Early on, when I started worshipping Loki, I asked myself what He wants me to do for Him. I wanted to serve Him Whom I’d come to love. I wanted to become this person who might help other people along on their paths. I wanted to apply my communication skills to helping people solve problems. I wanted to provide a perspective for new people, something they could relate to; on my own first forays onto the Internet, I ended up very (and unnecessarily) intimidated and scared out of my knickers. Some part of me still wants to do that.
Something about that, though, didn’t quite sound right. For some time, I thought about it until I realised (yes, I am that thick from time to time): the whole list consists of nice and useful things that I want. Problem is, well, bluntly: it’s not about what I want. It’s about what Loki wants.
When I (fiiiiinally) got that, I asked Him the same thing, and the answer I got was “simple”. In the same way that “solve the Gordian Knot, and no cheap tricks!” would be simple.
*Be exactly who you are*
Oh, yeah. Simple, right? Watch while some part of me shrinks away and goes hiding under the desk. (There is more, of course, and some of it is more specific, but this is what I want to talk about.)
The first thing it meant for me personally (and at that specific time) was this: before I can do work for others, I need to do work on myself. Doing all those things I want to do, even the ambition that surrounds them—it’s not off the table. It’s also not on it, at least not at the moment. For now, He tells me that whatever I do for others is fine and dandy, and to be open to being sought out, but the real work I need to be doing is on myself.
Of course, that can mean any number of things. For me, it means to pursue this mystic relationship between me and Himself, with all my heart. It means to do whatever brings me closer to both myself and Him. It means to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk. To actively practice my devotion to Him.
And you know what? It is hard. Nothing and no one is forcing me to maintain a regular practice of meditation and prayer. Nothing and no one is forcing me to hold on to this and keep doing it, despite the setbacks I experience. There’s nothing to tell me what to do and what not to do in private, or in public; I have one (in my opinion minor) taboo on sartorial choices. But other than that, there is just me.
It comes down to three things: my experience, my judgment, my faith.
My experience encompasses all that can be called mystic experience, including such diverse things as signs and omens, divinations, meditation, dreamwork, vision, journey and UPG. Anything that goes through the filter otherwise known as “my mind”. They’re not regular experiences that I can just “produce”, but they’re undoubtedly there. My devotional practice allows me to have these experiences and be open to them.
Judgment is more complex, and it starts where experience ends. What I mean by that is: it is comparatively easy to experience something. Everyone can learn a divination technique, or learn how to meditate; there’s no need for a hard-wired godphone to experience these things. From there, an almost arbitrary number of ideas can be generated as to where the path, so to speak, is going. That’s where judgment starts to be important. And it’s equally important that I use my own judgment. I cannot let myself depend on other people’s judgment because at the end of the day, when I sit or kneel at Loki’s altar(*), it’s just Him and me, and I’m the one who needs to be able to navigate this relationship. Not my friends, not a diviner I trust, not a community Elder, not my mother. This part of judgment is a bit like the opposite part of experience. If my mind is a multiplexer—basically a technical device that allows to merge signals from a variety of sources into one stream—then my judgment is the demux. And unlike IT systems, where you demux according to well-defined physical characteristics like frequency, code, time, or simply digital flags in message frames, demuxing the mind is way harder to do, and not nearly as clear-cut. There’s trial and error involved, and some of those learning experiences have been hard. To have an idea and have it disproven by further evidence isn’t a nice experience to have, much less so if it concerns something as personal as my relationship to my Fulltrúi. But on the other hand, consider this: an idea pops up regarding an experience, and I use my judgment to… withhold judgment. Later, I discover or am told (or whatever my means of divine communication is) that indeed there was information missing, and I get presented another piece of the puzzle that fits in just so. The whole experience starts making more sense in much better ways. That’s where I’ve learned. That’s where I reap the benefit from making mistakes and learning from them. Because the recognition is my own work, brought to me by that tool that is my judgment, and my honing of it. It’s the only way how I can learn to discern when it’s better to challenge myself on an assumption, and when something is just fundamentally true. The point is, however: no one can do that for me. It’s just me.
Judgment also comes into play in another aspect of my practice, and that’s regarding decisions how to act. I’m going to say something that might rub a few people the wrong way, but for me, it is part of my relationship with Loki: I have referred to Him as my Fulltrúi—and some would say that’s that; however, I believe such a relationship is not purely one-sided. It’s by no means equal, make no mistake, but in acting as a devotee to Loki, I have a responsibility as a fulltrúa (small f as opposed to capital), which literally translates as “representative”. I’m not, of course, a representative of Loki. He’s a God and absolutely able to represent Himself. I am, however, a representative of the group I choose to associate myself with, loose as that may be. If I choose to act as a devotee to Loki, then the group of devotees to Loki is, to a small degree, represented by me. And by choosing a way to comport myself that is considerate of His wishes—basically, don’t be an arse is a good very basic guideline to start with—I ultimately serve Him. As an extreme example, recently there has been a major upheaval in one of the Lokean online communities. Things that should have been dealt with in private got dragged across the public board, not least caused by the person who arguably bore the brunt of the fallout. At some point, UPG was shared that should not have been shared, purely on grounds that the person sharing it decided to act as a representative of Loki. Arguably, that was the biggest lapse in that whole episode, but every tit-and-tat required exactly the same kind of judgment: simply the answer to the question, “would my action serve Loki?”. I’m not judging anyone in particular: I made a relatively minor mistake myself, but one that luckily went largely unnoticed. What I’m saying is, it is important for me as a devotee of Loki who acts publicly as such, to consider His interest. I’m not policing anyone’s behaviour but my own.
Taking this to a more general level: it is judgment that allows me to decide when community is spiritually helpful for me, and when I should seek solitude rather than surround myself with what ultimately amounts to a lot of background noise. Again, this is not an attack—I have made friends online whom I appreciate a lot; nevertheless, at the end of the day, it is just Loki and me. And if being wrapped up in community business distracts me to the point that I neglect some aspects of my devotional practice, then that means background noise is taking over and drowning out both Him and myself.
Faith, last but not least, starts where neither experience nor judgment holds. Faith is what reassures me that my efforts to “be exactly who I am” are not in vain, in the absence of proof to the contrary. Absence of proof is an axiom of religious experience, no matter what some people say. The Gods cannot simply pop into your space and prove Their existence by a dazzling act of impossibility (that is, assuming They would want to). Probability-defying stunts, a.k.a. omens, maybe. Personal experience of any sort, including physical, maybe. But not proof positive. It is my personal fundamental belief that faith in a follower’s heart is valuable to Them. Which means my faith is valuable to Loki; the fact that I do what I do, trusting that He has an interest in it, even without any outward sign that indicates it, is valuable to Him Whom I love… and that is a thought I cannot even begin to fathom. Coming to Him on faith alone has already paid off many, many times over. It is not something I can demand of Him; it is something He chooses to give me. I have been blessed by moments of clarity between Him and me, by answers I found via divination, by moments of utter elation where I felt Him walk beside me, by physical sensation He gives me, and so much more.
For now, He demands nothing more and nothing less than that I share myself with Him, completely and freely. It means that I look at myself and share what I see no matter what it is, with nothing but my own strength to go on. Nothing, especially, to force me to take that look but my own willpower. My hopes, my fears, my wishes, my mental hangups, my mistakes—I have to own up to all of these with nothing but my heart to force me to do so. This is what He wants of me: nothing less than everything.
Because as gentle as He is with me, as loving and as giving: He is also demanding like that.
(*) Yes, I do that; and if He didn’t want me to, He would find a way to make sure I know.