Burzum The Ways of Yore

Burzum The Ways of Yore has, in the two years which have elapsed since its publication, received a very odd mixture of reactions.  It has either been completely shunned as the work of a madman writing nonsensical empty music, or intuited to be a work of deep spirituality by those attuned to the simple and balanced as a way to beauty.  I am willing to assert that the reason for this is that it operates completely outside the paradigm of modern music.

The music is a mixture between Burzum’s ambient-styled tracks and ancient European music as one would hear in the Anglo-Saxon harp/lyre style1, for instance.  The result leans heavily towards the latter, however, leaving even fans of Burzum who only perceive form but not essence at a loss. As a whole, Burzum’s transition from black metal forms into dark ambient ones, and then further into ancient-traditiona Europeanl hybrid crossings with his own ambient intuitions served as a clear separator amongst the audience. It separated those who attune to the music’s basic elements and are not nailed to modern prejudices or the necessity of being convinced by words and apparent conjurations.

Some among the most ignorant in the audience may want to jump at the swastikas they see on the cover, even going as far as condemning it as a covert sign of white supremacy excusing itself with the fact that swastikas were present in Buddhism hundreds of years ago and continue to be used to this very day.  What is required here is a lesson in the symbol of the Swastika and its 12,000-year-old history.

“The earliest swastika ever found was uncovered in Mezine, Ukraine, carved on an ivory figurine, which dates an incredible 12,000 years, and one of the earliest cultures that are known to have used the Swastika was a Neolithic culture in Southern Europe, in the area that is now Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, known as the Vinca Culture, which dates back around 8,000 years.”

—Ancient Origins, ‘The symbol of the Swastika and its 12,000-year-old history’

The allusion is made to ancient pagan and naturalist religions of Europe existing long before the invasion of the desert religions2, and surviving in mutilated and morphed forms in spite of it.  A good companion to this album, apart from the obvious Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism by Varg Vikernes himself, are books like The Mabigonion, a cycle of Welsh legends translated in 1877 by Lady Charlotte Guest.

1 One of the most prominent performers of the ancient lyre today is Michael Levy. Ironically, he has increasingly been promoted as a player of Greek traditional music despite his true background and experience, perhaps as a very smart marketing move towards a more profitable market.
An at least cursory understanding of the themes and concepts explained by Sir James Frazer in his The Golden Bough is needed to grasp Varg Vikernes current stance on European art and traditions, I believe.

Varg Vikernes Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism


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


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


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


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’

Graznar a Estigia The Brinepit of Eternity

The Brinepit of EternityAlza su rostro entre la penumbra Graznar a Estigia exponiendo facciones que delatan la herencia crepuscular de Burzum.  Mas aunque las notamos en rasgos particulares en este u otro ángulo, un momento de contemplación nos revela los marcos sobre las que están puestas.  Los largos trazos se extienden, definiendo los contornos decididamente distintos a sus precursores, si bien no se logra adquirir una personalidad única.  Así como en Hvis Lyset Tar Oss vemos la elaboración de una historia con narrativa clara y tangible desarrollarse a lo largo del álbum y a su manera dentro de cada canción como capítulos en él, y en Thy Call podemos apreciar un paisaje como tapiz de rico bordado que mágicamente  se desdobla al nosotros deslizar la vista sobre él, The Brinepit of Eternity (La Poza de Salmuera de la Eternidad) constituye una runa de poder vibrante que muestra una cara e idea de frente la cual encierra distintas experiencias relacionadas.

Dicho signo esotérico se presenta al oyente cuidadosamente desdoblado de distintas maneras, como si el autor tuviese las distintas llaves que descubren sus capas y develan sus caras.  Las cuatro composiciones de The Brinepit of Eternity están basadas sobre motivos musicales cercanos, reflejando en lo musical el concepto.  Las primeras dos exponen las primeras visiones exeáticas como premoniciones del final de una ronda mortal, y se muestran más cercanas entre sí que a las demás.  Sus músicas, la primera una tormenta que conmociona al cielo entero siendo contemplada a través de apacibles ojos, la segunda una fundición y transformación de la imagen natural en sus aspectos ocultos, encaminan a la mente sobre la senda.

El clímax del álbum llega en su tercera pista, la cual musicalmente expresa el desbordar de la tensión de las anteriores dos.  Su ritmo mece, y su movimiento melódico es sencillo, relajándose sobre acordes de los cuales forma parte como nota soprano, mientras su bajo es pausado y potente, emulando así  su conjunción la voz1 del maestro Vikernes.  Entre pausas en la percusión y apagados alaridos sin palabras, se crean espacios que traen, pasada su mitad, un reencauce ligeramente acelerado hacia un breve promontorio.  Emparejando las observaciones con su proyección literaria, comprendemos esto como el nefasto fluir de los negros torrentes que delimitan la burda existencia.  Es este arrullador y acogedor, sin más destino que la desintegración de almas sin despertar, cuyas individualidades pasajeras caerán en el olvido eterno.

Por último tenemos un epílogo cósmico y espiritual en un exhausto pero decidido arrastrar y empujar que en ciertos momentos, como el primer riff principal, recuerda al Graveland de Fudali en sus mejores momentos.  Tanto la palabra como el sonido se vuelve aquí más difícil de racionalizar, y elusivo de presentir, pues recuenta de espacios inmortales de los cuales ecos distorsionados son las únicas pistas recibidas aquí.  Interpretamos esto, entonces, como la razón de  elaborar la composición de una manera más tradicional, volviendo a lo más inteligible, lo más potente, por ende lo más pleno y rico para la mente humana.  El tronar de percusión parecida a los tímpanos de una orquesta clásica le agrega un carácter decisivo y propio de un final elegante como imponente.

La organización en cuatro pistas de mediano tamaño resulta apropiado, satisfactorio y simbólico.  La textura musical permanece uniforme, así como el estilo de sus expresiones que solamente adoptan esta u otra particularidad como requiere la situación.  Los énfasis y cambios son delicados así como sensibles, sin permitir que ningún aspecto se salga fuera de control, mas sin embargo tampoco amarrando al sentimiento y a la expresión.  La presente obra es mínima por elección, y en su austeridad logra una efectividad increíble, sin desperdicio alguno, elaborando el pequeño material básico hasta su límite en arreglos creativos.  No se esparce como neblina delgada sobre una vasta extensión como lo hace Abyssum, ni produce motivos2 que en matemática permutación desenrollen los simplificados planos de laberintos subterráneos bajo una catedral a manos de Horgkomostropus, mas constituye The Brinepit of Eternity una lección en composición metal con una atención al detalle y su significación que es, hasta el momento, única y sin rival en su realización en Centroamérica.

MMXVI Anno Bastardii

1Voz musical, no la voz literal de una persona.

2Motivo musical, “una breve figura melódica o rítmica, de diseño característico, que ocurre una y otra vez en una composición o sección, como elemento unificador.”