Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
Stang-Smith: An Interview with Tveir Hrafnar's Aidan Wachter
The stang as icon has been around the Old Craft neck of the woods for decades (if not centuries) now, but the first (to the best of my knowledge, at any rate) to translate it into jewelry is silversmith Aidan Wachter of Tennessee. As even the most cursory glance at his on-line atelier Tveir Hrafnar (that's “Two Ravens,” for those of you who didn't happen to grow up speaking Old Norse) shows, his jewelry and sigils are characterized by bold, minimalist design and precision detailing.
Aidan, how did you come to silver-smithing?
I lucked into meeting and becoming good friends with symbolic jeweler Mark Defrates when I moved to New Orleans in the early 90’s. At one point he needed help in his shop and that is where I first learned the craft.
Why “Tveir Hrafnar”? Do you have heathen background?
I am not a Heathen, but have had a long love of the Icelandic Sagas and feel a strong connection to many of the Old Norse myths. My first exposure to Huginn & Munnin (Odin’s two raven-helpers/familiars) was from an early interest in the Runes, which I started to work with in the early or mid ’80’s. They have always stuck with me as an image of the magical mind. I also wanted a name that was explicitly magical and unique. All the possible versions of names relating to the Ravens in English were taken, so I looked to the Old Norse. It’s a good name, I think, memorable if unpronounceable!
Much of your visual aesthetic bears close kinship to the work of Old Craft writer Nigel Jackson. Is this influence or convergence?
Both, I am sure! I think Nigel and I share influences quite a bit. My two-bar stang is 100% derivative from some of his illustrations in Call of the Horned Piper. It’s totally Nigel’s fault.
Does the stang figure in your own observance/practice?
Talismanically yes; as a free-standing tool, no. My practice is largely empty-hand, and quite ‘light’ on ritual symbolism, strangely enough! I see the Stang as a symbol that combines the image of the various Horned gods with that of the World Tree itself—so for me it is an image of spirit-travel (the tree) as well as deep primal magic and sorcery (the sorcerer-magician-witch + the various deities and spirit-powers s/he works with).
Your most recent stang pendant (shown above) depicts a two-bar stang. The differences between one-, two-, and three-barred stangs have occasioned quite a bit of conversation hereabouts lately. Why a two-bar stang? Does it have particular meaning for you, or is this strictly a visual matter, artist's intuition?
For me it’s largely intuition. I saw Nigel’s drawing and it spoke to me as the best symbol of my magical practice I’d run across—it sort of took the place of the pentagram in my mind at that point. I do make the more common ‘Cochrane’ version with the crossed arrows—but the two-bar speaks to me. I’d love to hear more theory on the two-bar stang, actually!
Well, don't touch that remote: I plan to be posting on the topic in the near future! Your work tends to be characterized light-on-dark work. Is this strictly an aesthetic choice, or do you see philosophical implications as well?
It’s really mainly aesthetics. I like the deeply-raised sigils sort of rising from space look. However it also allows more options structurally the way I build pieces, which is all saw-work.
Any connection to Tveir Hrafnar gallery in Reykjavik? (Grins.)
Only in spirit! I hope to visit them some day!
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