A totally unplanned and thus un-revised poem written in response to an interaction I witnessed in a pagan ritual space today (May Day or Beltane!)
In Defense of Loki
While I was quietly to myself
Saying my prayer to Angrboda
Too timid to say it out loud
Too timid to raise my voice
When I said Sigyn’s name*
The women on the other side of the circle were busy
Being far braver than I.
“Hail to Loki:
“Who is more than chaos and rage
But is also change.”
And nearer to where I sat
A woman of that Asatru bent.
“Be careful what you wish for.
Change can be all to hard to bear.”
Yes, think I in my silence place
But all the stronger we come out then
On the other side
And change so often necessary—
The only catalyst of growth—
And without growth
A fate worse than death for
At least from the advent of death
Comes the stuff for life—
Stagnation is poison.
That Loki does not permit stagnation.
And all for the better
We cannot fear change
Or the lessons it brings
In a world where change is the only guarantee
That it may hurt less
And teach more.
So I found the right corner of the circle
To raise my glass and pronounce:
“I have survived
Every rough patch and terrible curve
To come my way
And all the while by my side
My gods: Loki, His beloved Sigyn
And, to raise a few more eyebrows
Helping me to learn that I am stronger than this.
I am stronger than anything this world has done to me.
We are stronger than the cruelties we’ve endured.
*I assume that most of my readers at this point aren’t hugely involved in the pagan spheres, so I’ll explain: in the world of paganism there are so many branches and paths. In the world of Norse Paganism there are still a variety of branches and paths and, unfortunately, there is a lot of animosity that exists between some of them — or rather, between some practitioners and other paths.
In my experience this is especially true with regards to Asatru. I can do a quick google search for rites and rituals or even just devotional material pertaining to the gods I am most drawn/called to (whoooaaa this blog just got a lot weirder, am I right? 😄 ) and find pages and pages worth of search results wherein people of an Asatru bent actively demonized these gods, not seeming aware that the text that they’re basing this on is hugely Christianized and this behavior comes less out of a place of honoring the Norse gods than it does out of being inundated with a very Judeo-Christian “us or them” culture that is completely removed from the origins of these gods and their myths, and completely removed from the historical context out of which they arrive. There are groups of these people dedicated to actively excluding people who work with or honor these deities from ritual spaces, demonizing the practitioners as much as they demonize the gods (fun fact: fundamentalism is found in every religion. Actually, that’s not a fun fact. I just made myself sad.)
It can leave people like me, who honor the jötnar, feeling not only very excluded (which is clearly the goal of this rhetoric and behavior) but also somewhat unsafe. I want to participate in ritual spaces and have a place in the pagan community, which is hard enough considering how small it is, but I am kept myself at arm’s distance from it because of this behavior and rhetoric that people indulge in. When I do find myself in a space that is supposed to be safe for pagans, I often find myself feeling unsafe because I don’t know who among them are the ones that demonize my gods and by extension demonize me, and I don’t know how virulent they might be. Such that, when I went to a small park gathering for Beltane today, by myself because my friends couldn’t make it and my partner was working, I didn’t feel safe enough to say in the circle what was in my heart.
That is not okay. If it was just me, fine — whatever. But I know that I am not alone in being called to the jötnar, who are essentially primal nature spirits (read: not evil because evil has no place in this order, because this is not a Judeo-Christian order) and I can only imagine that there are plenty of pagan folks out there who have similiar experiences as me or who may be hesitant to follow their hearts on a more jötun-centric path because of just how hostile so much of the Norse pagan community can be.
That is not okay. Fundamentalism has never ended in good things and it should always be challeneged, wherever it is found. So I challenge myself to actually do what I fantasize about having done in this poem should I encounter this attitude in future gatherings — in honor of my gods, with special regard to Angrboda, but most especially in honor of myself.