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.


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.

Regarding Loki, Part 5: Uncomfortable Truths

It’s taken a long time for me to return to Loki…

Some of it has been due to some other matters on my plate, but by and large?  What else can I say?  How can I say it?  At this point, people who have made strong opinion on this matter aren’t willing to be wrong.  Loki is their Satan, because that’s what they want him to be.  I almost shelved the series indefinitely, until I recalled one of Loki’s greatest tools.

The uncomfortable truth.

So let’s take a quick look at some of percieved truths of Loki’s detractors, and see what they really look like when you stop for a second and read between the lines.

220px-Snorre_Sturluson-Christian_KrohgWhat seems to be agreed upon: Snorri Sturluson’s recounting of our myths and legends shows that Loki is an enemy of the Gods.
The uncomfortable truth: Snorri Sturluson also suggested that they weren’t gods, but mortal men who people thought of as gods.  Also, that they were from Asia.  Lastly, he makes such a sorry  example for a Faux-Heathen Moses, the only way he could have been worse is to have also been elected the Pope.

Snorri Sturluson was not the last great Heathen skald, who wrote down the legacies of his ancestors in some final tribute to them.  The Prose Edda is not a literary time capsule, containing the carefully coded secrets of our ancestors.  He was not a holy man, and his life doesn’t portray him as such.  He was a politician who also knew a great deal about history as written by the Christian scholars who transcribed it.  He we famous in his time as a poet and statesman, and that’s about it.

If you were nice, you’d call him clever and intelligent.  If you were not nice, you’d call him an opportunistic coward.  Seriously, the man left his cousin on the field of battle due to a disagreement over chain of command.  For someone that they treated as the writer of scripture, the man is a pretty piss poor role model.  There is some evidence that he couldn’t read the runes, which makes his status as some unquestionable authority even more laughable.  For the sake of the Gods, he isn’t even our faith!  He is no different than any other Christian historian!  Some of you go on and on about the evils of Christianity, and you take your dogma strait from a Christian scholar.  It boggles the mind.

This isn’t to say that Sturluson is completely worthless, or even a bad person.  He is, however, not the prophet of the Odin or the writer of the Heathen bible.  We are not  a revealed religion, and we do not have any reason to interpret the lore in a “solo scriptorium” sort of way.  Even if our ancestors did have such a holy text, all we have is material scribed by a completely different faith that had no interest  in turning our sagas and legends into anything but metaphors for their own faith.

What seems to be agreed upon: There is very little evidence of any sort of religious practice that surrounded Loki.
The Uncomfortable Truth: There isn’t a whole lot of evidence for religious practice, period.  Many modern scholars don’t take the reconstruction effort surrounding the Norse pantheon seriously simply because so little has survived.  We could be missing entire Deities from the Norse pantheon, and we wouldn’t even know it.

Every ancient text that you have read has been translated and/or transcribed by Christian scholars.  Nothing written in any Saga or in any chapter of the Poetic Edda was recorded by someone who was a worshiper of our Gods.  Even if they had been, it’s almost moot; our religion is not a revealed religion.  There is no evidence that suggests that the Hammer Hollowing is anything but a modern invention, given to us by the Wiccan faith.  Does anyone have that big of an issue with it?  Does anyone storm out of sumble over it?

No, of course they don’t.  Our religion is a living, breathing thing.  If you want a holy, immutable texts…convert to a religion that has some.  Our religion, by necessity, is made up of our best guesses and efforts to honor our Gods.  If someone’s best guesses and efforts offend you, than that speaks volumes about the character of your person.

ISR_LokiWhat seems to be agreed upon: That Loki worship is abhorrent to true Heathenry and/or Asatru.
The Uncomfortable Truth: If you actually say this out loud and mean it, you are showcasing you’re own warped priorities.

We can talk about the roots of Heathenry at length.  That doesn’t change that the Heathenry faith is, in most cases, a young religion.  It has roots that extended to more venerable practices, and a few of us even have traces of this via there own family traditions.  Even those few of us who were brought up with a portion of spiritual heritage, however, will confess that much of our older lore has been lost.  Our religion is tiny and young, and every issue that gains our collective consideration needs to be of the utmost importance.

So why is there any sort of back and forth on Loki?

Take a priority check here, folks.  The path of our ancestors is under assault by racists.  There are very few worship spaces worldwide, meaning the majority of us will never have the opportunity to see the inside of a Hof.  Our most public figures are the ones that  media can connect back to crimes and scandals.  Our national organizations are split over politics, infighting, and hubris.

These are all important issues.  Whether someone chooses to worship or pray to a God you don’t like is not.

You know who else castigates people who their own personal interpretation on religion?  Mainstream Christianity…which a greater majority of us left because we were tired of seeing this sort of stupidity.  If you denounce Loki’s worship and disregard frith and common sense in the process, you are now performing the exact same fundamentalist foolishness that you tried to get away from.

What is agreed upon: Loki is of Frost Giants lineage, thus he must be the enemy.
The Uncomfortable Truth: Take this to it’s logical conclusion, and than every single god of the Norse pantheon is the enemy of the Norse pantheon.  This includes, but is not  limited to, Thor, Odin, Tyr, and Baldr.

That is, of course, as long as you actually consider them Gods…and not just a few Asian warlords that our ancestors were duped into believing were Gods, as Snorri depicted.  If you do consider them divine, however, almost every single divine being we have any history was born of Jotuns.

Of course, this is also a symptom of an even more bizarre problem.  Are we going to demand our Gods march in for a background check before we worship them?  Are we so fucking stupid that divine genetics is actually some sort of valid theological consideration?  That we would think less of someone or malign them by virtue of them worshiping a genetically undesirable God?  This is madness, and yet it’s only a stone’s throw away from where some of this discourse takes place.

DFRG_LokiWhat is agreed upon: Those who worship Loki are liars.
The Uncomfortable Truth: The only way you can effectively demonize His worship is by lying to yourself.

There are better, more historically accurate arguments than I could ever voice that defend the worship of Loki.  They consist of historical scholarship provided by people who have done their homework, researched the subject in other languages, and actually done something more than read the Prose Edda and call it a day.  I’ve seen people bring these intelligent, well researched counter arguments to the table.

They are either ignored or told that they don’t count.  They are told, in a condescending way, to go back and study the words of 12th century Christian historian if they want to see what a “real Heathen believes”.

One of these people is lying to themselves.

There is a Heathen couple that I consider very close friends.  Our families hang out as often as our busy schedules will allow for, and I count them amongst my innangard.  They do not worship Loki.  They know I do.  That is the beginning and ending of it.  We respect each others differences, because we respect each other.  It’s that simple.  Hell, they belong to the AFA…and I’ve had a few unkind words to say in regards to that organization.  I do not make the mistake of judging them as if they were the AFA, and they do not make the mistake of presuming that I speak for every person who venerates Loki.

I judge them as I judge all people; by their deeds, not by their religious convictions.  I presume the first will end up speaking for the second.

Author’s Note: This article is intended to address only those people who see Loki’s worship as a problem within Heathenry.  If you, personally, choose not to hail the Trickster within  your own home or events?  I have no issue with you; I may or may not disagree with your reasons, but it’s not my choice to make.  There are others out there who think they have some right to approve or disapprove of someone’s religious beliefs.  It is to these people alone that I address the above points.