Love and Unholy Glee: Loki and the Positivity Ratio

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One of my favorite Loki Images, by A. Sceithhailim on DeviantArt. You can purchase this print! I did! Go to https://www.deviantart.com/sceith-a/gallery/49128055/Laufeyjar-sonr

Loki is great for my Positivity Ratio! I could never have dreamt I’d find such a rich source of positive emotions in the service (and the metaphysical arms) of a notorious trickster god!

This morning I woke up to find yet another clever Loki-themed meme posted on social media (I will share it at the bottom of this post). The meme caused me to experience immediate pleasure in the form of amusement–the kind I classify as “unholy glee”–as well as a feeling of an almost blissful love. That’s one of the many perks of being a Lokean–access to endless witicisms and scads of great artwork inspired by our favorite Norse deity (example at left) or his deft Midgardian cosplayer, Marvel Loki.

So, what is this Positivity Ratio? Psychologist and researcher Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., has found that we in Midgard need a diet rich in positive emotions in order to thrive. The minimum ration is three positive emotions to every negative one. I learned about Dr. Frederickson’s work through her free Coursera class on Positive Psychology. You can check your own emotional nutrition by taking her Positivity Ratio test online.

You’ll notice in the list below that “happiness” is not included in the list. It’s too vague. Instead, Fredrickson lists happy-making emotions as elements (nutrients!) that can enrich an emotional diet. The idea is, you can do this deliberately, just as you can choose to add vitamin supplements or a fresh salad to your daily menu.

B. Fredrickson 10 Positive Emotions

Now, when I took Fredrickson’s online course, I was in bad shape: I’d moved away from California and was desperately homesick, I was waiting for my divorce to finalize, a love affair had soured, I had developed a bad case of social anxiety, and so on. I was often alone, depressed, and hopeless. But when I encountered the above list, I realized that no matter how bad I felt, I could ALWAYS access Interest and Amusement. In other words, learning new things like magic (interest) and watching cat videos (amusement) could improve my mood, even if the improvement just lasted a minute or two.

Increasing the daily frequency of such emotions could–and did–build my resilience over time. Resilience is key.

I would say that Loki the trickster represents a deified personification of “Nonserious Social Incongruity” aka “Amusement” (among other things). I tried to get at this in a previous post, My Lord, I Offer Thee…Twisted Humor.

Through my devotion to Loki and my other deities, I access nine out of ten of the above positive emotions. Certainly I feel Love, Awe, Gratitude, along with Interest and Amusement. The only emotion that I don’t seem to experience in this context is Pride.

I never thought I’d understand what religious practices and beliefs did for people, but after a couple of years of my own daily devotions, now I think I do. Our imagined but not imaginary companions–gods, goddesses, non-binary deities, spirits, ancestors, etc.–present an opportunity to engage and enlarge ourselves through the above emotions as well as the larger beings we’ve contacted. I have a little more empathy now for people who are “high on Jesus” and those who have similar evangelical fervor regarding other deities. They think the rest of us are missing out on the bliss they experience. They don’t understand why others may reject their particular source (which they feel must be the ONLY source). They don’t understand that it may not be the specific deity or set of practices that provide that bliss, it’s the repeated, deliberate connection with something (anything!) larger that provides the emotions that eventually coalesce into a feeling of grace.

I should add that states of grace can be experienced through creative, intellectual, or generous actions–it’s not just a “gift of the gods.”

But for me, Loki is the fast track to all kinds of emotional goodies. When I wake up to a meme like this (based on Marvel’s Midgardian cos-player), I laugh, I feel glee, I swipe the meme and post it myself. I laugh at myself when I do it. And I enjoy people’s reactions. I am amused. And this improves my emotional diet, which can then be tracked via my positivity ratio.

This is just the beginning–sharing such emotional goodies with others is also a way to amplify them. That’s partly why our Lokean community is so vital. We can easily increase our Positivity Ratio by harvesting positive emotions through our Loki-related sharing.

It all makes perfect sense now.

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Google Image search did not reveal original source. I do not own this image. I found it on Facebook.

Hail Loki! God of Nonserious Social Incongruity!

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Loki’s Liminal Space–And Mine

0-6I’m there now. I’m here in this picture but I’m also in liminal space. Waiting, unsettled, having a difficult time, not able to focus on any one of the twenty different things I could be doing right now, except for blogging.

Loki is a god of liminal space–and so I invoke him now. He’s the pent up fire, and I’ve got the pent up energy, and I’m having to sit with that, rather than dashing off on some mad adventure (which in these here parts generally means a trip down the road for Chinese food. Really.)

I chose this picture of my immediate landscape because it has several discordant elements, as well as examples of different kinds of “between space.” There’s the visible “power” represented by the PG&E and Mediacom wires. These wires enable me to harness the power of light when it’s dark outside, and reach out into the internet world from the little house where I live. I can only see the natural landscape–the real dark and light, the real outside world–by looking between and beyond these human artifacts. And there’s also the invisible powers communicating all around me, through smells and mycelium and sounds I cannot hear.  I can also see palm trees (tropical icons) in front of a mountain capped by snow. And there’s the lake and looming rain clouds (water) to contrast with the element of fire represented by Mt. Konocti, a slumbering volcano. The problem is, I am not sure what to do with all this information that’s packed into the landscape in front of me. It’s like that Clash song and I’m not used to being indecisive. I’d rather shatter what holds me back than wait and see.

Maybe I am just supposed to wait. Wait for things to make sense. Maybe this is not a day for reaching out, but rather a day for reaching in. Maybe I should just take a nap and dream of my gods?

Still, I’m restlessly obsessed: what waits for me in the between spaces during these liminal times, and why can’t I see or feel it yet?

One thing that can be done, when I feel so impatient, is divination. I have a very Scorpio urge to “know all”–perhaps so I can brace myself, plan an entrance or an exit if I need one, strategize… Perhaps I’ll cast the runes later.

On the other hand, filling the house with music is another way to warm what feels empty or incomplete. And so on this grey day, I offer up some music of ancient bohemian provenance–Richard and Mimi Fariña’s Celebrations for a Gray Day. Here they are, sitting with Pete Seeger, a saint if ever one existed.

As Mimi and Richard play, my inner child imagines the lake as one big mud puddle (a place to splash) and my ancestors are  humming along to the parts that sound like “Old Joe Clark.” And at the end Pete Seeger says, “It would take a dead man not to move to that!”

Just so! Dead or alive, we have no choice but to dance in the liminal space. Loki leads the way. Even when it feels like a mosh pit.

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Sexologist Leaves Broom Closet

The “Broom Closet” is a term which refers to neopagans and witches who are not “out” about their religion and practices. As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I have worked with many people who at one time or another had to emerge from a sexual or gender closet in order to lead a more authentic life.  What I’ve just done is slightly similar, though more fraught with professional peril than with personal difficulties.

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The Witch, Jean-François Portaels. Public Domain.

Of course it doesn’t escape me that outing myself as a witchy Lokean neopagan polytheist means my potential dating pool has now shrunk to the size of a small puddle, but hey, what’s not to like? (I mean that with the sincerest irony…)

So here’s the skinny. The last three years–after my divorce and the sale of our family home–have been personally and professionally difficult. I’ve been financially and geographically exiled from my beloved San Francisco Bay Area where my family resides. I’ve had difficulty re-establishing my professional practice in both Hawai’i and here in Lake County. Therefore I’ve struggled with a lack of interest AND motivation with regard to my work. The only truly consuming interest, besides general survival in a new region, has been a deepening of my spiritual life and the pursuit of magical knowledge.

I am a creature motivated by special interests. If I get bored with something, I drop it in favor of a compelling new shiny. Due to lack of business and time-wasting sexual harrassment by pretend clients, the field of sexology began to lose its appeal for me. I felt burnt-out. In Hawai’i, while working on my first novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I began to study magic and witchcraft as research for the book. I was soon hooked by everything about it. Whee! Something that’s even more fun than just plain sexology or just plain hypnosis but which can absorb elements of both (e.g. sex magic, tantra, and trance work)! And I’ve always been a mystic anyway, since about age twelve… (FYI, I’m now working on the second in the Ornamental Hermits series.)

I’m also not good at compartmentalization. I can do it, but it always feels wrong and exhausting. Over the last several months, I’ve been longing to combine my spiritual life with my work life with my (non-existent) romantic life. I just want put it all together in one oddly shaped package as so many others have done before me, and then spend that released energy on more interesting pursuits.

That rune reading, done on Imbolc with the help of my patron deity, Loki, encouraged me to take the leap. That’s what Loki’s all about–pushing his devotees out of stuck places and into new terrain. At first I thought he wanted me to leave my sexology practice altogether. Now I realize he wanted me to MUTATE and deepen it. Therefore, I spent parts of yesterday and today re-writing my professional website to announce my new direction. Doing this does feel like emerging from a rather stale crysalis and my wings are still a bit crumpled and soggy. However, my new page,  “FAQ: Out of the Broom Closet”, was actually a lot of fun to write.

Plus, the idea that I’ll be deliberately working in tandem with my deities and guides means I’m not going it alone any longer. I hope this means my clients will benefit from my improved access to insights and energy, gifts of the gods, belike.

Also the sexual harrassment from fake clients has been a source of worry, but I’ll be invoking protection and warding the heck out of my practice from now on. My Norse deities can be pretty hardcore…

So thanks to them, and Loki in particular, I am expanding and mutating once again. And with Freyr and Freya as deities of both sexuality and magic, I’ll also be appreciative of their ongoing guidance. I hope that in becoming whole, I’ll be doing work now that is “holy” in the best and most expansive sense of the word. I feel excited.

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Gebo, Isa, Jera, and Ehwaz

Yesterday was Imbolc and I consulted the Norse Runes. Yes, I know. Imbolc is a neopagan and witchy holiday, originally “a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring” and runes have nothing to do with it, really. But it was also Friday (Freya and Frigga’s Day). This is the day I make offerings to all my deities. I often do divinations on this day.

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Gebo (top), Isa, Jera, and Ehwaz left to right. Imbolc, Feb. 1, 2019.

Frankly, I’m more experienced with Tarot, though still a beginner. I use the Rider-Waite deck designed by Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith, a woman of color who is only now beginning to get the credit she deserves (see this article about Colman Smith and listen to this Missing Witches podcast). However the Norse Runes are fascinating and I want to learn more about them. For rune interpretation, I am currently using Nordic Runes by Paul Rhys Mountfort, though I also have a few other rune books.

So I had a burning question concerning the future of my private practice. I want to reinvent and freshen it, and incorporate more of my intuitive and witchy skills before I give it up altogether. Working in this way would be closer to my heart and passions but I want to know if this is advisable. There are some professional risks involved. I asked Loki to assist me in the divination.

The Reading

Gebo (gift/exchange) was drawn for the first position, which signifies “the issue.” When I pulled this rune I thought immediately of my own “gifts” and how they are not being utilized in my present professional life. This rune holds the importance of equal and fair exchange (compensation) as well as warnings against being taken for granted. I do give away a lot of my time to friends and community, or to people who don’t have much money. Even if it is “a trade,” I seldom end up with my share of the bargain. I have to admit to being haunted by a line from the song, “Some People,” in the musical, Gypsy: “Some people got it and make it pay, some people can’t even give it away…” You’d think sexuality counseling and wellness hypnosis would be in demand ‘purt near anywhere, but right now it seems like I’m living inside an endless loop of Ethel Merman’s brassy voice of doom.

According to Mountfort, the meaning of Gebo can also include “exchanges” within sexual relationships and friendship, as well as rules of hospitality and largesse (pp. 101-105). A great deal of my counseling work addresses disrupted or inadequate exchanges during sexual intimacy, so this rune in this position seems apt on many levels.

Mountfort states that “Odin and his brothers (really aspects of the one All Father” gave humanity “breath, blood, and senses” (pp. 124). However other scholars assert that it was Loki in his aspect of Lodur who gave “blood”and “good color” to the first two humans (Dagulf Loptson, Playing with Fire–An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson, pp. 22-23). FYI, Loki is Odin’s blood brother. So though Loki is not named in this section he is significant behind the scenes.

Isa (ice/danger) was drawn for the second position, the “roots of the issue.” Mountfort interprets Isa as “stasis, emotional frigidity” or “a deadlock, bound in the coils of a crisis of the soul” and even “unrequited love, separation” (pp. 121-126).

Yep. I am the epitomy of the “wounded healer” when it comes to sexuality. Not only are there #MeToo incidents, but my last two long-term relationships were with men who refused all my efforts to salvage the relationships via better communication, transparency, and honesty, and even invitations to go to couples counseling! In fact, it seemed that the more skills I acquired, the more I was pushed away. Perhaps at the core I feel fraudulent, as I was unable to save my own marriage and the other major partnership. I do admit to feeling stuck and uninterested at this point, as well as lacking in confidence in spite of my education, training, successes, and years of practice.

I have also been demoralized by sexual harrassment from people posing as potential clients. At times I’ve been given reasons to fear.

So, yes, Loki, you have offered me some keen insights here with Isa. And yet ice can melt and bring new life. Heat is what is needed and I currently have more “heat” around magic, spirituality, and metaphysics than I do about sexual concerns. What would happen if I combined these elements in my professional practice and drew from deeper intuitive sources, including my guides and my gods?

Mountfort links Skadi, the frost giantess, to this rune (pp. 124-125). But he does not mention the story where Loki makes Skadi laugh by tying a goat to his testicles (a real icebreaker!). Mountfort also does not mention that Skadi sets a poison-dripping snake over Loki as he is bound and tortured. As a person with chemical injury problems who has a lot of fear about toxic exposures (see Loki, A God of Pleasure, Poisoned), that story is especially upsetting. So though Loki is again not mentioned in connection with this rune, he is significant behind the scenes.

Jera (year/harvestime) was drawn for “present events.” We’ve just entered a new cycle, a new year. I could harvest fruits from my spiritual efforts, if I wanted, and put them to work in service to others.

Mountfort mentions Freyr and Freya as those “who bestow favor and plenty upon the matter at hand” (pp. 127-133). Freyr and Freya are Vanir deities of the land, fertility, and pleasure. Freya is also a shamanic practitioner and teacher of magic, including trance magic used in oracular rituals (Seithr, Seidr). As a hypnotist, I can relate to this! My most recent hypnosis sessions have been increasingly intuitive and transformative. I already offer Freya and Freyr daily devotions and feel that having their blessing and guidance in my work could be fabulous!

I think that Jera tells me that I can own this side of myself, professionally, and that I could be confident of a good harvest if I plant these seeds within my practice.

Since I cast these runes on Imbolc, which celebrates the rebirth of The God, I note the association of this rune with Freyr (the corn god who dies and is reborn each year). In addition, the Celtic Brigid (Brigit), is a goddess who has just emerged as important to my spiritual life. Imbolc is very much a day for her celebration as well. So here I have the joining of cosmic male and female energies (sorry to be so binary) and the fruitfulness that can arise as a result.

Ehwaz (horse/movement) is the “likely outcome.” This rune signifies a “vehicle” for movement and change (pp. 165-169). When citing the lore associated with this rune, Mountfort brings up the story of Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir (p. 167-168). Loki is the colt’s mother. (Loki the shapeshifter sometimes gender-shifts and has been both a father and a mother.)

Mountfort also associates working in partnership (horse and rider) as well as boundaries. In considering my private practice as a vehicle for partnership with my gods and guides, as well as with my clients’, this rune seems auspicious.

Additionally, I’m a Wood Horse in Chinese astrology so this rune has extra bonus points for me.

Conclusion

My sexological journey actually began with a spontaneous spiritual combustion (a ten-month kundalini surge) and triggered my study of tantra, so it seems odd that I would have such hesitation about working more deeply and spiritually. It may be that a sense of privacy has held me back, as well as uncertainty.

This reading exceeds my expectations for insight and encouragement to move forward. However, I intend to do several more divinations, asking for advice from Freyr, Freya, Gerda (Freyr’s wife), Brigid, Bast, and perhaps also from the ancestral lineages that I work with.  I may use a pendulum and Tarot for the other divinations as Loki’s runework leaves very little (if anything) to be desired.

I believe that working in partnership with my gods, guides, and ancestors will bring additional depth to my client work and will counter the “imposter syndrome” baggage that troubles me. Perhaps the “wounded healer” in me will also benefit from feeling supported and protected by spiritual collaboration.

Can’t hurt, could help. Immensely…

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In the Realm of the Super Blood Red Wolf Moon

Tomorrow’s full lunar eclipse has the exciting name of “Super Blood Red Wolf Moon.”

How to View It

Right now, I cannot even see Mt. Konocti from my window, the clouds and mist are so thick, so I have the sad feeling that my sky vision will still be obscured tomorrow evening. If you are unable to watch this eclipse from your neighborhood, you can see it live on the internet starting at  Jan. 20th,10:30 PM ET. Check this National Geographic link for info. I’ll likely have to watch this event online.

What’s in a Name?

The moon is “super” because it’s going to be closer than usual to the Earth. The first full moon in January is called a “Wolf Moon” according to some non-specified European and native American traditions. I am always a little wary when I hear something comes from “a native American tradition” as there were so very many nations and cultures of indigenous people here on Turtle Island and white people continue to lump things together and they also get them wrong to boot. (Perhaps I’ll try to track down more specific info later.)

The moon will also turn a nice rusty red during this eclipse. Hence, “blood red moon.”

The Astrology

Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone is my usual “go to” site for monthly forecasts. Here’s what she tells me, a Scorpio, about tomorrow’s eclipse:

“The next eclipse, January 20, will be a full moon lunar eclipse, in Leo one degree, and something is ending. This will be a difficult eclipse because chaotic and unpredictable Uranus will be active and in one of his raging moods, sending an angry 90-degree beam (denoting obstacles) to the Sun in Aquarius, one degree, and at the same time he’ll send exactly the same aspect to the full moon in Leo, one degree.”

Miller relates the above to troubles in my career house. Since my career is presently dormant, I am not sure what–if anything–could be affected.

Miller also says, “The moon rules your ninth house, so you may also have a problem while traveling (best not to do so near January 20), with a relationship with a foreign person based in your country, or regarding a client based overseas. Publishing, broadcasting, academia, and the courts are areas that could bring up a difficulty – pick one.”

Bummer. But I don’t have travel plans anyway, except to the grocery store twelve miles away. The cats are out of food. Since this county has flood warnings, I’ll be careful.

According to another website, the sun signs Aries, Gemini, Cancer, Capricorn and Aquarius are going to be most affected by this eclipse. Bummer again. My moon is in Capricorn and this eclipse is supposed to turn Caps into super blood red control freaks (i.e. more than usual) and my rising is in Cancer. This eclipse is supposed to make me totally hungry for money and much less sweet tempered.

So… as a Scorpio this moon causes turmoil in my career house, and with Cancer and Capricorn also affected, I may experience a vile temper, a lust for cash, and an urge to rule the world. Sounds like a perfect time to go into professional domination! But nah, too old…

Politics maybe?

(And I can think of quite a few politicians who deserve ickle spanking right now. Restore the government already and get those people back to work!!!)

Seriously though, if any astrology-minded readers have insights on the impact of this eclipse on Scorpio Sun people, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Time for a Lokean Ritual of Resistance?

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Public Domain. A collared grey wolf at Yellowstone Park. Author, Campbell William, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yesterday I wrote about the Realm of the Honeyed Moon, a sort of mindful, sensual, “glad to be alive” practice, a series of small and large ritual actions, charming most aspects of daily life. (And right now I am charmed to be sitting up again at my usual window after three days in bed, and sipping apple cider vinegar, hot water, and honey.)

But a ritual for the Realm of the Super Blood Red Wolf Moon is a perfect flip side to that, especially for a Lokean! For one thing, it could it be an opportunity to ritually greet and honor Loki’s two wolf children: the more famous Fenrir, who is kidnapped and bound and bites off the hand of Tyr, and another son who is turned into a wolf and kills his brother Nali (post “Lokasenna”). The son who is turned into a wolf is named Narvi or Vali, depending on the source.

The fate of these two wolf children are told in poems and stories of vindictive, authoritarian deities who enact terrible penalties based on: (1) harm that might be done in the future by Fenris (killing Odin at Ragnarök); and (2) revenge against Loki which is partially taken out on two of his innocent children (Nali and Narvi/Vali). Loki is bound with the entrails of the slain Nali and Narvi runs off afterwards, apparently remaining a wolf. Meanwhile, according to a prose postscript to the poem “Lokasenna,” Loki is imprisioned in the cave, with a poison-dripping snake above this head. Sigyn holds the bowl to intercept the poison, and when she has to empty the bowl, Loki writhes in pain from the venom, causing earthquakes.

[By the way, my retelling here is sketchy and barely adequate so please do look up this stuff in the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda yourself, if you haven’t already.]

I can’t help but compare the present actions of certain vindictive authoritarians with some of the elements of these stories. The Norse lore had prophecies and dire actions taken to forestall those prophecies (which become self-fulfilled). We have “fake news” and a fake “emergency” call for a wall. The lore has the kidnapped Fenrir, the murdered Nali, and the abused then vanished Narvi/Vali. We have children of immigrants, some of whom have died in custody, some of whom are lost, many not reunited with family. People are punished harshly for telling the truth (the lore has Loki’s Flyting, we have whistleblowers going to prison). And Gray Wolves no longer have federal protection.

Both the lore and these current events make me angry and sad.

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Narvi/Vali left. Fenrir middle. Nali right.

Tomorrow’s eclipse of the Super Blood Red Wolf Moon is an opportunity to honor these innocents of Norse Lore and those in our own epoch who are hurt or worse for their differences or deeds, whether human or animal. I feel this Wolf Moon eclipse is an opportunity to honor resistance and to highlight the need to protect children and wolves, so I am looking for ways to create a suitable Lokean ritual for this. As an offering to Loki, in honor of Fenrir and Narvi/Vali, I have donated to an organization that fights for Gray Wolf protection, the Wild Earth Guardians. I have also made a donation to RAICES, an activist group helping immigrant families. This article lists seven organizations doing similar or complementary work.

Without the realization of dire circumstances in our own epoch, without the awareness symbolized by a Super Blood Red Wolf Moon, there can be no peace, no rest, in the Realm of the Honeyed Moon.

Hail Loki and His Children. “All of us or none.”

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Public domain. Odin casts Loki’s children away. Date Published in 1906. Source Rydberg, Viktor. 1906. Teutonic Mythology Vol. I. Facing page 300. Digital reproduction obtained from the Internet Archive at http://ia331309.us.archive.org/3/items/teutonicmytholog01rydb/

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Devotional Orgasm

The Talk

Me to (currently imaginary) New Intimate Partner (NIP), “Dear, we have to have a little talk first.” NIP pulls away a little and looks me in the eye.

NIP: “No problem. I’ve been tested for everything in the last six months. I’m healthy. Plus I’ve brought _______[condoms, lube, whatever].” 

Me: “Me too, except I’ve been exposed to herpes and that never goes away. So we’ll need to use protection. I appreciate your candor. [Kiss.] But I actually had a different talk in mind.”

NIP: “Oh? Now you’re scaring me! What’s up? Are you kinky or something?”

Me: “Not that topic either, though we can talk about that too.”

NIP: “You’ve got me intrigued. Say on!”

Me: “You’ve told me you’re a practicising polytheist neopagan…but you’ve never done sex magic.”

NIP: “Right.” 

Me: “And you know I’m a non-denominational witch, and a polytheist neopagan, and that I’m oathed to Loki.”

NIP: “I don’t have much experience with magic. I’m mostly an academic_________ [Druid, Heathen, astrologer, etc.]. And you never really explained the ‘oathed to Loki’ thing. What does this have to do with us having hot sex?” 

Me, bluntly: “All my orgasms are dedicated to Loki, for the rest of my life…so, much as I’ll enjoy whatever we do together, you just have to be able to handle that.”

NIP: “Uh, does this mean you might, uh, say his name when you, uh, you know?”

Me: “Possibly. Would that bother you?” 

NIP: “I am not sure. Maybe.” [Frowns.] “Is this like we’d be having a threesome with a god?”

Me: “No. Not really. It’s just that at one point I wanted to find the most loving and powerful experience I could imagine and dedicate it to my patron deity. That energy and joy I feel at the moment of orgasm seemed like the perfect gift to a being who has given me so much.”  

NIP: “That’s kind of kinky!”

Me [shrugging]: “I don’t really see or experience it that way. For me, it’s a form of sacred sexuality. You said you were interested in that, right?”

NIP: “Well, yes.”

Me: “Do you need time to process this? I’m okay with that.”

NIP: “Let’s just kiss some more and see what happens.”

Me: “Sounds good to me. And you know we can stop at any time if you need to do that.”

The Reason for The Talk

I’m a sexologist by training and profession. I’ve talked with adult clients about all kinds of personal and intimate issues and supported them without judgment in expressions of their authentic erotic lives (as long as those expressions were adult and consensual).
Even so, I have been wondering how on earth I will explain the above to a real life future partner, assuming there is anyone left on this green earth who can love me.

But writing and therefore rehearsing the above dialogue with an imaginary partner has actually diminished the shame (yes, surprising to find it there–shame!) and the embarrassment I’ve been feeling when contemplating an eventual plunge back into the very sparsely populated human dating pool (sparse due to my age bracket and interests). So, aside from that personal note, I highly recommend imagining and rehearsing a similar dialogue IF you feel you’d want to communicate this to a human partner.

However, if you are NOT comfortable divulging such information, or fear that it will have negative impact on your partner(s) or your relationship(s), please DON’T feel you need to share. It is completely okay to keep such information personal. You may also have agreements in place with your deities and spirits about such offerings, and what to express and what not to express. 

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Public domain. Captioned as “Iduna Giving Loki the Apple”. The goddess Iðunn hands Loki one of her apples. Date Published in 1901 Source Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology. Silver, Burdett and Company. Page 69. Author Signed “H. L. M.”

Some people may only do this in ritual space, as part of a sex magic ritual or other kind of ceremony. Others, like me, offer up sexual pleasure–in addition to food, drink, trinkets, natural objects, poems, chants, prayers, incense, etc.–as part of a devotional practice designed to cultivate and nourish a relationship with that spiritual being or beings. Loki likes donuts and whiskey (things which I don’t consume myself) and I am happy to provide them, along with conversation, poems, pleasure, and inviting him along to events I think he’d enjoy. My relationship with my patron deity is part of my daily life, as well as my ritual life. It’s not that devotional orgasm offerings mean I am “having sex WITH a god” but that I am offering the peak moment of the sex I do have (solo or partnered) TO that god.

However, there is nothing at all wrong with the former. See my blog on spectrosexuality and god spousery. I say that both as a sexologist and as a magical practitioner.

And I am hardly alone in doing this, though the topic is seldom mentioned outside of esoteric circles.

Sadly, there are otherwise reasonable people who sneer at those with magically dedicated sex toys. This seems a ridiculous position to take. If we magically dedicate a candle or a wand, a broom or a knife, why not a sex toy? Sheesh! And dedicating a toy to a god/dess could/would/should probably include a ward against any other unwanted energies or entities that might wanna come along for the ride…

Seems like common sense.

992px-a_terrifying_deity_in_yab-yum_lacma_m.74.139.8
Public domain. Deities in Yab Yum. Tibet or Northwestern Nepal, 19th century Paintings.Mineral pigments on cotton cloth. Gift of Dr. Ronald M. Lawrence (M.74.139.8) From the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Again, I am hardly alone. From the witches sabbat to tantric embrace, from “brides of Christ” to chaos magick, human beings have connected the experience of sexual energy and orgasm to an experience of god/dess and/or transcendence and have sought to harness or direct its power. You can find material about this in numerous cultures. I am not even going to supply links, there is so much information out there!

Anyway, writing this blog post has taken a load off my mind. I guess public confessions really are good for the soul! And as for the “‘ickle talk” which I may someday have with a future partner, heck, I could take the coward’s way out and just direct that person to this blog post!

But no, I’d rather have a real conversation.

Perhaps one day.

In the meantime, I still giggle at the moment in this 2013 Comicon footage when Marvel Loki commands, “Say my name!”

It’s a private joke…but one I’m now sharing with you. Anyone who gets close to me will have to have a damned good sense of humor…

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Try a Little Tenderness

Sometimes snark is where I park, but I’m less and less enamored with those who consistently bludgeon others with harsh verbal assessments, in the name of whatever. I prefer civil discourse, manners, tact, and even wit. Part of this is personal preference, part is professional training. And in a time when so much communication takes place on the internet, without the complexities and subtext of nonverbal and visual cues, I believe it behooves us to weigh our words and how we wield them.

I have a book of Hawaiian proverbs, called ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, collected by the great scholar Mary Kawena Pukui. Here is one that has always stayed with me:

I ka ‘ōlelo no ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make.

Pukui’s translation: Life is in speech, death is in speech.

Ahapunanaleo.org translation: In the language is life. In the language is death.

The meaning of both translations is clear: “Words can heal; words can destroy.”

My copy of ‘Ōlelo No‘eau was given to me by my ho’oponopono kumu (teacher), Ramsay Taum of O’ahu. Ho’oponopono is a traditional conflict resolving and forgiveness ritual (please avoid the appropriated and commodified version sold by white people). Kumu Taum gave the book to me as a gift for helping to pull together a workshop for him in Berkeley, CA, many long years ago. He inscribed it with words that are also good to review:

E ho’oulu i ke no’ono’o ke kino a me ka uhane.

Protect, preserve and care for life.

Right now, as I write, I am seated in front of my living room window. Mt. Konocti has been obscured by mist but blue sky patches are beginning to appear and parts of the mountain are being revealed. The mist also loves to move close to the surface of the lake, so I can see it gliding (north west?) above it just a block away, beyond the nearby trees I see clearly. I know that the pelican flocks, egrets and other water birds are feeling that same mist glide over their feathers as they sit in the water.

And at the moment, I am one mixed up human being, trying to make sense of people and where I am. I am hoping for a little mist removal of my own. I feel it glide over my eyes as I strain for vision.

In Hawai’i, which has a people and a culture colonized and brutalized by folks like me, I did not find the life I was hoping for, a happy ending with a great love, a life which was filled with people who lived with such proverbs and thoughts in their heart. Yes, a few people do live that way, but overall I was mostly conscious of my own intrusion, my own lack of suitability there. I was mostly lonely, always homesick, and often in truly deep despair. I could not feel cared for, though I tried to care for others. And spiritually, the message (which I had to accept with good grace and a sense of the inevitable) was “go back to your ancestors.”

(And the “great love?” It was pau. Unknown to me, it had run most of its course before I even arrived on Hawai’i island.)

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

Sitting in my jungle home, I got the message at last. I prepared my departure. I set aside the Pele chant I’d been learning and offering in my final months in Hawai’i. I took rocks that had been given to me by that Hawaiian love and gave them back to the land, with discreet ceremonies of thanks. I placed some of those rocks in the Ahalanui Warm Ponds, now covered by last year’s lava flow. Pele took them back in truth, just as she took back the delicate little lava tube fragment that had been taken by Michael Rossman, and which I also returned to that area after his death.

So in the last quarter of 2017 I left Hawai’i in a financially devastating and physically brutal manner. I settled here in Lake County, CA. My body still suffers damage from the physical exertion of packing up an entire house, alone. Parts of my heart are still in tatters. But I took the inevitable beating knowing that a fresh adventure awaited. I just didn’t know how lonely–and yet rewarding–this next phase would be.

old_norse_stories_(1900)_(14595035089)
Vanir goddess Freya, Old Norse Stories, 1900. Public domain.

Since my return, I’ve been working with a few deities in the Norse pantheon, as well as exploring the “ancestral medicine” (lineage healing work) offered by Daniel Foor, which I have mentioned so often in this blog. I am learning as much as I can. The Norse heritage and traditions, described as “hyper-masculine” by Jackson Crawford? They’re brutal, man!

I turn again to proverbs to try to show you what I mean. Instead of e aloha kekahi i kekahi (love one another), the “Havamal” (known as “The Counsel of Odin” in The Poetic Edda) says: “Do not sleep in the arms of a sorceress or else she will lock your limbs” (113) (Jackson Crawford’s 2015 translation, which I have at last).

(And here I am, steeped in witchery, oathed now to Loki the “mother of witches!”)

Now obviously I’ve just cherry-picked two proverbs to illustrate differences between two wildly different cultures. However the ancient Hawaiian culture was not all sweetness and light and aloha. There’s plenty of snark in ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: “Kamali’i hupe kole” means “runny-nosed brats” (1471). A lazy person is said to be “huli ke alo i luna, helu i ka ‘a’aho”–“lying face up and counting the rafters” (1141). And the bone-breaking Hawaiian martial art known as Lua (also taught by Kumu Ramsay Taum) sometimes uses shark tooth weapons. It’s brutal, man!

And the Northern traditions are not without moderation and kindness. There are parts of the Havamal which counsel mindful speech: “you will often get repayment in kind for the words you speak to others” (65). There’s even an echo of the Hawaiian view on the death-dealing power of language: “I saw a bad woman’s words bite a man in the neck–a lying tongue was his death and not even with good cause” (118).

So I ponder, wondering why I am drawn to both these traditions, among others. How do I reconcile my deep craving for community aloha with steely notions of personal honor and individualism? In some ways, it comes down to a sense of psychic temperture.  Hawaiian traditions seem “warm,” even the less pleasant parts. Norse traditions seem “cold”–even when hospitable and pleasant.

Hawaiians have a multi-layered tradition of language, known as kaona. As you can see by the examples above, language that is multi-layered and allusive is just as apt as blunt, unadorned statements. And yet the Norse also have a tradition of kennings, poetic and fanciful names for most of their deities which contrast with the stark advice offered in the Havamal.

But as a counselor who uses hypnosis in my work, I am also quite aware of the power of language, how it can impact people consciously, unconsciously, and somatically. Some people respond well to authoritarian commands and direct suggestions. Some will only respond well to indirect suggestions and permissive language. I am the latter person. An authoritarian command brings out my aggression, not compliance.

Words can trigger states of sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight) or lull us back into a calmer parasympathetic nervous system state (sometimes known as “rest and digest” or “feed and breed”). But mostly, people seem to listen better when they are calmer and don’t feel under attack.

In other words, an allusive (and slightly humorous) comment about “counting the rafters” might be more effective in getting a languid teen to take out the garbage than a sharp remark about “lazy bones,” which might cause resistance and defensiveness.

Because I’ve seen the effects of language in a professional capacity, I don’t recommend blunt force verbal trauma applied to a person or a situation in the name of honesty or “tough love.” I think that “tough love” can only work when the people involved have an established intimacy–family, close friends, lovers–so that the reality of truly committed caring is what enables the troubled person to hear the stark truth. That caring will come through nonverbal and visual cues, to soften the pain of the words.

I do believe in the necessity of stark truths, yes, but how these truths are conveyed can vary. Stark truths can be delivered with surgical precision and timing, with compassion and empathy based on how much that person is capable of hearing and listening in that moment. Otherwise, what remains may be emotions of shame, embarrassment or anger and not the important truth that needed to be heard or acted upon.

In some cases, language which is too blunt may be received as aggressive and uncaring. This is a good article about the effects of aggressive and/or abusive language.  The article references studies which show “the circuitry for physical and emotional pain appears to be the same” and also that “the effect of verbal aggression is greater than the expression of love.”

All things considered, I feel that erring on the side of caring or indirect language is generally a more responsible and effective way to communicate.

A Perfect Case for Ho’oponopono

I know that most people have said stupid and hurtful things when they’ve been hurt themselves. My “love affair” with Hawai’i and with a particular person there ended with a last example of words meant to “kill.”

There were a few days at the end of last year when I actually thought we would reconcile, under somewhat different circumstances. During that time I confided about my new spiritual path and how rewarding I was finding it. But when it became obvious that reconciliation was not going to happen after all, it was painful. My former love, a life-long opponent of the “blood quantum” policies that adversely affected him and many Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiians), declared that his kids, who are part Scandinavian, have more blood-right to my current spiritual practices than I do, because they have more Scandinavian DNA. It was probably the strangest and most unexpected parting shot I could have imagined.

It makes me wonder how he could have put up with me for all those years, when my interest in supporting Hawaiian causes and learning about the culture was so keen? I had no “koko” (Hawaiian blood) but he used to acknowledge and even praise my spiritual connection to Hawai’i. He encouraged it and it also formed a basis for our own relationship. But that connection certainly had no foundation in my DNA!

That parting shot was made of words designed to kill–to kill my self-confidence and my self-esteem. To make me ashamed. To make me feel a fraud. And to make me pay for leaving him. However, since I am strong with my practices and strong with my patron deity, Loki, nothing died as I read those words except my belief in this man as a someone who truly lived by his stated convictions, his word. Otherwise, he would have respected the honor of my path just as I had always respected his.

And so, after this long ramble, I wish one thing. I wish that we would save our harshest words for those who are truly our enemies and that for the rest of the people who touch our lives (even ex-lovers and people on social media and those who make us feel impatient or annoyed), that we use speech that is thoughtful, kind, tender, and face-saving, even as we must sometimes deliver a stark truth. Because we can make life with our words, or death.

Let’s all try a little tenderness. And I’ll go make some ho’oponopono…

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