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.)

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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.

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* 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.

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My Need for Kindred and Cahooting

I’m living here alone, almost on the shore of a large lake, in a county that’s one of several scorched by the Mendocino Complex Fire (which is still raging). I was able to shelter in San Francisco for two weeks during the evacuation, in a neighborhood where I previously spent many, many years of my life. Though I was in an empty apartment and sleeping on the floor, I was happy. Every day I could leave the flat and walk down a hill and see people–whether in the Castro District or Noe Valley. I could eat, window shop, and just get my body moving and feel a part of life, of a community. I began to hunger for my daily walks, to be out, alive, and able to exchange insignificant pleasantries with people behind the counters of health food and hardware stores.

I was closer to most of my oldest and dearest friends, as well as my two grown children and my mother, and was able to see most of the people important to me in that short span of time. It was heaven.

Back here in Lake County (beautiful as it is, and with some very good neighbors), I am mostly alone. No lover, no roommate, no job, no clients, and with only a sad little scruff of a post office as a walking destination. The nearest towns are three and six miles away, and their sidewalks are barely populated. There are no brisk crowds to navigate. Barely any restaurants. No cafes for fomenting revolution or falling in love.

My isolation is also largely due to years and years of multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illnesses (which explains the “no job, no roommate” part). I live carefully, dodging chemical toxins, including the ubiquitious scented products that are everywhere and on everybody. Outings with new friends sometimes involve that person’s habitual scented hand lotion or hair product, and I roll down the windows and try to focus on enjoying the person, ignoring my frustration at breathing and tasting the damned stuff, and having to plan for yet more “downtime” to recover from their “chemical companions.”

1280px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_021Sometimes, because of the constant toxic exposures, I feel like giving up on attempts to socialize, but that way is death. Suicidal thoughts have been too frequent these last few years, especially since my divorce. I won’t act on them, I know. But I suffer nonetheless.

 

So my strategies for combating loneliness and isolation have become more far-fetched and eccentric, though to me they seem quite reasonable. My pagan, polytheistic spiritual practices keep me going. I court my gods and the local wights with offerings and poems. I  talk aloud to my cats and my “most trusted” invisible friend. I work with my ancestors. I adhere to a regimen of solo tantric practices. And I keep my antenna up for anything that might provide an opportunity for actual human cahooting in spaces that might be non-toxic enough.

Last week I went to a local senior center’s “open mic” night. It was sparsely attended but welcoming. The sound system was dysfunctional. Even so, I read some of my poems. I went with a new (unscented) friend and I think we both enjoyed ourselves, at least until one of the musicians was inspired to perform a Neil Diamond medley. At that, we fled.

Perhaps my biggest desire is for what is known in pagan circles as a “kindred.” I’m actively working on creating my Lokabrenna (Loki’s Torch) “tiny temple” (the structure formerly known as the “woodshop” and fondly referred to as a “meagre palace of Midgard“). I am seeking to fill it with like-minded Northern Tradition Pagans and Inclusive Heathens who are Loki-friendly. Yep. And I’m calling in  the tarot readers, the rune casters, the tantrikas, the mystics, the occultists, and the witches too. Come one, come all (come fragrance free!). I will serve you tea and if you wanna light a candle or do a ritual, I’m down. In the tradition of hospitality that was sacred to my ancestors, I am welcoming visitors and am LGBTQI etc. friendly. I am hoping that from among these visitors (should any appear), there will emerge a closer band of boon companions, kindred for my–and our–waning years. Lake County needs this. And I need it too.

One thing I do know–I simply can’t afford to adopt any more cats. Four in the house and two in the temple are quite enough.

Are you a fellow traveller? Searching for kindred too? You can let me know right here.

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Mendocino Complex Fire

“Lady of the Lake Interrupted”–that was going to be the original title of this post. But why not just get to the point? Almost two weeks ago I fled the thick “clam chowder” smoke of Lake County, just a few days before the advisory, then mandatory, evacuation for the North Shore communities. I begged shelter from some relatives and have been here now, in a completely empty San Francisco apartment with four cats, a sleeping bag, and several boxes of family photos (plus a few books and treasured artwork). I could have gone home a couple of days ago, but I’m hoping for more smoke to clear.

Back in May, when the volcano began to erupt in the middle of Leilani Estates in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, friends and acquaintances began to congratulate me for “leaving Hawai’i before the eruption,” as if I’d somehow unfairly cheated fate. A lot of my friends and acquaintances back there did have to evacuate, some are still without a permanent place to live, and yes, I feel sad that I wasn’t there to have helped out as Puna “stayed classy” through the crisis (“Stay Classy Puna” is a local slogan). On the other hand, I might not have survived. Between the asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity condition that I live with, the volcanic air–or threatened toxic releases from the geothermal station– might have taken me out. I’m glad that I didn’t stay to either die or force my kids to fly over to rescue me in dire straights.

But now all those folks who think I dodged a kharmic bullet can rest easy. I have now fled the largest wildfire in California history, a fire that was just one ridge away from my home in Lake County, and though I am not in a shelter, I’m “sleeping rougher” than I have in years (on the floor), and “oh my bursitis!” I’m here knowing that the next time Lake County has a fire, I may not have anywhere to go. This apartment won’t stay vacant for long. Shelters are out, as the fragrant personal care products and cleaning products that prevent my equal and healthy access to all kinds of ordinary goods and services in the best of times, also keep me from accessing public facilities in the worst of times. I can’t afford an RV or even a truck with a camper shell, so I’m actually expending a fair amount of time obsessing over my options during the next fire, even though there are none.

Friends who would take me gladly, as a temporary evacuee, are not prepared to shelter my four cats as well. But the cats are my companions and familiars, and they go where I go.

I was lucky this time, to stay in San Francisco as the fire rages. And privileged too. A lot of people were sheltering in parks. The heat up there, in the summer, gets into three digits… can you imagine? Kids, elderly people, pets, in a tent with no fans, under those conditions? And in one park, there was only one propane burner for cooking for dozens of people. And the smoke–they couldn’t escape it like I did. Plus, a cluster of people from one of the regular shelters have come down with a norovirus blamed on donated, canned water. I have only myself to blame for getting sick from pre-made deli food.

I’m lucky too in that my house and neighborhood are intact. The firefighters did a tremendous job keeping the Ranch Fire flames away from our North Shore towns (just as they prevented the River Fire from reaching Lakeport). But other people have lost their homes. Housing is already scarce.

But this is a blog about all things woo, spiritual stuff, magic… Loki… and whatever else I feel like writing now that I no longer care much what anyone thinks. So yes, there is a woo side to this narrative. Let me continue to over-share.

Among my evacuation items, I brought most of my pagan altar doodads, my magical tools (except my crystal chalice), my tarot deck, and a few choice books that I’m in the middle of reading. (I also packed my Lois McMasters-Bujold Miles Vorkosigan books and a complete, hardbound set of Jane Austen, but I digress…).

While here, I’ve kept up my daily tantra exercises and meditations as well as my devotional practices for Frey, Gerda, Freya, and Loki (which I do in an Inclusive Heathen context, as per The Troth, combined with a greater personal and spiritual affinity with the approaches of Northern Tradition Paganism). All this has helped. Greatly. Feeling as if “my deities” are “with me” is also a comfort and these workings have deepened. I begin to understand people who rely on religion–this kind of thing is new to me.

And for the first time in my life, I’ve actually done really well in “remembering my tools” while under duress. I credit the daily practices above. Whatever it is we do, spiritually or religiously, these things can build resilience so that when crisis does strike, there’s a bit more ability to keep a cool head (at least at times) and to feel less overwhelmed (mostly). I also recognize that being here, alone, in an empty, non-toxic apartment in my old neighborhood, rather than in a public shelter among scented strangers, also contributes greatly to my resilience.

I suppose my biggest concern going back, aside from smoke exposure, is how do we build a better framework for mutual aid before the next crisis hits us? The local motto for our community is “Lake County Strong,” but old-timers are the most likely to benefit from long standing family and social networks, just as I have from a family connection here in the Bay Area. How do we have more of that for people who are marginalized and less socially connected?

I’m pondering. I’m wondering what I can do, personally, with the resources I have. Ideas are welcome.

Are you a fellow traveller? Or even a local Lokean? Let me know you’re there!

mendocino-1400

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Loki, a God of Pleasure, Poisoned

Loki,_by_Mårten_Eskil_Winge_1890
Loki (1890), Mårten Eskil Winge. Public domain.

This. The snake drips perpetual poison on captive Loki (a Jotun “trickster” deity of the Norse tradition). One of his wives, Sigyn, holds the bowl to keep the poison away, but the bowl eventually fills and Sigyn must empty it. The poison that falls on Loki during that time causes terrible suffering–people even believed that earthquakes resulted from his writhing agony. And it never stops.

For me this is the most apt depiction of the constant suffering of the growing number of people who are chemically injured and environmentally ill. (Download PDF of  2018 study.) Industrial, agricultural, and consumer toxins are ubiquitous in our world, supposedly produced by people dedicated to “civilized” progress. All the world and all its creatures are at risk now, from the entwined catastrophes of climate change and pollution. The exposures never stop and neither do the consequences.

Those who are suffering now, and who will suffer in the future, are inevitably made outcast. They are rejected by loved ones who prefer to continue their use of designer fragrances or smelly hand lotions to that of recognizing a mild request for breathable air and unscented companionship. Marriages die, friendships wane, children grow up and start using products that make visiting difficult or impossible. Jobs are lost, employment prospects are slim to none, and activities of daily living inevitably involve toxic encounters: aisles in the supermarket (cat food is always across from the toxic cleaning products!), air fresheners in the clinic restrooms, that heavily perfumed customer behind you in line, or at the next table over, causing headaches and asthma and actually preventing you from tasting the food you ordered.

The poison drips. The agony persists. Suicide beckons. Loneliness is pervasive. You are alone in a cave (or a foil-lined studio apartment) that no one else will enter. If you’re lucky, someone is with you, doing what they can to forstall or prevent toxic exposures and letting you know you’re worth loving even when you’re spoonless. For those with chemical injuries, Sigyn’s dedication is all too rare outside the world of myth and sacred literature.

Okay. So what? This is a blog about esoteric and spiritual stuff, right?

Right.

So I’m outing myself as a Lokean as of this moment, though this metamorphosis has been going on for awhile. For me that’s super big spiritual news even if it doesn’t mean much to anyone else. This spiritual journey grew from an experimental approach to Norse paganism, with a devotional practice initially dedicated to Frey, Freya, and Gerda (Frey’s Etin wife). Because of their associations with sex, fertility, reproduction, and magic, Frey and Freya (who are Vanir not Aesir) are particularly apt deities for me to cultivate. But a giant chunk of something was missing from my spiritual practice and deep down I knew what it was. Or rather, I knew who it was, but I was reluctant to “go there.” I’ve already got several social deficits: the environmental illness disability; aging; and a tendency to go batshit over “special interests.” Declaring myself a dedicated follower of Loki is just not going to win me a goodie bag at the next senior center ice cream social (not that I’ve ever been to one–a lot of older women wear perfume).

But there have been few developments in my life as inwardly gleeful, rich, and pleasurable as finally saying, “Okay, I’m in. I’m in all the way. You’ve been there all along and I finally acknowledge it.” Yes, this is a personal relationship I’m talking about. I sense interaction and exchanges–seldom in words, most often in a sense of presence and intuitive tugs at my gut. At the moment I consider myself a neophyte devotee and a sort of “plucky comic relief.”

Even so, it wasn’t until yesterday, when I considered this story of Loki’s torment, that I realized how completely perfect this is. I mean, wow, I’m hanging out with a deity who actually understands my condition (though I cannot possibly comprehend all of his).

Loki: hailed as the god of tricksters, outcasts, deviants, and more, I now hail you as the god of all who are damaged by toxic chemicals, who are made outcast by their illnesses. This probably won’t make me popular among Lokeans either, but it’s my gnosis, not theirs. And knowing what I know now will probably keep me alive a little longer. Loki is within earshot, if not actually holding a bowl.

Are you a fellow traveller? Make yourself known.

Loki's_flight_to_Jötunheim

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