100 Respondents to Spectrosexuality and God/Spirit Spouse Survey

Data collection is closed as of March 18.

Now comes the fun! Please go to the Survey page for a look at raw data charts of responses to questions 2-10. And stay tuned to upcoming blogs where I’ll discuss the question responses in detail, included some excerpts from the open-ended comments sections.

You might also want to read Part I–Prelimary Thoughts and Part II–Mysticism Meets Sexology, if you haven’t already.

Here’s one of the most interesting charts.


Data_Q4_190318


Stay tuned for more!


 

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Rabbit, Rabbit

No, I don’t wake up the first of every month saying this. I’ve heard about it, of course: a superstition to bring luck in the next month. But I do pay attention to auspicious signs and portents.

This morning (December 1st), my waking up to The Troth membership opinion survey regarding the hailing of Loki at Troth events was indeed auspicious. The hailing of Loki is controversial within the organization, which apparently consists largely of U.S. membership. I have heard that similiar organizations in other countries find this controversy puzzling and unnecessary.

The survey results will not produce a binding vote, but might help influence the organizational leadership’s position on this topic. Currently, Loki is banned from Troth events (a form of religious discrimination we call Lokiphobia.)

There were three options: (1) continue the ban on hailing Loki at Troth events; (2) no ban at all, so that Loki could be hailed at any time; and (3) a compromise position that would allow one hailing of Loki in the main event, with separate bowls and drinking vessels for Loki-hailers and abstainers, presumably for spiritual “hygiene.”

An aside: the one thing I do wish the survey had included was a second question as to how many people in The Troth membership do hail Loki at all, ever. I think this could have been very interesting indeed, as it would provide numerical information as to allies and practitioners as well as abstainers.

For those who don’t know, The Troth is an organization that promotes inclusive Heathenry (as opposed to all the white supremacists running around with Norse runes tattoo’d on their biceps). The stated policy of inclusivity is why I joined, even though I don’t describe myself as “heathen” per se at this point. Here’s a key portion of their policy statement:


From The Troth website: “We are deeply proud of our indigenous Northern European religious, cultural, and historical heritages. We welcome all people, whatever their religious, cultural, or ancestral background, physical ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation, who have developed or wish to develop a relationship with our Gods and Goddesses, and would like to know more about Asatru or other forms of Heathenry. Together, our members practice the moral principles followed by our noble predecessors, including: Boldness, Truth, Honor, Troth, Self-Rule, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, Steadfastness, Equality, Strength, Wisdom, Generosity, and Family Responsibility.”


Oh, the Irony…

…that such spiritual hygiene should be given such attention when there are a few other  more essential topics the organization could address more robustly.

For example, Jeremy Baer, a  Redesman for The Troth, just blogged his opinion on the divisiveness of the Loki/not Loki controversy and pointed to what he sees as the greater challenge for inclusivity in The Troth and heathenry in general: racists and “Nazi scum.” Baer writes:


Baer writes: “Whether it is on the domestic front in North America, or courting potential allies in Europe, the Troth does itself a strategic disadvantage in actively alienating devotees of Laufeyson. Most Lokeans I have met, because of who they are and Who called them, are natural anti-fascists who would stand against the racialist scourge.”

(Note: Baer uses “Laufeyson” as Loki’s “last name” instead of the more correct “Laufeyjarson.”)

8c066f7adfb283497f5ba5fa7bce66df
Pride Loki” artwork (based on “Marvel Loki”) by DKettchen.

Yeah, gotta agree on that. We Lokeans also seem to be more supportive of LGBTQIA+ and disability issues and many of us exist in marginalized spaces as a result of our own lives and identities.

(I’d personally love to see a survey on that, including the kinds of activism we’re engaged in outside of heathen and neopagan topics.)

However, in the Loki Wyrdlings facebook group, several people have pointed out that Baer seems dismissive and glosses over the problems of inclusivity that we Lokeans face, and that this must be addressed before unity can be achieved. Also, it’s been pointed out that as grown-ups, we can work on more than one issue, say, addressing internal prejudice against Loki practitioners as well as cultural appropriation and misuse of Norse religions by white supremacists.

But Wait! There’s MORE!

BlkPinkmcs_logo
From a hat sold by the Environmental Health Network of CA, http://www.ehnca.org. I was a board member and president back in the 90s.

But, Lokean as I am, I want to throw another issue into the “hygienic” mix, that of disability accommodation, particularly with regard to those who have the invisible disabilties of multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illnesses and respiratory ailments (such as asthma) that are triggered and worsened by the exposure to airborne toxins such as fragrances, scented personal care products, candles, incense, pesticides, paints, etc. Such people, at least the ones who have recovered somewhat from previous toxic exposures, generally do pretty well at maintaining their health and stamina as long as such products are excluded from gatherings and public spaces. I hear the Trothmoot this year is taking place on the West Coast. I would enjoy experiencing such a thing, just once in my life, and to be able to go home from it in relatively healthy shape.

Most people with conditions such as mine are socially isolated and many are longing to participate in faith and spiritual communities, including neopagan ones (heathen, Wiccan, etc.). When I moved here to Lake County, I even tried the local Unitarian Universalist church, as UU’s have a history of accepting neopagans. I had a few conversations with someone in the local leadership and decided to try attending a service. Within ten minutes I had to flee due to one person wearing a heavy dose of sandalwood essential oil. I cried all the way home.

I’ve never been to a Trothmoot, or indeed any public heathen or neopagan event except for that thing the Druids used to do in Berkeley in the park, and that only once. Reclaiming Witch Camps could be fun, but they are outdoors in the woods in the summer and I know the mosquito repellant would make attendance impossible. (I also dodge airborne toxins at health facilities, schools where I’ve taken classes, public transportation, restaurants, grocery stores, senior centers, and so on.)

Good indoor air quality, which is what people like me need in order to participate in  events and experience those stated Troth values such as Hospitality, Frith, and Self-reliance, benefits everyone in attendance. Go on over to my Why Fragrance Free page on my professional website and you’ll see links to a study published earlier this year that estimates that 1-4 Americans has some form of environmental illness now. ONE IN FOUR. That’s staggering.

From where I sit and stand, always on the outside, I’d much rather see the vast amounts of attention focused on the pros and cons of Loki worship (so, just get over it and let us hail Loki already!!!!) directed instead toward a thoughtful consideration of a ban on fragrance use at such events, as the toxicity of such products is well documented in scientific literature and numerous anecdotal accounts. (Yes, and as grownups, we can also address the problems presented by alt.right fascists and neo-nazi scum, as well as other challenges.)

Because I have no kindred beyond those I find on the internet, and no place of worship beyond my own altars and my Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, I am probably doomed to spend the rest of my life as a solitary practitioner of just about everything. I try to make peace with that, but even writing about this brings tears. When it’s not too painful, I like to imagine the cheer of bright halls where people like me (aging, disabled, kinky, Lokean) are welcome as full members of the community. I long to toast, boast, recite poetry, and look with love on my kindred. I long to rely on the “kindness of strangers” who soon become my friends. I long to stand up and do battle beyond writing these blogs.

Alas.

smallEcoMaskBut, yeah, I’m a gonna bring this up. I’m bringing it up now. I’m tossing my respirator on the ground as a gauntlet. Loki is all about pointing out hypocrisy and the hypocrisy in action against those with disabilities is every bit as damaging as other forms of exclusion.

As for Loki–I’ll leave you with the song stylings of Joan Jett, Bad reputation.

Loki! Loki! (For luck.)

####

Dude! I Call Unverified Political Gnosis!

Yesterday I read a lengthy piece in a well-known pagan blog which was comprised of Unverified Political Gnosis–a rather labored comparison of Loki–a Norse god–to the current Lord of Misrule in the White House, a comparison that seemed to indicate the author’s contention that Loki is “behind” our current democratic conundrum, hand in glove with the president, you bet!

If so, I’ve got to say that’s one hell of a rigged election! Collusions with Russians and a Norse god too! Someone, please let the Mueller investigation know! But perhaps the blog author is less well versed in political science than he claims to be in mythology. He does seem to take great pains in constructing his own.

The author presented a rather unique view (to say the least), given that the president’s most ardent supporters–Red Hats, Neo-nazis, the Christian Right, and wealthy oligarchs–would be completely opposed to all the things that Loki represents to modern devotees, if they gave the trickster god and his devotees any thought at all.

Red Hats–in the absence of data from a national survey, I’ll venture to say, anecdotally, that most of Loki’s followers don’t support the president, whose destructive policies threaten civil life and liberty in this country and who takes special aim at every oppressed and at-risk minority you can mention. Red Hats may very well deem Loki and his followers as “special snowflakes” anyhow.

White Neo-nazis–because Loki is not “manly” in a cis-het way like Odin and Thor, plus, “he’s like Satan, dude, and therefore probably Jewish.” I kid you not. Upon reading somewhere that there was a period when artists were depicting Loki as Semetic for ideological reasons, I googled the phrase “Loki is Jewish.” The top two hits are neo-nazi posts affirming this very thing.

So I ask the author of “Loki in the White House” to note that Loki is not one of the Norse gods co-opted (sadly) by white supremacists. He’s too queer and they think he’s Jewish.

The White Christian Right–they’d be so bummed. They think Jesus put Trump in the White House. (FYI-speaking of deeply troubling gods, the Old Testament God’s body count in the Bible is 2,038,244 dead humans to Satan’s 10.)

White Wealthy Oligarchs–the president, though a loose cannon, is a convenient distraction (for now) as they continue to consolidate wealth and power at the expense of the 99%. Nothing in the lore (and I’m no expert, still learning) indicates to me that Loki favors such people–in fact, he takes pains to skewer them (e.g. the poem, Lokasenna).


The essay’s premise is bizarre to begin with. It consists of an apples and oranges comparision of the lore of a Norse God with the present-day actions of a mortal political figure. And though it contains a blistering recital of the current president’s egregious actions, I question the author’s motives in linking the president and his actions to the deity of a marginalized group (e.g. anyone who acknowledges Loki as an object of worship or veneration). The essay seems more interested in fanning resentment or ridicule against contemporary devotees, and perhaps creating a nice, juicy controversy, than it does anything else.

In fact, the article’s ending is disturbing and provocative:


“Finally, I would like to make the simple request that, following this article, lovers of Loki and partisans of the president refrain from making death threats against me. I know that these are two figures who inspire passionate devotion, but I think it is possible to have differences of opinion without threatening lives and livelihood. Thank you for rejecting fundamentalism.”


By suggesting that Lokeans (who are by and large rather sane and thoughtful people) will now threaten the author with the kind of violence more commonly documented among incels, Neo-nazi trolls, and rabid Trump supporters, the author seems to invite our consideration of him as a martyr, rather than as someone whose writing can be critiqued in a dispassionate manner.

This statement also seems unnecessarily inflammatory: “I believe that the idea of Loki as the bound giant who finally breaks free to destroy the world is the root element of his character. I suggest that maybe we should support those who seek to bind the beast rather than cheer on his rampage.” Does the author actually mean to suggest that those of us who hail Loki are cheering on the Trump tantrums and “rampages?” If so, this is very wrong.

The author also dismisses the lived experiences of contemporary people who connect with Loki as a divinity. He lists all the qualities that modern worshippers detect in their interactions with Loki, and though he acknowledges that Loki “…can be particularly important to members of LGBTQ+ communities who find deep meaning in his ancient and contemporary tales and aspects,” the author gives more weight to his own flawed pseudo-spiritual/pseudo-political meanderings than he does to the experiences and attributes of contemporary worshipers.

Please note that the current administration is brutally hostile to LGBTQIA etc. people. If there was any resonance between Loki and Trump, I’d expect such mortals would drop their god like a hot potato, sooner than you can say the word “impeach.”

Though the author takes great pains to cherry pick attributes of Trump that he can then match up with lore concerning Loki, I think this methodology is deceptive. Human history is full of troublesome deities, from many cultures and historical periods. One could probably sift through the lore of Greco-Roman gods, for example, and make similar comparisons. Using the author’s example, we could probably “prove” that Ares is in the White House. How about Moloch–he ate children and there are plenty missing from those concentration camps Trump set up for immigrant kids! Or hey, how about Caligula, the bat-shit insane ruler of Ancient Rome? He and Trump have much in common, including a love of expensive spectacle, and Caligula was even deified. Why not prove the God Caligula is in the White House? There’s even a physical resemblance!

220px-Cropped_color_calligula
The Roman Emperor Caligula–compare with pix of young D.T.

Now let’s briefly address the author’s comparison of Loki to Trump on four key areas:

“Objectifier of women”–Dude, everyone objectifies women. Back then, as well as now. You can probably say this of just about every masculine deity ever known. So I argue that the use of Loki as the perfect god to compare with the president’s propensity to grope, assault, and harass women is disingenuous at best. I’m not saying that objectification is good, or that I like it, but as a woman, it’s a fact of life that I constantly must either oppose or ignore.

FYI, the author wonders how women can even deal with Loki, due to the “slut-shaming” that takes place in the Lokasenna (mostly directed at his ex-lovers, who are refusing to acknowledge him). This has troubled me too. But as a Lokean, my UPG experience with this particular deity is actually quite egalitarian and very respectful, completely different from the “toxic masculinity” that I encounter almost everywhere else. (For the record, I also regularly offer devotions to Frey, Freya, and Gerda. Frey is also refreshingly non-toxic.) Next!

“Betrayer of community”–Actually Trump’s true community is that of wealthy, white, prejudiced people. He doesn’t seem to be betraying HIS community at all. Next!

“Opposer of Law”–We are waiting to see if criminal charges will be brought against this seated president. In the meantime, there’s a vast difference between a fascist mortal oligarch who is bending the laws for his own advantage from a position of great power and the actions of an outlier trickster like Loki. Very apples and oranges. Next!

“Bringer of Chaos”–As the Lord of Misrule, whose Reign of Error has unfortunately not been limited to only one night of the year, the president is not so much engaged in creating chaos as he is in creating his own personal fantasy of Big Brother-esque ultimate rule. And that’s control Trump’s after, not chaos.

I will leave it to others, who are better versed in lore and religious studies, to critique the article’s claims from a more scholarly vantage.

Where I Think Loki Really Is in All This Mess

If I were to detect the presence of Loki (or any other trickster god) in the current sad state of affairs, it would be in the glorious flowering of political lampooning, in the song stylings of Randy Rainbow, the Saturday Night Live sketches, the giant balloons and floats of bloated baby twump, and in every searing political cartoon that’s emerged since the election of 2016. I would detect it in Pussy Hats, witty signs held in marches, and in the recent results of the mid-term elections.

Loki, to me, is the god of resistance and a foe of hypocrisy–not a god of chaos, but a god of deep transformation.

As for the current Lord of Misrule, he’s purely a mortal phenomena–the last gasp grasp of brutal, power-hungry, greedy, racist capitalists and the result of rigged elections.

As the late, great Stan Lee used to say, “‘Nuff said.”


Please also read Dagulf Loptson’s response to the absurd article: Loki and Trump: My Thoughts. It’s on his new blog, Loki Cult.

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Transphobia Not Welcome at Neo-Pagan Conference

A handful of activists have ensured that Max Dashu, now known as someone who holds certain transphobic views, has been disinvited as a PantheaCon presenter. And I’m glad.

Here’s why.

Here’s a bit of the background.


From PantheaCon Website

“Theme for 2019: Unity, Respect for our Diversity, and Connecting Webs to Heal the Earth What are we doing to heal our mother, our selves? What are we Willing to do for the Earth and for our Community?

This year we especially want to emphasize that PantheaCon is a Safe Space for all. We tolerate no harassment of anyone by others. This is called Pax Templi where differences of opinion are set aside for the duration of the Sacred Space.”


Community/Activist Repsonse

When events and organizations make statements about safety and inclusion it is reasonable to take them at their word. So, when a few people spotted this problematic speaker on the program, they protested on behalf of their communities.

(By the way, “TERF” means “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” in case you don’t know. I’ll be using the term below.)

One of the activists who alerted the conference to the problematic speaker is Colin Davis, who blogs at Patheos. I have their permission to quote from their statement posted on Facebook.

“…a laurel: the PantheaCon staff with whom I’ve interacted around this issue have been absolutely spectacular, supportive, and committed to the kind of inclusion and acceptance that this community has every right to expect. They have been incredible allies for the trans community, and continue to do so. I am honored, humbled, and proud to be able to say I stand with them.

In closing, I want to point out that standing up for my trans and nonbinary siblings is not misogyny, no matter how often some say it is, and that stating safety concerns is not libel… especially given the outcome. If we are to have a truly safe and inclusive environment, we cannot give any platform or discursive space to the voices that call for exclusion and hatred based on identity.”

Davis’s last point about the importance of not giving a “platform or discursive space” to exclusionary speakers is another key point. Please hold onto it.

Regarding the Ousted Speaker

I mostly want to focus on actions and statements in this post, not personalities. Others have covered the qualifications, merits, and deficits of Max Dashu and have tracked her comments, positions, and noted her associations with others who take TERF-type positions. But in case anyone is wondering if her TERF reputation is deserved, here is a quote from Dashu, which I have lifted from the comments section attached to “So-Called Predators in the Bathroom… Again,” Lady Idos, May 3, 2016, Ms. Blog. There are many problems with her assertions below. Trigger warning… transphobic vitriol.


Max Dashu says:
May 6, 2016 at 10:11 am
When are people (feminists, yet!) going to get that the main issue for women is not that trans women are sexual predators, which the vast majority are not, but that the laws are being rewritten in an all-encompassing way that allows male predators into women’s spaces? As if no issue of female safety exists, as if only trans women face an issue of safety. When under these new rules, just by pretending to be women, dressing in female guise, saying they are women, *any* man can gain entry into bathrooms, locker rooms, saunas or whatever, and perv on the women in those spaces. When did feminists forget that straight men like to transgress and violate female boundaries, put cameras under stalls and up women’s skirts? that they do commit rapes in bathrooms? Yet all over the place, we see this reality being denied, by feminists! in the name of defending trans women. Looking fixedly past the reality of male violence, denying that any problem exists in the rush to make new laws: what kind of feminism is this? Safety in bathrooms is a female issue, not just an issue for trans women. (And sex and gender are not the same thing.) So incidents like the guy in Seattle who came into the women’s room and took off his shirt, and when challenged, told the pool officials, “The law has changed, and i have a right to be here.” He didn’t claim to be a woman, nor dress as one, he just wanted to intrude because he could. Male entitlement is bottomless, don’t think this won’t be a problem.


Please see this page on Transgender People and Bathroom Access if you are even half-tempted to consider Dashu’s position as reasonable. Plus, there are already laws to protect people from sexual assaults and other crimes. The Seattle guy? He’s an outlier and a kook (see section below). It would be just as ridiculous to base local, state, and federal public policy on the Seattle example as it would be to base policies on the fact that a man I dated once (sadly) followed me into a community college bathroom to scream at me for not wanting to date him a second time.

I first learned of the PantheaCon’s issue yesterday, in an esoteric social media group. There was a vigorous conversation in the thread and I threw myself into it with my usual polite passion. I tend to include links and sources when in this mode. I was particularly keen to address points made in one person’s “I can see all sides of this” posts, which seemed to focus on click-bait about men “pretending” to be women to game the system for perks, as if these kinds of outlier incidents justified TERF attitudes about transgender and gender variant rights.

I added the following links to the thread: United Nations Foundation statement on trans rights, and the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. I also posted the Transgender Day of Remembrance website so that people could understand the kind of violence that many trans people face. I asked people reading and posting in the thread to educate themselves about trans issues using this material. (I think this request actually came before the other poster added click bait.)

I am Wondering About Knee-Jerk Reactions and Weaponized “Fears”

I woke up this morning with this thought. There’s something about the way that TERFs react that reminds me of how some racist white women (and a few men) have been captured on camera, weaponizing their “fears and discomfort” by calling 911 on people of color doing ordinary things. (Here is a good post about why we should not give the racist 911 callers cute nicknames.)

By broaching this subject, I am emphatically NOT comparing the experiences of POC in the U.S. with that of trans and gender diverse people in the U.S. (though many people are both). I DO  want to examine similarities between the knee-jerk responses of TERFs and the white 911 callers. I think there are some. And there are differences too, of course.

In the last year especially we’ve seen a lot of viral videos of white women calling police on black people and other POC for having barbecues, waiting for AAA, trying to get into their own apartment complex, babysitting, etc. We can easily see how distorted and ugly these actions are. We can see the racism. We can see the over-reactions. We can see that the automatic assumption of criminality is unfair and unwarranted.

We can also see how wrong and dangerous it is to call in authorities with guns–because “we” (meaning white people here–people of color have always known) now also have a greater awareness that police often shoot black people, often for no reason. For no damned reason. (Black people shot by police in 2018.) And there’s now some discussion on the internet of how white women (in particular) absolutely have to manage their own “discomfort” and fears instead of calling the cops. Read “White Women Weaponize Their Fears and Femininity to Assert Their Power Over POC,” Cameron Glover, May 18, 2018, Afropunk.

What’s less visible are the very real dangers to trans people when inflammatory public figures and scholars also “call 911” by whipping up public fears and resentments. Brutal people, criminals, and even everyday bullies use the inflammatory statements to justify their right to do very bad things to anyone who does not conform to their notions of “proper” gender presentation. The Transgender Day of Remembrance documents this very thing in stark terms that we should all be able to understand. But there are also other forms of violence, of micro-aggressions, and these do damage too.

(I want to note there that people with intersex variations are also at risk here.)

The most unreasonable of the TERFs persist in denying all reality of trans and other gender experiences. To them, a trans woman is always going to be an entitled man in disguise, a “perv” as Dashu says, someone presumed to be dangerous and/or criminal. I wish someone would write an article called “Radical Feminists Weaponize Their Fears and Femininity to Assert Their Power Over Trans People.” We must see that the automatic assumption of criminality–especially as it impacts trans women–is unfair and unwarranted.

TERFs seem to refuse the opportunity to examine their own “discomfort” and “fears” with regard to trans people and their own intersections of cis-privilege and female oppression (intersectionality is a term invented by black scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw). The “privilege” of using one’s own discomfort and fears to affect public opinion, discourse, and policy must be examined. Academics have an even greater responsibility to do this, frankly, as they have educational privilege and supposedly also have critical thinking skills.

Some of what’s needed are facts, the ability to understand those facts, a dollop of empathy, a desire to become better educated about issues, some self-knowledge, and tools to manage our raging sympathetic nervous systems.

However, because TERF reactions to a trans presence are generally distorted, we can’t count on them doing much of the above. So to deny them platforms, then, is perfectly appropriate as they have not “done the work” IN THIS AREA to make them fit to speak to a wider public, like Panthea.Com. (I put that in caps because, yeah, some have done other kinds of work elsewhere.)

Please note similarities to our seemingly national “discomfort” with immigrants, Muslims, you name it–and to our dangerous, knee-jerk reactions to these “threats.” We ALL need to learn to manage feelings of “discomfort,” fear, and perceptions of threats where none exist. We really, really do. And when we’ve got histories of abuse ourselves, and are likely to be triggered, the necessity for self-awareness in this area even more crucial.

We must realize that the automatic assumption of criminality is unfair and unwarranted, no matter what our nervous systems are screaming. React to real dangers, yes, but not to imaginary ones.

Outliers, Con-Artists, and Kooks

Finally, here is my response to the person (sadly, an academic) who posted the three “click bait” news articles in the thread (for reasons which remained largely murky for most of the duration). One had to do with a trans woman who assaulted fellow inmates; one was a screenshot of some fool who wanted to know if he could qualify for a STEM scholarship by pretending to be female; and the third had to do with someone who changed the gender of his driver’s license to get a cheaper car insurance rate.

I said:

“Hey, are there jerks, con artists, and abusers in every subgroup imaginable? You betcha. White cis female imposters like Rachel Dolezal pretended to be black in order to game the system. White cis female Andrea Smith pretended to be Cherokee and boosted her academic career until exposed. But no one who is reasonable uses these examples to argue against affirmative action in universities, or against welfare. TERFs, however, inflate stories like the above to justify their ‘fears’ and ‘discomfort’ and then promote and inflame these fears in others. The result is violence and social and economic injustice against trans and gender variant people. However I’ll take your sparse selection of outlier examples and raise you with all the names of all the dead on the TDOR site–people who have been shot, stabbed, mutilated, you name it–often for being in the ‘wrong’ place. I do not believe that posting what is essentially click bait advances this discussion. A much more robustly insightful examination of prejudice and entrenched systems of oppression is in order.”

There is so much more to say on this topic. But at the moment, I’m spent.


Disclosure: I am a 64-year old white, cis-het woman with a hidden disability. I am the mother of two adult children. One is trans. As a sexologist and writer I have been vocal in support for trans and intersex rights. My pronouns are “she/her” but gender neutral would be fine as well. To borrow a phrase from a friend and colleague, “I am reluctantly gendered” as female. I’ve also experienced sexual assault and coercion as well as physical violence, and have sometimes been afraid as a result. For most of my life I’ve identified as a feminist (of sorts) but certainly NOT a “radical feminist.” 


 

What Came First? The Magic or the Book?

1-dire_francesco_del_cossa_010As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve had a lifelong interest in the occult and some very odd experiences too, but I didn’t start studying Western magic and witchcraft until I started writing this fantasy novel on Nov. 1, 2016. The plot required my characters to learn from Western magical traditions and so I figured I had to research this as well. What I didn’t realize was that this study would prove as important and life-changing as any of my other major epiphanies (and I’ve had a few).

The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, now completed, is many things to me. It was my salvation during a very difficult time of loneliness and social anxiety. It was my way of creating community (though imaginary) in the aftermath of a divorce, in a time and place where friendships and family were proving unreliable. And it was my love letter and good-bye to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i). Dire Deeds is also my social commentary on forms of settler-colonialism peculiar to the Puna District (Hawai’i Island’s “Lower East Side”). Other themes include aging, LGBTQIA etc. struggles, white privilege, and more. But this description makes the book sound far too serious. I assure you, the “tone” is often playful, comic, and sweetly sardonic, even though these topics–and events in the book–are “dire.”

Best_small_ Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copyNow I begin the second book in what will be a trilogy: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Spoiler alert – it takes place in Lake County, California, where I now live. All the previous characters will continue in this second volume, and a few new ones will be added–notably the charismatic “drifter,” Lucky LaFey.

The third book will take place in England, and will be called The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was the vehicle for jumpstarting and continuing Dire Deeds, and I am going to begin The Witching Work during this year’s NaNoWriMo contest, which starts (as always) on Nov. 1st (my birthday). I expect to have no problem achieving the 50,000 word count which is the goal of the contest. Even so, please wish me luck. And it would please me too if you went to my book website and read some of the excerpts and blog posts.

Thank you!

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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.

Le_fête_d'Aegir_(1861)
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.

Faroe_stamp_498_Djurhuus_poems_-_Loki_Laufey's_Son
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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Standing Against Bigotry and Hate

Even in some pagan and heathen circles, Lokeans are said to be “outcasts”–partly because our gender-bending, trickster deity has a bad reputation as spun in Christianized lore–and perhaps also because Lokeans themselves tend to be a diverse bunch. While this may limit our social acceptance overall, it also makes our god, Loki, less likely to be co-opted by Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups. As a shape-shifter, Loki has been a salmon, a mare, and who knows what else. He’s fathered and mothered children. In humanoid shape, I assume he’s not limited to a white skin or “Nordic” features*, though he’s mostly depicted that way. In other words, he is just too fey, too queer, and not close enough to the butch, cis, heteronormative, patriarchal stereotype that’s so very dear to the Neo-Nazi/white supremacist heart.

This “Pride Loki” artwork (based on “Marvel Loki”) by DKettchen conveys so much to me. Here’s the link to DKettchen’s Tumblr post. (There is a statement on the post that seems to indicate it is okay to use this image.)

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Now in the last few weeks (when I wasn’t worried about my house burning up in CA’s Ranch Fire), I’ve been basking in just this kind of rainbow-colored bliss of devotional adoration, getting to know this newest addition to my eclectic, polytheistic “family.” However yesterday I stumbled across this August 17, 2017 blog by Lokavinr. It’s called What the Heathen Community Needs to Know. Lokavinr concludes:


“So you want to worship the heathen gods and not be a racist? Don’t spread the idea that white culture is endangered. Don’t act like heritage should be instantly divorced from the hate it fed for centuries. Don’t put frith over calling out goddamn Nazis. And think real hard about the groups, people, and beliefs you are standing beside. Because even if you aren’t out there driving your car into protesters or using a religion to actively recruit people to the racist far-right, if you look the other way, if you care more about the heathen community’s reputation or your right to wear a symbol without “being mistaken as a Nazi” than the real, tangible oppression PoC, Jewish people, Muslims, and the LGBT community face in this country, then there’s blood on your hands, too.”


It’s not like I haven’t been aware of these complexities. Years ago I read The Well of Remembrance by Ralph Metzner and felt attracted to “something” about Northern mysticism, but I still couldn’t approach Norse/Germanic deities and lore as a spiritual path because of the Nazi and Neo-Nazi use of some of these same traditions and symbols. (And it’s only gotten worse in this country since November 2016.) It wasn’t until last year, when I also began to work on ancestral lineage healing via Daniel Foor’s work (author of Ancestral Medicine), that I found I could begin working with Frey, Freya, and Gerda. (Loki is a recent arrival in my life and for some reason is much more “present” and compelling.)

These days, Daniel Foor’s work is key for me. As a teacher and ritualist, his purpose is entwined with activism for social and earth justice, and his humility and integrity have been evident in every communication I’ve ever experienced, whether in his book, online class, or Facebook posts. He directly addresses issues of settler colonialism, racism, transphobia, sexism, and more. Here is a page with some of his online interviews and talks. Check out “The Role of the Ancestors in Social and Earth Justice, November 2017.” You’ll see what I mean.

I’ve never been interested in “navel gazing.” For me, there has to be engagement with both “spiritual pursuits” and outer activism. For me, each feeds the other. I was involved with environmental health activism at the same time I was engaged with anthroposophy. I tried to bring greater social justice awareness to the tantra organization I was associated with (and eventually left). And I tried to be a decent “ally/accomplice” for the causes of sovereignty and the preservation of Mauna Kea and other sacred spaces from 2002-2017, while heavily engaged in learning about Hawaiian culture (and trying to avoid cultural appropriation). Admittedly, I’ve been more focused lately on inner work, as I’m still healing from some pretty hefty crises and major life changes in the last three years. (And, as always, I deal with the health and logistical challenges that arise from multiple chemical sensitivities and chronic fatigue.) But, Lokavinr’s blog is a call to action for anyone who is casting runes, worshipping a Northern deity, or possibly even doing Thor cosplay!

So I gladly make space in this blog for discussions, resources, and also for centering the voices of people of color on topics of race, hate, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, spiritual colonization, etc., especially as these issues pertain to paganism and Northern European traditions. And of course, I will make sure that my Lokabrenna “tiny temple” is blatantly inclusive and emphatically anti-hate.

These are good first steps, but it’s clear I must take others.

Expect this list of resources and organizations to grow, as I will add to them as I find them.


U.S. Resources

• Anti-Defamation League Hate Symbols Database.

• Anti-Defamation League Runic Writing (racist). Many people use and study Norse runes who are not associated with hate groups. If you see Loki’s name spelled out in runes (below) be not alarmed. It is highly unlikely that this would be used for hateful purposes. Quite the contrary, due to Loki’s association with people who are queer and/or are of varied genders.

Cropped Loki RunePainting copy

Another article on runes and other white supremacist hate symbols.

Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map.

Inclusive Heathen and Northern Tradition Organizations/Websites

Declaration 127 – International denuciation of Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) as racist, etc. Quote from website:

“The AFA’s views do not represent our communities. We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do. We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frið, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.”

The Troth – an “inclusive heathenry” organization with stated policies against racism and other forms of discrimination. From their website:

“The Troth is open to all who seek to know and to honor the Gods, ancestors, and values of the Germanic Heathen traditions, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation. The Troth stands against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, or any other form of prejudice.”

Heathens Against Hate – Part of The Troth. From the page.

“Heathens Against Hate functions under the Public Relations Team, with officers appointed by the Rede from among the Heathens Against Hate membership. The group Heathens Against Hate will serve the broader Heathen community under Troth sponsorship to build cooperation amongst inclusive Heathen groups, to counter the misuse of our faith, its gods, symbols, or lore to promote racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia or any other form of willful hatred against identifiable minorities in our society.”

Hrafnar – Northern CA inclusive heathenry group founded by Diana L. Paxson. Here is their “Declaration of Support for Inclusive Heathenry.” Here is their “Statement in Support of Solidarity with Black Pagans and Heathens.”

Vendors Who Do Not Support Hate

[To come]

International

• “As Neo-Nazism, White Supremacy Spread, People Must Unite to Prevent Normalization of Hate”–UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at a ceremony marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, in New York, Jan. 31, 2018.

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*[Apparently the image I used in this blog post was an anti-Semitic attempt by the artist to make Loki–as the “Norse Satan”– look Jewish. I need to do more research on that, and quote a reputable source. I originally used the painting because it was in the public domain. Such portrayals are probably the topic of a whole other blog.]