Regarding Loki, Part 7: More Uncomfortable Truths

On Feburary 13th,  Stephen McNallen made a statement in regards to the AFA’s stance on  the worship and veneration of Loki within their own organization and events.  Let me be clear that I, for one, don’t really care about the stance of the AFA in regards to the hailing of the trickster of Asgard.  I think their stance is closed minded and short sighted to be sure, but I’m not the Asa-Pope the last time I checked so they are free to establish their stances and procedures as they see fit.

What I did take umbrage at was how Mr. McNallen’s words also made subtle, but broad, pejorative assessments about those worship Loki in general.  A true statement of policy has no need to weigh in on the spiritual practices of another, and I found the remarks more than a little bit out of line.  While I might have been inclined to let some of that go, and mark it up to another area where the AFA and I just will never see eye to eye, a look at the comments that followed Mr. McNallen’s thoughts was eye opening.  While some of the comments were reasonably benign, and a handful managed to even be positive, some of what was so was so hateful, miserable, and disgusting that it demand a measured response.

So let us take a look at some of those arguments, and see how what is believed compares against logical consideration.

tumblr_m58bdm9xLH1rrtg4ko1_500What Seems to be Agreed Upon: “Our experience over the decades has been that toasting Loki or in other ways calling him to our side brings – not creative chaos, not constructive change – but ill luck. This is a matter of observation, not theory.” -Stephen McNallen
The Uncomfortable Truth: There are lots of people whose experiences have been that the AFA is an organization where bigotry and racism are acceptable.  For such people, they have a great deal of collected observation…but when they pronounce their feelings as fact?  Your words, Mr. McNallen, are seldom kind.

This is the only comment truly directed at the AFA in general, and Stephen McNallen in particular.  This isn’t a statement designed to attack the organization or it’s founder, but to politely explain where Mr. McNallen may have lost sight of how his statement compares against some of the things said about the AFA over the years.

Despite his experiences, which are no doubt vast, Mr. McNallen more than likely has not met or interacted with a vast number of Lokeans or has meaningfully partaken of a great number of rituals than include Loki.  As such, all of Mr. McNallen’s assurances fall into the realm of the anecdotal account; they represent an interpretation of the events in his own life, in a general sort of way.  Those are fine for him and his organization, if he wishes to use them, but the statement he made pushed outside of those boundaries the moment he made the above implication.  As written, it is at least a bit careless and disrespectful for those whose spirituality called them in that direction.  In addition, it’s a statement which displays a logical inconsistency.

When it comes to anecdotes, you have two meaningful options; you either accept all anecdotes as equally valid (thus making every single thing stated by groups like Circle Ansuz in dire need of a public, candid response) or you can treat them as little more than opinion (making your own anecdotes no better or worse than the next person’s, and thus really not worthy of intense consideration).  To do otherwise is to establish a double standard, and I don’t think such a structure should be welcome within Heathen ethics.  It is possible that this wasn’t mean, as a line like “observation, not theory” is particularly vague.  At the very least, there should have been a greater degree of care taken in the words chosen.

facepalmWhat Seems to Be Agreed Upon: Anyone who follows Loki is doing so as a fad, likely a result of the Marvel movies.
The Uncomfortable Truth: In two minutes or less, explain how that exact same statement can’t be made about the worship of Thor or Odin without equal validity.

This is what we can a logical fallacy.  Specifically, casual oversimplification with a little variation of ad hominem for good measure.  This is aside of the rather obvious issue that any single dismissal of Loki, via the Marvel movies, can likewise be used to slander the modern worship of Odin, Thor, Firgg, and Heimdallr.

Look guys, tumblr scares the hell out of me too; that doesn’t give you a permission slip to weigh in on another person’s spirituality and declare it meaningless simply because a lot of seventeen year old girls and boys are getting all hot and bothered by Tom Hiddleston.

23141-viking-scene-art-designWhat Seems to be Agreed Upon: Loki is a God of chaos, and to honor him is to honor the forces that seek to destroy civilization as we know it.
The Uncomfortable Truth: Chaos doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Look, if you choose not to venerate Loki?  That’s your choice.  If you refrain because he is a “God of Chaos”(tm), you’ve just displayed that you either don’t understand Loki, chaos, or both.

The word chaos, by definition, has very little relevance to the Loki that is depicted within the lore.  To be plain about it, Loki is no more “chaotic” than Odin, Thor, or Freya.  His actions are deliberate, methodical, and chosen for their results.  Each of these actions represents deeds performed for the interest of a long term goal.  This implies a plan, and chaos destroys plans of all sorts.  Some of these plans are ones that have catalyzed the creation of Mjonir, Gungir, Slepnir, and the Walls of Asgard.  Those are things that, by their nature, have created order in the lore.  It is thus fair to say that Loki is nothing like a God of Chaos; in truth, he is a God who frequently establishes order through unorthodox means or even forges order from chaos.

It would be fair to say that he is duplicitous in some situations. Also unquantifiable, trickster, sneaky, and a bunch of other things.   It is those exact qualities, however, that the Gods called upon in numerous myths and legends.  If they are calling upon, and even proactively utilizing, a “God of Chaos”…wouldn’t that make them chaotic by association?

And, while we are on that topic….

Pimp My RideWhat Seems to be Agreed Upon: Why would anyone allow Loki into our worship if he was responsible for kidnapping, murder, and betrayal?
The Uncomfortable Truth: Perhaps you should ask a similar question of Odin and Thor.

If we are taking the lore at literal value, and we usually seem to be when it comes to the Loki argument, we must take into account that Odin knew everything that going to go down long before it happened.  If you believe in the Poetic and Prose Edda as an accurate account of our lore, this requires that you view Odin’s actions through that context; he knew all that was to happen, long before Ragnarok came.  We could presume Thor to know the same, yet he asks for Loki’s assistance on many occasions.

If Loki’s existance is to betray the Gods, why does Thor confess to him that his hammer has gone missing?  Why would he accept Loki’s company on the mission to retrieve it, when a single trecherous word could doom their greatest defender and forever put his greatest weapon in the hands of the very enemies he is predicted to betray them to?  None of this makes any sense, and it’s not the only circumstances which reveals itself as curious and inconsistent.

If you choose to unconditionally reject Loki and those who hail him from your house, than you are stating that you know better than some of the greatest and most trusted Gods within our faith.  One is consider a being of nearly infinite wisdom and is the unquestioned ruler of the Aesir.  The other is held up as amongst the greatest warriors that the nine realms will ever know.  Both of them make up beings you shouldn’t really be questioning.

"Hey, gonna eat that?"

“Hey, uh…you gonna eat that?”

What Seems to be Agreed Upon: Those who worship Loki should go back to being Satanists
The Uncomfortable Truths: Those who say nonsense like that should seek the help of Gothi, for such people are having serious conversion problems.

I know this may seem like going after the low hanging fruit, but this statement pops up distressingly often.  It is not the most common rebuttal, but it also parallels the “Loki is the Norse equivalent of Satan, so why would you worship him” argument enough to kill two birds with one stone.

To the credit of Mr. McNallen, he openly addressed that issue and addressed it correctly.

If you have a serious issue with Satanism, as a Heathen, than you are in desperate need of some pastoral counseling.   Even if I give the benefit of the doubt and presume that all who worship Loki were previously Satanists?  Satanism is either a largely atheistic philosophy or focused on the cosmology that comes with a Judeo-Christian worldview.  In either case, you have no reason to care.  Satan isn’t your concern anymore and never will be again.  If you are still bothered/offended by the nemesis of a religion you have supposedly abandoned, that says more about you religious practices than it does about mine.*


“Oh man, if they think Loki’s bad? Wait til they start actually reading some of the stuff I did!”**

What Seems to be Agreed Upon: There are countless actions that Loki takes within the sagas that fly in the face of everything we know about Heathen ethics, both in modern times and in the times of our spiritual ancestors.
The Uncomfortable Truth: The same can be said of almost the entirety of the Aesir and Vanir.

Freyr gives up a weapon that would have defended him and his kin at Ragnarok in the hopes of winning a Jotun bride.  Tyr’s sacrifice was unneeded, for he could have simply killed Fenrir as a pup and saved Odin at Ragnarok in a single stroke.   Than there is Njord, who abandons the Aesir at the twilight of the Gods so he can return to Vanaheim.  Freya prostitutes herself for a necklace, even agreeing to cause strife in the world of men in order to secure it.  Nanna commits suicide, unable to face a world without her husband.  Rather than meet the giantess Skadi in honorable  combat over the death of her father, the Gods avoid the fight and marry her into their ranks instead.  Than there is just about every myth connected to Odin, wherein he does at least one thing that modern Heathenism find absolutely unacceptable.

If we’re going to play this idiotic game, than we can render just about every God in the pantheon as unworthy of worship and there is no philosophy that makes this foolishness make sense.  Somehow, no Heathens seems to have trouble recognizing all of these other deities as being more than just the scarce collection of myths we have retained of them.  We seem them as forces greater than the sum of their parts, and recognize these tales as complex and three dimensional.

Just not Loki.

If these arguments seemed weak or redundant, that is because they are and they’ve been this way for quite some time.  These, however, are the arguments that are put up on a consistent basis.  What’s even more baffling is you don’t even need any deep understanding of the lore to find where these talking points completely fall apart.  No heavy, eldrtich texts need to be translated from a dead language to understand how these things don’t work.  You seem need to be able to read, hear, and think.  Yet, this is the eternally present “Loki Debate”; a collection of barely salient points, almost all of them made by people that would seem to know better in any other situation.  Which says something very disturbing to me.  Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth of them all.

It says that the decision about another person’s UPG was made before the facts were considered.  That no knowledge was truly weighed and measured.  It all suggests that a choice was made to suit someone’s preexisting conceits, and that was that.  No questions asked and no objections entertained.  Loki is Norse Satan; perhaps not in name, but certainly in function.  That says volumes about people who parrot these arguments and raise such loud objections to a spiritual path that doesn’t effect them in the slightest.  What can we say about such a person, who would willing mock what another finds sacred while lack both motivation and understand?

What does it suggest about any other thing they say, for example; are they truly giving their hard wrought knowledge when they speak, or are they simply telling you what takes away from their comfort the least?

This is not about the AFA’s policy, a bunch of it’s members being ignorant on Facebook,  or even  Stephen McNallen having to say something that I didn’t like; at the end of the day, McNallen’s statement is just a more polite, less insulting version of a bigger issue.  If you don’t have the courage and strength to allow others the freedom to experience the joy of our  Gods in their own way?  If you lack the honor to allow another Heathen the freedom to call themselves Heathen, and would alienate them simply because their methods of respecting their spiritual ancestry do not  mirror your own?  If you are so lifeless and dogmatic that you need to toe your own party line before you offer hospitality to the spiritual beliefs of another person?  Well, I got to tell you friend…those aren’t virtues that I would be proud of.**

Bolverk’s Word Brother!  Jotun Bane’s Shadow!  Knotted Goat Dancer!
Hail the Hammer Fly!  Hail the Stallion-Bride!  Hail Asa Loki!

*I suppose there could be some Christo-Heathens out there, who have taken a synchretic approach to both the Christian and Heathen faiths.  If this describes you, I could understand you still having an issue with Satan in that case and only that case…so don’t think that I’m trying to malign you or suggest that something is wrong with you;  I’m not.  It still makes for a horrifically bad anti-Loki argument, but that isn’t a conversion problem is you’ve met it with a real sense of purpose and agency.

**Yes, that was on purpose.

14 thoughts on “Regarding Loki, Part 7: More Uncomfortable Truths

  1. llnyx says:

    Not only does the AFA make my blood boil concerning their belligerent disrespectful idiotic christian biased views concerning my God, but then for an organization/individual to follow Snorris writings as if they are some divine revelations and yet turn a blind eye to these same writings (that they are so in awe of) clearly stating that Odin & Loki are blood brothers & when one is honored with a drink SO SHOULD THE OTHER is dumbfounding! WTF- can they not read their own “bible”? The quest (it seems) to form another version of christianity just with different names out of the AFA is disappointing to say the least. Some of the follow up comments were pathetic, juvenile “boogie man” style. Reminded me of 3rd grade children having a conversation on the playground about the guy who works in the town cemetery!

    • I have an issue with a number of AFA stances, but I’ve also have found people within that organization that buck the prevailing philosophies and keep hate speech out of their language. As such, I’ve tried to talk about them as little as possible. Typically, it just is not productive.

      I’d be inclined to just let them to their own, but that sort of requires the same courtesy be likewise extended.

  2. Setsu says:

    Thank you for writing so extensively on this. One of modern Heathenism’s best assets is providing an alternative framework to the good/evil split; and such nuances help us better relate to each other rather than divide us up. I am not one of you, but if I were, I would favor Loki. Much appreciated.

    • Honestly, most days I don’t really enjoying writing this stuff; I don’t savor or enjoy the political struggles or the back and forth silliness that occurs. I’d rather spend my time in veneration, as opposed to vindication. At times, however, people push their envelops too far and you kind of feel compelled to speak upon the subject. This was one of those times.

      The up side is responses like this, doubly so that it comes from an outside perspective. Thank you.

  3. AQ says:

    My experiences with Loki and his followers have not been at all wealful or hael (unless you consider lots of drama and destructive chaos to be a good thing)–therefore, I choose to have nothing to do with them.

    I fail to see how that makes me magically less Heathen.

    • Allow me to clarify…

      Of the anti-Lokean people I encounter? Very few have based their opinions on personal experience. Most of them have based it on second to third hand accounts and a very temperamental reading of the lore.

      If you aren’t making these statements or weighing in on the spiritual practices of others when they don’t effect you? I have no issue with you, or anyone like you. I’m saddened by your negative experiences, but things are what they are. All the same, that’s your call to make and you have the agency to make it. I will not say a thing about spiritual identity.

      When people come from a place where even there experiences allow them to weigh in on the spiritual choices of others? Or when the lore is applied in only the way they choose and no other interpretation is allowed to be entertained or considered? That is when I call foul.

  4. Things like this have always been somewhat amusing to me. My own personal path to finding Loki was a very long one, and wouldn’t have happened at all if it weren’t for Odin. Odin’s the one who called me, who inspired me to learn enough and dig enough to realize that I wasn’t here to “work for Odin” so to speak. For me the journey began sometime in the mid-90’s*, I can’t really pin it down, but it was somewhere in the middle of high school. But Loki really entered the picture in 2004, that’s where I started getting a lot of other signs and actually told one of my other friends, “I think I’m being called to Loki, and here’s all the things I’m seeing.” So since about 2004, I’ve been quietly doing my learning in research in that direction. Fortunately due to little interactions with actual Heathen groups (it’s always easy to find pagan groups, but never expressly Heathen groups – this is changing though, thank you internet), and most pagans not bothering to learn/just following these same stereotypes, even saying the name/word Loki causes all kinds of silly reactions out of people that border a Catholic making the sign of the cross.

    Yes, Marvel has done a quasi-small disservice to genuine Heathenry, but if someone is called because of a movie, and the end result is someone who digs and learns and is opened up to this new path. If someone was to open themselves to following this path in any capacity of seriousness, how is that a bad thing? Some people get brought it based on bad translations of myths and sagas, how is that any different? Shit, I’m willing to bet the History channel’s Vikings is going to bring a batch of people over into the fold.

    It’s difficult to change someone’s mind when you come up against something that’s an entrenched belief. My goal in life is to above all else, be an outstanding Heathen. To be a beacon of what a Heathen should be in the Pagan community at large. To make people go, “Wait a minute… he’s Lokean?” after the fact. I know I’ve been doing it here in Texas. Georgia’s next on my list. I personally charge other Lokeans with the same task, don’t bow to their level and petty bickering. Be intelligent, logical, persuasive, and above all a model Heathen. Let people see that not only are we a part of this community already, but that we have something significant to contribute. They’ll come around eventually. I’m not worried in the slightest. We’ve got some good friends out there.

    * – I’m just going to note down here, that I’ve never at any point in my life ever been a Satanist. I was barely ever a Christian (I stopped when I was like 8, despite my family still dragging me to church). This is just an extra silly point.

    • I often feel the same way; I try and hold myself to as high a standard of diplomacy as I can manage. Mistakes and misunderstands can and do happen, but how one handles them is a wonderful showing of character and attitude.

  5. EmberVoices says:

    Reblogged this on EmberVoices and commented:
    I agree with pretty well all of this. To whatever degree I had respect for the AFA as a group, its policies, or its leader, it decreases pretty well every time I hear another round of what is and is not valued there.
    Also: If you have a personal problem with a god via direct experience, that’s one thing. If you have a conceptual problem with a god in theory, it had better be grounded in something real.
    I can understand (possibly better than the author of this post) why folks would be worried about what choosing to be a follower of Satan implies about a person’s ethics without necessarily being worried about the entity of Satan as a problem in His own right, but I don’t think that actually applies here, and it definitely doesn’t apply to Loki.

  6. Doug Freyburger says:

    I’ll start with the claim about chaos – Go ahead and name as many chaos causing Lokeans and events as you like. I’ll have no problems naming 10 anti-Lokeans who created chaos or chaotic events caused by anti-Lokeans for each name or incident. The cause of the issue is abundantly clear to anyone who has honestly paid attention across the years.

    The history of the situation is interesting – The anti-Loki stance is led by those organizations that historically contained racists. As time has passed and the need to exclude extremists on both sides has become clear, all groups have moved towards the center on the heritage issue and both racists and flaming anti-racists have left both sides. When I started attending a local folkish kindred about 1993 someone wrote “The armchair Viking” in response saying that anyone who chose to not take sides was not a real heathen. Both sides of that attitude are now history, so we end up with “Second verse, same as the first” (Henry the Eighth by Herman’s Hermits).

    Once again it is suppression being used as a tool centered on a specific side. This time, because it’s about a matter of religious choice not genetics. So far know one seems to notice that suppression is the tool of bigots and sure enough the center of anti-Lokean activity are the organizations that used to have racists. Don’t give me any claim they never contained racists – I attended numerous events and I watched a 20 year kindred self-destruct for admitting skinheads. I also don’t claim they currently contain racists – I stopped attending their events after a few years and have seen a steady stream of open racists leaving them over the years.

    It only took, what, 30 years to iron out the race issue. It’s okay. I may be able to order off the seniors menu at Dennys but I have plenty of time remaining. I can out-wait this issue as well.

    • While I’m very much aware that “Anti-Loki” also means “Anti-Melanin” in a lot of cases, I just never see it helpful to bring up. It’s a hard situation to prove conclusively, easy to refute with rhetoric, and if any group pulls out a single openly non-racist anti-Loki person? It just backfires.

      For me, it’s just easier and more effective to pull out their own logic and show the flaws. I think it’s more productive as well, but your mileage may vary of course.

      To that end, I’ve seen so much more stress and chaos brought up by denying Loki than I’ve ever personally seen caused by his worship…to the point that I sometimes wonder if the irony isn’t divinely inspired.

      • Doug Freyburger says:

        I definitely get the notion that objection to Loki might be an inspired smoke screen. In some senses he was an agent in an enemy camp who traveled in the realm of the fire giants before he got tied down by marriage. And as time doesn’t flow linearly in mythic time he is at once a spy in an enemy camp and happily at home in Asgard with the binding influence of his wife. But discussion of the Lokasenna as a marriage binding is a topic for other threads ;^)

        I figure the anti-Loki approach is about weakness – Humanity is too weak to have any long term influence on the side our spirits have in the final battle so instead of converting ambiguous allegiance ones it makes sense to rail against them. Of course that begs the question of why anti-Loki folks don’t also rail against Manni for not participating. As you point out, the logic needed to arrive at an anti-Loki stance is as full of craters as Manni’s surface.

  7. Emilia says:

    Nice article
    I’m glad I’m not the only was who notices Asatru is nothing more than neo-heathenism mixed with Christianity.
    To the people upset with that statement, please look deeper into much older European and west Slavic heathen religions, earlier ones than mid-1970s California Asatru to start seeing some truth, Thor, Loki, Freya, etc are repeated in hundreds of pagan religions under different name since at least 7000bc.
    Someday Asatru might grow into a real heathen non-Christian influenced religion, but sadly probably not in this lifetime. By putting down Loki, it shows how far away from the source Asatru is due to the fact Loki in all his forms wasn’t evil until Christianity happened.

  8. erinlale says:

    There are plenty of Asatru people and groups who are not the AFA. If the old line orgs are invaded by haters, we’ll just make new ones.

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