Want to do something about climate catastrophe and pollution? This 2018 study puts consumer buying habits in the crosshairs. Turns out the shampoos, fragrances, and other toxic consumer products we buy and use so blithely emit enough volatile organic compounds to contribute a whopping 38% to the urban air pollution. This is almost as much as gas and diesel fumes, and much more than industrial sources. But these toxic consumer products comprise only 4% of the mass. This means your Axe body spray is probably doing more immediate and lasting harm to the air than a gallon of gasoline left uncapped. And that’s outdoors! Think about the effects of these chemicals on indoor air.
I’m ecstatic to hear of these findings, but as a person who is exquisitely attuned to symptoms of poisoning upon contact with thousands of consumer products, I could have told you this many years ago. I knew intuitively that consumer products made with volatile organic compounds (including fragrances and scented personal care products) were playing a much larger role in climate catastrophe–as well as dangers to public health–than most people would want to admit. And that what’s happening on our planet with pollution and climate change isn’t just due to the greed of corporations and governments (aka “those guys over there”), but also due to the gullibility and thoughtlessness of the average consumer. Every single freakin’ one of us.
But hey, I’m a “Cassandra in the Coal Mine” (people believe canaries and run for their lives–they don’t listen to human “canaries” at all). We were all talking about this 30, 20, 10, 5 years ago, and just yesterday too. You all don’t listen, at your peril.
Stop Buying That Shit
Think of the difference we could make if we all just stopped buying that stuff? We may not be able to do much about arson in the Amazon, but we COULD make a huge difference to our forests by not buying palm oil unless we’re sure it’s sustainably sourced.
In the same way, we have it in our power to substantially cut back on pollutants in our air, water, and soil (thus diminishing the chemicals which lodge in the bodies of your kids and all those cute forest animals and water mammals). Forget that bottle of fake strawberry body rub or “Juicy Lucy Mango-Citrus shampoo.” Save your cash instead for a nice evening out, perhaps at a restaurant with a “fragrance-free” policy so you can actually taste your food instead of another diner’s heavily applied “designer fragrance.” Or put it a college fund so your children won’t have to become indentured serfs at a One Percenter’s golf course or franchised BDSM dungeon in order to pay for their college education. (Not that I have anything against BDSM–it’s just that I don’t think sex workers are going to have many rights under such circumstances.)
And…because I’m now in the midst of my own thirty-year anniversary of multiple chemical sensitivity, which began during my pregnancy with my first child, I’ve finally simply had it. Up to here, in fact. I’m already socially isolated AF, with a declining career, and since my beautiful Trickster God is quite happy to support me in going all “Lokasenna” over this issue, I’m putting the rest of my sadly limited but bizarrely interesting life on the line. For this issue and a few others.
Someone just please take care of my cats when I’ve finally bit the dust after throwing myself repeatedly at windmills.
Okay, so the neighborhood bear broke my favorite red flowerpot in the middle of the night and traumatized the geranium that was barely holding on. And the turkey flock who takes over my yard at least twice a day, pecking for bugs or raiding the outdoor cat’s food dish, scrapes and scratches the crab grass to bits (not that I much care). Flocks of quail skitter through as well, never any trouble. Someone spotted a family of foxes the other day, and so now I’m worried about the feral kittens I’ve just taken on…
As “difficult” as I might find my animal relatives from time to time (black widow spider, do you really need to make your web in the coil of my garden hose?) I am sure it’s nowhere near as difficult as they find me–us–humans. As a species we are clearly beyond insane and every single creature on this planet probably suffers from Post-Human Trauma Syndrome. I am not joking.
But I am pleased by my visitors, even the clumsy bear. And the earth is generous to me. I eat from this land. My neighborhood is fed by a spring–a real, living spring!–and I bless it every day. I feel emotionally held by the trees, mountain, and lake that I see from my window and greet each morning. And I believe that this act of greeting is what allows me to engage with them in a deeper way. This engagement leads to communication (I think) which engenders respect (at least on my end), which transforms into reverence (from me) for most of what’s around me. (I’m not feeling much reverence for the neighbors who were arguing loudly yesterday afternoon.)
As a child, I think I lived this way naturally. Then I forgot it for a long time. And now near the end of my life, I’m relearning and living this way again. I’m cultivating this life with devotional practices, so what I do can look a little quaint. I don’t mind. For a long time, I’ve been seeking some way to live reverently.
Yearning for Justice and an Earth-Reverent Life
Except for the uber-rich and the sociopaths who fancy themselves at the top of corporate and governmental “food chains,” I feel that many of the rest of us humans are longing for reverence. We want to get back into balance, back to a state of what the Kanaka Maoli would call “aloha ‘aina” (loving the land). We want people, plants, animals, and our planet to be treated fairly again. We need to learn how to deal fairly with all that is, ourselves.
I suspect that a yearning for an Earth-reverent life as well as justice are reasons that Mauna Kea and its Protectors (Kia’i) have become an international flashpoint this summer. Thinking and feeling people (not those who are lumpish with greed and glutted with power) see how bad it’s gotten and how much worse it can and will get. Unless… unless… unless we come together. Unless we learn how to make community again–if we live among people where such skills are rusty–and to include the Earth and its creatures in that community, as equals and stakeholders. We need a world where our mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, lakes, species, and oceans are “people” too, with legal rights. (Corporations are just golems. They shouldn’t have rights at all.)
The animists are right, you know. All matter is imbued with consciousness. Studies show…
As for justice, we also need to ensure that legal human rights are strictly observed as well, that the rights of indigenous and aboriginal peoples are upheld and strengthened. It’s a key element in the only positive future we can possibly achieve. The health and safety of every human, every creature on this planet, and the planet itself depends on our taking this very, very seriously.
And it’s imperative that those who make a request of a mountain or a lake–or an indigenous or aboriginal community–learn to take “no” for an answer, if that’s the answer that’s given. Because you know what? Consent counts. It really does. And no amount of wheedling or PR spin can change that. TMT guys are coming on like rapists, frankly, and their “you know you want it” approach to the mountain is disgusting to the rest of us.
This stunning short film, featuring Jason Momoa and a number of the Mauna Kea Kia’i, makes these issues abundantly clear, in case it wasn’t clear enough already.
Love of Place
Almost every Hawaiian mele (song) and oli (chant) is either about a beloved place, or includes references to beloved places. Almost every single one. Places aren’t “just” locations for family and community life, they ARE family. That’s as near as I can express it. I think I’ve got it nearly right.
Other examples of passionate love of place: I think of the French writer Colette, who wrote so movingly about the countryside of her childhood.
I’ve always been deeply affected by places I’ve lived, even if briefly. I attach to houses and landscape features very easily and mourn when I have to leave them. Themes of exile and homesickness are strong in my life, and these feelings of longing are often unbearable. I still miss “Nemo’s Rock” in the Coronado tide pools and the houses on Loma Avenue and Loma Lane, not far from the beach. I deeply mourn the cottage across from La Jolla Cove (below) where I lived as a teenager (it’s now demolished). I remember the light and feel of the air in La Jolla so vividly that I’ve cried over it. Certain places where I’ve lived in San Francisco and Albany also still clutch at my heart. I dearly miss the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I used to go there in the early morning, after dropping my first kid off at preschool, and sip green tea in the teahouse. Sometimes rain would dapple the koi ponds.
But the island of O’ahu gave me my first experience with exile and homesickness. When I was five I lived on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki. Though my family was there for less than a year, the feel of the ocean water, the sand beneath my feet, flowers and trees, and the sight of the Ko’olau Range east of Honolulu, all were absorbed by my soul. Later, I must have buried my yearning for Hawai’i as surely as I squashed feelings of missing my father. I say that because my yearning roared to life when (1) I saw the Hokule’a voyaging canoe when it visited San Francisco, and (2) when I returned to the islands with a series of visits starting in 2000–first Maui, then Hawai’i island. On Maui and Hawai’i I experienced a bewildering assortment of numinous and healing experiences. These were confusing because I have no genealogical connection to explain them. For many years, I felt like I was living with one foot in California, the other in Hawai’i.
I moved to Hawai’i Island in 2016, living on Mano Street in Pahoa for seventeen months. Even though I moved there with the expectation of being happy “at last,” it was a bad time for me. I had post-divorce crazies, terrible social anxiety and depression, frequent suicidality, and a longtime love affair gone wrong. But in that house on Mano Street, I began my inquiries into magic, refined my polytheism, and began to cultivate spirit relationships through devotional practices. It’s ironic. I’d prayed for so long to be allowed to move to Hawai’i, and once I was there, I prayed fervently for permission to leave. When I finally got my dismissal from the Powers there, I made the most costly and physically devastating move of my life.
But would it surprise you if I told you that now I miss my house and the Puna district? I miss the thirty-foot tall hibiscus trees dripping red blossoms on all three sides of my yard. I miss the ‘ohia lehua trees. I miss the spaciousness of my house, its high ceiling and large windows that looked out on jungle all around me. I miss my “difficult” and noisy neighbors: the shrill coqui frogs and gutteral cane toads. I miss picking up fallen coconuts; the “bathtubs” of morning rain dumped on my metal roof (which scared the cats until they got used to the noise); wild orchids and ti plants; the Ahalanui Warm Ponds (covered with lava now); the young coconut grove and view of the ocean from Kalapana, just across from Uncle Robert’s place. I miss driving the Red Road from Hawaiian Beaches past the “Four Corners.” I miss Mauna Loa and Kilauea. And yes, I miss Mauna Kea.
I believe it is natural for human beings to cherish the soil where they live, and to feel kinship with it.
So you see, Mauna Kea, is a cherished ancestor, as well as a beloved place, so how could the Kanaka Maoli ever consent to simply hand it over to people who have no reverent life at all? And why should the Kanaka have ever been asked this in the first place? Why should we ask them to break their hearts simply at the whim of a science that could go elsewhere?
This last month has felt bifurcated. On the one hand, I was finishing up two important acts of devotional service for the Norse Loki Laufeyjarson, my patron deity, and on the other hand I was called into service on behalf of Mauna Kea and Poliahu, its goddess of the snow.
I know. It sounds weird, doesn’t it?
I guess that’s just how it rolls in polytheism, especially when you work with deities from different pantheons. Bifurcation, trifurcation, whatever-furcation!!!
In my most recent work for Loki, of course I’m referring to the LokiFest Online conference and the completion of work on Loki’s Torch, an anthology of devotional work. I’m now experiencing a post-project “let down” (I hear that’s normal) with only vague intimations of what’s coming up next.
In my work on behalf of sacred Mauna Kea, I’m referring to signal boosting and writing, as an ally from afar. And of course I’m not going to stop finding ways to pass along information about the cause. It’s also a gift to connect once again with the spirit of Kapu Aloha, as exemplified by the Mauna Kea Kia’i (protectors). I so want them to win!
The above is background for an unexpected grace that’s emerged in these last few weeks. I had thought that my incongruous relationship with the “powers” of Hawai’i had been severed back in 2017, and I’ve felt a sense of exile, and a vague shame, ever since. Finding that connection fanned into life again, as part of a “call” for everyone to show up for the Mauna and for the Kanaka Maoli, has been healing. All I had ever wanted, really, was to be of use to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i).
And why is that?
Because, starting the early 2000’s, Maui and Hawai’i islands whammed me with a spiritual epiphany and then bestowed substantial healing for my environmental illness. I have no idea why, but it happened and I benefited. In return, I pledged to do whatever I could for Hawai’i as a “give-back.” I’ve often been clumsy in how I went about this, and have stumbled on the paving stones of “good intentions” as I travel my personal “road to Hel.” But I did try to keep my vow even when looking (and acting) the fool. I guess it feels good to have another opportunity to potentially contribute.
Years later, Loki also saved my life, coming to me during a time of utmost despair and shame. I made a vow to him too, oathing myself to him and his service. However he understands that I’ve also got previous commitments. He graciously stepped to the side as Mauna Kea came front and center on July 15th. (Besides I was still doing his work, as well.)
Come to think of it, I’m no stranger to bifurcation (trifurcation, whatever-furcation!). I’ve straddled worlds and juggled distinctly different viewpoints and approaches as a parent, in my romantic relationships, in my career, and in my creative work and spiritual quests. I’m always in exile, never entirely at home. Yet, there are common themes with all of this. But maybe only I can see, from my own peculiar vantage point, how it makes sense for me to honor deities of both the Norse and Hawaiian pantheons, as long as my offerings are acceptable.
My favorite Loki artist, Sceithailm on Deviant Art (aka Sceith-A), often depicts Loki as shod on the right foot, shoeless on the left, walking between worlds. How lucky I am to be at last with a deity who understands. My own right foot walks the Midgard realm known as Turtle Island. My left foot–apparently–never really did leave the ‘aina.
What follows is more “Lord of Misrule” than Kapu Aloha, but I hope I will be forgiven my foray into politically satirical lyrics regarding issues in Hawai’i. Years and years ago I re-wrote the lyrics to O Danny Boy as O Danny Boys, O Danner Girls with the help of Aunty Puanani Rogers. This was a reference to U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and HI State Senator Daniel Inouye trying to ram the “Akaka Bills” through the U.S. federal government, as well as some other shenanigans. Puanani sang our song at Thomas Square for La Ho’iho’i Ea (Restoration Day) in 2004–the same day I was literally at the summit of Mauna Kea while a certain activist and his friends flew the Hawaiian Kingdom flags in the spirit of joyful and determined resistance.
Today is Restoration Day. It was celebrated in Thomas Square in Honolulu last weekend, as well as many other locations. I am sure that the upwelling of international support for the Mauna Kea Protectors (Kia’i) added zest to the occasion. La Ho’iho’i Ea celebrates a time when England “gave back” the Hawaiian Kingdom after a low-ranking military doofus “took” it for several months.
Anyway, back in 2014, after the TMT officials were confronted, and the “groundbreaking” was stopped, I wrote these lyrics to the tune of The Fugs’ CIA Man.
As I said, it’s satire–and far more “Berkeley” in spirit than anyone on the Mauna would want it to be. But every now and then, some people might want a bit of snarky humor, off mountain. So, I release these lyrics to the world. Public domain, y’all.
It’s the 28th day of my Thirty Days of Devotion and the topic is “something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently.”
Well…these larger subtle-bodied beings we refer to as deities, are essentially mysterious to us. That might have more to do with our limitations rather than their desire to be opaque and so this question makes me realize I don’t even know what it is that I don’t know that I wish I knew.
But if I have any question at all about the roles that these various beings have or have had in my life, it’s “why them (in particular) and why me (in particular)?” In other words, I don’t just have this question about my patron, the Norse Loki Laufeyjarson, I have this question about others I’ve worked with, or who have approached me.
An Unexpected Knock on the Door
For example, a few days before July 14th, when the Kia’i (Protectors) were on Mauna Kea to do ceremony at Pu’uhonua o Pu’u Huluhulu and establish their encampment in their sacred place of refuge, the Celtic goddess known as The Morrigan was tapping at my psyche (not for the first time). She is a battle goddess known as the “Great Queen” in Ireland. So I spent a couple of days with a book I have, and some websites, just to see if I should follow up with her. The Morrigan is known for having a fierce interest in social justice issues and I can feel drawn to her on that account. But part of me still felt hesitant. For one thing, I already have a deep, fairly time-consuming commitment to a super-intense being: Loki Laufeyjarson. When I checked in with Loki about The Morrigan, the sense I got was, “I’m not opposed, but just take your time so you know what you’d be getting into.” When I did a pendulum divination with The Morrigan and told her that I was oathed Loki, she drew back a little–odd how I could feel that–and then there was this kind of sense of “oh, well, maybe a limited contract then.” However, I have no idea what that contract might have entailed.
But then I heard what was happening on the Mauna. I have a long history of (mostly long-distance) allyship with the fight against telescope desecration, and I felt an immediate urge to do what I could to help, even from afar (signal-boosting, blogging, etc.). It was obvious this was not the right time to “get to know” The Morrigan, as her ways of handling conflict are so very different from Kapu Aloha. I could not bring her energy with me if I engaged with this matter. And so I drew back from connecting more with The Morrigan.
But Loki, intense as he is, was fine with my sudden deep plunge into service, once again, with the deities of Hawai’i. I was “standing with Poliahu” and though she hadn’t called me directly, it was important to have that sense of “standing with” her in order to stand with her people. I know this can sound a little mad, but it’s just how it is. And then, after several days of active focus on Mauna Kea, Loki reeled me back,not to prevent any more activity on behalf of Mauna Kea, but to now have me “stand with” him, or to stand with this issue from within standing with him, in solidarity with Mauna Kea, its people and its deities, as a Lokean. Again, it is hard to explain these nuances and I am feeling my way into them.
Loki, who stands for family as well as justice, seems to resonate with this issue of protecting Mauna Kea (personal gnosis). At the very least, he encourages my engagement with it (not that he could actually stop me–he knows I’ve got a prior commitment here).
In practical terms, what does this mean to my practice and my activism? Let me see if I can break it down.
Devotions: Since July 15th or so there’s been a candle on my altar to represent Poliahu and Mauna Kea. And it feels pono (correct, appropriate) to once again chant E Homai as an offering to Hawai’i, to the Mauna, and to honor the work of the Kia’i. My first kumu hula (hula teacher) told me it was always appropriate to offer ka leo, the voice in a prayer or chant. E Homai is my prayer. That chant, and E Laka E, have always had a strong place in my heart.
Decolonizing Paganism: I sense that it’s important to decolonize neopaganism in order to stand appropriately in solidarity, via an inter-faith perspective as well as a human justice one. I’ve been looking at these issues already in witchery and neopaganism, but I cannot congratulate myself on being very advanced. There’s a lot of layers to this deeply planted onion. Loki, as a deity who habitually punctures hypocrisy, seems to require this kind of inner and outer work.
Back to the Lore: I also feel moved to examine the Norse lore again, for stories about Loki which speak to me of challenges to injustice and hypocrisy. Loki bound on the mountain with the entrails of one of his children, while his wife Sigyn holds the bowl to capture snake venom, resonates with me here. Perhaps the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Aesir, when confronted by Loki’s truth-telling, leads me to compare them with the pro-TMT guys. But I think there are deeper meanings than that.
Complementary Values: A general task might be to compare Hawaiian values and those held by neopagan Heathens and others in the “big tent” of modern paganism. Neopagans might find commonality in areas of animism, earth-centered spirituality, polytheism, traditions of hospitality and frith, working with ancestors, keeping oaths and acting in an honorable manner, making offerings to nurture relationships with deities and spirits, and so on.
Things to Avoid: What would be totally inappropriate (IMHO) is anything like sorcery curses on TMT, or the kind of gleeful political trolling that I so adore from The Satanic Temple when directed at U.S. government officials.
No–the imperative for this issue is to be in Kapu Aloha, out of respect for the Kia’i, who absolutely know better than anybody what is needed and what is appropriate. Those of us who are not part of the Lahui (Kanaka Maoli community) MUST take their lead and directions and respect their wishes to the utmost, in spite of any clever ideas we might have to the contrary. It’s not Berkeley over there. And it took me longer than I like to admit to figure that out.
Restraint and Curiosity: Loki, the King of Clever, who got himself into trouble one too many times by mouthing off, is actually quite good at counseling restraint in this case. However, he seems to encourage my curiousity for uncovering some of the hidden machinations surrounding the approval and promotion of the Thirty Meter Telescope. This kind of factual investigation, aimed at the foreign authorities and capitalists who want to control Hawai’i’s resources, is perfectly appropriate as long as it is done with restraint and professionalism.
For me, activism has always been part of my spiritual path and vice versa. The questions I have for and about Loki–and other deities–are tied to my wyrd. That I should have such strong ties to Hawai’i, including mystical experiences, has always been a mystery. That I am one of Loki’s “children” is another. But I am not likely to have the answers until I pass from this world. All I can do is roll with what I’m given to do, here in Midgard.