Just a few days ago, well-known pagan author and practioner, John Beckett, posted in his Patheos blog about a “Seiðr oracular ritual at this year’s Mystic South.” Beckett witnessed a quite compelling incident involving the Norse deity Loki. In answer to an attendee’s question for Loki, “he [Loki] didn’t just whisper words to the Seeress in Helheim for her to relay. He took full control of the Seeress.”
Beckett wrote this blog post, called Three Messages from Loki to the World, as a “journalist.” He notes that he did not receive the revelations himself but observed what happened during the ritual and what was said and then later compared notes with the seeress. In essence, the three messages are (and I’m paraphrasing already existing paraphrasing from Beckett’s blog):
- Seek and cultivate joy.
- Build masks and create safety zones, as Loki apparently conveyed the sense that being a full-on, “out” pagan isn’t quite safe right now and we need to take care of ourselves and others.
- And recognize that we are a destructive portion of a cycle, in the part that Beckett calls “Tower Time” and others call Ragnarök.
Loki’s three messages, as written and interpreted in Beckett’s post, are already sending ripples throughout many pagan and heathen circles. I have some thoughts.
According to Beckett’s blog post, Loki signaled his possession of the seeress by “laughing and dancing.” This is Loki at his most accessible. This is the “persona” he shows most often to those of us who encounter him and/or work with him. He’s a scamp, a trickster who trips the light fantastic and makes all things fantasical in turn. Sometimes he is even a delightfully shameless and irresistable seducer. But Loki is also a being who has suffered horribly himself. He knows firsthand how people near (and maybe even dear) to you can turn against you and inflict the most dire cruelties without even a “by your leave” or a chance at what we moderns call “relationship repair.”
Loki, bound to a rock with one son’s entrails and fearing that the other boy has fled in wolf shape to some unknown wilderness, endured poison dripping from a fanged serpent (except when dear Sigyn catches the poison in a bowl). He must have been hard put to scrape up any vestiges of joy during that time. And yet, my UPG is that he did. I imagine him composing Norse equivalents of rude limericks about the Aesir, exchanging tender memories with Sigyn, and perhaps even finding ways to turn his pain into pleasure. He was–he is–a potent, powerful, and clever being who possesses a knowledge of magic. He would not have let himself succumb wholly to despair.
“To nourish the desire to live, to make it burn: only this counted.” This is a phrase from Jacque Luseyran’s phenomenal essay, “Poetry in Buchenwald,” in Against the Pollution of the I. And if you have never read this essay, you should. Luseyran (1924-1971) was known as “the blind hero of the French resistance” and he did survive his time in Buchenwald, unlike many of the men he wrote about. These were men who warmed themselves with poetry in the bleakest, most dangerous circumstances, experiencing their voicing of it as “an act, an incantation, a kiss of peace, a medicine” even as they were dying–slowly of starvation or suddenly through Nazi violence.
Loki knows, better than we do, that small morsels of joy can be kindled in times of duress. They can make us burn for life and survival. And when times are good, we must revel in delight and let every glad feeling take hold in our bodies. We must dance. We must laugh. We can sing and declaim poetry. We can never have too much joy.
This advice to “mask up” is troubling. I have no problem at all with donning a mask for disease prevention or to avoid toxic chemical fumes, but it’s too late for me to go back into a “broom closet” and pretend to be something other than pagan, witchy, and Lokean. There’s this blog, for one thing, and my fantasy novels for another. Plus, I’ve got “other” marked on my Oregon driver’s license. Several years ago I decided to stop pretending to be other than I am (through omission rather than comission) and it’s this freedom that provides my life with meaning and joy. (Remember joy?)
And yes, I recognize that we (still) have “witch privilege” in this country. Other parts of the world are not so tolerant. People are killed for less than what I do on a semi-regular basis.
However, I had a shock yesterday. Someone that I once thought of as a colleague, and at one point even as a fledgling friend (until I realized he was a twump fan), sent me the most disturbing email. The gist was that “woke was wacked,” there is too much gender variety and any discussion of it “sexualizes” children, and that all this was a “Luciferian” plot. In other words, he was doing his best to justify a moral panic (and even a Satanic panic) about certain kinds of queer people and had even written an article about this, as a sexologist, in LinkedIn. I know people who are both queer and embarked on a Luciferian path and I could easily imagine this man (yes, of course he’s a cis-het white dude) boosting his own career trajectory at their expense, inciting others to violence against them.
And with Norse Loki still considered “the Norse Satan” in some circles (thanks in part to Snorri Sturleson), well then… I can begin to understand Loki’s second message quite easily.
Life After Turmoil
In many parts of the U.S., “turmoil” can seem (to a lucky few) like it’s something that happens somewhere else, to other people in other neighborhoods or countries, and that somehow sheltered existences (which are most often white and moneyed) will continue as they always have. Loki says otherwise and we can see this easily in so many ways.
This is perhaps the vaguest part of Loki’s message. Yeah, a lot sucks right now. What are we going to do about it? Perhaps the first two parts of his message provide clues? Joy and safe places. Mutual aid? If we can learn to provide these things, not just for ourselves but for others too, perhaps we will still have something worthwhile even if we find ourselves one day standing in the ruins of “civilization as we know it.”
Beckett interprets this as “life goes on.” After a catastrophe, it does, at least for some. The important thing is (and will be) the inner qualities and values of those post-catastrophe lives and the social changes that result. Will we have regenerated our planet’s soil? Dismantled racism, colonialism, sexism, all forms of queer phobia, ageism, ableism, and more? Will we each have the generous heart and robust will to accomplish even a small part of what needs to be done in our communities to bring a more just and equitable world into being?
Once Loki is freed from his fetters, this is one way I imagine him. I like this picture because I know that this stern figure (frowning so much yet wearing so little) could easily transform in the next nano-second into a gleaming Lord of the Dance, who invites us all to join in, even if our dance is on rubble and dust.