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A Reading List on Race

Black Lives Matter.

The tragic death of George Floyd is another name in a long list of BIPOC individuals who have been killed for existing. Racism is rampant in the United States, in every social institution imaginable, and the institution of the police is no different. Hell, the police was originally created to catch runaway slaves. If that doesn’t tell you how deeply racism is embedded in our country, here is a list of books that will give you a clearer picture.

All of the following books are ones that I have read, and I guarantee that they  will help you understand more about race and racism within the U.S.This list in particular is directed at other white individuals, as we (white people) have a hard time talking about race. Let’s change that, so we can change the system and create one where color is visible, diversity is celebrated, and life is affirmed. Notes follow each title so you can determine if it is something you can read with a reading level and a difficulty rating between 1 and 5 with 1 at easy and 5 at extremely difficult. Please feel free to share this list.

“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
-Reading Level: General
-Difficulty Rating: 1

“Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi
-Reading Level: Written for a general audience but thoroughly researched and credible academic source
-Difficulty Rating: 2 just b/c of length

“The Racial Contract” by Charles Mills
-Reading Level: Academic – graduate students and upper-level undergrads (philosophy majors); it is a philosophy text
-Difficulty Rating: 5

“Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process” by A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.
-Reading Level: Academic – grad and upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 4
-Kind of dry but absolutely essential for understanding how the law disenfranchises BIPOC

“Racism without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (and everything else he has written)
-Reading Level: Academic but approachable for upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 3

“Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity” by Tim Wise
-Reading Level: Written for academics but is suitable for undergraduates at all levels and general audience
-Difficulty Rating: 2

“Racial Formation in the United States” by Michael Omi
-Reading Level: Academic but approachable for upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 3

“Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal” by Andrew Hacker
-Reading Level: Academic – graduate and upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 4

“American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Working Class” by Douglas S. Massey & Nancy A. Denton
-Reading Level: Academic – graduate and upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 4

“The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing” by Joe R. Feagin
-Reading Level: Academic – graduate and upper-level undergrads (especially sociology; it is a sociology text)
-Difficulty Rating: 3.5

“The Invention of the White Race” by Theodore W. Allen
-Reading Level: Academic – all levels
-Difficulty Rating: 3

“The History of White People” by Nell Painter
-Reading Level: Academic – graduate and upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 4.5

“The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class” by David Roediger
-Reading Level: Academic – all levels and also suitable for a general audience
-Difficulty Rating: 1

“The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics” by George Lipsitz
-Reading Level: Academic – grads and upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 3

“The Constraint of Race: Legacies of White Skin Privilege in America” by Linda Faye Williams
-Reading Level: Academic – grads and upper-level undergrads
-Difficulty Rating: 3

“White: Essays on Race and Culture” by Richard Dyer
-Reading Level: Academic – grads and upper-level undergrads (esp. communications majors).
-Difficulty Rating: 4.5

Aetherial Realm Shift – What it Means

I’m going to start by saying that I am 100% aware that the post I am about to write (and that you are about to read) will seem unreal/unusual and maybe even hit buttons of “this is crazy” for some of you.

That said, I feel a pretty urgent need to post this b/c I witnessed it first-hand happen to my roommate.

A few days ago, my roommate started being harassed by a spirit. She’s a two-headed doctor, so her immediate response was to do all the normal things – cleansing, banishing, warding, etc. The spirit did not respond to any of those things – in fact, it loved the energy. However, it did not stop harassing my roommate.

At that point, my roommate came to me and asked me if I could talk to the spirit and see what it wanted. Most of you aren’t really aware of this b/c I don’t speak about it much (for good reason) but I primarily do work as an astral mage – the majority of my magic takes place in realms outside of this one. Spiritwork is thus a huge part of it.

I approached the spirit, which resembled a celestial horse made completely of starlight (with wings), and I asked her what she wanted. Her response to me was “She (my roommate) needs me, but she doesn’t know it yet” and then proceeded to explain to me that she was, in fact, my roommate’s astral double who had somehow been forcibly removed from her home in the aetherial realm.

I didn’t have the tools on me to fix that (it’s not exactly a common thing to have to contend with), so we went to bed that night after my roommate set up an altar to her double to stabilize it a bit (this was a chance thing we tried that helped). My immediate action upon hitting the dreamworld was to consult with aetherials (I am a dreamwalker) to figure out what was happening. The only aetherials I’d really interacted with before had been a couple of angels, one of which was Michael.

So, I approached him (more like yelled at him while he was luckily flying over me on a mission and asked him what to do) and his response to me was “I’m busy, this is happening everywhere, you’re going to have to talk to some humans.” So, the next day, that’s what I did. I consulted everyone I could think of – no one had any idea what to do or what to recommend. Many people I talked to had stopped even practicing magic given the state of the world (which is understandable but inadvisable given the age-old magic truism that the macrocosm and microcosm reflect each other).

Then, by chance, a friend came over who does work with angels. She suggested my roommate consult with Raziel. My roommate followed that advice, and Raziel basically did the astral equivalent of open-heart surgery to re-establish the connection between my roommate and her astral double that had been severed. Papa Legba helped the astral double return to its rightful home in the aetherial realm, and a few other spirits helped the process along.

However, Raziel told my roommate that after the surgery she could not do magic for the rest of the night because that would potentially undo his hard work. He also told her that she wasn’t out of danger. The surgery itself caused her to experience a lot of physical pain. When that physical pain ended for her – about three-four hours later – our power went out.

The power went out in our entire apartment complex, so we figured it was just a downed power line somewhere since it wasn’t raining or storming. We found a couple candles and decided just to go to bed and say fuck it. Within about five minutes of that, though, my roommate came out of her room and told me that it felt really hostile and that she was afraid to sleep in her own room. She also brought me some red brick dust to line our apartment doorway with.

I took the red brick dust, invoked Thor for extra protection, and laid it across the doorway. As soon as the door shut, the power came back on.

One of those things being a coincidence – the power going off when she stopped being in pain or the power coming on after shutting the door – I could potentially buy. But not when power went out and was restored at very specific magical moments – that told me something weird was going on.

So, I got my tools together. I have an astral wand and an abalone shell that I keep near my bed to make travel a little easier. I also placed amethyst and a stone dedicated to Raguel that Raguel lent me after my roommate (who keeps an altar for him) introduced me to him and explained the situation at hand. Those went in a pouch that I wore to bed to augment dreamwalking in the aetherial realm, which I am less well-versed in walking.

In addition, I created runic warding sigils for every wall in the apartment and astros sigils for every window and reflective surface. I was not willing to risk anything else happening that night because things had gotten really weird really fast.

Anyway, after I finished increasing the wards around the apartment (we already had several layers of wards before the sigils), we went to bed. I reminded my roommate not to touch me, no matter what happened, while I was sleeping, because it is incredibly dangerous to pull someone out of a dreamwalk – about the same dangers as someone pulled out of shamanic trance. If you aren’t trained to do it safely, you can do some serious damage to the person’s mind and body.

In the astral, I met up with Raguel who had basically told me when he lent me the stone that he would explain the basics of the aetherial realm to me. I got a crash-course in the physics of the aetherial realm, the first rule of which was never to try to traverse it without a spirit guide because everything in the realm is in constant motion. I’m not going to go into further details about that here, as it stands to reason that aetherials don’t want everyone knowing how to access their realm when a breach is what has caused this problem in the first place.

The real problem here is that astral doubles – aka flygjas – are being delinked from their physical counterparts and forcibly removed from the aetherial realm and transported to the realm where their physical counterpart resides. This seems to be happening at random – there is not a set pattern to who exactly has found themselves delinked from their astral doubles – so here are a few things to look out for:

If you are spiritually sensitive and feel a spirit around you that is basically an extended echo of you (exaggerates all your personality characteristics) and cannot be removed (b/c it’s not a negative entity), and it is continuously trying to cling to you – it is probably doing the best it can to recreate the link and get back to the aetherial. If you spend too much time delinked from your astral double, it can and will kill you (it legitly almost killed my roommate; we got incredibly lucky that we are both adept practitioners because we were also both pretty out of our depth).

There is absolutely no telling who it will impact and who it won’t – however, there is something you can do that will help. If you don’t have one, you need to purchase an amethyst cluster or geode for every person in your household (or you need to be an astral mage/dreamwalker with extensive training to create the right kind of wards to prevent such a delinking in the first place). That amethyst cluster can act as an anchoring point that links the astral double back to the aetherial realm long enough for a deity/aetherial to help you re-establish the connection and get the astral double back to its home in the aetherial plane. Only amethyst will work for this – it is the only stone with a direct link to the aetherial plane.

For those of you who are not sensitive to spirit, the physical symptoms – based on what I witnessed my roommate experience – are as follows: extreme lethargy, inability to sleep, inability to eat, difficulty moving, hot/cold flashes without a fever or any other physical reasons for it, random sneezing with no physical reason for it (no allergies), sense of impending doom/feeling like you’re dying with no underlying physical reason for it.

I can talk about what is happening right now only because of the extreme emergency situation caused by it. From what I have been given to understand, this particular situation was what caused the “shift” that many more sensitive individuals felt in the last couple of weeks. A lot of people have said it felt like a “positive” shift; others have said negative. The shift happened in one of the realms with the highest vibrational energy, and a type of energy that always feels good, which does help explain the oddness of it.

Because of what I personally witnessed and because of my own understanding of what is happening, I felt like I had to write this post. What you do with it is up to you, and I sincerely hope that no one who reads this ever experiences what I witnessed happened to my roommate. It was more terrifying than I have words to express.

Odin and Autosacrifice

Divine Multiplicity

About 10 years ago, I found myself reading Norse mythology and all the books considered part of the Heathen lexicon of lore. The whole reason I started reading books dealing with Norse mythology, history, and lore – I saw an unsettling picture of Odin on a website. The picture displayed him as an elder man with an eye-patch, but the look in his other eye came across like a leader offering a rebuke while simultaneously extending his hand.

The way that picture unsettled me actually prevented me from doing research into Heathenry for about six months. I was not sure I was ready to deal with another god after I had spent the majority of my life feeling betrayed by the Christian god; I certainly wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with a god that had the kind of unsettling presence I felt in that picture. I wrestled with…

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Adjusting to a New Reality

Note: This is long, and it is my attempt to respond to Beckett’s call in his article, “Letter to my Fellow Pagan Priests in this Time of Isolation and Uncertainty,” to be more vulnerable.


I remember sitting down to dinner with two of my friends sometime in mid-January, and we were discussing the earthquakes in Puerto Rico and how something like that had not happened in a century. We also discussed other historical storms. At one point, we talked about how the only thing that hadn’t yet happened was a global pandemic…as the last one had happened over 100 years ago.

That conversation still haunts me because it almost seemed to predict the situation we are facing now, with the Covid19 pandemic. The rational part of my mind knows that a conversation like that between friends cannot actually cause a global trauma to occur; the CPTSD that I live with every day makes me feel guilt and shame for even having the conversation because it tells me that somehow the conversation turned speculation into reality. That’s obviously impossible, but the trauma disorder twists my emotions into irrational and incoherent knots.

On top of that, when the virus hit NC near the beginning of March, I was at home dealing with allergic bronchitis that had turned into bacterial pneumonia. I spent nearly a week and a half feeling like I was going to die – I had to go into the doctor’s office for a nebulizer treatment, was prescribed Levaquin, Prednisone, and Albuterol (inhaler) – and that was the week before my university’s scheduled spring break.

When I had halfway recovered, I spent the entirety of that original spring break writing the rest of my thesis (which I am now revising). By the time that was done, I was still dealing with a terrible cough from the bronchitis-pneumonia and my school had announced a second spring break and a complete switch to online classes for the rest of the semester.

For me, that second spring break and the week following it felt surreal. I ended up going through periods of depersonalization and derealization; it felt like the world was no longer real and I had woken up in some alternate dimension to the reality I was supposed to be in. Because of that hazy-at-the-edge feeling of the world at large, I turned to what I normally do when I feel overwhelmed – research and the consumption of information.

I read absolutely every article I could find about Covid19 for two weeks straight, often spending entire days glued to my computer just to find out more information about the virus, how it spread, who was at risk, and what to do to lessen risk. I obsessively researched information about materials and liquids that were anti-microbial; I invested in a copper salt rinse because copper is antimicrobial (and I have bad allergies).

I bought hand sanitizer for the first time in my life – I hate hand sanitizer because the alcohol in it cracks my skin – and antibacterial wipes for my car. I dug out a relatively unused can of Lysol wipes from my cleaning supplies and sanitized every surface in my apartment; I started sanitizing groceries when I brought them home. I started opening mail, throwing away the packaging, then letting the items sit for 3 days before even daring to touch them. Every time I go out, I put my hair up and I twist on hair-ties to the end of my glasses to keep them from sliding down my face so I am not tempted to touch my face.

I bought non-medical grade nitrate gloves, and I have the materials to make a cloth mask…which I will use as soon as the county where I live has over 10 cases (right now it’s under that) because I cannot breathe well and thus hate wearing masks. I have asthma, exacerbated by allergies, so masks tend to reinforce for me exactly how hard it is for me to breathe normally. I generally have to breathe through my mouth.

I paid attention to the little details in news articles about what people were hoarding, what the poorest people were having the hardest time accessing, and I went out of my way to avoid those items, despite being a food stamp beneficiary myself. I refused to become a panic buyer because I knew that buying selfishly could result in the loss of someone else’s ability to feed their children, and I absolutely did not want that on my conscience.

I purposefully limited myself to no more than 2 of anything I picked up unless it was very obviously untouched/well-stocked (like diced tomatoes; I ended up with 5 cans of those). I bought no more than 2 of any meat item even though I knew from a friend who works in the meat processing industry that the meat supply chain was definitely impacted because meat processing plants around the country were shutting down. I did the best I could to avoid canned meats, knowing first-hand that often the only kind of protein that poor children get comes in the form of Vienna sausages, Spam, and canned tuna/chicken. Any item labeled WIC, I avoided, grabbing the cheapest non-WIC alternative I could find.

I refused to use cash, and any time a store employee asked about a store card, I gave them a phone number instead of reaching for my wallet to pull it out just to minimize contact for them, as they are some of the people most at-risk. I also used the antibacterial wipes I keep in my car after the grocery trip, wiping down my hands, my car keys, my door handles, my steering wheel, my phone, my purse, and the card I used to make the purchase. Once at home, I brought the groceries in, washed my hands, sanitized the counter, and used Lysol wipes to wipe everything down and threw away all of the bags that I brought the groceries home in. Normally, I keep plastic grocery bags to use as trash bags in the bathroom; I have enough stockpiled that I am not doing that any longer.

I went to my dad’s house before the stay-at-home order was issued in NC so that I could do laundry there instead of at a shared laundry facility with the rest of the apartment complex where I live. I didn’t want the added stress of having to sanitize the laundry room every time I used it. I bought a laundry additive to help kill allergens to help reduce the potential risk for me getting a second round of allergic bronchitis…my allergies/asthma put me at a higher risk if I do contract Covid19…so lessening the impact of my allergies right now is incredibly important.

After those two weeks of obsessively consuming information about the virus and how to lessen the risk to myself, I have mostly moved away from reading the news. I got what I needed from it – what I can do to protect myself and others to the best of my ability. I am doing those things. I am washing my hands, maintaining social distancing policies, and doing everything I can when I go to a grocery store to minimize contact between myself and others. I am sanitizing my car when I get out of the store and my groceries when I get home. I am doing everything I can, and, for me, that has been enough for me to regain some sense of reality.

The world doesn’t seem hazy now; I’m not experiencing derealization and depersonalization anymore. I have, for the most part, adapted to this new reality. I am still struggling to carve out time for doing work – I have a paper on Zimbabwe to write, a movie to watch and respond to, thesis revisions to work on, and all of my work as a graduate teaching assistant to do. I actually wrote out a schedule to follow this week, and that has helped. I’ve never done well working from home (too many distractions), so I’m having to find new and inventive ways to trip myself into work mode.

Religiously, I have started working with the Egyptian triad of Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertm. Ptah is a creator god, essentially a god of architecture. Sekhmet is a goddess of war and disease, both the spreading and prevention of it. Nefertm is the god of beauty and perfume; some sources also suggest that he is a god of medicine. This triad of gods showed up for me almost as soon as Covid19 was declared a global pandemic.

Loki, of course, is as present as ever. Although not an aspect as well-known as his trickster aspect, Loki himself is a god of healing. Many Lokeans can attest to this, as he has helped many of us deal with emotionally and physically traumatic pasts. He is also a god of change, a catalyst for what lies ahead. While it is uncomfortable that the world is changing because of a pandemic, the truth is that it *is* changing. What awaits us on the other side of that is still unknown. I find that working with Loki helps me tolerate the uncertainty of what is coming more easily, and he helps me find humor even in my darkest moments.

Helping others has always helped me cope with my own traumatic past, one that was rife with being constantly told that I was a burden and unwanted. When I can help someone else, guide someone else through darkness, it lessens that gnawing uncertainty inside me that has me constantly questioning if my existence even matters. When I am able to help someone else, I gain a momentary respite and can breathe into the knowledge that I can have a positive impact on the world. That is the only legacy I need; the invisible hand of the actions I take that have helped others find their own way through the darkness. I don’t need stories told about me or worry about what will be left of me when I do pass. The knowledge that I have helped someone, somewhere, who has then been able to go forward into their own light…that’s enough for me.

I once wondered why Loki chose me to be his priest, but I no longer do. Like Loki, I often act as a catalyst. I end up in places where I am needed to create bridges across divides for other people; I show people paths that they might not otherwise consider. And then I let them make their own decisions because no one else’s path is mine to determine. Knowing that I have helped create those bridges, helped forge connections between people and groups…that’s legacy enough.

From here on out, I am available for those who need guidance from one of Loki’s chosen clergy. I have, as it were, put my own mask on first, so now I can help you with yours if you need it. It has taken time, but adjusting to change often does. You can email me at kyaza18@gmail.com or you can find me on Facebook in the Loki’s Wyrdlings group.

May luck be with you.

Kyaza

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.