Six Questions XIII: Rachel Shelton

Interview conducted via e-mail over the course of May and June 2017 by Joseph S. Hopkins for Mimisbrunnr.info.

Rachel Shelton. Self-portrait, 2017.

For our 13th Six Questions feature, we interview artist Rachel Shelton. Originally hailing from Washington state, today Shelton lives in rural Montana. One of the most sparsely populated and vast expanses of the nation, the west Yellowstone region of Montana features heavily in Shelton's nature-focused photographs, gathered bone pieces, and wildcrafting. Shelton's work often features motifs and themes drawn from Germanic paganism and folklore, including runic inscriptions and charms. Shelton sells her work through her Etsy shop and showcases her photography on her Instagram.

Shelton produces a lot of pieces via found bone and runic inscriptions on bone have a long history. The runic alphabet was developed to be carved and materials such as wood, bone, and, to a lesser extent, stone. One of the best known runic inscriptions, the Setre Comb, is an excellent example of runic bone carving from the archaeological record.

1. Where did your grow up?
I grew up in the outskirts of Monroe, Washington. It was a small highway town most people only knew of because they had passed through it.

An example of Shelton's runic carvings. Image: Rachel Shelton, 2017.

2. Can you remember when you first encountered Norse mythology or, more generally, Germanic mythology? And what was the context?
I remember my brother mentioning Yggdrasil when I was much younger. Our great grandparents moved here from Norway when the US offered them land to farm in North Dakota. They raised my grandmother there and my brother has always been interested in her and our Norwegian heritage. When I first heard of it I didn’t think much of it and it wasn’t until recent years I began to dig deeper. 

3. How would you describe your religious beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I grew up very non-religiously. I have always had a very negative view on religion due to the fact I dislike Christians —  their beliefs, demeanor, and general being. It wasn’t until my cabin caught on fire and my best friend passed away inside that I became spiritual. I am Pagan. I sacrifice to Loki and believe there has to be something else once we leave this physical state…. Otherwise none of this will have been worth it.

4. How would you describe your political beliefs (or lack thereof)?
I am a Green Anarchist. Although I don’t like discussing politics very much with most people I do keep up with global issues and watch Democracy Now regularly in addition to news articles. It puts a heavy weight on my shoulders but I do like to be aware.

5. Do you have a formal academic background in Germanic studies? If not, where do you do your research on the topic?
No. Everything I have learned about the Northern Tradition has been self taught. I simply read a lot. The winters where I live drop down to -45 degrees so during that time I study. Some of my favorite books include Runic Amulets and Magic Objects by Mindy Macleod and Bernard Mees, The Afflicted Mirror by Peter Hamilton-Giles, Þursakyngi, Volume I: The Essence of Thursian SorceryÞursakyngi, Volume II: Loki by Ekortu (formerly Vexior). Those are just a few but in addition to these titles I typically just order whatever looks interesting or has been recommended to me.

Shelton at home. Self-portrait, 2017.

6. How does Norse mythology and/or general Germanic mythology influence your creative output?
It heavily influences my bone offerings due to the sigils I burn into them and much of the wood working I do.

Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank Rachel Shelton for her participation.