This morning: 49 dead, 48 hospitalized from a mass shooting and attack on two mosques in Christchurch in Aotearoa (New Zealand). White supremacists planned and carried out the attacks. The gunman live-streamed the carnage.
This is the latest horror to require a repudiating response and a strong call to action and solidarity from activist allies who oppose Islamophobia, structural and personal racism, anti-Semiticism, anti-immigration hate, and so on. (Have any of us done enough? I know I haven’t.)
Here are two opinion pieces just published in The Guardian.
“Your thoughts and prayers will not save our lives, while the actions of politicians and the media undoubtedly destroy them.
Every single day, people like me are subject to a media onslaught. Every single day, we are demonised, both by the people who make our laws and by the people who have significant influence over public opinion. And when I say “we”, I don’t just mean Muslims. Because it’s not just Muslims who are losing their lives at the hands of far-right nationalism. It’s Jews and Sikhs and black people. Because when fascism comes to call, it usually doesn’t care what shade of “different” you are. All it knows is that you are different, and it does not like you for it.”
“Today is Friday. It is the day of the week when Muslims will gather all around the world in communitarian prayer. Many of them in the west will be fearful after seeing the news, worried that this attack may herald a new, ongoing threat to their safety. We have to make sure they know they are not alone. That wider society will stand by them. That we see them not as Muslim communities transplanted into the west, but as Muslim communities of the west. They are part of us, and we of them. If we do otherwise, and we allow this event to pass us by without recognising the ideas that propelled it, then it is only a matter of time before it is repeated.”
I am not sure how to make an impact in my own community. Does Lake County, CA have a mosque? I can’t seem to discover one. Otherwise I would call and ask what I can do, as a fellow citizen, to show meaningful support or action.
Making a donation to some other organization is at least one way to help. Here are two possibilities. I have just donated to both.
This is important as the murderer made a comment about “going to Valhalla” which may indicate a link with neo-nazis who usurp Norse symbols and mythology to justify white supremacy, as the original nazis did.
Sorrow for the families. May the murdered rest in peace. May the cancer of white supremacy and violence be vanquished. May our merciful deities assist us to do much more than we are doing now.
As a member of The Troth, I’ve known this news for a little while but needed to wait for the official announcement (published Jan. 2nd) before blogging about it.
For me, as person who is oathed to Loki as a devotee and who hails Loki on a daily basis (along with a few others in the Norse Pantheon), I find that my heart beats faster and happier at this news. And I particularly like this part, which I find wondrous:
“- The Loki ban lasted ten years, but its original verbiage has not been found in organizational Minutes. As such, as Schuld to Laufeyson* and to our members whom the ban impacted, the organization will hold an official Loki Blót for the next ten Trothmoots in a prime time slot. After the tenth Trothmoot, Loki Blóts may be held as any other blót or Sege, and the timing of the Blót will become adjustable to meet scheduling needs.”
[*Should be Laufeyjarson.]
OMG! Loki and Lokeans are so ready for prime time!
But before I give way to more rejoicing, let me back up a bit and define some terms:
Trothmoot is the annual gathering of Troth members. I have never been. Here is the link to the 2019 Trothmoot page.
A blót is a sacrificial ritual in Norse paganism and heathenry. There’s a fair amount of hailing and drinking toasts to the various deities.
Schuld has a few definitions, including a debt or a responsibility. With this portion of the announcement, The Troth admits to having been at fault for enforcing a ban which actually did not show up in their organizational minutes and the organization has now chosen this action to make amends.
I would like to attend this year’s Trothmoot to witness this historic change, and to be able to hail my beloved patron god in community with others, but Trothmoot takes place at the start of our California fire season. I’d need a cat sitter who was committed to evacuating my cats if necessary. Plus, my environmental illness issues might be insurmountable. So, we’ll see.
In the meantime, it is crazy how much joy I feel at this news. Honestly, having spent most of my life in a kind of gauzy pagan-esque haze with not much to back it up, I never expected to be so emotional about a religious matter! But, duh! I guess daily devotional practices really can and do create and nurture strong links between a human being and a larger spiritual entity.
Why am I so surprised to find this goes deeper than my intellect allows? Inside, I sing. I cannot deny the song.
Hail to thee, blithe Loki! (And because I’m perverse in spite of–or because of–my devotion, I keep wanting to add, “bird thou never wert,” but hey, he’s a shapeshifter who donned a falcon skin, so bird in fact he was. Wert. Whatever. I’m just happy. That’s all.)
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.
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.”)
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!
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.
But, 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.
Frith is an Old English word that means Peace and Freedom; but means so much more. It is an important concept in the religion of Asatru. It might be described as a combination of loyalty, honor, hospitality, and support. It is the obligation to one’s community, friends, and family to consider their welfare in your actions, and not to set out to harm them.
[And this example which shows the use of the word] Our forebears valued frith almost more than anything else.
But why do I say we need “more than apples?” What do apples have to do with anything?
I recently watched an extremely sad documentary, God Knows Where I Am, the story of Linda Bishop, a woman in her early 60s struggling with severe mental illness who ends up living on rainwater, snow melt, and apples for four months, during an extremely severe winter in New Hampshire, with no power, no running water. She broke into an unoccupied farmhouse for shelter and eventually starved to death as the apples ran out. She kept a journal until she was too weak to write.
Apples were essential to Linda. And that apple tree was probably the only bright and generous being in her universe, during those last months of her life. It feed her through most of the winter until all the apples were gone. The apples were essential to her survival, but that fabled milk of human kindness was more important yet, and of that, there was none.
This poor woman was not miles away from nowhere. There were neighbors just across the street. People drove past this unoccupied farmhouse every day. You cannot tell me that no one in that neighborhood ever saw this woman wandering to the nearby stream or the apple tree, while the weather still permitted. Or that they never saw her in the attic window where she looked out upon the world and read the cast off books she’d found there.
What kind of people, what kind of society would allow this woman (and others) to live and die in such a manner?
A people without frith, that’s what.
I imagine that Linda–as a mentally ill woman–had been rebuffed, scorned, and mistreated enough so that she was unable to reach out to other humans, even as her situation became dire. Yes, she dreamt of rescue by an imaginary lover, but when he did not appear by Christmas, she seems to have given up hope.
Remember that quote from Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire? She says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” This is her last line as she’s carted off to an institution after having been abused and raped by her brother-in-law. Linda Bishop had probably given up on any expectations of “kind strangers.” She was clearly afraid of people and there may have been a good reason for that.
We all hope that acts of violent abuse are at the further end of the spectrum of human cruelty and we hope that they are rare. But great damage can be done, especially to someone who is vulnerable, by an sequence of dismissive, uncaring, or callous actions. Put-downs, dismissals, writing someone off, not listening or paying attention to the emotional truth at the core of a confused narrative–such things can lead a person to back off from the hope of kindness from others. In fact, it hurts too much to hope!
But if there were a greater emphasis, in all of us, on cultivating and enacting social values such as the kind contained by the word “frith”–loyalty, honor, hospitality, peace, support, freedom (with responsibility)–perhaps fewer people would fall through the cracks and perhaps more people would feel they had a respected and dignified place at the community “table,” even if they were damaged, broken, or had been cast off or cast out in some way (too old, too disabled, too poor, too whatever else). For me, frith has a resonance with “aloha,” a word that means much more than just “love” or “good-bye” in ‘Olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language).
It would seem to make common sense that in order to receive frith, you would have to extend it to others–and so I do. But that only works when there is a shared set of values, the possibility of reciprocity. Otherwise, all such efforts may be doomed.
And so I ask, where are those who are doing their best to inclusively (as in The Troth, Heathens Against Hate, and various stray Lokeans) live by frith, to establish and cherish familial and chosen kindred? And is there anyone out there in these here parts? And can I have some of what you’re having too?
“Lady of the Lake Interrupted”–that was going to be the original title of this post. But why not just get to the point? Almost two weeks ago I fled the thick “clam chowder” smoke of Lake County, just a few days before the advisory, then mandatory, evacuation for the North Shore communities. I begged shelter from some relatives and have been here now, in a completely empty San Francisco apartment with four cats, a sleeping bag, and several boxes of family photos (plus a few books and treasured artwork). I could have gone home a couple of days ago, but I’m hoping for more smoke to clear.
Back in May, when the volcano began to erupt in the middle of Leilani Estates in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, friends and acquaintances began to congratulate me for “leaving Hawai’i before the eruption,” as if I’d somehow unfairly cheated fate. A lot of my friends and acquaintances back there did have to evacuate, some are still without a permanent place to live, and yes, I feel sad that I wasn’t there to have helped out as Puna “stayed classy” through the crisis (“Stay Classy Puna” is a local slogan). On the other hand, I might not have survived. Between the asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity condition that I live with, the volcanic air–or threatened toxic releases from the geothermal station– might have taken me out. I’m glad that I didn’t stay to either die or force my kids to fly over to rescue me in dire straights.
But now all those folks who think I dodged a kharmic bullet can rest easy. I have now fled the largest wildfire in California history, a fire that was just one ridge away from my home in Lake County, and though I am not in a shelter, I’m “sleeping rougher” than I have in years (on the floor), and “oh my bursitis!” I’m here knowing that the next time Lake County has a fire, I may not have anywhere to go. This apartment won’t stay vacant for long. Shelters are out, as the fragrant personal care products and cleaning products that prevent my equal and healthy access to all kinds of ordinary goods and services in the best of times, also keep me from accessing public facilities in the worst of times. I can’t afford an RV or even a truck with a camper shell, so I’m actually expending a fair amount of time obsessing over my options during the next fire, even though there are none.
Friends who would take me gladly, as a temporary evacuee, are not prepared to shelter my four cats as well. But the cats are my companions and familiars, and they go where I go.
I was lucky this time, to stay in San Francisco as the fire rages. And privileged too. A lot of people were sheltering in parks. The heat up there, in the summer, gets into three digits… can you imagine? Kids, elderly people, pets, in a tent with no fans, under those conditions? And in one park, there was only one propane burner for cooking for dozens of people. And the smoke–they couldn’t escape it like I did. Plus, a cluster of people from one of the regular shelters have come down with a norovirus blamed on donated, canned water. I have only myself to blame for getting sick from pre-made deli food.
I’m lucky too in that my house and neighborhood are intact. The firefighters did a tremendous job keeping the Ranch Fire flames away from our North Shore towns (just as they prevented the River Fire from reaching Lakeport). But other people have lost their homes. Housing is already scarce.
But this is a blog about all things woo, spiritual stuff, magic… Loki… and whatever else I feel like writing now that I no longer care much what anyone thinks. So yes, there is a woo side to this narrative. Let me continue to over-share.
Among my evacuation items, I brought most of my pagan altar doodads, my magical tools (except my crystal chalice), my tarot deck, and a few choice books that I’m in the middle of reading. (I also packed my Lois McMasters-Bujold Miles Vorkosigan books and a complete, hardbound set of Jane Austen, but I digress…).
While here, I’ve kept up my daily tantra exercises and meditations as well as my devotional practices for Frey, Gerda, Freya, and Loki (which I do in an Inclusive Heathen context, as per The Troth, combined with a greater personal and spiritual affinity with the approaches of Northern Tradition Paganism). All this has helped. Greatly. Feeling as if “my deities” are “with me” is also a comfort and these workings have deepened. I begin to understand people who rely on religion–this kind of thing is new to me.
And for the first time in my life, I’ve actually done really well in “remembering my tools” while under duress. I credit the daily practices above. Whatever it is we do, spiritually or religiously, these things can build resilience so that when crisis does strike, there’s a bit more ability to keep a cool head (at least at times) and to feel less overwhelmed (mostly). I also recognize that being here, alone, in an empty, non-toxic apartment in my old neighborhood, rather than in a public shelter among scented strangers, also contributes greatly to my resilience.
I suppose my biggest concern going back, aside from smoke exposure, is how do we build a better framework for mutual aid before the next crisis hits us? The local motto for our community is “Lake County Strong,” but old-timers are the most likely to benefit from long standing family and social networks, just as I have from a family connection here in the Bay Area. How do we have more of that for people who are marginalized and less socially connected?
I’m pondering. I’m wondering what I can do, personally, with the resources I have. Ideas are welcome.
Are you a fellow traveller? Or even a local Lokean? Let me know you’re there!