“Spirit is the life that itself cuts life.” This Nietzchean statement puzzles and challenges. What might a spirituality that cuts life -- rather than just skimming over its surface ­-- look like?

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Loki Bound: The Dark and Inner Mirror

Greed & Rapacity: Loki BoundIn my last article I proposed to discuss an expression of Loki which tries to avoid the pitfall of declaring to be either for or against this complex and provocative figure. Unfortunately this will entail a bit of self-promotion on my part, because I intend to present and discuss the lyrics to a musical release called Loki Bound, which was released by Milam Records earlier in 2012. Loki Bound was performed by Greed & Rapacity, a band of which I am one half.

Loki Bound is a one-song 30-minute funeral doom metal descent into Loki’s stream of consciousness during his imprisonment by the Aesir, the primary Norse pantheon, for misdeeds real and (possibly) imagined. He lies chained by his son’s intestines to a deeply buried boulder, while a serpent drips venom upon him. His loyal wife, Sigyn, catches the poison in a cup, but when she goes to empty the cup, the poison falls on Loki’s skin. His agonized convulsions are the root of earthquakes, and it is fair to say that Loki is a deity of psychological tectonics.

Loki Bound is not easy listening. Yet the project was born out of a spirit of empathy – not, it must be said, sympathy. Empathy.

Our point of departure is some clinical advice of Jung’s: that the therapist must accept the client’s experience and perspective without either agreeing or disagreeing. To either agree or disagree out of hand would be to do violence to the client and their struggles. This idea – of holding to the discomfort of not reaching for a settled judgment – is tremendously powerful. It releases blockages and opens new ways out of the clutches of darkness.

In one sense, then, Loki Bound is a kind of psychotherapy for Loki as a cultural icon. An abreaction undergone on his behalf by musical means. We wanted to “save the phenomenon,” as Edmund Husserl might say: not to present it with any kind of slant or interpretation, but rather to hold it out as raw as we possibly could. We wanted to be free to let the being of Loki be itself, sing for itself.

Naturally, it is impossible to succeed completely. Yet I think we have captured something of a truth of the fragmentary mythological narrative of Loki’s life (a life which concludes in his fighting against the gods at Ragnarok).

The lyrics began with a seed that my Greed & Rapacity co-conspirator, D. Nahum, provided. Then one night I received a strange visitation and the text was written less than me than by a violently inspired mood. I hesitate to say that it came from Loki himself, but I do feel it was born of the dynamic tension of standing in acceptance without judgment of good or bad; of facing the pleasant and the repellant together.

Recording the vocals for the piece was uncanny. We found ourselves shocked by the unearthly cadences and inflections that emerged – animalistic, desperate, despairing, inhuman. The creative process called on something deep and old and savagely articulate.

Some of the musical elements bear comment. Passages of chanting recall the impassioned invocations of Sufi singers. Oppressive, down-tuned guitars loom like the weight of Loki’s subterranean prison. The rhythm section lurches and clatters sickeningly, evoking Sigyn’s wavering hand as she holds up the bowl that wards Loki from the drip of the snake’s poison.

For the curious, the track may be heard online (and the release purchased) at the Milam Records Bandcamp web page: http://milamrecords.bandcamp.com/album/loki-bound-dream001

Lyrics and music are ultimately an insuperable unity, but this does not mean that exploring one or the other in isolation is a wasted gesture. Here, then, are the lyrics to Loki Bound, which have not hitherto been published.

*

Loki Bound

Lyrics by Greed & Rapacity

I spit on your lies
I spit on your cowardice
Your grief, your greed, your terror
Your cruel laughter.
I spit on your hubris
I spit on your hate
I spit on your spite
And your perverse lusts

Hypocrites all
In shining towers
Your spirits are halls of mirrors
That dissolve into night.
Unbearable to you
The sight of I
That wears on my skin
As a shallow veil
What runs to the pits of your souls

So condemn me as thou wouldst.
Condemn me for my sins
Condemn me for my virtues
Condemn me from sloth
And whimsy
And pain
And daub yourselves in the glory
Of your brittle victory

For I will have my revenge
My revenge: knowing that you wait
You wait for the bleak day
On the Shining Field
When all your knowledge
All your might
All your insight
Will be run into dust.
Will be finally crushed.
By me and mine
By mine and me
By you and I

My revenge: knowing that you wait.
You lie awake at night
And the venom that drips
And drips
And drips
Into the cup that my trembling beloved sustains
Drips as loud in your ears as it does in mine –
As loud as it does in mine
Do you understand?

This poison will not quench my thirst
These bonds will not break my strength
These shadows will not rot my rage
For this nightmare too must end.
Must end in the dawn of your drought
Your forgetfulness
Your long dark misery.

Just you and the snake.

Drip
(Wait, wincing, for the next to fall)
Drip
(Wait, wincing, for the next to fall)
Drip
(Wait, wincing, for the next to fall)

At total leisure to reflect on every ill deed
Every rash oath
Every lie
Every theft
Every barb
That I have ever cast
That has ever been cast at my word
That saw me be cast from the light
Even though it was done at your behest –

Because it was done at your behest.

This will be your fate!
To gaze into yourselves
As I have gazed into myself.
Driven mad with terror
Driven made with rage
Driven mad by the awful dark
And the slithering drip of venomous pain.
Driven beyond all sense
Into all-destructive love
For the inferno and its brutality

Do you understand?
Can you understand?
How I could long to quench
All life in the world in scorched death?
You made me to be this thing I am:
Your servant, the seething fraud
The agent of your secret rage.
Yet when you tired of your slave
You abandoned me to darkness:
Bound in the guts of my son
My wife enslaved by her love

You gave me up
To all that lurks beneath the earth
And bound me in the choking gloom
Of interminable doom

Do you understand?
All that is light in the world is saved by
All that is dark
And I was the agent of darkness that served the light

No more! Now the only light will be
The stinking blaze of your rancid flesh
As you fall to your knees before the hosts
Of my implacable reckoning

With such thoughts I comfort myself.
As I lose my mind in this dark cave
Covered in shame, loss, and gloom
Will broken and reforged anew:

With fury
And righteous disgust
With fury
And righteous disgust
With fury
And righteous disgust
With fury
And righteous disgust

*

There are several themes I would like to touch on in these lyrics. Firstly, the ambiguous sense of identification between Loki and the Aesir, against whom the poem’s bile is directed. “This will be your fate! / To gaze into yourselves / As I have gazed into myself… Driven mad by the awful dark / And the slithering drip of venomous pain.”

Here we see Loki projecting his own grim self-reflection in captivity onto the Aesir, as though somehow it is they who will one day endure such suffering. Yet we know they do not; Ragnarok seems to be an altogether more brief and dramatic affair.

This perhaps is Loki’s effect (I deliberately do not say his purpose): to provoke self-reflection. Where there is disruption the tranquilizing familiarity of daily life is broken; new thought and life can emerge. Loki threatens those who are tight fisted; it is worth remembering that the old Heathens regarded generosity as the highest virtue.

This is something for each of us to consider. I do not think it accidental that Loki identifies with the Aesir even after enmity erupts between he and they.

We see Loki’s self-righteous fury in these lyrics. He feels himself the victim of injustice; in his own mind called to play a particular and necessary role as fomenter of change, then punished when he becomes too much to bear.

At one level, we can of course regard his attitude with distaste; it is hardly that of a person willing to take responsibility for their actions. At another level, however, he is holding up a mirror. I wonder if Loki’s detractors might not be guilty of attacking him for the sin of resembling their own unacknowledged flaws.

Loki is the tragic figure par excellence, both abhorrent and sympathetic. He represents a living fault line of belief, and like Oedipus he therefore offers us nearly unparalleled opportunities for remembering our limits, our mortality, and our need to keep our feet on the ground.

As such, I do not believe there is any fruit to be had in partisan wrangling over Loki’s significance and worth as either a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” As soon as we set down a value, a judgment, we have thrown away his value as a teacher, as a mirror. We cease to be present to ourselves and to our lives. We deaden a little part of ourselves. Loki is a wonderful teacher, as much because of his terrible flaws and failures as because of his strange gifts.

It seems that the old Heathens might have had a tolerance for ambiguity – which is to say, for real life – that has largely been lost in modernity. We are slaves to the binary. The binary is not a new invention, but it is no longer tempered by the grounding thought of having to grow one’s own food, weave one’s own shirt, decorate one’s own tools.

There are fewer havens to offer us shelter from the binary’s excesses. We have to set ourselves at odds with convenient and received thinking to find such harbors of the spirit. In this respect, perhaps Loki can assume a new and healing significance that he might not have held in archaic times. The Faustian pact might be far more nuanced, perhaps even beautiful, than Goethe imagined.

Greed and Rapacity has only performed Loki Bound once, but that was probably enough. The rhythmic complexity of some passages – though deceptively minimalist to a casual listen – are in themselves a very difficult undertaking. But more to the point, the performance provided a catalyst for necessary unearthing of pain, conflict, and strife. If this process was very painful, it was also very much a good thing, though at first it seemed like Ragnarok.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok paves the way for a renaissance of the world, of the gods, and of humanity. It clears a ground for a shining new day. And Loki is a central agent of this regenerative drama. Every ending is a beginning, and it is churlish and futile to hate the harbingers of the going-under. For as Nietzsche so joyously declared, the going-under is the birth-pang of the going-up.

All of these considerations haunt Loki Bound in one fashion or another. Yet I will not pretend that it was not also born of a maniacal and even malicious desire to make difficult, cathartic, and abrasive music. Even perhaps to hurt the listener, or frighten them. For Loki also teaches that, as with all things, the destructive urge is a phenomenon that must be saved.

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I have always been drawn to things mysterious. I am some kind of Heathen, fascinated by the cultures and mythologies of my ancestors ­ (and beyond, too). Deeply in love with the process of healing and its facilitation. A pretender to all manner of thrones, be they runic, music, chaotic, or philosophical. An Antipodean expatriate.

I have a few strings to my well-worn bow. I offer rune readings online via findrune.com. I co-edit Hex Magazine. I play music ­ sometimes folky, sometimes heavy, often times both. I write and dream. I live for traditional cuisine and food-made-from-scratch. I have two goals in life: to think lightly and to do the next right thing. Sometimes I feel the heavy hand of Woden tapping on my shoulder.

Comments

  • Michele Briere
    Michele Briere Saturday, 25 August 2012

    Your thoughts on Loki are very interesting. My path is Sumerian (actual Sumerian, not that Sitchen-Necro crap), and I have always equated Loki, and the Native American Coyote, with my Enki, who is not only the god of water and lord of earth, but also the god of magicians and of wisdom. His lessons can be whisperings in the ear (the subconscious), or they can be hard knocks on the head if someone is being stubborn. As lord of the earth, from him comes not only the plants of healing but also of poison. He can be as harsh as he is humanity's greatest defender.

    The meanderings along my life's path have always tended toward the shamanic, and I have found great power in contemplating the mirror within; so many dark places have been stared into the face, taken apart, light shed upon them, and reconstructed into a place of learning and peace. I thank Father Enki for his guidance and wisdom during these times of turmoil, and to Father Nanna for shedding his cool, welcoming light, illuminating the darkness so that it is no longer dark.

  • Robin Clear
    Robin Clear Wednesday, 10 October 2012

    Wow, Everywhere I go there you are.

  • Henry Lauer
    Henry Lauer Wednesday, 10 October 2012

    Think of me as a perennial weed ;)

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