The last time I gave an offering to Odin, I asked him for some advice on my path. I used the runes to divine the answer to that question, as Odin is one of the gods I have a harder time hearing through a godphone. I pulled Ansuz and Perthro, a rune I associate with Odin followed by one I associate with Loki. Through that, I got the message – the work I do for Odin is the work I do for Loki. Or, put another way, the work I do for Loki is the work Odin has set before me – set before us both, perhaps.
The other work I do for Odin mostly comes from people asking me about him and informing those people of his path. Most of that happens in the form of emails that I receive. I don’t receive many emails from people who visit this blog, yet those who email me almost always ask me about Odin. It only took a few emails of that sort to realize that communication was the work that Odin had set before me.
The work I do for Loki comes through the communities I have helped build, including the Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook page, the creation of Loki University, and the publication of Loki’s Torch. Since I started my work for Loki, I have seen the Lokean community expand ever outward, with more and more Lokean communities forming and Lokeans in general gaining more acceptance among other Heathens. I have seen the Troth lift the ban against hailing Loki at Troth-sponsored events, and I have witnessed the defense of Lokeans in many organizations.
For all the growth, however, there is still more work to do. Not all Heathen organizations are accepting of Lokeans, nor are all kindreds or all Heathens. Even though we all practice the same religion, the fact that we worship Loki serves to set us apart from our communities. We are still forced to live on the fringes of Heathenry, as if Loki himself was never considered part of the Aesir (despite evidence to the contrary).
In the wider American Heathen world, especially in communities where Lokeans are barely heard of or discussed, there are several dominant beliefs that hurt Lokeans – some of which are based in truth, though that truth is often distorted. Some of those distorted beliefs include the following:
- Lokeans are just Marvel fan-girls looking for attention
- People just worship Loki so they can have an excuse to become a god-spouse
- Lokeans worship an evil god so they must also be evil
- Lokeans are naïve because they only see the “good” face of Loki and never deal with his darker aspects
With the exception of #3, the Lokean community itself contributes to the wide spread of these misinformed, distorted beliefs. The 3rd one disproves itself, as anyone with an understanding of Norse religion would understand that Loki was never viewed as evil, and that the Norse didn’t actually have a concept of good vs. evil.
The other three, however, are perpetuated because many people in the wider Heathen world generally end up interacting with Lokeans who fit into one of the other three categories – Marvel Lokeans, godspouses, and Lokeans who refuse to deal with the harsher aspects of our god.
From what I’ve seen over the last few years, as the Lokean community has grown, there are two types of Marvel Lokeans. There are the ones who view Marvel Loki as another guise of Loki, another tool he uses to get his message across to the world. These are the Lokeans who willfully and dutifully engage with the lore and learn more about Loki and expand their understanding of the god they follow. These are the Lokeans who see Marvel Loki as a potential form Loki assumes rather than seeing Tom Hiddleston as Loki. These are the Lokeans I respect.
The other set of Marvel Lokeans are exactly what they are accused of being – fans of Marvel who are attracted to Tom Hiddleston and have warped their understanding of religion to make it work. These are the ones who refuse to engage with the myths, who refuse to see past the character of a comic book to the truth underneath it. I cannot stand this type of Lokean because their practice is anathema to everything Loki represents – dispelling illusions, grasping deeper truths, illuminating the reality behind the falsehoods presented.
So many people talk about how everyone has a right to their own path to deity, their own path to their religious truth – and yes, that is true. There are millions of right ways to reach the gods, ways I cannot even pretend to understand. But if there are millions of right ways, there are also millions of wrong ways. This idea that there is no wrong way that has been perpetuated in Pagan circles for the last decade is ridiculous. More right ways mean more wrong ways, not fewer.
I’m sure that, eventually, some of the second types of Lokeans find their ways to the myths and become the first type of Lokeans – if they really are dedicated to Loki and not the comic universe, Loki will get them there himself if he feels the need to do so. I have no doubt that Loki will find the followers he needs, and that he will do what he needs to in order to procure them.
It is, however, not Loki I am worried about. I do not need to worry about the gods – they have their own agendas, their own methods. They do what they need to.
No, what I worry about is the state of Lokeans and their acceptance in the wider American Heathen community. Because we will always be fighting a battle against prejudice to be accepted into it, especially when we live in a world where so many people rely on text rather than experiences to find their truths. And so many of those texts paint Loki as evil, so Lokeans get the same label.
There are actual obstacles to being accepted by the larger Heathen community, and one of those is the fact that we have Marvel Lokeans of the second variety. That creates a stigma about the Lokean community, and it isn’t one we can get rid of because so many Lokeans of that variety seem determined to prove that their religion is as valid as everyone else’s.
It’s also interesting that we live in a world where we proclaim so much acceptance for each individual’s interpretation, despite the fact that most religious understanding is communal, historically speaking. Old Norse society was communal, and many Heathen organizations have tried to imitate that. That’s one of the reasons that Loki and Lokeans gaining acceptance has taken so long – beliefs don’t exist in a vacuum. How a community believes affects what that community experiences.
When I talk about how Marvel Lokeans – and I mean only the second variety – hurt the Lokean community, I’m not talking about a couple of people who hold delusional beliefs. That is easier to handle; those people tend to be pushed out of societies altogether. No, I’m talking about a sizeable portion of the community –what seems like maybe a 5th – that truly believes Tom Hiddleston and Loki are one and the same. People who refuse to deal with myth, who refuse to learn to see Loki through any other lens than that of the MCU version. These people are hurting our community, and yet so many people leap to their defense that it’s almost impossible to say anything against them.
Well, here I am, speaking out against them. Because they are one of the reasons that Lokeans have a harder time gaining acceptance in the wider Heathen community. I’m sick of being asked, every time someone learns that I’m Loki’s priest, the same question: “Do you mean Marvel Loki?” I’m sick of that being the first question that someone asks about the work I do for the multi-faceted god Loki truly is. It makes me feel heart-sick, that question.
I’m tired of having to correct people and explain the difference between Loki and MCU Loki. Every time someone meets a 2nd-variety Marvel Lokean, and then meet me, I have to untangle everything that person has heard about Lokeans and explain what it really means to work for Loki, all over again. It’s a lot of work, and I do it, because I am devoted to Loki and the work he asks of me, but it is a ridiculous amount of effort. The community damages itself, and then I have to work even harder to undo some of that damage.
Moving on to the second reason that Lokeans struggle to find acceptance, many Heathens assume that Lokeans are only Lokeans because that allows them to be god-spouses. That is a faulty assumption, of course, and god-spousery is 100% a valid relationship to hold with a god.
That said, it’s clear to see where that assumption comes from because there are more Lokean god-spouses than non-Lokean god-spouses. It’s hard to know if that is because Loki just really likes having god-spouses, if it’s because people lack discernment and think they have a relationship they don’t, or if Lokeans are more willing to engage in personal relationships with deities that other Heathens aren’t. The only thing I can do there is speculate, so there’s no real answer to give.
The most problematic thing about Lokean god-spouses is all the damned in-fighting I’ve seen. I’ve seen god-spouses say that Loki prefers a particular body type to another, that Loki likes one person better than another, and all other sorts of insidious jealousy. It’s the in-fighting that makes the god-spousery within the Lokean community seem so toxic and unhealthy to the wider Heathen community. The Lokean community is also the only one I’ve seen where god-spouses will make their own smaller community, which seems unwise to me considering the level of jealousy we’re capable of towards other people. It takes a special type of person to be comfortable in polyamorous/polygamous relationships, and very few people have that mindset. Honestly, if we could get rid of the in-fighting among god-spouses, the Lokean community would probably have an easier time in the wider Heathen community.
Anyway, moving on to the last distorted belief – the one about Lokeans refusing to deal with the darker aspects of Loki – is one that is true and false at the same time. Because there are a handful of Lokeans, myself included, willing and able to engage with the darkest sides of Loki.
There are other Lokeans who refuse to see him as anything but a fun prankster or a friend to joke with. That is understandable – there are also people who refuse to see Odin as anything but a grandfather-like figure. Some people cannot handle the darker aspects of their gods. I can respect that.
That said, however, Loki is a lord of the liminal, a god that resides in the in-between spaces. He is light and dark, order and chaos, all the opposites commingled. It is not possible to grasp a deeper relationship with Loki without engaging with the harsher aspects. His light is only possible because of his darkness. The order he brings comes from the chaos he wreaks. His kindness comes from the pain he’s experienced. His cruelty comes from the love he holds. These are things that can only be understood by engaging with the myths and reflecting upon them, meditating about his complexities.
That is why Lokeans need to do a better job at engaging with the myths. That is why we need to work on shifting the 2nd-variety Marvel Lokeans to the 1st type – the ones who read the myths. Because Loki is a complex god, and Lokeans are complex people. When we speak to people in the wider Heathen community, we must speak both of Loki and his followers. Because, at the end of the day, a Lokean is a representative of Loki. We are his eyes, his ears, and his voice – though we must never claim to speak as Him, never claim our interests or causes as His. We may ask Him to bless our events, to champion our causes, but we must never assume that He has done these things. To do so is to speak for a god, and our gods speak for themselves. They speak through us in our actions, and we do not need to claim they do so for it to be so.
That is the Old Way – to live in imitation of the gods you follow. So, let us imitate Loki in dispelling the illusions around our communities about what it means to be a Lokean. Let us dispel the falsehoods that we find in our lives every day. Let us offer healing to those who think themselves broken, and harm to those who think to break others. As Lokeans, let us walk through life the way we believe Loki would and never dare to say that we speak for Him. We can never speak for the gods – but we can live for them.
4 thoughts on “The Lokean Stigma”
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Not being Heathen myself, I wonder if the present stigma is set up by the gods themselves for some reason.
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Illuminating post and very well-written. I’m looking forward to exploring more of your blog, as I’m always looking for more information on Loki.
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I loved this. I’ve been drawn to Loki since I was a child, long before I heard or knew anything about Marvel (for the record, I still seen none of the Marvel movies) and truly feel connected to Loki’s duality. That the darkness he holds is as beautiful and necessary as the light. I have only recently (within the last year or so) been exposed to the Norse heathenry/pagan community and haven’t pursued it more due to my fear of being an outsider in yet another religious community. Your words give me hope that I won’t always feel that way and that I have the ability to change that with my relationship to Loki and to the gods in general.