The Road So Far…

Today’s foray into blogging is brought to you by a call for requests on my Facebook. Because I’m still slugging through the downward cycle of depression, I asked if anyone had any particular topics they wanted me to cover to keep me from turning this blog into a mope fest. I just received a cheeky comment to write what I’d just asked about on FB – “Just imagine making this post in a public forum 15 years ago,” a friend wrote in response to my “any questions about life with Loki?” query. “Imagine the crashing horde of keyboard warriors that would be surrounding your fort with flaming pitchforks.” And you know, he’s onto something solid. Because the last 20 years have been a hell of a ride. Brace yourselves, this is a long one. I’ve been heathen for decades, and I have a lot of personal history with this topic. Skim or slog, this is a retrospective in my experiences and reactions of the Loki Debate from 1999-present.

I’ve glossed over this topic a few times before, but now the wheels are turning because R has a great point with his comment. Fifteen years ago, I’d absolutely have been attacked (and truthfully, I was) for my “I dig Loki” stance, and to be perfectly honest, it’s why it took me so damn long to introduce myself to the American heathen community. I’ve been heathen for 33 of my 37 years, but I’ve only been active in the community for about 10ish years, and only started attending ECT in 2018 (logistics being the main reason – hard to take a week off when you’re on call for the mortuary all the time and/or using whatever PTO you’ve accrued for medical care). I only formally joined my kindred this past summer, despite knowing them for ages. Hell, I called myself an Odhinnswoman for most of my adult life, though I always qualified that by declaring I had a strong penchant for Loki. Even that little addendum to my introduction was usually met with a frown, and I’d end up hearing all about why someone didn’t like the twerp. So it’s been a fascinating few years to see the community making the gradual shift to more inclusive attitudes toward our boy.

To backtrack for those who haven’t taken the deep dive into the archives here: I grew up what I call “heathen-lite.” My grandfather and his brothers were immigrants who brought their paganism to the new country. My grandfather and father believed in the old gods. My mother was raised Catholic, but was absolutely charmed by my grandfather’s stories and attitudes about spirituality. So I was raised with those beliefs, but we weren’t the kind of heathens who did ritual, and we didn’t engage in formal prayer of any sort. I was brought up on the myths and stories and legends, to know who the gods were, to explore the intense energies around me. My father was a career officer, so my childhood was spent in West Germany and the focus was on Odhinn. We were overseas when Desert Storm hit; my father had his orders to deploy, and he was stoked for his chance at Valhalla. The conflict ended right before he shipped out; he never got over the bitterness of that disappointment. To be fair, my mom and I were equally disappointed, thinking we’d be finally free of his constant wrath and violence. So we had to forge our own escape. Literally. Hence my PTSD. (This did, however, make for an extraordinary event at ECT 2018 that helped to bring me a miraculous sense of validation and closure.)

When Mom and I broke free, she enrolled me in Catholic school upon our return to the States. When I was 13, I converted. Partly because of peer pressure and wanting to fit in, partly because I wanted in on Cannibal Snack Time every week, and partly because I was enamored with monastic lifestyles offered by the church. By the time I’d graduated high school, I’d accepted that Christianity was a failed experiment for me, and I reverted back to what I’d grown up with. This time, however, because I’d taken a liking to the concept of community and ritual, I decided to hop on the pagan message boards on AOL to see what there was to see.

Yikes, y’all. This was around 1999/2000, and it was a jumble of WTFery.

For one thing, this was the Silver Ravenwolf era. The message boards were a damn nightmare of Wiccan and neo-Wiccan infighting. For another, I was horrified by the anti-Loki vitriol that ran rampant in the “Norse” themed threads. It was bad enough that on a visit home, I asked my mom about why Loki was so feared. It was a foreign concept to me since he was just one of the dudes we dug, my grandpa liked him (and I had recurring dreams about foxes and grandpa, knowing that the foxes were linking him to Loki), and as far as my own personal experience went, he was overall a good egg. “This is why I sent you to Catholic school,” she said. “This is what I meant when I told you that you needed to learn how the rest of society thinks.”

She explained that even though the US wasn’t a Christian nation, the vast majority of the population was either raised Christian or with Judeo-Christian-based philosophy. There is, of course, a firmly dichotomous mode of thought that goes with monotheism: if there’s a force of good, there’s a force of evil to balance it out, and many religions are based on the battle between the two. So, she said, if someone grew up with that line of thinking, it would carry over if they converted. It’s a difficult process to shed one world view completely and shift into a whole new way of interpreting the universe, so when people with monotheistic backgrounds moved into the pagan sphere, they couldn’t quite let go of the concept of good vs. evil. So in the Norse side of things, “Loki is their scapegoat,” she said with disgust. She then went on a rant about how Loki wasn’t any worse than any of the other gods, and he was bullied until he snapped, and those particular myths should be taken with a grain of salt anyway because they were written by a Christian monk, etc etc etc. She was genuinely heated about the topic, which I found fascinating considering she herself was a former Catholic. I was 18 at the time, and just kind of sat there slack-jawed as she got more and more pissed off at hearing about the American heathen fear of Loki. That was the first of her pro-Loki rants, but definitely not the last. For someone who isn’t actually heathen, she has Serious Opinions about the Loki Rift.

Around this time, I met Sigyn for the first time. I was in my dorm room, getting worked up and upset about the “Loki is bad, don’t trust him, never call on him” discussions everywhere. Even with Mom’s explanations about why Loki Fear was a thing, I just couldn’t for the life of me reconcile the Loki I saw on the forums with the Loki I knew personally. It was an absurd struggle, and it was really taking a toll on me. That’s when Sigyn said, “He’s a good man. You know he is. If he wasn’t, then I would never have stayed with him. Trust me: he’s worth loving.” As I’ve mentioned before, this brief interaction resulted in a baffling response of uncomfortable envy; it took much, much longer than I’d like to admit for me to speak with Sigyn again. I was jealous of her, and I didn’t understand why. I do now, and the envy has been replaced with love, and our relationship is now very close and very cherished. But that’s another story.

At 19, I began to call myself an “Odhinnswoman with a strong penchant for Loki.” I was a sophomore in college but I’d already started preparation for joining the Army after graduation. I was accepted into Officer Candidate School pending completion of my degree. By the time I graduated and shipped down to Relaxin’ Jackson for BCT, it was 2004 and we were newly at war. So of course I was an Odhinnswoman! He’d been the informal focus of the household growing up on bases around the world, and I was just returning to what I knew: military life was home. Loki was a strong presence, too, but I chalked that up to his blood oath with Grimnir. It was mildly annoying that I never got to have one-on-one time with Ol’ One Eye, but hey, Odhinn said that whenever he was offered a drink, one should be given to Loki, so of course Scar Lip was always going to lurk around the edges.

Guys. I never said I was smart.

Anyway, I broke my back and several other important bones, so the Army kicked me out. I continued to honor Odhinn (and his blood brother) and some of the others, but I was firmly a solitary practitioner. My grandfather had passed by this point, and my father and I were estranged, and I was very, very put off by the continued widespread shunning of the Trickster. It took me many, many years to get to the point that I could even consider participating in a blót or sumbel where Loki wasn’t welcome. I continued to lurk on message boards and forums and The Troth email discussions but rarely ever participated. I was an Odhinnswoman (*snerk*), but was still itchy at the thought of arguments about Loki. I was still young and generally insecure and horribly shy to begin with, and I was terrified of being attacked if I joined in any discussions about Loki, online or irl. The very idea of meeting other heathens face-to-face damn near sparked panic attacks. The untreated PTSD certainly didn’t help any of this.

As I neared 30, The Troth became officially Nokean enough to institute their unofficial Loki Ban. A few years later, I let my membership lapse, because I was too uneasy with the Loki hate. I began to meet local and local-ish heathens, some of whom were Loki-friendly, most of whom were most definitely not. But I liked these people, and I participated in their celebrations, and I made my apologies to Loki afterwards. I was always a bit heartbroken at not being able to hail my boy in public. Yes, I still considered myself an Odhinnswoman, but it hurt me to leave Loki out of the festivities. It made my skin crawl for the group to hail Odhinn and pour him libations without acknowledging his blood-oathed brother. It just felt wrong on every level, and messed me up in a lot of ways. I didn’t bring it up with the others, because I respected them and didn’t want to cause discord or ill will in their homes, so I’d suck it up and make it up to Loki back at my house.

Then I took a break from the heathen community for the most part. My loyalty to Loki was growing, especially since I was working so closely with his daughter as a mortician. I was on call all the time anyway, so it was nearly impossible to go to heathen gatherings. So I retreated back to solitary practice, and even though I was still an Odhinnswoman, I took greater joy in Loki’s presence when I poured drinks for the boys. Everything just felt right when he was welcomed. And dammit, I really liked his company. The rest of the community was missing out on something pretty special, but still the fights raged on.

By the time my body crapped out and I had to step away from the physical demands of mortuary work, I was well into my 30s and had rejoined the community. I was depressed and lost without my chosen profession, so I was a lot more vocal about Loki at gatherings. I felt I didn’t have much to lose at that point, so I might as well be true to myself and Himself. I still respected the “no hailing Loki or his kin” rules at blót and sumbel, but I spoke more freely outside of ritual. Loki was by this time a part of my daily life, and I had a harder time separating him from group dynamics. And I was just tired of tiptoeing around everyone else; the Loki Exclusions genuinely hurt me, and as you get older and learn self care, you start putting your own well being (physical, emotional, and spiritual) toward the top of your list of priorities.

I finally gathered the courage (and PTO) to attend ECT for the first time. I’d known about ECT since the early Aughts, back when it was still a pretty small event, but I’d never gone because of the lack of vacation time at work and – more importantly – because of the lack of Loki. In 2018, I was convinced that the time was right because in ’17, Loki finally had a vé there. So I went. And I spent most of my time at his shrine. Long time readers know that this is when Shadow Spouse and I had an emotional roller coaster of a 3 hour long blót at his vé, and the next night I’d been in a group of 9 at the Odhinn vé when I spoke of Grimnir’s influence on my life. That, of course, is when I acknowledged Odhinn’s smile and nod as he said, “Go to him. He’s been waiting long enough.” It’s also the moment I met the daughter of the man who’d saved my life and my mom’s life when we fled my father in Germany.

The months that followed were just as wild: the kindred with whom I’d celebrated for so many years invited me to join them as their proper family, and they opened up blót and sumbel to include Loki. My father killed himself, so soon on the heels of me speaking with the man who’d ordered MP protection and gotten my mom and I safely out of Germany, a man who had been haunted by those events for nearly 30 years. The Troth lifted its Loki ban, so I rejoined them. The discussions online and in reality are starting to open up and Loki isn’t as feared and reviled as he was not so long ago.

My mom was right: when conversion happens, it takes a long time to shed the world view of one’s upbringing. It’s been a long, slow process, but the American heathen community is finally starting to reconsider their stance on having a devil figure. People are starting to give the twerp a chance, and they’re realizing he’s not as frightening as they thought. Sure, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the fear is fading, and that’s what matters.

It’s been an extraordinary thing to watch the changes over the last 20 years, in the American community and in myself. I’ve always liked Loki, and was so put off by the general vitriol directed at him while being too shy and nervous to say much in public. Now I’m loudly, obnoxiously Lokian, so devoted that I liken myself to a nun, and I’m no longer met with frowns and tension when I mention him. I spend time at a public shrine to him at community events, and I get to raise the horn to him with my kindred. Discussions can still get heated, but now I’m not afraid to debate.

Fifteen years ago, if I admitted to having a Lokian blog, I’d have been absolutely obliterated by other heathens. Now I can post requests for topics and get cheeky banter. My mom still gets crazy heated when she catches wind of Nokian attitudes, and I’ve had to sit through countless rants of hers on the topic. I still experience amused awe at her pro-Loki passion, and she’s absurdly proud of my growing involvement and reputation in the community as a Lokian. And, of course, as a priestess of Sigyn. Because with Loki comes his bride, and I’ve delighted at being able to usher her back into the community’s consciousness with her vé at ECT. I love her as dearly as I do her oh-so-controversial husband, and I consider myself to be extraordinarily lucky to have her in my life as well.

Things aren’t totally peachy keen in the American community, of course. Loki still isn’t a part of the main ritual at ECT, but that too will change in time. Thanks to ECT, I got to meet my dearest E, who has been working so hard to help others welcome Loki. She has made astounding gains for him over the years, and I’m beyond grateful for everything she’s done. Not only has she made Loki welcome in the community, her work has made me feel welcome in the community. I finally went to ECT when I heard Loki finally had a vé. She’s the reason he has a vé. She’s one of the reasons my kindred decided to reverse their own ban to make me feel welcome as a member. I only hope that I can help her continue her work in bringing Loki back to his rightful place among the gods within the community.

From crying in my dorm room from the nasty things said about Himself to weeping with joy at ECT 2019 at the large group assembled for Loki’s blót, it’s been a fucking ride these last 20 years. I’m overjoyed at how much has changed, all for the better. Where once I felt unwelcome and unwanted because of my fondness for him, I now feel like I’m truly a part of the community. I have so much love and gratitude for my kindred and my friends and groups around the country who are starting to let go of the fear and embrace the change.

We’ve come a long way from the AOL message boards of 1999. I know recent converts and new Lokians are frustrated at the general attitudes about Loki that still remain, but I assure you, the last 20 years have ushered in extraordinary change. R was absolutely on point with his comment on FB: fifteen years ago, I’d have been flayed alive for talking about my devotion to Loki. I was indeed caught up in a few firestorms in those early days, and I was met with a lot of cold shoulders throughout the years, and I wasn’t even introducing myself as a Lokian. I thought I was an Odhinnswoman, but that “strong penchant for Loki ™” was enough to stir up some unease. But now. . . now we have a place in the community, and I for one am overjoyed at how welcome I feel at gatherings and how open I can be about my adoration for the twerp.

Hail Loki! Hail the Community!

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