I first discovered Heilung through a search for the band that did music for the History channels hit series Vikings. They are featured in episode 10 of Season 6 featuring multiple fragments of the tracks ‘Fylgija Ear’, ‘Hamrer Hippyer’ and ‘Alfadhirhaiti’. I since went fiwn the rabbit hole and listened to more of their music.
Germanic-Nordic group Heilung, before their formation met at a Viking re-enactment societies and formed the band with Kai Uwe Faust, a Viking-inspired tattoo artist, in 2014. Its safe to say this band is very familiar and experienced with Viking style theatrics, elaborate costumes and authentic music. Their music videos are hauntingly beautiful and visually stunning.
Heilung resurrect the music of Viking, iron age and bronze age cultures, inspired by an extensive library of artefacts and texts owned by Franz, who is also the band’s archivist.
“I think that we can learn something by looking backwards,” says Juul, speaking alongside Franz in an interview with The Guardian. “A lot of what we do is about respecting the ground under our feet and, also, some basic human emotions that I think – if you are too busy, living in this too-hectic reality – might get lost to you. Turning back time also slows time down.”
Juul was the son of a goði. A priest of Norse paganism. “In Scandinavia, it’s still an accepted religion to work within the old beliefs,” Juul explained. “My father married people and baptised children. We did the blót” – a Norse pagan ritual to mark the start of the summer and winter half-years – “twice a year. It was completely normal.”
The oldest piece of written music found is 4,000 years old and despite being a complete song, Hymn to Nikkal has been a subject of controversy since it was published in full in 1968. There are many disagreements on how to play it. The song is written in Hurrian language and it baffles archaeologists. The Germanic-Nordic experimental folk band Heilung have taken on the challenge with their forthcoming third album, Drif.
Nikkal, Heilung’s interpretation of Hymn, the wife of the moon god worshipped in the ancient Middle East. “Most songs are created as a way to remember,” says Juul. “We’ve seen it in Iceland, where people have composed these incredibly long songs that repeat over and over again, created as a way to detail a lineage. I’m pretty sure that a song like Hymn to Nikkal would have been written down to teach adults and children about this subject: this moon goddess.”
For Heilung, the preservation of Hymn to Nikkal is all the more important. “My wish is that people will really feel the emotion behind the ancient pieces we are reinterpreting,” she continues, “because we’re travelling through the whole spectrum of human emotion. Music is one of the tools that we can use to reconnect with ourselves, our surroundings and the people around us.”