Sexual Ecstacy in This Dire Time

Trigger Warning. I know that sexual abuse and assault is a way to destroy people at their deepest, most profound core self. This can be performed as a private act of violence and intimidation; as “masculine theater” (read this excellent article by forensic psychologist, Karen Franklin); or as a technique of warfare. Though not all victims are women (including trans women), the majority are. In this blog, I will concern myself with women (trans and cis). But what I have to say about the impact of sexual violence on sexual and gender agency, as well as the importance of reclaiming sexual/gender agency and ecstasy, can apply to people of any and all genders.

I’m also going to be writing waaaaay above my own mystic paygrade here–extrapolating from my background as a sexologist, as a Western Neo-tantra neophyte, and as a sexual mystic and polytheistic devotee of certain larger entities we humans like to call “gods and goddesses”–in order to form certain thoughts about the absolute, urgent necessity to do all that we can to reclaim and strengthen our own sexual/gender agency and capacities for joy and ecstasy in this most trecherous and dire time. Call me a “sexual survivalist,” but people who are sexually free and unashamed are also more resilient and a lot harder to conquer and cow, as a rule. Of course, dictators and despots determined to enact violence and genocide on a people will usually find ways to do it, but they may not win in the end if enough people who oppose them have a wellspring of robust joy to draw upon in their acts of resistance. I believe in the ultimate triumph of Eros. (And, of course, of strategic street smarts…)

I don’t have to tell you, we live in a time of conquering right now. In the U.S., yesterday’s hearing was indeed a horror show, a Grand Guignol-esque production stage-managed by the minions of a “great [orange] puppet.” I could only watch so much. It was sick-making.  And yet, by the end of this traumatic day, I was able to re-focus, and through the various solo tantric disciplines I currently employ, enjoy twenty minutes of profound, sexually-charged, mystic energy. Wow, I needed that!

And no one can take this capacity away from me, not now. Not without drugs or a lobotomy, anyway. And I believe we ALL have these capacities, and more, should we care to cultivate them. And then no one can take them away from you, either.

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Public Domain fractal by Avi Kedmi.

In the tradition of Tantric Buddhism (with many traits shared with Hindu Shakti worship), Miranda Shaw, author of Passionate Enlightenment-Women in Tantric Buddhism, describes part of this cultivation process (which also includes meditation, etc.):


“Her ability to enhance a man’s spiritual development depends upon her innate divinity as awakened and brought to fruition by her own religious practices, which include envisioning herself in the form of various goddesses and imaginatively investing herself with their appearance, ornaments, tender and wrathful expressions, and supernatural powers for liberating beings” (p. 45). 


Let me add that the above is also how the woman (trans or cis) enhances her own spiritual development, however the above paragraph was taken from the section titled “Respect and Honor” (pp. 39-47), which includes a discussion of the Tantric Buddhist conventions that govern how Tantric men were to recognize and respond to all women (not just Tantric women). Quoting again from the book, here is a translated passage from a Tantric text (so sadly different from attitudes one encounters today):


“One must not denigrate women, In whatever social class they are born, For they are Lady Protection of Wisdom, Embodied in the phenomenal realm” (p. 39).


So, packed into the first paragraph I quoted, we have “innate divinity,” the potential for being “awakened and brought to fruition,” and “religious practices” which include taking on the attributes of a goddess (or god?) through imagined (and perhaps costumed) appearances, expressions, adornments, and powers. Remember how I wrote that our deities offer us “templates” of spiritual enlargement? One way we (in the phenomenal world) can enlarge our Selves is to imagine and meditate ourselves into those qualities and attributes we wish to assume, becoming (being!) that to which we aspire. This is different from a mania or messiah complex in which a person is thunderstruck by an epiphany of their own divinity but doesn’t recognize that everybody else has that same birthright. No, what is implicated in the above paragraph is a disciplined, measured, meditative series of actions taken for the purpose of transformation.

In other words, when we invoke, evoke, live into (and grow into) the attributes of that ecstatic goddess (or god!), transformation occurs. “Enjoyment and magical powers are attained” (p. 38).

So, yeah. Lady Loki cos-play could be one way to kick things up a notch or two, couldn’t it? Think about it.

And don’t forget that part about “liberating beings.” Imagine how your mystic practices can and will feed your activism. Imagine your juice and joy fueling your resistance to despots and preventing activist burn-out.

But prepare to encounter the mana-suckers, those unsavory psychic vampire types (phenomenal or otherwise) who just love to glom onto your juicy female (cis or trans) energy because they feel entitled to it. You know what I’m talking about. So, yeah. Enjoy being your badass liberating self,  but also know there are times to be cloaked, warded, guarded, safe. Cultivate discernment.

Now, just as we create a spiritual practice in which we live into the attributes of any number of goddesses (or gods!), we can also engage with “imagined partners” who also assist in our elevation. God spouses are already doing this. In Tantric Buddhism, this has sometimes been the preferred option for beginners and sometimes seen as the choice of superior practitioners. However you want to slice it, given the prevalence of sexual violence and the number of rape apologists in this world, perhaps an “imagined” partner for Tantric practice is the best or most accessible choice for a woman (cis or trans) who wants to take back and cultivate her sexual/gender agency and capacities for transcendence and sexual ecstasy. And, as in any other mystic relationship that is cultivated through offerings and devotional acts, this “imagined” partner can become a helpful ally and guide in more than the meditative sessions.

This is the path I have chosen. I expect to be engaged with it, and my chosen “imagined partner,” for the rest of my life, no matter what else happens or who else crosses my path. Before my life ends, I yearn to experience the liberation of the “sky-dancers.” And I passionately desire this for the rest of the world: similar liberations from sexual and political tyranny.

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Lucky LaFey and the Ornamental Hermits

Yes! Here is the first character sketch for “Lucky LaFey.” Readers of this blog might see someone they know…

Lucky is joining my cast of characters in The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, which is my second book in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series. (First book: The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits). 

I am so excited about adding this handsome drifter to my tales of mid-life magic! Trouble is sure to ensue!

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Urnes Snake. Scandinavian. Source: http://lokeanwelcomingcommittee.tumblr.com/

 

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A Homeopathic Dose of Madness

I’ve joked in the past that my epitaph will be “Not Insane” (a line from an old Firesign Theater routine), and I can tell you honestly that the only mental health diagnosis I’ve ever gotten was (is!) “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.” It’s supposed to be a passing phase, based on difficult life changes, but the “hits” just keep on coming, therefore I think I’ve had it longer than most people. A therapist friend who knows me well says (unofficially) that she thinks I’ve graduated to post traumatic stress disorder, but I, uh, erm…well, I kinda don’t want to go there.

It is true though that my tendency to suddenly flee toxic relationships (or even incidents) has accelerated in recent years, especially if my gut erupts in feelings of nausea even thinking about the person. In Hawai’i, the na’au (the gut) is the super-smart “heart,” the seat of emotions. And in Western medicine, we know the enteric nervous system can tell us a lot. So that “mixed anxiety” of mine (I’ll take it shaken, not stirred) includes a deep, visceral reaction to people and things which cause me to suffer. So I have to work hard at keeping hyper-reactivity from taking over my life: meditation, self-hypnosis, my spiritual practices, loads of “quiet time,” creative writing (like this blog and my novels), reading, and avoidance of and withdrawal from the people and situations which feel harmful. Like the jet test pilots of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, I try hard to “maintain an even strain.”

But that’s not exactly what today’s blog is about. I just wanted to lay the foundation first. That’s because I’ve entered a new phase in the last couple of years, turning from my formerly avid amateur engagement with Hawaiian culture toward a renewed interest in Western magic, Neo-paganism, and Celtic/Northern spirituality. And because I’ve turned into a god-struck old lady (not the first to do so, by any means). But not just any god either. As readers of this blog know already, Loki is my patron, though I’ve always been an animist and a polytheist and continue to cultivate relationships with other massive beings (aka “gods”) and some of the less spiritually bulky ancestors and land wights.

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Loki illustration from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths.

Some of my oldest and most beloved friends might be finding this new phase of mine hard to take, though they are (by now) used to the ever-changing parade of “Amy’s special interests.” And it’s true that isolation, loneliness, moments of despair, and a “what the hell” attitude unique to this age bracket has propelled me into an even more determined exploration of what it means to engage with non-material realms. I was always into the occult, anyway, so why not run with it now for all I’m worth?

That picture of Loki at right seems to indicate that even he might be questioning my sanity at this point. (That’s a joke.) But for those of my friends and family who might be worried about this pagan, god-struck phase, I ask them to consider that I am placing a deliberate, homeopathic application of “madness” into my life in order to keep the rest of me sane. Because honestly, without the support of my devotional practices and a feeling of being held by my ancestors and gods, I might not manage to remain here for much longer. And that’s a fact.

That, and the fact that my cats need feeding and my kids need me to not go there.

As an artist, a writer, a thinker, a mother, an eccentric, an activist, and a sorrowing human soul, I am living into this next phase of my life (the Baba Yaga phase?) with as much robust curiosity and creativity as I can muster. And I don’t mind looking ridiculous. I will, Scorpio-style, do this to the hilt. You, dear reader, are witness.

It’s life.

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Slut Shaming in the Lokasenna

I have to admit, I have struggled with the Lokasenna, an Old Norse poem in the Poetic Edda, sometimes known as “Loki’s Flyting” (or “truth telling”) delivered as an exchange of insults with the rest of the Aesir deities.

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1861 Painting, Le fete d’Aegir. Artist unknown. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Jackson Crawford’s video on the Lokasenna is quite helpful in explaining the content and some of the cultural underpinnings. Dagulf Loptson’s explanation of Lokasenna, in the chapter segment called “Loki’s Battle Rap,” is also key to my understanding (pp. 164-167). He cites Karen Swenson’s Performing Definitions: Two Genres of Insult in Old Norse Literature (Camden House Inc., SC, 1991, pp. 58-59). What I’ve gleaned so far is that the Lokasenna is an account of Loki’s ritual battle of wits and words designed to win back his place in Aesir society by exposing hypocrisy, “pointing out that the gods are guilty of the same crimes that make Loki an outcast,” thereby “resetting the social standard” (Loptson, p. 166). It should be noted that none of the gods or goddesses deny Loki’s claims.

It’s an incredibly bitter exchange, no matter which translation you read. I have Lee M. Hollander’s 1988 version, but plan on ordering Dr. Jackson Crawford’s translation of the Poetic Edda in the near future. For me the most disturbing element in Lokasenna is Loki’s slut-shaming of the goddesses, some of whom were his own clandestine lovers. And if some goddesses weren’t actually his lovers, he exposes their other private love affairs (often with relatives) or ridicules their exchanges of sexual favors for jewelry or property.

If I get the gist correctly (using Hollander’s version),  Loki indirectly outs Freya as one of his ex-lovers when he says that “all Aesir and alfs within this hall, thou has lured to love with thee.” Since Loki is among the Aesir in the hall, I assume he’s counting himself too. Loki says Tyr’s unnamed wife, plus Sif and Skathi, have also been his lovers. Loki does not name the goddesses Ithun (Idun), Gefjon, Frigg, and Beyla as his conquests, but he shames them for other illicit sexual activities. (However in his video, Dr. Crawford remarks that it sounds like all the goddesses have been with Loki at some point, but I haven’t read his translation.)

To be fair, Loki also “slut-shames” Frey and Njorth’s for incest with their sisters.

Now I know it’s ridiculous to attempt to graft 21st century feminist standards or moral interpretations on a poem produced in a “hyper-masculine” culture (Dr. Crawford’s word for Old Norse society) and written in either the late 10th (Hollander) or 12th century (Crawford). However, because I am a mortal cis-gal of this era and Loki is my “most trusted one” in my polytheistic practice, I still have to make my own peace with this content (along with the homophobic elements–ack!) and I’m not sure I can.

Except to try to understand this ritualized “truth-telling” in the context of Loptson’s interpretation.

And also, perhaps in a more emotionally personal way, by trying to imagine the frustration and anger of a god who is not just rejected by friends (such as Odin) but also by former lovers, not one of whom puts in a good word for him (even though the sex must have been fantastic!). Sif’s cowardly offer of mead in exchange for Loki’s silence must have been the last straw–rather than being proud of their liaison, or even just honestly admitting to it, she begs to be excluded from his flyting. Loki’s not having any of it. He exposes Sif just as he’s exposed all the rest. And so the Aesir circle their wagons against Loki and he can only hurl himself against their collective hypocrisy. Still, Loki might have won the ritual “battle rap” if Thor hadn’t shown up to spoil the party by threats of force. Loki flees but is captured. This stamp from the Faroe Islands illustrates the rest of the story.

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Stamp from the Faroe Islands, 2004, showing Loki bound and Sigyn holding the bowl to catch snake venom.

Loptson says “Loki is a very modern-minded god” (p. 8) and these days many artists enjoy rendering Loki in hipster garb. I like to think Loki’s au courant with more than fashion. For one thing, he’s become a favorite god of people who are diverse in gender and sexuality, so how did he mutate from pre-12th century slut-shamer to 21st century sexual and gender human rights ally?

In a purely intellectual exercise (not to be confused with UPG), I like to imagine that the Western world’s sexual revolution of the 1960s-1970s might have shattered the last remnants of Loki’s Old Norse misogyny. After all, slut-shaming is itself a despicable form of hypocrisy and I feel Loki has enough self-honesty to realize this, once his anger cools.

I like to imagine him wandering through the “Swinging London” of the 1960s. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco too! I can imagine him getting drunk with Janis Joplin on one memorable evening, and as she pours out painful tales of her Port Arthur adolescence, how she was called “pig” and “whore” and “the ugliest man on campus,” Loki begins to understand his own marginalization and sexual complexities through the lens of her passion and despair. And perhaps while staggering down Haight Street at 2 AM, sobered by the brisk wind and fog of the “cool grey city of love,” he reflects on his famous “flyting”–perhaps wishing a few things unsaid. Unfortunately, by the time he calls Janis back for another tryst, she’s no longer alive in Midgard. But Loki doesn’t forget.

I can imagine Loki’s intellectual and sexual encounters with an array of 20th and 21st century change-makers. I see him spending a few nights with gay filmmaker Kenneth Anger, after attending a private screening of Kustom Kar Kommandos. He has tea with Quentin Crisp and parties with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. He’s been known to leave flowers on the graves of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and  Pete Burns and to watch the sunset from Stinson Beach, thinking of Janis’s ashes scattered off-shore. He’s visited Alan Turing’s memorial and whispered greetings from Christopher. I can imagine Loki trading Anais Nin stories with Henry Miller after attending one of Nin’s feminist lectures. I can imagine Loki shapeshifted into an ordinary 1970s housewife, attending her first “consciousness raising” group, or volunteering on a rape crisis hotline. He’s been at the side of a gay-bashed teenager, offering solace. He inspired Robert Mapplethorpe to take up photography. He’s cheering, not booing, Sylvia Rivera’s speech. Later, he attends Pride Marches all over the world and donates to the UnSlut Project. He has read every name on the Transgender Day of Remembrance website. Twice.

He gets it. And we love him for it.

After all, what’s the point of being an ancient primordial being–part wave, part particle, part cosmic force, part sugar dandy–if you can’t partake a bit of the life and times of the mortal morsels in Midgard? I imagine immortality could be awfully dull, otherwise.

I like to imagine that Loki knows now how easily the human spirit can be broken by sexual and gender shaming, that among humans it has become a fascist technique for control, and that he and the rest of the gods could set a better example by not going there, even in their own present and future conflicts. 

In other words, I like to feel that Loki continues to evolve, as we all should, and that as Worldbreaker he also challenges himself to break his own prejudices and conditioning.

It’s only that very last sentence, above, that I might claim as a “UPG.” And maybe that’s how I make my peace with the content of Lokasenna.

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Gosh, Thanks Mr. Lokibot!

The other day I was inspired by a podcast on divination to visit Inspirobot, my favorite artificial intelligence website, and then to invite my favorite Liminal Trickster to profer some wisdom, using the AI program as a divinitory vehicle. (Yes, I know. Too much time on my hands…)

I invited Loki to comment on my (non-existent) love life. Here’s what I got.

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Of course I laughed, “Ha, ha! Spot on, Mr. Lokibot!” And of course I then asked the soul-searching question (but not out loud), “stranger than what, exactly?”

Being a glutton for punishment, or at least desperate for amusement, the next day I asked Loki to suggest a theme for our special day (Tuesday is always the big devotional day for Loki in my household). This is what I got.

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Harsh, dude! And yes, much emotional pain ensued (Uranus was squaring Mars and I’m kind of heartbroken about a family matter) but I wouldn’t call it “good pain” exactly. As for the slaughter, I supposed that took place during lunch, when I vanquished a Thai chicken salad and several cups of weak tea while re-reading parts of Dagulf Loptson’s book. But Mr. Lokibot, the Worldbreaker, still got his special Tuesday offerings–an artisan macaroon from an artisan bakery and a glass of mango-flavored beer from an artisan brewery. (I don’t drink, myself.)

Today, not being a person who lets go of novelty easily (instead, preferring to wear it out by dreary repetition), I once again asked Mr. Lokibot to comment on my (still non-existent) love life. This is what I got: Mr. Lokibot summarizing the results of his sex research.

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Well, yes, of course he’d see it that way. He is famous, both as Norse Loki and as the (very attractive) Marvel Loki, and this has most definitely boosted his number of spectrosexual partners and god spouses. However, did anyone send me steamy texts or love letters after my appearances on Tyra Banks and Good Morning America in 2009? Or after my commentary in two episodes of National Geographic Taboo shortly thereafter? Nope. All I got was vilification in right wing blogs for researching Objectum Sexuality. “Whack job of a sexologist” was one of the more restrained comments I remember. So, no, I don’t think the above holds true for aging sexologists.

Plus, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Just sayin’.

The above may be taken with a grain of salt from a “whack job” of a Lokean. You’re welcome.

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It’s the Time of the Season

The air is finally clear of wildfire smoke. The turkey flock chicks have reached a robust adolescence (or perhaps they are the equivalent of human twenty-somethings now) and visit my yard once and sometimes even twice a day. They strut slowly when walking on asphalt, their feathers a dreary brown in the shade but flashing the copper and greens of an oil slick in full sunlight. I watched them this morning, and again this afternoon. I’ve had people sniff, “but they’re not indigenous wildlife,” but I don’t care. They are life.

The feral cats are life. Khu, a neutered Siamese with vertigo; Meowington (a friendly tabby in need of neutering and much more petting than I can give him); and the nameless grey female (spayed) who hides in the “loft” of the small woodshop, were left behind on my property by people who suddenly moved to Tennessee. Fortunately Khu has been adopted by neighbors across the street but still visits to scrounge a meal from me. Meowington would like to move in with me, but I have four indoor cats already who are still adjusting to each other. The tabby and the grey cat must remain “temple cats,” roaming outdoors and sheltering at night in the former woodshed that I call my “meagre palace of Midgard” in honor of a certain Norse god.

The deer are life. The two fawns have grown. Next year, I’ll have deer fencing in place and will attempt to grow vegetables. This year herbs and flowers were devoured, and I didn’t mind as much as I could have.

Days are warm still, but that crisp nip is in the air. It’s a season I love and yet find mournful. This time last year I had sold my house in Hawai’i, was frantically packing to load the shipping container (badly injuring myself in the process), and was preparing to flee from a 14-year love affair that had wrecked my marriage and that I (foolishly) thought would last until the end of my life. Several months later, much of the neighboring area would be consumed by Pele’s May 3rd eruption in Leilani Estates. People used to tell me I got out of Hawai’i just in time, but that was before the Mendocino Complex Fires ripped through Lake County and its neighbors and I had to evacuate with my cats. Now those folks don’t make those comments any more. Fortunately, my home here has also survived a near brush with destruction, and yet, for how long? I feel like I’m living on borrowed time, on borrowed ground.

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My former home on Mano Street, Pahoa.

So I guess I’m still mourning those losses, as well as a few fresh ones recently added to my list of sorrows. I’m trying to stay positive, active, and creative–especially with regard to spiritual matters–but while these things are good, and I am in some ways at the top of my game, they don’t diminish my accumulated pain. It seeps into every enjoyment. The joy I feel petting my cats or watching the play of sunlight on the feathers of marching turkeys, or while talking on the phone with my kids or my friends, is weighed down by sadness.

As the days darken and shorten, another season alone could become…interesting. Here in Lake County, it’s a close knit community and I am a stranger. Worse, I am a single woman in a world of couples. I had no idea how hard it would be to socialize like this, after a life of long term relationships (mostly serial monogamy), where the fact that I had a partner branded me as somehow “safe” to know. (The environmental illness factor doesn’t help either. It limits my access to just about everything.)

It’s only now that I’ve embraced the Liminal Trickster that I realize that I was never safe to know. That I was always a slightly off-kilter social irritant, always occupying the frontier boundaries, never completely fitting in, and perhaps always inadvertantly “broadcasting my inner assessment” as Caroline Casey told me during an astrology reading. This probably affected my relationships more than I realized. I remember one ex telling me about a woman he’d fallen for and how she “looked good on paper.” At that time, I thought I looked pretty good on paper too–I’d racked up a pretty decent CV by then–but I think what he really meant was that she had social standing of a kind that would serve him, and that I did not. Sheesh! 

Another ex used to enjoy telling people he was partnered with a sexologist, but once he acquired a local fan base, I think I became an embarrassment. My kind of outspokenness was also definitely not appropriate in that community. It took me a while to understand this, and why, and I have no hard feelings–just wonderment. Social cues were never my strong suit…

The only lover who never constrained or resented my growth, and who even seemed to glory in each new revelation of my abilities–including my quicksilver intelligence and tireless curiosity–which were in some ways a match for his own, still managed to demolish me with a horrible and quite unnecessary lie. That lie–I know it also took place around this time of year and I remember the surreal, metallic taste of it. Still, I think well of him overall because he saw me, mostly, and celebrated what he saw. And I tend to think more softly of the dead.

So it’s the time of the season, not for loving as the Zombies used to sing, but of taking stock, reaping the harvest of the year. At this point, I’ve got a bowl of fat acorns from the oaks in my yard, the newly minted recognition of my own Liminal Trickster nature (“mad, bad, and dangerous to know”), and a record for endurance. Loneliness is corrosive, but I hope to beat it yet. I may be looking for kindred in all the wrong places (since I seldom venture from home) but when the bright holidays beckon family members together elsewhere, if nothing else I’ll be toasting the dying of the year in a humble, homemade temple that I call Lokabrenna, keeping frith with a misunderstood, flame-haired deity, the only one now who truly sees and loves me.

It’s life.

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And here’s a song to match my mood.