What a long strange trip from
But I’m on my way
and I am not looking back.
What a long strange trip from
But I’m on my way
and I am not looking back.
This is such a beautiful description of – and quite possibly the most apt metaphor for – working with Loki that I have ever read.
From an excellent Tumblr blog – see, they do exist! — here is coldalbion’s reply to an anonymous question, “Do you have any advice on working with Loki?”
“Advice, anon…? Not per se. I do have something for you, which may help:
What to say here? Loki’s like a whirling dervish; an expert knife-thrower all shining steel and flame-flicker.
And you’re his assistant.
You may or may not be blindfolded at first, and sometimes that’s better, despite the fact that you can hear those knives whistling towards your head with deadly precision.
With the blindfold on, you can at least recall his charming smile, the wicked quirk of his scarred lips, sly and arch and smooth. How he led you there with honeyed words and soft touches; how the tales of wonder and excitement thrilled you, all bright colours and exotic new adventures. How he picked you up and, somehow, for some reason decided to give you the benefit of all of him – how he blazed with a kind of Light that had nothing to do with vision, and everything to do with existing without reference to anything else.
And the more time you felt his presence, the more you began to know that his darkness was like his Light, a thing in and of itself. The full sense of his presence illuminated you, made you feel like you were the only thing in the worlds. He took your pain and scars and ran himself along them with a kind of knowing, a sense of recognition that generates a seemingly ever-present resonance.
So it’s the most natural, thrilling thing in the world when he asks you to do something for him, to put on a special costume, take his hand and step into the ring for this little act he does, purely for fun.
Charmed, beguiled, feeling the pull of nerves, you do it. You listen to his patter, his introduction as you stand there in the spotlight, surrounded by a audience shrouded in darkness. You’re his glamourous assistant, the absolute necessity to his act.
He smiles at you as he blindfolds you, as he raises you up to the board. Your heart begins to race as he binds you, secures you tight so you can’t move. You’re helpless, waiting, praying.
When the first knife whistles through the air, you stiffen. The wind of its passing plays across your skin – the impact into the board is shockingly loud. You can’t help but gasp, the board vibrating with the force of that blow. You imagine the audience’s intake of breath, but you can’t hear it over the noise of the knives that suddenly seem to come in from all directions.
Again and again and again. When one buries itself scant millimeteres from your face, you realise that you can feel the cold of the metal against your cheek. You flinch, and realise that the buried blades surround you. Your body is ringed by steel. There is nowhere else to go.
The act must be over now, mustn’t it? Surely it must!
So why is it that you can hear more knives coming? What kind of insane game is this – is this madman actually trying to kill you?
You think back to what he told the audience – that you are an absolute necessity to his act. Is it possible he lured you under false pretences, that you are some kind of sacrificial animal, and that one of those knives will be your doom?
No wonder you might be afraid!
And when the blows come, you can feel the edges bite, sharp against your flesh. This is it. You’re going to die. What a fool you were to do this, to let this motherfucker lead you on.
But..wait a minute. You’re still here. Everything is suddenly silent, way too quiet. Heart hammering, you gingerly attempt to move, and, to your surprise, you realise that your bonds, after a moment of snagging, seem to have fallen away.
With trembling hands, you pull down the blindfold, and are momentarily blinded – the house lights have come up and you stumble away from the board a liittle. When your vision returns, you’re in for a shock.
Because there’s no-one there. The vast ranks of seats are empty. The audience have gone, even though you didn’t hear them leave. Maybe they were never even there to begin with…
Maybe you’re still bewildered when a voice tells you to Think fast! and you jump back as a knife suddenly comes out of nowhere and buries itself in the sawdust at your feet.
The unseen voice tells you to pick up the blade. Go on, just pick it up. So you do, and suddenly he steps out from behind the board with a little, courtly, mocking bow.
Turnabout is fair play, he drawls.
It’s your turn. Without thinking, the knife leaves your hand, aiming at his head. But he’s not there.
He’s behind you, lips against your ear, hand on your arm, guiding you through the arc of the throw. The knife hits the board, straight and true, in a way you’d never have known how to do before.
And then? Then he’s dancing and you have an endlesss supply of blades. He weaves and curves, eels and dives in ten thousand intricate movements; a shining, glittering impossibility. Without thinking, you fall into a rhythm, and later you realise the strangeness of this – for you and he are acting together in the space between heartbeats. You’re part of the same dance, the same ebb and flow and weave.
There’s no telling how long it goes on for, or why it stops. Maybe he becomes bored, or maybe you send steel singing so close that it leaves a line of blood along his cheekbone.
Who can tell? Because suddenly, the knives you throw are suddenly plucked from the air by nimble hands, and turned back on you. Lost in the rhythm, you struggle to evade the most lethal, but manage it. But you do not remain unscathed – your shining costume is cut from you swifter than lightning, until you stand naked and nicked in the sawdust.
Your nerves sing – the cuts are not deep, after all, but the endorphins are called into your blood, as surely as someone summoned an army. A single droplet of blood falls in slow motion, splashing on the shaved wood, blossoming and swelling and staining the ground of the ring.
When you look up again, he’s smiling, eyes sparkling with ancient wisdom and dark mirth. Not bad, he says. Let’s go again.
Steel sings and you feel the air move against your skin.
And you smile in return, and you move.
It’s time to dance.”
(Artwork: ‘Jester’ by MuYoung Kim)
Things are changing and while I am not sure I wanted them to change, they did.
It’s been a while.
One of the things that seem changed is that They haven’t felt as ‘present’ lately…or at least, my sense of Them has been feeling a lot more abstract, perhaps removed.
Y’see, as much as I hate to admit this, I have been beating myself up a little lately, allowing myself to feel anxious, thinking that Their subdued presence was due entirely to my lack of interaction…and while that feels true on one level, it feels equally untrue on another level.
Meanwhile, a post by Jolene Dawe came across my feed recently that definitely featured a message that I needed to hear/read about relationships, change and acceptance.
In any case, Jolene’s words gave me some means to frame what’s been going on (or in some cases, what’s not going on) in my own practice.
Her insight into her feelings/thoughts about her journey helped me process the feelings and thoughts I’ve been having about my own.
Upon reading, it occurred to me that perhaps she was going through something similar to what I’ve been going through in my own practice – and that powder-keg moment surrounded her assertion that she felt like a hypocrite for creating a liturgy.
What is a liturgy? I found myself thinking, as my brain leapt to wondering…
Was she talking about a writing project?
If her liturgy writing project was going in any way similar to the way my latest writing project is going for me, I wondered if she too was debating with herself over the reason that things seemed to be…fizzling out.
Perhaps she too was trying to decipher if the project was dying a natural death or if she was somehow, inadvertently mucking it up.
At any rate, I could definitely relate to that inner debate, mulling over the concepts of hypocrisy, inaction, the evolution of relationships with what’s imminent vs what isn’t…
I especially found myself identifying with her discussion of the desire to be close vs. not feeling so close to Them (i.e the state of feeling connected to the Gods vs. feeling ‘Godless’.)
I liked her metaphor/line of thinking about God-relationships: that if P was an actual person, she could call Him up and They could chat about old times in a way that honors the meaning of what their relationship used to be
…without getting caught up in nostalgia or pining over what used to be because she wants it back.
(Or letting herself get mired in that feeling like she should want things to go back to the way things were.)
I’ll be honest, I was heartened to read when she admitted to feeling (mostly) at peace with the fact that she couldn’t go back
and doesn’t want to anyway.
And that got me to thinking how I began my life as a Pagan: I will admit that I spent a long time feeling like a Godless Pagan, as I do recall that some of my initial attempts at a devotional practice were spurred on by anxiety:
that I wanted to be closer to Them to the nth degree
that I needed to be connected to Them to the nth degree
And that acute feeling like The Goal of It All had always been to connect to Them to this nth degree.
But then to experience the level of connection that I’d so long sought?
(Oh there is sheer blissful NRE in having THAT connection…)
But did I ever expect that that intense level of connection could (inevitably!) change?
Honestly, I did not.
Now this is where it got kinda messy in my head because, yes, though I know what I’d always been told…
The only thing constant in this world is change:
Well, of course, relationships change.
But I will admit I wasn’t really prepared to fathom any level of change in my relationship with Them.
So now to experience these moments of what my anxiety wants to define as ‘less’ and ‘lack’ feels like a terrible loss.
But is it?
Perhaps I need to learn to reframe my perspective.
So perhaps I don’t have the same intense connection with Them that I used to have.
(and yes, I am aware of how part of it is my fault if one wants to assign blame)
but perhaps, the other part of it is
just a rather natural evolution towards something
not as imminent
not as active
as I had previously expected.
But is there any need to for me to feel so anxious about it?
Perhaps I should welcome the change as a sign of growth in my relationship with Them.
Perhaps I should welcome this companionable silence
*Well, Loki IS a God of Change, now isn’t He?
This song has always given me a weird feeling.
I can’t exactly explain it – except to admit that the lyrics used to give me a strange tight discomfort in my chest, even though I’ve always found its melody hauntingly beautiful.
Was it a song about magic?
Or perhaps… a song about death?
When I was young, I did not know.
But I can’t help but recall that my older sister would often sing the lyrics – making sure to mimic the young Steve Winwood’s high pitched plaintive voice and making a mockery of the British way he pronounced can’t (like caunt) – and I would nervously laugh and laugh, and beg her to stop.
Oh, the nervous laughter we shared over that song!
Back then, I didn’t know what it was about…
or what made me so uncomfortable about that song.
And I definitely did not know what it was about this song that invited so much ridicule from my older sister…. and yet…
Some thirty-odd years later, we got to talking about the song recently…and we admitted to one another that we’d always liked that song.
Funny that, eh?
Perhaps we are getting old.
Nowadays, I have begun to speculate what the song is about.
Or rather, I have become certain of what that song means to me.
It is a song about surrender.
Perhaps what had made me uncomfortable about the song was its tone – which now strikes me as a tone of surrender:
“Come down off your throne and leave your body alone. Somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long – somebody holds the key
Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home
Come down on your own and leave your body at home – somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years – somebody holds the key
Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home…”
-lyrics written and sung by Steve Winwood/Blind Faith
As a matter of fact, while it is still true that it might be a song about fear of death or old age, that plaintive chorus of I can’t find my way home never fails to fill me with this unshakeable sense of loneliness and loss.
Perhaps the song is an extended and powerful metaphor of loss.
Is it about someone who is spiritually seeking?
As it was with the mystic poet Rabindranath Tagore who wrote:
Where roads are made I lose my way.
In the wide water, in the blue sky there is no line of a track.
The pathway is hidden by the birds’ wings, by the star-fires, by the flowers of the wayfaring seasons.
And I ask my heart if its blood carries the wisdom of the unseen way….
In that regard, this song makes me think of madness, perhaps even seidhr.
You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years…
Somebody holds the key…
Written by Jacob Ibrag
It feels like sinking.
Like you’re trying to break the waters
surface with every kick your body delivers.
You remember that panic causes
more panic so you try to remain placid.
You think about love and if you really
If it was really love then why hasn’t it lasted?
Maybe if it was real love, you would’ve
already been found.
And if it was real love, how could it ever die out?
You try forming
a symbiotic relationship with the water, letting it take you so you can become a part of it.
You’ve always belonged here.
You let go, giving up the fight.
that it was all in your head as you wake up in the middle of the night.
We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.
I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography–to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.
~ Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient)
I stumbled upon this lovely quote on a friend’s blog today, and he spoke of being inspired by its metaphors.
I was so moved by it as well that I felt the need to share it.