Today’s “Thirty Days of Devotion” topic asks if there’s a difference between ancient and modern worship of Loki. The answer is a resounding, artisan-grease infused, sprinkle-spattered “YES!”
So far, archaelogical records do not show that the Old Norse had anything resembling the cholesterol-crunching goodie we today know as “the donut.” Cane sugar arrived in Europe by the 1100s, making inadvertant contemporaries of Snorri Sturluson and a key donut ingredient. However, it was incredibly expensive, known as “white gold”, and until the 18th-19th centuries was reserved for the very rich. Simple folk offering baby teeth to Loki via the hearth-fire could not have known that the future held a far more delectable and acceptable offering, one whose very shape invoked the World-Encircling Jormungandr and whose endless variety echoes the consumate shape-shifting of the great snake’s Dad.
Furthermore, two donuts, side by side, approximate the symbol of eternity. Ponder that if you will! And that shape with a hole in the middle is as good as a hag stone for some. (Sadly, they seldom last as long.)
Fun fact: For a long time, Sweden consumed much less sugar than the rest of Europe. Sweden then began to produce beet sugar and so sugar consumption–and tooth decay–skyrocketed. Not so Fun Fact: Researchers then performed tooth decay sugar experiments on mental patients without their consent.
Though a skilled confectioner can spin “white gold” as fine as Sif’s hair, Scandinavia was slow to catch onto sugar. And the rest of Europe was slow to catch on to Norse mythology. However, by the 19th century, suddenly everyone was hot for both. How can we not detect the hand of Loki in this?
Think of it this way: increasing popularity of Norse Myths means more popularity for Loki, which means that in a period of rising sugar consumption, Loki gains more followers who can be prompted to make offerings of sugary goodness (and fewer baby teeth). Quite elegant, if you ask me!
Of course, one might argue that “correlation does not imply causation,” but that’s if one reckons without the influence of the divine. In the words of the immortal Gollum, “we wonders.”
However, well into the 19th century (and possibly beyond), most cane sugar was produced with slave labor, which we all know now included not just “labor” but also torture, murder, rape, imprisonment, tearing families apart, etc. I ask myself if Loki would have been so fond of his surgary sweets, had he known their cost in human lives?
Though we’re now reinventing our donuts as “paleo” or sugar and gluten-free, and can deplore the brutal history of past sugar production, it’s worth asking ourselves if we can also examine some of the other entitlements of modern neo-paganism and Western consumerism. Can we consider such factors as the labor exploitation and environmental damage that occurs in the mining and trade of our “healing crystals”? [<—Read this!] Can we offer goodies made from ingredients sourced from “fair trade” farmers? Can we question ways in which we might still be complicit in cultural appropriation or resource exploitation, without knowing it?
So this isn’t just a blog about donuts, or how modern Loki worship differs from way back when (we don’t even know if Loki was “worshipped” per se), it’s a blog about how Loki worship can continue to evolve, based on our climate-catastrophic times. It’s a blog about examining how our devotional and magical practices and consumption habits can be changed, one by one, to reflect the actual realities of the worlds around us, enabling us to do as little harm as possible in the pursuit of our spiritual practices.
I’ve been guilty of buying supermarket donuts for Loki. It’s a quick fix for offerings and I don’t have much money. But based on what I’ve just written and how I can’t “unsee it,” I may need to change my offerings. And I need to talk with Loki about this.
And if it takes going back to throwing the humblest of offerings into a fire, or placing a simple flat cake on an altar, so be it.
On the other hand, I’m a fan of Loki Spongecake Day and the reasons behind it–so everyone else, offer what you will! I won’t be judgy.