Loki, Deity of Epigenetic Transformation?

Hail Loki, Of the Transformational Telomeres! Hail Loki, Lord of Epigentic Shape-shifting!

Okay, have I just gone of the deep end? I dunno. Maybe. It’s only 7:47 AM and already it’s a funny day. I’m trying to figure out if my dishwasher is broken, if I dare to try to find a roommate, and should I venture out later for more milk? At the same time, I have a novel racing toward the NaNoWriMo 50,000-word milestone and I should start working on it again in a few minutes. And then I get this friggin’ epiphany regarding Loki-as-Shapeshifter, the new science of epigentics, and the power of our imaginations.

Let’s bounce this around.

I’ve written before about the idea that gods, goddesses, and deities of all genders provide us mere mortals with transformational templates. This absolutely not my original idea. It comes from the context of tantric and meditative practices which involve imagining yourself as a deity that has certain aspects you’d like to acquire or strengthen (very oversimplified, please note). That’s the template idea. The deities have attributes. We want to resemble them. We attempt spiritual growth and transformation by meditating these qualities into being, within our own selves. And we have to make sure to not confuse our own selves with the template we want to…inhale, absorb, and make our own. (That way lies hubris and madness. Common sense and discernment are key.)

With me so far? Good. (Because I think my dishwasher really IS broken. Bloody hell.)

Here’s a Scientific American article about a study that demonstrates that mindfulness meditation can affect the structure of telomeres in DNA. The study itself is published in the journal called Cancer.


Quote from Scientific American (Bret Stetka, Dec. 16, 2014) article:

Lead investigator Dr. Linda E. Carlson and her colleagues found that in breast cancer patients, support group involvement and mindfulness meditation – an adapted form of Buddhist meditation in which practitioners focus on present thoughts and actions in a non-judgmental way, ignoring past grudges and future concerns — are associated with preserved telomere length. Telomeres are stretches of DNA that cap our chromosomes and help prevent chromosomal deterioration — biology professors often liken them to the plastic tips on shoelaces. Shortened telomeres aren’t known to cause a specific disease per se, but they do whither with age and are shorter in people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high stress levels. We want our telomeres intact…

…In Carlson’s study distressed breast cancer survivors were divided into three groups. The first group was randomly assigned to an 8-week cancer recovery program consisting of mindfulness meditation and yoga; the second to 12-weeks of group therapy in which they shared difficult emotions and fostered social support; and the third was a control group, receiving just a 6-hour stress management course. A total of 88 women completed the study and had their blood analyzed for telomere length before and after the interventions. Telomeres were maintained in both treatment groups but shortened in controls.


Telomere_end_replication_problem
The end replication problem causes telomeres to shorten over successive cell divisions. Date 1 August 2015 Source Own work Author WassermanLab Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International

Epigenetics, Meditation, and Hypnosis

Google dictionary definition for epigenetics: “the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.” Here’s a website with more of an explanation.

So I am not sure if the above study qualifies as a precise example of epigenetic change (gene expression) as it demonstrates improvement in the structure of the telomeres rather than switching off one gene and switching on an inactive one. Still, these findings are intriguing because they show that our DNA, which we typically view as written in stone (except for random mutations) is actually responsive, not just to medicines or environmental factors, but also to our thoughts. 

(I wish my dishwasher was that responsive…)

One of the things I do for a living is hypnosis. Hypnosis is a “kissing cousin” to meditation and the sometimes unacknowledged “parent” of guided imagery, though brain scan studies show it lights up slightly different areas of the brain than meditation. Even so, it’s not a stretch to imagine that it too could trigger epigenetic expressions and perhaps even improve telomere lengths. That’s speculative, but not too far out, given what’s going on in science these days. And hypnosis has a pretty good track record for efficacy in a number of areas, in the scientific literature.

Books like The Biology of Belief–Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles, by Bruce Lipton, make intriguing reading and I always wonder where the use of hypnosis can make a contribution. People are doing studies on this! Unfortunately, I can’t afford a subscription to The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and I don’t have access to a university library where I can find such studies, but here are a couple I’d like to read:


David Atkinson, Salvatore Iannotti, Mauro Cozzolino, et al. (2010) A New Bioinformatics Paradigm for the Theory, Research, and Practice of Therapeutic Hypnosis, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 53:1, 27-46, DOI: 10.1080/00029157.2010.10401745

Ernest L. Rossi, Mauro Cozzolino, Jane Mortimer, David Atkinson & Kathryn Lane Rossi (2011) A Brief Protocol for the Creative Psychosocial Genomic Healing Experience: The 4-Stage Creative Process in Therapeutic Hypnosis and Brief Psychotherapy, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 54:2, 133-152, DOI: 10.1080/00029157.2011.605967

And I’d love to have a copy of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Vol. 57, 2015 – Issue 3: Mapping the Domain of Hypnosis. (Yeah, this is more about neuro-plasticity, but still…)


So where is Loki in all this?

First, shape-shifting! We assume through myths, legends, and lore that shape-shifting always means an actual transformation into a salmon or a fox or a raven. And I am not going to argue with or about shamanic and magical practices where these kinds of  transformations are said to have happened.

And yet I wonder, could these stories and practices also point to the potential for genetic and cellular changes as well? Let’s call this internal shape-shifting (epigenetic expression?) to distinguish it from external appearances. Turning on and off genes does affect cellular function and “shape,” does it not?

And again I insist the investment that some cultures have made into thousands of years worth of meditation and esoteric practices, including those in which deities have been used as meditative templates, would not have happened unless there were real, vital, practical results.

Secondly, Dagulf Loptson suggests that Loki in his aspect as Löður, who gives blood and “good color” to the first humans, can be called upon for healing (Playing With Fire-An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson, pp. 23-26). This makes me wonder if the epigenetic healing could also be said to be among Loki-as-Löður’s attributes.

We Lokeans glory in the often challenging transformational attributes of our beloved deity. We tell funny (and not so funny) stories about how our lives have been turned upside down and inside out once we opened the door to this charming iconoclast. Generally we seem to feel we come out okay. The challenges were good. We grew. Those who love Loki at all, seem to really love him a lot. There’s no doubt we can find something very positive about our connection with this deity.

But I continue to wonder about deeper, esoteric, and yes, even epigenetic meanings and possibilities that may be discovered through this particular god. I sense that the template of Loki contains a lot that has yet to be explored and that if we ask nicely, the way into that template could be opened. We could, perhaps, begin to experiment with and experience healthy, internal shapeshifting.

We already have the time-honored tools of meditation, hypnosis, and self-hypnosis. What might happen if we regularly went into a light trance and worked with images of health, telomere repair, positive gene expression, and so on, using Loki as our template and facilitator? The fact that many of us experience deep feelings of love in connection with our devotions makes me feel that even that alone could be used advantageously in meditation. Just…feeling…the love.

Just a thought. But for heaven’s sake use your common sense if you decide to explore in this way. It’s a fast-track to UPG Land, obviously. Discernment is key. And please don’t use such practices as a substitute for medical or mental health care. We’re talking wellness and spirituality here, not medicine.

(Meanwhile there’s the matter of my dishwasher. Please send love and light.)

####

Advertisements

Toy Witchery Part One

When my kids outgrew the Bionicles, Polly Pockets, Playmobils, and menageries of tiny plastic turtles and foxes–and all the other fossil fuel conjurations of consumerism which had been saturated with their power of their imaginative lives–I couldn’t quite bear to give them up. And that turned out to be a handly thing, because I eventually privately trained in what is known as “sandplay therapy,” and these cast-offs became the nucleus of my therapeutic collection.

My teacher was a poet and a Jungian-infused therapist who worked in the field of addictions, mostly. Her house was overrun with her collection of toys and figures, which was a gazillion times larger than mine. Every horizontal surface, except the stove, was strewn with three-dimensional talismans and invitations to the subconscious.

0-2
A small part of my collection.

I do not use my collection in the usual way, however. As a hypnotist and sexologist, I use sandplay as a kind of imaginative “lube.” My clients would create a tray (silent and swift selection of figures, arranging them in the sand tray) and I would make notes of the figures, order of placement, and so on. After, we might talk and I would learn something about why certain figures had been selected. Often a meaningful story would emerge and that story would be part of our hypnotic session. This is a great way to work with adults who are not actively imaginative. They engage with the childlike play and the creation of their miniature world in context of therapy and are often surprised by the results.

It’s a magical process, really, and I was always impressed by the insights that would emerge from the sand tray.

Now that I am exploring witchery, it occured to me that just as I repurposed these toys for sandplay, now I could repurpose them again, consecrating them for spell-casting. This thought came to me as I grabbed a tiny metal wizard and placed it in a spell jar for extra “oomph.” Then I had my “aha!” moment.

I have so many toys that could go in witch jars…Boom!

By combining the rich symbolism and subconscious appeal of these toys with the usual candles, herbs, and minerals (and other ingredients and aids to magic) it should be possible to create a rich and potent scene of my desired outcome.

For a magical worker and/or animist, the possibilities are truly intriguing! Already I can think of several ways of doing this. Toys can be used as a “home” for thoughtforms (if not already inhabited). They can represent obstacles, desires, and outcomes. Our subconscious can be invited to select the appropriate toys for a spell or ritual via a pendulum or other form of divination. And the unleashed potency of dinosaur remains, the endocrine-disrupting petrochemicals from which our modern plastics are conjured, may spark or fuel the workings of our will.

There is more to come on this topic, including some ideas for “how to.” Just understand that this is new, there is no tradition that I know of (except for poppets, I guess), and I haven’t seen anyone else talking about the use of small plastic toys and action figures in magic–but that doesn’t mean others aren’t doing this too. Ideas often emerge in several places at once.

Stay tuned for more!

0-1
Some of the mythic and fairytale figures in my collection.

####

No Blood, Saliva Will Have to Do

Sadly, there was no bloodletting. That meant that my blood, smeared into the white, rune-carved candles, would not have a chance to dry in the crevices, creating a stark contrast with the smooth, pale wax. I could have been down with that, but alas, it was not to be.

You see, I had dutifully bought lancets at the local drugstore in preparation for this nine day ritual, created by Dagulf Loptson (an author and blogger who has become my favorite and most respected guide to all things Lokean), but when I got home I realized I didn’t know how to dispose of the used lancets, which are considered medical waste. And I was too exhausted*  to research the matter. (Here’s how. I know this now.)

0-1

I performed this ritual, “Breaking Loki’s Bonds,” from Nov. 4 to Nov. 12, beginning immediately after completing the “Eight Days of Loki” ritual created by Loptson and found on pp. 240-251 of his book, Playing with Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson. I had also just completed 93 days of consistent devotional and meditative practices, a self-created routine I ironically dubbed “Loki’s Spiritual Fitness Challenge” (ha!). I did this to prepare for certain magical learning that I had requested from “my most trusted one.”

So far, November has been a month “crowded with incident,” as Lady Bracknell would say (Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest**): the back half of Samhain and my birthday, the start of National Novel Writing Month (and my second novel), voting in the mid-term election, several intense days of smoke-filled skies from the tragic Butte “Camp Fire” two counties over (the smoke is still settled in the Lake County CA basin), and the unwelcome onset of a painful condition I endure a couple times a year. Plus there were two very unsettling contacts from ex-lovers–one being a real blast from the past (under sad circumstances), and the other sending me straight towards a “survivors of malignant narcissists” Facebook support group.

All this, and Loki too! (Lokeans, please don’t guffaw… I know. I know…)

So all that’s the background to my account of what this ritual has meant to me so far.


Preparation Comments

Aside from buying lancets and forgetting to buy or make a proper disposal container, I also prepared for the ritual by making GarageBand recordings, reading aloud the meditative portions of Loptson’s ritual. I didn’t do this when I went through “Eight Days of Loki” and I wish I had. However I should have made a separate small recording for each day, as scrolling through the previous days to find the start of the current one was a bit of a mood breaker. I also didn’t note start times for Days 1, 2, etc. on the recording, which also would have made things easier. [Note: it was an emotional experience to read these meditations aloud, for recording.]

It was important to have a rune book handy, particularly one which gave Roman alphabet correspondences.

I substituted saliva for blood rubbed on the candle runes, as mentioned above. It’s a personal fluid too.

For Day 3, I made a red paper “ribbon” to write on, as I didn’t want to inhale smoke from burning cloth.

For Day 9, I didn’t use my drinking horn as I had no stand and the ritual instructions are to fill the drinking vessel, then leave it to do something else before getting back to drinking. So I used a goblet instead.

Overall, my feeling is that my execution of ritual was clumsy though heartfelt. I mention the above to be helpful.


 Spiritual, Emotional Impact

Johari_WindowSelf-knowledge is a bitch! (Lokeans, don’t guffaw!)

I just turned sixty-four. I thought I knew myself pretty well. But no, there’s always more surprises lurking in that bottom right hand corner of the Johari Window. (Interesting that Loki’s hideaway cottage had four windows. Metaphor, anyone?) I was not prepared for the entrance of a discarded part of self whose name was unmistakably “Daddy’s Girl.”

[Note: Loki’s kennings for each day and the pronunciation keys below are taken straight from Loptson’s blog.]

Day 1 hails Loki as Inn Bundi Áss (in-boondy-ows), bound god. It is an invocation and contemplation of that horrible story of Loki’s torment. Loptson evokes it well: the dank cave, the screams, our beautiful god bound with the entrails of his dear child, poisonous snake venom dripping onto him every time his wife, Sigyn, has to empty the bowl. No one likes that story. We all hate the torture and gratuitous cruelty that our god suffered. The question during this preparatory meditation is “am I really up for this?” In spite of the caution implied in the above horror, I thought this was a question with an easy answer: “yes, of course.” (And again, “ha!”)

Day 2 hails Loki as (vay), the illuminator. The meditation is a request to reveal a hidden and scorned part of self. And that’s where “Daddy’s Girl” comes in. Poor thing! Her (my!) mother’s own hurts and anger prevent the five-year-old from mourning the departure of her beloved but “worthless” father. The child’s grief is devalued and thus hidden away. The experience of being a treasured daughter is diminished, as one parent is missing and the other is foolish and over-extended, caring for four small children under the age of five. Decades later I would learn that which was hidden from me: my mother had given birth to two children (twins) who were not actually my father’s, thus providing some excuse for his exit from the marriage (even though he was basically a narcissist and a cad and a deadbeat dad). But aside from the foibles and failings of the adults involved, the appearance of the small child (me) who deserved to have her grief honored, not dissed, was like a psychic sledgehammer. “Oh shit” was pretty much my first reaction. “Daddy Girl,” in runes, was written on my sealed bottle of elderberry*** lemonade (my mead substitute). (For some reason I wanted to leave the “‘s” out of the rune spelling.)

Day 3 hails Loki as Læva Lundr (lie-vuh-loon-der), spider. The meditation asks for help in discovering how one has ensnared oneself in “the web of fate.” The word that came to me was simply “Pinned.” That was written on the strip of red paper standing in as a ribbon. I was reminded of a line from a favorite Leonard Cohen song, “Sisters of Mercy:

Well I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned:
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

Ouch.

Day 4 hails Loki as Ver Sigynjar (vehr-sig-in-yar), Sigyn’s husband. The meditation asks for help in revealing the source of one’s support. The answer came quickly: Loki. His rune was carved into the first candle.

It’s not for nothing that he is my “most trusted one.” Tears…

Day 5 hails Loki as Lóðurr (low-thur), creator. The meditation asks for a revelation of allies. Strangely, the word that came was “Hunger.” Huh! There’s a lot to unpack with this one, but it makes perfect sense, especially when paired with Daddy’s Girl. Hunger for love and acceptance, being seen… those qualities I thought made me weak…but also paired with my hunger for justice, knowledge, growth and transformation. So, runes that spelled “hunger” were carved into the second candle.

Day 6 hails Loki as In Slægi Áss (in-sly-ee-ows), sly god. The meditation asks for the final ally. “Me” was the answer. No valentines here! No one to the rescue, that’s for sure! The runes for “me” are carved into the third and final candle.

I could grumble, but I don’t. Loki provides insight into what we need, not what we want.

Day 7 hails Loki as Loptr (lof-ter), “serpent of fire.” Now, I had some trouble with this meditation. I briefly registered a mental, quasi-visual “image” of fighting when asked to look into the shiny surface of a mighty sword blade (meant to be a kind of scrying), but for some reason I didn’t want to accept that message. But it was the only thing that came, so “Fight” was written in runes on my “ritual blade” (an old kitchen knife–didn’t want to use my athame).

Day 8 hails Loki as Hveðrung (Kveh-thrung), roarer, “mighty harbinger of Ragnarök.” Shit’s gettin’ real now… This meditation is where we release Loki from his fetters and release ourselves from our own. The ritual blade slices through the red paper ribbon in three places.

Day 9 hails Loki as Gammleið (gam-layth), “vulture’s path, lord of cremation.” In the meditation the dross is burned away and all is transformed. I was unexpectedly moved to tears by Loptson’s guidance to see Loki and Sigyn released and restored. I drank my “transformed poison” in the cup of victory (elderberry lemonade in the goblet), burned the scraps of red paper, and let the three white candles burn down all the way in the fireplace. (I hadn’t done that on the earlier, specified day.)

As I watched the rune-carved candles burn all the way down behind the glass window, I had the impression that Loki wanted another altar of sorts right there in the fireplace, which I seldom use.

I also meditated on the flames and found I could look at them in such a way that streams of light came toward me. I reached out and imagined these streams flowing into my hands. I imagined the warmth and energy of the fire invigorating me. Why not? Though based on a trick of the light, it was as good a meditation as any.

Thus ended the nine days of Breaking Loki’s Bonds. Huge thanks, yet again, to Dagulf Loptson, for creating a very valuable ritual. I learned more than I expected. My challenge now is to celebrate and accept Daddy’s Girl and welcome her back where she belongs. With me. Only me. The one who will fight.

####

* Chronic fatigue.

** The best film of this play, ever. Nothing else can touch it.

*** My wand is of elder. I associate this tree and elderberries with the Fae.

Solitary, Eclectic Witchery

Baba_Yaga_by_I.Bilibin_(priv.coll)

I want to describe what I like about solitary, eclectic witchery. I just had a lengthy text session with a very old friend, where I was attempting to describe the how and why of what I’m doing now. Texting is inadequate for that kind of conversation so now I’m thinking, why not just write a blog about this? (As if I needed an excuse to blog!)

I was a weird kid, and a weirder teenager, okay? I read widely in occult and Eastern metaphysics literature when I was a teen, and at various points in my later life. But I had to admit that as a teen, the closest I ever got to working a spell was taking a piece of spearmint gum, shoving it between two banana halves, wrapping it all in foil and burying it in the back yard for two weeks, then digging it up. No incantations. No nothing. I was solely in pursuit of intoxication (chewing the banana infused gum–hey, the next artisan delicacy!) because one of my best friends assured me all the kids in Berkeley did this to get high.

And even with all the years of all sorts of woo weirdness (some of it chronicled elsewhere in this blog), I didn’t approach a determined study of magic and witchcraft until 2016, when I was living in Hawai’i and I began my first fantasy novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. In my elevator speech, this is “a tale of mid-life magic.” It’s what happens when a bunch of Elves show up at a post-hippie/post-punk commune in Hawai’i and a group of middle-aged (and older) people discover they are heirs to a magical legacy. They have to learn magic real, real quick too because (surprise!): bad guys. So because I was writing about magic and witchery, I had to learn about it. And to learn about it, I had to plunge myself into it, as any good Scorpio would.

Yes, magic has become a consuming special interest. No one who knows me well is surprised by this. I am always consumed by one thing or another.


“Magic is the art and science of influencing change to occur in conformity to will.”– Jason Miller.

This is one of my favorite descriptions of magic. I think the source is this Down at the Crossroads interview with Miller. I have two of his books, The Elements of Spellcrafting: 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery and Sex, Sorcery, and Spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic. I recommend them both. Here’s his website.


Turns out learning the rudiments of magical theory and practice was a lifesaver as well. So good for my mental health, which was seriously eroding in the aftermath of a divorce, a sadly souring love affair, separation from my children, and the election of 2016. I began my research with a Magic in the Middle Ages course from the University of Barcelona and offered through Coursera.

My first actual “how to” witchcraft education came through Ariel Gatoga’s online Witch’s Primer and DCW lectures. Ariel, with his delightful personality and well-organized wisdom, got me through some very bad moments and helped me to muster the courage to move back to California from Hawai’i. However, all his podcast links on the internet have been corrupted or have vanished, so you can only find working links to his material here. This is a treasure trove for beginners. I am not kidding.

The Down at the Crossroads podcast, hosted by Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire, has also been a fantastic source of information and inspiration. I’ve bought many books after hearing interviews with authors on that show. I also cannot wait to get my hands on their first book, Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape. I pre-ordered. Release date is December 1st.

Daniel Foor’s Ancestral Medicine work has also been profoundly influential for me (go here for free access to lectures and podcasts).

Of course, I now range widely through books and the internet in pursuit of tips, tricks, lore, and history, but as a witchy autodidact, my larnin’ is sketchy on such topics as Crowley and the OTO, variations of Wicca, and so on.

However, I’m a solitary practitioner, partly by nature and partly due to disability, which is really a bore. I haven’t gone to a single Northern CA spiral dance (don’t wanna suffer from airborne essential oils) or a Reclaiming Witch Camp (camp=woods=mosquito repellent). I haven’t even made it to a PantheaCon! (It’s not just the multiple chemical sensitivity/environmental illness stuff that gets in my way. I also need a good cat-sitter.)

So what do I do all by my lonesome? Here’s a general outline.

Daily and Weekly Routine: a daily “energy” exercise and meditation practice for health and will power, plus devotional practices and offerings to my deities (Loki, Freya, Frey, and Gerda), ancestors, and guides. Food offerings to ancestors and land wights take place once a week, usually.

I’m pretty much a slacker when it comes to witchy celebrations, except for Samhain. If I had some other folks in my life who did this stuff, I’d probably enjoy this.

Divination: Learning Tarot and Norse Runes (very much a beginner). I use the pendulum often for certain kinds of check-ins.

Current Studies and Magical Interests: Ongoing ancestral lineage healing, as per Daniel Foor; cultivating relationships with unseen beings and ecologies (Aidan Wachter and his book, Six Ways-Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic, is a good influence here); and “charming” daily life, infusing it with magic (you can listen to Ariel Gatoga’s A Charmed Life podcast here). I’m currently learning practical spellcraft techniques such as sigil magic, witch jar spells, and solo sex magic. Plus, I’m an avid learner with regard to Loki and my other deities.

Imaginative_tales_195501So, that’s the basic gist. Does this make me a bad or delusional person? I think not. It’s actually quite a wonderful pursuit for my declining years. Since I’m no longer a “young chick” (a term I never embraced, but ex-lovers have used), it’s kind of great to be transforming into an “old witch.” Especially if I could find a spell that would let me rock a spangly red costume like the one at right.

If you’re a fellow practitioner, would love a comment!

####

Loptson’s “Eight Days of Loki” Ritual

I’m a Scorpio sun with three additional planets (and an asteroid) also in Scorpio (fifth house). And with all that plus a Capricorn moon, you know I’m a woman “what likes a challenge!” My birthday, Nov. 1st, encompasses part of Samhain, so by that you can probably guess what kind of challenges I like!

So of course I would follow up my “93-Day Loki Spiritual Fitness Challenge” regimen with dedicating the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, and plunging right into Dagulf Loptson’s “Eight Days of Loki,” which may be found in his excellent book. (And then I’ll promptly plunge into his nine day ritual, “Breaking Loki’s Bonds.”)

Have I mentioned that I suffer from chronic fatigue along with the environmental illness? Almost thirty years worth? Even so, I feel driven to perform these almost muscular displays of esoteric endurance and concentration. My usual pattern is to drive myself  to do as much as possible while I have energy, then collapse. But energy-building practices are part of what this is all about.

Anyway, I’m on Day 7 and the theme is “thinking.” It’s a day I’m supposed to “expand my own thinking and the thinking of others.” I can probably bring the fact that I’ve also just started NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) too, as my second volume of fantasy fiction does contain some mind expanding elements! (I have to get cracking on Chapter One in a minute so I can acheive my daily word count!)

Tomorrow, Day 8, is “war” and, um, I actually will need to pay close attention to the guidance that emerges from this particular theme. Got a situation…

Before I touch on my reactions to the ritual so far, I want to say how grateful I am for it! Loptson’s book is an important guide for me and it’s wonderful to have these prompts and ideas for connecting with various aspects of Loki, who is a very complicated being. I can be scattered and such focus is helpful.

Day 1’s theme is “Pure Magic” and since it took place on a Saturday, the day I typically honor my ancestors, this was part of my awareness of magic. It was a day of preparation for the temple dedication so devotional activities were also a part of this awareness.

Day 2’s theme is “Death” and it coincided with the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple dedication. The temple, transformed from a sparse utilitarian space (it was a woodshop) to a beautiful devotional space, is almost a metaphor of life and death. The act of responding to the call to create this liminal “home” for Loki is also metaphorical as well as practical.

However, I didn’t visit a graveyard as Loptson suggests. I was just too exhausted after the dedication to trek around the lake to the nearest cemetery. Instead, I contemplated the sad grave of two newborn kittens that the vet and I had tried to save. (They weren’t even mine–I was catsitting a pregnant cat for some friends. Her kittens were born while they were away.) The early death of these helpless babies, which I buried in the front yard, is a frequent momento mori.  Plus, I’m now sixty-four and recently made my will. That’s a momento mori too.

But one of Loptson’s questions for the day is, “How do you feel about Loki, knowing that he is one of the gatekeepers who will one day remove you from your body?” I want to cry with gratitude just thinking about this, actually! So that’s cool!

Oct29LokiDrawingDay 3’s theme is “Wealth,” particularly wealth of talents. I haven’t drawn much in a long, long time. I used to be the kid who was always drawing–in school, at home–whenever, wherever. I decided I wanted to make a new portrait of Loki, but was very hesitant to do so. But after several false starts, I let my hand move and create something, even if it is rather minimal. The lesson I learned was that I want and need to draw more, and that I need to get Crowquill pens and india ink, my favorite art tools. Even so, I was satisfied with the rather seductive look of mischief that emerged in this drawing.

Day 4’s theme is “Love.” But instead of having a day of childlike fun and frolic, recapturing the lost innocence and joy of youth (as suggested), I gave several hours of hypnosis and counseling time to a friend who needed to quit smoking and who had some heavy issues to confront in the process.

Day 5’s theme is “Ego.” Loptson suggested breaking a personal taboo “that challenges your current identity.” Well, I ended up making a phone call to someone I’d worked very, very hard to leave and it resulted in a reconciliation of sorts (but on much different terms). I also made a gesture of love and forgiveness to another person who has hurt me very deeply. That was definitely an ego challenge, forcing me to connect with the vulnerable humanity of others, and to be vulnerable myself. So… unexpected, that! And I won’t say I’m comfortable, but I am glad.

Day 6’s theme is “Sex” and it coincided with my birthday! But since I spent the day driving to the San Francisco Bay Area to see my children for a lunch date, perhaps the day for me was more about “Reproduction!”

Plus, as a sexologist, sex educator, and tantra practitioner, there aren’t really a lot of ways to challenge myself about sex these days. Especially since I lack a human partner. I’d say I’m also well aware of Loki as an almost tantric deity who is very connected to the deep, cosmic aspects of libido and sexual energy.

So we’re back to Day 7, “Thinking.” I’ll report on today and tomorrow in my next blog. I also feel as if I want to repeat this series of rituals in the Spring. I don’t know why, I just do.

Hail Loki! And big thanks to Dagulf Loptson for his excellent book!

####

Selkie

1600px-Selkie_statue_in_Mikladalur
The statue of the selkie in Mikladalur. 11 August 2016. Seehundfrau in Mikladalur. Author: Siegfried Rabanser. Creative Commons permission.

Today, as the veils between the worlds thin and stretch in preparation for Samhain (and my birthday on Nov. 1st), I feel moved to share a poem I wrote quite a long time ago, when I was still taking care of my own young children. The story in this poem is of a seal woman (Selkie) who resists the power of her seal skin, which is attempting to bring her back to the ocean. She chooses to remain in human form because she loves her children and realizes they may need her guidance as they grow, as they too share her fey lineage. I identified with the Selkie in this poem, as she was struggling against her deepest sense of self and the pull of another kind of life, for the sake of her children.

This poem is in my self-published “slim volume of poetry” titled, I Was a Hybrid in a Black Brassiere, available through Magcloud.

For an audible experience of haunting beauty, scroll down to listen to the young Joan Baez singing “Silkie,” a song that has haunted me since I was a child.


Selkie

O Selkie, slip into your skin!

“I mustn’t! I cannot!”
Home waters! The warm currents beckon!
“Swimming under the surface, rain making dimples in the sea…”

(Then thought of fruit she gave to the children, nothing for herself.)
The open ocean, Selkie!
“It rains here too.”

(She was well adjusted, took comfort in the homely tasks.)
“A basket of socks, sort them so: Cuff to cuff and toe to toe,
Those for him and those for her…”

…Until her fingers brushed the fur!
She knew it well, in every bone,
A salty sea relic, singing of home.

It would appear and then vanish, Laying in wait,
Curled in a cupboard, Hung behind drapes.
Subtle as a siren, it put forth its claims, Persuasive, yet merciful,
For in all their long debate,
Madness did not come.
By now she knew it well,

And still resisted.

For she must be alert!
For sea stories and endocrine omens,
For strange veins of blood messages, potent yet diminished,
As the children come of age.
She must be alert,
Even as the liquid life of dinosaurs roars through their plastic toys…

O Selkie?

(She sighed for the dip and slide of each effortless glide…)

“No tears are ever shed that are not salt.”
Even in the brackish air of her lovely home, her fingers tasted water.

She went to the phone. She cancelled the appointment,
Knowing no therapist would ever understand.

(Copyright Amy Marsh. Albany, CA. Circa 2002)

 


####

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!

####