I first learned of the Northern Tradition/Folkways magazine Hex through an online discussion list. I checked out the magazine’s site, and was immediately won over by the thoughtful articles and beautiful artwork (especially the covers!). Hex editor Henry Lauer was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about what it takes to put together a magazine like Hex, and the interweaving of spirituality, music and sustainability.
EHS: If you could correct one common misconception about Heathenry (ancient or modern), what would it be?
Henry Lauer: People often think the ancient Heathens were parochial, primitive, and ignorant. As archaeologists piece together more evidence, however, we are discovering that the old Germanic peoples were often cosmopolitan, creative, and open-minded. This of course sets a much more inspiring – if challenging – standard for modern Heathens.
EHS: How do you define your spiritual path? Heathen? Northern Tradition? Or do you prefer not to apply a label?
HL: Speaking for the magazine itself – Hex calls itself Heathen, and although that generally refers to the Germanic traditions of Europe we aren’t at all adverse to Celtic or Eastern European paganism (for example) sticking their noses in, too. Hex has its own spirit and will; these happily manifest quite independently of its editors’ personal opinions.
I don’t think Hex really buys into the label thing too seriously; we’ve learned to trust its judgement with these sorts of things, and Hex is more about lived spirituality than it is pedantic nomenclature.
Speaking just for myself … I do call myself Heathen, and I take that very seriously as a specific path … but I also see connections and find nourishment from other traditions such as Taoism, alchemy, Sufism, Greco-Roman paganism, Hinduism, etc. I also am heavily influenced by Jungian psychology – not the pop psych version most people are familiar with but the actual gritty, brilliant, details.
EHS: You founded and edit Hex Magazine, which deals with not only the ancestral traditions of Europe, but also “earth stewardship, self-sufficiency, and sustainable living.” Why a magazine that deals with all of those concerns?
Henry: I actually joined Hex after it started, but I was a tremendous fan before that so I think I can still offer a meaningful response. Actually, I think you’ve essentially answered your own question; earth stewardship, self-sufficiency, and sustainable living were and are all integral parts of the ancestral traditions of Europe (and I would hazard to say, not just Europe).
To me Heathenry is at heart less a formal religion than a way of reverent living. If we live with reverence then it naturally follows that we would desire to nurture both the world around us and our own well-being.
EHS: Have you found that European folkways and sustainability go well together? If so, how? And why?
HL: The latter is, in my opinion, part of the former. So yes, they are very compatible. Not all Heathens seem to make that connection, but to me activities like pounding some sauerkraut into shape or maintaining a worm farm are just as “spiritual” as praying to gods or making sacrificial offerings.
Ancestor worship is an important part of Heathenry – taken to its logical conclusion, our ancestors include animals, plants, dirt, the planetary atmosphere, the swirling seas, even solar and stellar radiation and the vast reaches of space! If everything is bound together in these familial webs then it behoves us well to care for the natural world.
EHS: Why did you name the magazine Hex?
HL: I wasn’t a part of the magazine when it was founded, but Hex refers to Hex signs – the traditional magico-spiritual symbols that the Pennsylvania Dutch (who were actually Deutsch – German) adapted from folk magic/art traditions in the Old World. The idea of taking something of Heathen roots and reciprocally transforming that tradition to suit new circumstances and settings is important to the philosophy of Hex magazine.
HL: We love music, it’s a powerful spiritual vessel, and there are some really astounding musicians that hover in the vicinity of the Heathen world. Indeed, all of the editors of Hex are musicians; my band Ironwood contributed a track and so did Markus’s outfit, Waldteufel.
It was easy to compile the songs – we just wrote to some of the many artists we admire, and in some cases know personally or professionally. Everyone we contacted said yes, and most of the contributors recorded new compositions or remixes especially for the CD. The result is some exquisitely inspiring and magical music and we’re very proud to be able to share it with the world.
EHS: Is Hex open for submissions? If so, what are you looking for?
HL: To quote from our site: “HEX Magazine is all about community. We want to hear from you. Share your story, your knowledge, your experience. Be it a new article, or a reprint of one you are fond of, we would be honored to share it in our pages. We are always taking submissions! One of our main intentions at HEX is giving voice to the intuitive as well as the academic, female as well as male, traditional as well as contemporary application.”
For more information check here.
We’re also always on the watch for possible advertisers within our pages – for more information see here.
EHS: How do you go about creating an issue of Hex?
HL: We spend a lot of time scouting for submissions and contributors (hint, hint). We like work that goes beyond typical clichés you see in the Heathen/Pagan world. We look out especially for writers and artists who can convey the strength of being vulnerable and open; we prefer curiosity over certainty and depth over shallowness.
Some months before each issue is due we go through our submissions list and work out what will fit. Sometimes we request a contributor to rework their piece or assist them in polishing it into shape if they are struggling to get it across the line. As the deadline gets closer, we start to panic – which is a good thing, very motivating!
Once we have all the submissions each editor goes through them and then they are passed back to the contributor for any further changes they want and to make final approval (we are not at all a dictatorial bunch and we try to edit with a light touch).
Then Arrowyn will lock down for a few weeks to do the layout and design work. This is the biggest single part of the process. Once done, we do a final proof read, and off it goes to the printer!
Through all that we’re also producing our online newsletter as well, of course. Sometimes it seems like we’ll never make it with a given issue, but everything always seems to come together in the end. It’s a good demonstration of the power of faith, of believing in the ability of seeds to burst into lush life.
EHS: Where can readers find Hex?
HL: Our website is the most obvious port of call; apart from being available to buy, you can also sign up for our content-packed e-newsletter and check out some content from past issues online for free. You can also get the Winter Songs CD and prints from some of our cover artwork from the site.
Our Facebook Page is a good place for interesting article links and announcements:
You can also buy Hex at the Hex Folk Market and select distributors.
EHS: Do you have any advice for someone who might be considering starting a magazine? Things to do and mistakes to avoid?
HL: Well … do your research. Work out exactly what you want it to be. Be prepared to do a lot of work (most of it behind the scenes and non-glamorous). Start cultivating relationships with potential contributors. Don’t expect to make money if your target audience is small (as Heathenry is).
Many small-scale magazines don’t think much about art, layout, and design – let alone paper quality! Every issue of Hex is, thanks to both contributing artists and Arrowyn’s design brilliance, a joy to look at, to touch, to have. Beautiful aesthetics were integral to even workaday Heathen tools and equipment, and it warms the heart to see this mirrored in a contemporary publication.
Also, I humbly suggest cultivating an angle, a thematic arc. We aren’t the only Heathen magazine, but we have created a definite personality for ourselves and I think this helps us to stand out and keep things interesting.
EHS: There are quite a number of resources out there about Heathenry. Which are among your favorites?
HL: On the WWWeb my favourite sites other than our own are –
Elhaz Ablaze (a blog my alter-ego shares with a bunch of other great writers),
and Bil Linzie’s brilliant writings which can be downloaded here.
HL: The links page on our site has plenty of leads for this. So the easiest thing is to look there as a starting place.
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
Henry: In the guise of Heimlich A. Loki I write for Elhaz Ablaze. I also perform in Ironwood, Greed & Rapacity, and various other musical outfits. Oh, and I offer rune readings and Grimm readings (my own invention) through Find Rune.
Markus is well known for his band Waldteufel as well as being a prolific musical collaborator (L’Acephale, A Minority of One, etc) and visual artist.
Arrowyn is a stunning artist (prints of her scherenschnitte cover art from Issue 7 have been selling like hotcakes) and creative musician. She also runs Verdandi Design, which provides beautiful graphic and web design services.
Hex is also compiling a Heathen Erotica special edition of Hex. You are encouraged to submit to it. Our official announcement:
This is a call for Heathen Erotica. For a side project, not a regular issue. It will be published when we get enough material. Accepting submissions for stories, poetry, art, photography, recipes, whatever. You can submit under your own name or a nom de plume. The usual high standards of quality apply! IE: if it’s smut, it better be really good smut!
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EHS: Which conventions, book fairs or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
HL: There are a couple of events in coming months that we’ll have a presence at:
We are hosting a show at the North West Folklife Festival, with performances by In Gowan Ring/Birch Book, Waldteufel, Novemthree, and Hail. That’s 6-9 pm, Friday night May 27, 2011 @ the Vera Stage. More info about the festival here.
We’ll also be at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, September 10 and 11, 2011. Find out more about that here.
On behalf of Hex, I’d like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to do this interview, it’s been awesome!