Wreck This Offering: Boundary-Breaking in Polytheism

Needless to say, once you’ve decided that a suitable offering for Odin is a strawberry poptart, there’s very little leg to stand on if someone asks you if you’re a serious polytheist or not.

The thing is, though, that my brain is just not wired for reconstrunctionism. Which is… bizarre, really, when I think about it. I was a historical re-enactor for five years (the Norman era, with emphasis on “1066 to the Magna Carta”), my husband and I and one of our friends have been note-taking on starting a viking-era reenactment group for nearly two years now, and my husband, my brother/best friend and I have been writing medieval stories set in the 1100s and spanning halfway across the medieval world since 2009. Half of the books on my shelf in my study are about Norse history, the Byzantine empire or the Crusades and if I wanted to take a norse reconstructionist path, I probably wouldn’t have much trouble getting started. But like I said - I’m not wired like that. The interest feeds into my polytheism and vice-versa but… well, I’ve got that joke going for me that I’m so queer, I can’t even walk straight, and I think that can applied, with a little muddling of the words, to pretty much every aspect of my life. Something something Scorpio Sun, Aquarius Moon. I blaze my own trail, even if that trail is going to drop me into a ravine on the way to El Dorado.

In fact, even considering it while writing that last paragraph, I get the faint sensation of Odin going “don’t waste your time” and Loki laughing me into the next decade. So, enough said, really. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for reconstructionism in the religious world; to each their own, live and let live, all of that. There just isn’t a place in the latter for me, really. Moving on.

One of my earliest memories of divination was a reading done to ask Loki some clarifying questions back in 2010, which was immediately proceeded by eating my share of an entire jar of jellybeans split between two people. An entire jar. To this day, I don’t remember what the reading was about, but I do remember Loki being absolutely thrilled, a lot of encouragement from the mortal and the metaphysical world, and at one point slapping my thigh and announcing “BIG GIRL PANTS!” Somehow, I think this pretty much sets the scene for the relationship that I have with most of the deities that I work with on a regular basis. Loki and I shitpost, Thor is my drinking buddy, and Odin is Rafiki. (He’s narrowing his eye at me as I type that. But the last time I tranced he came at me with an axe with playful intent, so I don’t think he can claim the high ground, here. I’ve been sparring with axes and knifes (blunt steel and wood) for years now, so strange though it sounds the idea of a deity hitting me with one isn’t that much of a weird event in the life of L. E. Lífþrasir.) Even the deities who’ve crossed my path briefly - with the exception of the Oneiroi, who commanded an eerie sort of respect - have been casual. Aphrodite lent me her muse to write a poem for one of her followers, and Dionysus has in the past questioned my taste in carbonated alcoholic drinks. I think. He’s cryptic.

Needless to say, knowing this about my path it isn’t much of a surprise that I came back from the city last week with a copy of Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal stuffed under one arm with the express intention to dedicate the wrecking of the aforementioned journal to Loki. It is - as the name and my intentions might suggest - a book designed to be destroyed, and creatively. A flip through exposes pages with instructions such as “glue random items here” and “write with the pen in your mouth”. Yesterday, I closed my eyes and attempted, mostly with success, to draw a line between six circles from memory, and used some of the empty space to draw flowers. The foreword of this second edition implies that one of the things I’m going to have to do is, horror of horrors, break the spine; it is, apparently, the thing that reviewers of book one feared the most, too. And that statement is exactly why I feel as though this journal is a perfect offering to the scar-lipped trickster himself.

Amongst modern day followers of Loki - many of whom refer to themselves as Loki - a common SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis) is that Loki is a boundary-breaker. Loki calls upon his followers to flip tables in their life, and sharpie all over the script that we’ve been told to follow. He challenges conventions, and I doubt it’s coincidence that a lot of Lokeans are in some way neuroatypical or queer. His work in your life often goes hand in hand with shadow-work and learning about who you are as a person as opposed to who you’ve been told that you are frankly, that is pretty much the metaphorical equivalent of breaking the spine on a book. Once you’ve popped the seal on the jar of jelly beans, you can’t bring it back to the store for a refund. I just spent the last half hour or so trying to write simple phrases with felt tip pens in my mouth. I am the kind of perfectionist who only writes their notes in erasable biro to the point where I have two literal jars of the same pen so that I never need to write in anything else. The idea that I have a devotional piece on my shelf that is not only functionally illegible but also left my hands covered in coloured ink, that I cannot get rid of short of tearing it out of the book and eating the page or something, is boundary-breaking for me. Even now I’m kind of side-eyeing the book going “look, Loki, I get that I had fun but I CAN’T TAKE IT BACK! It’s unwashable ink!!”

I think it’s important to challenge yourself as a witch. What that means varies from person to person, but it could mean anything from moving from reading tumblr posts to reading more books to finally learning what those crystals you’ve been collecting for years are actually for. (Guilty as charged of both of those things.) But an area that you aren’t often called to challenge yourself in is your offerings. I see lists circulating of ‘what to offer X’ and ‘what is it traditional to offer Y?’ and although those lists are all well and good, you don’t have to follow them. In fact, there’s something particularly special, I think, about making an offering that’s entirely an inside story between you and your deity. Give Odin poptarts because asking if he liked them the first time was an exercise in honing your godphone. Destroy a book, creatively, because Loki wants you to get over your fears and you may as well begin with an instruction manual. Listen to cheesy country music while cracking open a cold one with Thor and working on a chapter of your novel that has nothing at all to do with him because you interpreted an asteroid placement as Thor saying ‘do you even write, bro?’

At the other end of the scale, an offering doesn’t have to mean anything. Sometimes I’m pouring out a coffee for myself and I get the feeling that my deity would like a cup too. Other times I see an acorn or a limited edition coin with a beaver on it that’s in circulation and a few days later realise I’ve left it on the altar and it’s been claimed. Offerings, and other devotional acts don’t need to be performative or sacrificial in some way in order to be valid. It might sound sappy, but sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

Polytheism as a whole has challenged me as a person. I found it at a crossroads in my life where it felt as though every possible turn was a one-way ticket off the edge of a cliff. I wasn’t sure who I was, in pretty much every sense of my identity. Gender, sexuality, faith, depression… I had spent my teenage years losing my religion after a series of blows I couldn’t defend myself from and even though I felt as though I couldn’t reconcile with the Christianity of my youth, one hole that seemed particularly keen was the one where belief in a higher something had been. It might be a bit drastic to say it, but I think finding polytheism saved my life. Studying Norse history gave me something to talk about with the then casual acquaintance who would one day become my husband. Loki pulled me up by my bootstraps and sent me on a whirlwind adventure full of epiphanies about my LGBTQA+ identity in a way that only a trickster could have done. When it came to my studies, my writing and my drive to be the person Loki had shown me in the mirror, Odin snapped his fingers in front of my face whenever I started to drift, and continues to do so to this day. Thor spots me when I can’t take any more of the trickster two-man con and I need to retreat into the world of self-care for a little bit, reminding me that fighting an unseen foe inside your head is a worthy battle no matter the outcome. By building myself a home in one area of my life, I was able to fill it up with the IKEA catalog of self-discovery and flat-packed, unassembled magic.

Loki put me where I am today, but I’m the one driving the ship still. I’m the one ripping off the bandaid and sticking a pen in my mouth to write HELLO LOKI in giant purple letters. For his part the little shit (Loki), between tears of laughter, will still stick my disastrous second attempt at wrecking the journal on the fridge where he puts all the offerings from his followers. And then someone’ll smack me over the head fondly for being so irreverent, but that’s just who I am. I don’t worship, I collaborate. This journal is as much a gift to Loki as it is his lesson to me. And in a cupboard downstairs, I have the s’mores poptarts that a friend recommended to me over six months ago that I’m probably going to stick in the toaster next Wednesday. And ten years from now, who knows what I’ll be writing about, what tomfoolery I’ll have gotten up to as a polytheist. But I know one thing for sure: my deities and I are going to get up to mischief together and I’m still going to be here. All thanks to thinking outside of the box.

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