’t call ourselves certain things because we don’t meet certain requirements. And, instead of arguing with the force of the mainstream, we withdraw from the arguments entirely. We say that we don’t want to deal with the drama.

But that isn’t really true. What we don’t want to deal with is the emotional fallout. We don’t want to be told, over and over and over that our beliefs are wrong. We don’t want to be forced to question our own beliefs because the mainstream disagrees with the way we do things. So we just keep our beliefs and practices to ourselves because we can at least avoid a fight that way. We can keep ourselves from feeling belittled and we can keep from getting hurt.

And that’s fine – no one wants to be hurt. No one likes to to be told that what they believe is invalid. But the truth is, none of us want to truly BE solitary. We want other people to understand what we believe and have them be okay with it. We don’t need covens. We don’t need kindreds. All we need is the acceptance of our differences.

As a Lokean, I know how tiresome it is to get on a discussion board and find the threads discussing how Loki isn’t really a God after all, and it’s irksome to read through the posts because they are so disrespectful towards Loki without understanding His character at all. It’s enough to make me want to punch someone, so I understand the desire to stay away from the mainstream.

At the same time, however, if we keep allowing others to tell us that our beliefs are wrong, and we just withdraw, aren’t we letting them win? Aren’t we telling them that they’re right, after all, and our beliefs aren’t as valid as theirs? I know Loki wouldn’t stand by if someone was treating Him that way – He does not tolerate disrespect. That’s shown, quite clearly, in the Lokasenna, where he intrudes on a feast He wasn’t invited to (and it’s clear that He should have been offered an invitation) and makes everyone pay for the slight by mocking them intensely.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all go out and start mocking those who insult us, but I am saying that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be so easily defeated. Why do we let other people make us feel bad about the way we honor the Gods? The Gods don’t care how we honor Them – most of Them don’t even care if we honor Them. If the Gods don’t care, then why do we allow ourselves to become complacent in defending the way we choose to believe and live?

The people on the fringes of any community are the backbone of the community. We’re the ones who forge new tools, who create new paths. We’re the ones who know how to look at things differently. It is our responsibility to develop the true potential of the Pagan and Heathen communities. The mainstream can’t do it – they’ve become too blinded by their need to criticize the way we believe to see that we are the lungs of the community.

So, going back to what I said before – I’m ready to assume the mantle of priesthood. All I can do is impart the wisdom the Gods give me to share; it is your decision how you use that knowledge. The truth is, I’m only the catalyst, the one that carries the messages. If my help is needed, then I offer that freely. I’m not going to try to force anyone to see me as an authority figure; my purpose in life is to guide, not to coerce. I will ask hard questions, and I will raise issues that are difficult to address, but no one ever has to agree with me. I respect differences. In fact, I encourage them.