I can’t remember what the last thing I reviewed was…a book, a piece of jewellery, a place…? The past several months have seen my rational mind, my creativity and my memory escape me. Just functioning has been extremely hard. But I’m coming back. Slowly, but surely I’m returning to what I once knew, to who I once knew.
It was the end of November when I was in Newcastle airport. I was on my way back to Sweden with my boyfriend after five beautiful days in the North of England with my family. My sweet Little Nanna had given me some Christmas money and I knew what I wanted while it was still warm in my wallet, and I would find what I wanted in WHSmith.
I spent a good ten minutes pulling and pushing at magazines before I found Oh Comely huddled underneath some copies of National Geographic. It had been nearly a year since I’d last been in England and had bought a copy. I was aching for the reassuringly heavy, gorgeously printed magazine which always left my head cozily crowded with inspiration.
Issue 32 found it’s way into my carry on luggage and made it home with me to Scandinavia. I read it little bit by little bit, wanting the taste for as long as I could make it last. It was in issue 32 that I found out about the theme for the issue I’m reviewing here – magic.
Life got a little bit twisty turney after coming home, and I found myself thinking almost obsessively about issue 33 and what would be hidden inside. The theme seemed too much of a coincidence, and, despite it being a summer issue (winter had been in Sweden for a while already) and my bank balance revealing a frightening low number, I found myself purchasing it anyway. It was what my spirit needed.
It arrived quickly, just a few days after I ordered it. Living in Scandinavia you expect everything to take a decade to arrive. I dedicated half an afternoon to issue 33 and made notes as I went. (I subscribed to Oh Comely for years, and it was always a lovely little routine to note down everything that moved me.)
For anyone who hasn’t read Oh Comely before, it’s a magazine for women and is made up of stories, film, music, fashion mischief and ideas. It’s divided up into four eclectic sections – Features, Stories, Investigations and In Every Issue. I’m one of those curious types that has a quick flick through, but I don’t dwell long enough to really know what’s happening on the page, I like a tiny lick but not a full taste so I can have plenty of surprises.
As soon as I turned the first page (for real) I knew I’d made the right decision. Now, I don’t want to reveal everything because that will take away some of the surprise for you. I’ll just talk about the bits which were perfect for me…
I was touched by the minimalistic, thought-provoking yet simultaneously soothing work of artist Hanako Mimiko which greeted me on the back of the front cover as well as the accompanying text.
I create as I speak.
All the wonder of the universe : alchemy,
coincidence, a slight
of hand, a turn of phrase.
There’s a little bit of magic.
Everybody has it.
One part of Oh Comely which I’ve always loved is Contributors, where the contributors to the issue are introduced, and provide a self-portrait and three insightful things about themselves. In this issue I was intrigued by illustrator and designer Lorna Leigh Harrington and the collaboration she did with Dr Martens where she was inspired by Iceland and its mountainous scenery.
Curious Things introduced eight magical products – the stuff of shopping dreams. It was the Magnetic hourglass timer from the Science Museum which pulled at my attention. I found myself fantasizing about the stalagmite formations which magic into being in sixty seconds.
The first Investigation feature, Magical Corners of the World was written by travel and outdoors writer Sian Anna Lewis. I savoured each write up of her favourite spots from across the glove, and was especially caught up in her memory of Cornwall (UK) where she was horse riding and fell upon a fairy ring. Her horse turned his head to skirt around it and she couldn’t bring herself to correct him…
What We’re Reading – an insight into the world of the Oh Comely team’s favourite books – made my whole self light up. I haven’t read many books this year, and my soul is aching because of it. So to have two pages of printed text all about books which I’ve yet to discover was a beautiful gift in itself. Of the four books written about, I was drawn to Wildwood by Colin Meloy most strongly. Liz Seabrook wrote…Based on the sprawling forest on the edge of the Melys’ corner of Portland, the story begins with a teenager called Prue caught in turmoil as her baby brother is snatched by crows and carried away into the trees.
The Truth Behind Urban Myths, an Investigation feature written by Frances Ambler, turned some beliefs which I’ve held for as long as I can remember on their heads, including the belief that should you drop a penny from the Eiffel Tower it will kill someone…big reveal…it won’t.
I would always look forward to the fashion stories in Oh Comely, and was particularly excited for issue 33’s Enchanted Forest feature, presenting photography by Ellie Smith who captured the gentle gorgeousness of softly lit woodland, and the otherworldly vision that is Nejilka dressed in knits, corduroy and robust boots from labels such as YMC, Toast and Waven.
The Crystal Ark was the next segment that I devoured with abundant amounts of pleasure. Oh Comely’s art director Mikala Georgia Grante shared her gemstones collection along with personal insights into each gem. I particularly enjoyed her description of Moonstone – Basically the Tilda Swinton of crystals: translucent, protean and compelling.
The Best Witchy Films is a part of the magazine which I really, really wanted to pause at during my initial ‘quick flick through.’ But I’m glad I waited. The Craft was one of the four films featured, and it was an electrifying experience in itself remembering the pivotal role this film played in my life at different moments in my growth from strange teen to strange woman.
My Son’s Superpowers, written by Zoe McDonald re-introduced me to childhood wonder, and what it is to not even doubt that magic is real. She talks about her son and the ‘inherently magical’ way he thinks.
Stories Of The Senses initially pulled me in with Deborah Dewbury-Langley’s evocative photography. Scientists believe that we have more than five senses. In fact, they believe that we may have as many as twenty one. This part of the magazine explores six senses through personal prose. The offering which touched me most strongly was What I Tasted by writer and cook Olivia Potts who explores her journey to making the soup her late mother used to cook. When my mother died, I lost a recipe. Her death was sudden and unexpected. The day before, we talked normally, knowing nothing of what lay ahead. We talked about her library books, my job, Emmerdale.
A Botanical Journey introduced me to the naturally dyed world of Rebecca Desnos a natural dyer and vegan whose textile practice is an expression of her beliefs. It was the last six words of the article which moved mountains in me…With nature, you can’t make mistakes.
It was the words midnight and noctambulators (those who walk at night) which pulled me into the next Investigation feature – Walking After Midnight. I consider myself something of a night creature, and am immediately drawn to any content which explores nighttime. This feature with words by Frances Ambler looks into walking your territory at night, and how different it can be. Noctambulation, or the act of walking at night, is a surprisingly rare activity. Since the introduction of street lighting in the 19th Century, we’ve been urged to ignore the darkness.
I gobbled up fiction offering Museum Of You by Philly Page fast. Extremely fast. It was unusual and gripping and satisfying. This is the story I couldn’t tell you when I loved you. It began as a harmless enough afternoon activity…
When I think of author Clarissa Pinkola Estés I think of a woman who has my back. I have a copy of her book Women Who Run With The Wolves. Hundreds of sentences have been underlined in biro. Hundreds of pages have had their tops turned down. Women Who Changed The World is an Every Issue feature and when I found out who was holding the stage in issue 33, I wanted to dance. Aimee-Lee Abraham writes so gorgeously about this brilliant woman I just wanted more. And then some. Clarissa Pinkola Estés argues that women have been dangerously tamed, their archetypal strengths questioned by the pressure to be nice, virtious and servile – “all things to all people.” The accompanying illustration by Lorna Leigh Harrington couldn’t have been more perfect for the piece. I’m considering carefully pulling it out and pinning it to the wall.
Instagram is, for me, one of the most magical things to happen to social media in recent years, but I’ll often find myself getting agitated because of the sheer volume of magic there is to find. I want to see it all, but sometimes need help with directions. Which is why, when I saw The Spiritual Sisterhood Of Instagram listed in the contents page, I was besides myself. Hell, I would love an entire magazine listing Instagrammers only. Aimee-Lee Abraham introduced me to four witches whose covens I’ve since joined, including the coven of The Hood Witch. One addition which I haven’t talked about yet but which I should mention because it’s special for me, is the inclusion of little sound bites at the sides of the page where you can learn a little bit more. They appear throughout the magazine, though it’s the soundbites in this feature which resonated with me especially. I learned about botanica, a term which is common in many Hispanic American countries and Latin Communities and which describes retail outlets that sell folk medicine, amulets and other products that you would associate with magic.
A Phone Rings In The Universe is a deeply fascinating look into the marvel of coincidence and synchronicity. Written by Jason Ward, this illuminating exploration introduced me to small but significant moments in Ward’s life, like when he recently woke up and thought about his first girlfriend who he hadn’t seen in thirteen years…he then went on to see her later that afternoon.
Recipe is another In Every Issue feature, and Casting A Spell With Food written by writer and cook Olivia Borton writes exquisitely about cooking being ‘a gentler kind of magic.’ Her writing, like the recipes she offers on the following page, is rich, homely and comforting. At the sight of a loved one arriving home, downtrodden and dismal after a bad day, I weave through recipe books as if they were spell books and pick one to pluck out the pain. When there is nothing you can say, you can say it with food. I’m sorry; I love you; it’ll be okay. I stand over the blue flame on the hob and work the only magic I know.
Folklore has always occupied a place in this strange heart of mine, so I couldn’t have asked for a better article to finish with than Lesser-Known Folklore. I snuggled a bit deeper into the couch to finish the last few pages of issue 33 and, thanks to Sarah McCoy learned that in Greece, Death’s Messenger is welcomed as a friend, helpfully guiding and supporting the weary from one world to the next.
Issue 33 was all the magic I could have dreamed of getting in 130 pages. I’ve gathered new knowledge like precious roots, had my creativity softly woken up and my dreams realigned with the stars. Oh Comely is a precious spell book, an opportunity to see beyond what ever is hurting. It’s a journey well worth travelling.
Everything and everyone I wanted to know more about from Issue 33
For more Oh Comely, and to buy this issue magic yourself away to their website.