Loki Blesses the Meds, Émile Coué Sanctions the Method

The brand new bottle of new-to-me meds is set before the altar. Offerings have been made. The candles are lit. Several consecrated pendulums are beside me. And thus the ritual begins.

“Beloved Loki, this medicine has been prescribed for me. Do you sanction its use?”

Pendulum swings yes. “And will you bless it for me, helping it to be free of any side effects?” Yes again.

“Thank you, my Lord Loki.”

And so on through my pantheon: Lord Freyr, Lady Freya (and her namesake cat appears at my knee to also add her blessing), Lady Gerda, Lady Brigid, and the Peerless Bastet. Ancestors too. One by one, via pendulum divination, they all accept and bless this medicine. I know they want me to be healthy and resilient.

And then I address the beings of the medicine itself–an artificial creation of “big pharma”–asking it to cooperate with me in a healing and resiliency building process. (Notice the animism in this approach?) I also ask my body to collaborate with the medicine. I pledge to continue taking care of my health in general.

And then I take the first dose, confident in the love and blessings of the spirits who are my family.


Caution: Never discontinue or avoid using any medication without first and always consulting with your doctor and health practitioners. 


What would I have done if one of my deities had said “no” to the “will you sanction its use” question? I would have replied, “Thank you. I am going to follow doctor’s orders, as I made a vow to do so, so while I understand your concern for me, will you please bless this medicine anyway, so that I can safely fulfill my vow?”

Spirits understand vows. And doctors understand that you will call them if side effects arise.

Better yet, I would have just asked for a blessing on the medication, without using the first question. That’s what I recommend for anyone reading this article. Just ask for the blessing. (And follow doctor’s orders.)

Why Did I Do This?

Unknown
Emile Coue. Source: Wikipedia.

I’m a hypnotist (among other things) and so I know a little hypnosis history. One of the “greats” was a French psychologist and pharmacist, Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie. He’s the founder of autosuggestion. You have probably heard some variation of the saying, “each day in every way I am getting better and better.” That’s from Coué.

He realized his patients often did better when he offered a positive remark while handing over the medicine, such as “Oh, this is exactly the right thing for you. You’ll do very well with this” (imagined examples). Here are two key paragraphs from the Wikipedia article:


Coué noticed that in certain cases he could improve the efficacy of a given medicine by praising its effectiveness to the patient. He realized that those patients to whom he praised the medicine had a noticeable improvement when compared to patients to whom he said nothing. This began Coué’s exploration of the use of hypnosis and the power of the imagination

And:

Coué believed in the effects of medication. But he also believed that our mental state is able to affect and even amplify the action of these medications. By consciously using autosuggestion, he observed that his patients could cure themselves more efficiently by replacing their “thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure”. According to Coué, repeating words or images enough times causes the subconscious to absorb them. The cures were the result of using imagination or “positive autosuggestion” to the exclusion of one’s own willpower.


So with my ritual, I have gone one better. Instead of creating a hypnotic autosuggestion ritual, which of course I could have done easily, I wanted the full blessings of my divine pantheon and my ancestors. They are deeply rooted in my subconscious and their participation means the world to me.

Also I had a curious incident a few weeks ago. I was in a crisis state triggered by a family situation. I prayed fervently to all my deities, but to Bastet in particular, for help. There is a line in the supposed “ancient prayer to Bastet” that you find on the internet:

“…slay the evil that affects our minds as you slay the serpent Apep.”

And so I begged her to slay the evils of depression and despair that blight my life. Weirdly, the persistent feeling of being bogged down by a constant state of depression and anxiety actually lifted by the next day and I felt light and free, much better than I have in years. This lasted for a few weeks. It’s like I knew I had been wounded but no longer felt it. “The edge” was definitely not just off, but gone.

Dude! I almost didn’t keep my appointment with the psychiatrist!

But though the deities grant grace and boons and blessings, we mortals are the ones to do the heavy lifting. Loki would rather teach magic and mischief and inspire my writing. Bastet prefers to focus on pleasure, beauty, and dancing. Gerda wants me to water the garden and talk with plants. Freyr reminds me that even toxic relationships can be composted for a new harvest. Freya and Brigid bring me back to explorations of the sacred feminine. In other words, there is more to explore in life and magic and if I want to step up my game…well then! My deities and ancestors are quite willing to give me a boost now and then, and blessings too, but I can’t waste my time in tears.

So I kept the appointment. And this morning I lifted the now consecrated tablet to my lips. I washed it down with tea and set the bottle on the altar, to remind me that the medicine is now sacred.

This approach could work for anyone, monotheist or pantheist, no matter who or what you call upon for assistance. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So mote it be.

I. Preliminary Thoughts Re: Spectrosexuality Survey

Survey Data Collection is Closed as of March 18, 2019. Thank you.

Introduction

At first glance, a lot has changed since 1587, when poor Walpurga Hausmannin, an aging midwife, was tortured, mutilated, and burnt at the stake in the town of Dillingen for witchcraft and other crimes, including a long-term sexual relationship with a demon (Stephens, pp.1-3). Naturally her confession was gained through torture. We cannot know what (if anything) was “true” and what was not.

But in other places, not much has changed after all. In West Africa (and perhaps other places) some children are being tortured and killed as a result of witchcraft accusations and “deliverance” rituals. (See the UK agency, Child Safe Africa, for information and ways to help.)

However I have the privilege of pretending things have changed for those actually practicing witchcraft (and for those suspected of it). I can sit here at the Pacific edge of the United States–an older white woman with New England ancestors, a professional as well as a self-proclaimed witchy person–calm and unafraid to run an online survey about other neopagan computer owners’s sexual experiences with gods, angels, demons, and other spirits. And I do not worry that my small village will be coming after me with pitchforks and torches.

It’s a blessing to be free to practice my own religion and spirituality, and to be able to conduct a sexological inquiry without fear of much in the way of reprisal. However, the topic of spectrosexuality and god/spirit spousery is still misunderstood and controversial even among practitioners in many neopagan and allied magical traditions. (And it may not be well-received among human sexuality professionals either.) People who claim sexual experiences with gods or spirits (either sought or spontaneously occuring) may be bullied, trolled, suspected of being super kinky, or “having a screw loose,” or outright mendacity. Of course, we’re still living under the shadow of America’s last Satanic Panic, so real world consequences for anyone “out” as a spectrosexual or god spouse could certainly ensue without much warning.

It is from this awareness that I perform this act of service–gathering and presenting information via an informal, non-scientific survey and through a series of blogs which will discuss the results, as well as overlapping contexts, which I hope will advance greater understanding.

This is the first in a series of blog posts which will expand on this topic, but not without some preliminaries. Let’s get ’em out of the way.

Note: I am writing in a deliberately conversational, non-academic way but my reference list is APA style.

Personal Context

I am a practitioner and student of neopagan and witchcraft traditions. I consider myself a Lokean (my patron deity is the Norse Loki) but my personal practice is devotional and polytheistic and blends western neotantra, Norse traditions, eclectic witchery, ancestor work, and other traditions.

I have written several relevant blogs, including Spectrosexuality: Spirit Sex and God Spousery. I have explored why Loki Pushes my Neo-tantra Buttons. I have also described my personal practice of neo-tantric meditation, energy, and visualization exercises that incorporate the “spiritual transformation template” of my patron deity. And more.

I am a sexologist. As such, I am also no stranger to writing about unusual sexual orientations and topics. My article, Love Among the Objectum Sexuals (2010), has garnered international attention and is still a popular introduction for journalists and scholars who are interested in people who are affectionately and sexually partnered with objects. In 2009-2010 I wrote a year’s worth of weekly columns called “Love’s Outer Limits” for Carnal Nation (an NSFW online gazette, longer published). A third of those columns have been collected in Sex Squicks. Topics were quite varied.

I am a professional hypnotist and hypnosis instructor. I do trancework. I know how the mind and imagination can create sensations not grounded in external physical experience. In fact, I teach erotic hypnosis as a sexual enrichment technique to individuals and partners.

The above combination gives me a unique perspective on the topic at hand.

I Act “As If” Interactions with Spirit Beings are Real

My approach to the many amazing things that have happened to me, as well as the things I’ve heard from others, is to say what happens when I act “as if” such and such is true? What are the practical and emotional results? Is my life enhanced? Diminished? Is my thinking clearer? Do more things make sense? Or do I feel muddy and murky and confused? I keep an open mind, but I explore the premise.

Common sense comes into play when I look at the vast amount of religious, spiritual, historical, anthropological, and even sexological material dealing with the impact of spirit beings on humanity. I have to say “why would we make this up if there wasn’t some truth in it?” Surely evolving human beings didn’t “need” to create gods, angels, demons, faeries, ancestral spirits, and others just for entertainment or comfort. However, we live in a cosmos which is now known to be made of matter infused with consciousness. Scientists are aligning with animists.


So, yes, Virginia, your egg beater does have a demon… offer a little milk and honey. You’ll get along fine.


Accepting an animist reality for the inexplicable happenings and for my personal relationships with deities and spirits has been overwhelmingly positive, once I got my bearings. Now that I am at the stage of cultivating such relationships, it has been very rewarding. I now understand people who are religious, who say they have a “personal relationship with Jesus” or Lucifer or some other divinity or spirit. My response now is, “Yup. Seems to be how this works. Just don’t tell me who I can and can’t hang out with.” And I go on my merry way with Loki and the gang.

The “Research Question”

Because this survey is not academic, and not a scientifically structured inquiry, my question is very loose: “what do people do [re: spirit intimacy] and how do they feel about it?” The survey has a small sample size (100 n.) and gathers open-ended responses as well as rough numerical data. I want to inform the neopagan community first and the sexological community second (the general public a distant third). And I hope to uncover some data that could be used as a precursor to a more truly academic inquiry.

The Draft Reference List

With one exception*, these are all books from my personal and sexological library. I’ll be exploring and positioning the results of the survey using material in these books for context and perspectives. There will be other sources, but I post this draft reference list in the preliminaries so you can sense points of entry and perspectives for consideration. What I write in the next several blogs won’t be based on an exhaustive literature search, as I don’t have much spare cash to order more books or access to journals in a university library. I know I’ll be missing key texts, especially magical ones. But between what’s below and what I can find on the internet (references to be added later) I hope to present a roughly comprehensive consideration of the topic.


 Anand, M. (1995). The art of sexual magic: Cultivating sexual energy to transform your life. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Connolly, S. (2006). The complete book of demonolatry. USA: DB Publishing.

de Quincey, C. (2005). Radical knowing: Understanding consciousness through relationship. Rochester VT: Park Street Press.

Grundy, S. (2015). God in flames, god in fetters: Loki’s role in the northern religions. New Haven, CT: Troth Publications.

Ho’oulumahiehie & Nogelmeier, M.P. (2006). The epic tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele: Woman of the sunrise, lightening-skirted beauty of Halema’uma’u. Honolulu HI: Awaiaulu Press.

Kaldera, R. (Ed.). The jotunbok: Working with the giants of the northern tradition. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.

Komisaruk, B. R., Beyer-Flores, C., & Whipple, B. (2006). The science of orgasm. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lacquer, T.W. (2003). Solitary sex: A cultural history of masturbation. New York, NY: Zone Books.

Loptson, D. (2014). Playing with fire: An exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of unusual sex practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Baricade Books, Inc.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Vol. 13.

Miller, J. (2015). Sex, sorcery, and spirit: The secrets of erotic magic. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books.

Naphy, W. (2004). Sex crimes from renaissance to enlightenment. Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd.

Pukui, M.K. and Handy, E.S.C. (1998). The Polynesian family system in Ka’u, Hawai’i. Honolulu, HI: Mutual Publishing.

Roach, M. (2008). Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Shaw, M. Passionate englightenment: Women in tantric buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Stephens, W. (2013 ) Demon lovers: Witchcraft, sex, and the crisis of belief. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.*

Tannahill, R. (1992). Sex in history. [No location]: Scarborough House.

Taylor, T. (1996). The prehistory of sex: Four million years of human sexual culture. New York: NY: Bantam Books.

Tedlock, B. (2006). The woman in the shaman’s body: Reclaiming the feminine in religion and medicine. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

U.D., F. (2001). Secrets of western sex magic: Magical energy and gnostic trance. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Wade, J. (2004). Transcendent sex: When lovemaking opens the veil. New York NY: Paraview Pocket Books.

Wachter, A. (2018). Six ways: Approaches & entries for practical magic. [No location]: Red Temple Press.


See you for Part II.

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.)

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