Lucky LaFey and the Ornamental Hermits

Yes! Here is the first character sketch for “Lucky LaFey.” Readers of this blog might see someone they know…

Lucky is joining my cast of characters in The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, which is my second book in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series. (First book: The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits). 

I am so excited about adding this handsome drifter to my tales of mid-life magic! Trouble is sure to ensue!

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

 

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A Homeopathic Dose of Madness

I’ve joked in the past that my epitaph will be “Not Insane” (a line from an old Firesign Theater routine), and I can tell you honestly that the only mental health diagnosis I’ve ever gotten was (is!) “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.” It’s supposed to be a passing phase, based on difficult life changes, but the “hits” just keep on coming, therefore I think I’ve had it longer than most people. A therapist friend who knows me well says (unofficially) that she thinks I’ve graduated to post traumatic stress disorder, but I, uh, erm…well, I kinda don’t want to go there.

It is true though that my tendency to suddenly flee toxic relationships (or even incidents) has accelerated in recent years, especially if my gut erupts in feelings of nausea even thinking about the person. In Hawai’i, the na’au (the gut) is the super-smart “heart,” the seat of emotions. And in Western medicine, we know the enteric nervous system can tell us a lot. So that “mixed anxiety” of mine (I’ll take it shaken, not stirred) includes a deep, visceral reaction to people and things which cause me to suffer. So I have to work hard at keeping hyper-reactivity from taking over my life: meditation, self-hypnosis, my spiritual practices, loads of “quiet time,” creative writing (like this blog and my novels), reading, and avoidance of and withdrawal from the people and situations which feel harmful. Like the jet test pilots of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, I try hard to “maintain an even strain.”

But that’s not exactly what today’s blog is about. I just wanted to lay the foundation first. That’s because I’ve entered a new phase in the last couple of years, turning from my formerly avid amateur engagement with Hawaiian culture toward a renewed interest in Western magic, Neo-paganism, and Celtic/Northern spirituality. And because I’ve turned into a god-struck old lady (not the first to do so, by any means). But not just any god either. As readers of this blog know already, Loki is my patron, though I’ve always been an animist and a polytheist and continue to cultivate relationships with other massive beings (aka “gods”) and some of the less spiritually bulky ancestors and land wights.

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Loki illustration from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths.

Some of my oldest and most beloved friends might be finding this new phase of mine hard to take, though they are (by now) used to the ever-changing parade of “Amy’s special interests.” And it’s true that isolation, loneliness, moments of despair, and a “what the hell” attitude unique to this age bracket has propelled me into an even more determined exploration of what it means to engage with non-material realms. I was always into the occult, anyway, so why not run with it now for all I’m worth?

That picture of Loki at right seems to indicate that even he might be questioning my sanity at this point. (That’s a joke.) But for those of my friends and family who might be worried about this pagan, god-struck phase, I ask them to consider that I am placing a deliberate, homeopathic application of “madness” into my life in order to keep the rest of me sane. Because honestly, without the support of my devotional practices and a feeling of being held by my ancestors and gods, I might not manage to remain here for much longer. And that’s a fact.

That, and the fact that my cats need feeding and my kids need me to not go there.

As an artist, a writer, a thinker, a mother, an eccentric, an activist, and a sorrowing human soul, I am living into this next phase of my life (the Baba Yaga phase?) with as much robust curiosity and creativity as I can muster. And I don’t mind looking ridiculous. I will, Scorpio-style, do this to the hilt. You, dear reader, are witness.

It’s life.

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Lokeans Are Stellar!

In these last few months, as I’ve learned to lean into the metaphysical embrace of my surprising trickster deity, I’ve also learned that my fellow Lokeans are–so far without exception–warm, generous with advice and support, and often quite funny and smart. They are also extremely creative, judging from the fabulous mix of artwork, costumes, jewelry design, stained glass windows, and other devotional objects created in honor of Loki (who is an excellent muse). But there’s so much more.

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I was desperate for emotional support during the two weeks I spent evacuating from the July-August California Ranch Fire, along with my four cats. (At one point the fire was just over the ridge behind my house.) Overall I had a good amount of attentive care from friends and family, but panic attacks come without warning, and so I often had an immediate need for reassurance. I sometimes find it hard to reach out to my people when I’m in acute distress (I’m wary of inflicting compassion fatigue). However, the Facebook groups, Loki’s Wyrdlings and The Lokean Collective, were always available as long as I had internet access and I could and did post at times about the fires and my plight. People responded with expressions of sympathy and I felt better for it. Right now, several members of those groups are enduring Hurricane Florence on the East Coast, and again, I see an outpouring of caring messages.

Reading about shared experiences and “UPGs” (unverified personal gnosis) are also important to me. I posted yesterday about the current phase I’m experiencing. It seems like everyone I know (from casual acquaintances to close family members) cannot help revealing–in unmistakable ways–exactly now much I can or cannot count on them. Or they are compelled to display personality traits or opinions which let me know where I stand, or would stand, if I got any closer. (Here’s one example.) So in addition to some very pleasant surprises with people I’d now like to know better, I’ve also withdrawn from a few others. I’d been thinking this may be the result of Loki’s famous “let’s shake everything up and clear out the garbage” influence, which can apparently wham the unsuspecting novice. This likelihood was confirmed by the responses I’ve gotten to my post. (Yes, I knew things could get “interesting” when I welcomed this spiritual force into my life.)

Now my ordinary days are not complete without engaging in the above Facebook groups, as well as checking The Lokean Welcoming Committee for new posts, archived guidance, and artwork. I also like Light a Candle for Loki, which presents opportunities to express praise, gratitude, or requests. I like reading what other people have posted and I often post myself. Those Loki limericks? That was me (though most of my “candle” posts tend to be devotional). And recently there’s been an informative and respectful thread on The Troth members list about Loki’s associations with fire. All of this is quite helpful for a newbie.

I haven’t mentioned the various blogs I’ve found, as I’ve hardly made a dent in discovering and reading them, but Grumpy Lokean Elder is already a favorite. I should devote an entire post to other people’s blogs (and books!), and I will when I get a little further along in my discoveries. So if I follow your blog but haven’t mentioned you yet, I will at a later date!

So I guess what I’m saying is that through the miracle of the internet, I find myself with something of a far-flung kindred and as I’m learning to love my god, I’m also finding I adore his people.

There. Lokean Love Letter sent! You guys are the best!

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Loki and the Johari Window

“‘Cause everybody knows, the things she doesn’t see…” Velvet Underground, Femme Fatale.


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Public domain Johari Window with added comments.

I woke up thinking about the Lokasenna (Loki’s Flyting), a poem from The Poetic Edda which shows Loki blowing the Johari Window wide open, busting communication protocols and social facades, outing his sex partners, exposing hypocrisy, and spilling secrets right and left, including his own. This burst of truth-telling did not end well for Loki. He was punished with barbarous cruelty.

You can find a translated text of the poem here. Dr. Jackson Crawford’s video about the Lokasenna is helpful in understanding this poem.

I also find Dagulf Loptson’s book, Playing with Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (2014, Asphodel Press) to contain an interesting perspective, setting this poem within the context of an old Icelandic-style family feud. He reminds us that the Aesir have already banished and/or tortured three of Loki’s children (those he had with Angrboda), with absolutely no provocation except prophesy, and that if Loki were to ignore such deeds, it would be seen as a fatal sign of weakness. In the section called “Loki’s Rap Battle” (pp. 164-167), Loptson describes Loki’s poetic insults as a verbal duel designed to win back his place in Aesir society by exposing the evil deeds of the other gods. Loptson writes:

“The secret actions of the Aesir as they are revealed are resetting the social standard, and Loki is arguing that there is no reason he should be considered an outcast since everyone else does the same unacceptable things.” 

Loptson notes that none of the gods refute what Loki says. Yeah, they’ve done all that stuff, but had hoped to keep it in that lower left hand section of the Johari window. As for Loki, he’s fine about revealing his own secrets (especially his sexual conquests), but his propensity to damage himself through his own impulses is as probably as obvious to the others as their hypocrisy is to him. At the moment, though, Loki doesn’t see this and probably doesn’t care. He is enraged and heedless, ignoring his own capacity for cooler strategies.

We could imagine that the other gods and goddesses see that Loki is about to go way too far and will soon be in serious trouble (and they will be all too happy to oblige, since he’s left them no face-saving options at all). With their social masks torn to bits, the insulted gods and goddesses lose all pretense to honor and higher standards and give way to their own worst impulses, killing Loki’s two innocent children and then binding him with one child’s entrails. They leave him to suffer from a poison-drolling snake (which Sigyn tries to contain with a bowl).

I am not trying to comment in a scholarly way on this poem. I am trying to understand the underlying psychology or social dynamics using the Johari Window as a lens. More than that, I am trying to understand this poem’s implications and lessons for Loki devotees.

The Aesir were clueless about the depth of their own hypocrisy and when this was exposed and their public masks were shredded, their vengeful actions flowed from the lower right hand corner–revealing deep capacities for cruelty which had been previously unknown to themselves as well as to everyone else. That lower right hand corner is where our shadows live.

If in our devotions to Loki, we find ourselves in a similar situation–our public selves in tatters and our secrets exposed–how may we extract the golden potential from that lower right hand corner, instead of unconscious capacities which are hard and cruel and which may lead us to actions that will shame us even more?

I am wondering if part of what we need to do is to cultivate fearless self honesty as well as compassion for our failings. If we can do that in small ways, on a regular basis, perhaps we won’t be surprised into a massive overreaction when confronted with larger uncomfortable truths. That’s easier said than done, however, as that upper right hand corner–the stuff everyone knows about us but that we don’t see ourselves–contains the clues to our failings and negative personality quirks. (Of course we may also be unaware of good qualities and habits as well.) Communication theory tells us that we can ask for “feedback” from others in order to gain access to that upper right hand corner, but that’s not always possible or appropriate (as with white privilege, for example, where it really is not the job of people of color to provide feedback for white people on this topic).

As a Loki devotee, I assume that I’ll be in for some persona shredding of my own as I go deeper into cultivating this relationship with my “most trusted one.” And I may also have to struggle against an impulse to shred others when I feel provoked. Fortunately, I’ve had several decades of practice in curbing my own quick tongue and capacity for brewing “poison” out of anger and resentment. Not saying I’ve perfected this, but I do have a habit of diligence to fall back on. And I can always ask my gods and guides to protect me from my own worst impulses just as I ask them to shield me from the injustice of others (or provide me with tools to cope). And perhaps our trusted ones can help us to explore the unknown capacities in the lower right hand section as well?

Can’t hurt to ask. Could help. A lot.

Are you a fellow traveller? Got insights about the Lokasenna? Please comment!

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My Lord, I Offer Thee…Twisted Humor

Hail Loki, Breaker of Worlds, Master of Mischief, Shapeshifter Supreme–and, I venture to add–God of the Gleeful, Lover of Laughter!

Though I’m admittedly a newly-minted Lokean, and perhaps too eager to blog this to the rest of the world (which cares not), I have come to understand that the presence of the “trickster” has been with me at least since my teens. This was evident in my own love of semi-confrontational pranks (which usually contained some political or topical message). I was an intellectually precocious twelve-year old in 1967, and at some point became an ardent vegetarian (no longer one). An old friend recently reminded me of the time I drew tiny purple cows on big marshmellows and scattered them around La Jolla Cove Park, to let people know that marshmellows were conjured from animal flesh (or something like that).

Yeah, I know, obscure. But mirthful (at least to me).

My adolescence in the Sixties was a golden age for topical pranks. I remember when a bunch of us “protested” the Vietnam War by burning the tiny paper American flag on top of the “Mount Helix” giant ice-cream bowl for ten at the old Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in San Diego. We thought we wuz so radical and clever, but we were really just stoned. But maybe the Yippies and Merry Pranksters would have approved. Nevertheless, mirth.

Of course, there were also really dumb pay telephone pranks, with no redeeming social content whatsoever. We’d call the payphone that was in the park across from my house, watch from the window to see who answered, and then say stupid stuff. I had a friend who used to call pet cemetaries and ask if they delivered… (I was never that bold.) Nevertheless, gales of laughter. Snickers. Mirth.

Mabuhay Genetic Damage FlyerLater, in my San Francisco punk rock days, we had a “fashion protest” in Union Square. A bunch of us held signs like “Polyvinyl is Truth: Tweed is Madness” (my brother Patrick composed that one) and “We have proof the CIA killed the mini-skirt.” We marched around a few blocks and the oppressed workers in posh boutiques came out on the sidewalk to applaud. My first fashion show featured a man wearing a jock strap mask attacking a T.V. with a chainsaw. Those early days of punk were chock full o’ pranks.

A few years later, as a prank-starved new mother at home with my baby, I fed my deep desire for pranks and humor through mild crushes on Peewee Herman and Jambi.

As my first-born began to read from Kentucky Derby glasses at the dinner table, I once boasted I would write a short story that incorporated the names of all the winners of the Kentucky Derby from 1875 through 1999. A few years later my kid asked, “Hey mom, whatever happened to that story that started with ‘Sunny’s Halo slipped sideways as she took a genuine risk?'” Of course I had to make good my boast then, and so I did! I still feel tingles of unholy glee when I re-read it. (It’s called “The Strange Saga of Fonso Aristides” and it’s published in my “slim volume of poetry,” below).

lol-hemogoblinIn my first years as a sexologist, I was lucky enough to write a weekly column for a NSFW website called Carnal Nation (no longer published). Many of my columns were serious, like “Domestic Ultraviolence” and “Said to the Rose,” but others were flat out pranks. There was that column about infiltrating vampire chat rooms as “Dr. Hemogoblin” in order to explore the sexy vampire thing. Or that review I wrote of a semen cookbook…

I’m gonna be cremated so I’ll never have a tombstone, but if I did it would read “Not Insane”–a line from an old Firesign Theater routine. My slim volume of poetry is titled “I Was a Hybrid in a Black Brassiere” (kind of like “I was a Teenage Werewolf From Outer Space”). My youngest son wants to name my youngest cat, “No Country for Old Men.” One of my brothers used to play drums while wearing meat. You see, this stuff runs in the family.

And so my dear Lord Loki, my most trusted one, my beloved teacher and friend (see, I can’t stop gushing!), please accept these offerings from one who styles herself as your “plucky comic relief.” May they please you as they’ve pleased me.

May they provide thee with mirth.

Randy Rainbow’s videos.

The Gallery of Regrettable Food.

Cards Against Humanity, including the 2018 Pride Pack. Especially the card that reads “whatever straight people do for fun.”

This meme (I don’t know the wag who created it, but I bow low to that person):

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Puddles singing “Royals.”

Wilkinson’s Family Restaurant and anything else done by Liam Lynch.

Prisencolinensinainciusol.

Any of the “butter bug” scenes from A Civil Campaign by Lois McMasters-Bujold.

Whoever wrote “this gum tastes like rubber” on a condom dispenser.

“I am Part of the Resistance Inside Nyarlathotep’s Death Cult.”

Literature’s Great Couples on Tindr

[This list is a work in progress. Come back for lots more.]

Are you a fellow traveller? Offering jokes and pranks to Loki too? Would love to hear about it! Please comment!

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My Need for Kindred and Cahooting

I’m living here alone, almost on the shore of a large lake, in a county that’s one of several scorched by the Mendocino Complex Fire (which is still raging). I was able to shelter in San Francisco for two weeks during the evacuation, in a neighborhood where I previously spent many, many years of my life. Though I was in an empty apartment and sleeping on the floor, I was happy. Every day I could leave the flat and walk down a hill and see people–whether in the Castro District or Noe Valley. I could eat, window shop, and just get my body moving and feel a part of life, of a community. I began to hunger for my daily walks, to be out, alive, and able to exchange insignificant pleasantries with people behind the counters of health food and hardware stores.

I was closer to most of my oldest and dearest friends, as well as my two grown children and my mother, and was able to see most of the people important to me in that short span of time. It was heaven.

Back here in Lake County (beautiful as it is, and with some very good neighbors), I am mostly alone. No lover, no roommate, no job, no clients, and with only a sad little scruff of a post office as a walking destination. The nearest towns are three and six miles away, and their sidewalks are barely populated. There are no brisk crowds to navigate. Barely any restaurants. No cafes for fomenting revolution or falling in love.

My isolation is also largely due to years and years of multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illnesses (which explains the “no job, no roommate” part). I live carefully, dodging chemical toxins, including the ubiquitious scented products that are everywhere and on everybody. Outings with new friends sometimes involve that person’s habitual scented hand lotion or hair product, and I roll down the windows and try to focus on enjoying the person, ignoring my frustration at breathing and tasting the damned stuff, and having to plan for yet more “downtime” to recover from their “chemical companions.”

1280px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_021Sometimes, because of the constant toxic exposures, I feel like giving up on attempts to socialize, but that way is death. Suicidal thoughts have been too frequent these last few years, especially since my divorce. I won’t act on them, I know. But I suffer nonetheless.

 

So my strategies for combating loneliness and isolation have become more far-fetched and eccentric, though to me they seem quite reasonable. My pagan, polytheistic spiritual practices keep me going. I court my gods and the local wights with offerings and poems. I  talk aloud to my cats and my “most trusted” invisible friend. I work with my ancestors. I adhere to a regimen of solo tantric practices. And I keep my antenna up for anything that might provide an opportunity for actual human cahooting in spaces that might be non-toxic enough.

Last week I went to a local senior center’s “open mic” night. It was sparsely attended but welcoming. The sound system was dysfunctional. Even so, I read some of my poems. I went with a new (unscented) friend and I think we both enjoyed ourselves, at least until one of the musicians was inspired to perform a Neil Diamond medley. At that, we fled.

Perhaps my biggest desire is for what is known in pagan circles as a “kindred.” I’m actively working on creating my Lokabrenna (Loki’s Torch) “tiny temple” (the structure formerly known as the “woodshop” and fondly referred to as a “meagre palace of Midgard“). I am seeking to fill it with like-minded Northern Tradition Pagans and Inclusive Heathens who are Loki-friendly. Yep. And I’m calling in  the tarot readers, the rune casters, the tantrikas, the mystics, the occultists, and the witches too. Come one, come all (come fragrance free!). I will serve you tea and if you wanna light a candle or do a ritual, I’m down. In the tradition of hospitality that was sacred to my ancestors, I am welcoming visitors and am LGBTQI etc. friendly. I am hoping that from among these visitors (should any appear), there will emerge a closer band of boon companions, kindred for my–and our–waning years. Lake County needs this. And I need it too.

One thing I do know–I simply can’t afford to adopt any more cats. Four in the house and two in the temple are quite enough.

Are you a fellow traveller? Searching for kindred too? You can let me know right here.

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Meagre Palace of Midgard Part Two

I just spent two weeks in evacuation mode, fleeing first the smoke then the actual threat of the Mendocino Complex Fires, which made it to the valley beyond the ridge which is behind the community I live in. My view of Mt. Konocti this morning is either smoky or misty, but I suspect it’s smoke that veils it.  Driving back yesterday I saw broad bulldozer lines cut into the hills. Some of the hills around the lake are either blackened or tinted hot pink from fire retardant. It’s a new twist on an old landscape, with the forest fire raging now in other counties besides ours, drawing help from as far away as Samoa and Aotearoa (New Zealand).

I have asthma and other respiratory problems, so returning to this area hasn’t been an easy prospect to face. (Even as I write, my eyes burn and my throat constricts.) But my house (and the neighborhood) survived, and the cats were growing increasingly restless in the empty apartment where I sheltered, with absolutely no furniture except a sleeping bag and a folding table and chair I bought from Target. But I was–and am–super fortunate to have had that resource. It may not be there next time I need it.

The return trip was a challenging three-hour drive in hot summer temperatures with four cats in crates, which means no chance to stop for a bathroom break because the cats might suffer in a stopped, hot car for even the five minutes it takes to grab a key from the station attendant and run to the nearest stall. Prior to setting out, I asked my “most trusted one,” Loki, for a travel blessing. Because one doesn’t ask for favors from this trickster god without offering something in return, I promised that this week I’d buy some paint to begin fixing up a woodshop on my property in order to turn it into a Loki “tiny temple.” (I wrote about this idea before the start of the fires.) Since my house is intact (thank you, firefighters!) and I have the notion that it’s a good thing to keep a fire god happy, I have pledged to begin work on this Lokean sanctuary.

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In some ways, the project will be an “architectural folly” and I imagine Loki stalking the grounds as an “ornamental (manic pixie dream god) hermit.” For example, I’ll be painting a Loki mural on the outside (really trying hard to NOT imagine him in the mural as a gratuitously shirtless, hunky firefighter…). Any future owners of this property are going to have to “just deal with it.”

Much of my impulse for this “folly” comes from a deepening connection with this trickster god. This is something I never would have expected to enter my life. Sure, I’ve had lots of odd spiritual experiences but my path is always twisty and often opaque. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be at this place, overcome with devotional love for a northern deity, I would have scoffed or thrown a coconut at you (I was living in Hawai’i then, on Pele’s land).

But another impulse comes from the recognition that we Lokeans are outcasts. I’m no stranger to that social strata, so the idea of making a place for us is an appealing thought, even if no one actually comes to visit the sanctuary besides me.

But as a teacher of mine used to say, “it’s all in the invitation,” and so perhaps this place will provide the soil to germinate the community I seek.

Are you a fellow traveller? Do let me know!

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