(UPDATE: It has come to my attention that, as I had been using Wardruna’s album cover as the blog image for this article, it was unclear as to whether I was pointing a finger at them as a racist band. Let me clear that up. To my knowledge, Wardruna has no racist ties, and I personally adore their music. I posted their album cover as a representation of Heathen magic, which I am deeply inspired by. I have replaced it with a Bindrune of my own creation.)
Greetings friends –
A variety of events have converged in the past few weeks that compel me to veer off topic a bit for this post. I normally strive to keep my focus here on cultivating a sense of beauty and poetry, retraining our perceptions to bring a sense of magic and wonder – enchantment, if you will – into our lives.
But today I am going to delve into darker territory and explore the topic of racism. After all, part of shaping a world that amplifies beauty is addressing those things that mar the lovely face of beauty. And racism is definitely one of those things for me.
This morning I read a blog post from a writer in my local community, Jo Crawford of Crafting the Sacred. As Samhain approaches, she was exploring her relationship to her ancestors, both the elements that made her proud and the elements that made her not so proud. (Being a European woman raised in South Africa.) This really struck a chord with me, as I had recently been engaged in two dialogs which involved racism. One was on the Asatru Assembly and White Nationalism (over on The Wild Hunt) which stirred up a lot of feelings for me about the delicate line that must be walked as a European seeking to keep her ancestral folk traditions alive. The other was an incident on Facebook, where I had accepted a friend request from someone I didn’t know, and they then proceeded to post the most offensively racist crap imaginable.
Needless to say this person was unfriended and blocked, but it left a very unsettled feeling in me. I feel called to address this, for the topic came up again today with a call from a friend who felt compelled to tell me that when purchasing my new album, she felt nauseated by my use of the term ‘Neofolk’. To her mind, it was associated with neo-nazis.
This was devastating news. I have spent months searching for, mulling over, and contemplating the perfect genre description for my music. It is not easy. I have steered away from ‘Celtic’ because Celtic traditionalists have decried my (admittedly far from traditional) music as “Not Celtic” enough times for me to seek out a new genre. After much consideration, Neofolk Romantique was the choice I returned to over and over. My music brings a new twist to the preservation of folk tradition (Neofolk) and combines it with an air of romanticism and a love of antiquity (Romantique).
It was perfect. Until my friend confronted me with nazism.
I went into identity crisis mode. I didn’t rehearse. I didn’t book the tour I am working on lining up for the winter. I didn’t design new postcards that were going to have Neofolk Romantique plastered all over them. Instead I spent my day re-evaluating my identity.
I contemplated loads of different names – Mythic Folk. Pagan Folk. Folk Nouveau. (I do rather like that one). Neo-druidic. Sonic Alchemy Folk. Gypsy Folk. Folk Rock. Etc etc etc.
None of them have the ring to it that Neofolk Romantique has for me. And really, why should the Nazis get to own that description? ‘Neofolk’ by itself is a pretty broad term, one that would be fitting for any number of artists currently exploring a more modern expression of folk music. Faun, Stellamara, Heather Dale, SJ Tucker, Wendy Rule, could all be described as Neofolk.
So what is going to be my stance? To run from a description because it has some controversy? Or to stand by the genre and be one of the people who make it good? Choice B is harder. But in my opinion it is also more noble.
I want to use the term Neofolk. I do not intend to let neo-nazis take this away from me any more than the Heathen community at large will allow nazis to sully their own mythic traditions. (Any more than they already have). May my declaration to use Neofolk in my genre description be one of defending something good. Let me show you what Neofolk can be.
I am Neofolk. I may not be the Neofolk you’ve heard of. Or expect. I am one new voice of folk music in a growing folk revival. And regardless of what other Neofolk artists declare – or don’t declare – let me say this clearly: I am not a neo-nazi, nor will I ever support white supremacy in any way.
I have fought for the word “Witch”, and I have fought for the word “Pagan”. And I will fight for my right to co-define Neofolk, rather than shrink from it in fear of guilt by association. Words and concepts evolve as people invest in them. I am investing in Neofolk. And thus do I claim my right to add to its definition. I do this because, if we allow the words with which we define ourselves to fall into disrepute without a fight, then we risk losing a piece of our identity.
In love and respect for all beings – Sharon