Tag Archives: polytheism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Threat of White Supremacy

The biggest threat that the U.S. is facing today is the threat of white supremacists turned terrorists. The attack on El Paso is a reminder that we are dealing with heinous crimes against humanity, spurred by violent rhetoric and white supremacy sympathizers.

We are dealing with the after-effects of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, which are reminiscent of the Charlottesville incident and the white pride rallies that have emerged since the current administration came into power.

Because I am a historian especially versed in media impact, I am going to try and find the articles that discuss the dangers of white supremacy to hopefully help bring home how urgent this matter really is in today’s society.

I’m adding a page to this blog where you can find links to those articles. I am compiling the articles for two reasons – to demonstrate the urgency of the threat and to measure the threat as it escalates.

We are not living in safe times.

For white people who read this blog, educate yourselves. Learn more about anti-racism and how you can help in the fight against white supremacy.

To the people of color reading this blog, I stand with you. I will do everything in my power to help you in the ways that you feel are most needed. I will work to elevate the voices of those who have too often been silenced. I will stand on the front lines, where I am able, and act as a buffer against those who would harm you.

This hatred has gone on long enough. We need to stop hating each other for our differences and start looking for common ground where we can grow together in community.

I am tired of hatred, and I will stand as a bulwark against it.

This is the war Odin has called me to fight, and I will fight this war until it ends or until I am gone from this world. I do nothing in half measures, and this is the side on which I choose to stand.

LokiFest Conference

LokiFest is an online conference organized by Amy Marsh, who is part of the production team for Loki’s Torch. It is a 5-day event running from tomorrow, August 5th, to Friday, August 9th from 6pm – 9pm EST (schedule is listed in PST as she lives on the West Coast).

On August 8th, I will be giving a presentation entitled The Importance of Discernment and the Danger of Imposters. I will be discussing what exactly discernment is, how to apply its practice in your life, and how to recognize and deal with imposter spirits when they show up.

Other presenters include Amy Marsh, Dagulf Loptson, Diana Paxson, and Silence Maestas. You can find more information here: LokiFest Schedule and Presenter Bios

Loki’s Torch Available Now!

Loki's Torch, Vol. 1, 2019

By Ky Greene

102 pages, published 7/31/2019

Loki’s Torch is the first annual edition of a collection of Lokean works that includes poetry, artwork, scholastic essays, rituals, and more.

 

Digital Cost: $7.10
Hardcopy Cost: $26.40 (includes a free copy of the digital version)

This collection features multiple full-color spreads and a wide variety of devotional work. It is the first in a new annual Loki-devotional series.

Want to Be Part of a New Knowledge Community?

Over at Divine Multiplicity (https://divinemultiplicity.com/become-a-columnist/), we are looking for more writers to become part of our multi-trad polytheist knowledge community.

We are currently seeking practitioners with at least 2+ years of experience in the following traditions:

Hellenismos
Roman Reconstructionism
Celtic Reconstructionism and/or Druidry
Slavic Reconstructionism
Mexicayotl Polytheists
Polytheistic Wicca
Traditional African Polytheistic Religions
Any Eastern Polytheistic Religions (esp. theistic Buddhism)
Abrahamic Polytheists
(Others not covered or mentioned are also welcome)

What we already have covered by columnists includes:
Heathenry
Kemeticism
Hinduism
Christianity (Henotheism in Catholicism)
Mesopotamian

If you are interested in contributing, please reach out to us. All that we ask of our authors is that they commit to publishing one blog post a month with a length of between 500-1500 words.

Also, if you know of someone who might be interested, please send them this information and/or reblog this post. We have 12 writers currently and are looking to grow this diverse and inclusive Polytheist community.

30-Day Devotional for Loki: Day 30

Question: Do you have any suggestions for others just starting to learn about Loki? 

The best suggestion I can give to anyone interested in learning about a particular deity is to advise them to read the myths and try to see the story through that vantage point. So, in this case, a person would read the myths and view Loki as the main character, no matter how minor his role, and try and discern the potential motives behind his actions.

Trying to figure out the why behind a god’s actions in the myths is a great first step to really start to understand what kind of god you’re dealing with. Loki is constantly solving problems in the myths, which indicates he’s a quick and innovative thinker. He also really understands other people’s motivations, which allows his cunning to really shine through.

When you’re reading the myths, try to ignore the biases of authors who paint the gods in a particular light. If someone calls a god evil or spiteful, decide for yourself through examining the myths via the lens of that god’s character if that is actually justified or not. Most of the time, bias in myth is not justified – it’s just that the person who wrote the retelling of the myth let their bias sink in. Most myth writers aren’t versed in deep mythical interpretation; they retell the myths because they enjoy the stories and do not necessarily understand or appreciate the deeper religious implications.

Once you are comfortable with the myths and have examined a few of them through Loki’s eyes (as close as humans can get, of course), then decide if you think he’s a god that you want to approach. If the answer to that question is yes, then approach him with an offering and give him a libation and tell him that you are interested in learning more from him and experiencing what he is like firsthand.

If you really want to butter him up and get him interested in seeing what you have to offer, I’d suggest an offering of something chocolate (cinnamon raisin chocolate bread to be precise) and some fireball whiskey. In my experience, those are two things he pretty much never turns down, and if you show up with both, he is more than likely going to show up just to receive the offerings.

One of the most common mistakes I see people make is that they approach a god before they have done any research into them – by research, I mean reading the myths in the manner I have described – and then get upset when that god doesn’t show up or ends up not giving them what they have asked to receive. That is really a dual mistake – it’s not a good idea to approach a god you don’t know and be like, “Hey, could you give me this really important thing?” It’s the equivalent of going up to a stranger on the street and being like, “Hey, can you give me five grand?” It’s that level of rude.

The first time you approach a god, it should be more like going to a new neighbor’s house where you bring a housewarming gift and get to know the person in the first conversation. Subsequent offerings are like going to the neighbor’s house with cookies on every visit, so that they know you enjoy their company but also want to provide them with something that allows them to enjoy your company. That’s how a reciprocal relationship is forged, and that is how you build up a good relationship with the gods – offerings at every visit. Asking the gods for more than just conversation and experience comes way later, after you have established a relationship.

There is also a bit of truth to the idea that the less you ask for, the more you receive when you do actually need to ask for help. I make it a point not to ask Loki for much help, and I do that mostly out of respect and partially because I know that not asking him for help with everyday stuff makes it more likely for him to be willing to help with the really big stuff – like the intercession he was willing to make with the Morrigan that I mentioned yesterday.

I highly suggest solving as many problems you can on your own or with ancestral or wight help before ever turning to the divine. Not because the gods won’t want to help but because the gods are the only ones that can help when a situation spirals out of control.

That said, there are many ways to approach learning about a god. You can read articles and books that discuss them in a more scholastic way if that is your inclination. You can read the myths. You can talk to other people who work with the god you’re curious about and learn more about the types of people who are generally drawn to work with that god. The best way, in my experience, however, is to read the myths and then approach the deity with offerings when you’re ready.

After all, polytheistic religions are living religions. Our gods are very much alive, approachable, and present. The best way to get to know a god is to get to know them directly. Our religions are based on reciprocal relationships, so when we talk to the gods, they listen, and they talk to us so that we may listen. We give offerings so they may give us all good things, so that we, in turn, can give to them again. It is a neverending cycle of exchange, and that makes honoring the gods a beautiful experience.

30-Day Devotional for Loki: Day 29

Question: Do you have any unusual or interesting UPG with Loki? 

I like this question because I have so many choices for stories to share. Like I said in my last post, most of the information we have about Loki today comes from personal gnosis. He is a god very close to humanity, so he tends to be around more than the other gods, in my experience.

Many of the unusual experiences I have had with Loki have come from times where he has horsed one of my friends. That friend is trained to handle divine possession, and, at least in my local circle, he seems to be the person that Loki prefers to horse. I have a working theory that it is because my friend emits a vibrational signal that is closer to the wavelength that Loki operates on than the rest of us.

Quite a few people in my local community are trained to handle divine possession, as we live in one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The ancient status of those mountains translates directly into how active the spirit world is here, and it is dangerous for those who are sensitive to spirits to go around untrained in this area. As an example of this, a new woman moved into my neighborhood recently, and it is not an accident that when the two of us met, I learned that she had a decent amount of spiritual strength but no training to keep her safe from spirits. Her apartment was mired in miasma, and an entity came through an unlocked mirror and tried to attack me while I was there. This type of occurrence is incredibly common in this area, so the experienced practitioners here tend to make it a habit to teach those with the strength to be attractive to malignant spirits how to defend themselves against them.

That was a bit of a tangent, but I want to emphasize the fact that I live in an area where encountering and dealing with spirits, the gods included, is just a normal part of life. In the Pagan groups in this area, most people have had direct experience with the gods and many of them are trained in divine possession techniques. That is directly related to how active the spirit world is here, due to the age of the mountain range. It is unusual to find many experienced practitioners in one area, as we tend to be spread thinly across the country and the globe. We are all aware of how strange it is, and we have all often remarked on how weird it is that this area tends to draw experienced spiritworkers almost magnetically towards it.

My experience living here is one of the reasons I so strongly advocate for stronger discernment; I’ve seen first-hand what happens when it isn’t utilized, and the results are often negative and far-reaching in their impact. Entering into rituals unprepared for the consequences can also have far-reaching implications, and that’s where this particular UPG with Loki starts. That said, it also involves the Morrigan.

One of the Pagans here, a Kemetic practitioner who also works with Loki (who blames me for Loki coming into his life) attended a ritual to the Morrigan that John Beckett facilitated during his visit two years ago. The ritual itself was pretty intense, and it was particularly intense for the aforementioned practitioner who, after the ritual was done and Beckett was back in Texas, found himself practically stalked by the Morrigan.

He came to me for help because while he had wanted to honor the Morrigan, she was stalking him to the point that it was causing physical and energetic pain. The friend I mentioned before who acts as Loki’s horse more easily than others was present for this conversation. The three of us discussed what we wanted to do, and we ended up deciding that calling on Loki to directly communicate with the Morrigan, since he is a god that has many connections to other pantheons, would be the best course of action. After all, who better to reason with a god than another god?

The Morrigan’s presence was very clearly felt by everyone in the room, and we determined that the best way for this particular discussion to happen was to ask Loki for his willingness to horse someone and confront her more directly. There was an exchange of goods for services rendered at some point (parts of the memory are hazy, which is normal when dealing with the gods when they horse someone), and Loki was suddenly very present in the room alongside the Morrigan, though in a way that was a bit more physical than usual.

From what I can remember of what Loki told us of the conversation with the Morrigan, he did his best to explain to her that getting consent from a follower was better than forcing it, but she seemed fairly determined to not take no for an answer. From what I can remember, Loki did what he could to try and help, but the Morrigan refused to be persuaded. Gods can be as stubborn, if not more so, than people, and the Morrigan absolutely refused to budge in her pursuit of this particular practitioner (At this point, the two of them have forged a slightly more healthy relationship but it will probably always be tainted in some ways by the fact that it was built originally off of coercion).

That was an experience that told me a lot about Loki and how he views consent. He was willing to intercede with a god from an entirely different pantheon to try to convince them that it was better to obtain consent from a potential follower than to coerce them into service. Some people might point out that we had to ask him for help rather than automatically receive it, but that makes perfect sense. After all, we were asking him to step directly into the path of another god who was hell-bent on getting what she wanted. That’s a rather volatile situation to ask anyone to step into, and we definitely gave Loki a plethora of offerings in return for his willingness to put himself in a potentially dangerous situation.

That experience also belied everything that I’ve ever heard anyone say about Loki being a coward who refuses to fight or put himself in danger, who prefers to run away from problems rather than solve them. This is an ironic view, considering the myths and how often Loki puts himself in danger; it’s a pretty regular occurrence, actually. There’s nothing cowardly about him, and if he does step down, it is out of respect for the person on the other side rather than out of fear.

I’ve learned a lot about Loki through experiences like this one, and I’m aware of how amazing it is to be able to have experiences like this. I didn’t start physically encountered gods until about three years ago, and what really helped facilitate that was to eliminate from my head the ideas engendered by Protestant society. I learned to suspend my disbelief when it comes to how gods can appear to us and accept that they can, and do, walk around occasionally in human bodies. That made it a lot easier to discern when a person was actually being horsed by a god and when they were just parroting. Physically experiencing the presence of a god is not an experience that is easily forgotten.