The Revenge of the Month For Loki: Post I (Invocation)

Hail Loki!

Hail the son of Laufey, nestled at the teat of Jotunheim, upbrought by the Giants of the Earth.

Hail the young wanderer, naught but a sack on his back and a dog nipping at his heels!

Hail the love-struck of Angrboda, the doe-eyed at the feet of the wolf-mother; winning love through teeth and blood! Hail the reluctant bride, hard won through her fierce independence and her dislike of trifling odes of love! Hail her strong protection over her heartsworn, even after he drifted astray!

Hail the young father of monsters: who continued to breed and to welcome their much-needed and much-heeded existence in all the Worlds! Hail his most-hated children – Jormungand, the anger and passion that rides the waves! Hail Fenris, the heat and meat on this most earthen place! Hail Hel, who holds between and betwixt her half-fleshen hands the hallowed halls of the common dead! Hail to my brethren: all of the children of Loki who walk the monstrous path!

Hail to Odin’s companion, bloodsworn brothers who tasted the fruits of masculinity and femininity alike! Taking trusted enemy in hand, leaving enmity to the winds of luck and the waters of friendship (and mayhaps love?)! Hail to the road-weary twins upon their mighty return to Asgard!

Hail to the King’s Jester; not in motley clad jovialry, but always there with the hard-spoken truth and the answer none other would dare suggest! Hail to the solver of all problems – even if you ne’er agree to his solutions! Hail to the rescuer of Molinir; to the eagle-winged saver of blessed apples; to the Mare who won a much-needed Wall!

Hail to the many-wedded Lover! Hail to He who won the heart of the innocent Sigyn! Hail to the husband who can be as gentle with His love as He is harsh; but also Hail to His unfaltering oaths of devotion and steadfastness (if not monogamy?)! Hail to the Eternal Well of Passion, which He shares without hesitation or fear!

Hail to the Tester of Truths! When anyone speaks that “none may harm”, He will always find the catch in the clause! Hail to the reaper of Mistletoe, to the one who gives Balder his righteous and holy saga! Hail to the one unafraid to put His mask on the roles none dare play, yet must be done!

Hail to the Speaker of Hard Truths! Hail to the hardy heart, ready to remind each and sundry that none are made wholly without fault, not even the Aesir! Hail to the warmer of the mortal hearths, who ties our clay-meld miens to the tales of the Holy Ones! Hail to one who brings voice to the things we truly must hear, even if we never ask it spoken to us! Hail to the harsh mirror, who reminds us that the journey is more important that the destination! Hail to He who can name His own faults as quickly as He does anyone else!

Hail to the Mourner of the Innocent! He who sheds few tears, but emotes an ocean for his twice-torn seed! Hail to the Helpless Witness, who looks at His bride wracked with loss but does not turn away or leave! Hail to the Mason of Eternal Strength, who does not break nor bow when His sons Narvi and Vali pay a too-hefty price for His tongue! Hail to the Ocean of Tears that the souls of His children ever sail, for wont of a boat!

Hail to the Tortured and Hanged Man! Hail to the one held by sorrow and entrail! Hail to the Brave Countenance of Acceptance, who lies Himself down to be bound with the offal of His loin! Hail to The Constitution of Self, that withstands such harshness as is His role to play!

Hail the Breaker of Worlds! Hail the tsunami of wroth held within His mighty breast! Hail the Dancer in the Lands of Madness, whose surrender is a strength instead of a weakness! Hail to the Piper of the Mad, the one unafraid to suffer through his mind’s betrayal and yet show the greatness that lies in that path! Hail to the Maelstrom Intoward, who lies in wait for the appointed hour, lest He rend the Tree before its time!

Hail to the Tester of Gods! To the Martyr of Truth! Hail He who gives His blood once again so that the story of Man and God is told! Hail to the God forgot, or thrice-cursed, or hidden in the hearts of men, whose name years to be heard alongside his brethren Aesir! Hail to the Patient, who gathers a flock mighty in number, no matter that some spit upon His name and countenance! Hail to the Shepard of the Mad, the Forgot, the Lowly, the Twisted, the Meek, the Queer, the rounded pegs pounded upon square holes!

Hail to ye, my fellows in arms, that chose to recognize Him in these Dog Days! Hail to ye, who tell His mighty tales, who sing His praises admist the jeers, who refuse to stay silent but ring the ears of the Hubristic with your cries of worship! Hail to ye, whose right action calls out against the tide of man! Hail to all of ye, whether Loki be your Man-o-Arms or your Least-Trusted-Ally; as long as you accept His place in the Stars, who toast Him in your halls – and especially ye who toast Him where He is least bidden – I hail ye heartily, and open my home to you always!

Hail to Loki! May the Month For Loki begin!

Hundreds of Ways

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – Rumi

“But not that way, that way makes you a poopiehead.” – Rumi’s younger cousin Boomi

As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, there’s been some controversy around certain portions of the Pagan blogosphere about the intersection of fandom and faith. Some talk of whether or not writing fanfic involving a God from older mythology is appropriate. Others want to know if making an altar to Superman is the same as making one to Osiris, or if its okay to use comic-book-derived images of certain Gods (most notably Thor and Loki) on altars to those Gods.

What I hear underneath it all, is a strong bias. No one would blink an eye if I wrote about how a modern song deepened my relationship to a God from an older mythology. Or if something considered “high art”, like a painting, a photograph, or abstract sculpture was an acceptable addition to an altar if the art somehow related to the God or concept the altar was for; that wouldn’t cause a stir at all. But if you venture into any sort of pop culture art (except music, as I see many respected bloggers use popular music in their Work) all of a sudden it is considered irreverent, inappropriate, and ridiculous.

I smell snobbery. Somehow, someone who thinks it’s okay to make a rough-hewn altar out of sticks, rocks, and leftover candle snubs if that’s all a person has access to, freaks out if instead of those things, they use images or representative art that was made post 1960. Graphic novels – you know, the fancy title for comic books – somehow do not receive the same level of artistic respect, even if the artist involved also dabbles in “higher” forms of art as well. In some way, a declaration is being made as to what kinds of art are acceptable to the Gods, and well, I’m not one to get in the way between a devotee and their relationship to a God, including what offerings are found acceptable or not.

These same snobs have no problem if someone writes a tome of modern poetry to a Holy One, or a creative retelling of stories that already exist in the lore; heck, some of them are even open to new stories based on UPG, as long as they’re written in a certain format. But the moment that creative writing impulse is used in a way that resembles some of the fan-fiction that exists on the Internet, it is a totally different story. (Ha, get it? Story?) As if writing new mythologies in the first person, that stem from a person’s interaction or conception of a God or other spirit, cannot be reverent. They must be told in the third person, in an objective a way as possible, and the only other characters must be other Gods and spirits from that pantheon – never a modern-day human being, recording their experiences or creating morality tales. If I chose to write a heretofore unrecorded story about Loki, it better meet mustre or I’m just a lonely fanfic writer who doesn’t know their ass from their elbow. I also see much of this derision placed on writers who may not be prolific at their craft – that is, a well-crafted and grammatically correct tale is acceptable, but if it relies on hackneyed tropes and could use a good spellchecker then it must be “fanfic”.

Again, there’s this retched stench of snobbery coming across from those who reject certain art forms as being introduced to a religious or spiritual construct that they seemingly share. I don’t understand how other people haven’t made the connection between those who feel their precious Gods would never deign to ask a follower to undergo or perform ordeals in that God’s name, and those who feel it is exactly what that God asked them to do. In that debate, we can usually come to the understanding that the Gods are bigger than we can ever understand, and in that bigness we include that one’s relationship with Them might be radically different from devotee to devotee; therefore if Loki loves the little green and gold outfits on Moonbeam’s altar, but Sophia thinks the Marvel rendition is atrocious and disrespectful, who’s to say that Loki told Moonbeam (who is also probably younger, but I’ll get to that in a minute) one thing, and Sophia another? When did it become our jobs to declare what was Holy and what is Profane?

I also believe the fact that most (but not all!) of those who engage in these forms of devotion happen to be younger, come from a different generation that had a vastly different relationship to fan fiction than their elders, is part of the problem. I don’t think most of us old farts understand that although fan fiction did get much of its start in the fevered fantasies of Star Trek fans who wanted to see Kirk and Spock get it on, the younger generation grew up in an age where you only wrote fan fic for the Works you loved the most. It is considered an act of devotion, in and of itself, to write a story using someone else’s world. Granted, not all authors feel that way, but many have come around to seeing it as the flattery it is. Also, that only a small portion of fiction created in a shared world has anything to do with slash (slash: fiction written where two characters from a shared world have sex with each other, usually written when the characters did not have romantic or sexual relations in the referential work). Writing fan fiction, especially first person or “Mary Sue” stories (Mary Sue stories: When an author creates a character based on themselves and inserts that character into a shared world story.) In fact, many of these authors write side stories, exploring characters who were not given much time or attention in the referential work, simply because something about that minor character caught the author’s eye and inspired them to create a story featuring that character.

I bring this up when thinking about Loki in specific. Although he is mentioned often in the referential work in question, He rarely gets stories that are specifically about Him. He’s usually playing second fiddle in some way, helping Thor get his hammer back, or assisting Odin in getting a wall built. Not much is told about what Loki does when He’s on his own, but only in relation to when He decides to be chummy with the other Aesir. Although I admit I have not read much of this “Loki fanfic”, it doesn’t surprise me that it exists. Devotees of a God naturally begin to have curiosity about what that God does when They’re not playing second fiddle or providing a needed plot twist – these followers want to hear stories in which their God is the main character. And since I have not been present when one of these works has been written, I can’t say (nor can I not say) that there was a subtle Guiding Hand – or screaming UPG, for that matter – that inspires the author to write. It also harkens back to the idea that people who were raised in the generation of fan fiction were taught, some in early childhood, that writing fan fiction was an act of devotion. That writing stories where you insert yourself into the referential work helps them feel as though they have a personal connection with the characters, the story, the world, or all three. How is this any different than doing guided meditation with the goal of trying to figure out how you, a mere mortal, fits into a Holy One’s plans? The only difference is that these authors are writing it down, and sharing it with others in hopes that maybe someone else will glean meaning from what the author learned in their process.

Now, when it comes to revering modern day superheros as Gods in their own right, I go back to looking at how the older mythologies came to be. For sake of this argument, we can probably agree that most mythologies started out as a set of oral tales and traditions that were considered sacred by the people who told them, heard them, and began to shape their lives based on them. These stories were shared over time, and eventually some of the characters seemed to “come to life”, and before long there were offerings left to them, and altars and temples built, and places named after them. Ceremonies re-creating parts of the stories were considered spiritual and necessary.

Who has the stick-of-knowing-it-all to say that modern stories are exempt from this process? I’m sure the people who first started cults to characters from the sacred stories were also met with derision and ridicule. I’m sure the first family to put their shoes outside so a magical saint could fill them with coins or candy looked pretty fucking stupid to all of their neighbors. In the same way, when people raised in a Christian tradition see a bunch of people wearing renaissance faire clothing (if they’re wearing clothing) doing a ribbon dance around a pole with a penis on the top, they think we’re an embarrassment to the human race. So what do I care if a person decides to draw their moral and spiritual inspiration from Superman, or Star Wars, or My Little Pony? Rumi never clarified that only the solemn ways were the right ways to kneel and kiss the ground – sometimes what seems outlandishly ridiculous to one can be life-alteringly sacred to another.

Take a moment and try to look at some of your spiritual practices from the view of an objective outsider – when I do this exercise, I like to pretend I’m Penn Jilette. Not only because I have a huge crush on him, but because he’s an very opinionated atheist and objectivist to whom many people listen because he’s a celebrity. Whenever I need to get a good headcheck about whose spiritual practices are “right action” or “reverent” or “appropriate”, I try very hard to have a Penn moment. I’m sure he’d take one tour of my house, filled with altars, with magical items above the doors, and with some of the odd habits I keep in order to maintain the wards and spiritual life of the home, and decide I was a loony. And not only would he dismiss me for being crazy, but he would feel I was actively hurting other people when I talk to them about my faith, because I might encourage them to work magic in hopes of attaining a goal, or pray for guidance, when they could be doing something more tangibly productive. But I rest my faith in the spiritual choices I make, and so I don’t let it get to me that Penn thinks I’m a harmful goofus.

I do the same thing when other Pagans come at me for some of my practices and beliefs. I frequently remind people that “serious doesn’t always mean solemn” – one of the public rituals I helped write that got the most acclaim from my Pagan community involved two giant pinatas (a cock and a cunt) that were rigged to slam into each other until they rained condoms and candy on the waiting crowd. It brought joy and laughter to a holiday that frequently challenges people who still have shame around sex, body image, and attractiveness. Too many Beltane rituals that I have attended do not take into consideration that those attending might not feel comfortable in a sexually-charged atmosphere, so those Pagans lose out on the sacred fertility (both reproductive and otherwise) that comes from a Beltane celebration. So I wanted to write one that included everyone, from the dirtiest pervert to the most body-conscious prude, in celebrating a holiday about love and joy and creativity.

And yes, some people thought it was overly silly, and not “reverent”. And you know what I say?

Fuck them. It was magical for those who were present. And that’s all that matters.

As for this debate, I come to much the same conclusion. I’ll do my own spiritual stuff over here, and that includes believing in a Goddess whose mythology was written by a living author. I have a tattoo that is fish puns and butterflies, and to me it is as sacred as any other mark I have taken on for a God I serve. I don’t care that Her lore was published in the 1980’s; what I care about is that by being Her devotee, I have done more for the mentally ill and the spiritually lost than I would have otherwise. I truly believe that although Loki removed the majority of my crazy, it was Delirium who taught me how to live with the crazy that was left behind. Once a year, I release a balloon into the sky for Her. And yes, I have written non-canonical stories about Her, using Her character to help others understand how to better live with their mental illness (rather than fight it).

Because one of the hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground is writing new mythologies. New stories with Old Gods, old stories with New Gods. Looking at oral, written, and recorded stories that stir something deep inside of me and make me feel whole as a sacred human being. As long as I’m right with the Gods I serve, whose judgment should I really be worried about, anyway?

PS. I’m open to be corrected on this, but I believe that the original spelling of the Goddess of Death/Daughter of Loki was H-E-L, and that H-E-L-A was adopted by Marvel because the comic book censors wouldn’t let them use H-E-L because it was too close to H-E-L-L, which was a banned word at the time. So although I believe that it just bled into the mainstream, anyone who uses the H-E-L-A spelling is dabbling in their own form of fanfic.

International Day of Transgender Visibility: How Being Transgender Is and Is Not The Most Important Thing You Can Know About Me

I apologize if this essay seems a little off the cuff; ironically, I just learned that March 31st is the International Day of Transgender Visibility, and I felt compelled to write a little something about it, because I think it’s a really good thing to celebrate and educate about.

First of all, if it hasn’t been made abundantly clear: I am transgender.

For me, this means I was born with a vulva, vagina, ovaries and a uterus, and was thusly raised with the concept that I was female; meanwhile, I struggled internally with this “diagnosis” until I later realized that biology is not destiny. The reason many transgender activists have added the “*” to the shorthand “trans*” is because there are many ways the prefix trans (which means “to cross over”) is used by gender variant people: transsexual, transgressive, transcendent, etc. I think these apply to me in one way or another. Indulge me as I share a bit of my gender journey with you. Get a cup of tea, coffee, or a hot toddy (which sounds lovely on this brisk rainy evening) and see this in the context of my “story”. Although these things are true, they are also woven together specifically to make a point.

I often talk about that my mother was not only intuitively convinced that I was male while she was pregnant, but the doctors did some sort of test (she doesn’t remember, and it was a long time ago) to tell her I was male. They had picked out a male name (Sean, which I would have totally loved as a name regardless, but they ended up giving it to my younger brother) and had done the sorts of things you do when expecting a boy. When I was born, it was such a surprise for my parents that my “girl name” was chosen during the first few days of my life, as they poured over baby name books and made lists of names they liked. My first and middle names, including the middle name I kept when I legally changed my name to Del, were the only two they both had on their lists. So even from the moment of birth, the fact that I was female was somewhat of a surprise to the world. I have been strongly tempted, in the last few years, to pursue this medically; to get my DNA tested to see if I am Intersex in some way. I have had doctors posit this as an explanation to some of my issues with menstruation and pregnancy, which is not a typical diagnosis to discuss with a patient, so I’ve done a significant amount of research about Intersex conditions, and sometimes I’ve told people I am Intersex. My mother goes back and forth between telling me I am, and telling me there’s no way I am, so I don’t know if this “test” had told her anything more specific about my gender. I seem to have a functional female reproductive system, as I’ve been pregnant twice, but that’s not necessarily an indication of not being Intersex.

It is important to note that being Intersex does not preclude being trans*. In fact, many Intersex children have their genitals mutilated (because “making a hole is easier than making a pole”) and raised female; only to be tormented with feelings they were raised the wrong gender, and transitioning as adults. There are also cases of Intersex children being raised male, only to transition to female as adults. In my heart, I really wish we could just accept that Intersexuality happens as often as 1 in 100 births, and stop forcing parents and children to choose blue or pink when obviously nature is creating us in many more than two, easily distinguishable, somehow completely opposite, genders. I’m even hesitant to support raising a genitally disambiguous child (that is, one who is born with complete and intact “female” or “male” genitalia) as though their gender is a predetermined, set thing. As more and more parents are accepting their children’s self-determined gender identity, and there are even medical doctors and facilities treating trans* kids with both puberty-blocking medications, as well as administering hormones of the child’s preferred gender so they go through the “right” puberty instead. I just mention my own experiences with both having shades of intimations that I may be Intersex, as well as my own intuitions, as part of my gender journey.

Regardless, I was raised and socialized female. This means that when I showed any interest or aptitude in things that our culture deigns to be “for boys”, my parents diligently reprogrammed me to like “girl things”. I have a strong memory of stealing my brother’s football, as he was barely a toddler and had no interest in the thing, and taking it down the block to play with the neighborhood boys. One of my parents seized it, wrote my brother’s name on it in big letters, and the next time I “borrowed” it I was punished.

Likewise, I was inundated with “girl things”. My mother decided I should be a child model/actress, and that world was very invested in hyper feminization; girls had to be “girly girls”. So my hair was kept in pigtails and I was subjected to a lot of dresses and skirts, which I very much hated and never felt comfortable in.

Even with all this, I never really had the coherent and complete thought that “I was born in the wrong body” or that “I should have been born a boy”. More, I was very confused and depressed that there were these things I wanted to do, be, and wear that were off limits for a reason I couldn’t understand. I have never, nor do I really even now, understand why we gender our children’s experience so emphatically. I once bought a newborn female-sexed child a small flannel shirt and courteroy pants, specifically because I knew their mother was going to be swamped in pink and frills. She balked at first, thinking I had made a mistake. Later, she wrote me to tell me it was her child’s favorite outfit.

As I grew older, the conflict was intensified when I realized that my childhood daydreams of having a wife and raising children wasn’t biologically or socially acceptable. As the sexualization of “girls vs boys” became more clear, I did everything I could to hide from these games. Some of my therapists have posited that I started gaining weight around the onset of puberty specifically because I was afraid of being seen as a “girl” when it came to crushes, dating, and eventually sex; first of all, I obviously have issues with the idea that being fat means that you’re no longer either a girl or a sexual being, but I did spend many a thinking session about whether I was trying to purposefully exclude myself from the proto-sex games of my peers by emphasizing my unattractiveness. In addition to gaining weight, I also did not wear clothes that made me feel attractive or sexual; I hid in oversized tee shirts and baggy pants. This was further complicated by the fact that I was very poor, and did not get a lot of choice when it came to clothing – I got whatever my parents could afford, and often that meant whatever was my size at the local Salvation Army.

I eventually realized what a lesbian was, and as I grew into an adult I felt I had to model my presentation and appearance so as to include the “secret clues” that would let other gay women know I was “one of them”. Almost immediately, I was informed that I was a butch, and was encouraged to cut off my long red hair so I would fit in. It wasn’t hard to accept otherwise, as I was still wearing “men’s” or “unisex” clothing more often than not, and this was also during the time when “grunge” was popular. The difference was, there was a way that women wore plaid flannel shirts, cargo jeans, and workboots that did not lose their femininity; whereas once I started cutting my hair short, I was sometimes confused for a young man.

Secretly, I didn’t mind. I had many of my first romantic and sexual experiences with gay men, which looking back makes a ton of sense (since I now identify as a queer man), but then was a road to ruin. I was both having my heart broken over and over again as the gay men found cisgender men to date and left me; and feeding my ego on being the woman that got these avowed homosexuals into bed. It was a push me-pull you that took me many years to break; I tried to only date bisexual men, but it turned out that both men who told me they were “bi” turned out to mean “I only fuck and date girls, but if a cute boy wanted to give me head, I woudn’t say no”.

I knew that transsexuality existed; I dated a trans* woman for over a year and did a lot of accepting and comforting to help them feel more feminine. Oddly and ironically, they ended up breaking up with me because I was too masculine for them. Later I realized it was their internalized jealousy that I had been born the way they deeply wished they had, and felt I was “squandering” it by dressing and acting masculine. I had even read Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaws (and that’s even the same cover as the copy I had), but somehow the idea that someone born and raised female could be a man in some form or function was lost on me. Maybe I was specifically disassociating the information because I didn’t want to admit it was something I wanted or needed? I know that it took meeting an actual transsexual man before I fully understood that it was both possible and not as terrifying as I had once thought.

For almost 15 years, I just decided that I didn’t really have a gender. Or more accurately, I didn’t deal with gender as a concept. I dated men and women (and I say it that was because the majority of my lovers were cisgender), and when I was with a lover I became whatever they wanted from me – either the soft and caring gentleman, or the demure and alluring feminine submissive, or the loud and dominant lover who could as easily fuck you in the ass with their prosthetic cock as take your fist in their vagina. I wore fairly gender neutral clothing, and stayed away from anything that required one to be a “woman” or a “man” to take part. I even ended up being invited to join a traditionally-male singing group, but didn’t accept until I learned there was a cisgender woman joining at the same time.

It all came to a head when the rest of my life did. Loki was clearing away all the things that were distracting me from being able to do and be what He needed me to, and one of them was my unresolved issues with gender and being “female”. I was slow to accept this, as there were parts of my life I knew would be negatively affected if I up and decided I was a man now. I started out by trying on the “genderqueer” label, which also fits in a way, never felt fully true to who I was. I finally met a post-transition transsexual man, which proved to me that not only do they exist, but they live full and happy lives. Many of them are socially accepted, or “pass”, as male without question. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but nothing in life really is.

Then Loki put it all into perspective for me, in the way He does. He very calmly but very firmly informed me:

Del, I need you to be a shapeshifter. I need you to be a guardian of the boundary, the diplomat who can dance between the sexes and facilitate communication and understanding. I need you to be able to be all things to all people. To horse Gods of any gender, to take on archetypes without limitations. In order to do that, I want you to explore masculinity, to find a balance between man and woman, a place where you are both comfortable and useful at the same time. You’re no use to me if the gender thing keeps coming up over and over again.

I decided to stand up, for the smallest inner voice inside of me screaming to be heard and acknowledged. I started by asking my friends and family to use male pronouns and referring words (dude, man, guy, etc) for me. I stopped wearing overtly feminine clothes. I started to explore who I was as a man, in lots of big and little ways. It was as much a mental health thing as it was spiritual; the more I was seen and accepted as masculine, the better I felt about my place in the world.

This year, I am starting male hormones (testosterone). I do not know how ‘far’ I plan to take my hormonal transition; my goal is to find a place where random strangers would not be entirely certain if I am a Ma’am or a Sir. I know you can’t control what effects you get from T, but my hope is that my voice will become more masculine sounding and perhaps some of my facial features. I’d love to have facial hair, but I think that’s a pipe dream, as people in my birth family aren’t very hairy at all.

This decision, to start hormones, is a deep and meaningful part of reclaiming myself after my separation. My STBX was supportive of my gender journey, up until a point. He was just radically uncomfortable with anything that would change me in a way where passing as female would no longer work. He didn’t want to have to tell his parents or coworkers that he was married to a man. He was okay with being married to a masculine female (as that is one of his fantasies, being with butch women), but was not even remotely okay with being with a feminine male. There’s nothing wrong or bad about that at all. We all have preferences and choices we make about our lives, and it’s ragingly common for relationships to end when one partner decides to transition. I’m happy he’s found lovers who better suit him, gender wise, and I’m also happy that I’m now free to explore my masculinity beyond social transition.

This is my story, my choice to become visible and knowable as a transgender person living in suburban America. A shaman and spirit worker, a Lokean shapeshifter, whose gender queerness is as intrinsic to my spiritual self as it is to my physical self. I am a lover and ally to other transgender persons from all over the gender spectrum, and speak my words and teach my classes so they can see their experiences reflected back at them when seeking spiritual or sexual information I have to share. I make sure to challenge people’s perceptions, and language, and inclusivity, to make sure they remember and accept that gender variant people are as sacred as anyone else.

That’s a Horse of a Different Color!

Sorry I have been away so long…things in my life have gotten a bit complicated with the upcoming surgery and all, so I haven’t had the spoons or the focus to do much writing. However, this post has been on my mind since late October; culminating in a dream last night that I was writing it, so I’m thinking it’s about time I sit down and bang it out.

I have done possessory work, both privately and publicly, for about ten years now. I can even say that I started before that, having done “drawing downs” for Wiccan covens as far back as 1996 or so. So let’s just take it as a given that I’ve done this sort of thing for a long time.

Not only that, but I am blessed to have many colleagues and friends that I can discuss possession with, including the authors of the book Drawing Down the Spirits, one of the only books I’m aware of dedicated to the subject of possession in Pagan religion. I’ve been on a few panels, and even a conference centered around possessory work.

Have I explained my bona fides to you enough, yet? 🙂

I found myself in an uncomfortable position in October. Without going into a lot of personal details, both mine and other people’s, the short description is that I found myself horsing a problematic spirit, one that I had voiced some concerns about with the leader of the ritual beforehand. And problematic spirits being what they are, it did some problematic things both to me, and to other people attending the ritual. This resulted in no small amount of dramatic aftermath, including one of the members of the group quitting and vowing never to return.

As I have said earlier, it is hardwired into my professional and personal ethics that I do not abdicate responsibility for something my body does, no matter who was in control at the time. It becomes a dangerous slippery slope that ends with people faking possessions in order to do and say things they don’t have the balls to do or say otherwise. Although I think it was pretty clear that the actions the spirit took were in no way things I would have chosen to do given my faculties, I did the best I could (which, admittedly, could have been better) to apologize to those who had been hurt or offended by what occurred; and made sure to make it abundantly clear that in no way was I excusing what happened under the guise of “well, wasn’t my fault”. If nothing else, it was my fault to make the initial decision to allow the spirit to take my body – although sometimes this can happen without any form of “allowance”, I admit that I did feel the beginnings of the possession and decided to allow it to continue. I also take responsibility that I had misgivings about inviting this particular spirit into our ritual space, and when it became clear that it was being invited, I should have or could have left the room and excused myself out of the area. It is difficult for me to “eject” a spirit once it takes hold of my body, but those present can attest that I did try to mitigate some of the damage by redirecting some of the harm it wanted to impart onto my girl, who considers doing such things a part of her own spiritual path.

But enough about this specific situation. I only share it with you because it made me do some deep soul searching about the nature of possession, the role of the horse in what happens during a possession, and the role of the other ritual participants who choose to attend rituals that include possession. Some of these conclusions are not the same ones that the group involved in the above incident agree with or support, but they are the ones that I came to on my own.

First and foremost: I feel that if someone has a desire to invite a spirit to physically appear at a ritual where others are present, it is their responsibility to know everything there is to know about said spirit. It might seem like a fun afternoon to invoke Loki into someone’s body in order to hear some dirty jokes and eat candy, but if Breaker of Worlds decides to show up instead of King of Fools, you better have a good idea what to do, what He will expect, and how to best protect the people at the ritual from being harmed. If you don’t know the culture from which the spirit emanates, something that looks like harm to a person might be a blessing from the spirit’s cultural expectations. You don’t want to offer the wrong drink, the wrong clothes, the wrong food, or say/do things that will insult or belittle the spirit. It’s not the ritual leader’s job, or the horse’s job, or the other ritual participant’s job – it’s yours. If you invite a spirit and things go sideways, you should be brave enough to stand forward and acknowledge that you were not fully prepared for what you asked for.

Now, this sort of thing happens more often than you’d expect. Even someone who has been working with Anpu for years may end up with a face of that Deity that they do not know or work with, and it might not occur to them that someone other than the face they know the best could show up. Another way I have seen this happen is when Neopagans call down spirits that emanate from the Hindu tradition in hopes of a possession; I’ve seen some that have worked out well, but since Hindus see possession as an evil, blasphemous thing, I’ve seen some that have done physical damage to the horse. Not what you were expecting when singing for the Monkey King, no? I bore witness to Hanuman trying to “heal” the horse He was using of the possession while the ritual participants did energy work to try to make it “stick” better. The horse ended up with wounds that required medical attention.

If a spirit has more than one “face”, different mythologies that present the same spirit in different fashions, it can be the difference between a successful possession and a terrible catastrophe if you can only state aloud, both to the people present as well as the spirits, your intent for asking a spirit to physically present. After years of being a horse for the darker face of Hades – the kidnapper and raper of Persephone – when the person who wished to invoke Him made it clear she was interested in the lover and partner of Persephone, who had accepted Her fate with aplomb, it culminated in the exact experience the person desired.

In that vein, my second point is that if you are calling a spirit that is unfamiliar to others present at the ritual, it is best practice to take a moment and explain who the spirit is, what your intent is for asking for that spirit’s presence, and inform people what they can do to assist in creating the right atmosphere for the spirit once it arrives. Few people, especially Pagans from traditions where possession isn’t a frequent element, know enough about every culture and background for spirits, and might do something with benevolent intent, only to screw up the entire ritual by offending the spirit. Offering alcohol to Obatala, for instance; if you’ve attended a Voudun fete, you might notice that when a spirit arrives, it is almost always offered rum or some other form of alcohol. So it would seem to follow that when Obatala is sung for, you might want to be prepared and pour a shot of rum. However, Obatala is very opposed to drinking, and would be angry if you shoved a drink towards Obatala’s horse. A little detail, a small devotional act, gone sideways because no one took a moment to explain the spirit’s idiosyncracies to you.

Thirdly, I believe spirits have agency, and this should always be taken into consideration when a spirit is invited into a ritual. I have seen people try to script a ritual that includes a possession, as though when Aphrodite shows up She’ll be happy to recite Her lines from the paper She finds in Her hand. This never works. In fact, I’ve seen attempts at drawing down fail because the priestess had specific expectations as to what a deity would do once it arrived, that it would somehow fit the structure of the rest of the ritual, and that said deity would depart right on time so the ritual ends at 11 o’clock as promised. When I say that spirits have agency, what I mean is that they can (and do) make their own decisions, have their own wants/needs/desires, and once they’re at your little party they will likely not take your rules or format into consideration. After all, they’re just a bit bigger than us meatsacks, and even if we shake our fingers at the sky and say “You can only come if you don’t harm anyone”, doesn’t make it so. There are techniques to trying to limit the possession to what the invoker intends, but most of that involves deep communication with said spirit weeks, months, or even years before the ritual itself.

For example, I was asked to provide my body for Cernnunos for an ordeal ritual last May. I don’t know Him very well, but I had some idea as to what He would want out of a body, and what He wanted to do. I spent two months researching Him and His lore, spent weeks clarifying with the client what her expectations were, and then two weeks doing devotional work in hopes of setting boundaries and understandings about what He could and could not do with my body while He had it. And even then, He did and said things that although didn’t break the letter of our agreement, came pretty close to breaking the spirit of it. But that’s because He’s much bigger and stronger than little ol’ Del-the-shaman, and once you surrender your body to a spirit, you have to lay your trust in that spirit to at least take your boundaries into consideration.

And that’s my fourth point. Lending your open head (ability to be possessed) to a ritual is a huge trust. Especially if you’re holding regular rituals and expect the person to provide this service on a regular basis. When I agree to be a potential horse for a ritual, I am not only trusting in the Spirits to make sure I don’t wake up in jail covered in petrol and feeling slightly singed, but I am trusting the group’s leader (if applicable) and the other attendees to watch out for my body’s wellbeing. Although there is a spectrum of potential possessory experiences, from hearing faint suggestions as to what to do, all the way to having no control over your body and no memory of the experience at all – and frequently, us horses aren’t the ones who choose what level the possession will be at. As many times as I have been expected to allow a spirit to take me fully (to the extent where I have no control over my body and have no memory of the experience, which we call “locked in the trunk” in the trade) and I have had to use a code phrase for “Sorry, guys, I tried for an hour but the spirit isn’t coming!”; I have had experiences where there was no expectation for a possession at all, but putting on a piece of jewelry or clothing that is dedicated to the spirit forced me “into the trunk”. For all the times I expected a God to whisper answers to their dedicant’s questions in my ear, only to wake up two hours later stinking drunk in the middle of the woods with them, no memory of the last two hours; I have have times where the possession was expected to last over an hour, and the spirit ducked out the back door five minutes in.

There is a lot humans can do to try to create the kind of experience they envision, but in the end, the spirits are going to choose what happens, and there isn’t a lot you can do to stop that from happening, short of not inviting that spirit back.

Point number five: I believe choosing the horse for a possessory ritual, if you are given that luxury, can be one of the most important choices you make. It has been my experience and the experience of those I have discussed it with, that most of the time a God will favor a horse that already knows how to do the things it needs the body for, rather than the person who resembles the God the way the dedicant envisions them. To go back to the Cernunnos example, one of the reasons He chose me for this particular ordeal was because it was to have a lot of heavy sadomasochistic elements, and I have a strong background in doing heavy play safely. On the other hand, if what He wanted was to knit a sweater, He’d be better off choosing a different horse. It is true that spirits can make a horse’s body do something the horse does not know how to do: I learned how to dance the banda after being possessed by Maman Brigitte several times and having Her do it with my body.

However, it is easier on both the spirit and the horse if the horse knows how to perform whatever the spirit needs the body for. So I strongly suggest that if you want a Deity to perform a certain task while they are embodied, to choose a horse who has some background in that activity. It also means that the horse can make sure, either beforehand/while inside/both, that the spirit is doing the activity safely. I have seen some cuttings and brandings go horribly awry because the Goddess was called down into a horse that had seen many cuttings and brandings, but didn’t have the training themselves. The Goddess knew what She was doing, but was having a difficult time getting the horse’s body to have the nuance and control that someone who had practice doing such things would come with automatically. Do you get my drift?

Along with this, I think it can go the other way, too. I believe that the choice of horse can color your experience with a spirit. It’s hard to put into words what happens inside of my head during a possession, but I do know that sometimes I get impulses to do something vague, and find my body starting to move towards doing *something* in that direction, but I’m left scrambling on the inside trying to figure out what the spirit wants my body to do. Obviously, this will then go through the filter of my own experience and intuition – for example, since I practice BDSM, if I get an impulse that a Goddess wants to hit someone, I may try to temper that impulse to focus on finding the right person, and doing my best to get the spirit to ask for consent; whereas someone who is fresh out of the Marines might just haul off and punch someone in the face as though they were an enemy. Same impulse, two vastly different outcomes.

It was said to me that there is a line, here; I don’t know if I agree with their opinion, but I offer it in case it is useful to others. It can be said that if every spirit a horse carries comes across as being angry, or grieving, or horny, or loving, regardless of the actual known nature and disposition of that spirit, it may be that the horse’s own issues are getting in the way of a real possession. I can sort of see that; going into the necessary trance states in order to achieve possession lowers one’s defenses to the world, and if you have a well of emotion hiding behind those defenses, you may take the opportunity of a dissociative state to express them. However, I think it can go both ways at the same time – someone may have a hardwired propensity to horse angrier spirits, so it makes them a good choice if you want to invite a spirit whose mythology describes them as being volatile and hostile, and it may be something to run an internal check on if you’re horsing a variety of spirits and they’re all coming across with the same baggage.

So where does that all leave us? Here is my summary list of things to consider when working with rituals focused around possession:

  • Whomever is inviting the spirit to be embodied needs to fully understand both the spirit’s lore, as well as the culture they come from, and communicate that to all of the ritual participants so as to better prepare everyone for what to expect and how to act. They are also the ones who should take responsibility if the possession goes in an unpredictable path, and make reparations as necessary.
  • No matter how much planning you do, how much negotiations you engage in, what kind of wards or rules or guidelines or boundaries you give the spirits before inviting them into your space, they have agency, and will make their own decisions based on their personal agendas and what They feel needs to happen in the moment. There are things you can do to try to mitigate this, but in the end, They are bigger than us.
  • If you ask someone to carry a God for your ritual, understand that they are putting a great deal of trust in you, and the leader of the ritual. The horse cannot always predict or control what a spirit will do with their body, and may not be able to figure out what the spirit is doing with their body until it’s too late. Cultivate a culture around taking care of those who provide this service; it is taxing, grueling, and terrifying work, and it is frequently done for no other recompense than the experience of doing it.
  • Choose your intended horse carefully; if you want Odin to come down and sing songs for you, choose a horse with a good voice. If you know beforehand what a spirit needs the body for, try to find someone who has that sort of task in their muscle memory already.

    Okay, maybe now I can sleep without dreaming of writing this post. Or am I still doing that?

What is “Spirit Work”?

In the theme of writing Spirit Work 101 essays, I figured I should probably back the truck up a bit and do my level best to explain what spirit work is, exactly.

The issue I face is that people use the term in a variety of ways, and there really isn’t a good definition out there that sums up the vast experiences, relationships, and devotional work that one might define as such. The first time I heard it applied to the kind of spiritual stuff I had been doing was by Raven Kaldera, a controversial person in his own right. The term sometimes gets sullied or maligned by his association with it – as though if you define your spiritual vocational work as “spirit work”, somehow you are in lockstep with him on his beliefs and practices. This is not the case.

Again, as always, I want to clarify that I am only going on my own experiences and discussions with others who call themselves spirit workers or who use the term spirit work to define their devotional practices. I invite those with alternate points of view or experiences to leave comments so as to expose readers to an array of ideas on the subject.

In the vaguest of ways, spirit work is a kind of spiritual practice that deals mainly with interactions between humankind and the world of spirits and Gods. It is different from other kinds of devotional work in that there is some form of communication between spirit workers and the spirits/Gods they work with or for. Usually, it also incorporates actions and practices that Spirits/Gods ask the spirit worker to do – as mundane as “carry this brick for two blocks and then put it down again” (an actual example), or as metaphysical as “spend nine days in a trance state exploring a specific place on the astral realm” (another actual example).

It does seem to require the ability to have, at least, one-way communication between the Holy Ones and the practitioner. One must be able to discern what the spirits may want, or want us to do. For more information about hearing the Gods and other spirits, I point you towards a different post of mine that addresses that subject. It is possible to do spirit work without this, but it usually requires having someone else in your life who has this ability, so they can help you figure out what the Gods want you to do. It is not uncommon for spirit workers to go through periods of feeling blocked, or having bad signal clarity, or in some other way find their “Godphone” or “Godradio” broken in some fashion. I’ve been there from time to time, and it didn’t stop me from being a spirit worker or doing the work of my Gods – it just made me rely harder on my own faith and the work that had been outlined in the past. I have another post on the way that addresses this subject in more depth.

The way that spirit work manifests in a person’s spiritual practices varies, depending on several factors. Usually, a person is chosen to do this sort of work based on the skills and talents they already possess – a spirit might choose a seamstress to create sacred costumes, or choose an artist to create devotional works of art for a spirit’s followers/devotees. It also happens that sometimes a God or spirit will embue a person with the ability to do the work they require; many people gifted with oracular or possessory abilities tell tales of being “rewired” so they can do these things reliably and with more ease.

Spouses or consorts of Gods sometimes consider their relationship a form of spirit work, since it usually comes with some sort of public devotional work. Some find themselves writing publicly about their spouse (books, blogs, essays, etc), while others become priests and help others who have a devotional relationship with their Consort. Some relay messages to those who cannot hear the voice of Gods, and others do social justice or other charity work in the name of their Deity. However, some Godspouses/consorts keep their relationship private, and this may play into whether or not they identify as a spirit worker.

At the core of the defintion is work. Although praying, writing, keeping shrines/altars, and other spiritual pursuits can be a part of a spirit worker’s life, the filter between “devotee” and “spirit worker” is when you take on tasks specifically at the request of the Holy Ones. It may be hard to discern whether you erected that altar to Kali Ma because you felt a deep connection with Her and Her mysteries/mythology, or because She herself asked you to. I know that when I began, I knew I had crossed over from devotional work to spirit work when the things the Gods asked me to do were things I would not have done of my own choosing, or things that changed my every day life and routine.

Some spirit workers work solely with the spirits, which can muddy the definition I gave above. These people find themselves in deep communication with the Holy Ones, and even though their work may not be in the public eye, it may still be defined as spirit work. I usually link this to those who work as a bridge because sometimes their private work benefits others in an indirect way. For example, a spirit may ask you to erect an altar in the middle of the woods, far off the beaten path. The person does it in solitude, not telling anyone about the altar or its location. However, two years later, that spirit leads another person to the altar, to give them some assurance that what they’re feeling and hearing isn’t madness.

Others find themselves working primarily with people, but for a spiritual cause. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes the spirits ask their devotees to work in social justice or other charitable places in order to help the spirit’s “people”. A devotee of Baphomet, for example, might volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen because Baphomet has a warm heart for “the forgotten”. Dishing out stew may not look all spooky-foo, but the fact that Baphomet requested the person do it makes it so.

One of the struggles of some spirit workers is that Gods ask different things of different devotees. This can create everything from jealousy to downright derision. There are those who state that the Odin they know would never ask someone to do Ordeal Work in His name, while there are others who do exactly that. Once again, Gods are bigger than our brainmeats can comprehend, and the reason They take vastly different kinds of “workers” is because They are in need of a wide array of services offered in their name. Personally, when I “came out” as a child of Loki, many of his spouses derided me for not being chosen for that sort of relationship, and I felt discouraged and jealous. However, as time as gone on and I have gone deeper into the work that He and the Others I work for, I know securely that it is the right place for me to be, and to be anything else would distract me from my Purpose.

Now, for me, the differentiation between a “shaman” (essay forthcoming, co-authored by Wintersong Tashlin) and a “spirit worker” is that “shamans” have undergone some form of traumatic transformation in which they surrender their wyrd, or destiny, to the control of the Gods. In exchange for this surrender, the Gods bring the person back from their traumatic experience a radically different person, now focused on making the Work their primary focus. So although there may be full-time spirit workers, unless they’ve physically died, gone completely insane, or in some other way lost touch with our consensual reality, and as their solution accepted a Spirit’s dominion over the rest of their days, they’re not a “shaman”. Some people confuse the taking of clients as being a difference between spirit workers and shamans, but that’s not the distinction for me or those I know who identify as either shamans and spirit workers. Now, like me, there are some that identify as both; there are others who shy away from the word “shaman” because it has a complicated history (I promise, essay soon!) and so they use the less contentious “spirit worker”.

In a similar way, the word “priest”, in my lexicon, is someone who leads others in the worship of a Deity or Deities. If someone identifies themselves as a “priestess of Aphrodite”, then I expect them to be working directly with other seekers and devotees of Aphrodite in creating and participating in worship and work for that Deity. One need not be a spirit worker to be a priest, but one may be both a priest and a spirit worker. Have I lost you yet?

The word “devotee” is what I use for someone who has taken to worshipping a particular Spirit or Deity. They may have cultivated a feeling of close relationship, with or without the ability to discern the voice of that Spirit for themselves. They may have a shrine or altar to said Deity, do good works in their name, and witness to others about their particular Spirit. However, usually the word undertaken by a devotee is of their own volition, or a product of researching what devotees of a certain Deity did when the culture of that Deity was more alive/active, instead of being at the direct behest of that Deity. It could be that a devotee was told via a third party as to how to go about doing said devotional work, but unless the devotee is offering that sort of counsel/communication to others, I would not call them a spirit worker, per se.

But then, I am not one to go around investigating people’s claims to whatever word they feel defines their Work. I may ask questions if I am planning on doing work for them or with them, but in the end, I believe that if you take on the label of “spirit worker”, at the very least you should be able to speak to, and understand in some way, the Holy Ones. You should also be doing some form of actual Work on their behalf, in whatever way that particular spirit or God asks of you. You may work for one specific Deity, or a pantheon, or for any inhabitant of the Other Words, as your personal practice and relationships develop.

I hope I’ve given you some insight into how I define “spirit work”, and what a “spirit worker” does. Again, I encourage those who disagree, or who define these terms in another way, to add their conversation to the comments. Please be respectful and engage in polite discourse; I know this can be a touchy subject for some.

God Sex

I get asked this question a lot. “How does a human have sex with a God/spirit?” Although I am not in a marital relationship with a Deity, I do have sex with Gods as part of my devotional work. Heck, Loki once made me have sex with Ratatosk (yes, a squirrel; I was a squirrel at the time, it’s a long story) so I could learn how to slip through the grooves of the World tree like He does.

First, I should make it clear that not everyone is meant, built, chosen, or fated to have this sort of relationship with Deity, and having it doesn’t make one better, cooler, more connected, or more important to that Deity. As Loki seems to be taking more and more spouses, I often get chided for not being chosen for this sort of relationship with Him, but really, I’m okay with that. And no, I’ve never had sex with Him. That would be…weird.

Anyway, let me explain how sexual devotions happen. These are from my personal experiences, as well as sharing notes with others who engage in this practice. I do not claim to be the World Expert On God Sex, so if you have other, different experiences, please feel free to share them in the comments. If you’d rather be anonymous, you can email me and I’ll post them myself.

There are four ways I’ve had sex with Deity.

The first is masturbation with intent. This may or may not include the devotee physically manipulating their own genitals; those who can perceive energy through the sensation of touch may feel their Partner touching them. Many I’ve spoken to usually incorporate typical masturbatory techniques, and most have toys dedicated to specific Deities. (This may help the devotee differentiate God sex from just rubbing one out, when they use a God Dick or Cunt.) This may or may not include a fantasy or vision of their Partner’s presence, or the Partner being energetically present. What’s nice about this option is that you can do it even if you can’t sense the God in question – you can offer your arousal or orgasm to a God/dess as an offering, if you’re pretty sure they’re open to that sort of thing. (It is not advised to offer orgasmic energy to Goddess of Virtue, Virginity, etc…trust me on this one.) To the observer, it would look like someone masturbating with or without their own hands.

The second is astral sex. This is when the devotee enters into a deep trance state and energetically leaves the body to join their Partner in some other realm (Asgard, the Underworld, Cleveland, The Summerlands, etc). Obviously, this requires the devotee to have this skill, and it is one that someone can develop over time. This may or may not include the physical body feeling sensation. To the observer, it would look like someone meditating, or having a sexy dream.

The third is by use of a stand-in. This is when a human partner acts as a surrogate for the Deity in question, but is still fully a human. Everyone, including the Deity, should be in full knowledge that this is what is occurring. (Some sex magicians disagree with me on this point, and feel that you can use someone without their knowledge for this sort of thing, but as someone who thinks highly of consent, I feel it is important and ethical for everyone involved to know what’s going on.) I do this often when I engage in Sacred Whore work – since I can’t touch my Deities on a regular basis, I will go into sacred space and offer my touch to other humans, while dedicating the act to my Gods. This can be done with a person you are in a pre-existing relationship with, as long as you remember to also fuck outside of this practice. Actually, I encourage those in relationships to go this route, rather than the fourth, as it seems to work out better for couples in the long run. To an observer, it would look like two or more people having sex.

The fourth, and the most rare, is finding someone who is willing to become possessed by the Deity and allow their body to be used for sexual acts. The difference between this and the third option is that in this case, the owner of the body is likely not fully present mentally/psychologically when the sex occurs. I know that when I act as a horse for this sort of work, I do not retain memories of the event, or have vague ones, like through a fog. I highly discourage the use of someone you’re in any sort of relationship with, even if that relationship is not sexual, because it’s easy for people to confuse the body with the inhabitant – that is, the devotee may see me as a living representative of their Deity, rather than Del-the-guy-who-watches-reality-tv-and-eats-a-lot-of-bacon. It can also cause issues when the God uses the horse’s voice to say things, or the body to do things, that upset the devotee – the devotee may get angry or question the horse’s ability, or accuse the horse of “faking it” in order to influence the devotee’s relationship with that Deity (especially if there’s any jealousy or other ill feelings between the devotee and the horse). I also discourage using the same horse more than a few times, as it is very difficult for a typical human to have sex with the same body over and over again and not feel some form of bond with them. It’s a tricky business, which is why it is, and should be, a rare occurrence, rather than the norm. To the observer, it would look like two people having sex, while one of them is acting differently than they ordinarily do, and is being called by a different name.

Like I stated in the beginning, I am not stating that this is the Definitive Guide of God Sex Tee Em. But I feel this is a good primer for those who find the practice foreign, odd, or interesting. As most mainstream religions enforce a more parental relationship with Deity, it may seem unusual to relate to Deity in this way, but I have met many Pagans for whom this is part of their regular devotional work, and/or a deep part of how they connect with their Gods. Again, I am open to comments, questions, personal stories, etc, in the comments; if you want to remain anonymous, you can email me at awesome.del at and I will post them without your name.