Six Questions IX: Runahild

Interview conducted by Joseph S. Hopkins over the course of September 2016.

"[This image] references ... the spinning wheel goddess Frau Holle or also Frigg. The spinning wheel appears in many folktales as a magic and mystic object, sometimes taking you to the underworld to the mother goddess's home who always rewards the hard workers with gold but punishes the lazy." Image: Runahild

In Norse cosmology, the Élivágar (Old Norse 'stormy waves, icy waves') are primordial, venomous rivers. Remote in time and place, these rivers play a crucial role in Norse cosmogony: they produced the proto-being Ymir, who in turn bore the ancestors of many beings that populate the narratives that together form Norse mythology. In time, Ymir's body was dissected by a trio of gods to create the world as we know it, a sort of North Germanic myth of succession.

Borrowed into modern German, Élivágar readily becomes Eliwagar, a name under which Runahild, a musician from Lorraine, France (a city bordering Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg), has released nine albums. Runahild refers to her music under the name Eliwagar as "Hyperborean Heathen Folk". She primarily focuses on topics from Norse mythology while also drawing from the wider Germanic corpus. Today Runahild lives in Norway.

Runahild provided additional commentary for each image included in this article. While this will display as captions on most systems, some readers may need to access Runahild's commentary by clicking the images that accompany this article.

1. Where did your grow up?
I grew up in a small village in Lothringen (northeast of France) surrounded by forest and fields. I spent most of my childhood in nature, climbing trees, making cabins and living in my own world. I moved to Norway when I was 23 years old. There is hardly anything I remember from school as a kid, but there was this one time the teacher mentioned something about Norway and my thought back then was "I wish I was born there"…

2. Can you remember when you first encountered Norse mythology or, more generally, Germanic mythology? And what was the context?
That was when I was a teenager, I was never really in tune with the world around me as a child, but that only became worse as a teenager when not much of this modern world made much sense to me, that made me very isolated and strongly disliked by most people I had to be around because of school.

So I naturally turned to black metal, which was the music in which I could find relief and black metal led me to the German folk metal band Falkenbach, a band using Norse/Germanic mythology themes in their lyrics. This has been a light for me in the middle of constant darkness. I bought my first book about Norse mythology right after and it spoke deeply to me quite instantly, something in me came to life, something that was longing to finally become… like an understanding of myself… I felt home and a whole world opened up in front of me.

"[This] picture was taken by a viking long house that was being rebuilt on the coast of Helgeland (Northern Norway)." Image: Runahild

3. How would you describe your religious beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I would actually rather call it spiritual belief than religious belief. The way I see it, religion is more dogmatic while spirituality is more personal, a connection to the spiritual world coming from your heart and soul and I think it is also more organic. I personally believe that everything that is matter on earth, all that is, all that lives and all the grows has a spirit or energy field and that the material world reflects the ethereal world and the other way around.

I believe that everything is connected, here on earth and in the universe… I believe in the Norse concept of Wyrd, metaphorically represented in the mythology by the 3 Norns Urd, Verdandi and Skuld (what once was, what is and what should come) weaving all the fates. The way I understand fate is that one part of it is being woven for us, however we do have the choice to take different directions and where we chose to go will create new woven patterns.

I believe the way things all get together is not a coincidence. The woven web has no beginning, nor end, nothing never really dies but goes under transformation, so that would say I also believe in some kind of reincarnation. I don't like saying "we live only once", I'd rather say "this life is unique". Like the seasons keep turning from winter to summer and back to winter and so on, there are eternal cycles of life, death and rebirth.

However, no matter what I believe, we are very far from seeing the whole picture and I think it is important to remain open and to not stay stuck into one way of seeing things because it is written in a book, be it a religious book or a scientific one. Questioning is good because there is just so incredibly much we can't perceive from where we stand.

4. How would you describe your political beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I have a lack of belief in the political system today because the way I understand it is that the power isn't in the hands of politicians but in the hands of big corporations and companies.

It doesn't matter enough what politicians say, as long as the world is ruled by greed, they will keep being ruled by lobbies and will never work for the better of humanity on earth. We are destroying ourselves, we are leading our own species to its extinction as long as we don't understand that we are nature and that when we dissociate ourselves from her, we kill ourselves.

I believe the power isn't in the hands of politicians who are under the thumb of corporations, it is in every one of us, we have the power by being and incarnating today what we wish the world to become. For us here, it means growing organic food but also being aware of what we support when we buy products.

Money is somehow our way to vote today, you choose who you want to support by choosing where you spend your money. If you stop buying products from companies who promote GMOs for instance, you will limit their power on politics, because it is because of their huge income that they can pressure the governments. Cut their money and they will be weaker.

We live in a world of information, but it is up to us to get informed. It is up to every one of us to take a stand, we cannot wait for a high political person to save ourselves, we must take our own responsibilities as independent individuals, everyone of us is way more powerful than we may think.

"[This] picture was an offering by [a] burial mound (also on the coast of Helgeland) that inspired me [to compose] the song in a dream which I mention in the interview. There is a standing stone in honor of the person buried and there is a special story about this as well. The stone was being removed because it was a heathen symbol, but the woman who lived in the house close to the burial mound had a dream where the spirit of the person in the mound asked her to get the stone raised again... the stone was being raised after the woman's request. This is actually written on the information pannel. The site is protected and the mound remains unopened until today. All we know is that the person is buried in a boat." Image: Runahild

5. Do you have a formal academic background in Germanic studies? If not, where do you do your research on the topic?
I do not have an academic background, for me learning about the mythology was first of all in books, and then different kind of online research when it comes to specific subjects, specific gods or themes.

6. How does Norse mythology and/or general Germanic mythology influence your creative output?
I mean that I would not have music in my life if I didn't wander in the realms of spirits. The way music comes to me feels more like an attempt from me to translate into notes and lyrics how a spiritual experience makes me feel or what comes to my mind while traveling through other landscapes/dreamscape.

What I call a spiritual experience can go from this very profound feeling I get within nature that goes beyond seeing with the eyes but actually sensing the energies on other levels to drumming with a circle of friends and letting myself wander or letting "visions" come to my mind to also getting a song in a dream after leaving some offering on a burial mound. I could not create music if not thanks to this sensitivity to energies, it's more about feelings than about being technical in my case.

Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank Runahild for her participation.