The Hex Factory
Blood, Cum, and Geilskimmel Hex, 2008
" I would say this, there is an energy in the magical signs of our Germanic ancestors. It is very real and powerful. Anyone can participate in making them. In doing so you are tapping into something much larger then mere personal self expression. As I explained to a former teacher and friend, A stream or river has run in its bed for hundreds of thousands of years maybe longer, so it is with folk magic. No one is quite sure how it works, just that it does." Hunter M. Yoder
Valulfr: Do you consider yourself a Hexologist or Hexmeister, and what is the
Hunter: I would be the Hexologist, a 'Sign Painter'. The term originates in Berks County, Pennsylvania and is attributed to the Johnny Ott/Jakob Zook creative partnership that got the ball rolling. In the late 1940's they
invented hex sign painting as we know it today. This would include the term, "Hexology". Zook came out with a book entitled, "Hex No!" back in the sixties, and I had a look at an early age. The color of the book was blood red, Johnny Ott was described in it as a Hexologist. This is the same Johnny Ott that Lee R. Gandee refers to in his masterpiece, "Strange Experience, Autobiography of a Hexenmeister". I would like to say to my Hexenmeister Bruders (tongue in cheek)that such a certification is a certification where no certification is necessary. Perhaps Hexenmeister is best used in the past tense, as for example Lee R. Gandee was a Hexenmeister, (also a Meister Hexologist). The idea of someone referring to him or herself as a Hexenmeister is hilarious. The old idea of a Hexenmeister doing battle with the dark Zauberer is xtian duality, good and evil, and no longer pertinent to Deitsch Heathenism which rejects the ancient imperialistic monotheistic middle eastern cultures.
Valulfr: When did you learn this craft and who from?
Hunter: I am a self taught artist, but as I mentioned many times I grew up and went to school with the Claypoole clan. Their father , Johnny Claypoole, was the leading Hexologist of the times and visiting them and meeting Johnny and seeing his work was definitely an influence. I also painted the Hex signs on my Father's barn in Richmond Township, Berks County near Virginville, PA and that is where I came face to face with the Berks County eight pointed star. Another large influence was my 'apprenticeship' with a certain Bumbaugh, the owner of numerous used bookstores where he would sleep in the backroom on a dirty cot with all sorts of herbs hanging on clotheslines. Some of my xtian Schweschders in Berks County cringe at the name, LOL, but he taught me herbalism back in the late sixties early seventies. I have a picture of the self- styled,
"Mountain Bummy" on the Backdoor Hexologist list. He would collect Golden seal and Gingseng for money as well as animal pelts. He alternated between Niantic and Kutztown, and was fixture at the Saturday market auctions, antiques and produce, such as Renningers. I have fondly called him Braucherei's 'Fallen Angel'. I never separated my interest in magical plants from the Hexology. The geometry of plant growth is known as Phyllotaxis and is concerned with growth spirals. In classical geometry, Phi is the irrational ratio which best describes growth. The Hexology is an analogue or kenning for plant growth, life, abundance, fortune and love, or as we say in Deitsch, 'gut glick'
Valulfr: What is your heritage and when did your ancestors arrive in this
Hunter: My ancestry has never been an issue, to me, the last name Yoder is Swiss German after a certain St Joder or Theodore who tricked the Devil into doing an impossible task for him in exchange for a soul, presumably his soul, LOL. The task was to take a huge bronze bell up to a remote village in the Swiss Alps before dawn or 'Cock's Crow'. The devil performed the task but St Joder had his influence on a certain rooster who crowed before dawn. My own particular line arrived in the Oley Valley prior to 1750 and the family remains in Berks County still. The name is usually associated with the Anabaptists but my Folk were Lutheran.
Valulfr: We read the term “painted prayer” when referring to the Hex sign,
which obviously denotes a Christian mind-set; how do you see it?
Hunter: Obviously the xtian influence is there in that term, Painted Intention, Painted Charm, also work. Gandee uses that term in his book, and Dennis Boyer, a Berks County author also uses that terminology.
Valulfr: The term “Hexefuus”, or “Hexefoos”, used to describe the
Hex-sign. Obviously these are Deitsch terms; what is their origin and
Hunter:Well, Hexefuus and Hexefoos are variations of the same thing. Hex is Deitsch and Deutsch for 'Witch' and foos or fuus is 'feet' The idea was that the hex signs or hexezeeche, were footprints of Germanic witchcraft and charged with an intent accordingly, usually as protection or for favorable weather in the various levels of meaning weather implies. Hexefuus were always on the barns of the 'Fancy Deitsch' in Berks County. Barns were subject to fire due to lightning strikes, or by spontaneous combustion usually due to gasses given off by fresh hay. And then down below on the Swiss Bank Barn design were the cattle which were subject to the various misfortunes of disease, etc. Therefore, these 'Hexefuus' were employed to keep things going in the positive direction. Not only were they painted into the barn sidings, they were also scribed, and appear as reliefs up close.
You are the nephew of the author Don Yoder right? How does your
opinion of the Hex tradition differ from his?
Hunter: I met Dr Don Yoder in Kutztown at an event of the Pennsylvania German Society, http://www.pgs.org/ and introduced myself, he called me cousin, our exact blood relationship was never determined. The Yoders have been a prolific bunch. His line is out of Schuylkill County, which we 'Barricks Kaundi' boys used to call the 'otherside' being that it is on the other side of the Appalachian Mt ridge from Berks County. Dr Don Yoder is the grand old 'meister' of Deitsch Kultur, I'm just some wild son of a bitch who escaped the farm but never forgot where I came from. He has written many books on the subject and introduced me to the term, 'folk religion' which allowed aspects of heathenism to remain alive and well within the larger established xtian framework. Pennsylvania however was originally the place where many very unconventional xtian groups came to upon William Penn's invitation.
Valulfr: As with any traditional belief system, the philosophies behind them
change and evolve over time and regional stresses, how have the Pennsylvania Deitsch beliefs changed and adapted to the post-modern world we live in today.
Hunter: Well its funny you should bring that up, because it is a subject I personally find amusing. A couple years ago I contacted Ivan Hoyt, a Meister Hexologist, probably the leading one today (he doesn't call himself a Meister though, I do). When I introduce myself and they come to know my background, they have no choice but talk to me. Anyway, when I asked Ivan about the intention of numerology in his work. He dismissed it. This is old school Deitsch mentality where the idea that this 'stuff' might be magical was considered to be bad for the devout xtian tourist trade, LOL. This year reading some of the press coming out of the annual Kutztown PA German Festival, the old Kutztown Folk Festival, I'm seeing ole Ivan in full bloom, praising the magical tradition and not at all in denial. The whole Deitsch mindset has finally caught up with the new tolerance in our western culture towards the 'magische' as a capitalistic bonanza, a selling point. However, in Kutztown, I know for a fact that my xtian hex schweschders have faced concern by the establishment for being witches. So it is a very conservative community which explains my exile to the more tolerant urban environs of NYC and Philadelphia.
Valulfr: What evidence is there for a “shamanic” tradition among our
Deitsch ancestors here in this country?
Hunter: I don't pretend to speak for the Deitsch community as a whole and I am not a scholar or a student of the past, I just recognize the fact that I am one by blood and experience. Shamanische is a very favorite topic to me. Shamanism is something that will cross all traditions, religions, and geographical locales. My experience with it is based upon my knowledge of plants and the specifically 'plant teachers'. The other ingredient is the Mountains, the Blue Mountains of PA, the Appalachian Mountains, that run from Maine to Georgia and with them the power of the irrational. Rocks are conductors for electronic magnetic energy that pulses just prior to dawn and again at sunset. My Deitsch teacher in the Shamanische would be Thomas Luckenbill who unfortunately is no longer with us in the physical plane. Luckenbill is an old Deitsch name, where he picked it up, I don't really know, but he had the whole package intact, every single thing I use today was from my time with Meister Luckenbill, this includes weather control, psychic transport, electric fur, sun worship, fire worship, and the power of the triangle and its three dimensional forms. A scholarly approach to Deitsch Shamanische would come from Dennis Boyer, a well known Berks County author, another one I contacted and had no choice but to discuss 'Barricks Kaundi Shamanische'. His view was that shamanism was just another word for Hexerei or witchcraft. His view may have evolved since then, but it isn't a view I share. I feel strongly that Deitsch Kultur has the Galdr in its spoken spellverk, aspects of Hexology, herbalism, and the Seidhr, my preference, in the more intuitive aspects of Hexerei, weather control, fore seeing, usage of plant teachers, in our tradition this would be Geilskimmel, or Datura, and the Niger Bilsenkraut or Black Henbane. These things I learned as I was well down the road towards High Andean Shamanism which came to an abrupt halt when I came to realize that the North American center for High Andean Shamanism was in the Appalachian Mountains near Roanoke Virginia! Well to make a long story short I flew into a rage, the idea that this tradition was encroaching into my Mountains was intolerable and I received instruction from my Plant Teacher to return to Berks County, my tradition in the shamanische was alive and well there, and so it is.......
Valulfr: How do you view the relatively recent resurgence of European
heathenism? How does this relate to the Deitsch traditions and your role in
Hunter: As a builder, special care must be given to a house's foundation, xtianity was built upon a foundation of lies, my guess was that it happened at Nicea, the origins of the Nicean creed, although who knows. My Rabbi friend, Rabbi Joshua Saltzman, told me that when a very learned and venerable rabbi was asked about the problems with xtianity, he said, "Christians are confused" and so they are and no wonder. This process might have greatly accelerated with Heathenism further ahead if it wasn't for the Nazi perversion of our traditions, think about it........ Finally now, Germanic Heathens have a birth right to their tribal traditions. This is an undeniable right, and we see now the destructive results of its denial to us and our Volk.
Valulfr: Finally, how much latitude in design should the aspiring Hexologist
employ in the construction of the Hex-sign?
Hunter: I have vowed to not only to preserve the tradition of painting hexafoos, but to extend it into the future as a viable international art form. I have compared it to the Delta Blues, as a form it is very simple, anybody can do it. Hexology accomodates any system of symbology, however the northern tradition of Galdr staves from Iceland , a far more sophisticated system by the way suits it very well, so I have decided to leave the ancient Imperialistic Mediterranean Cultures symbology at the door in favor of a more Germanic tribal pantheon as well as one generated by the 'Blantz' and the Gods know what else, LOL....Heck the Wiccans have
used them, The Celts have, Lee Gandee used the Kabalistic, arcane symbology! Hexology accommodates it all. These things are cosmograms, short form cosmologies. In all cultures, the division of a circle into six and eight parts and their variants are used to describe the 'Living Universe' A folk artist, I am not. A Cosmologist? in Deitsch we call them Hexologists.