Manage episode 367735688 series 2634748
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Mark: welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host, mark,
Yucca: And I'm Yucca.
Mark: and today we are excited to have Rune Hjarnø with us who is a thinker and podcaster and pagan animist Norse Animist coming to us from Scandinavia. So welcome Ro
Rune: Thank you very much. Super happy to be here.
Mark: Rune was suggested to us by one of our listeners who had been listening Toro's work and said that we could have a very interesting conversation. So we are here to have a very interesting conversation.
Yucca: Yeah. Thank you for coming on. I'm really excited. So.
Rune: thanks for having me. It's gonna be super interesting.
Yucca: Yeah, do you wanna go ahead and start by just, you know, letting our listeners know a little bit about who you are and what your background and interests are?
Rune: Yeah, let me, let me try yeah. My name is Rune I'm a Danish anthropologist of religion. And I, what I'm trying to do on my general platform, which is called Nordic Animism is that I'm trying to use indigenous knowledge scholarship and new animist thinking to look at our own cultural heritage as Euro ascendants because there's this weird assumption in our time that These are ways of thinking about our own culture that are only available if you belong to an indigenous colonized groups.
And that assumption is there seemingly in popular culture and in scholarship and, and in all kinds of ways, in spite of the fact that what a lot of indigenous peoples are actually doing is that they're encouraging us as majority populations to start thinking like this about ourselves. But it's a difficult, for a number of reasons to do with cultural politics.
It's a diff difficult step to take. So a lot of, not a lot of people are doing it. It's spite of the fact that indigenous knowledge is becoming a big thing. Anyway, so yeah. So that's basically what I'm doing. And I also feel that when I'm doing that I'm, I'm being brought through dealing with a lot of these problems of cultural politics because when you.
When you look at, for instance, our culture as euron and people, and also the ways that our traditional culture has been sometimes co-opted then you are necessarily faced with issues such as well, racism, whiteness, the construction of whiteness, the rejection of animism actually as a part of construction of whiteness and these sort of things.
So, and therefore it becomes a very, I think a very intersect intersectional work that is basically becomes a form of, of decolonizing. So yeah, and I'm then trying to do this to sort of bring this into popular spaces because one thing is that, you know, I can sit online and I can go blah, blah, blah in my highbrow, you know, academic language and nobody's gonna understand the stand a bloody thing, but what what actually.
Or to come out of something like this is popular culture stuff that can be communicated to real people. Stuff that that can also attract actually real people. So, I've launched symbolism of totemic kinship with the world around us. I've written a book about the, the turning of the seasons and I've, yeah.
Different, different projects like that. And then I'm continuously communicating on my channel. Yeah. Did that kind of sum it up or did I speak too lo too long?
Yucca: No, that's great. And I have to say, I'm so excited to hear you talking about indigenous European cultures because so often the ideas that, that there isn't. And that that's the, that European is the opposite of indigenous, rather than seeing that there's indigenous all over the world, not just from specific groups.
And I think that that's really valuable that you're bringing this to light.
Rune: Thanks and I, I'll just add one little. Have it at there. And that is that when I'm talking about traditional European culture, I actually don't use the word indigenous. And the reason is that when we talk about indigenous peoples, we mostly talk, or we are generally talking about people who have been exposed to colonialism.
That means that if you are in Wyoming and there's a group of Shoshone living there, you know, then when they can then the word indigenous, that to them, that's also a legal category. That it, it means access to fishing rights and land rights and hunting and access to funding, to first language teaching and all these kind of things that we don't need as majority populations.
So what, so what I'm basically. This is just, I'm, I'm just saying this as, because this is an important little addition that, that is important to not actually when we talk about indigenous knowledge I mean, and I give you at some level you could call it indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, and in majority traditional knowledge and indigenous knowledge are basically the same kinds of knowledge, but the word indigenous is just a little bit touchy.
And it's touchy for the indigenous people. So it's important to sort of, move around it a little bit. But like, I, I, I definitely get you a sentiment. We need to be able to speak about our our own heritage in exactly the same, or with those categories that, you know, authors like Robin Kimara and these kind of people are using to understand their culture.
Mark: Yes. Yes. I, I think the, the first thing that strikes me as, as you speak is that we are definitely on the same page from a value standpoint. You know, we're, we're very, very adamant about the need for decolonization and the the importance of indigenous and traditional understandings of the nature of the world of development, of reciprocity in our ecological relationships, all of those kinds of values.
So, I, I think maybe that's a good place to start from. Our work has been in building community around a science rooted. Understanding of the nature of the world, but a transformation of the value system that informs the way society operates. And it sounds like at least the transformation part of it is very similar ru to what you, you are focusing on.
Rune: Totally. And I think I would probably also say the science routing. I'm, I'm not a natural scientist. I'm, I'm, More of a historical religion, anthropologist type. But but I don't perceive and this may be where we differ, I'm not sure, but I don't perceive necessarily a contradiction between, for instance religious languages or animist mythologies, a way of understanding the world and a scientific way of understanding the world.
If you look at how an animist mythology, for instance, is typically structured, then you'd find that there are, it's. It's not one package, it's not one worldview that some people kind of buy into. And then to kind of adopt that whole thing as if they're in installing a new operative system on a computer.
It's more like a, a, a jumbled up toolbox with a lot of kind of stuff lying in it. And, and then you can use it in different ways and it's kind of combined in different ways for different purposes. And some of these different tools can be contradictory and they can be radically contradict, contradictory.
So the same, for instance, animist way of talking about, say, deities can be contradictory from one ritual situation to the next. And this also count, this counts on many levels in religious practices. So if you have a scien, a scientific perception of the world, then in a sense that's also just one toolbox.
So if you move out of the, the, the monolithic. Ways of understanding the world that have characterized Abrahamic traditions particularly Christianity where, you know, there's ki there's kind of one worldview and you have to buy into that if, if you, when, when, and I think that would be a pagan step to move out of that.
And then science just is just this incredibly beautiful, powerful, deep knowledge system, which in itself is like a web of, of, of roots that, that come from all kinds of different places in the world and kind of come together in, in Occidental science. And then, then that, that does not necessarily need to be in any conflict with creating tali talismans and seagulls and stuff like that, for instance.
Yucca: Absolutely. Yeah.
Mark: and we do all that stuff.
Mark: yeah. And I mean, we understand it as influencing ourselves at a psychological level and transforming our perspective on the world. We've been talking about animism and throwing the word around a lot, and I think it might be valuable for us to visit what we mean by that.
I just wrote a blog post this week about naturalistic animism, and I think that one of the things about the, the traditional western colonizers view of animism is that it is a supernatural idea that there, that a rock has a soul in it. And I think that's a very dualistic, very Christian informed way of understanding animism.
I see animism as being about what are, what is my relationship with the rock? Do I relate to the rock as a person or do I relate to the rock as an inanimate thing that I can exploit? And that's, that's kind of my take on, on a naturalistic approach to animism. What, what do you think animism is and how does it
Rune: I agree and with some of what you say, but not all of it. I think the relationship is absolutely foundational to animism and in a sense, I think that the relating with the rock is more foundational than if there is any sort of faith or belief in whatever figure that lives inside the rock. Like, be and, and that's because the relationship is important.
So if you, if you look at how, for instance, new animist theory and, and also the philosophers who are doing panist thinking and all these things. When, when you look at these ways of thinking, then being becomes predicated on relating, I, I relate where, where Decart, the kind of quintessential modernist thinker would say, I think therefore I am.
So the world is enclosed in the human thinking space. The, the animist position would, would be, I relate or we relate, therefore we are, and that means that, so that, but, but if, if I should tie that to what you say with supernatural, then in a sense it's, it's extremely sort of, mundane. Like we are we are in a relation right now and we're trying to understand each other and we are sitting in different continents and, you know, we, we have different positions and it's interesting and blah, blah, blah, that defined, but there's also an exchange of value between us.
You have a podcast, I'm coming on your podcast. Perhaps some of my followers would go over there and the other way around. And so there's an exchange going on in that, in the relation that we are in right now, our subjectivities are defined in that, in this encounter that we are in now, our subjectivities are defined by that, right?
So the con the current perception of a lot of anthropological scholarship would be that, that this relation is inhabited by subjectivity. So subjectivity is not only inside our minds or inside our brains, it's actually in our relation. Now, that means that when the inu eat are relating with the C, which is an all life defining factor in Inuit life, then their relation with the sea is inhabited by subjectivity.
That sub subjectivity, that inhabits, that relating, that is the, the, the sea mother sna, the inwar, they would call it the inwar, the relational subjectivity of the sea. So, and whether that should be called supernatural or not, I'm not really sure, but like. I'm not, actually, I'm not really sure about the word supernatural, if it's because it, it, I think it has a heavy, heavy baggage somehow.
But an Inuit shaman can actually interact with Sedna, the sea mother, and thereby engage that subjectivity that inhabits the the relation between a group of Inuit and the sea. And that's the same with a stone or with, if, if you have a farmstead in Northern Europe 200 years ago, the stone could be kind of a relational hub for the way that the people in that farm state relates to their land.
So it becomes inhabited by, I'm not sure what the word would be in English, but these sort of g like or elf like beings that would typically work as a patron spirit protecting specific farm. Or ensuring basically the positive and mutually giving reciprocal relating between that group of people and the agrarian life sustenance that they are living with and living from.
Yucca: So that that spirit would be the relationship itself. Am I understanding correctly?
Rune: Yeah. Or the subjective, the the subject, the subjective relationship. Yeah.
So, and this is sometimes called the individual. So we are individuals from a moderna's perspective that there's an inside us with. But if you take away the, the, the in
Rune: then we are evi right now because we are producing relating with each other from
Yucca: delightful word.
Rune: Yeah, it's a lovely word,
Rune: And then what many animists would would say, or animist thinkers would say that that that divi is a central purpose of religion, basically. And that it individuates a relation. So if you have a Santa Priestess who's being possessed by the storm, gods ysa and she's dancing around, then that human being is dividing ysa in a number of ways.
One of them is portraying Younga. People see younga in front of their eyes dancing. Another part of the dividuation is that she's initiated, she's crowned as a San Priestess, so, so there's deep mystical individuations that are connected with that and that whole thing. But it's basically about producing.
Relating and, and ch challenging that subjective relating into the world.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Rune: that make sense? Am I,
Mark: it. It, oh, it absolutely does. Yeah. It, it, it absolutely makes sense. And that this, this focus on, on the relationship, as I said, I think is very core to the at least to my idea of animism. And so the, the question about the reality of the, the gnome elf figure doesn't really even enter into it.
It's, it's not, you know, because this is all subjectivity. It objectivity is not, is is not a part of that model. It's all about what do you see? What do you think about it, and how do you feel in relation to it?
Rune: Yeah. Something like that. I would say that the reality or the what, what, you know, post-Christian, it's called the belief in the el that that is it's secondary to the relation. Like if, if you, if you say you have a shamanic perception and you could and you, you bring yourself into a trance and you speak to the elf and you ask the elf so what would you prefer the most?
Would you prefer that I cultivate an abstract transcend belief in your transcendent existence? Or would you prefer a ball of porridge? The, the elf is gonna prefer the ball of porridge because that is act that is an actual exchange of of material. And the what, what you could almost call the revelation of that relationship is.
That is core, I think, to producing an animist way of being in the world. So that's not only you giving the ball of porridge to the stone that is perhaps inhabited by a stone ina or an elf or what we can call it. But it's also then perceiving the gift being given back from the world now that then you are in a reciprocal relationship with the world around us.
Mark: Yeah, and, and it's that, you know, a as you say, as with Robin Wall Kemmerer and you know, writers like that, it's that reciprocity that is so important the. And, and the hardest, I think for us, as, you know, modern Westerners to get our minds around because we are taught as Christianity teaches that the world is essentially inanimate and it's a pile of resources here for us to mine.
And that is the diametric opposite of what we're talking about here.
Mark: you know, the, the idea that, that we can't just dig a hole in the ground and take minerals out and then leave the hole is completely foreign to the way capitalism works.
Rune: exactly. Exactly. And. If you look at how traditional knowledge and tales and traditional knowledge and folklore and the like they actually express and analyze the rupture of these relationships in euros and populations. So, and you see this in a, like, in a wide kind of array of tales, like the most monumental in northern Europe is the Ragner rock, which is the, basically the collapse of the relational cosmos in this kind of e eco cosmos, social complete crashing.
Now, some of the scholars who have been working on the Ragnar Rock, they say that this. Myth may have occurred or may have, may have been inspired by the experience of climate change in Northern Europe in the, the mid sixth century. And often when people are relating mythology to natural history events, you should always be a little bit cautious because sometimes it's just like weird, oh shit.
But but this exact example the, the emergence of this myth and this event, they're actually historically very close to each other. It's a couple of hundred years, and the event was cataclysmic. It ba in Scandinavia populations collapsed. And there would've been complete social breakdown.
So it was a very, very violent event. And what happened was basically that it was a global cooling that lasted I think four or five years and. In Northern Europe, that global, global cooling just meant that summer didn't come for a, a, a, a short period for, for a couple of years. And if you're living in an agrarian subsistence, agrarian community, then that just means that everybody's gonna die.
And which is what you see that happened in some areas of Scandinavia. So, so anyway, so, so, when you look at the Ragnarok myth, what you see is that it's, it's very much a myth about loss of connectivity. So the main spark of the myth is a, a divine FRA side. There's God brothers who are killing each other.
And then what happens is that the relations between the guards, kind of the forces of order and social coherence and the yna, the giants, the. Forces of nature who are related in all these problematic and crazy and fertile ways, and Nordic mythology, that relation crashes completely. And then they start behaving like Christian angels and demons and basically going into like the state of cosmic total war.
So that's perhaps the most iconic tale of losing animist kinship. But you find them by all the way down to today. You see that fairy tales and different stories are sort of this struggling, but also people's experiences. Some farmer, you know, walking up a home from his fields and then he meets a little, meet a little group of elves and they're leaving.
So he asked them, why are you leaving? And he, they say, there's too much noise here and too many church bells, so we are moving to Norway. Something like that, you know? And and that is of course a traditional knowledge perspective of basically ruptured relation because this relational subjectivity, which are these Ls that are, that is sub subjectivity, inhabiting human being, human relating with the land, that when that is torn, then that can be experienced as the elves packing, packing their bags and,
Mark: Or, or as the magic going away,
Mark: which is another, you know, repeated trope in many, many stories about how there used to be magic. You know, we, we used to have, you know, this relationship, right? And now it's drained away, it's gone. And many of those stories are actually specific about Christianity driving the magic away,
Rune: Yes. Yes. There, there there's a tension. There's a tension. Like I, I'm not, I'm, I'm generally, I'm, I'm, I'm trying to not, you know, go into this sort of
Christianity bashing and all those
Rune: but but there is a tension. The, there's a tension between and sometimes it's, it is pretty intense, like, churches in the landscape in Northern Europe, the, if they're big stones lying in the landscape, then typically people, local people would say it was trolls who were throwing the stones at the churches and all when they were building the churches.
So there's almost like a conflict between the, the churches and the, and the landscape itself.
Mark: Hmm. Hmm.
Yucca: So one of the expressions that I've heard you use a few times is new animism. So how does new animism differ from our understanding of some of the traditional forms? Or what does that mean when you're speaking about new animism?
Rune: animism that is a little bit of. It's a scholarship position more than it's a kind of a religious position out in the world. May, but things are also related. But when, when I say new animism, it's because anim, like animism was invented by actually the guy who invented anthropology and cultural scholarship.
A guy called Edward Burnett Tyler, who was this sort of Victorian British armchair scholar. And he. Invented cultural evolutionism in which people are first living in these barbers, state of superstition, where they are animist, infantile animists. And, and, and, and that was, that was, that was what he thought of animism.
And then you then he kind of developed how humans would develop on gradually improving stages until they became almost like, Victorian, England English
people of his own time. Exactly, exactly. That, that was a paradigm for, for the end of history. So, so, so that was, and, and at that point, the idea of animism was just that everything is sort of animate.
However up through the 20th century there was the, the, the most progressive anthropologists were the American School of Anthropology, who were at a very early point starting to be permissive to other other cultures, cultural realities and saying, okay, so there are different cultural realities and perhaps they're equally good.
And there was a guy named, oh shit, I forgot his name right now. Oh damn. Really important guy whose name I should be able to remember at any given point of time who went and, and learned from the the Jiwei Irving, hallow Hallowell was his name.
Rune: So he went and and started learning the philosophy of jiwei indigenous Americans in, in the Great Lake areas.
I think he went into Canada a little bit. And he, I think he was the first who was kind of saying, well, he was looking, he was looking at their, their language and saying that they have different grammatical categories and some of these categories indicate animated personal beings. And some of them are like what we talk about.
If I talk about this book, then the word book is in, in English is, is just an it, you know. And he noticed that what was called animate and inanimate by the Ojibwe was different. So Stones, for instance, and thunder and number of different things were adamant to the Ojibwe. And he started developing this language where he was like, okay, so these are people, they have a different philosophy about what, where, where there's personhood and where there isn't.
So from that came. New animist thinking, which is kind of relieved from or dealing with the this bigoted evolutionist heritage of seeing animist as a animism, as as something inferior. And today, the, this has then become the whole position where where the, the, the understanding of what animism is and how it works is, is then updated.
For instance, animism is incredibly complex. It's not infantile at all, and it's certainly not primitive. It's many societies that have animist knowledge systems in them. not something necessarily that children practice, it's something that elders practice. It's something that it takes lifespans to, to understand that at, at a, at a very high level.
So, so, so yeah. So that's sort of what's in, in new animism.
Yucca: Mm. Thank you.
Mark: Thank you for explaining that. Yeah, that's good. So, you mentioned before we started recording that that you sort of take issue with the atheism of our movement or that you have questions about it or whatever that is. So I thought that I would raise that topic and we could discuss it.
Rune: I've been sort of thinking about it, kind of atheism. Atheism. No, I, it, it ki I think my, sort of, my, my question. Kind of springs from the whole idea of decolonizing if we have what is called the modern epistemology, like the, the epistemology is the perception, how we perceive the world. Then the modern fundamental to the modern epistemology would be a seclusion between human subjectivity and personhood.
An agency which is inside our skulls, and then the, the dead outside. And I can't help seeing an and i atheism as perhaps related to that and that therefore co like actual actually practicing a a decolonizing would be. To say, okay. But subjectivity and agency is not only inside humans goals, it's also, it is something that inhabits the world in a, in a wider in a wider sense.
It's something that inhabits our interactions and perceptions in a much wider sense. And yeah, I just had, I just had tr part of my, my problem was to that I have, I have tr, I have trouble reconciling that with, with an, with an atheist position.
Yucca: I can certainly say that for my part, my perception of the outside world, I. Is, I don't think that that necessarily reflects my idea that there's this dead outside world, the living me, but rather seeing self as part of this larger system. I'm coming from the perspective of, of an ecologist looking at, you know, my body is an ecosystem that is an open system and things are coming in and going out.
I don't see the need to have a, a, a deity or a God or a conscious spirit that needs to be there for me to be part of a, of a living vibrant world.
Rune: Makes a lot of sense.
Mark: Yeah, that's well said. I, I feel very much the same. Yeah, because yeah, that hard line between the, the inner living world and the outer dead world is definitely not something that I embrace at all. To me it's all living. Right. But because, but just because it's living doesn't necessarily mean that it's conscious or that it's animated by something that one could actually at some point identify and measure.
You were talking about toolkits before and I think that it's, it's y part of what we do as Ethiopia, pagans, and, and naturalistic pagans is we understand that in the context of the symbolic world, we suspend whatever disbelief we might have in, in the, the literal reality of supernatural phenomena in order to have a symbolic, metaphorical, psychological, emotional, impactful experience. And that is what brings me into deep relation with the rest of the world. Did that make
Rune: Cool. Yes, it does. However, when you are focusing on psychology, then psychology is a space that is characterized by being. Inside human human minds and, and what I would, I don't know fear or my, I think my, my question would then be, if it's psychology, I, you then actually extending that perception of, of personhood to the world, or, I does.
Because like when you speak to a lot of, say, scholars today, often psychologies would, or psychology would be a language where, for instance, mythology can be given a space. But that actually maintains the, the the the enclosure. Try to compare this with. With I had this debate with, with a friend of mine who also he was criticizing the literalist idea of mythology.
So he was saying, he was talking about, I, I believe Irish mythology, and he was saying, but who, who, who would believe such an grotesque idea as if Ireland were literally plowed with the, the fertility guard dog does penis in a right. And yeah, innocent. But what if you, if we think about relation, if we take relationships as our, our fundamental way of thinking about these things then, and we understand if we understand the plow that the farmer is using when he's plowing his land as imminent with. Dha. See then, then when, when it's imminence, if we understand the the materiality of the plow as n n not as culturally imbued with, but in the materiality, DDA is there right then, then we have actually, then we have crossed out of the modern paradigm and into a this enchanted perception of the world. And I think we, like, I think that is the step, the, that, that's where it becomes real in a sense. And, and there, there, there's a number of co contemporary philosophers and, and, and thinkers who make that, that, that enchanting possible. Bruno Laur the sometimes they call it the ontological turn thinking or the Cambridge School, and they're so difficult to read that it's almost, it's almost impossible to understand what they're saying, but which, which is part of a I think it's, I think it's part of a safeguarding strategy because if you wanna say that ELs and g nos are real, then it's, it's, it's then, you know, scholars are gonna, you know, it's much, much better to say, well, relational ontologies are possible on the basis of you know, concatenated hops of individual re networks or something like that.
You know, then people get, get busy nodding and looking like they are trying to look like they look clever, right? But but the idea of imminence that, for instance that that objects act chairs, Invite us to sit on them balls do hold strawberries, they act. And the, the example with plow and DDA would, in that sense be a, a imminent in that sense.
Damn, it's, it's difficult for me to to, to get to these things. But does, does it make sense my,
Mark: It, it, it
Mark: it, it does make sense. I do see it somewhat differently, and some of that is because my understanding of the way humans relate with the world is that we create a model of the world in our minds. And we re and we relate to that. We, we perceive, we receive perceptual input, we filter that and massage it, and in some way invent it to some degree.
And then, you know, so, all right, I receive all this input and I filter it and I decide what it is. And okay, there it is. There's, there's the bowl, right? And so I can relate in a, in an I vow sort of way with the bowl whether or not the bowl actually has any sort of supernatural el or metaphorical, symbolic, literal nature.
Mark: And it's, it's about what's on me to enchant the world. And us as a culture to develop the habits of enchanting the world. So that's, that's how I look at it. And I, I, I mean, I think the way that you look at it is, is perfectly legitimate and useful. It's just, I don't look at it quite the same way.
Rune: but I think, I think, I think what you say there makes a lot of sense. Like, and it's important to, to, I might also be hashing it out in a little bit extreme. Terms here, because of course, humans do create models of the world, and we are imaginary beings that we have this capacity of, for instance, imagining stuff that doesn't exist already.
And then by this insane capacity of projection, we are able to, to create stuff in the world that, that no other creature is, is capable of. And, and that capacity is in a sense, I think related to also the story of Dhada and all this. However, when you are then talking about the bowl and you're talking about.
What its literal external nature is then what you're doing, I think, is that you are actually, you're reaching across the divide and you're talking about it in this, what can't would call the ding, the, the, you're talking about it in itself as, as completely detached from human perception. And and I I would say that that is probably so difficult to talk about that, that we almost can't.
So perhaps there only is a cultural reality available, and then enchantment becomes then it kind of becomes a, a question of do we want a boring, interesting a boring uninteresting reality? Or, or do we want a reality where, you know, We have sex on rock car rings and dance around meadows and wear their elves and trolls and, and stuff like that is enchantment.
It becomes more of, of a kind of enchantment or no enchantment than a, a question about that. There isn't exterior truth that defies in. Gentlemen, oh man, I feel I'm have trouble speaking in state terms here.
Mark: No, you're, you're absolutely making sense. The place where I think we may differ is that, I find the world as revealed by science to be utterly enchanting. It is miraculous the nature of the universe. It is so inspiring and wonder and humility and awe and inspiring that I feel that without that, even without populating it, with those kinds of figures, I can still just be in this kind of open-hearted wondering, loving relationship with the nature, with the world itself in a way that demands that I have reciprocal relationships with things rather than rather than object, defy relationships with things.
And so, you know, that may just be the path by which I got here. Which was through a lot of science. But yeah, I mean that's, that's the world that I inhabit is just, you know, that this world is just knocked down, drag out amazing. And I still want to dance around stones and have sex on beaches and all that kind of stuff.
Rune: No, man. Thanks for that. That, yeah, that's, it's, it's, it's beautiful. And I totally, I totally follow what you're saying. I think, I think science is, is an incredibly beautiful and powerful way of looking at the world. And, and it has. And part of, I think part of what I'm, what fascinates me with science is that it, it has a trickster nature.
Science, that thing about always questioning things. That thing about always being critical and being inherently critical of power, for instance. And also being playful proper science. Like a lot of contemporary scholarship, you know, a lot of contemporary cultural, cultural and social scholarship.
It isn't playful for shit. It's just boring ass. They should, they should, yeah. They should do something else, like pick strawberries or something. But but but, but scholarship when it's real science, when it's real, it has a playful or in it. And and that's something that, that that yeah. But I then what I also think is that if we talk about atheism then I would say that if we look at research, history, history, It's probably a very fairly brief bleep in the history of science that science have understood itself as particularly atheist.
And today with, for instance, new animus scholarship and these things, it's kind of, we're kind of, we're kind of moving theves back into the beauty of the scientific perception, so,
Mark: Well that's, that's interesting. I mean, one of the reasons that. I mean, science is young for one thing, science other, other than just sort of the standard trial and error that leads to discovery, which all people have always done
Yucca: in our instinctual way of understanding the world. Right. But
Mark: but formalized, the scientific method is only a few hundred years old and during most of that time, there has been a domination by Christianity mostly in the West, such that you couldn't actually say that you were an atheist, whether you, you whether your work pointed in that direction or not. So I think that, you know, the liberty, I mean, to be honest, it wasn't really until Richard Dawkins and the, you know, the four horsemen who I have many problems with, let me.
Say to start with many problems. But it wasn't until they started standing up and saying, yes, we're atheists at the end of the 20th century, that it really became sort of more acceptable for a part of the population to start to express that. So it's new. It is. It's, it's a new thing. But when you look like at ancient Greece, there were people that were questioning whether the gods existed in any meaningful sense.
Yucca: And I
Rune: you, and you.
Yucca: oh, I was just gonna say that I think that the, the common perception of what atheism is, is dominated by that very recent, very vocal and kind of, very negative kind of, no, no, no take on the world instead of a, a yes. Embracing take on the world.
Rune: I wanna add one specific perspective to the to the understanding of history of religions in relation to this. And that is that if you look at the history of religions of Europe, then you have what you call like, normative knowledge forms. And and then what you also have is a.
Considerable space of rejected ways of knowing all kinds of ideas that have been there through history, and they gone in all. And, and that's what's sometimes called esotericism. So Esotericism is this label that basically sort of gives an umbrella term for all the weird shit that's been happening for the last 2000 years outside of the normative knowledge hierarchy.
So all the Astrologies and the Kabbalah and the spiritists and the, the philosophers and all that stuff, that, all that stuff is, is esotericism. And when you look at European history, a lot of a a lot of is, people are always like when we talk about intellectuals, that there will always be this sort of at least a kind of a consciousness that.
Esoteric, non-normative ways of knowing are there, but sometimes also direct practice. I think that Darwin was an esoteric I think that a lot of the and I don't remember, I think he was Alchemist or something like that, and practicing some
Yucca: Newton certainly was.
Rune: Newton new. Sorry. Yes, you are. You are, you are right there.
That was the important name I was looking for. No Darvin yeah, that was a different story with him. But I think that that part of the, like if you look at the last 150 years is that, that I think in the eight late 19th century, you started having positivism. If I remember correctly. And that's sort of where you get the very strong split between or where science starts to see itself as in some sort of opposition to other ways of of thinking.
And yeah, like, the there, there was an old Icelandic professor at the University of Coing in and my old professor remembered him from his student years. And he had, had, he had had this this Christmas lecture about gnomes and that was early 20th century. And as these sort of learned, super white scholars were sitting there and they were listening to him and he was talking about gnomes, at some point, they, it, it dawned on them that, That he he believed in grunes and he told about how he had met them when he was a, he was a child and these kind of things.
And so that was sort of the, a, a clash between an early 20th century scholar from ICE Iceland, which is a bit of a particular story in these things. It's a little bit of kind of a insular bobble in in some respects. And in Copenhagen they were like, but, but about, about this Icelandic professor talking about G norms.
Yucca: Well, one of the things before we started recording that you had mentioned was that I'm trying to figure out how quite how to word this but you're very interested in to today and some of the political implications of some of the work that you're doing. Is that something you wanna speak to a little bit?
Rune: Yeah, it's, I mean, when, when I started working on Nordic animism, I well, I knew all the time that it was important and that it's something that you can, like, you can never, you turn your face away from it, you have to look it straight in the eye, just all the time. I just, the word these words, Nordic Norse, Viking stuff, you know, all that kind of stuff, it just has a load of having been co-opted by all kinds of, Horrid political movements and, but it's actually deeper than not just that, like, it's not just hillbillys who are, you know, driving around in pickup trucks with guns and calling themselves some militia and waving Thor hammers and these kind of things.
It, it's, it's, it's on, I think it's on deeper layers of our self image and, and self perception as people racialized as white and and yeah, and, and I, I, I feel that I'm getting new realizations of this more or less all the time. No, not all the time, but, but often reckon with a certain regularity that that when you are thinking with Euro traditionalism, then.
Then it's just there. For instance, I, I think that today I think that that whiteness is almost like shaved, like a ball just talking about balls. It is almost as if whiteness is shaped a little bit like a ball. So if you wanna move out of it, then you come close to the borders and then it intensifies and scares you back in.
So if you wanna if you wanna basic, yeah. Basically move out of the, the whiteness complex, then you're gonna have to start looking to Euro traditionalism. And as soon as you come in contact with that, you, you will start seeing ruins and. May Pires and stuff that has been co-opted by Nazis or other nasty people.
So, so that, and that is sort of a, an inherent paradox, which is a condition for working with these things if you're a white person. And realizing that that paradox, realizing the nature of it and, and starting to cope with it, is an important feature. So that's one rea fairly reason realization.
I also encounter policing actually where most non-white peoples would be like, well, decolonizing white people. What's not to like and what took you guys so long? Then scholars, white scholars, they, they often have this sort of they, they, they don't like that whole idea. And and, and then they often frame it as, oh, there's an inherent potential for nationalism in what you're doing.
Or something like that, you know? And which there might be, there might be, and I'm fucking dealing with that all the time. And, and in the dealing with it, That's when the stuff becomes very applicable actually for, for thinking about how to be a respectful, kind, contemporary human. So today there are actually I'm familiar with two, perhaps perhaps even three, like systematic programs that use Nordic animism thinking for Deradicalizing right.
Extremists in, in prison systems and, and these kind of things. So, so, so, so you see that, I think that when you're moving close to some stuff that feels dangerous and feel problematic, then you're also finding the solu, you're finding solutions on that path.
Mark: Hmm. Hmm. It, it's, it's interesting as, as I listen to you, because what you say makes absolute sense to me in the context of Europe. In the United States, it's a little different because here we are in this completely colonized place, and many of us, like, you know, I've, I've had my d n A study done. I'm English, English, English, English, English.
Nobody ever stepped out of their lane. And actually, you know, even married an Italian for God's sake. And, but my people have been here for 400 years. I have no ancestral or familial memory of any kind of tradition from England. And so my approach has been I need to create this anew. I need to, I n I need to start from values.
Values like inclusiveness and kindness and you know, those compassion, those kinds of values reverence for the earth. And then from there, build a practice which can draw on some of the symbols and and, you know, folkloric practices like maypoles and things like that, but is fundamentally about not stealing from the indigenous people of this place. And instead creating my own understanding of a sacred landscape that I inhabit, that I can share with other people that derive from the same kind of lineage that I do. And with everybody else who wants it. I mean, you know anybody who wants it, but I understand that people who have been marginalized, they probably want to reach back to their ancestry, right.
And pull that forward. I really don't, I, I don't feel a kinship with England. So it, it, it's just, I, I'm just struck by the difference. I don't have any firm fast conclusions about it. I just, it, it is a d a different experience.
Rune: No, I think, I think what you're doing is probably very important and, and give like, like I. I'm kind of operating in this field where, where as an old world, I sometimes feel a little bit like a target for sort of old world nostalgia and these kind of things. I'm probably wearing a kilt and speaking all Gaelic all the time and all these things.
But but what I actually think is that, that over there in Turtle Island, the cultural situation is such an intense mix of and, and it's as if the, the problems of our age are intensified on your side of the pond. The fact of, of living on genocided land in a highly cre and cre realiz culture.
With the, the, the descendants of, of victims of colonization in your living space, probably every single day. Maybe not for all of you, but for many of you probably, right? And also immersed in, I I I perceive Americans as very immersed in ideological structures that are that are sort of connected with the problem.
Now, that means, I think that means that, that the, the real answers in a sense are, are, are, are gonna probably come from, from America and, and, and stuff like what you are doing when you're thinking like this, mark. I think it's beautiful and, and it's, and I think it has an aspect of. Playfulness in it to say, Hey, I've been listening a little bit to your, your, your podcast and how you are thinking with different things, and you also like playing with seagulls and, and, and have been working on wheels of season like me and these sort, sort of things.
And I think that playfulness will be an important voice in producing the answers that will bring us to a to a a decolonial future. I also think that one question that I meet a lot and which you also touch a little bit here is the question of cultural exchange. And I think that the ways that people have been talking about cultural exchange in American spaces in the last couple of years have a, have a problematic aspects.
When we are not allowed to or when, if, if all cultural exchange is universally cri criticized at as cultural appropriation for instance, that is an essentially nationalist idea, which I've tried to criticize it which is difficult because you also have minorities. Who have been sitting there and their traditional culture has been completely overrun with like swarms, like locusts of white hippies.
And they've been giving statements like, please stay away from our traditional spirituality. And of course, when that is the case, then that makes things fairly easy. You stay away. That's the respectful thing to do. But but there's also stories that, that I'm hearing a lot and I'm hearing 'em sort of in direct personal ways and that I'm not seeing so much in public space.
And that is stories about mors who are perhaps in very, they're perhaps white Americans or Canadians, and they're in very deep and respectful rela learning relationships with, for instance, indigenous elders. Now, if that's the case, then that transfer of knowledge, if there is a teacher present, Then that knowledge is legitimate.
Because if you wanna challenge that knowledge, then you're challenging the legitimacy of the teacher. And that is a, is, is a that can very easily be a colonizing practice. If you say, no, no, no, that Arapahoe elder there, he doesn't have the legitimacy to teach a white kid how to give tobacco to a stone because that's cultural appropriation or something like that.
Then you're actually challenging the, the, the author, the ownership of the Arapaho elder. See what I'm saying?
Rune: So, so, and, and I, I think, yeah. So anyway, I just wanted to mention that because you mentioned appropriation now. I think it's, it's important that, that the, the way that we are thinking about cultural exchange is, is is relieved from. What I think is, is a bit too unambiguous condemnation in, in the appropriation discourses.
Mark: I, I really agree. It's, it's nuanced and Americans are not good at nuance. We, we just, we really are not, we're very, very black and white thinkers, most of us. And you know, a lot of good and bad, and usually we are good and somebody else is bad, and it's, it's an unhelpful way to approach the world. But certainly, I mean, if I were welcomed into a space where an indigenous person wanted to teach me some aspect of their culture, I would feel given permission absolutely entitled to incorporate that into my practice.
I wouldn't feel entitled to teach it but I would feel entitled to incorporate it into my practice. That hasn't happened to me yet. So,
Rune: But if you, if you, if you were part of that practice for 25 years and and then the person said, now you are a teacher.
Mark: well then, yeah,
Rune: You see?
Yucca: But we run into the tricky problem of the outside perception and other people trying to gate keep that. And, and it's just such a very, it's a very raw, it's like when you, when you've been wounded and it hasn't healed yet. And there's just so many feelings and the nuance and it's, it's really, it's something that we, you know, we are just grappling with all the time.
And I think that there's in certain directions that, you know, the pendulum swung really far in some ways, but it's not just one pendulum, right? There's so many pendulums going in every single direction at once, and you're just trying to sort through all of this generational trauma and guilt, and it's just a really heavy topic.
Rune: No, thanks for that. Thanks for that. You okay. That was, that was really well said. And, and I sometimes also feel a little bit like an elephant in a porcelain shop when I'm, I'm, I'm talking to Americans about these things because I'm sitting on this side of the pond. And when you're interacting with Americans specifically, you, you get the feeling that, that, because these things are so intense, then you're talking to people where every single individual is on an MA level in, you know, critical race studies.
Be because it, because, because it's so intense. Or, and that also means that, you know, I need to be a little bit careful when I'm kind of throwing out my state. Ah, come on. You guys need to calm down a little bit on the, on the, on the critical,
Yucca: it's good to have an outside perspective too, though, right? It's very valuable to hear that. And just hear w you know, what it looks like from the outside because we don't see ourselves from the outside. We just see ourselves in the midst of it going, oh, my ancestors murdered and raped my other ancestors.
And you know, I don't know what you are feeling. And you're feeling and everybody's angry at each other. And you know, sometimes it's good just to have that outside perspective going, Hey, this is what I see from the outside, you know,
Mark: and particularly in the United States, we have been so adamant about denying our responsibility for the Gen, the American genocide, the enslavement of Africans. We're still denying those things, and to the degree that in right wing states, they're banning teaching about them. And what that means is that because we won't acknowledge the wound, we can't heal it, and.
And so the, the subject becomes very, because it's an open wound, it's very sensitive, you prod at it at all. And immediately people have these really vehement reactions.
Mark: And my hope is that as we go forward, I mean, this younger generation seems to have more comprehension about these issues. My hope is that as we go forward into the next generation, we'll start to come to grips with some of that horrible history.
But it's very difficult to come to some kind of reconciliation with people who have been horribly colonized and abused when you won't even admit that you did it.
Rune: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think also like with these sort of processes, I think the, the kind of cultural spaces that we are inhabiting today, primarily the internet cultural spaces I think they're probably also doing some unfortunate things to us, like, A tendency such as narcissism on social media platforms, speaking as a person who has a social media platform.
Mark: me too.
Yucca: that's all of us here, right? Yeah.
Rune: it's like, it, it's,
Yucca: double-edged. Yeah.
Rune: it's a very dominating feature about how how people are reacting and or how people are, are interacting. And, and, and like I feel that, that, I almost feel that if we have the, the modernist subject here, the modernist idea of the subject that I spoke about before where, where humanity is inside a case, and if you, if you move into a if you move back in time where people would meet a group of elves that are moving away, that's because.
Their subjectivity is not as encased as ours today. It's a little bit more fluffy like that then it is as what has it is as if what happens today is that these, these shells, they become hotter. They become like crystal, they become brittle. And it's as if I, if they touch each other, then it just goes. And, and then we have these, the, these so it's almost as it's almost as a kind of an in intensification of the, the modern subjectivity.
And I don't know what's gonna happen, but I hope that what's gonna happen is that it's gonna open somehow again and hopefully in a way where it doesn't explode and then everybody just go mad. Which actually sometimes I feel that's what you're seeing. I, I've, sometimes I feel there's quite a lot of madness going around, like rather crazy reaction patterns.
Rune: And unfortunately not only on the right wing, I mean, of course the right winging is like supreme when it comes to madness. Like, I mean now here in 2023, it feels as if, if it's such a long time ago that Donald Trump was the president in the us. But when I think about how, how was even, I'm not living over there.
I'm living here, and it just feels like, oh fuck, you don't know if there's gonna be a civil war in America and what's that's gonna do to the world. Like the, eh, it was such a madness dominated situation, such a madness dominated situation, and it just felt like. It just felt like, it really felt like madness had had just taken up this gigantic space in the world that, that it, it, it didn't use to have and like, yeah.
Anyway, you, you probably
Yucca: Absolutely. Yeah.
Rune: agree even. Yeah.
Rune: And I thought it was something I wanted to say about this whole thing with yeah. But, but I also think that like, with these strong reaction patterns and these intensifying subjective borders Then I also think it, that it's important to be a little bit like, okay, so now I'm just gonna say it, you know, all cultural exchange is not cultural appropriation.
And sometimes when people shout cultural appropriation, it's actually not legitimate.
Rune: they, there are many cases where, where it's super legitimate, but there are also cases where people are shouting it, where it's not legitimate. And there are legitimate cases of cultural exchange even within, between white and indigenous groups.
Mark: Sure. And, and there are, there are over claims. I mean, I read a rant by an indigenous man who argued that no one should be allowed to use feathers in any kind of religious or ritual context except for indigenous Americans. People have been using feathers and seashells and pine cones and
Yucca: we were humans.
Mark: since, since before we were humans.
That is a birthright of every homo sapiens. And I mean, I, I mean, I understand the person's outrage about cultural appropriation, but that's just a little much.
Rune: yeah. It becomes, it it like I spoke on my channel to this Irish, amazing Irish guy called Monan. Magan who and he was telling about how his ancestors was a Phyla, a a poets an Irish poet. And that, that he was the last person to legitimately carry a feathered cloak, a specific cloak with made with crimson feathers that were part of their tradition, their and and I later I heard Monon there, he spoke with an.
Aboriginal Australian author that I'm quite fascinated by, Tyson, young Porter. I really recommend his book, sand Talk. And Tyson, he was telling him, Hey man, you should go to you should go to New Zealand because the Maori, they have actually feather cloaks. They make feather cloaks. And that is a specific it's a specific sign of, of specific status among the Maori.
So if you want to. Recover this ancient Irish symbol of a specific cultural status as a, as a poet, a speaker of which, which is also cosmologically super important in, in moron's tradition there. Then he might be able to learn some of that from or he might be able to learn something about it or rebuild it with inspiration from the Maori.
Now I think that something like that would be an that, like if something like that would become possible, that would be very, very good. Very, if people are ha have wounds that are too deep for it to be possible, then of course, you know, Respecting people's feelings is it's a condition of building positive relations, which is the whole thing is about.
Rune: So, but but if stuff like that could be possible, that would be, I think, very beautiful to reach that point.
Yucca: And so, can we talk about your book for a moment? Because it seemed your book is something that you have Done digging into the literature in many different languages and, and brought forward some some traditions to that people might be really interested in.
Rune: Yeah, I don't know if I've been digging in literature in many different languages,
Rune: I, but like, I'm a
Yucca: least two and it's in English, so we got three languages
Rune: yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah, I'm, I'm a, I'm a Skiddish movie and so, so, so I read read Danish and Swedish, and, and that's, that, that's an advantage of course, because a lot of the re and I'm a scholar, you know, I'm a nerd already, so, so that means that reading these kind of old, weird folklore compilations is, is available to me, but it is, or more available to me than for perhaps to you.
Right. So, so what I did with this calendar book here, which is called, it's called the Nordic Animist Year, was that yeah, I was in, there was a couple of different Cal Calend traditions that I was interested in communicating. One of them was the ROIC calendar, where every day, around the year used to have two runes attached to it.
And these runes, like from a, from one perspective, they just place the day in, in relation to a week. So if there's one specific room and in a given year, then it means it's a Tuesday and next year, perhaps it, that same room would be a Monday. But then you can look at your room staff and you can see if, if it's a Monday tomorrow, right?
And the other then marks. There is a line of ruin that where one of the ruins marks the new moon. So you know when the lunar month begins and those two. The weeks they're fixed on our year. So that means that it represents a solar and the lunar moons then represents the lunar cycle. So that was a beautiful, beautiful example of an animist tradition that nobody, it seemed to me that nobody really sort of was so aware.
Yeah, yeah. You know, you could meet scholars who knew that it was there and a couple of nerds here and there, but it wasn't really communicated into, into public space that that system even existed. So, so I took that system and then I sort of worked through also a number, a bit of scholarship on on all the different holidays around the year because the The the traditional animist year used to be actually rather dense with all kinds of traditions.
And and so, so I was, I was also kind of inspired again by indigenous scholarship where these people are often, they at least in North America and also in Australia they sometimes work with calendars as a way of getting back or maintaining or getting back into, into connection with traditional ways of knowing.
And that partic I think it's just a very strong intuition and like you've done it yourself. Mark and I, you know, you can see on your podcast that you were talking a lot about sewing and Belton and, and, and all these different holidays. So, so I basically, yeah, did, did this, this little book as a, as a.
Kind of a cursory introduction to the the entire year in the, in the Nordic in Nordic area.
Mark: Well, we'll definitely put a link to where people can buy it in the show notes for the, for the podcast. I wanna read it myself. It sounds, sounds
Yucca: And so where else can people find you?
Rune: Oh my God. Yeah. I'm on, I'm on, I'm on all those social media platforms that I can't be bothered to mention. But, but, but particularly, particularly look for my, for Nordic animism on my YouTube, because my YouTube channel that's kind of the, the backbone, but then I'm also on, you know, Facebook and Instagram and even on TikTok and
Yucca: well, we'll include the links in that then in the show notes for everybody. Yeah, and thank you so much. This was really amazing. You gave us so much to think about. I'm gonna be thinking about this for a long time, so really, really value you coming on and spending this time with us. Thank you.
Rune: Thank you very much. It was so nice to meet you guys. And and, and have a chat here.
Mark: Yeah. Really enjoyed it. Thank you so much. I.
Rune: You're welcome.