All posts by Kyaza

I’m 27, female, and live in Todd, North Carolina. I have a cat, Lovey, who has been my companion for eight years. She is a sweetheart who loves to cuddle, curl up around my feet, and make it impossible for me to go to sleep by stealing one of my pillows for herself. I published my first novel at 15 and I’ve been writing ever since. I owe that novel to Nanowrimo, a 30-day writing challenge to write 50,000 words. Because of that, I stepped up as the Boone, North Carolina, Municipal Liaison for the non-profit organization (Nanowrimo, at one point known as the Office of Letters and Light) in 2012, and I will continue to act as the ML for the region until I transfer to UNC Chapel Hill. I began attending Caldwell Community College in the summer of 2014, and I am working on a 2-year Associate of Arts Degree. When I transfer, I will be majoring in Linguistics. My main interest in the linguistic field is second language acquisition, and I have yet to meet a language that does not fascinate me. In 2013, I published another novel I wrote during Nanowrimo, and did so via Smashwords. As a self-published author, I believe that Smashwords is a much better platform than CreateSpace or Lulu, and I will continue to use them in the future.

When the Gods Seem Distant

Divine Multiplicity

Sometimes, it becomes hard to hear the gods. Sometimes, it feels like the gods are no longer present. In reality, what has happened is that we have lost touch with our ability to communicate with the gods. We have stopped reaching out, stopped turning inward. In those moments, we have become too focused on the realities of our physical lives. 

Our lives are full of noise. In Western society, everyone is always busy. Being productive is a way of life – to the point that not doing something productive causes anxiety and induces shame. Because time is considered valuable, and not producing something is often viewed as wasteful. That means to tune-in to society we have to tune-in to the noise and we end up tapping into that need to produce more. To constantly create something, constantly be on the move. Just never slowing down. 

To hear the gods, though…

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The Illusion that is Pop Culture

I saw a lot of people try to gatekeep in a conversation sparked in the Loki’s Wyrdling group by the upcoming release of the Disney series that features Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

There are a lot of individuals who struggle with the idea that people can find divine inspiration in pop culture, and they go out of their way to tell others that doing so is wrong. I don’t think there is an issue with anyone who finds divine inspiration in pop culture; I think there’s an issue with pop culture altogether.

I am the person who will commit the opposite fallacy of the bandwagon fallacy – I will purposefully avoid the things that everyone seems to like. I refused to read or watch the Da Vinci code when it came out because suddenly everyone around me was talking about it, and it creeps me out when literally everyone I run into is talking about the exact same thing. It’s like a hive mind has suddenly taken over humanity, and I want to get as far away from it as I possibly can.

I don’t geek out the same way that other people do; I’ve learned this from watching how other people invest themselves in fandoms to the point they can basically quote any/everything that ever happens. Nothing appeals to me so much that it outweighs literally everything else – what appeals to me about different series of books and shows is the story that they tell, the world that the authors/writers/actors build, and the characters that inhabit it. I care about the structure and the overall essence of the story – I care about what general understanding of humanity I can pull from stories.

For me, that is the purpose that any story from anywhere serves. If I read a book, it is to broaden my horizons of the patterns that can occur in the world because I can take a pattern of behavior I see a character in a book exhibit and transfer that pattern to the external world and evaluate it to see if it holds true for anyone around me. I care about what I can learn about how people behave and why they hold the perspectives they do. I invest in stories for what they can teach me about life, and then I take what I see in the stories and I test them in the world around me.

So, from my perspective, a person who indulges completely in the fantasy of only one or two fandoms is someone that I am going to find rather flat, and they are probably going to bore me to tears. If a person is so wrapped up in a single fandom that they forget that they have their own life to live in the real world, that is not a person that I am going to find it easy to get along with because I have an insatiable curiosity about the world. I do not want it limited to one or two fandoms. I want to expand it. I want to experience everything, cram as many lifetimes into this one as I can, and find the people willing to enjoy that ride alongside me.

That’s a hard thing to communicate to others because usually what people hear when I say I dislike pop culture Paganism is that I devalue the experiences that people have through that lens. I don’t think that those experiences hold no value; I think that their value is overstated. And it is overstated in a way that makes it seem like the person defending pop culture Pagan experiences knows that they aren’t quite getting everything they claim to be getting from those experiences. There is altogether too much validation of the experiences of pop culture Pagan experiences and altogether too little validation of the experiences of gnosis that occurs outside pop culture.

I have read and heard hundreds of stories about how people have come to Loki through the MCU, most often, or through other types of pop culture. I have read the posts and comments of so many people validating this experience that I have realized that it is, for me, like the Da Vinci experience. Everyone seems to be doing it, so I’m going to step as far away as I can from it.

I step away from it because it’s too validated, it’s too authenticated – it’s too much like a hive mind and it creeps me out. It honestly does. It feels too much like people jumping on a bandwagon and not actually taking the time to formulate their own thoughts and opinions on a subject, and that never sits well with me because of the undeniable reality that Western society is patently anti-intellectual and discourages critical thinking.

I know the opinions I hold aren’t popular ones – I do the best I can to *not* hold popular opinions. Unless, somehow, after an extensive amount of deliberation (usually measured in months if not years), I come to the conclusion that the popular opinion is, after all, the best one. It happens, very rarely, but it does happen. I agree, after all, with the basic concepts of hospitality and reciprocity, and I agree that gravity is real and effective (I tend not to argue with obvious facts of physical reality; thus I agree that the Earth is real and the Sun and solar system exist).

To put this in a different way – I go out of my way to discover the things that I myself enjoy with as little influence from my peers as possible. I listen to music that others ridicule because I enjoy it and I don’t need others to validate my choice in music. I read fantasy books because I love magic and I love seeing authors craft worlds that rival our own, and I love seeing characters developed so well that I can imagine myself in their shoes as I read through the book. I love being able to fall into a book that way, so I enjoy the authors that can create that experience.

I enjoyed the Harry Potter series when it first came out, back when I was in middle school and was one of the only people reading the books. I still remember the controversy it evoked because my friends’ parents refused to let them read the books because the presence of magic in the books automatically meant it had to be Satanic. I enjoy the series now because it gives me an easy playground to use to write fanfiction because the worldbuilding and magic system was actually so loose that I can essentially recreate the entire world with a few base elements and have a lot of fun playing around. It has very little to do with the actual story of the books, which overall really isn’t all that impressive.

Actually, the two best YA series I have ever read about magic that pits light and dark against one another were Susan Coopers “The Dark is Rising” sequence and Diane Duane’s “Young Wizards” series (although it’s life vs. entropy rather than light vs dark in her series). Susan Cooper’s series is absolutely amazing and yet rarely ever mentioned – it’s impossible to find gems like that when you refuse to venture outside of the bubble of pop culture favorites.

I have a feeling that if I surrounded myself with people who advocated for pop culture favorites all the time, I would be told continuously by them that I am behind the times and not up-to-date with what is happening. I resist things that get too popular too fast – things like Snapchat and Vine and TikTok for instance – because they become so popular so quickly that it is obvious to me that they are just another distraction from really living, which I define as creating meaningful relationships with other people.

It’s difficult for me to see how pop culture provides anyone with the tools to create more meaningful relationships with the people and the world around them. So many of the people I know and see engaging with pop culture engage to the point of disengagement with the world around them, almost like they are trying to drown out their own minds in the noise and light of pop culture glitter.

Perhaps I should give people who come to Loki through that path a bit more credit – after all, Loki is a god of transcending boundaries and pushing limits. Maybe he shows himself there to find those who are capable of seeing past the glitter in an attempt to pull them out of the plastic bubble they have created around themselves. Perhaps that is why so many people find their first experiences with Loki so uncomfortable. Perhaps Loki has to wade into the noise and the light of the false realities that pop culture serves to create in order to find those few individuals capable of shattering the illusions.

That seems like a pretty strong possibility to me, since Loki is a god that transcends boundaries and shatters illusions. It makes sense that he would look for those capable of doing the same thing.

From there, though, the question in my mind becomes why so many of the individuals who get pulled away from the noise seem so invested in defending it, making excuses for it. Maybe there is something addictive about living in an illusion that I don’t understand because I have always run kicking and screaming from anything that got too popular. Maybe there’s a comfort in being like everyone else that I can’t wrap my mind around because I am like no one else I have ever met, and the only people I feel comfortable around are the people who don’t quite fit.

For me, it’s not a question about whether Loki can appear to people as MCU Loki or not – I am not Loki and will not speak for what he can and cannot do. I will not rule out such a possibility, not when I know he is a shapeshifter and finds limitations and restrictions stifling (something else we hold in common). He can appear to me in any form he likes, as long as he gives me some indication that it is him, and I will respect his choices.

What I have a harder time respecting is the decision I see others make about shoehorning him into boxes or telling others that their practice isn’t valid. I don’t think it’s necessary to agree with someone’s practice to view it as a valid one. Like I said earlier, I can see that there is value in pop culture Paganism but there is not enough value in it for me to invest in it.

There are indications to me that pop culture isn’t worth investing in, and one of the first indications is the obsessive level of fans over different shows, actors, movies, musicians, etc. I have never, in my life, wanted to meet someone so badly I have felt like I could die happy or ever looked at a celebrity as larger than life – I have always looked at people with fame as people with their own complex stories. I actually think that being famous is a terrible burden for a person to bear – can you imagine always being on display for the entire world to judge? I couldn’t do it, so I have respect for the people who are able to do it despite knowing that a single misperceived action could ruin their entire lives. That takes a different type of courage, and it isn’t something I hear a lot of people consider.

Another indication to me that pop culture isn’t an investment I want to make is that people get way too defensive over arbitrary things. I have heard people claim they couldn’t be friends (and mean it) with people who don’t like Star Wars or Game of Thrones etc. I have heard the constant DC vs. Marvel refrain so many times that at this point I just roll my eyes. I have people complain to me when I tell them that I don’t read comics but enjoy some of the MCU movies because, to them, that means I’m not “nerdy enough.” Never mind the fact that I pick up books on quantum physics and read them just because I’m curious. No, my “nerd credit” depends only on whether or not I read the right comic books or play the right video games. Because that makes sense.

So, then, what is my actual take on MCU Loki? I think that Marvel did a decent job with his character but that he pales in comparison to the Loki that I know. I have heard maybe two lines from the MCU Loki that even reminded me of the Loki I know, but most of what I hear and see is a human actor playing a role he was hired to do. I see a person with his own complicated story.

And then, when I read posts about how people see Loki in the guise of Tom Hiddleston, I actually find that problematic because that devalues the life and story of the actor. It doesn’t devalue Loki – Loki can do whatever and be whomever he wants to be. But it does take away the agency from Tom Hiddleston to be someone else, to be his own individual person and to have his own experience of life. He is not Loki; he is Tom and he deserves the right to be Tom. That is one of the things that bothers me the most when I read posts that compare an actor to Loki. At the end of the day, Tom Hiddleston is an actor playing a part, and he can never fill Loki’s shoes.

I think part of the problem I have is that I know actors – my best friend is an actor, and he is constantly regaling me with information about the craft of acting. Loki is just one role that Tom plays; for Tom, Loki is just a character that he has created for a show. He may enjoy the character; he may hate the character (but love to hate him; it’s hard to know). What I do know is that what a person gets through the screen of an MCU film that features Tom Hiddleston as Loki is the version of Loki that Tom Hiddleston has created in his mind – it is not the version of Loki that Loki has created nor is it the truth of Tom Hiddleston. It is a series of illusions being bought as if it is real, and that is something I personally find distasteful.

Because it doesn’t harm my practice, I don’t say much about it very often because if people want to indulge in fantasy…. well, that’s their business, and it doesn’t impact my ability to practice nor does it affect my relationship with Loki. Except to maybe make me wistful that people don’t experience him more fully and more dynamically than they seem to.

Honestly, I think the thing I find most bothersome is that there are so many posts on MCU Loki and “fluffy” Loki and “light” Loki – and maybe he is all of these things – but there are so few on the serious side. Perhaps because we live in a world where “shiny” and “plastic” are the go-to experiences, so people are afraid to share their experiences.

But what I want to know about are the people who sit down with their friends and suddenly find themselves talking to the gods, the people who walk into a restaurant and suddenly find that their waiter bears the name of a god, the people who sit down with a stranger and watch that stranger disappear into thin air…. what I want to hear about are the weird and interesting experiences people have with the gods. The things that other people would call them “crazy” for even suggesting as an experience.

I want to know where the people are who have been possessed by a god, who have been stalked by a god, who have been tormented or loved by the gods. I want to know where the experiences of the god-touched are at, who the people are who hear the call of the gods so loudly that they cannot help but respond to it. I want to see posts and comments from people who live so closely with the world of spirit that they walk so carefully on the taut barrier between this world and the spirit world that one wrong move might drive them insane. I want to see the real, lived experiences of people who have interacted with gods in ways that I can’t even imagine today.

And it is the lack of this kind of experience… the lack of willingness to discuss it because others might view it as “crazy talk,” as “insane,” or as “delusional” that keeps the silence even in Lokean groups. It is the fear of being seen as abnormal or the fear of being marginalized, of being ridiculed, that keeps the people with these experiences silent.

In many ways, the insistence that the experience of pop culture Pagans are just as valid as those with the depth of the types of experiences I am talking about often keeps us silent because there’s a level of knowing “they won’t understand” that hangs about when so much emphasis is put on the validity of pop culture.

Pop culture itself is an illusion, a disguise for a society desperately trying to hold itself together even as it disintegrates (just look at the political actors at work in the world). It’s impossible to build meaningful relationships with people when you know that the depth of the experiences with the gods that you have had will come across as nonsense to people who have not had the pleasure of realizing that the gods can, and do, walk amongst us at will.

Ascendant II: Theology for Modern Polytheists

Divine Multiplicity

The newest title from Bibliotheca Alexandrina is Ascendant II, edited by Michael Hardy. It contains essays from several different authors, including John Beckett, Wayne Keysor, John Michael Greer, Brandon Hensley, and myself.

My article “Applying Cross-Cultural Methods of Myth Interpretation to the Myth of Baldr’s Death” is featured about halfway through the book. For anyone curious about why Loki’s involvement in Baldr’s death is actually essential to the maintenance of the cosmological order, I highly suggest reading that essay.

I actually highly suggest buying a copy of Ascendant II (and its precursor, Ascendant I) because it features polytheists discussing theology in the modern world. Theology is not often something discussed in Pagan and Polytheist circles, despite all the work we do with and for the gods.

You can learn more about the contents of Ascendant II here and you can purchase your own copy of Amazon for $11 here. 

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Frith

Divine Multiplicity

While frith directly translates to “peace,” it is a word that holds so much meaning inside it that “peace” does not do it justice. Frith and pax are not synonymous. Vilhelm Grønbech states in Culture of the Teutons,

A word such as the Latin pax suggests first and foremost…a laying down of arms, a state of equipoise due to the absence of disturbing elements; frith, on the other hand, indicates something armed, protection defense – or else a power for peace which keeps men amicably inclined (Grønbech 35).

Frith, then, is an actively defensive and protective type of peace. Frith, for the ancient Germanic people, formed the very foundation of the soul itself. Frith was such a vital part of life that it was considered a base necessity and not referred to as a virtue. Because of that, the society formulated around frith became one “based upon general unity…

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Nine Worlds Rune Reading

Rune Chart

This is the rune layout that I prefer to use when I do extended castings.  This is a layout that comes from the Sunnyway website, which is one of the best resources on runes – it is the nine worlds cast, named as such for fairly obvious reasons.

The way you read this chart is as follows:

The outer realms – Niflheim, Vanahim, Muspelheim, and Jotunheim – represent the objective universe and, in a reading, are indicative of how the universe affects the querent.

The inner realms – Asgard, Ljosalfheim, Helheim, and Svartalfheim – represent the psychological influences and subjective forces in play. These are further paired – Asgard and Helheim represent transpersonal forces while Ljosalfheim and Svartalfheim represent personal forces.

The center realm – Midgard – represents the center and the way people come together to manifest themselves. It also ties everything else in the reading together.

Each of the nine realms represents a particular more in-depth element, which is as follows (note, Midgard is listed above):

Outer Realms

Niflheim – That which resists the querent; passive/restrictive influences; the deepest part of the subconscious mind

Vanaheim – Growth; erotic relationships; forces of continuity and structure

Muspelheim – Active influences from outside, vital energies

Jotunheim – That which confuses the querent; what may be left to chance; forces pressing for change

Inner Realms

Asgard – Higher influences; relationships with the gods; the higher self

Ljosalfheim – Mental influences; family; paths to help realize the influences from Asgard

Helheim – Hidden, suppressed forces; instinctual desires

Svartalfheim – Creative emotional influences; things to reflect on

This layout is also known as the Worldstead Layout – I prefer to call it the Nine Realms layout – and it is an incredibly in-depth way to read the runes.

This is the kind of reading that can take days/weeks to properly interpret, so it is not a layout I would suggest using for simple everyday casts. This is for general but very in-depth readings into your own life and into the lives of those closest to you (on their request, of course). I would not recommend it for an afternoon of public divinatory readings – it’s too complex for that.

In any case, please feel free to print the chart and this guide for your own use. There is a great deal of power in doing a reading that incorporates all nine realms, and it is a good way to get familiar with the nine worlds and the way the runes manifest themselves in each world.

 

Review of Dagulf Loptson’s “Loki: Trickster and Transformer”

Within the Lokean community, there are few people who generate as much excitement as Dagulf Loptson, who gave Lokeans their first book about Loki in 2015, Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson. Many practiced Lokeans today started on their spiritual road with Loki using Playing With Fire as a guiding light in their relationship with Loki. In the years since that book was published, a need within the Lokean community emerged for a solid foundational framework for creating a devotional relationship with Loki. In 2020, Dagulf Loptson’s new book, Loki: Trickster and Transformer, promises to do just that.

At 84 pages, it is at first uncertain whether the book will live up to this goal. By the third page, however, it is clear that this thin book is written in an accessible way yet also packed with scholarly density. Loptson starts by outlining the book, a decision that simultaneously serves to outline the way to develop a spiritual practice with Loki.

Each of the first ten chapters explores a different heiti, or poetic byname, of Loki and includes a specific magical or devotional technique for practitioners to follow. Loptson encourages readers interested in working with Loki to invest at least a week to work through each chapter so that they can develop a strong understanding of each heiti.

Loptson also does his due diligence by providing a warning for anyone new to devotional practice to a deity like Loki, who is an agent of change and can thus act in unpredictable and terrifying ways. For people who are wavering on the brink of working with Loki or not, Loptson suggests they ask themselves whether they are ready for change. Though the question is seemingly simple, there is a lot of complexity that goes into answering such a question.

In addition to cautioning people about the inherent unpredictability of working with Loki, Loptson also provides a list of sources that contain the myths and stories where Loki plays a prominent role. This list includes the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the History of the Danes, the Saga of the Volsungs, Sorli’s Tale, Lokka Tattur, and Loke in the Older Tradition. While the majority of these sources are ancient by today’s standards, the last is a modern article written by the Danish scholar Axel Olrik in 1909.

Throughout the book, Loptson makes solid use of his sources without cluttering it with unwieldy footnotes, which often prove to be the bane of academically sourced Pagan titles. He instead relies on endnotes, a bibliography, and a recommended reading list. This reading list includes Lewis Hyde’s book, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, which is admittedly one of the best books on comparative mythology that I have ever had the pleasure to read, so it gave me great pleasure to see it referenced in Loptson’s new book.

Another aspect of Loki: Trickster and Transformer that I found highly enjoyable was the well-organized internal structure of every chapter. The first ten chapters begin with a short synopsis of a myth, and that myth always references the origin of Loki’s byname that is featured within that chapter. After the myth, Loptson provides some scholarly and personal insights into the myth before ending the chapter with a devotional or magical practice that is described in detail.

The first chapter focuses on Loki’s byname, Loptr, and ends with the opportunity to create a ritual candle to Loki. It is here that Loptson first notes that Scandinavian magic often contains a blood element, as runes and staves are often anointed with a drop of blood to empower them. He cautions readers at this point that he will mention blood magic again and then offers alternatives for those who cannot use blood for whatever personal reasons or reservations they may hold. Loptson makes no apologies for suggesting using blood from the first ritual and in several others, and that, in my mind, is one of the strengths of this book. Far too often, Pagan authors shy away from even discussing the concept of blood magic, so it is refreshing to see it discussed so frankly.

In the second chapter, the focus is on the heiti Vé, and it ends with the opportunity to create Loki-specific incense – more appropriately referred to as recels – and to use it to perform a purifying ritual. While I highly appreciate the included formula, it is not one that I will ever be able to use myself, as I have several significant allergies to many herbs and am sensitive to smoke. It is hard to say what kind of purification item could be made in lieu of recels for people with allergies and sensitivities like mine, though it would be nice to have an idea.

That said, the third chapter focuses on the byname Lóðurr, ending with the opportunity to create a wood-burned amulet that again uses blood magic. The ritual itself is a beautiful one, and I personally plan to create the suggested amulet once I can afford the materials. Wood-burning kits are not accessible price-wise, but it could be argued that saving the money for one to create an amulet like this one is a devotional act in and of itself.

Moving on, the fourth chapter focuses on the heiti In Slægi Áss, or the Cunning God, and ends with the creation of an embodiment of Loki’s image in a personal snaptun stone. Afterward, a ritual offering to Loki using the stone is suggested and a note on offerings included.

The fifth chapter centers around the byname Lundr Lævíss, the name that comes from the story of the kidnapping of Idunn. Incidentally, this is my favorite myth featuring Loki, so, unsurprisingly, this is one of my favorite chapters. It ends with the devotional act of making a set of Lokean prayer beads, which is an often under-utilized devotional practice in today’s Western polytheist community.

The sixth chapter features the heiti Lokabrenna, or Loki’s Torch, which is incidentally where the name for the devotional collection of Lokean works originated, a collection which Loptson helped produce alongside me, Amy Marsh, and Rose Moon Rouge. Due to that work, I was already predisposed to enjoy this chapter, and I absolutely loved the outdoor ritual performed under the light of Sirius, the Dog Star, as the devotional practice that concludes it.

In the seventh chapter, the focus is on the heiti Goða Dolgr, or Loki’s role as the enemy of the gods. This is where Loki’s children are discussed and a ritual for facing one’s inner demons is outlined. I am not a fan of using the term “demon” in this manner since I am a spirit-worker and am trained in exorcism techniques. The term “demon” for me immediately conjures the idea of malignant spirits, as it is where my life experiences have led me.

That said, however, Loptson does an admirable job of stating upfront that he is not using the term in this way and is instead referencing the inner parts of a person that have yet to be faced as the “demons” confronted in this particular ritual. The only other word that he could have feasibly used here would have forced a reference to shadow work and Jungian psychology, so, faced with those two choices, the term “demon” is preferable as it clearly distinguishes spiritual work from psychological work.

In the eighth chapter, Loki’s byname of Inn Bundi Áss (The Bound God) takes center stage. Here, the focus shifts slightly away from Loki onto Sigyn, as the devotional practice comes in the form of creating a blot bowl complete with a runic inscription requiring a bit of blood magic to activate. Loptson insights in this chapter about Sigyn’s origin as a goddess of libations is thought-provoking and inspiring, and he thus adds a dimension of practice for those of us who honor Sigyn alongside Loki in our daily lives. Loptson’s quiet insertion of a devotional practice for Sigyn in a book about Loki demonstrates his regard and reverence for Loki’s family and helps suggest to practitioners that a practice involving Loki necessarily involves his family.

Chapter nine focuses on the heiti Hevðrung (the Roarer), and this is the chapter in which Loptson discusses the ever-contentious myth of Baldr’s death. There are some keen insights here, which is refreshing considering how often this myth is rehashed in Heathen circles. The chapter ends with a recipe for creating Loki oil which can then be used for anointing yourself and other ritual items. An alternative for this ritual for those who are sensitive to herbs exists if you extrapolate the water blessing mentioned in the tenth chapter and use the blessed water for the anointing in place of the oil.

The tenth chapter centers on Loki’s byname, Gammleið, or Vulture Road. This deals with Loki’s ties to cremation and the funerary fire, which is a name I have rarely seen discussed or explored. There is definitely some thought-provoking insights in this chapter, and it ends with a blot to Loki replete with an outline and suggested offerings.

In the final chapter, Loptson provides a dedication ritual for those who seek something more formalized and concrete when it comes to defining their relationship with Loki. He makes a point to state upfront that no such ritual is required or needed, which I appreciate. Loptson’s inclusion of a dedication ritual is a beautiful one, as it allows people who need more structure to step into their relationship with Loki in a more formalized way. It will perhaps provide the incentive needed for those wavering on the brink of a devotional practice with Loki to take a firm step into that relationship.

Overall, the way that the devotional practices are presented are rational choices that increase the devotional work on a practitioner slowly. The practices proceed in a logical fashion. In order, the practices include: creating a ritual candle, creating incense and purifying space, creating a devotional amulet, creating an image of Loki in the form of a snaptun stone, the creation of prayer beads, doing an outside ritual, doing internal work through facing inner “demons,” creating a blot bowl, creating anointing oil, then doing a blot to Loki. The dedication ritual is optional, but it also serves a logical procession from the blot.

Truthfully, Loptson provided me with a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review – which, as a Lokean, cannot be anything but honest. After all, as a Lokean, the last thing I’m going to do is lie to someone to feed their ego. It would be an affront to my relationship with Loki. In Loptson’s book, I counted an astonishing 2-3 typos in the entire book, one of which may have been inspired by Loki himself. The only other issue I had (I have a seriously hard time moving past typos, it’s a personal failing on my part) was the lack of accessibility for those with lower incomes and sensitivities to herbs and smoke. Those last two are perpetual problems within the Pagan community overall, however, and it is thus unsurprising that Loptson’s book contains them.

That said, Loptson definitely delivers on his promise to provide the framework of a functional spiritual practice with Loki. His new book, Loki: Trickster and Transformer plays a vital role in providing a much-needed resource for Lokeans already engaged in a spiritual practice with Loki and for those new to and/or considering a devotional relationship with Loki. Complete with academic insight and intuitive interpretation, this is a title that delivers on both the practical and academic side, which is an exceedingly rare and beautiful gift in the Pagan world. If you are a practicing Lokean or someone just starting out on the road with Loki, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book when it comes out in June 2020 from Moon Books. You can preorder your copy here.

Confronting Racism in Heathenry

In a Facebook thread, I came across someone asking who the gods reject and how we know that the gods reject them. He also asked if the gods accept offerings from those with white supremacist ideologies and whether those people can be considered Heathen given Heathen literature, mythology, and history. Basically, he wanted to know who determines this since we don’t have a supreme Heathen authority the way that Catholics have the Pope.

Honestly, I think he answered his own question – given our literature, mythology, and history, as Heathens, we are obligated to stand against racism. The history of Heathenry in the United States is not a pretty one, and it is something we must fight against so that we can improve it going forward.

The first Heathen organization in the United States was created in 1974 by Stephen McNallen, who headed the Asatru Folk Assembly until 2016 when it was taken over by Flavel. The Asatru Folk Assembly is listed as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center. Rightfully so – it is due to McNallen, Flavel, and their volk’s rampant racism that Declaration 127 emerged.

Declaration 127 (http://www.declaration127.com/) is a firm stance taken against those who would use Heathenry to promote racism and other forms of hatred. It has led to groups like Heathens Against Hate being formed, and the most inclusive Heathen organization (and the only large inclusive one), the Troth, often issues statements against violence committed by white supremacists and raises funds to donate to charities that combat hatred.

The reality is that there is a history of racism in Heathenry, and, as Heathens, we are obligated to face that fact unflinchingly and then do something to fix it. We cannot prevent what has already happened, but we can definitely do something in the present to combat white supremacy.

As to the question of literature and mythology, many white supremacists have tried to use our lore to justify race-based hatred. That has always been warped and twisted logic, however, as nothing in the lore justifies racism.

White supremacists will look at the tribes of the gods and say that because the Aesir and Vanir so often fight against the Jotnar that it indicates a race-based problem. They forget that Odin, the chief of the Norse gods, is half-Jotun. Loki, who is included among the Aesir, is full-blooded Jotunn. The Aesir and Vanir gods intermarry with the Jotnar at a fairly frequent rate.

On top of that, the tribes of the gods are like familial clans – they aren’t races. The gods are gods, and gods can all take on whatever shape they need to for the purposes they serve; the very idea of racist gods is an extreme perversion of theology.

The question as to whether the gods take offerings from white supremacists is a harder one to answer – or rather, one with an answer that any anti-racist would find difficult to handle. The gods themselves are not human; they are not necessarily going to involve themselves in the politics of humans. They are not here to solve our problems for us; they are not here to get involved in human problems. It is very possible and probable that the gods take offerings from people of all sorts of violent ideologies – that, however, can be said of all gods.

There are white supremacists in all religions; white supremacy is a rising global threat; it is most prominently seen in the United States because the U.S. was founded on the tenets of white supremacy. That said, however, white supremacist terrorism is the most concerning rising global threat; it is on par with the threat of Islamic radicalism.

What makes terrorism so terrifying is the understanding that yes, there are Islamic radicals but that doesn’t make all Muslims terrorists. And yes, there are white supremacist terrorists, but that doesn’t make all white people terrorists either. The terrifying thing, though, is that terrorist acts serve to induce fear in targeted populations of those who *might* be a terrorist.

Turning back to Heathen lore, none of the gods I honor are ones that I can readily associate with supremacist ideology. This is, of course, just the way I see the gods, and people can and will see the gods in different ways. I always speak only from my own experience and vantage point, and I do not ever claim to speak for the gods. I just want to make that clear.

Odin is a god that wanders the world, seeking knowledge wherever it can be found. Racists often stop seeking knowledge and turn a blind eye to new truths. Odin never does that- he always seeks to know more. Would he accept an offering from a white supremacist? Probably, if he feels that the person can offer him knowledge he doesn’t already have or if doing so aids him in his quest to prevent the end of the world. Odin does what he does for self-gain that is meant to serve the world as a whole, and he has done and will continue to do things that humans find grievously offensive in order to prevent Ragnarok. He is very much an ends justify the means type of god, and that can be hard to digest.

That said, Odin is also a god that enjoys inciting war for the sake of war. It may very well be part of his intention to have the anti-racist Heathens fighting against the racist Heathens. I know that the war I feel called to fight against white supremacy is one that Odin issued to me – I am confident that the aspect of Odin I honor is firmly against any type of ideology that promotes hatred and thereby reduces the chance at gaining knowledge that can then be transmuted into wisdom. I will personally only associate with Odins-people who view Odin this way because I strongly advocate against hatred. To me, hatred for the sake of hatred is the most vile expression of humanity’s penchant for depravity.

The next god I honor is Loki, and I feel like I can say with a large degree of confidence that Loki abhors those who hate others without cause. His devotees, Lokeans, are very often comprised of social minorities and misunderstood individuals. To hate someone for an identity they hold is anathema to who Loki has shown himself to be. In my experience with Loki, he gets upset when people judge other people for arbitrary reasons. In fact, I would say Loki is probably one of the *best* gods among the Norse gods to invite to the fight against white supremacy. He understands what it is like to be hated without cause, and it is difficult to imagine Loki ever standing on the side of white supremacists due to his own backstory.

Freyr is a god of frith and peace, but he is also known as the field marshal of the gods. He is the god who will fight to ensure that peace happens. White supremacists threaten frith; they work to undermine peace in society, and they bring weapons into spaces where innocent people are just trying to live their lives. In the lore that we have about Freyr, he is one of the gods most easily riled to anger when peace is shattered – bringing weapons into his temples tended to result in an explosion of anger towards those who threatened his sacred spaces. Freyr is a god of sacral kingship, and he embodies everything good that is possible for a ruler to hold within them. He will protect his people even from himself. When it comes to the fight against white supremacists, Freyr is a powerful ally to have.

Tyr is a god of justice and honor, and he will sacrifice even himself to maintain the order of the world. When Fenrir threatened the gods, it was only Tyr who had the courage to step forward and do what needed to be done, even though Fenrir was his best friend. Tyr understands better than some of the other gods how hard it is to severe a relationship with a close friend due to the danger they pose to the world. It is hard to imagine Tyr willing to back white supremacists in this fight, as he is the god who allowed his relationship with his best friend to be severed for the good of the whole. He is a god that will easily sacrifice one for the sake of the many and place the good of all over the good of a few. White supremacists are a minority, threatened by the rising reality of a multicultural world – this is and has been true of most terrorist groups. They are comprised of the few fighting against the many. Tyr, then, is also a powerful ally to have in the fight against white supremacists.

There are many more gods and many more ways to interpret the stories, though most of the interpretations will demonstrate that the gods themselves have no reason to be found on the side of white supremacists.

Heathen lore and mythology is firmly opposed to the ideologies espoused by white supremacists – it doesn’t take much reading to figure that out.

The unfortunate and painful reality, however, is that people are notoriously bad at interpreting myth in an accurate way and incredibly good at twisting lore to suit their own purposes. No matter the religion at hand, that has always held true – Christians twist things they read in the Bible to suit their own political purposes. They aren’t the only ones – there are religious adherents in all faiths that do that, and Heathenry is no exception.

Heathenry also seems like it is filled with more racists than other religions because inclusive Heathens confront racism and speak and act against it. The truth is that all religions are packed to the brim with racist individuals, some of whom are radical enough in their views to support or become terrorists. The only reason Heathenry seems to hold more is because inclusive Heathens confront racism head-on. The history of Heathenry’s emergence in the United States requires we confront it, change it, and make the world a better place.

It is an issue that we can’t ignore and don’t ignore the way many other religions do. So far, the white supremacists who have committed terrorist acts have not been Heathen. If they have had religious ties, it has been to radical forms of Christianity. Many of them, however, have been secular or non-religious. This is not surprising, as terrorist ideology tends to replace and crowd out all other forms of ideology. Hatred becomes the driving force; the religion of hatred consumes those who come into contact with it if they are not already shored up against such hatred through strong ideologies of their own.

I will not fall into the trap of hatred because my personal ideology is one that promotes the interconnected nature of all people and the importance of life itself. If I am ever forced into a position where I must take someone else’s life to save my own or to save the lives of others – which is the only reason I would ever act in such a way – then I will do so but I will mourn the loss and the terrible situation which forced my hand. Life itself is far too precious to throw away or steal on a whim. In sum, then, life is my ideology. Hatred is anathema to life. Thus I will stand, forever, on the side of life.