Pop Culture Versus Tradition

In regards to the Norse God Loki,  it seems that there are two strict sides in modern Paganism:  Marvel Universe,  and Nordic Tradition.  I say,  why should there be such boundaries?  A Pagan friend once remarked that  “Pop culture is the folklore/mythology of our time”.  Granted,  the Marvel comics and films are not accurate depictions of what is considered  “traditional”  in the Norse Pantheon,  but they are,  nonetheless,  inspired by them.

Snorri Sturluson’s Poetic and Prose Eddas were most likely biased  (considering his stoical Christian roots),  and merely based on fragmented Nordic traditional poems and tales;  though aspects of the Norse Divinities are there,  they are largely based on speculation and imagination.  If the Eddas can be enjoyed as entertainment  (though they are not fully historically accurate),  then I find no harm in taking an interest in modern pop culture interpretations.

I am not implying that one’s belief system must lack serious responsibility;  there should be a sense of play and open-mindedness,  especially when bonding with the Trickster God Loki.  In my personal experience,  he has encouraged me to find humor in everything possible.  An almost childlike quality leaves one open to new challenges and natural curiosity.  If my inner child has affinities for fictional characters,  Loki will play along  (being the proverbial shape-shifter).  He has no  “set”  form,  so he will take on many guises.

This being said,  I have noticed a tendency for pop culture fandoms to be rife with difficult,  even disturbed people  (particularly on the Internet).  In 2002,  I was part of an online discussion forum for a fantasy film I loved since childhood,  which had enjoyed a pop culture  “cult revival”.  All was fine on the forum for the two years I had been on,  until an unstable fan showed up,  and went so far as to stalk me online for a while,  merely because I disagreed with her behavior on the forum.  Fortunately,  the situation went away on its own  (especially after I left the forum),  but it caused me a great deal of distress and distrust;  to this day,  I am extra cautious on any form of social media.

Though there is no harm in emotional attachment to favorite characters in of itself  (and using them to communicate with Patron/Patroness Deities),  it is important to not allow oneself to become too attached.  Loki is an entity in his own right,  and his guises are merely tools.  For those who have had negative experiences with Lokeans relying on the modern Marvel image of Loki,  it may simply be a case of extreme pop culture fandom getting mixed up with religion.  Not everyone is unstable,  or just seeking attention;  I am a Marvel fan myself,  and know that my dear Patron is more than a mere image  (no matter what form he takes).  It is a case of being careful,  as with anything else.

Loki has communicated with me via many images in my life,  and I’m sure he will continue to do so for the rest of it.  As long as I remain true to myself,  and love him for what he is,  he’ll gladly play along with any form I fancy.  He is a God of balance,  not mere chaos;  if he is a catalyst for change  (including extreme life upheavals),  he can also restore order,  and set things right.  My zodiacal sign is Libra,  which is symbolized by a balance  (scales);  this,  coupled with my artistic nature,  make me a classic person born under this sign.  The more my bond with Loki strengthens,  the greater my compatibility with him seems.

Marvel Loki  (in both the classic  “Thor”  comics,  modern films and television series)  is clearly depicted as a villain,  which would seem to contradict his role as a Patron Deity.  Villains are capable of giving cautionary tales,  however;  Marvel Loki’s role as Trickster is still valid.  Even as a classic villain,  Marvel Loki is a catalyst for change,  issues challenges,  and instills discipline in his adversaries.  There is also a sympathetic quality to this pop culture figure:  He is an outcast,  feeling scorned and unappreciated.  I myself have felt this way much of my life,  and in my bond with Loki,  have found ways to overcome many obstacles.  It matters not if he is cast as a villain;  I find much love in my Patron,  and a better understanding of myself.

Chaos needs to be addressed to establish balance.  I love the images I use for Loki  (past and present),  but I know to maintain harmony between these chosen tools,  and my beloved guardian Patron.  There is something valuable in traditional tales,  and modern ones,  which is another form of balance.

Advertisements

Loki Appearances

Loki_tissue1Loki_tissue2closeup_LokiLokiChainedLoki is not without a playful side!  He has utilized many images for me over the years,  and I readily admit to being a comic book/movie fan.  Loki will point me out to shapes that remind me of the Marvel pop culture version of him  (with the horned helmet).  That being said,  there are traditional images of the Trickster with horns.

I’ve been treated for major depression for years,  and after a recent crying spell,  I found Loki’s shape in a facial tissue;  it immediately cheered me up.

The Pagan Path

I was never raised in a specific denomination.  My father was raised Catholic,  and my mother Baptist,  yet I was for the most part,  “in limbo”  during my childhood.  I attended church services with family members and friends,  but it would take many years for me to find some semblance of spiritual identity.

In 1992,  a friend of my brother’s mentioned that he was a  “Pagan”.  At the time,  I was not sure what it meant,  but it was explained to me  (basically),  as a form of nature religion,  which actually has ancient roots in various parts of the world.  This intrigued me,  but it would be later in the decade when the need arose to study more of the Pagan Path.

Lamentably,  I had a troubled childhood,  and in my adult life,  I remain estranged from many of my relatives.  I was not well-treated,  and much of my upbringing involved severe psychological abuse,  which carried over into my adulthood.  Despite this fact  (and a lack of specific religion),  I never considered myself an atheist or agnostic;  it seemed that something  (perhaps,  someone),  was there,  though not always in tangible form.

In 1998,  I began reading various books on paganism  (Wicca,  Celtic Tradition,  Animal Totems),  and though I still lacked a specific direction,  my life began to make more sense spiritually.  What contact I did have regarding Christianity was negative  (a hypocritical,  abusive father),  and though I did not consider this more  “acceptable”  religion in itself bad for me,  I was relieved to find that it was not my only alternative.  Magic and ritual were no longer the mere stuff of fairy tales;  there was basis in reality,  and I found a way to delve further into my existence.

In 1999,  I met some Pagans at a local pop culture convention,  and we hit it off quite well.  Not only did I find like-minded souls,  I was introduced to a Wiccan High Priestess,  who preferred the nickname  “Tess”.  Sadly,  Tess was elderly,  and not in the best of health,  but she had a strong resolve,  and much wisdom.  In her,  I found a friend,  teacher,  and guide.  When she passed away around 2004,  it left an indelible mark on me,  but I am comforted by her insight and encouragement.

As an artist,  I am mainly self-taught  (relying on personal study and practice),  and my approach to Paganism is no different.  For years,  I considered myself strictly eclectic,  but I have found myself drawn to aspects of the Northern  (Nordic)  Path.  Life is a continual learning process;  no matter how much knowledge or experience I garner,  I still perceive my world through an almost childlike innocence.  I want to see things differently,  and make change wherever it is needed.

It was through recent study of the Northern Path,  and recollection of some insight from Tess,  that an entity I regarded as a guardian spirit indeed had an identity:  Loki.  My guardian appeared to me in various forms throughout my lifetime,  and though there were notable differences,  there remained a common thread to link them.  I described to Tess my love for a fictional character.  This was not a simple  “crush”  on an image;  the feeling was dynamic.

During another visit with Tess at a Gulf Coast convention in 1999,  she mentioned a strong sense of who my guardian spirit was.  She asked,  “Have you ever heard of the Norse God,  Loki?”  His name seemed vaguely familiar;  though Loki remains misunderstood in modern Pagan circles,  I knew that there were pop culture references to him for years  (though ironically,  it was not specifically one of Loki I had been drawn to at the time).  Tess noticed marked similarities between the entity reaching out to me via a favorite character,  and traditional tales of the Norse God of Mischief.

“He’s mischievous,  and a shape-shifter.  I’m sure that’s who he is.”  I gave this assumption a lot of thought,  but due to studying Celtic Paganism so much for the past year,  I couldn’t fully make the connection.  Despite this Celtic affinity,  I remained eclectic,  and used Nordic Runes in some of my rituals;  this did not escape Tess’  attention.  “It’s interesting that you use Runes a lot.”  I merely thought that the usage of Runes simply came with my eclectic nature.

One thing was certain:  My guardian used various guises,  and names in our communication.  I kept an open mind,  but I would use other images as tools  (including the airy spirit  “Ariel”  in William Shakespeare’s play,  “The Tempest”),  before I would come to know my patron guardian in his true form.  I never believed that fictional characters were coming to life;  they were simply gateways of communication.  With his malleable powers,  Loki can be,  as my friend Tess explained,  “Anything you want him to be.”