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What's In a Name?

So I’ve been mulling over the power of names, as of late, spurred in part by Feoh’s thoughtful post on titles and namedropping, and also on this one on July for Loki by Reading Heathenism. Naming, titles, and trads: what’s in a name, anyway? I agree with Feoh’s assessment that some people like to drop all their names and titles for bragging rights, which is silly, because even if it's not bragging, I think some people only need so much information at a time. I do a lot of local work, and many of the people who interact with me don’t know that I am a godspouse, and that’s because it’s too much information about me for what they need of me at the time. If I’m giving pastoral counseling to someone locally who is having food insufficiency issues, “godspouse” is not relevant to their interests – where they can find food for their next meal is far more important than all the background things on me. To me, that’s not being secretive or the like – that’s focusing on the task at hand.

And yet, perhaps giving the Work a name is akin to accepting that Work, for some people? In some ways our blog web handles are craft names of a sort, particularly if it’s a spiritually-oriented blog. And then there’s how you name your trad or practice: Are you a Heathen? A Hellenic? A Norse Pagan? Eclectic Pagan? A witch? Because I’m not really interested in the label per se – to me a label is more for others than for me – when I tell someone I’m a Norse Pagan, it’s usually someone who isn’t that familiar with the Norse Pantheon, and usually they’re Pagan or Paganish, and that’s descriptive enough for them. Someone who’s not Pagan at all gets a different name, and usually that’s just “Pagan.” Witch is probably more specific, but non-Pagans often think witch means something that it doesn’t, because of monotheistic bullshit misinformation. And again, if I’m giving pastoral counseling to someone whose teenager is on suicide watch, I’m not interested in teaching them what “witch” really means – I want to connect them with the local crisis unit so that the teen can be stabilized and the family can receive more comprehensive counseling and services. If at some point those people come back and realize that a Pagan/Norse Witch/Lokean helped them, awesome, but it’s not my primary concern.

But that also brings me to explaining what a Lokean is – and that brings me to the Month for Loki post, which is clearly aimed at Lokeans. Both the authors of the blog are excellent scholars, and it’s good information, but when I read things like, “While this article and the work of folklorists like Finnur Magnússon shed light on how Loki has been perceived in later Scandinavian folk beliefs, they are not an effective way of discussing how historical heathens may have thought of or honored Loki,” I wonder what exactly reconstructionism has to offer me as a Lokean. From what I can discern, the incredible lack of information on Loki’s historical cultus makes it hard for me to identify as a reconstructionist – what is there for me to reconstruct? I’m not trying to be critical of anyone who does identify as a reconstructionist, please don’t misunderstand, because I don’t have any beef with anyone who uses a recon framework for worship, I just don’t understand how recon or recon-derived came to be associated with Lokeans, because damn near any practice that I can think of that many Lokeans observe is, well, modern, because of what RH stated above – there is simply not enough information to reconstruct much of anything. On some level I’m kind of fascinated by how some can and do make it work, but on another, for me it just doesn’t fit my practice.

If you were gonna TL;DR the above paragraph, I guess my musing would be summed up as: Since there is a lack of any historical cultus information, why should any Lokean have to explain that X practice pertaining to Loki is not historically derived, if none of it is? Because really, the only offering that I can think of that Loki is commonly given and is depicted in the Eddas is Himself drinking alcohol (Lokasenna), and if you accept the Loka Tattur as Lore, then He also takes group hugs.

It’s really strange to me that Loki is so damn prominent in the Eddas and yet no cultus information remains. Of course, it’s equally strange to me that there is a fuckton of evidence of Freyr’s cultus and yet the Vanir are often viewed as a supplementary add-on. Hail the Gods! Oh yeah, and the Vanir or something! ‘Cause Freyja’s really hawt!

Insert facepalm here: Loki_facepalm2

So the dearth of historical evidence is odd, and almost makes me wonder if He did it on purpose. When He first presented as Himself to me, I thought I’d have to change lots of things about me, how I worshiped, my general worldview, that I’d be a good little Heathen, but no, that was not what Loki wanted from me.

Give Me new things, He said. Give me fresh flowers, cakes, cookies, coffee, strong rum, a strong heart. Give Me the things you love. Give Me your treasures. Love yourself because I want you to give Me you. Give Me the new. Give Me yourself, because You change every day.

I have learned it’s much better to give Loki what He wants than what I think He should want. There’s an art in learning how to love something as changing as Him, in understanding that the way in which He loves me may change, and yet it will always be what I need.

I know that some people think that if you’re not recon, you’re not a serious religionist, but I don’t believe that’s so; I know a fair amount of Feri students and initiates, and they are as hardcore as anyone I can think of in terms of their reverence for the Gods, and they are a modern religion. I personally feel that if you invoke Someone like Artemis or Athena nekkid, that’s irreverent and piss poor research, but I also think that Nokeans who refuse to listen to or look at any number of excellent scholars who’ve weighed in on Loki’s importance are just as negligent and irreverent, so really it’s more about the individual than the trad or how old it is.

So should we just throw out the Lore or other reconstructionist techniques?

Well, your practice is your practice, so it’s your prerogative, but for me, the answer is no. I don’t identify as a reconstructionist, but for me, ignoring it completely would kind of like ignoring my wife’s entire childhood and adult life before I came to know her. I care about the people who made her who she is; I care about the land she grew up in, and it’s the same with Loki. I don’t expect Him to be as He was a thousand years ago, but the stories of His travels, Who He loved and fought and fucked – it’s all part of what made Him Who He is today.

Is that enough to consider me recon-derived? Not for me, but for some it might work. For me, it’s much more like process theism – “…it is an essential attribute of God to be fully involved in and affected by temporal processes…Process theism does not deny that God is in some respects eternal, immutable, and impassible, but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respectstemporal, mutable, and passible.” For my polytheistic purposes, you can just make “God” into “Gods.”

It’s a shitty thing to have to justify why you have X or Y practice or view of your Deity, regardless of whether you identify as reconstructionist or not, and Lokeans often have to do this, no matter where we sit on the spectrum of recon/decon/wooconstructionism. There are reasons beyond the “serious scholar” concept for that, and Lokavinr has articulated them in a very concise post here.

It almost makes a body want to disidentify as Lokean. Lokisfolk has been kicked around by some as an alternative, and on one hand, it’s probably less loaded than Lokean currently, and on the other, it reminds me too much of “folkish” and there is no way in Hel that I’d like to be even vaguely identified with that racist claptrap. And why I should even have to mull over changing “Lokean” because certain elements are rude or worse to Loki’s people? I don’t want to take “Lokean” out of “Lokean Witch,” and I am sick to death of seeing Lokeans picked to death for mixing the modern with the historic, because somehow that’s less legitimate, and I’m sick of the Lokeans who are very recon getting crap for someone like me who has been so alienated by DudeBrotru behavior that I don’t even want to consider identifying as a reconstructionist. I also feel like sometimes the recon vs. not-recon Lokean pot gets stirred every so often in the hopes that Lokeans will bicker amongst themselves and not make any progress as a community, because it allows them to keep dismissing us as a legitimate faith. If you don’t honor my God, and you won’t say His name, I reserve the right to not give a f*ck of what you think of me, Him, or my co-religionists. And you don’t get to tell us – any of us – that we’re doing it wrong.

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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.


  • Aislinn
    Aislinn Thursday, 19 June 2014

    Thank you, for writing down what I needed to read. Blessings to you!

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Friday, 20 June 2014

    Great post, thank you!

  • Catherine Miles
    Catherine Miles Tuesday, 10 March 2015

    EPIC! Preach it Girl! This post really made my day, week, month, Year! This is so true too! Thank you!

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