Author's Note: In a bizarre twist of fate during the period over which this interview was compiled I was asked – and accepted – to join the Hex editorial team. That makes this interview a bit odd because the questions were written while I was still a relative ‘outsider’ as it were. Nonetheless, I think it’s an interesting interview and decided it was worth completing regardless – so here it is!
Hex Magazine is a bi-annual journal which has been nourishing folk interested in Heathenism, folk art and culture, Radical Traditionalism, and a host of other related areas for a few years now. I wanted to find out more about the hand on the helm of this fertile, honest and inspiring (I just mistyped that as “inspiriting”) magazine. So I contacted editor Arrowyn Craban and she kindly consented to answer a battery of questions…
Heathen Harvest: The slogan of Hex Magazine is “For The Heathen Household.” Can you tell us what is meant by the word “Heathen”?
Ha ha! That's a good question isn't it? Well, to quote myself in the rant from the editors in the first issue…“As soon as you name something you destroy part of its vital essence. That being said, words have power and are useful for communicating ideas. For all practical purposes we call ourselves Heathens, meaning we honor the beliefs and practices of Pre-Christian Europe.” There are many definitions of Heathen, but that is the one I resonate with most. I am, however, reluctant to rely on labels of any kind because I don't like to make it easy for people to assume they know what I am about, and the same goes for Hex.
The tag line was originally coined by Amie (A. von Rautmann), the co-creator and an ex-editor of Hex. And although I agree with the basic tenet of its meaning, I have since pondered the usefulness of locking us into such a label. Any self-labeled Heathen will automatically be drawn to the content of Hex. But what about all those people who either don't have any idea what Heathen means or worse have a definition that is very different from mine? I have had the pleasure of introducing all sorts of people from all walks of life to the world of Hex over the years, and I have come to feel that to tag us as “for Heathens” is inaccurate and limiting.
Therefore, I have actually decided to change the tag line of Hex to match the Hex Folk Market project which is in the process of being created. “Old ways for a new day,” will be the new tag line for Hex, which I feel more accurately describes what we are about. All the editors are in agreement.
But don't despair all ye stanch Heathens out there! Hex will still have all the same great content, but we will enable the wisdom contained therein to be accessible to more people. People who don't even know they are Heathens! Which is more in line with my personal mission of wildly…I mean widely ;) promoting sustainable life ways and preserving the cultural traditions of my ancestors!
HH: Just what sort of themes and subject matter are explored in Hex Magazine?
Well, you name it. When we say “household,” we mean everybody. So there is a little bit of something for all interests. We really try to make this a meeting place for a wide selection of viewpoints, styles, and experience. Our mission is to leave no stone unturned! So, we gather art and writing from many different aspects within Heathen culture, and even outside its confines, including… academia, spiritual and magical pathwork, permaculture and gardening, cooking and homesteading, DIY and alternative culture, a wide range of folk ways and traditional practices, and people's wild imaginations!
I especially love to hear people's stories, so Hex always includes some narrative theme which is explored by at least four people in each issue (The theme for the Fall issue is…What I learned from my grandparents – due Summer Solstice). That's almost always my favorite section. We really encourage everyone to share their experience, even when they don't think they have anything to say, or they aren't good at writing…that's what editors are for! As long as there is heart and authenticity, I am willing to give it a try. Who wants to hear from the same small number of authors over and over? I am trying to invoke new blood to infuse our folk ways!
I should also mention that Hex is distinctly non-political. I am bored to tears with left / right battlegrounds. I do not see the world as two-dimensional, and I prescribe neither to the left or right. We choose not to put forth any specific political opinions in Hex, and I have no desire to control other people's opinions or censor their ideas. I am more interested in who people are than what affiliations they have. And although I personally love a good heated discussion, I'm more interested in what we can all share than what we can all argue about. I don't mind discord as long as it's constructive, and that is rare in the realm of politics. I personally have a profound respect for the traditional cultures of all the world's people, and I focus on European traditions because that is where my bloodline stems from, it is not politically motivated.
HH: Hex seems to cover a much wider range of ideas, values, and aesthetics than most Heathen-related publications. Is this a conscious stance on your part?
To be quite honest, I've only read a handful of other Heathen publications, so I'm not quite sure what they contain! But yes, as I stated, we want to include everybody. There was much talk when forming Hex about the apparent lack of householding (and in fact women at all!), as well as more creative subject matter, in favor of the intellectual, in the other publications we had read. It was our goal to remedy that.
It is also a very conscious stance on my own part, probably because I myself have so many interests and influences. But also, because I strive to do away with the modern practice of compartmentalization. I take a more holistic approach to life. To me, raising children, cooking, running a business, making art and music, and pontificating about some lost magical practice, are all equally important endeavors. They all weave the fabric of a rich and full life. And that's the only kind worth living is it not?
HH: Folk often comment on the marvelous design, presentation, and artwork of Hex. Who does your design work? How do you go about finding such excellent artists?
Well, actually I do all the design work, and all the painstaking layout of the magazine! I'm pleased that people think it's marvelous. I put a lot of effort into the design of Hex. It is, I guess, my own way of trying to breathe new life into the old ways. The modern world can be such an ugly soulless place, and that is not in alignment with the traditions of our ancestors! They were incredibly creative and ornamented people. Even simple everyday implements were beautifully decorated. I try to capture that celebration of beauty in Hex.
In the future, however, I hope to involve more people in the design and layout of Hex, because truly it is just too much work for one person!
As for finding all the excellent artists we have featured, it is because Markus and I are both artists ourselves, and Amie was an art promoter, that we know so many good artists. We are also always on the lookout for artistic talent and cast a wide net. Often we have our covers picked out a year ahead of time. I love being able to showcase the talent of creative people in our community. The more the better.
HH: Hex takes an antagonistic stance towards modernity, yet your own bio declares that you are “at home both on the computer & in the woods.” What are your thoughts on walking the tightrope of “old ways for a new day”?
That's a cheeky question! Do you really think that Hex takes an antagonistic stance towards modernity? Yeah, I guess. Hmmm…walking the tightrope of paradox…I am not against the whole of the modern world per se. But I do feel that there are many disheartening aspects of it. I think that the quality of life took a serious downturn after the industrial revolution, and especially after World War II, for various reasons. And despite the fact that I feel that we live in a new dark age, I also think that we have an incredible opportunity right here and right now, to create a life worth living. Hard times can bring out the best in people.
I also (obviously) do not reject technology as long as it is really serving a useful purpose, and can exist in balance with the earth that shelters us. It is possible to do both, people are incredibly creative when the need arises and the opportunity presents itself. And although I am incredibly heart broken by things I hear and see all around me in the world today, I remain optimistic, and I choose to present that view with Hex.
I have a great deal of faith that there is someone weaving this tapestry of life, and I trust her to weave the wyrd that is meant for me, and all of us…and to cut the skein when it's time. Until then all I can do is try to utilize the time and resources that have been given to me. To follow the path that my heart and soul hear.
So although I understand very clearly that I am contributing to the destruction of my home by involving myself with the tools and trappings of modern culture, I am guided to remain engaged with it, and try to create change from within. Hex is the direct result of that calling. I am not interested in the ways of my ancestors only for fun and profit (that's a joke!), but because I truly feel that there are viable answers in long held traditions for making life on earth sustainable. And the internet is an invaluable way to spread that information. Much better than standing in the forest and yelling it at the top of my lungs. :) … because, of course… I prefer peace and quiet when I'm there.
And yet, you will see by my tenacious battle to keep the magazine in print despite all that is working against such endeavors, that I am a fervent traditionalist. It would break my heart to move all of this to the web, and have no printed archive! It is oral culture that was lost when the old believers passed, so what when the internet fails, are we to lose it all again? …but then if that is our wyrd, there's not much we can do to stop it…and nothing is ever truly lost. Just hidden until the next seeker comes along…I guess all we can do is keep following our guidance.
HH: In that vein, Heathenism (and alternative cultures generally) often seems to be a theatre for misunderstanding or disconnection between those focused more on physical or lived culture and those focused more on spiritual or even magical expression. Hex, however, seems to offer a voice for both of these points of reference. How do you envision that these two tendencies could come into a broader harmony?
Hmmm…that's an interesting question. The easy answer would be (a question actually)…do we not all have a brain, a heart, a body, and soul? These aspects of our being work in harmony when we are wholly functioning people. The spirit and the will need to be in balance. Focus too much on one or the other and you will find yourself either incapable of taking action or always taking action without meaning or foresight.
I guess that's hard for me to answer because it seems so natural that you would want an equal share of both, and so that is what we try to offer with Hex. I think if you tried to ask that to someone who lived thousands of years ago, they'd just scratch their heads at you. Magic is inherent in life, and life is lived through all the small actions we take every day. You can choose to notice or not. Some people are more spiritually minded and some people prefer a simpler view of life, but one way is no better than the other.
As for bringing these tendencies into harmony…well, people just love to squabble don't they? Let 'em. Meanwhile I'll be over here living my magical life, publishing magazines, and enjoying a good draught of raspberry mead…
HH: Many of Hex’s contributors (including yourself) are musicians, and music seems an essential inspiration for the magazine. Music is often at the vanguard of both cultural fusion and cultural isolation, and with genres such as neo-folk we have seen a good deal of both of these tendencies. What place does music have in the evolution of modern Heathenism in your view?
Well, I've never thought about that before. Music is such an inherent part of my life. I believe it is inherent in the lives of all “tribal” people.
Music has always been a vehicle and vessel of culture. I believe it carries the most vibrant spark of people's spirits. It is a way to teach, to entertain, to communicate with divinity, to heal, to speak from our hearts, make work more enjoyable, and join in community. Music has ever been a tool for people to celebrate life together, and to express deep soul events that plain speech doesn't have the power to evoke.
Sure, there's lame and shallow music out there…tons of it! But still, authentic music carries our folk soul. It is incredibly important! Irrevocably linked to our survival.
Incidentally, I am very pleased to announce that the Fall / Winter issue of Hex will be accompanied by a compilation CD full of music that we think carries the soul of our folk.
And one day our music review section might even finally be up! ;)
HH: There have been recent announcements that Hex will be undergoing significant changes of format. Could you outline what these will be?
Sure. Well, as people may or may not have noticed, our world economy is in a down cycle. And the sales of Hex stopped climbing and climbing, and instead started plummeting this last summer. So basically, I have spent some time figuring out how to best weather this change in tide and season. I personally think it's a wonderful thing, for the earth can't handle constant growth, and things out of whack need to be brought back to balance. I don't mind coming up with creative ideas about how to maintain what we are doing, and make it sustainable.
I considered the possibility of not printing anymore, and moving all content to the web. Or just selling PDFs. With skyrocketing printing prices, and diving sales, the last issue we did didn't even cover cost! And personally, I would have a hard time dishing out the cost of an issue myself. But it broke my heart to even consider not printing Hex anymore. I feel like it's important for Hex to be physically manifest, and portable, so you can bring it into your life and use it.
So I decided that I'd try a switch to black and white printing to see if that will sustain itself. I know Hex is lovely in full color, but it'll still be beautiful, it'll be more affordable, and it'll happen at all. So that's the first change.
Secondly, the Hex website is due for a major overhaul. It's really hard to maintain in its present format, and doesn't get updated enough. I am going to make it more blog-like, expand
with content updates more often, and
create more interactivity.
Along with those changes we are taking on more staff to help with the various duties that make Hex happen (thank the gods!). I will be calling for general volunteers as well soon.
That is the reason why there was no Spring issue of Hex this year. It takes a lot of energy to implement all this, and I am just one person after all. ;)
HH: What is your vision for how Hex might help in the development and enrichment of both Heathen and broader communities? What are your ambitions for the magazine?
Well, that's a good question. It's more of a calling and a feeling than an idea that I'm implementing. And I hope that Hex enriches the Heathen community directly and whole world indirectly, but I can't always see the ways that it does. I simply do what I am called to do, and what I enjoy, and honestly don't have too much time to worry about how it translates into the world. Though I have received quite a few thank you emails from people, relaying that Hex has changed their lives, and that is astounding to hear…brilliant even! I hope to invoke that more and more!
I can say though, that it has been my vision from the beginning to blow the breath of life into old ways and make them come alive for people. To light some fires. To encourage my community to get off their arses and start living these things. Take those dusty books off the shelves and try to implement the things they teach. Experiment! Have fun! Fail miserably! Who cares? That's how our ancestors did it. They just dug in because they had to, and made things work because they had to. They didn't have the luxury of being lazy. And truth is, I don't think we do either. All this might not be here tomorrow.
But don't make that your motivation. Make an enthusiasm for life your motivation! Show respect for the gift of breath and spirit you've been given. Really it just makes our time here more enjoyable to slow down and do things by hand, to give thanks and offerings, to spend days outdoors, enjoying the simple bounty of life in cycles and seasons. To read old myths and stories and think about how they play out in our lives. To make and eat good food and share it. To ask deeper questions and reflect on the mysteries all around us. And to pass these things down to our children. It's just good… for everybody.
And although it is being fed and cared for by me, Hex definitely has a life of its own, its own ambitions, and its own wyrd and magnetism, which it doesn't always let me in on… so as to where this is all going… your guess is as good as mine.
HH: Hex has a free email newsletter as well as the print magazine; can you explain how folk can subscribe to both the magazine and the newsletter?
Sure. Everything is available on the website (www.hexmagazine.com). The past issues are available but running out quickly, and most likely will never be printed in color again, so I suggest anyone who wants one – act fast. There are also a few issues left of a special small reprint run of the first two issues, as well as the leather bound special edition (13 in #) of all four issues, but they are not advertised on the website, only on our email list. An email to me will preserve a copy for you (email@example.com).
I highly recommend anyone interested in what we do sign up for the newsletter. We put a lot of effort into imparting seasonally relevant info, with talented regular contributing authors, amazing rune write ups by you, Henry, and announcements for relevant happenings around the world, and, last but not least, Hex news. Basically, like mini issues of Hex, for free.
Hex newsletter signup: http://www.hexmagazine.com/newsletter.htm
Subscribe to the printed magazine or buy prints: http://www.hexmagazine.com/subscribe.htm
Check out a free PDF version of Issue 1: http://www.hexmagazine.com/PDF/hex1_web.pdf
HH: Thanks so much for participating in this interview. Any final comments or thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Wow, I think I covered a lot of ground here. Thank you so much for providing this opportunity! It has been great fun.
I guess if I were to leave a final comment it would be to remind everyone that it is vitally important to support not-for-profit community efforts like Hex, Heathen Harvest, and others. It is easy to take these resources for granted, to feel miserly in the face of unsteady economic situations, and hope that others are giving where you aren't. But it is during these times that it is even more important to contribute whatever you can to keep these vital projects alive! If you can't afford to give money, then give time, or at least enthusiasm, and spread the word, contribute, and participate. That's how we can support each other and keep our community thriving.
Hex doesn't have any funding, I do all this on a shoe string from my pocket, and half-cocked luck. We depend on sales and advertising to keep this running. I'll keep doing it as long as I can, it's my calling, but any and all support is graciously appreciated. If you love what we do, spread the word!
[Photograph of Arrowyn Craban credited to Manzanita Craban]