Bloodlines, Marvel and the path to Loki

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.

Channeling Isis – when Set arrives legless

One of my more recent tasks has been to reconnect with the Egyptian God Set. This Deity has fascinated me for years. With the breaking down of my old self I realise that my focus needs to be more balanced. Although Loki and Family are still truly Beloved to me, I have neglected ties with many of my Beloved Egyptian Deities.

As recompense I said prayers to Set, asking Him if He still wished to work with me, and if He would grant me His protection. I said I would like to buy a bigger statue for Him, as the current one was only around 2 inches high – the smallest on the altar. A good Set statue is hard to find in the UK, and I looked online but couldn’t find one.

Two days later I was sat in front of my altar and my attention was drawn to a book on my right. It was an Ancient Egyptian Herbal by Lise Manniche. I had done bits of bibliomancy before, so took the hint and turned to a random page. The entry was for Watermelon. According to the book Watermelon was created when Set spilled his seed chasing Isis in the form of a bull. It was used in a wine for protection against evil ‘demons’. Since I’d asked for Set’s protection during a very difficult and vulnerable time I took it as a sign. I looked online for Watermelon wine but to no avail. I did, however, come across some Watermelon liqueur. Asking Set through my pendulum whether he would like the liqueur for offerings I got a resounding “Yes” and ordered it.

Later that afternoon I got an ebay alert saying a Set statue had been listed! Now, you could look at this as three completely unconnected, random events, but I choose not to. To me this is cause and effect: you pray and make reparations, you ask for help, and express a wish to more openly honour Them, and They respond.

One week later Set’s statue arrived… His legs had been broken off in transit. I wondered if it was just bad luck, but when I sat and asked for guidance I received a surprising answer: for Set to help me stand strong on my own two feet I needed to involve myself in a bit of like-for-like ‘magic’. I have repaired and renewed Deity statues before, and in doing so with Set’s statue I would be channeling my inner Isis; my inner healer and magic worker. Isis pieced her husband Osiris back together, so taking on Her mantle and fixing Set was setting Him back on His own two feet, helping His statue stand strong. In turn He could do the same for me.

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Does that look like a happy face to you?

The Egyptians believed that statues actually become receptacles for the Deities, and so any statue could provide a ‘home’ or respite for the Deity. Even in His broken state Set’s statue exuded power. I couldn’t help but look at it. It’s a feeling I have very strongly with my beautiful statue of Bast, and to a lesser extent with my other Deity statues.

A few days ago I was well enough to piece Set back together again, and restore His dignity as well as His stride. I got a really strong feeling of approval when I was finally able to place Him on the altar, resplendent and standing tall. I made an offering of the Watermelon liqueur, and anointed Him with Lotus oil along with my other Beloveds. Since then I have made some steps forward – baby steps, but progress all the same. As an apology for Set arriving damaged the seller is also sending me a statue of Thoth/ Djehuty, so that’s a nice surprise – I’ve been reconnecting with Him too.

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Set standing resplendent with His mini-me, beside Maahes and Sekhmet

I am grateful to Set for coming back into my life, offering His protection and guidance, and showing me that They are truly forgiving. It also shows me that if we have the genuine desire to reconnect it can happen.

Prayer for passing over

For my Danish Great Aunty Else, who had a wicked sense of humour, loved Robert Ludlum books, Midsomer Murders, Chinese food, ‘collecting’, birds, and her family.

May you be held
In comforting arms
As you go
Upon your way,
May you leave
With loving thoughts
And memories of better days.
May you always be remembered
In our hearts
And in our prayers,
As you take
The next step
On your soul’s
Flight of stairs.

She will now sit with her sister, nephew and parents in my family shrine. I have a wooden comb she gave me when I was 8, and will always think of her when I use it.

Loki and Sigyn: facilitators for deep healing and Shadow integration

Loki and Sigyn by Michelle, Northern Tamarisk

If Sigyn is the Goddess of holding space (see previous post) perhaps Loki is the one who takes our hand and let’s us know it’s safe to open up. He is the one who encourages us to express our most vulnerable selves. All the while Sigyn holds the bowl, catching any poison and throwing it away. Together They are the ones who support us through the deepest levels of healing.

If there was ever a Deity suited to helping us heal our own Shadow it is Loki – He who knows His own, Who loves all His children; knows how to love the seemingly unlovable. He is also the one who calls out hypocrisy and the Shadows of the Gods Themselves. He is the one who helps us heal our deepest wounds.
When we are in our own caves, bound by things once dear to us, upon rocks of our own shame, Loki is there with us. He knows the agony, the torment, on a whole other level. But knowing the cave as He does He can help us through our own time in the Underworld. When our own Shadows, our own repressed selves, drip down onto us, tearing us apart, He is there. 

All the while Sigyn, compassion personified, holds us steady. She takes us in Her arms like She holds the bowl, letting the Shadow poison spill out, helping us to heal. She lets us know She’s there whenever we need Her again. She will always return to hold the bowl when needed.

What we need to hold on to during this process is that, somehow, Loki made it out of the cave. Somehow He was freed from the darkness, and Sigyn could finally rest Her strong but weary arms and heart. That means we can make it out of the darkness too. We can start to reclaim our lives, go out into the world and do what we’re meant to do. We are all the stronger for having been through our trials.

They are a partnership for deep healing. For how do we heal the Shadow? With understanding acceptance and compassion. Loki and Sigyn.

When the masks fall we meet Them as we Are

I have often enjoyed reading the works of mystics and contemplatives from different traditions. Those two words call to me again now. I have remarked to others several times before that I seemed to have been cast in a role akin to a pagan nun, not necessarily by choice, more through circumstance and beliefs.

I re-read Upon the Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition by Sister Mary McCormack of the Carmelites last night and was reminded so much of the all-pervasive love I held for my Beloveds before the loss and upheaval of the last 6-7 weeks, the last month in particular. Sister Mary’s words reminded me of how my whole world seemed coloured by contemplation of Them, particularly Loki and Sigyn.

I wept as I read, because not only did her words remind me of what I have (for now, at least) lost, but because she speaks of the “dark night of the soul” where we face our own shadows, where all we hold dear falls away and leaves us grasping in the dark, often affecting our connection with the Divine. Yet Sister Mary, through her own words, those of St Therese of Avila and St John of the Cross, gives hope.
Only when we are broken down, only when we face those harsh truths about ourselves can we stand before the Divine, no longer encumbered by masks. Only then can we enter into a truer relationship with the Divine; one that transcends anything that may have come before. When we stand as we Are we greet our God(s) with our true face, our true Self, and any preconceptions of how we relate to Them can fall away, allowing our God(s) to in turn reveal more of Their true Selves to us.

So I have hope again. I am remembering once more that all roads lead back to Them, no matter the detours.
I am also determined in these things: never again will I allow the words and misconceptions of another to poison my link with the Gods. Never again will I forget that though I may go through trials They are always there. My heart is Theirs, my love is Theirs, my devotion is Theirs. All I go through breaks down barriers and leaves me a better person, and a more open heart to receive Their loving guidance.

With love and a sapling heart I reach once more for Them.

My deepest thanks go to J, who lent me the book that has provided such solace for my heart, and returned my determination to keep reaching for Them. Little did we know how important this tiny book would become only a matter of weeks later. May your Beloveds hold you deep within Their hearts.

Upon the Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition can be bought from the Notting Hill Carmelites –http://carmelitesnottinghill.org.uk/product/upon-this-mountain-2/

Sigyn and holding space

During a healing treatment yesterday Sigyn came to me. She gave me a revelation of a part of modern life she embodies: that of holding space.

Sigyn teaches us the sacred basics of holding space for another, whether they are in pain, are suffering or need a shoulder to cry on.

First she catches you in her bowl so you cannot fall further. Her strong, loving arms hold you in the bowl, supporting you while giving you space.
She collects the poison, your hurts, pain and tears, and then tips it away. She listens but she does not take these emotions into herself.
Like everyone she also needs a little time away to regroup and collect herself; to pour away her own poison, or to rest a while.
Then she returns, strong and ready, prepared to hold the bowl once more.

Sigyn is a healer, and in this role her magics are love, humility, strength and compassion.

 

Side note: how lovely that her teaching in this should be my 100th post.


If you would like to learn more about holding space I can recommend Holding Space: a Guide to Supporting Others While Remembering to Take Care of Yourself First by Amanda Dobra Hope. It’s available in paperback and kindle format.
I also found this article helpful:
http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/

2nd WordPress Anniversary, part 2 – An Old Goddess Returns

Continuing the subject of Deity statues: I have ended up keeping one I thought I would be selling. The statue of Athena arrived one morning last week, and I was really pleasantly surprised that she’s taller than I was expecting. The faux antique tea effect makes her look a bit dirty so I thought painting her virginal white would suit that aspect of her. I placed her on my desk.

When I woke up the following morning I looked over and saw her there, thinking she’d look lovely in the same verdigris effect I have used for some of my personal collection. But other people might not like that, I thought, other people might prefer her painted white. Then I realised I didn’t want to let her go. I remembered that the year before the Egyptian Deities made such a lasting impression on me I had learned about the Ancient Greeks. Out of all the Olympian pantheon it was Athena who I remember attaching myself to. I even bought a little bronze reproduction of the owl of Minerva two years ago in York because it reminded me of Athena’s.

So she’s been there in the background, waiting patiently for over 20 years for me to find her again. Strangely it feels like a little piece of me has returned too; that childlike wonder upon first learning about her at age 7/8. I love Loki and Sigyn and Their family, and my wonderful Egyptian Beloveds, and now Athena is that childhood Inspirer returned. I don’t know if she’s here to stay, but how strange and fascinating that the Goddess of wisdom, battle and healing should come back into my life as I feel like I’m starting over; as I adjust to a relapse in health yet I’m finding my feet as an author, creator and business woman. She is strong but wise, knows her own mind, and is great at planning ahead in minute detail. Who better to guide me through this phase of finding this in myself?

Hail Athena.