Lokasenna

I won’t be writing about my entire PantheaCon experience because it would take a long time to do so; plus, most of what I did at the con was chat and rest and neither of those things make for scintillating reading. However, on Sunday night I did have the opportunity to go to Golden Gate Kindred’s Lokasenna ritual drama and that might be worth sharing.

The event was schedule for 11pm on Sunday. I didn’t have any other programming that I really wanted to get to that day so I mostly took it easy, chatted with people, and then spent several hours resting and building up my reserves. (My cane helps me get around, so it’s always a good thing to have with me but it also takes a lot of energy to use. Even though it can moderate my pain levels somewhat, I end up pretty fatigued anyway.)

The ritual attendees were greeted with music and singing, a beautiful touch that set the mood. Ritual facilitators took time to explain that the drama was written as a satire to call attention to topics that cause contention in today’s pagan and Heathen cultures; further, the characters were not supposed to be interpreted as how they (the Kindred) perceived the gods. The space was set with the help of galdr and two costumed dancers illustrated the meeting of fire and ice that gave rise to the worlds. (I spent time wanting to take a close look at some of their costume pieces.) A guided meditation took people to Aegir’s hall. Live music accompanied the meditation. (The Kindred members are so creative and skilled!)

I didn’t participate in the meditation and it’s a bit complicated to explain why. (In fact, I wrote several sentences trying to explain all these reasons and it just got boring so I deleted it.) Nonetheless, drama has an altering effect on the consciousness, so a lightly relaxed state was achieved before very long.

The drama addressed several issues. I couldn’t name them all because I kept forgetting to pay attention; I was having fun watching Odin and Freya and Ran and Freyr and Loki bounce around. I do recall that sexuality, polyamory, disability, and social class were brought up and argued about in character.

Everyone knows how Lokasenna ends. I know how Lokasenna ends. Why then was I so disturbed? Not dropping down into meditation was supposed to keep me safe – and perhaps it did, relatively speaking.

Modern readers are sometimes entirely unsure what to make of Lokasenna. Why is Loki so entirely angry? In the drama, it seems to have been suggested that Loki was pushed to the point of anger and beyond by injustice, hypocrisy, and double standards. Haven’t you ever been so furious at oppression that you just need something to scream at? This was the state being illustrated in the drama. (In fact, I feel like there was some lines to the effect of, “If you’d just calm down and discuss your concerns calmly I’m sure we might actually be able to do something about them. We can’t make progress if you’re angry.”)

The ritual could have ended there but the Kindred chose to give people some kind of closure (which is good! don’t leave your audience injured and never leave your ritual participants in pieces). Small mirrors with bindrunes on the back were handed out to help facilitate greater self-honesty. These were intended to help us see the ugly, unpleasant parts of the psyche and to bring them to light where they could be dealt with instead of remaining hidden and continuing to cause extensive harm. I refused a mirror. I was entirely too upset to think about doing magic and at that moment I just did not feel like I wanted or needed such a dangerous tool. I left quickly. The ritual was sound and the drama was well-done and the Kindred was hospitable. I was just done, all done. I was sad and angry on a level I hadn’t expected. I was upset at myself for expecting to feel differently; what did I think I was going to feel?

I was very nearly to the elevators when I realized I had left my phone in the conference room. Turning back I found one of the tiny round mirrors glinting at me on the floor. Fine. I’d have a mirror but I wouldn’t take one in ritual.

**

Rituals have effects. This is no doubt one of the many reasons I don’t go to any that I’m not in control of. I always protest that I want something easier, something gentler, something less exacting but when I’m offered the chance for deeper self-knowledge and ever greater levels of refinement I always jump into the deep end of the pool. I am very greedy.

This ritual had very prompt effects. I began telling some hard stories about myself, dredging up the garbage that I’ve been carrying around for many years. Being honest in identifying these neglected trash heaps let me name them and know them; I have begun, slowly, to recognize how they influence my behavior, expectations, and emotional character. I am also very slowly starting to see how they harm me and how they cause continual problems in different aspects of my life. Telling stories became a major theme as PantheaCon wound to a close for another year.

The ritual is still having effects. I think (hope!) that I’ve gotten over feeling resentful and angry at having my covers pulled; honest self-knowledge is the greatest gift you can give yourself. A clear, unflinching knowledge of our own internal workings allows us to approach the Powers more effectively and to recognize Their proximity in increasingly subtle ways. With that at stake, I will empty my mental closets and drain every emotional cesspool. I will continue to embrace the light of knowledge even as it burns; such is suggested by the kenaz rune.

I’m still carrying the mirror in my wallet.

 

 

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Herself

I don’t know when I first became aware of Her. I feel like I’ve known Her all along except I know I haven’t. She has become so central to how I know Him that imagining a time when I didn’t know Her feels unfamiliar, like a book with only half the pages.

He changed, I think, before She stepped forward. He changed and She arrived. My heart was surprised at Her appearance and already in love.

A couple years ago I did a working with Freya and She was there. Her presence was less defined compared to the shining Vanadis but I knew Her, of course. That ritual began a period of several months where She became more and more established in my heart and mind – except that She was already there because Loki was there and She is Loki.

(I realize of course that it’s ridiculous to gender beings that have absolutely none of the ostensible markers we associate with gender here and now. That said, gendered characteristics are part of the Powers and are therefore very important to how people love and relate to them here and now. The gender of the Powers is therefore at once entirely irrelevant and highly significant. Of course, both my life experience and my spiritual history has led me to understand gender as both irrelevant and significant; I can’t possibly except anyone else to share the same opinion.)

From the very beginning of this deliberate ritualized getting-to-know you I felt like it was best to regard Her as Her own being distinct from Loki’s more familiar masculine aspect.I felt that trying to superimpose my new understanding of Herself onto my long experience with Himself would simply muddy the conceptual waters and prevent me from getting to know Her on Her own terms.

You see, Loki will not be bound even by our assumptions of who He is. Some ten years ago I went through a pronounced psychic death experience that fundamentally changed who I am and who I know myself to be. I had to relearn embodiment. As challenging and traumatic as that experience and its outcomes were, what was perhaps the hardest to endure was Loki’s absence. He left and I couldn’t find Him. He left and wouldn’t respond. Several months went by like this; nearly a year passed before I finally understood that I was holding on to a very singular idea of who He was and what our relationship was like – and that all this was part of holding on to beliefs about myself that no longer applied. Letting go of who I had been (or who I had thought myself to be) necessitated letting go of who I thought He was and what I thought our relationship was. I dropped it all and committed to riding the always-changing tides of who He decided He was going to be that day. A radical acceptance of Loki as He chose to be was the start of a radical acceptance of myself as who I was now. I learned then that one of the most precious gifts we can offer the Powers is simple and truthful acceptance of who They choose to be at any time.

So when She showed up I knew that I would love Her too – because I already did. My job was to create a space where She was comfortable, welcomed, and loved. Everything else I might need to know She would tell me.

I’ve written some about Loki’s feminine self both here and elsewhere; an essay is included in Worshiping Loki. At first She was very much in the mode of the outcast, the solitary woman, the hardscrabble single mother. As Her presence became more fully formed She became the domestic guardian and homemaker. She became other things – witch, sorceress, and other things I’m not willing to name. I got to know Her as well as She wanted me to over the course of several months. When He came back I was a little heartbroken. How could She leave? I knew of course that She wasn’t gone, that She was still here – that She and He have always been here – but oh, I missed Her immediately.

They are the same, possessing the same experiences and thoughts and feelings and aspects and dimensions. They are the same, committed to the same relationships and promises. But He is here and She is not. Even people who know Him well just kind of shake their heads; She is faint and distant, they remark.

No one who knows Him is unfamiliar with Her but a conscious understanding of Her ways, expressions, and characteristics has been elusive.

**

I don’t remember when I decided to bring Her here. Maybe it was when Her icon was first set up and She became present fully in my head and heart. Maybe it was when I realized that She is not as communicative with everyone. Maybe it was when I struggled to tell people about Her soda bubble sweetness and brass-bright presence. Maybe it was when She started reaching out and shaping Her altars the way She wanted them.

She was here but not; elusive yet obvious. Acknowledged all but explicitly in the lore but never explored.

A lifetime of spiritual practice is being poured into what seems like a very simple project. The process of icon making, altar building, and temple construction are not, on their own, terribly difficult; just a little time-consuming and occasionally resource-intensive. Understanding why they work and how to leverage these principles to their fullest expression is what took all this time. I still don’t know everything. The process is teaching me.

I’m entirely committed to bringing Her here. Punching through the oblivion on our end and tearing apart the obfuscation on theirs is my goal. She will be here – and She already is. The first steps have all been taken and what remains is just making that fact obvious.

I will bring Her here. Things are already different.

 

 

 

Feminine Loki – the next step

I’ve talked a little bit about working with Loki’s feminine aspect – Her aspect as a feminine being as distinct from masculine Loki in drag or masculine Loki being fabulous or gender-bent. Lady Loki (as Heather Freysdottir refers to Her) has been the primary form and persona I’ve interacted with for going on two years. It’s been a surprising and illuminating journey.

Her presence in my life was firmly cemented after a complex ritual working involving some other Powers but She wasn’t new at that point, just less seen. In these initial months She was nearly always a sketchy, nervous creature that lived alone in a cave. Over time, Her personality expanded to a full, sparkling brightness with a weight of lust that sat heavily on the tongue. She is always, perfectly, Loki – but strange and new at the same time.

Following my psychic death experience many years ago, my first and possibly hardest task was the let go of all expectations and assumptions regarding my relationship with Loki. Everything I expected, hoped for, assumed, anticipated, or looked forward to had to be dumped entirely in order to embrace Loki’s fundamentally dynamic nature (and my own, but that would come somewhat later). I had to be willing to fully love every aspect Loki displayed, every form of interaction, every potential outcome, every relationship configuration, every period of drought or saturation. I had to learn to hold Him very loosely. (I am not always great at this last part.)

Her arrival could not have happened without me getting lots of practice simply accepting what She had to share without projecting unwarranted desires or assumptions onto our interactions. Perhaps this emotional space allowed Her to grow exactly as She wished to. I humbly suspect that I was able to provide Her with as ideal a stage for growth as She might find. Giving Her a space to become firmly situated in this world has been a stunning honor and pleasure.

The Powers are infectious and some more than others. She’s been busy. A year ago I hadn’t encountered but a few slight, passing references to Her in people’s lives. Now She is emerging into many spaces through many minds and hearts. I wrote a piece about Her for inclusion in an anthology on Loki (which hasn’t been published yet; no word on release date). I talked about Her at PantheaCon. I brought Her to Many Gods West. She has a prominent place in Worshiping Loki, so people will soon start to encounter Her that way. She is expanding.

Now comes the next step.

I’ve been working on a few clay sculptures of my Beloved.

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It’s pretty clear I don’t work in polymer clay very often. I prefer stoneware and occasionally ceramic. Each one is a little better than the last.

The one on the far left, in front of the icon, will be offered for sale pretty soon. It stands about 5.5″ high and features an abstract sprig of mistletoe on the skirt and a necklace after the Viking style. Lady Loki really likes necklaces with big, bright jewels and bold designs. The choice of a Viking style necklace is also a nod to the way She appeared for a long time – in a blue and white apron dress with little black slippers.

I’m going to keep making a few more of these figures. Not sure how many or really even for what purpose. If one sells I’ll put another up for sale. Past that I’m not sure. All I know is that making the icons is the next step in this work. It’s very exciting.

Pre-Order Continues! Also a story.

Thank you all for the overwhelming response to the pre-order for the hand bound copies of Worshiping Loki. As of now, nearly half of the 20 volumes have been reserved and paid for. If this is something you’re interested in, I suggest getting in contact with me soon. (To order, email me at salinespirit@gmail.com and provide me with your shipping information and Paypal email address if you have one. I’ll generate a Paypal invoice that can be paid with credit card, debit card, or Paypal balance.) In the meantime, I’m already cutting cover boards for these volumes and I’ll be purchasing additional sheets of cover paper and book cloth soon.

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This little book came about in a very curious way. In the nearly 15 years I’ve been a Lokean I’ve come across the same questions over and over – and over and over – again. “I want to worship Loki; how do I get started?”, “How do I build an altar?”, “How do I do ritual?”, etc. etc. People more patient than myself have been answering these things for a long time and have certainly done a great service to newcomers. Earlier this year I suddenly wondered why someone didn’t just write a book answering all these basic questions since the answers were always the same.

And that’s how it started.

I knew I didn’t want to write about Loki in a Heathen context. Other people have done that and frankly I’m not entirely convinced that doing so again is really necessary. While I think having a grounding in the fundamentals of Norse polytheism is helpful (and it’s certainly respectful), the fact that Loki worship has turned into some weird ideological pissing match makes current Heathenry a really hostile environment to newcomers. I also don’t believe that Loki is limited to this context. Except for the highly appropriate courtesy towards cultural context, there’s absolutely no reason why a person needs to participate in current reconstruction Heathenry in order to worship Loki. This book therefore is not grounded in Heathenry. Though I state as much in the introduction, I’ve no doubt that people will leverage this as a negative criticism. (I invite them to step up and write their own damn book.)

Aside from not wanting to go back over ground that’s already been covered in better ways by better authors, I wanted primarily to provide practical information that could be immediately applied to one’s practice goals. Providing an ideological and theoretical background is undoubtedly part of how practical information should be shared but again: other people have done it already.

Related to the desire for a practical emphasis, I wanted to empower people with the fundamental skills to make religion happen for themselves. Expressing hospitality towards the Powers, arranging a space for them, and then expressing praise and worship in a constructive way are all essential skills in the actual doing of religion. Polytheism should be empowering to individuals. We can and do rely on religious specialists the same way that we rely on, say, chefs. This doesn’t mean that we eat every meal out. Knowing how to provide for our day to day religious needs is important and part of what makes paganism on the whole a very powerful thing. I wanted to make this very clear to readers.

And finally, I wanted to talk about discernment in a way that didn’t rely on any kind of psychic context. Discernment can and should be a logical, reasoned approach to problem solving in a religious context. By divorcing discernment from the realm of psychic woofoo, I hope to make polytheist Loki worship even more accessible to people.

All these goals were swirling around in my head as I started writing. I wrote a few thousand words and then got bogged down in a lot of self doubt. Self doubt is my primary demon. I questioned the wisdom of removing Loki from a specifically Heathen context – never mind that He’s been disowned by many voices in Heathenry. I wondered if I should include yet another pointless reiteration of stories that other people had told better. I wondered if I should talk about reconstructionism despite not being a recon polytheist myself. I wondered if I really had that much to say. I let the project stall.

Quite unexpectedly I got an order through my Etsy shop for a custom devotional volume. This listing is for a hand bound volume with content that the buyer provides. It’s a great way to present one’s ritual records, devotional poetry, or really anything. The buyer misunderstood some of the details of the listing and asked for a book on Loki – specifically a book on Loki worship. A book on Loki worship that would providing information on things like how to set up an altar and do a ritual.

To reiterate: I was being asked, by a stranger, to write the very book I’d been working on for Loki. I’ve rarely received such direct direction.

Because it was a formal order through Etsy I had a hard shipping deadline to meet. I had to finish the manuscript, edit it to some presentable state, format it for printing, get it printed, and do all the rest of the fiddly steps involved in hand binding a book in about six weeks. Worshiping Loki: A Short Introduction is the result.

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Is this little book everything it could be? I’ve no doubt that I could have done more but at a certain point I felt like I wasn’t providing anything unique anymore. I wanted to present information that was fresh and hopefully interesting. This book shouldn’t be your only reference for Loki worship but I hope that it provides something that no other book can. I hope that it helps empower you to do religion for yourself, to make spirituality occur on your own terms, with the Powers you love most.

The Mouse’s Bride

When I was a child, my mother read to me a book called The Mouse’s Bride (at least, that’s what I think it was called). It was a picture book about a mouse who went off into the wide world to search for a bride. He wanted to marry the daughter of the most powerful creature on earth and so went looking for that creature. He went to the sun, the cloud, the wind, and finally to a tower before finally settling on a mouse bride. Over and over his protest was that if his bride wasn’t the daughter of the strongest creature in the world, he didn’t want a bride at all.

As a child I found this story frustratingly hard to understand. Family financial instability taught me early on that compromise and settling for less was simply the way life worked; if you couldn’t have the thing you wanted, you’d have to manage with something lesser or with nothing at all. The mouse’s insistence on something that was the very best of anything and his refusal to accept anything second was very confusing.

As an adult, I understand this story a little better.

Not long ago an acquaintance of mine expressed surprise that my home wasn’t simply swimming in altar icons. I suppose that’s justified; most pagan who’ve been around the community long enough accumulate all kinds of witchy shit. I have a lot of weird books but that makes up the biggest share of witch shit. I definitely don’t have icon figurines or even a lot of pagan-flavored artwork. I’ve used the same color printout for Loki’s icon for, uh, 13 years I think. His first icon actually printed out hot pink. I used that for a year at least, probably two. But bottom line, I really have comparatively few.

I’ve been getting to know Loki’s feminine aspect for several months now; this relationship has actually been intensifying over the past few years and it shifted to our main mode of interaction a while ago. She doesn’t have Her own altar exactly; Loki simply has Loki’s altar. Though Loki is only ever just Loki, I’ve found it useful to treat the two as distinct entities (not different, not separate, but distinctive). Loki’s altar has a feminine mode and a masculine mode; Her icon is veiled in feminine mode, generally uncovered otherwise.

I’ve thought about making an altar for Her because She deserves one. In this home, She’s pretty much entitled to one. Why wouldn’t She be? The icon was a bit of a sticky issue. I hadn’t ever seen images that struck me as both suitable for use as an altar icon and illustrative of Her character to a degree that it would be evocative of Her presence. Only one really came to mind and I couldn’t find a large enough version to make it worth printing out. (There are actually more potential altar images of Her out there than ever before, which is really excellent.)Loki

Clicking around through Etsy I came across a listing for a pair of prints by a California artist – andthere She was. The picture wasn’t perfect, wasn’t really HER, but it was close enough to be the reminder that icons ought to be and it was well-done enough to be worthy of a place on an altar. I saved some money and bought the pair. They were both nice, but one was especially ideal.

The little package finally arrived today. I hurried home from work imagining that I’d set up the altar cabinet I’ve been working on, find a nice frame, and have a welcoming home ceremony to integrate this new image into my spiritual home. But looking at the picture as it came out of the package something was wrong. Something was deeply, fundamentally wrong and I remembered the mouse and his all-consuming search.

My disappointed, sullenly angry reaction told me that what I was looking for wasn’t an altar icon. I was actually hoping to bring home in visible form something else entirely. When that didn’t happen, I was immediately sad.

The pictures are lovely, there’s no problem on that count. No, the problem was me and my expectations and hopes and desires.

In spirit work and in devotional practice, it is essential to learn from our emotional responses. We have to learn from ourselves, from our expressions in this world and our reaction to it, because we have no other doctrine to study. We are our own teachers. This might suck and we might feel resentful over the fact, but fact it remains. Our devotional relationships occur in the private spaces of the heart; no witness or guide is present except for Them. Spirit work too occurs in a place no human can follow. When we long for the presence of human teacher it’s important not to forget our very first human teacher in this work: ourselves.

This experience reminds me to be conscious of my motivating desires. What I want is Her. What I got is a picture. What I wanted was Her, so I decided the best way to get Her was by buying a bit of wood pulp and ink. What I wanted is Her and at some point I decided that She could be purchased and possessed and held and framed. I wanted Her and never noticed that I was trying to pay shipping for something entirely separate from Her.

You see how the breakdown between desire and hope and expectation and final result can occur? It happens an awful lot.

Contrary to what some detractors might say, idol worshipers generally don’t place the entire weight of divine presence into a single physical object. These items are at best a window, a vessel that concentrates a small portion of divinity into a time and place so we can better notice it. Someone actually familiar with the Power in question would not be inclined to think otherwise, I imagine. Therefore expecting such an object to be more than what it has an inherent capacity to be – a window, at best – is folly.

Well, no one has ever been able to accuse this mouse of excessive wisdom.

She will be welcomed home with full celebration. She will be loved and honored and cared for with as much attentiveness as my meager mortal mentality is capable of. Hopefully I will not make such a painful-to-me mistake again for a long time.

(Yes, there will be pictures but not until everything’s set up and I stop feeling sorry for myself.)

Handmade Loki Devotional Give-Away!

I have some great news to share! Thanks to the generosity of donors, the fund fed by sales of the Loki devotional has reached capacity. It’s time for a giveaway!

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This giveaway is for one copy of the handmade Loki devotionals that I have for sale on Etsy. These books are hand bound, so each one of them is entirely unique. Lush red paper with black and metallic gold marbling decorates the cover; this paper is handmade and gives each volume an even greater distinctive character.

The winner will receive one copy of the book and complementary shipping. This contest is open to international entrants; any additional shipping charges will be covered by me. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are already $9 towards the next giveaway.

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To enter, all you need to do is comment on this post and say you wish to participate; please include your preferred email address, as well.

Entries will be received until 11:59 PM on Saturday, June 13. Everyone is welcome to reblog and share this post so as to spread the word as much as possible. Thank you everyone for you continued support of this devotional project.

Progress Towards a Loki Devotional Giveaway

If you were following my blog when I announced the release of the first of my handmade devotional books, the one for Loki, you might recall a mention of a fund set aside to make discounted copies of the books available. Writing about the giveaway that Beth and Columbine have organized for new lovers and beloveds of Apollon reminded me of why I began this fund in the first place. I want to give something back to the devotees that have collectively given me so much. I’m happy to say that $12 is now in the Loki book fund.

I’d like to set aside enough to arrange a free giveaway for a book and to cover its shipping costs so as to make it a really magical experience for the recipient. That means we’re just over one-third of the way there. If you would like to help make this giveaway possible, consider sharing my Etsy shop or the listing for the Loki devotional.  Once some more money has been added to this fund I’ll update everyone on the total so we can celebrate together. 🙂

Update! The fund now contains $21; we’re now approximately two-thirds of the way to a give-away. Thank you!

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