An Interview about Russian Paganism and Odinism with my friend Askr Svarte
Slava Evgeny Nechkasov, and thank you for agreeing to an interview. Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?
AS: Heil and greeting for all! I’m a founder of the community of pagans «Svarte Aske” located in city Novosibirsk, Russia. I’ve been an Odinist pagan since I was 17 years old. I don’t oppose Odinism to Asatru or other name-for-tradition, for me the names are a secondary thing. And I also don’t belong to far-right racist groups who call themselves “Odinists” or “Wotanists”.
Before Odinism I was deep interested in Western Occultism. I started when I was 15 years old, my first book about Gnosticism was the “Gospel of Judas”, it turned my life. After the Gospel I started to study famous European occult studies and books like Theurgy, Goethia, Alchemy, Mason & Rosencrux Orders, Thelema and Crowley heritage. Shortly – I eagerly learned the European occult and spiritual history context. And I keep it today.
Being a very spiritual person with a keen interest in nature, can you tell us how you initially got involved with ancestral spiritual traditions, your development ideologically, and spiritually?
AS: While I studied occult I found the Dobroslavs works about Slavic paganism and a little bit later the “Vargsmal” by Varg Vikernes, they two turned me to paganism, especially Odinism, and I started to study and practice this way. Later I discover Veleslavs philosophy and philosophy the of traditionalism (R.Guenon, J. Evola), represented in Russian school of traditionalism created by Evgeny Golovin, Yury Mamleev and more famous now – Alexander Dugin.
I already take a part in political movement and activities, but tradition and spiritual self knowledge will always be first.
Firstly I did rites and practices to discover a bond with Mother-Nature. It was a set of very simple practices, for example – being in the forest and listening, talking with Nature, walking without shoes, discovering faces of Nature powers, forest spirits. For man who was grown up in big town it was necessary. After I began to sink deeper into pagan philosophy, magic and ideology, I think it’s very important to know the roots, the deepest principle (ontology) and keep balance between outside and inside, between forms came from ancient heritage, folklore and internal content of tradition.
When I began (2008-2009 e.v.) in my town there was not an adequate pagan community. They’ve appeared over the last three years, so I have made contact with different people and sometimes it makes trouble, but my inner axis was strong and I didn’t become a fake-pagan like Wiccans or New-Age sincretic clowns. Since 2009, I’ve been trying to make a community. A circle of same-min0ded people and now in Novosibirsk we have our community.
In Russia, the main native faith is Rodnovery, can you tell is about that please?
AS: Yes, I know about Rodnovery and I was a Rodnover for a little, but German blood prevails in me and I became an Odinist. I read a lot of Rodnovery texts, books, a lot of my friends are Rondovers too and I think that Veleslav has had an influence on me a lot, and now he is my good friend. So I think that Rodnovery is a very deep philosophy, a real continuation of Slavic-Russian paganism in nowadays!
Please tell us your view of the right and path and left hand path, and especially is relation to the native faiths of Rodnovery and Odinism.
AS: The Right Hand Path is to follow the accepted way of the family (clan), community and / or public order. This is the way for most and a way to preserve and transmit the repetition of the existing order and values in the next generation.
This is through honoring and glorifying the Light gods, gods who receive gifts given in prayer by practitioners, guardians, creators. Honoring the earthly kind, blood, ancestors.
This realization of wisdom, of their tradition, is done by practitioners of the Right Hand Path by following the proper and accepted way for three basic states:
– Labor and procreation for farmers and artisans,
– The acquisition of fame and acts of bravery for the Warrior,
– The authority of the board to the King
– The wisdom and teachings of others, for the Priest (Godhi, Volhv, Brahman).
Living a life according to the accepted way should be procreation, acquire fame and strengthen the authority of the people, know wisdom, and to be reborn in a new cycle in a worthy embodiment; to realize themselves outside.
The Right Hand Path is the dual perception of the world.
The Left Hand Path is a radical, non-conformist way of Self-knowledge. It is done inside the adept.
This Path patronizes those gods who are considered conditionally dark, angry, and destructive. These are the gods of Death and Wisdom. What is feared and guarded by ordinary people along the way becomes a source of strength, inspiration, and radical tools to overcome their conditioning and attachments.
Left Hand Path is Knowledge of Yourself as Primordial Abyss, by separating (non-identification) themselves from any of their forms, masks, and attachments.
This Path is the non-duality perception of the world.
The rituals and practices of the Left Hand Path to the uninitiated may seem horrible and insane, senseless and repulsive, therefore, at the community level, they are on the periphery and practiced without prying eyes.
You cannot instruct the person on the Left Hand Path, he should stand on it himself. Where he is Himself – it’s not his personality, social mask or Ego, at this level, the only choice is made between the external forms, without dipping into the essence. He Himself – this is what He never ceased to be (aware of it or not) – Great Abyss.
According the Rodnovery and Odinism we have one main problem: in ancient times the LHP practices, cults of Darkness Destructive Gods…didn’t exist.
We haven’t got a wide tradition like Vamachara or Tantra in Hinduism in Odinism and Rondovery, so this way is very dangerous in many aspects. In Rodnovery, Veleslav made a giant work for it. He describes the authentic Slavic “darkness” heritage and wrote a few books with his own experience on this Path. In Odinism I see the same situation.
And very important to say that LHP doesn’t mean “satanic” or “evil”, its not about this moral duality.
You are a practioner of Odinism, specifically Left Hand Path Odinism. Firstly, why did you choose Odinism as your native faith, and please inform us about exactly what Left Hand Path Odinism is?
AS: About why I’m an Odinist I answer above. Turning point to LHP was on autumn a couple years ago, as I think its not a question about your Ego choice like “Why am I not a LHP practitioner?” and you go. It’s like a superposition of your inner readiness, transcendental factor and environmental factor, your existential feeling. And in one time you understood what everything is not real, not what you must follow. This feeling from the outside turns you to LHP or to madness.
I view LHP Odinism as way of selfknowlege. Who you really are? Worker, social mask, prayer for ancient gods, just a man? Or you are more than God, like the Great Abyss, Ginnungagap, without any duality. Who looks at the World from your eyes, a man, Ego, social masks or Eternal Almighty Darkness? It looks like Advaita-Vedanta or Shivaism, if we want to describe it by famous doctrines.
You have also taken on the name, Askr Svarte. Please explain?
AS: I taken the name Askr when I turned to Odinism. Askr – it means Ash, the World Tree, Yggdrasil, and the first man in Elder Edda. It’s bound with macrocosm and microcosm too. Later I taken a prefix Svarte that mean “Black”, to underline my LHP views. In my book “Gap” I describe some interesting parallels between my name and my way as I call it “Svarte Aske”.
Please can you tell us about Svarte Aske, the darkside Odinism, which you developed in Russia?
AS: The most part I described above, so I just make two remarks about:
1) Svarte Aske is how a call my vision and experience of dark-side Odinism and the same name I gave to community of pagans in my town.
2) The dark-side Odinism is a path to non-duality view (like advaita). It’s a very hard path because we haven’t got complete philosophy, myths, etc. about non-duality ideas in Northern Paganism. We have only a few hints about this deep dimension of Odinism. And its looks like a summons to man; it’s very hard task to follow. My work has just began, many discoveries have yet to come.
You have written five books to date: Sketches of Misanthropy (Зарисовки мизантропии), 2011, Svarte Aske (including Sketches of Misanthropy) [полностью включая Зарисовки мизантропии], 2012, Gap (a continuation on Svarte Aske), 2013, the Book of Indifference (a post script to Sketches of Misanthropy), 2013, and Notes from the Inside Out, 2013. Please tell us about each of these books.
AS: They’re small books I self publish.
1st little book was about existential situation on the stage so-called “Nigredo” – when you wake up in Hell and start following the Sacred, away from profane anti-traditional world. This book is full of hatred.
2nd was the “Svarte Aske” where I put a spiritual part to Sketches and made a whole picture contain two equal parts: spiritual and existential.
Next step was the book “Gap” is only about LHP in Odinism: theory and practices and few applications about same theme. And the “Book of Indifference” is a post scriptum to existential part of my early view, it’s a very grave small book. I’m not going to print.
And finally – “Notes from the Inside Out” – the book in which I anticipated, it’s a book about the strange and paradoxical Russian soul and worldview. This book differs from my others, because it isn’t about paganism or LHP or etc, but I found this funny-strange book very interesting.
Tell us your influences are with regard to dark-side spiritualism.
AS: I have experienced the greatest impact from the three authors: Volhv Veleslav, Julius Evola and Alexander Dugins and their works about traditionalism. I integrated their views and enriched theirs by my experiences and thoughts to develop my Path.
It is particularly interesting that only Veleslav has relation to dark-side spiritualism, two others are great thinkers who helps to maintain the tension needed.
You are influenced by, and are a good friend of, Volhv Veleslav, a man I greatly respect and admire. Please tell us how you met this man, and how he has influenced you.
AS: Yes, Veleslav is my good friend and we have many convergences of views. Firstly I found his articles and books about Rodnovery when I was 16, and later I discovered his dark-side view (Шуйный Путь) and I was very excited by it. I was very impressed by the depth and poetry in his books, and they were containing very adequate and deep content.
I met him face to face in his book store, when I came to Moscow in 2011 e.v. to international conference “Against the Post-Modern World”. We talked a little and later I visited him several times, and finally I organized his visit to my town in 2013 e.v. with lectures about spirituality and LHP in Rodnovery (Шуйный Путь).
Now we are working on a small joint project.
What is ‘Шуйный путь’, and does this concept play any part in left hand path of Odinism within the Nordic Tradition in Russia?
AS: Шуйный Путь is the name of LHP in Russian Rodnovery, it’s a very interesting theme developed primarily by Veleslav. In the several books he wrote about some parallels between Rodnovery and Odinism: goddess Hel = goddess Mara, god Odin = god Veles, and in the same way. But in Russian Nordic Tradition communities nobody is interested in his works seriously, except Anton Platov maybe (famous Russian runemaster). And I think nobody expected me to use his works in developing LHP in Odinism in Russia.
By some, Volhv Veleslav is criticised for his usage of Aryan-Vedic symbolism within his spritualism of Rodnovery and ‘Шуйный путь’, with critics saying that Aryan-Vedic/Hinduism has no place within Native Faith. What is your view?
AS: I think we have all rights to use comparative mythology. If we have holes in our traditions we should fill them and to fix this problems we can study and learn another Indoeuropean traditions to understand the principles. After that we should try to say our understanding using the language of our pagan tradition and culture. In other words it looks like transferring from another to ours with translating. But transferring is not mixing, and I think that much of the critics thinks that he is mixing, but he is really filling the wholes in Russian pagan tradition using a adequate method.
In Russia and England, Aryan-Vedic/Hindu practices seem to influence the native faith of Odinism and Rodnovery. Please can you tell us more about this. How and why would this ‘Indian’ spiritualism influence the native faith of our respective countries? Why is it important?
AS: In Hinduism, Odinism and Slavic paganism is the common Indo-European root. They have much in common in their structure, in the esoteric. When Russia is a revival of paganism, some lost items are recovered on the basis of Hinduism. This is the influence and inspire of Hinduism.
What can we take from the Aryan-Vedic traditions to help us develop spritually within our own Native Faiths, why is it important, and how has it helped you personally?
AS: Touching the Left Hand Path, we can find a lot useful in Hinduism, where this direction (Vamachara) received deep development. We can be inspired and take a sample with such Saivites. But it is important not to blindly copy their rituals, and to understand their nature and adequately authentically reproduce the ESSENCE as part of our own traditions. Personally, I helped in these rituals and practices of Aghoru, some of them quite organically fall into the overall fabric of Odinism. Meditation on death, eating meat, working with bones and practice in cemeteries.
Both yourself and Volhv Veleslav utilise images of death and darkness (skulls, sickle, etc), symbols significant to understanding the ‘true self’, the ‘I’. Please can you tell us a little more about this.
AS: Many people believe that they are what they see in the mirror. Masks of flesh and social roles. And many people are afraid of death, skulls and bones. But the point is that in the flesh and blood of every person lies a skull. And for each “false ego” hides the true nature of man, his Self. Symbols of death underline traumatic stress of this experience. This is the final exposure. Any spiritual experience gained by the person can reveal as yet another mask. But if you are bared the skull then you are exempt.
Both yourself and Volvh Veleslav give many talks on your respective traditions of Native Faiths, including lectures on Svarte Aske and Шуйный путь, to a growing audience. Please can you tell us some things that are covered in these lectures to non Russian speakers.
AS: This is an incredible surrounding question. For the Western listener should consult foremost to understand and realize that there is a modern Scandinavian or Russian paganism, the Right Hand Path. Then it will be easier to make sense, to understand the language in which Veleslav and I talk about the Left Hand Path. In general, the best advice for those who wish to comprehend a Russian Rite Odinism or Rodnoverie is to learn the Russian language and culture. Without this basic knowledge, even translations will lose about half of the subtle nuances and meanings.
Perhaps, the main thrust of the lectures can be expressed as: Memento Mori. Do not be an asshole.
Questions by Nikarev Leshy.