Loki: Proving the Poison

The fragrance industry, known to be irresponsible, has dared to name a toxic fragrance after Loki, a deity whose lore includes a horrific story of his sufferings from poison. Apparently independent perfumers on Etsy are following suit. Sigh… As a Lokean and as a person with environmental illness, I’m thoroughly appalled. My UPG? Loki, the arch foe of hypocrisy, would not be a fan of any of this.

Loki's Torment

For an ecological and spiritual take on this, see My Gods Are Fragrance Free.

And if you’re not convinced that fragrance chemicals equal poison, here’s some science. These are just a few of the studies and articles out there.


Fragrance and Essential Oil Toxicity: Recent Articles and Studies

List Under Construction. Check back often for new articles and studies. 


Early Articles, Information

Wallace, L., W. Nelson, E. Pellizzari, J. Raymer, AND K. Thomas. Identification of polar volatile organic compounds in consumer products and common microenvironments. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/D-91/074 (NTIS PB91182865), 1991.

Wallace, L. Human exposure to volatile organic pollutants: Implications for indoor air studiesAnnual Review of Energy and the Environment, 2001 26:1, 269-301

Kendall, J. Health Risks from Perfume: The Most Common Chemicals Found in Thirty-One Fragrance Products by a 1991 EPA Study. 1995. [Flyer based on Wallace, L. 1991 EPA study above and material safety data sheets.]

Wilcox, P.P. Addendum to Julia Kendall’s flyer, above. 1995.


More Recent Studies

Steinemann, AC. National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Feb. 16, 2018. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001272

[Quote from abstract] “Results: Among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity. Of those with MCS, 86.2% experience health problems, such as migraine headaches, when exposed to fragranced consumer products; 71.0% are asthmatic; 70.3% cannot access places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners; and 60.7% lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace.” 

Steinemann AC, et al. Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002

Steinemann, A.C. Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29(1):32-38 · January 2009.
doi: 10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002

[Quote from Abstract]  “Fragranced consumer products—such as air fresheners, laundry supplies, personal care products, and cleaners—are widely used in homes, businesses, institutions, and public places. While prevalent, these products can contain chemicals that are not disclosed to the public through product labels or material safety data sheets (MSDSs). What are some of these chemicals and what limits their disclosure? This article investigates these questions, and brings new pieces of evidence to the science, health, and policy puzzle. Results from a regulatory analysis, coupled with a chemical analysis of six best-selling products (three air fresheners and three laundry supplies), provide several findings. First, no law in the U.S. requires disclosure of all chemical ingredients in consumer products or in fragrances. Second, in these six products, nearly 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were identified, but none of the VOCs were listed on any product label, and one was listed on one MSDS. Third, of these identified VOCs, ten are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, with three (acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4-dioxane) classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). Results point to a need for improved understanding of product constituents and mechanisms between exposures and effects.”


Public Health Advocacy Reports

Chemicals of Concern: Fragrance. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.[Long list of study references at end of article.]

Not Too Pretty–Phthalates, Beauty Products& the FDA. Environmental Working Group. July 8, 2002. [Long list of study references at the end of article. Download PDF of entire report.]


General Articles

The Addictive Power of Toxic Perfumes and Colognes, John P. Thomas, Health Impact News, May 29, 2019.

The article above references the 1991 L. Wallace/EPA study. The 1995 Julia Kendall handout based on the Wallace/EPA study names the narcotic chemicals commonly added to fragrance ingredients:

(1) ETHYL ACETATE (in: after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color, nail enamel remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid) – Narcotic. On EPA Hazardous Waste list; “…irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract” …”may cause headache and narcosis (stupor)” …”defatting effect on skin and may cause drying and cracking” …”may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys” “Wash thoroughly after handling.”

(2) LINALOOL
(in: perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, Vaseline lotion, air fresheners, bleach powder, fabric softener, shaving cream, after shave, solid deodorant) – Narcotic. …”respiratory disturbances” … “Attracts bees.” “In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression … development of respiratory disturbances leading to death.” …”depressed frog-heart activity.” Causes CNS disorder.

Scent of Danger: Are There Toxic Ingredients in Perfumes and Colognes? n/d. Scientific American. 

New Data Reveals One-Third of All Fragrance Chemicals Linked to Human, Environmental Harm. Women’s Voices for the Earth. Sept. 26, 2018. [Press Release.]

Is your perfume making you ill? Science finds growing evidence that the scents in chemicals and cleaning sprays are causing cancer, headaches, and harming unborn babies. DailyMail, 2/22/18.

Meyer, R. The Air Pollutants in Your Medicine Cabinet. Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 21, 2018.

More to come.

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My Gods are Fragrance-Free

What follows is imagined, an eco-parable. Gerda, a Jotun, smells only of rich soil, bruised herbs from her garden, and luscious Jotun pheromones. This was enough to dazzle the Vanir god, Freyr, from afar. His sister, Freya, adorns herself with amber jewels, but cares for her skin only with salves of honey, clear water, and powdered grains. The dry tips of her hair are moistened only with the tiniest bit of melted butter. She scorns the feckless chemistries, the unwise alchemies, of Midgard’s humans, which propel poison into every living thing. Freya has complained to Odin that dead warriors are no longer what they once were–they are now creatures with flacid muscles, except for their texting hands, and that they die now with withered sperm counts, and distortions in their DNA.

Even worse–“They (the humans) are even going after the roots of the World Tree,” she whispers, “with something called ‘Round-Up.'”

Freyr, the Corn God, nods. He dies each year for the harvest and comes back reborn, but it’s becoming apparent that the humans who once honored him for this would now rather manipulate the mysteries of the grain themselves. Perhaps an extended vacation in Vanaheim is in the runes…let the humans spend a year without him for once, prefereably after an Icelandic eruption, when ash clouds herald global famine. That’d learn ’em, he thinks, but in the next moment he backs away from such thoughts. He will serve as he has always served, all these long eons. “Perhaps Ragnarök will be a blessing after all…”

Freyr smells of rich earth too, and Gerda’s herbs and mead, and a not-unpleasant tang of godly sweat and semen. Vanir pheromones are also rather scrumptious, carrying a faint scent of apples. But humans, drunk on designer petrochemicals, can no longer detect them.

As for Ragnarök, Loki has no comment. What will be, will be, and has been–so many times. Contrary to his bad press, Loki finds no happiness in wanton destruction…but cleansing…the metabolism of poisons when all else fails…sometimes that is something to be desired. He should know. The next cycle has already unleashed forces powerful enough to bake the planet, to scour it of the unwise alchemies of the paltry, money-grubbing humans. Midgard will eventually recover (Gaia is strong) but Loki isn’t all that keen to be the trickster god of cockroaches. However, he recognizes the cosmic joke about to be played on them all. He’ll do his best to find some fragment of mirth when the time comes. But onlookers will mistake his battle grin for vengeful joy, misunderstanding the mask that hides his hot, angry tears. It was all so unnecessary! It always is! Meanwhile, cremation fires are at hand for another death of a too beautiful world. It’s Loki’s job to ensure that creation follows cremation. Somebody has to do it…

Sometimes Loki wishes Sigyn had gone in for systems change, rather than holding the bowl for him alone. He imagines he could have borne his suffering–bound with his son’s entrails and scorched by viper spittle–if he’d known she was battling the powers that be, on behalf of all sentient beings. Sigyn might have known better though, and who really is to say? Her victory might yet be won.

1920px-Loki_Bound_by_Collingwood
Sigyn holding the bowl, to keep the viper venom from dripping onto Loki.

It doesn’t take a völva prophecy to know what’s coming. Freya sheds tears. She and her daughter want to save a cat or two. Freya wants the falcons to be okay, and bees. Freyr puts in a word for boars and grains. Dogs too. Their father wants to save whales, sharks, sea turtles, guppies, and coral polyps, among others. His is a long list. Loki would like to send wolves and snakes and salmon and horses to Hel, for safekeeping. Gerda hides seeds in safe places, and waits. The souls of animals are already reluctant, but plants and fungi have not yet given up all hope. Neither has Gerda.

Loki says, “Don’t shoot the messenger (especially if I’m it!). Don’t ignore the voices of doom, of climate change, or the canary in the coal mine. Invite Cassandra onto your podcasts–she’s still got a thing or two to say! Don’t disregard the muttering sibyl, the trancing völva, or anger of witches and Jotuns.” He’d slap this message on t-shirts, even though it’s not a sound bite, in hopes that humans would pay attention, but he distrusts capitalism–particularly the kind that sells toxic petrochemical perfumes wrapped in bottles that look like Marvel Universe characters, especially his!

This last is a particularly painful mockery–big anime eyes and golden horns on keychains are one thing, but this is quite another–all those bottled endocrine disruptors ending up in the salmon, just so a few fans can pretend they have access to “his” scent.

11123127_hi
Product of a toxic industry making a mockery of our god, adding yet more petrochemicals to the planet and its creatures, all in the name of money.

Meanwhile the big money laughs and this makes Loki mad. “Stick to cosplay,” he mutters. “Is nothing sacred?” but he already knows the answer to that question. Rather say that nothing is so futile as the sacred, and nothing is more powerful. After all, Loki knows how to stand with two, four, eight legs, or none, in the spaces between all the worlds you could ever name. (Some say that’s why he drinks so much sometimes. He’s so sick of stupid.)

All matter is alive and aware. If we could hear it, all Midgard is screaming at us right now, “Stop it! Go back! You’re hurting us!” The Earth is our hearth. Hearth fires are lit for warmth and nourishment, not destruction. But we have forgotten this. We have forgotten to extend our hospitality (our frith) and our care to all living things. Loki-as-Lóðurr awoke the first humans with his breath, which was clean and alive and full of strength. He warmed us with his breath and gave us fire to warm our hearths. He certainly did not give us a command to go forth and pollute.

I would like to think that human beings still yearn for that first clean breath, that pure air granted to us by a being as old and as vast as a star, and that we’d do anything to get it back. Instead we diddle with gadgets, toys, herbicides, GMOs, scented candles, and guns. We’ve poisoned our Midgard and every living creature in it. Our own bodies now shit microplastics. We’ve inflicted this same diet on animals and plants. Fragrance chemicals are harming aquatic wildlife. Our reproductive systems are drenched in endocrine disruptors (like phthalates) from deli food containers, Round-Up, shampoos, and perfume. Babies are born with birth defects as a result.  Our breast milk contains countless contaminants, including an array of self-inflicted consumer toxins from such beauty products as “Loki-Master of Mischief” cologne. Soon plastic golden Marvel Loki horns from the above bottle will find their way to the Pacific Garbage patch, floating among the discarded grocery bags, to be eaten by starving whales who can no longer find enough krill. I don’t think this (below) was the kind of “mischief” Loki had in mind…

Water_pollution_due_to_domestic_garbage_at_RK_Beach_01
Water pollution due to domestic garbage at RK Beach in Visakhapatnam. Date 22 September 2013, 09:53:32. Author Adityamadhav83. Creative Commons Attribution

Is there any hope at all? Or do I just put another gaudy, food-colored donut on Loki’s altar and sigh, “fuck this shit, Worldbreaker, we’re doomed. Bring it on…”

But Loki will have none of that. He absolutely refuses to let us dodge this wyrd. He says, “Stop buying this crap, especially not in my name. Use your breath for something decent, like saving the planet, while you still can.”

“Do this,” he says without winking, “and maybe you’ll get a whiff of my pheromones…”

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LokiFest CA is a “fragrance-free” event.

NEW & BEST LokiFest Flyer 4:22

Animism, Plastics, and the Unwise Alchemies

Animism is the belief and/or experience of all forms of matter as being somewhat conscious and “alive,” potentially able (but not always willing) to respond to an invitation to “connect.” This may not be a complete definition of animism, but it’s good enough to include in my personal working (and witchy) hypothesis of how the cosmos works. The other part of my working hypothesis is “not everything that is conscious is visible to my eyes.” That naturally includes itty bitty things like microbes (which we do recognize as “alive”) as well as what we call spirits and deities, attached to humanly detectable matter or not.

Univers_Fractal_J.H.Search the words “is matter conscious” and you’ll find many intriguing results, including the scientific term “panpsychism,” defined in this article as “the entire universe is inhabited by consciousness.” Rather than using what’s implied by the word “inhabit” I’ve come to view the entire cosmos as being informed by consciousness, feeling that consciousness is an intrinsic property of matter, though it may be organized in many different ways. It just seems like common sense. Otherwise how could it exist at all, in us or in anything else?


This idea of consciousness as an intrinsic property of matter is addressed in “Is Matter Conscious? Why the central problem in neuroscience is mirrored in physics,” Hedda Hassel Morch, April 6, 2017. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Philosophers and neuroscientists often assume that consciousness is like software, whereas the brain is like hardware. This suggestion turns this completely around. When we look at what physics tells us about the brain, we actually just find software—purely a set of relations—all the way down. And consciousness is in fact more like hardware, because of its distinctly qualitative, non-structural properties. For this reason, conscious experiences are just the kind of things that physical structure could be the structure of.

Given this solution to the hard problem of matter, the hard problem of consciousness all but dissolves. There is no longer any question of how consciousness arises from non-conscious matter, because all matter is intrinsically conscious. There is no longer a question of how consciousness depends on matter, because it is matter that depends on consciousness—as relations depend on relata, structure depends on realizer, or software on hardware.”


This is a frankly speculative blog. However, let’s agree (just for the moment) that matter is intrinsically conscious. We can also assume that the consciousness of various material substances may be organized in ways which may be “invisible” or undetectable for us in ordinary circumstances, with our ordinary senses. This is going to be true of the consciousness of most or all non-biological substances, including those organized into objects.

What are the ways that we could detect or experience a non-biological consciousness? Well, someone could invent a “consciousness detection device” (which would expand our sense perceptions). Someone might use a mathematical formula or perform scientific experiments (like those performed by quantum physicists). Or there may be intuitive, spiritual, or magical actions capable of creating such perception.

And here I’d like to point out that there are forms of synesthesia that allow the perception of consciousness and personalities in objects, numbers, days of the week, and months of the year. People with such synesthesia may have emotional responses to these personalities. (See this case study: When ‘‘3’’ is a Jerk and ‘‘E’’ is a King: Personifying Inanimate Objects in Synesthesia.) I’ve even explored the romantic, affectionate, and erotic aspect of human/object relations in Love Among the Objectum Sexuals, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (2010).

Plastics and the Unwise Alchemies

Just for fun, let’s assume that we have a way to perceive the consciousness experienced by artificial substances, such as plastics. Plastics are created from petrochemicals which are refined from crude oil (petroleum). To quote Wikipedia, “A fossil fuel, petroleum is formed when large quantities of dead organisms, mostly zooplankton and algae, are buried underneath sedimentary rock and subjected to both intense heat and pressure.”

So, transformed fossil remains may be found in food containers, cell phones, cars (and what fuels them), toothbrushes, clothing, medical instruments, etc.–not to mention in human and animal bodies and in our oceans and landfills. The crazy thing is, many of these plastic materials are biologically active. They contain endocrine disruptors which affect human and animal reproduction and sexual health.


Here’s some material concerning the impact of endocrine disruptors in plastics:

Not Too Pretty, The Environmental Working Group. PDF of report. 2002.

Chemicals in personal care and household products linked to earlier puberty in girls. Press release from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Dec. 3, 2018.

You’re not the man your father was. Neal Howe, Forbes, Oct. 2, 2017.

Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. From Levine et. al. Human Reproduction Update, July 25, 2017.

(Thanks to my friend John Kamp, MD, for alerting me to the last three study references.)


And for those fond of cheery reading, you might enjoy learning about microplastics in human feces, plastics in the ocean, and microplastics in fish (which then become microplastics in humans) which brings us back to feces again… Unholy shit!

Okay, perhaps the above explains my use of the term “unwise alchemies” to describe pretty much everything done by the petrochemical and chemistry industries since World War I. Just for irony’s sake, watch this scene from The Graduate.

However, perhaps the term “unwise necromancy” is more to the point. As Aidan Wachter points out in a 2015 blog, we’re all dealing with dead stuff all the time, including “the petrochemical plastics in your shoes…derived from way old dead things.” My impression is, instead of an inexperienced “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” spawning an army of animate brooms carrying buckets and causing floods (remember the Mickey Mouse segment in the 1940 movie, Fantasia?) we’ve got the humungous flood of plastics in every corner–and presumably every creature–of the globe caused by an industry chock full of inexperienced necromancers (uh, aka “scientists”). These feckless neophytes, oathed to the gods of capitalism and armed with a little knowledge but no sense of balance or consequence, summon the remains of ancient beings, subject them to unnatural forces and alchemies, degrade them by shoving them into “bodies” shaped like toilet brushes and Barbies, thereby causing misery for all sentient beings (and for animists, “all sentient beings” includes purty much everything).

Many years ago, when I was in my Anthroposophical phase, I had a conversation with a man who was involved in the founding of a Northern California Waldorf School and who also served as a Christian Community (Steiner spin-off church) priest. We were talking about environmental illness and he asked me to consider the state of health of the “beings” who had such a toxic impact on me. The impression he left me with was one of beings formed outside of “lawful” creation (lacking a “protocol” for their existence?), who were tortured, unwelcome and/or disoriented. All they could do was cause sickness and distress because that was their experience, how they came into being. I’ve never forgotten that conversation and it took me a long time to wrap my mind around it. It was also the first conversation I ever had where I “saw” a person with a spirit eye. Very strange indeed.

Further along in Aidan Wachter’s blog post, I find this key paragraph:


“All manifestations in the field of experienceable existence come about by fluctuations of energy. This energy for the most part changes continuously. However, ‘strong’ events & disturbances cause ‘energy swirls’ that I perceived like a storm going cyclonic (like a tornado), they keep themselves together for awhile and have notable effects. If this ‘swirl’ lasts for awhile, it in essence becomes its own continuous cause. If it persists for a longish time (say moving from moments to hours to days and into weeks or months or years) it becomes a ‘persistent presence’. All persistent presences behave ‘as if’ sentient. For whatever fucked up reason (it’s quite unfair, really!) the Bad Nasties tend to persist more than the good shit. I expect this is because being hurt really horribly produces an inward turning motion where the cyclonic action is a tightening spiral, which, like twisting fibers together to make cord, gets stronger and more durable as it gets more tightly wound. Happiness and joy tend to be expansive and so tend to dissipate fairly quickly.”


So I am reading this and thinking on the one hand of the swirling currents of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and other oceanic plastic patches and also of the chemistries used to force the ancestral remains into all the consumer products we’re addicted to today. Do these chemistries “hurt” these ancestors “really horribly,” causing them to spiral inward, as Wachter says? And are we humans “charmed” by the machinations of marketing and consumerism to continue to inflict such hurt for our own immediate notions of convenience and to the detriment of all life on this planet?

It’s both an intriguing and a tragic train of thought…deeply, mind-numbingly tragic. Is there any hope at all of reversing this situation, even as we deal with other massive challenges such as climate change and the die-off of millions of species?

What Would Witches Do?

As a person with almost thirty years of multiple chemical sensitivity behind me (almost half my life now), I shudder at the next, logical step. I’m going way off the deep end here, because I believe that aside from doing all the right environmental activist things, such as advocating for the precautionary principle in public policy and and weaning ourselves of plastics…there’s something we can do on esoteric and spiritual levels.

Capitalist science has failed us. I am not anti-science, but I am anti-thoughtless, consumer-driven, money-hungering science divorced from common sense. And it’s not just science. Cultures and counter-cultures have failed us. Politics and politicians have failed us. Our knowledge and clever technologies fail us. Even as neo-pagans, we have failed us. That’s because we haven’t thought our situation through. What follows is not yet a part of neopagan thinking.

We the witches, magicians, sorcerers, shamans, and all mystic ritualists who work with spirits, deities, thoughtforms, wights, and ancestors, have an interesting skill set which might be useful here.

We could attempt to correct this situation. We could create the new animist or panpsychic protocols for encountering artificial substances, even those that are most toxic and problematic. If we are truly living our animism, we must welcome, bless, and ritually engage with these beings which are also conscious, though artificially and painfully so. We must offer healing, love, acceptance (wow, “unconditional positive regard” to a designer fragrance!) and ask what we can do to help ease this situation for them. It would be a kindness.

It seems to be one of the few acts of grace and generosity we haven’t tried yet, we witches. Instead of casting out these substances, we could acknowledge the hurt of these far distant ancestors of ours and ask how we can comfort them instead. I find it interesting that even as we make more of “them,” they have the capacity to prevent us from making more of “us” (via endocrine disruption of our reproductive systems). Is that their only way of managing this situation? Could we collaborate in some other way?

Let’s get to work on some rituals and magic actions, some “rules of engagement.” Anyone got any ideas about this? Welcoming all suggestions here.

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