This. The snake drips perpetual poison on captive Loki (a complex “trickster” deity of the Norse tradition). One of his wives, Sigyn, holds the bowl to keep the poison away, but the bowl eventually fills and Sigyn must empty it. The poison that falls on Loki during that time causes terrible suffering–people even believed that earthquakes resulted from his writhing agony. And it never stops.
For me this is the most apt depiction of the constant suffering of the growing number of people who are chemically injured and environmentally ill. (Download PDF of 2018 study.) Industrial, agricultural, and consumer toxins are ubiquitous in our world, supposedly produced by people dedicated to “civilized” progress. All the world and all its creatures are at risk now, from the entwined catastrophes of climate change and pollution. The exposures never stop and neither do the consequences.
Those who are suffering now, and who will suffer in the future, are inevitably made outcast. They are rejected by loved ones who prefer to continue their use of designer fragrances or smelly hand lotions to that of recognizing a mild request for breathable air and unscented companionship. Marriages die, friendships wane, children grow up and start using products that make visiting difficult or impossible. Jobs are lost, employment prospects are slim to none, and activities of daily living inevitably involve toxic encounters: aisles in the supermarket (cat food is always across from the toxic cleaning products!), air fresheners in the clinic restrooms, that heavily perfumed customer behind you in line, or at the next table over, causing headaches and asthma and actually preventing you from tasting the food you ordered.
The poison drips. The agony persists. Suicide beckons. Loneliness is pervasive. You are alone in a cave (or a foil-lined studio apartment) that no one else will enter. If you’re lucky, someone is with you, doing what they can to forstall or prevent toxic exposures and letting you know you’re worth loving even when you’re spoonless. For those with chemical injuries, Sigyn’s dedication is all too rare outside the world of myth and sacred literature.
Okay. So what? This is a blog about esoteric and spiritual stuff, right?
So I’m outing myself as a Lokean as of this moment, though this metamorphosis has been going on for awhile. For me that’s super big spiritual news even if it doesn’t mean much to anyone else. This spiritual journey grew from an experimental approach to Norse paganism, with a devotional practice initially dedicated to Frey, Freya, and Gerda (Frey’s Etin wife). Because of their associations with sex, fertility, reproduction, and magic, Frey and Freya (who are Vanir not Aesir) are particularly apt deities for me to cultivate. But a giant chunk of something was missing from my spiritual practice and deep down I knew what it was. Or rather, I knew who it was, but I was reluctant to “go there.” I’ve already got several social deficits: the environmental illness disability; aging; and a tendency to go batshit over “special interests.” Declaring myself a dedicated follower of Loki is just not going to win me a goodie bag at the next senior center ice cream social (not that I’ve ever been to one–a lot of older women wear perfume).
But there have been few developments in my life as inwardly gleeful, rich, and pleasurable as finally saying, “Okay, I’m in. I’m in all the way. You’ve been there all along and I finally acknowledge it.” Yes, this is a personal relationship I’m talking about. I sense interaction and exchanges–seldom in words, most often in a sense of presence and intuitive tugs at my gut. At the moment I consider myself a neophyte devotee and a sort of “plucky comic relief.”
Even so, it wasn’t until yesterday, when I considered this story of Loki’s torment, that I realized how completely perfect this is. I mean, wow, I’m hanging out with a deity who actually understands my condition (though I cannot possibly comprehend all of his).
Loki: hailed as the god of tricksters, outcasts, deviants, and more, I now hail you as the god of all who are damaged by toxic chemicals, who are made outcast by their illnesses. This probably won’t make me popular among Lokeans either, but it’s my gnosis, not theirs. And knowing what I know now will probably keep me alive a little longer. Loki is within earshot, if not actually holding a bowl.
Are you a fellow traveller? Make yourself known.