Sabat Magazine is a limited series, three-issue publication on the archetype of the Triple Goddess. I sincerely hope that the publishers decide to take on another project because what they accomplished in just three issues is remarkable and like nothing else I’ve seen before. Issue one is the Maiden issue, the second is the Mother issue, and the third and final is the Crone issue. I’m focusing on the Crone issue, as it’s the only one I have so far. This issue alternates between articles on the crone archetype, interviews with older women/witches who are at this stage of their lives, and art and photography. The idea of the triple goddess is that witches pass through three phases in their lives: Maiden, Mother, and Crone phases symbolizing life eras and the phases of the moon.
Sabat is glorious from start to finish. It’s more like an oversized softcover book than a magazine, with page thickness probably on par with a typical hardcover book. The photography is stunning, and the layout is incredibly well done, with all kinds of gems to discover as you read through the issue. There are moon phases (or possibly solar eclipse) cutouts on the periodic metallic pages, hidden words imprinted onto specific sheets, and words printed on the edges of the pages themselves that I didn’t even notice until I had gone about ¼ of the way through the magazine. There also is a removable art poster, and a postcard-sized piece slipped inside the pages. The table of contents is a bit confusing, however: instead of one full list of the articles listed in page number order, they’ve separated them into three different sections with no labels or explanations why. That’s hardly a complaint because what matters is the magazine’s content.
From the Editor’s Letter by Elisabeth Krohn, to the “Crowning the Crone” article by Pam Grossman, Sabat starts by laying out the stereotypical negative perceptions of the crone (“…most feared, ignored, and ridiculed”), then lifts her up with the positivity of wisdom from a life lived (“…a gift to be able to grow more fully into oneself, without apology”). The content is not just about the aging witch in particular, but includes the idea of age itself and being closer to death – with all that entails. California photographer Jenna Opsahl gives us fair warning of what’s to come with her article “The Omen,” a look at crows, owls, and other heralds of death. In “Set on Stone,” New York photographer and model, Aviv Grimm, takes us to the end of life’s journey with her passion for cemeteries, which are quiet places of contemplation for many of us that seek them out wherever we go.
While Sabat gives us a glimpse into the end of life’s journey, it’s the in-between stages where the magazine gives us an intimate look into their selected practitioners through interviews on the craft, how each interviewee approaches the fate of growing older, and how these processes enable them to create art. While some of the questions felt a bit repetitive, the answers were not, showing us that everyone has differing views of the image of the crone and how it applies to themselves, as well as what the term “witch” means.
Sabat does not leave us with the finality of death, however. One of my favorite collections of photos is by Shannon Taggart, who gifted us with some unusual and stark black and white images of the mediums of Lily Dale, New York. Taggart seems to have traveled back in time with photographs that could have come from the nineteenth century when throwing lavish parties in the homes of the well-to-do quite often involved having a séance, or a session with a fortune teller to reach those who have passed beyond the living world. I’ve always treated mediums with quite a bit of skepticism, but this article makes me want to experience the mediums of Lily Dale for myself.
Finally, I feel the need for a special mention of “A ritual of heartbreak and re-discovery,” by Sophie Holmes, who gave us a look into another kind of death, the death of a relationship. Her journey through the initial crushing heartbreak, the eventual healing, and the final letting go was incredibly intimate and relatable, and was the first article in the magazine that I read twice.
Despite the gorgeous photography and presentation, one complaint I have about Sabat is the printing itself. The ink smells TERRIBLE. Several times after I had put down the magazine, the smell lingered on my hands until I washed them thoroughly with soap. There’s no color transfer, so no need to worry about that, but the smell is very off-putting, especially if you’re like me and you tend to flip through pages of books and magazines with your nose right up to the pages to smell them. Yes, I’m that person. I’m hoping the smell will go away eventually, but so far, it’s still going strong after a couple of months. That is hardly a drawback, though, considering how spectacular everything else is.
On a personal note, reading through Sabat was a fascinating experience for me. I prefer not to have any focus on gender in my practice, so the whole “feminine energy” thing, or the idea of the Goddess is not something in which I can relate. I also don’t like the thought of putting women’s lives into three simple categorical boxes of youth, motherhood, and age, mainly because I have had no interest whatsoever in being a mother. So does this mean I only have two stages: maiden and crone? What about that vast middle part of my life, is it not worthy of discussion? Life is much more complicated than these simple categories. Being unconventional also basically negates the crone stage for me, as passing and mourning the loss of the childbearing years has no meaning for me. I feel entirely no loss as I’m entering this stage of my life. I am still as vibrant as I ever was, so being put into a box that means I’m aging out of relevancy is something that I don’t appreciate. That’s just my view, however, and has no bearing on what an outstanding magazine series Sabat is. I enjoyed it immensely from cover to cover, and have found myself picking it up and thumbing through it many times since my initial reading. It is an actual work of art. Trust me; you will not be disappointed.
Order issues directly from the UK publisher here. If you’re in another country, the site has a handy list of alternate merchants you might be able to order from, depending on availability.