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Love and Deity

Language shapes our perception of reality, and multiple words for a concept reflect the nuances of that concept. The typical example that most people have heard is that Inuit people have multiple words for snow, because their lives depend on it; its presence in different forms affects their lives in different ways. In English, we just have snow.

And this is not the only word that we only have one word for that another culture has multiple words to express, which brings me to love. English has one word for love, and while I love Loki, I love my child, and I love tacos, each one of those loves is a very different type of love. Ancient Greek had multiple variations on love; bhakti has different types:

“Traditional Hinduism speaks of five different bhāvas or "affective essences".[52] In this sense, bhāvas are different attitudes that a devotee takes according to his individual temperament to express his devotion towards God in some form.[53] The different bhāvas are:

  1. śānta, placid love for God;
  2. dāsya, the attitude of a servant;
  3. sakhya, the attitude of a friend;
  4. vātsalya, the attitude of a mother towards her child;
  5. madhura, the attitude of a woman towards her lover.[53”]

(source: Wikipedia; if you want to read in more depth, has a good article)

I’m lingering on bhakti because it’s more relevant to me as a devotional polytheist. But love is important in and of itself, and the fact that in our culture, romantic love is the default – if you are talking about some other love, you tend to describe it with some sort of modifier – filial love, parental love – unless of course, you’re talking about love of the Divine.

Recently, Aika-san and I caught the reality(ish) TV show, The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns, which follows its protagonists through a six-week period of discernment. I’d recommend watching it if you’re curious about monasticism, or devotional relationships in general; if you can put aside that it’s about a monotheistic tradition, the struggles, relationships (human and Deity), adjustments, living in community, having your UPG judged (they don’t call it UPG but Christians have it too) – it’s all very recognizable. There’s some cheesy reality TV moments that made me roll my eyes, but in general, it was well-done. It treated the nuns with respect and allowed them to be human, as opposed to one-dimensional characters. One of the moments of the show that stuck with me was a conversation between two of the candidates – the elder of whom was further along in her discernment process than the other, about romantic love, and giving it up for the cloister. The upshot of the conversation was that the younger asked the elder candidate, how do you know that agape is better than eros?

And that really fascinated me, because I don’t think that one is better than the other, and I also don’t understand how they are mutually exclusive. I gather that in monotheism, agape is considered a higher form of love, but I can’t find a reason for this, other than that the flesh is scorned as less important than spirit? Monotheists/ChristoPagans? Okay, I don’t think any monotheists actually read my blog, but I know a couple ChristoPagans, maybe y’all can illuminate that more?

And of course, that made me think about my own love for Loki. Love is not a static thing, and I love Him in differing ways; certainly He’s shown me His love in varying ways, too. Eros is there, of course, or Loki wouldn’t be my Spouse, but He’s more than that to me – He’s a confidant, teacher, protector, and best friend, and I’ve been those things to Him.

And yet, it’s still mostly romantic love, which has its own spectrum – courtly love, erotic love, playful love. And we don’t talk about erotic love for our Gods because it’s regarded somehow as less of a love. The only exception can think of is when Someone is a love god/dess – here I could rant about how it’s all people think of when they think of Freyja. But that is part of the problem; She’s more than just love or lust, and trying to box that up as something separate isn’t healthy in worship, and even less so in our daily lives.

Why me, I asked Him.
Because I love you.
I didn’t understand.

Seemed a holy charge
For such a profane me.
Do you serve me in fear?

He knows damn well I don’t.
My duty to you is love in action.
And love is why I brought you here. Love is what makes you holy.

So I will say it here: I love Loki. I love Them in all Their shifting forms and faces; in blood and bone, smoke and flame, flesh and spirit, and not one of Them is any less than another. And when I love Loki with my flesh, it is sacred, and it pleases U/us both. And for you, gentle readers, I hope that love comes to you in many pleasing forms.

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Lokean nun, writer, swamp witch. Heather is a Pagan monastic, writer, editor, and mother. She has written and edited for a variety of publications and social media, including science journals, romance novels, and technology blogs. She also holds degrees in education and speech-language pathology, and has a passion for historical linguistics.


  • Linette
    Linette Monday, 05 January 2015

    In my trad...or maybe in my is cooperation. Period.

    Different styles of "love" exist because cooperation takes different forms for different relationships. (both personal and with the material parts of the Universe).

    When I cooperate willingly or at least intentionally, I understand myself as participating in love. When I don't....I am not being loving, because I am resisting cooperation. I still have to cooperate, because that is the nature of the Universe, but when I resist cooperation, I resist love.

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