Tag Archives: gods

The Change Loki Wreaks

Loki can bring cataclysmic change into the lives of those who follow him, and that may be the hardest aspect of Loki to deal with, especially for those who are unprepared for what exactly that can mean.

In the Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook group I run with Karlesha Silverros, a member asked what happens after Loki introduces cataclysmic change into a person’s life and whether Loki stays around to provide comfort and soothing during the change.

In my experience, Loki only introduces change to that degree when there are truths inside a person they have refused to acknowledge for too long. The hardest work we will ever do with Loki is learning to face ourselves. I’d say if Loki had a single piece of advice to give to everyone who follows him, it would simply be the old Greek tenet of “Know thyself.”

It is when we forget to acknowledge the deepest truths of our inner self that Loki introduces truly chaotic levels of change, as he is rather intolerant of people hiding from themselves. A simple acknowledgment that you do lie to yourself about certain things can go a long way in mitigating the level of chaos, as it suggests a willingness to come to terms with the truth of your own life.

From my perspective, I’d say a person who comes to Loki and sees a cataclysmic change in a small period of time is a person who has lied to themselves, repressed their feelings, and put themselves last in their own lives for far longer than they realize. It is easy to delude ourselves into believing that we are happy with the lives we’re leading, but the gods, and Loki especially, see the truths we refuse to admit to ourselves.

This is why so many people stay in relationships they know are unhealthy far past the time they should have pulled out. It is why people stay at jobs that go nowhere, refusing to chase the dreams they hold dearest to them because it’s safer to risk nothing than to chase a dream and fail – yet the most rewarding of those two options is to chase the dream. Whether you fail or succeed matters far less than the effort you put forth to realize your dreams. It is why people who are often discouraged in academics drop out of school so often rather than pursuing the opportunity to prove the people around them wrong.

Loki, as Lothur, gave us passion. To see us fail to utilize that – what else would he be compelled to do but introduce change to see the gift he gave us put to use?

From my perspective, the best way to be close with Loki is to be real with yourself, to be honest about your dreams, and to pursue them with as much passion as you can bring forth.

As for the other question asked, about being comforted during a change that Loki has introduced, why would he comfort someone over an action he has taken? Loki generally has reasons for the things he does, as all gods do, and to ask him to comfort us over change he has brought to us is, from my perspective, a bit insulting. It is like asking a fire to be supportive of the fact that you’re too hot sitting next to it.

Our gods aren’t safe, and inviting Loki into your life automatically means inviting the potential for a cataclysmic level of change in every aspect of your life.

The changes he brings are always for the better, assuming that you are able to make yourself face up to the truths you’ve denied for too long. We live in a society that doesn’t really encourage self-reflection or self-knowledge, and it is an essential skill to develop if you plan to work with any god, but it is doubly essential if you wish to work with Loki.

I reiterate – our gods are not safe.

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Loki – A Few Perceptions

In my experience, Loki is a god with many forms.

He acts to break illusions and sometimes to mold them. He shifts shapes to suit his needs, like all trickster deities. He crosses boundaries yet enforces them.

He is the heart of the hearth-fire, the liminal connection between the human world and the world of the gods.

He is a fierce protector of children and of all those who stand on the fringes – of social groups or society as a whole.

He enacts change, sometimes to a cataclysmic level.

He is an exacting god in that he will not allow you to hide from your deepest truths, the most unsettling aspects of your own psyche – he forces you to face yourself or run the risk of going mad.

He is not a safe god, and yet he is a god full of laughter and joy and beauty.

He is awe-inspiring, as all gods are.

He teaches you to see from perspectives vastly different than your own, to care for other people and other beings with a depth of compassion few of us ever realize.

He teaches you how to accept people for who they are, to see past their flaws – to see the way the flaws you perceive in another person is really what makes them the most beautiful.

And that is just part of the way I perceive him. It is not what everyone perceives of him, of course, as deities have far more aspects than a single person will ever be able to comprehend, let alone perceive.

Now, I leave you with this question: How do you perceive Loki, and how has he most impacted your life?

Loki Worldbreaker: The Bound God and Overcoming Limitations

Loki, as the bound god, is a symbolic representation of the way that the primal nature of all beings is contained and constrained by an imposed social order. The binding of Loki is never fully explained in the lore. While suggestions exist that the binding originated from his suspected role in Baldr’s death (Saxo’s version of the Baldr myth is void of Loki’s presence entirely), these suggestions are, at best, speculation if not outright conjecture.

Another mythos that contains a story about a bound god is the Greek one, in which Prometheus is confined for his audacity in stealing fire from the gods and thwarting Zeus’s plan to destroy humanity. Many scholars have compared Prometheus and Loki, so it is probable that a story of a similar vein underpins the binding Loki endures.

Because so many of the old stories have been lost, it is important to understand that both the concept of Loki being bound as punishment for his role in Baldr’s death and the concept of Loki being bound for reasons similar to those for which Prometheus was bound are speculation, at best.

Still, the image of Loki as a bound god does provide a lens through which to view the god as a god who overcomes limitations. Allegorically, the binding of Loki – no matter the reason for its occurrence – demonstrates an almost desperate need to halt the forward motion of chaotic change. The lore prophecy states that Loki will be the one to instigate Ragnarok after he slips his chains, so the binding serves the purpose of keeping the world from disintegrating.

However, the world cannot stay in-tact forever, and, eventually, Loki slips his bonds. Every time this happens, Ragnarok occurs, and the world is destroyed and subsequently recreated. The cycle of creation-destruction-creation (a.k.a life-death-rebirth) persists in mythologies across the globe, and it has only been since the introduction of Abrahamic doctrine that the cycle has changed from life-death-rebirth to life-death-afterlife.

Loki comes in as the god that overcomes limitations when he slips the bindings the other gods have forged for him to fulfill the role he was always meant to play. In this, he demonstrates that all beings cannot escape the limitation of their own nature – no matter how hard we try to run from ourselves, we cannot escape the truth of our own person.

He shows us where the limits truly lay – inside ourselves – and where they don’t…everywhere else. Loki’s actions often upset the social order. Sometimes, these ways displease the other gods. When Loki steals Sif’s hair, the other gods are displeased, and Loki has to make amends, which he does with an incredible degree of resourcefulness. He relies on his own skillset – his silver tongue – to con the dwarves into making a beautiful gold wig – and makes amends with the other gods so flawlessly that they are awed by the wig rather than concerned with the mischief he originally wrought when he cut Sif’s hair.

In the myths, Loki is either getting himself in trouble and finding clever ways to fix the problems he creates, or he is helping the other gods fix problems. In either case, he is always portrayed as the one who finds the solution to the original problem – whether he is directly responsible for the problem or not is of no concern.

A lot of people get stuck on this point when they try to understand Loki for the first time. They read the myths, and all they see is Loki causing mischief. They contend that Loki solving the problem afterwards doesn’t matter because Loki’s presence is the very reason the problem occurred.

That line of reasoning lends itself to an inability to appreciate that Loki’s resourcefulness and problem-solving are central to his character. Whether Loki’s presence creates the problem isn’t the point – he is the one who has the strategic cleverness that allows him to find solutions that the other gods overlook.

Loki’s ability to overcome limitations allows him to assist the other gods in ways that end up benefiting them to an extreme degree. Unlike many of the others, Loki has no problem defying social norms when necessary to get a problem solved. When Thor loses his hammer, Loki is the one who suggests that Thor dress as Freyja to win it back from Thrym. Thor is, as convention dictates, uncomfortable at the suggestion but listens to Loki’s advice. Loki’s advice proves sound, as Thor soon reclaims Mjolnir.

Actually, speaking of Mjolnir, Thor would not have such a magnificent weapon if it weren’t for Loki’s cunning in his dealing with the dwarves. Odin would lack Draupnir and Gungnir, Freyr would lack Skithblathnir, and Sif her golden wig – to name a few of the gifts that Loki negotiated with the dwarves to claim for the gods. In his negotiations with the dwarves, he overcomes the limitation of the dwarves’ reluctance to craft these items.

Mostly, when it comes to limitations, Loki is the god of overcoming the limitations that others present. He is a force against conformity, though it is doubtful he would support nonconformity simply for the sake of nonconformity. When Loki breaks from the social order of the Aesir, he does so in ways that work in the favor of the gods.

When Loki is bound, he is no longer able to control his own abilities. By my own understanding (i.e. upg), he is one of the oldest deities of the Norse pantheon. He is the embodiment of change and, eventually, he loses the ability to control that side of himself. The binding the other gods force on him only hold him back for so long, as nothing can stave off change permanently. Once he breaks those bindings, Ragnarok occurs, and the world begins again.

 

Note: Many Lokeans shy away from Loki’s Worldbreaker aspect, claiming that the story of Ragnarok was Christianized and not an original part of Norse mythology. The collected evidence doesn’t support that theory, and it is far more likely that the Ragnarok story is a different version of a well-established creation-destruction-recreation (life-death-rebirth) of the world demonstrated in a multitude of other mythologies. Refusing to engage in these conversations makes it far easier for Heathens to view Loki as a Nordic Satan rather than develop a fuller understanding of Loki’s character. This is, therefore, my attempt to address a question often ignored by other Lokeans (and, as always, this is my interpretation and my interpretation alone).

For Loki: A Lost Reflection Found

So, I found a reflection I wrote back in April when I was going through my notes on my phone. Sometimes, I forget that I write reflections on my phone, but this particular one seems relevant to share here, as it was written on April 1st, which is often considered a particularly good day to honor Loki.

I feel like I’m always dancing on the edge of every group I join, and I wonder what fitting in would feel like – would it hurt? Would it feel like truth, like coming home, like being free? Would I find acceptance? Would someone finally embrace me, with all my faults and imperfections, and tell me, finally, that I’m allowed to breathe? Or would it be just another moment of loss, of self-defeat? Would I have to give up part of myself, sacrifice a bit of me, in order to find a way to fit? 

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what the truth is. I doubt I’ll ever know because the truth is, I’ll never fit. I’ve never fit, and I’ve tried. The gods know I’ve tried to fit in; I have tried to adapt. I have tried to remake myself in the image of the groups I can see parts of me in. But nothing ever sticks, not really. What does stick doesn’t quite take, doesn’t quite mold itself to my skin, doesn’t quite embed itself in my flesh, doesn’t quite mesh with my mind. Always, something holds me apart, sets me aloof – just slightly – so that a life of outside looking in is all I’ve ever been allowed to know. 

Even with my friends, I know I don’t quite mesh, don’t quite fit, don’t truly belong because everything I am is too different, too me to be adapted into something not quite right. I see how my friends try to see me, try to understand, and it hurts the most because I know they never can. They can’t reach down into my heart and pull out the truth of my soul. They can’t see the depth of the emotions running as currents between us, and I can never adequately express myself because what I feel is too deep, too primal and raw, for words to do justice.

I hang on the precipice, grasping the edge over the abyss with desperation, trying to find a way to get more than a finger-hold on the edge. I’m watching everyone else around me, seeing the way they’ve found solid ground to stand on, wishing I had what they have because I am so precariously close to falling out of this world. But I’m not angry they have it when I don’t – I’m too busy trying to figure out how to overcome the predicament I find myself in, too besieged by the problem before me to care that no one else seems to be struggling with this problem. 

Except no one else seems to notice the difficulties besieging me, and they keep asking me to create a bridge for them to cross from one solid stance on the ground to another. I am transition, and I am desperately trying to provide for everyone else and also find my own path out of the ravine I’m hanging over. No one stops to ask me if I need help, but it’s not because they don’t want to help. It’s more that they can’t see that I’m not standing on solid ground. They buy an illusion I don’t have the eyes to see, and they assume I’m standing on the ground beside them with some sort of magic peak from one piece of ground to the next. They don’t see my pain….They can’t. 

Whether they want to or not doesn’t matter because the illusion is all that they can see, so if I speak, I’m silenced because what I see….The reality I live within is an illusion to them, as theirs is an illusion to me. So, we’re always missing the point, the perspective of the other person’s life is ignored, and I find myself serving as a bridge because I can see the desperate importance in being taken at face value. Because for me, I’ve never had it. I’ve never been believed when it most matters, and that is when I am telling the most truth. Because truth doesn’t need to be distorted to be painful, and lies do nothing but enhance the illusion.

It’s no wonder I work so well with Loki….We’re both outsiders who don’t know what it’s like to simply be believed. 

 

 

What Polytheist Priests Should Provide

One of John Beckett’s latest posts, Am I Hearing a God or Am I Going Crazy? brings up some pretty interesting points. I’m reminded a little about the post I wrote about Communicating with the Gods as it can be difficult for people to tell the difference.

Beckett makes a point to differentiate between mental health and divine communication, which I respect. In a world where everyday interaction with the gods isn’t commonplace, it’s easy to understand how sudden divine communication could be seen as a sudden bout of insanity instead. That’s generally not how mental health works, which is a good thing to know.

As someone who communicates with the divine on a regular basis, I’m highly aware of how easily it would be for someone to take the experiences I share with them and twist them around to use as an effort to prove that I’m crazy. Because our society really does not have the cultural context needed to understand what direct interaction with deity entails.

I’ve been a practicing polytheist for so long now I don’t remember what it’s like to not expect the gods to just show up on a whim. I had no cultural context for it when it started happening, and it was unnerving and unsettling mostly because I had no one to turn to, no one to rely on, no one to understand what was happening. I had to figure all of that out on my own. Well, on my own and with the help of the gods. In a way, as the gods were showing up to the point I felt like I might be losing my mind, they were also showing me how to understand them — the gods helped me understand what a polytheistic framework looks like.

I can’t say that I don’t still find it unsettling sometimes when the gods drop in, especially when the god in question is one I don’t know. But I don’t find it impossible the way I might have before I started to understand what the world looks like through the eyes of a polytheist. I have met gods in human form, seen gods channel themselves through friends who are open to the experience, held conversations with gods in dreams, and communicated with gods in rituals. They are everywhere, and they take human form when they feel the need to do so. It’s weird to talk about the experiences I’ve had with gods who choose to come to me wearing a human form, as I know I’m going to deal with people thinking I’m making things up or going crazy.

But I deal with the gods on a regular basis – that’s part of what it means to be a polytheist priest. Loki and Freyr may be the ones for whom I do the most work, but once the gods know you are willing to do work, they know they can come to you for help, and they aren’t very shy about it. I view my role as a polytheist priest as one of facilitation – helping people find the gods that are trying to find them. Forging relationships. Creating friendships. In a way, I view my role to be one of networking gods to humans, humans to gods. Considering the gods I do the most work for, that role makes sense – Loki and Freyr are both very social deities, though they tend to run in different circles. The friendship between them connects them, thus creating an expansive network. It is through the work I do as their priest that allows those aspects of the gods to echo through me and throughout the Pagan and Polytheist communities.

Because I view my role as a priest to be one of networking gods and humans and vice versa, I take the communications I receive from the gods very seriously – though sometimes they can be rather confusing and/or exasperating. I’m open about the experiences I have with the gods so that I can let people know that someone will take them seriously, even when the rest of the world is telling them they’re crazy. And I’m open so that people know that they can approach me with deity-related problems and know that I will do the best I can to help them find the way to the answers they are seeking (as I don’t believe I hold the answers – I just know how to nudge people into asking the questions they are overlooking).

Take, for example, the latest direct interaction I had with a deity. I was having lunch with a friend, and we were minding our own business, talking about different pantheons of gods (what else do polytheists talk about? :p) when a person approaches our table. As he approaches, I’m already on high alert, my shoulder blades are tensed, and I’m feeling a very strong aura of “this person is not what he appears to be” which is an energetic aura that I generally only ever feel with deities using flesh form.

He starts having a conversation with us, asks us what we’re having for lunch, and I get this nudge from Freyr to buy the person lunch. So, I give him money to get lunch, he gives me a hug, and he sits down and starts talking to us in-depth about literature. My friend was reading some Shakespeare for class, and the person goes “He was alright” and tells us he prefers a French collection of poetry called Les Fleurs de Mal, which is about Satan dreaming.

After this conversation ends, I get out my phone and instantly start doing research because by this point I’ve realized I’m dealing with a deity, and I feel a strong need to know which one (I’m fairly certain the gods aren’t allowed to give their names to humans when they show up in human form. I’m not sure why, but uh… well, the effect Jesus had when he did that may play a role). Anyway, I look up this French poetry collection, learn that the version of Satan mentioned in the poems is actually Hermes Trismegistus…which is the Greek form of the Egyptian god Tehuti (also known as Thoth).

Now, while I’ve had some run-ins with Egyptian gods (namely Bast), I’d never even met Tehuti. The friend who was with me at lunch is Kemetic, but she doesn’t do a lot for Tehuti. I tell this story to another one of my friends who is also Kemetic (and does work for Tehuti), and she confirms for me that the actions the person took were pretty much exactly how Tehuti typically behaves. Gods, like humans, have personalities, so I take her word for this. The gods do whatever they have to when they need to be noticed.

A couple days after this encounter, one of my other friends, a Hellenistic polytheist, randomly texts me about how to make proper offerings to Odin. She has apparently decided to create a business contract with Odin in order to determine where she stands with the Greek pantheon, since Odin has so much knowledge of other gods. It was an interesting direction to take, but I was curious as to why she wasn’t asking the Greek gods since she already has ties there. The answer I got was that she had asked Hermes what kind of relationship they would have, and the response she got was a lot of chaotic events – traffic tickets, small accidents, etc. She felt that it was the equivalent of being told to work for Hermes while he did everything to mess up her life.

I then explained to her that sometimes the gods don’t understand human affairs – some gods are closer to humans than others. I told her that considering Hermes Trismegistus was coming to me, in person, it was fairly obvious that Hermes wanted to work with her…and perhaps was worried that she was going to turn away from that relationship and didn’t know what to do about it.

As a polytheist priest, this is normal. This is what it means to live within a polytheist framework. Sometimes, the gods stay distant and communicate only via dreams and within specific religious contexts. Other times, they drop in to have lunch wearing a human suit. Both are perfectly natural occurrences – the gods do what they want when they want. They are everywhere – it’s only that our society has forgotten what it means to live close to the gods. Because the monotheistic bent to our world has convinced people that it is impossible to stand next to a god. Impossible to have a conversation with a god in a flesh-based form. Impossible to hear a god.

But it isn’t. The gods are very real, very present, and very willing to interact with us. We just have to learn how to interact with them again. They never forgot us – we’re the ones who forgot them. And it is up to polytheists, especially the polytheist priests, to teach people how to hear the gods again, as well as how to recognize them when they choose to walk among us (and they do this often). The gods want to be heard as much as we want to hear – but first, we have to recognize that we have the ability to hear. We have to stop convincing ourselves we’re crazy when we’re receiving a legitimate message from the gods. We have to create a framework where we can talk to the gods and the gods can talk to us without constant fear of insanity making it so people who experience the gods in direct ways have no one to turn to.

The gods are real. The experiences we have of the gods are real. Learning to live with gods who change, grow, adapt, and are fluid is perhaps the hardest part of being a polytheist. Because the gods? They don’t fit in the nice, neat boxes we call lore. They don’t fit into the character sketches we make of them from the myths we read. They don’t fit into archetypes. They are complex, sovereign beings with agency of their own – and until that understanding is reached, communicating with the gods may always cause a person to reach for the question “Am I Hearing a God or Am I Going Crazy?”

So, thank you, Beckett, for pointing out one of the glaring foundational lapses of modern-day polytheism. That is something that needs to be addressed directly instead of whispered about being closed doors. The gods are real. Your experiences are real. And there are people out there who will take you at your word and offer you the understanding you need. Polytheist priests are rare, but we do exist. And I will always make myself available for any person who finds themselves at a loss for what to do when the gods drop in without warning. That is the bare minimum of what it means to be a priest. Because being a priest – yes, it is about serving the gods. But it is also about helping people. It is a calling to both the gods and to those who honor them. Let’s not forget to help the people in our eagerness to serve the gods.

Favor of the Gods and/or Divine Entitlement

I read a Facebook post today – which, to be fair, is almost always enough to make a person question their sanity, considering how much sheer stupidity is displayed on Facebook every day. Just today, I’ve read about people who pretend to be incarnations of deities, people who claim to channel deities to advance their own agendas, and, of course, the comment that has led me to write this post.

(Note: For ethical reasons, I’m not providing the name of the group or the names of the members who made these comments).

In one of the Facebook groups I’m part of, someone mentioned how he was walking home when it started hailing, and he decided to go to a shop that was past his house. As he started towards the shop, however, 3-4 bolts of lightning laced through the sky and thunder roared overhead. This continued for a solid minute before he decided to turn around, and thirty seconds after he decided to turn around, the hailing stopped completely. He said it made him feel like Thor was watching over him, like Thor had struck his hammer as hard as he could to get the guy to turn back from the shop.

Now, this story? This is amazing, and I have no problems with stories like this. In fact, it is very possible that Thor has taken an interest in this guy and was warning him about the storm. Sometimes, when the gods try to get our attention, they yell – and sometimes we listen, and we reap the benefits from paying attention.

In the comments was where I found the problem. One guy said: “If one believes that metaphysical forces and beings have a particular and personal interest in one’s welfare and fortunes, it can lead to narcissism and a tendency towards magical thinking and ‘divine entitlement.’ The Aesir, from my study of the texts, don’t operate that way. They don’t give gifts and personal protection. They provide examples for us to follow.”

There are so many things wrong with this comment that it’s hard to know where to start. The whole “but the books don’t say that” mentality – well, that smacks of monotheistic thinking that hasn’t been shaken. The gods can’t be confined to the books they are found within – the description of a god is a description, not the god in full.

And the whole thing about the gods not giving gifts and personal protection? Uh, I think this person may want to take another look at the lore – the gods gave humans the first gifts. For someone who is sticking to the lore, he sure missed the part where Odin and co. gave humans “soul, sense, and heat/goodly hue” according to the Bellows translation of the Poetic Edda. There are stories within the Sagas about gods who grant personal protection to particular people – so this person contradicts himself by first mentioning the texts and then stating the gods don’t do something they can be seen to be doing throughout the lore.

He salvages a little bit when he says “They [the gods] provide examples for us to follow” because that stands on its own. Our gods don’t give us edicts, but we honor them the best when we mimic them. Mimicry is truly the highest form of flattery, so acting as we believe the gods would act in certain situations can help us figure ways out of situations – it allows us to retain our independence from the gods, which is an irony that bears further consideration.

However, the other thing that this guy said is also not quite wrong – believing in the personal protection of metaphysical forces and gods can lend itself to narcissism, and, in extreme cases, what he calls ‘divine entitlement.’ I touched on this concept a bit, in my post about action and gratitude. The gods can be our friends, they can be close companions, and they can be our benefactors. But they are never beholden to us. We make offerings so that they may grant us their favor in return – may does not imply must.

Entitlement is entitlement, whether there is a human on the other end of your expectations or a god. For the most part, we all possess (gods and humans alike) agency and autonomy. Because autonomy plays a role in every agreement we make (gods and humans both), there is no external force applied to ensure that every agreement is kept in truth. If a friend asks me to help him clear out his garage and I agree to do so, I can decide that it is no longer in my best interest to help him clear out his garage and back out of the agreement. This might make him angry, and it might impact our relationship to some degree, but he is not entitled to my help. No one is entitled to another person’s autonomy, and, as I mentioned recently, the gods are a people of their own – we aren’t entitled to their help, either.

But we’ve all met those people who tend to assume that the first time you help them means that you’ll always be available to help them, and pretty soon, the only time that person is contacting you is when they need something from you. None of us likes this – we hate being treated like tools, and it makes us feel like we’re being taken advantage of. I can’t imagine that the gods feel much different when the only time someone calls on them is to help them with a problem. That’d annoy all of us – why do people think it wouldn’t annoy the gods?

In some ways, then, the comment actually has some good advice – it’s just been twisted in a way that makes it hard to glean that advice. The gods do offer friendship, personal protection, and gifts to humans – when those humans are respectful and treat the relationships like relationships and treat the gods like they are more than just a tool for human convenience. Relationships aren’t built out of a sense of the way you can use the other person, but out of a sense of mutual trust and respect. If you’re using a god…well, I’m just going to err on the side of caution here and say the outcome will probably end in the god’s favor.

Many Vs. One – Crucial Paradigms

I had a conversation with a Christian today that didn’t devolve into an argument. I understand enough about Christianity and monotheism in general that I understand that the gods within those systems tend to work with a supremacy clause – either:I am the only god in existence” or “I am the only god worthy of worship” or a combination of the two. For all the Abrahamic faiths, I’d say it’s generally a combination.

Anyway, she was attempting to understand my views and beliefs – after telling me that she didn’t view my religion as a religion at all – which is such a knee-jerk, commonplace reaction that I no longer get angry, but I still roll my eyes at it (if I got angry every time it happened, I’d be perpetually angry, and, as I said to a friend recently, I refuse to invest in anger). She said that she understood that people used to believe in there being gods for everything, that they saw the moon as a god, the sun as a god, the wind as a god, etc. And I give her credit – she was trying so hard to understand, but she was doing so from a monotheistic worldview.

Polytheism is difficult, at best, for even us, as polytheists, to articulate. Because it comes in so many flavors, so many varieties – for some polytheists, maybe the moon is a god. For some of us, there are multiple gods who are associated and/or responsible for the moon. For others, there may only be a single moon god – who knows? The possibilities, the varieties, are endless. To explain those varieties to a monotheist who clings to the Bible as the literal truth (that was expressed during the conversation) is virtually impossible.

The most interesting part of the conversation, however, happened when she asked about the concept of sin. And I tried to explain that sin doesn’t really exist – I mean, there are technically two “sins” in the Norse framework (oath-breaking and kin-killing), but there is no concept of humanity being inherently flawed. I’m not sure that there is a concept of sin at all in the Hellenistic world – I think the closest one comes is in accumulating an overabundance of miasma, but that can be cleansed. And I honestly just don’t know if the concept of sin exists outside of Abrahamic religions at all – which made that a difficult topic. I guess it’s an area I need to do more research in, so that when Christians ask that question, I can properly answer it. I just wasn’t expecting such an in-depth inquiry.

And then we got to a question that illustrates one of the fundamental differences between Abrahamic faiths and polytheistic faiths. She asked, “So what do your gods tell you to do?” Like she expected me to list out a set of edicts and commands that the gods had set forth to be followed. Maybe the gods of monotheism want their followers to do everything to the letter, to be perfect little soldiers, but those aren’t the gods I know. And I wouldn’t – and don’t – follow gods that demand perfect obedience from me.

The gods I honor have never demanded perfect obedience from me. In fact, they have never demanded my loyalty, my friendship, or the sacrifices I make for them. Everything I have done for the gods – and continue to do for them – is done because I made a choice. Odin didn’t ask me to swear an oath to him, to become one of his warriors – he made an offer, and I accepted it. I swore fealty to him on my own, bound myself to him of my own volition. It was never a command.

I didn’t become Loki’s priest because he commanded me to do so. He asked me if I wanted to do it, and I chose. I stepped into the opportunity he offered – I made the decision on my own. I was never forced into the position. Loki would never force anyone into anything – that’s just not who he is.

I have never done anything for the gods I call friends, whom I honor with my offerings, prayers, libations, and rituals, against my will. I have never been presented with an ultimatum from any of them. I have been offered hard choices, and I have always been told that the path I choose to walk is my own.

Perhaps, in this, my Celtic ancestry shows through. I am loyal to the gods who have never attempted to command it, in the same way Celtic warriors were loyal only to the men who proved themselves worthy of the title of warlord. Those men never demanded loyalty from their warriors – they simply earned it. That reflects the way that I have come to know the Norse gods. I’m not loyal to them because they demand it – I am loyal to them because they have inspired me to it.

But to explain that to a Christian who views the Bible as the literal truth, other religions (and therefore other gods) as falsehoods, and cannot envision a god who doesn’t command – well, there’s the crux of the problem. We don’t have gods who lead us through our lives with laid-out commands or promise us impossible rewards. We have gods who will throw us out of nests to teach us to fly and show us that the benefits in life can be reaped only after the ordeals we endure.

To be a polytheist is to embrace a multitude of experience, of perspectives, and of the way life itself is lived. Monotheists can’t think that way – their religions promote a singular truth, a single perspective, a single experience. Tunnel vision is a problem only monotheists have – there’s truth to the statement that polytheism can easily incorporate monotheism, but monotheism leaves no room for anything but itself. Because of that, finding acceptance in the monotheistic society we live within may prove to be close to impossible, but that’s one battle I refuse to stop fighting. That’s the mistake the polytheists of old made, and it’s one I won’t repeat – our polytheistic religions are valid. And I will not back down from any monotheist who tries to convince me that I am somehow less human than them because I’m not like them. If there’s any cause in the world I’ll raise a banner for, it’s for polytheists.