Welcome to our fourth guest blog post – an exploration of nordic rituals and their relationship with creativity and music, as written by Christine Kammerer. If you would like to submit an article, please tell us about your proposal using the form on the Contact page or by sending us a message on Twitter, and we will be in touch. Thank you for reading!
According to legend, folklore and mythology, the lyre contains magical powers, strong enough to hypnotize the minds of men, to make the player able to understand the voices of birds, and to win over the most dangerous of magical beasts. In my Viking band Gjaldulei and my alternative symphonic folk band Jotun Revolution, I have the pleasure of playing this “Instrument of Enchantment”. The stories and superstitions, the mythology and the tales of magical powers which surround the lyre are many and varied – reaching all the way back to tales in the Icelandic Sagas and before.
My name is Christine Kammerer. I am a Danish composer, singer and instrumentalist, and in this blog article, I will share with you how being a Nordic Animist and the ritual practice this entails plays a vital part of my life and work as a composer and as a singer. But first, I want to introduce you to my lyre: Eowyn.
AN ANCIENT INSTRUMENT CALLED EOWYN
In my bands, I play a replica of the Sutton Hoo lyre. Dated to the early 7th century, it was discovered in the excavation of a burial ship in England in the 1930s – one of the most famous excavation sites from its period. The ship contained many treasures given to the person buried on the ship, to take with them to the afterlife. Amongst these treasures was a lyre.
There are many thoughts and theories about the use of the lyres and how they were related to the identity of their owners. Lyres were thought to have been an instrument of the upper class, as well as accompaniment for a skáld, a ritual instrument, and likely much more. We know nothing for sure, let alone about what the music played on it sounded like – though we have theories – but we do know that it is drenched in magic and mystery. An instrument of such potential power, containing a soul which sings songs from beyond our time, yet sounds so familiar that it echoes something deep within us, deserves a name. I have named mine Eowyn.
ANIMIST RITUALISTIC PRACTICES AND TRADITIONS VITAL TO MY MUSIC
Playing and composing on this ancient instrument is special to me. History echoes in the very sound of the lyre and every time I sit down with it, I am transported to a realm beyond the modern world. I often find myself writing songs without really knowing where they come from. It’s a world of connection between everything. A world in which nature rules and I, as a human being, am only a humble, small part of a bigger picture, of a relationship between all living things. A world in which fae folk, the very manifestation of ancient powers and voices of the wisdom of history, surface and become a thing so real that it feels like I can reach out and touch them.
I am scared, in awe, and feel blessed all at the same time.
Hence, having a good relationship with the fae folk – wights, diser, fylgjer, spirits of the land, whatever you may call them – is very important to me. A relationship I take care of through rituals and acts of gratitude.
Although I am not Asatru – I am a Nordic Animist – I perform these rituals several times a year. One to honour my ancestors and to give offerings to express my gratitude for a bountiful harvest (Alfeblót, during the late fall); to give offerings in hope of a fruitful year and to honour of the female spirits (Diseblót, early spring); to manifest aspirations for the year to come and to remember the people who have passed (Juleblót, around Winter Solstice). And of course, I mark the Spring and Autumn Equinox too. My ritualistic practice takes many different forms, and sometimes I prefer to do them by myself. Especially Alfeblót. No matter how I celebrate or do the ritual, it always includes: fire, offerings, songs, drums and a manifestation of intention. Sometimes bathing in a lake or a stream. Sometimes venturing into the woods in the depth of night when all is cloaked in darkness.
HOW DOES THIS FIND ITS WAY INTO MY MUSIC
When I am composing music for Gjaldulei and Jotun Revolution, I often place myself in a setting of ancient Scandinavian culture and ritualistic life (sometimes, even beyond Scandinavia). For instance, at Viking markets, at historical sites, at ruins or in nature. Some of my best work has been written in the comforting dull light of the dark Scandinavian pine forests, or walking through glens and hiking up mountains in Scotland. When I place myself in surroundings which deafen the constant hustle and bustle of the modern world, that is where I feel the connection to the spirits of the land and the ancient strands of music the most. This is where I thrive, and this is where music that transcends time and place, is birthed.
My personal rituals focus on maintaining a good connection and relationship with the spirits/the fae folk and I find that is also important for the kind of music I make. In fact, the song “Eversong” I wrote for Jotun Revolution was written beneath a baby Birch tree in a forest in Western Jutland – while “Midsommergaldr”, which I wrote for Gjaldulei, had its beginning during a storm. My connection to nature, upheld by my rituals, allows me to tune in and listen. One of the greatest lessons I have learnt about writing music is to trust the life of the song itself. I feel as if the best songs that I have written came through to me as if I was like a vessel. As if I had merely facilitated the songs’ presence in the world, as the song itself, the words and notes which desired to convey a certain story, were already there. I feel as if I just created a space for them, by being open. And this openness comes from living an animistic lifestyle, consisting of not just my rituals, but also involving doing a lot of foraging, creating infusions, oils, food, and dry herbs for incense, etc. – along with meditation and mindfulness. To remain open – reactive to my creative intuition, without trying to steer the song in a certain direction – allowing a connection with nature and the heartbeat of the world, is what’s vital to me.
AMULETS AND THE POWER OF MANIFESTATION
When I performed at Moesgaard Viking Moot in 2019 with Gjaldulei, I was hired to do a photoshoot for a company, and as part of the payment I got a necklace. Whenever I perform with this necklace on, I feel freer, careless, and that I can be as devoted to the story I am telling through song and music as I want. I feel like I am in a state of being part of something bigger than myself. Like I am breathing in sync along with the breath of the world.
One of the places I find myself inspired the most is Scotland. Walking amidst mountains which stretch far beyond what the eye can see, being able to be cut off the grid just by driving deep enough into a glen – this is where I find the purest inspiration. Last year, I went on a trip to Glen Lyon which was transformative. Along with a good friend of mine, I walked to the shrine of the Cailleach. There we performed a ritual, and gave offerings to this great Goddess. I don’t remember exactly what I said but I remember the feeling of it: please let me be part of your land. Please let me into your culture. Please let me be able to move here and continue my work with music.
On Thursday April 7th, I received an email from the Home Office telling me that I got my Global Talent Endorsement. Soon, I will be able to move to Scotland and continue my work with music. I firmly believe that my continuous faith, my connection to the land, my offering to the Cailleach and my energy sent out to wish (more than anything) to become part of this country, had a role to play in the persistence, work and determination which I put into the very difficult application process. Whether you call it Law of Attraction, or simply find strength by going out into a forest to give offerings to the spirits around you, the act of manifestation and moving forward in trust is powerful and real.
Christine Kammerer is an internationally known singer/songwriter and composer who is also lead singer, lyre player, and co-founder of the bands Gjaldulei and Jotun Revolution. Her music is influenced by the crossover between singer/songwriter, the folk sound of her Nordic heritage, her love for Celtic folk music, and her Bavarian roots.