I have to admit, sometimes I’m not my body’s best friend. And that is strange because I actually like it. No, really, I do. I think it’s good-looking, I’m pleased with the shape of the things it consists of. Also, it’s been serving me very well: it’s healthy, robust, and not one to give in easily. It doesn’t have any problems with animal fur, pollen or other allergens. It also builds muscle mass relatively easily, and while it may not be perfectly isolated against the cold, it can function quite well at 40 degrees (that’s Celsius) in the shade and 90 percent air humidity. Not bad at all, is it?
And yet, in many ways I’m not treating my body very nicely. The consequence is that even though I have a positive attitude, I don’t feel quite comfortable in my skin: there are many things I could be doing for my body that I omit because they annoy me. They take time that I would prefer to use otherwise.
In service to a God, for instance. Well, that is nice; however, it doesn’t work that way. This thought fails to consider that for us mere mortals, service to the Gods is connected to physicalities. And now, after several months of having done body-related work for and with Loki, I have finally realised that Loki has been doing body-related work with me. Yes, I know, right… I’ve even been adhering to a taboo that has obvious associations with my body, for months… and I’ve only just noticed. Sometimes, I’m just a little bit thick.
Loki takes an interest in what I do with my body, and for months He’s been showing and telling me so, nudging me in certain directions again and again.
I know that a statement like that is easily misinterpreted. I’ll say it up front, so that it’s out of the way: No, Loki does not “do my fingernails”. His interest in my body also is definitely not limited to questions of fashion taste. He doesn’t uselessly comment my socks or underwear, and I don’t see Him as my “invisible best friend” or the likes.
His interest in my body is based on the fact that He’s becoming ever more inseparably entwined with my life. It is primarily based on the fact that I honour Him when I treat myself well. We build altars and care for them so that anyone entering the room whose intuition isn’t completely messed up, will immediately recognise that it’s sacred space that surrounds them. And that’s how it is with our bodies. Or at least, how it should be.
Our bodies are our most important tools — that sounds much more negative than it’s supposed to be. After all, it’s just fact. Because if you think about it: how else do the Gods act in this world than by way of those who honour and worship Them? And what is the one thing that can be immediately grasped and experienced? Yes, exactly. The altar.
I believe that body work is a part of many forms of mystic relationship. Maybe not of all of them, and maybe not all of them to the same degree. But it is definitely a part of my personal path. Over the recent months, I have been doing “altar care” time and again, and I’ve finally, courtesy of some very intense experiences, come to understand that I have to (may, really!) deal with body work in a devotional context.
Body work has a lot of different facets, some of which I want to write about for a bit, namely:
- Body hygiene
- Nutrition and ingestion of substances
- Exercise and activity
- Clothing and jewellery
Body hygiene is the basis. It’s also a topic that isn’t graced with too many sensible things being said or written about it. Today, it’s a tacit assumption that body hygiene is paid attention to, and indeed we are quite knowledgeable as to hygienic standards. It’s well-known that you’ll get sick if you don’t wash. This was already known in the middle ages, and especially the Vikings who enjoy much attention from modern Heathens were known for their cleanliness (although only in comparison with other Europeans).
Today, the problem mostly isn’t that of a lack of hygiene, but rather one of too many and ineffective hygienic measures taken for completely the wrong reasons. The cosmetics industry systematically cashes in on feelings of body shame, and not seldomly at a cost for the body at that. The example that speaks most for itself in this category is vaginal douche products. No one needs them, honestly. The vagina (yours too, if you’re in the lucky position to have one!) is self-cleansing and possesses a climate of bacteria that is a very important barrier against infections, besides being handy in evolution as well (hey, survival of the fittest goes for sperm as well, and the poor boys and girls really have a hard life inside a healthy vagina!). Vaginal douches don’t do anything but mess with that defensive mechanism, besides being completely superfluous due to the vaginal self-cleansing skills (and that’s really some impressive magic right there). A related (as often sexualised) topic is hair removal. Only in very rare cases has hair removal got anything to do with hygiene. Like, for instance, if you’re a competitive cyclist, in which case you will probably be wearing clothes that necessitate it. Otherwise: hair grows naturally in places, and it’s got nothing to do with hygiene whatsoever.
So, after I’ve said my piece about the whole hair removal policing and vaginal hygiene in the best manner any feminist could do, I still owe you the answer to the question what I understand by “body hygiene”. And that’s relatively simple:
No, seriously, it’s as simple as that. Regular washing, thus preventing sickness and unpleasant odour. That’s body hygiene, no more and no less. It’s something that bears thinking about. Or at least, thinking about it is what I did, so as to get a good look at what I actually need to perform body hygiene.
It’s surprisingly little, namely: water, a piece of soap, a washcloth, a toothbrush and toothpaste, THE END.
Additionally, I use: cotton swabs for my ears, a brush to get rid of dead skin cells, shampoo and deodorant. Shampoo is better for the hair than simple soap, and deodorant is just really too damn helpful. Regarding everything else: kiss my butt, consumerism, you can stay right where you are, don’t even try. My hair is shorter than 5 centimetres, I don’t need conditioner or hair rinse or whatever. And I certainly don’t need a vaginal douche.
And what has any of this to do with my devotional practice? Simply the reduction to what is essential. To not do unnecessary things, and to do the necessary ones deliberately. Not because “it’s what you need to do unless you wanna get sick”, but because I want to do it, in honour of Loki.
It really is very simple: I don’t need to stage long, complicated bathing ceremonies. I tend to see washing an obligatory act. Hence, bathing ceremonies would serve little purpose besides annoying the sh*t out of me. I’d manage three weeks at most, after which time I’d go back to doing stuff out of obligation. That’s not sustainable, and therefore not useful at the moment. Perhaps things would be different if I really enjoyed spending hours in a bathtub or the shower. Who knows. But as things are, that’s not the case, and that’s why this really stripped-down to the bare essentials routine is much more fitting for me.
Loki appreciates it, believe me. Or better: try it out yourself. Find a routine that fits you, and see what He (or any Deity) has to say to it. I would be surprised if it left Them completely cold.
Nutrition and ingestion of substances: Do you know this? People who style themselves spiritual “leaders” or teachers, commanding followership — and then they turn out unable to put away the cigarette long enough to hold a 20 minutes talk? Or their alcoholism is actually visible in their faces — and once you meet them in person, you can also smell it on them. Or they just eat just about anything that can be bought in a shop, so long as it’s cheap. [Although of course, there is a thing such as malnutrition for reasons of poverty, especially in areas where junk food is sold extremely cheaply. I’m not criticising that. I am aware of the fact that not everybody can afford organic foods all the time.]
Frankly though, I find such open display of unhealthy, unconscious living much more of a turn-off than any “drama queen extraordinaire with special snowflake syndrome” could ever be. Ya know, all those people who often get ridiculed as “tumblr Lokeans”? Really don’t bother me all that much.
Yes, I know: alcoholism and nicotine addiction are addictions, and as such, they’re illnesses. That is undoubtedly so. But frankly, if someone performs official functions publicly, thus linking their name to a Deity’s name, they’ll just have to deal with that stuff, like it or not. That’s just my uncompromising and bluntly stated opinion.
My own dietary habits are… mixed, really. On the one hand, I do keep a healthy diet. But on the other hand, I’m just unbelievably lazy and don’t like to cook. Bummer, isn’t it? But you know what? Loki can work incredibly subtly if He wants (which He seems to in my case, considering all the greater and smaller priorities that happen “while I’m not looking”). Like with body hygiene, dietary habits are not about the Big Gesture ™, but about tiny steps that have a lasting effect.
Perhaps I should have started this paragraph differently: funnily enough, Loki has pushed me into considering my dietary habit early on, by way of punishment. And it sort of stuck with me, ever since. Back then, I had a strong tendency to consume “convenience food”: you know, the bagel bought at the coffee shop on my way to work, or the Döner (it’s kinda like shawarma, just better) on the way home. All of this isn’t really unhealthy, if you think about it. But it’s got nothing whatsoever in common with “mindful eating”. (Have you ever seen the kind of meat they put in these things from up-close? *shudders*)
Anyway, at some point I got my way overdue dressing-down after I had to throw out food repeatedly because it went off in the fridge while I was enjoying my Döner.
So, by way of punishment, I was barred from convenience foods of any kind for four weeks. The results were that I 1.) deliberately planned my meals for the day at home, and 2.) once cooked, food didn’t go to waste anymore as I continued to eat it for a couple of days instead of just forgetting about it and getting Chinese takeaway on my way home.
Sometimes, I still have to throw out food, unfortunately. I’m definitely not quite there yet, concerning food. But my bagel habit hasn’t returned (only rarely, if I forget to buy bread, do I still get one from the coffee shop). I almost never throw away bread anymore, and if I do, it’s tiny amounts (like that bread-end that’s gone rock-hard so that I’d need a sledgehammer to grind it). My food is mostly organic and/or fair trade, or regional. Not always, but if I can afford it, which is more often than I had thought initially.
And cooking? Well, I still don’t like to do it. But at least I cook something nice for myself once a week, making enough of it to last for a couple of days. And when that’s all done, I can still eat out. Sometimes, I do projects with specific foods, like when I explored potatoes: as oven potatoes, or just peeled with rosemary or cottage cheese, or as fried potatoes, or au gratin, or just as an ingredient for stew. And as far as my eating-out habit is concerned, I plan that deliberately now.
Mostly I eat out when I’m meeting a friend. But sometimes we also cook together. Which brings me to one of the few rules that I actually have to follow: whenever I can bring myself to prepare my food in my own home, Loki gets a part of the result, regardless of who else is there at the time, and regardless of whether I think the result is “good enough”. Guess what: I’m a perfectionist, so that would amount to flat-out “never”.
I can live with that rule very well, and if someone asks me what the deal ist with the bowl and the candlelight and that whole altar business, I tell them the truth. I have since found out that people can be unbelievably blind to things they do not (want to) understand. I’m suspecting that Loki is shielding me in a way there. For instance, my mum has repeatedly asked me “who is Loki by the way?” and then proceeded to promptly forget my (truthful) explanation.
As far as stimulants are concerned: everything’s allowed, but deliberately and in moderation. I mean, it’s not as if Loki is overly concerned if I have go on a binge and have at least two cocktails too many. He’s just likewise not overly concerned about tormenting me with “no painkillers” rules and annyoing music requests on the next day, or about excessively commentary to my conversations with the big white telephone.
Cigarettes are a personal no-go that I’ve imposed on myself because I know from experience (twice an ex-smoker) that I cannot smoke “occasionally”. I can either smoke or not smoke, but I fail at the “sporadic smoking” gig. Keeping cigarettes in the house is a bad, very bad idea for me. That’s why Loki doesn’t get cigarettes from me (and has not requested them either). He also, so far, has refrained from smoking when I was with Him in any capacity. I appreciate that greatly.
And with that I’m going to split this “short commentary on body work” (HA! short?!) post in halves. The rest is going to be up in a couple of days, and I’m looking forward to writing about clothes and dancing!