Appropriation: Worship Like You Stole It

Okay. Appropriation. I want to have a discussion, and here’s a thought I seem to always have when the topic comes up. As an American, everything I have is appropriated. I have not a single thing that I can claim as unique cultural heritage found only in my birth land that belongs to “my people”. The language I use-English, is an obvious place to begin. I learned Spanish. I’m not Latina. Therefore, by the broad scope of appropriation, I’ve just bungled. English itself is a mash up of other languages. I use it every day and I don’t bother giving a wit about the words that aren’t English. I don’t know the history of the words and I use them with impunity. I speak therefore I appropriate. I guess you can argue that my ancestors, or at least some of them, brought the language along with them, but some of my ancestors didn’t speak English, it was forced on them. So, am I now practicing some strange form of forced appropriation? Is there a term for that?

I’m not Native American, or at least not ONLY Native American (I believe I would be about 1/8 native American. My Great Grandmother was the ancestor in question.), so if I try to immerse myself in that culture I wasn’t raised in it can be considered appropriation. I haven’t, but I like learning about it, and I’ve occasionally thought I’d like to use some terms here or there in my spiritual practice, though I don’t out of shear laziness. It takes more time to explain something unusual than use common lexicon. I use sage-sage bundles, which are native American in origin, without knowing much about the traditional use for them. I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t know that most pagans would. I rather think of it as a tool l’ve acquired that works. Should I research it? Probably. Nothing but good would come of it. However, I’m extremely thankful for the people who came before me and realized Sage was awesome.

Because of my mixed genetic background I can say I feel free to work with any number of deities, but I wasn’t really raised in any of the backgrounds they “come from”, such as the Norse pantheon I work with now. I’m not part of the Asatru bandwagon that thinks we should only work with deities we’re blood tuned for (*cough*racisist undertones*cough* Excuse me.), but then isn’t that what the abhorrence of appropriation is all about? Don’t raid other people’s cultures for your own benefit, willy nilly. I wonder how America’s Buddhists feel about this? Either it’s okay for me to research and come to something respectfully and use it in my practice or work with deities that want to work with me, or it isn’t.

For example, most Americans almost look on Greek and Roman mythology as our own. It’s very intrinsic to our culture, at least educationally, yet, it isn’t ours. Is it appropriation if Persephone wants to work with me (I’m not Greek) if She’s decided to work with me? In some ways the entire idea of appropriation spiritually is just farcical. Some aspects of appropriation seem to negate the idea of free will on behalf of deities or the fact that some ideas simply don’t exist in other cultures. Isn’t making up new words for an idea, such as two spirit people for example, more disrespectful than simply using the original term? I realize bigender is more academic, but there was already a name for that. Maybe I’m just being a jackass and maybe I just don’t get it, but much like the rest of American culture, spiritually, there just isn’t anything unique that I can lay claim to without “appropriating”.  We don’t have many things that are uniquely our own aside from Phili cheese steaks, the Liberty Bell, and arguably, pop culture deities that originate in the States. Voodoo, I suppose, but wouldn’t that still be appropriation? Thoughts? Should I just let this go? I think that people who come from countries with their own deities and cultures get more hung up on appropriation than Americans do, in general, because of this stuff.

Americans don’t have anything that we haven’t stolen.

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Morning Sonnet for Loki

This sonnet can be used as a prayer, ritual, and spellwork if you are present in the moment and say the words with intent. I am using this prayer along with a morning offering to my Sweetest Friend.

Morning Sonnet for Loki

Hail Loki!

Lord of Love,

Keeper of my heart.

Hail to you as my day’s about to start!

Hail to you as I’m touched by the morning’s first light!

May we know Love together all day long and chase it through the night.

**I know it isn’t technically a sonnet, but I’m still calling it one.

I Don’t Have to Believe You-You Have to Believe You

Everyone once in a while I talk to someone about Them and I don’t believe what they say.

I’m not saying their UPG is invalid or that maybe Loki didn’t do what they said He did or any other thing, but sometimes, I don’t believe them, and I suspect sometimes people don’t believe me.

And that’s okay. My experience is for me and yours is for you.

BUT, I don’t like to be lied to either and I don’t like the phenomena I’ve encountered where some people seem to think I’m LARPing (that’s gamer geek speak for Live Action Role Playing). It kind of cheapens my religious experience and is disrespectful.

Not that it changes my religious experience if others are disrespectful of it, but I try to respect others, so I’d like to hope they would respect me.

But there’s no rule saying they must. I’ve been laughed at before for being pagan. I’ve had eyebrow raises that I work with Loki. I’ve been told I’m going to hell. I don’t believe Jesus is going to rain fire down on my head either, so other people’s UPG? Yeah, no big.

I guess what this wraps back around to is that UPG is personal and we all need to embrace our own UPG and have it makes sense for us. Shared UPG is cool, but not overwhelmingly important to personal practice. I try to approach each conversation I’m involved in with an open mind though, give each person my full attention. I like being an open member of the pagan community for the most part.

So, I guess I’m going to continue being polite at all times, because that’s what others deserve, but I don’t feel compelled to believe every word of every person I speak with, and I think it would be a fool’s errand to do so.

The Cauldron

He lingers near the lady’s fire soot collecting on his white shirt while he attempts to raise the courage for this endeavor. She sleeps in her small wooden home not even ten feet away, and he’s terrified to wake her. She is sure and true with a slap or an arrow, so he knows better than to anger her, yet constantly finds himself on the wrong side of her wrath. He quite expects to wake some morning as a squirmy little bug the pretty witch can stomp. He shivers. His strawberry blond hair shines golden in the flickering flames while he struggles to lift the cauldron from the hook, but he’s half her height, and his arms are still filling in with the muscle of manhood even though he’d gone through a growth spurt this past summer. The cauldron is hung too high for him to easily pull it down. The chill autumn air bites through his shirt as he sweats and struggles to lift the half full black metal pot from its resting place.

“Hurry or we will be caught,” his best friend whispers. With his dark hair and clothes he blends into the darkness much better, and he’s safer crouched behind a nearby tree.

“Help me and we shall be done twice as fast,” he hisses back. There’s a small chuckle then a boy a few years older than he is emerges in his dark green tunic, a shadow to the first youth’s light, and together they heave. The cauldron clunks off the hook into the embers.

“Ouch!” the blond whimpers brushing the sparks from his bare feet. The other boy in his boots elbows him aside fondly and braces himself lifting the cauldron.

“Quiet,” the raven haired teen groans eyes darting to the round wooden hut nearby, but no incensed witch comes screaming out after them. He pulls their treasure away from the fire and together the two teens struggle to make a fast get away with the heavy pot dangling between them.

“This is a lot of trouble to see the future,” the shorter boy grumbles to his best friend.

“Knowledge is worth some pain,” the other boy says with a sly grin jerking his head to the side to try to get his long dark hair to fall out of his clear blue eyes.

“Better yours than mine. Next time you’re not rousing me from bed for your foolishness,” the younger one grumbles with a laugh as they finally figured they were far enough away from the witch’s home to drop the cauldron to the forest floor. They were in a clearing, tall trees reaching with naked fingers to the sky. The water inside the pot was pitch in the night save for the silver of the moon vibrating in the steaming water.

“How do we use it?” the smaller boy asks his friend cuddling up to his side for warmth. They huddle there with the frost forming on the grass for several moments contemplating the cauldron.

“I don’t know. She stares inside and sees her future,” he concedes with a smile and a shrug. The younger boy sinks an elbow into his stomach and he grunts holding his side. “You’re getting strong,” he laughs. The glare he gets sends him into another peel of laughter that he stifles with a hand over his mouth. “You’re full of courage, are you not? Look,” the older one demands wrapping his arm around the smaller boy, drawing him closer.

“You want to know. You look,” the younger boy demands, but he does as he’s asked with half a smile. He leans forward and inside the moon swirls in his vision. He sees nothing in the cauldron, however, as he stands there wrapped in the warmth of the friend he loves most, the only person he’d die for aside from his dear mother, the moon shivers and trembles. Not in the cauldron, but in his mind, scenes lost from time unfold. He gasps in horror at the secrets yet to be unfurling, but through it all there is love as well. The constant presence he’s come to count on. Looking away he burrows in closer to the taller boy, pushing his face tightly to his friend’s chest, shaking his head. He doesn’t want to know everything. He certainly does not, but it’s good to know they will always be together.

“This was a fool’s errand. You are right. You are always right,” the darker boy gasps out the words after several minutes, but his hunger for knowledge keeps his eyes fixed on the endless darkness inside the battered, old, soot dark pot. For all that he claimed not to be the brave one, he hadn’t closed his eyes. He hadn’t looked away.

“Idiotic brats. I know it was you. Bring it back now.” A young woman’s irate yell sounds from outside the tree line and both boys jump in their embrace. Sharing a look they’re jolted from the seriousness of the moment. The short blond snorts out half a laugh, mischief lighting his eyes. Together, holding hands, they race as fast as they can through the darkness away from the clearing to search for a safe warm place to hide in and sleep away the little bit left of the night.

The Importance of Celebration Rituals

As a Lokean working within a framework of an amalgamation of several practices (Wicca/chaos magick/Heathen-ish magick/chanting/you name it) I suppose I can simply claim to be an Eclectic Lokean Practitioner working closely with a small group of Norse Trad deities. All of that is assuming you include Loki’s family in the Norse Tradition framework, which some do and some don’t, but I firmly do because of Loki’s blood bond with Odin, if for no other reason, which I see as then passed on to His Children (at the very least) though I digress. In working with Loki and His Family my love has grown for Them, and I’ve grown increasingly fond of tending my altar. Daily, I give offerings. What I give varies depending on my mood, Theirs, and my funds, but often includes sacred smoke in the form of incense, candles, beverages, alcohol, and specific foods when the request is made. I do all of this willingly and with a deep joy in my mind and heart. My love for Them, Their love for Me, this is the energy surrounding my altar.

One day recently I didn’t get to my altar in the morning as usual because life decided to get in the way. That evening when I finally stole some time to tend my altar my husband made the peculiar comment that it had seemed “dead” all day. He’s grown used to the blossom of energy overflowing into our home even if he wasn’t aware of exactly what he was sensing.

Tending my altar for Loki puts a fierce bolt of satisfaction in my chest and lights me with part of his Divine Fire.

However, as much as We Both benefit from Our small daily rituals, I still need do ritual for myself as well. In the last year I’ve celebrated Them, Those God/desses I’ve become close to alongside Loki, daily, but haven’t been marking the seasons or doing much work for myself. I’ve started doing ritual for me again, and the difference in my internal balance is phenomenal. Often times I convince myself doing a ritual will take too much time or planning, make it seem like a burden in my mind, but with very little bits of planning I realized it doesn’t have to be that way. After the most recent ritual I’ve done in my home for myself and my family, a small blessing for fall, I felt like I’d spent a day chanting or doing something else deeply restful on a mental level.

Celebration is self care. Take care of yourself and you will be better able to live your life for you and Them.

Loki is constantly asking me to unwind and I’m finally, finally figuring out the pieces to the puzzle.

Much of my blog seems to focus on the never ending conundrum of balancing the spiritual with Mundania. Maybe because I have small children demanding most of my attention during downtime connecting with myself sometimes seems like a monumental effort, when simply tending my altar and connecting to Loki isn’t so much of a problem. Everyone has something pulling at them, demanding they stay stuck in Mundania. Sometimes obligations are good, grounding, and sometimes they are a distraction from our spiritual health. It all depends on which way you tip-too much into the spiritual or the other, into Mundania, and you find yourself unhappy and don’t know why.

Daily ritual, the million small things I do with Them in mind up to and including tending the altar, helps open my mind to the Gods each day. I’ve found I want the daily connection. Seasonal ritual, on the other hand, actually seems to be a blend of grounding in “reality”, since we are marking our physical time, and the spiritual because we are often invoking the Gods or inviting Them into our midst, especially for the Holidays. I plan to set a place for My Sweetest Friend, Loki, at our Harvest Home celebrations (Mabon-Thanksgiving) this year.

There is a reason our ancestors chose to celebrate so much. Maybe it was to relieve the stress of the day to day, but it was to give us a time to Love as well. Ritual is usually a time for love, even if the love is not hearts and flowers. I cannot think of a single type of ritual with the Gods that would not involve our love for the Gods, Theirs for us, or Both. Even something historically harsh like asking the Gods for victory in battle would require the love of the God being petitioned for the petitioner because you don’t usually smite enemies for people you don’t like. Even the simple act of making offerings to the land spirits where my home is situated is still love from me because I don’t offer for any other reason.

Ritual is self love.

Self Love: Taking care of you because you love your own insurmountable spirit and would like to see it happy. Can include:

Mundane~ eating healthfully, shower, shave, tooth brushing, exercise, good friends, good wine, great entertainment, fantastic sex, loving Others and allowing Them to Love You.

Spiritual~ psychic cleansing, ritual, exploration of the senses, adoring Our Beloveds, respecting Our Own Power and energies, acknowledging the inscrutably singular essence of the Self, allowing Ourselves to be afraid but use the fear as a tool, working with our Beloveds, examining Our life lessons with an open mind, being playful and not taking every aspect of the spiritual seriously because play is special and rewarding.  

A Harvest Moon Esbat

Written on the night of the Full Moon, September 9, 2014:

I hope you’re all enjoying the Harvest Moon. Not only is it the Harvest Moon (the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox) it’s a “Super Moon” too. I’m more than a tad disappointed we’re having a rainy, overcast night in my neck of the woods. I wanted to see if the moon would actually be orange this year. I was excited to celebrate this Esbat, especially since it is such a unique one (Not that they aren’t all special in their own way, but half the time I forget what day of the week it is and, well…my track record for hitting an Esbat on the actual date of the moon is dismal, so I was excited for and proud of myself.), and I chose to do a Harvest Moon blessing to do so.

I wanted to use the Harvest Moon blessing I’d read in Seasons of Witchery by Ellen Dugan because it was pretty, not too long, and not overly flowery, but the blessing calls on “The Lord and Lady”. As I’ve become more comfortable with hard polytheism vs. the vagaries of Wicca/general paganism I see problems with this invocation I possibly wouldn’t have in previous years. If I call on “The Lord and Lady” Anyone can show up, which honestly, with a blessing, so be it. Whomever would like to drop some good stuff on my head this year, please do (No, really, PLEASE.); however, on the other hand it seems like calling Someone I work with often would be best to call upon.

BUT, if I call on someone I work with all of the time for a blessing I feel greedy too since, if I work with Them often, They’re already blessing my life. Asking Loki for more things seems like calling up my best friend and begging twenty bucks. (And then I get the Divine Head Slap because the Gods WANT to help with our Daily lives when They are Our Beloveds.) The last thought on this conundrum, the Divine Mystery of Who to Call for a Simple Freakin’ Autum Blessing, is this: Okay, if I shouldn’t call just Anyone, then I should call Someone specific, but if I call Someone, and say I even use a particular kenning, maybe They won’t want to show up or the area-the autumnal blessing-really isn’t their prevue, or maybe they’re just otherwise engaged.

In the end, I called on Angrboda and Loki (sort of-in a way-I still left it vague when I spoke the blessing/prayer, but I KNEW they where the ones on the line tonight, so it was kind of like calling Them mentally because They were the only Ones I could think about while I was saying the prayer). Calling on the Hagia of the Ironwood may seem strange, but I was getting the push from Her, so I didn’t question the decision.

In the end using the general Lord and Lady call for a blessing, allowing Whomever would enjoy blessing your life to come through, isn’t a bad call if you’d like to do a seasonal blessing, even though I chose not to. Sometimes specific calls for ritual and spell work may be limiting. I still work with general, universal energies for spell work and prayer of all sorts. (Prayer being spell work of a different variety in my estimation.)

My small ritual was lovely and involved a short blessing and lighting two taper candles, one orange and one white. I thought to perhaps include the blessing here, but if you could snag a copy of Dugan’s book you could easily find it for yourself or, better yet, write your own. The idea behind the blessing is that we are entering a time of thankfulness, prosperity, and abundance before winter sets in. I usually start my rituals with a Hail to Loki and they always include an offering to the gods these days, where in the past they perhaps wouldn’t have.

Bright Harvest Moon Blessings on You All! May you all find what you’re looking for as a season of introspection begins.

Truth of Form or Gender on the Astral

Very rarely am I a woman on the astral plane. It happens. Sometimes I am, and when I am a woman in the astral I almost always have heightened secondary sexual characteristics-in other words I’m never really the me I can check out in the mirror. The difference could simply be my mind filtering the energies I’m interacting with-I tend to think the way some people draw comics and anime. Bold colors and strong lines. My mind could be getting my soul body’s energetically feminine energies and it decides to attribute an energetically feminine physicality to it, or possibly my mental pictures could be colorations from past lives, but either way…I am not the body I see in the mirror on the astral. Ever.

My gender on the astral speaks to a general disconnect I sometimes feel with my physical body on the mundane plane. A lot of people don’t realize from the way I write and the subjects I choose to write about that I am a woman unless I describe body parts or something that gives it away (such as the fact that I’ve birthed two children). There are days when I feel like a CIS woman, and I’m very earth mother and in touch with the world, but this was far more frequent for me when I was pregnant. These days I tend to be grumpy with my body. I don’t dislike it per se, it is what it is and so far it’s served me pretty well in all the aspects I could want a body to serve me, but sometimes it just doesn’t jive with what I think I should be seeing. I have narrowed down my disconnect from being more or less happy with my body to an increase in astral activity where I am far more often wandering around in a male body. I dream as a male, usually, as well.

There’s something to this for me-something that runs deep. I have a lot of “masculine” energy in my make up. I’ve been mulling astral gender identity over for a while because a few months ago I was having a lot of “dude” days, and the deities seem to be drawing my attention to this. During a meditation recently I was having a dude time, like I tend to, and basically got the-“Are you comfortable? Good.” vibes from Loki, kind of a …”give yourself permission to be comfortable, at the very least here” idea. Then, guess what, I got the impression that it doesn’t matter to Him either way. It’s my soul energy he’s attached to, and man/woman/or other He’s going to be there. Then He kissed me. It’s not the first time He’s kissed me on the astral as a man, and probably won’t be the last. It wasn’t particularly sexual, more of a confirmation of His intent.

My gender discomfort/confusion keeps getting tossed at me as something to at the very least think about, and it makes sense. How can I do deep work if I can’t be comfortable with myself? On the astral I’ve been starting to allow myself to be that masculine energy more and more because there is no way to do serious work if I’m in a fabricated shell there, and I certainly CAN create a feminine mask for my energy if I choose to do so. I can’t work with true universal energy if I’m not allowing my true form through, and for me it seems to actually shift. Sometimes it is a feminine energy and sometimes not, and the basic building blocks of the universe, I suspect are the same way, containing both the feminine and the masculine.