first encountered Aidan Wachter last summer when he sent me a very sweet email complimenting my writings and art and sharing his datura anecdotes. We continued to send emails back and forth on magic, poison plant stories, and resources… and then he opened his shop Tveir Hrafnar. I was floored. I swooned. Occult jewelery is big right now, in fact it’s gone mainstream thanks to collaborations between talented designers like Ovate with Joanna Szkiela and Sisters of the Black Moon with Bloodmilk. Animal skull pendants and occult symbols from popular designers can be seen around the necks of your favourite musicians and characters in many tv series and movies.
But Aidan isn’t following these trends — his jewelery is another esoteric creature altogether. While all the big name designers are casting their pieces in silver and bronze from moulds, Aidan is sitting at his workbench practicing old school cold cut-and-file silversmithing. The result: time-consuming, intricately cut and layered pieces of silver forming high-end magical talismans. Each one is made from scratch by hand from start to finish by a sorcerer’s hands, intended to be worn by other magicians. Each one is full of magical symbolism inspired by alchemy, sigils, chaos magic, traditional witchcraft, runic magic, and mythology.
It is a potent and powerful thing to own and wear a talisman made with magical intent by a sorcerer for a fellow sorcerer rather than a piece of jewelry crafted for the mass market. I feel lucky to possess two of Aidan’s pieces: Hekate’s Key (a large oval talisman with a skeleton key between waxing and waning crescent moons) and a Berkana Rune (a smaller square talisman for me to wear while pregnant for protection and blessing). My husband the Poisoner (who also practices cut-and-file silversmithing and was very impressed by Aidan’s work), proudly wears Saturn’s Sickle along with the inverted pentagram inside a pentagon he smithed himself. I layer Tveir Hrafnar’s pieces with my favourite raven skull and serpent pendants, usually while wearing black (of course).
Whether you’ve heard of Tveir Hrafnar or have seen Aidan around the web on social media – maybe you’ve been curious about the man and magician behind the talismans as well as how they are crafted. Well, you’re in luck as he agreed to an interview!
“I am a talismanic jeweler. I work in sterling silver, hand crafting tools for Magicians, Witches, Pagans, Heathens and occultists.
I have been aware of the living nature of the world since I was a child. In my youth I began looking into animism, magic, and related subjects in an effort to bridge the gap between how those around me described the world and my own experience of it. I accept that the nature of our reality is mystery, is magical, and is very much alive and responsive to those who dwell within it- human or otherwise. It is my aim to create tools and ornaments to support the practices of those who choose to live in direct contact with these ‘others’.
I live and work in the hardwood forests of Tennessee.”
~ Aidan Wachter
Sarah Anne Lawless: How did you get your start in magic? What paths and people inspired you?
Aidan Wachter: I had a ‘classic’ (from a folk magic or shamanic POV) start: a number of nasty illnesses, fever deliria, kind of things. A major initiatory experience happened when I was 11, but I had no idea what it was at the time. Figured that out a lot later!
But I got my start in actually studying magick via punk rock.
One night when I was 15, a friend and I found a phone number in a book of matches left for us by another group of weirdos and punks at a coffee shop (the Denny’s kind of place, not the modern version) that we hung out in. We called the number, got invited over, and I discovered the more intellectual side of the world and met a magickian and Thelemite for the first time. I also heard a record called Force The Hand Of Chance by Psychick TV. This led to contacting Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth in 1982 and getting The Grey Book from them. That was the start.
As for available authors…earliest on were Max Freedom Long, Starhawk, Paul Huson, and Crowley — though I didn’t really ‘get’ the Crowley for some time. I worked in a number of bookstores, and had a lot of access to the current crop of authors. I read The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates, and Rune Games by Osborne and Longland. Gardner and Valiente, Justine Glass. I know I read Earth Power by Scott Cunningham, and some Buckland.
In 1987 I actually became a member of the O.T.O. through a guy I met on a bus carrying a Datura plant in a pot. He gave me a whole pile of Crowley and Golden Dawn info, and most importantly, Liber Null and Psychonaut by Peter J. Carroll. From that point on I became very driven to understand the mechanics of my spiritual/mystical experiences – as I mentioned, I was very prone to odd mystical states in my youth. I finally joined up with TOPY at around the same time, and studied with Gabriel Carrillo of Bloodrose for several months. Gabriel taught me a number of hugely useful things.
I was interested in deconstruction of the self and really trying to get a handle on the nature of my universe rather than a particular religion or system per se. It made me a bad member of any group. I eventually started calling what I did sorcery as I didn’t feel like I could claim any particular group as mine — sorcery was a largely unused term at the time.
SAL: Which came first, the silversmithing or the sorcery? What led you to combining the two crafts?
AW: Sorcery came first by a big margin!
The silver happened this way: I moved to New Orleans in 1992 knowing only one person. One morning, about two weeks after I got there, I woke up a total wreck after sleeping for a couple of hours with a burning imperative to ride to the café on the Tulane Campus for coffee. RIGHT FUCKING NOW! I’m not stupid, so I did. It was mid summer in New Orleans, and it was horribly hot and humid. I arrive a tattooed mess of sweat, no shirt on — what would be the point? I am riding across the quad and I see a man and a woman sitting at a table outside the café. They were clearly weird. They had amazing Buddhist tattoos! I knew I was there to meet them. They appeared to feel the same. I dropped the bike with them, said “I need some coffee”. I came back with a cup and sat down and introduced myself. We spent a huge part of the next 9 months together. They were Mark Defrates and Pamela Daley and they were Symbolic Jewelers. As I recall, I got Mark back into magickal practice. He had practiced at some point before but was mostly inactive, focused on Tibetan Buddhism. Several years later I learned to make jewelry in their shop. I stared making pentagrams and Thor’s hammers and such. So sorcery and silver have been combined from the start for me.
SAL: Your work is a wonderful rarity in that it caters to occultists, sorcerers, and traditional witches who most jewelers ignore in favour of the much bigger market of neopagans. Was this intentional or were you simply following your influences and passions?
AW: Mostly following my passions and influences. I am self centered in my art and would rather make what speaks to me than what I think the market would buy. It’s a ‘go for what you know’ kind of thing. Hopefully there are enough folks out there with similar aesthetics and interests to keep things rolling.
That said as a jeweler I am primarily called to power and beauty as expressions of Spirit and Will and won’t exclude any source. I believe that magick and sorcery are natural outgrowths of the human experience. I’m an animist and see these divisions of religious or spiritual practice as performing different functions within the larger organism that is the world.
SAL: Can you walk us through the making of one silver talisman by hand and how your process is different from jewelers who use casts and moulding processes?
AW: I am actually working on a few blog posts about this, but essentially and grossly simplified. It works like this: imagine you had some construction paper, scissors, a knife, and glue. You can cut out all sorts of cool shapes, right? Wild stuff even, like what Hagen Von Tulien does with his Occult Psaligraphy? It’s like cutting out paper dolls, or snowflakes. This is what I do with sheet silver: I create a design, make a template of it, and then cut out all the elements with very small drill bits and saw blades. These get cleaned up with sandpaper and files, and then soldered together. After that it is just a lot of work with the files and sandpaper to get it looking like the finished product.
Those genius people who can carve wax can make more sculptural forms- say you want a three dimensional ring of a toad with scales (why it has scales I am not exactly sure!) — a skilled wax carver can make you that toad, with each scale etched with great detail. They can then make a mold, which is filled with molten silver. At it’s very best, with wax casting you get something unbelievably exquisite. More often it is about economy of scale as it’s a great way to do mass production work. Once you have a mold you just order what you need from your casting service and clean it up. I’ve worked in that way, and it simply isn’t enjoyable to me. It feels like factory work. It can be less expensive and less time consuming, but I seriously enjoy building these things one at a time. I like knowing I am making this exact piece for a particular person. It matters to me that I am making what I hope will be a loved tool for another practitioner.
It also frees me up to do a lot of custom work, which is awesome.
SAL: If some lucky person was to visit your home and studio in the forest of West Tennessee, what would they see and experience? What would a day in the life of Aidan look like?
AW: First if they were like everyone else, they would try to use Google Maps and get hopelessly lost! I live way out in the boonies. Cell phones sort of work, if you stand near that tree over there and the planets and clouds are aligned just right.
What they would experience:
Trees! Hardwood trees everywhere! Hickories and Oaks of all kinds. Sweetgum, Tulip Poplar, Beech, Dogwood, Cedars. In season, the roads are edged with wildflowers: Passionflower, Honeysuckle, Plantain and Dandelion. A creek runs along the road. Lots of raptors: vultures, hawks, owls, and the occasional eagles. There are millions of smaller birds. Untold numbers of small rodents: mice, voles, moles, squirrels, kangaroo rats, possum, raccoons. Frogs, snakes, salamanders, turtles. A goodly number of cows. I never knew how many varieties of bees and wasps there were! Packs of coyotes run the night, screaming. There are a lot of deer, and turkeys. It’s fabulous. And lots of ticks and mosquitoes and chiggers and other biters, which are not!
My day? Up with the Sun, meditate with the cat, make my morning offerings. Have a chat with the Spirits. Read, have coffee, and then into the shop to plan the days work. Design something! Make something! Mail something!
First meal at around 11 or noon, then (in the cold seasons) take the house dogs out to go see the chickens and the chicken dogs. In the summer this happens fist thing or it’s too damn hot! Do some work outside gardening or such if the weather and insects allow. Then back to the shop until it is time to make dinner. Post dinner is usually a movie with my wife.
It would probably be incredibly boring for many — we live a fairly reclusive, very quiet life. I am very happy if I don’t have to leave our immediate area more than once a month. I love it!
SAL: What has been the best reward so far of being a talismanic silversmith?
AW: Meeting cool practitioners from all over the world! No question on that.
SAL: Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve made?
AW: Definitely my Zos Kia pendant. Austin Osman Spare has been an immense influence on me. It happened very fast, and I was really stunned at how well it came out.
SAL: What new projects do you currently have in the works?
AW: I am working on a very limited edition piece for Aeon Sophia Press that is really gorgeous. I am also working on a collaboration that I hope goes well enough to continue for the long run with an artist I really dig. I just started an actual written blog, Hotel Vast Horizon, which I am enjoying a lot. I haven’t written much since the mid ‘90’s and it is good for me to do it.
Like what you’ve seen and read? You can find Aidan here:
And… just to be an extra-evil temptress, did you know Aidan accepts custom work?