Danica, a.k.a. D. JoAnne Swanson, is a freelance non-fiction writer and proofreader, polytheist amateur nun, bibliophile, feminist, animist, tea aficionado, dark fusion dancer, small business owner, and CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) of The Black Stone Hermitage. She has identified as a polytheist for over 20 years, and as a devotee of the frost giantess and Norse deity Skaði (Skadi) since 2004.
You can email her at shrine.of.skadi at gmail dot com.
[Her name is pronounced “DAH-ni-ca” (it rhymes with Monica), not DAN-i-ca.]
She is a co-founder of the upcoming polytheist monastic web discussion forum (to be launched in 2019), a co-founder of LANMIPP (Loosely Affiliated Network of Monastically Inclined Polytheist Pagans), and a former admin of the Pagan & Polytheist Monasticism discussion and support group on Facebook. In 2017 she also founded the #I Stand With #HavamalWitches Heathen feminist solidarity group.
In 2006 Danica launched her solo devotional dark fusion dance project, Shrine of Skaði, inspired by “music you can’t dance to” – dark ambient. As a mystic, she believes strongly in the power of dance – especially bellydance! – as a form of contemplative practice and embodied epistemology.
In 2015 she launched another solo dance project, Drinking The Tears of the Earth, to provide an outlet for ecological and ancestral grief through lamentation dance. Being born and raised as an American in an ecocidal settler colonialist culture – in lands inhabited by the angry spirits of indigenous peoples who continue to suffer and die at the hands of a genocidal overculture – and finding no safe place to express the kind of embodied grief she carried about it, she turned to mournful dance to open the way toward wisdom and healing.
She figured out that she was a writer, artist, and dancer when she was quite young, but the US with its extreme capitalist oligarchy is a difficult place to be an artist of any sort. The climate of the dominant culture is mostly hostile to the arts; the job culture is oppressive and stressful, with most people overworked or desperate for jobs; employment is increasingly precarious and poorly paid; housing is overpriced; there is widespread contempt for the poor; and the health “care” system is exorbitantly expensive, with overcrowded and understaffed facilities, leaving millions of people to suffer and die. And conventional full-time employment became untenable for her, due to health restrictions. So she proceeded in fits and starts, taking many twisting paths, until she received the vision of the Hermitage and finally found her niche in 2011.
She traces her maternal Swedish ancestors to rural Östergötland and Småland, and is a self-taught student of the Swedish language. She is hatching plans with Birka and Räv Skogsberg of Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige to move the Hermitage to rural Sweden and begin the process of founding a Norse polytheist monastery. Her other plans for the future in Sweden include exploring labyrinths and sacred sites connected to Heathen deities, doing genealogical research, enjoying the northern winters, and continuing to work toward empowerment of women, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQIA+ people. When she succeeds in relocating to Sweden, she has vowed to design, build, and tend a subterranean shrine room for Skaði there – including acoustically resonant space for deep listening, meditative dark ambient music, cairns and a stone altar, a space for sacred dance and yoga, and religious hospitality services for visitors through her Paths of Sacred Endarkenment retreat project. Not for nothing has she been called “Skaði’s PR department” by her fellow Pagans.
Her formal university education includes an Associate of Arts degree in dance, two honors baccalaureate degrees with majors in psychology and philosophy, and a post-baccalaureate certificate in accounting. However, in hindsight she decided that the best thing about her college years was her initiation-by-magic-mushroom while listening to Skinny Puppy (and a little later, Lustmord), an experience that kindled her abiding love of industrial music and brought her into the gothic-industrial community for life. As a book nerd and self-motivated lifelong learner interested in decolonizing her life and work, she much prefers autodidactic pursuits.
For five years she was the hearth witch in charge of Black Stone Home Service, an eco-friendly housekeeping and home organizing business specializing in serving clients with allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivities. She views housekeeping as a form of devotional and magical practice deserving of greater respect (and good wages!), and considers manual labor an important component of her monastic home-and-hearth path of service. During these years her standard (honest!) answer to intrusive questions about what she did for a living was: “I’m a professional witch. I do Earth magic with a broom.”
Now she is a full-time writer – she makes her living by day as a freelance copywriter for a higher education website, and works on her own creative projects by night.
A sun-avoider and lover of grey skies, cold weather, and dark enclosed spaces, she embodies the goth stereotype by seeking subterranean shelter in the summertime to escape the heat and sun (“that big hurty thing in the sky”), so she has no plans to return to the tropical climate in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where she was raised. She has lived in many US cities, and in North Vancouver, BC, Canada for two years. After a failed permaculture ecovillage attempt and a devastating divorce burned her old life to the ground in 2007-2008, she slowly and painstakingly built a new life in Portland, OR, with the assistance of many people and a few good turns of fortune (e.g., the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion in Oregon). She now enjoys a simple life as a non-parent and non-driver in a haven of Cascadian solitude – made possible only by a web of thriving community relationships, human and non-human.
She can often be found sipping pu-erh or lapsang souchong (her all-time favorite tea) or seeking solace and communion in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, where she gathers aromatics from her beloved conifers, and appreciates the lush mosses and lichens. She has a special affinity for Red Spruce, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Western Redcedar.
She lives by the hands of the deities and spirits in all of her endeavors.
Words from others:
“…the work she’s doing…is unique and it is of immense value to us as polytheists.”
~ Lo, of rotwork
“…a dark ambient guru…” “…one of North America’s leading fans and experts on dark ambient music…” “…hotly tipped by ID:UD contributor and dark ambient guru Danica Swanson, so that’s good enough for us…” “…few folks are better positioned to discuss that most reclusive of genres…” “…there are few people on the planet who have Danica’s knowledge of or passion for that most stygian and contemplative of genres…You couldn’t pick a better guide through some of the lesser known underground lairs and cosmic reaches of the genre, so put on your druid cloaks and grab your chisels and stone tablets…”
~ I Die: You Die music magazine
“If it has Danica Swanson’s approval, that means I need to check it out. Thanks!”
~ Jeffrey I. Michaels, music fan
“The world’s biggest dark ambient fan…”
~ Abby Helasdottir of Gydja