Tag Archives: heathen

Religion and Worship are NOT Dirty Words

I came across a question about whether Lokeanism itself can be called a religion, and there were quite a few commenters uncomfortable with the idea that Lokeanism could potentially fit into the umbrella category of religions.

I personally find it odd to refer to my personal practice as Lokeanism. To me, that suggests that I only honor Loki and follow a henotheistic path rather than the polytheistic one I actually follow. Being a Lokean, to me, simply means that I am a person who does dedicated work for Loki.

With that logic, I am also an Odins-person, a Tyrs-person, a Freyrs-person… etc, and so on. I’m not entirely sure where the title Lokean originated, but it honestly seems to be a title Lokeans use as identifiers so other Lokeans can find each other.

In all honesty, the question the person intended was more along the lines of “Does working with Loki mean being religious?”

The short answer is yes. Yes, it does.

I do not know when the idea that the very words “religion” and “worship” are anathema to Paganism began, but it is not a healthy way to view relationships with the gods and other spirits.

Religion is a complicated concept, one so complicated that even the longest definition is still too simple to fully define it. One of the best definitions I’ve come across for religion comes from Vexen Crabtree, and their definition of religion is as follows:

Religions are shared collections of transcendental beliefs that have been passed on from believers to converts, that are held by adherents to be actively meaningful and serious and either based on (1) formally documented doctrine (organized religion) or (2) established cultural practices (folk religion). In both forms, there are religious professionals who embody formal aspects of the religion and who act in positions of leadership and governance, and there are certain rituals reserved for them to carry out. The beliefs generate practical implications for how life should be lived.

Religions often include: spiritual explanations of our place in the world in an attempt to answer questions about “why we are here”; worship of deities and/or supernatural entities (including ancestors); conceptions of “holy” and “sacred” activities ideas and objects; set rituals, calendar events based on the changing seasons, distinctive dress codes (especially for religious professionals), codes of morality and action that are given a mandate from a supernaturally great being, from a supernatural force or from the will of the Universe itself; and, a caste of privileged and exalted professionals who have particular claims to be in touch with transcendental forces.

Using this definition as a guide, working with Loki or any other deity falls under the category of folk religion. We have clergy – I cannot be a priest for a god that has no religion. That doesn’t even begin to make sense.

Now, the cultural practices and the codes of morality for those who work with Loki are generally the same as those that guide the religion of Heathenry. It is actually incredibly important to work with a deity through the cultural context of that god, as such a practice lends itself to a clearer understanding of that god and a better relationship.

That said, polytheistic religions are generally a) orthopraxic – based on practice rather than doctrine and b) reciprocal – the gods give to us and we give to them in a neverending cycle of exchange. That’s a severely reduced explanation and doesn’t necessarily apply to all polytheistic religions (there are too many to do that type of assessment).

There also seems to be this impression among Heathens in general, which carries over to Lokaens – that worshipping the gods is a horrific idea. Like, how dare we kneel before beings and supplicate ourselves? That is also ridiculous. Worship literally means “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” That’s the dictionary definition.

That means every time you feel affection for a god, you are offering that god your worship. Every time you are in awe of the sheer strength of the gods you honor, you offer them worship. With every libation you pour, every prayer you utter, every ritual you do, you offer them worship. That is what worship is – what devotion looks like. That is what it means to serve the gods.

If you serve the gods, you are part of a religion. There are millions upon millions of religions. Don’t let the ones that caused you harm in the past keep you from experiencing the fullness of the religious life you could lead now, on the path you have chosen for yourself, where you are surrounded by people who have chosen similar roads.

Religion and worship are not dirty words. Let’s stop pretending that what we’re doing is anything other than what it is – let’s stop lying to ourselves and others about the work we do for the gods we love.

Sources:

What is Religion? http://www.humanreligions.info/what_is_religion.html 

Google Dictionary search for “worship”

 

 

Devotional Poem: The God I Know

The God I Know

If only you could see the god I do,

See the way he shines with the radiance of the sun

And the kindness of its warmth in spring

 

Maybe then you would understand why

I have chosen to follow the path he has

Laid before me and asked me to walk down.

 

He laid a mantle before me and asked me,

His voice gentle and his eyes kind,

If I would be his priest, his friend.

 

I told him yes and the work began,

and then he showed me where to start.

 

He showed me people all mixed up,

Unable to find a place to call their own,

Hated simply for loving him.

 

They found themselves hated for their worship,

Because all anyone else saw in that choice

Was a choice to honor cruelty and hatred.

 

They saw Him as a coward; a cruel devil

Who deceived his way into the ranks of the gods

Only to murder the one they most beloved.

 

They tried to paint him as a figment,

A scholarly invention of a terrific villain,

And failed to read between the lines.

 

It is between the lines that I found this god,

The god whose friendship I cherish,

Whose path I walk with love and pride.

 

Loki lives in the in-between places,

Swims through the liminal as he shifts

Shape into the forms he holds dear.

 

In those liminal spaces, I see Him,

Caught between life and death,

Magnifying all opposites.

 

He is the laughter through tears,

The sanity in madness, the clarity

In confusion, the order in chaos

And everything in reverse.

 

He has many names and many sides,

And he brings many gifts to those

Who dare to walk beside him.

 

He shows me who I am and

Where I am going and why I matter

And reminds me how to be human.

 

He is the one who asked me to build,

And so I built a shelter for those who

Needed a place they could call home.

 

A place they could escape the judging eyes

Of those who refused to see Loki except

Through the lenses of hatred and fear.

 

I tried to build a refuge for those who

Needed a space to just be themselves,

To just breathe without fear.

 

Even now, that such space exists,

I know my work is not done –

It may never be done.

 

Because there is too much hatred,

Too much pride, and too much fear

In the eyes of those who hate a god.

 

They hate a god they do not know,

Make assumptions they cannot prove,

And criticize those who dare to trust Loki.

 

Few gods inspire as much fear as Loki

Which is ironic considering how much love

He holds for all of those who come to him.

 

He is one of the gods closest to people,

One that understands humans better

Than some of the other gods I know.

 

He has more patience and love than

I can ever express, and he is willing

To wait for a person to learn to trust.

 

Those who come to Loki, who really

See him, know that he is a god of self-truth,

And that he will not let you lie to yourself.

 

There are people who cannot abide that,

Who would delude themselves instead of

Face themselves – these are not Loki’s people.

 

Loki’s people are full of love and passion,

A zest for life that cannot be matched, and

A fire that burns for truth and revelation.

 

We are the spark that lights the match,

That sets the wheels in motion, that keeps

The world turning around us.

 

We take our inspiration from the world,

Even as the world tries to break us down,

And we keep rebuilding, hoping that,

One day, people will stop knocking us down.

 

Hoping that, one day, people will see

The Loki that we see. The Loki that

We have all come to love.

 

The Lokean Stigma

The last time I gave an offering to Odin, I asked him for some advice on my path. I used the runes to divine the answer to that question, as Odin is one of the gods I have a harder time hearing through a godphone. I pulled Ansuz and Perthro, a rune I associate with Odin followed by one I associate with Loki. Through that, I got the message – the work I do for Odin is the work I do for Loki. Or, put another way, the work I do for Loki is the work Odin has set before me – set before us both, perhaps.

The other work I do for Odin mostly comes from people asking me about him and informing those people of his path. Most of that happens in the form of emails that I receive. I don’t receive many emails from people who visit this blog, yet those who email me almost always ask me about Odin. It only took a few emails of that sort to realize that communication was the work that Odin had set before me.

The work I do for Loki comes through the communities I have helped build, including the Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook page, the creation of Loki University, and the publication of Loki’s Torch. Since I started my work for Loki, I have seen the Lokean community expand ever outward, with more and more Lokean communities forming and Lokeans in general gaining more acceptance among other Heathens. I have seen the Troth lift the ban against hailing Loki at Troth-sponsored events, and I have witnessed the defense of Lokeans in many organizations.

For all the growth, however, there is still more work to do. Not all Heathen organizations are accepting of Lokeans, nor are all kindreds or all Heathens. Even though we all practice the same religion, the fact that we worship Loki serves to set us apart from our communities. We are still forced to live on the fringes of Heathenry, as if Loki himself was never considered part of the Aesir (despite evidence to the contrary).

In the wider American Heathen world, especially in communities where Lokeans are barely heard of or discussed, there are several dominant beliefs that hurt Lokeans – some of which are based in truth, though that truth is often distorted. Some of those distorted beliefs include the following:

  1. Lokeans are just Marvel fan-girls looking for attention
  2. People just worship Loki so they can have an excuse to become a god-spouse
  3. Lokeans worship an evil god so they must also be evil
  4. Lokeans are naïve because they only see the “good” face of Loki and never deal with his darker aspects

With the exception of #3, the Lokean community itself contributes to the wide spread of these misinformed, distorted beliefs. The 3rd one disproves itself, as anyone with an understanding of Norse religion would understand that Loki was never viewed as evil, and that the Norse didn’t actually have a concept of good vs. evil.

The other three, however, are perpetuated because many people in the wider Heathen world generally end up interacting with Lokeans who fit into one of the other three categories – Marvel Lokeans, godspouses, and Lokeans who refuse to deal with the harsher aspects of our god.

From what I’ve seen over the last few years, as the Lokean community has grown, there are two types of Marvel Lokeans. There are the ones who view Marvel Loki as another guise of Loki, another tool he uses to get his message across to the world. These are the Lokeans who willfully and dutifully engage with the lore and learn more about Loki and expand their understanding of the god they follow. These are the Lokeans who see Marvel Loki as a potential form Loki assumes rather than seeing Tom Hiddleston as Loki. These are the Lokeans I respect.

The other set of Marvel Lokeans are exactly what they are accused of being – fans of Marvel who are attracted to Tom Hiddleston and have warped their understanding of religion to make it work. These are the ones who refuse to engage with the myths, who refuse to see past the character of a comic book to the truth underneath it. I cannot stand this type of Lokean because their practice is anathema to everything Loki represents – dispelling illusions, grasping deeper truths, illuminating the reality behind the falsehoods presented.

So many people talk about how everyone has a right to their own path to deity, their own path to their religious truth – and yes, that is true. There are millions of right ways to reach the gods, ways I cannot even pretend to understand. But if there are millions of right ways, there are also millions of wrong ways. This idea that there is no wrong way that has been perpetuated in Pagan circles for the last decade is ridiculous. More right ways mean more wrong ways, not fewer.

I’m sure that, eventually, some of the second types of Lokeans find their ways to the myths and become the first type of Lokeans – if they really are dedicated to Loki and not the comic universe, Loki will get them there himself if he feels the need to do so. I have no doubt that Loki will find the followers he needs, and that he will do what he needs to in order to procure them.

It is, however, not Loki I am worried about. I do not need to worry about the gods – they have their own agendas, their own methods. They do what they need to.

No, what I worry about is the state of Lokeans and their acceptance in the wider American Heathen community. Because we will always be fighting a battle against prejudice to be accepted into it, especially when we live in a world where so many people rely on text rather than experiences to find their truths. And so many of those texts paint Loki as evil, so Lokeans get the same label.

There are actual obstacles to being accepted by the larger Heathen community, and one of those is the fact that we have Marvel Lokeans of the second variety. That creates a stigma about the Lokean community, and it isn’t one we can get rid of because so many Lokeans of that variety seem determined to prove that their religion is as valid as everyone else’s.

It’s also interesting that we live in a world where we proclaim so much acceptance for each individual’s interpretation, despite the fact that most religious understanding is communal, historically speaking. Old Norse society was communal, and many Heathen organizations have tried to imitate that. That’s one of the reasons that Loki and Lokeans gaining acceptance has taken so long – beliefs don’t exist in a vacuum. How a community believes affects what that community experiences.

When I talk about how Marvel Lokeans – and I mean only the second variety – hurt the Lokean community, I’m not talking about a couple of people who hold delusional beliefs. That is easier to handle; those people tend to be pushed out of societies altogether. No, I’m talking about a sizeable portion of the community –what seems like maybe a 5th – that truly believes Tom Hiddleston and Loki are one and the same. People who refuse to deal with myth, who refuse to learn to see Loki through any other lens than that of the MCU version. These people are hurting our community, and yet so many people leap to their defense that it’s almost impossible to say anything against them.

Well, here I am, speaking out against them. Because they are one of the reasons that Lokeans have a harder time gaining acceptance in the wider Heathen community. I’m sick of being asked, every time someone learns that I’m Loki’s priest, the same question: “Do you mean Marvel Loki?” I’m sick of that being the first question that someone asks about the work I do for the multi-faceted god Loki truly is. It makes me feel heart-sick, that question.

I’m tired of having to correct people and explain the difference between Loki and MCU Loki. Every time someone meets a 2nd-variety Marvel Lokean, and then meet me, I have to untangle everything that person has heard about Lokeans and explain what it really means to work for Loki, all over again. It’s a lot of work, and I do it, because I am devoted to Loki and the work he asks of me, but it is a ridiculous amount of effort. The community damages itself, and then I have to work even harder to undo some of that damage.

Moving on to the second reason that Lokeans struggle to find acceptance, many Heathens assume that Lokeans are only Lokeans because that allows them to be god-spouses. That is a faulty assumption, of course, and god-spousery is 100% a valid relationship to hold with a god.

That said, it’s clear to see where that assumption comes from because there are more Lokean god-spouses than non-Lokean god-spouses. It’s hard to know if that is because Loki just really likes having god-spouses, if it’s because people lack discernment and think they have a relationship they don’t, or if Lokeans are more willing to engage in personal relationships with deities that other Heathens aren’t. The only thing I can do there is speculate, so there’s no real answer to give.

The most problematic thing about Lokean god-spouses is all the damned in-fighting I’ve seen. I’ve seen god-spouses say that Loki prefers a particular body type to another, that Loki likes one person better than another, and all other sorts of insidious jealousy. It’s the in-fighting that makes the god-spousery within the Lokean community seem so toxic and unhealthy to the wider Heathen community. The Lokean community is also the only one I’ve seen where god-spouses will make their own smaller community, which seems unwise to me considering the level of jealousy we’re capable of towards other people. It takes a special type of person to be comfortable in polyamorous/polygamous relationships, and very few people have that mindset. Honestly, if we could get rid of the in-fighting among god-spouses, the Lokean community would probably have an easier time in the wider Heathen community.

Anyway, moving on to the last distorted belief – the one about Lokeans refusing to deal with the darker aspects of Loki – is one that is true and false at the same time. Because there are a handful of Lokeans, myself included, willing and able to engage with the darkest sides of Loki.

There are other Lokeans who refuse to see him as anything but a fun prankster or a friend to joke with. That is understandable – there are also people who refuse to see Odin as anything but a grandfather-like figure. Some people cannot handle the darker aspects of their gods. I can respect that.

That said, however, Loki is a lord of the liminal, a god that resides in the in-between spaces. He is light and dark, order and chaos, all the opposites commingled. It is not possible to grasp a deeper relationship with Loki without engaging with the harsher aspects. His light is only possible because of his darkness. The order he brings comes from the chaos he wreaks. His kindness comes from the pain he’s experienced. His cruelty comes from the love he holds. These are things that can only be understood by engaging with the myths and reflecting upon them, meditating about his complexities.

That is why Lokeans need to do a better job at engaging with the myths. That is why we need to work on shifting the 2nd-variety Marvel Lokeans to the 1st type – the ones who read the myths. Because Loki is a complex god, and Lokeans are complex people. When we speak to people in the wider Heathen community, we must speak both of Loki and his followers. Because, at the end of the day, a Lokean is a representative of Loki. We are his eyes, his ears, and his voice – though we must never claim to speak as Him, never claim our interests or causes as His. We may ask Him to bless our events, to champion our causes, but we must never assume that He has done these things. To do so is to speak for a god, and our gods speak for themselves. They speak through us in our actions, and we do not need to claim they do so for it to be so.

That is the Old Way – to live in imitation of the gods you follow. So, let us imitate Loki in dispelling the illusions around our communities about what it means to be a Lokean. Let us dispel the falsehoods that we find in our lives every day. Let us offer healing to those who think themselves broken, and harm to those who think to break others. As Lokeans, let us walk through life the way we believe Loki would and never dare to say that we speak for Him. We can never speak for the gods – but we can live for them.

 

 

 

Loki: Conversations at Taco Bell

Last night, I went to Taco Bell with one of my best friends. The conversation we had was pretty interesting, as we went from discussing the Book of Swords series by Fred Saberhagen to the ALS walk he is helping his romantic interest organize. We also discussed his friend’s decision to purchase a Shiba Inu and the complications that has brought due to some unforeseen anger issues. Finally, our conversation turned to Loki and the Lokean groups on Facebook.

I was expressing my frustration with some of the spin-offs from Loki’s Wyrdlings that seem predisposed to trash-talking fellow Lokeans. Those really bother me because it seems immature and disrespectful to me to trash-talk fellow Lokeans who are simply at different places in their practice. In the Wyrdlings group, I have tried to cultivate an atmosphere that is welcoming to everyone, from beginner to advanced, and that’s never been an easy task.

I understand that some of the more advanced practitioners, myself included, sometimes feel frustrated by questions that beginners ask because we’ve already resolved those issues. But the truth is, we were all beginners at some point, and now that we can answer those questions, shouldn’t we? Not all of us – in fact, very few of us – had mentors that we could ask those questions of, so we had to carve out the path we walk in a very clumsy, messy way. Now that we’ve carved those paths, however, we have an opportunity to make it easier for those who follow in our footsteps to find their way to Loki.

I’d much rather celebrate the community that has emerged over the past few years and appreciate that there are so many new Lokeans than indulge in the frustration and exasperation that some of the beginner level questions can cause. I’d rather answer the same beginner’s question a thousand times to a thousand new Lokeans than to scoff at them and tell them they should already have the answer figured out. Elitism is never pretty, no matter where it shows up, and it is never kind.

One of the other things that bothers me about some of these new groups is that they claim to present a space to discuss the darker aspects of Loki. They claim to acknowledge that Loki is more than love and light, to avoid the fluffy side, and to essentially discuss the reality that Loki is a complex god that can be as cruel as he is kind.

That bothers me mostly because the Wyrdlings group has always allowed for a discussion of all of Loki’s aspects, from the cruelest to the kindest and everything in-between. I’ve always posted my new blogs to the Wyrdlings group, and I’ve discussed Loki’s Worldbreaker aspect in detail. I’ve definitely talked about how Loki is not always kind – a broken oath to him, from stories I’ve heard, often results in a person’s being driven insane. I’ve talked about how a person who is unable to handle Loki’s energetic signature may find themselves slowly going crazy, dealing with a divinely induced psychosis.

Those conversations have never been off-limits in the Wyrdlings group, so it surprises me that there are people who think that they are. It also worries me that there are groups who are trying to avoid anything they consider too “kind” or “fluffy” because Loki is a complex god with many, many facets. He can be cruel but he can also be kind. To focus on one side of Loki is to ignore the other sides, and that seems dangerous to me. People are free to do what they want, of course, but it seems unwise to focus on one side of Loki and ignore the others. It seems unwise to do that with any god, if I’m honest.

That conversation eventually turned to the pictures of Loki that I’ve seen in various groups, and there was one that stuck in my memory that I showed my friend. It was a black and white sketch of Loki crammed inside a box. On the outside of the box, the phrase “human expectations” was written. In Loki’s speech bubble, there was this comment: “You realize I don’t fit in this, right?”

That drawing serves as a poignant reminder that Loki is a god complex to the point that He defies human expectations. He doesn’t fit in a box, no matter how much we might want to fit him into one. The gods deserve to be seen as they are instead of how we want them to be, but that’s a very hard thing to do – we cannot ever see all of the gods. They have too many sides.

What we can do, however, is acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. Those of us more experienced can remind ourselves that we have a responsibility to be humble before the gods we serve, as we will always be beginners in their eyes. We can never know them to the point we can know another human, so to judge others for the relationships they hold or don’t hold with Loki is elitist and absurd.

I’m certainly not going to judge anyone for the relationships with the gods they honor, even if I don’t understand them. I am, however, going to judge the people who are judging those relationships. What right do you have to tell another person that the relationship they have with their god is wrong, immature, unfounded, or unrealistic?

Instead of condemning the relationships others have with their gods, maybe you should try focusing on developing the relationships you hold with yours. Every relationship looks different. Every interaction is unique. Sometimes, the gods speak to us directly in ritual, through godphones, through dreams, or through divination. Sometimes, the gods don’t speak to us at all, and we give them offerings anyway.

Because every interaction with a god is a privilege and a pleasure, even when those interactions are sometimes terrifying. We give offerings to the gods in gratitude for everything that they have already done for us – they gave us the world we live in and the lives we hold. Should we really go around expecting more than that?

I’ve experienced the gods first-hand, but it’s not because I asked them to show up or to add anything more to my life. Every instance where a god has interacted with me, it has been a privileged moment, a special moment in my life that I will always hold close to me. To me, they are moments where I know that the gods care – that they have always cared – about those who follow them.

I never expect the gods to show up. I don’t require that to happen for me to honor them. These aren’t incidents that happen all that often, and, when they do, I’m usually not expecting it at all. Loki sometimes shows up through my friend who has a standing agreement with him to allow possession and channeling, and every time it has happened, my immediate reaction has been, “Why are you here? Did I do something wrong? What do you need?” At least internally. Externally, I stammer through a greeting and try to figure out what to ask a god whose presence, even while channeled, is simply overwhelming.

The last time it happened was last night at Taco Bell, which was the first time Loki has appeared through a channeled form outside of a ritual environment in about six months. He didn’t stay for long, either – maybe three to five minutes. The whole world kinda fell to that moment though, so it felt like an eternity and an instant all at once.

I did eventually ask him why he showed up, and his response was that he was excited about the offerings I had bought him. I always give Loki offerings on Saturday, and it was approaching midnight, so that made sense to me. I asked him why he liked chocolate so much since it’s not like he needs it to survive, and his response was essentially that it engenders in him something close to what humans understand as excitement but isn’t quite that. I actually really appreciated that candor because it told me pretty clearly that Loki, at least, is a god that can translate the way that gods feel into a way that humans can understand. Even if we are always bumbling around and getting things wrong.

I also asked him what his thoughts were on the spin-off groups, and I got the equivalent of a shrug. He told me that humans have always needed smaller groups to discuss certain things and that people always fight about things. I had a sneaking suspicion that he was fine with the spin-off groups just so he could watch the conflict unfold, and when I asked him that, he answered in the affirmative. At that point, a fire truck drove by with its sirens blaring, and I could almost physically feel his attention completely swing away from me and towards the fire truck, and I said something along the lines of “You really want to chase that truck now, don’t you?” Which also got an answer in the affirmative.

I also told him I had seen people using his name to create the WWLD kind of acronyms reminiscent of the WWJD ones, except that it was more WWLB with it standing for What Would Loki Burn? His response to that was both hilarious and terrifying – “What wouldn’t I?” My response to that was “Hopefully, your followers.” Then he laughed and left to, assumingly, chase the fire truck.

For me, that is an interaction that will live on in my heart forever. It helps that my friend was with me, and he mostly remembers the possession, which helped with discernment. We discussed it afterwards in-depth because that’s one of the best ways to ensure that what we had experienced was real and not just a delusion.

That said, those aren’t experiences or interactions I expect to have with Loki. Last night, I was actually dealing with some pretty heavy depression caused by the fact that my leg was really hurting me (I have metal rods in my right leg from a bad car accident several years ago), and all I really wanted to do was lay down somewhere and cry myself to sleep with the pain of it. I was in no way in a state of mind where I felt competent or capable of dealing with a deity interaction.

Loki didn’t care about that, though, since he showed up and forcibly made my phone stop working – I was looking for a picture of him to show my friend, ironically enough. Loki essentially forced me to pay attention to him when I was literally at one of my lowest points. Once I realized he was present, I pulled myself together enough to deal with the interaction. Because I’m his priest, I will never turn Loki away when he shows up, no matter how he shows up. That’s one of the things I’m obliged to do – have the conversations with Loki he wants to have, even if I’m not in the best mindset to do so.

I’m sure there are people who read about my interactions with Loki and other gods and get jealous because they aren’t having those interactions. I hate that because I don’t share these interactions to showcase that I have them. I share these interactions to demonstrate the love I have for the gods and to demonstrate that the gods are very much alive, very much real, and very much present. I share them to remind others that the gods do care and that they are around, even in the moments we think they aren’t present. I also ask the gods before I share these interactions to determine whether or not they are interactions I should be sharing. So, I only share the interactions that the gods tell me to share. I assume they want certain things shared for certain reasons, but I’m certainly not privy to why they want some things shared and not others.

I also don’t know how to ensure that a god shows up, even when they are invited. I’d say issuing an invitation probably helps, but there’s no guarantee that a god will show up or that they will stay for the duration of whatever they are invited to. The gods have their own agency, and they do whatever they want, whenever they want.

I make a habit of asking the gods for as little as possible because they already give us so much. I give offerings to the gods out of gratitude for what they do without my asking. I rarely ever give offerings to gods in an attempt to get them to give me something else. I don’t know if that makes a difference in how or when they show up in my life. I don’t know the secrets of the gods; I’m not one of them.

All I can do is the best I can, and I do my best to expect nothing from them. Maybe that’s part of it, but that’s me groping blindly in the dark. I know, myself, that I’d far rather be present in a place where I know the person who has invited me wants nothing from me but my presence than in a place where the person who has invited me wants me simply for the skills I hold. In one situation, I would feel appreciated; in the other, I would feel used. It’s not hard to imagine that perhaps the gods would feel a similar way.

These are my speculations, and the experiences I share are ones I interpret through the lens of my own understanding. I do not expect others to agree with me or to take what I say as the truth for them to chase. In fact, I actively discourage that, as it tends to show a lack of critical thinking. I do not speak for Loki, and even the words I hear from him are ones I know get filtered through my own understanding. The aspects of Loki I interact with aren’t the only ones that exist, and I highly encourage everyone to discern the truth for themselves.

Loki: Guardian of Sacrifice

One of my favorite myths about Loki is the one in which he kidnaps Idunn because it is the myth that I feel best demonstrates his character.

In the most common version of the myth, Loki, Odin, and Hoenir were traveling to Jotunheim and stopped to cook an ox they had hunted. A problem arose, however, as the fire refused to cook the meat.

Thiazi, in the form of an eagle, offered to help cook the meat if the gods would allow him to partake in the feast. The gods agreed, but when the meat was cooked, he took off with both hindquarters and both shoulders of the ox.

That angered Loki, so he struck at Thiazi with a stick (probably large enough to be considered a staff), but Loki ended up stuck at the end of the stick and dragged around until he begged for mercy. The only way Thiazi agreed was to force an oath from Loki that he would entice Idun to leave Asgard so that he could have access to her life-giving apples. Loki agreed.

Back in Asgard, Loki tricked Idunn into leaving the walls of Asgard by saying he had found apples that tasted better and were more life-giving than her own. She wasn’t convinced and insisted Loki show her the apples, which he agreed to do. Once they were outside of Asgard, however, Thiazi showed up in the form of an eagle and abducted her.

Once the gods noticed that they were aging, Odin threatened Loki until he agreed to rescue Idunn. Loki did this by transforming her into a nut while he wore Freyja’s falcon cloak, and Thiazi chased them as they fled towards Asgard. Once there, Loki navigated the fires but Thiazi was caught by the flames, fell to the ground, and Thor killed him.

Now, I generally utilize Sallustius’s five levels of myth interpretation to interpret myths but I just finished reading the last couple chapters of Volume II of the Culture of the Teutons by Vilhelm Grönbech, and he raised a couple of intriguing points specifically about the myth of Idunn’s abduction.

  • “The character of Loki is apparent in the myth: he is the stirrer up of strife and thus the provoker of victory (p.393).”
  • “This myth turns upon a later moment in the sacrifice and reflects a rite used at the lighting of the fire to ward off the influence of the demon [Thiazi] and to secure the preparation of the sacrificial meat (p.392).”

Addressing the first point, one of the most common counterpoints I hear that works to paint Loki as evil generally points out that Loki is the one who caused the problem in the first place, and that he is only trying to save himself. Essentially, Loki gets painted as inherently selfish when this myth is picked apart.

However, if Loki is viewed throughout the myths as the one who stirs up strife in order to make victory possible, that isn’t an inherently selfish behavior. It can certainly come across as selfish or seem self-serving in the moment, but the person exhibiting such behavior generally has the welfare of the entire group in mind.

For example, the gods agree to let Thiazi partake of the meal, but then the eagle tries to take over half the ox. There are three other people who need to eat. Loki strikes Thiazi out of anger, but does he do it because he himself wanted more food or because Thiazi taking so much of the ox threatened the ability of all the gods to sustain themselves in enemy territory?

There’s always more than meets the eye in every myth, and that’s a truth multiplied when Loki is present because he is such an ambiguous character. He defies all attempts at explanation; that’s a common complaint among scholars. Loki’s ambivalence is such a defining characteristic that it tends to make him, well, undefinable. It stands to reason, then, that none of his actions in a myth can be seen as straightforwardly what they seem to be at first glance.

The next action Loki takes is to beg Thiazi for mercy, who refuses and provokes an oath from Loki instead. Loki knows the consequences of the oath before he swears it, but he swears it to get out of enemy hands. He struck at an enemy he could not defeat, and that enemy took advantage of the moment to pin Loki into a difficult situation. Loki then has to fulfill his oath – in every myth where he swears an oath, he upholds it. Loki never breaks an oath. That is another defining characteristic.

So, thus far, the only things we really know about Loki is that he a) defies definition and b) never breaks his oaths.

After Loki coerces Idunn out of Asgard and is found out, he finds himself threatened by Odin to fix the problem. Loki not telling the gods immediately what had happened works to stir up strife; the gods’ ire is piqued – not just at Loki but also at Thiazi.

While the myth never details whether or not the gods strategize together what they will do when Loki returns to Asgard, it is telling that Thor is waiting at the wall when Loki returns with Idunn and Thiazi is unable to penetrate the wall of fire and falls to the ground where Thor slays him. The victory is twofold – the return of Idunn returns the health and vigor of the gods and it also allows the gods to slay one of their strongest adversaries.

Loki thus provokes strife to procure victory – or, put in a different way, he utilizes his own sense of strategy to procure a victory out of what seemed like an untenable starting position. He overcame the odds stacked against him, which indicates how he is involved with the very concept of Luck.

What is really intriguing though is the way that Grönbech discusses the fire at the wall as a fire meant to ward off evil influences from a sacrificial meal. Loki’s attempt to keep Thiazi from absconding with the meat (the sacrifice) is met with resistance. He nearly finds himself foiled in that because Idunn is tempted from Asgard and kidnapped. What becomes interesting there is that Idunn refuses to hand Thiazi any apples, and it is only the apples she hands to the gods that allow them to stay young. She refuses him access to the feast.

When Loki rescues her, he flies her straight through the fires of Asgard – flames through which Thiazi cannot pass, but he and Idunn can. Once back in the safety of Asgard, the gods are able to regain their youth and Thiazi – the giant that threatened the very sanctity of sacrificial offerings – is destroyed. With this understanding, Loki’s connection to sacrifice itself is underscored.

So, having incorporated these two new ideas from the Culture of the Teutons, what the myth of Idunn demonstrates about Loki includes the following characteristics:

  • Ambivalence
  • Cunning used as a strategy
  • The stirrer of strife to provoke victory
  • Upholds oaths made
  • Embodies Luck
  • Guardian of Sacrificial Offerings

Few myths about Loki delve quite this deeply into his character, and it bears continual and constant examination to discover new things about him. All the myths about him do. While it may be tempting for some to paint him as evil and be done with it, stories are never that simple and gods are far more complicated than they seem at first glance. Especially a god who seems to make it his business to evade the very process of being defined.

 

A Lokean Group Response to Karl Seigfried’s “Loki in the White House”

Note: Feel free to reblog and/or copy/paste this in its entirety on your own blogs and websites.

We are concerned about the religious bigotry and intolerance against our community and religious practices, as conveyed in Karl E.H. Seigfried’s recent column “Loki in the White House,” The Wild Hunt, Nov. 24, 2018. 

Those who cultivate a relationship with the Norse god, Loki, are a minority among neopagans. Our individual practices are eclectic, nondogmatic, and individualistic.

By equating Loki with certain cherry-picked actions of the current president of the United States, Siegfried suggests that we who cultivate a relationship with Loki do not understand our own god, our own spirituality, and our community, and what we should understand is that our god is evil. This is no better than an evangelical Christian telling Pagans that our lack of understanding about Jesus and our own gods is leading us to worship demons. This is not only condescending but also inappropriate for an interfaith chaplain. 

While we are individually and collectively offended by Karl E. H. Seigfried’s comparison of Loki to the current president of the United States, we understand his right to his opinion, no matter how ill-founded it may seem to us. However, Seigfried’s article crossed an important line from eccentric opinion to bigotry. 

What concerns us most of all are Seigfried’s final two paragraphs, which are essentially “a call to action” to discriminate and further marginalize all who hail Loki in their religious and devotional practices, whether in a polytheistic or monotheistic context. The opinions he presents in those closing paragraphs are that Loki is bad, therefore we who hail Loki are also bad and undeserving of support.

“Lokiphobia” is a word we wish we did not need to coin, and yet many members of our spiritual and religious community have been dealing with prejudice for years. In Heathen circles, many people who hail Loki have been excluded, bullied, and threatened. We can supply examples of this claim if needed. So it is particularly dangerous to fan the flames of such paranoia and bigotry against an outlier group when things are already so volatile nationally and worldwide.

To be clear, Lokiphobia, in the context of neopaganism, is discrimination against the religious practices and beliefs of people who hail Loki and/or identify as Lokeans (or a similar description). We, the authors, (1) call out Lokiphobia in Seigfried’s column and (2) insist upon respectful, interfaith dialogue in public forums and events where we and our faith are referenced, discussed, or questioned.

While we understand that the Wild Hunt is a platform for many different spiritual views, this article has crossed the line from being an opinion piece to promoting religious discrimination and the expulsion of an already vulnerable subgroup within Heathenry. Many of us are women, LGBTQIA, have disabilities, or hold other identities that on the whole have made us targets within the larger Heathen community which has consistently held much more traditionally conservative views. For our own safety and well-being, we are requesting that Seigfried either amend the portions of his article that are a direct cry for the expulsion of Loki worship or that the Wild Hunt remove the article entirely. 

To do otherwise is to sanction discrimination against a religious minority. 

Whereas in the past we as Loki devotees have largely been disorganized and kept mostly to ourselves, we’re no longer willing to keep quiet and suffer discrimination and verbal abuse in the name of “different opinions.” We have reached a tipping point where we refuse to continue being a punching bag for the American Heathen community’s frustrations or used as villains in its own paranoid fantasies.

We hope that in the name of true inclusivity you will choose to be our allies instead of contributing to years of unnecessary division. This has never just been about how people feel about Loki: this is about how people choose to treat other people. 

Signed:

Dagulf Loptson

Ky Greene

Amy Marsh

KveldúlfR Hagan Gundarsson (Dr.Stephan Grundy, Ph.D., Norse Studies)

Amy Brown

Sae Lokason

Marina Bocuzzi 

Nyki D’Elia

Hilda Gullveigsvän

Aiyana Assata Amare Ashen 

Terra Akhert

Tara Aparicio

Carrie Bertwistle

Susa Morgan Black

Lauren Buhr

Sara Cochran

Moira Hawthorne Copeland

Heathir Dhomhnaill

Amber Drake

Kriselda Gray

Ailim Hazel

Elizabeth Hefner

Alex Iannelli

Mischa Kvashninenkoff

Jennifer Lesko

Roxana García Liotta

Michelle Lord

Tom Mayernik

Jude Melvin

Lindsay Moose

Katherine Morgan

Draca Nightweb

Tahni Nikitins

Katie Oden

Lillian Sara Pink

Jenna Porterfield

Denise Marie Radcliffe

Logan Riley

Emily Sabin

Olivia Sweat

Tedri Liudan Thorne

Kyra Pandora Weaver

Lindsay Wiles

Setwas Buccaneer

Loraine Canaday

Allen Reeves

Scott Mohnkern

Sydney Moore

Stef Potter

Ari Kirk

Timothy Adams 

Leticia Andreas

Jennifer Lawrence

Michael York