Tag Archives: polytheism

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.

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.

Loki as Thresholder: Loki opens doors, but we walk through them

Thresholds are liminal spaces that exist between two spaces. A threshold can be as simple as the one between two rooms in your house or as complex as the boundary between two worlds. No matter how simple or complex a threshold is, they are liminal spaces.

Liminal spaces are the “in-between” of everything that exists. This is the area where Loki draws his power. He is a god of liminality, and he can always be found in the in-between spaces.

Thresholds, however, are not meant to be dwelled in. We don’t live in our doorways, after all. Doorways, like thresholds, are meant to be used as crossing points from one place to another.

Threshold magic is also some of the most dangerous, as it is impossible to control liminality. Conducting rituals in a liminal space typically means you are allowing wyrd to take over and determine the outcome, no matter what the desired outcome is that you hold. It can be terrifying, and it is not a type of magic that should be practiced by everyone. Giving yourself over to wyrd is difficult to do, as we all, to some degree, want to maintain control over our lives and not feel subjected to whims that are not our own. It takes a lot of trust that we generally don’t inherently have towards the unknown.

In a way, working with Loki is similar to doing threshold magic. Because he is a god of liminality, it is impossible to know what aspect he will show you on any given day. The fact that he is also a shapeshifter doubles the uncertainty, and that pretty much means there’s no guarantee what form he will take.

In my experience with him, he generally takes on his more renowned human form with red hair and green eyes. But I have also seen him appear as a black widow, a black dog, a falcon, a butterfly, and as other human forms. I have never seen him appear as Marvel Loki, as I have a pretty strong distaste towards viewing him in that way.

That distaste originates from the fact that Tom Hiddleston is an actor portraying a role, and while he may be portraying Loki, he is 100% human, which means he cannot actually be Loki. There’s no reason for me to see Tom Hiddleston and go “omg, that’s Loki.” From my perspective, that’s absolutely ridiculous because Hiddleston is human and Loki is 100% deity.

Do I believe Loki can take on the guise of Hiddleston? Absolutely. Loki is a god, and deities can assume any form they want to. It seems to be a trait inherent to deity – assuming the forms that work best to get our attention.

So why do so many people seem to be stuck on the image of Loki as Tom Hiddleston? Honestly, I think this happens because people get stuck on the threshold.

From my perspective, when Loki appears to someone as Tom Hiddleston, it is more because he is opening the only door he can find into that person’s life. If it is the only way he can get someone’s attention, and he feels the need to get their attention, he is probably going to open that door and step through it.

Doors, however, open in two directions. If we refuse to step through the door he opens, we learn nothing about him except that he exists. Those who see nothing but the Loki of Marvel learn only an aspect Loki used to gain their attention. They are not stepping through the door that Loki is opening to learn more about him.

By not stepping through the door, they never learn the real depths that lurk within the god. Maybe they get glimpses, but unless they step through the door, they ignore the glimpses they get.

It is well-known and understood that the best way to gain knowledge about the gods is to research them. Read the myths and stories associated with them. Find the patterns that consistently arise in their interactions with others. Learn to distinguish and discern so that you can trust the personal experiences and UPGs that you have.

Loki is a god of thresholds and liminality. He can and will stay in the in-between spaces. He is a catalyzer of change, not change itself. He may open the door, but we are the ones who have to make the choice to walk through them.

After all, we don’t live in the in-between.

That means we have to make a choice. We can continue to stay on the path we’re on, or we can choose to walk down the new path Loki opens up to us. Change is almost always for the better, but it is almost never comfortable or easy.

So, if you are the kind of Lokean who only sees Loki as Tom Hiddleston, ask yourself if you are willing to go further. Read the myths. Learn the lore. Explore the differences. Get comfortable with the difficult and darker aspects of Loki. Learn to embrace ambiguity and the unknown.

If you want to know Loki, you have to get to know him. Getting to know anyone, god or human, means learning things about them that you might not like. Even our closest human friends are flawed – that doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

If you are the kind of person who refuses to engage with the myths, ask yourself why. What are you afraid you might learn? What truths are you afraid to confront about Loki and/or about yourself?

Loki is a loving and compassionate deity, but that does not make him safe. He is a god of liminality, and liminal spaces are inherently chaotic and dangerous. To expect otherwise is to delude yourself.

We cannot live in the threshold, but we can certainly hold awe for the gods like Loki who not only live in liminal spaces but draw their power from them.

The Change Loki Wreaks

Loki can bring cataclysmic change into the lives of those who follow him, and that may be the hardest aspect of Loki to deal with, especially for those who are unprepared for what exactly that can mean.

In the Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook group I run with Karlesha Silverros, a member asked what happens after Loki introduces cataclysmic change into a person’s life and whether Loki stays around to provide comfort and soothing during the change.

In my experience, Loki only introduces change to that degree when there are truths inside a person they have refused to acknowledge for too long. The hardest work we will ever do with Loki is learning to face ourselves. I’d say if Loki had a single piece of advice to give to everyone who follows him, it would simply be the old Greek tenet of “Know thyself.”

It is when we forget to acknowledge the deepest truths of our inner self that Loki introduces truly chaotic levels of change, as he is rather intolerant of people hiding from themselves. A simple acknowledgment that you do lie to yourself about certain things can go a long way in mitigating the level of chaos, as it suggests a willingness to come to terms with the truth of your own life.

From my perspective, I’d say a person who comes to Loki and sees a cataclysmic change in a small period of time is a person who has lied to themselves, repressed their feelings, and put themselves last in their own lives for far longer than they realize. It is easy to delude ourselves into believing that we are happy with the lives we’re leading, but the gods, and Loki especially, see the truths we refuse to admit to ourselves.

This is why so many people stay in relationships they know are unhealthy far past the time they should have pulled out. It is why people stay at jobs that go nowhere, refusing to chase the dreams they hold dearest to them because it’s safer to risk nothing than to chase a dream and fail – yet the most rewarding of those two options is to chase the dream. Whether you fail or succeed matters far less than the effort you put forth to realize your dreams. It is why people who are often discouraged in academics drop out of school so often rather than pursuing the opportunity to prove the people around them wrong.

Loki, as Lothur, gave us passion. To see us fail to utilize that – what else would he be compelled to do but introduce change to see the gift he gave us put to use?

From my perspective, the best way to be close with Loki is to be real with yourself, to be honest about your dreams, and to pursue them with as much passion as you can bring forth.

As for the other question asked, about being comforted during a change that Loki has introduced, why would he comfort someone over an action he has taken? Loki generally has reasons for the things he does, as all gods do, and to ask him to comfort us over change he has brought to us is, from my perspective, a bit insulting. It is like asking a fire to be supportive of the fact that you’re too hot sitting next to it.

Our gods aren’t safe, and inviting Loki into your life automatically means inviting the potential for a cataclysmic level of change in every aspect of your life.

The changes he brings are always for the better, assuming that you are able to make yourself face up to the truths you’ve denied for too long. We live in a society that doesn’t really encourage self-reflection or self-knowledge, and it is an essential skill to develop if you plan to work with any god, but it is doubly essential if you wish to work with Loki.

I reiterate – our gods are not safe.

Loki – A Few Perceptions

In my experience, Loki is a god with many forms.

He acts to break illusions and sometimes to mold them. He shifts shapes to suit his needs, like all trickster deities. He crosses boundaries yet enforces them.

He is the heart of the hearth-fire, the liminal connection between the human world and the world of the gods.

He is a fierce protector of children and of all those who stand on the fringes – of social groups or society as a whole.

He enacts change, sometimes to a cataclysmic level.

He is an exacting god in that he will not allow you to hide from your deepest truths, the most unsettling aspects of your own psyche – he forces you to face yourself or run the risk of going mad.

He is not a safe god, and yet he is a god full of laughter and joy and beauty.

He is awe-inspiring, as all gods are.

He teaches you to see from perspectives vastly different than your own, to care for other people and other beings with a depth of compassion few of us ever realize.

He teaches you how to accept people for who they are, to see past their flaws – to see the way the flaws you perceive in another person is really what makes them the most beautiful.

And that is just part of the way I perceive him. It is not what everyone perceives of him, of course, as deities have far more aspects than a single person will ever be able to comprehend, let alone perceive.

Now, I leave you with this question: How do you perceive Loki, and how has he most impacted your life?

Who Goes to Valhalla? Or, Odin is a God of War AND Wisdom, not War Alone

It seems to me that every Heathen group eventually has a conversation about who is worthy to go to Valhalla. Someone inevitably insists that only warriors who fall in battle can enter Valhalla, and they decide it’s disrespectful to believe otherwise.

Perhaps the reason that conversation comes up so frequently is that warriors falling in battle and ending up in Valhalla is frequently mentioned by the lore left to us. Once a warrior falls in battle, Freya and Odin split the fallen between them.

There are a couple of considerations the people who posit the argument that Odin only accepts fallen warriors into Valhalla fail to make.

The first of those is that the lore we have available to us in the Eddas and Sagas contain myths that have been rewritten in the hands of Christian writers. It is very possible that the reason Snorri mentioned Valhalla as the heaven for those who die in battle was due to the Christian ideal of fighting for the kingdom of god, which was a prevalent ideal at the time he recorded the stories. Snorri may have simply excluded information from the Eddas because he was writing for a Christian audience – we have no way of knowing with any certainty that Valhalla was restricted to only warriors who fell in battle.

The second of those considerations is that Odin is a god of war and wisdom. It is hard to imagine a god of both qualities stacking his army with a single type of soldier. The best armies, in the human world, are comprised of a vast array of professionals alongside combatants. In American armies, there are professionals that focus on mechanics, engineering, technology, scientific research, historical research, and the list continues. Not everyone who enlists in the military will face combat – there are plenty of units that are noncombatant. That does not mean they are irrelevant to the functioning of the military; it just means they are best suited to working behind the front lines. If human intelligence has taught us that the best militaries are comprised of multiple units with a great number of professionals, who are we to say that Odin would only take combatants in Valhalla?

To try and determine who Odin would or would not take is arrogance at its finest. It’s like people forget, when arguing anything slightly theological, that we are not gods and we cannot speak for them. The only one capable of deciding who can be accepted into Valhalla is Odin himself.

To those who believe only warriors can enter those halls, I wonder what would happen if they entered the hall and found themselves face-to-face with noncombatants. At that point, would the fighters find themselves angry with Odin for daring to accept noncombatants into his hall?  Isn’t this far more disrespectful than the people who believe that Odin can and will accept whoever he wants?

I think there are questions that people fail to ask themselves, and they get caught up in Odin’s aspect as a deity of war and all too often forget that he is also a deity of wisdom. There isn’t a single military on earth comprised of just fighters. Why in the nine realms would Odin exhibit less wisdom than humanity in putting together his own?

Loki Worldbreaker: The Bound God and Overcoming Limitations

Loki, as the bound god, is a symbolic representation of the way that the primal nature of all beings is contained and constrained by an imposed social order. The binding of Loki is never fully explained in the lore. While suggestions exist that the binding originated from his suspected role in Baldr’s death (Saxo’s version of the Baldr myth is void of Loki’s presence entirely), these suggestions are, at best, speculation if not outright conjecture.

Another mythos that contains a story about a bound god is the Greek one, in which Prometheus is confined for his audacity in stealing fire from the gods and thwarting Zeus’s plan to destroy humanity. Many scholars have compared Prometheus and Loki, so it is probable that a story of a similar vein underpins the binding Loki endures.

Because so many of the old stories have been lost, it is important to understand that both the concept of Loki being bound as punishment for his role in Baldr’s death and the concept of Loki being bound for reasons similar to those for which Prometheus was bound are speculation, at best.

Still, the image of Loki as a bound god does provide a lens through which to view the god as a god who overcomes limitations. Allegorically, the binding of Loki – no matter the reason for its occurrence – demonstrates an almost desperate need to halt the forward motion of chaotic change. The lore prophecy states that Loki will be the one to instigate Ragnarok after he slips his chains, so the binding serves the purpose of keeping the world from disintegrating.

However, the world cannot stay in-tact forever, and, eventually, Loki slips his bonds. Every time this happens, Ragnarok occurs, and the world is destroyed and subsequently recreated. The cycle of creation-destruction-creation (a.k.a life-death-rebirth) persists in mythologies across the globe, and it has only been since the introduction of Abrahamic doctrine that the cycle has changed from life-death-rebirth to life-death-afterlife.

Loki comes in as the god that overcomes limitations when he slips the bindings the other gods have forged for him to fulfill the role he was always meant to play. In this, he demonstrates that all beings cannot escape the limitation of their own nature – no matter how hard we try to run from ourselves, we cannot escape the truth of our own person.

He shows us where the limits truly lay – inside ourselves – and where they don’t…everywhere else. Loki’s actions often upset the social order. Sometimes, these ways displease the other gods. When Loki steals Sif’s hair, the other gods are displeased, and Loki has to make amends, which he does with an incredible degree of resourcefulness. He relies on his own skillset – his silver tongue – to con the dwarves into making a beautiful gold wig – and makes amends with the other gods so flawlessly that they are awed by the wig rather than concerned with the mischief he originally wrought when he cut Sif’s hair.

In the myths, Loki is either getting himself in trouble and finding clever ways to fix the problems he creates, or he is helping the other gods fix problems. In either case, he is always portrayed as the one who finds the solution to the original problem – whether he is directly responsible for the problem or not is of no concern.

A lot of people get stuck on this point when they try to understand Loki for the first time. They read the myths, and all they see is Loki causing mischief. They contend that Loki solving the problem afterwards doesn’t matter because Loki’s presence is the very reason the problem occurred.

That line of reasoning lends itself to an inability to appreciate that Loki’s resourcefulness and problem-solving are central to his character. Whether Loki’s presence creates the problem isn’t the point – he is the one who has the strategic cleverness that allows him to find solutions that the other gods overlook.

Loki’s ability to overcome limitations allows him to assist the other gods in ways that end up benefiting them to an extreme degree. Unlike many of the others, Loki has no problem defying social norms when necessary to get a problem solved. When Thor loses his hammer, Loki is the one who suggests that Thor dress as Freyja to win it back from Thrym. Thor is, as convention dictates, uncomfortable at the suggestion but listens to Loki’s advice. Loki’s advice proves sound, as Thor soon reclaims Mjolnir.

Actually, speaking of Mjolnir, Thor would not have such a magnificent weapon if it weren’t for Loki’s cunning in his dealing with the dwarves. Odin would lack Draupnir and Gungnir, Freyr would lack Skithblathnir, and Sif her golden wig – to name a few of the gifts that Loki negotiated with the dwarves to claim for the gods. In his negotiations with the dwarves, he overcomes the limitation of the dwarves’ reluctance to craft these items.

Mostly, when it comes to limitations, Loki is the god of overcoming the limitations that others present. He is a force against conformity, though it is doubtful he would support nonconformity simply for the sake of nonconformity. When Loki breaks from the social order of the Aesir, he does so in ways that work in the favor of the gods.

When Loki is bound, he is no longer able to control his own abilities. By my own understanding (i.e. upg), he is one of the oldest deities of the Norse pantheon. He is the embodiment of change and, eventually, he loses the ability to control that side of himself. The binding the other gods force on him only hold him back for so long, as nothing can stave off change permanently. Once he breaks those bindings, Ragnarok occurs, and the world begins again.

 

Note: Many Lokeans shy away from Loki’s Worldbreaker aspect, claiming that the story of Ragnarok was Christianized and not an original part of Norse mythology. The collected evidence doesn’t support that theory, and it is far more likely that the Ragnarok story is a different version of a well-established creation-destruction-recreation (life-death-rebirth) of the world demonstrated in a multitude of other mythologies. Refusing to engage in these conversations makes it far easier for Heathens to view Loki as a Nordic Satan rather than develop a fuller understanding of Loki’s character. This is, therefore, my attempt to address a question often ignored by other Lokeans (and, as always, this is my interpretation and my interpretation alone).