Solar Dances: The World of Hekate

Tuesday, October 03 2006 @ 12:56 PM PDT

Contributed by: Wolff

Another entry originally intened for Esoterra Magazine and made available here for the readers of Heathen Harvest. Enjoy!

Solar Dances: The World of Hekate

HEKATE are named after an ancient Greek divinity and aptly so, especially in view of the genre-bending musical crossover they have dedicated themselves to. The band's members have frequently explained the meaning of the name. In an interview in Sigill , Arne Thau elaborated on the symbolism of the goddess: “…the goddess Hekate” possesses “three bodies and three heads. She is Mormo and Gorgo simultaneously, a devourer of children and a seductress, an excrement eating cannibal and a ravishing beauty enveloped by serpents… the symbol has become the embodiment of our activities for me – just like the ash or the celtic knot…On the one hand, she attracts and on the other hand, she repulses. The listener and onlooker should ask himself: “Should I be allowed to listen to this or not?'”

Like a lot of projects, HEKATE had a modest beginning (as outlined in the interview below) and have steadily grown into the formidable musical force they are today. The first release to receive wider attention within Germany was their third release, a concept LP packaged in a wooden silk-screened sleeve. Hambach-1848 was released in 1999 and it was immediately evident that HEKATE were finding their own vision and voice. The record was partly inspired by the obscure 60's German songwriter Peter Roland, who was one of the first to redo some of the revolutionary songs covered by HEKATE. As the album title indicates, the revolution in question took place in not-yet-united Germany in 1848. Major figures such as Richard Wagner supported this attempt by the German middle classes to gain some power and representation. Axel: “It brings me a lot of joy, to use these old lyrics and to interpret them anew musically… music offers the opportunity to reinterpret texts that are rather old and in danger of being totally forgotten.” The music ranges from ballads to snaredrum-driven anthems reminiscient of IN THE NURSERY's work. A particular highlight is “Die Gedanken sind frei” (“Our thoughts are free”), a well known song that is given a hypnotic electronic treatment led by Susanne grosche's soaring vocals.

In the autumn of 1999, HEKATE went on tour with HAGALAZ RUNEDANCE and the drummers also supported the later band, led by Andrea Haugen, to much acclaim. It was no surprise that the band was approached by Hammerheart who offered to put out their material on their sub-label Well of Urd, already the home of HAGALAZ RUNEDANCE.

The resulting CD, Sonnentanz (Sun Dance) went on to establish HEKATE's position in the German underground. From the second it starts, the CD establishes a more powerful sound, as “Der Nibelungen Not” gallops out of the speakers, Siegfried's rallying cry to the heroes of the Rhine. More folk elements are incorporated and the percussion has a more organic feel this time around. In addition to the medieval form of German used on the aforementioned track, French, English and Yiddish lyrics are used on this kaleidoscopic record. One common thread runs through all these seemingly diverse songs, as Axel confirms: they all deal with “our homeland, our natural surroundings and our ancestors.” Indeed, whereas on the last LP freedom was the rallying cry, the music on Sonnentanz is imbued with a solar paganism and the desire to reconnect with the lore and mystery of the native landscape. It's no coincidence that the CD booklet contains numerous historical photos of German Wandervögel (as members of the early 20 TH Century German youth movement were called) happily making music in the outdoors. Sonnentanz can be seen as an 21 st Century update of the anti-urban, back-to-nature sentiments first championed by the youth movement.

HEKATE followed up the success of Sonnentanz with last years shorter CD Tempeltänze (Temple Dances) which contains some tracks that originally appeared on compilations as well as new material. The record opens with a few ambient pieces to set the mood for the actual songs. The first vocal piece, “Tempeltanz I,” is the plaintive medieval evocation of a sacred place, and of the sacred union which is about to commence. “Melancholy” sounds like Death In June jamming with Amon Düül 2, and its catchy melody and the enchanting vocals of Susanne Grosche make for a strange but pure pop appeal. Matt Howden of Sol Invictus fame guests on “Henry M.”, a reverie about Henry Miller's mindset underscored by accordeon driven music. “Tempo di lupi”, the ‘time of the wolves,' fuses samba beats with gurgling analog synths. “Ich hab die Nacht geträumet” is a bittersweet traditional 19 th Century ballad about the death of a lover as foretold by a macabre dream. A return to the early music influences, “Mithras Garden” is a snare and hurdy-gurdy driven anthem which takes the listener to a place where “all the Gods could be”. “Tempeltanz II” is the electronic finale, less a continuation of current technoid fads than a stately invocation of the somber spirit of groups like OMD. The last ‘hidden' track is a Wandervogel song from the 20s, a continuation of the interest shown in that free-spirited movement on Sonnentanz .

Nevertheless, HEKATE is are far removed from being a political band. Aside from a general affirmation of freedom and personal sovereignty, their real concerns are spiritual. Their music pleads for a reconnection to the sacred in all its manifold forms. Continuing in this tradition, according to vocalist Axel, the upcoming CD will be an attempt to fuse myths and legends with ancient and modern sound. By combining that most primal instrument, the drum, with powerful melodic arrangements, they stir both the most instinctual and most refined emotions in the listener - a rare union in the realm of music.

(Markus Wolff, 2001)

The interview below was conducted by Pedro Ortega for Maldoror magazine in 2000. It was edited by Markus Wolff.

Hekate are one of the bands that are taking the old traditions and reinterpreting them anew. You take a lot of ancient songs and melodies and awaken them to new life. What does this mean for you?

Axel: A lot of old texts have fallen into oblivion - old songs, melodies and stories, which were important for generations and which belong to our culture. We see ourselves as keepers of the old traditions of our culture. The selection of our texts and songs is very subjective. We take special pleasure in the historical background of a song. Through the use of modern instruments, the song receives new dynamics. This is very important for us and we are pleased with the results.

Why do you think about the many bands that are also rediscovering their cultural past? What is the significance of this ‘movement' and why is it occurring now?

Axel: I think the reason for this is the strong interest in forgotten cultures and dogmas. They are being increasingly rediscovered because the large world religions are losing more and more of their credibility .

Perhaps people also find forgotten parts in the traditions of their own culture, which are worth rediscovering and worth keeping. We are describing a way of cultural change and of a revival of old ideas and values. Probably there is also the fear of the destruction of nature, and above all of the natural resources, which is leading to a longing for safety and the desire for a spiritual alliance.

What traditions are your sources of inspiration? Do you feel more German or more European?

Arne: We take inspiration from numerous traditions of Pagan Europe and European history. You can find indications of Germanic, Greek, Prussian, Roman or Celtic rites in our texts or flags on stage, for example. I can merely emphasize what Axel has stated in another interview: It's the pagan European history in its totality that is of great importance for us - not any one aspect: We don't like to play with certain symbols like many others in this so-called scene do.

Concerning your second question I can speak only for myself: My passport says that I'm German, but I deeply feel European. I'm aware of my history, but this is full of European influences. I'll give you a very simple example: You've been to my hometown, Koblenz, and you may have recognized, that there are lots of Roman or French influences. If you go into the woods there, you may find also Celtic ones, which is all in all quite similar to the situation in Spain. Europe must be carried in our hearts, but not with avaricious politics. So you see: I'm European first and from Koblenz, then German.

Is Hekate a Greek Goddess? Do you feel close to Greek culture as well?

Axel: Hekate is one of the oldest goddesses of Asia Minor. The most interesting aspect of this deity is its importance in the area of the Mediterranean. The cult of Hekate became very important in different cultures because of the trade relations and migrations of the various peoples: Greeks and Romans gave character to Hekate as goddess of the moon, goddess of the underworld and as oracle. Many artists, such as William Blake and Shakespeare, have been fascinated by her even up until today. For us Hekate is more than an ordinary name. We use the name Hekate more as a metaphor for the mystic, female correlations and our occupation with various cultures and religions rather than because of its connection to Greek culture.

-What was the origin of Hekate many years ago in 1993? What were the reasons that joined you? What have been your previous musical works?

Axel: HEKATE was founded in 1993. At the beginning we experimented with our music. Our settings were art exhibitions. Gradually we changed our style by the employment of kettle drums and acoustic guitars. This new kind of music can be found on our tape “Sanctuary” which was recorded in 1994. At this time we were already playing together with Mario (CHOREA MINOR). Our first common CD “The seventh sign” deals with the Christian Apocalypse that is described in the Revelation of John. The concept of this CD was devised by CHOREA MINOR and was transposed musically by HEKATE. “The seventh sign” led to the break up of our old line-up.

In 1996 Axel Heinrich Menz, Achim Weiler, Susanne Grosche, Ingo Müller and Arne Thau were developing the actual style of HEKATE. We used music as a medium to give old cultures, histories and songs a new life. More and more we acquired knowledge about archaic cultures, executed drum rituals and learned different skills.

In 1998 the German Revolution of 1848 had its 150 th anniversary. On the occasion of this event we decided to record our LP “Hambach- 1848” in memorial of that era. For this LP we again used old words to reflect the times.

In the meantime Achim and I moved to a German region which is known for its rough nature and historical background. In former times Celtic settlements and Roman temple constructions could be found in the “Hunsrück”. Old cultic places in deserted valleys led us to forgotten powers and a renewed love nature.

A lot of songs of our CD “Sonnentanz” arose from this phase, for example “Die Sonne im Geiste” or “Findhorn”. Perhaps you can find in these songs the confederation with the folklore, which is reflected in the old words.

“Sonnentanz” means the dance of the sun –I think-, what does the sun mean to you? What do you think about the connection between man and nature, something that is forgotten nowadays ?

Arne: The sun is the holy flame everybody should bear inside - a symbol of life and death. In ancient times people knew about the sun's importance: they were dependent on the sun in everything they did, they were guided by the sun and thanked her by celebrating the solstices. Last year the sun played a very important role and reminded people of her power.

I liked the idea that people were in fear of the apocalypse, which leads me to your question concerning the connection between man and nature, very much: I'll give you two quotations and you'll know my point of view:

„Nature seeking Equilibrium" (Ordo Equilibrio) and „Mankind destroys itself" (Hekate). I deeply believe that mankind shovels its own grave. All those catastrophes in nature cannot be without reason. Unfortunately, often enough this sword fells the wrong people. Maybe there needs to be one of those forest fires near the White House one day to make certain people understand - who knows?

I think my favourite Hekate song is “Die Gedanken sind frei”. What about this song? I think it´s a German song about how everybody can be free inside, and that nobody can change your point of view. So I consider we today aren´t free even in our thoughts, everybody is influencing us

everywhere, even today our thoughts are not free. Are you agree with this conclusion?

Arne: „Die Gedanken sind frei" is one of the most popular and most sung songs from the time of the first German democratic movement in the first half of the 19th century. It says, that whatever happens, whatever you do to me, you won't ever be able to destroy my ideas. You can kill me - but not my thoughts. Thoughts and words are weapons and they can cause avalanches. A wonderful, but also dangerous idea.

I agree - most men are not free. Advertisements, politics, the authority of media and the readiness to be guided by everybody next to one makes people blind. The one-eyed guides the blind - that's something we already had some years ago. Poor world… Everybody should try to carry a small beacon of individuality in his heart - even if it seems hard to succeed in this battle...

Another great song is “A Melancholy” which was released on the Mother Dance compilation. Melancholy appears sometimes in your songs, like “To Break a Heart”. Is this one of your deep feelings?

Arne: I don't like the idea of answering questions concerning texts I/we wrote. People should make ideas on their own, but I think, that you're asking in general, right? Well, on the one hand „To break a Heart" is a very special song about a very special person, but on the other hand it's a very trite topic.

However, melancholy is a feeling that can surely be found in many of our songs. Often enough not superficially but as a metaphor; all in all, it's one topic among many, i.e. inner conflict, historical texts or wistful ideas. Sorry but I cannot answer for the rest of the band: Everybody gets overwhelmed by melancholy from time to time, but it's definitely not one of my character traits. Mine would be sarcasm and laughing a lot and aloud.

In a melodical way I do like the combination of voices, Axel's strength and power and Susi´s sweetness and melancholy. They let your music transmit different feelings from exhultation to homesickness, don't you agree?

Axel: Yes, you're right. But this doesn't happen on purpose. It happens in a flowing way as a consequence of our own personalities. But above and beyond that we are thinking about doing more tracks for two voices in the future.

It´s interesting that Hekate has done some collaborations with other bands like Hagalaz Runedance and Allerseelen. You have joined them live only having heard each other's music, without previous rehearsals. Please talk us about your experience with Andrea Haugen.

Axel: You're right. Many things cannot be described by normal mind. I listened to Hagalaz‘ Runedance for the first time in winter 1998. Right away, I felt an inner familiarity, that I hadn't known until that day. Patty Hele of our booking agency told us that Andrea Haugen would participate in the 1999 Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig to speak about old Germanic Gods. Arne suggested spontaneously to contact her and to ask her if we shouldn't do a collaborative concert. After watching one of our live gigs on video she agreed directly. When we met her for the first time it was like we had known her for ages. There is a strong mental-spiritual connection between us – a mental force field.

Presemtly we collaborate with Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand (a project of a member of Sol Invictus, Eric). We're drummers with a passion and like to work together with people we feel connected to.

Also I would like to ask you about your participation with Allerseelen in Arcana Europa and of course about your impression about this festival. What do you think of Spain?

Arne: I've known Kadmon for more than five years now and I respect him as an individual very much, therefore it went without saying, that I agreed when he asked if I could drum for Allerseelen in Segobriga, knowing that Axel, Mario and I would be there as guests anyway. Due to the fact, that I cannot call myself a really good drummer, I suggested Kadmon to invite both of them as well. Kadmon liked the idea of a German-Austrian friendship or pagan boygroup - like he called it - very much and we all were very curious what would come out of it. To be honest, we didn't rehearse much. We had done some rehearsals in Koblenz, Kadmon in Vienna and we did three tracks at the soundcheck together - it was a big adventure. I think the Allerseelen concert was the most percussive in its history - and it was very funny as well. The venue was wonderful - probably the most impressive we ever played and will play - An European ancient spirit was omnipresent in Segobriga. It seemed as if a large part of the audience liked what we did, but I also think, that it's not up to us to speak too much about the concert.

Arcana Europa was something very special for me/us. It was more than a concert, it was like a big „family"-meeting, or maybe a “holiday in the south” with a lot of very nice people. After these wonderful days in scorching hot Segobriga we spent four more days in – scorching hot - Madrid - four of the most exciting, funny and interesting days in my life. I think Axel, Mario, Kadmon and I enjoyed every minute. I love the Spanish lifestyle - sitting on open plazas, drinking vino tinto and watching the people pass by. Thanks to two attentive Madrilenian niñas we saw a lot of interesting places far away from the hectic centers of tourism. For me Madrid was magical and I really hope to conquer more of this town - maybe with Hekate and hopefully very soon. ..

Some members of Hekate have other side projects like Chorea Minor. Why is that? Do you participate in other projects?

Axel: Mario, our drummer, has his own project, entitled Chorea minor. In our beginning phase we collaborated very often. Since 1996 both bands are strictly seperate from one another . This has alot to do with our faith and our totally different taste in music preferences. Chorea minor is interested very much in the future and his style might be described as a melodic way of ambient music, which means it is totally electronic.

What about your future plans: recordings, live shows, collaborations?

Axel: Actually, we are making plans for our live activities next year. We would like to go on tour in summer 2001, which should lead us trough Europe. We are preparing a 12”, where a new version of “Endless Live” a classic track from the early days of Hekate and Chorea minor, should be found, for release at the turn of the year. Originally it was to be found on the 1995 split-tape “Sanctuary”.

Next year a new concept CD should be published, where a lot of musicians, who are friends to us, will participate. Among others there will be Matt Howden of Sol Invictus. Actually we have supported Eric Roger of Sol Invictus as drummers at a live concert in Germany.

“Die Sonne im Geiste, der Mond im Glanze, die Erde unsere Mutter.”