Religion vs Fandom

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This rant has been building for a long time, and I’m sure I’m going to take some criticism for it and possibly gain some enemies, but I feel like this perspective should be out there for people to take or leave as they see fit.

A few weeks ago, I saw a discouraging post on Facebook, where an individual who had been actively interested in working with Loki as a god said that she was throwing in the towel and having nothing more to do with Loki or the “Lokean” community. Loki isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the primary god for everyone in my opinion, so that’s not what discouraged me. What discouraged me was that the reason she was abandoning ship wasn’t because of any ill effect working with Loki had on her life, but because she couldn’t stand what has become the “Lokean” community anymore, with hoards upon hoards of self-proclaimed god-spouses and Loki fangirls devolving the worship of Loki into pure fandom and silliness.

This made me start to mull over the reasons that I too have found myself offended by this trend, since until recently it had been hard for me to put into words. There have been a loud protests by the individuals that were drawn to Loki because of the recent Marvel Thor fandom, insisting that just because they were brought to Loki through fandom doesn’t mean that their worship practices aren’t valid or aren’t serious. Given, I was seven when I made Loki my primary deity of devotion, with all of the heavy “seriousness” and piety a seven year old can muster, I understand that where we start isn’t always where we end up. Since that time, I would like to think that my worship and understanding of Loki as a god has matured with time, so I understand that if you’re serious enough to work with Loki long-term, your understanding of him will evolve and mature. However, what I’ve been observing ever since the Thor movie came out hasn’t been what I recognize as religious devotion.

In Hinduism, which in my opinion is the closest surviving Indo-European cousin that modern Heathenry has, there is an understanding (built upon thousands of years of unbroken worship and philosophy) that the gods are more than just big invisible people. The gods are depicted as humans with multiple arms, different colored skin, different symbols, etc., as points of symbolic reference for the worshipper, not because they believe that the gods are literally cruising around in chariots up in the sky and look exactly like they’re depicted. This need for symbolism reveals that behind these masks of the gods, there is a deeper, spiritual mystery that is so vast that it can’t be comprehended as a focus of worship without the help of visual cues. For example, Shiva isn’t just some blue dude with a bunch of arms meditating on a tiger skin that’s just there for modern worshippers to telekinetically talk to about their day with. His blue skin is symbolic of the cremation ashes that he is (symbolically) covered with, which points to the deeper meaning of Shiva himself being a manifestation of the mystery that is life and death. That’s a HUGE mystery. So huge that it would be difficult for humans to be able to focus on the spiritual force behind that mystery without a visual aid. I personally believe it is those sentient, spiritual forces that embody the mysteries of nature that we refer to as “gods”. Because Heathenry no longer has access to the philosophy that created the symbolic language of its gods and goddesses, I think that’s why it’s become so easy for the worship of the Norse gods to devolve into “worshipping big invisible people”. Yes, I believe the gods are sentient beings, but are far from being simply big anthropomorphic guys that go about their business like people down in Midgard visiting the grocery store.

Because of that detachment from the proper awe of the mysteries, I have seen the “worship” of Loki devolve into simply making Loki your invisible boyfriend which you can have untold amorous adventures with and then write about it on Tumblr. In other words, you’re more interested in making Loki your invisible lover than you are in discovering and honoring the deeper spiritual mystery that lies behind the symbol that humans have created and named “Loki”. Loki (in my school of thought) is much like the sacramental fire as personified by Agni in the Vedas. He is a doorway between life and death, he is the vehicle through which the gods receive worship and offerings, as Lodhurr he is the mystery of the fire of life that lies the blood, he is the cremation fire which all humans and worlds must pass through to be reborn into new life, he is the spark of genius that was born when man first claimed fire and set themselves apart from the other animals. Loki is an enormous spiritual mystery, and all people seem to want to do is jerk off to his depiction in a movie. That’s really what it looks like when I see all of Loki’s new “god-spouses” doing little more than posting erotic Loki pictures *kawaii blush*, writing stories about sex with Loki, and talking about him as if he’s literally their invisible boyfriend, and then getting pissed off if you make light of that: taking a sacred, spiritual mystery and treating it with all the respect that you would a Playboy Magazine and a box of tissues. Yes, it’s true that throughout human history people have described a union with their gods as a form of (sometimes very sexual) ecstasy, but there’s a huge difference between the ecstasy born from spiritual devotion and getting turned on by provocative pictures of X god. Given, I’ve seen some gorgeous depictions of Loki being drawn lately and I think that’s awesome, but I’ve also seen “Lokeans” passing around pictures of naked Tom Hiddleston on a bed and alluding to what Loki’s going to do for them in the bedroom later. That happens a lot in fandom, but in what real religion does that ever happen?! I’ve never seen Hindus passing around images of Shiva and saying, “Man, his holy abs are making me want to cream my sari! I can’t wait to see what he has in store for me later!” It’s the same frustration I feel when I see pictures that Furries have produced of Horus and Anubis in a circle jerk together: It’s taking someone’s sacred images and turning it into smut.

True, Loki is very sexual in nature and does appreciate a lot of good humor (and is nothing at all like Jesus for the record), but there’s a difference between regarding his power and sexuality with reverence and treating it like a dirty fan-fiction. Treating Loki so blithely (even if you’re totally enamored by the idea of Loki at the moment and don’t see your fandom as blithe) is cheapening him as a sacred mystery and it’s weakening his potential to be worshipped like a real god. Treating him in such a way also (in my mind) reveals that many of the people who are calling themselves “Lokean” these days are doing so as a form of mystical fandom and not as a religious practice, because if these individuals actually believed in the gods as GODS and not invisible friends, they wouldn’t treat them the way that they do. I think this is why in traditions where a belief in their sacred powers has remained unbroken (such as Santeria and Hinduism) you never see this kind of pornographic nonsense. For these people who truly believe that the gods are Gods, it would be considered downright disrespectful to brag about your mundane sexual exploits with Ganesh, or to talk about how Eleggua instructed you to masturbate for him with the magical red and black sex toy you bought in his honor. That kind of behavior would be corrected pretty damn quickly in those communities, and I think part of the reason that Heathenry doesn’t have the same kind of filters is because it is a newly emerging tradition with no solid collective traditions, no agreed upon collective leaders, and therefore no solid boundaries or elders to answer to; In other words, no real personal accountability. Injecting this kind of fandom nonsense into the worship of Loki and Heathenry in general only helps to make it look less credible and less serious as a religious practice, and ensures that we’ll never be back on par with truly established polytheistic traditions such as Hinduism and Shinto, where the gods are treated like Gods and religion is treated like religion, not fandom. Fandom is not, has never been, and will never be religion!

If you are feeling drawn to Loki as a deity, then I highly encourage you to begin to treat him less like an invisible friend for a while and more like a sacred mystery. This doesn’t mean that Loki cannot influence your life in positive ways much like a friend, but he is a god that deserves real devotion and real respect. Take your devotion up a notch and pull yourself out of the dredges of Hollywood and the internet: create and perform real-life rituals for him, do real research about him, try to understand his role in our universe as more than just “that hot dude that gave birth to a horse and was played by that dreamy actor”. Treating Loki like you would a character in a fandom is only weakening his position as a deity in both the Heathen/Pagan and the greater religious community, insuring that the worship of Loki (if this is what you choose to make it) will never be taken seriously by anybody. Loki may not always be serious, but he is serious business. Rant concluded. I hope to have some more positive stuff up here soon. 

15 responses to “Religion vs Fandom

  1. Yes. This is why I am not on tumblr and have a whole slew of ‘Lokeans’ who won’t talk to me. I say good riddance. I hated fandom before the first movie even came out and spoke out then. Maybe now that the foretold results are seen people will do something and not ostracize those who speak out against lack of respect, reality of what divinity is, and over sexualization without any understanding nor desire to understand the deeper mysteries of the creative forces and pathways. Good on you.

  2. Is a mystical fandom really all that horrible? Marvel Loki has actually helped deepen my understanding of Him. The fandom won me over because I realized, “Damn, I get to see my god on screen!”
    Plus I bet lots of people wonder why that “hot dude” decided to have sex with a horse and looked up the myth.

    I suspect Loki is rather mercenary about pop cutlure. Fandom gives him a bunch of free hot energy so why wouldn’t He encourage it? Deities update their image for Midgard as it is now and for Him, that means Tom HIddleston. I think pop culture is just another resource the Divine can use to snag our attention and remain in the public eye.

    Your writing on Hinduism is really interesting. I enjoyed reading about the thoughtful symbolism behind the art. I imagine lots of people would love to commission Heathen art on a similar level of mystery but can’t because that requires money that maybe they don’t have. You’re making me wonder what sort of image I would want of Loki, hmmm.

    I don’t think Heathenism will ever be on par with Shintoism or Hinduism. I do hope more people will flock to the Norse deities and more community and knowledge will be shared. With the lack of lore we have compared to other religions, I think it important to create our own.

    Additional thoughts:
    It’s possible that Tumblr is the only safe/r space a Lokean has to gush about their Boyfriend. While it would be very interesting to read folk write about how Loki-as-Boyfriend furthers their understanding of Him, it’s also just nice to see people happy about having a loving deity in their lives.

    Your irritation seems to be explicitly with people who make sexual posts about Him. I can’t say that interests me too much either. I’ve come to enjoy following users from other pantheons because I get to learn a lot.

    Is the Loki* tag still pagan & polytheist-focused?

  3. This is an absolutely fantastic post that sums up my many issues with so many other Heathens. The Tumblr community, and Tumblr in general, is a rather irritating website that is mostly just a place for mentally ill people and the PC police. I’ve never had a problem with Lokeans or Loki in general until I met these people. Getting away from that community was probably the best choice I made concerning my religion.

  4. For some people, devotion to sexuality in this form is a valid form of worship.

    While it may clash with how religion was practiced in the past and commonly around the world, it goes power to something that I find incredibly important; the dissolution of the common thoughts in religious practice that sexuality should be considered negative.

    It also gives power to te idea that showing sexual respect or devotion to a deity is ALSO actually a form if respect. Because to me, it is.

  5. Okay-there’s a lot here. A lot.
    I would like to say that I came to be one of Loki’s post the Hiddles advent horizon in the Lokean Community Timeline, and I’ve received flak for it here and there. Nothing overt because I’m generally a well spoken person who doesn’t do the anime girl blush and gush, but it happens.

    Shortly after I got beaned upside the head by Loki-the whole “Hey, I’m actually real, you jackass, thing,” I was entirely unable to look at a Hiddles pick for about…Oh, four months…without getting nauseous. I’ve considered this a dose of unprogramming from Himself-the separation of association as it were. So, I do believe that He likes to be appreciated for HIMSELF, but I also believe that he uses pop culture as a foot in the door rather frequently.

    Onwards:
    You talk about Hinduism, but the Hindus also have a culture of loving, personal devotion to their gods that can and sometimes does include taking that god as the primary love of your life, in a spiritual ecstatic sense, that can translate to sexuality.
    I’ll just drop this here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_ecstasy

    I get a more serious Loki than some people do. I don’t get a lot of crass jokes. A lot of times I get a quiet, contemplative experience with HIm, but I do get a personal experience with him. I meditate and get him or I feel the touch of his presence throughout my day, and that energy he produces does translate into sexualized energy sometimes I think because of the very nature of his being, and I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by it and I certainly don’t mind talking about it because if I don’t talk about it-if I’m too embarrassed by it to talk about it because of the prudish society I was raised in-there may be someone else out there that is scared by it or upset and confused by it and thinks it isn’t “normal” and will walk away from something that could change their life-for better or worse I’m not willing to sign on the dotted line for, but change is what He is to me, rich dynamic change-all because I was too embarrassed to open my mouth (or use my fingers to type) what really happened to me?

    I don’t consider sharing what has happened to me BRAGGING. I consider it being helpful. I don’t talk about everything that happens to me, but I share the most startling things and they often have a sexual element.

    Well, that’s my two or three or ten cents, I’m not sure. I usually love your posts, but this one seemed to be poo pooing the experience off a large block of the community. I like to think of it this way-if SO MANY PEOPLE are having sexual experiences and generating sexual energy in His name maybe there’s a reason for that bubble in experience?

    Just a thought.

    • With talking about the sexuality I believe that I’m helping people who might otherwise feel like it’s improper or just something that gods don’t DO, or occasionally just finding someone with a shared UPG is helpful. I approach everything as respectfully as possible, but Loki doesn’t seem to have a problem with anything I’ve talked about that I know of. There have been plenty of things I’ve chosen to keep private, but what you’re talking about appears to be more a generational difference in mindset than anything that has to do with Loki or how to go about his worship. Sexuality is such an integral part of what it means to be a living, dynamic being that I don’t see how it is helpful to shield it behind closed doors. I like erotic poetry, mantras, and gentle words as much as the next person, but I see himself as extremely visceral, and my words reflect that.

  6. I really like what you said here. I hope that people can read it and walk away from it with a better understanding of not just Loki and his devotees but also Heathenism as a whole.

  7. Ok here’s the deal. People are and are going to do this no matter what happens. Has happened throughout time. Could He do something about it? Probably. But it serves His best interest.

    Put up with the squalling idiots and gain true, hard core followers. He has always played for the longer game. Hell everyone IN the higher realms HAS to. Their lives are measured in units just about incomprehensible to most who inhabit Midguard.

    I wish you well on your walk. My Father and me both have had to cope with the deadly insult of being called “Bragi” for walking Sidhr. His response was priceless… “Small minds are everywhere. Don’t let them bring you down to their ignorance.”

    Dragon

  8. Never seen the movie so can’t comment, and while my Gods aren’t primarily Norse in origin I do, and have since a child, believed in Loki and his companions. I would never even think of having visitors or a party without leaving him an offering and asking him to refrain from practical jokes etc. for the duration. I totally agree with the article, and while I was aware to a certain extent about some of the fantasies people have about the different Gods I wasn’t aware it had gone to these extremes. To my mind, they need some serious help, not just because they don’t seem able to tell fiction from fact or comic character from a real person/God but also because if they’re fantasizing to these extremes then they are obviously not living in the real world, just their fantasy version of it.

  9. As a follower of the Hellenic (Greek) Pantheon I am no stranger to your frustrations. I also know a fair few “Loki fans” who Cosplay and spend half the night drooling over Tom Hiddleston. If this were anything other than your faith, I’d advise you not to worry about it, but, that would also make me the biggest hypocrite on the planet. So, all I can offer is solidarity and a slice of cake as consolation, should our paths ever cross.

  10. I think a lot that needed saying on this post has already been said, but beings as it was in a tag I frequent, I felt I should leave my thoughts anyway. Mind I’m not trying to be intentionally antagonistic, so I apologize in advance if it comes off that way.

    The thing is, people have a right to use whatever imagery and symbolism works for them. As both a Godspouse and a pop culture pagan-(and yes, neither are mutually exclusive of the other). Especially if the culture and tradition you’re drawing from is open and doesn’t have ay modern stipulations attached to it. I could get into the merits of god theory and masks different gods wear, but at this point it’s likely been done to death. I don’t know Loki outside of the occasional wave at him for someone over the course of my work, but in my experience? It doesn’t seem out of character for him at all to choose a charming (red head!) actor to put his energy and face out in the media in order to garner attention to himself. Maybe it has something to do with that path’s relevant mythological up-and-coming something or another, or maybe he just decided to throw a cosmic party and invite everyone over for a kegar.

    That being said, while I do think that it’s important for people to request respect for their paths and their deities, at the same time, I don’t think anyone using Tom Hiddleston as a ‘face claim’ for Loki is disrespectful. Nor do I think interest in the marvel depiction of a character with the same name as a draw to worship him in either form is disrespectful either. I think if that’s the way he manifests to them, it’s not hurting anyone. If it makes someone happy and content in their spirituality and enriches their lives? Who are you to say it’s lesser or somehow invalidates it? Answer: you don’t have the right to it. As long as they’re not intentionally hurting you, or appropriating from a CLOSED culture, then people are allowed to follow whatever god or spirit in whatever form they want and you can’t do a durned thing about it. And you shouldn’t. People’s happiness and their road to serenity is none of your business. Those people who are online and sharing do so in order to empower and embolden others to do the same; not for you to sit in silent judgement of them (or not so silent, in this case). If you’re so concerned about what makes a “proper” (I hate that term) Lokean as opposed to a “Hiddles fan”, then spend more time exemplifying what one of those *is* as opposed to expending the energy complaining about how fake or “wrong” other people are.

  11. You kind of touched on something I hadn’t really been able to put into words yet, something similar but different. I’ve always felt like the online Wicca community was rather fandomy in the sense that they treat the religion itself like a fandom, and now I get why I felt that way. There’s a lack of reverence and a lack of deeper understanding. The “Neo-Wicca” (as others call it) that is popular on tumblr and other social sites is not the Wicca I recognize, and I’m not even initiated into a coven.

  12. I believe Loki has been around for a very, very long time. I did not notice at all, I was very young. His name would appear often and I’d get very curious towards him and the whole norse pantheon, but he always got most of my attention and fascination. At time I considered those just tales, but my parents (specially my father) are open minded and so I grew up with the same conscience. I wasn’t christian. I did not understand when they (christians) talked about “God’s wrath” because the little I knew about him, the way I saw him, was different. I was (or still am, that’s a little complicated) spiritualist, and grew accustumed to the concepts of other realms and entities both friendly and hostile. It was, in fact, after watching the first Thor film that I became more open-minded. I often “compared” Marvel Loki and the Norse Loki, seing what Stan Lee had changed. That just encouraged me to search deeper on Loki’s original story. I started to see many “coincidences”. Things I wouldn’t have noticed when kid. I started to understand his role, his nature; and wonder why he was spoken of with so much hatred (Hidle-Loki did not make things easier). My english got better with time and I heard of “Ásatru” for the first time. Becoming more open-minded made me consider the possibility of all those tales that people in my country wouldn’t care to know being more than just stories. I started to study more, and I believe that it was after that when I turned “Lokean”. If not, something very close to that.

    I had no reason not to believe such things. Once upon a time I’d cross ways with some Wiccans and alike, and my father would tell me more about their ways, even though I don’t remember he ever mentioning Ásatru. He isn’t Wiccan, but he has a vast knowledge on those things.

    I amn’t very confident on those who worship Loki because of the films, but I don’t think I am the only one who turned a serious Lokean due a little push from them. Indeed, this thing of god-spousing among Lokeans has turned quite annoying, for nowadays it seems those spouses don’t take him seriously after all.

    I love both Lokis in my own way, for I think they fit well in their worlds, but I do not mix them. Even though I amn’t very fond of the way the comics put him (super-villain, world conquerer and all that crap…) I like him in my own way. Actually, I find his sense of humour quite amusing. But the true Loki is far better than that and deserves more respect from those who claim to be his kin and actually have Hiddles-Loki in mind.

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