Uncomfortable Truths: The Sacred Vice Delusion

Ah Google Image Search...again we dance this dance...

Ah…Google Image Search…again we dance this dance…

There are always a lot of discussions being had about divine patrons.  People ask a lot about how to find theirs, how to determine if you’re just imagining things, how to approach a deity you suspect might be expressing interest in you, what sort of offerings to make, and so forth.

What I find funny is that most people who do have a patron of some sort and have had time to sort this sort of thing out aren’t any more in the know than the people asking the questions; they’re just more used to being confused and trying to figure things out.

Absent for the list of conversational topics, however, is about how someone with a patron should act.  This is unfortunate, as there seems to be a rather large percentage of Heathens, Asatruar, Vanatruar, Rokkatruar who believe acting like an asshole is not just acceptable, but an unalienable privileged that no one has the right to question.  That, of course, is a load of bollocks so I’m somewhat surprised not many people don’t address this more often.

So let’s start up the dialogue!  First point of business: expresseing unchecked character flaws is not a form of piety.

This sounds pretty basic, but we’ve all seen example of this mentality in action.  For example, I’ve seen Thorsmen say that having their patron means they get to act like idiots, bullies, and brutes.*  We’ve all seen the Lokifolk who use their patron as an excuse to have absolutely no sense nor concept of proper etiquette except when they feel like.**  I’ve found a fair share of those who sites following Tyr as a reason to be an unforgiving blight on their communities, and I cannot be alone in this.  The trends become easy to spot after a while;  I haven’t personally encountered one, but I’m fairly certain that there are Odinspeople who act as if infidelity isn’t just forgivable but a divine mandate.

No.  No.  No.  You don’t just insult the community with that nonsense, you insult our Gods as well.  Grow up, and accept responsibility for your own person.

Not that I don’t understand the thought process.  You follow your patron.  You may meditate upon him or her.  Perhaps you partake of psychotropic drugs while doing nothing but considering them.  You may even be someone who has the capacity to act as a horse for a divine presence and you have brought them into your own person.***   As such, it may be easy to mistake your own personal failings as the thumbprint of your Gods and, wow, wouldn’t that be such a relief!  To be able to find divinity in the lowest, most loathsome parts of yourself and to find that they have a more meaningful purpose than you might have otherwise suspected.

The thing is, you don’t need to be an entitled prick with delusions of grandeur in order to find beauty in such things; the beauty is already there.  Overcome those failings, and there is even more beauty to be found.  You don’t need to use your religion and piety as a scapegoat; just be a better person.  It’s that simple.

No matter what you may want to believe, your bad behaviors belong to you and no one else.  No amount of divine patronage will magically transform vices into virtues unless that vice is actually conquered.  The Gods are creatures exclusively defined by their vices and, in many myths, those poor actions made a whole lot of sense in context to the moment.   Even if we disregard that most of the myths showed the Gods doing specific things for very specific reasons, thus making the context totally different and incomparable to 95% of the circumstances you are likely to ever face in your life?  We still are left with a belief system that turns so many of our Gods into bizarre caricatures that belong in a bad cartoon, rather than upon an altar.

Need an example?  Go read the myths that have Thor in them; he wasn’t stupid.  He was brash and impatient, but Thor was canny and clever as well.  He never went alone if he knew he needed backup, he knew to check his anger and rage when he was unquestionably unmatched, and he displayed an extremely keen sense of when was the best time to charge in and knock in some heads.  Loki did things other than sling insults, Tyr is just as much about personal sacrifice as he is justice, and there is much more to Odin than “I am in your base, sleeping with your womens.”  To be plain about it, if you’ve reduced any of the Gods to a few token aspects, you should probably go back and examine your religious and devotional practices.

So just as soon as you have your hand bitten off by a wolf to save a large number of your friends and family?  THAN you can walk around acting like a huge, entitled jerk.  Not before.

So…just as soon as you have your hand bitten off by a wolf to save a large number of your friends and family? Then you can walk around acting like a huge, entitled jerk. Not before.

If you worship the Gods, and you find a spark within your soul that leads you to follow one more so than the rest?  Treasure it.  It is beautiful, sacred, and meaningful.  It can and will change your life.

Until you loose your hand, your lips, or an eye in the process of following that path, however?  You have no business treating your poor social habits as divine mandate.  You are no better, nor any worse, than anyone else…and it’s not our job to put up with your bullshit because you have an ardent need to feel petty and special.

To put it another way, having a patron isn’t about you; it’s about them.


*Not that they say it in this exact manner but, let’s be honest, that is what they’re saying.

*I give the anti-Lokean crowd a decent amount of flak…but hey!  If any of you are reading this, know that we have this much in common: Lokeans who act like having Loki as a patron is an excuse to act like a boorish jerk-off whenever they feel like it are just as irritating to us as they are to you.  Let the healing commence.

**Than again, if you have that sort of capacity?  I probably don’t have to tell you that piety isn’t a permission slip for behaving like a tool.

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14 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Truths: The Sacred Vice Delusion

  1. Myriad says:

    I see so much output about Lokeans misbehaving… it’s becoming tiresome. I know many. many Lokeans (more Lokeans than other Heathens really), and for absolutely the most part, these people do not slap their God’s name on their weaknesses. (Furthermore, what “proper etiquette” means depends on where you are — what is okay on tumblr may not be okay elsewhere, etc.).

    Writing so much about those who do not know how to behave is making the job harder for those who are conscious of the effect their conduct may have and who are therefore trying to set an example. And it’s in the very nature of the thing that this is a quiet effort, not some big-mouthed “look-at-me-I’m-so-special” grand entrance.

    But with this quietness comes a number of drawbacks and one of them is that every time someone loudly complains about Lokeans misbehaving, it sets back the work they are doing.

    Do you know any well-behaved “new Lokeans”, “new spouses” or whatever the latest big thing everybody is complaining about is? Well, I do. I know many of them. So maybe it’s a question of directing one’s awareness.

    Speaking of which: I have seen so many Odinspeople justifying their own violent tendencies as some divine mandate, I have almost given up on them as a whole. Because as far as violence goes, Odinspeople are much scarier than Thorspeople. And you know what: letting those people take over my awareness would have been a big mistake, as I have gotten to know wonderful Odinspeople during the past year. Not many, but some. I doubt I would have found the will to try if there were such an outcry about them as there is about Lokeans pretty much all the time.

    I agree with you so much on the core issue of your post, it’s almost ridiculous! .

    But: the post… it’s full of accusing and patronising, loaded language — how do you know that I feel I need to be “an entitled prick with delusions of grandeur”? What is it about me that makes you command me to “grow up and accept responsibility?” — I’m grown up enough to know that you are not talking to me specifically… but that choice of tone has a psychological effect of putting people in the defensive.

    And after being a Lokiswoman for 2 years (not that long, I give you that), and constantly reading these kinds of broad-stroke accusations, I am really done being in the defensive on no grounds other than being a Lokiswoman, when reading blogs.

    I am sorry for the tone of this comment, as this is probably more of a “last straw” issue than something you are primarily responsible for. I stand by what I said, I agree so much about the core issue of your post. Behaviour and conduct are important. I would love to see people discuss this topic in a postive, constructive way…

    • Let me make it clear that this is NOT, in any stretch of the imagination, directed solely or evenly mainly at Lokifolk. I too have encountered substantially more awesome Lokeans than I have poor Lokeans, and I have a great deal of respect and devotion sat aside for the trickster himself. I did bring up Loki more because I’ve seen the great amount of damage these sorts can cause to Lokeans in particular and the religion in general, and it upsets me greatly.

      I have slowly developed a pet peeve of people excusing their bad behaviors and vices as acts an act of theological mimicry, as a good portion of the issues that have arisen in my local community can be traced back to this behavior. If I’ve used harsh and loaded language here, it’s because I’ve seen the kind of damage these sort of actions can cause and because I have a lot of first hand knowledge in regards to how difficult these rifts are to heal.

      I say they need to “accept responsibility” because that’s what the problem tends to feel like; people shrugging the need to take account of their own actions because they can pin it on a God and call it piety. Your mileage may vary, but that’s pretty disgraceful to me.

      That what I was talking about.

      • Myriad says:

        Yeah… sorry I flew off the handle. I also have no idea why yours of all posts was so irritating to me when I read it. (It has to do with the language, definitely… but other than that, I have no idea).

        As I meant to express better, I agree with your general assessment there. I agree that pinning one’s own bad behavoíours to a God is bad enough, and perhaps the next thing went a little over my head earlier today (because I was busy feeling on the defensive): pinning it on the Gods is bad enough, but pinning it on the Gods and calling it piety… that does take the cake.

        The problem with posts like yours is that they always get read by the wrong people — and those who should read them would not even realise that it’s them being talked about. I’m sorry, I have no solution for this problem either…

      • I have no issue about your reaction; I had a pretty good idea of where you were coming from and I can sympathize. 🙂

        I don’t write for the wrong people, because they’re already mired in their wrong thinking. Further, no one can write in such a way that their truth can be perverted by them; all statements will be viewed through a perverted lens, no matter how they are worded nor what they are about.

        My issue is that lack of awareness on things. So many conversation of “how” and “why” of Patrons, but none of the “how” and “why” of the person to person etiquette involved. So my attempt is in starting the dialogue because my words can never change everything…but maybe they can be a part of a positive catalyst for good change.

        As for my language…yeah, I did drop the ball on that. Granted, it is how I see such individuals but I’ve always aimed at wording things better than my gut reaction. Thanks for calling me on that.

  2. I have a list a mile long of various issues I have with other Odin’s folk… using “I’m a berserker!” as a justification for a tendency to frequently lash out in anger would be the tip of the ice berg.

    I wonder how to start the conversation on “Part of my relationship with Odin is recognizing and learning from His flaws.”

  3. Suzy says:

    I have been a Lokis woman for many years and one of the things that stands out to me the most in how He has made a difference in my life is in my disposition/character. The closer i have grown to my beloved, the more pious, quiet and peaceful i have become. I find this sacred that He has lead me in this direction & treasure it every day.

    • There are sides to Loki that have nothing to do with the verbosity and over-zealousness so often associated with him. This isn’t referencing UPG; many of his actions in the lore have surprising implications.

      So many go to the Lokesenna as a representation of him…and forget the sort of knowledge and wisdom that would be gained by a God who has experience as both a father and a mother.

  4. Doug Freyburger says:

    “There are always a lot of discussions being had about divine patrons. People ask a lot about how to find theirs, how to determine if you’re just imagining things, how to approach a deity you suspect might be expressing interest in you, what sort of offerings to make, and so forth.”

    When folks ask about finding a patron I have a standard answer – Patrons find you and insist. Looking for a patron likely means never having one. It’s not the human who makes the choice.

    I think the question of just imagining things is about deism in general not just about patrons. But as I just wrote patrons insist. That’s well past the first meeting. At my first meeting, Odin showed up unexpected and told me to follow. I spent a year reading in the sagas how most followed his entire clan and trying to figure out if I imagined it. Then I gave in and followed his clan. It changed my life but the only times he’s been back has been to accept offerings so he has not insisted.

    I’ve never gotten the questions about how to approach a deity. If you think they exist, ask them directly. If you don’t think they exist why ask the question in the first place.

    For offerings I’m big on the fact that until I see some video I don’t think they normally have bodies. That means what we share is mind. Share *experiences* with them. Drink while sharing the experience. Don’t waste stuff – To me that’s Christian PR nonsense.

    Someone who has a patron I want to know how long they resisted when their recruiter insisted.

    Recent years I’ve walked with Thor a lot. Just happened. No insistence. So I figure I don’t call him my patron. He can tell me otherwise any time he likes.

    On the claims that Lokeans don’t behave I ask folks to name one. Seriously. I’ve met a few Lokeans and they have been among the better behaved heathens I’ve met. Weird folks, but I am talking heathens here so it’s not like they are any weirder than I am. One or two were immature but they were also young. And sure enough they had decided on their own so sure enough I discount them as actual Lokeans the same as I discount folks who applied to Odin. Still, name one. I can wait. Funny how that bit never does get an answer.

    A number of the anti-Lokeans have been very insulting and stereotyping, though. Even though they never do name one. Comical how it works in reverse like that.

    • “On the claims that Lokeans don’t behave I ask folks to name one. Seriously. I’ve met a few Lokeans and they have been among the better behaved heathens I’ve met. Weird folks, but I am talking heathens here so it’s not like they are any weirder than I am. One or two were immature but they were also young. And sure enough they had decided on their own so sure enough I discount them as actual Lokeans the same as I discount folks who applied to Odin. Still, name one. I can wait. Funny how that bit never does get an answer.”

      I can honestly say I’ve encountered one or two…but one or two does not a pattern make. For certain, I’ve seen much more strife caused by those who deny him than those who worship him.

      • Doug Freyburger says:

        Got it. I bet either of us can name 5-10 anti-Lokeans who stir strife for every Lokean who does. Even the immature ones who decided on their own to follow Loki.

        This is part of why I consider Loki an agent in the enemy camp. He’s not the stirrer but some react to him as such. It’s a part of his cover. another part of his cover is calling his wedding an insult exchange, but that’s an issue for linguistic analysis …

  5. I remember that I avoided Odin for years when dealing with rage out of fear of him. I have seen Odinists that really annoyed me as well as Lokeans. My first deity relationship was Heimdall, which led to some conflicts with a Lokean or two.

    I hope I never used Heimdall as an excuse for bad behavior but your core argument is a good one.

    • Doug Freyburger says:

      I am other than convinced that working with Odin to deal with rage issues is a good idea in civilized society. Odin inspires wars on a large scale and berserkers on personal scale. Berserkers were widely hated. That sounds more like using it for bad behavior than dealing with it to me.

      For one good way to harness rage look to the Alvismal. Thor harnesses rage into cold calculation, cunning and wisdom. From outside of the west it’s likely martial arts can help as well.

  6. I don’t work with Odin for rage, I was merely expressing why I avoided him. There are those who do and I acknowledge them. I honor Odin from a distance. 😉

    I use a number of techniques, with boxing my art of choice and a heavy bag a fine method of working meditation.

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