.:.PLEDGED TO ÓÐINN.:.
Interview with Freya Aswynn by
Freya Aswynn (b.1949-) is a shaman, author, rune master and an elder in the Asatru movement. She is most known for her work with the esoteric side of the Elder Futhark, and, despite being an Odinswoman, has done a lot to raise awareness for the importance of other Northern deities, particularly the Goddesses. Music fans might recognize her name and hauntingly powerful voice from collaborations with neofolk artists. In this interview, we touch on the subjects of the runes, Gods & music, as well as Freya’s paintings.
Heathen Harvest: Hello, Freya, and a warm welcome! You are a well-known character in the runic and pagan circles as well as in the neofolk scene, but as not all of our readers may be familiar with your background, let’s talk a bit of your past. From what I gather, you have been interested in esoteric subjects for as long as you can remember. Do you feel like there was one moment, perhaps more significant than others, that really set you on this path?
Freya Aswynn: No, it is something which was always there. I suppose I developed psychic abilities and precognition because I had to be very alert. I was constantly under physical threat and attacks, both from the birth-giver as well as the siblings. This was the fifties, so it was acceptable if a child was battered — it must have done something to deserve it. And of course I was a liar and fantasist. So I needed to develop precognition pretty fucking fast, so as to avoid being alone with some of them or be elsewhere. I was just the pissing pole of the family. It was bad and so was my revenge. I always had the ability to ‘see it coming’ so to speak and sometimes I could intervene by just sticking to one of the servants who hid me in cupboards to stop me from being beaten. This was from the age of four onwards until the age of ten when I was put away. Living under all sorts of threats I needed to develop quick.
HH: Your childhood was extremely difficult and you were locked in the care system for almost exactly nine years. Do you believe that these experiences play a part in you growing up to be such a strong character, and devoted to Odin?
FA: Yes, of course it has influenced me into the Odhinnic Mysteries, however most of this was subconsciously in retrospect. I, myself, was an outcast in my birth family from birth. Actually, she (my biological mother) refused to look at me and my first feed was given by a nurse. I therefore do not consider myself a part of that family. This is why I changed my language, my religion and my country.
In spite of all that I have been called to the Serve of the Asatru and this is a family religion.
But not for me. Even here I am the Varg.
HH: If I understand correctly, your name, Freya Aswynn, is a combination of a deity name (Freya) and runes (Ansuz (ᚨ), Wunjo (ᚹ) ). How did you begin to use this name, and does it hold a specific meaning to you?
FA: The name Freya was ‘given’ to me in 1980 by a Blacksmith from Kent named Elliot. This was at the Aquarian Festival. He asked me where I was from and I answered truthfully that I came from Holland and my ancestry is Frisian. He said “Ah, Freyja’s land!” I said “Ok, this is my craft name then!” Sorted!
When I really got stuck with needing a surname to go with was when I started being serious about writing a book. The Runes most significant to me were unsurprisingly Ansuz and Wunjo, so I stitched the together and got Aswynn. Originally it was Aeswyn, but when I opened a trading account under that name the bank made me choose between Aswynn or Eswynn as I could not have both letters combined.
HH: In your early years, did you have important occult figures in your life? I gather you were interested in the teachings of Aleister Crowley?
FA: Yes, I started off with Dion Fortune whom I have drawn inspiration from for decades now. Once my English was improved sufficiently I studied Crowley. Dion Fortune’s works were translated into Dutch. In order to learn English, I went to the Britisk Library in Amsterdam, borrowing books.
Another occult author who has had a significant influence on me is William Gray. I now with hindsight realize that it was his book, Inner Western Tradition, orange cover blue sphere on it. Never found another copy. But he explained the principle of Telesmatic Images and I applied this to Odin, well Wodan, and this is how the ‘first contact’ happened.
HH: How about now, is there some people (living or dead) that you think brilliant? Perhaps persons whom have influenced the way you view the world?
FA: Yes, the first was George, my husband. He was an occultist into Germanic stuff. At that time, I was interested of Spiritualism and Astrology. He somehow must have known which Path I would follow eventually, as he married me knowing full well that sex wasn’t on the menu and died leaving me with financial independence in 1972. It is thanks to him I have been able to do this work.
The second one was Piet, a very spiritual person whom I met and hooked up with whilst in the AMORC. This too was a platonic relationship. He was a good brother and best friend. He died in ’85.
Then there was Lionel (Hornby) and he was the love of my life. This was a full and fulfilling relationship in which I learned a lot. Lionel was my partner in the Wiccan circle. He died in 1993.
HH: You lived in the UK for some time where you practiced Wicca. Could you speak a little of your years in Wiccan circles, how did you find your way to this religion and why did you stop practicing it?
FA: Yes, I had read an article in ’66 and knew I had to follow this up at the earliest opportunity. Which was in ’80. I went to England after Yule. I had a book, Pagan Rituals, and I worked from that until I bought a ticket and just left for the U.K.
Whilst there I bought a book titled Alternative London that had the address of Maxine Sanders and a notice of meetings on Monday. I went there, met a man who had Alex’s phone number. I phoned Alex who told me to come to his house in Bexhill. I did and was initiated within 24 hours.
Decades later, I heard the story from their side. Alex Sanders was very open and experimental. In his coven, so I was told, every year a new or different pantheon was worked with during that year. A cycle of Germanic pantheon had just been finished at Yule79. Alex, according to Betty, his High Priestess, was given an Inner Plane message that someone would turn up out of the blue from Holland and had to be initiated! This was on the 4th of January 1980.
So, I went back to Holland and in March 1980 I returned to England again for the Quest Conference run by Marian Green who kindly enough saved me a ticket. It was there that I met the love of my life in the shape of Lionel Hornby. He was a member of a Gardnerian coven which I visited a few times before starting my own. Within this coven my first inkling about Wodan occurred. I was slightly misled by Charley, a High Priest in the Greek tradition, and this was rather amusing; during every coven meeting a Hooded figure turned up standing in the West. I haven’t got the sight so when Charley a nicking slightly said “This is Saturn, and No you don’t want to invite him in!”, I took his word for it. This went on until a situation brought it to a head; Lionel was sexually excited by the body of a visiting priestess, we did not know this woman from Adam. Anyway there was a row. I did not blame the woman or even Lionel after he explained to me that it was not personal, just a physical reaction. But I blamed Pan and chucked everything then and there. I moved into the basement and started a verbally violent invocation to Wodan. He turned up, I swore an oath and the rest is history.
HH: You have been working with Germanic / Northern deities for quite a long time. How has your relationship with these deities changed or evolved along the way?
FA: Well, yes it always does. They become so intertwined with one, that it becomes very symbiotic. It isn’t always clear to me who is in charge of my mouth.
HH: Many readers probably do not realize that when you started studying the runes, there were very few books written on the subject and one certainly could not go and just google information up or drop by the local book store. How did you “discover” the runes and start to obtain knowledge of them?
FA: I first heard about Runes from George, my first husband, but at that time I wasn’t interested; like many people I thought runes = nazi’s and walked away from it. Nine years later I moved to the UK, mainly to get involved with Wicca. The second time when runes were mentioned was in Alex Sander’s coven when I met a young man who was working in the Germanic tradition; he told me a decade later that Alex had each year a different pantheon to work with and in 1979 it was the Germanic pantheon; Yule 1979 was the last working of that year and on January 4th I turned up. I was initiated and went back to Holland, then two months later I went to the UK permanently.
The next time I got a call from the runes was when a member of my coven introduced me to a woman who wanted to join and she did runes, after a fashion. She did a reading with a sheet of paper on which the rune meanings were printed. I touched the rune for the reading and something transpired on an energy level; nowadays I would say the runes downloaded themselves into my field. From there it was very easy to connect with them and obtain knowledge, it just flowed. I made 24 ‘moon cakes’, like we use in the craft; at this time, in 1982, I was still working within a Wiccan circle, never heard of Asatru. Each evening I invoked Wodan and Frija and ate one of the cookies with the rune on it, in Futhark Order of course, then I just looked at the runes, thought about them, and they connected; I kept a journal and this later became the basis for my first book, Leaves of Yggdrasil. This is a very good way to start incorporating the runes in you system.
My enthusiasm and passion for the Runes opened portals in the Well and I drew my gnosis from my bloodline. All I needed was Page and Elliott; these academic books contained enough information for me about the rune names and rune poems, then it was just cross referring it with Dutch language words and plugging in. I also started to give workshops in my house, Enclave X, an occult commune I was leading. These workshops were taped and transcribed and they then triggered more material the next time. And so the book was written over about six years.
HH: Over the course of the years have certain runes felt more significant to you than others?
FA: Yes; some runes open up immediately, others are hard work. I had most problems with Isa (ᛁ), by comparison with other runes which flowed nicely; I only got about one page for Isa. There have been Runes who speak strongly; Ansuz (ᚨ) first and foremost, Gebo (ᚷ) and Ing (ᛜ); these three Runes were the most prominent in readings for myself; I used them mostly as a form of communication with Wodan and I have further refined this technique. I have an innate understanding of Runes and gods, and this is not fixed — it is a creative system and is still progressing. The first time I did this was at Troth Moot where one person needed to connect with Freyr. I gave him the choice of using either the Fehu (ᚠ) rune or the Inguz (ᛜ) Rune as focus for the reading; after an invocation to Freyr by this person, I initiated a discussion where Freyr answered through the Runes.
HH: You practice the art of runic divination, but you are perhaps most well-known for your voice, and with that, galdr (runic spell-singing). How did you discover that you have these gifts, and were the skills always there or did you need to learn them from a scratch?
FA: I listened to a tape someone had brought back from Egypt on it was a ritual invocation of Isis. I liked the voice power and copied it with Runes. Then I had David Bunting from Current 93 living in my commune and Hilmar Hilmarsson was visiting. I chanted a few runes mainly to draw Hilmarsson’s attention as he, being from Iceland, was very interesting to talk to. Then he suggested to David that he should record it. This was on an album originally named Swastikas for Noddy, though this title was changed at a much later date.
HH: Throughout your career both as a runemaster and as an artist you have faced resistance and difficulties. When you begun with the runes there was no one interested in the subject and later on ANTIFA, for example, has accused you of being a nazi because of your link with the neofolk scene. How do you respond to these accusations?
FA: I don’t anymore, I’ve been accused of even worse, it’s the price of fame I suppose. How can one respond? With stupidity, the gods themselves argue in vain!
HH: Your past work with Current 93 has raised quite a lot of debating, but strangely enough, your input and influence to the neofolk music scene as a whole seems to be somewhat washed away from the pages of history. How do you feel about this, as you look back?
FA: I don’t give a fuck, I did it to honour Wodan and the Runes.
HH: Would you have wished to do something differently?
FA: Not really, I am pleased with it all.
HH: Do you plan to do further collaborations with Patrick Leagas (Sixth Comm, Death in June)?
FA: I am open to discussions. Perhaps when I spend more time in London.
HH: You teach your own runic correspondence course. Where did the idea to do this kind of project stem from and what kind of things are included in your lessons?
FA: I was a member of AMORC and they do everything by correspondence, and later on some of the UK Western Mysteries also did courses. So I decided to do one on the Runes; this course was started in 1990 and has been updated at least three times since then, and with students contributing their own papers it’s going to be even better.
The first Three Lessons are about the Runes, their meanings, their history, divination, Pathworking and magical practices. The later lessons go deeper into the various aspects of Magick in the Eddas.
The contents of Lesson One include a short historic overview of the Northern People, God-lore of the North with a closer look at the diverse god clans and the individual deities, the origins and history of the Runes, as well as the basic traditional meanings of the runes. This is supplemented with various exercises: a Daily Devotion, Pathworking to meet Odin and Meditation exercises. There are too many subjects to list. Each Lesson is designed to last two months but one can alter this. There are two Teachers, me and Vincent Ongkowidjojo. Vincent has translated the lessons into Dutch and also wrote Lesson 7 in English. He has also has written two books, one about runes in Dutch and One in English, Secrets of Asgard, on esoteric rune knowledge.
HH: Is it possible to take on more students?
FA: I have 25 spaces left for students.
HH: As you look back, do you think the attitude towards runes and runic studies has changed over the years, both for you personally, and within Pagan communities?
FA: Absolutely. When I opened up the runes in London and went from Wicca to Odinism, later Asatru of course, there was a lot of resistance, not against me as a person but more against the wild Wotanic impulse I was letting loose all over London. I was the first initiated occultist who went North. As I was Dutch, this was to be expected, blood calls blood. But most English occultists knew of the runes only from the Nazi Era. It was still very fresh in the 80’s. For example, Lionel was a teenager in the Second World War. But I have to give it to the Chaos Magicians who were open-minded enough to invite me to speak at the Leeds Occult University Society, after that it was The Oxford Golden Dawn Society.
At each turn, I was asked always the same question: “Are you a Nazi /Fascist?” After various articles in newspapers and interviews it gradually dawned to people that I am just a Norse occultist.
HH: Do you believe that the runes can be successfully used outside the Northern tradition as parts of rituals or as, for example, tools for healing? Or do you feel that it is important that the runes go hand in hand with the Northern path?
FA: Some of the Runes can be worked outside the Northern Path as their image or shape is also used in other traditions. It really depends on the ability of the operating magician and their attitude towards the Northern Path, a sympathetic resonance is required. Respect and acknowledgement to Odin and the Norns will usually suffice. Let’s put it this way, a Voodoist or Santera will be most able to use the runes as they have similar systems of divination and practices; both of our religions are organically grown out of a specific folk Soul and share common traits and correspondences. I cannot see any reason why a monotheist would want to use them, and since they have a one-dimensional understanding of the divine, the Runes would not work for them.
HH: How, in your opinion, can the runes adapt into our modern times?
FA: As ciphers perhaps. Also they are in the most original state through sound and therefore they can be used for chanting, healing projecting the Runic energies with the voice and the hands. This can be applied to healing people with energies. There is so much more to this.
HH: In what ways can we bring the runes into the 21st century?
FA: Three-dimensional animated runes with appropriate music, digital art forms. For example: A starry night sky or a Hubble-telescope picture as background, embedded into this a three-dimensional, moving, rotating Rune and some fitting ambient music playing. Or as Rune chants; a friend of mine is experimenting with binaural beats for my rune chants.
HH: You frequently travel around the world teaching workshops and I even heard you participated in a movie project in Italy. What ongoing projects do you have at the moment?
FA: [Editor’s Note: Unfortunately in the time that the interview process took to complete, this event came to pass. We’ll keep you updated on Freya’s activities in the future.] In January I will partake of an all day event in London (Shaking the Tree, Stirring the Well). It is a day of talks and demonstrations of magical and spiritual techniques of the Northern European tradition by some very experienced people, most of them I have known for years:
- André Henriques; Exploring the World Tree. Ritual Meditations and Journeys around Yggdrasil
- Jack Gale; The Tree, the Well and Frau Holle in Song, Myth and Greenwich Park
- Steve Wilson; A Mystical Quest for the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc in the ‘Garden of England’
- Melodi & Stephan Grundy; Oracular Space Workshop
- Dirk Bruere; Techno-Shamanism
- KveldulfR Gundarsson; Amulets, Stones and Herbs
- Vincent Ongkowidjojo; The Mead of Poetry
- Freya Aswynn; Odin as Patron of the Occult: An examination of Odin from the Perspective of a Modern Occultist
- Fiona MacKenzie; Seidr Talk and Demonstration
At this moment my main project is to expose another predator in the community. Someone who lives to inflict physical pain on vulnerable people claiming to be possessed by Odin and thinks she is too rich to touch after conning a very wealthy Alzheimer patient out of her money. Anyone running an exposé is immediately threatened with a lawsuit.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about your paintings. I’ve seen photographs of a few and they have a fascinating atmosphere in them. What kind of things do you paint and are they closely linked to your magickal experiences?
FA: I started off with acrylic and painted some, then I got myself an art teacher and started to paint in oil. What triggered my desire to paint was funnily enough voodoo art, especially Micheal Bertieax. Also, the light here in Southern Spain invites you to paint somehow. I never have settled down to have my own style, I just paint as I feel, the abstract paintings have often been done stoned.
HH: Does creating art make the magickal experience more powerful to you?
FA: Yes of course, one is an expression of the other as such, Magick itself is an art.
HH: Could you describe what you see or feel when you are painting?
FA: No, I can’t.
HH: I understand you paint when in a Shamanic state of consciousness (SSC) — could you perhaps tell us about that?
FA: I can’t really explain it, it’s not something under my conscious control. I have had various eye operations as a child, but at too late an age, it was done in the care system (at ages 10, 12, and 16.) Result? I can’t see 3D or distances, this is why I can’t drive. When I smoke weed, I can see spirits and I can paint. Weed alters the line of sight.
HH: What kind of things inspire you to paint?
FA: Sigels in people’s books such as Mark Alan Smith‘s book on Hecate, this really inspired me to paint.
HH: What gave you the spark to start painting and have you been doing this for long?
FA: The spark has been simmering on and off all my life, but it was in Spain and meeting other artists, especially Hella Mortensson from Denmark. She did art workshops and really got me into it. I have been doing this on and off for 7 years. But I am now focusing more on writing.
HH: You are an author of “Northern Mysteries and Magick” (older edition goes by the name of “Leaves of Yggdrasil”). I’ve read the book and am most fascinated by the amount of information incorporated in the book, as well as the diversity and numerous possibilities it has to offer. Do you feel like there still are things that you want to write about, some things that need to be said? Planning to publish more books?
FA: Yes, I do have plans to write more, but what I want is not what I get. My life has been hard.
As long as I have been involved with the Runes and Wodan, it was always my intention to create a ‘contacted school’ like the Western Mysteries have. It took more than 30 years, from one Saturn return to the other, but it’s here, it’s the correspondence course. I intend to write more from the perspective of an occultist now, rather than a Heathen religious person. To me, the Northern Path is a Sister-Tradition to the Western Path. I can do this now. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, bless her, has co-written a very special little book titled The Door Unlocked; An Astrological Insight into Initiation. The other author is Stephanie V. Norris; she is interpreting Initiated People’s charts. But there was a Key in the book, which was the last missing part I needed to proceed with my own advancement and share this. There is no name of a publisher. But there is the S.O.L. website.
HH: You are extremely devoted to Odin. Could you describe a little bit how the journey has been like?
FA: It has been a very wild undisciplined journey, most of it run on instinct and passion. I think he always was keeping an eye on me, certainly when I was in care. I never was alone. I did not need humans. Yeah, I suppose I am a “wilder”. This term I picked up from Robert Jordan‘s series Wheel of Time. It basically means someone who has had no formal training. I just went with the impulse from Wodan, turned my coven Nordic, out with the Greeks and Celts and in with Wodan and Freya as Lord and Lady on the altar. I also began starting the circle from the North and moved the altar to the North as well.
Then I finally made contact with the Odinic Rite and joined up. That did not last long and I then started Asatru Runic Folk Workshops; this was doing small workshops in my commune, Enclave Ex. From there I wrote Leaves and published it myself. Then Llewellyn took it on.
HH: You actually married Odin back in 1993 through a ritual. What made you come to such a decision and do you still stand firmly behind it?
FA: What made me come to this decision was Need. Pure and simple: I was in a warrior’s situation and during this my connection with Wodan was severed. I cannot afford that so we did a ritual which is a permanent link. And yes I do still stand firmly behind it.
About god-spousery, this is a load of crap for which I, in the main, am responsible. I, with two others present there, opened this portal between myself and Wodan. I was given in marriage to Wodan at the end of November 1993. My former partner Lionel too was a part of this as kinsman; he died soon after. To me, this was a private thing shared with only the people present. It was never meant to be the S&M circus it has become; freaks and perverts soon took up the idea and proceeded to fuck people over for life. I am the Bride of Wodan in the exact same way the Catholic Nuns are Brides of Christ, though it galls me to say this as I have been partly brought up by these bitches, in care. This means mine is a devotional, celibate way of life. It’s quite different from those slappers at a farm in the States with their blood-and-death-cult. My wedding was totally an occult magical operation.
I was involved in an occult war after the split of the Rune Gild UK. People tried by occult means to cut me off from my source, so to speak; it was then that I was given the knowledge of what to do, to forge a bond which cannot be broken by any human beings. So my marriage was driven by Need, Nauthiz (ᚾ). KvedulfR Gundarsson was part of it all and can verify what I am saying here. If it was not for Diana Paxton doing and Odin and telling me to go public nine years later, no-one — except the people involved — would have ever known. Within a week after my article, Odin the Initiator, was published on my website two slappers jumped on the bandwagon saying they had now married Odin too, and so it all started. As an occultist, it is my duty to intervene if I see abuse in the name of Odin. I unwittingly opened a portal and initiated a current which then got hijacked and perverted. Now I have to clean it up.
HH: In some ways, Odin can be thought to be a bit of an outsider character. I observe somewhat similar characteristics in you; many seem to have a really hard time accepting your strong personality, somewhat “feral” behavior and even artistic work (such as the input to the neofolk scene). Do you see similarities between yourself and the All Father?
FA: Yes, very much so. Suggestions and communications received from various channels say that I am a descendent of the Volsungs, namely Aslaug. Certainly the Volsungs as children, Siegfried and Aslaug, have a certain upbringing in common with me. The odds of that are interesting.
HH: You’ve established and held office in many well-known Asatru organizations (such as Rune Gild UK and Ring of Troth Europe). Are you currently active in any organization or do you have plans to be?
FA: I recently joined the Kith of Yggdrasil and the Pagan Federation Spain. I will certainly be on call when needed but other than that I keep a fairly low profile.
HH: As an elder in the Asatru movement, are you surprised of the re-emergence of spirituality, like Neopaganism, in the younger generation? Do you think people are opening their eyes, in a way, and moving beyond monotheism to go back to a more humble religious approach like Heathenry?
FA: Yes, people are smarter and think for themselves, any intelligent logical analysis of monotheistic religions and their promises shows what a load of bollocks it all is. But as Uncle Al so rightly pointed out: “The slaves shall Serve” liber Al.
HH: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview and for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us at Heathen Harvest, Freya Aswynn. Last words belong to you- feel free to add anything you want to say.
FA: May I take this opportunity to wish a blessed 2013 to all readers.