Pagan Polytheism, Loki, MagicQ, Sex, and Liberation.
Author: Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI
Writer, clinical sexologist, sex counselor, and hypnotist formerly from the San Francisco Bay Area. Working on a fantasy novel series, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits and The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Neopagan polytheist. Lokean. She/her pronouns.
At the moment, life feels a little rough around the edges. Earlier today I was angered and triggered by a private matter. And I’ve got plumbing problems and a sick kitty–as well as the money problems that go with unexpected vet bills and plumbing repairs. Also, the “holidays” (some dreaded, some not) are just about upon us. I’m saying “yes” to Yule and Solstice (in a modest way) and “meh” to Xmas (except that I’ll see one of my kids on that day).
But no matter what’s going on in my life, Loki keeps me moving forward.
So on the positive side, I’ve worked on my novels almost every day this month (including the one that stars Loki as “Lucky LaFey). I’ve been teaching and updating my online course. I’ve been researching some new and exciting ideas for my clinical practice as well as my own personal healing. I’m also fiddling with my websites, including this one.
Since the sick cat has finally moved from its space between my chest and the keyboard, and his sister is keeping him warm on a blanket, I want to seize this opportunity to write about a fragment of the immensity that is Loki.
Loki. He/she/they/ze is positioned in my life very much as he is illustrated below by the brilliant artist, A. Skeith (see her Deviant Art URL below). A cascading river of life pours down a chasm in the mountainside, and he is liminally perched on a rock between the rushing waters. He is vigilant and aglow. He is poised, ready, and perfectly willing to prod me with that sharp, pointed thing he has in his hand. But between us, there is trust.
The other day I was able to tell a new friend about my relationship with Loki, including some of the more private aspects. I was nervous about the conversation, but my communication was not only accepted, but welcomed. I took a risk and it turned out well. Loki, who has been utterly merciless in quickly revealing the deficits of new aquaintances this last year, seems to take kindly to the friend above–a friend who seems to have a genuinely sterling character.
I have been surprised by the tumultuous, almost adolescent nature of this phase of life (60+ years). Once again I am–by virtue of my age–unsure of almost everything: my attractiveness, my place in the world and among people, my social skills, my economic prospects, everything! My body baffles me now, much as it did at puberty. When I was a teenager, I had a lot to say, but was often ignored. I still have a lot to say (hence, this blog) and nobody much pays attention. Once again, I am categorized among the dismissed and the disposable–simply due to my age. Loki, my future psychopomp (here’s hopin’), turns out to be a fabulous “Do not go gentle…Period!” guide and muse.
I look back at my life now–including a few rather brilliant conceptual pranks, some tricksy works of art and writing, and a sense of humor that seems to have been largely unappreciated by my former spouse and children. If only I’d known sooner that I was one of “Loki’s own”…I would have know better what I was about. And my poor ex-husband might have had some warning…(I’m sorry, I am! Lokeans aren’t the greatest wives.)
Loki is definitely the “know thyself” dude. But he also seems to like it when we retroactively recognize his influence in our brief human lives.
So when I look back and confront a teenage memory of drawing cows on large marshmellows (with a purple Flair pen), scattering them around La Jolla Cove Park, because I was pissed off that marshmellows were made with animal products… I see Loki was there.
And when I look back on dancing to the twenty minute Ramayana Monkey Chant from this recording, along with another stripper, at a seedy nightclub in San Diego, simply to freak the club’s sodden patrons–sailors on leave and Broadway bums–I know Loki was there. (The Ketjak monkey chant starts at 16:24 into the video.)
And when I remember our 80’s punk rock fashion protest in Union Square (“We Have Proof the CIA Killed the Mini-Skirt”), I know Loki was grinning, though I knew him not.
And when I wrote a short story featuring all the names of Kentucky Derby winners, from the race’s inception until 1999, Loki was definitely a muse. I recognize that feeling of unholy glee! It’s an emotion I treasure.
So much in my past is made clear. But knowing that Loki is with me in the present makes it all so much better, even when clarity is painful.
Finally, his “Mr. LokiBot” message to me today is:
Thus sayeth the “Lie-Smith.” Ouch! That’s what I get for calling this blog post “Lessons from Loki.” However, I love and trust him BECAUSE of stuff like this. Is that so very wrong?
Disclosure: I write from the perspective of someone who is quite socially isolated due to 30 years of living with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses–finding most environments and many people harmful to my health due to use of consumer toxins. I am also isolated through geographical distance from my closest friends and family. Social isolation is the curse of my situation, but an outsider’s perspective is the gift.
When my oldest child, Asher, was only three, he was overheard speaking to a dog: “Puppy, do you know what it’s like to be human? It’s kind of a job, being alive.” Three years old and already that perceptive. Yikes!
When my youngest child turned three, on the evening of his birthday, he turned a gaze on me that was clearly the spirit of the “big” Paul looking through the eyes of a little boy. It was a gaze that shook me to my core for hours afterward. I have never in my life had such a look from any human being.
I am not saying my children are special (though of course I think they are) but that I was lucky enough to hear and perceive things that I might have easily missed. I believe all children provide such moments. Whether the adults heed them is another matter.
So what does it mean to be a human being? At the moment I write with a kitten in my arms. She has inserted herself between me and the keyboard and so I am leaning over her to type. It’s a perfect example of one kind of human role–as a mediator between tech and animal life. She dozes with her head on my left forearm. She trusts me. And yet I am a member of a species which has accomplished the most profound betrayal of all–the collective, burgeoning destruction of every ecosystem on this planet that we share. And so I love my cats in the way that I love my children–with deep regret and sorrow at my share in this betrayal of trust.
And yet I’ve lived for thirty years as a “canary in the coal mine,” an activist mom warning about the dangers of household and industrial chemicals. No one much has listened to me, or to others like me, so I now refer to us as “Cassandras in the coal mine” (because people at least paid attention to the warning songs of canaries). But I am still complicit. Every mouthful of food that I eat, the clothes on my back, and almost every item I own are the direct result of income or goods produced by someone working his/her/zir/their ass off in a toxic industry –from my ex-husband to workers I’ll never meet–and probably destined to suffer from health consequences as a result. (FYI–my own condition is also due to occupational exposure, years ago.)
Yesterday I wrote about the complicity of settler-colonist genealogy–of facing the almost certain fact of ancestors who perpetuated numerous incidents of brutality and cruelty against the first peoples of Turtle Island, and probably also against victims of American chattel slavery. And if there weren’t always direct actions on the part of my ancestors, there were/are the social, economic, political, system-wide benefits and privileges that came from being an oppressor, rather than one of the oppressed. I am struggling to recognize and disengage from the ongoing inclinations and assumptions that attend these genealogies while also trying to recognize and disengage–as much as possible–from my participation in malignant, toxic, consumer culture.
And yet, I reconize that in some essential way I lack the tools or skills or mindsets that could enable me to fully function with other people in a wholesome, collaborative, and productve way–a way that I identify (from afar) as being “fully human.” But it’s not just me. All around me are (mostly) white people who have good hearts, intelligence, creativity, compassion, some understanding of social justice issues and certainly the understanding of the urgency of our climate crisis, and yet we just can’t seem to function effectively together! There always seem to be egos and agendas, mean girl machinations and mansplaining obfuscation, and all kinds of other weird-ass territorial factors at play. Why is this?
And all around me are my cis-female friends of “a certain age,” who are also socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and in other ways marginalized, who know we have entered the twilight zone of the socially disposable and thus need to band together to take care of each other, and yet we just can’t manage to plan and strategize on how to do this, how to pool our limited resources and join together to mutual advantage. We know the need, we might have some skills, but not the collective will? Why is this?
For several years now, I’ve come to understand that our settler-colonist, capitalist, consumer culture does not help us learn to Play Well With Others. I have watched other cultural communities, from the ally sidelines, do much much better in terms of coming together, organizing, and providing what is needful with a generosity of spirit that is–to me–miraculous. And yet I understand these capacities are what it takes to be “fully human.”
“And in the camps themselves you had sort of the primordial sort of beginnings of what a world premised on indigenous justice might look like. And in that world, you know, everyone got free food. There was a place for everyone. You know, the housing, obviously, was transient housing and teepees and things like that, but then also there was health clinics to provide healthcare, alternative forms of healthcare, to everyone. And so, if we look at that, it’s housing, education — all for free, right? — a strong sense of community. And for a short time, there was free education at the camps, right? Those are things that most poor communities in the United States don’t have access to, and especially reservation communities.
But given the opportunity to create a new world in that camp, centered on indigenous justice and treaty rights, society organized itself according to need and not to profit. And so, where there was, you know, the world of settlers, settler colonialism, that surrounded us, there was the world of indigenous justice that existed for a brief moment in time. And in that world, instead of doing to settler society what they did to us — genociding, removing, excluding — there’s a capaciousness to indigenous resistance movements that welcomes in nonindigenous peoples into our struggle, because that’s our primary strength, is one of relationality, one of making kin, right?”
Now there’s a danger in romanticizing this as something “those others” do–which can come close to the old “noble savage” crap of yore–and I am aware of that. I’m also grumpy about white people saying that indigenous people are going to save us all now from climate catastrophe (i.e. clean up a mess that was never theirs)–even though they often have little in the way of power or resources. This mindset sidesteps the need for settler-colonists and their corporations and political representatives to drastically change everything about the systems that are running dangerously amok.
In order to avoid that dangerous and ultimately unproductive mindset, we who are settler-colonists have to continue to swing back to a recognition of where we ourselves are now and with that recognition of our deficits and their origins, work double time to develop capactities and understandings necessary for “relationality,” as Professor Estes says above. Doing this is going to take a helluva lot of humility. I’m sixty-five now, and I’m willing to go back to human “kindergarten” (as long as it’s in a fragrance free zone).
What follows is a speculative question. Is it possible that the epigenetic expression of European-originating people was triggered toward self-centeredness, violence, conquest, and greed due to long histories of violent subjugation by Romans (as one example) and others, and by exposures to such things as wars and continent-wide plagues, where bodies piled in mass graves could have fostered a sort of despair and then an unconcern about the preciousness of life? An even bigger speculative question: can we willfully trigger another kind of epigenetic expression in real time, to call back the capacties our ancestors must surely have had in the long ago? The kind that enabled us to live in villages, farm or forage for food, and provide care and sustenance for all? The kind that enabled us to see other creatures in this world–plant, animal, and spirit–as worthy of respect and kinship?
And can this be done in record time, to meet the climate and environmental/political catastrophes that are no longer a train wreck in slow motion?
Personally, it is hard to reach out toward others in real life, to work on my skills for “relationality,” when my condition requires this degree of isolation in lieu of disability accommodation. My activist efforts in the past have seldom been met with understanding–because this whole environmental illness request for fragrance-free accommodation thing can look like a “special snowflake” or “white lady” way to, I dunno, derail or disrupt others and the work that is being done. It can look and feel like a request for more privilege and special treatment from a white settler-colonist who is already inherently privileged by other aspects of my circumstances. And so my blogs are the only way I can reach out. Writing about what I see and feel is all I can do at this point.
I wish it were otherwise. I truly do wish to be of use in creating a better world. Like everyone else, I have the future of cats and children–and all living beings and our only planet–to consider.
“It’s kind of a job–being alive.” And right now our biggest job is to keep everything else alive too. It’s really down to that.
Un-Thanksgiving Day, the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony at Alcatraz Island, is taking place even as I write. Several Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) activists are participating this year–they’re here in CA to spread the word about protecting sacred Mauna Kea, and more!
Each observance counteracts destructive, colonial myths that cover up uncomfortable historical facts, allowing (mostly) white people and power structures to “rest easy” with continued persecution, exploitation, and bodily harm of (1) the native peoples of Turtle Island (aka North American continent); and (2) the native peoples of the Hawaiian archipelago, who happened to have had an internationally recognized constitutional monarchy–the Hawaiian Kingdom–that was taken by the United States through violence and deception.
The True Story of Thanksgiving
I learned this history several years ago, when I first saw the Susan Bates article below, published on the Manataka American Indian Council website.
As a settler-colonist descendent of hundreds of New England colonizers, including Richard and Elizabeth Warren of the Mayflower, I have gone from deeply uncomfortable to deeply adverse to “celebrating” the American Thanksgiving, once I learned the truth. While my kids still lived at home, we continued to “celebrate” with a family meal, attempting (probably unsuccessfully) to emphasize personal thanks “for all we had” and downplay the shitty facts of our heritage. Now I wish we’d just chucked the whole thing as soon as we began to hear the truth about the holiday–it would have been more honest–but our family was already falling apart. A festive family meal with the children was one of our last pretenses of unity and “normalcy,” along with Christmas.
But even this futile attempt to justify our observance of Thanksgiving didn’t change the fact that the descendents of Richard and Elizabeth Warren, and possibly other ancestors of mine, were Plymouth residents and must have been in some way complicit in the 1637 massacre of the Wampanoag village (mentioned in the articles below). Richard Warren himself didn’t last long in the “new world”–he died in 1628. His first son, Nathaniel, was only twelve in 1637. I would hope that boys that young were not enlisted to help slaughter human beings, but who knows? And what may he have done in later years? Also, Richard Warren’s widow, Elizabeth, died in her 90’s. We often overlook the role of settler-colonial women in upholding and inciting harsh measures against indigenous people (and slaves)–so one of my creepy questions is, who was she and what did she advocate?
(FYI–My ex-husband’s family also has a long colonial settler history, though further south, in Kentucky and elsewhere.)
And so I have to recognize that like every other white person in this country, my family and I benefit from privileges which began with “manifest destiny” and genocide and which continue with legal, political, economic, and other systems and policies designed to destroy and disadvantage native people, and other people of color, in every possible way.
Here are several links to information about the true history of Thanksgiving.
Even here I have a slight personal connection as a junior settler-colonist. My father (now deceased), a PanAm pilot, moved my mother, brother, and me to Honolulu shortly after the 1959 fraudulent “statehood” vote. He probably sensed some kind of opportunity to exploit, but my father and mother were not happy together. They soon separated, bound for divorce. So we flew back to San Diego, leaving behind my father and that rather bleak cinderblock apartment on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki.
Today a Time of Reflection
While native activists from Oceania and Turtle Island meet and make common cause–which is a joyous and wonderful thing–we settler colonists have our own work to do. It’s difficult to disengage from complicity, from the horrifying tendrils which link our lives to the larger abhorent structures destroying the entire planet now–not just “reservations” and “ghettos” and “houseless encampments” where those “other” people live (often with inadequate or polluted water, air, and soil).
So the first thing we settler colonists need to do is know the truth, understand the implications, and do whatever we can to disengage from complicity. Perhaps then we might be suitably prepared to assist in common cause with native peoples and work together to save this planet we all share.
I completed my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo and the first draft of The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits on Friday. This book is the second in my fantasy series. It’s a whimsical, queer-saturated book in the “urban fantasy” genre.
Today, I begin the second draft revision.
Lucky LaFey (the Norse god Loki in mortal disguise) is a leading character. You’ll meet him in the middle of his search for Vali (his long lost son who was turned into a wolf by the Aesir and made to kill his brother Nali).
In addition to my plucky cast of human “Hermits” and outlier Elves who comprise the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, you’ll also meet Lucky’s seventeen witch daughters (called “troll women” in the lore–Loki gave birth after eating a sacrificed burnt woman’s heart); his part mortal/part elf/part Jotun son (with two biological dads–just ask me how!); a giant multi-dimension hopping salamander named Vesta who digs human architecture in a big way; the “Big Dipper”–a sinister Lake County CA guru; and Sigyn and Angrboda both make cameo appearances. Plus, the first book’s star villain, Anna Phylaxia, known as the “Martha Stewart of Kink” due to her line of BDSM-themed luxury housewares and linens, makes a comeback appearance. In the shadows, the lurking menace of U.S. government surveillance…
Thrill as Lucky (in his female-ish form of Lucia LaFey) battles the Big Dipper at a celebrity banquet by parodying his/her own Lokasenna. Sob as Lucky and his daughters uncover the nefarious doings of “the Dip.” And ponder as the human Hermits try to get a grip on what exactly their “witching work” is meant to be!
Nov. 23 UPDATE: Link to a blog post signal boosting the leadership of black trans women and other trans and gender diverse POC in the work against violence and for health and vibrancy in their communities. Includes links to several articles in Out Magazine and Essence by Raquel Willis, founder of Black Trans Circles (video here!).
They don’t know it, but the Boulet Brothers and three seasons of Dragula have joined my private and exclusive cluster of “writer’s muses” for my fantasy novel in progress, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. (Here’s the Season 1 premiere of Dragula, on YouTube. Season 2 and 3 are on Netflix.) The goal of Dragula is to create “the Next Drag SuperMonster.” Their guiding principles are “drag, filth, horror, glamour” (and “punk” in the first season).
My goal is to complete the first draft of my second novel in the Ornamental Hermits fantasy series. My guilding principles are “magic, punk, art, glamour.” (I’m not so down with “filth” as I’ve changed far too many diapers in my time, and currently empty seven cat boxes twice a day… so there’s that.)
Right now, I’m in the middle of my annual participation in November’s NaNoWriMo. Since November 2nd, I’ve written 30,000 words out of a 50,000 word target. This is a writer’s competition–a challenge to pit my tendency to over-edit in first drafts against raw inspiration and creativity.
Over-editing in first drafts is the result of fear. It’s an unwillingness to commit to the entire plot, to put characters in jeopardy, to give all or lose all in love and hate and war, to race toward the exciting climax of the book. Much like the contestents in Dragula, I deeply believe in my writing, just as the contestents deeply believe in their drag. They create personas, constellations of characters, facets of being, visions, a “world” in which their drag selves are at play–suffering yet triumphant, always rising from the ashes. Damage breeds creation. Yet so often those hidden fears can mute or dim our full commitment, our performance of our art. Dragula challenges its people in just about every way imaginable. The Boulet Brothers’ constant admonishment is “do better, commit fully, show us who you are.” If you don’t, you “die” on the show.
Writing–world and character building–is my salvation, just as drag is theirs. Many of the Dragula contestents could feel right at home in the artsy, queer haven that is my imaginary “Hermitville Farm and Arts (and Magic) Collective”–and if not Hermitville, they’d enjoy “The Realm,” a place where there are at least twenty-nine genders among the Elves, and almost every Elf is capable of shapeshifting and summoning irresistable powers of glamour.
I am writing to create a home and a community for myself, even if that home is not manifest in the physical world and my book friends are all invisible. Drag performers participate in an already created, yet constantly mutating demi-culture of art, but acceptance is not necessarily ready-made. Still, I envy them.
The Boulet Brothers are not in the business of coaching writers, yet I am keeping them before me as inspiration. I imagine them telling me to not be lazy or play it safe, to expand the limits of my imagination, and to bring this into my writing (otherwise, Elimination Challenge!). And I love their witchiness (’cause, you know, I’m witchy and my books are all about the discovery of magic), and I love their mischief (’cause, you know, my divine S.O. is a Trickster), and I love their sex and gender fuckery (’cause, you know, I’m a sexologist–but there are compelling personal and creative reasons besides).
So in a moment I will leave this blog post and open up my first draft, and plunge into my daily word count challenge (about 2,100 words or so). I will light an imaginary candle (though I could light a real one–I have plenty) and summon my muses both inner and outer. And the magic of world and character building will contine. It’s my deepest joy.
Thank you, Boulet Brothers, for shining your dark so that others may begin to sparkle in chthonic depths, clawing their way into the limelight as fully realized creatures of art.