Cunning Folk Magazine : The Air Issue

I was depressed and suicidal when the debut issue of Cunning Folk emerged a few years ago. I wanted it bad. But I didn’t buy it. It was around £15 or so, with the postage and packing and the ever-so-miserable voice in my ever-so-heavy head said I couldn’t afford it.

I watched, from a distance, as the new beacon in the (other)world of occult literature was warmly welcomed into the fold by more or less all the other weirdos I was connected with online. So I knew it was something extraordinary. 

Everything I’d been able to read about it (reading when depressed is almost impossible) suggested it was a flourishing forest of a magazine, teeming with wild wisdom, unexplored stories and raw beauty not to be found anywhere else. 

Still, the voice in my head said no.

We skip small talk and talk about the things that haunt us, existential questions, the things we live for and things that make us think and feel. Where did we come from? Where are we going? Do we have a say in the matter?

 – Elizabeth Kim. 

Somehow, my path led me past issue two, and when I emerged from another depressive episode and realised how much I needed to explore Cunning Folk, issue three was out. But I was too late. Issue three and the first and second issues were sold out everywhere.

So when The Air Issue was released, I pounced. Going to my online checkout with the issue in my virtual basket was nerve-racking. I was thinking, ‘I bet my payment won’t be accepted because it’s sold out again.’ But my gods and goddesses sided with me, and the purchase went through. 

When I slipped Cunning Folk out of its cardboard cradle, I fell hopelessly, achingly, adoringly in love. No words I tap on this page will seem enough to get across the initial and continual impact it has on me. Whenever I pick it up, I’m bewitched by it all over again. I feel very much the same as reader Ashley Perry: 

“It was one of those reading experiences where I felt like someone peeped into my brain, discovered the exact content that had been missing in my life and manifested it onto paper.”

and the same as an Instagram user who said:

“I want to send this to everyone I care about”

My love originated with the physical quality of the magazine. Perfect bound, it felt substantial and comfortable to hold. It would have been expensive to produce, but my oh my, how worth it. The exceptional quality brought to mind two other favourite magazines, Sabat and Becoming The Forest. If I take good care of it, Cunning Folk will last longer than I do. 

The cover art by the ever influential Katy Horan, combined with the inspired title and those few words that make the weirdos sit up, makes for a cover that could start a thousand conversations. 

I marvelled over the effectiveness of the text sparingly used on the spine. I find myself glancing at it now as I type this and thinking, ‘oh, that works, that really works so good.’ I’m all about the details.

Editor letters can be hit or miss, but founder and curator Elizabeth Kim, a seasoned journalist, fiction writer and editor, crafted one that’s positively luminous. 

Cunning Folk is a magckical medley of essays, features and interviews, photography, illustration and a pinch of poetry and fiction. Each page was a gift, and I took my time. I can’t say it was easy to do so. But it felt good to let myself breathe with each piece. 

Through the air issue, I’ve been introduced to a new favourite artist – Kaitlynn Copithorne. Much of her art made me think of my Waldorfian upbringing and left me feeling all kinds of content. 

Air was the theme we were always a little wary of. What could be said of the spaces between things? But as we worked through this issue, many of us found ourselves to be disproportionately airy, or “away with the fairies”, and often in need of grounding and planting roots, balanced by good food, crafts, dancing, yoga and other embodiment practices. As a consequence, we loved how this issue turned out— strewn with melancholy, grief, and wonder at the mysterious world that lies just out of sight. Its conception felt at once personal and universal, and, as always, we’re proud of the writings and artwork featured within. 

– Elizabeth Kim

I don’t like to give everything anyway because surprise spices our days, but in this issue waits writing on lichen by Alice Tarbuck. (Tarbuck’s book A Spell in the Wild is a must-read.) A spell in the form of a ritualistic creative writing prompt by Callum James. A conversation with Vivianne Crowley and a recipe for a squash and walnut cake that will nourish your mind. And there’s more. So much more. 

Cunning Folk is out of the ordinary, precious and stimulating. You can feel the wealth of love poured into each aspect of its creation by the more than 50 people involved. 

I find myself imagining what it would be like if magazines such as Cunning Folk lit up the walls of magazine stockists rather than the tepid, uninspired, limp publications that slope there instead, magazines stained with everything we already know. Cunning Folk goes deeper than what Google can tell us about magic and mythology, folklore and the occult. 

As mentioned on the Cunning Folk Patreon page, —you don’t find new ideas only by repeating what has come before, but by imagining new possibilities and setting foot into the unknown. 

I’ve been in a (mostly) quiet state of mourning since I turned the last page of the air issue, knowing that I won’t be able to buy the other copies. So if anyone reading this has any of the three previous issues and would be willing to lend them to me, I would be immeasurably grateful. I’d pay for the postage and packaging and treat them with the respect they deserve.  

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