Interview for Black Magazine.
Most of our readers will know your name from your several books, magic(k)al and musical workings. Would you describe in some short words what happened in your life concerning these workings in the last few years and actually? I know your biography has got very many different points to tell about, but what is your actual living like (for example: in what country do you live right now); what is your every day work; does the fire still burn in you after such a long eventful time concerning magick, the northern mythology, living paganism and so on? You traveled a lot in your life till now (both physically and concerning spiritual travelings) – have you found a resting point?
Yes my resting point is my community of Gladsheim, in Scotland with good and reliable people at last and lots of lovely animals, a gorgeous dog, 6 beautiful cats and a large assortment of chickens, geese ducks. There is always lots of work to be done to improve the place and visitors are welcome to stay, learn and help out.
My first book was a privately printed and published work “Leaves of Yggdrasil“ in 1988. In 1990 Llewellyn published it properly and somehow it opened a path for women into the Northern Mysteries. No one had to put up with the shit I had to put up with when first I dared to get involved with Odin. Not so much the runes but the religion was very much suspect politically and without any female representation either as priestesses or even the goddesses themselves. This book was upgraded to “Northern Mysteries and Magick“ and reprinted by Llewellyn, with an expanded section on Feminine Mysteries from a Northern Perspective.
My first recording was with current 93, David Tibet bless him, in 1986 on “Swastika’s for Noddy“, or nowadays “Goddy“. After this I was approached by Sixth Comm and I recorded “Fruits of Yggdrasil“ in 1988 I think. This was carried by “Eyas Media“ and other labels later on. This was the best musical work I have ever done, Patrick O’Kill somehow managed to express the right emotion in music appropriate to the text, I only realise now as I am older how gifted he actually is. I wish him well…………….for now! And yes, I would work with Patrick again, however this time I would be in control of the business side. Like most true creative genius Patrick isn’t really that good at it, bless him!
There was the re-release “Fruits Of Yggdrasil“ at Edition Ananael some time ago. Why did you decide to do that re-release?
Ananael published my book in German and improved on the art work therein. I like and respect their works and was more than happy to give my permission to have „Fruits“ re released, and……………………….. I got paid! People in this business will be well aware how rare this is!
(Fruits and Shades are different works. “Shades“ is a reworking of “Songs of Yggdrasil“ which was published as part of my book “Northern Mysteries and Magick. We are talking about three different cd’s)
On “Shades Of Yggdrasil“ we can hear your workings (among others) with David Tibet/Current 93 and Sixth Comm. You have also worked together with Ian Read.
I do like all these artists not only because of their very touching music and their enlightening lyrics, but also for their magickal workings and the combination of music and magick.
How did it come to this cooperation, which is about ten years old right now?
Both Ian Read and David Tibet as well as Patrick of Sixth Comm were living in my house as tenants. There was a party in Tibet’s basement room and Hilmar Hilmarsson was there. We talked runes and I chanted some and it was Hilmar who told Tibet, this should be recorded. Tibet took him seriously and that how “Swasticas” came about. Ian Read also became involved and did some work on the same album.
Are you still in contact with them?
Funny you should ask I haven’t been in contact with anyone for probably ten years. Only two days ago I had reason to email Tibet asking questions about the newly released “Shades“ album, I only found out about it via my guestbook www.aswynn.co.uk, and this brings me to your question. In 1986 I think, could be ’87, on the request of and commissioned by David Tibet (Current 93) I recorded Leah Sublime on a tape recorder. This was a birthday present for Ian Read. Oaths were taken and witnessed NEVER to release this recording in the public domain. Tibet can confirm this.
In 1993 I was invited to submit a tape to Bob Williams of Asafoetida in Arizona. This was released as “Shades of Yggdrasil” as a one-off limited production. Bob Williams at some time died and I thought that was that, poor bastard. Last week it was brought to my attention that “Shades“ was being advertised on some sites and somone named Scott, posted a message in my guest book, paying me a compliment about the Crowley Track, I said “What!!?”
I am now making legal enquiries regarding my material being released without prior consultation and permission. I have also been in touch with the Caliphate OTO and seek their counsel, as all copyright of the works of Aleister Crowley are their property. I made it clear that this recording was put on the “Shades“ album without my knowledge, I also emailed the distributor “Tesco“ and I had a sympathetic and courteous reply, from both the OTO and Tesco, I will however seek legal and/or other’ retribution.
You are quoting Aleister Crowley on “Shades Of Yggdrasil“ and have you always worked with his kind of philosophy?
I think, he is misunderstood too often in recent times. Everywhere you hear that he was completely mental, drug addicted and that one is a little mental too, if one likes Aleister Crowley and his teachings. I for myself DO like Aleister Crowley’s words very much and his workings and philosophies played a large role in my life and I suppose, so did it in yours.
I also think that he put down the basic stones to build up the strong house of the ‚modern‘ magickal world. A little bit like Freud’s meaning for the psychoanalysis – he is always accused of some mistakes he had in his theories but no one is paying attention to the importance of the fundamental basics and definitions he made which are still defining modern psychoanalysis. Difficult to explain, hope, one can get my point.
So, what is your relationship towards Aleister Crowley and his lifework?
I have been greatly influenced by him, second only to Dion Fortune. I quote him in my book discussing the Gebo rune, as here is a great mystery. I do accept the principles of Thelema, but in some respects I interpret in accord with my True will as a celibate priestess dedicated to Odin. I see no great contradiction here, merely a different emphasis. Whereas the sexual imperative in magick can lead to Gnosis the conscious act of abstinence and sublimation also will lead to Gnosis. Sex involves other people, at least one other person, and all the aggro that goes with it. To eliminate that part of one’s magical life means that nothing and no one gets in the way of the Great Work.
In Magick as in all things, s/he who travels alone travels fastest and further. For me the core of Crowley’s contribution to my spiritual/magical development is “Liber Astarte Vel Berellum“ working, which for me is an ongoing process.
Has your relationship towards him changed in your own development?
Yes, whereas I started off with looking up to him with awe I now perceive some parallels in so far that we both are pioneers. Furthermore Uncle Al is known as “The Wickedest Man in the world“ and I am already named “Most Evil Woman“ in my guestbook. I like it, and find myself in the position that occasionally people look up to me with the same awe.
I suppose I grew up. I can see his greatness and failings and what he was up against in his time and quite possibly others will see me more or less in a similar light 100 years from now. Mind you, I have always been puzzled by the fact that out of all the magical alphabets presented in 777 he never even mentions the runes, other than once in the Book of the Law and there he was not referring to any futhark.
To a more concrete theme: I’m very interested in Loki, even in his ambivalent figure as in his meanings. You have written down in „Leaves of Yggdrasil“ (I have only the German translation here, I’m sorry!)
„…Dennoch empfehle ich nicht, Loki zu invozieren. Gleichwohl, ähnliche Warnungen sind auch hinsichtlich der Invokation Odins ausgesprochen worden, was mich noch nie abgeschreckt hat…“
I have written down an article for the Wolfzeit once where I stated that I was a little surprised about your opinion concerning Loki. Have your opinion changed in the last years or can you explain me your thoughts written down there?
Yes of course, like all evolving magicians I have changed my understanding regarding Loki. I wrote “Leaves” In ’86. That’s an awful long time ago and there are things I perceive differently now. Loki is an essential integral part of the Norse magical system, without Loki there wouldn’t be any change at all, just a status quo. Loki compliments Odin in some respect as “dark twin” perhaps.
The warnings I referred to in that writing are the warnings I got, mostly from well meaning Western Mystery people and feminist Wiccans, about the dubious nature of Odin and the dangers inherent in his service. Well, it’s all a load of bollocks. Whether it’s Loki or Odin, whatever you invoke will be fed through your own personality, and that is ultimately where the danger lies, not with these entities but what you do with their energies and your intent towards them.
Like a lot of people I was heavily influenced by studying the mythology, And the fact that Odin was on the whole seen as a dodgy bastard only got me more not less interested in him. But ultimately the myths are written by people in a certain time frame and from within certain social parameters, not necessarily applicable to the 21st century. I am now of the opinion that these myths are ‘coded’, so to speak, and one has to dig deeper for a more esoteric understanding. To this end I developed a correspondence course to do exactly that, the end result hopefully to become a Northern Mysteries Esoteric Magical Path.
Your lifework changed the magickal landscape a lot. Your book „Leaves Of Yggdrasil“ is still a very important milestone for everyone who is into these themes. For example, your understanding of female mysteries was very important for the self-understanding for lots of magickal working women, I think. Do you think you have succeeded in making clear how important women’s role in magick and especially northern ways of it is?
Yes, I would say so, the first time in 1993 when I hit San Francisco there was a line of women waiting and all pointing their fingers at me shouting with hilarity “It’s all your fault“. They all had read my book and were drawn to the Norse, I do think that I was one of the women who contributed towards this change of consciousness towards a female understanding of the Norse gods, especially Odin. Goddesses of course weren’t much of a problem as most woman were already working with them. Now the vast majority of students on my course are women.
Seidr (or Seidhr) is discussed a lot in recent times. Everybody who tries to tell about Seidhr shows an very individual, (in a positive way) subjective way to describe the personal Seidhr. What is Seidhr for you and how important is it for you?
There are different interpretations of what Seidhr actually is, I see it as a comprehensive term for a variety of magical practices as described in Heimskringla. However, the most well know aspect of Seidhr practised today is oracular Seidhr or Spae Craft.
I have very successfully trained people in this part of the Northern Mysteries but actually am not very good at it myself, like so-called path-working or trance travelling. I can get people to do it using my voice and a drum but can’t do it myself. I suppose I am more leaning towards Galdr, a funny thing is whether you define your working practices as seidhr or galdr they do overlap and the distinction is not always clear. The trance inducing songs used in Seidhr could be viewed as an aspect of Galdr. On the other hand a creative magical chant leading to personal Gnosis – i.e. subjective – can be viewed as an aspect of Seith, my personal definition is Seidhr is passive receptive and galdr is active magical intent and will towards a given objective.
They involve different altered states of consciousness. Seithr can be used to invoke and communicate with the gods as well as the inhabitants of some of the nine worlds, like Hella’s Kingdom, to obtain information, guidance and teachings. Galdr can be used to ‘do somebody’, actively interfering in wyrd and taking charge by means of a working.
For example one would use Seithr to communicate and ask how to go about a healing or something. Opposite to this the actually active working under will of and at the time set by the magician would be galdr. I think the difference is more expressed in the two different states of consciousness rather than the methodology or results. I developed also work with Seithr as a form of (cyber) sorcery which is indeed one of its applications as described in Heimskringla On my website on the Gebo page I did have a full Seith/Galdr working intent to extract retribution of people who ripped off my work, either by plagiarising or bootlegging. For this I adapted an old track ‘Nithing’ taken from the original ‘Fruits’ album and encoded the names of the recipients into the vocals. As this is an experiment in as much that this is the first time, I do keep ‘tabs’ on the subjects and so far it’s working. I also know at least one student who already has adapted these techniques to catch out a child abuser in Chicago.
Perhaps you know Andrea M. Haugen (a german woman living in Norway), she wrote the book “The Ancient Fires Of Midgard“ and has a band called Hagalaz‘ Runedance. For me, it’s a great book, it has the two things, that were always important for your outputs, too I think: It’s both personal and reconstructable for the single reader – you are telling from you point of view, but everyone can transfer this into his own thinkings and his own way of magic… What do you think of the book and the way, Andrea’s describing the northern mysteries and the living heathenism? I found it was like a kind continuing of the way you struggled free for all of us… What do you think in common of modern living heathenism?
I haven’t read this book. Is it available in English, and if so from where? So, I can’t really comment. I have had some e mail contact with Andrea, and I have heard a lot of good stuff about her. If it is meant to be we’ll meet naturally at some point, and if she is ever in the UK I would welcome her in my house.
You have been active in magical things for so long. Aren’t you tired of discussing, teaching, working in groups, and so on or is it still of the same fascination like years before?
Well, yes the fascination is still there especially through the correspondence course and the excellent results people send in. They are really contributing so much more new material I overlooked. It’s like an onion – layer beneath layer of mysteries to be uncovered. I am also supplementing my pension in a nice way and enhancing the life style of my kindred, animals included. I usually go off to the States twice a year and come back with a fist full of dollars!
You have experienced a lot of different kinds of magic from Wicca, esoteric ways, Thelemism onto the northern mysteries. I think, it’s important to get to know the universal principles of magic and spirituality and even to get to know which way’s best for the personal self. What do you think of Chaos magick and their special way of thinking?
It’s been a very long time, over ten years, that I had any dealings with chaos magick, so any comments I offer have to be interpreted in the light of that time frame and exclusively in the UK, London in particular. First of all you mention ‘their way of thinking’. I wasn’t aware there was such a thing. What attracted me initially to chaos magick was the individualistic approach and the scientific angle provided by Pete Carroll. However it went the way of all flesh under corrupt leadership later on. Too much emphasis on personal petty objectives rather than a quantum vision of magick as a process or self realisation.
I approve of the idea “one creates one’s own reality”, but I completely discard the idea of the gods being merely mental constructs in the mind of the magician. The people at the top of the leadership in the UK after the resignation(?) of Pete Carroll were totally without any morals, honour, courage or ethical conduct in most matters from the mundane to the magickal. I have absolutely no idea about the current status of The Pact, so I leave it at this.
As we can see on your website, you are offering Rune divination. Compared to other ways of divination, what are the advantages and disadvantages by divination with the runes for you?
Working with the runes is a very personal thing, I think.
As an appendix for the article it would be fine if you could mention all of your releases, both lyrical and musical . . . Freya Aswynn, thanks very much!
There is my release of the Fruits album by Ananael. The release of the Shades as a bootleg on Fremd I obviously will not support.