Danica Swanson - devotee of Skadi at Black Stone Abbey in Portland, OR

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Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
I'm Danica Swanson, a co-founder, co-owner, and content admin of this forum. I identify as a contemplative Norse polytheist monastic. I'm also a former admin for the Pagan and Polytheist Monasticism group on Facebook. I'm serving as an editorial consultant for the upcoming anthology on polytheistic monasticism edited by Janet Munin, one of our moderators.

I'm the resident hermit and CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey, a live/work studio space in Portland, OR consecrated into service of the Asynjur and other Holy Powers of Yggdrasil. For over 13 years now I've served Skadi, and in more recent years I've also set up shrines for Frigg and Her court (Handmaidens) and Mengloth and the Maidens of Lyfjaberg. I've also been worshiping with a local Heathen group for over ten years.

Co-founder and fellow forum admin WeepingCrow and I are working together, slowly but surely, to establish a contemplative Norse polytheist-animist monastic Order under the auspices of the Abbey. The current space we're working in will not be the Abbey's long-term home; I'm hoping to move to my ancestral motherlands in Sweden eventually and work with Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige to build a full shrine room for Skadi. For eight years (2011-2019) the space was known as The Black Stone Hermitage, and I'm still using that name for it on the website. I'll be updating it later this year.

I've been involved with some flavor or another of Paganism since the mid-1990s. I first became interested in polytheist monasticism around 2005, shortly after I discovered Heathenry and learned that there were other polytheists working to build monasteries. I remember thinking: "Wow! Are there really polytheist nuns? I think that's what I am. I need to find out more!"

I learned about these efforts through online reading about the Maetreum of Cybele, the Church of Asphodel, and the no-longer-published (and greatly missed) Twilight and Fire blog. I've never met any of the folks involved in these projects, but I'll always be grateful to them for documenting their practices and creating resources for would-be Pagan monastics at the time they did. I recognized my own calling in the words they wrote.

I didn't tell anyone about this calling for many years. I worked in complete privacy and solitude to build a monastic practice, experimenting with head coverings and clothing that could pass for a nun habit. I doubt I could have done it any other way, as I had no social support for these ventures at all. My budding monastic practice could have been crushed if I'd had to endure ridicule or unkindness at that early larval stage.

Much of the financial support for the Abbey comes from my 'day job' - I'm a self-employed professional copywriter working from a home studio/office - and through the material support provided by my extended community. For five years previous to this I earned a (meager) living as a solo housecleaner and home organizer. I also have baccalaureate degrees in accounting, psychology, and philosophy.

I've been a dark ambient music aficionado for over 25 years. I publish a paid subscription newsletter about the genre, and I'm also working on a book about it. It's one of my dream jobs. I really love conducting in-depth interviews with the musicians whose work inspires me. Last year I had the privilege of interviewing Ulf Soerberg, my all-time favorite musician, whose work I've followed avidly for two decades. That was a "full circle" moment for me.

A few identity tags I sometimes use, depending on the context: queer, cis, feminist (I stand with #HavamalWitches!), bibliophile, introvert, elder, goth/rivethead, dark fusion dancer, of Swedish and German ancestry, anti-racist. By choice I'm single, a non-parent, and a non-driver. I love cats but can't share living space with them due to allergies.

My religious work centers around hearth cultus, one-on-one outreach (both online and offline), darkness incubation retreats, devotional veil dance, prayer, and "dark ambient church" - contemplative practices facilitated by atmospheric dark ambient music. I often feel alienated from Paganism; I'm particularly frustrated about its shoddy public image, lack of formal structure, and frequent casual dismissal of my theology. My practice is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Viking-stereotype hyper-masculinized portrayal of Heathenry as well. With the exception of the short-lived (and much-missed) Many Gods West, I don't do public events, festivals, ecstatic ritual, or gydja work of any sort. I stick to things like meditation, lectio divina, restorative yoga, ascetic practices, deep listening, shrine tending, and making wildcrafted aromatic blends with my favorite conifers (e.g., Douglas Fir, Western Redcedar, Red Spruce, Norway Spruce). I'm working on developing a liturgy for Black Stone Abbey.

I spent almost two decades looking for a suitable place for this work in Paganism/Heathenry, and came up empty-handed. I didn't want to have to "do my own thing." I was hoping to join a monastery that, unbeknownst to me, didn't yet exist. Eventually I concluded I had no viable choice but to build one myself. Or die trying.

At the behest of Those I serve, I started a blog for The Black Stone Hermitage in 2011, and documented my efforts as I floundered and bumbled through the early stages of this process. WeepingCrow and I met in person shortly after he found my blog in 2016, and eventually we decided to join forces to start the kind of discussion forum and monastery we were unable to find elsewhere.

I'm also long-winded, in case you couldn't tell.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 10:48:06 PM by Danica Swanson »