My Patrons

(Part of this is a rewriting of a previous post that can be found here. I have updated my writing on Loki and added some on Aphrodite.)

Loki started out Calling me quietly.  His name would come into my head, especially in times of difficulty or when I felt lost, with a compulsion to look Him up and learn more.  I would read a few stories or websites, and then dismiss it as something I didn’t need to pursue.  This went on for several years, each Call a little louder than the last.  It culminated in early 2013 at ConVocation, when I felt the urge to attend a workshop on Loki and Trickster.  The feeling that I got during that workshop was akin to the way you feel upon getting the solution to a tough riddle or puzzle, one that has bothered you for years.  I had been looking at Him all wrong, and once I got the angle right, everything seemed obvious.  My whole life, which always felt like one long series of  extremely unusual events, was just preparation for serving Him openly and directly.

That very weekend, I acknowledged Loki’s Call and accepted Him as my patron. The next twelve months were a period of reflection, introspection, and revelation for me as I worked through His charge to Know Myself. I learned to see my life and my self through a new lens, one cleaned of the foggy filter of perfectionism and trying to fit in. I learned to see all the intricate ways the randomness in my life is connected, how so many chance things have converged on my path. I spent time studying both the religion and culture of my ancestors, in an attempt to better connect with this god of my ancestors. I even took on teaching a class on the Vikings in our homeschool co-op, forcing me to delve deeper to stay a step ahead of my students (often at 1 a.m. the night before the next class).

Essentially a year and a day passed, and I found myself again being nudged by Loki. Except with Loki it doesn’t really come as a nudge; it comes as spilled drinks and broken cigarettes, random jukeboxes and fritzy elevators, machines that don’t work, stumbles, power outages, loud noises in the silence. I can be dense sometimes, but I did finally realize He was trying to get my attention, so I asked a close friend to do a reading for me to shed some more light. The impression that I took away from that complicated reading was that the first year was analogous to my postulancy with Loki, my year of learning and thinking and looking around through these new eyes. “Now,” He said, “it’s time to step it up, move forward.”  There is no time with Him for sitting around letting the same old same old go on every day.

It was a hard place to be in. I am already in a fringe religion, and here I was being Called upon by an even fringier god to light my torch for Him in this world, to stop observing from the sidelines and be that agent for change, be the one to shake things up, be the one to be loud and proud. This was not a request that I abandon my path toward priesthood in the Craft, but rather that I take a step up in working for Him and owning His patronage in my dealings with the world.  I had a strong feeling that an Oath was wanted, but I wasn’t ready for it yet. I knew how serious an Oath was with the Norse gods, with any gods really.  I knew that anything could happen once that Oath was given.

I did smaller things for a while. I wrote a prayer for Him and added it to my daily devotions. I started studying my ancestral crafts, making them also a part of my daily practice (and how “lucky” for me to finally find something to use as a nalbinding needle the very weekend I got that nudge!). I bought lottery tickets for my altar. I kept my mind open to His voice and paid attention when I noticed it, heeding nudges as simple and silly as, “Let your hair down,” or a little bigger like, “Bring your music back and share it with the world.” The negative nudges mostly stopped (except the trouble with machinery) and positive ones started to flow again, the serendipitous encounters, the chance findings of lost or needed things.

It took a couple of years, years of further upheaval in my life, both mundane and magickal, but I finally took the Oath in 2016.  I swore to be His now and always, and marked myself with a tattoo in a place where I see it every day, so that I will never forget.  I am Loki’s boundary priestess.  It is part of my Great Work, to be that reminder to others of things unseen, things overlooked, assumptions too quickly made, processes that need tweaking, bugs in the system.  Knowing this helps.  I still live in that stream of craziness, but most of the time I can remember that I’m still just doing my job as Loki’s priestess, whether pointing out the holes in a first aid system by having actual panic attacks at a festival, or pointing out the holes in an educational system by having kids that don’t fit into government boxes.

Now I am also working with Aphrodite.  She came to me through a certain turn of events, and She was much more forceful about announcing Her presence.  When I look back at my life, though, again I can see a place for Her, a void that She has come to help fill and smooth over, a way She can help make my life a little more healthy and whole.

I see myself getting distracted while writing this.  Working with Her is going to touch on things I’ve been skirting my entire life.  She scares me.  Her energy and power scare me, I’ve felt them and it still scares me.

I know about as much about Aphrodite as I did about Loki when I first acknowledged His Call.  I know the myths.  I’ve called upon her for spells.  I worked more closely with her for a few weeks here and there.  I’ll be working with Her as closely as I work with Loki for the next year or so, and I expect to learn much, much more.

Aphrodite is love, and sex, and passion, and sensuality, and lust.  These are all things that I have believed in since I hit puberty, things that I advocate for.  I identify as bisexual and polyamorous.  I believe strongly in the logistical benefits of having more than two adults in a household, especially a large family with lots of children.  I’ve always loved the concept of a line marriage.  I don’t believe that my love for person A is in any way diminished by my love for person B, whether I’m talking about loving other adults or the love I have for my own children.

And I always wanted to be Maureen when I grew up, wanted to be that woman with enough sex drive for two or three women instead of barely enough for a quarter, who was never too tired or too sick, who didn’t actually get headaches from orgasms or have GI problems that made her too shy to let anybody near her or partially dislocate her hips during sex.  I kept waiting for it.  I heard somewhere when I was twenty or so that a woman’s sex drive peaks in her 30’s, so I thought, yay, once I get to my thirties it’ll happen!  Yeah, that ship’s sailed and never even saw the fucking port.

When Aphrodite came for me, She hit me harder than Loki ever did.  It was like getting bowled over by a sexual tidal wave.  No other analogy comes close.  It felt a little like going crazy, like some other personality had moved into my head and altered my drives.  And this happened before I ever called on Her for working, before I had any clue that I was to be Hers for the foreseable future.  And like Loki, when I realized what was happening, it was like solving a riddle, and everything suddenly made sense.

And I was scared.  So scared that I haven’t invoked Her for months.  She’s kept a place on my altar, and a place in my rituals, but real work and communion?  That feeling of being taken over still scares me.  And yet, like I said, I can see this void, a longing in my heart that I know she will fill.

Right now, I feel a bit like I did before pledging to Loki.  I felt then like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, and I was being asked to jump off.  It takes so much courage to take that leap, and I don’t think it gets any easier the more times I do it.  I’ll jump.  I’ll jump off the cliffs into the deep blue water, and dive deep, and take a long, long cruise with Aphrodite.  And then in a year or two, perhaps I’ll look back and see how silly it was to be scared, and how low that cliff really was.

Literature Outside Its Time

One of my favorite authors of all time is Robert Heinlein.  I discovered his books the year after he died, and I read them voraciously throughout my teenage years.  Through his books, I learned about things as varied as being resourceful and self-reliant, the value of honor and integrity, libertarianism and voluntaryism (though I didn’t learn those words until later), and polyamory.  All of this was packaged into some amazing science fiction, with many different planets, spaceships, and even time lines.  What’s not to love?

Plenty, according to criticism I’ve been hearing just in the past few years.  Most of the criticism seems to be accusations of misogyny.  It’s always a little upsetting to hear that somebody else hates something you love.  The first reaction is defensive.  I have to admit, though, that I have noticed more and more things in Heinlein’s books that are a bit bothersome as the years go by.  He doesn’t have a lot of fully developed female characters in much of his early work (with some notable exceptions).  You can see a lot of evidence of ideas that women belong in the home, that girls are just pretty sidekicks even if they are smart, as well as language and attitudes conveying racism.  I can certainly see where the critics are coming from.  The more time that passes between the writing of one of his books and my reading of it, the more I can see these problems.

My response is that Heinlein’s books were a product of their time, and they were in fact pretty visionary and free-thinking…for their time.  Most of his writing was done in the 40’s and 50’s, in the form of short stories and serial novels for science fiction pulp magazines as well as juveniles aimed at teenage and preteen boys.  There was zero publishable market at the time for female leads, strong women, feminism, or parity between the races and religions (civil rights for blacks didn’t come about until the 60’s, rights for women didn’t really begin to flourish until the 80’s, and both are still works in progress today).  It would never have been published.  The language used and the treatment of female and non-white characters in Heinlein’s books, therefore, reflect the time in which the books were written and the market the books were aimed at.  I think it is a little unfair to apply the culture of our time to the literary works of another era…and the early-to-mid 20th century was most definitely a completely different era, irregardless of how many people are still alive who lived through that time.  Today, I can pick up any science fiction magazine and find stories where women and girls feature prominently or as main characters, stories that would pass the Bechtel test or whatever its literary equivalent is.  But those stories simply would not have been publishable in 1941.  John Campbell would have sent it back with orders to change it.

This is not true across the board.  This post does a very nice job of finding all of the wonderful examples where Heinlein was able to push the boundaries of sexism and racism beyond his culture a little bit, to give us a taste of things to come (although even the great Heinlein didn’t get a lot of this published until he had already established himself as a name).  This is something Heinlein was very good at, looking into the future and seeing some of the ways the culture could potentially evolve.  It is something all good science fiction does.

There are so many great messages buried in the science fiction of the 20th century, whether it is Heinlein, Asimov, H.G. Wells, or any of the other greats.  None of them would pass modern feminist or civil rights muster by today’s standards, but I don’t think that diminishes their messages.

Today, it’s hard to imagine what taboos are left.  You can find books in any given bookstore about virtually any subject.  Culture is swiftly moving towards acceptance and tolerance of just about any lifestyle or belief that doesn’t hurt others.  You can look at writings of the early 20th century, though, and find that the people living then felt the same way.  How wonderful is our time, how free! How many different ways can people live now, how many religions and cultures and methods of dress!  The same refrain, repeated again and again every few decades.  I’m not naive enough to think that we really have come of age.  There’s going to be something that will set our time apart once another hundred years have passed, something that we take for granted now that our descendants will find abhorrent.

I wonder what it will be.   And I wonder how our own literature and legacy will fare when our descendants judge us by that thing we cannot now see.

The Sex/Gender Dividing Line

Ever since the dawn of the human species, there has been division by gender. Men hunt, women farm. Men fight, women have babies. Men run businesses, women stay home and look pretty.  Now, as we move through the 21st century, so many areas of life are equal.  We have women in politics, in boardrooms, in the pilot’s seat.  There are men who stay home, who knit, who garden.  People of all genders and sexual orientations are becoming more and more open and accepted in our society.  We think we are so evolved. Why then do we still divide so much of our lives on gender?

I’ve never really understood this.  Gender is used as a proxy for so many things: strength, aptitude, sex appeal, morality, etc.  Why do we need this proxy, especially as more and more people exist outside or between the age-old duality?  I can remember looking at all sorts of things as a child, from bathrooms to the front lines, and I never understood.  I will state up front that I stand on a boundary line here, as a cisgendered pansexual woman who has often had an interest in historically all-male pursuits. Sometimes, though, it is those of us who walk the line or stand outside it who can actually see the problems inside.

An easy example to attack is the use of gender as a proxy for physical ability.  Sports teams and events are segregated by sex, and many professions (particularly military specialties) are completely closed to women. We are told this is because women are weaker.  In order for women to be able to compete in sports at all, we must provide them separate teams. We can’t allow women to try for those military jobs at all.  What do we do, then, for the men who are weaker, or the women who are stronger?  What do we do for those who are transgendered? This has already caused problems in places like the Olympics, where it seems every round has one or more athletes whose gender is being questioned.

Wouldn’t it be more reasonable, then, to simply segregate by the actual characteristic instead of the proxy?  We already have a tiered system in baseball, where you have minor league and major league teams.  Do the same for the other sports, like basketball, instead of setting up separate “women’s” leagues, and allow everybody to compete and settle down into whatever level they are physically suited for.  Let women take the same training and tests as men for military-style positions (this is already being done in some places for firemen and police, I believe).  Don’t lower the standards, don’t change the obstacles, just allow the women who can to compete and try and be evaluated on the same standards as the men.

A more difficult and touchy subject in sex segregation is locker rooms and restrooms. The only valid reason I have ever heard given for segregation in these places is sex.  (Things like body comparisons and seeing unusual body parts really don’t hold water to me, because everybody looks different. Are we going to segregate circumcised and uncircumcised boys, or large-breasted women from those who have almost nothing to show?)  Apparently, being naked or half-naked can induce sudden sexual action between opposite sexes, even when the people in question are sweaty, smelly, defecating, bleeding, urinating, etc.  Also, according to this logic, the people who would become suddenly sex-crazed in gender-inclusive restrooms and locker rooms also would suddenly lose all concerns about privacy or witnesses, and there would never be any defense against sexual congress or even assault in these environments.

Really?  Forget about alternative sexual lifestyles and identities, just think about the attitude this reveals toward ourselves and others.  It’s like believing that we all turn into animals in the locker room and bathroom, or the idea that a rape victim deserved it if she dressed slutty because the man just couldn’t help himself.  I can’t wrap my brain around the concept.  It sounds as crazy to me as the Victorian idea that the legs of tables and chairs must be covered, lest the men in the room become excited by the vision!

It’s not like people don’t take advantage of every other opportunity to get it on.  I’ve lived in several co-ed teenage living environments, from Texas to North Carolina, and even where there were no obvious opportunities, we found them.  If you want to talk about assault, people get raped everywhere, from offices to back alleys.  We don’t segregate every possible facet of life by sex on the off-chance that it might stop a sexual assault.  What makes restrooms and locker rooms so special?  As a woman who can remember being interested in seeing other girls naked all the way back to age 8 or 9 at least, I can say that in restrooms and locker rooms, I’m not interested in anything except getting in and getting out. I think most of us are the same way.

Privacy can be provided by stalls and curtains, just as it is now in most women’s locker/rest rooms today.  Those who want privacy can have it.  Those who would rather get in and out fast and don’t care who watches can stick it out in the open, just like they can now.  Any heebie-jeebies would be cured in a decade or two, maybe less, once the social conditioning caught up.  Drawbacks? Very few.

The positives to eliminating sex and gender dividing lines? An elimination of exclusion for a whole swath of people, from cisgendered women who have the ability to be strong and fast, to transgendered people who don’t have to choose a place and face backlash no matter their choice, to those of us who are not straight heterosexuals but are left wondering what we’re supposed to do with an environment that is supposed to be sanitized of sexual attraction.

I welcome discourse on this, especially if anybody has points that I may have missed here.

I am Pansexual

poly-panToday I will dig up a part of myself that generally gets tucked away politely in a drawer, and I will shake it out and hang it up.

I am both pansexual and poly.  And I suppose I am still more in the closet about that than not. I already know I’m not going to publish this post as widely as my others.  I am still afraid of the backlash.  I fear bringing this out, because I still worry about what people think.  I worry about my husband’s job.  I worry about my children losing friends because their parents don’t approve of me.  All those reasons to stay tucked away in the closet, to suppress my true self and go along with the rest of society.  I’m pretty sure I do, in fact, have friends that would virtually stop speaking to us if they knew.

I grew up in a small town in Texas.  I lived a fairly sheltered life.  I learned to go along as best I could.  I think it is because of this lack of exposure to other ideas and concepts that I did not identify myself as poly until I was nearly an adult, and not bisexual until even later.  Pansexual is a term I only recently found out about.  When I found out about new terms, they always opened up new doors, gave me “Aha!” moments that let me identify a part of myself that was previously confused and unsure.

I found out about polyamory first.  My reaction to the concept was, “Duh! Why not?” I’ve never truly understood jealousy and possessiveness, not as I see them everywhere in our culture.  What difference would it make to me if my husband had a girlfriend? He’d still be my husband, he’d still sleep with me and support me and our children.  His going out on a date with somebody doesn’t take anything more away from me than his going out for a beer with friends.  Never having felt all that connected to Christianity, I certainly don’t have any connection to Christian values on this.  I don’t see any mystical significance personally to sex, monogamy, chastity, etc.  Faithfulness I would define as fulfilling obligations, to not abandoning somebody when times get tough.

I didn’t find out about the concept of bisexuality until after I was an adult.  I knew I enjoyed looking at women and finding them beautiful, but the “Aha!” moment happened when I was out on a first date. (Only date, really. He was skeeved at the thought of being a secondary.) We were sitting in Denny’s, waiting for a table, and a cute girl walked by.  We both watched her.  Then he watched me, watching her, and said, “I take it you swing the same way I do.” I had no idea what he was talking about, and he had to explain.  There it was: bisexual, an explanation and an open door.  I’m finding it so incredibly hard to put this into words, but it truly was a part of me that was there, but didn’t even know expression was even an option.

I’ve had a few girlfriends since then, but since having kids, it seems all those opportunities vanished.  A lot of that is me, going back into the closet to protect my family. Because I worry about offending people and disrupting our social circles, I keep everything inside.  If I think somebody looks or smells good, I hide it, I bury it and stomp on it, because I’m afraid to express it.  It’s like walking on eggshells, because what I really want to do is hold hands, give hugs, kiss and be cuddly and friendly when the impulse strikes.  Since I can never tell when that will be okay, I never do it.  Somebody has to hit me over the head to convince me that they’re flirting, and even then I don’t know how to open up. So I wander through life treating everybody like they’re the local Bible study group leader.

It’s not like I have time in my life right now for a full-on relationship, even a secondary.  It would just be nice not to be stifling myself quite so much, if I could conquer that fear and find a way.