When I started the DruidCast podcast in 2007 one of the things I was most excited about was meeting and talking to some of the songwriters, poets, deep-thinkers of the Pagan traditions. Over the years we have featured many of them and there are so many more to come. Each one guiding and challenging, each one opening more possibilities and deepening my love of the Paths we follow.
What I didn’t see coming happened this past Thursday. As the host of DruidCast I was invited, along with music press journalists from Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Classic Rock and many more to a private audience with Einar Selvik, founder and leader of the band Wardruna, talking about their forthcoming album, Kvitravn (due for release on the 22nd January 2021). I remember hearing their debut album and falling in love with their music, and then seeing them live at the Queen’s Hall in London – it was like being part of an on-stage Ritual Journey. So when I was contacted to be part of the live Zoom audience about their new album I was delighted! It seems that Einar recently discovered DruidCast and particularly enjoyed the recent (sadly in hold due to COVID) Walking the Talk section of the show.
So at 4pm me and Cerri logged in to watch and listen.
The American presenter opened the presentation welcoming us, and then handed over to Einar who sang a song from the album live. A song called Munin about one of Odin’s two ravens. If you’ve heard Wardruna’s albums you will know they are multi-layered musical Journeys, but here on my screen was one man, playing an ancient Nordic stringed instrument, and singing. No overdubs, no backing tracks. Just strings and a voice. I’ve always thought that one of the signs of a good song is that it can be stripped back this way – to the very essence of the song, and that it still speaks to the heart. That it’s not the multi-tracking and other instruments, but the very soul of the song that captures us. As Einar sung I found myself being taken across the land and seas to the Fjords and high peaks of Norway, held on the back of a flying raven. It was as magical as seeing the entire band live.
After the song there was a long Q & A section where people asked their questions about the album, Einar’s songwriting process, and his views on Nordic history. It was all fascinating. As a songwriter I always love hearing about the way we find our inspiration, and from listening to Einar I think we are brothers from a different mother. He gets his inspiration from walking the land, and listening. The land tells him its stories, its melody, and then he goes back to the studio to translate those messages into a song. I just sat nodding my head. The new album is called Kvitravn which means White Raven – my mind turned to the Second Branch of Y Mabinogi – Branwen, the White Raven (or Crow).
This led my thoughts to go down a rabbit hole. There are huge connections between Pagan myths all across the world. We can see threads that connect the tales of Odin and Loki with those of Gwydion. To many the Norse and Celtic myths are not obvious bed-fellows. We can see the past power-struggles by the peoples that held these myths and for some that influences how we interact with the Gods in our times, some 1000 years or so later. Einar’s music has been used in the new Assassin’s Creed Valhalla game, it was also used in the Vikings TV series, so it was very interesting when he was asked about that. His response was quite reserved and thoughtful. He said that Nordic history goes back many thousands of years and that it was a shame that when people thought of Norse history they focussed only on the Viking age, which was only a small portion of the population, and only lasted a few hundred years. It’s the reason he avoids the word Viking when it comes to his music – to Einar it is Nordic music.
Over recent years I’ve noticed more people who are modern Druids and revere the Norse pantheons. As I said before, not obvious companions to the Celtic Gods, but I wonder whether some are holding onto outdated dogma if they think this is somehow incongruous. The Gods call who they call, and I wonder if what some perceive as a problem, as conflict, between the pantheons, is more to do with their own human prejudices. I’m a modern Druid, I mainly honour the Old Gods of the Welsh pantheon, but as I listened to Einar I heard him speak the same language as me. I heard in his words his love of the land, of the old stories, and of how we need those old tales more than ever before. How they can help us to reconnect to the land, how they can re-establish a lost relationship with the natural world. I heard not one word that I disagreed with. These old myths are gifts, no matter where in history they are perceived to have emerged.
So the good news is that the new Wardruna album will be released on the 22nd January 2021. The three album journey through the Runes has finished, and a new Journey begins. The pre-released songs are fabulous, and I can’t wait to hear it in its entirety.
The other good news is that, if the stars align, Einar will be a guest on DruidCast, and I’m very much looking forward to our chat, as two musicians and songwriters, and as Druid and Norse.