An Interview with Galina Krasskova, Famous Witch

From out of the past comes a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty “Hi-yo Silver!”, Mendo Talks to Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet rides again!

(Interview #5 already, I am the king!)

Well, kiddies, me and my faithful Indian companion, Tonto, have really dug you up a treat this time around.

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Ever wonder why in fantasy books no one ever carries a gun, even in eras where they’d be the standard weapon of choice? Well, it’s because they’ve got magic, don’t they?

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But, still, are magic and firearms really mutually exclusive? Not according to Galina Krasskova, Heathen Priestess and author of some of the most respected books on Woden and Norse traditions. In a recent article with her partner Wintersong Tashlin (another charming fellow, who, if memory serves, should have his reality show on television pretty soon), “Witches With Weapons”, which appeared in New Witch Magazine, she espouses that a working knowledge of firearms is ideal for those who seek a pagan relationship with the nature spirits of their choice.

And, as it turns out, Thomas Jefferson agreed with her.

Now, tell me she doesn’t sound interesting already?

In fact, one might go so far as to call her a leading voice in the heathen movement, which has been silently gaining momentum in the past few years. Hell, even the Army recognizes Paganism as a legitimate religion nowadays. So never let it be said that I wasn’t open-minded.

So, join us, as we discuss various branches of Paganism, martial arts, and why the Enlightenment may have hit non-Christian religions the hardest.

Mendo: What prompted the article in the first place?

Both Wintersong and I have long been aware of the distaste for firearms that permeates the Pagan and Wiccan communities (though not, usually, the Heathen communities). Both of us have also long involved ourselves in shooting and other martial arts and had been talking about collaborating on an article at some point in the future. It seemed logical to begin with something that has enhanced both our spiritual practices and something that we both enjoyed. The article on firearms and Paganism grew out of that.

Mendo: Do you find that your martial arts training, with its focus on qi, has made you more receptive of the life-forces which surround us, and thus helped your understanding of the gods and nature?

I think it’s made me more sensitive to the flow of natural energy, to the space that I encompass, and to the entire process of embodiment. It certainly hasn’t hurt my experience and understanding of Gods. Perhaps part of the reason that martial training is so beneficial is its focus on discipline and focus. I’ve found that both are absolute necessities for magical or spiritual work—effective work, that is.

Mendo: In the latter half, you recommend handguns as a way of clearing the mind. Which ones would be best? I’m partial to M-9s myself.

That’s a completely personal decision. I prefer a glock 9mm. It’s not what type of gun you use that matters, rather it’s the focus, discipline, and attention that you put into the practice of shooting that is important.

Mendo: What other reconciliations between modern technology and old-school paganism have you had trouble convincing people of at first? You seem to have given the subject a good deal of thought.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve had to, given that we both either work within or interact with a staunchly Reconstructionist religious community. Reconstructionist Paganisms are Paganisms like Heathenry, Hellenismos, or Kemetic Orthodoxy that draw upon ancient and pre-Christian sources and strive to reconstruct their religions as accurately as possible to the way in which pre-Christian practitioners worshipped. There is an inherent conservatism of practice and world-view in such a focus.

Reconstructionists face a conundrum of practice in that they are reconstructing their religions in a community and world dramatically different from that in which the religions originally developed. The demands of modern ethics, technology, and social mores form part of that struggle. There are often glaring conflicts between the surviving sources and the necessity of integrating these ideas into the modern world.

Mendo: Why must that attitude be so pronounced, though? Granted, pagan cultures at one point dominated the world, but even so people who worshiped Zeus or Ambisagrus were able to adapt to changes in society without fundamentally altering their religious beliefs. The Romans were able to adapt to irrigation and architecture without questioning their beliefs in Neptune or Vesta. Why have such conflicts arisen now?

I think the problem is that Paganism is being reconstructed in cultures and societies dramatically different from the ones in which these religions originally developed. Ancient Paganism and Heathenry didn’t have to contend with the “Enlightenment” and “Post-modernism.” Post enlightenment thinkers’ attitudes toward religion are only one of the factors impacting the growth of Paganisms and Heathenry today. Also, we’re no longer dealing with a predominantly oral culture and there have been two thousand years of Christianity—a religion deeply grounded in textual authority and, in some denominations biblical literalism. The majority of folks who are practicing one of the modern Paganisms or Heathenry have converted from an Abrahamic faith. That upbringing certainly has an impact on how modern people approach their new religion and what expectations they might have of ritual, community, and the Gods. The development of these religions is a process, and an ongoing process and it’s not always an easy one.

Mendo: For those who are new to paganism (or heathenism), what publications, besides New Witch would you recommend?

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New Witch, Pangaia, and Sagewoman are probably the most well known of magazines and certainly the only magazines with national distribution. For those new to Heathenry, I’d recommend (of course) my books: Exploring the Northern Tradition, and Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner, as well as Our Troth vol. 1 and 2, The Poetic Edda, The Prose Edda, the Icelandic Sagas, anything by H.R. Ellis Davidson, The Well and the Tree by Bauschatz, and Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland. There’s also Paxson’s Essential Asatru, and Swain Wodening’s Hammer of the Gods. That is a very, very basic introduction but these books should get a person started in their exploration of Heathenry and the bibliographies offered in each will provide further direction.

Mendo: Could you recommend any websites?

Not really. There’s witchvox.com. That’s an excellent news and networking site that has material not just for Wiccans but also for Heathens and other Pagans. I’d probably recommend folks start there.

Mendo: One thing I’ve always noticed whenever I try to buy books on magic or witchcraft at the local bookstore (regardless of where I’m living) is that a lot of times they have enormous introductions explaining why they’ve edited out anything the publishers disagree with from a Judeo-Christian standpoint, then there’s only about fifteen pages of actual witchcraft written in very small print, surrounded by two hundred pages of enormously printed scholarly scolding about why we shouldn’t be interested in this subject in the first place. Even Crowley’s books aren’t safe! Why is this and where can a person go to find the good stuff?

I would look at what else the publishers have printed. Weiser, Asphodel Press, Ellhorn Press, Inner Traditions, and New Page are all putting out good material both with various Pagan religions and on magic and the occult.

Mendo: You’ve written many books on heathenism, but my favorite is the one about the Northern Traditions, since in the first section you detail your conversion from Paganism based on your relationship with Woden. But I’m confused. If heathenism refers to worship of the Norse gods, and Protestant Polytheism refers to worshiping the Greek gods (at least that’s what they call themselves in Virginia, anyway), then what are people referring to when they say Paganism?

There is no one “Paganism.” Paganism is an umbrella term that refers to many different religions which embrace either a polytheistic or pantheistic view of Deity. Different Pagan religions may have different ethics, ritual structure, approach to the Gods, etc.

I’m not familiar with the term “Protestant polytheism” as I thought the word Protestant specifically referred to Christianity. I’m more familiar with Greek polytheists calling themselves Hellenistai, with the religion termed Hellenismos. Still, terms of choice for what we call ourselves may vary from Pagan religion to Pagan religion, and this has much to do with history, evolution, and politics both within the religion itself and between denominations. Those who follow the Norse Gods typically refer to themselves as Heathens rather than Pagans, in part because the word Heathen is Anglo-Saxon rather than Latinate in origin and in part to differentiate themselves from Wicca and other non-reconstructionist based Paganisms.

Mendo: Well, you have to remember, Virginians are weird. Besides, most names which we refer to religions by actually have non-religious etymologies. Catholic means “universal”, since anyone is welcome to join; Protestant because they protest the practices of the papacy; Islam, meaning “to submit”, because you totally submit yourself to Allah’s will, et cetera.

True at least from a semantic perspective, but by using terms that are, in the popular (and academic) mind so deeply associated with Christianity, it just seems like muddying the proverbial waters. At the same time, I can understand the difficulty in choosing the right words for a new tradition.

Mendo: In addition to your non-fictional works, you’ve also done books of poetry. If you’ll forgive me, what is the difference between Heathen poetry and regular poetry? I ask because a lot of the pagan/witch bands you read about in magazines like New Witch seem more like regular bands with a theme.

For me, my poetry flows from my relationship with the Gods, particularly Woden and in many cases reflects that. It is my way of processing what is always intense and often wrenching: i.e. my bond with Odin.

I would say Pagan poetry or Heathen poetry in some way reflects the Weltanschauung of the respective religions of the authors, as well as involving in some way Pagan/Heathen themes, imagery, and references to Deities. But your mileage may vary.

Mendo: I see from the biography at the end of “Witches With Weapons” you have an advanced magic column in another magazine. For those who don’t know, what sort of things do you write about?

I just recently moved from New Witch to Pangaia, where I will be writing the advanced magic column. The first issue with my column is due out quite soon and will discuss Asceticism: practices like fasting, celibacy, and sensory deprivation and the ways in which these things can be used to enhance magical or spiritual practice.

So remember, kiddies, next time you’ve cornered some British kid with glasses, or a teenaged New Yorker who’s in love with her brother, or a guy who likes to pal around scaly green midgets and fat women who dress like strippers, don’t just think you’ve got the upper hand because you’ve robbed them of their powers. They might just pull a rod and plug you.

I’d like to thank Galina for her participation, and encourage you to check out her many books on Amazon.com (using our links, of course).

And that’s our show! If you’d like to be one of Mendo’s Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet, feel free to contact me, and then go out and do something… rather interesting!

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