Rune Hjarnø on the Project of (Nordic) Animism, Part I

(Living Esoteric Cultures Series Interview 7)

‘Theurgy as an academic discipline, how about that, dude?’

In a long-form conversation split into two parts, we interview Dr Rune Hjarnø, animist scholar of animism and scholarly culture-worker in culture, about his many projects aimed at bringing connective ways of knowing back into modern intellectual spaces where they seem to have been pushed out.

This is a long one, but well worth the listening. We talk about:

  • The discipline of anthropology,
  • The legacy of Edward Burnet Tylor on the study of anthropology, including a persistence of the belief among Europeans and Euro-diaspora cultures that animism is something that Others do,
  • Some reflection on the meaning of the term ‘animism’, and some discussion of examples of different animisms,
    A discussion of the ‘Beltane ‘Oss’, as performed here in our town (see image above), and what kinds of cultural dynamics are involved in such performances,
  • But is the ‘Oss really the Nordic Aes (deity)? This associative approach leads to reflections on esoteric etymology, the limits of interpretation, and the places where this kind of thinking arguably goes batshit crazy,
  • And we look at myth-building as a cultural imperative and try to figure out some methodologically-sound ways of distinguishing in a real way between the batshit-crazy myths and the sound ones.
  • This leads to animist ways of knowing, which further connectivity, fundamentally, rather than the drawing of ‘hard’ distinctions,
    And is fundamentally based in practice,
  • The fact that academic statements like ‘dividuations of porous, extendable subjectivities are possible on the basis of relational ontology’ is really just saying something along the lines of ‘trolls exist’, so get over it,
  • The mirage of ‘academic, rationalist analysis’ when real humans are involved (and on drawing pentagrams in your basement),
  • The relationship between what Rune is doing with animism and a Hanegraaffian model of western esotericism as rejected knowledge,
  • Which leads to a reconsideration of the influential paradigm where western esotericist ways of thinking lead ineluctably to reactionary obscurantism,
  • Which topic of conversation leads ineluctably to ‘Q-anon’ and the cultural freakouts associated therewith.

Download the Interview

Interview Bio:

Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen is a Historian of Religion, PhD from Uppsala University in Sweden. He has researched Afro-diasporic strategies for maintaining animist reality in the modern world and he is now applying this in reading North European cultural history from the perspective of rejected animist knowledge and practice. He presently works as a public intellectual and cultural activist applying new-animist theory, Ontological turn thinking, and indigenous knowledge anthropology to recover Euro-traditional forms of land-connectedness, ecological knowledge, and kinship with the greater community of beings. He communicates through public media, independent scholarship, social media, and a number of cultural initiatives.

Works Cited in this Interview:

Rune’s video on cultural appropriation referred to in the conversation can be found here.

Older Stuff:

For Ibn Fadlan’s account of travels among Norsemen and others in the Khazar Khaganate of the tenth century, see Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North. Penguin, 2012.

For the poem Völuspá, see Carolyne Larrington, trans. The Poetic Edda. Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford, 2nd revised edition, 2014.

Recent Stuff:

Umberto Eco. Foucault’s Pendulum. Secker and Warburg, London, 1989.

Idem. Ur-fascism. The New York Review of Books, 22 June 1995b.

Bo Gräslund. Fimbulvintern, Ragnarök och klimatkrisen år 536-537 e. Kr. Part of Saga och sed. Kungl. Gustav Adolfs akademiens årsbok, 2007.

Wouter Hanegraaff. Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge and Western Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012.

Linda Tuhiwai-Smith. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books, London, 1999.

Edward B. Tylor. Primitive Culture. Murray, London, 1871.

Arne Johan Vetlesen. Cosmologies of the Anthropocene: Panpsychism, Animism, and the Limits of Posthumanism. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London, 2020.

Eska Willersley et al. Population Genomics of the Viking World. Nature, 585:390–96, September 2020. URL:

Tyson Yunkaporta. Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking can Save the World. Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, Vic., 2019.

Recommended Reading:

Graham Harvey, editor. The Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Routledge, London, 2014.

Graham Harvey. Animism: Respecting the Living World. Hurst & Company, London, 2017.

Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen. The Nordic Animist Year. Nordic Animism, 2019.

Arne Johan Vetlesen. The Denial of Nature: Environmental Philosophy in the Era of Global Capitalism. Routledge, London, 2015.

Keywords: Candomblé, Animism, Panpsychism, New Materialism, Nordic Traditional Religions, Neo-Paganism, Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff, Spiritualism, Johannes Bureus, New Age