Interview conducted via social media during December 2016 and January 2017.
The subject of Mimisbrunnr.info's twelfth Six Questions entry is Heimlich A. Laguz, a founding member of Elhaz Ablaze, the digital platform of the Elhaz Fellowship, a collective of five Heathen writers. Active since 2007, Elhaz Ablaze produces a steady stream of articles rooted in the principles of the group's central philosophy, Chaos Heathenism, an approach Laguz discusses during the course of this interview.
The group partially takes its name from *elhaz, a proposed reconstruction of the name of a character from the Elder Futhark, the oldest known runic script. The rune represented the phoneme /z/ in Proto-Germanic, the mother language of all modern Germanic languages (including English). Given the grammatical role of Proto-Germanic *-z, the rune was no doubt quite commonly employed in early runic writing. Although Proto-Germanic reconstruction (and Elder Futhark rendering) isn't exactly common today, the rune has again become a popular character in modern Heathen circles. Exactly why is unclear. Maybe it's due to its pleasing symmetry and striking lines, or perhaps it simply bears a pleasing similarity to other everyday symbols.
Referencing the Old English extension of the rune's enigmatic description in the Old English Rune Poem, the Elhaz Fellowship describes the group's prominent use of the rune as follows:
Elhaz represents, therefore, all the beauty and magic of vulnerability and mystery; but also the strength and integrity of the wild beast that dwells within the wetlands. It represents our desire to deal only with those on the ‘level’. This isn’t a question of elitism or anything silly like that, more a question of taste and time management.
Why Elhaz Ablaze? The fire represents the overflowing flames of inspiration, magic, possession, enlightenment, purification, celebration, Life itself. The two words in combination suggest the meeting of frost and flame, fire and water: in Elhaz Ablaze all oppositions are subsumed into a greater and dynamic whole.
2017 marks a decade of digital presence for the collective. It also sees the Elhaz Fellowship moving into print with the production of a book, the group's first: Elhaz Ablaze: A Manual of Chaos Heathenry.
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up suspended between my dreams and a barren world that did not seem even remotely adequate to manifest them. I crawled up out of the deep well of imagination, you see, and sometimes I still wonder if it was a mistake. However, I recognize that the material and imaginal worlds are really a single continuum and that without wanderers from the world of imagination, the material world will sicken and die. In fact, I sometimes think that is what we are seeing in this time of strife. So maybe it is for the best that I had to come into being here and not be permitted to live on more familiar, comfortable ground.
2. Can you remember when you first encountered Norse mythology or, more generally, Germanic mythology? And what was the context?
Honestly, it was probably the Thor comic book. No, that's a lie: it was probably an illustrated book on military history that started with fire hardened sticks and ended with underwater nukes. Somewhere in there was a section on the Vikings.
Actually, my entrée into polytheism was thanks to a much loved (and long lost) Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology that I, if you will pardon the pun, read religiously as a child. "These Greeks," I thought, "had such a luxurious plenty of gods. How miserly the one-size-fits-all-or-else Christianity seems in comparison!" I was very little, but I already knew my tastes. I still cannot stand tight-fisted people, ideologies, or religions.
3. How would you describe your religious beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I call myself a Chaos Heathen, which means I anchor myself in the myths and symbols of pagan Germanic Europe without being dogmatic about it. Above all I have a deep and nourishing relationship with the god Odin, along with connections to other Germanic deities like Thor, Loki, and Freya. Yet I also find myself inspired by Taoism and Buddhism; am an initiated Sufi; and as of a couple of years ago (and some remarkable experiences) now venerate the Roman goddess Minerva (specifically…she was very clear that I not to confuse her with Athena).
Actually, I am wary of the assumption that "religion" equates with "belief." Traditions such as Germanic Heathenry, Hinduism, some strains of Buddhism, and many others are based on orthopraxy—right action—rather than orthodoxy—right belief—as Christianity is. I think Westerners need to crawl out of this assumption that religion is necessarily part and parcel of belief. It’s a major blind spot. Actually, a lot of contemporary Heathens are still laboring under this misunderstanding, which is a little frustrating to see happen.
Ultimately I follow Odin in venerating Runa, the mystery that composes all things. There is nothing that is not mystery. When we embrace her, it is she embracing herself. Even when we deny or reject her we revere her. She is always already all.
4. How would you describe your political beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I am definitely situated on the far end of progressive left politics. However I am not a dogmatist, and I recognize the danger of thinking that any system or ideology will solve all our problems, when what ultimately decides history is whether each individual has the ability to hear and act on the ethical call. I suppose the political and ethical principles I seek to live up to are generosity, hospitality, curiosity, creativity, compassion, and determination.
I've done a lot of political advocacy work in my time, and look forward to doing more. I am fundamentally opposed to exploitation, objectification, and the gratuitous domination of the many by the undeserving few (and that includes the domination of nature by humanity). In the world of Heathenry I have been an advocate for universalism and the rejection of any attempt to pervert Heathenry into an excuse for or vehicle of racism.
5. Do you have a formal academic background in Germanic studies? If not, where do you do your research on the topic?
I don't have any formal academic background in Germanic studies; my academic and professional background is in philosophy, psychology, counseling, and social work. I am very much academically inclined, so I do not have any hesitation to do my own research as the need arises. I have a particular interest in depth psychology and enjoy applying its modes of thinking to Heathen myth.
6. How does Norse mythology and/or general Germanic mythology influence your creative output?
Everything I do has been enriched by Norse mythology in one way or another, whether it be music or writing, though the inspiration is not always explicitly expressed. That said, I am super excited to be able to say that I and my Elhaz Ablaze co-authors are about to publish a book! We hope it will blow a few minds.
Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank Heimlich A. Laguz for his participation.