Danica, a.k.a. D. JoAnne Swanson, is a freelance non-fiction writer and proofreader, polytheist monastic-in-training, bibliophile, feminist, animist, tea aficionado, dark fusion dancer, small business owner, and CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) of The Black Stone Hermitage. She has identified as a Pagan for over 20 years, and as a Heathen devotee of the frost giantess and Norse deity Skaði (Skadi) since 2004.
[Her name is pronounced “DAH-ni-ca” (it rhymes with Monica), not DAN-i-ca.]
She is one of the founding members of LANMIPP (Loosely Affiliated Network of Monastically Inclined Polytheist Pagans), a co-administrator of the much-loved Pagan & Polytheist Monasticism discussion and support group on Facebook, the founder of the #I Stand With #HavamalWitches Heathen feminist solidarity group, and the overseer of the BIG Polytheist Patreon Creator Pledge Network.
She is best known under the name D. JoAnne Swanson as the founder and rabble-rouser-in-chief of Rethinking the Job Culture and its now-dormant predecessor project, Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery (CLAWS) at whywork.org, originally launched in 1998. CLAWS is recognized as an authoritative source on the Wikipedia entry for “refusal of work,” although she’d prefer “critique of coercive wage labor” instead.
Her in-progress book manuscript for this project is On The Leisure Track, a personal narrative about decolonizing time, creating a culture of leisure, unlearning the Protestant work ethic, and abolishing the coercion that takes place when people have no viable alternatives for meeting their basic survival needs other than selling their time to employers. A supporter of unconditional basic income for everyone since the mid-1990s, she has yearned all her life for a world beyond “earning a living” – a world in which all artists (and others who do unpaid work) could be freed up to use their gifts and do the work they do best on their own terms, rather than contorting themselves into day jobs to pay the bills while their art is forced into the margins of their lives.
Danica is also a respected and sought-after expert on dark ambient music and culture. Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture is her other in-progress book manuscript. It will feature interview material from over 30 dark ambient musicians, label owners, and fans.
In 2006 Danica launched her solo devotional dark fusion dance project, Shrine of Skaði, inspired by “music you can’t dance to” – dark ambient. As a mystic, she believes strongly in the power of dance – especially bellydance! – as a form of contemplative practice and embodied epistemology. After an injury sidelined her dance projects in 2016, she is now healed and is taking steps toward building a collaborative sacred dance practice in her local Heathen community.
In 2015 she launched another solo dance project, Drinking The Tears of the Earth, to provide an outlet for ecological and ancestral grief through lamentation dance. Being born and raised as an American in an ecocidal settler colonialist culture – in lands inhabited by the angry spirits of indigenous peoples who continue to suffer and die at the hands of a genocidal overculture – and finding no safe place to express the kind of embodied grief she carried about it, she turned to mournful dance to open the way toward wisdom and healing.
She figured out that she was a writer, artist, and dancer when she was quite young, but the US with its extreme capitalist oligarchy is a difficult place to be an artist of any sort. The climate of the dominant culture is mostly hostile to the arts; the job culture is oppressive and stressful, with most people overworked or desperate for jobs; employment is increasingly precarious and poorly paid; housing is overpriced; there is widespread contempt for the poor; and the health “care” system is exorbitantly expensive, with overcrowded and understaffed facilities, leaving millions of people to suffer and die. And conventional full-time employment became untenable for her, due to health restrictions. So she proceeded in fits and starts, taking many twisting paths, until she received the vision of the Hermitage and finally found her niche in 2011. Through Patreon – the first crowdfunding platform that allows creators to operate on a gift model – she is now working toward sustainable community-supported hermitage through solidarity and mutual aid.
She traces her maternal Swedish ancestors to rural Östergötland and Småland, and is a self-taught student of the Swedish language. She has been preparing for a pilgrimage to Sweden since 2007, and her first trip to Sweden is coming up in November 2017. When the time is right, she hopes to leave the US and find a permanent home for the Hermitage in the motherlands of her Swedish ancestors; she plans to explore labyrinths and sacred sites connected to Heathen deities, do genealogical research, enjoy the northern winters, and continue to work toward empowerment of women, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQIA+ people. When she succeeds in relocating to Sweden, she has vowed to design, build, and tend a subterranean shrine room for Skaði there – including acoustically resonant space for deep listening, meditative dark ambient music, cairns and a stone altar, a space for sacred dance and yoga, and religious hospitality services for visitors through her Paths of Sacred Endarkenment retreat project. Not for nothing has she been called “Skaði’s PR department” by her fellow Pagans.
Her formal university education includes an Associate of Arts degree in dance, two honors baccalaureate degrees with majors in psychology and philosophy, and a post-baccalaureate certificate in accounting. However, in hindsight she decided that the best thing about her college years was her initiation-by-magic-mushroom while listening to Skinny Puppy (and a little later, Lustmord), an experience that kindled her abiding love of industrial music and brought her into the gothic-industrial community for life. As a book nerd and self-motivated lifelong learner interested in decolonizing her life and work, she much prefers autodidactic pursuits.
For five years she was the hearth witch in charge of Black Stone Home Service, an eco-friendly housekeeping and home organizing business specializing in serving clients with allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivities. She views housekeeping as a form of devotional and magical practice deserving of greater respect (and good wages!), and considers manual labor an important component of her monastic home-and-hearth path of service. During these years her standard (honest!) answer to intrusive questions about what she did for a living was: “I’m a professional witch. I do Earth magic with a broom.”
Now she is a full-time writer – she makes her living by day as a freelance copywriter for a higher education website, and works on her own creative projects by night.
A sun-avoider and lover of grey skies, cold weather, and dark enclosed spaces, she embodies the goth stereotype by seeking subterranean shelter in the summertime to escape the heat and sun (“that big hurty thing in the sky”), so she has no plans to return to the tropical climate in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where she was raised. She has lived in many US cities, and in North Vancouver, BC, Canada for two years. After a failed permaculture ecovillage attempt and a devastating divorce burned her old life to the ground in 2007-2008, she slowly and painstakingly built a new life in Portland, OR, with the assistance of many people and a few good turns of fortune (e.g., the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion in Oregon). She now enjoys a simple life as a non-parent and non-driver in a haven of Cascadian solitude – made possible only by a web of thriving community relationships, human and non-human.
She can often be found sipping pu-erh or lapsang souchong (her all-time favorite tea) or seeking solace and communion in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, where she gathers aromatics from her beloved conifers, and appreciates the lush mosses and lichens. She has a special affinity for Red Spruce, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Western Redcedar.
She lives by the hands of the deities and spirits in all of her endeavors.
Words from others:
“…the work she’s doing…is unique and it is of immense value to us as polytheists.”
~ Lo, of rotwork
“…a dark ambient guru…”
“…one of North America’s leading fans and experts on dark ambient music…”
“…hotly tipped by ID:UD contributor and dark ambient guru Danica Swanson, so that’s good enough for us…”
“…few folks are better positioned to discuss that most reclusive of genres…”
“…there are few people on the planet who have Danica’s knowledge of or passion for that most stygian and contemplative of genres…You couldn’t pick a better guide through some of the lesser known underground lairs and cosmic reaches of the genre, so put on your druid cloaks and grab your chisels and stone tablets…”
~ I Die: You Die music magazine
“…Our first guest contribution from the wonderful Ms. Danica Swanson of The Black Stone Hermitage…”
~ Heathen Harvest Periodical
“The world’s biggest dark ambient fan…”
~ Abby Helasdottir of Gydja
Find Danica elsewhere on the web:
Bandcamp – fan profile, music collection, wish list, and lots of review comments
Playmoss – themed dark ambient playlists for the Chthonic Cathedral Project
Twitter – for both the Black Stone Hermitage and Rethinking the Job Culture
Medium – as Danica for the Hermitage and as D. JoAnne Swanson for RJC
MetaFilter – online community to which she has contributed since 2008
Duolingo – where she has been learning Swedish
Amazon wish list for the Hermitage
…and on Patreon, where she has two separate accounts for supporting each of her main projects – Rethinking the Job Culture and The Black Stone Hermitage.