Archive for the ‘dark goddesses’ Tag

A Black Tent Temple by Gerrie Ordaz   Leave a comment

Over the past couple of years, interest has been growing in the Black Tent Temple concept I put forth on the Hermitage blog back in 2012. I’ve received quite a few inquiries about it. I encouraged anyone who was interested to take the idea and run with it, and invited them to share their results with me in words, photos, video, or whatever medium best suited them. In August of 2015, Priestess Gerrie Ordaz put together the first Black Tent Temple space outside the one at my Hermitage.

Last month, Gerrie built a Black Tent Temple space for the second year in a row at the Oasis event by Earth Traditions, a Pagan church in Chicago. I’m delighted to share her new post about it, complete with photos and the lines from the opening rite she performed. These lines were influenced by the rites of the Order of the Black Madonna:

“To the Vastness of the Holy Dark we bow down.
To the Fierce and Compassionate Darkness we bow again.”

I am also intrigued that Gerrie writes “There was a small black cauldron in which was placed black stones for people to take back home with them the blessings of the Black Tent,” as this is exactly what I have done with my own Black Tent Temple space at the Hermitage, but it’s something Gerrie and I had not discussed in advance. And I noted with similar intrigue that the Healing Shrine of Asclepios at Many Gods West last month also had a bowl of small, magically charged stones for visitors to take with them.

Check out Gerrie’s wonderful work, and if it inspires you, why not get creative and build one yourself? A basement, backyard, or even a walk-in closet (like the one I’ve used at the Hermitage for the psychomanteum/darkroom meditation space) could be a great place to start!

I am gathering material for a future website featuring Black Tent Temple spaces, so if you decide to build one and would like to share the results with me, please do!

(Photos shared here with Gerrie’s permission.)

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Delving Into the Dark: A Dark Ambient Playlist for Móðguðr and Hela   4 comments

Art by William Leighton Fisher, used with permission. Text by Danica Swanson.

Art by William Leighton Fisher, used with permission. Text by Danica Swanson.

This Friday, October 30, in Portland, Ingrid Kincaid will be hosting “Delving Into the Dark”, a ritual for Móðguðr and Hela. Ingrid and I met in person a few weeks ago, and I agreed to put together a customised dark ambient music playlist for her to use at this ritual.

My Chthonic Cathedral Project has been expanding quite a bit over the course of the past year into a dark ambient music consultancy. I now consult with yoga teachers, ritual planners, organisers of meditation retreats, etc., to provide custom themed playlists of dark ambient music for events, gatherings, or classes. If you are interested in this service, feel free to contact me via e-mail. I can design a playlist for you centered around a theme (e.g., magickal yoga, grief and mourning – see my list of playlist titles for more examples), a specific emotional state, a devotional practice for a deity or spirit, or a contemplative monastic practice.  I can even design an image to accompany the playlist.

About the service I provided for her, Ingrid writes:

“This will be a sobering yet gentle ritual, and I particularly love the ending of the Skadi “Hel” piece, as it truly sounds and feels the way I experience Hela and Her hall. Welcoming, soothing, dim, and at rest and peace. No judgment, just acceptance.

“I want to say again to you how much I appreciate your gifts and talents. What a great service it is to have someone provide the music for an event. This is a first for me.”

Fortunately, I already had a devotional playlist for Mordgud that I’ve been using ever since I first built a shrine for Her at the Hermitage, so all that was necessary in this case was to add some tracks for Hela.

If you’re in Portland and would like to join us for the ritual, there’s still room! Please register in advance via Ingrid’s website.

Here are the final selections. If you like them, please support the artists and buy their albums, so they can continue to make more of this wonderful music!

Tracks selected by the organiser for introduction and prep time, and after the ritual:

  1. Lamia Vox – Descend
  2. Lisa Gerrard – The Rite
  3. New Risen Throne – At the Shadow of the Gates
  4. Council of Nine – Blood Lit Skies
  5. Herbst9 – Bloodmoon Ritual
  6. Herbst9 – Blood Whisper
  7. Ignis Divine – Entrance to the Gate Down Below
  8. raison d’être – The Eternal Return
  9. Allseits – Hel
  10. Profane Grace – From Shadowlands… Dying…
  11. Hyios – Aquila
  12. Inade – Through the Gates of Death

Tracks selected by the organiser for the actual ritual:

  1. Wardruna – Helvegen
  2. Allseits – Gjöll
  3. Allseits – Modgudr
  4. Skadi – Hel

Other tracks I selected:

  1. Svartsinn – As a Black Stone Monument (New Risen Throne Mix)
  2. Hagalaz’ Runedance – Hel – Goddess of the Underworld
  3. Innfallen – Epilogue (Scattered Remains)
  4. Herbst9 – Bloodwhisper 2 Pass the Gate
  5. Desiderii Marginis – Deadbeat I
  6. raison d’être – Metamorphyses Phase I
  7. Blood Box – Lower Realm
  8. Mulm – Mørke

Call for Donations: Skaði’s Shrine Room at Many Gods West   4 comments

“Skade” by Carl Fredrik von Saltza (1893)

In July I will be building and hosting a shrine room for Skaði at Many Gods West, and I would like to invite donations of devotional writing, art, and other materials. Here are a few guidelines.

Skaði’s Shrine Room will be assembled in my hotel room as a meditative space designed to facilitate quiet prayer and contemplation of Her mysteries.  It will feature shrines (of course), art displays, devotional writings, decorations associated with Her myths (snowflakes, bow & arrows, mountains, wolves, etc.), and a beautiful devotional playlist of dark ambient music continuously playing in the background.

Small offerings for Her (e.g., coins, stones, mementos, beaded jewelry, etc.) will be welcomed.  There will also be a “Dear Skaði…” box to hold written prayers and words of praise.

I will be putting together a small binder with drawings, poetry, and devotional prose for Her, and will make this available for guests to look through. I will accept electronic submissions for the binder, as I can print them out in black and white on a home printer.

If you have statues, figurines, craft items, miniature skis or snowshoes, etc. to offer, please bring them to my hotel room at the conference.  (Preferably on Friday, before official open hours for the shrine room start – it will open at 6 PM on Friday, July 31.)

The devotional playlist of dark ambient music that will be heard in the shrine room has been carefully curated to facilitate praise for Her, and includes several tracks I often use for my ritual dance project.

For a preview of the music, check out the following sublime tracks…

…all from the (criminally underrated!) German musical project named after Her.

And speaking of exciting musical news: I have confirmed that the devotional playlist will feature an exclusive new Gydja track, “The Iron Pine Tree’s Daughter.” It was generously crafted for the shrine room by the brilliant Abby Helasdottir, whose work has inspired my own, and whom I recently interviewed for Heathen Harvest.

No liturgy, libations, ritual, or performance will take place. My intention is for the shrine room to be an intimate retreat for contemplation and prayer, set apart from the hustle-and-bustle social environment of the rest of the conference. As an introvert, I have often wished for hermit-friendly spaces like this when I’ve attended events – a place to retreat and recharge my batteries where I’m not expected to speak or be “on” in any kind of public way, and can focus my attention inwardly. I am pleased to have the opportunity to create and hold a space like this for Skaði and for the polytheist community.

Here’s a list of things I can accept, providing you can bring them to the conference or they can be electronically submitted:

  • Devotional poetry and prose (e.g., “Dear Skaði…” letters and prayers)
  • Statues & figurines
  • Crafted items for Her (e.g., miniature snowshoes, skis, bow & arrows)
  • Devotional art and photography featuring winter scenery, mountains, etc.
  • Scarves and “wintry-looking” fabric remnants in white, silver, black, and dark blue (for draping over tables)

Scented items could be problematic, as I have fragrance allergies and other sensitivities, so please check with me in advance if you would like to make any kind of scented offering.  If you’d like to contribute something that isn’t on this list, please contact me and let me know what you have in mind.

Official open hours for Skaði’s Shrine Room are 6 PM to 9 PM on Friday Jul. 31 and Saturday Aug. 1 only.

For ideas, check out some imagery on Pinterest or Tumblr, explore Skadi’s shrine at the Northern Paganism site, or take a look at the previous shrines I’ve built for Her over the years I’ve worked in Her service.

And here’s my short bio:
Danica Swanson is a freelance writer, devotional polytheist, animist, and dark Pagan monastic.  She is best known for her influential writings on alternatives to conventional employment, and her expertise on dark ambient music for ritual and meditation.  Her solo devotional dance project, Shrine of Skadi, is inspired by ten years of service to Skaði accompanied by “music you can’t dance to” – dark ambient.  As resident hermit and anchoress-in-training at The Black Stone Hermitage, a private Portland-based sanctuary, she lives in a haven of solitude made possible only by a web of thriving community relationships.

Contact: shrine.of.skadi AT gmail.

Twilight Magick: An Interview with Abby Helasdottir of Gydja   Leave a comment

gydja logoI’m delighted to announce that the interview I conducted for the venerable Heathen Harvest Periodical with accomplished musician, artist, writer, and esotericist Abby Helasdottir of Gydja has now been published. Her Shadowlight website was pivotal for me at a time when I very much needed it, and I am a longtime fan of her music, so I was pleased to have this opportunity to interview her. She has fascinating things to say about artistic work as devotional and spiritual practice, post-industrial music as a boys’ club, her upcoming album with Edgar Kerval of Emme Ya, the Rökkr or shadow-dwellers of Germanic and Norse cosmology and the history of the term Rökkatru…and much more!

“Using the name gydja,” she says, “is not intended to be a boast about having a religious title (which is ultimately meaningless) but rather about the way in which occupying a spiritual office can be a devotional act, with music being the manifestation that this devotion takes.”

And I agree wholeheartedly with her enthusiastic take on Bandcamp:

“I’m a huge fan of Bandcamp…I love the way they appeal to so many of those little things that lock into what it means to be a passionate music fan: the nerdy building of collections, the little but not overwhelming social media elements, and the fact that you get to pay the artist directly. I love the way it allows you to show artists directly how much you appreciate their work, and there’s nothing better than getting that same vibe in return.”

Announcement: Skaði’s Shrine Room at Many Gods West   5 comments

Shrine for Skaði

A peek at my expanded shrine for Skaði

I am delighted to announce that my proposal was accepted and I will be a shrine room keeper at Many Gods West, a new polytheist gathering, in Olympia, WA this July.

I will be building and decorating a custom shrine room for Skaði in a hotel room at the conference, and I will serve as its keeper for the full weekend (pending confirmation of suitable travel arrangements).

Of course this shrine room will feature a carefully curated selection of dark ambient music, including many sublime tracks from the German project Skadi!  It will be a space for quiet meditation and prayer, set apart from the hustle-and-bustle of the conference.  My intention is for this to be a small, “homey” and intimate space completely focused on Her – as if it were a room set aside for Her in a private home, yet open to receiving visitors.  The only difference is that it will be temporary.

Aside from a few Heathen rituals in which I’ve participated, this will be the first time I’ve done the Pagan In Public thing.  I’m glad I have a few months to prepare.  I see it as part of my service role as a monastic-in-training.  This will be a high profile role for an introvert, so I expect it to be quite a challenge…but I’m excited and very happy!

Here’s the description of the shrine room I have planned:

Skaði’s Shrine Room will be a sacred meditation space designed to facilitate prayer and deeper contemplation of Her mysteries. It will be set up in a hotel room at the conference, and will be open for posted hours. It will feature shrines for Her, art displays, devotional writings, and decorations associated with Her myths – snow, hunting, mountains, wolves, etc. Devotional playlists of dark ambient music selected for Skaði will play in the background.

Shoes can be left at the entryway, and a bowl of water will be placed at the door for cleansing before entering the space. Curtains will be drawn shut; the space will have a “sacred enclosure” atmosphere.

No liturgy, ritual, or performance will take place, though offerings for Her will be welcomed. To preserve the contemplative atmosphere, distractions such as conversation and consumption of food or drink will be discouraged.

I am compiling a collection of art and short devotional writings to feature in Her shrine room, so feel free to contact me if you have something you would like me to consider for inclusion.  I am especially interested in statues and figurines.

I’m also interested in hearing about what other devotees of Skaði would appreciate in a shrine room like this, so feel free to comment or e-mail me if you have suggestions to make.

Hope to see many of you there!

Tea Rituals with Móðguðr, or The Path of Endarkenment   2 comments

Witches' tea partySometimes I wonder if the plants and the rocks, the minerals themselves aren’t somehow pointing the way back to our pre-Judeo-Christian roots.”

~ Frank Hadley Murphy, Tea Fried Brain: Notes From St. Camellia’s Church of the First Infusion

It wasn’t until middle age, after grieving a devastating loss, that I finally claimed the title temple keeper as mine and embraced my spiritual path as one of monastic service along what I have come to call the Path of Endarkenment.

When I look back, though, I realise that I have been taking tentative steps toward this particular path for many years, even if I was unaware of this at the time. My spiritual life is often like that: I can’t see around the corner at all, and I feel as if I’m groping around in the dark for something I know – or at least strongly suspect – must be there, yet I can only grasp at it instinctively and hope I somehow manage to get it right in the midst of my fumbling attempts. Sometimes, in hindsight, it becomes clear why something happened the way it did, and on occasion I realise I had a far better handle on things than I had thought I did at the time. But most of the time I feel like I’m just winging it and making it up as I go along, and it’s only much later that the pieces of the puzzle start to come together in a way that gives me a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Nonetheless, more and more I have the sense that this Path of Endarkenment I now walk is being carved out behind the scenes by beings far, far greater and wiser than me – one of which is the Black Stone, after which the Hermitage is named. Inspired by guidance I receive through the Black Stone (and Others I serve), I find exactly the books and websites I need, overhear meaningful snippets of conversations, meet key people, get intuitive inner nudges, and so on…at precisely the right times. The more I learn about the esoteric meanings of black stones – and in particular, black obsidian, which has quickly become my favourite – the more I find myself astonished that all of this is happening to me. When the vision of the Black Stone Hermitage first appeared in my life, I thought: “Why Black Stone Monastery? Why Black Stone Arts? Where do those names come from and what do they mean?” At first I just thought these names sounded vaguely cool and gothy, so I went with it…but I still felt kind of silly and self-conscious about it all. Even after years of calling myself an animist, it still took quite some time before I was able to embrace the idea of a stone as one of my greatest teachers.

Since then, it’s become clear to me that the names are quite significant and profound, and carry a whole host of meanings – most of which I have barely even begun to understand. This temple keeper is still very much in training.

As I’ve written elsewhere, my roles along this Path of Endarkenment involve using my writing about dark ambient music, ritual dance project, tea alliance, decorating, grief work, and other kinds of work to promote respect for the sacredness and wisdom to be found in darkness, both literal and figurative. Our culture doesn’t really “get” darkness as something that can be empowering – we tend to associate it with evil in a knee-jerk way, so we often sweep it under the rug or look the other way, rather than listen mindfully and embrace what it has to teach us.

Móðguðr, in Her tower of black stone, is another of my wise teachers along this Path of Endarkenment, and She seems to work in tandem with the Black Stone. She visits me as She sees fit, most often in October. Along with the cooler autumn weather and the darkening of the days, “active season” at the Hermitage begins in earnest this month, and things don’t start winding down until spring. Today’s tea ritual, attended (or perhaps more accurately, “commandeered”) by Móðguðr, marks the official start of active season.

When I started making tea this evening as I usually do, my conscious intention was simply to brew a cup of bold, earthy pu-erh and enjoy a tea break. Then, as She has done before, Móðguðr stepped in, and made it known that this simple tea ritual would now become Hers. I found myself lighting a candle and some cedarwood incense, cloaking myself in black velvet, setting a place for Móðguðr at the table, and cueing up the devotional dark ambient playlist I compiled for Her.

I folded my hands and sat in contemplation, then sipped my tea and drank in Her guidance…and this short prayer took shape.

Dark Lady of the Black Stone tower,
may I be a worthy vessel for Your wisdom.
Guardian of Helheim’s gate,
Keeper of underworld secrets…
…in my monastic rites of cultivation and withdrawal,
dark earthy teas and chthonic ritual ambient music open portals for You.
May my work along the Path of Endarkenment serve You with highest honours.
Hail Móðguðr!

Retrospective: Shrines for Skaði   Leave a comment

Skadi shrine 2013Thanks to the recent visitors to the Hermitage who have been expressing such heartfelt appreciation for the shrines I maintain here for Those I serve.  My current shrine for Skaði seems particularly well loved by guests, and I appreciate that greatly; I think She does too.

While I won’t be posting a photo of my current shrine for Skaði here (the photo you see attached to this post is from 2013), I did want to point out that you can visit my devotional dance project site to see a retrospective arrangement of the shrines I have built for Skaði over the years I have worked in Her service.

Each photo is accompanied by a full description of the items on the shrine.  Just click on the link above for a photo tour.

Enjoy!