Fireplace Altar: The only place in the house where candles are lit and incense burned. Features a glass of water offered to the ancestors (since I’d packed up the Ancestor Altar a few weeks ago, thinking I’d be moving). Candles from right to left: Gerda, Freyr, Loki’s red pillar candle, Brigid, Bastet, Freya. One ancestor and two servitor tealights in front.
Group Deity Altar: Offerings of wine, cookies, and cinnamon bread to Brigit, Bastet, Freyr, Freya, and Gerda–and a glass of whiskey for Odin (as a courtesy). Painting of The Conjurer by Disasterina in the background.
My statues and drawings of Loki were packed a few weeks ago, when I thought I’d be moving. What remains are some ritual objects along with a stack of hardening donuts (fresh supplies difficult to obtain due to “shelter in place” restrictions), a dab of Nutella, and glasses of wine and Fireball Whiskey. Also, the daily cup of cinnamon tea. As for the gingerbread house, this is an offering that has greatly delighted him–and he is much attached to it. It stays on the altar all year long.
The artificial candle in the back has been running literally for months, 24/7, on one battery that has never been replaced (ordinarily, it should have exhausted itself in ten hours of continuous use). Every now and then it dims, and then I mention it to Loki and it suddenly “recharges.” I am not making this up! I am reminded a bit of Thomas Pynchon’s “Byron the Bulb”from Gravity’s Rainbow–is this a manufacturing miracle or something more? Who am I to argue with mystery?
The above altars are focuses of a practice which is now becoming daily again. Some daily elements have always been consistent, others not so much.
Thanks to no longer having a roommate and to now living alone, in Covid-19 lockdown, I’ve been able to establish the practices again without distractions.
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).
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.
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.
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!
Today, Monday, July 22, the sun enters Leo. And finally I am seeing some signs of support for the Mauna Kea Kia’i (protectors) from people in some parts of the neopagan communities.
So, here’s some good news:
The Troth just issued an open letter to Governor Ige of Hawai’i, expressing support for the preservation of Mauna Kea from desecration, and for the struggle of the Kia’i to protect it. I am proud to be a member of this inclusive heathenry organization.
And I just came across this post from Marc, on the blog, Of Axe and Plow, calling for “the wider pagan community” to show support for Mauna Kea and the protectors. It’s a great read!
Today’s “Thirty Days of Devotion” topic asks if there’s a difference between ancient and modern worship of Loki. The answer is a resounding, artisan-grease infused, sprinkle-spattered “YES!”
So far, archaelogical records do not show that the Old Norse had anything resembling the cholesterol-crunching goodie we today know as “the donut.” Cane sugar arrived in Europe by the 1100s, making inadvertant contemporaries of Snorri Sturluson and a key donut ingredient. However, it was incredibly expensive, known as “white gold”, and until the 18th-19th centuries was reserved for the very rich. Simple folk offering baby teeth to Loki via the hearth-fire could not have known that the future held a far more delectable and acceptable offering, one whose very shape invoked the World-Encircling Jormungandr and whose endless variety echoes the consumate shape-shifting of the great snake’s Dad.
Furthermore, two donuts, side by side, approximate the symbol of eternity. Ponder that if you will! And that shape with a hole in the middle is as good as a hag stone for some. (Sadly, they seldom last as long.)
Fun fact: For a long time, Sweden consumed much less sugar than the rest of Europe. Sweden then began to produce beet sugar and so sugar consumption–and tooth decay–skyrocketed. Not so Fun Fact: Researchers then performed tooth decay sugar experiments on mental patients without their consent.
Though a skilled confectioner can spin “white gold” as fine as Sif’s hair, Scandinavia was slow to catch onto sugar. And the rest of Europe was slow to catch on to Norse mythology. However, by the 19th century, suddenly everyone was hot for both. How can we not detect the hand of Loki in this?
Think of it this way: increasing popularity of Norse Myths means more popularity for Loki, which means that in a period of rising sugar consumption, Loki gains more followers who can be prompted to make offerings of sugary goodness (and fewer baby teeth). Quite elegant, if you ask me!
However, well into the 19th century (and possibly beyond), most cane sugar was produced with slave labor, which we all know now included not just “labor” but also torture, murder, rape, imprisonment, tearing families apart, etc. I ask myself if Loki would have been so fond of his surgary sweets, had he known their cost in human lives?
Though we’re now reinventing our donuts as “paleo” or sugar and gluten-free, and can deplore the brutal history of past sugar production, it’s worth asking ourselves if we can also examine some of the other entitlements of modern neo-paganism and Western consumerism. Can we consider such factors as the labor exploitation and environmental damage that occurs in the mining and trade of our “healing crystals”?[<—Read this!] Can we offer goodies made from ingredients sourced from “fair trade” farmers? Can we question ways in which we might still be complicit in cultural appropriation or resource exploitation, without knowing it?
So this isn’t just a blog about donuts, or how modern Loki worship differs from way back when (we don’t even know if Loki was “worshipped” per se), it’s a blog about how Loki worship can continue to evolve, based on our climate-catastrophic times. It’s a blog about examining how our devotional and magical practices and consumption habits can be changed, one by one, to reflect the actual realities of the worlds around us, enabling us to do as little harm as possible in the pursuit of our spiritual practices.
I’ve been guilty of buying supermarket donuts for Loki. It’s a quick fix for offerings and I don’t have much money. But based on what I’ve just written and how I can’t “unsee it,” I may need to change my offerings. And I need to talk with Loki about this.
And if it takes going back to throwing the humblest of offerings into a fire, or placing a simple flat cake on an altar, so be it.
On the other hand, I’m a fan of Loki Spongecake Day and the reasons behind it–so everyone else, offer what you will! I won’t be judgy.
(This thirty-day devotional format is based on a list developed by someone named Arrin, known as “a Gaulish polytheist.” It can be used for any deity.)
What follows is imagined, an eco-parable. Gerda, a Jotun, smells only of rich soil, bruised herbs from her garden, and luscious Jotun pheromones. This was enough to dazzle the Vanir god, Freyr, from afar. His sister, Freya, adorns herself with amber jewels, but cares for her skin only with salves of honey, clear water, and powdered grains. The dry tips of her hair are moistened only with the tiniest bit of melted butter. She scorns the feckless chemistries, the unwise alchemies, of Midgard’s humans, which propel poison into every living thing. Freya has complained to Odin that dead warriors are no longer what they once were–they are now creatures with flacid muscles, except for their texting hands, and that they die now with withered sperm counts, and distortions in their DNA.
Even worse–“They (the humans) are even going after the roots of the World Tree,” she whispers, “with something called ‘Round-Up.'”
Freyr, the Corn God, nods. He dies each year for the harvest and comes back reborn, but it’s becoming apparent that the humans who once honored him for this would now rather manipulate the mysteries of the grain themselves. Perhaps an extended vacation in Vanaheim is in the runes…let the humans spend a year without him for once, prefereably after an Icelandic eruption, when ash clouds herald global famine. That’d learn ’em, he thinks, but in the next moment he backs away from such thoughts. He will serve as he has always served, all these long eons. “Perhaps Ragnarök will be a blessing after all…”
Freyr smells of rich earth too, and Gerda’s herbs and mead, and a not-unpleasant tang of godly sweat and semen. Vanir pheromones are also rather scrumptious, carrying a faint scent of apples. But humans, drunk on designer petrochemicals, can no longer detect them.
As for Ragnarök, Loki has no comment. What will be, will be, and has been–so many times. Contrary to his bad press, Loki finds no happiness in wanton destruction…but cleansing…the metabolism of poisons when all else fails…sometimes that is something to be desired. He should know. The next cycle has already unleashed forces powerful enough to bake the planet, to scour it of the unwise alchemies of the paltry, money-grubbing humans. Midgard will eventually recover (Gaia is strong) but Loki isn’t all that keen to be the trickster god of cockroaches. However, he recognizes the cosmic joke about to be played on them all. He’ll do his best to find some fragment of mirth when the time comes. But onlookers will mistake his battle grin for vengeful joy, misunderstanding the mask that hides his hot, angry tears. It was all so unnecessary! It always is! Meanwhile, cremation fires are at hand for another death of a too beautiful world. It’s Loki’s job to ensure that creation follows cremation. Somebody has to do it…
Sometimes Loki wishes Sigyn had gone in for systems change, rather than holding the bowl for him alone. He imagines he could have borne his suffering–bound with his son’s entrails and scorched by viper spittle–if he’d known she was battling the powers that be, on behalf of all sentient beings. Sigyn might have known better though, and who really is to say? Her victory might yet be won.
It doesn’t take a völva prophecy to know what’s coming. Freya sheds tears. She and her daughter want to save a cat or two. Freya wants the falcons to be okay, and bees. Freyr puts in a word for boars and grains. Dogs too. Their father wants to save whales, sharks, sea turtles, guppies, and coral polyps, among others. His is a long list. Loki would like to send wolves and snakes and salmon and horses to Hel, for safekeeping. Gerda hides seeds in safe places, and waits. The souls of animals are already reluctant, but plants and fungi have not yet given up all hope. Neither has Gerda.
Loki says, “Don’t shoot the messenger (especially if I’m it!). Don’t ignore the voices of doom, of climate change, or the canary in the coal mine. Invite Cassandra onto your podcasts–she’s still got a thing or two to say! Don’t disregard the muttering sibyl, the trancing völva, or anger of witches and Jotuns.” He’d slap this message on t-shirts, even though it’s not a sound bite, in hopes that humans would pay attention, but he distrusts capitalism–particularly the kind that sells toxic petrochemical perfumes wrapped in bottles that look like Marvel Universe characters, especially his!
This last is a particularly painful mockery–big anime eyes and golden horns on keychains are one thing, but this is quite another–all those bottled endocrine disruptors ending up in the salmon, just so a few fans can pretend they have access to “his” scent.
Meanwhile the big money laughs and this makes Loki mad. “Stick to cosplay,” he mutters. “Is nothing sacred?” but he already knows the answer to that question. Rather say that nothing is so futile as the sacred, and nothing is more powerful. After all, Loki knows how to stand with two, four, eight legs, or none, in the spaces between all the worlds you could ever name. (Some say that’s why he drinks so much sometimes. He’s so sick of stupid.)
All matter is alive and aware. If we could hear it, all Midgard is screaming at us right now, “Stop it! Go back! You’re hurting us!” The Earth is our hearth. Hearth fires are lit for warmth and nourishment, not destruction. But we have forgotten this. We have forgotten to extend our hospitality (our frith) and our care to all living things. Loki-as-Lóðurr awoke the first humans with his breath, which was clean and alive and full of strength. He warmed us with his breath and gave us fire to warm our hearths. He certainly did not give us a command to go forth and pollute.
Is there any hope at all? Or do I just put another gaudy, food-colored donut on Loki’s altar and sigh, “fuck this shit, Worldbreaker, we’re doomed. Bring it on…”
But Loki will have none of that. He absolutely refuses to let us dodge this wyrd. He says, “Stop buying this crap, especially not in my name. Use your breath for something decent, like saving the planet, while you still can.”
“Do this,” he says without winking, “and maybe you’ll get a whiff of my pheromones…”
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.
He may have the physical appearance of a human being but he has the heart and soul of a half-eaten corndog. He is the embodiment of cowardice. There. I said it.
Unfortunately that…man…was lethally armed. He thought he’d be a bigger man, a real man, if only he could get him some fame for mass murdering innocents.
And he apparently fancies himself as a future inhabitant of Valhalla. Bitch, please! Explain to me how murdering unarmed anybodies is an honorable act that would attract the attention of any deity of merit. No, don’t bother. You can’t, because it doesn’t. Got that? Cowards who kill aren’t destined for Valhalla, Heaven, or any other desirable afterlife. Odin has no need of pathetic bullies who kill unarmed children and parents in a surprise attack. Freya, also a chooser of the slain who die in battle, wouldn’t have wasted a nano-second on the likes of you. Even deities of every underworld you can name will spurn such paltry pickings.
You have not found “glory.” You have hand-crafted an artisanal oblivion of your very own. And now you are behind bars.
Life is sacred. Our family and friends and pets and lands are sacred. And our perceived “enemies?” Even more sacred, because every “enemy” holds a mirror. The enemy is not there to be killed, the enemy is there to remind you of what you must confront in yourself–your hate, your entitlement, your petulance, your cowardice and ignorance. Those you deem “enemy” are human beings, like you, forced into a larger complexity of social, political, and economic turmoil, trying to make sense of it all.
If you could have looked into your enemy’s eyes and truly heard “hello brother” (as one of your victims reportedly said) and in that moment put down your weapons and wept, you would have awakened true bravery in your soul. You would have looked at what you’d done, and what you were about to do, and you would have accepted the shame, the guilt, the unneccesary horror you created, and the responsibility to repent and make amends. Living with yourself would not have been easy after that, but you would have taken a step on the road to actual humanity.
Yesterday, I could not write with emotion. I felt it, but I could not write with it. Stark facts and statements was all I could manage. Today is different.
But the killer’s problems, whatever they were–and I really don’t care–are as nothing to the fact that he and his ilk are human cancer cells forming a bully tumor of white supremacy, prejudice, and entitlement. They are obvious in their cowardice, ridiculous in their collective and individual self-importance. They proudly display their appalling ignorance and lack of decency. Ridiculous and appalling, that is, until one of the cancer cells picks up a weapon and makes us scared or dead.
Just now I was caught in the trap of trying to figure out–to understand–this phenomenon of the bully tumor and the people who are entangled in it. Perhaps because I hope that if I know more about it, I can strategize for effective resistance.
But what I need to admit is that these white supremacists are merely the disposable tools of policymakers, governments, and industries who stand to gain by their eagerness to provide convenient, blood-soaked distractions while government-sanctioned carnage and pillaging continues. Terrifed by what we see on the news and the internet, we forget to identify the root cause: those at the top who–for their own advantage–uphold systemic racism, zenophobia, cultural genocide, and all forms of social, political, and economic oppression.
My country, the United States of America, is one of the most ardent players in this game of global plunder. Is it any wonder that our so-called “president” spews hate and lies on an almost daily basis? We’re one of the top five arms dealers in the world and constitute “5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy” (Source: “Consumption by the United States,” public.wsu.edu website. Copyright 2008, The Associated Press.) Our lust to consume knows no bounds. We are the least sustainable society in the world.
I believe the cultivation and exportation of American-style white supremacy serves a larger purpose than simply terrorizing and killing immigrants and people of color. I believe it is designed to inject terror into daily life, to paralyze the populace with fright, so that the elites of Western countries can retain and strengthen their grip on world resources, particularly those in indigenous countries. We are a country of colonists that imported and exploited slaves and tried to kill off the native peoples so we could take their land. We excell at manufacturing weapons and we arm cowards with nary a thought for the consequences. We make wars and create policies that produce immigrants and refugees. We make wars that destroy the environment so that ordinary people can no longer cultivate food and find clean water. And then, when an act of terror happens, our hypocrites in office “send thoughts and prayers” to victims of tragedies that their policies have created.
If there is something local I can do, in solidarity, I will. My own deities demand it.