MODERN MUSE 06 - Ena Dahl
On the eve of the last full moon, we were graciously invited into the home of the multifaceted Berlin-based writer Ena Dahl who in her work focuses on uniting topics of sexuality and spirituality. In her enchanting Kreuzberg apartment, we spoke intimately with her about the unexpected journey becoming the woman she is today, then we all ventured into the woods to catch that magic summer evening light and embrace our wildness during the golden hour.
Ena Dahl is wearing the Ade Velkon Boho Dress in Midnight Blue.
Who is Ena Dahl?
Wow! What a way to start. [Long pause. Laughter] Who is Ena Dahl?
I mean, she is me. I am her. At the same time, she represents parts of me that I longed to express and I didn’t for a long time — or perhaps never fully.
Ena Dahl started as a pen name that I adopted because I had things I wanted to say, stories to tell, and there was a sense of comfort in speaking without attachment to my past.
May I ask what led to that specific name combination?
I wanted something short and to the point, that felt significant to me, and that at the same time had a certain aesthetic.
I derived Ena from my guardian goddess Inanna, spelled with an E, and Dahl, without the h, means valley where I’m from. My personal story mirrors Inanna’s descent to the underworld, to the valleys. My name references that, and my ongoing exploration of my shadow side.
Your focus recently shifted. In what seemed like from one day to the next, you went from working over a decade in visual communication to writing full-time. What inspired this change?
Looking back, it’s been an ongoing process over many years. As a designer, I’ve always edited my client’s text, simply because I couldn’t create good design with bad copy. It’s all vital to communication. My clients appreciated this and started hiring me for this as well.
Next to this, I worked on my own design blog for years. When I split with my creative partner, a PR communications writer, my only viable option was to write myself. So I did.
A perfectionist, crafting text was hard labor at first, but as I kept going, the words started to flow more easily and I began to enjoy this part of the process. I discovered my ability to paint imagery with words.
Ena Dahl is wearing the Maria Morgana Selene Slip Dress in Pearl.
Were you already writing stories at that point?
No, I hadn't written anything longer than a few hundred words since university. It wasn’t until after a major life-upheaval that involved leaving a long, toxic relationship, that I really started to write. That entire experience just opened up so much in me.
I do remember that well! And during this time you also started taking voice lessons, right?
Yes! I couldn’t hold it back and I needed to use my voice. Synchronistically, I’d just reconnected with an amazing performer who happened to be offering singing lessons.
Each time, after leaving her place, I felt like I’d just been through some kind of intense psychotherapy: I was exhausted both physically and mentally from the deeply uncomfortable exercises she made me do. She asked me to sing from my gut and move the sound up through my body, my throat, forehead, and out the top of the head.
Wow, she actually made me sing through all of my chakras. I can’t believe I never saw that until now!
It sounds as if she was essentially having you do energy work without calling it that.
Yes, at that time I didn’t realize that what I was doing, through multiple avenues, was healing my throat chakra. I was subconsciously, yet tirelessly unblocking what had been clogged for a very long time.
I was breaking a habit of holding myself back, in catering to other people’s comfort zones and expectations, a habit that had evolved from childhood, but then got amplified throughout my last relationship. I needed to free myself and I sensed that the way was through my voice.
Ena Dahl is wearing the Maria Morgana Selene Slip Dress and Venus Wrap Skirt both in Onyx.
With your past work, your job was to help others tell their stories. But, then the tables turned and the focus shifted to telling yours — and a very personal one at that.
Yes. I’ve always been artistic and working in the creative field, but I never allowed myself to be an artist.
I remember the feeling of bursting with oh my god, I have all this ‘stuff’ coming out! I had so much energy; a fire burning from my core that I didn’t know what to do with. There was this urge to scale buildings and scream from the top of my lungs.
So while one chapter was coming to an end, it seems as if a whole new world was opening up for you, a world of inner exploration. Aside from the voice lessons, what were other tools you used to nurture and understand this experience?
I started by writing a ton of letters—to everyone. I still find this a valuable therapeutic process; to write letters that I never even send. Most of the time it’s not even about needing the other person to understand, and often they wouldn’t even be receptive to it. I’ve tried sending them too, and that didn’t always go over well… Those were the times when I saw that the letters were more for me than anything.
I have folders full of unsent letters, to my father, everyone in my family, friends, exes, lovers…
Did you ever write a letter to yourself?
Yes, I’ve definitely written a few things to my younger self. Often they float into stories where I, again and again, recount experiences to understand. I did that a lot to grapple with my last relationship and what happened before, during, and after it ended. Each time I go back, it takes me further, deeper. I start seeing patterns and discover actions and reactions as pendulums—or spirals:
“Oh, this actually relates to my high school boyfriend… oh, and that goes back to my father…” and so on. “Oh, here I was trying to find the opposite of what I was raised with, but, here we are, repeating the same stuff—just trying to mend that damn father-wound.”
This is another huge theme for me; wanting and needing acknowledgment from the masculine figure in my life, but instead, feeling let down, unseen and unheard.
Ena Dahl is wearing the Ade Velkon Blouse Dress in Black.
It seems like the topics you focus on are pretty varied. Would you say there are any overarching themes?
At first glance it might look like I’m all over the map, moving between healing, feminist issues, and mental health to sexuality, erotica, and then to spirituality and the esoteric. To me, all of those are connected. One key discovery I made in the last years is the intrinsic connection between spirituality and sexuality and the innate power women possess. Women have been told to hold back, to hide, and to shelter people from this power under the guise that it’s for our own protection. But, the truth is that the empowered woman is a threat, especially to organized religion and the patriarchy as a whole. The oppression of women is fear-based self-preservation!
When we touch the place in our lives where sexuality and spirituality come together, we touch our wholeness and the fullness of our power, and at the same time our connection with a power larger than ourselves
I recently came across this quote by Judith Plaskow and it encompasses a lot of what I aim to do through my work; to draw this connection between spirituality and sexuality. Libido is life-force, which encompasses our creative energy as well as our divine nature. It’s all one and the same thing–it’s wholeness.
Ena Dahl is wearing Ade Velkon.
You mentioned that to someone not yet familiar with your writing, there might be a sense of polarity. Right now, as you know, we are in the sign of Gemini, which aside from being associated with all things communication, is also a sign that is connected with the notion of duality. In what way does this relate to your work or personal life?
This is another huge one for me!
I’ve invested far too much energy compartmentalizing; feeling like I’m too much and somehow it all doesn’t fit together. The control-freak in me needs to manage people’s impressions by presenting more manageable, bite-sized portions of myself. I suppose we all do to some extent, especially through social media. But, I got so tired of self-curating.
This played a part in choosing to write using a pseudonym; to have a clean slate and the freedom to express it all from a place of wholeness.
A red thread for me is the idea of being allowed and allowing myself to be a whole woman, such as a mother and a sexual being at the same time. My fascination with the Madonna-whore dichotomy also has roots back to growing up in a part-puritan Christian family and being told and shown what is and isn’t acceptable as part of woman- and motherhood. I was told from an early age, “oh you don’t do that” or “that’s not you!”, “you’re too smart, too rational, etc”. But, inside, I thought “well, what if it is me, and what if I’m not those things?” and “maybe I don’t want to be rational all the time?”
What if I’m not who you tell me I am?
Exactly! Being told who you are and what you should be is a very clever and covert form of manipulation. Parents do it all the time, and most likely it was done to them. But, in fact, it’s blackmail—it’s a form of emotional abuse.
With good intentions, maybe?
Yes, I think it typically comes from a place of wanting the best for someone. But on sensitive, empathetic, and people-pleaser types it adds a huge burden and so much guilt. You’ll try to be the person you’re told that you are, with the belief that you have to, in order to be loved and accepted. This encourages hiding the sides of yourself that don't match those expectations.
Allowing ourselves to be multifaceted and embracing polarities; to allow our darkness and our wildness to exist alongside everything else is at the core of my work.
Ena Dahl is wearing the Ade Velkon Boho Dress in Midnight Blue.
Among your regular articles, you also do a moon circle series. As you know we’re big moon lovers here at AVMM, so we are of course curious to learn more about what this is all about. Why is this something you include alongside everything else?
The moon is the embodiment of multifacetedness and wholeness in one. And as women, we’re intrinsically connected to the moon, which is something I’ve been feeling stronger as I have gotten older. Especially becoming a mother and going off hormonal birth control has allowed me to become more in touch with myself and my cycle. All of this goes hand in hand with what I can only describe as a great awakening of the self, which started over three years ago. I was intrigued by astrology and the cycle of the moon before but never felt the connection in the way that I do now.
The last few years I’ve also built much stronger relationships with other women. The admiration and love I have for my friends in this strong female community is everything! The moon circle, both online and as a physical meet-up at my place, is a way for me to connect deeper with both my virtual and real-life community as well as with the changes happening within.
Your guided rituals always feel so gentle and inviting and the soundscapes are a great compliment. Where did those come from?
Thank you! The playlists are just another form of storytelling and one that offers a lot of room to be playful through setting a specific mood with sound or creating found poetry from song titles and lyrics. I’ve always been a curator of sorts, mixing many different elements to tell stories, from words and images to interiors, sounds, smells—whatever devices I have available.
Ena Dahl is wearing the Maria Morgana Selene Slip Dress in Pearl.
There’s a playfulness to your work and you often use humor, even when writing about serious topics. Is this intentional?
This happens very naturally and I don’t always intend to be funny. I’ve written stories of emotional abuse on Medium that have been featured in the humor and satire tags. I do think humor is an important tool in dealing with almost anything when done sensibly. It can be healing.
Are there any areas of storytelling you have yet to explore which you are curious about?
I would, of course, love to publish a book—or books. For now, I'm planning a few collaborations combining photography with my words and poetry into book-form. And, just this week, I signed to the Berlin-based publisher Berlinable, so soon I'll be a published erotica writer! And I have a "secret" dream to translate some of these stories to the screen…
Also, I’ve said for a long time that I want to do a stand-up comedy set and this is still on the list. I love to perform, a lot, even though it scares me the most! It’s the ultimate giving up of control because you can’t edit yourself in a live performance. I always performed as a child and was really outgoing. In my choir, I’d sing as loud as I could and take every solo I could get. I loved using my voice.
So, even at a young age, you had a desire to be heard?
Yes! A strong childhood memory of myself is standing on the swingset, swinging as high as I could, and singing at the top of my lungs without a care in the world. Later came the shame and guilt and the idea that I wasn’t good enough or deserving of attention, so I pulled back.
It sounds as if you’re returning to that original state of innocent authentic self-expression.
For sure! I’ve written this memory down many times when stating and meditating on my intentions. It’s a part of me I’ve actively sought to return to. In the end, it all connects; using my voice, daring to speak without guilt and fear, opening the throat chakra, and freeing the Self.
And, I write, not only to express myself because it feels good but to communicate and relate to others. Having an audience is necessary for me because I want discourse, rather than yelling into the void. Writing on Medium has been incredibly validating; to meet others with shared experiences and find kinship. I doubt I could have kept writing for the past nine months had I not experienced this feeling of connection with people from all over the world.
In the end, the greatest measure of success for me is hearing that my words move or help others in some way. That makes everything worth it.
This interview was conducted by Molly McDonnell, AVMM’s owner and founder and long time friend of Ena Dahl.
Ena Dahl is a Berlin-based storyteller and artist/muse. Steeped in sensuality her writing, whether fiction, erotica, poetry, or essays, seeks to unit sexuality and spirituality and instigate alchemical healing on a quest for wholeness to ignite the wild (two)man. To read more of her words visit her Medium page at http://medium.com/@enadahl