In a regular series, Land of Dope and Tories is reviewing publications from the weird and wonderful world of specialist magazines. This week: Spirit & Destiny.
Tagline: ‘Your spiritual guide to life’
Who is this magazine for? People need something to believe in. A god perhaps. Fate. Brian Cox. For some, it’s fairies (always called ‘faeries’ for some reason), ghostly images of Native Americans and, well, the poorly-drawn tarot cards of someone called Radleigh Valentine. Spirit & Destiny is for those people.
And when I say people, I mean women. In Spirit & Destiny‘s 98 pages, only three men feature. One is a ‘spiritual warrior’, who contributes an article spiritually focused on references to his successful business ventures. One is an internationally acclaimed psychic who looks like a boil-in-the-bag Peter Capaldi. And the other one is the Dalai Lama.
A quick glance at the team reveals that the male involvement in the magazine extends no further than a bit of light sub-editing.
And when I say women, I mean white women. Spirit & Destiny is as diverse as an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that means it is intolerant of diversity – that’s a hard position to maintain if you are committed to a regular ‘Neighbourhood Witch’ column – but it does suggest this mag is not for the urban metropolitan ponce.
What did you get for your £3.20? A lot of magazines will include a horoscopes section amongst their features. Spirit & Destiny prefers to fit the occasional feature around the horoscopes. 14 pages are devoted to the bibblings of astrologist David Wells, a sinister looking type who looks like the wrong ‘un in an episode of Midsomer Murders.
However, the features do not disappoint. Drum-birthing, vision questing for beginners, how to manifest your perfect life, pagan wedding rituals, transpsychic pigs – you couldn’t make it up, although in the last case I just did.
Away from the set-pieces, there are substantial sections on wisdom and advice (which covers communication with animals, angels and shaman), mind, body & spirit (featuring diet advice that is suspiciously enthusiastic about supplements rather than, say, food) and the old favourites – regular columns, letters, competitions and the usual earthly magazine detritus.
The aforementioned ‘Neighbourhood Witch’ column – which really ought to have been named Wicca-pedia – gives hints and tips on season spellcasting (this month: ‘a sky clad candle-thorn spell for uncovering deceit’) courtesy of Ann-Marie Gallagher.
As a witch, Ann-Marie is a little sub-par. She doesn’t even wear a hat. The good news is that apparently all the ingredients you need for magic – a piece of cardboard, a jar of red ink, a soft beeswax candle – can be picked up at Wilkinsons for less than a fiver. Newt doesn’t feature once.
Features: And so on to the features. The pick of the bunch is drum birthing, in which a grumpy blonde woman attempts to salve a marriage blighted with bickering by creating a shamanic drum. She is pictured in Kent woodland, eyes closed as a pair of crusties wave smoke about, scrape shapes in the mud with a bit of twig and sing at a bit of drum skin. Her husband is conspicuous by his absence from these pictures, presumably as he is hiding behind the yurt, smoking fags and muttering ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake.’
Anyway, Grumpy comes away enriched, and says she’ll now ‘just do a wee spot of drumming whenever Andy and I are getting on each other’s nerves’, which is sure to calm the situation down (‘Oh, for fuck’s sake’).
An honourable mention must also go to the distressingly batshit Pam Grout who, despite have a name that would suit a character from Porridge, is in fact a best-selling Kansas novelist, pushing affirmations as the cure for all mortal ills. The schtick – want something enough and it will manifest itself – is undermined by three things; the fact that Noel Edmonds buys into it, the two concrete examples of failure that Ms Grout volunteers and ignores in the article itself, and the fact her piece includes the sentence ‘I’m using spiritual laws to show that there are unseen forces at work, just as physics does,’ which could be a citation for the Nobel Prize for bollocks.
Vision questing, by the way, is ‘an ancient way of finding spiritual guidance and learning your life’s purpose, which you can use to tackle issues that trouble your mind and sap your energy.’ I stopped reading at that point, but apparently it can make you the world’s most ecstatic flutist if you’re not careful.
Adverts: What becomes pretty clear after flicking through Spirit & Destiny is that the spiritual world is often a crutch that many lonely people cling hard to for solace. So of course there’s a whole pile of hawkers slavering at the opportunity to capitalise on their hope.
The insidious side of Spirit & Destiny is not so much the adverts, which generally fit into one of the two default magazine archetypes – small ad premium rate phone lines, full page glossies of shiny women pushing transparent guff – it’s the product placement within the articles. Every feature ends with a plug. An aromatherapy article manages to flog sixteen different products, from books to mimulus, in three pages.
And this shit is insanely expensive. A reed diffuser (a smelly room perfumer that I know about because I’m aggressively in touch with my feminine side) that you can buy in a supermarket for five quid is going for £13.49. Buddha pendant that might have come out a mid-range cracker? That’s forty quid to you madam. Breathing therapy – and I’m really not making this one up – will set you back £150 for a ninety-minute session.
Letters page: Sprit and Destiny bags a pair of letters pages, a rare joy. After a couple of attempts, I’ve decided I don’t have the writing power to do justice to the Star Letter, so here it is in full:
Elsewhere, the letters fall in to three categories; talking to dead people, talking to not-people (angels, etc), and questionable success stories (‘reiki fixed my dog!’). There is also an advice section applying spiritual wisdom to time-honoured women’s magazine problems – men being bastards, dead-end jobs, issues with the in-laws. The views given are generally the usual stuff, but with occasionally sharp turns into oddness, as if two conflicting radio signals have been jammed together.
For example, having provided some sound advice on whether to introduce a child to her estranged father, the magazine’s expert then suggests: ‘before you introduce this news, light a red candle to honour the Celtic fire goddess Brighid, and ask for her aid…And of course, remember her feast day on 1 February by bringing snowdrops in to your home.’
I’m not a spiritual person. As a hyper-rationalist, technophile tosser, taking the piss out of this world was a bit of a free hit. But I’m not a chicken person either, and that was an infinitely more enjoyable read.
Spirit & Destiny is the thin end of the wedge in a huge industry that preys on vulnerable people, touting snake oil and bullshit to people who’d be better off with a listening ear and a bloody good hotpot. It’s a polished and really quite readable magazine. But that disguises the fact it’s basically a costly placebo brochure, and that’s a little depressing.
Still, as a Sagittarius, I suppose I would say that.
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