Letters from Midgard
Let's look at the larger landscape:
Some Heathens won't even say Loki's name, referring to him only by kennings (and usually the rude ones like goat-tether, horse-mommy, Angr-buddy, etc.) and only when absolutely necessary.
Some Heathens aren't worried about saying his name, but still don't want Loki around for their blots and sumbels.
Some Heathens have very mixed feelings about Loki. They recognize his important and sometimes even positive roles in our myths. They also know how the end of the story goes, and they don't try to act like that's okay.
Some Heathens think Loki is fabulous, with a few flaws they're willing to forgive.
Each of these viewpoints significantly affects how people practice their Heathenry, but The Troth is not a sect. Somehow, we have to get all of these people drinking peaceably from the same horn at Trothmoot's Grand Sumbel. If we can't have frith, grith will do.
Some folks won't even walk in the door if they know that Loki will be in the picture. If they don't know that Loki will be in the picture, they will make it very clear that they should have been told in advance. Discussions of canceling memberships tend to follow.
So the Rede makes policy that Loki shall not be mentioned during this and other Troth-sponsored events. How do the Lokeans among us feel about this? The answer is an exercise in the obvious. Discussions of canceling memberships tend to follow.
As one of the authors of the current policy, I have to tell you that I'm not entirely happy with it. This policy hasn't dealt with the real problem for several years. It hasn't solved it. I'd like for us to do better, and I can't yet say that I know how, or if, we can do that.
What should our policy be? It needs to be based on the fact that The Troth is not a sect. It needs to pay attention to a wide range of strongly felt sensibilities. If you belong to this organization, don't base your membership on any kind of belief that everyone here thinks just like you. This is religion and that's not how it works. Furthermore, this is The Troth and that's not how it works.
One suggestion I've heard is to have some Rede member formally acknowledge Loki during sumbel. That's acknowledge, not embrace. This would handle the issue raised in Lokasenna. Many people, including some of the Loki-averse, already do this in their private rites. Bringing Loki into the picture by other persons or means would still not be allowed at this event.
At this year's Grand Sumbel, the Rede agreed to have Kveldulf Gundarsson tell a very formal version of Thrymskvida as a part of the rite. This is a story in which Loki is an entirely positive character. Kveldulf told the whole thing in context—no cherry picking. If this is a problem to the point we can't even recite our own myths accurately, I'm going to start wondering why we're doing any of this.
I am very sure of one thing though. Grand Sumbel at Trothmoot is the High Rede's sumbel. No other party or thew may hold sway here if this thing is going to work at all. A good Rede will let you know in advance what the rules are, where those rules attempt to respect the membership as a whole. That doesn't mean that every member, which is to say you, will necessarily like every aspect of them. Either accept this with good will, or don't come. One painful experience after another has made it clear that that's the way it has to be.
Word gets around fast and certain big talkers have been chattering about last weekend's events—getting a lot of it wrong.
For the record, The High Rede met with our founding elders to discuss our policy on Loki. We listened to their concerns and promised to consider their case. Everyone attending that meeting left it with the understanding that our current published policy has not changed, should not change, and will not change until we've had a chance to think about this carefully. Deciding whether it will change at all is the responsibility of the Rede.
As for the big talkers, some very public retractions and apologies are in order. Whether these apologies arrive will speak plainly enough to the state of their honor.
Steven Thor Abell is a storyteller and the author of Days in Midgard: A Thousand Years On, a collection of original modern stories based on Heathen myths. As of 2013, he is also Steersman of the High Rede of The Troth.
Abell's column, "Letters from Midgard," is published on occasional Thursdays on the Pagan channel. Subscribe via email or RSS.