Dark Ambient Obscurities: Magna — Nordic Chants (Ritual Music)

Magna - Nordic Chants

Since I am in the process of writing a book about the esoteric in dark ambient music and culture, I spend quite a bit of time tracking down details about obscure releases and musical projects. In the course of my research, a tip from my friend Pär Boström, who is also my illustrator for the book, led me to an album called Nordic Chants by a little-known project called Magna. It’s a hidden gem from 1997 that deserves to be more widely appreciated. The full album was recently uploaded to YouTube, which delights me, as it is long out of print and near-impossible to find. Go give it a listen while it’s available!

If you enjoy projects such as Andréa Nebel’s Hagalaz’ Runedance & Nebelhexë, Wardruna, and Forndom (formerly Heathen Harnow) you may also appreciate this album. Technically speaking I would not classify it strictly as dark ambient, but it has many of the same atmospheric elements, and it’s definitely ritual music in any case.

With the help of archive.org, I dug up this text from Magna’s old website (from 2004; edited slightly for readability):

“Magna’s music is inspired by the shamanic world. In the shamanic tradition song and music are medicine for both body and soul. The shaman uses song and music to fall into trance and travel to other worlds and realities. Magna have chosen to describe their music as “ethno-electronic soundscapes” as they use both ancient acoustic instruments and modern electronic music technology. Their inspiration is drawn from the very origins of music itself and their vision is to create music which gives healing, power and relaxation. Magna’s meditative music reflects ancient musical traditions while representing a contemporary approach to sound.”

“The members of Magna are highly creative artists whose contemporary world music concept incorporates influences from tribal music-traditions in the Scandinavian countries and beyond.”

Since I’ve been studying the Swedish language for almost a year now, I decided to translate the lyrics from Swedish into English as a learning aid. Such a great way to learn! I retain the Swedish words better when I learn them as song lyrics too. Pär, who is a native Swede, gave me helpful feedback on my translation and also corrected my errors. Here’s the final result of that collaborative effort for your enjoyment. The titles and subtitles are copied from the entry on discogs.

Áss — “the rune for air and inspiration” (0:00–5:52)

Vilda väsen jag kallar er nu
Från ljusalvheim, från svartalvheim
Här i midgard vi sejdar nu

Wild beings I call you now
From the home of the light-elves, from the home of the dark-elves
Wild beings I call you now
Here in Midgard we (sejdar)* now

Ur — “the rune for creative power” (12:44–19:08)

Känn hur den kallar, hör hur den kallar
Kraften den kallar dig
Kallar dig i den egen kropp
Kallar dig i den egen själ
Kraften den kallar dig

Feel how it´s calling, hear how it’s calling
The force, it calls you
Calling you in your own body
Calling you in your own soul
The force, it calls you

Ken — “the rune for fire and life energy” (19:10–27:21)

Jord och eld och ande är jag
Bär min glöd, natt och dag

I am Earth and Fire and Spirit
Carry my glow, night and day

Sol — “the rune for sun and love” (27:30–33:25)

Såsom solen sig stiga i öst
Så ska vi vandra som gryningens barn
Såsom solen sig sänka i väst
Så ska vi drömma som skymningens barn
Hela denna jord, hela denna jord
Låt den leva

As the sun rises in the east
We will walk as children of the dawn
As the sun sinks low in the west
So we shall dream as twilight children
Mend this earth, mend this earth
Let it live

Naud — “the rune for magic and destiny” (33:30–40:23)

Där månen möter dimman, där faller du i trans
Där dimman möter månen, där faller du i trans
Väver din dröm, väver din dröm
Drömmer din väv
Väver din dröm, väver din dröm
Drömmer din väv

Where the moon meets the fog, there you fall into trance
Where the fog meets the moon, there you fall into trance
Weaving your dream, weaving your dream
Dreaming your web
Weaving your dream, weaving your dream
Dreaming your web

Algiz — “the rune for guardian animal” (40:31–46:41)

I fullmånenatten jag ser din dans
I fullmånesken jag går i dans
Jag går i dans med min fylga här
Jag faller i trans bland dimmor och jär**

On the full moon night I see your dance
As the full moon shines I go to/into dance
I go to dance with my guardian angel here
I fall into trance among the mists and (spiritual signs)

Dagaz — “the rune for light and insight” (46:50–53:00)

Under himlavalv
En väv av ljus
Dagaz människans dröm

Under the canopy
A web of light
Dagaz, humans’ dream

Translation notes:

* According to Pär, “sejd” is untranslatable into English. But he adds that “when people in ancient Nordic tradition were sejd-ing they looked into the future and could harm or influence other people.”

** Jär or järtecken are signs that are considered to herald strange or spiritual events.

(Note: This entry was posted at The Black Stone Hermitage blog in 2015; it’s been lightly edited for re-publishing on Medium.)


For more about my work, click on the image above to visit my main site — you’ll find links to almost everything I’ve published online!

(Thanks to Ilana Hamilton of Blackthorn Photography for the great photo.)

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