Zine review: ‘Hellebore – The Unveiling issue’

“The veil between the worlds is thinning.”

Whether Hellebore editor Maria J Perez Cuervo is referring to Samhain specifically, or knows something we don’t, I’m not sure. But I do know that there’s no more appropriate time of year to consider the barrier between this world and others.

Issue 8’s tutelary spirit is William Blake as it explores those who have peered through the doors of perception, what fates may await those who do, and what may be found there.

I recently reviewed the British Library’s The Horned God: Weird Tales of the Great God Pan. There’s a satisfying synchronicity between that book and the excellent article here by Katy Soar. Entitled, with happy inevitability, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, Soar explores music’s role in the revelation of the sacred, and the manner in which two fragile 60s visionaries – Pink Floyd’s wayward genius Syd Barrett and Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones – helped make the “music of the 60s…prove to be a grove in which to worship Pan”. Barrett “believed he had looked beyond the veil and encountered Pan himself in Grantchester Meadows”, and to his contemporaries (while, admittedly, on LSD) Jones “appeared as Pan, an urbane satyr”. We now view both of these figures, for slightly different reasons, as “doomed” but at the height of their powers would have appeared quite the opposite. This article returns them to their contemporary status.

Although the respective fates of Barrett and Jones should be a reminder for all such travellers to tread carefully, Catherine Winter and Finn Robinson’s ‘The Entheogenic Garden’ is a handy primer to which Northern Hemisphere plants would let you, too, break on through to the other side.

Nadia Choucha looks at surrealist Leonora Carrington and how her life and art were dedicated (and not always by choice) to bringing back revelations from journeys initiated by magic, madness and therapy. In a related vein, I enjoyed James Machin’s examination of David Rudkin’s classic, powerful drama Penda’s Fen through the prism of Joseph Campbell and the Native American “Vision Quest”, and Verity Holloway’s exploration the life and works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

There’s a warning to those who may go beyond the veil in search of Faeries, in John Reppion’s study of the history and folklore (and there’s not always a distinction between the two) of “fairy ointment”. Elsewhere there is the fascinating tale of the Devon plumber’s son who fooled the publishing world with his “autobiographical” tale of a Tibetan Lama. Perez Cuervo recounts this curious episode from the 1950s which is even stranger than it sounds: Cyril Henry Hoskin was a hoaxer in the eyes of the world, but through an act of self-creation continued to live “as” T. Lobsang Rampa for decades until his death. If the “hoaxer” believes it, is it really a hoax?

Finally Rob Young, whose The Magic Box is a must-read, looks at the anarchic power of folk music. (My one complaint is that he repeatedly conflates ‘England’ with ‘Britain’, i.e. “the British landscape…the idea that there are two Englands…”: ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ are not interchangeable concepts; they are not the same thing.)

Hellebore is a superbly-produced zine with a distinctive style and academic rigour, and this issue drips with a blend of psychedelic art reminiscent of Peter Max, and the familiar art-nouveau style of previous issues, courtesy of Nathaniel Hébert. Highly recommended.

Buy Hellebore

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