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

More Than Apples, We Need Frith

I ache to experience it. And I long for a kindred where frith is central. It seems in short supply in my own family.


From the Urban Dictionary entry for Frith:

Frith is an Old English word that means Peace and Freedom; but means so much more. It is an important concept in the religion of Asatru. It might be described as a combination of loyalty, honor, hospitality, and support. It is the obligation to one’s community, friends, and family to consider their welfare in your actions, and not to set out to harm them.

[And this example which shows the use of the word] Our forebears valued frith almost more than anything else.


But why do I say we need “more than apples?” What do apples have to do with anything?

Ilja_Jefimowitsch_Repin_002
Ilja Repin, Apples and Leaves, 1879.

I recently watched an extremely sad documentary, God Knows Where I Am, the story of Linda Bishop, a woman in her early 60s struggling with severe mental illness who ends up living on rainwater, snow melt, and apples for four months, during an extremely severe winter in New Hampshire, with no power, no running water. She broke into an unoccupied farmhouse for shelter and eventually starved to death as the apples ran out. She kept a journal until she was too weak to write.

Apples were essential to Linda. And that apple tree was probably the only bright and generous being in her universe, during those last months of her life. It feed her through most of the winter until all the apples were gone. The apples were essential to her survival, but that fabled milk of human kindness was more important yet, and of that, there was none.

This poor woman was not miles away from nowhere. There were neighbors just across the street. People drove past this unoccupied farmhouse every day. You cannot tell me that no one in that neighborhood ever saw this woman wandering to the nearby stream or the apple tree, while the weather still permitted. Or that they never saw her in the attic window where she looked out upon the world and read the cast off books she’d found there.

What kind of people, what kind of society would allow this woman (and others) to live and die in such a manner?

A people without frith, that’s what.

I imagine that Linda–as a mentally ill woman–had been rebuffed, scorned, and mistreated enough so that she was unable to reach out to other humans, even as her situation became dire. Yes, she dreamt of rescue by an imaginary lover, but when he did not appear by Christmas, she seems to have given up hope.

Remember that quote from Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire? She says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” This is her last line as she’s carted off to an institution after having been abused and raped by her brother-in-law. Linda Bishop had probably given up on any expectations of “kind strangers.” She was clearly afraid of people and there may have been a good reason for that.

We all hope that acts of violent abuse are at the further end of the spectrum of human cruelty and we hope that they are rare. But great damage can be done, especially to someone who is vulnerable, by an sequence of dismissive, uncaring, or callous actions. Put-downs, dismissals, writing someone off, not listening or paying attention to the emotional truth at the core of a confused narrative–such things can lead a person to back off from the hope of kindness from others. In fact, it hurts too much to hope!

But if there were a greater emphasis, in all of us, on cultivating and enacting social values such as the kind contained by the word “frith”–loyalty, honor, hospitality, peace, support, freedom (with responsibility)–perhaps fewer people would fall through the cracks and perhaps more people would feel they had a respected and dignified place at the community “table,” even if they were damaged, broken, or had been cast off or cast out in some way (too old, too disabled, too poor, too whatever else). For me, frith has a resonance with “aloha,” a word that means much more than just “love” or “good-bye” in ‘Olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language).

It would seem to make common sense that in order to receive frith, you would have to extend it to others–and so I do. But that only works when there is a shared set of values, the possibility of reciprocity. Otherwise, all such efforts may be doomed.

And so I ask, where are those who are doing their best to inclusively (as in The Troth, Heathens Against Hate, and various stray Lokeans) live by frith, to establish and cherish familial and chosen kindred? And is there anyone out there in these here parts? And can I have some of what you’re having too?

Apples, I’ve got.

I can share.

####

 

Transphobia Not Welcome at Neo-Pagan Conference

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

Here’s why.

Here’s a bit of the background.


From PantheaCon Website

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

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


Community/Activist Repsonse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding the Ousted Speaker

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outliers, Con-Artists, and Kooks

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

I said:

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

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


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


 

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.

A Lot to Unpack

[Revised Nov. 11] Just when we all thought we were done with wildfire season… It’s now the third day of the Butte Fire two counties away–now called the most destructive wildfire in California history. I can’t even imagine the trauma endured by folks leaving their cars, trying to outrun a fire that consumes 80 football fields a minute! The fire’s thick smoke has blanketed Lake County. We can barely see more than one or two blocks away. The smoke does creep indoors so my big HEPA-filtered air purifier is running night and day. So here I am, coping with (1) cabin fever because going outside is a big “no” and (2) trying to  understand and identify abusive and manipulative behaviors when they impact personal and spiritual life. (All that, and make my daily NaNoWriMo word count!)

Plus, I’m on Day 7 of Dagulf Loptson’s nine-day ritual, Breaking Loki’s Bonds. (More on that in a future blog.) So yeah, it’s been a heavy week. And all these topics seem to be intertwined.

The Breaking Loki’s Bonds ritual calls to a different aspect of of Loki for each of the nine days. I have been especially struck by two of them, in this last week.


“Hail to Vé (vay) holy exorcist and illuminator of truth. Shine light into my dark places, so I can see that which I hide from others, but most importantly myself.” –D. Loptson, Day 2, Breaking Loki’s Bonds.


Truth into dark places indeed! Loki as has been quite active in all this! I won’t go into all the details, but this week I was given the opportunity to review the impact of certain posthumous “Daddy issues” as well as the impact of two former romantic relationships on my life. I was surprised by contact with both ex-lovers, and while the initial trips down memory lane at first focused on pleasant scenery (and in the more recent case I was even tempted to resume a new and revised incarnation of the relationship), I also had occasion to remember numerous damaging incidents with both men. In both relationships there were patterns of ongoing “malignant” behaviors that hurt me deeply. (It doesn’t matter at this point whether the perpetrators  are actually diagnosable with a personality disorder.)

Due to these contacts, I also had to examine my own gullibility and admit that my present deep loneliness may keep me vulnerable unless I check my knee-jerk tendencies to give, love, devote, nurture, believe… And some of this rolls back–oh how I hate to say this!–to abandonment issues concerning my father (who was quite possibly a narcissist as well as an alcoholic).

But working with Loki, in any aspect, seems to involve a lot of multi-layered,  fast-track processing and transformation, so it’s no wonder that the above issues exploded onto my radar within a few short days.

The ritual appeal and invocation to yet another of Loki’s aspects, Gammleið (below), seems to be already in progress, even though I’m only on Day 7. Prospects for a renewal of the more recent relationship quickly soured as the ex-lover’s old patterns flared up in response to my expressing certain needs should we decide to reunite. I received an email which basically called me a slut and also challenged my right to my current spiritual path (which I’d foolishly shared with him) on the grounds that his kids had more Scandinavian DNA than I did. I mean, WTF? So, a final break has now truly occurred. Even “friendship” is now out of the question.

That night, after receiving that email, I had a truly horrible dream [described in the previous version of this post]. It was as if my subconscious was purging the last few somatic traces of him. And I actually felt okay waking up, though thoroughly appalled at what my dreamscape had produced.

So I do thank Loki, as Gammleið, for that rapid-response thing he does–stripping away the garbage, quickly exposing my own and other people’s foibles and patterns, burning away illusions…facilitating ruthless self-examination. Ouch.


“Hail Gammleið (gam-layth), vulture’s path, lord of cremation. Burn away the refuse of my old bondage so that my hidden self may be released and I can be reborn anew.”–D. Loptson, Day 9, Breaking Loki’s Bonds.


 

Switching The Focus Slightly

It’s interesting too that this past week I also started a little research into Lake County CA cults, as my second novel is set here and that’s part of the local background I need to know. Obviously the behavior of toxic cult leaders (as well as certain politicians) are up on the “big screen” for us all to see and deplore (except for those out there who want to emulate them). And with lovely synchronicity, The Lokean Welcoming Committee had at least two recent, detailed posts about spiritual abuse red flags. Here is one, originating from the Grumpy Lokean Elder. When I read something like that alongside an article like 5 Powerful Reality Checks For Survivors Of Narcissistic Abuse by Shahida Arabi it is so obvious that we need to watch out for the same behaviors of manipulation, gaslighting, and even abuse, no matter where we are.

Manipulative and/or abusive lovers can come in all sorts of guises, though their basic patterns are recognizable. It’s the same with manipulative and/or abusive spiritual teachers and leaders. Though we can point to many abusive tantra and yoga gurus, as well as Catholic priests, Pagan communities and circles are not exempt. Right after posting the first version of this blog, I came across Abuse Within Paganism – A Taboo Topic? by Emma Kathryn (Nov. 2018). Kathryn mentions Sarah Anne Lawless’s blog, So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community (Sept. 28, 2018).

Back in the 70s, an uncle and aunt of mine suddenly dragged their two small children into an abusive, controlling cult and stayed there for at least eight years. My mother had told me it was a Thelema-based community, but from what I’ve been told by others in the last couple of years, this would have been an aberration, not the rule. (However I know very little about Thelema and OTO because of this family history.)

Given my past history in personal relationships, I also find food for thought in these cautionary tales about spiritual groups. I bemoan my social isolation, but perhaps I am better off as a solitary practitioner?

I feel as if I’m getting intensive instruction right now from two “streams” regarding discernment, my own vulnerabilities, and understandings of past trauma. On the one hand, I am benefiting from general guidance available online from the Lokean community as well as specific advice about “red flags” in spiritual communities and practices.

On the other, I am just beginning to access safe, private online forums where a number of us can talk about relationships that are abusive, corrosive, or at least puzzling and troubling. I really never have shared my own experiences before, aside from a few very old friends, and I think I’ve needed that for a long time.

I am so up for breaking the old bonds, the old patterns! Hail Loki, who provides the transformational fire I need and who points the way toward emotional and spiritual freedom! 

tumblr_m4qng4hFaK1qcogpco1_250
Urnes Snake. Scandinavian. Source: http://lokeanwelcomingcommittee.tumblr.com/

####