Interview conducted via e-mail over the course of October 2015 by Joseph S. Hopkins for Mimisbrunnr.info.
The present post marks the first entry in a new series on Mimisbrunnr.info, Six Questions. Six Questions consists of brief interviews with artists, academics, and otherwise notable individuals that regularly work with topics from historic Germanic studies (as well as subjects such as modern Germanic Heathenry). With Six Questions, Mimisbrunnr.info hopes to provide data on a topic often obscure even to specialists in the area: How concepts of the ancient Germanic peoples are introduced, interpreted, and explored in the modern world.
While following a general formula, interview questions may vary by subject. To maintain accessibility for as wide an audience as possible, interviews are conducted in English, and, for convenience on the part of the subjects, interviews are conducted by way of a variety of media. E-mail interviews are unedited beyond typo correction and formatting.
The subject of our very first Six Questions session is Swedish artist H. L. H. Swärd, who works under the name Forndom. As Forndom, Swärd produces work in a variety of media, including photography and music. Swärd is himself a student with a focus on North Germanic religion. Forndom is a particularly prolific project and readers can see and hear more from the artist over at Forndom's Tumblr, Facebook, and Bandcamp pages.
1. Where did your grow up?
I was born in Uppsala and spent my first years in life in a small village called ”Knivsta”, which back then belonged to the Uppsala municipality. However when I was about 8 years we moved from there to the county of Södermanland and a small town there. However, shortly after this we moved out in the countryside. Back as a child I had a huge interest for horse riding and horses in general, and by moving to the countryside it was also possible to get my own horse. When I was about to start high-school (which I did in Norrköping, where I also lived by the current time) my interest for horse riding had disappeared quite a lot and music had taken over. I currently live in a small house in the countryside of Södermanland.
2. Can you remember when you first encountered Norse mythology or, more generally, Germanic mythology? And what was the context?
Well, being Swedish and growing up in the Uppsala-region this was of course something which always was surrounding, even if I didn’t think of it deep back then. But the first time I really encountered the Norse religion was in a math-book in first grade or something like that I think. But I clearly remember when I started to get stuck for it. It was after some really good classes with our religions teacher in 6th grade. He was a very young teacher and in the sparetime he personally enjoyed videogames, films, and bodybuilding. So yes, he really succeeded to bring everything to the right atmosphere, just so all of the students got interested in the subject. But yes, of course it was not so very deep then, but he really succeed to get me stuck on the subject, and since then I’ve been into Norse religion.
3. How would you describe your religious beliefs (or lack thereof)?
To me the Norse religion is more than just interesting reading, during the last years it has in many ways become my religion. But I think this is something that also requires a deep understanding for the religion and the concept of religion itself. To truly understand the Norse religion one must first look at the sources we have for it. From there one must remove and clear out everything that is not belonging there. (Much of it was written by people of other religions, which in some cases could lead to interpretations based on their own belief, but this variate very much depending on what source it is.) One must also use a hermeneutic method and see the small parts in the big context. The norse religion is something which in some cases can't be practiced correctly today. My personal religious belief is therefor based upon parts which I have read during my studies. It consists of thoughts about the world, the hugr (soul) and our relation to the gods and where they are to be found. With other words; My religious beliefs are one which are based upon old heathen spiritual mentality.
I could describe more into detail what I believe and what I base it upon. But this would end up with a long complex text, with loads of explanation for full understanding. But perhaps I'll write about it in the future.
4. How would you describe your political beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I would describe myself as very non-political, but that doesn’t mean that I do not care of what is happening in the world. What I am tired of though is people sitting behind a desk leading a country, which they know nothing about and where their actions don't effect them as people, because after all they have enough money already. I am raised in a rather liberal home, where my parents and grandparents have all been to the liberal/centre-right. And I guess that somewhere in that area is where I stand as well. My opinions might jump back and forth depending on what is discussed though.
As I said I have very little trust in any political Swedish party today and just because I have a personal political opinion doesn’t mean that I stand behind anyone. I am against all kinds of extremism and always see people as individual beings.
5. Do you have a formal academic background in Germanic studies? If not, where do you do your research on the topic?
Yes, I’m currently reading my second year of history of religion and the goal is to become a scholar of Norse religion, which means I have 3 more years to go.
The academic background is of course not only something that helps me to become inspired by a various things, but also something that helps me to get a wider understanding of different things within Norse religion. To understand one religion, one have to understand religion as a whole. How different religions are related and how they differ from each other.
6. How does Norse mythology and/or general Germanic mythology influence your creative output?
Norse religion is of course a huge influence on my creative output. But of course when it comes to my photography this doesn’t come just as important, even if the thoughts are always with me. For example I started to paint mainly to express myself in a wider way when it comes to Norse religion, things which in some cases can’t be expressed in any other way.
Except of what I do now, and despite how busy I already am with everything, I will yet start a new way of expressing myself in a not too distant future. In some ways, I guess that everything of which I have done so far, have had parts of this new medium. But what it is going to be is yet too early to tell. But with an insight of what I have done so far, one shouldn’t have so hard to figure out what is left to do.
Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank H. L. H. Swärd for his participation.