Loki’s Sewn Lips-Personal Thoughts

UPG and a Trigger warning: author’s personal account of sexual abuse experienced as a minor. #Metoo story.

This is the blog I was preparing to write just as we Lokeans were hit by the “Loki in the White House”/Wild Hunt kerfuffle. I jumped in, as readers here know. It’s always been easy for me to set aside personal considerations in favor of larger causes. Tilting at windmills is a specialty of mine. I’ve been doing it ever since I was a teen: protesting dress codes at my junior high school, marching against the Vietnam War, and standing in front of supermarkets handing out flyers urging people to boycott grapes in support of farmworkers in the La Huelga strike of the 60s; as a new mom on the board of the Environmental Health Network of CA, desperately trying to get people to understand the plight of people with multiple chemical sensitivity; years spent as an ally/accomplice in solidarity with people working to restore the governance of the Hawaiian Kingdom and prevent the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on sacred Mauna Kea…and now this, throwing my lot in with the Lokeans.

This tendency of mine is pertinent to the story I want to tell you now, as you’ll see why being “silenced” is so painful and how that silencing happened for the first time.

In addition to personally relating to my patron god, Loki, as “a god of pleasure, poisoned,”  I also have a deep connection to the image of Loki as someone who was forced to “shut up!” by having his lips sewn together with a piece of leather. Yes, Loki’s ordeal was the result of a wager with dwarves and their retaliation for his fast talking. I know it has nothing to do with my story, but the end result, enforced silence, is what resonates with me.

So, picture a fourteen year old girl, intellectually precocious, socially somewhat behind the curve, shy unless speaking out on behalf of a cause or against a perceived injustice. That’s me. Also extremely naive with regard to sexual matters, even though I was attending hippie love-ins in La Jolla Cove Park from the age of twelve on. I’m just going to say it, I’m not exactly neurotypical. Certain things that were obvious to my peers just didn’t compute. And I was fabulously unsupervised and unprotected.

There was a horrible period, ninth grade, when my mother moved us all away from our beloved San Diego beach towns to the San Fernando…fucking…Valley. Inland. For a confirmed beach brat, “That way lies death!” (And here I am, inland now, but at least I live within a block of a giant lake). Torn away from all my friends, and from the sea, I was despondent that year.

But, there were love-ins (of a sort) in Griffith Park and the previously unencountered Hare Krishna folks would come and dance. So sometimes I’d hitchhike there with a girlfriend or sometimes my mom would drop us off and we’d hitchhike back (see what I mean about lack of supervision?).

One day a man named Steve, who said he worked at the Los Angeles Free Press bookstore, took an interest in me. He gave me and my girlfriend a ride home. I gave him my number because he said he’d be glad to take me to the beach (I hadn’t seen the ocean in months). Wow, cool!

Remember, this guy is in his early twenties and I’m fourteen.

A week later, he picks me up at the house. My mother waves bye-bye from the door. We drive. We “get lost” on the freeway and end up in a subdivision under construction somewhere near Thousand Oaks. Okay, since we’re “lost” and not going to get to the beach, Steve says he’ll teach me to drive. He has a huge, old 1930s-1940s car like something out of an R. Crumb comic (which I hadn’t read yet, otherwise I would have been more sophisticated). It has a huge backseat. He stops the car and just as I’m preparing to scoot over to the driver’s seat to get behind the wheel, he literally throws me in the back seat before I even know what’s happening.

Before I know it, his pants are unzipped and his “thing” is shoved down my throat. He holds my head in place, pretty hard, until he’s finished. Now, while this is going on, I’m baffled, “What is this?” (I’d never heard of such a thing.) “Do people even do this?” and even, strangely, “Did my mother ever do this?” These intellectual wonderments probably saved me from further harm, as it was a form of dissociation that allowed me to seem passive and not a threat after the fact.

In fact, this worked so well that he drove me home instead of burying me under a pile of construction debris. So yay, one point for me. And then, as I stumble into the house, still dazed, to take my place at the family dinner table, my mother says of my abuser, “he has such a good face!”

Yeah, Mom, you should have seen what he just did to mine. I could have said it, but I didn’t.  Instead I ate my iceberg lettuce salad with the Kraft Italian dressing sold as a powder in a pouch and you mix it “fresh” in a special Kraft bottle with a plastic lid. The salad tasted real funny for some reason. I didn’t tell her what happened for two years.

Now my mother had already had another child molested, one who was sent on unsupervised camping trips with a “nice man” who went around to all the schools and showed travel slide shows to kids. She should have known better than to let me go off in a car with a total stranger. And I was fourteen and as I said, naive as can be.

No, I didn’t tell her. Instead I started to go silent. That “thing” shoved into my mouth stayed with me for a long time as a gag. I couldn’t speak on my own behalf, or explain my truth or my feelings, for a long time. I started wearing a woolen, hand-embroidered pea coat in all weather, including the San Fernando heat, wrapping it around me for protection. (I was so glad when we left L.A. and moved back to San Diego!)

My body and spirit had received a message from the universe, a forcible “shut up,” and it took a long time to begin to work my way out of it. And over the next several years I did some really weird things to regain my agency, my soul, my own disrupted eroticism, and power of voice. Working as a pregnancy counselor at a free clinic (age 16-18), and as a stripper (age 18-21), and then later getting into punk rock were the most healing things I did.

As a pregnancy counselor, I learned to advocate for women in crisis (and to examine the systems that put them there and the predatory sexism that landed me in that back seat of a car).

As a stripper I learned that I was in charge of my own sexual and gender “performance” and could play with it and manipulate it at will. (This was a creepy venue for personal growth and transformation, but working at “the clubs” also allowed me to support my suicidal childhood sweetheart while trying to attend nursing school.)

After John killed himself, I left San Diego again, this time for San Francisco. I plunged straight into the glorious scene centered around the Mabuhay Gardens. My breakfast of champions was cathartic punk snark. I snacked on bizarre juxtapositions. I dined on creative mutations of anger. And I dreamt of a new world while I worked odd jobs and spent my spare time as a dystopian “wearble art” designer whose motto was “garbage worn as fashion because that’s all that’s left.” It was a wonderful time of creating a slightly scary, oddball gender persona, combining colored duct tape with hand-drawn ameobas, and orange 1950s capri pants with turquoise heels. (Back then, when the scene  was still new, punk girls didn’t get much street harassment. Joy! Bliss!).

Mabuhay Genetic Damage Flyer
My first fashion show.

However, the effects of trauma persist. The damage to my neck showed up in my early twenties as two deteriorating cervical vertebrae. I still live with that pain.

Men with mustaches and the name “Steve” are still triggering. (Ironically, I married a Steve and had children with him. I took me awhile to get past his first name, frankly.)

And like most people in marginalized categories, I have had frequent struggles with efforts to silence me.

I call this category of blog post “Bio Hazard” as a reference to my chemical sensitivity struggles as well as an acknowledgment of the many hazards of autobiographical writing. There will always be a few experiences I will never write or speak about. That I can now write about this one, fifty years later, startles me.

This is one of the unexpected joys of having survived this long. I no longer care very much what most people think. My career as a sexologist is winding down, due to not having clients in this area. My marriage officially ended in two years ago. So I care not, except for my children, some close friends, and the community of my new Lokean “kin.”

So perhaps you might see why Loki’s sewn lips have a special significance to me, because he knows what it’s like to be forcibly silenced–and to suffer thusly–and he knows what it’s like to have those bonds removed. I trust the Lokeans I’ve engaged with (online) because I think most of us know what it means to be silenced and shunned. I am pretty sure we’re not going to do that to each other. I hope that our god will take care that we don’t stray into that kind of hypocrisy.

So speak your truths. Hail Loki! Love to all.

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Loki Quake!

Last week poison dripped from a poison pen and we Lokeans all felt it. And shook! And now you all felt it too. Thank you all for reading the Lokean Group Letter to The Wild Hunt on this and other blogs, and for commenting, signing, reblogging, and writing your own rebuttal articles.

It’s ironic, but we’ve come together more as a community since Karl Siegfried compared Loki Laufeyjarson to the current U.S. president. And Loki is definitely the talk of the town.


Liz Heffner put it very well in a comment in the Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook group:

“Much as I detest _that_ article in TWH…I am appreciating some of the after effects upon the wider Lokean community.

We’re never going to march with one step, uniform and fading-to-gray in homogeneity. No. We will always be externally or internally vibrant, diverse, breathtakingly spectacular in all our large ways or small, subtle or grandiose. Quite likely it is that no two of us will be the same. We won’t always agree. We are not each other’s echo chamber.

But! We are now coming together and forging more visible connections. We are finding new like-minded souls and the sense of community is stronger than ever.

We are not burned by this fire. We are forged by it.

Well played, Loki. Well played.”


Loke,_Fenriswolf_und_MidgardschlangeSo all this last week, behind the scenes we were emailing, commenting on social media, drafting that letter, commiserating, sharing, forging alliances, and organizing! We also shared wonderful sick humor to metabolize the poison, such as watching Karl Siegfried in an episode of Ancient Aliens. (Glad to give you a plug, hon, since you’ve done so much for us.) And writing a parody of the Lokasenna was good for my soul, if not my reputation.

Here are some of the specific positive results

• The Lokean Group Letter, which was sent to The Wild Hunt but not published by them, has had over 2,000 views on this blog alone. The readers are from over thirty different countries. Other bloggers have republished the letter, and I presume they are seeing a lot of traffic as well. Also, some people have asked us to add their names to the letter, as posted on the blogs.

• Ky Greene’s wonderful rebuttal column, The Lokean Community–What We Really Look Like, was published in The Wild Hunt on Dec. 2nd. It describes our community accurately and well.

• In addition to publishing Ky’s column, TWH added a statement acknowledging the controversy, as well as a link to the Lokean Group letter, to the top of Seigfried’s article.

• Several other people have written rebuttal blogs, published elsewhere. (See below.)

• Membership in Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook group has mushroomed.

• The Troth issued a membership survey to discover if Loki should be hailed once again at Trothmoot. (Results and decisions to be announced sometime in January, I believe.)

10:28 Lokabrenna Dedication
Lokabrenna Tiny Temple altar, on the day I formally dedicated it.

• And some of us are having discussions of further ways to organize and nurture our religious community as we’re individually and collectively tired of discrimination and disrespect from so many in neopagan and heathen communities.

I feel so blessed to be part of this community of Lokeans, Loki wellwishers, and allies. It’s lovely. I feel I made several new friends this last week. I feel so privileged to be able to say openly: Loki is my patron god. I’ve got others, but he’s the closest and dearest to me.

Hail Loki!


Rebuttal Blogs and Columns–In Progress

I am sure there are more. I will add them as I find them. Please add to comments section if you know of ones I’ve missed. Thanks!

Dagulf Loptson, Loki and Trump: My Thoughts

Kyaza, Analysis of Seigfried’s Comparison of Loki and Trump

Sonya Odinsdottir, Rebuttal to Article: Loki in the White House

Sarenth Odinson, Loki is Not Trump (Neither is Odin)

John Mainer, Loki, Discord and Deep Lore


Lokean Blogs and Resources–In Progress

I will add as I find more. Please add to comments section if you have suggestions. Thanks.

Dagulf Loptson, Loki Cult (blog)

Kyaza, A Polytheistic Life (blog)

Amber Drake, Fire and Ink (blog)

Bat Bruja (blog)

John Mainer, Mainer74 (blog)

Moonrouge — glorious Loki artwork.

Loki’s Wyrdlings on WordPress

Loki’s Wyrdlings on Facebook

Loki University (online course, associated with Loki’s Wyrdlings)

Lokean Collective on Facebook

Lokean Welcoming Committee on Tumblr


 

Group Lokean Letter sent to The Wild Hunt, Not Published

This letter was submitted to The Wild Hunt weekend editor on Nov. 30th. TWH declined to amend the article as requested (their response was Dec. 1). Feel free to copy and paste this letter in its entirety, along with signatures, and share as you will on your own blogs and social media. Update! See Ky Greene’s Lokean Community article here!

[Dec. 6 Apology] And here I have to apologize for originally writing that TWH “declined” to publish the letter. I stand corrected. In writing, they declined to amend Seigfried’s article. But, please note, they also did not publish the letter, which they could have done, especially as it was signed by so many people.

A Lokean Group Response to Karl Seigfried’s “Loki in the White House”

We are concerned about the religious bigotry and intolerance against our community and religious practices, as conveyed in Karl E.H. Seigfried’s recent column “Loki in the White House,” The Wild Hunt, Nov. 24, 2018.

Those who cultivate a relationship with the Norse god, Loki, are a minority among neopagans. Our individual practices are eclectic, nondogmatic, and individualistic.
By equating Loki with certain cherry-picked actions of the current president of the United States, Seigfried suggests that we who cultivate a relationship with Loki do not understand our own god, our own spirituality, and our community, and what we should understand is that our god is evil. This is no better than an evangelical Christian telling pagans that our lack of understanding about Jesus and our own gods is leading us to worship demons. This is not only condescending but also inappropriate for an interfaith chaplain.

While we are individually and collectively offended by Karl E. H. Seigfried’s comparison of Loki to the current president of the United States, we understand his right to his opinion, no matter how ill-founded it may seem to us. However Seigfried’s article crossed an important line from eccentric opinion to bigotry.

What concerns us most of all are Seigfried’s final two paragraphs, which are essentially “a call to action” to discriminate and further marginalize all who hail Loki in their religious and devotional practices, whether in a polytheistic or monotheistic context. The opinions he presents in those closing paragraphs are that Loki is bad, therefore we who hail Loki are also bad and undeserving of support.

“Lokiphobia” is a word we wish we did not need to coin, and yet many members of our spiritual and religious community have been dealing with prejudice for years. In Heathen circles, many people who hail Loki have been excluded, bullied, and threatened. We can supply examples of this claim if needed. So it is particularly dangerous to fan the flames of such paranoia and bigotry against an outlier group when things are already so volatile nationally and worldwide.

To be clear, Lokiphobia, in the context of neopaganism, is discrimination against the religious practices and beliefs of people who hail Loki and/or identify as Lokeans (or a similar description). We, the authors, (1) call out Lokiphobia in Seigfried’s column and (2) insist upon respectful, interfaith dialogue in public forums and events where we and our faith are referenced, discussed, or questioned.

While we understand that the Wild Hunt is a platform for many different spiritual views, this article has crossed the line from being an opinion piece to promoting religious discrimination and the expulsion of an already vulnerable subgroup within Heathenry. Many of us are women, LGBTQIA, have disabilities, or hold other identities that on the whole have made us targets within the larger Heathen community which has consistently held much more traditionally conservative views. For our own safety and well-being we are requesting that Seigfried either amend the portions of his article that are a direct cry for the expulsion of Loki worship or that the Wild Hunt remove the article entirely.

To do otherwise is to sanction discrimination against a religious minority.

Where as in the past we as Loki devotees have largely been disorganized and kept mostly to ourselves, we’re no longer willing to keep quiet and suffer discrimination and verbal abuse in the name of “different opinions.” We have reached a tipping point where we refuse to continue being a punching bag for the American Heathen community’s frustrations or used as villains in its own paranoid fantasies. We hope that in the name of true inclusivity you will choose to be our allies instead of contributing to years of unnecessary division. This has never just been about how  people feel about Loki: this is about how people choose to treat other people.

Signed:

Dagulf Loptson
Ky Greene
Amy Marsh
KveldúlfR Hagan Gundarsson (Dr. Stephan Grundy, Ph.D., Norse Studies)
Aiyana Assata Amare Ashen
Terra Akhert
Tara Aparicio
Carrie Bertwistle
Susa Morgan Black
Marina Boccuzzi
Lauren Buhr
Sara Cochran
Moira Hawthorne Copeland
Heathir Dhomhnaill
Amber Drake
Kriselda Gray
Ailim Hazel
Elizabeth Hefner
Alex Iannelli
Mischa Kvashninenkoff
Jennifer Lesko
Roxana García Liotta
Michelle Lord
Tom Mayernik
Jude Melvin
Lindsay Moose
Katherine Morgan
Draca Nightweb
Tahni Nikitins
Katie Oden
Lillian Sara Pink
Jenna Porterfield
Denise Marie Radcliffe
Logan Riley
Emily Sabin
Olivia Sweat
Tedri Liudan Thorne
Kyra Pandora Weaver
Lindsay Wiles


More people have asked for their names to be added at the copy of the above letter posted at A Polytheistic Life


By request in comments section or via social media, these names have been added to this blog.

Denise Bowen

Wyrd Dottir

Rev. Eric R. Roberts

Gangler is Grove

Richard Norris

Justin Nichols

Ki Lokean aka Ki Brosius aka Ki Brightly

Jessica Marcione

B. A. McNeely

Ode of 3 Pagans and Cat

And a statement of support from Saga Press in the comments section below.

Loki_taunts_Bragi

Here is the link to The Wild Hunt’s commentary about the controversy, posted above the original article with links to Ky Greene’s Lokean Community article and to this letter.

####

Rabbit, Rabbit

No, I don’t wake up the first of every month saying this. I’ve heard about it, of course: a superstition to bring luck in the next month. But I do pay attention to auspicious signs and portents.

This morning (December 1st), my waking up to The Troth membership opinion survey regarding the hailing of Loki at Troth events was indeed auspicious. The hailing of Loki is controversial within the organization, which apparently consists largely of U.S. membership. I have heard that similiar organizations in other countries find this controversy puzzling and unnecessary.

The survey results will not produce a binding vote, but might help influence the organizational leadership’s position on this topic. Currently, Loki is banned from Troth events (a form of religious discrimination we call Lokiphobia.)

There were three options: (1) continue the ban on hailing Loki at Troth events; (2) no ban at all, so that Loki could be hailed at any time; and (3) a compromise position that would allow one hailing of Loki in the main event, with separate bowls and drinking vessels for Loki-hailers and abstainers, presumably for spiritual “hygiene.”

An aside: the one thing I do wish the survey had included was a second question as to how many people in The Troth membership do hail Loki at all, ever. I think this could have been very interesting indeed, as it would provide numerical information as to allies and practitioners as well as abstainers.

For those who don’t know, The Troth is an organization that promotes inclusive Heathenry (as opposed to all the white supremacists running around with Norse runes tattoo’d on their biceps). The stated policy of inclusivity is why I joined, even though I don’t describe myself as “heathen” per se at this point. Here’s a key portion of their policy statement:


From The Troth website: “We are deeply proud of our indigenous Northern European religious, cultural, and historical heritages. We welcome all people, whatever their religious, cultural, or ancestral background, physical ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation, who have developed or wish to develop a relationship with our Gods and Goddesses, and would like to know more about Asatru or other forms of Heathenry. Together, our members practice the moral principles followed by our noble predecessors, including: Boldness, Truth, Honor, Troth, Self-Rule, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, Steadfastness, Equality, Strength, Wisdom, Generosity, and Family Responsibility.”


Oh, the Irony…

…that such spiritual hygiene should be given such attention when there are a few other  more essential topics the organization could address more robustly.

For example, Jeremy Baer, a  Redesman for The Troth, just blogged his opinion on the divisiveness of the Loki/not Loki controversy and pointed to what he sees as the greater challenge for inclusivity in The Troth and heathenry in general: racists and “Nazi scum.” Baer writes:


Baer writes: “Whether it is on the domestic front in North America, or courting potential allies in Europe, the Troth does itself a strategic disadvantage in actively alienating devotees of Laufeyson. Most Lokeans I have met, because of who they are and Who called them, are natural anti-fascists who would stand against the racialist scourge.”

(Note: Baer uses “Laufeyson” as Loki’s “last name” instead of the more correct “Laufeyjarson.”)

8c066f7adfb283497f5ba5fa7bce66df
Pride Loki” artwork (based on “Marvel Loki”) by DKettchen.

Yeah, gotta agree on that. We Lokeans also seem to be more supportive of LGBTQIA+ and disability issues and many of us exist in marginalized spaces as a result of our own lives and identities.

(I’d personally love to see a survey on that, including the kinds of activism we’re engaged in outside of heathen and neopagan topics.)

However, in the Loki Wyrdlings facebook group, several people have pointed out that Baer seems dismissive and glosses over the problems of inclusivity that we Lokeans face, and that this must be addressed before unity can be achieved. Also, it’s been pointed out that as grown-ups, we can work on more than one issue, say, addressing internal prejudice against Loki practitioners as well as cultural appropriation and misuse of Norse religions by white supremacists.

But Wait! There’s MORE!

BlkPinkmcs_logo
From a hat sold by the Environmental Health Network of CA, http://www.ehnca.org. I was a board member and president back in the 90s.

But, Lokean as I am, I want to throw another issue into the “hygienic” mix, that of disability accommodation, particularly with regard to those who have the invisible disabilties of multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illnesses and respiratory ailments (such as asthma) that are triggered and worsened by the exposure to airborne toxins such as fragrances, scented personal care products, candles, incense, pesticides, paints, etc. Such people, at least the ones who have recovered somewhat from previous toxic exposures, generally do pretty well at maintaining their health and stamina as long as such products are excluded from gatherings and public spaces. I hear the Trothmoot this year is taking place on the West Coast. I would enjoy experiencing such a thing, just once in my life, and to be able to go home from it in relatively healthy shape.

Most people with conditions such as mine are socially isolated and many are longing to participate in faith and spiritual communities, including neopagan ones (heathen, Wiccan, etc.). When I moved here to Lake County, I even tried the local Unitarian Universalist church, as UU’s have a history of accepting neopagans. I had a few conversations with someone in the local leadership and decided to try attending a service. Within ten minutes I had to flee due to one person wearing a heavy dose of sandalwood essential oil. I cried all the way home.

I’ve never been to a Trothmoot, or indeed any public heathen or neopagan event except for that thing the Druids used to do in Berkeley in the park, and that only once. Reclaiming Witch Camps could be fun, but they are outdoors in the woods in the summer and I know the mosquito repellant would make attendance impossible. (I also dodge airborne toxins at health facilities, schools where I’ve taken classes, public transportation, restaurants, grocery stores, senior centers, and so on.)

Good indoor air quality, which is what people like me need in order to participate in  events and experience those stated Troth values such as Hospitality, Frith, and Self-reliance, benefits everyone in attendance. Go on over to my Why Fragrance Free page on my professional website and you’ll see links to a study published earlier this year that estimates that 1-4 Americans has some form of environmental illness now. ONE IN FOUR. That’s staggering.

From where I sit and stand, always on the outside, I’d much rather see the vast amounts of attention focused on the pros and cons of Loki worship (so, just get over it and let us hail Loki already!!!!) directed instead toward a thoughtful consideration of a ban on fragrance use at such events, as the toxicity of such products is well documented in scientific literature and numerous anecdotal accounts. (Yes, and as grownups, we can also address the problems presented by alt.right fascists and neo-nazi scum, as well as other challenges.)

Because I have no kindred beyond those I find on the internet, and no place of worship beyond my own altars and my Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, I am probably doomed to spend the rest of my life as a solitary practitioner of just about everything. I try to make peace with that, but even writing about this brings tears. When it’s not too painful, I like to imagine the cheer of bright halls where people like me (aging, disabled, kinky, Lokean) are welcome as full members of the community. I long to toast, boast, recite poetry, and look with love on my kindred. I long to rely on the “kindness of strangers” who soon become my friends. I long to stand up and do battle beyond writing these blogs.

Alas.

smallEcoMaskBut, yeah, I’m a gonna bring this up. I’m bringing it up now. I’m tossing my respirator on the ground as a gauntlet. Loki is all about pointing out hypocrisy and the hypocrisy in action against those with disabilities is every bit as damaging as other forms of exclusion.

As for Loki–I’ll leave you with the song stylings of Joan Jett, Bad reputation.

Loki! Loki! (For luck.)

####

I’ve Eaten My Own Burnt Heart and Given Birth

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.)

12028868_10207112939609087_3486118964918588213_o
Me back in the day. Punk wearable artist. About the same time as I ended up on stage with Iggy Pop. Photo by Jaen Anderson, published in Slick Magazine.

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.

Pele_by_David_Howard_Hitchcock,_c._1929
Pele, by David Howard Hitchcock, c. 1929. Public domain.

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!

10:28 Lokabrenna Dedication
Lokabrenna Tiny Temple altar, on the day I formally dedicated it.

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?

NaNo-2018-Winner-Certificate

 

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Lokasenna Time!

Loki_taunts_Bragi

The Columnist shook his credentials and raised an outcry against Loki. There was a “Wild” ruckus in the Comments section, so Loki found the Editor without. Loki greeted him and said:

1] “Say thou, Editor,     nor before set thou

One foot forward:

What the Columnists speak of,     at their laptops sitting,

the website here within.”

Editor said:

2] “Of their credentials speak,     and of lofty deeds,

the glorious Pundits,

Of neopagan readers     who click their bait

not one speaks well of thee.”

Loki said:

3] “In I shall, though,     into the Hunter’s Hall—

fain would I hear their boasts;

brawls and bickering      I bring the goods,

their typos I shall mix with truth.”

Editor said:

4] “If thou goest     into the Hunter’s Hall,

and fain would’st hear their boasts;

if hate and mocking     they heap upon you,

be sure to Twitter me.”

Loki said:

5] If with words we war,     I and your Pundits,

then full well thou wotst,

Editor, that I    will uppermost be,

if foul of me thou fallest.”

Then went Loki within the hall, but when they who were there saw who had come in, the Pundits all were hushed.

Loki said:

6] “Thirsty cometh     to the Hunter’s Hall,

burdened with glorious purpose,

To ask the Pundits     if that anyone

would pour him the mellow mead.”

7] “Why are ye closed,     in your comments section,

Allow me not to have a word?

A space on your Disqus     in your weblog give me,

or else unleash my bloggers!”

Pundit said:

8] A seat on the bench,     our banquet to share,

will this Pundit not ever give thee;

for well I wot     what Pagans at the feast

it behooves me to have.”

Loki said:

9] “Art mindful, Pundit,     how in olden days we

watched thy strain at interfaith dialogue?

Thou doest much better     amongst Ancient Astronaut

Theorists opining on alien craft.”

Pundit said:

10] “Arise then colleagues,     let the Wolf’s father

be benched at our banquet;

lest that Loki     demand a retraction

in the Hunter’s Hall.”

Then arose the Pundit and snatched a laptop away from Loki.

But before he sat, Loki hailed the Columnists:

11] “Hail to you, Pundits,      hail, Columnists,

Hail to all would-be bloggers,

but to one Pundit only,      who with you sits,

Serves grevious slander to my name.”

Pundit said:

12] “My byline art most precious,     I beseech thee, Loki,

Call off thy bitter bloggers,

Lest to pagan hosts     my wits show slowest:

beware my trump comparisons!”

Loki said:

13] “Of trump comparisons    small store, ween I,

hast, Pundit, thou to boast!

Of all the pundits     within this hall

thou are most inclined to make

assertions with no merit.”

Pundit said:

14] If without I were—     as within I am—

Hunter’s hallowed hall:

in my hands would I have     thy rep full soon

for your crimes are as of trump.”

Loki said:

15] “Thou are swift to cry trump,     but slow to examine,

Pundit, thou spurious claims;

I offer critique,     if bold thou art;

not a whit would a brave brain stay.”

A Reader said:

16] “I beg thee, Pundit,      to bear in mind

That of Odin’s kin he is:

Diss not Loki     with taunting words

in Hunter’s weblog hall.”

Loki said:

17] Right on, Reader:     of neopagans

this oft contentious lot,

rains foul words     and fouler deeds,

upon my mortal friends.”

Reader said:

18] “I tease not Loki     with taunting words

in Hunter’s weblog hall;

I but soothe Pundit     with theories crazed

lest Lokeans go to battle.”

Editor said:

19] “Ye Bloggers all     within this hall

why do ye war with words?

We knoweth well     the drag this is,

let’s love all merry things!”

Loki said:

20] “Right on, Editor     I have in mind

the way to make amends

For weregild take     the apology make

and Loki hate forswear.”

And from that day forth, all were welcome in the hall. 


Based on the “Lokasenna,” The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee M. Hollander.


Please also check out these thoughtful rebuttals:

Dagulf Loptson, Loki and Trump: My Thoughts

Kyaza, Analysis of Seigfried’s Comparison of Loki and Trump

Sonya Odinsdottir, Rebuttal to Article: Loki in the White House

Sarenth Odinson, Loki is Not Trump (Neither is Odin)


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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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