Interview with Gwendolyn Taunton
Gwendolyn Taunton/Gwendolyn Toynton - is a writer and have written on a variety of topics, prose, horror fiction, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mythology, paganism and philosophy. She has been awarded for literary excellence in 2009 in New Zealand. We have conducted an interview with her
What were your achievements in the writing field? How did you feel upon receiving the literary award?
I have an extensive history in regards to writing. The first item I had published was my poem ‘Love Under Will’ in the ‘New Zealand Collection of Poetry and Prose 2002’. Following this I abandoned poetry and fiction for a long time, concentrating instead on topics such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism, Shamanism, Mythology and Philosophy. In 2005 I decided to collate my works into a periodical which was titled ‘Primordial Traditions’ – named after a term in Perennial Philosophy. Most of the content was initially written by me and the best articles were later assembled into a book entitled ‘The Primordial Traditions Compendium 2009’.
The story doesn’t end here however, as the book went on to win the Ashton Wylie Award for Literary Excellence in 2009 – this is one of the largest literary awards in New Zealand with a cash prize of $10,000 - which was presented by the Mayor of Auckland. Because of this I went from total obscurity into the world of professional authors in less than a day. I was of course immensely grateful to receive this award for my work on spirituality and philosophy, and especially to the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust and the New Zealand Society of Authors who made everything else possible. I had actually expected to lose because I was competing against university professors and established writers. This was a period of dramatic change for me and afterwards I decided to concentrate more on this line of work than on my other employment in web and software development.
How many books have you written so far? Could you tell us a little more about the last two titles?
So far I have written the following books: The Primordial Traditions Compendium 2009, Northern Traditions, Mythos: The Myths and Tales of H. P. Lovecraft & Robert E. Howard, Mimir and Melpomene. There was a long hiatus between my books following the first one due to a series of severe earthquakes which struck Christchurch (New Zealand) in 2011- 2012. Northern Traditions was put together in the wake of a 7.0 earthquake, which made writing somewhat more difficult as I was also working full time in another job. A sixty hour working work with earthquakes is not conducive to creativity. Following an even nastier earthquake six months later, I decided that it would be best to relocate. Only after I left New Zealand and settled in South Australia have I been able to write unimpeded. Mimir and Melpomene are therefore the only two books I have been unable to fully devote myself to in recent years.
Mimir is actually the sequel to my first book Northern Traditions, and is an ongoing periodical dealing with North European Spiritual Traditions and Mythology. With the first book, the title Northern Traditions was too broad and confused some people as to its content – so it was retitled Mimir: Journal of North European Traditions. Northern Traditions wasn’t quite the book I had intended it to be due to the earthquakes – with the second edition, Mimir, the content has been reformed and it contains articles of a much higher quality. Melpomene is a return to my roots as a fiction writer. What makes this book special to me is the fact that it contains a piece I composed over a decade ago and had been saving for a special occasion. “The Dance of Kali” is a work of esoteric/philosophical/surrealist fiction which is heavily inspired by Nietzsche, Rimbaud and a variety of mythological sources. Essentially it draws parallels between the cosmic drama of Time and the abstract values of Truth and Beauty, describing them through an initiate’s psychological journey towards enlightenment.
In addition to this Melpomene contains other outstanding work by highly talented poets and writers such as Azsacra Zarathustra , Bernardo Sena, Math Jones, James WF Roberts, J Karl Bogartte and C. B Liddell to name but a few.
Were there less and less readers who are reading about mythology or are the numbers increasing as the society gets more modernized? Do you think there is a co-relation?
This is an interesting question, and I do think that numbers are increasing. In regards to modernization there is definitely a link as a lot of people are seeking a more green/environmentally aware approach to living and a less anthropocentric world view. Another aspect of interest in mythology and spirituality is that a lot of people are seeking alternatives to the mainstream Western Traditions. So whilst part of the revival comes from urban living, there is another level of deep cultural dissatisfaction – especially within the young. A lot of them feel vulnerable and are disappointed with the economy, employment prospects and continuing global conflict. They feel alienated due to having less wealth than previous generations and look to other belief systems where the worth of an individual is not equated with personal wealth. The rise of numbers with people interested in spirituality seems to be increasing as people lose faith in the financial, political and corporate sectors.
What are your favorite philosophical quotes about life?
Amor Fati; I trust the hands of fate. I find this attitude to be positive and life-affirming. One must accept who and what one is. Friedrich Nietzsche says it best: “I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: someday I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”
Are you personally a follower of paganism?
I consider myself to be Hindu and Pagan. Both Hinduism and Pagan Traditions arise from a common source in history. Had Paganism been allowed to persist in Europe, it would have followed the same path of development as Hinduism. This may sound radical to some people, but there is a lot of common ground between Hinduism and Paganism – both are polytheist and tend to incorporate a harmony with their natural surroundings, and even linguistically many of the words and names come from the same etymological sources. So I see no dichotomy in being both a Hindu and a Pagan, because the two Traditions have more in common than they have points of difference. First and foremost though, I am a Perennial Philosopher – which means that I essentially believe in the unity of all spiritual paths, and that religious freedom should be left as a matter of personal choice. There are no correct paths and no wrong paths. There are only appropriate paths.