Last year felt at times like “a mad scramble for a place in this chamber, in this meagre palace of Midgard” (to quote a certain actor playing a certain god). My personal, professional, familial, financial, and creative foundations were all challenged–and in some cases demolished–and I was frequently in despair. Lonely too. Such suffering! And yet 2018 was also a most fortunate year because I “met” the most compelling and interesting supernatural being I’d ever imagined. Naturally (being a Scorpio), I was quick to oath myself–sort of like having a Vegas wedding with someone I’d only met that weekend–but have absolutely no regrets. I also took on several spiritual challenges to prove my own mettle to myself, including making the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.
However, I’ve got a stack of books I haven’t yet read completely, most of them accumulated during 2018. At this point, I have to stop reaching for the New Shiny and relax, re-read, and revisit material I already have. It’s time to regroup and to deepen practices I’ve already encountered.
So it makes sense to usher in the new year with another round of Dagulf Loptson’s “Eight Days of Loki” ritual (from this book). However, I wanted to do things just a bit differently this time. I wanted to engage more of my unconscious so I decided to use my sand play toys and sand tray. I grab toys from the shelves and place them very quickly, without too much thought in advance. Creating the tray scenes is a way of manifesting unconscious thoughts, giving them physical form.
Day 1’s theme (above) is “magic” and involves a contemplation of fire. For me, that’s a contemplation of both inner and outer fire. I’ve been practicing a breath meditation technique that’s supposed to generate inner heat, but haven’t gotten too far along with it. My hands, though, have begun to tingle and pulse like crazy in the last few weeks, and to have a sense of pressure, as if I am holding hands with someone who is very warm. So that red jewel in the center of the left hand palm print is significant. I also felt like I was doing a “cave painting” of a handprint by pressing my hand into the sand. It felt like an archaic gesture.
Day 2’s theme is death.
Though I didn’t visit a graveyard on Day Two, as suggested, I did pour out an offering of pomegranate juice on the place in my yard where two newborn kittens are buried, poor things. I work with my ancestors on a daily basis, and it’s that sense of being surrounded by them that comes out in the tray, with the skull and skeleton impressions in the sand. The glowing pink/orange skull cup symbolizes Loki’s connection with cremation fire.
Day 3 is today. The theme is wealth, as in wealth of talent and possibilities. The idea is to make something beautiful and worthy that can be offered to Loki but writing is my main form of creative expression these days. For the tray, I chose the jeweled box and the golden egg plus a few “jewels” for the sand. Looking at this now, a few hours later, I see the box as what’s known and in progress and the egg as unknown potential. The red, faceted jewel links Day 1 and Day 2 together. Magic and creative wealth are two aspects of the same thing, perhaps.
I’ll post the rest of the days as I go along, perhaps a couple at a time. I’m taking this slowly, taking time to savor.
As for the Loki-inspired gingerbread house, that was the brainstorm of a member of Loki’s Wyrdlings on Facebook. The minute she mentioned this as an idea to cheer up the winter holidays, I knew I had to make one.
So this sugar-encrusted gingerbread temple is today’s offering to my patron deity.
To witches, no less. (Be not afraid, this is a writer’s metaphor, not “Lokean drama”…)
Oh, are you there? Pardon me while I decompress in public after the wild joy ride of National Novel Writing Month, which was certainly already intense enough. Just try producing a coherant stream of 50,000 words in one month! Those who have done this know what I mean! It can either leave you feeling like an Awesome God or Godette of Literary Potency or like a limp dishrag, or a bit of both.
But then all that Karl Seigfried Lokiphobia controversy gummed up this last week’s literary flow! I chose to engage though, and I’m glad I did! I became enraged! I made new friends! I shared moments of gleeful mirth! (And I have so much more to say on that topic, but later for that!)
First, a musical interlude. Wild One, Iggy Pop, ’cause I am literally dancing with joy and relief. (Did I ever tell you that story about that time I ended up on stage with the guy at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf, wearing a bright magenta space dress and hood and gold snakeskin boots? Or the time I drove a silly girlfriend of my brother’s over to the Miyako Hotel so she could try to sell him some… stuff…that’s now legal in California? Well, another time. Later for that.)
Oh my dear heavens, I am decompressing sumthin’ awful! But stay with me. This blog actually has a point.
I’ve mentioned before that this book I’m working on, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is the second in a trilogy. The first, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island (south of Hilo). The volcanic goddess, Pele, was very much behind the scenes in the book and in my life. I was living in her country when I started writing the first novel, and was learning to offer the chant Aia la O Pele. I actually pledged to read the entire first draft aloud to her, as an offering. I was on her land so it seemed only fair. And those nineteen months of exile were the loneliest and most depressing of my life. I felt so far from my children and the San Francisco Bay Area, my home. The book provided my most consistent cheer and focus.
Indeed, I was writing from my own burnt heart at that point–newly divorced and lonely as hell, surrounded by a nightly cacophony of coqui frogs chirping incessantly for sex— so what else could I do but birth a sassy community of witches and Elves nestled in an imagined intentional community deep in the Puna jungle? I was creating characters that I wanted to know, and Hermitville, place I wished I could live in. And just as the practice of magic entered the lives of my post-midlife crisis characters, so magic also entered mine.
Even back here in California I continued to read the first draft aloud to Tutu Pele. The book provided closure to the life I lived–as a junior Baba Yaga in my jungle house on stilts, surrounded by coconuts, hibiscus, wild orchids, feral pigs, and unleashed pit bulls. My characters also began to say their good-byes to the home they’d known for so long.
Now Pele is known as a sometimes “difficult” goddess, commanding great respect. In fact, seven months after I left Pahoa, the Leilani Estates eruption (May 3, 2018) began to take out acres of land and forest preserves, houses, the Wai’opae tidepools, the Ahalanui warm pond, the Hawaiian language charter school, roads, and more–creating a massive crisis for the people of that impoverished area. The massive lava flows continued for months. And yet the people in Puna remained proud of Pele and they rallied around each other with aloha, in a way that (now looking on from a distant shore) I envied.
My return to California shifted my focus from studying Hawaiian culture to continuing my studies of Western magic. I felt a strong call to begin working with my ancestors. And I began to feel my way into the Norse pantheon. I began with Frey, then Freya and Gerda. Loki was not on my conscious radar then, though looking back I see his influence in my life, going back decades. I wish I’d known then what I “know” now!
And then, bam. He began tugging at my attention during a bitter crisis. Suddenly Loki and trickster references were everywhere, from pop culture to things I was stumbling across in my reading. Really very present, even in my astrological chart. This was much more up close and personal than even my fleeting “encounters” with Pele, who up to then had provided the most nearly “real” spiritual experiences of my life. (Someday I might write about those too–a story for another time.) As a result, I began serious, daily, devotional practices and reading. I probably was a little too quick to oath myself to Loki, but it seemed right at the time and I have no regrets. I do realize now that it was a bit of a hasty, newbie thing to do.
Given all this–and the fact that I started NaNoWriMo month with two Dagulf Loptson Loki rituals (here and here)–I should not have been surprised when Loki jumped right into the start of my second book, dominating the first few pages and now driving much of the story line. He’s right there, a fictionalized version named Lucky LaFey, along with my characters, the mortal “Hermits” and the Elves of The Realm. They’ve set up a new Hermitville right here in Lake County and have a new supernatural villain to defeat. I’d originally imagined a different plot line with this second book, but what’s happening now fits beautifully. It’s much stronger than my original plot concept.
In fact, last night, I took a deep breath, on the day before the close of NaNoWriMo, and because I was about to write a chapter from Loki’s perspective, in his first-person voice, I asked for some contribution from him, to come through me into the chapter. I wanted to get it right, you see. I felt that this was somewhat edgy–I’ve never taken such a step, so I took care to set time limits and “boundaries,” not knowing what to expect.
What happened was, the chapter flowed. What had been stuck now moved. There was no dramatic channeling or “horsing” or anything of that nature. But I felt close to him and wrote from the inside out with that feeling. He was/is my active muse.
And yes, I read the whole of the first book to him, aloud, and now I’m reading my draft of the second. It’s a satisfying sort of offering to make.
Loki As Muse
“Loki as Muse” doesn’t get nearly as much attention as he should. Someone should create an encyclopedia of this god’s cultural, creative, literary, and musical impact. From the old surviving Norse lore, where Loki drives a lot of the stories, to modern opera, movies, comics, visual art, fiction (including fan), costume design, pop music, and more. An encyclopedia would be a brilliant project, actually!
Since entering “Loki Land” I’ve been so impressed with high quality artwork, crafts, and writing–from blogs to books. And of course I enjoy Marvel Loki, which is a witty twist on the traditional mythology (even if it is fairly distorted).
I find myself less and less aligned with statements that equate Loki with “chaos” (as in the popular sense of meaningless, destructive disarray). I’m not saying he’s never chaotic, negative, or “too much,” but that there also seems to be a bandwidth that I would describe as “catalytic” and transformational instead. It may be that artists and creative souls are more “at home” with Loki, as they may be more used to playing in realms of quick connections, influences, passions, and intellectual and spiritual epiphanies. With Loki, stuff swirls, dances, glances, and recombines.
In other words, along with the other roles that Loki plays in my life (adopted ancestor, teacher, patron deity), Loki-as-muse is positive, challenging, and hella fun. And he gives me courage to write and birth magic from my own burnt heart. Hail Loki!
Finally, here’s my #NaNoWinner2018 certificate, just because I want to boast a little. As you might have guessed, this book will end up as an offering to him, just as the first book will have a dedication to Tutu Pele.
Oh, and that “birthing witches” thing I said? Aside from my twelve fictional, magic-wielding “Hermits,” one of my kids is actually a witch. My other is more of an entheogens fan though. Who knows what he’ll get up to later on?
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.)
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.
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
Self-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 Vé (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.
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.
[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!)
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 Vé 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.
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!
I’m a Scorpio sun with three additional planets (and an asteroid) also in Scorpio (fifth house). And with all that plus a Capricorn moon, you know I’m a woman “what likes a challenge!” My birthday, Nov. 1st, encompasses part of Samhain, so by that you can probably guess what kind of challenges I like!
Have I mentioned that I suffer from chronic fatigue along with the environmental illness? Almost thirty years worth? Even so, I feel driven to perform these almost muscular displays of esoteric endurance and concentration. My usual pattern is to drive myself to do as much as possible while I have energy, then collapse. But energy-building practices are part of what this is all about.
Anyway, I’m on Day 7 and the theme is “thinking.” It’s a day I’m supposed to “expand my own thinking and the thinking of others.” I can probably bring the fact that I’ve also just started NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) too, as my second volume of fantasy fiction does contain some mind expanding elements! (I have to get cracking on Chapter One in a minute so I can acheive my daily word count!)
Tomorrow, Day 8, is “war” and, um, I actually will need to pay close attention to the guidance that emerges from this particular theme. Got a situation…
Before I touch on my reactions to the ritual so far, I want to say how grateful I am for it! Loptson’s book is an important guide for me and it’s wonderful to have these prompts and ideas for connecting with various aspects of Loki, who is a very complicated being. I can be scattered and such focus is helpful.
Day 1’s theme is “Pure Magic” and since it took place on a Saturday, the day I typically honor my ancestors, this was part of my awareness of magic. It was a day of preparation for the temple dedication so devotional activities were also a part of this awareness.
Day 2’s theme is “Death” and it coincided with the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple dedication. The temple, transformed from a sparse utilitarian space (it was a woodshop) to a beautiful devotional space, is almost a metaphor of life and death. The act of responding to the call to create this liminal “home” for Loki is also metaphorical as well as practical.
However, I didn’t visit a graveyard as Loptson suggests. I was just too exhausted after the dedication to trek around the lake to the nearest cemetery. Instead, I contemplated the sad grave of two newborn kittens that the vet and I had tried to save. (They weren’t even mine–I was catsitting a pregnant cat for some friends. Her kittens were born while they were away.) The early death of these helpless babies, which I buried in the front yard, is a frequent momento mori. Plus, I’m now sixty-four and recently made my will. That’s a momento mori too.
But one of Loptson’s questions for the day is, “How do you feel about Loki, knowing that he is one of the gatekeepers who will one day remove you from your body?” I want to cry with gratitude just thinking about this, actually! So that’s cool!
Day 3’s theme is “Wealth,” particularly wealth of talents. I haven’t drawn much in a long, long time. I used to be the kid who was always drawing–in school, at home–whenever, wherever. I decided I wanted to make a new portrait of Loki, but was very hesitant to do so. But after several false starts, I let my hand move and create something, even if it is rather minimal. The lesson I learned was that I want and need to draw more, and that I need to get Crowquill pens and india ink, my favorite art tools. Even so, I was satisfied with the rather seductive look of mischief that emerged in this drawing.
Day 4’s theme is “Love.” But instead of having a day of childlike fun and frolic, recapturing the lost innocence and joy of youth (as suggested), I gave several hours of hypnosis and counseling time to a friend who needed to quit smoking and who had some heavy issues to confront in the process.
Day 5’s theme is “Ego.” Loptson suggested breaking a personal taboo “that challenges your current identity.” Well, I ended up making a phone call to someone I’d worked very, very hard to leave and it resulted in a reconciliation of sorts (but on much different terms). I also made a gesture of love and forgiveness to another person who has hurt me very deeply. That was definitely an ego challenge, forcing me to connect with the vulnerable humanity of others, and to be vulnerable myself. So… unexpected, that! And I won’t say I’m comfortable, but I am glad.
Day 6’s theme is “Sex” and it coincided with my birthday! But since I spent the day driving to the San Francisco Bay Area to see my children for a lunch date, perhaps the day for me was more about “Reproduction!”
Plus, as a sexologist, sex educator, and tantra practitioner, there aren’t really a lot of ways to challenge myself about sex these days. Especially since I lack a human partner. I’d say I’m also well aware of Loki as an almost tantric deity who is very connected to the deep, cosmic aspects of libido and sexual energy.
So we’re back to Day 7, “Thinking.” I’ll report on today and tomorrow in my next blog. I also feel as if I want to repeat this series of rituals in the Spring. I don’t know why, I just do.
Hail Loki! And big thanks to Dagulf Loptson for his excellent book!
Snakes, fire, a robust sexual history and magic expertise… how can I comprehend Loki as anything other than the bearer of knowledge that resembles tantra (or Western-style sex magic)? (Yes, I know he has additional attributes but I’m not concerned with those at the moment.) What follows is my “unverified personal gnosis” (UPG) on this topic.
But let’s back up a bit. Let’s think a moment about this concept called “gods” (I’ll use this word to mean deities of all genders). Dagulf Loptson’s book, Playing with Fire–An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014), is an important source for me these days and he describes his concept of gods as “enormous, primordial, creative beings who manifest themselves in both the unseen and physical worlds via nature and human insight.” This works for me. Furthermore, Loptson suggests that gods take many forms, and we humans give them many faces. This also works for me.
I’d like to suggest that among other things, these primordial beings offer templates of spiritual enlargement to those humans who care to partake. Sure, the gods can also torment us, play with us, comfort us, blow our tiny minds, and request offerings (like the colorful donut-patterned shower curtain Loki wanted a few days ago), but when I really ask myself what human/deity interactions are all about, I get a kind of transcendent evolutionary vibe, if ya know what I mean. They can open themselves as doors, if we want to step through them, and change.
That’s why we have scads of spiritual traditions, religions, and magic rituals, with an endless array of techniques for getting in touch with these larger beings: meditation, prayer, trancework, offerings, mantras, visualization of yantras, contemplation, and quite a lot of sexual magic. Sexual actions, energy, and fluids have figured prominently in all kinds of practices, from Tibetan Buddhism to Crowley’s OTO and beyond. And sometimes there are elaborate rituals that include imagining oneself and/or one’s partner as divine (thereby stepping into the template). The process of cultivation is key.
So let’s say there really is an “enormous, primordial, creative being” out there that we call “Loki,” as well as various other kennings (defined as “indirect bynames,” Loptson, p.20). Like other deities, Loki has various attributes and associations, both ancient and modern. And like other deities, he can provide us with a template for spiritual expansion. I’ll repeat the four associations I mentioned above: (1) snakes, (2) fire, (3) a robust sexual history, and (4) magic.
Snakes. Loki fathered the giant Midgard-circling snake, Jörmungandr, and was also tormented by a poison-dripping snake when bound by the Aesir. These days, many Lokeans wear the Urnes Snake as a pendant, though there’s no actual evidence linking this image with Loki in ancient times. (The Lokean Welcoming Committee has a good discussion of the Urnes Snake here and points out that it has now become a modern symbol for Loki.)
Both Hindu and Buddhist forms of tantra are also associated with snakes, which are symbols of kundalini energy, said to be coiled at the base of the human spine. There are also three snake deities in Hinduism. Shiva (the ultimate tantric god) is usually depicted wearing one of them, Vasuki, around his neck. Also notice that two of the carvings (below) feature two entwined snakes.
In Passionate Enlightenment–Women in Tantric Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 1994), Miranda Shaw writes:
“Kundalini-yoga offered a range of techniques to harness the powerful psycho-physical energy coursing through the body. In India it is believed that this energy can be channeled for procreation, sexuality, creativity, or spiritual experiences and heightened awareness. Most people simply allow the energy to churn a cauldron of chaotic thoughts and emotions or dissipate the energy in a superficial pursuit of pleasure, but a yogi or yogini consciously accumulates and then directs it for specified purposes. This energy generates warmth as it accumulates and becomes an inner fire or inner heat (candali) that burns away the dross of ignorance and ego-clinging.” (p. 31).
Fire: Dagulf Loptson’s book contains a chapter (pp. 136-154) which deals extensively with Loki’s association with fire, specifically with ritual and cremation fires. There is also an interesting comparison of Odin (Nordic god associated with cremation) and the possible role played by his fiery pal, Loki, with the Hindu Shiva (also god of cremation) and Agni (god of cremation fire). I can’t replicate the arguments here. Just get the book if you’re interested in knowing more. I still need to get God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Role in the Northern Religions, by Stephen Grundy (published by The Troth). With a title like that, I expect yet more examination of Loki’s associations with fire.
Cremation grounds were a popular setting for tantric practices and gatherings. Miranda Shaw writes that “Tantric Buddhists encountered their Hindu counterparts at the cremation grounds…” (p. 31). She also describes bone instruments, ornaments and skull-caps used to serve meat and drink at tantric feasts.Skull Imagery and Skull Magic in the Yoginī Tantras by David P. Gray (Santa Clara University) is another interesting resource.
I note here that one of Loki’s kennings means “vulture’s path” (Loptson, p. 36). Vultures were frequent visitors to charnel grounds. Loki is the father of Hel (or Hela), the Norse goddess of death. Her physical description could almost be that of a “wrathful dakini.” (For that matter, Fenris, Loki’s wolf child with Angrboda, could also have a symbolic association as a cremation grounds scavenger. This is pure speculation, however.)
I suggest it might be interesting to consider Loki’s connection with snakes and fire (and death) as an esoteric reference to the “inner fire” of transformative sexual energy, something that Loki may very well teach and/or provoke.
Robust Sexual History: In the Norse poem, Lokasenna, Loki reveals his sexual history with just about every goddess in Asgard (and these days some people speculate about a sexual relationship with Odin as well). Plus, he’s a shapeshifter who mated with a stallion and bore a magical horse. And he’s got more than a few present-day god-spouses (of all genders). Lots of deities have active sex lives, but Loki combines that with his most noted quality: bringer of chaos and transformation. In Western tantric circles, it’s a given that taking up a tantric practice inevitably means that all hell is going to break loose in your life. We would nod at each other and say, “yeah, hero’s path, dude!” in the same way that Lokeans frequently commiserate with each other about the fan-hitting stuff that goes down after accepting Loki into your life.
Loptson references Loki’s “ecstasy” in the thirteenth verse of his “Loki’s Stave.” Sophie Oberlander calls Loki a “God of ectastic union” (The Jotunbok–Working with the Giants of Northern Tradition, Raven Kaldera. Asphodel Press, 2006, p. 269). Fuensanta Plaza writes of an incident in which Loki manifests as a “huge, fierce joy” (Also Jotunbok, p. 265). I believe I have also felt something of this on several occasions, accompanied by delicious shivers.
Magic. Loki has magic powers, particularly shapeshifting (which Loptson also calls “skin leaping,” pp. 238-239). Loptson also mentions “bind runes” and fire magic and divination (pp. 235-237). Elizabeth Vongvisith also credits Loki with runelore (learned from Odin), seidr-craft (learned from Freya), word magic, and sex magic (Jotunbok, p. 258).
Loki is also known as “the mother of witches” (Mordant Carnival, Jotunbok, p. 271), birthing “troll-women” or “ogres” after eating a woman’s burnt heart (“The Short Seeress’ Prophesy,” The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee Hollander, University of Texas Press, 1962, p. 139).
Tantra is known for its association with magic. Powers known as “siddhis” just naturally come with the turf. Miranda Shaw writes that “…supernatural powers and expertise in magical arts…within the Tantric Buddhist context they are accepted as evidence of spiritual attainments.” This includes mastery of the body (including shapeshifting and ritual gazes), control of weather and elements (fire!), and the ability to magically transport objects (including food from people’s kitchens), and more. One famous dakini, Gangadhara, was known to turn into a wolf.
Many Lokeans complain that Loki will often make things disappear out of mischief. There are many anecdotes about missing items that are not “returned” (or made visible?) until Loki is asked (nicely, I hope) to bring it back. I had this experience with a CD that “disappeared” from my car for a couple of weeks, and I did look everywhere for it, several times. I figured out that I’d played one song way too many times in the car and asked Loki if he actually made things disappear or just prevented people from seeing them? Within a few minutes, I found the missing CD at my feet, near the brake. I do feel somewhat foolish for sharing this story, but honestly, many such are shared. I can only hope that if I ever begin to suffer from dementia, that Loki will go easy on me…
Finally, I’ve come across three kennings for Loki: Sky-Treader, Sky-Traveler, and Sky-Walker. These remind me of the term for tantric yoginis and dakinis: Sky-Dancers. I haven’t found a historical or lore source for these particular kennings yet, however, and would welcome one if you have it.
Based on much of the above, I revived my solo tantric practice and dedicated ninety days of continuity to Loki in return for some specialized instruction. I am now on day 53. It’s proven to be an interesting way to work with Loki, and I believe that committed energy work will prove helpful in this ongoing relationship, providing me with the necessary stamina and sensory refinement to “go deeper.”
At this point, I’d say Loki closely fits the “profile” of a deity who offers a template of transformation fueled by sexual energy–using some symbols and methods that are at least superficially comparable to Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions. I am not sure if scholarship will ever uncover the reasons for these similarities, which do not seem purely coincidental. But because human sexual energy holds the potential to become a transformational spiritual force, perhaps the answer to this riddle is that some deities will always be available to assist us with this, no matter what culture or epoch we (and they) occupy.
P.S. Here’s a reminder that it’s important to decolonize yoga and tantra.