I would like to address something I’ve seen crop up a few times since I started my devotional journey: the disdain for, and derision of, those who came to Loki and the Northern Tradition after seeing Marvel’s Thor movie(s). I have been on the receiving end of this myself, so this is my perspective as someone who generally enjoys reading and watching other peoples’ interpretations of the Deities.
This does not mean, however, that I identify those literary or film adaptations with the Gods Themselves, and I believe this is important to stress since that is the ‘argument’ and assumption some people seem to have. I also love Stargate SG-1 but it doesn’t mean I see Apophis, Ra, Hathor or Anubis as Goa’uld. Likewise when I watch the Thor movies I do not see Loki or Thor (on the two occasions I’ve had the pleasure of being in Thor’s presence) as Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth, or as the comic book’s versions after reading comics/graphic novels.
For me there is a difference between character and Deity, just as there is between an actor and the character they play. Daniel Radcliffe is not Harry Potter, but there will always be something of Harry in him, and having played the role many people will now ‘see’ his face when reading the books. He has become synonymous with the character but he is not actually Harry Potter.
Likewise I believe a Deity can appear in the form of a character if they choose to – it may be the best way to connect with someone. There is also the question of how ‘alive’ a character is, as many writers can understand. What energy is then built up when a character becomes beloved of so many? And what about when that character is inspired (however loosely) by a Deity – do they then carry some tiny piece of the Deity’s own energy out to new readers or viewers?
But Pop Culture Paganism is another path to mine and I understand little about its workings so it is not my place to speak of its beliefs, only of my own. Instead I now move on to how a movie helped pull strands of my past into the present and gave me a Gods-filled future.
As a child I loved reading myths and legends, tales of magic, giants, dragons, heroes, princesses and villains, Gods and Goddesses. One I remember in particular is my mum’s own childhood book – a Jackanory book of Icelandic tales. It included the story of how Thor and Loki dressed as Freyja and her handmaiden to retrieve Mjollnir. Odin and Sleipnir were also in there.
Over time I ‘moved on’ to Tolkien, Harry Potter and historical fiction (yes, in that order), but my love for mythology remained. In fact my appreciation and fascination with it only grew, as my various GCSE and A-Level art projects can attest. I read mostly about the Egyptians but the Celtic tales also captured my imagination.
In my early 20s I researched a number of different spiritual paths, but was always drawn back to the Gods and Goddesses rather than ritual. I’d found the general idea of Paganism to be a better fit than anything else, so started reading more about it. My main focus has always been the Egyptians – since I was eight they have held my heart strong and fast – but I liked the musicality of the Celtic tales, and I love Celtic and Norse design.
I fell in love with longships when I visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde when staying with Danish family, and I fell in love with Copenhagen. I was ten when I first visited, and I have been back twice since, though unfortunately not in the last few years for health reasons. I feel at home among the Danish people, even if I don’t understand the language. It’s in my blood. My maternal grandmother was Danish, and I live in Lincolnshire in the UK, a county that was part of the Danelaw. It was here that an old charm, “one for God, one for Wod and one for Lok” originates.
In 2012 I saw the Thor movie on TV. I enjoy superhero movies (the X-Men and Iron Man are my favourites), so even though it looked silly I gave it a go. Yes, it was silly in places (perhaps even irreverent to some) but a little strand pulled at my memory. I remembered the book of Icelandic tales my mum has and read it again but it wasn’t enough. I downloaded as many interpretations of Norse tales as I could find on my Kindle, and then eventually braved The Eddas, and later the beginning of the Gesta Danorum.
It felt like a piece of me just clicked into place, like I was rediscovering the religion of my ancestors. Throughout it all the brightest strand that sung from the pages was Loki. This was not the Loki of Marvel; this was a multifaceted Being who stood out in a way I couldn’t describe. The more I read the more questions I had, and slowly a quest began to unfold. But everything became one massive messy tangle in my brain and I pretty much gave up. Brain tangles plus brain fog aren’t a good mix.
By this point I had started saying prayers to the Egyptian Deities I love so much, finally accepting I was (in broad terms) a Pagan. By chance I came across a book on Asatru in the local library, and if you know our local libraries you will know this book was completely out of place. But there it was, and it opened a window on to the Northern Tradition. Like a number of authors this one expressed the view that Loki should be avoided at all costs and shouldn’t be worshipped. I felt rather offended on Loki’s behalf, but I wasn’t part of the Northern Tradition – my Gods were the Egyptians! – so I just continued as I had been. By this point I had realised that my love for the Deities went beyond the enjoyment of their stories; it was the Deities Themselves that called to me.
Then one night in 2014, months after reading the book on Asatru, Loki made Himself known to me as a golden-bright mist and a very awe-ful presence. For several days all I kept ‘finding’ were articles, pictures and mentions of the God Loki. Suffice to say the Asatru book’s warnings rang in my head. I couldn’t just ignore this flurry of ‘Loki’ however, so I looked online and came across books by devotional Polytheists devoted to Him, and realised I could be wary but I didn’t need to be so afraid. I also came to realise this is what I am: a devotional Polytheist.
After accepting Loki into my life my other devotional practices also grew and developed. Whole new ways of honouring and relating to the Deities opened up for me. I have also been opened up to the wonders of my Beloveds Sigyn and Hella, who I may not have known if not for Loki.
This whole journey has not been an easy one, and I’ve struggled as my health’s deteriorated, but my love and intention to honour the Deities with integrity, and in the way I live my life, has only grown.
That film reconnected me with my heritage and led me on a journey to what has become my bedrock. When all else has fallen apart around me I am back at that purest expression – honouring and praying to Them, doing what I love: devotion.
All because of a Marvel movie.
By the way, if anyone can recommend a book on Pop Culture Paganism please let me know because I would like to try to understand better that path, even if it’s not one I follow.