The Wood Is Coming Into Leaf Now: The British Folklore Zines
Aye, there's so many really good zines around these days.
The UK has seen an upsurge in the amount of zines mixing folklore, folk horror, landscape mysteries and the generally weird. This gained momentum during lockdown as people have had more time on their hands to write, explore their local areas and research the weird. Here’s a list of my favourites.
Note that while fascists have often tried to hijack folklore to their own ends, all these zines and projects are antifascist, and for many of them it’s a way to imagine better ways of life and bring people together.
Written by Wulver’s Stane Zine.
The Folk Horror Revival multimedia project (website, facebook group, live events and so on) helped lay the groundwork for the current wave of zines, providing a place to bring together people with similar interests. The most tangible output from FHR has been the books published under their Wyrd Harvest Press imprint.
The first book, Field Studies presented a series of articles on folk horror itself, interviews with the likes of Robin Hardy, Piers Haggard, weird Americana, Czech folk horror and a lot more. The two volume Harvest Hymns covers folk horror in music, from folk to electronic music. Urban Wyrd covers urban folklore and liminal places.
(Full disclosure: I’ve got some articles in the Urban Wyrd books).
All profits from WHP titles are donated to the Wildlife Trusts in the UK.
Named after a god of the untamed woodland, Grimoire Silvanus describes itself as a zine of magic, folklore and the land. Most of the content focuses on interaction with the landscape, such as articles on the joys of getting lost or hunting out a lesser known stone circle, and recipes for food and drink using ingredients you can forage.
Each issue has a recommended playlist, taking in psychedelia, doom metal, folk, crust punk and more, which is a thoughtful addition. It’s in full colour and printed on high quality paper so each issue looks great, too.
Rituals & Declarations was conceived as a one volume, four issue project to run throughout 2020, which would embrace the weird as a way to step outside capitalist realism and help imagine a better future. Obviously 2020 didn’t turn out like anyone expected, so they made the decision to carry on through 2021 with another four issues, which saw the project to completion. However, back issues are still available and are well worth picking up. It’s a mix of well considered articles, fiction and artwork. It also has a lot of Hookland content, the imaginal English county.
Now they have completed what they set out to do, the final issue (vol. 2, issue 4) provides detailed advice for anyone wanting to produce their own zine. Hopefully this will inspire more people to carry on in the spirit of R&D.
Hellebore is the most heavyweight of the folklore zines, describing itself as “a collection of writings and essays devoted to folk horror and the themes that inspire it: folklore, myth, history, archaeology, psychogeography, and the occult”.
Each issue has a theme—ritual, wild gods, sacrifice have been some so far. The articles are well researched and well written, some leaning to academic but remain accessible. The layout and artwork of the zine is excellent, with lots of atmospheric illustrations.
I’ve grouped these two zines together, as they share a publisher, Temporal Boundary Press.
Waiting For You is a zine dedicated to the TV series The Detectorists, which has a gentle folk horror feel to it, a sense of the old within the new. Over the three issues published so far, pieces explore the psychogeography of the setting, issues of land ownership, the concept of comfort TV, the history of the area where it was filmed, interviews with cast members and so on.
Undefined Boundary: The Journal Of Psychick Albion is their new publication, which has the stated aim of exploring the numinous underbelly of British culture. Its debut issue has, among others, articles on the middle class domination of magick and how ’70s folk horror TV show Penda’s Fen predicted the rise of neoliberalism and capitalist realism.
- Astral Noize: one of the best music zines around just now, focussing on political metal and hardcore punk, their recent environmental issue was superb. Some of their writers are working on a folklore zine named Hwæt.
- Strange Days: American based but one of my current favourites, each issue is crammed full of weirdness like UFOs, strange creatures and readers’ experiences.
- Grinding Horror: Produced by a DIY collective of moshers in Glasgow, this mixes interviews with death metal bands, horror movie reviews and gory artwork.
- Myth & Lore: They’ve put out two issues so far, on cryptids of the UK and fungus. Lots of great artwork and interesting articles.