This interview with Andrea "Nebel" Haugen of Hagalaz' Runedance was done through e-mail in August 2002. I sent her a whole bunch of questions and I sort of knew beforehand that she would not have the time / energy to answer them all. Therefore this is something inbetween a story and an interview written by both me and Andrea herself. Take the chance to enjoy one of the most interesting bands on Earth! You will learn that this is a woman of many talents.

Hello, how are you doing? Your new album "Frigga's Web" has been out now for a little while, what has the response been like so far? Are happy with the album yourself or do you feel that it could have been even better?
Frigga's Web is focusing greatly on the web of life, the mysteries of birth, death, afterlife and the connection between the goddesses Hel and Frigga. To me they have a very strong connection, as I have written about in my book. The whole album is kind of questioning life and death. I have experienced a few deaths in 2000 and losses in 2001, changes, depressions, lost loves.that certainly might have influenced my songwriting. My loyal canine companion, a black greyhound, died as well. I had him for 12 years and he was present at every magical rite I did. He died at Samhain and my last song on the album is dedicated to him.

I think the music is even more unique and advanced than Volven. A natural development of course, I have become much more professional, my voice has become better over the years, and I have been working with very good folk musicians. I have used Bagpipes, Bombarde, Colascione, Flutes, Harp, Lute, Lyre, Naglharpa, Hurdy Gurdy and Vihuela for this recording.

It has become much more refined and professional. I advance more and more in making music, in composing a whole song from the beginning to the end with all the arrangements. Now I can express myself, my visions, my thoughts much better, because I have learned so much about making music. I used much more of the traditional instruments and I had two folk musicians on the record, which is also an improvement. Now I have more connections with different folk musicians - in the beginning it was very hard for me to find people who could play this kind of instruments, because there are very few of them.

Apart from the synth sounds you like to use old folk instruments. Do you use them for their specific sound, their pagan or symbolic meaning, the fact that they're charged in history and that they're wonderful objects and works of art. What else?
Well all that of course. To me they represent the past and since my music is inspired by old folk songs it is natural that I use such instruments to create a link between the past and the present. I am very fond of ancient and medieval instruments. Especially instruments like the lyre, strykelyre, harp, bagpipes and hurdy gurdy, old Nordic and Celtic instruments. They have been used by our ancestors to create a magical atmosphere and I use them in the same spirit.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?
Well, yes, I guess there are two songs that are my absolute favourites. These are "Hel", the first song, and "Albion Autumn" - the latter because it's about my personal longing to England. All songs have a personal meaning to me, but this one is about a really intimate emotion. I feel very often that I miss England, so this is the song about that.

What does Hagalaz Runedance stand for?
Hagalaz is a rune meaning hail, which also on a deeper level represents the mysterious side of femininity and is thus connected to Hel, the underworld of the North, the subconscious. It is the rune of the Volva - the sooth-sayer and witch of the North, who explores the unknown in soul-journeys in order to bring wisdom into our world. Thus to me Hagalaz' Runedance represents the dance in-between worlds.

Magic and Northern mythology are very important in your work. How do they interfere or mingle in the process of creation?
Hagalaz' Runedance is inspired by the spirituality of ancient northern Europe. My artistic expression is influenced by my thoughts, ideas, views, dreams, visions, magical experiences and happenings. My work reflects my person; I am a pagan, a pagan living in this modern industrial age. I seek inspiration and wisdom from the past. I work the natural magic of my pagan foremothers, thus my music is often a magical experience. Some songs are also inspired by soul-journeys and Seidr rites. I think over the last years my music has become more personal. With my first Hagalaz' Runedance album back in '98 I wanted to create Pagan folk music and tried to tell the world about the pagan concept. Now I simply express myself as a Pagan, focusing greatly on myself, my own experiences, also everyday experiences.

Kristian Nordeide from Corona Borealis is playing a lot of traditional instruments on your new album, is he a good friend of your's? Is the Corona Borealis project still alive?
Yes, he is a friend of mine and he is Pagan as well, so there is a spiritual and magical connection to my songs. I don't really know about his plans with his own project, so I cannot really say anything about this.

The first track on the album is called "The Crossing" and is not a real song but the sound of the sea that takes the dead from this world to the next. I know that you believe in an afterlife but what is the afterlife to you?
I don't know and nobody can tell...

The comes a track dedicated to Hel, the goddess of the underworld in Norse mythology, do you think it is important to explore both good and evil, life and death, etc.?
It would take too long to explain the symbolism of the goddesses; you can read about it in my book "The Ancient Fires Of Midgard". Hel is the goddess of death and the underworld; she represents a darker side of femininity. Frigga is the queen of heavens, the guardian of women, children, the patroness of marriage and a good family life. She is invoked for an easy birth, but the myths show that she too is connected with death and the two goddesses show many similarities and thus both represent the circle of life and death. Understanding the mysteries of death is essential in order to understand the mysteries of life.

I am sorry to hear about the death of your old companion Arcane. You have dedicated the song "The Soul Of A Hound" to his memory. Do you believe that animals and humans are of equal value?
Yes, the life of animals should be treated with equal respect than that of humans. Or rather, people should really understand that they are a part of nature, and not above it.

When reading the lyrics on "Frigga's Web" it is not very difficult to understand that your have had some tragical and sorrowful experiences over the last couple of years. Do you think it was important to express this through your music?
My music is expressing my thoughts and feelings, thus my mood is expressed through my songs.

Why did you decide to record "The Home I Will Never See", a song from your debut album "The Winds That Sang of Midgard's Fate", once again on "Frigga's Web"?
Because I think the way it sounds on the first CD is kind of boring; I play the song a lot live and since I have progressed so much with making music and arrangements, I have a much better live version now. It's a very nice song, very catchy, so I thought, "Well, I really should record it again!" In the studio it turned out even better than the stage variation - for example, we added the hurdy-gurdy, which we didn't have live - but you usually get better results in the studio anyway.

Why did you move from England to Norway?
It just happened. I was kind of drawn to Norway, because the myths I'm interested in and the paganism are all Northern ideas, and I thought, "Oh, Norway - it's so far North and it has a lot of traditions..." I was also attracted by the fact that there are not so many people living there, because before that I was living in London and I really got fed up with people. So I took this really drastic decision of moving into the frost of Norway! But it mainly came to be because I started to make connections to people living in Norway, people that I had ideas of working and making music with, and that's why I came here. I really liked the people that I was staying with, and I made more and more connections, so I just stayed.

What kinds of music are you generally interested in?
Oh, I'm interested in a lot of different musical styles and it's even sometimes difficult to combine all the things that I'm into. For example, I'm very much into traditional folk and medieval music, and at the same time I'm into things like Clannad and Kate Bush; I also like very much music from the 80s, for example old Depeche Mode, Siouxie and The Banshees, The Cure, early gothic music and Dead Can Dance; I also like industrial music like Project Pitchfork, and I'm a very big fan of Rammstein... I like Ultavox, I like Big Country. So there's a lot of different music styles that have influenced my own way. What I do is primarily folkish inspired, but there are also other influences that certainly come through, because my music is very individual. I'm not doing things just because "this is supposed to be folk" or "this is supposed to be that kind of music" - I just have my own way.

In 2000 you made your debut as a writer with "The Ancient Fires Of Midgard", what is it about?
My book "The Ancient Fires of Midgard" is dealing with Northern spirituality and the pagan understanding of life, about the modern society, the damage caused by the monotheistic patriarchal religions, Northern myths and magic, the feminine mysteries, ancient traditions, seasonal rites, the sacredness of trees, herbs, Self-development and natural childbirth. The book is, as all my creations, based very much on my own experiences, observances, studies and personal thoughts.

How have the reactions to the book been so far?
Oh, quite positive. It seems that people really like my honesty in writing - like in my music - I talk a lot about my own experiences and about how I do things. I don't say anything like "I come with this system and you have to do things this and that way". I just talk about the myths and I give a really lively description of it all, because I also live it, and maybe that's what people find really interesting to read. In the end, I'm just saying this is how I do it, you can do the same or you can do it your own way. I suppose this is what makes the book so popular - that I'm really honest about what I'm doing and encourage people to find their own way instead of saying "You must do this and this and this, and I know what is best and you'd better follow my example".

Which kind of expression do you prefer - writing books or writing music?
I think I'm better at making music. I can see music, I hear music in my head, I dream about music... It's kind of in me and what I really do best. I guess I actually write, because I think there is so much wrong in the world and I have to express myself and do something about it. But I don't really enjoy sitting and writing - I'm much more of an outgoing person, I like to go out and perform, and sing, and play drums, this kind of thing... I don't enjoy sitting by the computer really.

The New Age movement is certainly growing. Do you think there have been improvements in society in the last years?
Yes, I think over the last years there have been great changes. People have become more aware of nature, alternative medicines, wild life, indigenous tribes, ancient traditions, self-awareness etc. For example 10 years ago I experienced quite much discrimination for who I am and what I look like. Today I can freely tell people that I am Asatru, a Pagan, a witch, a Viking re-enactment fighter.people think it's interesting. I can go to the swimming pool with my daughter and hardly get any strange looks because of my many tattoos. That definitely is an improvement!

About Asatru...
Asatru is a registered religion here in Norway. I am a member of the registered community Bifrost. We have just gotten the right to do official weddings, but we are still fighting for the rights to have Pagan burial grounds. Of course we all want gravhaugs (burial hills, where the Vikings were buried in often with ships and gifts) but this might be a little difficult to get through.(hehe.this is a joke). But in general the Norwegian people appear to be proud of their folk traditions and history, it is very much a part of life, it is all around us, this is the reason why I moved here. You can tell people that you are a Pagan or a witch, most would find it weird, but you don't get discriminated, or at least I don't. I think people have become more open minded in general. Ten years ago, when I was living in England, I was quite often discriminated. We had to be careful where we could do our rituals and of course we were called "devil-worshippers" and stupid things like that.

I have always had a general interest in mythology, folklore and legends. I always have been different from the crowd, I thought much more about life and many things the 'ordinary' people did, did not make any sense to me. I reacted to the respectless way people treated nature and animals with, I reacted to respectless behaviour of men towards women. I couldn't believe that people just accepted this as being 'normal'. I was very fond of the American Indians as a child. When I saw this stupid films of Cowboys and Indians, I was so upset to see how the American Natives were demonised. I also always had magical abilities. I grew up with the feeling that there was something not normal with me. Nobody shared my interests or had my visions. In '88 I moved to London where I met Pagans and Occultists, amongst those Freya Aswynn and my Pagan career began. I lived in England for six years, where I have been a part of different occult orders and was working with various forms of magic. The more I studied about the myths, the runes and magic, I realised that the Germanic Pagans, my foremothers- and fathers, had a very natural perception of life and a lot of knowledge about the universe. It just feels natural for me to walk the spiritual path of my ancestors. As I got more acquainted with Northern magic, rune magic etc., I learned about the art of Seidr magic, the oldest form of magic, a blend of shamanism and witchcraft, which was mainly practiced by women.

What plans and goals do you have for the nearest future?
For this year; I just played the festivals. I will make more music, perform on the Viking and medieval markets (I train sword-fighting with a Viking re-enactment group..) I have plans for many projects, but last year was a year of change and departures for me so right now I feel like I am standing by the crossroad. Many ideas, many options but what road to take? Should I focus on a new musical project, or play more folk- and medieval music, open a medieval pub, concentrate more on organising Viking show fights, try to get a farm together, focus on creating a film concept.whatever way... my journey continues.

Links of interest:

Hagalaz' Runedance
Hammerheart Records