Odin’s Path: Connection

I read somewhere that Odin’s wisdom is found in the ability to make plans that are successful – in other words, his wisdom is found in strategy. I don’t dispute this, as he is a war god and therefore needs the ability to think strategically, but I don’t think it fully captures his wisdom (and I’m not sure it’s possible to do so).

Strategy and making plans – those are both very important skills, but I think there’s more to wisdom than that. To make good plans, you have to understand people at a very deep level, and to understand other people requires a lot of patience and the ability to listen. It also requires the ability to trust in a person’s own experience of the world without feeling the need to negate it based on the experiences you’ve had yourself.

In my experience, understanding another person necessitates the suspension of disbelief. Each person we meet, no matter how crazy or far-fetched the story may sound to us, has their own story to tell, and we all believe in our own stories. They are, after all, what we are comprised of. They are the world we are made of – our stories define us in a way nothing else can.

To deny another person their story is to deny them their identity – it isn’t simply a case of whether or not we believe that the story that they tell us is a true one. That’s where understanding gets lost. People are worlds in themselves, and each world has its own unique set of rules. What those rules are vary from world to world, from person to person, and there is nothing more wrong or right about any particular set of rules that govern these worlds, these people.

This is the type of thinking that shamans must master in order to find the connections that link worlds, that link people, together. It is in these connections that we find the commonalities, the threads that tie us to one another and to the gods. If someone asked me for a definition of shaman, I don’t know if I would have had a proper answer even a year ago – it took me awhile to realize that the work I’ve always done as an empath has always been the work of a shaman. In some ways, they are the same, as the shamanism I practice is inherently empathic in nature (this is, of course, not true of all shamans nor is it true of all empaths).

Now, I would define my shamanism as the empathy required to forge links between worlds – knowing as I do now that every person is their own world. What people don’t understand – or at least don’t like to believe – is that I connect with gods as easily as I do people, and I have ever since I started to comprehend them as having agency in their own right, as having their own type of personhood. The links between gods and humans are a little bit different, a little more slippery, but they do exist – they always have.

It is because of these links that I tell people, when they ask me which deities they should try to work with (and believe me, I get this question quite often), that the deities they need to look towards first are those that most resemble them in personality. Not the deities they admire the most or the ones they think will be most beneficial – the deities with personalities that echo the personalities of the humans who ask me this question.

Because those are the deities that we can connect with most easily – those threads are most accessible to us. Odin is my patron, I am sworn to his path, and yet he is not a deity I converse with easily. Nor is he a deity whom I consult often – the relationship I have with Odin is a very complex one, and it is in the complexity of his personality and the complexity of my own that we meet. It is not a relationship I could ever hope to properly explain to someone else, but I trust in the relationship we share despite the oddness of its shape.

Loki is also my patron, and I am one of his priests. Unlike Odin, however, I converse easily with Loki. Among the gods I work with, he is one of my best friends. On the surface, he can seem irresponsible and whimsical, but there is a depth of emotional maturity to him that most don’t see in him because they don’t look past the surface. I understand on a very real level what it is like to be seen by others without truly being seen by them, and it is on this understanding that the link between me and Loki is founded.

I honor and work with many other deities, and all of those relationships are founded on different commonalities, different threads that link the world of who I am to the world of that particular deity. With Tyr, it is the understanding of stepping forward into responsibility when no one else will. With Freyja, it is the understanding that female and weak aren’t equal terms, that there is a depth of strength in femininity that is vastly different than the strength found in masculinity. With Sigyn, it is the understanding of the depth of love a person must feel for another to stand loyally by them despite the pain they endure. With Mani, it is a depth of compassion. With Ullr, it is a love of competition. With Freyr, it is an understanding of what nobility truly means. With Bragi, it is a love of words.

With all the gods – with all humans as well – there are links of understanding. It is upon those links that relationships may be best forged. Think about the friends you cherish – what first made you friends? What link of understanding does that friendship center around? And how many of your friends are your friends for the same reason? Because I know the relationships I share with my friends are defined very differently from person to person, from god to god. No relationship is the same as another – for good reason, as that would teach us nothing and also be incredibly boring.

I started writing this because I wanted to talk about how Odin’s wisdom encompasses so much more than simply the ability to make plans – he is the penultimate shaman. He sacrificed his eye to gain wisdom, and he sacrificed himself to gain the knowledge of the runes. His path is a path of sacrifice, and one of the biggest sacrifices I’ve found myself making is setting aside my own sight to pick up the sight of another.

That means suspending disbelief, keeping your own prejudices and default biases under wraps as you listen to the stories of the people around you. I have heard stories that most would view as beyond the realm of belief because I have taken the time to set aside my doubts and trust that a person’s story, when they tell it to me, is true enough for them.

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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.

 

On the Nature of the Norse Gods

I’ve mentioned before how the Norse Pantheon is comprised of war gods – there isn’t a single deity that cannot be connected, in some way, to war. I’ve just started reading Essays on a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion by Edward P. Butler, and it already has me thinking – a sign that it is an excellent book.

He mentions using Sallustius’s five models of interpretations for myth with a heavy focus on the theological interpretation. The five models are theological, physical, psychical, material, and mixed. What is meant by the theological interpretation is the way that the very essence of the gods can be considered. Butler states, “The total body of myths belonging to a culture forms a comprehensive paradigm of the cosmos as expressed within that cultural sphere.”

I wrote awhile ago on the avenues I personally feel need to be explored in order to fully comprehend a polytheistic tradition, which you can read here, and one of the avenues I mentioned is cosmogony.

I’ve been thinking about the Norse creation myth recently, and as I was reading through part of Butler’s work, I made connections that I wasn’t really expecting to make but which made sense upon reflection.

As I said, the Norse gods are gods of war, and that nature can be seen within the creation myth itself. Life emerges from conflict, from the meeting of elements of opposite natures. Fire and ice merge to create life, which is ironic as both elements are more than capable of destroying life as well. Both are so powerful in their own right that they cannot retain their own forms in the presence of the other, so they are forever altered by the interaction, and life comes forth in the shape of an asexual giant.

In some ways, Ymir can be viewed as the personification of the force of ice, as he is the first frost giant ever born. Audhumla comes forth as well, and she nourishes Ymir. She provides him with the sustenance to sustain his life. While doing so, she uncovers the first god in the ice, bringing him forth into being. She is able to melt the ice, and so it may be possible to view her as the personification of the force of fire. The two primeval beings created from the two primeval elements after coming into contact with one another. Buri, the first of the gods, may represent the first combination of the two elements in a single form. He is born of both fire and ice – encased in ice, frozen in time, he is given life by Audhumla’s actions, making him the first being to be created from a combination of elements.

Of course, while Audhumla is freeing Buri from the ice, Ymir is busy asexually reproducing more frost giants. The giants born from him are, like him, born entirely of ice. We aren’t told that Audhumla frees anyone else from the ice, so there’s no way to know for sure if Buri is the only god that she brings to life this way. What is noted next is that Buri has a son Bor (whose origin is never mentioned) and that Bor marries a giant named Bestla and the two of them give birth to Odin, Vili, and Ve.

Whether Buri has Bor through procreation or asexual reproduction is never mentioned, so it is hard to make any inferences from the fact that Bor is Buri’s son. On the other hand, we know that Bor marries Bestla – a god with a giant – and that’s that first real indication we have of the mixing of gods and giants. Bestla, as a giant, most likely came into existence through Ymir’s asexual reproductive habits, and it can be presumed that she, like all other frost giants at the time, is representative of the primeval power of the element of ice. At the same time, Bor has a mixture of both fire and ice within him, as he is the son of Buri who is also of mixed elements. Through the introduction of the mixed elements of fire and ice into the giant’s gene pool, the Aesir gods are born.

The fire within Bor introduced to Bestla ran contrary to her nature – as a being of pure ice, any form of fire should not have been able to take hold. And yet it did. And through that conflict, the Aesir gods come into being. They are birthed through the conflict of primeval elements at war with one another.

A conflict which continues with the problem that Odin, Vili, and Ve have with Ymir that results in his death. I’ve read a couple of theories as to why Ymir was seen as a threat. One theory is that he was overpopulating the world with frost giants with his asexual reproduction and needed to be stopped. Another theory is that he became so greedy for the sustenance Audhumla provided him that he killed her, and the gods killed him in revenge. The first seems more plausible to me, as I can’t fathom why anyone would kill their only source of sustenance – it’d be counter to the survival instinct.

Either theory can be viewed in the light of a conflict between the two creative/destructive elements of ice and fire. The gods, who have the power of creation and thus represent an embodiment of fire, have a power of creation very different from that of the frost giants. Ymir’s asexual reproduction can be seen as a type of creative power that was quickly spiraling out of control and becoming destructive,if utilizing the theory that the Aesir trio killed him because of the overpopulation of the world. The creative power the Aesir have is much more controlled, which can be seen in the way they carefully craft the earth out of Ymir’s remnants after they slay him. Nothing goes to waste – everything is re-purposed.

If, however, we view the myth from the angle that Ymir becomes so greedy he cannot control himself and kills Audhumla, we also see the destructive power of ice. The Aesir trio may have killed him to avenge Audhumla, but it is more likely that they killed him to prevent any further destruction. In this case, as well, we see the creative power of the element of ice being overtaken by its destructive power.

The Aesir are able to halt the destruction because they have both fire and ice elements within them. For that reason, they can slow the destructive nature of the primeval ice world that flows within their veins, and they can use the power of fire to restructure the world. Fire is a crafting power when used creatively, but it also has the ability to overwhelm its creative power through its destructive power. It is through the mix of the two elements that the gods are able to stay the destructive powers of both elements and utilize the constructive powers of each.

And they use those powers to craft worlds out of Ymir’s remains. Ymir’s blood floods the world, and only two giants are able to escape the aftermath. A sign, perhaps, that the primordial element of ice cannot be entirely eliminated from the world, especially as it was one of the elements that helped create the world. The gods use every piece of Ymir to create Midgard, letting nothing go to waste. Out of the conflict they had with him, they create something new. Out of conflict and destruction, creation and construction emerge.

Through all of this, of course, there’s a backdrop – the Ginnungagap. The Void. The Nothingness of Non-Existence through which the elements of both Muspellheim and Niflheim must pass in order to come into contact with one another to allow for life to take shape at all. It is the Unknowable Mystery, and the concept of such a Non-Existence is impenetrable, as our minds slide around it as we try to grasp it. Trying to do so, in actuality, might drive someone insane. Because it is not possible to know non-existence, as non-existence, in our reality, does not exist, and, therefore, the concept of it is not easily (or ever) grasped.

But it is this concept that the gods are intimately familiar with, as they originally live within the Ginnungagap. It is to the center of this place that they take Ymir’s body and use his remains to create Midgard. It is from this Non-Existence that physical reality emerges, the place from which Midgard comes forth. There is an inherent contradiction there that is not possible to resolve because it is a concept that we cannot grasp – that existence comes from non-existence, and that non-existence itself in some form exists. Our minds aren’t readily made to deal with such concepts…if they were, then the contemplation of the existence of non-existence wouldn’t have the potential to drive us mad.

For the gods, however, they existed within the Ginnungagap at the beginning. They dealt with the conflict between the two primordial worlds of fire and ice and saw the results of having the two elements mixed. They were born into a world of conflict, a world at war with itself, and it seems natural that they became deities of war because of that. In some ways, it could perhaps be argued that the Norse gods are gods at war with themselves, as they possess the inherent properties of the creative and destructive nature of fire, ice, and non-existence. It is a testament to how complex the nature of the gods are that it is so difficult to get a firm grasp on what may be the essence that defines them, the essence that sets them apart from us and makes them gods instead of men.

I find it fascinating to find such a connection to the Aesir as gods of war through the cosmogony of the Norse tradition, and I enjoy analyzing myths from multiple vantage points. I will not say that this is the only interpretation of this myth that is plausible, nor that it defines the nature of the gods. This is only one of my own interpretations – I don’t limit myself to a singular interpretation of any myth (notice, I even explored two different theories in this one about Ymir) – and it is not meant to be reflective of anyone else’s experiences, practices, or beliefs.

Tyr’s Path: Need for Balance

First post of the new year, and I’m thinking a lot about balance. What it means, how to find it. How to structure my life without overwhelming myself and also leaving enough room in it for spontaneity. It’s a very Tyrian way of thinking, as Tyr is the deity that presides over cosmic balance.

Most paint him as the deity that presides over justice. In the Norse pantheon, that is actually Forseti, and he is the one to call on for courtly disputes. Tyr does work with justice, but on a cosmic level. As the ultimate balancing agent. He is the peacekeeper who will wage war to bring about harmony. He does what is needed in order to keep the worlds from colliding.

I’ve read a lot of posts lately about how the Otherworld is leaking through into ours, how the veils between this world and the next are shredded. But I’m not quite sure shredded is the right word. Thinner, perhaps, but I’m not sure that’s a negative . Yes, I had to deal with more otherwordly encounters last year than before, but I can’t view that as being a bad thing.

Others are concerned…I guess I’m a little concerned myself, but it’s more a concern about what it is I need to know in order to face whatever ends up in this world. Science can’t explain a lot about the spiritual phenomena we encounter every day, and that may always be true. While I don’t believe science and magic are incompatible, a balance between the two has yet to be properly struck.

Anyway, it’s not just in the greater schemata of the universe that I am sensing a need for balance. There’s also a bit of a deficit of it in my own life. That’s not really too surprising, since I work with both Odin and Loki (extreme order, extreme chaos). It’s hard to seesaw back and forth between the two of them without someone else to help balance out those two very strong forces, and that’s where I find it necessary to turn to Tyr.

Very little is known about Tyr, aside from the bravery he showed when he did what was necessary to keep the peace in the realms by binding Fenrir and losing his hand in the process. it’s not as clear-cut as saying the ends justify the means, but rather that the right ends (namely, peace and frith between the worlds) justify the means, even if those means happens to require the betrayal of a great friend. It becomes a study in how sacrificing one for the sake of the many can be done, and, sometimes, how it should be done. One life versus one hundred. One realm versus nine. There are no easy answers. But the questions must be posed, and it is only in weighing the odds that balance is found.

 

Surviving Odin’s Path

Maybe it’s because I grew up in an abusive home, but I’ve come to recognize the signs of when someone has come close to their breaking point. Actually, I would say it is because I grew up in an abusive home. I learned to recognize the body language my mom exhibited when she was close to her breaking point, and I learned to tiptoe around it.

In essence, I learned how to manipulate because I had to learn how to do so in order to survive. Saying the wrong thing led to places I didn’t want to go, and acting the wrong way – well, let’s suffice to say that the results of that were even less pleasant. I learned to maneuver myself in ways that meant I could present myself to others without ever having them think of me as a threat, or, conversely, I could make myself seem a bigger threat than I was. Essentially, I learned to relate to others through the body language they showed me, and I learned to portray what they expected to see.

And, for a long time, I hated that about myself. I hated that I used manipulation without even thinking about it, and I used to insist that I would never manipulate anyone else and that I didn’t do it at all. But that was more to counter the hatred I had of the way I had been forced to learn to manipulate in order to survive than it was hatred of the manipulation itself.

It’s ironic, though, that society in general looks at manipulation in a negative light – the word carries tons of negative connotations. But manipulation can be used in a positive way, and if that wasn’t true, I would never have been able to learn how to manipulate myself in order to help heal from the mental wounds my mother inflicted on me. I had to relearn how to think, had to manipulate my thinking patterns into new pathways, and I had to create my own honor code that could accept that I had the ability to manipulate others but that I could choose to do it in a kind way rather than a cruel one.

Generally, manipulation is thought of as a tool to get others to go along with what you want or to get what you want. But it can also be used to convince others that they have more potential than they think they do, can help rally others to a cause that they themselves believe in, and provide a way for those whose minds have been damaged to heal themselves.

But the kind of damage that a person must undergo to need manipulation to heal themselves leaves terrible scars, and that damage instills in a person a hardness and steadfastness that is equivalent to the battle hardness found in soldiers. I will never forget the day I spent talking to a man who did three tours in Iraq about my past or his words about how I had survived a war zone that existed outside of the battlefield.

There are obligations that parents have to children that my parents rarely met, and I learned to do what I had to in order to survive at a very early age. I learned that the only person who would ever properly care for me was myself, and I learned not to expect anyone around me to offer me support. I grew up hard, and I’ve lost none of that. I don’t think you can lose it once you’ve gained it.

However, that hardness – that strength – is what allows me to walk Odin’s path because I know that it requires sacrifice, more sacrifice than most realize. I know that it means I will watch others I care about die because Odin is a death-god (and so many are so quick to forget that), and I know that it means I will not die an easy death. But I have not had an easy life, and I see no reason to go easily into death. I was walking Odin’s path before I even knew that there was such a path to walk, so it made sense to continue following it when Odin came into my life.

But it was Odin who helped me realize that I had the strength needed to follow His path, that I could give up what I needed to give up in order to gain the blessings He bestows on those who follow Him.

A few people have told me that they could never follow Odin because they were afraid of how much they would have to give up, and I can appreciate their candor. Of all the paths I walk, Odin’s is the most difficult. Because while the blessings received are always worth the pain wrought (because there is always pain, whether it is physical or emotional), the level of that pain is not to be underestimated. Odin is a dark God; he is a War God, a Death God, and of Shamanistic magic. Those aspects are enhanced by, not balanced by, His provinces of poetry and wisdom.

There are many who try to portray Odin as a light God of laughter and love and majesty. He is none of those things, although He can seem them when He wishes to. I think Pagans often forget that any deity who deals in death deals with the Dark side of life. While death is part of life – in fact, life couldn’t exist without it – death isn’t light.

What is so ironic, here, to me, is that Odin is so well-worshiped among modern Heathens while Loki is so despised. Loki is light. He is laughter and fire and passion and all of the things that balance out the dark path that belongs to Odin. Loki is the one who provides the means to survive Odin’s path without succumbing to the dark completely. That’s why I can’t understand those Heathens who insist on worshiping Odin and refuting Loki – if Loki’s path didn’t balance out Odin’s path, I don’t know how I would have made it through the last six years of my life. I don’t know how I would even make it through a day.

The Importance of Sacrifice

In general, those of us who follow a Pagan faith (whether that faith be Wicca, Asatru, Religio Romana, Kemetism, Hellenism, etc) embrace orthopraxy as part of our spirituality. Which means that we participate in making sacrifices to the Gods we honor by offering alcoholic beverages, food, trinkets, and so on.

Yet it has come to my attention in the last couple of years that there are a lot of people who “sort of” follow Pagan paths rather than fully committing. And that’s fine – up until you ask a deity to interfere in your personal affairs and that deity chooses to respond favorably.

Exchange and sacrifice are an inherent understanding of Pagan faiths. When a deity acts for you, it stands to reason that there is a need to respond in kind – to acknowledge the favor the Gods have bestowed upon you.

I can’t speak for the Gods of other pantheons, but the Norse Gods seem to take a failure to offer a token of appreciation as a great insult. Especially Odin, and it’s generally not wise to offend Him, considering He is one of the darker Gods of the Norse pantheon. Interestingly enough, Odin is far more widely honored in modern times than He was in the pre-Christian era.

Anyway, in the first example – a High Priestess swore an oath to Odin. He upheld his end of the oath made, and she failed to come through. Instead of paying her debt, she did everything she could to exorcise His presence. In order to assure the debt was paid, Odin started to “haunt” the woman’s best friend until she came to me for help, wondering why this sinister, faceless man kept appearing to her on the nights she would visit her friend. Eventually, we put the story together. I don’t know if the High Priestess ever paid her debt – I was tasked only with communicating the message, not resolving the issue.

And communicating that message seems to be part and parcel of the oath I swore dedicating myself to Odin. I don’t speak of this often because I tend to assume people understand what I mean when I say I have dedicated myself to Odin, but perhaps I need to specify what I mean. When I say I am dedicated to Odin, I mean I wear the Valknut, the symbol often called the “Knot of the Slain,” and it essentially marks me as one of Odin’s chosen warriors, which means He can call me to the other side without warning.

In any case, the other example I have of a person who failed to properly appease Odin I actually learned of today – again, I was acting as His messenger. I learned that a woman’s husband had – half-jokingly – addressed one of the numerous crows we have in this area as Odin and asked Odin for help in curing his son’s illness (the boy, 3 years old, was in the hospital on a ventilator due to pneumonia, with little prognosis of getting better anytime soon). Two days after the request, the boy was off the ventilator and growing healthier each day. The woman told me that there had been increasing amounts of crows at her house – so many it has become impossible to walk out the door without seeing an entire murder of them. I asked her if she or her husband had offered a token of appreciation, and she said her husband decided to give up smoking pot for a month but wasn’t sure he had actually dedicated that sacrifice to Odin.

Granted, my knee-jerk reaction (which I avoided actually voicing) was that giving up pot for a month didn’t really seem like much of a sacrifice for a life saved. But I don’t know the woman’s husband, don’t know the hardship that giving up pot would cause him (if any), and I think it’s important to consider that each person comes to a sacrifice in a different way. If the deity to whom the sacrifice is being made accepts the offering, then the sacrifice is valid. If, however, the deity doesn’t accept the offering, something else is required. Figuring out whether the offering has or hasn’t been accepted can be difficult, but I would suggest that if you start seeing a murder of crows outside your house after offering something to Odin, then that sacrifice has most likely not been accepted.

I’m not sure if there’s an irony to the reason Odin is rarely present in my life or if it is to be expected because He in essence can call on me whenever He likes (and so rarely sees the need to do so), but every time He does show up, it always seems to be to communicate a message similar to this one.

I feel like there are a lot of Pagans out there, Heathens included (since some Heathens try to separate themselves from that umbrella) who look at the Gods as kind and benevolent figures who would never threaten or harm Their followers. While that’s a pretty ideal, it is one that completely disregards reality. The Gods are complex. They are kind, but They are also cruel. It does no one good to forget that truth.

If you’re looking for a TL:DR version (which I rarely ever offer), then this would be the catchphrase: If you ask the Gods for a favor and They grant it, pay Them back. 

 

 

Priesthood, Change, and Differences

I’m hugging the line that runs between doubt and self-confidence because I think I feel ready to take on the burden of responsibility that being priest to the Gods entails. I have the rationale to know that I understand enough to impart the wisdom of the Gods to those who need help hearing Them, but I am also fearful that I will misrepresent one of the Gods or not make the messages clear enough. I think that is part and parcel of the responsibility  I’ve decided to carry.

There are those who will criticize me for even daring to refer to myself as a priest (if I’m being P.C. priestess, but priest has always sounded like a gender-neutral word to me, so I’m going to use priest instead). They will criticize me because I am not part of a kindred, I didn’t go through a traditional apprenticeship, and I’m not very involved in the larger Pagan community because of where I currently live. There will be those who say that a priest is granted the power to impart the wisdom of the Gods by the community around them, but I disagree. The power to impart the wisdom of the Gods is granted by the Gods Themselves.

Now, I will agree that it is far easier for those already part of a community to be seen as more of an authority figure than someone who is on the fringes of that community. I will agree with that only insofar as the central community goes. But the people on the fringes of a community see the parts of the community where the rifts really exist, while those in the community who sit in its center can ignore the needs of the ones that just barely fall within the lines of that community.

That’s where I fall. It’s not that I don’t care about the central Pagan and Heathen communities; it’s that the central communities already have the authorities they need. There are High Priests/Priestesses and Godhi/Godha within the central communities doing wonderful work. The resources are plentiful.

But out here on the fringe where solitaries hang out, where Lokeans tend to gather, where those who just don’t seem to fit anywhere else, there are precious few resources available. Every time I find a new book on Loki, I devour it because there are so few. I can barely think of five books that do Loki justice, and I know there are hundreds of Lokeans out there who have to bear the same frustrations that I do.

Even in a community that is supposed to be inclusive – the Pagan community as a whole – there are outsiders. People whose beliefs just don’t quite mesh with the rest. And I’m no exception to that. In fact, when it comes to being someone who doesn’t quite mesh, I’d say I could be the poster-girl.

I’m an aggressive woman with next to no ability to be submissive – I chafe under the hierarchies imposed upon me because I hate being told what to do. I’m pansexual, though I usually stick to the bisexual identifier when people ask because most people at least understand what that means. I spent my years from 12 – 22 being an eclectic Pagan before I came to Heathenry, and I am now 28. I’ve never sought out a coven, never belonged to a kindred, and I’ve never felt the need to seek a teacher. The only teachers I’ve ever had, in regards to my faith, are the books I’ve read and the wisdom the Gods themselves have imparted to me.

I have everything I need to be a priest to the Gods, but I can’t say for certain that I have everything I need to be a good one. I will always strive to be the best that it is possible for me to be, and hope that I won’t be found lacking. There will be those who say that I lack the fundamental aspect of priesthood – a community to preach to. But I don’t think that matters as much as others like to say it does.

The primary responsibility of being a priest is to be a living example of the wisdom that the Gods choose to impart. There is the responsibility to be a voice among all the other voices saying, “This path, too, is valid.” Not better, not preferred, but valid. To be able to stand up and tell other solitary Pagans, especially solitary Heathens, that it is okay to be solitary. That it isn’t necessary to be part of a community to walk with the Gods. That it’s okay to believe differently than the people around you.

I don’t need to be a priest for the mainstream Pagan community; there are enough there already. I’m interested in the fringe groups, the people who have been told that the way they worship is wrong, that the practices they indulge in aren’t acceptable within their faith, that the Gods they honor can’t be honored at communal events. These are the people who are the dearest to me because these are the only people who can cause change.

My soul is sworn to Odin, but my heart is sworn to Loki. The relationship between Odin and Loki is so grossly misunderstood that correcting those misconceptions will take many lifetimes. Especially when there are Heathens out there equating Loki with Satan and trying to banish Him from community events. Where Loki is banished, nothing can change. Nothing new can occur. Loki is where change comes from. He is where hamingja comes from. I’ve discussed hamingja before, so I won’t go into it here, but Loki’s role is pivotal.

The problem we currently face on the fringes of Paganism and Heathenry is the stagnation of it. There are a lot of people who start down Pagan pathways only to turn back to Christianity a few years later because Paganism is too hard a faith to follow. We have to acknowledge that we live in a society that values convenience over conscience, and we live in a world where self-accountability has become all but obsolete.

Introductory Paganism books fail to disclose to the readers that Pagan paths require a huge sacrifice from the start. I’m not talking about sacrifices to the Gods; those are different. No, what I am talking about is the sacrifice that comes when you have to give up the concept of finding an easy faith to follow. The sacrifice that comes from accepting that the only person that can be held accountable for the actions you make is yourself. That’s a huge sacrifice in a world that is more interested in placing blame than accepting responsibility. There is little wonder that people turn away from Paganism when they realize that easy answers can’t be found.

That’s just one of the problems, and that is a problem those in the more central Pagan communities need to address. What I need to address – what the fringe groups need to address – is our lack of contribution. I don’t mean getting involved in the bigger groups – I mean individual contribution.

There are thousands of solitary practitioners, but few of us lend a voice to the debates going on in the mainstream Pagan community. And why should we? Those debates, in the end, don’t matter to us. After all, we’re solitary, so we do things our own way. That’s the mentality I’m talking about.

Because most of us aren’t disinterested in the bigger issues. Most of us would love to lend a voice, but we’ve been shot down and ignored and told that what we believe is wrong so often that we just tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter. We sit back and we let the mainstream communities tell us that the way we practice is wrong, that we can’t call ourselves certain things because we don’t meet certain requirements. And, instead of arguing with the force of the mainstream, we withdraw from the arguments entirely. We say that we don’t want to deal with the drama.

But that isn’t really true. What we don’t want to deal with is the emotional fallout. We don’t want to be told, over and over and over that our beliefs are wrong. We don’t want to be forced to question our own beliefs because the mainstream disagrees with the way we do things. So we just keep our beliefs and practices to ourselves because we can at least avoid a fight that way. We can keep ourselves from feeling belittled and we can keep from getting hurt.

And that’s fine – no one wants to be hurt. No one likes to to be told that what they believe is invalid. But the truth is, none of us want to truly BE solitary. We want other people to understand what we believe and have them be okay with it. We don’t need covens. We don’t need kindreds. All we need is the acceptance of our differences.

As a Lokean, I know how tiresome it is to get on a discussion board and find the threads discussing how Loki isn’t really a God after all, and it’s irksome to read through the posts because they are so disrespectful towards Loki without understanding His character at all. It’s enough to make me want to punch someone, so I understand the desire to stay away from the mainstream.

At the same time, however, if we keep allowing others to tell us that our beliefs are wrong, and we just withdraw, aren’t we letting them win? Aren’t we telling them that they’re right, after all, and our beliefs aren’t as valid as theirs? I know Loki wouldn’t stand by if someone was treating Him that way – He does not tolerate disrespect. That’s shown, quite clearly, in the Lokasenna, where he intrudes on a feast He wasn’t invited to (and it’s clear that He should have been offered an invitation) and makes everyone pay for the slight by mocking them intensely.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all go out and start mocking those who insult us, but I am saying that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be so easily defeated. Why do we let other people make us feel bad about the way we honor the Gods? The Gods don’t care how we honor Them – most of Them don’t even care if we honor Them. If the Gods don’t care, then why do we allow ourselves to become complacent in defending the way we choose to believe and live?

The people on the fringes of any community are the backbone of the community. We’re the ones who forge new tools, who create new paths. We’re the ones who know how to look at things differently. It is our responsibility to develop the true potential of the Pagan and Heathen communities. The mainstream can’t do it – they’ve become too blinded by their need to criticize the way we believe to see that we are the lungs of the community.

So, going back to what I said before – I’m ready to assume the mantle of priesthood. All I can do is impart the wisdom the Gods give me to share; it is your decision how you use that knowledge. The truth is, I’m only the catalyst, the one that carries the messages. If my help is needed, then I offer that freely. I’m not going to try to force anyone to see me as an authority figure; my purpose in life is to guide, not to coerce. I will ask hard questions, and I will raise issues that are difficult to address, but no one ever has to agree with me. I respect differences. In fact, I encourage them.

Violent Dreams and Magic

I’ve talked about dreamwalking, but I’ve rarely discuss the price I pay for being able to bilocate while I sleep. On the nights when I do bilocate, I end up waking up exhausted – after all, I haven’t really been sleeping.

On some of the nights that I don’t dreamwalk, however, I have violent dreams. To the point that I struggle hard to fall asleep and struggle from insomnia because falling asleep for me has negative connotations. Unless I sleep in daylight hours, I am guaranteed to have violent dreams or nightmares.

So yeah, there’s a part of me that’s afraid of my dreams. Not the dreamwalking – while that can certainly get violent, that is generally within my control. I’m talking about the type of nightmares that leave you shaken for days afterwards because they seem so damn real why they are happening.

I had one that woke me up this morning, which is why I’m sitting here writing before 7 am and feeling a little cranky (as I went to bed at 1 am). At least I got six hours of sleep, I guess.

Anyway, in my dream/nightmare or whatever you want to call it, I had a friend over at my house. In particular, I had my friend over who is in a wheelchair, so this dream was very inaccurate. I don’t usually have people over (I live over 15 miles from town, so it’s easier for me to go to other people) and my house isn’t wheelchair accessible at all. Yet somehow she was over and while she was there, she arranged a date with a guy.

She gave directions to the house, and the guy came and picked her up and everything seemed normal, but when she left, I had this pit feeling in my stomach, and I locked two locks on the front door (there’s only one on my actual door). When I lay down to sleep (yay, dream within dreams. I fucking hate them), I was woken up by a phone call from her cell, and I picked up and assumed I was talking to her because I was still asleep. Then I realized I was actually talking to a nurse at a hospital, and I found out that my friend had been badly beaten.

I got up and got dressed to go to the hospital, but something didn’t sit right with me, so I grabbed my escrima sticks and cautiously approached the front door. Outside the glass panel on my door, I could see a brown rustic panwagon, which I knew was the truck the guy drove. And through my curtain, I could see his silhouette and the outline of a weapon – I knew he was there to attack me.

If I were someone else, this would probably be the part of the dream where I did something smart, like…I dunno, call the cops. But being who I am, I nudged the door open and got ready to attack him to see who would come out on top. He didn’t swing when he realized I had a weapon, and he actually had two baseball bats in hand. When he saw me, he laughed, and then offered me one of the bats. I don’t think he was really prepared for what happened next because I wasn’t either.

When I have dreams within dreams, they feel terrifyingly real, so my instinct upon seeing him was to call upon Odin. Since I’ve never been in any situations like that before, it was weird because I was able to call the berserker rage into me. Yeah, in my sleep. That’s actually what allowed me to wake up because I could feel my blood boiling. Needless to say, I kicked the guy’s ass before I woke up, but experiencing that kind of intensity in my sleep was a little weird.

Even though the dream was violent near the end, I also learned that I am capable of calling the rage. I’ve never needed to call upon it at all in my waking life, and I wasn’t sure I had the talent for it. Even though Odin came to me and chose me, I guess there was a part of me that still doubted whether He actually wanted me because, despite appearances, I do struggle with self-doubt and self-esteem. I think, to some degree, we all do. Being able to access that rage put an end to those doubts, however. And it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life.

I’ve read some information about berserkers and how that rage affects people today, and there’s always a lack of control indicated by it. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to invoking certain entities (and yes, I do mean invoking, as in horsing/housing) that I didn’t experience a lack of control. Instead, what I experienced was a form of pure rage that coursed through my blood and made my blood feel like it was liquid lava. I never lost control of myself, but I can see that it would be easy to lose control of that type of power if you lost sight, for one second, of the reason for invoking the rage.

The truth is, my talent in the world of magic is so strong that it scares me, and I use it despite that. I know that I can access worlds most people can’t see, and I know that there are people out there who wish they could do what I  can. And even though my strength sometimes scares me because I’ve read over and over again that people can’t have the types of skills I do without having been properly taught, it’s like those rules don’t apply to me. I can’t find a proper teacher because all the people I’ve met who teach any type of magic aren’t strong enough.

And I’m aware that that could sound arrogant – it’s not meant to. It’s more frustration than anything else. I’ve learned more about my magic from the entities that I have contracts with and from the gods than I ever have from other people. In most magic circles, the fact that I can naturally invoke deities without ever having been properly trained to do it would be cause for alarm. It isn’t alarming to me. Annoying and exhausting sometimes, but not alarming.

The truth is, even though people complain about the use of the term, I have all the abilities of the shamans of old. I was born with spirit contracts already in place. I dreamwalk without effort, and I can invoke entities and spirits without having had the training. Perhaps it is blood-based, as I was born into a family where I was trained as an empath. Which isn’t exactly the same as a shaman, since empaths usually don’t deal with other planes of existence.

Yet there are people out there who say that it’s impossible to be born with magic, just a talent for it. I was world walking before I knew what world walking was by the time I was five years old. Mirrors still freak me out to some degree because I know that they can be used to access other planes – I walked through one when I was a child, and that’s how I came to be aware of the spirit contracts I carried over from a past life into this one.

And I would love to find a proper teacher, but so far, all I’ve managed to find are people who don’t think being born with magic is actually possible and people who aren’t nearly as strong as they think they are. I’m frustrated and scared because I need someone to teach me – instead of settling down as I get older, it’s like my powers keep getting stronger. And I don’t know how long I will be able to handle them on my own.

In general, people in the pagan community say that magic is supposed to take time to work. That sometimes you need to do repeated rituals in order to see progress. I wouldn’t know because I don’t need rituals. As an example, when you cleanse a gemstone of negative energy after using it to store the negative energy around it, most people will do some sort of cleansing ritual that lasts overnight in order to cleanse the stone.

I had a friend whose protective amulet was near to breaking because she hadn’t cleansed it in almost two months. I asked her to let me cleanse it for her, as it doesn’t take me more than a few seconds to do a cleansing. When I gave it back to her, she was surprised because the gemstone had dulled from the bright orange that it was (the sign it was near breaking). I didn’t actually notice that the color had changed and was afraid that the cleansing hadn’t held when she pointed out the change.  That’s what I mean by strength. The only things I was ever taught growing up were the simplest things an empath needs to know – how to center, how to ground, how to shield, and how to cleanse. Those four methods make up the cornerstone of my this-world magic, and I’ve honed all of those techniques, especially shielding. I have to do protective magic every night to keep certain entities out because I attract things without intention.

But I can’t really properly talk about my experiences with others, not even those in the pagan community. There are too many people out there who insist that there are no harmful entities lurking in the shadows to understand what it means to live a life knowing that they are always there. I envy those who can’t sense it, but I’m always aware of that weight. Especially because I have spirit contracts with very different entities, two of which would be considered demons by today’s terms, another that is a demi-goddess, and others that are spirits. From what I understand from the conversations I’ve held with them, I’ve had these contracts for millions of years over countless reincarnations.

I don’t know what those contracts mean for me overall, but I do know that I end up getting pulled into the other worlds to deal with some of the major things that happen there. I’ve had to help disentangle friends who have found themselves caught in a demon’s snare over vast distances. I have yet to find an actual distance limitation on my power, and that is also somewhat terrifying.

And the power isn’t scary because it’s so vast – it’s scary because of how much responsibility it means I have. I’m sure everyone has heard the quote “With great power comes great responsibility” and that is especially true in magic. The things I know, the deeper stuff, I’m not allowed to teach to other people. Even though I would if I could, the universe feels wrong when I consider sharing that…like somehow there are secrets that are too powerful for everyone to know. What I can share, I do so willingly. It’s just weird, seeing how close some people get to the things that I’ve been taught by the Gods and other entities and also seeing how far away they always are from the complete truth of a particular mystery.

I don’t really know what the point of writing this was, except perhaps to acknowledge that I now have another power I need to be careful of using with the berserker rage. I won’t ever turn away from magic because I am a born shaman, and I have things I have to do in this world and others that defy logical comprehension (which honestly frustrates me because I don’t like not being able to explain things with logic). That drive never goes away, and I think my magic is the reason that Odin and the others were drawn to me.

Part of me thinks that everything I write sounds insane, but I know that part of that is the fact I grew up in a culture that idealizes science and logic and tends to reject the things that can’t be explained away using those processes. I sometimes feel like I walk a tightrope between being stable and being insane, and I think that is just another part of the price I pay.

Difficult Dreams

I’ve talked before about the fact that I do a lot of dreamwalking. That process isn’t always within my control – sometimes one of the Gods seizes control of my dreams and sends me to weird places. When that happens, I often have trouble interpreting what message it is that the deity in question is trying to get across to me.

The Norse Gods are like raging storms of power, no matter which deity we’re talking about, so having my dreams seized by one of Them always leaves me exhausted and pretty much worthless the next day. I’ve mentioned before that the Norse Gods found me rather than the other way around when I started on this path.

I may not have been 100% clear on how that happened. I’ve mentioned the dream I had that featured the Valknut (thus, Odin taking control of the dream), but I’ve never discussed how violent that dream actually was. In the dream, I was me but a past reincarnation of myself (Odin’s dreams with me almost always deal with my past lives). In the dream, I was a male, a father of three boys, and I was in a Viking-style longboat. My sons were with me. A violent wave crashed over the boat, and one of my kids fell into the water. Even though I couldn’t swim and was terrified of drowning, I immediately jumped into the water and managed somehow to save my son – at the expense of my own life. When I looked up from the water (I didn’t experience the sensation of actual drowning in the dream), there were three longboats above the water somehow (impossibly, but still somehow) positioned in the shape of the Valknut.

The last dream I had where Odin took control was also another dream dealing with a past live – in this one, I was also a man. I was an ancient Sumerian warrior, a leader of one of the armies. In this one, Odin was actually physically present, although I have to say that his outfit was one of the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen. He was on Sleipnir the whole time, but he was wearing a red and white checkered bandanna over his blind eye. In the dream, my army had just captured an enemy city, and we were standing on the top of a fortress wall. I gave orders to kill everyone in the enemy army, and then civilians were brought up and asked a series of questions that determined whether or not they were allowed to live. It was brutal, and I had no mercy in me.

Now, as violent as these dreams are, I can process them and understand them because Odin’s messages are almost always about my past lives. When they aren’t, then the dream consists of both Odin and Loki, and Loki communicates with me without any trouble. There’s no interpretation to be done – He’s very straightforward. So, in those dreams, Loki essentially acts as a translator of sorts. Or I will hear a conversation between Odin and Loki that is in actuality a message intended for me.

When Freyja wants to communicate with me, She does so from deep within my psyche. She directly connects to that, and She uses the empathic language I understand (being a natural born empath) to communicate Her message through feelings. I can then interpret those feelings into words and understand what She needs me to know.

Lately, though, I’ve been having dreams that involve Hela. While I have a great deal of respect for Her, as I do all of Loki’s children, I don’t follow Her path, and I don’t make regular offerings to Her. Despite that, my dreams recently have been plagued with Her presence in subtle ways that I can’t quite seem to grasp. I don’t know if that She’s just too different from me, or what, but it is supremely frustrating to know that She is trying to communicate with me and not being able to comprehend the message She is trying to send.

There are little hints of death in a great deal of my dreams lately, but there are two dreams that stick out to me because they are the ones where I felt Her most clearly. In the first, I witnessed the head of a female woman with black hair and ivory pale skin roll down a pile of bones – the head wasn’t attached to a body. That’s all that dream was.

In the second dream, I was standing in the middle of a city covered in an ashen winter – it was cold, but the snow on the ground was volcanic ash. Hela stood in front of me. The reason I knew it was Her was because I could only make out half of Her body – the other half distorted every time I tried to bring it into focus. And I couldn’t help trying to bring it into focus – the dead half of Hela seems to both attract and repel at the same time, and I found that rather intriguing. Anyway, before She could talk to me and tell me what it is that she needed from me, grotesque grey creatures with very slinky limbs (able to contort in disturbing ways) with greedy eyes and mouths full of terrifyingly sharp fangs started to swarm up from the sides of the street, and the connection was lost.

I’ve never felt so frustrated about being unable to communicate properly with a deity before – even the deities whose paths I don’t walk, like Thor, sometimes communicate to me in my dreams. Although Thor only does so begrudgingly, to be fair.

If anyone has insight into this, that would be awesome, but I mostly wanted to share this because I feel like it’s important that those people who aren’t Gods-touched know that those of us who are Gods-touched can have difficulty communicating with the Gods. That’s mostly because we’re human, and the Gods are divine beings.

While every human has a spark of the divine in them, lights can be bright and lights can be dim. I’d say that being Gods-touched is being like a bright light, allowing the Gods to find the connection with more ease. The problem, however, is that the Gods aren’t the only non-human entity that divine sparks can draw. That’s why a lot of those who are Gods-touched end up drawing away from any/all spiritual paths – for fear of being driven crazy by hostile entities.

 

Update on the Heathen School 

I was really excited about the adaptiveU platform for hosting a school, but it’s incredibly difficult to work with. I’m good with software (not with hardware, though – don’t ask me to build you a computer) and can generally figure out how a program works within 10 – 20 minutes.

Working with the platform was really frustrating – not because it was hard to navigate. No, the platform is really easy to navigate. The problem is that it doesn’t save anything properly, so there are obviously glitches in the programming that need to be sussed out.

I am still creating a school – I’m just using a different platform – rcampus. It has an incredibly old school internet feel, which I absolutely love. I thought I’d hate it, but I actually find myself enjoying seeing the internet the way it used to look way back in the 90s. A bit of retro with the modern age is pretty cool.

Anyway, this platform works differently because I have to fully create a course before I can publish it. Once I finish writing this course (I’m maybe halfway through it – it’s an introductory course), I’ll share the link and the access code.

The Gods are Amoral

I’ve been watching the anime Noragami Aragoto, and the basic premise of the anime is that there is a god Yato attempting to get his own shrine so he can become more powerful. There was one event that happened where Yato said that it is people that decide what is right and wrong, for gods can do no wrong. And yes, an anime did set me to thinking on philosophical/religious terms. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me, and it probably won’t be the last. I tend to take my inspiration from the world around me, so it isn’t weird to me that something in an anime struck me as interesting.

Anyway, I started thinking about how each of the Gods are different. Odin, Loki, and Tyr all have different personalities, and each of them want different things from the world. But the Gods never question their own morality. In the myths, there is no internal struggle faced by any of the Gods over whether the course of action they are taking is right or wrong. The Gods just act. It could be said that the Gods act in their own self-interest at all times, and I don’t think that statement would be inaccurate.

Before I get further into that, I’d like to clarify what amorality is. Most people are familiar with morality and immorality. Amorality is the lack of a sense of morality altogether. If an action can be considered neither positive nor negative, then that is an amoral action. Essentially, saying that the Gods are amoral is saying that they lack a conscience that tells them wrong from right.

I’m sure that a lot of people will disagree with me, and I imagine one of the criticisms this idea will receive is the question, “If the Gods are amoral, how can they act in loving ways?”

To answer that question, however, I need to explain the difference between amorality and sociopathy. Amorality simply means that you have no sense of right or wrong. There is no distinction. A sociopath has a sense of right and wrong but chooses to disregard it. There’s a very fine line of difference between the two, but understanding the difference is the key to understanding the answer to how Gods can still act lovingly even without possessing a sense of morality.

In my mind, picturing the Gods as amoral helps resolve some difficult contradictions. It explains why the Gods can embrace Loki as one of their own – no matter what he does, he is still a God. It explains why the actions of Odin can seem sometimes noble and sometimes ignoble – he breaks oaths without much thought.

The Gods are complex – much more complex than a human being, and, let’s face it, us humans are pretty complex beings. We project our humanity onto the Gods, forgetting along the way that the Gods aren’t human. They’re Other. We have a spark of divinity inside of us, thanks to Loki, and that spark is what allows us to relate somewhat to the Gods. But I think that we too often forget that the Gods aren’t human.

So we end up painting the Gods with our own sense of morality, then get upset when the actions of the Gods don’t add up to what we have grown to expect. As an example, a large portion of pagans view Loki as evil incarnate, but Loki isn’t inherently evil. In fact, he is morally ambiguous, which is really just another way to say that he is an amoral being. Of all the Gods, it is perhaps Loki and other trickster Gods who demonstrate the truth of the amorality of Gods the most clearly.

I think the most difficult part of this concept to grasp is how the Gods can function without a sense of morality. For us, as human beings, we need a conscience. We need to distinguish between right actions and wrong actions in order to understand our paths through our lives. The idea of a lack of morality, of a lack of a conscience, is immediately alien and difficult to imagine. This is, perhaps, the reason that the Gods defy human understanding.