Wardruna is probably one of the best known music projects in Heathenism, and for good reason. Nobody else has yet captured the intense moods and atmospheres that Einar Selvik has managed to encapsulate within the runic concepts of Wardruna’s first installment, Gap Var Ginnunga. The music is ritualistic, ambient and natural sounding. The instruments used are handmade and a number of them are historically Scandinavian. Wardruna has resonated in heathen communities, and with the new album Yggdrasil on the horizon, Josh Rood decided to contact him and get some insights on some of the big questions floating around the heathen community concerning Warduna, and Einar. (Interview was done between October and December of 2011)
(OR)Hello Einar, we want to thank you for agreeing to this interview. How are things in Norway?
(ES)Here in Bergen the winter has been freakishly mild and the first frost and snow just arrived. Days are dark so we all await the turning of the sun.
(OR)I am not sure if you know this, but your project, Wardruna is incredibly popular in Heathen, Ásatrú, and in general, Pagan communities in the US and Europe. It’s much bigger than the other “folk” bands who are either Heathen or Heathen influenced. I’ve been to many events, and I network with many people, and it is rare that someone doesn’t know Wardruna. Did you anticipate this sort of reaction? What are your thoughts on this? What sort of expectations did you have with Wardruna? How has been the reaction outside of heathen (and metal) circles?
(ES)The response to Wardruna has been overwhelming and much more diverse than I had ever imagined it could be. I guess there are much more people than me who feels the need to have music related to the old Nordic cultural and spiritual traditions, where these traditions are not only expressed on their own terms but also with instruments, techniques and energy that compliments them. When I began working with this project I was very much driven by my own need and calling to do so I really did not spend time thinking of how it would be received, which in retrospect probably was a very good thing creative wise. I had hoped it would be well received and that in a long term perspective it would sow new seeds and strengthen old roots in at cultural and spiritual context.
(OR)To my knowledge Wardruna is unique in your success with meshing so many different instruments and techniques into a fluid musical composition. There is nothing else that sounds quite like it, quite so well. From where (if anywhere) did you draw your musical inspiration from?
(ES)My inspiration comes from nature and from within and also from the instruments I use and most of my music is composed when I am out walking. I find the thematics I am working with are very inspiring and the fact that I have a practical and spiritual approach to both galdr and seidr probably contributes to how the whole sound of Wardruna has turned out.
(OR) A number of your instruments are very rare, hand-made, and you made some yourself. Which did you make yourself? Did you do this because you simply couldn’t find them anywhere, but required them in order to achieve an aesthetic sound? Or was this a part of the Wardruna experience for you, just as important as the end sound? Where and when have you discovered such instruments? Many of them have been unheard of by most people.
(ES)The first instruments I made were some frame-drums with deer-hide where I basically did everything except the kill. The whole process of slowly, step by step bringing the animal back to life was very special and certainly part of the Wardruna experience. Since then I have made both Bukkehorn(goathorn) and vallhorn(cowhorn) as well as tagelharpa. Along the way more and more of these grand old instruments came to my attention and it was not easy to find builders, let alone musicians who could play them; so then the only thing that could be done was to get hold of the instruments, either by buying or building and to and start learning to handle them myself. Luckily there are still a handful of people who are making the old instruments and they have been very helpful to me.
(OR)You say that Wardruna is about strengthening old roots and planting new seeds, and that it is about exploring Norse spirituality and wisdom. I have heard you mention Ásatrú in past interviews. ARE you Ásatrú? Can we say then that the music we hear in Wardruna is the manifestation of Heathen belief and practice?
(ES)Yes that is a very precise description indeed. I have been a practicing Heathen for many years and I am also a member of the Norwegian Ásatru association called Bifrost. It was in many ways my religious or spiritual practice that made me start Wardruna. Ironically enough as the increasing amount of work with Wardruna has, in periods, made it difficult to find time and energy to be active in the Ásatru movement here.
(OR) My group just recently celebrated the end of the harvest, and gave part of our harvest as sacrifices to Freyr and Freya and built a big stone mound in a grove on our property to put offerings into in the future. Do you do anything for any holidays, or do you do anything to commemorate any passing seasons or special times?
(ES)In my personal belief the cycles of nature and passing of the seasons are the cornerstones, with the summer and winter solstices being the most important ones. So if I don’t have time to join in on the organized blóts and ceremonies from time to time they are always marked and celebrated in some way.