The first time I met Wendy Rule was at Summerland Spirit Festival back in 2014. She has been one of my favorite musical artists ever since. Not only is Wendy an amazing singer but she also has the most lovely personality. I’ve been lucky to meet her many more times and listen to her perform live – which is an incredible experience that can easily be described as atmospheric, bewitching, and Otherworldly. Wendy has released an new album this year, entitled Persephone which explores the story of the titular Persephone and her journey into the Underworld. If you haven’t already listened to the album, you can purchase it here. To learn more about the Persephone album, please read the following interview in which Wendy kindly answered all my questions regrading her newest release and the creative process behind it…
Welcome Wendy to By Athame and Stang! First off, for those who are unfamiliar, can you say a little bit about yourself, your Craft, and your music?
Sure! I’m an Australian Scorpio Vegan Witch! I was born in Sydney on October 31st, 1966, though I very much consider myself a Melbourne girl, as I lived there from when I was a baby up until just a few years ago, when I moved to the USA. I’ve always loved singing – whether in public or alone – and ever since I was a kid have been able to sing myself into trance, connecting with Nature and the unseen world through my voice. When I discovered my spiritual path of Witchcraft in my mid 20’s, I also discovered my true musical voice and style, writing songs about my passionate connection with Nature, Magic, mythology and the Goddess. My Craft and my music are inseparable. I follow a very eclectic, improvisational, ever-changing Magical path, focused on Nature and her cycles. I honour the Light and the Dark in equal measure. I’m in love with the Moon, and have honoured every Dark and Full Moon for decades – whether in a full ritual (such as my monthly online ‘Full Moon Magic’ concerts), or simply by basking in her silver rays and opening to her Magic.
You’ve recently released a new album, Persephone. The album includes 24 tracks which is incredibly impressive. What was it like creating such a lengthy album?
It was epic! I began the journey 13 years ago, as a collaboration with my friend and fellow musician Elissa Goodrich. We initially envisaged it as a stage play, but it took on a life of its own, and it became clear to me after a couple of years that the best way to share this with the world (initially at least) was as an album. I then fully dived into the project, writing and re-writing over many years. In this time I released a couple of other albums (Guided by Venus, Black Snake) but Persephone was always there as a key focus. After Black Snake was released in 2014 I knew that Persephone had to be my next release. I began travelling to Greece that year to help get the project moving, and it was really at that point that the whole thing came together.
As for producing and recording the album, it was a huge, monumental effort! I was coordinating musicians from Australia, the USA, the UK and Greece, writing 5 part harmonies for the chorus parts, working out how to finance this really complex and expensive project, and directing the whole shebang! Thankfully I had my husband Timothy Van Diest to help me. He set up a recording studio at our home here in Santa Fe, and I was able to begin laying down all the guide tracks on guitar and vocals, creating a bed for all the other musicians to play to. That was early in 2017. We then made numerous trips back and forth to Australia, to record Elissa (vibraphone, marimba, percussion) and Rachel Samuel (cello) at my favourite studio, Toyland, in Melbourne. It truly was a labour of love. Like riding an epic wave, I just had to stay with it, navigating the difficult parts, keeping my focus on the destination.
You do a lot of traveling, and you’ve been to many of the sacred sites associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. How has this impacted the album? How has this impacted you as a Witch?
This was a vital part of the journey for me. Creating Persephone was more than a musical journey, it was a life-changing spiritual ritual. After a couple of years of working on the album I had hit a wall. It just wasn’t coming together in the way that I’d hoped. And then it occurred to me that I couldn’t fully honour this important myth without having been to Greece! So I began planning my first trip, with a focus on visiting the ancient site of Eleusis where this myth was honoured in ritual for thousands of years. To be in the actual place where devotees performed these sacred rites millennia ago, to read signs such as “this is where the Goddess Demeter sat when she was searching for her daughter Persephone” was mind blowing! I felt the energy of the land charging through me. I felt that I had found an aspect of my spiritual home. Since then I’ve returned to Greece at least once a year, searching out places associated with the myth, doing simple ritual in these locations. I also love the vibrant culture of modern Greece. I’m an avid student of the language, and I feel a strong connection with the people, the land, and the excellent (vegan!) food.
What drew you to the story of Persephone?
I’m one of those people who has spent a lot of time in the Underworld. From my late teens onward I suffered terribly from depression. I would feel myself drowning in waves of inexplicable grief, immobilized by darkness and despair. The myth of Persephone really helped me to navigate this darkness, to trust in its cyclic nature, to provide a map – in a sense – to this unknowable land. I was drawn to the fact that this seeming victim not only survived the trauma of descent into the Underworld, but learnt its ways so fully that she became its Queen. Persephone gave me hope.
The story of Persephone involves a number of characters including the titular Persephone as well as Demeter, Hekate, and Hades. Do you find yourself relating to one character in particular?
When I began this project 13 years ago, it was Persephone all the way! I identified primarily with her, and sort of placed every other character in a support role. But wow, this view changed dramatically over the course of working on the album! I realized that Persephone/Kore, Demeter and Hekate are all part of the one energy, each a representation of the Great Goddess. I’ve always felt a strong connection with Hekate, but in the past held a more limited view of her, mainly in her Crone aspect. In the process of working on the album, Hekate’s role fleshed out. She become an embodiment of the energies of Nature, the one who ‘turns the wheel’ the one who knows the necessity of change. As for Demeter, I actually think that I didn’t fully ‘get’ the complexity of her essence until I’d gone through menopause, and until my own kid was grown up and I was no longer in the active role of being ‘the mother’. Despite her role as a mother goddess, it’s really Demeter, in this myth, who embodies the energy of the Crone. As she grieves the loss of her daughter and the land dries up, I began to empathize with her process of accepting this new phase of her life, this new role. I entered into her sorrow.
When performing, do you ever feel that you are channeling or in communion with the spirits whom you are singing about? What is that like for you?
Yes, I often feel that I am a channel for these energies. I open up and let them flow through me. Sometimes this is very painful, such as when I’m channeling Demeter’s grief. At other times I feel very powerful – especially when singing in the voice of Hekate, or as Persephone when she has become Queen of the Underworld. This doesn’t happen during every performance, but when it does, it’s incredible. At other times I feel more like I am witnessing and holding space for these powerful beings – still myself, but full of empathy and understanding of their journeys.
Is there a particular element or part in the story of Persephone that you enjoy or identify with the most?
It’s the whole things for me – the complete cycle. Every single part of it intrigues me. I’m fascinated by the mirroring of Demeter and Persephone’s journeys. Demeter is on the surface, going through an emotional descent, while Persephone is in the Underworld, discovering the powers of Life, of sex, of Love. The surface world becomes the realm of Death, and the Underworld becomes the place of new Life. Such powerful imagery.
What do you hope people will take away from this incredible album?
I hope that they take away a greater respect for, and understanding of, the processes of change, of survival and transformation through trauma, of going deep into the shadow lands, of respect for the workings of the Underworld, of finding the treasure in the depths of the cave. I hope that those folks who are not already familiar with the myth discover it for the first time, and begin their own journey with it! And I hope that those who already know and love this myth discover a new facet of understanding.
Thanks so much to Wendy Rule for taking the time for this interview and for inspiring us all with her music! You can purchase Persephone here! And, you definitely must watch Wendy’s new music video for the song Hollow!