A little over a year ago, a bold new gay men’s publication flew out of the broom closet in a big way. Named HORNS, the renegade publication is proud to call itself “the world’s first homoerotic magazine that explores the shadowy world of witchcraft, sorcery, and our homo heritage.” Published on the Equinoxes and Solstices and on Halloween, HORNS is available in both digital and printed versions. The cover art of each issue offers a sneak preview of the eye-popping pictorials on the inside– which, as you may have guessed, are wildly fantastical and fearlessly sexual. The photography is guaranteed to both shock and delight in equal doses. HORNS is not just sexual, in fact, but proudly pornographic (Yep, before you ask, there ARE erections!). This magazine, however, is guaranteed to stimulate more than just a guy’s magic wand. HORNS boasts a family of very sophisticated writers who clearly have genuine insight and/or experience in the occult. The reader is treated to interviews with prominent members of the gay male pagan community, book reviews, music reviews, meditations, and profiles of unsung gay heroes throughout history. The magazine also features contributions from its readers. In short, it’s all things “gay occult”, appealing to a colorful and creative subculture that’s often out of sight from the so-called mainstream LGBTQ community at large.
The man behind HORNS is Aden Ardennes. He is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief. One of Ardennes’ goals was to bring together the community of his like-minded brothers worldwide who were looking for a magazine to call their own. For Ardennes, the magazine started out as a sigil: a magical symbol that derives its power from the meaning and will placed into it by its creator. Indeed, HORNS is a labor of love for this 29-year old New Jersey native. Each issue seems meticulously hand-crafted, with designs, colors, and fonts that really make the magazine look… well, ALIVE. Even when viewing HORNS in digital form, you can almost feel the textures of aged leather and flocked velvet as you read the articles.
Hard at work on the highly anticipated next issue of the magazine, Aden Ardennes took the time to speak to me about HORNS, gay male sexuality, religion, and much more…
JR: Hi, Aden! Thanks for speaking with me. So… the first thing– well, the second thing, actually!– that impressed me about HORNS is that the magazine is definitely not “Paganism 101” or “Wicca 101”. Someone who may be looking at the magazine for the first time maybe a little intimidated, because they might not even know anything about neo-paganism or about Wicca or about the occult, much less what a “sigil” or “grimiore” is! They could look it up on Google, obviously (laughs), but how do you feel about that? Was HORNS meant to appeal to the more experienced occultists?
AA: No, not entirely. I wanted to maintain a balance where a gay man reads HORNS, and… well, let’s assume he’s new but he has that little voice in his ear saying , “This is where you belong. You should look at this. You’re fascinated by this.” I want him to look at this and say, “OMG, this is the real deal. This is the world I want to explore.” On the other hand, people who have been in the occult world for sometime won’t be bored by “paganism 101” or “Chaos Magic 101”. There are some articles in there that are novice-friendly, but I remind the writers to make sure to go into more mature practices. I don’t want to bore anyone!
JR: Between the articles and the photography, I can’t imagine anyone being bored, that’s for sure! It stimulates the mind.. and other parts!
AA: That’s good. I hope so. With the interviews and the articles, even if they’re just some of the basics. When I interviewed Matt Auryn, for example, I would bring up his traditions or what he’s exploring, but I didn’t ask too many follow-up questions on it. If something appeals to a reader, I want him to explore it on his own. I’m a big believer that any occult tradition is a solitary path unless one chooses to engage with others, and that magic or witchcraft or sorcery– whatever word you’re most comfortable with– is very much an individual exploring his own desires, will, and power in conjunction with whatever tradition he chooses.
JR: I would imagine that in this day and age that people discover Wicca, neo-paganism, and the occult through the internet. They might not have access to other people who are interested the same thing, if they live in a small town for example. I would guess that they’d be a solitary practitioner, at least until they can meet up with others. And I agree: Learning is very important. We all need teachers– but eventually it’s all about finding your own pathway!
AA: And that’s the way it ought to be. If you want to find a mentor– if and you feel that you’ve reached a certain place, or you luck out and you meet someone who is more advanced than you are in a particular path and they offer to teach you, I’d say “Take that opportunity!” But don’t forget that witchcraft is NOT dogma. It’s not dogmatic at all. It’s an evolution and an interaction. I noticed growing up that people will automatically judge: not necessarily in a positive or a negative way, but they will try to box you in if you say, “This is my path. This is the magical ideas that I subscribe to.” So, with HORNS, I never say what my own path is… because I don’t want anyone to box the magazine in. In a way, the magazine is an extension of myself. As I said in the Halloween issue, this started off as my sigil… but now it’s yours too!.
JR: Thank you for that! Now, you had previously told me that the magazine is open to all paths, and there is no judgement as to what may be perceived as “black magic” or “white magic”, et cetera…
AA: Yes! My own personal path is not important, because the magazine is open to all paths. On my staff, I have Wiccans, and people who practice voodoo, and who practice chaos magic, and who practice a variation of neo-paganism, even members of the Church of Satan. I want the staff to reflect the magazine. If you love the occult– not just neo-paganism, not just shamanism, not just any particular tradition– but if you’re gay, and there’s something within you that drives you towards sorcery, then this is the place for you. “Welcome Home” is what I want to hang on the door!
JR: Wow! SO, what made you first decide to create HORNS?
AA: I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it! (Laughs) And if witchcraft is about nothing else, it’s about manifesting your will in reality. This has been my ritual working, so to speak!
JR: Gotcha! Now, I know that it must be an incredible commitment to self-publish a regular magazine, especially one as detailed and laid out as well as HORNS… and you are doing all of this completely on your own. This magazine is a true labor of love.
AA: Oh yeah! But I wouldn’t say completely on my own. The contributors and artists I work with, like St. Jinx or Buck Agrios, have been very generous and good to me. It’s a labor of love for all of us. Every issue is like giving birth. I know that writers especially love to say that! But this is the hardest thing I have ever done– not just because it’s expensive to do, but because I have to work with so many different types of people: designers, writers, photographers, models, advertisers… As the owner of the magazine, I have to engage the readers as well, to see what they want to see. I need to know what they liked and didn’t like, to try to tailor to the magazine to the community I’m serving. The hardest thing? I have no idea. I’d have to give you a grocery list! It’s tough, but it’s worth it. The happiest day is when I get the test copy in the mail. It looks like I just met my kid for the first time… and it happens every single issue. I’m happier than when I have three boys in my bed! (Laughs)
JR: (Laughs) That’s pretty damn happy!
AA: Oh yeah! Or it’s just really sad. I mean, the first copy of the newest issue of your magazine and you ignore the three boys in your bed!
JR: Hey, creative satisfaction is right up there with fulfillment of the sexual or sensual variety! I understand perfectly! So… It has been just over a year that the magazine has been out. Congratulations on that.
AA: Yes, it has. Thank you. Halloween 2017 was one year.
JR: How has the response to HORNS been so far?
AA: In the beginning, people weren’t really sure. I got a lot of criticisms in the beginning. They’d say “It doesn’t look like any other magazine.” I’d say, “Yes, I know. I wanted it to look like a spell book.” That’s why I chose the textures and the fonts that I did. But now that the word is getting out there a lot more quickly and that I’m appealing to a bigger audience, it’s fantastic. People are like, “We wanted to see something like this for a long time!” We get a few individual complaints here and there. One person said about the Winter Solstice issue: “I don’t like BDSM, so the Krampus didn’t do it for me.” Awwww…. That was my favorite one! (Laughs) I get feedback that changes from issue to issue. Some people love the vampire pictorial with all the blood, and other people didn’t. In the Halloween issue I had a guy with a 10 and a half inch cock jacking off in front of an altar. They wanted to see more of that. Some what to see more mythological photo spreads, like the Krampus shoot. So… one of the difficulties when you have a very interesting community to serve, you’re going to get a lot of interesting tastes, and none of them are going to be the same! I’m bouncing around a lot. But overall, the reception has been wonderful. Each issue sells better than the last, and more people want to get involved: want to get interviewed, want to write, want to submit things… and I welcome all of them. Come on in!
JR: Sounds great! Now, on the subject of the photography: You had told me that you didn’t want HORNS to be merely erotic. You wanted it to be explicit. Was crossing that line, from nudity to real sex, a tough decision to make?
AA: Not at all. (Laughs). In the very beginning, I knew this was where I wanted to go. I wanted to get more and more pornographic. Depending on the photographer I was working with, they would draw a line. My line was that there has to be nudity. I can’t have non-naked men in a homoerotic magazine. As I’ve worked with different people, that line has moved depending on the comfort level of the photographer, the makeup artist, and the models. Some models are OK with being hard and jacking, and others aren’t. Some don’t want to show their face, like the guy with the 10 and a half inch cock. He didn’t want to show his face, so I had to respect that and kind of figure it out. I was there for that photo shoot. He was too fucking beautiful to let go!
JR: Agreed. But I think that the hood covering his face actually worked well for the theme of the photo shoot.
AA: I thought so too.
JR: Besides, no one was looking at the hood anyway! (Laughs) Now, as we kick off 2018, is there still a place for printed erotica, especially a renegade magazine like HORNS?
AA: Absolutely. You can even see it in the trends in pornography: It went from hyper-, hyper-fantasy– where you have the big tits, the huge cock, the smooth bodies, the perfect blonde hair and all that bullshit– to a more home-style, amateur look. Even with professional porn, like some of the companies I’ve worked for, it was made to look homemade and amateur, but it wasn’t. There’s been newer gay video gay companies coming out that focus on a particular niche, and stylize it to cater to a particular fetish. That’s why I’ve chosen this particular niche with HORNS… because cosplay is a fetish. When you’re in bed with someone, the way they look appeals to a certain type of fetish– whether it’s people of two different races, or a guy with long hair or short hair, or a guy with a furry ass, or a guy with a smooth chest… There’s nothing in and of these things that cater to procreation or physical pleasure. They are all fetishes and kinks and mental archetypes. With HORNS, I am testing my hypothesis, and it looks like a lot of other pornographers are starting to do that as well. I am kind of catering to cosplay with some of these photosets. A lot of gay men, whether they are occultists or not, have this love of the big, burly werewolf having forceful sex with someone… or a little bit of that furry thing with Krampus. I have a guy with hooves and horns, and I have sexy vampires. I think that’s where porn is going. I think it’s becoming more and more “smaller market”. With FraternityX, it’s all about the college frat house. With Sketchy Sex, it’s all about the random, anonymous, raw stuff. Everybody has their own particular brand. If you look at pornography in general, that’s where it’s going. It’s no longer just about Playboy and Penthouse. Everybody has their tastes, and everybody is trying to figure out how to market to it. Damn, that was a long-winded answer! (Laughs)
JR: (Laughs!) That’s a great thing!
AA: With the photos, I want to explore more myth and cosplay. But I also want to make sure that there is a balance of regular guys– like the guy with the 10 and a half inch cock, because, you know, everyone has one of those! (Laughs) But it’s just a witch in front of an altar doing some sex magic. But a better example is the photo shoot of Sebastian and Fly Halo by MIR. That was more like the average guys, and all they were doing was pounding away and sucking each other off in this kind of ethereally lit basement. I want to try and have something like that in every issue, where the photos just show two gay occultists going at it. But I also get to play around with fantasies– like vampires, and Krampus beating around a furry little otter. Everyone loved him! I got tons of fan mail about that one! (Laughs)
JR: I’ll bet! (Laughs) Now, from your perspective: How have gay men’s discovery of the occult evolved over time? Do you think that the numbers of gay guys discovering Wicca, or neo-paganism, or the occult, are growing? And, if so, why?
AA: Without trying to qualify it as better or worse, I think that in general for gay men, it’s a rejection of the Abrahamic religions, and the returning to something a little bit more nature-based. Harry Hay tried to create that revolution with the Radical Faerie moment, and when gay men turned to occultism, I see it as that Harry Hay is still alive and well. I do think that it’s becoming more common… but the majority of my own time on this path has been solitary and with heterosexuals. So, I haven’t really been exposed too much. I guess that somewhere deep inside me is the 14-year old who first came across a book on witchcraft… and with HORNS I get to see, finally, that yes there ARE other people like me. Half the reason I wanted to do this was to draw my kind together.
JR: As a Wiccan myself, I am always willing to educate people about it– providing they WANT to be educated! For example, most people don’t know, for example, that Wicca is nature-based, and its principles pre-date Christianity and Judaism– although the religion has evolved throughout history.
AA: Wicca was founded in the 1950’s, but in general, paganism is the world’s first religion, if you can call it that. It’s like comparing voodoo to hoodoo. Voodoo is an African tribal religion, while hoodoo is folklore magic– a blend of a few different traditions because of the slave trade and forced conversions. In terms of Wicca, that’s why I thought it was important to have Leo Martello as the first Fag God in the first issue. I hear that Wicca was the first religion to accept gay men. No! Gerald Gardner was said to be a notorious homophobe, You can thank the acceptance of LGBT people in the Wicca community to Leo Martello and his column “The Gay Witch” in one of the first gay magazines in the country, which was owned by Lige Clarke, the second issue’s FAGGOD. So, these “accepted truths” are whitewashing gay history– and that’s how we forget people like Leo Martello and Lige Clarke and Harry Hay.
When a religion or a tradition says, “This is the way things are.”— such as with Wicca that “We worship a god and a goddess, and their union is the act of creation.”— therefore, they subscribe to a hetero-normative model– then my attitude is “Believe what you want, but don’t get in my way.” If your version of witchcraft demands that I enter into a dynamic that is alien to me, then I don’t have to join you. And it’s OK to do that. I had an ex-boyfriend who railed against a Christian church that he wanted to belong to, but they didn’t admit gay members… and I said, “Then go to a goddamn different church!” or screw it! If Christianity is telling you that it’s wrong, then your religion must be bullshit, because here I am and there’s nothing wrong with me. But that’s me. And on a larger scale in society and in politics, then it’s absolutely important to rail against any injustice that may prevent someone from achieving their potential. But I don’t believe in demanding that a small group change just so you can join. My attitude is, “Start your own.” I’ve wanted to see a magazine like HORNS since I was a teenager. There wasn’t one… so I made it. If a religion is going to claim objective truth, then you kind of have to reflect reality. So if you’re going to say that homosexuality is unnatural and yet we know it isn’t, then you only have two choices here: (1) Your religion is wrong, or (2) Everybody is crazy. But then again, both can be true!
JR: Yep! So, anything else you’d like to tell the masses?
AA: I’d like to say that HORNS is not just about gay occultism. I try to blend gay history in there. I’m 29, and a lot of people in my age group–let’s say 25 to 35– don’t know too much about gay history. I noticed that gay culture has been becoming very “mono” and very blended with straight society, and that seems to be a side effect of acceptance and equality. We’re losing our lineage. That’s not to say that equality, or that the fights that we won for legal equality, are bad. I’m saying quite the opposite. It just seems to be a part of when you can join society as… well, “almost equal” (Laughs). The word “occult” literally means “hidden knowledge”. So, with the magazine, the FAGGOD articles are the first one you see and the one that I spend the most time on with that particular writer. I choose the figures for him, or I ask the readers what forgotten man or gay activist deserves immortality– and I try to resurrect this lineage that you and I have, and bring it to the forefront– at least for gay occultists. So, HORNS is not just about witchcraft. It’s literally a hidden niche of gay culture that I do not want to see die… and that includes people who have fought for our equal rights like Harry Hay, who helped found the Mattachine Society. Yet most people don’t know who he is anymore. The only reason people know about Harvey Milk is because they made a goddamn movie about him! And I don’t want to see that happen. That kind of goes along with the cosplay. You don’t see a lot of cosplay porn, or porn for people who have a fetish for monsters… and you don’t see a lot of people talking about their interest in the odder things in life. I think that’s what HORNS is first and foremost about: It’s truly occult: things that are hidden from the mainstream, and the darker part of gay culture. What I like to say is: Remember that the first word to describe us was “queer”. Not “gay”, not “homosexual”, not “homophile”. It was “queer”. So, be fucking different!
JR: I’ll drink to that! Thank you for speaking with me, Aden!
You can check out HORNS Magazine at www.HornsMagazine.com. Be prepared to be titillated, provoked, educated… and spellbound!