Alternative Spirit Magazine is an independent, quarterly, Australian publication for anyone who has an “alternative spirit”. Though its headquarters are in Victoria, Alternative Spirit doesn’t have a distinctly Victorian perspective and appeals to Pagans and people of other alternative spiritualities all over Australia and perhaps even New Zealand.
The theme for the glossy, 30-page Winter issue of Water, captured on the cover with the beautiful illustration of a diving mermaid by Claudia Feher. Alternative Spirit opens with “To Know the Element of Water” by Frances Billinghurst, author of Dancing the Sacred Wheel: A Journey through the Southern Sabbats. She explores a mythic and mystic history of Water as a building block of the Universe and of magick.
Water gives the illusion of being solid, yet all the while, it is anything but. Due to this variable, Water is an unpredictable element, creating and destroying, enticing us with the beautify of a trickling stream yet terrifying us with the destructive force of the tsunami.
This sets the stage for the rest of the magazine, which offers a variety of articles on customs, myths, and magick. Steven Kryzius offers a glimpse into Baltic beliefs and practices with his article “Lithuanian Reverence for Water”. Manbo Paula highlights the importance of Water in all things Vodou in her article “Zanj Nan d’Lo The Spirits of the Water”. Machaela Smith’s “The Power of Water” is a broad look at how Water appears in our lives. My favourite is Graham D. Furnell’s article “Maori Spirituality”. With its brief history, look at beliefs about the natural order, Maori hospitality, art and craftwork, it’s the lengthiest piece, but well worth reading.
This issue of Alternative Spirit also contains plenty of practical magickal information. “Baths, Brews, Potions & Stews” is two pages full of recipes for food and drink as well as baths and oils. Magazine editor Karli Spruce shares her recipe for “Making Rose Water” and Emm Jay describes how to make “Spirit Water”. Tina Georgitsis explores the oceanic aspect of the goddess Hekate and offers three spells in “Hekate of the Sea”. In part five of “The Labyrinth of Sacred Sound”, Lone Raven offers purification techniques.
The magazine also offers more art by the cover artist, Claudia Feher, a poem by Georgitsis, “Seasonal Changes (A View From My Garden)”, and personal essays. In “Winter in the Valley”, artist Laura Bowen talks about experiencing winter in her part of the world.
And, of course, there’s advertising, but it’s never intrusive and all the ads are aligned with the magazine’s mission of alternative living.
Alternative Spirit is broad and smart. Pagan and other alternative publications sometimes struggle with defining their audiences. The content ends up being too basic, too superficial, too youthful, or too mature, or it tries to be all things to all people. Alternative Spirit manages to escape this trap and offer a broad range of smart, unique content that appeals to people of various levels of spiritual and magickal experience.
If there’s anything to critique, Alternative Spirit could use a stronger editorial hand. The page elements are often inconsistent. It results in a lack of cohesion. From one page to the next, you could forget you’re reading the same magazine. The headlines, intro, credits, captions, pull quotes, and even font sizes differ, and there is no folio to indicate the page number. Copy is typically aligned left or justified in magazines, but Alternative Spirit aligns centre, and some of the essays could be improved grammatically. For example, there is gratuitous use of ellipses and exclamation marks, missing commas and periods, and even a smiley-face emoticon in at least one article.
None of this should detract you from purchasing a copy of Alternative Spirit and giving it a chance. Like many independent magazines, Alternative Spirit is probably a labour of love by people who created what they wanted to see. While design matters, content matters more, and the content in Alternative Spirit is solid.
You can purchase a digital copy for $5 or a hard copy for $8 (plus postage if you order online). For more information about Alternative Spirit Magazine, please visit the website. A big thank you to editor Karli Spruce for sending me a review copy.