Varg Vikernes Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism

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The present book is, as the title suggests, a series of reflections and afterthoughts regarding the ancient and original European traditions now generally denominated as “paganism” (a word used by the Christian world to refer to anything different in a derogatory manner).  The study of European traditions is taken up and explored by Vikernes, not with the distanced aloofness of a scholar trying to match foreign theories to a strange phenomenon completely disconnected from himself, but as someone who cares for it as someone would care for a loved one  —a living thing in the full sense of the expression (for it certainly is, a point I am sure Vikernes would agree with).

The present article will briefly go through what the writer considers the main themes and their attitudes that stand out when one first reads this book.  It is important, however, to point out that it becomes apparent to the sensitive reader that Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism has a rather personal touch to it, like most of what Vikernes does, and one feels as if he were sitting close by talking and expounding on the topics at hand, immersing both himself and the listener in a magical well of knowledge that melds with experience.  It mixes the giving out of facts with insightful pointing out of relations and cross-references, sprinkling the discussion of certain topics throughout different texts so that they build up in the mind of the reader.

“To me only the beauty of European polytheism remains”

— Varg Vikernes, ‘The Lord of the Elves’

These are given in a rather unapologetic tone proper of esoteric treatises which do not make claim to a perfection of the text but which deem the reader worthy enough to receive the statements as they are and then proceed to judge on their own.  The mistaken modern view that  expects a writer to keep apologizing and self denigrating so that the reader does not think he is pretentious is a waste of energy, time and material resources.  If only people would consider content before rhetoric, and then proceed to the discourse only after they have understood the value and significance inherent in the content itself, something close to a proper understanding of things would be possible for the public.


§ Correction of outsider interpretations

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Christians destroying symbols of European culture.

The most important feature of Vikernes’ writing and attitude that should be considered as the most important for even the casual reader is the attempt he is making at correcting the biased and often twisted view of ancient European traditions.  Somehow, in the sudden upsurge of views that sought to bring respect and awe for traditions of the East as well as American aboriginals and other foreign groups, the establishment forgot that before the invasion of Christianity, Europe also had equally valid and rich customs that deserved the same degree of respect.  Furthermore, they forgot that these being their own, they deserved an even larger amount of attention.

This may, at first, sound like bigotry, but it can be easily shown it is not when one points out that it is natural and proper that the Chinese person protects and seeks to understand the ancient cultural roots of his folk1; so are the Quiches of Guatemala encouraged and protected that they may cultivate their Mayan roots free of the invading oppression of colonial Christianity and sterile modernity.  Why should it be any different for the peoples of Europe?

“When I — arrogantly as some have claimed — said in the foreword to my book Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia that there are no good books (at least not in English, German or Scandinavian) out there about our mythology and religion, to some degree save The Golden Bough, by the anthropologist Sir James Frazer, this is what I mean; just about everything we know about our mythology from these books is seen through dense Judeo-Christian filters and interpreted in a Judeo-Christian light, it is twisted and distorted, and is unrecognisable.”

—Varg Vikernes, ‘Shadows amongst the Ruins’

The point he makes is very important because while we have striven to correct our views on, for instance, Hinduism, so that we can try and understand (as far as that is possible for us as foreigners) them from their own perspective, no such attempt has been made by academia to understand the original traditions of Europe, we have been seen as lowly enemies by the invading and strangling thought of Christianity as an aristocratic way of controlling large masses of people.  Thus arose the image of the Witch-cult2 as an enemy of all that was “proper and good” in the eyes of the authorities throughout Europe, while these were most probably just the extreme expressions of the actual local culture.


1Mythos gives rise to Culture and Culture gives rise to Folk, and Folk gives rise to Race.”, K.

2 The reader may want to refer to Margaret Alice Murray’s book, The Witch-cult in Western Europe; though certainly not perfect and based on conjectures from sparse evidence, this is a book despised on an ideological level because it challenges the standard conception people have of Europe to the point that they start to panic when confronted with the idea of a Europe unified by underground expressions of original culture.


§ A physical and psychological naturalism

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It is important to clarify that, to the best of my knowledge, Varg Vikernes is a traditionalist of the most pragmatic kind. The esoteric overtones which his subject matter contains are cut down by him after the manner of Sir James Frazer himself, who saw anything beyond material explanations as mere superstition.  Now, Vikernes does not strike one as having this opinion, for he believes in inspiration and the power derived from symbols and stories.  For him, however, this is simply manifested on the psychological level that then may transfer that into physical action.

This in itself does not contradict occult thought and is perfectly in line with it.  But we can perceive from the text that nothing higher than that in the manner of spheres of existence or levels of manifestation are implied. For him, the interpretation is of the most flat one can give to Jungian explanations of a collective tradition functioning through interaction with the human unconscious.  What must be clarified here is that Vikernes is not a mystic per se, because there is no conscious and direct search for a purposely created space.

The naturalism that he seems to follow with stoic resolution, however, clearly opens up a channel and we see in him, his thought and his artistic work traces of greatness and inspiration.  It might be further observed that contrary to the pretentiousness of self-aware mystics or would-be occultists of the common variety who make overt attempts at being something by following trends in fashion and ways of speaking, there is no such attempt at pretending in Vikernes’ work.  On the contrary, we find a constant flow of observations, facts, and conclusions which are then sprinkled with stout opinions.

We see action before speech, we see concrete results and facts instead of the empty banter of he who claims to experience but has nothing to show for it.  Not that proving your personal journey to someone else is important, in fact, the contrary is closer to the truth.  But Varg Vikernes stands out as an honest man of deep thought who exemplifies through action who he wants to be, offering us in his book the results of his meditations, as it were, through the eye of his own knowledge and experience.


§ Judeo-Christianity as alien to European customs

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The other prominent theme that runs throughout the whole of Vikernes’ work is his emphasis the fact that Christianity as stemming from Judaism is an alien religion that was imposed on European peoples.  That this is still contested by the public at large is unsurprising for they have been brought up believing that Christianity is essentially a European religion.  It is incumbent upon the writer to reassure the reader that Christianity was in fact an artificially adopted tactic by the aristocracy which was then used as a tool to oppress and manipulate the native people of Europe.

We do not need to refer at all to any of the books written by Vikernes to confirm this as anyone acquainted closely with Charlemagne’s unification of Western Europe and his involvement and use of religion to this end will already understand this.  The reason why any conquering aristocracy might want to make use of Christianity rather than stick to old religions of local variations is simple: Christianity’s character is essentially universalist. This means that anyone and everyone should be brought under its banner. In this, it mirrors Islam, which seeks to spread its righteousness like black clouds over the whole of the world (and the universe, if they could).

To make a clear distinction here, completely unrelated to the book under discussion, although Judaism is the indisputable father of those two other monotheistic religions, they do not share that attitude of ideological conquering, for Judaism is more of a closed ethnic and tribal authentic tradition that seeks to separate itself from outsiders through custom and race.  Vikernes does not speak about Judaism itself except in some passing light remarks, but we here recommend the reader to inspect books such as Maurice H. Harris’ Hebraic Literature, to understand both differences and roots of Christianity and Islam in Judaism. It is, furthermore, important in understanding its difference with European tradition as seen in Germanic, Celtic and Hellenic traditions, for instance.

Europe has a unifying general concept throughout its geographical territory that is expressed in particular modes that can be easily and directly correlated without much effort.  These all express the values of individual freedom and the value of a personal strength of will, even when under a leader and a duty towards tribe.  This contrasts highly with Judeo-Christiantiy which is, as a famous philosopher once said, “slave morality”. European tradition is one imbued with pride and one that seeks to find its place within a nature it admires and worships as mother. The desert religions, on the other hand, see everything as given to them by god to use as they see fit, and they see humans or themselves as separate from it.  Fundamental contrasts like this one go on and on.

“Man has a free will and is left to find his own way around in the universe, but he is not free from the consequences or the impulses of nature.  In ancient times this free will was seen as a sorcerous tool; a man with a strong will could by the force of his sheer will cause different effects in the world.”

—Varg Vikernes, ‘The Power of Will’


§ A glorious rebirth

Despite the permanent theme of European traditions in opposition to Christianity, the dominating tones in Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism remain in the reverential and calmly explanatory.  There is, furthermore, a very proud and hopeful outlook that believes in the rebirth of a European population that will reach back and connect with its original roots.  This is completely in line with the traditional beliefs of Europeans, which see after the twilight of the gods, the rule of new and perhaps lesser gods who then become the old gods themselves. This last bit cannot be understood correctly when Germanic/Scandinavian religion is sought to be Christianized or understood in terms of sterile anthropology or Freudian terms, but becomes readily apparent when understood and inspected from the inside out.

“Return to your roots! Like any tree out there, you too need your roots to survive: to grow tall and old, strong and beautiful.”

—Varg Vikernes, ‘The Roots of Europe’

Froylán Turcios El Vampiro

froylanturcios1Los autores centroamericanos no son demasiado conocidos fuera de los círculos de quienes estudian literatura latinoamericana o hispana directamente.  La razones son azarosas y fuera del control humano en la mayoría de los casos.  En el caso de Froylán Turcios, lo poco que llega de él a oídos de quienes no hablan español pasa por un filtro de propaganda gringa que lo pinta como un escritor de literatura cruel y sangrienta con una implicación tácita de que es un individuo indeseable básicamente por haberse opuesto a los intereses imperialistas de los tiranos del norte.  Aún dentro de Honduras misma, escuchamos su nombre ser mencionado, pero su obra no forma parte de ningún pensum obligatorio.  En lugar de leer a un grande centroamericano se nos hace pasar por la pocilga del colombiano Gabriel García Márquez y su vulgar discípula, la chilena Isabel Allende.

La prosa de Froylán Turcios es un vaivén como de marea entre vuelos poéticos exaltados y una sobriedad elegante que marcan el estilo Latinoamericano de una manera que el autor mismo no ha visto manifestada de la misma forma en la española o la inglesa, por ejemplo.  Quizás una excepción sea la obra del genio Joseph Conrad, quien asumo, debe mucho de su idiosincrasia a su herencia polaca.  Todo esto, sin embargo, es sólo especulación. Muestra la misma dinámica José Eustasio Rivera en La Vorágine de una manera más extrema en ambas direcciones, siendo ambos más dramático por un lado y más seco por el otro que Froylán Turcios, quien se mantiene más uniforme y sutil.

Corren a través de El Vampiro tres líneas centrales separadas.  La primera y la más obvia es la supernatural o acaso super psíquica subrayada por el título mismo.  La segunda es la relación amorosa que se desarrolla una manera un poco empalagosa pero tolerable entre el personaje principal y su querida.  La tercera es el tema que se discute de manera más abstracta y menos ilustrativa y el cual atañe al arte clásico y al arte como una elevación del espíritu humano.  Junto con su gran amigo, el poeta Juan Ramón Molina, Froylán Turcios es en esencia un romántico batallando contra la marea de la esterilidad del modernismo1.

Lleva sobre sus hombros el peso y labor de llevarnos a lo largo de una cronología, el tema del crecimiento del personaje principal, su transformación en un adulto joven de familia aristocrática y el amor que nace y crece entre el y la bella Luz.  Esta es la más detallada y sólo se vuelve un poco redundante después de la mitad del libro cuando el clímax del amor trascendental en la consumación y entrega espiritual se lleva a cabo y se verbaliza entre los amantes.  Después de esto la historia deambula y esperamos en vano a que la alusión más grande en el título se materialize de una manera u otra.  Lo peor de todo es que entre más se espera, más se espera, pues la elegancia de Froylán Turcios y el misterio que siempre parece guardar parece prometer mucho.

Le habla al idealista y al romántico clasicista las menciones ocasionales pero largas y enfáticas que hace Froylán Turcios a la importancia y naturaleza del arte, el artista y la ciudad de arte clásico a través de la voz del personaje principal.  Exalta la belleza de La Antigua (uno descifra con el tiempo que se refiere a La Antigua Ciudad de Guatemala), y lamenta su desahucio a manos de agentes de la industrialización, la cual llega varias décadas retrasada a Centroamérica (afortunadamente).  Emprende vuelos en los que la historia misma se vuelve solamente un fondo sin importancia y se habla de la trascendencia del arte, del poder casi divino sobre la realidad que maneja el artista verdadero.

La decepción más grande de El Vampiro es que el hilo que debería ser el preponderante no es solamente marginal a lo largo del transcurso de la historia, sino que jamás amonta a más que una referencia superficial poética.  Donde por momentos vemos vagas referencias a una familiaridad con símbolos masónicos (particularmente en un episodio donde el personaje principal en su infancia espía los contenidos de un cuarto secreto a través del ojo de la llave), se nos deja, a quienes tenemos un interés más enfático por estos temas etéreos, deseando que se hubiera ahondado más en el tema.  ¿Será que, acaso, decidió mejor no revelar más de lo que debía?

Visto de una manera simbólica, los tres niveles o regiones de la historia pueden representar, como un todo, la experiencia humana misma.  El más obvio es el de el crecimiento del personaje principal, el desarrollo de sus relaciones personales y sus opiniones acerca del mundo.  En un plano intelectual idealista tenemos las discusiones acerca de arte y significado.  La sombra de lo oculto, del lado de la naturaleza que jamás entenderemos de manera racional y analítica del todo, en la coquetería con lo supernatural de El Vampiro.


1 Es curioso que se haya dicho entonces de Molina que de no haber muerto tan joven hubiera sido nombrado el padre de modernismo en lugar del nicaragüense Ruben Darío.

José Eustasio Rivera La Vorágine

joseeustasioriverasalasEs fácil leer una historia cuyo personaje principal refleja, de alguna manera, una idealización personal de quienes querríamos ser o al menos del tipo de persona que consideramos como “buena” o “admirable”.  Es más difícil, por el contrario, interesarnos por aquel que de primeras a primeras no es nada más un canalla, sino que también nos da una impresión patética y derrotada que, en combinación con una contradictoria forma de constante auto expiación, pintan a un ser tan común como especial.  Común pues como él sufren muchos de un ensimismamiento disfrazado por el ímpetu que los lleva a querer ser parte de una comunidad como si esto fuera en sí el logro más grande que al cual el ser humano debe aspirar.

En verdad esta necesidad de pertenecer, si bien muy humana, es un impulso natural y primitivo que para muchos no conlleva ya a la obtención de un propósito divino como explicaría Julius Evola en su magnífica obra Revuelta Contra el Mundo Moderno (Rivolta Contra il Mondo Moderno), sino que sencillamente se busca de manera  que las faltas y debilidades del individuo se cubran como bajo un parche, o se ignoren por un grupo que busca “comprender a todos”.  De esta manera la sociedad deja de ser un canal por medio del cual el individuo puede sobrellevar sus propias limitaciones, sino una ciénaga donde le son toleradas sus torceduras mientras éste también prometa perdonárselas a los demás.  Ésta es la maldición de la doctrina cristiana, especialmente en su simplificación protestante que ha infectado ya hace tiempo a las formas modernas de catolicismo por su creciente transformación secular (mostrando así que la institución religiosa no es guardiana de ninguna conexión con lo Alto).

Muy atrás ha quedado ya el ideal heroico europeo (de origen pagano) que ennobleció a los cultos a la muerte venidos del Medio Oriente. Olvidada asimismo ya la comprensión de la gracia divina que resulta del ir más allá de lo humano mediante la acción (o la inacción, en el caso del “yoga” de renunciamiento que se practica en un monasterio católico), y en su lugar ha vencido una vez más la doctrina original de servilismo al dios desértico que acepta a sus hijos con todas sus faltas por medio solo de una palabra mágica y su arrepentimiento más digno de una rata que de un hombre.  Un arrepentimiento que, por cierto, sirve más para robar al individuo de su orgullo e independencia, encadenándolo psicológicamente a un dios “sin el cual se es menos que nada”.

Sin embargo, hablo por mí mismo, pues conozco más de alguno que fácilmente se identificaría con este personaje tan perdido en la corriente de su propio patetismo que no logra ver al mundo más allá de las apariencias o de lo que él mismo cree se siente bien y por ende considera “bueno”.  El mérito de José Eustasio Rivera se encuentra en la forma en que lentamente moldea a este personaje a través del libro.  No es Arturo Cova, nuestro personaje principal, realmente una “mala” persona en términos de la moralidad vacía de la sociedad en la que vivimos, pero su narcisismo y egoísmo resulta en actos de desconsideración por aquellos que lo rodean.  Es más, entra en balance el personaje en sus arranques de heroísmo superfluo y fantástico del todo desconectados de la realidad.  Es el personaje principal de La Vorágine energético y rico de una manera podrida y perdida por elección propia más que por las circunstancias de la vida.

Mas la introspección reconoce que el los tropiezos y trampas mentales de los que sufre Cova son latentes en la psiques de todo humano.  El materialista cree que el asegurar la supervivencia permanentemente en sí lleva a lo único que se puede aspirar en esta vida: un estado en el cual se puede escoger el tipo de actividad que nos trae placer. Sin embargo, el trascender este estado dependiente a reacciones de lo exterior y fantasías basadas en deseos mundanos es la labor del hombre quien, habiendo comprendido la naturaleza de la realidad en su aspecto más crudo e independiente de idealizaciones humanas, se esfuerza por crear dentro de él mismo la substancia que constituye en sí el propósito divino y la guía fuera de los ciclos de placer y supervivencia.  La liberación es interna, y la lucha es la vida en sí.

Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

genesis-the-lamb-album-cover-700x614 Released in 1974 and signaling the departure of Peter Gabriel from GENESIS, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway brings the classic era of the band and the genre to an end. It does so rather inconspicuously with a profound accomplishment that is not easy to summarize in such few words. The album materializes the several tacit goals of progressive rock: the incorporation of classical music methodologies into the making of pop rock music, stylistic expansion within coherent boundaries, to the neo-romantic mystical allusions boiling up from vague lyrics into aural explosions in sound.

Musically, it makes use of straightforward pop rock expression expanded with a nod to classical-era structures, while ambient range from avant-garde noise to ambient instrumentals. We may even see the precursor to the post-rock aesthetic but GENESIS takes the music somewhere rather than moronically dancing around in the same place. The use of themes throughout songs and the album itself is prominent; it holds the album together and is a direct consequence of that proper classical influence. The lyrical theme of the album is based on Judaic mysticism, with references to the Kabbalah in song titles, concepts, and even the number of total tracks of the release.

The influence of GENESIS as per their style at their pinnacle in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway virtually defines a whole generation of the pseudo-prog we see today in the likes of charlatans to which Steven Wilson belongs, or supreme posers Dream Theater and their numerous unoriginal underlings. Opeth cannot be counted among the superficial fools living off the greatness of GENESIS as they are a more eclectic collection of disparaged sources poorly sewn together and because the very little prog rock influence they displayed comes from Gentle Giant. With all certainty, almost any decent-sounding, so-called progressive outfit today that leans towards a pop rock sound with unconventional sound structures is probably directly or indirectly defined by (not merely “influenced” by) classic GENESIS.

Particularly outstanding is the elite drumming that underscores the thematic progressions of the rest of the music. At each point it answers to needs in the music, while not shying away from dramatic or even amusing additions to the mix. Jazz percussion technique here is used with taste, forwarding the music, rather than becoming an instrument for divergence into hedonist egotism. Despite this, in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, none of the elements actually jumps out at the listener: the technical merits are so perfectly fused with the living flow of the music they may be overlooked. In this we may find great contrasts with Yes, whose brilliance was always a close-neighbor to instrumentalist prowess, threatening to and eventually taking over precedence of deeper motivations that move true art (as we see in Relayer).

To finish our brief discussion on this definitive album for progressive rock, we would be remiss in failing to attend to the reasons it achieves such excellence. Considering Nietzschean Apollonian versus Dionysian interplay, a reasonable speculation might start by pointing out that the most superficial and recognizable sounds in this album are distinctively ground in their seventies era. Even the use of avant-gardisms remains within the framework of the experimentation of its time and exemplifies what Pink Floyd were never able to properly approximate. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway does not reject its contemporary influences, but through them accepts the band’s chronological appearance in history and maximizes their channeling of ulterior and less ephemeral reasons.

 

David Rosales
April 29, 2016

Revised October, 2016


[Originally published in Death Metal Underground.]

Hoarfrost Anima Mundi

hoarfrost-anima-mundiUpon hearing Anima Mundi, several things might come to mind depending on the level of attunement with it is possessed at that moment.  If one is thinking of the technical side of craft of music making itself, the origin of the different artifacts and tropes within the structures of organised sound will come to mind. On the emotional and psychological sides of the experience, this is the kind of music that must needs be voluntarily sought, not rationally but in an opening of the senses to it.  Such a description may sounds sketchy and vague. What it entails is a mental working through the two basic dimensions of music: the horizontal and vertical, the momentary whole and the narrative development.  It will need several trials, especially for those unaccustomed to letting go, but Anima Mundi will reveal a very interesting path in and out.

The title that Hoarfroast has chosen for this album is indicative of the nature of a music that asks for the correct method of experience in a connection with what some would call our primitive self.  But there is no such thing as a primitive side, but the metaphor itself is useful and has a certain meaning.  In truth, where we come from, that is, our past, and what we are now, simply constitute our whole at this present moment.  Hence, in answering the call of the soul of the world and the hidden part of ourselves, which answers to the motions of the spheres more than we would like to admit, we are engaging in some retrograde motion or ritual but rather understanding a different aspect of our nature through our relation to Nature.

A prominent element in Hoarfrost’s Anima Mundi is the female voice that haunts the mind and chills the ear, sending a cold finger sliding down the back of our spines.  The noise structures produced through programming sometimes remind of a more varied and elaborate take on the compelling work of Endvra in Black Eden. Hoarfrost demonstrates a patience shared by that dark ambient, but it also provides an incredible amount of variety masterfully fused into their overarching concept.  It therefore boasts of the strengths of both worlds, the deep ambient rooted in repetition and the classical-like experimentation of sounds.  Hoarfroast’s greatest triumph in Anima Mundi is its successful channeling of all these into one great purpose that extends far beyond the conceptual and that is shown in the direction of the manifold aspects of its music.  From her soft whispers to its terrifying and painful screech in ‘Mimesis’, from the cello that smells of tree wounds and tastes of bark to the chiming which alludes to the music of the spheres and the flow of what some call living energy.  These are not, like in most other places, to be taken as enticing distractions, but as meaningful and completely functional parts of a flowing and evolving idea.

Anima Mundi appears non-threatening yet hides danger, however unbeknownst it may be to its own creator.  To that, only it can and will answer to inner questioning. Such a work will be “enjoyed” by some, entirely ungraspable to the majority, perceived by those who happen to be in tune with its particular intention through unconscious realisation, understood by a few, but travelled through in full awareness by only a handful. This writing has not the intention of deterring the listener, but of signaling what have now become unconventional ways to those who would brave lonely mountains and old forests both within and without.  To venture down the path guided by Hoarfrost is to walk under the moon.