Tag Archives: pagan

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 Silvertongue: Words as Weapons

I’m a bit amused – about two days ago, I was thinking, “Ya know, I really haven’t written much in my blog in a while. Do I really not have anything to say?”

Then I started browsing Facebook and the groups that I’m part of, especially those related to Loki, and now it’s like, “No, I definitely have plenty to say. I just didn’t realize it needed to be said.”

It’s interesting how a set of words can invoke a certain set of actions in a person. It’s words that put this post in motion, and it’s words that I want to discuss. Someone expressed concern that people in a Lokean group were offended over words and hurt by them. They essentially asked why people who work with Loki get so offended by words.

I don’t know if it’s a good question to ask, but it poses a good thought experiment, so why not?

If Lokeans do get more offended than others by the way words are used, it may actually stem from the fact that Loki himself is known as a wordsmith. He crafts words as the weapons he uses, so it would stand to reason that Lokeans would understand the power of words in a very clear way.

Words can wound like nothing else. We’ve all heard the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” – at least, I heard it a lot growing up. The reality, though? I’d take the broken bones over the turmoil that cruel words can cause. At least if someone hits me, I know where I stand with them. But words can be twisted into so many different shapes that it can be impossible to know if someone loves or hates you. Words hurt far worse, but we live in a society that tries to claim otherwise.

I grew up in an alcoholic home. My mother was mentally, emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive (though the physical abuse was less pronounced than the other three). To this day – and my mother died sixteen years ago – I still don’t know if she loved me or hated me. That’s how mixed those messages were. I spent the first fifteen years of my life in an environment so toxic I’ve had friends from the military tell me I grew up in a war zone – but there was rarely any physical altercations.

The majority of the pain my mother inflicted on me and my sister came from words. It is the words that she said and the ones that she didn’t say that left the deepest scars. Words are powerful, terrible things. They can also be wonderful healers.

Language itself holds the power of life and death within it, of pain and healing. A single word can issue a command to a soldier to take a life or to stay a hand. A single word can leave a scar or heal a heart. Words are the most powerful weapons we wield.

So why would Lokeans be more offended than others when words are used as weapons? Because Loki is a god of language. One of his epithets is Silvertongue. He knows how to sling words better than any of the other gods. He staid the hands of the dwarves when he wagered his head by reminding them that they did not have the right to his neck.

It is Loki’s quick tongue that keeps Thor from being discovered too soon in Thrym’s hall. It is Loki’s words that draw Idunna out of Asgard and get him into trouble with the other gods. It is Loki’s insulting of the gods in the Lokasenna that serve to bring their ire down on him. It is Loki’s words to Hod that convince Hod to throw the mistletoe spear at Baldr.He convinces Odin that he can keep Freya from being won by Thiazi.

In every myth, in every iteration of Loki, the one thing constant is that Loki uses words as his weapons. He uses words to persuade and to console. He also uses words to wound. Loki is the penultimate wordsmith.

So, if Lokeans are more offended by words, I’d say it stems from the understanding that words are the sharpest weapons we hold. Words hurt. They heal. It is in their power that we all live and die – language is the quicksilver of magic and of thought. Language is the glue that binds us together. It is language, therefore, that can unhinge us.

We craft adages about language to try and take away the power it holds over us. We have idioms that tell us physical pain is worse than the pain of words. But anyone who has ever been insulted or told that their very existence is problematic knows the truth – words hurt more than anything else.

That also means words have an incredible potential to heal. They are life and death, creation and destruction, pain and healing. This is one of Loki’s rawest aspects – the force of language itself. He is a wordsmith. He can grant life and destroy it. He can craft a beautiful existence or destroy the world. He can hit the wounds at the core of even the other gods with the words he speaks, and he can heal by reminding us all of the potential we hold. Loki is as much creation as destruction, as much destruction as creation. So are words. Who else would rule language, then, if not Loki?

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.

 

Worldbreaker: The Price of Liminality

I have been putting off writing this post because it requires me to deal with things that still make me uncomfortable to admit. That’s the nature of life though, and I did say I would write about my experience with Loki in his Worldbreaker aspect.

First, a little backstory. When I was around four or five years old, I was diagnosed with ADHD. At the time, my mother refused to let the doctors put me on Ritalin, as she strongly believed the condition could be managed without it. In addition, she told me (when I was around nine) that the reason she wouldn’t let them put on medication was that our family had a history of mood disorders, and Ritalin can worsen depression. My mother herself suffered from clinical depression and started drinking heavily by the time I was eight years old. By the time I was fifteen, she had died from cirrhosis of the liver, also known as Hepatitis C. She also had pernicious anemia, which the alcoholism exacerbated.[1]

So, growing up, I was given a lot of different tools to help manage the ADHD. Mostly, I was taught self-discipline and self-accountability. From a young age, my parents told me that I was responsible for the consequences of the decisions I made, so I grew up knowing that my actions directly impacted the people and the world around me.

When my mom died, I was a week away from being fifteen. Everything I had ever been taught about the world was swept out from under me. Suddenly, all the confidence I had in navigating my life was stolen from me, and I started feeling like the world was against me, and I started living with that preset notion in my head. My mother was gone, my dad was basically never home because he worked 80 hours a week, and my younger sister treated me like a convenient emotional punching bag. The only person in my life that really seemed to be there for me was my maternal grandmother – if she hadn’t been there for me, I don’t know that I could have made it through high school at all.

When I graduated high school, I ended up moving to Virginia for a couple months with my fiancé. We ended up in a really bad car accident that left me with two metal rods in my right leg. I moved back home shortly after that, and it wasn’t even a few months after that, I learned that my fiancé was sleeping around behind my back. Even worse? It was with my sister. I was so desperate for love that I didn’t break up with him; I put up with it going on in my house for nearly a year before I finally couldn’t take it anymore. The relationship with him was never healthy, but I didn’t realize that back then because I had grown up in an abusive home that made me think any affection at all was better than none.

A few years passed, and I ended up dating a guy online who moved up here to be with me. Except, within six months (we had dated for three years online), we were constantly fighting because he refused to get work and resented me for making him move. We broke up, and not even a week afterwards, he was dating my sister (incidentally, they are still together today). That said, however, I do give him credit in one area – he had the decency to break up with me first. We’ve had a difficult and tense relationship ever since then, but my sister and I have mostly repaired ours. Mostly because she stopped treating me like her emotional punching bag, matured, and actually became a respectable human being. It’s amazing what a decade will do for some people’s personalities.

I started working with Loki between the two horrendous relationships mentioned above, and I had started to really communicate with the gods. The situation at home (where I lived with my dad, my sister, and my ex she was dating) got so bad that I finally petitioned Loki for help. One day, a dog came into our house, and my sister gave him Loki’s name. Two months later, the dog was gone (they returned him to the humane society), and my sister and her boyfriend were living in California.

I chose to petition Loki for help because I felt like I was breaking. I couldn’t get away from the stressful emotional environment, and I didn’t feel like any of the other gods could affect change to the same magnitude I felt Loki could. So, I asked him for help getting them out of the house. I didn’t ask for anything specific, just told him I really, really needed some space from them so I could heal. He essentially sent them to California, where they lived with one of my sister’s friends and worked for two years. Nothing untoward happened to them there; Loki wasn’t cruel about the change he worked into their lives.

For the first time in my life, I felt like I could breathe. I was struggling pretty hard, especially because a few months prior, I’d been told by my ex that I was the craziest bitch he’d ever met. That actually hit me so hard that I decided to start seeing a therapist. Because I thought maybe he was right. I’d spent my teenage years moving from job to job, after all, unable to stay at one more than three or four months at a time (I quit jobs often as a teenager because I got bored). I also felt like I couldn’t maintain healthy relationships with other people, whether they were friends or partners. In addition, I had defaulted on student loans from the online college I obtained my AA in Business Administration from, and I was mired in student debt (still am, as I’m in graduate school). For the most part, I had given up on ever getting anything good into my life. That statement from my ex, though – that broke through my depressive haze, and I decided that I needed to do something about it.

Oh, and as a note? I didn’t start working with the Norse gods until I was in my early twenties. My life before Loki was FUBAR, and I freely acknowledge that. The majority of that was the fact I grew up in a home that was emotionally, verbally, physically, and mentally abusive. I had to unlearn a lot of toxic behavior, and, to this day, I have to continuously monitor my thought patterns to prevent myself from falling back into old ones. I had to become metacognitive to survive my childhood – it is as much curse as gift, as I can never stop analyzing the situations and people around me, looking for where the next threat might come from. I may never experience a life where I’m not hyper-vigilant.

I’ve discussed some of my experiences with combat-tested soldiers who told me my childhood sounded as heinous as some of the war zones they’ve been in. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone, not even the people who put me through the hell that it was. In case it isn’t clear, this is the primary reason I chose to swear the oath Odin asked from me. I was already a warrior, already dealing with the terrors of warfare, when he came into my life. Hell, for all I know, he was the one orchestrating from behind the scenes to ensure my entry into his service. I’ve made my peace with that, for the most part.

Loki entering my life helped stabilize it. Yes, he introduced a lot of change in a short amount of time. I started therapy, and I had an Adult ADHD diagnosis within four months. Once I had the diagnosis and my therapist had suggested I might want to try medication, I set up a meeting with a physician to talk about prescriptions. I chose to see a psychologist rather than a psychiatrist because my mother, along with alcohol, loved popping narcotics down her throat like they were candy. I didn’t want to risk that, and it took a long time, and obsessive research, for me to actually decide to try pills. I decided on Adderall.

The first few months on the medication seemed like the best thing that had ever happened to me. It was like, suddenly, I could actually process what was going on around me in a way that made sense. I started combining the cognitive behavioral tools my psychologist had given me with the medication, and my life seemed to come together. I brought my student loans out of default, had my Title IV rights restored, and enrolled in the local community college. I continued going to therapy and taking medication – for about five months.

I stopped taking the medication because my online friends from World of Warcraft – a game I had played for eight years by that time – told me I was acting aggressive. I was leading a guild at the time – I’ve led quite a few – and that was the one and only experience I’ve ever had where my officers actually arranged a meeting with me to tell me that my aggression was getting so out-of-hand that they felt I needed to step down from the GM position.

That bothered me at a level I cannot express – I have honed my leadership skills over the last decade and a half, and I know that, while I will never be the best leader that I want to be, I am a pretty kickass leader. I generally treat the people I lead like they are my family. The family I wish I had had growing up, I mean, because I really like other people. I genuinely enjoy being around other humans. I genuinely care for other people. To have my best friends telling me that I was getting so aggressive that I was hurting people hurt me. I stopped taking the Adderall.

I continued using the tools I had been given, but I also stopped going to therapy. I focused on my schoolwork, and I thrived in school. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and I find challenging material frustrating but generally worth doing. The only exception to that is physics. It is the one field I’ve found where my brain just refuses to wrap itself around the concepts. Annoyingly, my dad understands physics almost inherently. That still kinda pisses me off.

Anyway, I end up finishing my Associate in Arts (it had been about 8 years since my AA in Business Administration, and I didn’t feel comfortable going straight into university). Once I finished my AA, I transferred to the local university. Once there, I decided I should take Adderall again, and I started therapy again. I only used the meds for about a month before deciding that it was a bad idea. I finished my BA in History without relying on them.

When I graduated, I decided to find a job, and I found one working for a hotel as a night auditor. I remembered how hard I had found working as a teenager, so I decided that maybe what I needed to do was use Adderall for work and not school. I started taking the medication again and resumed therapy – a person who has ADHD needs to be seeing a therapist if they are taking meds; it’s not recommended to just take meds by themselves. Now, this job was supposed to just be a summer job because I knew I was starting grad school in the fall. Just as a note, I was accepted into the graduate program at my alma mater when I wasn’t taking Adderall, and I scored in the 67th percentile (Verbal) and 25th percentile (Math) with a 5.5/6 (Writing) on the GRE without studying – I took 21 credits my last semester in undergrad, so I literally didn’t have time to study. All of that, no meds. Like I said before though, school was never a problem for me because I have always loved to learn.

Anyway, I started this job at the hotel, and I even helped get my friend a job there. It took them under two months to fire me, and I still don’t know why. They never gave me a direct reason, even though I asked them directly why. They just said, “We don’t think we’re a good fit,” which is a terrible reason. I was really upset over it for a good week; I had actually really enjoyed the job and the people there, even though I hated the hours (it was a 3rd shift job). I still remember most of the people there affectionately, and I don’t bear anyone there any ill will.

I ended up working a temp job in the bookstore before school started back, and that went well. Then graduate school started, and it seemed to me like everything was going fine. My classes went well, and I was TAing without a problem. Yet, one day, about halfway through the semester, one of my friends tells me that I have been a complete bitch for the entire semester and that one of our mutual friends had basically become afraid of telling me when he disagreed with me or when he didn’t want to do something. Essentially, I was starting to treat my friends like they owed me their time.

I didn’t really trust what this friend told me, as we had had a huge fight over the summer and were still struggling to regain our feet with each other. I had, however, become uncomfortable with the fact that I could tell that I was hurting the mutual friend she had mentioned (who is my ritually adopted brother and the heir to my familial spiritual tradition). I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I devised a test that was designed to essentially navigate around any of the blinders my brain was throwing up.

I didn’t really trust anyone around me, at that point, but I still retained the absolute trust I have in my best friend in the world, who lives in Texas. So, I sent him a question to see if he could answer it. I figured, if he could answer the question I sent him, it would give me a good baseline to use as the test with my other friend. I had started to genuinely doubt that my brother-friend even cared about being friends with me, so I had to find a way to determine whether or not he cared at all. So, I sent the question to my Texan friend who had no problem answering it. Then, I asked my brother-friend the question. I legitimately expected him to be unable to answer it, but he answered it without pausing.

At that moment, it was like a cold bucket of ice washed over me. I realized that the only thing that had changed since the previous year was that I was taking Adderall. I texted my roommate and told her to find it and throw it out because I didn’t even want to see it again. I spent the next week obsessively researching rare side effects of the medication. Turns out, in about 0.02% of people, the medication can induce persecutory delusions.

The medication that was supposed to be making me better was causing me to distrust my friends. It was the cause – Adderall is a psychotropic drug, meaning it literally changes a person’s brain chemistry. I had worried, from the beginning, that taking a psychotropic drug would change my personality and make me a different person. My therapist had assured me it would not do that; rather, it would just unlock the potential my disorder had kept me from using. He was wrong, but I do not fault him for that. The side effect I experienced happens in 0.02% of people; it is rare, and I did not expect to be one of those people.

Once I realized what had happened, I had a conversation with my sister about it. She told me there was a day where I told her I was genuinely afraid that her boyfriend would kill me if I got in a car with him. I don’t remember this conversation taking place, but I don’t doubt it happened. I was, after all, convinced that one of my best friends, who is literally my ritually adopted brother, was never a friend to me at all and was really just acting like my friend so that he could turn around and hurt me later. That’s what persecutory delusions are. They are insidious and terrifying. I walked on the verge of insanity. It is not a place I ever want to visit again.

Throughout this entire experience, I was continuing to do my work for the gods. I was honoring Loki regularly, and I didn’t feel like anything was amiss. It was when I realized that I had been suffering those delusions that I realized that I had been given a gift. Loki had given me the experience of knowing what it is like to stand on the precipice between extreme opposites. He showed me how hard it can be to resist the pull towards insanity/destruction/disorder and how vigilant a person has to be to guard against that pull.

I’ve discussed elsewhere how Loki can be seen as a god of the in-between, of liminal spaces. The thing about the liminal? It isn’t an energy that can be controlled. When Loki appears as the Worldbreaker that brings about Ragnarok, he is no longer in control of his own abilities. He is, instead, caught up in the force of his own power. In many ways, this greatly echoes how Shiva ends up destroying the world in Hindu mythology.

I understand at a level that I cannot adequately express what it means to be beyond your own control. I thank the gods, and Loki foremost of all, that I found a way to trick my brain so that I could see through, even for a moment, the delusions that the Adderall induced in me. If Loki hadn’t taught me how to find the loopholes, how to look for solutions to problems in places that other people may never consider, I may have been subsumed. There’s no telling who I would have become if that happened, but I doubt I would have liked myself very much.

So, did Loki wreak havoc in my life? Absolutely not. I made the choices. I am the one accountable for the actions I took, and the consequences of those actions are not Loki’s fault nor his responsibility. Did Loki have a hand in showing me how hard it is to live within the liminal? Yes, but I cannot state that experience was one he intentionally showed me or one that I just recognized as a lesson he would try to teach to people, if they were willing to listen. I’m generally willing to listen, so I end up heavily analyzing situations I find myself in.

What Loki really helped me do here was see through the delusions and the illusions around me. He is a god of guile, and it was sly maneuvering that allowed me to solve the problem that threatened to destroy my life. Loki taught me how to see past illusions to the truth. Without that knowledge, I have no idea how that situation would have turned out, but I can’t see it ending well. I have been incredibly lucky that my friends have been so understanding about the entire situation, and I have worked hard to rectify the mistakes I made with my friends during that entire fiasco.

There’s a reason it took me so long to write this post. This is not a chapter of my life that I am proud of; it isn’t an easy thing to share. The hardest truths, however, are the ones that lay the deepest inside us. The ones that hurt the most to expose are the ones most valuable to share. I risk next to nothing by sharing this story on the internet, yet, in some ways, I risk everything because I risk being seen. Really seen. And that has always, and may always, terrify me. Yet here I am, stepping forward.

Take from my story what you will.


[1] Pernicious anemia is a disease caused by the lack of intrinsic factor, which is what people need to properly absorb the vitamin B12. Alcohol prevents absorption of even the B12 shots used to treat the condition. Before B12 was available as an injection and/or supplement (studies vary on the effectiveness), pernicious anemia was a fatal disease.

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

Devotional Primer

Some of the questions I have heard lately have centered around devotion. In particular, I have heard questions about how to offer devotion to the gods in everyday life.  

I usually focus more on the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of my practice, so I could easily go into a long discussion about why libations and offerings are the mainstays of polytheistic religions because of the way they allow us to maintain reciprocal relationships with the gods.

Rather than do that (though I certainly can if there is interest in that), I’m going to provide a brief sketch of how to get started and then list a few different activities people can undertake as devotional acts.

Getting Started

  • Choose tradition/religion to study.
  • Study that tradition/religion for a year before dedicating yourself to that path.
  • Set up an altar to the god/s that calls to you
    • Note: Figure out whether the god/s that call to you are actually interested in working with you. If they aren’t, don’t force yourself on them. Just like how we aren’t compatible with all people, we aren’t compatible with all gods. If a god comes to you that makes you uncomfortable, you can ask them to back off and leave you alone. You are not required to work with every spirit/deity that shows up. Same goes for the gods – they aren’t required to work with every human who takes an interest in them.

Altar Essentials

  • Altar cloth – this can be as simple as a bandana or as complex as a tapestry.
  • Image of the deity – there are tons of options for this one
    • Printed picture from a Google search (if money is tight!)
    • Carved statue of the god (check Etsy)
    • A hand-drawn rendition of the god (either self-done or commissioned)
    • Etc.
  • Offering dishes– there are also tons of options for this one
    • Any extra small cups/bowls that you happen to have sitting around
    • Buy a small cup/bowl from a thrift store or Etsy if you can afford it
    • Etc.

As you get more familiar with the god/s that you’re working with, you’ll start feeling pulled towards certain items that the deities want on their altars. Whether or not you can afford it – well, if you can’t, ask them to help you get it for them. If a god wants something badly enough, they will make it happen.

Daily Practice Options

  • Prayer
    • You can find tons of pre-written prayers for most deities on the internet. It is okay to copy a few down and use them. Generally, you kneel (or stand, if your ability makes kneeling too painful)before your altar and offer the prayer to the god by reading it out loud. You can also write your own prayers.
  • Libation
    • Generally, libations are alcoholic. It might take some research to figure out what the god/s that you’re working with like to drink. It might take trial/error. To do a simple libation, you simply pour the drink into the offering bowl, invite the deity to partake, and then drink afterward and offer a brief word of thanks or hail the god. What you do with the drink afterward is tradition-dependent, but it is fairly standard to simply take it outside and pour it on the ground. If you have absolutely no other option, pouring the remaining liquid down the sink drain is okay – but this is if you live in an area that makes pouring the libation on the ground unrealistic and/or if your physical ability prevents this kind of moving around.
    • If you cannot afford alcohol, water is always an acceptable libation. After all, water is life. I have never heard of a deity that would reject water, and I have never experienced the rejection of such a libation.
  • Divination
    • Do a daily rune or tarot reading related to your relationship with the god/s in question.

Long-term Devotional Acts

  • Continuously reading all the information you can on your religion/tradition and the gods you honor
  • Creating art for the gods
  • Dedicating a particular event or community service to the gods
  • Taking an oath in the service of the gods
  • Becoming a devotee, godspouse, or clergy

I hope this has given those who needed it a basic outline that will allow them to move forward with their devotional practice.