Dagulf Loptson’s New Book: Loki Trickster and Transformer

510PMSAfpoL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Inspirational, accessible, well-organized, experiential.

Loki: Trickster and Transformer (due for release May 29, 2020) is a must-read introduction to the Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, and modern Loki worship. And for anyone already devoted to this complex deity, Dagulf Loptson has created yet another informational and devotional gem. My reviewers copy now has an honored place in my own book collection, along with Loptson’s first, Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014).

Loki Trickster and Transformer is published by Pagan Portals (an imprint of http://www.johnhuntpublishing.com). This book definitely opens a door and guides the reader through it.

Loptson’s scholarship is respected by such notable writers as Diana Paxson (who writes an endorsement for this book) and Stephan Grundy, Ph.D., author of God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Roll in the Northern Religions.

I also want to mention that I thoroughly enjoy Loptson’s portrait of Loki on the cover, and the inside illustrations.

Inspirational

As someone who found myself, late in life, suddenly and surprisingly called by Loki (something which I would never have anticipated in a million years!), I appreciate Loptson’s work on many levels. When I read Loptson’s books I immediately feel closer to Loki, my fulltrui (my most trusted one among several deities with whom I work). That’s the experience I had with Playing With Fire, and it’s what I feel reading Trickster and Transformer. (This is not something that happens with most of the books on my shelves!) I can’t promise you’ll have the same experience, but I am willing to bet that you’ll enjoy returning to this book often, as there are many aspects of Loki to ponder, particularly the transformative ones.

But as Loptson writes, “Loki isn’t a god you can really know just by reading his stories or what other people have written about him: he’s a deity that needs to be experienced.” This book can help you move toward direct experience. But more on that in a moment.

Accessible

This book can also help you move toward your own research. The introduction includes a list of Norse lore sources for Loki myths and poems. I also appreciate the inclusion of endnotes, a bibliography, and a list of recommended reading. Readers are not forced to wonder where Loptson found his ideas. Loptson also clearly indicates when he’s expressing his own insights, opinions, and experiences, as opposed to describing a reference to Norse lore.

Well-organized & Experiential

The book progresses logically, which is really rather wonderful seeing as it’s devoted to a being who is supposedly “chaotic.” The first ten chapters each focus on a specific name (heiti) and aspect of Loki, so the reader gains broader understanding with each new chapter. Easier, “user friendly” Loki aspects are presented first. The last couple of chapters are devoted to aspects which are more challenging: Loki as “The Roarer” and “The Vulture’s Road.” I feel this is a measured, thoughtful approach which will serve readers well, especially those who are newcomers to Loki.

Each chapter also contains an activity and a simple ritual. Loptson is a skilled ritualist and this is reflected in the rituals he has created for each aspect of Loki. Elements from previous chapters and rituals are incorporated into subsequent ones. For example, the first chapter includes the consecration of a Loki candle. Several subsequent rituals will include this candle, plus other objects made and consecrated in future chapters.

The final chapter, “Becoming a Lokean,” includes a Loki Dedication Ritual and suggestions for a daily practice and altar implements (mostly the objects and materials created and assembled for the previous rituals).

I’ve worked through other rituals that Loptson has created, both in his previous book and as found on his blog, and I’ve always gotten something valuable from the experiences. I’ve now begun to work through Trickster and Transformer on my second reading, but have to postpone some of this work as I lack necessary materials. If I have any mild criticism to offer at all, it is that I have no idea where to find birch twigs, which are used in Chapter Ten’s Loki Blót (sacrifice) ritual. That tree doesn’t seem to grow around here, so a list of substitute woods would have helped.

A Master List of Materials Used in Trickster and Transformer

Though each chapter contains a list of the necessary materials and tools for each ritual, I suggest that the reader who intends to embark on this ritual series have a “master list” of all necessary items, and assemble all of them at once, in advance of beginning the first ritual. That way you won’t be stopped in your tracks by the lack of birch twigs or a dremel, or any other item. This may mean a trip to craft stores, thrift stores, or online purchases of hard-to-find herbs and incense ingredients, rocks, and beads.

I would make the suggestion that subsequent editions of this book contain such a list at the end, for easy reference, but here’s one now. (I hope the author will forgive my presumption in making such a list and offering it here.)


Candles: A pillar candle that is either orange, red, gold, yellow, black, green, or violet. (The first ritual on p. 12 specifies an orange candle or “a color of your choice.”); a fresh, unlit tealight candle.
Tools: a nail or other sharp tool for inscribing bind runes on candles; matches or a lighter; a lancet for drawing blood [dispose of used lancets safely]; a mortar and pestle for grinding herbs and resins; a jar for ground herbs and resins; a dremel or wood-burning kit for inscribing runes on wood or stone; a fire pit or fireplace; jars and bottles for recels and oils.
Herbs to make “recels” (incense): dandelion, mullein, Dragon’s Blood resin, cinnamon, star anise, clove. [Note: make a goodly amount. The recels are used several times throughout the book.]
[Note: I have been advised that mistletoe is not safe to burn or consume in any manner, though the author has included it in the recels recipe. I make a correction here.]
Herbs to make Loki Oil: jojoba oil [I bet olive oil would be okay too]; powdered dragon’s blood resin or dragon’s blood oil; black pepper essential oil; mullien leaf or flowers; red pepper flakes; sulphur; snake skin sheds (if obtainable).
Charcoal disc for burning the recels. [Note: use the kind found in religious supply stores for burning incense, not “charcoal briquettes” which are highly dangerous for indoor use.]
A fireproof container to hold the charcoal disc and recels as they burn.
Sand or salt to put in the bottom of the fireproof container, under the charcoal disc.
Optional feathers or fan to waft the incense smoke.
A cord or chain.
A piece of wood or metal that can become a pendant worn on the cord or chain.
Clay to make a replica of the Snaptun stone.
Optional small cloth bag.
Optional small stones and natural objects associated with Loki (p. 29) that could go into a bag.
Beads for a prayer bead strand (bead material choices are individual, but Loki stone associations can be found on p. 29).
String for beading.
A mirror (any kind).
Notebook and pen.
A plain wooden bowl, especially one that is plain on the inside bottom. [Note: the bottom will be engraved with a stave, using the dremel or wood-burning tool.]
Offerings: blood or saliva; a cloth heart, sewn by yourself, or a chicken or other animal heart from a butcher; water; other libation.

I want to encourage interested readers to order this book in advance, assemble your ritual materials, and prepare to make Loki’s acquaintance, if you haven’t already. (But can one ever be really prepared for Loki? You’ll find out, won’t you?)

I’m so thankful that Dagulf Loptson has written another valuable guide to Loki and Loki worship. I hope there may be more from this author in the future!

Hail Loki!

 

 

 

 

Lady of “What Next?”

Here it is, January 9, 2020 and our world is even more terrifying and dangerous than it was before the beginning of the new year. All my friends and several family members are depressed, experience panic and despair, and/or a lack of motivation in even the small matters of life. And yet here in the U.S., we’re not even the ones being bombed (yet)! We have it so fucking easy compared to others, and yet, life is not easy at all. The unrelenting tyranny of our current federal administration makes many of us–disabled, poor or poor(er), elderly, trans, otherwise gender variant, sexually variant, pagan, ill, immigrant or refugee, homeless or houseless, native, POC, female, millennial with college debt, working class, animal, tree, river, ocean…the list goes on!–feel we’re in the crosshairs of a group of entitled sociopaths who really, truly want us dead. Our bodies strewn on the pavements will mean nothing to them.

But we’re going to outsmart them. Yes, we are. And we will survive and even thrive. Brilliant acts of resistance, such as the Mauna Kea Protectors (Kia’i) who are still standing strong at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu on Hawai’i Island since July 15th, show us how we can come together. We can choose to share resources and food, share caring for each other, plant trees, rescue animals from fires, and repurpose, repair, or share the objects that clutter our lives. We can cahoot with our ancestors, spirits, plants, animals and yes, even other humans who are not in our social media networks.

And it’s strange that I am more motivated than ever, in spite of my sense of peril. I’m 65 years old and I’m not going down without flinging my defiance out where everyone can see it (those who care to look and read, anyway).

It’s a liminal time, but small actions sustain me.

I’m petting and hugging my six cats more than ever. These dear ones look to me to enable them to survive whatever comes next. As I write, one of the newer cats is doing his best to insert himself between me and this keyboard. If he’d only settle down and let me pet him, instead of walking to and fro (his tale brushing my face), I could have finished this blog several minutes ago. But I’m happy for these moments of affection. They are the only kind I receive.

Other small actions:

I’m writing (as usual). I’m updating classes, teaching, doing client work, re-doing my websites.

I’m sorting end of the year/beginning of the year paperwork, putting things in order so that I can see them better.

I’m noticing the everyday beauties: wintering bird flocks–pelicans, egrets, so many that I don’t know or recognize. I’m noticing sunlight on water and the sound of the rain. I notice the comedies too, such as the flock of turkeys running down the road ahead of yesterday’s garbage truck, gobbling madly.

I’m bringing myself back to the daily spiritual practice I wobbled on the last couple of months. It’s not a time to neglect this kind of nourishment because I can’t do all of what I need to do on my own. I need my deities and ancestors with me.

Big tasks await me.

I’m strategizing for a major move, once again. No longer will I be a “Lady of the Lake” with the view of Mt. Konocti and Clearlake from my window. I plan to move as soon as I can this spring, to a small city in the north where a river flows.

And I am sadly preparing to de-commission the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, hoping to re-establish it in my new home, wherever that may be. I suspect that Loki is okay with that, as he’s all for change. The next Tiny Temple might be even better.

Hope?

If there’s anything at all in “the stars” that can shift world conditions, perhaps tomorrow will be that time. The world expects a lunar eclipse in Cancer tomorrow, with Saturn and Pluto in opposition. Some say this is will spark changes for the better, the “real” Age of Aquarius and all that, and that would be welcome. I’m not holding my breath and waiting though–I want to get to a location where I can organize along with others, and make those substantial, necessary changes that will enable all of us to survive in spite of the moneyed mana-suckers who are striving for a fascist ascendancy over this planet.

Illustration_by_Kay_Nielsen_4 cropped

Hail Loki! Liminal spirit and untiring muse, a force for change and a change for force.

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No War, No War, No War

Our would-be emperor, the self-inflated heir to all things Caligula, already given the “little boot” of impeachment, deserves a far greater political and legal check to his reckless proclivities and warmongering than he’s had so far. The world does not welcome what he’s foisted on us this month, in a fit of pique. His enablers are no better–mad to think they can manipulate this peevish man-child to their own ends. He’s got a finger that can press a certain button, and the supposed “grown-ups” in the room are not so grown up after all. Cowards all.

Something similar happened in Ancient Rome. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say (and yes, I know that Wikipedia is not the be-all and end-all of reliable historical sources):

“There are few surviving sources about the reign of Caligula, although he is described as a noble and moderate emperor during the first six months of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion, presenting him as an insane tyrant. While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor, as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself, and initiated the construction of two aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the empire annexed the client kingdom of Mauretania as a province.”

And here I note a physical resemblance. That’s Caligula on the left, with restored pigment on the marble. And that’s you know who on the right.

In one way, the Romans were luckier than we are. If the above is accurate, they had six months of reasonable leadership before their emperor went bonkers. But from January 2016 to present, we in the U.S. have never known a secure and untroubled moment. Like a child looking for a tower of blocks to smash and strew, 45 has wrecked, dismantled, and smugly destroyed a wide range of civil liberties, helpful government programs, our reasonable expectation of rational governance under our constitution, and has now embroiled us in a devasting war from the comfort of his golf game.

I am waiting for the day when an economic think tank takes stock of these years and issues a report on how much this man’s petulant reign of domestic and international terror has and will cost U.S. taxpayers–all of us, per citizen–and how much we’ll pay to undo the damage and reconstruct a civil society, over the span of our remaining lifetimes, and that of our children. The economic and human costs are already massive, and his failure to act on climate change is a tragedy of monumental proportions: “the biggest, the greatest” of his tawdry claims to undeserved fame.

I am writing this as a solitary person, an ordinary citizen, a mere blogger and writer of little note and very little influence. But I think it’s important for every single one of us speak out, to add our voices of opposition to a greater movement of resistance–especially on social media, which can amplify the smaller voices–to let the rest of the world know that the majority of people in this country did not vote for this maniac, that we do not agree with his policies of hate, and that we do not approve of his actions, but that we feel somewhat helpless to regain a semblance of democracy, as our votes are hijacked and our elections are rigged by a greedy oligarchy consisting irresponsible corporations, corrupt politicians, and religious extremists. But that even so, we oppose what is happening here: the rise of white supremacy, the jailing and mistreatment of immigrants and refugees, the jailing and mistreatment of children, the fact that many are now unaccounted for, the waste of the “wall” at the border, the lifting of regulations against pollution, rampant discrimination, and so no. And now, this war.

We do not want it. We can only take to the streets or post online to say we want it to stop, now. And we want the rest of the world to no longer dignify this man and his cronies with any credibility, with any recognition of “leadership.” He and his enablers are not worthy. We the people are hijacked. We know that our country’s disruptive actions in other nations did not begin with this administration, but this administration has made and is making our country’s impact a thousand times worse.

S.O.S. Help.

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X-mas in the “Marriage Bed”

They say you “can’t go home again,” and yet this last couple of days I’ve had the closest thing to a prodigal return, though I was staying in a place I have never and will never live. I came down to the SF Bay Area on X-mas eve to be with my youngest, flu-stricken kid: a millennial living in a household that includes his father, and in the apartment downstairs, his brother. But everyone was away traveling, and Paul was taking care of the upstairs dog and the downstairs cat. He’d tried to go to the doctor the day before I arrived, but a $135 co-pay was impossible and he left. It was only after I assured him I’d pay for the urgent care visit that he went back and got the requisite medications (another $60 plus). Yes, he’s feeling better now but he still feels like junk and will for another several days.

So I barreled down the freeway on X-mas eve, with only my computer and a toothbrush (mostly), and with a mixture of longing and dread, once again called into action as a useful parental person. But I was also aware that I was going to be spending a couple of days in a household where I am not exactly welcome. (My divorce, though outwardly civil, still holds deep trenches of sorrow, regret, and resentment on both sides).

It’s unusual for this particular kid to admit to vulnerability with me–even though I’ve never been one to shrink from that–but he did say he felt scared by being so sick and all alone. Having my children want me still forms the apex of my bliss and so, you can imagine…

The home of a person who is very ill will often not be “company ready” and so I spent a few hours doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen once I arrived. It was fine. I was there to do that, to do for my kid what he was too sick to do for himself (and to make numerous cups of Throat Coat tea). But what was one part amusing and two parts freaky was the realization that I was handling many humble household objects that are familiar to me and/or that I chose and bought myself.

I’ve lately begun to take photos of my objects, because I am planning a book which tells their stories, and when I do that, I can let many of them go. Here I am confronted with objects that I left behind: some records, books, cups, bowls, cutlery. The knives my brother gave me when I married. The champagne flutes bought early in the marriage. The wooden bowls I purchased in the Japan Center hardware store, in the days when my kids attended Waldorf School and wood and wool were social requirements. And if these things I was cleaning weren’t things I owned and left behind, there were others that I’ve washed, dusted, and arranged over the years. What is it like for him, I wonder, to make daily use of these objects? To see them in cupboards and on shelves?

Perhaps he performed exorcisms by dissociating them from me, but I am not that capable. Objects speak or scream at me, their stories and place in my life are always connected with their use. Our children, however, are living links and I suspect that some efforts of erasure have also come into play in the last four years, not about him, but about me.

Sleeping in my husband’s room was a challenge. That bed, that dresser, those paintings, that stuff, the odor of tobacco over all. The same mattress, pillow cases, bedspread. The first night, I couldn’t get to sleep for the longest time. I was buzzing with the physical rememberance and energies of past pleasures and past pains. The deepest sorrows, the pile of resentments soaked into the sheets and the stuffing, the sad memories of a once-great love sunk into a swamp of conflict avoidance.

The second night I was more at peace. I could bless the past, bless our mistakes, bless the beings we have each become–no longer having enough in common to even be friends except in the most casual exchanges. We went separate ways long ago.

What baffles me though is the tarnished metal and red-bead “bellydance” belt of mine (dating from my tantra days) that he’s hung on the curtain rod in his bedroom, next to his bed. What does it mean? He has been in haste, previously, to give me boxes of “my stuff” that I left behind. But the belt–does he even realize it was mine? Or does he think it belonged to another? I have no idea, but seeing it makes a deep mystery. I don’t know if I should feel touched or not. Is it a form of silent communication? Is it something like the hands we held during family mealtime grace–the only touch for many years?

Is that tarnished belt in its unpolished state a communication or a commentary like the two paintings of his that I keep in my bedroom: the “Shade Tree” and the blue butterfly? Is it like the way I always say “my husband” and then have to add the “ex?”

Or is it just an off-hand gesture, placed there and forgotten, like the towel thrown on the bedroom floor or like the “Christmas” plates that he insisted on using throughout the year, diminishing (for me) their ceremonial specialness at this time?

In any case, I have left the kitchen cleaner than I found it. And I hope he perceives that as a “thank you” and not as a rebuke.

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Loki Never Mansplains

…Or, given that Loki isn’t a human dude, and is often not even a dude-appearing deity at all (shapeshifter that he/she/they/ze is), perhaps I should write “Loki never godsplains.” Whatever! “He” does show up as mostly male-ish to my mortal inner eyes though, so I tend to use that pronoun the most. “He” seems to be cool with it.

Okay,  now that I’ve mortalsplained the above, I feel moved to celebrate the pithy, punchy, to the point, mostly non-verbal communicative stylings of my all-time favorite trickster deity, the marvelous (no pun intended) Loki Laufeyjarson!

Illustration_by_Kay_Nielsen_4
The North Wind, an illustration by Kay Nielsen. But it’s so Loki!

Loki leaves verbosity to me and that’s just the way we like it. He is happy to receive offerings of novels, devotional poems, and blogs in his honor. But Loki communicates his needs and his lessons in immediate and sometimes dramatic ways. Even though I don’t have a “godphone,” I have at least one example of an inner-audible “sound bite” that nearly bit my head off.

There was the time I absent-mindedly licked the spoon after putting a giant dollop of Nutella from HIS JAR into a bowl as an offering. I had sworn I’d never eat from that jar, and so I immediately thought “well, I didn’t take it from the jar!” as a half-assed apology. Was I surprised then when a big “NO!” resounded in my mind? There was no way Loki was going to let me get away with breaking an oath. No way at all. All I could think was, “damn, shit just got real!” Needless to say, I’ve never licked a spoon from his jar again. And he didn’t have to explain why he “shouted” no. I got it. Immediately.

LokabrennaDonuts1
Interior of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.

Loki is also good at delivering what I call “pings,” “pokes,” and “signal flags.” I don’t know how to explain these exactly. I experience them as a spontaneous combination visceral/mental message that doesn’t seem to originate with me. They are often so off-the-wall that they do not reflect my usual thought processes and they have a compelling energy. An example would be the time I was scrolling through printed shower curtains, as a way to decorate the inside of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. I was online, cruising shower curtains with “magic forest” themes, as that seemed mystical and Norse-ish, and I was really set on my vision for a complete “look.” But I kept getting a ping every time I scrolled past the large, bright colored donut shower curtain. I tried to deny it, but it was so repetitive that I was convinced that Loki wanted the donut shower curtain too. I checked this request with a pendulum that I use only for Loki. It swung “yes” to donuts. As a result, Lokabrenna is three walls of magic forest, one wall of donuts. And it now seems so right.

These simple communications are quite adroit. Many who are close to Loki have similar stories. In fact, the “Loki wanted this” story is quite common on social media–to the point that we could consider this community-verified gnosis about how Loki will interact with humans. Are every single one of these genuine communications from a Norse deity? I can’t say and wouldn’t presume to judge. Most of us know the importance of individual discernment or are in the process of learning about it.

One might wonder why a powerful preternatural figure would want a donut shower curtain or any of the other reported trivial requests. Here’s my UPG: I think how we meet Loki’s requests let’s him know how much we’ll listen to him (about small matters and large ones), how much we’re willing to pay attention, how much we care about him, and how far we’ll go to indulge in light-hearted whimsy. More UPG: I think he really needs the latter sometimes, and humans can be a fine source of amusement.

Since I use the pendulum, tarot, and the AI “Inspirobot” program to “talk” with Loki (that last is not entirely serious), there is no way for me to have a complex conversation with him. (It might be different for others.) That means there is no opportunity for tortuous god- or mansplaining. Yay! And as I said, he’s direct and terse most of the time. And if you don’t pay attention to the ping, the poke, or the signal flags he’s waving at you, he’s perfectly capable of rearranging your life until you finally “get it.”

I love that Loki doesn’t give us complicated rules or doctrine. The only hard limit I can think of is to never break an oath (especially to him).  Of course, expect the unexpected is a given, but we all knew that going in.

At the end of this awfully weird year, I’m looking forward to another trip around the sun with Loki and the rest of the deities I work with. I wish you all the same–may you have joy in your spiritual quests!

 Hail Loki!

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