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The Wolfsangel

By Eberhard Felsmann

A short while ago, a colleague of mine came to see me during lunch break. My desk was littered with VDD stuff and he spotted a logo design that incorporated the Wolfsangel. Pointing at it, he jokingly asked if I was re-designing the swastika. After a few good laughs, I explained to him that this was Hegewald’s symbol and that in German it was called the “Wolfsangel”.

After he left I realized that I was quite relieved that he had not inquired further because I had never paid great attention to the roots of the sign. Although I had looked at it hundreds of times, I could not explain the origin of this wolf catching gizmo. Therefore, I decided to contact Mr. Horst Detert, Editor of the Drahthaar Blätter. In my opinion, Horst is also the most knowledgeable historian on matters relating to the VDD. I was not wrong. A short while later I received a letter from Horst that explained the history of the wolfsangel. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to condense enough of it to give other curious VDD members a modest understanding of the wolfsangel.

The wolfsangel was a trap made of iron that was used to catch wolves and foxes for many centuries. The name “wolfsangel” was used from very early in its history, and it is referred to by that name in the hunting regulations issued by Charles the Great. In France, it was known almost until modern times. Respected historical references regarding hunting practices call it by the same name, and describe its mechanical function and purpose. Sometimes it was also called a wolf’s iron.

The trap was used in Germany until the middle of the last century, and was still familiar at the end of the century. It was used in two, three, and four arm versions.

In his book about hunting methods and trapping secrets, Emil Regemer writes about it and calls it the “German-iron”. (The picture with this article is from his book.) The trap consists of an iron rod 6 to 7 cm long to which four sharp pointed hooks were attached in such a way that they could fold against the rod. Springs that were fastened from the top would make the hooks snap forward when they were released so that the sharp hooks came to rest at a 45° angle from the shaft. A brass plate attached to the top of the shaft had two holes in it that allowed it to slide up or down on an iron fork. At the bottom end of the fork was an upside down cup that acted as a stopper and also held the sharp hooks in the cup in a folded position. When the rod was pulled, the sharp hooks would be released from the cup and spring outward penetrating the mouth of the animal. Meat was attached to the hooks to bait the trap, which was hung from a tree branch at a suitable height. When a predator jumped up to grab the bait, the rod would be pulled and the hooks would penetrate its mouth and cause it to die a painful death.

As far back as the 13th century, the wolfsangel appears as a double hook symbol on houses, coats of arms, and city crests. This was particularly true in Northern Germany. Often the symbol was carved into granite boundary markers and huge fieldstone boulders as a mystical symbol said to have the power to ward off damage to livestock caused by wolves. No one knows when or by whom the wolfsangel was first designed in the double hook emblem. However, we do know that the symbol was adopted by the supporters of the blood-tracking associations (Verein Hirschmann) as their club emblem.

From then to today’s followers of the Hegewald (the VDD) and the Hegewaldnadel (Hegewald pin) was only a short step in a long chain of historical developments—from trap to symbol. As such, it reminds us of our duty and our past. Therefore, may we guard and honor our beautiful symbol, the Wolfsangel – Hegewadnadel.

The VDD used the symbol as the Hegewaldnadel in silver and gold. It is given to members to honor special contributions to the benefit and welfare of the Deutsch-Drahthaar. The wolfsangel also appears as the silver double colored hook on the club’s green flag, which is flown during the Hegewald and other official functions.

Editor’s Note: Eberhard Felsman is a VDD Group Canada member. This article was made available via Sandy Hodson, editor of Group Canada Newsletter with much appreciation.

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