I bought some thinbread the other day. There are several brands out there. Thinbread is those round sandwich breads- super thin and help one conserve on those dratted calories and carbs. Have you ever tried them? About the size of an English Muffin, both sides thinner than half of that same muffin. You apply your sandwich fillings and assorted toppings and eat. Only problem is the bread is so thin half the time it falls apart from the moisture of your mayo and you end up eating your fillings off your plate and licking mustard off of your fingers. The bread itself is thin and dry so you have to add extra mayo or drink plenty of fluids to help wash the sandwich down. The cost for a pack of 8 portions is, ounce for ounce, far more than all but the most premium of regular breads. But ahhh, you are doing good for yourself, eating well, right?

I’m not so sure. As I was finishing up the second and last pack of thinbread I’ll ever purchase I realized I’m not doing myself nor my pocket book any favors. Then it struck me, thinbread is a metaphor for religion. Basic dry religion, religion for the masses. I’ve been thinking lately on the difference between religion for the masses and the true core of religion. There is a difference. Sure, I can go to church or some blot, I can light a candle for Wodan or make a funny rhyme for Loki. But is this religion? It certainly is something each person has to think of on their own.

For me, going through those motions, eating flat dry bread- it isn’t real religion. Someone mentioned to me there is a difference between mysticism and religion. Mysticism is, to put it simply, the pursuit of divine truth through inspiration or direct communion with higher powers. Religion, on the other hand, is defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.  I don’t think there has to be a division and to claim there is forces a dividing line, a split between religion for the masses and then a religion for a select few mystics, priests, godhis.

Many out there do, at least unconsciously, recognize this divisor. They go through the motions, drive to church or a blot, say a rote prayer, eat their dry bread and figure they did good for themselves. They got their weekly or monthly dose of grace and now it is time to get back to 'real' life. But everyone, anyone, can take a moment and truly ponder, try to sense the enormity and grace of their God. Anyone, everyone, can read their myths or their Bible or their Koran or whatever they read and not just try to memorize and accept rote verses or stanzas but attempt to consider the meanings and symbolism behind the words.

Any true hearted attempt to feel one’s religion with one’s heart and soul will bring a person closer to their God, will add the spice of mysticism to the true religion they belong to. Really, don’t just read about Thor and offer him a beer once in a while; run outside into that lightening storm and feel/delight in his power and presence. A bit risky? Yeah, so is life. Running out for a few moments into a storm is far less risky than driving to the store to buy your thinbread so get over that one and just do it. Besides, the storm is far more fun and exhilarating. Don’t like Thor? Quit the excuses and do whatever needs to be done to feel your God and the religion He/She stands for. You don’t have to wait for an official feast or religious day. Loki said to me once, ‘A date is just a date. You can have a party any time.’ This applies to any God, don’t get stuck in a calendar.

So I’m tossing the thinbread idea. If I want to count calories I’ll buy good yummy bread and just make half a sandwich. It is the same size as the thinbread, same bread calories, and it will actually hold a filling.

How does one keep everything straight? The Gods, the twisting and turning of their ways, I feel like goddamn Gumby and Pokey at times. I see this mad road I am diving down again, feel the crush of their weight and I wonder, how does one keep things straight?  

This dark path of howling winds, burning hail and the sting of cold waters feet slogging through the muck and mud I've been here before and now I tread again. Loki pointed the way, Heimdall pushed, Hela screamingly drags and Nerthus goads and I stagger and stumble as I make my way like a blind dog. I know dear Sigyn will be there to catch me when I fall and the Alcis stand back aways, They in their blessedness tell me They will make no demands but are there if I need. And I so long to lean into Their strong shoulders for just a bare moment but I am falling down this echoing path too fast twisting and spinning free fall to the will of the Gods.  

In this madness the emotions rise- I've never been emotional I don't like this but it is thrust on me and deal with it I do as I can. I stand on the bright bridge, 'Why? Why am I so emotional?' and Heimdall chuckles and takes me in as one would a child learning to adjust, 'You've always been emotional, every time.' He tells me that depth is my strength but I don't feel strong. Like a wounded bird, a cat with three legs, a balloon whose air has been let out and now lies as crumpled rubber on the couch. Of course there is also the horror of every time They show glimpses of behind and there has been an every time leading to the now just please don't show the should/will be but bare glimpses They do show and I don't want to know. I need to make friends with Verdandi first.  

So I bend and twist like both Gumby and Pokey. There is no privacy with the Gods, it as They choose; come here, do this, let me, get back, further, LOOK, and I scream in the dark corner I can't get back any further Yes You Can and I do. And I snarl, 'How long do you have me for?' but my question isn't answered, it isn't important. Bend here, bend there- Helm of Awe.  

And the only actually, truly mad part of all of this is that no matter how this bend and twist pains and cuts, grinds and scrapes- I never want Them to stop. I will walk this howling road into Their light.

Art Clokey- creator of Gumby. Click the picture for an insightful obituary.
I went to a memorial for a child today. I walked in to a quiet room, people sitting hunched, tense, desperately waiting for anyone, anything to shatter the brittle silence. The father, an accountant, got up and gave me a hug. We spoke a moment softly, briefly, whispers of 'I can't imagine, there is no way to understand, no words that can convey... yes you will see him on the stairs, around the corner for years to come'. We parted, both of us teary and then I smiled, 'Well darn it!' I announced, 'You have to hug me again, tax for making me cry!' He smiled and hugged me, a moment of soft joy and the room brightened a touch and the tension eased with the gentle spray of compassionate humor Loki shone through me.

Loki. Loki's children. This event provides perspective. You see, last week I worked through a devotion, a meditation, an ordeal that focused on Loki's binding. I should know by now I am always surprised at the directions the meditations take me. I had thought it would be about the pain, the uncertainty, vengeance, and cruelty. But no, Loki isn't that selfish, it was about the grief of losing a child. His children, one driven insane, one murdered. 'Do you think Sigyn is the only one who suffered?' he snarled at me. I was shown my own two children, two young boys, and it was as though a choice was being offered; cruel whispers- 'which one?' In my heart I beg Loki and Sigyn were not made to choose.

To lose a child, any child, is a life changing experience. What was you, what was your future is now gone. You are impotent, the future ceases to have meaning, it ceases to have purpose. You are forever bound to that moment, to the pain of that grief; bound with the entrails of your child to unforgiving stone, emotional venom pouring through your mind.

What you don't know is the night I did the binding devotion, the night I lay bound living with the horror of Loki's anguish was the night my friends son was killed. I found out when I returned to work the next week. I was still processing the devotion and to discover what had happened put to shame the horror, the trial I had endured. You see, my ordeal only lasted two hours. My friend, he will live with this ordeal the rest of his life. Loki, Sigyn, Frigga, Odin- they have eternity to ponder the loss of their children.

My friend, we had only been work associates but now we will always be bound by this brief sharing of grief, this brief sharing of compassion. I am honored he gave that to me. We should all be honored and humbled the Gods shared with us this grief for it can show us the road to compassion.

3/29- Post note: I didn't even realize it then but did the other day. My friend, who lost his son, is a slim built man with red hair.

I received an email from someone who I'll identify as TP who experiences the same Loki I do. She also wants people to know of his kinder aspects. I've included a portion of her email here:

"... From then on he's hung round, visiting from time to time, and yes he is almost exactly as you've described him..... Towards me and mine he's always been fiercely protective but fun too. Yeah he does have a temper sometimes, but I've noticed many time it's because he has a keen sense of justice. He does love family and the whole domestic scene. One of the things that put me most at ease around him is the way he is so gentle around my youngest daughter. She's only four and he plays with her the way a doting uncle or grandparent would. Another thing that truly surprised me at first is how laid back he can be. He'll show up at some of the most mundane moment like if I'm just cleaning house while listening to songs on my iPod. He's funny though he will poke fun at the songs he doesn't like and sing along (sometimes loudly and purposefully off key)to the ones he likes, others he will sit back and listen to quietly, seemingly lost in thought. He like anyone be they God, human or something in between is a very complex personality, but he is by far more than just a trickster."

Yes TP- he does sing, and sometimes purposely to bug you! One time he 'made' me listen to the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme several times over- gotta laugh!

Interestingly, the author of the email wrote that when she asked Loki why he was interested in her family He told her that her ancestors worshipped Him. Loki has told me that in past lives I've worshipped Him. I know there isn't really documented archeology of this but it would be interesting to see how many have had gnosis of this.
For various reasons I opted to honor Aegir today. I admittedly don't know Him well so I wrote a simple prayer and packed up some cookies I hoped He would like.

I went to Deception Pass State park here in Washington. The bridge passes over a sill where waters begin their mix with the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The Puget Sound does have areas of depths up to 1000 feet but where I was  we're looking at only about 150.

Lord of the Northern Seas
I honor your welcoming
Husband of Ran
Sire of Nine
I honor your gift
Your fertile lands beneath the waves
I honor you with gift in kind.

I tossed a bunch of Cranberry Nut cookies over the bridge, watching for police as I was, ahem, right across from the 'No Throwing Items over the Bridge' sign. Oh well. Watching the cookies descend was a little dizzying- the bridge is 200 feet off of the water.

I gave a moment of silence and felt the subtle acceptance one can sometimes feel. He seemed somewhat amused, or maybe He is just frequently happy, I don't know Him well enough. 'Thank you little one,' I heard.

On the way home I treated myself to an oyster burger from a little shrimp shack on the corner of Hwy 20 and Deception road- you can't miss it. The business is truly a shack, not even a name sign. But fresh oysters shucked right there- delicious! I saluted the bounty from His fields as I ate.

My mind was broiling over perfection today. Not that I had defined those thoughts that way, but I was. I had done something that I felt wasn't good enough. Now, a part of me realized it was but the critic had raised her ugly head and insisted it wasn't.

I had to run to town and when I returned I decided to turn on the TV. Channel 9- not my usual choice- I prefer a good sci-fi, mystery or chiller flick. But for some reason I stayed on this public broadcast channel. The speaker was good and she was talking about Authenticity.

She makes sense. Authenticity is a way of acting, it is a process of conscious decisions. These include:

~Perfection- it is armor to protect us from feeling judged and shame. We must be willing to be imperfect, to accept our imperfection.
~Vulnerability isn’t about shame- it is the door to love, gratitude, happiness, and joy. It takes courage to be vulnerable, it is a virtue.
~Boundary setting. We have to have the courage to set boundaries, to choose discomfort over resentment. Saying no is uncomfortable, don’t worry about resentment.
~We need to find a way to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

Now I'm not typically a 'feel good pink joy joy bubble' kinda person. This self help junk, just doesn't usually get to me- it's why even though I know the founder of the Susan G. Koman 3 day breast cancer walk I have never done it. Just don't want to be 'that happy' with that many people. But she made sense to me today. The picture is from her site- here is the link. Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and I Thought it was just me among other books. No affiliation- she just made sense today.

Sigyn said something to me last week and I can't quite get it out of my mind. I was asking her 'why humans?', why do the Gods come to us. Of course I was being primarily selfish, talking about me but I was also curious about humans in general.

I mean, we take time. Training really. Our lives are short. We get confused, we are limited. Why bother? Why humans?

She said to me something like, 'Humans are innocent' as though that explained everything. 'Innocent?' I asked. 'I'm not innocent'. She smiled, waved her hand in dismissal. 'Those things, they are like specks of dirt we can wipe off. Humans are innocent. You don't truly understand the consequences of your actions, their whole effect on wyrd and orlog. Gods though, we understand,' and then she looked down for a moment and then looked back at me with such soft sadness, 'and we do those things anyway.'
Even back in Dreamland I could tell music is part of the blood, part of the way of the Gods. Loki was always singing. Sometimes songs I had never heard, other times very modern songs. They usually had a message, something He wanted me to hear. Other Gods sang or played instruments as well.

Heimdallr has shown me rhythm. I don't know if it is HIS rhythm, but I have seen Him dance to drums on mountain tops at the time of the setting sun. He has come to me in the night, drums following, making my very soul sway to those beats. 

There was a Gathering one time. I didn't get to see much, I was kept out of most of it. What I did see, there were beings from many places, likely many Pantheons were there. Aesir, Jotnar, Vanir, Oriental looking beings, African or Haitian looking people- there were many there. At the time of course I didn't know the words Aesir, Jotnar, etc but I could tell there were differences. I saw them as different tribes and that was adequate.

All the groups though- there was a different flavor to their songs. The African looking Gods (I'm assuming now they were Gods), They had a beautiful singsong lilt to their music, a rhythmic impulse that could feed your soul. Those with Heimdallr often had a more folk sound to their music. Unfortunately I never heard the song of the Asian looking Gods, that would have been interesting.

Loki, when He was Tobi and gently coaxing me into the realization of His reality, gave me one of His first tangible gifts. Tangible meaning I can hold, touch, see and hear this gift. You see, I never really follow the music industry. Not very interested- in my whole life I have had a total of maybe 20 albums. But He often sang beautiful songs and one day, for some reason, I locked onto an album that was due to come out. I don't know why, I had NEVER had an interest in new music, had never purchased an album the day it came out. But I was compulsed, obsessed. Even wrote the date in my calendar.

The day of release I purchased the album and immediately laid down on my bed to listen to it. One of the songs, within the first few lines I realized I knew the song. I had heard it before. I sat up with a gasp- it hadn't been released as a single, there was no way I should have known it. I looked over and saw Loki standing at the foot of the bed, standing in an odd pose, that sweet, almost shy look He can get, watching me closely. I looked at Him, remembered but still incredulous. 'I know this song!' and yes, He had sung it for me.

It is fitting. Sully Erna- third generation musical prodigy who refused to learn to read sheet music, lead singer of the hard rock band Godsmack. He had gone out on his own, wanted to do something different musically, wanted to show the world another aspect of his talent, his being. The song is My Light from his album Avalon. If you want to know another side of  Loki take a few moments and listen (tab below)- it truly is a beautiful song that may surprise the listener considering who it came from both human and God.

I find it fitting because one can see parallels. Sully, bad boy of rock and roll, in and out of trouble- Loki, bad boy of the Northern Tradition, in and out of trouble. Both doing something not necessarily in keeping with common knowledge of Them. Both birthing the beauty that each holds inside.