Six Questions to Six Heathen Hexologists and their Six Hexes
An excerpt from "Heiden Hexology, Essays and Interviews, 2012" by Hunter M. Yoder
Originally published in HEX MAGAZINE, Fall and Winter 2011, Issue 9
Questions by Hunter Yoder
Answers by Patricia Hall, Gloria Dillard Brown, Matthias Waggener, Sarah Elizabeth Smith Eppihimer, Amber Faith, and Jakob Brunner
1. What is your background and personal geography in relationship to Hexology ?
2.What magical significance if any do you attach to theses signs and their symbols?
3.Whose work has influenced your own?
4. What thoughts do you have regarding the use of the Runes, bindrunes, and other Germanic signs and symbols in Hexology?
5. Same question regarding Plants and Animals.
6. Anything else you would like to add?
I was born and raised in Pennsylvania of Austrian, Bavarian, Prussian and Polish stock. The Pa German side of the family, the Fritz’s, influenced the hex sign side of my work. The house was marked with a protecting rosette on the outside and had fraktur house blessings inside… The Austrian side of the family, the Reichert’s brought Heathenry and the Runes into my life at an early age as well. Add a little Polish witchcraft to the mix from my grandmother…and stir.
I am of the belief that everything has its own energy, directed or undirected by human intervention. Directive intervention may be imbued in the piece by a skilled maker, or it may attributed by an observer of any level. I tend to work with intent. Each piece has layers to it just like the mind…some will see purely an aesthetically pleasing piece at the surface level, some will feel an emotional pull of some kind, some will feel the intent, some will have a high awareness of the intent, some will not only be aware but be able to use the intent and so on. But all will have the intent imprinted on their subconscious mind. So, I am very careful and tend to use positive imagery for my public work.
Well, as far as this kind of artwork, I can honestly say all of the artists in this article and as well as several outside of this article have had an effect on me. Whether they are just trying this kind of work for the first time or have been at it for a while, the more we all do and share the more we influence each other. Everyone finds their own style and voice. It is a beautiful thing. And I must give a special nod to the traditionalists like Claypoole, Ott, and of course Milton Hill for his exquisite scalloping. And to all those Germanic folk artists whose unsigned work I have seen, in books, in museums, on tablecloths, paintings and woodcuts. And also my Austrian grandfather, Josef Reichert, who started me on the runes as part of created pieces when I was a little girl. He was a carpenter who carved the Armanen runes into some of his creations. What we are all doing now is an evolution of an art form that started with our ancestors and our progress with it is meant as a tribute to them.
Runes are a way of life for me so I only have a few pieces that do not incorporate a rune or runes in some way. I use single runes or bindrunes for specific purposes such as Health or Love in Marriage. A bindrune is made up of multiple runes whose individual attributes are energetically bound together for a specific purpose or intent as set by the maker.
I also like to incorporate the use of writing in some pieces. Writing may be done using runes or fraktur. Fraktur is a Germanic script named because of its broken or fractured appearance. The piece below illustrates this as it incorporates specific runic energy (Ingwaz rune) along with the magic of the Sator-Rotas square written in both fraktur and runes. This magic square was a favorite of the Pennsylvania German Hexes (witches) and had several uses. These uses are written in fraktur around the frame of the piece. In English, beginning at the top and moving clockwise, the uses are:
To Prevent Bad Luck
To Extinguish a Fire
To Banish a Fever
To Break a Curse
Plants and animals are an integral part of folk art and of my life. Folk, or the people’s art was done for decoration but also to keep in mind the things important to life and survival, plants for healing, crops and animals for nourishment and survival. All non-human life has a consciousness of its own in addition to any man-applied attributes and I use them to focus or strengthen intent. I have a piece based on a Polish tablecloth I once saw with two sets of out-facing roosters and one set of small in-facing birds. Roosters are for protection in the form of vigilance and the small birds represent love, friendship and loyalty.
What is interesting about any piece of art is that it is a construct shaped in unconsciousness and filled with energetic attributes and substance by consciousness. Everything carries signature energy and can be used to convey specific meanings that will resonate at some energetic level with an observer. Creation is life is creation.
Deitsch Hexerei, June 2011
Gloria Brown Dillard
My entire life I have been interested in and fascinated by circular geometry. I remember getting my first spirograph toy as a child and spending countless hours with it. When I was in elementary school I would trace the mandalas out of my dad's yoga books. Even as an adult before I discovered hex work I would spend lots of time doing Spirographs and using it as a type of meditation. After I graduated high school and my university plans didn't go as anticipated, I went to technical school for computer drafting. To get my certification, I had to complete a hand drafting course and I loved it. The intricate perfection and the attention to detail was just ideal for me. So as I got older and more interested in my family history, I learned from my maternal grandmother that we were Pennsylvania Dutch. I thought that meant our ancestors were from Holland until I started doing some research of my own. I came across some information on barn hexes and immediately bought a book. Luckily I still had my drafting supplies and I started drawing hexes on paper and coloring them with colored pencils and things just went from there. So, although I am in Texas, I love the Pennsylvania Dutch art and feel deeply connected to it. Plus, Hexes from Texas has a ring to it!
I think the sacred geometry of the circle speaks for itself and is evident in all cultures. Hex symbols in particular I believe to be highly magically charged with the intention of the artist. For myself personally, it is a wonderful form of meditation and can be close to trance work.
In the beginning, I was most influenced by Ivan Hoyt (he wrote the first book I purchased), Waldzauberer, and Swanhild. Lately I find myself moving more in the direction of Hunter Yoder’s, aka Frank Blank, work.
Almost every hex I do has at least one rune associated with it. I consider who the hex is for, what do they need? What intention do I want the hex to manifest? From there, a rune will usually present itself. As I work, sometimes the rune will change. Hex work is deeply meditative for me and I concentrate on the rune I'm using and often galdor as I work. There have been times when I have intended to use a rune for a particular piece, but as I have tried to really consider what the recipient of the hex needed in their lives, runes that I didn't initially intend seem to force themselves into my mind. I really believe the use of the runes massively strengthens the manifestation of the hex. This past Yule, I made my mother a hex to work the Banishment of Negative Influence in the Home. She had been in a terrible relationship with an abusive sub-human for 15 years...I gifted her the hex, and by February her life had changed and she is now happily pursuing divorce.
For the most part, all of my hexes so far have revolved around runic energy and elementals such as Earth, Fire, the Sun, Water, the Moon, etc.
I guess like most people practicing Hexology as a cultural expression, my background and link to the tradition stems from pedigree. Waggeners first came to Vinland at the beginning of the 17th century, and actually lived only a few hours from my present location of Lynchburg, Virginia. The name originates in Wageningen, Holland, and no doubt the family brought with it the knowledge of these mysterious barn paintings.
Although art and craftsmanship were highly valued and encouraged as I was growing up, my first encounter with Dutch mysticism was through a friend of the family during our time as Mennonites in Wyoming. She would relate her Hutterite mother’s “superstitions” and could oftentimes be heard speaking for hours in Deitsch- obviously, however, the Mennonite tradition was not my ultimate calling in life, and my next experience with Germanic occult practice came through the runes.
The runes turned into my first real esoteric pursuit. After years of working with them, as well as the creation of a great deal of art separate from any spiritual connection, I was privileged to meet the one and only Hunter Yoder, and was immediately intrigued not only by the beauty of his work, but also the complexity of the ideas behind them, a classic Germanic technique. I began asking questions and loving the answers, and have been working on developing myself through my work ever since.
In my opinion, magic is synonymous with intent. Intent is the seed of creation within the hexologist/magicians mind, signifying the willful mind’s reaction to need, forming and directing that energy into a physical manifestation that is living; born of one’s will and holding the prerequisite properties to take part in the creation of reality.
This requires a great deal of mental and physical focus, achieved time after time as I return to the original state of mind that was created during the works conception, and is held for each session until the work is done. On average, a piece will take me anywhere from 60 to 100 hours from start to finish, and generally consists of 3 to 4 layers of paint. It is that sustained and revisited mindset that is projected into the work, and every angle, numerical significance, pigment, medium, symbol and locale is a different representation of the initial intent. The resulting display is one of layered will, that will no doubt affect those who become aware of its existence, ingraining itself permanently into their consciousness.
As far as influences go, there is Hunter Yoder and Patricia Hall. I spent most of my first year studying their work and reading. I enjoyed their approach a great deal- I like to push the limits in everything I do, and feel like a found a real kindred spirit in Hunter. Their style is unique, while at the same time deeply immersed in traditional hexology at its core, making it a perfect touchstone with the past as well as an inspiration for innovation. There are also a large number of amazing Hexologists that frequent “the Backdoor Hexologist,” a list which any in the know should be aware of already.
The use of symbols, runes, etc. within a hex are just further tools to enact different aspects and specifications , as well as create ideological relationships among separate expressions. I view a hex much like a “kenning,” which Hollander explains as: “…a metaphorical expression that disguises its precise meaning until, through longer acquaintance, you arrive at the deeper insight it provides.” As with hexcraft, you have a product that requires deep understanding and knowledge to “de-code”, and the adding of runic symbols etc. allows them to become much more encompassing, as well as being more deeply layered and therefore more “hidden” and effective.
Plants and animals have always been a staple of traditional hexology. From the distelfink to the horse, oak and tulip, our ancestors attached deep significance to all living things in both their artwork and spiritual lives.. This makes them a sort of language of their own, in which the artist can speak to the perceiver. I like to use them in a classical fashion to pay homage to the style my ancestors used, that truly encapsulates the beauty that hexcraft can create.
True Love Birds Hex, 2011
Sarah Elizabeth Smith Eppihimer
I grew up in a Pa German town called Boyertown, and am of German, Swiss, and Polish descent. Along with my family’s heirlooms and hand-me-downs this is where I was first introduced to the Hexes and Pa Deitsch Fraktur. To this day Hex Sign’s are still found displayed on barns and homes in the surrounding area.
After I started gaining sincere interest in the magick behind Hexology, I began creating my own hex signs about 5 years ago. As the years have gone by I’ve seemed to develop my own style and particular accents, along with a better learned magical approach.
Typically, the significance of my signs may be as simple as good luck, or spiritual blessings or protection, but most of my work is done with a specific person or charm in mind. Each one has been personally made with a specific purpose.
A lot of my stylistic influence comes from some of the more well know artists in the area, Ivan E. Hoyt, and Jacob Zook, seeing as many of their works are more popular and were seen throughout my childhood. But almost immediately after I began designing my own signs I started to incorporate symbols from my own spiritual background, i.e. Runes.
Soon after, I met Hunter Yoder, and realized that there was a sort of resurgence of our Folk Art. As well as the traditional artists, Hunter has been an immense influence to me, especially with his rune work.
I think that the use of runes and bindrunes bring a far more spiritual and personal meaning to the signs for me. Even though many of the symbols used in Hexology are ancient symbols i.e. the rosette, the use of runes empowers and connects all the symbols together to possess even more spiritual energy, and reconnects them to even older traditions and/or our ancestors.
I believe that the use of plants and animals in Hexology is completely natural. If I were to make a Hex for my garden I would incorporate symbols for plants or leaves and probably use part of a plant/flower for the paint itself. And when I build my chicken coop you better believe I will have a Hex on the front with a big ol’ rooster on it!
I currently live in Bear Valley, Alaska and continue to design and carry on the traditions of my German ancestors, whether it is painting, crocheting, or making homemade spaetzle in my cabin in the woods with my wonderful husband!
Luck, Love, and Prosperity, November 2010
I was raised in a sleepy historic Ohio River town in Southern Indiana, founded in 1803. There was a dominant German-speaking population spread over four southern counties; like my mother and aunt, I was immersed from birth in a syncretic Antebellum Mason-Dixon Line-meets-Pfalz und Trier gestalt. There were hex signs on a few barns and houses and hex embroidery patterns for sale in the country stores. Most of the nearby German farming towns were founded by 1800s transplants from Pennsylvania. The Amish and Mennonites were farm neighbors also; but, they didn't like Hex signs.
German was a second language in Indiana until World War I and it could still be heard from St Meinrad to Loogootee and Darmstadt Indiana during the 1970s and '80s. As an only child in a multi-generational family of historians, artists and antique collectors, I learned many Pennsylvania Hex signs' meanings and the certainty that authentic German use of plant foods was "body medicine" -- from homebaked rye breads, home-processed turnip kraut "mit Kümmel" to the varied uses of hops, mint and camomile. We baked Springerle and Zimtsterne cookies, could sound-out Fraktur script, attended annual Germania Mannerchor urban fall festivals and rode our horses in the Bierstube and Ocktoberfest of many tiny rural towns.
My maternal grandfather was of primarily Lippe Detmold-Teutoburger Wald lineage. My known maternal line of mothers descend from a 'Maria Margarethe ?" a Pfalz-Bavarian-Swiss girl who married another Pfalz German-Swiss lad (JohannesTroxell) in 1700s Pennsylvania. Between endless genealogy and getting that mtDNA test, I may find "my source."
My families proudly descend from concentrated German heritage, and old French, Scottish, English, Irish and pre-Roman Welsh bloodlines. For six years, I lived in Wiltshire UK and Wales, and traveled in Germany with my then young-son, Siegfried.
Runes and our dynamic herzlichen Hex designs that flow from genetic memory are linked. The runes inform and mirror absolutely on chthonic levels. Their use and play within German half-timbered architecture, door frames and older Hex sign art -- and the new generation of Tru Hexology -- reveal the primary shamanic sensibility of "Seeing patterns" in order to work spiritually between the worlds effectively.
Since the 1960s, I've purposefully used runes in ancestral iconic paintings, drawings and fiberarts. From 1981 through 2003, I designed packaging, named and created botanical products for the once-famous AIRS Incense, a California company I co-created in 1981. During the early days of AIRS incense popularity, I was the first American Art Director to include Magickal Guides on the back of each fragrance label, including the runes, meaning and Old Gods & Goddesses associated with that particular botanical. In my own way, I was intentionally creating in order to honour our Ancestral Gods and heritage. Back in the 1980s, when someone would send AIRS corporate offices photos of their new tattoos based upon my runic and mythic illustrations ... I smiled. Something in them had resonated and responded to those little encrypted blessings. Well-crafted Hex signs work in a similar way. People see them and wish to have one on their wall or house for unknown reasons. It's what we do.
Regarding use of magical and meaningful symbols in art: Gustav Klimt, the Celts and Picts, Carl Larsson, Robert Graves, Carn Euny and the megalithic cultures of Britain and Europe; W.B. Yeats, Leah Bodine Drake, Mary Webb; the entire Arts & Crafts Movement, Edred Thorsson; European prehistoric textile arts and embroidery and worldwide tribal tattoos.
As well -- Tibetan thangkas, ancient Hindu-Vedic iconography; Sumi-e & haiku; Saami and Sarmatian artifacts; the Mousterians, Magdalenians, Beaker Cultures, Hallstatt I & II, Solutreans and countless Danish shell middens.
(Hexes) can be uplifting, protective and very powerful, when created intentionally.
There may be moral drawbacks for Hexology fans with a need to 'sanitize' the early bindrunes. The runes, in my opinion and experience, are legacies -- portals to Knowing. Sex. Blood. Birth. Death. Transformation. Voluspa said it all. Take them all the way or leave them by the trailside.
If Asatru/Heathen artwork and Hex work is new for an artist, my advice is Keep It Simple, Sister. The Nine Noble Virtues run parallel to the Scout Oath & Law. With those Virtues in mind before employing runes, bindrunes or untried Norse/Germanic themes in your Hex signs or project, you shall then be prepared for something lovely and paranormal to occur.
Discard coloring book ideas about runes, symbols and "cool Viking stuff." Instead, establish a personal relationship with the runes' compelling symbol-set forces. Bindrunes for protection and Vanic blessings, in adept hands, are alive and watchful. War-fetters, however, are another subject for another time. Inform your runework through living boldly, loving fearlessly and possessing Ernsthaft with Old Earth and Vorfahren values. Study the art of our Urnfield/Hallstatt/Solutrean/Nordic forebears for an hour and then wander around the garden or countryside awhile. Drink a horn of pure water. Make some wild love. Ride your horse or that Harley. Then, come back to the kitchen table and pour an inspired Hex sign out. It WILL work.
In my own artwork and volva practices, essence-images of certain animals and plants of power transmit a message when used in Hexology. Healing herbs and certain entheogens are inhabited by challenging spirits ( Landvaettir, 'kami,' devas etc) who have served Northern Volk and Völur since prehistoric times. Psilocybe semilanceata and Amanita muscaria are described in many early European traditions. Using them in Hex signs may be a way of directing their etheric Landvaettir zest without running afoul of today's legal system.
Animal spirit companions, helpers or guiding totemic animals may speak to their Volk through Hex and rune art. In my work, I often find pairs or groups of totemic animal and plants demanding to "be" with each other in a painting or Hex sign. Seeing the pattern and integrating the elements with line, colour and emotion -- suddenly, there's a result. It's Hex.
Once again, the heathen artist appears as seer, shaman and mirror-holder.
My protective Algiz-Hagal-Othala hex for the homestead ... painted on the tool shed, winter 2010.
As a child I grew up in the Lehigh Valley and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania. I was always exposed to my German and Swiss heritage which is my Mother’s side of the family who came from Philadelphia. We must have always had a hex sign around my great grandfather Stewart Brunner’s house, most likely a Zook. I remember buying Zook’s with him and then watching him hang it on the shed which was more like a small barn. Since Berks county was so close it was common to get exposed to hexes there but I was further introduced to Scandinavian and Germanic Folk traditions and magic around the age of 18. It all came back together after moving back to Philadelphia in 2003 where I reconnected to the history of my ancestors in Philadelphia’s Fishtown, and Port Richmond sections, while making trips to Bridesburg, Mayfair and Torresdale.
Of course art is magic if it is used as a tool as such and hex signs are a great Germanic folk art tradition that one can learn to use to help guide our intentions. Now my connection with the hexes came naturally, not only growing up in Pennsylvania and knowing a bit about them but also through blood in family heritage.
Personally I like traditional hexes the most but I am always a guy that goes right to 18thth century traditions out of a personal historical interest. I find I get ideas from visiting the Pennsylvania German room of the Philadelphia Museum of art, but any one of the many heritage or art museums in Pennsylvania might have good ideas for hexes. Through Hunter Yoder & Patricia Hall I was introduced to Lee Gandee and I did woodcut studies of some of his hexes. Hunter and Pat took everything up a notch for me and reconnected all the information I had collected over the years bringing three points in one, my childhood, teenage years with the current moment. I started making the hexes under the name “Jakob Brunner” which it taking two names from my mothers side of the family, her Polish maiden name of “Jakubowski” and the old Swiss German maiden name of my grandmother “Brunner”. There is also a German side of the family on my grandmother’s side whose name was “Speier” (quite an odd spelling of the name). and 19
Runes, bindrunes, and other Germanic signs are an interesting hybrid that was also introduced to me by Hunter and Pat. I find this very interesting because it is rediscovering something in Germanic Heathenism that has been somewhat forgotten or lost for some people due to the fact that the bulk of the Heathen community seems to focus on Scandinavian aspects. I think it is nice that these aspects of Germanic Heathenism are brought back and using them in the hex signs seems to make them even more powerful.
Well Plants and Animals are always a classic traditional use in hex signs but of course again Hunter Yoder brings this up a notch.
I am very impressed with the current show at the Hex Factory, located in Kensington in Philadelphia (2080 East Cumberland). Kensington once had a large German community so it is nice that this culture is brought back into the neighborhood in a new form.