Physicalities (1)

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:

Regular washing.

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!

Take care!


About Myriad

Myriad Hallaug Lokadís
This entry was posted in Devotional Practice, Loki and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Physicalities (1)

  1. moonfire2012 says:

    It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about these same issues a LOT lately, and feel He’s pushing me to practice them too. He actually told me a couple days ago during the few and far between times I hear Him well, “I want you to make o/Our home a sacred space.” When I asked Him exactly what He wants me to do to accomplish this, all these ideas started coming into my head. I love your point about the body being an altar, Christianity nonwithstanding, it’s true, our bodies are Their temples, not just the physical space around us, and I’ve been feeling the urge to take the best care of all these as possible. And speaking of bathing, most of the time I take showers but once a week or so I like to take luxury bubble baths by candlelight, and sometimes these are ritual baths.

    • Myriad says:

      Oh, I wasn’t aware that the “my body is Your altar / Your tool” stance is linked to Christianity… on the other hand, Yahweh is a God, so it shouldn’t surprise me.

      I think taking care of one’s body is important, especially (but not exclusively) when you’re going to be or already are tasked with things that require a certain amount of being seen. A friend of mine, for instance, said that she found it striking how I would “light up the whole room” when talking or even only thinking about Loki.

      Sure, that’s not a physical thing but a charisma thing, but on the other hand: when They have increasingly much space in your life, the bigger picture becomes important, too.

      Please don’t think I’m saying long bubble baths or ritual baths are useless — they are for me, at this point, because of the specific place I’m at, and the specific goals set for me at this point. They might very well work perfectly for you. I’m also not saying that shaving is bad! I’m just saying that it’s got nothing to do with body hygiene. :)

  2. Wendy says:

    I totally understand ritual bathing for certain occasions – for example, when I have a big magical working to get ready for or decompress/clean up from. With worship, I’m more likely to efficiently clean myself in the usual way in the morning, and I usually wash my hands before touching stuff on the altars, but thats mostly because I’m a little compulsive about hand washing. :) I keep myself clean and tidy in general because I like to, and I need this body to do things so I want to maintain it!

    Now, the second two points on your list (though I know here you’ve only gone over one and two, but for me, nutrition, ingestion and activities are all kind of related), I find that my fulltrui has a strong interest in these. I had already started being more physically active before I knew She was there, as I’d begun learning to hoop dance. Then one of the first things She requested of me was to start martial arts studies, both for the discipline it brings to me and for the awareness of the body that comes with it (and, of course, the martial prowess I will eventually gain!). I have spent most of my time notoriously unaware of how I move in and occupy space. I kind of…flail. If I had a nickel for every time I accidentally kneed a lover in the balls…I am more aware now of how I move, where I move, and what I’m doing. As I have dedicated my belts and my activities in class to Her, I am also very aware of her when I’m in class. I always had good posture when sitting, but now I pay more attention when walking, and look around with my head up. Things like that. (I’ve also been meaning to start working out with kettlebells on the non-Aikido days)

    The substances/ingestion…this has been a long term project for me.For the first half of the year, I was fasting regularly, once a week. It was extremely difficult at first and took a lot of work to get up to. Once I started Aikido, it became difficult to fast since I needed to eat and be well the day before and of classes (I have a LAP band; i had had weight loss surgery, so eating is…complicated….), and I now no longer eat after 10pm, usually going from 10pm until 10 am or later before breaking my fast, which is a happy medium. It was another aspect of having control over my nutrition. (Along with that, I’ve always been working towards a healthier, more natural diet. Its been slow, but that makes for good habits!)

    One of the biggest changes I’ve had has been with smoking tobacco. I’ve been struggling to quit for a year now – in fact, a year ago last month I got myself a new tattoo to celebrate having quit….and i started again. During August, before a ritual, She requested I abstain from tobacco, alcohol and marijuana until I was done, which was a solid month. I do still occasionally drink, but I haven’t even wanted tobacco since then, which is the first time thats happened. I gather Her stance there was both on control (developing the will to abstain from it) and the fact that it did bad things to my body. I think it’ll actually stick this time – something about displeasing my Fulltrui has been an added boost to the knowledge of terrible cancer as an eventual fate of not quitting…

    Interestingly, I’ve found that since August, I’ve been given a taboo each month since. September it was a personal activity that I’m normally quite fond of. This month it has been the television (I can watch the two shows I regularly follow, but I cannot put something on in the background – ex, ‘I’ll just put on this cartoon while I cook’ is not allowed.) When I do watch, it must be mindful. No dicking around on the internet or my phone or reading a book. I’ve found that I now follow one show, and enjoy it way more. I’ve no idea what November will bring, but I don’t doubt it will be something that once again takes me out of bad habits and makes me more mindful and aware.

    Its an interesting lesson, as I feel She has been nudging me towards honing my will and improving me through these taboos and requests, as well as proving to Her that I am doing the work needed in a tangible way. :)

    • Myriad says:

      Wow, thank you for your elaborate comment! I’m probably going to have problems doing it justice, but anyhow, here’s me trying :)

      I think the last paragraph you wrote there is incredibly important. It needs to be tangible. They (the Gods) are working towards being tangibly involved with our lives. They’re not out for quick results, and They can be patient (at least that’s what I am getting), so far as you actually do the work rather than slacking off and/or inventing excuses why you’re not doing it. Doesn’t have to be squeaky-clean or perfect at the first try… for a month or so, I tried dancing for Loki once a week for an hour. I couldn’t really do it, so I’ll try again later, when I feel nudged to try again.

      As for the rest of your comment, I totally agree. With activity, as well as everything else, it’s been the small things for me. Mindfulness, as you mention twice (I think), is a very important point: really feel how your body moves, or how the wind feels on the skin, et cetera. I haven’t been able to write that second post yet (still planning to, though), but one of the things I do in the activity department is classical singing. Belcanto, actually…I’ve been doing that for years, and it’s extremely physical.

      Like, you start with your posture. From dancing I know that what posture feels like and what it actually looks like can be two very different beasts, and that’s what it’s like when singing, too. Then, there is breathing and air stream compression…. which can even be exhausting. Take baroque opera, for example. That stuff was written for castrati whose lung capacity was around twice as large as a man’s due to the way their bones (e.g., ribcage) didn’t stop growing at the usual age (puberty and hormonal stuff that was suppressed due to their castration). You can imagine how difficult it is for a modern day singer to work with their repertoire.

      Then there is the actual singing — more fine-tuning of muscles!

      And so on. What I mean to say is that it doesn’t always have to be about several hours worth of workout. It can also be a walk in the park (literally). It’s about mindfulness and awareness, and it is of course about gaining more healthy habits.

      Heh, glad to hear that from another twice-ex-smoker really. I always felt really bad for starting again after I had quit for more than a year. I’m now 2.5 years an ex-smoker again, so that I’m starting to hope it’ll stick this time.

      Like you said: it’s not about radical ascetics at all (at least for me it isn’t), but rather about temperance and about enjoying life. I think that last one is a point that Loki is trying to make me see, more or less successfully so far. Having more of everything doesn’t mean you actually have more of it. Like, a glass of wine once a week during the evening may be more enjoyable than a glass of wine each evening. Not to mention healthier. It’s about knowing what you’re doing with your body, and with your senses (you mention TV)… similar to the activity bit, like you said. I agree.

      I don’t have many taboos at all, and the one I do have, I offered. It was my idea and Loki kinda liked it *grins*

      Not complaining. :)

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