Reflecting Back on “Playing With Fire”

This week I turned in the manuscript for a new book about Loki that will be published through Moon Book’s series, Pagan Portals. I was really excited to be able to contribute the introduction to Loki, and I created what I hope will be a useful manual for anyone who wants to get to know Loki in some of his more famous aspects and begin a solid devotional practice with him. While I was writing, I was flipping through my first book, “Playing With Fire”, which was published in 2015. I wanted to condense what I found to be the most important points about my own conclusions about Loki, while still adding some of my newer thoughts and relevant practices. I tried to make sure that nothing I included was just filler, and everything in the book was useable.

In looking at “Playing With Fire” in the first time for a while, it gave me time to look back on the history of the book and reflect on what was going on in my life back when I wrote it. Even though the book was finally published in 2015, I actually finished writing it in 2011 when I was 24 or so and still in college and living in Reno, NV. I was a member of the Troth back then, and was basically fired up about the lazy presentation of Loki as enemy of the gods that was more or less the popular view in most Heathen circles back then. A lot of these groups and organization parroted the same misinformation over and over again: He killed Baldr, so he’s been shunned by the gods. Oðinn doesn’t abide “oath breakers”, so his pact with Loki is null and void. Toasting Loki will ruin your luck (this was a popular urban legend that was created by an influx of Theodism during the 90’s/early 2000’s). He has no “place names”, so that means he was absolutely never worshipped, and why would anyone worship him anyway?

I joked with friends back then that the book was written on pure rage. I felt like my own research was painting a much more complex narrative than the one most Heathens were telling, and I wanted to be able to point other people to the sources I had been studying up to that point to try to offer up an alternate story about Loki. At the time, I was very invested in trying to end the Troth’s famous “Loki ban”, which ironically only finally got lifted a year after I left the organization. I’d like to believe that I, along with friends like Kveldulf Gundarsson/Stephan Grundy helped to lay down the groundwork for that, but who really knows for sure. Kveldulf Gundarsson actually cited my non-existent book about Loki long before PWF was actually published, and was doing his own part to try and change Loki’s image in the Troth with the help of his PhD in Germanic Studies.

The book went through three different publishers before it finally landed in Asphodel Press. Because the controversy that had been surrounding Raven Kaldera was still pretty raw around that time (which I think most people have gotten over by now), I was reluctant to send my manuscript to Asphodel at first. I had purposefully tried to make the book readable by the Heathen community in particular, as I felt those were the people I was trying to reach the most. People who already loved Loki didn’t need any convincing in my mind, but I still wanted to give Lokeans a little more ammunition the next time somebody in the Heathen community told them “there’s no evidence Loki was ever venerated”. Well… not necessarily true.

Runa-Raven Press was the first one who accepted the book, and I signed a contract with them…. right before the massive fires in TX that happened that same year ended up burning down part of their property. This concluded in a massive explosion between Stephen Flowers (Edred Thorsson) and his publishing partner Waldo Thompson, and they split ways just as Runa-Raven was dissolved. It all seemed so perfectly Loki at the time, even though it was disappointing. Thompson (who I had mostly been in contact with) invited me to publish through a new publishing company he was starting, which at the time was going to be called Sirius Ink. I thought the name was auspicious, so I agreed.

The book sat there for almost a year, and any production on it crawled to a halt, until I was being asked to do more and more of the editing and design myself. This included the cover for the book, which I did (imperfect as it is, it’s still the same one being used today). It got to the point where I was in over my head with the production, and figured if I was doing all of the work to edit and format the thing, I should be getting more than just a royalty percentage. I ended up leaving there and moving on.

At that time, Lorrie Wood and Diana Paxson were also playing with the idea of starting up a new publishing company to produce new additions of Diana’s fictional works (which I highly recommend), and offered to take Playing With Fire on as well. This was also slowed to a crawl over a year, due to arguments and lack of time to work on it, so that was the end of that.

Finally, years later Asphodel Press took the book (perhaps this is where it really belonged all along and I just needed to get over myself) and it finally saw the light of day. By the time the book was out, I was so exhausted by the last couple of years I don’t think I was nearly as excited as the first time PWF found a publisher. I was mostly just relieved that the uphill battle was over.

I’ve been touched to find that this book seems to have helped quite a few people get to know Loki better, and has helped many Lokeans develop their spiritual paths. Any time I hear that from somebody who enjoyed the book it really does warm my heart. The Lokean community was moving and shaping a lot during the time before, during, and after PWF was written. The Marvel Loki craze hit the same year that the book was completed and I was frustrated that its publication couldn’t coincide with that. I was pretty outspoken back then as a critic of the overlapping of fandom with a devotional practice to the real Loki Laufeyjarson, and I think that earned me a reputation for being an asshole for a while. While I still personally don’t understand the appeal, I think the attraction to the Marvel Loki Character is something I’ve mellowed out about over the years. I’ve been trying to practice being a kinder, more patient person, and I hope it’s paid off in some ways. My desire to “police” other people’s spiritual practices has been more or less extinguished.

I was still very much a part of the Heathen community back when I wrote PWF and I think it shows. If I could change anything about the manuscript now, I think it would be the way in which I seem to defer so often to the sensibilities that the Heathen community held about Loki and Lokeans back then. As I was trying to change hearts and minds in that community, the approach I took was largely strategic on my part. I never openly stated that I do (and did) venerate gods like Jörmungandr, Fenrir, Surtr, Sinmara, and Angrboða. I still think caution should applied when worshipping gods of destruction, but I regret that in my attempt to make the book readable for a Heathen audience that I gave the impression that I personally found those deities to be unapproachable. I also would probably scrap or rewrite the section I wrote about “how to play nice in the Heathen sandbox”. I still think respect is important, but in retrospect it feels awfully apologetic. It was a strategy to be sure, but one that I don’t care about nearly as much anymore as I did when I was in my 20’s.

I’m still the most proud of the contribution I feel I brought to the table in interpreting Loki as a god of sacrificial and cremation fire. A friend of mine who I can only describe as a Heathen mystic was the one who suggested I look into the cult of Agni many years ago if I wanted context for who Loki was, and following that advice led me down a road that drastically changed the way I would interpret Loki for the rest of my life. I know there are plenty of people who think that my interpretations are shaky (or just plain full of shit), but somewhere in my brain, that was the piece I needed to make all of the symbolism in Loki’s myths make coherent sense. I hope that’s something I’ve been able to express in a little more focused and less sprawling way in the new book. Interpreting Loki as the sacrificial fire and Sigyn as the goddess of oblation finally gave Loki a functional purpose in Old Norse religion in my mind, which also helped me to create a more systematic approach to his worship in my own life. Whether or not it was really part of his function in ancient history is anyone’s guess, but I’m glad people have found it useful now.

I saw somebody spreading a rumor lately that all of the “useful” parts of PWF were stolen. What the “useful” parts are or who they were supposed to have been stolen from I have no idea, but it bummed me out to hear that something I poured so much of my heart and soul into and worked on for so long is being dismissed as stollen goods. The book was written in 2011 when I was in college for a BA in history, mostly unemployed, and had lots of time to use UNR’s library system to get every obscure book about Loki I could get my hands on, reading them, compiling research, and then writing it down. Some of that information probably was dated, but I wanted Lokeans to have access to it and make their own choices to use it or not in their own practice just the same. I wasn’t a well loved person by a lot of online Lokeans at that point, since I was so outspoken about the Marvel Fandom, so who knows what rumors were being spread or perpetuated since then. I do however find it interesting that some of my ideas seem to have infiltrated the scholarly community just the same (or perhaps this idea is just brewing in the collective unconscious).

Loki has been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember. I remember being surprised a few years ago when my 3rd grade teacher got ahold of me after many years, and asked me what I was up to. When I told her that I was working on a book about Loki, she quipped that she remembered that I used to talk about Loki all the time back in her class. I didn’t even remember that, but it really put the length of time I’ve spent with this god into perspective for me. I love Loki, and I think time and some hard knocks have humbled me to the point where I am more satisfied with being able to inspire other people who love Loki rather than be proven “right” in either the Heathen or Lokean community. When I see signs of my contributions in the Lokean community it makes me feel proud and grateful that my work brought something useful to another worshippers life, just as I have felt grateful to people like Silence Maestas, River DevoraKyaza, Amy Marsh, and other Lokeans that have taught me new things, kept me inspired and have been mirrors for my own devotion and experiences.

As of late, my focus has shifted further away from Heathenry proper, and more towards my Anderson Feri training (which I started studying around 2013 and am moving towards initiation in currently) and my own Lokean, Nordic flavored style of Luciferian Witchcraft. There are many other deities who I love and whose mysteries I’ve had the opportunity to delve into (Set, Bast, Anubis, Tezcatlipoca, Melek Taus, and Yemaya being among them). I think being a devotee of Loki long enough is a way to ensure that your life will go through many hard lessons, transformations, and reinventions of the self. I’ve seen a lot of people burn hot with Loki for a time only to end up fizzling out and going in a completely different direction altogether. But I think that’s his nature, and sometimes it’s the only reason he’s in somebody’s life: to burn away the bullshit and set their feet on the right path, towards whatever destiny they are meant to follow. My own journey with Loki has gone through many transformations: some childish, some unhealthy, and hopefully it has all stabled out into a more functional, philosophical approach. I’m sure it will change again before all of this is over.

At any rate, thank you so much to everyone who has supported my work in the past and made me feel like my thoughts and experiences had a place at Loki’s table. What it means to be a Lokean has shifted and evolved so much from when I was first looking up Loki in my computer science class back in grade school. Back then, sources were few and far between (the now ancient and defunct “Loki Cult Webpage”being one of my first introductions to the idea that other people were worshipping him). I also remember memorizing the prayers for Loki in D.J Conway’s “Norse Magic” book (I still remember them) and doing the solo rituals from “Rites of Odin” by myself in my bedroom and listening to Freya Aswynn’s rune CD while going to sleep at night. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since then, and am grateful for whatever role I may have played in contributing to a more coherent Lokean practice.

In conclusion, PWF was an important chapter in my life that shaped my spirituality in many ways. I’ve grown a lot since I finished it nearly 9 years ago, and I’m excited to be moving forward with new projects, new dreams, and new goals. But as always….

Hail Loki! 

3 thoughts on “Reflecting Back on “Playing With Fire”

  1. I’ve recommended this book to more people than I know – in large part because it IS so heartfelt and honest. No book can be the Be All and End All of any field of knowledge (especially regarding such a changeable fellow as Loki!), but yours hits home with truth in a way that no other (that I’ve found) does.

    Some deities are about tone, encouraging personal relationship rather than intellectual knowledge and veneration. I look forward immensely to the upcoming Pagan Portal – and welcome, fellow Moon Books author!

    Raising my cup to this next phase of your journey x

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  2. I am utterly thrilled you have written a second book and cannot wait for its publication! And I love reading your account here of the background of PWF and your thoughts while writing it. Thanks too for a mention here–I hardly feel I deserve it, but I am touched none the less. Thank you so much for all that you have done so far, as one of my foremost guides for connecting with Loki! Hail Loki indeed!

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  3. Stacey Woodward June 30, 2019 — 5:58 pm

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have found Playing With Fire. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book. In the meantime, I’m going to nerd out with the many, many reading recommendations you’ve dropped. Thank you so much for your work. 💚

    Hail Loki!

    Like

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