Interview conducted by Joseph S. Hopkins over the course of November 2016 via e-mail and social media.
The tenth subject of Mimisbrunnr.info's Six Question series is Norwegian singer and musician Lindy-Fay Hella. Best known for her work as female vocalist for the popular musical project Wardruna, Hella has appeared throughout the group's discography since its first release in 2009, Gap var Ginnunga, and into the group's most recent album, 2016's Runaljod – Ragnarok.
Wardruna draws inspiration from narratives and concepts from Germanic paganism. For example, each of Wardruna's three albums is conceptually built on an ætt—a row (or 'family')—from the Elder Futhark, the oldest recorded form of the runic alphabet, a writing system developed by the ancient Germanic peoples and more or less abandoned many years later under Christianization. In the runic alphabets, each character not only represents a phoneme—a distinct unit of sound—but also a concept, a dimension absent in the Latin-based alphabets used to write modern Germanic languages, such as Norwegian and English. While some of these concepts represent animals, celestial objects, or even measurements of time, others refer to deities and entities from Germanic mythology.
One aspect that makes Wardruna an exceptionally unique project is that the group has managed to find a popular audience where other projects that share comparable sonic and thematic spaces have not. As a result, Hella has performed on the Norwegian government-owned NRK1 television network and in front to the Gokstad ship at the Oslo Viking Ship Museum (Norwegian Vikingskipshuset på Bygdøy), just to name a few examples. Additionally, her voice can be heard throughout the extremely popular television show Vikings (2013-ongoing), which employs tracks from the Wardruna discography.
2. Can you remember when you first encountered Norse mythology or, more generally, Germanic mythology? And what was the context?
The first time was in primary school. Our history book contained some basic information about the Viking Age and to be honest, I was more interested in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia at the time. I thought their history was much more interesting but of course at the time (the early 1980s) there were few books about our culture that were easy to get a hold of.
Learning about the Viking raids was simply boring to me. It was not before I met [musician] Kristian Eivind Espedal that I understood Norse Mythology has much more to it than that. Some years later I got a call from [Wardruna founder] Einar Selvik about whether I wanted to join in on a couple of songs and, naturally, I have been exposed to more of this culture throughout the years by Kristian and Einar.
One of the thing that has warmed my heart though is realizing that all those stories my grandfather told me and my brother as children, actually were from our old culture. He told them when we were walking through the woods or were by the sea. Or when there was lightning outside. It was of course Tor [Norwegian 'Thor'] causing this phenomenon.
Those stories were much more exciting and meaningful to me then anything that was written in our history book.
3. How would you describe your religious beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I believe in powers in nature and I am also certain about reincarnation. I do not believe in specific Gods or Goddesses though.
4. How would you describe your political beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I have to answer short and simple on this one. I believe in freedom for everybody and think that money and gold can be dangerous for the mind.
5. Do you have a formal academic background in Germanic studies? If not, where do you do your research on the topic?
No, I have no formal education on it, but lately I have started studies with [author] Lars Magnar Enoksen to learn the Proto-Norse language, which is used in the Elder Futhark. The old texts that he has presented feel much closer to me on a personal level than the newer things (from the Viking Age).
6. How does Norse mythology and/or general Germanic mythology influence your creative output?
Usually I prefer to sing without text and solidly get into what kind of feeling I want to express. However, lately I've been presented with some very old, Proto-Norse texts that have had a strange impact on me.
I have read some sentences over and over again and could not get them out of my mind. I then felt an extreme urge to sing these words out loud.
Afterwards I became extremely tired and fell asleep, but the next day I felt strong and refreshed. I know it was because of these specific words, words that were written a couple thousand years ago, words that deeply meant something for me. Luckily I have the opportunity to learn more about this now.
Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank Lindy-Fay Hella for her participation.