As someone who grew up in London, a city as steeped in magick as it is mythology, the disjointed nature of the occult community out here in Cardiff remains a massive shock to the system. This almost dismissive nature is amply illustrated when looking for supplies. Sure, there are a few different crystal stockists of varying quality, as well as a couple of other shops selling a limited selection of incenses and oils, yet none of these seem to bother with the sort of texts that I require when looking for otherworldly inspiration.
There is always Amazon of course, but I exhausted the penny plus postage section of that particular website less than a month into the COVID lockdown. And even before the pandemic I tended to prefer making a beeline for the second hand bookshops when in the centre of town anyway. These often dusty and poorly ventilated temples to dead trees and forgotten ideas are my main source of literary discovery, as well as being the kind of place that the library angels just love to hang out.
This air of latent synchronicity is sorely lacking when you buy your books online, and is just another reason among many as to why there will always be a place for this type of store in even the most digital and socially distanced of post pandemic ages. Indeed, where better to perform bibliomancy than a room stacked floor to ceiling with a million different potential answers, all waiting eagerly for you to open on their page?
More than once I have lingered in the basement of a local second hand bookstore and pondered on a given magickal problem, only to find the perfect answer in the form of a work by Skoob or Disnformation. I have found copies of the Satanic Bible sitting side by side with trashy paperbacks dedicated to angel meditations, Buddhist texts on the same shelf as local ghost stories and paranormal romance piled on top of Von Daniken’s greatest hits.
One of my more interesting finds occurred on an otherwise unrelated trip into Cardiff around two years ago now, but still fondly remembered as if it was yesterday. A Neopagan ‘zine so intriguing, in fact, that it reignited my interest in the workings of the very late 20th Century counterculture that cradled my initial forays into the magickal underground before I really understood what that term meant.
Standing in the basement of one such bookseller while looking for nothing in particular I noticed a couple of oversized paperbacks, garishly printed and obviously limited run. Stacked unceremoniously between books on Christian Saints and the Bermuda Triangle, I just had to have a closer look. Soon I held in my hands issue three and the double issue four and five of Towards 2012 by Slab-O-Concrete Publications. It was love at first sight.
I am nowhere as up on the whole ‘zine scene as I probably should be. In truth, my generation of chaos magickians were always more interested in the vast melting pot formed by early bulletin board culture than Xeroxed and stapled pamphlets. But I know a bargain when I see it, and hastily grabbed them before anyone else could. Towards 2012 is an anomaly, true, but a very intriguing one regardless. It boasts early interviews with Phil Hine and Alan Moore, among others, as well as essays by a who’s who of late Nineties magickal thought.
I am sure that you can see why I was so excited, and why bagging both for under a ten English Pounds blew me away. After a little digging on the train home I found the website for Gyrus, the original driving force behind the project, and was excited to discover that it was also home to a thought provoking collection of essays and articles all well deserving of a read. The story of how Towards 2012 was created is also a fascinating and oddly magickal one, and further proof that the zine was a child of the pre-Millennial zeitgeist that desired to be born no matter what barriers stood in its way.
Some ideas are hyperstitions just too immanent fail it seems. One day, should Gyrus ever wish to re-enter the publishing sphere and chronicle post-millennial magick in the same eclectic, slightly chaotic way I would be honoured to submit something in the hope of having my written work featured between its garish covers. Until then, I am just as happy to read myself back to the good old days of late 20th Century Neopagan angst instead.