Skeptical Spirituality (Or How I Infuriate the Universe)

Skeptical Spirituality (Or How I Infuriate the Universe) November 29, 2020

I recently made mention of my status as a skeptical believer. Sometimes, my skepticism veers into a sense of spiritual blindness. My Loki blog even has the tagline, “Musings of an Oblivious Heathen.” Case in point: I grew up as a military brat in a family that valued Odhinn the most, and I was raised to believe that Valhalla was the ultimate goal. So naturally, I thought of myself as an Odhinnswoman (with a strong penchant for Loki) for most of my life. I even joined the Army myself in 2004 with the specific intent of being deployed and cashing in my one-way ticket to Valhalla. Why is this considered the height of obliviousness? Because even as I was donning valknuts and prattling on about that old One-Eyed Bastard, my friends were calling me, and I quote, “the Lokeanist Lokean to Ever Lokean.” Everyone around me knew I was Loki’s, but I insisted I was Odhinn’s. HA!

Hellanim
Brothers’ Oaths by Hellanim at DeviantArt, or Loki agreeing to take me off of Odhinn’s hands.

Exhibit A

A few years ago, I was describing to a close friend the series of absurd events that plagued me one after the other in BCT.  From a disturbing fire ant attack to a black widow spider hanging out on my wrist during rifle qualifications to mistaking a fractured pelvis for a sprained muscle, there were enough hi jinx to eventually culminate in a recommendation for medical separation the week before graduation.  At the end of the extended litany of “Weird and Dangerous Memories from FT Jackson, or Why I Ran 9 Miles on a Foot Broken in Two Places,” my friend said, “Man, Loki really didn’t want you in the Army.” I froze, and the pieces clicked.

I insisted I was “An Odhinnswoman with a Strong Penchant for Loki™” up until 2018. Long story short, Loki finally yanked me from my own head and was all, “here’s the deal.” He challenged me to think back on my entire life and point out a time where he wasn’t there. He gloated over the fact that when I was 6 years old and had spotted what I’d known would be my first tattoo, I’d called it my Loki-fox. I still called it my Loki-fox when I got it inked at long last when I was 19. Even stupid little things like that proved he’d always been lurking. It took a pretty extreme, unfathomably surreal experience for the Sly One to finally break through my thick skull and lay it out in no uncertain terms.

Yet I was still resistant, utterly convinced that I’d just had a bizarre break from reality and had gone full-on delusional. He made his proposal regarding an oath and finally giving him the attention he’d been waiting for.

I told him I’d think about it. I wasn’t convinced this was Actually A Thing. Deities don’t actually yank you out of your own brain to have a sit-down and propose an entirely new direction in life. That’s straight-up nonsense. I’d had countless profound spiritual experiences throughout my life, but this was beyond the pale. This was just . . . insane. Wasn’t it?

 

Discernment

Discernment is a crucial aspect of any spiritual practice, how much discernment is too much? There’s carefully evaluating your experiences, and then there’s pig-headed self-sabotage. I excel at the latter. I’m so determined to write off any “woo” in my life as self-delusion that I tend to miss out on pretty big opportunities for growth. This, my friends, tends to result in the universe bashing me in the face with cosmic clue-by-fours.

When meeting people that are going to be stuck dealing with me in some prolonged capacity or another (such as new hires at work), I’m quick to warn them with a too-wide grin that I’m a self-professed religious nutcase. I grew up heathen: it’s such an ingrained part of my worldview and personality that it 100% influences everything I do. So I offer the warning to not only brace them for the inevitable random chatter about my kindred, kvetching about working on my upcoming book about Loki and Sigyn, or the loud snorts I emit when pastries and donuts magically multiply at no additional cost (Tricksters like their carbs, and working with Tricksters is bad for the waistline). This warning serves a dual purpose: not only does it explain away half of my chatter, but it allows other people to help with discernment (and bring me back to reality when necessary).

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Talk it Out

It’s one thing to compare notes with people who work with the same gods or philosophy. It’s another thing entirely to discuss an idea or epiphany or weird experience with people who aren’t heathens, aren’t spiritual, or are devoted to another faith. They’re not living in my head the way I am, so they can usually offer an interesting interpretation of what I’m blathering on about. It also makes for a nifty way to enrich my own perspective and worldview since folx talk about how X, Y, or Z reminds them of an aspect in their own religion or culture. Identifying common threads that run through multiple practices opens up a new understanding of our own beliefs and — better yet — draws different communities together in shared experience.

That said, I’m still waiting for the day someone side eyes me and tells me I’ve lost touch with reality. It’s borderline disturbing the way even atheists respond to my stories with things like, “you know, that actually makes a lot of sense. Loki’s pretty smart, you should listen to him.” This annoys me greatly. Last thing I need in my life is people encouraging Loki. I get the last laugh though when they come into work a few days later, baffled and weirded out by the dream they had about him or their own Miracle of Multiplying Donuts and Cake. “Welp, you’re doomed,” I say. “You said Loki was smart. You got his attention now. Good luck, and I’m sorry.” Even so, having stringent atheists whisper to me that they’re pretty sure they met Loki in a dream needs a whole new level of discernment.

Did I plant the idea into their heads? Is this a case of folie à deux, and will it expand to mass hysteria? Did I accidentally start a cult?! Oh gods, I don’t want to lead a cult! I can barely dress myself, much less come up with a snazzy uniform for everyone. That sounds exhausting.

(Side note: while writing the above, I got a phone call at work. Caller ID read “Jonestown Bank.” Because of course Jonestown is going to pop up somewhere while I’m writing about cults. This isn’t quite the nonsense I’m talking about, but I’m still amused by that little coincidence. And yes, I do a lot of writing during down time at work. Yes, my bosses know. Don’t @ me.)

Issues beget issues, especially when you’re prone to over analyzing everything. But talking with others is still an enlightening exercise in discernment.

Loki Sceith-A
Patiently waiting for me to clue in or not, this is *not* the face of someone needing encouragement. Image: Oglisbarn by Sceith-A on DevianrtArt

Divination = Explanation?

For the really big, wild Things Brought to My Attention, I seek out some form of divination. When I’m already convinced I’m delusional, I’m lucky to have a friend who is an incredibly talented psychic and reader. Better yet, she’s blunt af, and that’s what I prefer. Don’t coddle me or sugarcoat the messages – I’m already an oblivious idiot waltzing my way around the signs being thrown my way. It takes a pretty Big Thing to stop me in my tracks and mull something over, which means I immediately think I must have imagined it.

A few weeks after the aforementioned “Loki Loses Patience with Lea and Confronts Her” incident, I finally reached out to my friend. I didn’t tell her a damn thing about why I needed a reading, just that “something happened and I think I’m delusional.” When she drew the cards, the biggest, smuggest smirk spread across her face, and she started snickering to herself. First words out of her mouth when she looked up: “You’ve been offered the chance for great ecstasy. Why are you hesitating to accept the proposal?”

“FINE!” I screamed, slamming my hands on the table. “Fine. Whatever. Okay.”

My friend just grinned an eerie Cheshire Cat grin and continued with the reading, which was a whole lot of the same. I was pretty emotionally spent by the end of it, and confounded by the conversation she and I had throughout. When I finally told her what had happened, she just laughed at me and joined in the nonstop chorus of “he’s right, you know.”

And so I finally accepted it: I’d already come to terms with the whole “I’m actually Lokean” thing (which was easy and explained, well, everything about my life), but now I knew what I needed to actually do. And making that oath with Loki was the first step.

Still Skeptical AF

Once the terms of the oath were worked out to mutual agreement, I made my promises (something akin to taking vows as a Lokean nun, as I refer to myself). Not saying it’s been a strawberries ‘n’ cream kinda life ever since, but it’s been such a brilliant change for me that I’m pretty mad I didn’t do this years decades ago. I haven’t become an entirely different person, I’ve just become. . . more myself. More comfortable in my skin, more confident in who I am, more driven to pursue the things I’ve always wanted to accomplish. A LOT of things in my past and current situations make so much more sense now, and I have a clear vision for the future I want to make for myself. It’s humbling and mind-boggling to realize how long Loki’s been poking around and meddling in my affairs (I know it seems like if he really didn’t want me to go my suicidal Army route he could have just, like, mucked up my enlistment papers so that I’d never have been sworn in in the first place, but trust me that I would have found a way around that. I honestly had to give it a go and experience basic training, even if it meant years of chronic pain and frustration).

Sure, it took me until my mid-30s (and a couple of hefty cosmic clue-by-4s into the face) to recognize the Strong Penchant for Loki™ was more than it seemed. If nothing else, I’m stubborn and oblivious enough to frustrate the gods themselves (and don’t even get me started on the significance of my reaction to Sigyn popping in when I was 18. That, too, took almost 20 years to click into place, much to her amusement).

So have I learned my lesson? Do I now approach spirituality with more of an open mind?

NOPE.

My brain is whirling about spiritual matters about 93% of my waking hours, constantly examining things and turning them over looking for evidence that I’ve lost touch with reality and need to ground myself in the mundane world. I get nudges and commentary and notice strange little things that would normally be innocent but in the context of Other Things are klaxons for Do This or Learn That. I still ignore them, write them off as a silly coincidence. At least, I ignore them until they escalate and knock me out cold.

OH LAWDY THEY A'COMMIN
I’m buried somewhere under that pile of clue-by-fours. Image: Creative Commons

Oxymoron? That’s Me!

As a Lokean nun and a priestess of Sigyn, my entire life is devoted to spiritual growth, service, and experience.  Even though I’m trained and dedicated to be more attuned to the energy shifts around me, I’m still the first one to ignore them and discount my own experiences. It’s half the reason I ramble on about this stuff to coworkers and strangers; rather than looking for validation of the experiences, I’m actively trying to write them off as products of an overactive imagination. Yet validated they are, and when I finally accept it with an annoyed sigh, I find that things make more sense, and I grow from that knowledge.

Skeptical reaction to spirituality is a good thing, all in all. It’s better to be careful about what you’re getting yourself into or who you’re welcoming into your life than it is to just roll with everything at face value. Like all things, balance is key: don’t ignore the Big Spiritual Stuff to the point that it stunts your own growth and evolution. Sometimes, the universe reminds us that there’s more to it than can ever be explained by our limited capacity for rational thought. And really, isn’t tapping into the unknown the whole point of spiritual practice in the first place?

 


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One response to “Skeptical Spirituality (Or How I Infuriate the Universe)”

  1. Hiya! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My website discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you’re interested feel free to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Superb blog by the way!

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