Urd - That Which Was
Chants, atmospheric sounds and tribal drumming paint a picture of a natural landscape, unmarred by the din and corruption of modern industry. Both soothing and energetic is the music of Hagalaz' Runedance. And it's anything but metal. This is to be emphasized. Placing her music alongside something like Darkthrone would be ridiculous. No, my friends, we are not talking about guitar-oriented musical aggression with a history rooted somewhere in rock n' roll. The opposite, really. In order to shed some light on the personality behind the work, I contacted Andrea for a brief, if incredibly uneven chat. Maybe I'm to blame for it turning out that way? Evaluate for yourself…
Since the Urd mcd was released only recently, and I've had quite mixed emotions ever since I first heard it, I decide to begin by focusing there.
How has the response thus far been to Urd - That Which Was. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the techno tracks, and if so, will you be experimenting more with that sound in the future?
Andrea: "The response has been both very positive and also negative. Of course the two new songs got generally positive attention. Some really like the re-mixes, others claim they are shocked about hearing Hagalaz' Runedance doing techno sounds... [Read my review in this same issue to hear my view on the matter - Yury] Yes, I am satisfied with the outcome of the techno tracks, especially with the industrial track by Kris. I personally like industrial music and also some trance/techno stuff. I love stuff like the Platinum CD by DJ John Kelly, for example. No, I do not have any intentions of techno songs on the new CD, but I will have some trance elements in some of the songs."
Happy to hear that. I understand you are involved in the ancient northern practice of sorcery and shamanism, known as Seidr. What does this practice entail? And can anyone involve him or herself in it?
"Seidr was practised mainly by the wise women and often in connection with fertility-rites, making use of intense emotions and natural substances."
I have a hint she's not talking about tea leaves. She continues: "Seidr practise involves entering a trance, allowing the mind to travel to other dimensions of reality. There the practitioner would communicate with spirits, totem-animals or the gods…Shamanism is the oldest form of magic, practised since the dawn of human consciousness. Travelling between the worlds, in other words between the consciousness and subconsciousness, has been practised in every culture. I think every person has by nature the ability to travel to his or her inner self, and communicate with nature's hidden realms. Yet for the ability to work magic effectively, I think, some individuals are more gifted than others."
Fair enough. And how do you feel about the rapid incorporation of technology into the worldwide economy? Do you feel that this will corrupt the spiritual element of life, or can it be reconciled? Take in consideration the fact that more than half the people on the earth have never spoken on a telephone.
"I do think technology is a threat to spiritual thinking, yet not alone. I think what mostly destroyed spiritual thinking, in other words, the ability to understand nature's mysteries, is caused by the patriarchal monotheistic religions, who have destroyed the ability. The dogmas of these middle-eastern religions closed our minds in order to control them. They have created the 'western mind', the up-side light, white, male, so called 'logical' way of thinking that leaves no space for the feminine side: the mysterious, magic, imagination, understanding and spirituality. The combination of the western way of thinking and technology is responsible for the loss of spiritual thought, I think."
You've stated yourself that you 'personally don't believe in any gods in the universe and… don't believe in a life after death.' But in order to pursue these hypotheses, isn't it necessary to study matters in science (cosmology, neurology, etc) to come to any real conclusion? Is science of any interest to you?
"Today's science has evolved from ancient myths and ancient knowledge. [That's incontestable - Yury] The ancient people were studying the earth and the planets and they knew probably a lot more about the cosmos than we do today. [Now that's contestable - Yury] They had scientists in ancient times, who often were magicians and there were also many women scientists, who combined knowledge with understanding. They knew about the stars for example, but they knew without any fancy machines as we have today. So I don't think science is opposed to the ancient way of thinking. It was in fact the Christians that attempted to destroy science and philosophy. I think if the Christian missionaries had not burned the scientific notes the Incas had written down for example, science could have come much further today and could have been understood much better. I don't say that I don't believe in any gods or an afterlife [But she did say she didn't believe in any gods or an afterlife in a letter I read on her official web site. - Yury]. Pagan Gods and Goddesses are energies and symbols. They represent the natural forces and the different human qualities within the man and the woman. The tales of northern mythology only tell the story of life as it is, reality on earth and human relations, their strengths and weaknesses. I further believe in the circle of life of course, which means that life itself goes on after death. I just don't know what form it will take after the pass over from this life."
Realizing that Asatru is a religion constrained to early Germanic pagans (please correct me if I'm wrong), I'm curious about how you feel about the rapid homogeneity or, less elegantly, dilution of so called 'pure blood' species across the earth? I'm curious of how you feel about anthropological facts today that lead to the direction that most modern human beings have evolved through interbreeding and have originated from somewhere in Africa some hundred-fifty thousand years ago.
"Yes, the early humans have moved around the globe, which explains also why so many ancient mythologies appear to have similar influences. Yet one important thing to remember is that paganism is the worship of the nature that surrounds the people, the nature to which they have adapted to live in. The northern religion is based on the mysteries to be found in northern nature. The traditions have been passed on by the people that became a part of that nature."
Well, there's something to extrapolate from.
Now switching to a more sentimental route, I know that you are very concerned about the survival of animals in nature. How do you feel about experimentation with animals in labs that is active on a daily basis? Before you respond, consider the circumstance of suffering a debilitating or life-threatening disease, and the only hope of survival depending upon the testing of vaccines on animals, or a means of improving the standard of living.
"I think testing on animals is not only ethically wrong, it is meaningless and has given many false results. There are many herbs that have been used for thousands of years for healing purposes. [Let's find a herb for AIDS and Lou Gerrig's Disease, Andrea! - Yury] These do not have to be tested on animals. To try out a new cure, one should test it on sick individuals who can benefit from it, not on healthy animals that have different systems than we have."
One must ponder, however, upon the fact that over 99 percent of natural plants and vegetation is poisonous to human beings. It's interesting to note, at this point, the general misconception amongst many people today that the more natural something is, the more, consequently, beneficial it is to one's well being, as it is more 'pure' and so on. I certainly don't mean to be flippant, but this is often quite far from the truth. Animal testing, the basis of my question, is often justifiable considering the alternative of testing on human beings, sick or healthy. But to test new medications on sick people! What a diabolical notion! Did Andrea actually give any thought to what she wrote?
I close my gaping mouth and next ask: Well then, to continue in this controversial direction, how about vegetarianism? What are your thoughts on this? In the United States there is an increasing trend towards vegetarianism now that point to college students and young adults gravitating towards this direction. Could it be from a spiritual basis or another manifestation of mindless herd-mentality?
"Well I think it is a good choice to be vegetarian in today's world. And to me it shows that more people start to think more about what they eat and that they are opposed to the industrial livestock-factories that are unethical and unhealthy."
But isn't the rampant overpopulation of animals just as threatening? A shame I couldn't get an answer this time around. I conclude with a question on many peoples' minds:
How do you feel about the madness that so many people have underwent due to the Y2K 'bug' and so on? Is this Christian obsession justified in your opinion? Does the year 2000 have any relevance to you?"
"No, as far as I am concerned pagans have passed the year 2000 long ago. Even the Christian calendar is wrong, the year 2000 would have been last year. Whatever, I don't care if the man Jesus was born or not, it is not my mythology and I don't see any dooms-day coming with the Christian 'millennium change'. I don't even think the computers will be any problem. Yet, one thing that pleases me is that on all food products the expiration date reads now 00: in other words age zero. I see this as a new beginning perhaps and the end of the Christian era and considering that the Church celebrates it's 1000 years jubileum in Norway and Iceland, we heathens here like to state "A 1000 years of suppression is enough…the next 1000 years are ours !!"…"
Allow me to become pedantic once more: the 21st century officially begins on January 1st, 2001, unless you think a millennium is equivalent to 999 years. The Gregorian calendar, in use today, was, as far as I understand, instilled by Pope Gregory VIII in 1582 to rectify some of the minute details that weren't accounted for in the Julian model. In what way could it be incorrect when it has been accurate in gauging the seasons for so long? Maybe my friend Stephen Hawking could help us put a decent final stroke to this interview? I'll end with a quote from one of his famous speeches:
"Whether we like it or not, the world we live in has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, and it is likely to change even more in the next hundred. Some people would like to stop these changes and go back to what they see as a purer and simpler age. But as history shows, the past was not that wonderful. It was not so bad for a privileged minority, though even they had to do without modern medicine, and childbirth was highly risky for women. But for the vast majority of people life was nasty, brutish, and short. Even if one wanted to, one couldn't put the clock back to an earlier age. Knowledge and techniques just can't be forgotten. If we accept that we cannot prevent science and technology from changing the world, we can at least try to ensure that the changes they make are in the right direction." …
We can all learn a lot from Hawking. Thanks to Andrea Haugen for her time...