Have you ever had the experience of building a shrine and feeling a bone-deep wave of absolute perfect rightness engulf you immediately? As if all the Powers you serve had been waiting a long time for you to finally figure out that They wanted it like this, but for whatever reason you couldn’t carry it out just yet, and now that you got it right and it’s really and truly done, They are saying “Yes! It’s about time?”
That’s how I felt when I finished this shrine. It’s a new experience for me, and a welcome one. A little unnerving, though, too.
When I started to build this shrine, my conscious intention was to find an attractive way to display the beautiful artwork on some of my favourite dark ambient CDs and make a shrine out of it. Dark ambient music is so much more than a listening preference for me: it’s one of my most driving passions. It deepens my meditation like nothing else, and it inspires a good deal of the creative and service work I do, including emotional alchemy work involving embodied states of grief and mourning. So it seemed appropriate to create a new shrine.
Then Móðguðr stepped in, and the process became Hers. The shrine I had previously made for Her, while worthy enough at the time, was no longer suitable for the work I needed to do. Thus, at Her behest, I dismantled it and turned it into what you see below. The process was so successful that I actually became a little frightened of it at times, and I questioned whether it was a good idea to share it on this public blog. But She insisted that it needs to be seen.
So here’s a closer look at what happens at the Hermitage when She is at the helm: Móðguðr’s Dark Ambient Shrine.
About the shrine:
Since I can’t have a chthonic shrine for offerings, given that the Hermitage is currently located in a one-room flat on the seventh floor of a building, this is my makeshift solution: using a table with two tiers, and putting Móðguðr’s offerings in a small black cauldron on the lower tier.
The photo in the silver frame is one that I found via a Google image search for “Móðguðr.” I printed it out in black and white, but it is even more beautiful in colour. The woman in the photo is a model in a Halloween costume. A bit unorthodox, perhaps, but it was the only photo I was able to find that met with Her approval for this shrine. It gives me chills when I look at it.
In the center front is a flyer I made for the Hermitage that matches the header bar on this blog, and behind that is a black obsidian sphere used for scrying, flanked by two smaller black obsidian stones.
The dark ambient CDs displayed, from bottom left corner to top right (in the left hand photo, last row), are:
On the left side of the mirror is the Hermit card from the Silver Era Tarot; it features a female Hermit in a dark setting. It is one of the cards I am using as inspiration to prepare for a future photo shoot I am planning wherein I will don my black hooded cloak, hold forth my staff and lantern, and pose as the Hermit.
Above that is a photo I liked from a Tumblr blog featuring a veiled woman with a jeweled headdress. Slightly in front of that photo is a rhinestone serpent necklace with black stone eyes.
On the right side of the mirror on the bottom is a flyer with the cover of Sephiroth’s “Cathedron” album, and above that is the logo of my favourite dark ambient label – Cyclic Law.
Below the mirror is a print of H.R. Giger’s The Vortex, taken from an old wall calendar.
And in the center is a skeleton candle I absolutely adore, flanked by two gargoyle bookends in gothic style.
Here’s a sampler of the music I was playing while the shrine was created. For best effect, I recommend that you listen to these tracks with good headphones while you look at the shrine photos.
“Cultus Subterraneus” characterises this track perfectly. I love this evocative description from a review of the album: “I can nearly feel the cold granite against my bare feet as I descend a spiral staircase into the bowels of mother earth, dressed only in an acolyte’s humble garments…The well crafted soundscapes are rich and saturated with moist tactility. There is so much surface on this music you almost expect to find moss growing on the CD.”
This well-done teaser video, which clocks in at just over a minute, is what convinced me to buy this mysterious dark ambient album, “Consuetudines,” which was released in 2009 on the Malignant Records label. There is very little information about it online, save for a review here and there. The CD artwork is beautiful and intriguing, and the music is nothing short of sublime. This masterpiece album takes me deeper into meditation and trance than any other I’ve ever heard. Although it was an acquired taste – I didn’t get fully into it for a year or two after I bought it – now I love it with a passion that is difficult to explain to the uninitiated. I hope and pray for another Hyios album.
This mournful and bleak track from the 2012 album “The End of Greatness” (see album cover above) is a collaboration among the Norwegian musicians Hærleif Langås, Avsky, and Ketil Søraker. The album is superb, and it has a timeless quality to it that fuels my creative pursuits. I often listen to it while I write, and it helps me keep the channels open for my Muse to speak. I predict I’ll still be appreciating it in 15 or 20 years, as if it were a beloved old friend.
Brilliant dark ritual ambient with occult themes, emotional depth, and martial industrial elements: the perfect combination to inspire my ritual dance (and shrine-building, too). The promo blurb for this amazing Lamia Vox album, “Sigillum Diaboli,” speaks for itself:
“We are taken on a journey where Sabbatic fires burn into the night, and incense smoke dances around the sorcerer’s circle while whispered incantations are delivered. The album alchemically combines ritualistic elements with vocals and chants and martial percussion, combined with haunting ambient soundscapes, creating its own ceremonial atmosphere.”
There was much excitement at the Hermitage upon the release of this album through the venerable and aforementioned Cyclic Law. I rarely buy CDs anymore – most of my music is digital-only – but I made an exception for this one, as I often do for Cyclic Law releases, since these CDs are works of art in themselves.
My favourite Northaunt track, from the album “The Ominous Silence.” You can feel this incredible music reverberate deep in the marrow of your bones. Words cannot do it justice. I do believe Móðguðr was quite pleased.
New Risen Throne makes doom ambient music of the highest order. Cold and apocalyptic, like most of my favourite music. (The NRT track I dance to for Móðguðr is called “At the Shadow of the Gates,” but I was unable to find an active link to that one.)
Danica Swanson is a freelance writer, dark ambient music nerd, dark fusion dancer, and amateur polytheist nun. She is CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) of The Black Stone Hermitage and co-founder of the Polytheist Monasticism discussion forum. Her first forays into paganism began in 1995; she has been a devotee of Skaði and other Holy Powers of Yggdrasil since 2004. She also writes under the name D. JoAnne Swanson for her other main project, The Anticareerist (formerly known as Rethinking the Job Culture; originally known as whywork.org). Her life of contemplative solitude is made possible only by a web of thriving community relationships, human and non-human. She lives by the hands of the deities and spirits in all of her endeavors.