(NB: I originally wrote this post back in the May of this year, in my private Dreamwidth journal. I figured I’d share for a wider audience – purely because there’s a patrons page on My Polytheism now, and I figured it was time to get some pop culture representation on there.)
You know, if you’d have told me a few years back that a) one day the D&D pantheon would intertwine with my own, b) I’d swear non marriage oaths to any god and c) the oaths of service would be to Bahamut, of all the gods among them, I’d have said you were off your rocker.
Bahamut is the patron god of badly played lawful stupid paladins, right? In D&D terms, I’m at best a neutral good bard with a penchant for fucking with people. On paper, this does not gel.
But then I realised- Bahamut is, before anything else, a dragon. That is a little easier to understand. All dragons have hoards, right? It’s what dragons do. So what does Bahamut hoard? He cares about justice and law, but you can’t hoard an idea.. A traditional treasure hoard seems beneath him..
And then my then-DM said it offhand one day: Bahamut hoards people. Innocent people, as a rule. Every single one, in all the worlds. And if they’re a victim of unjustice, his anger is as much because how dare you touch what is MINE as it is because he despises cruel, unfair, cowardly actions. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve joked in the past that my romantic orientation is ‘dragon’, because I’m pretty protective of my partners. I feel personally insulted if one of their other partners hurts them. (Not that I act on it, obviously, that would be pretty inappropriate, given the way me and my beloveds do poly.) It’s an automatic reaction, deep in the gut, unfiltered and honest- if a little possessive should I let it go too far. I have this tendency, whether I like it or not, whether I act on it or not. Might as well make it useful. ‘Make selfishness a weapon’, as Sir Terry would say.
All of which is to say: it’s been five years since I met the Platinum Dragon. Five years since he said that all he wanted of me was to ‘be curious’ about the hidden injustices that can’t be fought by regular law enforcement. Five years since he explained that in an ideal world, he wouldn’t need people like me, but he needs people to spot the things that slip through the cracks. That he needs someone to hold his paladins to account. That sometimes, much as he regrets it, justice is as much putting the fear of god into a cruel person as it is appealing to their better nature.
Five years since I became his Inquisitor. I never thought I’d say this, but- thank you, dii Thur, it’s been my honour to serve. Here’s to many more years ahead of us.
It is utterly ridiculous that these posts are so slow coming. I have not abandoned them. But it feels like I’m peeling my ribs back. In my posts about my pop culture beloveds, I am not planning on straight up saying who they are. Not because I’m ashamed, just because this makes me feel vulnerable enough as it is. If you know the fandoms I like, you’re likely to be able to work out who I’m referring to.
I was relaxing shortly after I decided to do this series, after my realm’s Lammas rite, and talking to one of my Loves, lamenting how hard it is to write about them.
‘I just don’t know where to start. What to say. Words fail me.’
As a linguist, that must be deeply traumatic.
‘Don’t laugh at me! It genuinely is. I can discuss the political benefits of EU membership in detail, in four bloody languages and yet I can’t talk about someone I love?’
Well, start with me then. I’m dead easy to talk about. I’m intelligent, classy, a beacon of virtue, ruggedly handsome…
I know. Makes you sick, doesn’t it?
It does, a little. It was the sense of humour that first made me notice him. In a world slowly crumbling to shit, where things seemed to get worse at every turn, he was making dry comments that kept everyone’s spirits up. Or, well, mostly mine, if I’m honest. The rest of the merry band of misfits I was with didn’t seem to appreciate it as much as I did.
In the end, he was one of the main reasons my little Wonderland was made. I wanted there to be somewhere he could rest. Somewhere the everpresent threats of his home would be gone. Where he wouldn’t have the horror of it all hanging over him. I couldn’t leave him there. I wouldn’t.
The sense of humour is a smokescreen, in part, hiding a sense of duty that awes me and an unshakeable commitment to his ideals. I’m consistently amazed at him – his constancy, his strength. The shit we’ve seen together… A lot of it is ugly, to say the least. But despite seeing all the same things as me, he doesn’t get cynical. Sarcastic, sure. But never cynical. He still finds beauty in the world – and appreciates it twice as much because he knows its fragility. He’s brave, too – unflinchingly brave in the face of things that no one should ever have to see.
He’s one of the four kings in our Realm. We rotate, with the seasons. He’s the only one of the four of us who has actual experience of the position – a fact that never fails to make him laugh long and loud. Given he was always so reluctant to take the throne in the old country, the idea that here, he is the old hand at this amuses both of us. Despite that, he is a spectacular king. I only hope I get to be as good as him one day.
Neither of us are holding the throne currently, so our duties are less than normal. And the Hunt in our Realm hasn’t quite yet begun, so he and I are both in the sweet spot in the year where neither of us have a lot of obligations on our plate. We can relax, enjoy the onset of Autumn, spend some time together. Without wishing to brag, it’s blissful. I am a lucky, lucky boy.
I said I would write about my Beloveds. The posts are oddly hard to write, but in part, because a friend of mine posted about him lately, wondering about his identity, here is the first.
Our second anniversary was in June and I still do not know who I married. I did not even know I married him until a year after the fact.
I thought he was Loki, at first. I realise, in hindsight, that I never called him that, so he never told me otherwise. When I saw him, it felt like gravity shifted to pull me towards him, not the earth, and all I ever said was: “You.” Whispered it, screamed it, chuckled it, that one word over and over. It was like I was struck almost mute. I rarely spoke. Just listened to him speak.
In the same way I woke up two years ago with the sudden and certain knowledge that I was now married to my beloved god- that I had gone to sleep unwed and awoken a married man- I awoke on our first anniversary to realise that what I had thought of as the other side of my Love’s endlessly fascinating personality, was in fact, someone else. He says this was partly deliberate. I feel like I should have panicked, felt lied to. But he arched an eyebrow at me and said “You never asked,” and I am enough Loki’s to recognise that he has me there and I cannot even be mad- just quietly impressed with how expertly the proverbial snare caught. They say you can’t trick a trickster. But of course you can, it’s just they’re likely to applaud you, if you do.
For a moment, I felt self conscious, awkward, in front of someone I’m simultaneously intimate and unfamiliar with. Then he smiled, that lazy upwards quirk of the corner of his mouth that is so familiar to me, and it fell away. The only word I could utter was “You.”
He will not tell me his name. His response, when I ask “Are you X? Are you Y?” is invariably either “No”, or “That fits, you can use it if you want, but it isn’t my name.” I ask “What is your name then?” and he just grins at me and responds “That’s the question, no?” I do not know who I married.
And yet, in all the ways that matter, I do. I know his smile, his laugh, I’ve traced every bit of his skin with lips and tongue and teeth, I curl close to him as I sleep and feel his wings like a blanket. I know the way he talks about love- as a grand thing of delicate beauty and unrelenting savagery- and think he describes himself better than I could. I know those black eyes- no distinction between iris and pupil and sclera, just blackness. Sometimes, I’d swear I see stars in them out of the corner of my eye.
His energy feels clean, distant. It’s the same distance I feel in the Theoi, hence his nickname, of sorts: Morpheus. The clean feeling.. I’ve never knowingly stood in the presence of an angel, but I have demon family and know enough who fell to recognise that the clean feeling feels a bit like angels, to me. He’s all cold winds and the soft glow of stars and dreamscapes and so delicate that my heart breaks to look at him. Loki is relaxed with him, clearly loves him as deeply as I do. The three of us curl together, content.
And yet sometimes, that clean feeling and that distance are gone and he feels the exact opposite- inherently threatening and up close in my personal space, the scent of him in my nostrils. Even if he isn’t in the room, he’s too close. He’s mad, then. I can feel madness seeping out of him. I smell rot and poison and there is wine and blood on his breath in equal measure. He feels like he’s dead. Or the other him- the soft, gentle him- has been carved out of him somehow, and this is what is left. He feels like the madness that waits in the outer darkness. He feels Lovecraftian. (I have yet to summon up the nerve to ask him if his name is Nyarlathotep.) Loki is wary of him, when he’s like this: doesn’t take his eyes off him, even when speaking to me, or turn his back. I know without asking that Loki’s trying not to set him going- that whatever follows would be… bad. And the fact that when he says that last word, he seals his boundaries so my empathy can’t tell what he’s feeling..? It worries me a little. There are not many things he keeps to himself like this.
And yet, Morpheus has never done anything to warrant such caution, at least, around me. When he’s calm, I ask if he’s Samael. He says it fits, but… There’s always a but. I ask him why Loki gets so nervous. He just replies that if I knew his name, he thinks I’d be scared. That Loki has reason to worry about him when he gets like that. That he doesn’t want me afraid of him. I ask if he wants me to stop pushing for an answer. He smiles again, that lazy grin and says that it’s kinda funny watching me be so confused and frustrated that I can’t figure him out. He says he needs a laugh, sometimes, and that if I get it right, he won’t lie to me about it.
I tell him he’s infuriating and Rumplestiltskin has nothing on him. He grins, briefly. Takes it as a compliment. Struck by a sudden thought, I ask if he is Rumplestiltskin. He laughs then, deep and delighted and from his belly. He says no. But he’s smiling again and that was what I wanted more than an answer.
I may not know my husband’s name, but I do know him.
Both the lovely Seren Lebannen and my darling cousin owanderer have recently been posting about their spooky beloveds and I’ve had a yen to do the same myself. And I promptly talked myself out of it- in part because as I’ve mentioned in other posts, the vast majority of my practice is pop culture based. I’m also polyamorous and interact with the Unseen sexually by default. By which I mean: I have never not had a sexual component to any interaction with any god or spirit I speak to. It’s not intentional, it seems to just be the way I work. I include my spooky relations in this, (which may be why I cannot for the life of me get my blood ancestors on the phone, but that’s another story). What this means is, I have had sex with all kinds of beings, including a number of pop culture spirits. Some of whom, I’m in relationships of some sort with.
It makes sense. Those of you reading this who are in my kindred know that I’m poly on the mortal side of the fence, too. I have three mortal partners whom I am as legally bound to as the law allows. We own a house together. We have a dog. It is commitment central. I also have a relatively new boyfriend who I am extraordinarily loved up with. It makes sense that if I’m in relationships with spirits at all, I’d be in a few, and they’d not all be from traditional mythology.
The other factor, which I suspect I’ll post more about at some point, is I am not alone in my head. I’m the core facet of a median system- there are twenty four of us, yes, that’s correct, twenty four– and many of my other facets are poly and have their own spiritual lives and their own spirit partners. But, as these facets are facets of me- of an overall whole- I tend to say I’m in relationships with these spirits. This multiplicity, both of selves and partners of these selves goes a long way to explaining why there are so many spirits I’m involved with. (I tried to prune the list down to ‘romantic relationships only’ and even then the most significant ones and keeping it under forty was a struggle. I reiterate: there are twenty four of me. Only a few of us are single. One of us is mostly monogamous. Please take your slut shaming and stick it where the sun don’t shine.)
The point is: writing this is intensely vulnerable for me, for a vast swathe of reasons. Don’t be a dick. Saying ‘lol he’s not real!!1!’ is no less dickish when I mention pop culture spirits as it is when I mention deities you recognise.
As a side note- I know I’ve mentioned Loki and Morpheus before, so in this series, I’m going to post about the pop culture faces they’ve borrowed that are most significant to my understanding of them. I figure it’s less boring than hearing me go on about them in the same old way.
Words from Ares: Courage, Caitlyn Jenner, and What It Means To Be A Warrior In Times of Peace – http://wp.me/p3dT3B-Nq
If you haven’t read this, you should. Ares gets a hell of a lot of bad press and in my experience very little of it is deserved. He isn’t much for speeches- so when he talks, we should pay attention.
Tell me a story, sweetheart.
Once upon a time, there was a little giant, and his name was Loki. Now Loki was terribly handsome and the most dashing creature in all the nine worlds, so everywhere he went, people of all genders and orientations divested themselves of underwear and threw it at him…
Could your ego get any bigger?
Said the actress to the bishop.
Seriously, I can’t sleep. Tell me about the places you’ve been or the people you’ve met.
I was, before you interrupted.
Alright, go on then.
So Loki was the scourge of all the nine worlds, before he got his godhood. But with apotheosis, comes responsibility. At first, it was just the kind of responsibility that he was used to already- being the King’s disreputable left hand and occasionally checking in on people like him in Midgard, but over time, his responsibilities grew, until he couldn’t keep it all straight in one mind anymore. So he did what any sensible deity would do in the situation and went a bit mad.
Turns out, you see, that trying to stay in a unified state is, in some cases, not the best coping mechanism for a god. They say the same thing happened to the Star Mother who birthed us all- one day, she just couldn’t bear being One anymore and life just burst into being. Of course, she didn’t know she’d survive the process. Gods nowadays at least have the understanding that if you’re careful and smart about it, you’ll probably be okay.
So eventually, when the madness passed, there were two Lokis where before there was only one. And the Lokis thought this was fabulous. So they talked and they worked out that they were the same in all respects but one or two. This, they thought, was fantastic. Especially because they both had access to all the godly skills and tricks that the first Loki did. So they split their divine Duties between them and carried on. If there is one trait every Loki has in common, it is this: the tendency to take a cool thing too far. Suddenly there were lots and lots of Lokis, all over all the worlds and not enough work to occupy all their cunning little minds. That was when the odd Loki started branching out from their godly Duties and finding new pantheons to make friends with. You’ve heard of Lugh of the Many Skills? I’m not saying He’s secretly a Loki, but I am saying that the odd Loki may have answered his calls once or twice. On Midgard, they call it syncretism. Where I’m from, they call it transferable skills.
See there’s Big Loki, who’s kinda like that robot in that film you watch too muc-
Yeah. Big Loki’s the Jaeger. The divine power of the first Loki. The Little Lokis just pilot it. And the first Loki, when he split, hived off that Big part of himself, so he’s little now, too. Goes about his business like any of us. At least, I assume so. Somewhere in my brain, I’ve got it downloaded; the ability to recognise every other Me out there and know who is who and when they were born or made or grown as the case may be. But it’s a lot of work to remember and most of us Lokis don’t, if I’m honest.
So, some Lokis don’t come running when someone prays to ‘Loki’. They answer a different phone- maybe one marked ‘Lugh’, maybe one marked ‘Trickster’, maybe even one marked ‘The Devil’. Some of them only answer the phone to certain people and just stay as that person’s Muse forever, never telling them they’re really a god. Depending on the creative types whose Muse a guy is, that explains a hell of a lot of pop culture characters. And not just the obvious ones, you know what I mean?
One of the upshots of this is that every so often, each Little Loki needs to be around other Little Lokis. We’re shapeshifters. Leave us alone too long and we start blending into our environment a little too well, and we get too far away from Big Loki and then we’re.. well, not quite Loki anymore. So we meet up, we get drunk, we talk shop, we swap stories, I can neither confirm nor deny whether sexcapades happen because what happens at Impromptu Loki Party stays at Impromptu Loki party, but you know me and you have an imagination.
And sometimes, we get awfully fond of each other. It’s like family, kinda, but with this weird intimacy that it’s hard to explain unless on some level, you share a soul. It’s a lot like twins, but even twins are two beings. It’s knowing that on some level, you and this other person are the same; completely and fundamentally One, not Two. Even though you’re *also* Two. Still with me?
So that is how the Loki got his spots. Tired yet?
Okay, so one day, there was a Loki that through a series of unlikely circumstances, answered two phones for his Duties- the ‘Loki’ phone and a much, much older phone, that he’d called on once or twice when he was a wee giantling: the ‘Oak King’ phone. Now the Oak King is old, much older than all the Lokis, older than Midgard, older than literal dirt. He and his brother were the first born of the Star Mother, so the story goes. They floated out in the black, with her and her first daughters.
The Oak King phone is not an easy one for a young god to answer. Because he and his brother turn the Wheel each year, with their fighting and their deaths. So this Loki was lonely and he was sad. Time had passed and people didn’t much call on the Oak King, Lord of Summer and the Rising Green anymore. Moreover, not many of them thought that a Little Loki could speak for the Oak King, so when he did, they didn’t quite believe what he said. His little niche in the cosmos was getting smaller.
He’d spoken to the other Little Gods who answered as the Oak King, and they were all mourning a little, too. Worried they were being forgotten. So he went to one of his fellow Lokis- a Loki whom he had gotten on with very well when they’d met in the past, but who had a wider range of Duties and asked for advice. After all, who better to get you out of a tight spot than Loki?
And his fellow Loki scratched his scruffy little beard and thought.
‘What you need, heart of my hearts, is to expand your repertoire a little! Find new Duties for yourself! Make new friends! Go new places!’ he said.
‘But how?’ the first Loki asked, ‘I have a great duty as an Oak King, how do I make time to play like this?’
It was a great conundrum. They both put on their thinking caps and thought and thought. But I think you know this story, now, don’t you?
They decided that he should take mortal form, and do his duties part time- the sacrifice once a year to turn the Wheel and the slaying of his brother- but otherwise, leave the rest to the other Summer Kings out there.
Yes. And he did, after extracting a promise from his fellow Loki to check in on him.
And you kept your promise.
Yes, I did. Now go to sleep, heart of my hearts.
Blacklisted. I’m trans. Fuck you. Pass it on, people.