The Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or is located in the Sardinian Macomer and like the closely related label collective Trasposonic has existed since the late 1990s, but it took a while for the mysterious ritual project to make their mark outside the Italian music scene. The concept of an “Italian Occult Psychedelia”, which haunted the media a few years ago, seems to have been created for them, but is a rather limiting category. Especially the term ‘occult’ means much more to the Sardinians around MS Miroslaw than just atmosphere. Hermetic Brotherhood, whose name refers to an old esoteric order, use their releases to document their personal ritualistic acts, and strive for the emergence of a new traditional music. The interview was conducted following the “Sons of an older Cosmos” festival in Berlin, where the Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or gave an intense performance.
As there is not so much information in German media about your works, please introduce the Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-or to our readers. How was this group formed and by whom? In which connection does the group stand to the Trasponsonic label and the community around?
Trasponsonic is a collective experience dedicated to music, extreme theater, cinema and art in general, born at the end of the 90s in Sardinia, in the middle of the island. More precisely in Macomer, the capital of the Marghine territory, which is the border line (margin) of what is called Barbagia: the land of the barbarians; so called by the Romans who never succeeded in subduing her. The heart of all ancestral traditions that still resist today. Macomer is a small post-industrial town located in an area where there are 800 archaeological sites, and which now comes to terms with its past and its identity. Here a group of local youths (MSMiroslaw, Ersilio Campostorto, Andrej Porcu, Samantha Soames, Ethan Varrs, Egon K, Der List, Gabriel LB, SolideaSurya, Laura Dem) feel the urgency to communicate their vital experience to the world and begin to experiment with various forms of expression that then flow around half of two thousand in the Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or.
Which were the main ideas that led to the foundation of the group?
The basic idea is to create new traditional music. A new popular music that can fuse together the echo of the archaic traditions with the recent industrial past to give life to a cultural renaissance through a painful but necessary mutation. To create a music that is fully representative of this situation free from stereotypes and external cultural influences.
In recent time, Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-or consists of Laura Dem and MS Miroslaw, but on earlier recordings you’ll find some more names of contributors. So do you regard the group as an open collective around you both as core members, or did you finally become a firm duo?
HBOL is and will always be a collective and plural experience, a living and mutant organism. Our history of life, society and economy today has led us to the form of a duo, but the choice has not been planned at the table. All Trasponsonic members have participated in HBOL records and no one can tell how this creature will evolve in the future. These are events that we cannot control.
You are often described as Ritual Musicians, and „ritual“ is often used as a music genre term. But often it is not so clear, if this only refers to music which is used for rituals, or also to music with a ritualistic atmosphere or topics. Do you use such terms, and where would you position yourselves in that field?
There is a lot of fashion behind the use of this term, but in our case, if we refer to the real anthropological meaning, it is fully justified. We do not take music making lightly, it’s not a hobby or a job for us. The recording of our records takes place after a very long psycho-physical preparation through the ethnographic technique. It is pure sound documentation of what happens in that moment. We do not practice every day with instruments like normal musicians, but rather the opposite. The instruments of sound production, whether acoustic or electronic, act exclusively as amplifiers of the emotional flow of the ritual put in place to get in touch with the supernatural forces around us.
Quite obviously, your band name refers to the initiatory order Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, which was active in late 19th century London. Which aspects of their history and activity caught your interest and lead you to use a variation of that name?
The hbol was born 4451 years ago from the split between clericalists and true adepts, between Thebes and Lux-or, implemented by the followers of the divine Grand Master Hermes Trimegistos. All the occultism of the West and the pagan religious rites of the ancient western nations are in debt with this ancient order. The hermetic initiates have not drawn anything from India: the apparent consonance between names, doctrines and rituals of Hindus and Egyptians, far from showing that Egypt drew its own doctrine from India, instead reveals how the main themes of the respective doctrines derive from the same source; and this original source is not India or Egypt, but the lost island of the West.
This ancient island is Sardinia. Many studies now converge on the hypothesis that the legendary island of the towers narrated by Plato, beyond the columns of Hercules is precisely our land. We feel the ancient depositaries of this tradition. Come to Sardinia to see our megaliths, our sacred sites, the most ancient statues of the Mediterranean, drink our wine, see our carnival and you will understand.
When you compare your recording processes to your concert performances, which of the two activities do you think is closer to the essence of your group?
Absolutely our most intimate rituals. It is very difficult to reproduce the same dimension live but not impossible.
Concerts with a ritualistic content or atmosphere often suffer from some “rock” or “pop” context in which they take place, or in other words: chattering, cheering people and cigarette smoke can sometimes destroy the aura of occult music. What would you say is the ideal mood for a listener or attendant to still benefit from it?
It depends on many factors, and not only on the listener’s predisposition. There are, as you said, many elements of disturbance in the custom of the “rock” locations and we ourselves aren’t often indifferent. This can negatively affect a performance. The success is a set of concauses very difficult to manage. To join our music fully, it is sometimes necessary to take a long journey: a true initiation.
Your latest studio work “Anacalypsis” has an intense atmosphere and appears to me as a very dense narrative – creating tension first, then coagulating something together and bringing it to a final eruptive climax. It’s title, a term that was used in various esoteric teachings, refers to a revelation. Which were your main ideas behind the album and how did you experience its creation process?
The album is inspired by the homonymous book by Godfrey Higgins. A long disquisition on the origin of languages and religions. A millennial human journey made of infinite visions, divinities, rituals that rise up, condense, sublimate, shatter, vaporize, born from nothing, becoming everything and finally return to the primitive chaotic element. The pure essence of an act of instinctive procreation that drives us to live every day. The esoteric meaning of Anacalypsis is one not as a hidden revelation but always in front of our eyes in its simplicity. It seems absolutely presumptuous, but it is what we try to communicate through our sounds. Whether we succeed or not, must be decided by those who have the desire to listen to it.
In a video from 2012 you perform with Simon Ballestrazzi at a Carnival in Ottana, Sardegna, accompanied by a group of masqued actors interpreting mythical characters. What kind of traditional ritual do you perform there, and do you feel a strong connection to the ancient local myths?
Actually the ritual performance entirely conceived and realized by us took place in the archaeological site of Tamuli, one of the most important ones in the territory of Macomer. It consists of three tombs of the giants with the characteristic shape of a bull’s head, six phallic stones, three of which are androgynous, because they have female breasts, and a nuraghe surrounded by incubating huts. A site dating back to the 3rd millennium BC, where important fertility and death rituals took place. Ottana’s Boes and Merdules: the traditional masks of the Barbagia country have combined their Dionysian ritual of ancestral relationship between man and animal to our music only for this particular occasion. It was a unique experience to relate our modern musical research to our most archaic traditions in a strongly magical and sacred place. This is the ideal dimension to fully enjoy our essence.
Some of your recordings are credited to be mixed and produced at Nasprias Cave, a place somewhere in Sardegna. Is this a real place, and what does it symbolize for you?
Nasprias Cave is the magical place where we live. It’s an old house built on ancient stones and made by stones of the country, near Macomer, full of vineyards, olive groves, nuraghi, menhir, dolmen, tombs of the giants. Simply our land. Our only great inspiration. Our Mother.
Besides familiar electronic and acoustic devices, you also work with self built instruments like a “Sacred Horse Skull”. What can you tell us about this instrument? Is it inspired by a certain tradition?
The sacred horse skull is born naturally and without planning. I found him in a repopulating aviary of the Sardinian vulture. Completely scarified. The vulture goddess was venerated as the mother goddess of regeneration, because in antiquity the deceased were exposed to the open air to be ritually fleshed out; the white bones, a sign of rebirth, could then be buried. Practice also diffused in Sardinia. Do the towers of the Tibetan silence remind you of something? In any case I used it first as a percussion instrument, and then subsequently not fully satisfied I added some strings using the handle of an old Arabian violin that fits perfectly into the recess of the spine. In the following years, doing some research, I discovered that Leonardo Da Vinci had conducted studies on the acoustics of animal skulls (first harmonic cases in history) and considered the horse skull as the best one. The Mongolian igil originally had to be built with a real horse skull, but it has kept its symbol in the shape of the handle and in the use of horsehair for the strings and the bow. I have come to the construction of my instrument before knowing this information. Our ancestral DNA evidently contains a myriad of information that must be known to re-emerge through a particular psychic processes.
The question mainly concerns the song “Phantams of the Living”. At the end of the 800, the Society for Psychical Research gave life to a series of scientific studies on paranormal phenomena, opening the way to what will later become modern psychoanalysis. “Phantasms of the Living” by Podmore, Myers and Gurney is in particular a collection of documented cases concerning phenomena of xenoglossia, glossolalia, trance breathing, possessions, clairvoyance. The study is based on a new approach to spiritualism, which believes that ghosts are not so much those of the deceased but rather those of people in the flesh. We have used authentic samples in the song to refer to the most famous cases in order to create a concentrate of mental energy in an attempt to channel it into a ritual and liberating invocation.
In some earlier statements you mentioned the religious historian Mircea Eliade, mainly his works on Shamanism, and the theater concepts of Antonin Artaud as some main influences on how you work. Which aspects of their ideas are interesting for you, and in which way do their concepts fit together?
As we have already said, our approach to music is far from any recreational use, but more inherent to the sphere of the sacred. Antonin Artaud was one of the pioneers of ethnobotany research, just think of his “Journey to the Country of the Tarahumara”, before he continued his journey in an attempt to bring the theater back to its original condition: ritual, religious and shamanic. Since the dawn, the purpose of the theater was to get in touch with the divine. Artaud’s “cruelty” brings us back to a dimension that is not merely representative and fictional but precisely to the “raw” reality of what happens in the theatrical act. Eliade in his “The Shamanism and the Techniques of Ecstasy” highlights and offers us endless possibilities to realize this perspective given by the ancient religion.
The rituals of Sardinian Carnival are emblematic in this sense, because they stage, albeit with small variations, the annual killing of the sacred King. When the mask is worn, the animal spirit truly takes possession of the human being and leads it fully. This is not a staging. This really happens.
Do you – also in regards to Artaud’s ideas of a rather physical Theater of Cruelty – think that language can be a dead end street in many quests for knowledge and experience?
In the sense that it is an obligatory path, a difficult and tiring road full of obstacles and pitfalls that can lead, as in the case of Artaud himself, to self-destruction and death, but the only possible way. There is only the narrow way. No shortcut. The Artaudian parable is the same as those of many men who have traveled before and after. As he himself said “I am all the names of History”. He was a predestined one. A shaman. A medicine man. A Christ. A sacred King. A man sacrifice. A human being.
In The Wire, the reviewer linked your music to Italian Horror cinema. As you work with multi media, I can guess that there is some influence of that kind. Is there some style in film history or some particular movie(s) that have strongly influenced you?
Cinema is definitely one of our greatest sources of inspiration. If we have to think of real Italian influences we can not fail to mention Pasolini, Carmelo Bene, Cavallone, Corrado Farina, Schifano, Cipri and Maresco and all the surrealist and Dadaist cinema of the beginnings, by which we were inspired to creating our film “La Rivolta di Iside”. The horror strand has fun and interests us for some experimental solutions, but nothing more.
The series called “Ethnographics” is a concert recording, where the sujet is found later. At the end, topics of civilization, from psychiatry to mass entertainment and beyond, seemed always quite dominant. Are these things that you have a critical interest in, and what can you tell us about the connection to the records?
Every job is always the snapshot of a particular moment in our life. Our literary, cinematographic, anthropological, philosophical passions at that moment merge alchemically and fall out in the form of sound waves. Everything takes shape in a very natural way and is made up of countless pieces launched at a mad speed on the magnetic canvas. Only at the end we move away from the picture to observe it from the outside, and we realize that it has a fully completed form. That all your seemingly senseless gestures inevitably lead you to the creation of something that comes to life and no longer belongs to you. We simply lend our energies to the chaos of creation. This is everything we are experiencing.
After the release of “Anacalypsis” and “Ethnographics III” you played live with Hermetic Brotherhood and other projects. Which are the endeavors you are up to in the nearer future?
Soon there will be an ep of MSMiroslaw entitled “Les Organes de la Voix”, inspired by the archaic vocal traditions of the peoples and as soon as there will be the ideal astral conditions we will record a new ritual of HBOL with the aid, not of one, but of two sacred horse skulls. For the rest it is about continuing to survive and fight daily on our magical but tormented Sardinia.
We thank African Paper for the interest shown in our work and for the chance to introduce us to your readers.
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