Stoneborn I: Apocalyptic Atavism

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Hello everyone.

This is Ray Hawes and what you are reading now will be the first installment of my contribution to this blog, which is tentatively titled, "Stoneborn." I'll be posting here on a rough monthly basis with interviews, reviews, articles, or whatever. Everything posted here was originally meant to be released in a zine, but unfortunately the stuggle to survive in this world while still maintaining the aspects of it that I enjoy, without sacrificing my general well-being, has left me flat broke. So, for the time being, I will be posting everything that I have compiled thus far, and everything to come, here. However, I do still intend to have all of this available in physicality, one day.

The first interview that I will be publishing on here was done some time this past summer... almost 6 months ago now. So, a question or two may be out of date, but I feel that the power of it still remains in tact. It was conducted between myself and the mighty FAUNA. Since doing the interview I've had the fortune to spend some time with the respective members of Fauna, and can express nothing but respect and adoration towards the two. I'd like to thank them both, publicly, for their hospitality and overwhelmingly warm nature. On that note, I don't think that I can introduce the piece any better than the two shamans themselves...


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The voice of the animal whispers within, it is who we were born to be, coming back from the forgotten void to dance circles around us. This dance demarcates the space, traces the circle that is entranced with the dance, that whisks away this reality and opens the door in to the abyss of the enveloping earth. Sinking in to wailing arms, cradled by the succumbing soil, deeper in to a tunnel that steers us further inward, the worms massage the skin and remind us of where we began. As the shaman continues this wild dance, lost in the ecstasy of communion. The shaman screams, and that scream echoes the howling wind as it caresses the mountains that have incubated our people for millennial. Deep within these mountains are caves that run like capillaries, these caves that are analogous to the deepest recesses of our minds, that snake and spiral ever inward, that bear untold secrets and unknown wonders, that perhaps have never seen the light of day nor have been explored by modern man, existing unto themselves for the sake of their darkness. And on the walls of these caves are the paintings of our ancestors, paintings that celebrate the gods marauding in animal form, ready to release their power to the skilled hunter who knows the god's language and walks with the god's very footsteps. Now the gnarled hand of those prehistoric hunters reach up to grasp us around the ankles, as these forgotten gods reach down from the sky to pull us ip toward their lands.

The Shaman grins. We are torn in half.

Fauna exists to explore this journey, this dance, these caves, both metaphorically and physically, using Black Metal as the force to summon forth the spirits that might lead us further. Fauna exists to seek out these crypts, that we might know better our origins, to know fully the animal from whence we came, to know fully the animal we are. We seek to call forth the more-than-human world that lies within and without us, to engage with the totality of life, and this to engage with the totality of ourselves, allowing every aspect of our beings full expression. We seek unbridled immersion in the soils of life, unmediated animism, a trance state from which all is radiant and beautiful and tragic, all collapsing inward under the weight of a world so infused with spirit. We seek to see beyond the matter and see the obscured powers that swirl with the toss of the shamans hair, that radiate outward from where we stand in an infinite spiral...

Running screaming through the woods

All exploding outwards from the pressure of spirit

Exploding from the animal within.


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Greetings, Fauna. It is an honour to be having this dialogue with you. I've had many questions brewing in my mind and I am overjoyed to finally be receiving some answers. Start by introducing Fauna in any manner you want.

Please take a moment to pause, and prepare to look from the page or the screen that relays this text to you. Let us take a journey into the Deep Past, using a slight adaptation from Joanna Macy’s “The Evolutionary Gifts of the Animals.” The felt sense that this exercise conjures is perhaps the best introduction our project could hope for.
First, please put your finger to your wrist and feel the pulse there. Blood is circulating. This capacity, common to all life forms, arose with the first multi-celled creatures who designed ways to transfer nutrients to their inside cells. As they developed some invented a muscular pump, a heart. The pulsing you feel is a gift of ancient Ancestor Worm.
Next, feel the bones in your neck and back. Those vertebrae of the long spine are separate, but ingeniously linked. They cover the central neural cord and, at the same time, allow flexibility of movement. Ancestor Fish did the design work, because he couldn’t swim if his backbone were one solid piece. We can thank him for this marvel that now permits us to stand and walk.
Now, begin to listen to the sounds in your environment. We can take in music and sound because tiny bones vibrate in the inner ear, which is also a gift from ancestor Fish. They were once her jawbones before they migrated into the mammalian ear to carry sound.
Some of our sense perceptions are interpreted in the limbic region of the brain, which lives inside the base of the skull. This is a gift from our reptilian grandmothers and grandfathers. It allows deep pleasure. It also allows us to protect ourselves by fighting or running away.
Now look at your environment. Notice that your eyes are no longer on the sides of the head, as with our fish and reptile cousins and many mammals as well. Our tree-climbing primate ancestors moved their eyes around to the front, to function together, so they could know the exact location and distance of branches to leap for. We thank them for our binocular vision.
Please consider your hand. See how the hand curls over; see the size of the space it encloses between fingers and thumb. That’s just the right size for a branch able to hold a swinging body. Ancestor Monkey designed that hand. And the branch was designed by sun and wind and gravity, as well as Grandfather Tree himself as he grew high to reach the light, and limber to allow the wind. So we, with these hands, are grandchildren of tree and sun and wind, as well.



That is a very interesting introduction, for sure… it seems as if you’re simply introducing humanity as a whole. How we interact, how we came to being. Would you call this an expression or ideal that represents Fauna in its most general omniscience?

Fauna is nothing more than the effort to reclaim and embody what is fundamentally human. The wisdom and beauty that lies within our blood are borne of millennia upon these soils, communing with the manifest beings of Earth and the spirits of the land, sea and sky. We pursue a rigorous philosophical inquiry into the matter of humanness, leaving no stone unturned in our effort to understand who we are. Largely, this means understanding where we’ve come from. How we came into being is the greatest story ever told, the myth of all time, an unending dance with the Others and a journey of unimaginably epic proportions. Fauna tracks the footprints left by this travel, tracing them back to the heart of our being and the truth of our humble majesty.

There is word that the re-issue of The Hunt, through Aurora Borealis, will have live drums, opposed to the originally used drum machine. This is fantastic news to me and many others. Is there any truth to this? Why did you choose to use a drum machine in the first place? Was it because the first issue was simply a "demo"?

The original edition of “The Hunt” was not a “demo.” Our primary intention with our releases was to provide a mnemonic device to those who had interacted with our live ritual, allowing them to reenter the altered states of consciousness that were invoked there. Our understanding of the word “demo” is that it is the music industry abbreviation for “demonstration,” a simple document that bands hastily put together to parade their recordings before record labels in the hopes that one will eventually release the band’s work. This was in no way our intention with our initial releases. Both “Rain” and “The Hunt” were released on hand-screened CD-Rs that were housed in hand-screened, hand-folded, high-quality paper packages. The production was costly in the way of labor and funds, and none of these were sent to record labels. The inclusion of drum machine was an intentional choice on our part, and reflected no lack of attention or ambivalence towards the release.
We have changed our outlook on this matter, however, and the re-release of “The Hunt” will indeed eschew electronic drums. We are grateful for the opportunity to redress what we’ve recognized to be an aesthetic faltering on our part, and feel that the integrity of the work shines through much more vibrantly now. The psychoactive properties of this piece have been accentuated by this alteration, and we believe its effectiveness as an entry to visionary states has been heightened.
“The Hunt” was conceived and enacted as an immersive 1 _ hour-long ritual, which featured Fauna and local artisan Lina Mclean of Brisingamen Design. In order to organize the logistical labyrinth of this production, electronic drums were used. When it came time to release the aural document of the rite of “The Hunt,” we consciously elected to allow the electronic drums to remain, knowing that this was the true face of what we had done. Fresh from the otherworld journey of this work, it seemed important to allow it to remain as it had been, for us and for those who had journeyed with us.
In the interceding years, we have recognized that there are many who were unable to join us to imbibe the prize of “The Hunt,” yet who deserve to taste an essence of what this meant. For these individuals, an aural abstraction is the highest and best that we can provide, having set aside the live embodiment, and we have a responsibility to make that document as relevant as possible. For this reason, we painstakingly went back and replaced the electronic signals with arms pounding skins, knowing that for the uninitiated listener this would facilitate a stronger identification with the motivation that had driven us.


On the topic of The Hunt, would you be able to go in to some detail as to the themes and ideas this record covers?

“The Hunt” is a mythic journey into the imaginal nature of prehistoric consciousness, including its archaic totemic manifestations and the physical, psychic and spiritual sustenance the integral human activity of hunting provides. The piece takes us from the aching hunger of our current nightmare, through a treacherous initiatory labyrinth beyond the bounds of the known, into the ultimate unification with all of Life through the rite of consummation. It is simultaneously a parallel journey into the wilds of human meaning, searching for sustenance for the soul in the lost art of Myth.
As with all of our work, there are three parallel dimensions to “The Hunt.” One is related to the aesthetic environment itself, encompassing the music and the words we used as a technique of induction. Another is the imaginal myth the work signifies, which is a story that we have crafted to facilitate the deepest possible immersion of our consciousness in the transmutation of reality the piece entails. The third aspect is the ritual itself, the movements made, the spells cast, and the spirits or energies banished or called forth that made up the live environment that was the truth of “The Hunt.”
The sonic world and the words that accompany it are available widely now, and can be entered into as one sees fit. The imaginal aspect involves a rite we undertook as part of the conceptualization process, wherein we asked Spirit for visions of what we were to do next. We were guided by strong images of a character that came to be known as the Hunter, a prehistoric being who somehow was able to become contemporary with us in order to communicate certain truths or exigencies. We saw his journey: from a tender recognition of his band as they starved for sustenance; to a meeting with a wise woman of his clan who cast him from the nest, knowing that he had a crucial role to play in the life of the People; to his movement out into the world in search of game and the spiritual gift of meat; through his despair, loneliness and fear; and finally to the conversation of death that he shared with the Deer and the feast that restored power and sight to himself and his People. The parallels to the psychic journey we have undertaken are obvious, and the ineluctable connection between the material and spiritual aspects of the relationship between our eaten Gods and ourselves revealed.
The ritual aspect entailed a similar journey of annihilation and triumph, as we physically put our bodies and souls through trials and received empowerments and gifts from Spirit. “The Hunt” was an initiation rite that allowed us to move into a broader identification of what we are, connected through the Hunter to the whole of life.

And what about Rain?

“Rain” was a tracing, in the storied form of ancient myths, of the deliverance of the human animal from distant origins. We undertook to move our consciousness through the journey from the primordial seas to the caves of our ancestors, and through this project attain to the fullest possible understanding of what it means to be human. By finally reaching a full identification with the undeniable interconnectedness of all of Life, the Seeker in the journey of “Rain” burned his way out of the cage of civilization and ran screaming for the place of fulfillment, the wild environs that birthed the human Soul.


What is the human to Fauna? There are those who believe we are the cancer of the planet, and those who believe that we are sentinel beings who have lost their way. From all that I have observed, it seems to me that you seem to approach humanity from a completely animalistic perspective, with spiritual undertones. We are Fauna. Elaborate.

Elaboration is hardly necessary, as it seems you have a strong grasp of our philosophical relationship to the concept of humanness. Yes, we are irremediably animals, and this is perhaps our saving grace, as it is what may eventually facilitate our Return. The rubric of civilization has twisted and torn our understanding of ourselves, our place in the universe, and our unique gift to the world so that we can no longer recognize the grandeur of who we are. The human is simply another character in the play of seasons, another voice in the chorus of beings, special only in that he shares with certain others (notably Owl) a role as the Watcher. Humans have a special responsibility, ordained long ago by the totemic and chthonic spirits, to see and sing the world, to be the critter that tells the story of this sphere, renewing the cycles and calling back the sun each day from its hiding. We gladly take on this responsibility, knowing that the template for the fullest possible realization of our potential was laid down in our blood and bones, ritualized in those contracts between our ancestors and the Others so long ago.


I notice that you use a symbol to represent your band a lot of the time. It can be translated to simply mean everything that Fauna represents, I would say. But, what does the symbol really mean? To me, it looks like a sun-wheel composed of the rune Ansuz, or in Latin characters, "A". Ansuz is representative of Wisdom and Communication, as well as Odinn, also called the "Messenger Rune". The personal application of this rune is to mean "the answers are available, but not yet recognized." Does this Runic, Norse meaning to the symbol have any relevance to your symbol?

We are highly appreciative of the runic significance that corresponds with this symbol. It also expresses aspects of the ogham, the pre-alphabetic signification system of our Celtic ancestors. Our sigil was chosen in relationship to these layers of meaning; however, what is of primary importance to us is the imaginal potential of this signifier. Our intention is to convey, in an entirely non-rational manner, a non-referential form that can conjure from consciousness a felt sense of all that we are. We encourage all who encounter this symbol to allow it to burn itself into their consciousness, in a non-literal fashion, and remain curious as to what will be revealed.

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On the same note, the symbol is found on a skull on the cover to "The Hunt". I've heard that this skull is an elk, the totem of the band. What is your approach to totems, and how does one represent a band?

The cover of “The Hunt” depicts Eve, a ritual implement and collaborator that has been with Fauna for many years. An elk skull, emblazoned with our sigil, Eve has been with us at every rite we’ve undertaken since our fateful introduction during the conceptualization of “The Hunt.”
We recognize the overwhelming importance of animals in our understanding of what it means to be human. Our kind has always lived in a keen observation of and affiliation with animals; it is potentially the most horrifying aspect of the great tragedy of modern civilization that we no longer interact with wild animals on a regular basis. It should be self-evident that humans cannot live in an environment completely surrounded by other humans and human-created artifacts and stay sane. We require the Others in order to be in relationship to ourselves. We have been driven mad as a species by aloneness, an ache that the vague consolations of domesticated “pet” ownership cannot truly salve.
Elk is not the totem of Fauna, as we require a multivalent relationship to the faunal world to understand our place in this nightmare. The majesty of elk is extremely inspiring to us, and encountering them in the Hoh rainforest has been a bounteous gift to our psyches. We were gifted Elk tooth necklaces by a Medicine person that we sought for our work with “The Hunt,” and we recognize that these animals are asking for us to sing them. However, we have worked with many different animal forms in order to gain an understanding of ourselves and the process of Life, and we will continue to do so.

Going way back now… Why did you decide to start working with Aurora Borealis? You have always been exceedingly esoteric and rather reclusive. I am sure that many people were baffled by your move to an established “record label.” What was the motive of this?

This is a good question, and is one that we have been forced to ask ourselves many times. The dissemination of aural artifacts has always been important to us, though it has historically been de-prioritized in favor of creating meaningful, challenging and engaging ritual environments. We have long recognized that there are far-flung individuals who would benefit from the healing salve of our work, and realized that these folk would be best served by an entity which solely focuses on casting these documents into the world. We had never really considered this, however, assuming that the compromises required would leave our efforts less coherent and powerful. We therefore never pursued label representation, and were content to send out a disc or two every month to whatever seekers had dug deep enough to find us.
When Aurora Borealis approached us with the offer to repress “Rain” & “The Hunt,” we initially were hesitant. It took repeated assurances that the integrity of the packaging would not be lost for us to even consider this, and then we had to attain clarity together about the manner in which the work would be promoted. When these discussions had been concluded to the satisfaction of both parties we sought out packaging options that most accurately reflected our aims and the aesthetic and ecological considerations we both brought. It actually came out quite well. We are very lucky, actually, to have found Andrew, as he is someone that seems to intuitively understand and believe in the work that we do. He has been quite generous with us and also very understanding of our eccentricities.
One of the things that Andrew had said to us initially was, “More people need to hear this.” This is guidance that we have increasingly been receiving, whether from close and trusted friends or from the spirits we work with. The universe seems to be sending us a clear signal that the time has come for our work to be spread more widely. While this was initially confusing for us, and there was a desire to remain within the safe confines of our obscurity, ultimately we have elected to embrace this movement out from underground. It remains to be seen whether we can continue to make ourselves available for this process while maintaining the consistency we have always demanded of this project.

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What is your writing process? Do you write as a group or approach one another with ideas? Do you set time aside to write, or do the songs write themselves through your day-to-day life?

It has varied wildly, based on the demands of our environment and the dictates that we have received from the spirits we work with. All of the scenarios you described, and various permutations of them conjoined in different ways, have reflected our process at different points in time. We find it necessary to weave our intentions together with our music, allowing the sonic expression to be intimately connected with its spiritual underpinnings. This can sometimes result in novel or aberrant approaches as regards the songwriting process.

I've heard that you have more things written than you do recorded. Is this true? What state are you in from a recording-to-writing ratio? On that note, could you tell us anything more on the future of Fauna?

As mentioned previously, the live rite is what we conceive of as Fauna’s essence. We need always make space for the frequent and impassioned embodiment of spiritual communion with that which escapes our understanding. We invoke spirits and embody archetypes to evoke the essence of our lived experience as wild beasts on this Earth, and of the timelessness of our consciousness. This atemporal approach can sometimes interfere with the goal of documentation.
We have thus prioritized the enactment of the various stages of this ritual unfolding over the issuance of artifacts relating to what has already occurred. We enacted our 3rd Cycle (“Avifauna”) across the West in MMVII, and followed this with the 4th Chapter last year (MMVIII). Both of these are album-length performance pieces that will eventually be recorded and released. We are going to revisit “Avifauna” in spaces across the West Coast at a series of engagements this Spring and Summer. We are looking for assistance with a European sojourn in the Fall, and in Winter we will likely bunker down and attempt to document our work of the previous years, having been told in no uncertain terms that it is our current task to make these works available to others.

Well, that is incredibly exciting news, really. Without revealing too much, could you give us some insight to Avifauna? What is “Avifauna”? It reminds me of, simply, a bird. The prefix “Avi” relating to Aves or “avian,” while Fauna being “animal.” Is this at all correct, or does the portmanteau word mean something different? We won’t discuss the fourth ritual.

Yes, Avifauna is a description of the flying animals, the birds. Avifauna was initiated in MMVII, and was an exploration of the themes of flight and transcendent journeys to the Otherworld as a winged creature or as taken on the back of the Harpy or other flying figures. Our research into Shamanic lore as well as the variegated spiritual traditions of this world led us to consider flight as the preeminent symbol of transcendence, and the bird as the ultimate harbinger of the otherworldly journey. Having declared our intention to the world to explore these themes, the bodies and meanings of many bird creatures were shared with us, leading us to the deepest possible exploration of the relationship between the human and our aerial brethren.

Well, I’ll leave the end to you. This has been an incredible and insightful experience. The opportunity to converse and learn from you is an honour I didn’t soon expect to come across. I hope for nothing but growth and fortune unto the two of you in the future, as well as Fauna itself. May the cycles continue. The last words go to you.


Thank you for being such a true being, and we wish to offer the same prayer for your prosperity and continued unfolding. The last words are thus:
Apocalyptic Atavism

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Artwork by Roxana Dushkevich
Photos from various sources




Fauna merchandise is available at live rituals, through Aurora Borealis (www.aurora-b.com), and through their own organization, Oneiria (www.oneiria.org)
Related acts include Echtra, Vines, Fearthainne, Threnos, Alethes and strong solidarity with Sacrificial Totem. If you ever come across things from any of these acts, I urge you to pick them up! I have heard them all, and you will not be disappointed by any.

Stoneborn,

Ray

4 comments:

Krumbled Kookie said...

Incredible interview. Visionaries, these gentlemen. Ray included.

Van Damned said...

Excellent, Ray.

And Beau, the link to Oneiria at the bottom needs an extra "i" in the word, to read thus: www.oneiria.org

Look forward to seeing more from Ray -- and, as always, more from you, Beau.

Stoneborn Ravens said...

Thanks Van Damned! Missed that...

-R

lilly said...

That was a great interview,
looking forward to your next Ray.
Only heard Fauna recently and really think they are amazing.