Last month, I threatened to explore my complex feelings regarding Rokkatru stuff, and I’m one who tends to make good on my threats. Long, long ago, when I was still exploring my alter ego in fiction writing, I wrote, “I don’t make threats; I make promises.” Still applies, all these years later. And it feels relevant to the topic at hand.
There’s been some strife on various online heathen forums and groups (shocking, I know, but please bear with me), and I’ve noticed a creeping faction of Rokkatru making their way into mainstream discussions. For those who’ve been blissfully unaware, Rokkatru is the faction of heathenry that focuses reverence on the deities and beings that oppose the Aesir and Vanir at Ragnarok. Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Angrboda are the three who are most commonly worshipped in Rokkatru, and I’ve seen people who honor and claim Surtr as a patron as well. It’s. . . alarming, personally. I understand that people will have different UPG than me, and different experiences and relationships with gods and other mythical beings. But it’s still a bit baffling to me that people genuinely worship and claim patronage from those who bring about absolute destruction with little regard to anyone caught in the path of their rampage.
Loki is often grouped in with the Rokkatru groups, which makes some sense considering his relationship with the rest of the gang and his role in the Ragnarok myth. But, as with the Aesir, he doesn’t really fit. He’s a liminal being, caught in between those he lives among and travels with and those he fathered. Oathed/adopted family vs blood family. He’s a god of chaos, yes, but his is the chaos that turns old perspectives on their heads and paves the way for improvement. His chaos forces truth and growth. The deities of the Rokatru. . . their chaos is wanton destruction, the end of everyone and everything. It’s pure fury. Rokkatruar argue that chaos is required for change; with this, I agree. I’ve even written about it many a time on this blog. But the chaos of Ragnarok isn’t just change: it’s annihilation. There’s a difference.
One of the things that strikes me the most about Loki is his utter and absolute love for humanity. Recent generations of humanity have hurt him deeply with their fear of him, their demonization of him, their bans exiling him from being celebrated with his blood-oathed brother and his daughter. He still loves people, though, and he delights in the absurdity and joy we make in our lives. He’s not our enemy, never has been. So many of the myths and sagas feature him traveling around Midgard with Odhinn and Thor, interacting with mortal men. They still walk among us today, the Allfather and the Thunderer, and our dear Sly One still weaves among the crowds at concerts and festivals, soaking up the noise and bedlam. They’re working their ways with the uprisings and protests now, as well, because we need them to help us, and because they want to help us. There are those who think the lives of humanity are too insignificant for the gods to notice, but they’ve always fallen in step beside us regardless. We carry them with us in the beat of our hearts and the breath in our lungs.
As a Lokian (and a former Odhinnswoman with a strong penchant for Loki), I’ve always had complex feelings regarding Loki’s children, particularly Fenrir. They all got a pretty raw deal, some more raw than others (at least Hel is honored and revered by many, and her work and role have extraordinary value), and I always felt bad for them when I was learning the myths and stories at a wee young age. Fenrir is the one that bothered me the most: to a child’s mind, it was dreadfully unfair to chain up a wolf just because he was big and scary. Yes, I know the volva told Odhinn about the role he would play at the end of the mythic cycle. But as a kid, as far as I knew, he hadn’t done anything wrong other than grow to a massive size and eat all of the food that was available. It wasn’t fair that he was tricked into bondage under the guise of playing a game, and it really wasn’t nice of the gods to lie to his fluffy, fanged face. It was no wonder he went crazy and killed Odhinn at the end of the book! And poor Loki, watching his children be taken away and cast out of society just because they were scary to look at. Don’t even get me started on what happened to the sons Sigyn bore him: the story of Narvi and Vali is excruciating and only solidified my opinion that the gods were unreasonably cruel and mean to Loki.
Now that I think about it, it’s a wonder that I ever considered myself an Odhinnswoman at all. Guess that’s just a testament to my father’s influence, since he was all about following ol’ Grimnir to Valhalla. I was raised by an Odhinnsman (though he traded his valknut for Mjolnir at some point in the ’90s, and from what I’ve heard he was more fond of Thor in his later years). It’s interesting, too, how much my ex-Catholic mom advocated for Loki. Perhaps she was trying to steer me towards being more like my grandfather than my father, or maybe she just recognized him as a suffering parent as she did her best to protect me from my father. But I digress. As usual.
The catalyst that lead to these musings was an alarming reaction to a post about having Fenrir as a patron on one of the FB groups I follow. As I mentioned, there’s a growing Rokkatru presence making its way into mainstream heathenry, and the discussion on that post became pretty damn heated when a few people expressed their reasons for NOT worshipping Fenrir. Personal attacks were made against people who don’t honor Fenrir, and admins were forced to close commenting. As I’d commented on a reaction post elsewhere, you know it’s bad when a Lokian reads through and goes, “…the fuck?!” It was enough of a cluster that I did something I almost never do: I commented.
“…Even as an over-the-top Lokian, I myself do not venerate Fenrir. My heart aches for him and for his father, and I respect him as a vital part of the lore and the energies he represents, but his energy (in my experience) is far too full of rage and fury for me to welcome into my practice. I don’t shun him, but I also recognize how quickly he could overwhelm and consume me (metaphorically/psychologically), so I remember him and I have a careful respect for him, but I don’t blót to him.”
I don’t dislike Fenrir. I have a massive soft spot for him, I really do. He’s not an inherently evil being, and his fury is very much understandable. I get it. But that doesn’t mean I condone what comes of that fury. I can’t honor that fury. It’s a sticky situation, especially since I find the Ragnarok story to be problematic what with it being a Christian add-on when the myths were being written down for the sake of preserving cultural history. I’ve always felt bad for Fenrir (and Jormungandr) for being cast out (but at least Jormy was free to do his serpenty thing and get it on with other serpenty things, aside from that time Thor thought he was a cat and tried dragging him up from his cozy snakey Midgard-hugging home). To this day, when I revisit the mythology, my heart breaks all over again when he’s lied to and tricked into being tied down for eons. But in those endless days of being bound up and immobile, his rage grew dangerous, and he actually became just the kind of monster the gods were afraid of. I can’t possibly fathom if it was his nature to be such a monster or it was a forced change from imprisonment, but he’s an extraordinarily dangerous being these days.
I “met” him once, along with his siblings in a half-trance state I’d fallen into. There wasn’t much by way of interaction, it was kind of a “nice to meet you” scenario with Loki proudly showing off his brood. He was calm then, sizing me up, but not in an intimidating way. It only adds to the complexity of my feelings; I’ve sympathized with him since I was a child, and Loki’s grief makes my own heart ache, yet I maintain a very careful, very respectful distance from Fenrir because his rage is terrifying. And even though I understand his rage, it’s far too raw and primal and all-consuming for me to feel terribly comfortable engaging with him the way I do the other gods.
For me, it really is about self-preservation because even though I am mostly chipper and laid back and revel in the absurd, there is a very real rage within me. I am my father’s daughter, after all. Growing up, my prime directive was to avoid being the target of his constant fury. My childhood was spent in near-isolation, and there’s a definite anger that still chews at me from having to live my most formative, vulnerable years in a state of near-constant terror, and the insane fear and fury from seeing him physically attack my mom and take out all of his rage on her.
I’m reluctant to open up to Fenrir because while Loki’s chaos helps me to heal and grow, Fenrir’s chaos would absolutely destroy me. In a way, I relate to him a little too much. I’m always so conflicted when it comes to Fenrir because I want to be able to embrace him as I do the rest of Loki’s children, because I sympathize with him and for him, but the fury he embodies, the bloodlust that has grown and consumed him . . . there’s no coming back from that. His chaos doesn’t herald change: it only heralds the end of all things. Loki’s chaos comes from his love for humanity and his desire to see us do better, to be better. His son’s chaos comes from a place of hatred against those who wronged him. There’s no doubt that he was wronged, but he’s too far gone in the fury.
I mourn Fenrir. But I do not worship him. It only breaks my heart further to say that, but his energy is too dangerous. Loki is my greatest love, and I welcome his family. But I simply cannot make myself spiritually vulnerable to a being of such raw anger lest he strengthen my rage I’m still trying to work through and neutralize. There’s an overabundance of hatred and negative energy in the world as it is. As a Lokian, I try to infuse my life and my interactions with kindness, compassion (hi, Sigyn!), and levity while standing my ground on what’s right.
I don’t hate Fenrir. I don’t like the stories about him and the gods. But for my own mental well-being, I just can’t hail him in blót or make offerings to him beyond a nest of blankets and soft things to lull him to sleep. And that’s okay. He isn’t asking me for worship, he just wants to be acknowledged. He wants to be seen, and heard, and possibly understood, as well as our limited human minds can understand.
That said, I’m making an appeal to those who do worship him as a patron deity: stop attacking people for their discomfort regarding him. By attacking, you’re only validating their fear and unease. My experience with Fenrir is limited, but what I get from him is a desire to be recognized and acknowledged. I do that, I don’t shy away from him, and I sympathize with him. I still won’t raise a horn in blót to him.
It’s a cut and dry situation for most heathens, but a bit tricky for Lokians. Loki has expressed to me many times his love and adoration for his children and his grief at losing them. He’s a proud papa, but he doesn’t expect any of us to venerate everyone in his family. A little bit of respect, however, goes a long way. This goes for us humans as well as with the gods.