Maybe it’s because I grew up in an abusive home, but I’ve come to recognize the signs of when someone has come close to their breaking point. Actually, I would say it is because I grew up in an abusive home. I learned to recognize the body language my mom exhibited when she was close to her breaking point, and I learned to tiptoe around it.
In essence, I learned how to manipulate because I had to learn how to do so in order to survive. Saying the wrong thing led to places I didn’t want to go, and acting the wrong way – well, let’s suffice to say that the results of that were even less pleasant. I learned to maneuver myself in ways that meant I could present myself to others without ever having them think of me as a threat, or, conversely, I could make myself seem a bigger threat than I was. Essentially, I learned to relate to others through the body language they showed me, and I learned to portray what they expected to see.
And, for a long time, I hated that about myself. I hated that I used manipulation without even thinking about it, and I used to insist that I would never manipulate anyone else and that I didn’t do it at all. But that was more to counter the hatred I had of the way I had been forced to learn to manipulate in order to survive than it was hatred of the manipulation itself.
It’s ironic, though, that society in general looks at manipulation in a negative light – the word carries tons of negative connotations. But manipulation can be used in a positive way, and if that wasn’t true, I would never have been able to learn how to manipulate myself in order to help heal from the mental wounds my mother inflicted on me. I had to relearn how to think, had to manipulate my thinking patterns into new pathways, and I had to create my own honor code that could accept that I had the ability to manipulate others but that I could choose to do it in a kind way rather than a cruel one.
Generally, manipulation is thought of as a tool to get others to go along with what you want or to get what you want. But it can also be used to convince others that they have more potential than they think they do, can help rally others to a cause that they themselves believe in, and provide a way for those whose minds have been damaged to heal themselves.
But the kind of damage that a person must undergo to need manipulation to heal themselves leaves terrible scars, and that damage instills in a person a hardness and steadfastness that is equivalent to the battle hardness found in soldiers. I will never forget the day I spent talking to a man who did three tours in Iraq about my past or his words about how I had survived a war zone that existed outside of the battlefield.
There are obligations that parents have to children that my parents rarely met, and I learned to do what I had to in order to survive at a very early age. I learned that the only person who would ever properly care for me was myself, and I learned not to expect anyone around me to offer me support. I grew up hard, and I’ve lost none of that. I don’t think you can lose it once you’ve gained it.
However, that hardness – that strength – is what allows me to walk Odin’s path because I know that it requires sacrifice, more sacrifice than most realize. I know that it means I will watch others I care about die because Odin is a death-god (and so many are so quick to forget that), and I know that it means I will not die an easy death. But I have not had an easy life, and I see no reason to go easily into death. I was walking Odin’s path before I even knew that there was such a path to walk, so it made sense to continue following it when Odin came into my life.
But it was Odin who helped me realize that I had the strength needed to follow His path, that I could give up what I needed to give up in order to gain the blessings He bestows on those who follow Him.
A few people have told me that they could never follow Odin because they were afraid of how much they would have to give up, and I can appreciate their candor. Of all the paths I walk, Odin’s is the most difficult. Because while the blessings received are always worth the pain wrought (because there is always pain, whether it is physical or emotional), the level of that pain is not to be underestimated. Odin is a dark God; he is a War God, a Death God, and of Shamanistic magic. Those aspects are enhanced by, not balanced by, His provinces of poetry and wisdom.
There are many who try to portray Odin as a light God of laughter and love and majesty. He is none of those things, although He can seem them when He wishes to. I think Pagans often forget that any deity who deals in death deals with the Dark side of life. While death is part of life – in fact, life couldn’t exist without it – death isn’t light.
What is so ironic, here, to me, is that Odin is so well-worshiped among modern Heathens while Loki is so despised. Loki is light. He is laughter and fire and passion and all of the things that balance out the dark path that belongs to Odin. Loki is the one who provides the means to survive Odin’s path without succumbing to the dark completely. That’s why I can’t understand those Heathens who insist on worshiping Odin and refuting Loki – if Loki’s path didn’t balance out Odin’s path, I don’t know how I would have made it through the last six years of my life. I don’t know how I would even make it through a day.