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I’ve known Cody only for a short time in the grand scheme of things- maybe two years or so, tops, but we had been sort of pen pals before that time. He was living in the Maine woods in a cabin, and would occasionally shoot me an email.
Those who know me are aware of my often abominable correspondence return habits, but there was something about Cody, even via the sterile environs of the internet, that struck a chord with me, and we maintained an irregular communication for probably a few years before we met in person.
If I had to nail it down, I’d say it was the sincerity that came through in his missives that kept me responding. Those who have met him in person know what I’m talking about- there is something so ultimately genuine and real about him, and his honesty and openness is so disarming that it takes you by surprise when you see what he looks like.
Big, powerfully built, and covered in tattoos from head to toe, Cody doesn’t look like the kind of guy you’d just walk up to in a bar and strike up a conversation with, until you see the warm, open and friendly way he talks to and deals with those around him, no matter who they are. I’ve seen him angry before too, and he’s not someone on whose bad side I’d like to end up, but mostly, he’s the sort of guy that once you start hanging out with, you feel as though you’ve known forever.
I first met Cody, fittingly, on a road trip to go meet up with some guys in northern Pennsylvania and spend the weekend boxing, camping, and eating mushrooms in the woods. These things in combination are sort of the guy’s quintessence. He has spent his life chasing ecstatic experience, communion with nature, and a first-name relationship with violence and danger.
Shortly after this experience, he joined my friends and I on a Transcontinental motorcycle journey, which can be read about in my book “Liber IV.” During that time, I got to know the man a lot better, and came away from that trip even more impressed with his ability to articulate his position on life and what he saw as his purpose within its greater framework.
We talked about the idea of the Wandervögel, a German youth movement that encouraged fitness, hiking, and shaking off the restrictions of society to rediscover their freedom in the natural world that they loved so much.
It was very much informed by romanticism and a spirit of adventure, an overwhelmingly positive message in the face of the changing world and political climate, as well as world wars and totalitarian governments (who would later on attempt to co-opt the movement for its own aims).
In 1933, the Reich outlawed the Wandervögel and most other youth movements that were not official Hitler Youth. After World War II, the movement saw a resurgence, and still exists in Germany today, albeit in a much lessened and more tame incarnation.
The movement found its way to America in the form of the so-called “Nature Boys.”
“Nature Boys” as they were later called were without exception either German immigrants or American youths whose lives were influenced by transplanted Germans that spread their Lebensreform (life-reform) message to anyone ready for a radical departure from the accepted boundaries of 20th century civilization.
Modern primitives, naturmensch, wandervogel, bohemians, reformers, wayfarers, and vagabonds are all expressions that evoke a tone of something wholly apart from the orthodox.”
– Hippie Roots and the Perennial Subculture by Gordon Kennedy
The attitude of the Wandervogel movement can perhaps be best summed up in the Goethe quote, “God can be worshipped in no more beautiful way than by the spontaneous welling up from one’s breast of mutual converse with Nature.”
From the same article cited above:
“Another group, called the “Wandervogel”, was founded in 1895 by Hermann Hoffmann and Karl Fischer in Steglitz, a suburb of Berlin. They began to take some high school students on nature walks, then later on longer hikes.
Soon a huge youth movement that was both anti-bourgeois and Teutonic Pagan in character, composed mostly of middle class German children, organized into autonomous bands. Wandervogel members, aged mainly between 14-18 years and spread to all parts of Germany eventually numbering 50,000.
Part hobo and part medieval, they pooled their money, wore woolen capes, shorts and Tyrolean hats and took long hikes in the country where they sang their own versions of Goliardic songs and camped under primitive conditions.
Both sexes swam nude together in the lakes and rivers and in their hometowns they established “nests” and “anti-homes”, sometimes in ruined castles where they met to plan trips and play mandolins and guitars.
Their short weekend trips became 3 to 4 weeks long journeys of hundreds of miles. Soon they were establishing permanent camps in the wild that were open to all.
Mostly the Wandervogel sought communion with nature, with the ancient folk-spirit as embodied in the traditional peasant culture, and with one another. They developed a harmonious mystic resonance with their environment.”
Cody has taken it upon himself to reawaken the Wandervogel spirit here in the United States, and I conducted the following interview with him to shed some light on his project, and his thoughts on how it will develop.
PW: Cody, tell me about the concept behind the Wandervögel project you’re working on. What was your inspiration for it and where do you see it going?
CQ: Wandervögel is a wilderness cult. A reawakening, rooted simply in getting outdoors and having fun. It’s my attempt at connecting the dots, so to speak. To build a community for outsiders, ramblers and forest folk.
To foster higher values, stewardship of the land, and building solidarity through communal activities.
The inspiration for Wandervögel came from a series of conversations that you and I had right after the Transcontinental. We were talking about traveling, being nomadic and by-gone hiking movements.
Think, “Black Metal Boyscouts.” Half joking, but it’s actually a great idea. I’d say the Darkthrone song, “Hiking Metal Punks,” had a lot to do with it, too.
Besides that, I grew up hanging with a lot of crust punks, which is a culture that has sunk really low.
I’d like to offer those folks something better to be apart of. Thus, Wandervögel begins.
I see a lot of potential for Wandervögel building a righteous community globally. People are bored, discontent about the world around them. Folks are looking for alternative solutions, for experiences over comfort- they are searching for answers and new meanings.
A lot more people are going outside again- I want to show them they are on the right path.
I believe it will also become a beacon for those already in the fringes of society, but who lack community.
Wandervögel is a revolt and it’s here, man. We are going to grow!
PW: I know that you have traveled extensively through America by truck, motorcycle, train and bicycle. How do you think that travel has shaped your worldview, for better or worse, and how has it colored your perception of modern day America?
CQ: Personally, I feel optimistic as fuck! I’ve basically had an epic adventure for 10 years straight. My worldview is simple: go, and go now!
If I’ve learned anything from traveling, it’s that there is absolutely nothing stopping you from having epic adventures, except your own doubt. Traveling is more accessible and people are not as fucked as the television tells you. You just have to be willing to take risks and leave your comfort zone.
It’s really just the cities that are in bad shape. Modern America is basically a corporate fiction, and I’m not interested. You can buy into it and get swept into the rat race, or you can come party with us in the woods.
PW: It seems the “modern condition”, is man’s disconnection from the natural world, and over-dependence and addiction to technological conveniences, something that all of us are guilty of or suffer from to one degree or another.
Do you see these things as a problem?
How can they be combated or moderated?
Why do you think being outdoors is so important anyways?
CQ: I mean you have people in this country who have been neighbors for more than ten years and have never even had dinner together. I think that says it all.
I think it’s a huge problem. I see the natural world being destroyed in the name of consumerism. I see human interaction and real experience being traded in for video games and virtual reality.
People are detached from the truth. The truth of who they are, where their food comes from, where there water comes from and what’s happening to those water sources.
We are conditioned to view strangers and animals as predators, and to be afraid of the dark. There seems to be this strong, modern narrative of separating people from each other and from nature. Which, in my mind, is of course separating us from our own true nature. Look at the world around us, look at the general health of people.
How do you moderate It?
Well, there’s that age old expression, lead by example. You have to reach out to people. Break the mold, shake their realities. Offer new methods and invigorate them with experience. Give them new perspectives. Live with such boldness and joy that it becomes contagious.
For me, that is happening out on the road and deep within the wilderness. That’s what Wandervögel is all about. Excitement, adventure, and a bit of danger.
As far as combating it goes, well, you can join us in our forest-folk revelry, for starters. You can shoot your TV, and cancel your Netflix subscription, put your phone in the microwave. You can drop off the grid and become a homesteader or a hunter/gathering type.
For me, being outdoors is so important, because it teaches us that “child” is not an age, it’s an energy. Think back to playing in the woods, or even riding bicycles around when you were young. When’s the last time you felt that joy of youth? It’s still out there. It’s waiting for you to cannon ball into that lake, to yell as loud as you can on top of that mountain. It’s hiding at the top of that tree, you just have to climb it. It’s out in some meadow, underneath the stars.
All you need is some friends, or your lover, a campfire and a bottle of wine. You can tap back into that youthful bliss. What greater rebellion is there? Besides that, it’s free!
PW: What books or albums changed your life or worldview, and why?
CQ: “The Pokey Little Puppy” by Janette Lowery
I remember asking my grandmother to read me this book every time I saw her as a very young child. It’s a story about five puppies who are siblings. The main character is too curious for the mundane activities of his siblings and takes to wandering, often causing mischief, but dodging punishment because he’s always gone exploring.
Until it ends with him getting no dessert because he’s late for supper. Turned out to be a foreshadowing of my childhood! I was even given the name, “Late for Supper,” on the Appalachian Trail.
“Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen
This 13 year old kid crash lands a plane in the Canadian wilderness, being forced to survive with just his wits and a hatchet. I read this book when I was in 5th grade and it basically shattered all fear of living alone in the woods for me. In fact, I began daydreaming of it. It also sparked an obsession with hatchets and axes- I mean, I have two tattooed on my face.
“Queen of the Black Coast” by Robert E. Howard
My grandfather and I used to watch the Arnold Schwarzenegger “Conan” film religiously. When I was in middle school, around 13, he turned me onto several of Howard’s stories, this one being my favorite. If you’ve never read it, correct yourself immediately. If you have, re-read it now!
“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
I think this one is self explanatory!
Albums that made an impact?
The Misfits – “Static Age”
I first heard this during the summer between 4th and 5th grade. I was probably 10 years old and Nintendo 64 was really big. I had a lot of friends staying indoors, due to video games, instead of playing outside, so the lyrical content matched my frustrations with technology.
I remember hearing “Last Caress” and “Angelfuck,” and also thinking “man, this sure ain’t my mom’s music!“ so it was the start of rebellion as a youth for me.
Black Sabbath – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”
“Nobody will ever let you know
When you ask the reasons why
They just tell you that you’re on your own
Fill your head all full of lies…”
“Well people look and people stare
Well I don’t think that I even care
You work your life away and what do they give?
You’re only killing yourself to live”
Sabbath will always be my favorite band of all time.
Danzig – “III: How the Gods Kill”
The opening to this album sent chills down my spine. When I realized Danzig was the singer for the Misfits, I only liked it more. In my opinion this is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. It’s proud and muscular as fuck! I spent a lot of time lifting weights and smoking cigarettes to this album in my mom’s garage as a kid.
Venom – “Black Metal”
Holy shit, this album blew my mind. I remember being young enough that the lyrics made me nervous, yet, I couldn’t deny that I was in love with it all the same!
Darkthrone – “Hate Them”
I come from a land of systematic erasure of optimism and positiveness. You don’t want to encourage me!
PW: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Last words are yours.
CQ: Check out the Instagram for some inspiration @wandervogel.official
I’m building a website at www.wandervogel.bigcartel.com
News and updates will be posted to Instagram in the meantime.
For those interested in short stories and essays you can follow my blog:
Thanks as always, Paul, for your time and support.
Let it be known that Wandervögel is in full support of Operation Werewolf and your full works!
Thank you to those who already follow along, your support helps spread this good work.
For those who are just hearing about this:
Wandervögel is a living community of forest folk.
It is an act of rebellion.
It is the true cult of the Forest Rebel!
The Wandervögel philosophy is rooted in the spirit of adventure.
It is taking chances for the sake of experience.
Do you want to live boldly and joyfully?
Do you want to be carefree, wild, and dangerous?
Do you want to be part of a story that will last long after your death?
Then grab your backpack!
Throw some cheese and some wine in there.
Grab your favorite knife and a sleeping bag.
Find a friend or brave it alone, but whatever you do, don’t let life pass you by!
It’s time to stop dreaming and start living! Come and revel with us beneath the tall trees!
We’ll be out here, stoking the forest folk spirit!
Note from Paul:
If you are interested in further reading on this topic, check out “Children of the Sun,” by Gordon Kennedy, a history of the “Naturmensch” movement.