As a brief introduction to those who don’t know you – who are you and what do you do?
I’m a controversial, renegade Canadian artist, poet and mystic. As a young man, I had mysterious mystical experiences which awakened me to a much deeper vision of life and art. Now I’m being honoured around the world, chiefly for my efforts to reclaim the sacred swastika and repackage the spiritual.
You are from Canada – What is life like there?
Canada is full of nice people but not much culture (indigenous culture suffers from annihilation) because we have all come from elsewhere and it takes centuries to build an identity. We play hockey and hang animal corpses on our living room walls.
What is your favorite color and why?
In my dreams I was always wearing yellow, driving yellow cars, finding yellow things. For me yellow is the colour of the lover, the source of life, illumination, when the soul is filled with inspiration and creativity and blessing.
What inspires you as an artist?
Spiritual experiences and dreams, beauty and truth.
What do you aim to achieve with your art?
I express a deep part of myself, so deep that it is no longer about the small “me” but about the inner self that belongs to all beings 卐
Swastika and things related
Your relationship to Swastika is a spiritual one. Tell us about the spiritual experience that got you started in this – what happened, where and when? What is the “Secret doctrine of the Holy Fuck” involved? How this experience changed your life?
At the age of 27, in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, 5 Feb 1965, in the Mountain View Motel, I went into a trance that night and my spirit soared up into what I call the Womb of the Sacred, where I was surrounded by fiery beauty and exciting power like rolling thunder. I thought I was dying and was extremely frightened until I surrendered to it and was drawn up into a radiant light that is the absolute formless being, the Self. I call it Secret Doctrine of the Holy Fuck so it doesn’t get confused with religion which our world suffers from. It was a state of love, ecstasy and oneness with the Nameless One.
I tried to tell my wife, my friends, my relatives, about this wonderful awaken in my soul. They edged away as if I had caught some terrible disease. A local priest told me I was insane and needed to turn myself in. I had walked away from church during my art school days and his words made me realize religion will never bring about such a creative experience. I decided I would be who I truly was even if the whole world shunned me as my friends were now doing. By the way, no drugs were involved in any of my experiences, which continued almost daily for a year.
Your artist name is ManWoman. In your videos Art talk and The real me was never born you talk about feminine aspect of Swastika and its importance. Does your artist name represent your spiritual work – effort to bring feminine and masculine energies together in a harmonious way?
During my visions all opposites melted into each other. In the dreams that followed, I was always both male and female and the dream people called me ManWoman. I was told this was my real name and I don’t need to tell you how I struggled with the idea of going through life with this name. It ruined my art career.
Swastika is evidently the most important symbol, spiritual symbol, to you. Are there some other symbols that are special to you? Why Swastika is the most important symbol to you?
My art is full of symbols, archetypes that point to an inner world which cannot be communicated but only hinted at. In dreams, the swastika became the symbol for that vortex of love and truth that embraced my soul in the Womb of the Sacred.
How would you describe your spirituality? What do you believe in? I’ve got an impression that you do not much appreciate formal religions, seeing that genuine spirituality should not (or could not) be put in strict boxes that formal religions are. I’ve got an impression that you have quite shamanistic basic touch in your spirituality with some buddhist influences – Am I correct?
I would say you could see many religions in my spirituality because I’m talking about the primal experience that all founders of all religions must have experienced. I’m very open ended and experimental. My initiation into it was through a shamanistic trance, although I had no teachers and this all came at me like a bolt from the blue. – pure without the baggage of tradition or scripture or doctrine.
Buddhism has no deity but the inner Buddha which is in us all – I like that. Hinduism has so many deities that everything is holy – I like that. My experiences can be compared to what Hindus call Kundalini Shakti – the release of the sacred feminine snake up the spine to levels or chakras of illumination. I like the Sufi way of honouring the sacred wherever it is found.
I detest all religions which use their god like a club to bully all others into submission to a set of stupid mindless beliefs and are willing to die for world domination of same stupid beliefs. So many perpetrators have “god” in their back pocket to justify their actions.
If you would meet the pope, Richard Dawkins, and Dalai Llama, what would you tell them?I had to Google Richard Dawkins – what person of intelligence seeing all the horrors and perpetration done by religion in our world wouldn’t choose to be atheist? I would tell the pope to kiss my ass. If he’s Christ’s representative on earth then I’m the Virgin Mary. I detest what has been imposed on the innocent and the gullible by the Catholic church. I like the Dalai Lama because he promotes loving kindness. It is cute that you spelled his name Llama like the animal from South America – soft and furry.
Ah, yes, I spelled that wrong, heh! In addition to your paintings and poetry you have also written three books. What are they about?
Gentle Swastika: Reclaiming the Innocence, a history of the worldwide uses of the swastika and my vision to restore it to its sacred purpose.
Homesick For Eternity, the autobiography of my awakening years, the trials, the bliss, the astonishment, illustrated by paintings of my visions.
Midnite Freak Show: Art, Poetry and Dangerous Mysticism, my poetry plus another series of paintings.
You have been called the father of Swastika reclaimationists. How do you feel about this? Did you get the call to start to work for reclaimation of Swastika immediately during the “Swastika experience” you had, or did that call develop gradually after the experience?
I believe I earned the title “father” of the Reclaim the Swastika movement the hard way with over 40 years of being tattooed with swastikas, teaching, networking, holding the hard place of opposing all the enormous prejudice against the swastika. And sometimes angry confrontations. It takes courage.
A wise old man with white hair, white beard, and white clothes, marked my throat in a dream and asked me to restore the swastika to its holy meanings. I nearly choked because I had Polish relatives taken to Auschwitz during the war. My mother said, when she sees a swastika, it cuts right through her. Still, I won her with the evidence I accumulated for a sacred swastika.Has the reclaimationist work become easier as we have got more distance from WW II – or has it stayed the same or even become more difficult as the West has become more “politically correct”?
Holocaust survivors and veterans of the war are dying off. The younger generation is looking for a cause and seeking a new world view, so yes, it is spreading beyond my expectations. Political correctness will never stifle this vision. Even young Jews are joining the cause.
As reclaimationists in general, you are not happy about what Nazis did with Swastika. This is evident for example from your videos To hell with Hitler and Sacred Swastika. How often people get upset from your Swastikas? Do people “get it” easily when you start to explain to them what Swastika is really all about?
I’m not comfortable with being called a reclamationist, which suggests a particular single group. There are many people who want to see the swastika restored – Native peoples in Canada and USA, Mayans, Western Buddhists, Western Hindus, various Pagan groups, the Tattoo community and worldwide youth and rock ‘n’ roll culture – it’s hard to put us all in one pot.
What have been the best things that have happened for Swastika reclaimationists during the last decades? The worst?My interview in RE/Search Modern Primitives reach a vast audience among the tattoo community, which helped the idea spread to many countries. Ongoing ignorance of the true meaning is the worst contributor. The release of the My Swastika documentary that started at the Tattoo Festival in Cobh, Ireland in 2010 will be another huge boost to public education. Since the Irish Festival, interviews with me have been published in magazines from UK, Ireland, France, Germany.
What does it tell about that Swastika is in the West still associated with Nazis? In addition to the obvious historical associations, are there some deeper level spiritual or other currents that are connected with this? Does this kind Western mentality involved with Swastika’s association with Nazis manifest some deep spiritual, cultural and other problems that we in the West are dealing with today? Or is this kind of question not meaningful, are those things not really connected?
What happened in WWII cannot be erased but brave people who choose to use the symbol for new or restored old meanings are what will really make a shift in the overall consciousness around the swastika. No one will remember WWII forever.
Think of the most sacred thing in your life
think of the most precious thing
and put the swastika into that place
Put the swastika into your heart.
Put the swastika on your altar.
Put the swastika on the image you use
to represent God, love, peace, or the cosmos.
Put the swastika on the thing that makes you happy.
You will begin to see what the swastika has meant to humans
over this entire planet for all of our human history.
For these places are exactly the places it occupied
for thousands of years until the Second World War,
when it fell victim to a chronic infection.
I say to hell with Hitler –
me and my friends are taking it back!
When the day comes that Swastika is reclaimed, what will that world be like? How it differs from today’s world?
The swastika exists in so many cultures, it is part of the collective unconscious as Carl Jung realized. We will be inwardly richer not having our most sacred sign stolen by an evil war. In the orient, the swastika has never been lost so this issue is mostly a problem for those nations touched by the Nazi regime.
You have a massive collection of Swastika related items in your Swastika Museum. What kind of items you have and how many items you have all in all? Is your Swastika Museum open to the public? Are there some special Swastika items you would like to get into your museum?My museum is just in my front room. People do drop in for a visit. It is not a formal museum. I have many drawers full, walls covered, filing cabinets and trunks – Victorian jewelry, turn of the century postcards, Navaho rugs, baseball caps, thousands of items. I have never counted them all. I have most of the important items. I’m not collecting more. In fact, I have been giving some away to my supporters. People can see some of the items on my YouTube videos.
Do you have any Nazi-Germany Hakenkreuzes in your collection or have you decided to not include them? Why yes or no?
When I first started in 1967 several people offered me Nazi stuff. I refused.
Later in 1985, three of my first swastika penpals and I met at the home of Carolyn O’Neil, the town historian of Swastika, Ontario, Canada. There was Douglas Youngblood from Chicago, a researcher, and Alfred Harbich, who called himself Guru Svastika, a German artist. We had many heated arguments about not including Nazi items. Carolyn and I did not want any Nazi items. The others argued for showing the complete history. We left with no agreement. I have none in my collection. My purpose was to create The Friends Of The Swastika and any tainted items would sabotage all my efforts.
You are part of the forthcoming documentary My Swastika. What kind of part you have in the documentary? What kind of hopes and expectations you have for the documentary?
I’m featured and interviewed about the visions and the long journey I have been on with the Swastika. I was guest speaker at two tattoo festivals in Ireland and also an underground music festival in Denmark where I showed slides and talked about the symbol. I believe this documentary will ignite an even bigger expansion to the save the swastika movement.
You took part to the 2nd Traditional Tattoo And World Culture Festival in Ireland this year. How was it? What kind of Swastika reclaimationist program and activities there were?
I have never used the term Reclamationist which is now being dubbed on us. This is a grassroots movement with no preconceived agenda. There were many playful swastikas, a swastika prayer ritual, swastika medicine wheel, swastika prayer flags and banners, swastika tattoos, swastika clothing, swastika cakes and cookies, swastika chocolate-covered marzipan handed out like communion wafers. My wife Astarté built a swastika-shaped garden in a small sacred grove where we did the prayer tie ceremony. All create by various individual with no organized plan. It was a Swastika Happening.
What is Swastika, that ancient sacred symbol, all about, in its core?
It speaks of the source of our being, our cycles of incarnation, transformation, celebration and enormous blessings 卐
What kind of plans you have for the future as an artist, as a Swastika reclaimationist?
I don’t really have plans. I’m networking with swastika people all over the globe. Sometimes the person who plants the seeds isn’t the one who reaps the harvest. I follow my vision and now it’s up to the Great Mystery to unfold it’s plans. I do not take credit for something that is inspired by the Spirit.
What makes you happy?
Being who I truly am without compromise or fear or common sense 卐
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Thank you for the interview, ManWoman! 卐