Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

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Asatru FAQ: What's a Nokean?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A Nokian, or Nokean, is someone who opposes Lokeans. A Lokean is a type of pagan or heathen whose personal religious practice is primarily about following Loki. Some Lokeans also consider themselves to be Asatruars, or Wiccans, or other sects, and some don't. Asatru includes Loki in its traditional list of gods, so many Asatruars who do not consider themselves Lokeans do honor Loki, just not as their primary deity.

A Nokian actively tries to get people who follow or honor Loki to leave public heathen spaces or stay silent within them, and tries to convince people who are seeking a religious path that Loki isn't an acceptable part of heathenry. While Lokeanism is a religious practice, Nokeanism is a form of proselytizing. People who simply prefer not to acknowledge Loki and don't have a relationship with him are not Nokeans; they are just ordinary heathens, pagans, etc. who don't have Loki in their personal or group practice. A Nokean is someone who tries to control the personal and group practice of other people to get others to exclude Loki.

Lokeanism itself has been influenced by Nokeanism, even though the word Lokean was invented first and Nokean is a direct parody of it. That is because there was already a schism occurring within Asatru and heathenry between people who included Loki and people who excluded Loki before those who included him felt the need to retreat to their own safe, welcoming spaces to get away from online trolling and offline exclusion, and needed to come up with their own word, Lokean, to identify their path. The words Lokean and Nokean are products of internet culture, but the phenomenon pre-existed it. From the beginnings of the heathen revival in the US in the 70s, Loki has been considered the natural patron god for gay, trans, queer, etc. heathens, and exclusion of Loki has functioned to exclude his followers. Today, there are an increasing number of women Lokeans who may or may not be LGBT+ but Loki is still generally considered the god for LGBT+ people and also for mixed race and people with disabilities. People of marginalized identities are generally considered to comprise a higher proportion of followers of Loki than of other heathen gods. Closing previously Loki-welcoming ritual spaces, festivals, forums, organizations, etc. to Loki also discourages participation by such people.

Recently the heathen community has been reacting to Karl Siefried's opinion piece which ran on the Wild Hunt website, in which he compared Loki to Trump, which offended many Asatruars who are not themselves Lokean as well as offending Lokeans. Many prominent heathens have issued rebuttals to his premises and opinions, line by line, and some have also issued rebuttals to his claim to authority. His call to action has been criticized as calling for a new Satanic Panic.

Rather than issue my own rebuttal, which would seem superfluous at this point since so many good replies have already been made, I've decided to talk about Nokeanism, because there is more going on than an academic argument about what Loki symbolizes. There's an entire history in the modern American heathen community of a clash between pro-Loki and anti-Loki people and groups, and this has real life consequences for real people. This is why it's important.

Understanding that Lokeans and Loki-friendly Asatruars are used to the dynamic of attack onlline and undermining offline by Nokeans is critical to understanding why we find Siegfried's essay so offensive. Nokeans bully and silence marginalized people to the point of driving them out of Asatru into their own new sect now called Lokeanism. Nokeans write books full of transphobia directed at Loki and at his followers. Nokeans take over previously Loki-friendly organizations and festivals and make them into places that are no longer welcoming to Loki and those who love him, thus making organizations that claim in writing to be inclusive and nondiscriminatory into places that de facto exclude or sideline QUILTBAG people. Nokeans as well as other internet trolls attack women online for having religious experiences and drive them out of public Asatru into women-only safe spaces. There is more at stake here than a purely theological question. To take a public stand for or against Loki is to choose a side in this ongoing struggle.

Image: the Snaptun Stone, a historical heathen depiction of Loki

 

 

 

 

 

Last modified on
Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners and other books. She was sworn to Freya as Priestess in 1989, given to Sigyn, and is a Bride of Odin and his brothers (Honir, Lodhur, Loki.). She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, is gythia of American Celebration Kindred, and admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office. She is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press for 5 years, and is the author of the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018.

Comments

  • James H. McCoy
    James H. McCoy Tuesday, 27 November 2018

    I am Nokean!

    ** singing merrily around followers of Loki **

    You follow Loki and you're shunned, it's your fault!
    (clap clap)
    You follow Loki and you're shunned, it's your fault!
    (clap clap)

    You picked a bad horse and you knew it - stop denying you're screwed.

    You follow Loki and you're shunned, it's your fault!
    (clap clap)

  • Allen
    Allen Friday, 30 November 2018

    I'm certain (beyond a doubt) that there are far worse people within Heathenry that can be spoken of being shunned, or laying blame to... whatever you're blaming, who are not Lokeans or Heathens who hail to Loki. Don't you, James?

    You song also doesn't rhyme, and for someone who it looks is being against divisive and chaotic behavior, you're kind of emulating that. We don't really see followers of Loki doing this same sort of obnoxious antagonism, after all.

  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Friday, 30 November 2018

    I had to chuckle when I read that. I'm not sure, but I was kind of wondering if all that might have been very deliberate on James' part...now I'm extra curious...

    Have you read the Eddas? He actually did come across sometimes as very obnoxious himself...he was a trickster after all!

  • Allen
    Allen Friday, 30 November 2018

    I have read the Eddur, yes.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 27 November 2018

    I was unaware of the Lokean-Nokean thing. I had associated gay men with Frey. My own inclinations are more toward that multi-colored garden where conjure and eclectic wicca overlap, so I had no idea this division was going on in heathenry. Congratulations I guess on having grown large enough to have a schism. I call on my conjure heritage and quote the Bible at both sides: "So Abram said to Lot, 'Let there be no quarrelling between us, between my herdsmen and yours; for we are close kinsmen. The whole country is there in front of you; let us part company. If you go left, I will go right; if you go right, I will go left.' Genesis 13:8-9. A little cheeky perhaps, but quarrels between pagans about the gods just brings that out in me.

  • Hearth M Rising
    Hearth M Rising Wednesday, 28 November 2018

    REDACTED (MODERATOR INTERVENTION)

    This is a warning (and you'll only get one). Personal attacks on our bloggers will not be tolerated. Do this again and you'll be banned.

  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Wednesday, 28 November 2018

    I have never heard of Loki being considered a patron god of homosexuals, people of mixed race or people with disabilities. I'm really not seeing or understanding such a connection, and my first intuitive reaction was that the notion should be rather insulting to such people, as though it is to imply that they, by their very nature and differences, are chaotic or troublesome as Loki is.

    Moreover though, I'm pretty blown away by the level of contention and division among Asatruar (is "Asatruars" not rather redundant and incorrect? It has been my understanding that Asatruar is already the plural form of Asatru...) that is the result of preference or repulsion for a deity that is inarguably one of chaos and often seems to embody something of an "evil" principle in any story in which he appears.

    Ever is he considered an enemy of the Aesir and of order and, as such, I frankly can't understand the obsession with him one way or another.

    I think this is a good example of a serious problem I have detected among Pagans, and Heathens in particular, and that problem is one of taking certain things, certain symbols and deities and their level of existence a bit too literally, taking their functionality, relevance and applicability in this very different day & age a little too far, and otherwise simply attaching too much personal, modern, contrived interpretations to them.

    I think more thought-forms are being generated under his name and energy than anything very real in regards to who or whatever he is, and if indeed he is but Chaos itself personified, then I think this contention and division, whining and judging is all the proof we need that honoring and glamorizing such an idea/entity is a really stupid thing to do, at best, and downright dangerous and destructive at worst. Seems to fit his profile, don't you think?

    I can just hear him cackling with delight over all the mayhem this ongoing debate over him is ironically yet appropriately causing amongst Asatruar.

    I'm not trying to lump all Heathens into this at all, but I have much personal experience with Asatru and, as I have Nordic and Germanic blood, I do honor certain Norse deities, but frankly some of the crappiest energy and worst hypocrisy, ignorance, and misguidance I have encountered so far in Paganism has come from Heathens, especially those who are a little too "into" this trouble-making Loki.

    The one time I was in a home where Loki had an altar, my skin absolutely crawled and I got almost nothing but very naive, impish, chaotic, leeching energy from the person whose home it was.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 30 November 2018

    Anthony, yes, I once met a Frey's man at a festival who wore the whole historical reconstruction outfit of the Frey's priests who wore dresses with bells as mentioned in lore. Most of the Freyr's people I've met have been straight, though. Until very recently when I met someone whose main god was Loki they were always gay people, but in the past few years Loki has gotten more popular with straight women, and from what I've observed if they stick with him for a while he seems to be leading a lot of them to Sigyn, although he also appears to be leading a lot of people to Odin recently.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 30 November 2018

    Meredith, yes, Asatruar should be plural in its original language, but in American usage the word tends to be read as if it were -er rather than -ar on the end, that is, parallel to words such as baker, joiner, one who does the stem word. Then it gets an s on the end like bakers, joiners, etc. This regularizes it to English usage.

    As for the idea that chaos is evil, please see my post The Morality of Chaos. I find it a little odd that anyone would assign either a positive or negative moral value to a field of mathematics. Is it not beautiful that chaos math's most famous effect is named after a butterfly, symbol of Loki's wife Sigyn? The gods' presence is in everything, in many subtle ways, and I find it awe-inspiring.

    As for the idea of Loki himself being evil, I think that has been adequately covered elsewhere, but in sum: nothing in nature is good or evil. Neither chaos nor fire, neither lightning nor water, even though those things can kill and destroy as well as sustain life.

    Thank you for reading. I'm glad you found this thought-provoking.

  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Friday, 30 November 2018

    Chaos and evil obviously don't have to equal the same thing, as I've thoroughly learned through studying and working with Tiamat. Loki is pretty different though, and is still clearly the direct opposition of the Aesir, generally protectors, creators and "the good guys".

    Using fire as a comparison is apt; Loki is not simply fire, he is very specifically uncontrolled fire. There is the fire in our hearths for light, warmth and cooking, and there is uncontrolled fire that destroys. While literal wildfires do still serve their purpose in nature, we don't exactly go out and worship and venerate them. More to the point, no one is picking fights, calling names, branding themselves or others and otherwise feeding contention and segregation over a distinction or preference between the two, which was my main point in regards to the danger and the very ironic results we see from Asatruar who get up in arms over working with Loki or not.

    Just because there is something in nature that exists and is not necessarily good or evil doesn't mean it's something to be worshipped or revered, especially when it causes so much conflict.

    Loki and how he is represented and the role he plays in stories doesn't actually seem to have that much to do with the mathematical form of chaos. In fact, in studying chaos theory, it has been my understanding from certain researchers that it is actually something of a misnomer, as the findings in mathematical chaos have proven or at least very strongly suggested that there actually might not be such a thing as complete, literal chaos; that even seemingly random and chaotic events still follow forms and patterns.

    However the ancient Norse could not have been very aware of this (though Loki very interestingly still always seems to be thwarted or punished by the gods of order, supporting the theory) and it is pretty plain to see that Loki was a force of not only chaos - in any understanding of the term, be it ancient, modern, mathematical or otherwise - but of destruction.

    Destruction that can still lead to creation? Perhaps, but his primary (possibly only) role & function is still clear and whether allegorically or literally "evil" or not, to focus on and venerate certain forces & energy is only going to attract more of the same, and this is where I personally believe a folly lies, at least potentially but I think we're still seeing proof of this.

    Trying to worship, work with or venerate certain ancient deities, who were conceived of, constructed and defined by ancient people with very different worldviews, conditions, goals, societal norms and modes of worship and even existence simply presents problems and pitfalls that I think modern Pagans, especially Heathens and other reconstructionists, might do well to really consider before taking things as far as creating angst-ridden splits between "Lokians" and "Nokians".

    This makes me think of "Shiite" and "Suni"...

    It just seems to me that we haven't yet learned enough from the examples of certain major religions when it comes to such contentious differences, labels and debates. Such disputes have been known to lead to little things known as "holy wars"...

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Friday, 30 November 2018

    Sigyn and Odin huh, well as long as heathens are clinging to a Norse only pantheon I guess that works. If I recall correctly Loki was bound with the entrails of his son though I forget the boy's name. So far as I know that is the only time the son is mentioned in the surviving literature and no one as yet has brought out any new stories except perhaps Marvel comics.

    I think of Loki as primarily a trickster. Perhaps when heathens and Asatruar have grown more comfortable working with the spirits of the land Loki will lead them to Raven, Coyote, Iktome the spider, or Tsistu the Rabbit. The trickster's role is not always a comfortable one and I can certainly see Loki passing the job off onto someone else if given the chance.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 30 November 2018

    Anthony, oh, Odin is also a trickster :) He and Loki are very much brothers.

    Meredith, in one of our stories Loki enters an eating contest against Logi, who is wildfire, and Loki loses, because he did not consume the container they were eating from, but Logi did. Logi the wildfire consumes the bones but Loki the hearth fire / forge fire / cremation fire leaves the bones. Loki represents bound fire. He is depicted bound, as a nude figure in chains, in some historical art, although that may have been euhemerized with a medieval bound devil figure, as it was at a church and made in the xian period. He is also depicted as a face with sewn lips, as in the Snaptun Stone depicted in the blog post. The Snaptun Stone is a bellows stone, a device for controlling fire. The depictions of Loki as bound or sewn may have come first and the stories to provide excuses for the pictures later. Loki is also often associated with the rune Kenaz, which is the torch, the rune of fire under the control of a human.

    While it's true we have no proof that the ancient heathens understood anything as advanced as chaos math, many of our myths can be read as metaphors for nature with surprisingly advanced concepts, for example, the story of the void becoming charged and polarized and then suddenly exploding into the universe sounds a lot like the Big Bang Theory to me. And of course, the gods aren't stuck in historical times, nor limited to human understanding, so, there's no reason we can't apply a modern understanding of chaos or any other science to our understanding of the mythology stories or of the gods as we experience them.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 01 January 2019

    In "Two Flutes Playing" by Andrew Ramer the author describes gay energy as tree energy and says it is represented in art and stories as two men under a tree sharing a fruit. Lesbian energy is water energy and is represented by women at a well, and straight energy is fire energy represented by the hearth fire.

    In "Draw the Circle" by Mark Batterson the author proposes a 40 day prayer circle involving 3 or more people.

    To your knowledge has anyone actually tried asking the gods how to harness gay and lesbian energy? It seems simple enough: gather in a group of 3 or more, hold hands, call on the gods of your tradition and ask "What lore and practices do the gays in our midst need to explore for the blessing and well being of our community?" Repeat for 40 days, then repeat all over again for lesbians and the transgendered.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Tuesday, 01 January 2019

    Anthony, that's an interesting way to look at the elements. In heathen literature, there are trees considered male that poetically stand for men and trees considered female that poetically stand for women, and wells and seas and other forms of water are associated with some beings considered male, like Mimir, and some beings considered female, like the Norns. A representation of Loki is found on a bellows stone, so he is definitely associated with fire, but also possibly with the breath that feeds it. The trouble with attempting to ask the heathen gods about gay and lesbian energy is that those were not categories of identity in the ancient world. They are actually culturally specific categories. What we modern people translate as gay actually referred to something that overlaps gayness like a venn diagram but isn't exactly the same thing; other people have written about it extensively and it's a topic that has to be explained to make any sense so I won't try to go into it here, but basically partner gender preference was not considered a fixed personality characteristic. Rather, the word modern people often translate as gay ("ergi," which was literally a mortal insult among the warrior class) actually referred to submission, and thus was bound up with social hierarchy and the specific roles expected of people of certain genders, classes, free status, and even job descriptions. The elder heathens thought about gender much differently than we do today. They had multiple words for transness, each carrying very different connotations, up to and including one that also means necromancer (seidhberendr.) They also defined sex (the act) differently than we do, in such a way that Lesbianism would not have fit into their cultural understanding of what sex was, and therefore what a sexual preference was. Although the gods aren't stuck in time and would probably understand what we meant if we just asked them in modern English, they also don't have the cultural assumptions that we have about straights, gays, etc.

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 02 January 2019

    I should probably have added the qualifier "currently available" to "lore and practices" though a 40 day time frame would give the gods plenty of chances to communicate through dream and coincidence/synchronicity. Well sooner or later some people will give it a try and share their experience even if it is just three frivolous smartasses.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 04 January 2019

    Anthony, it's a huge subject and I'm only just barely introducing it in my comment. The main takeaway here is that the impact of Nokeanism is on modern living people, many of whom are QUILTBAG people, even though historical heathens had a different set of culturally defined queer identities than we do today, and the gods are familiar with both (and probably also older sets we don't know about because they are prehistoric.)

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