Over the last year, Sabat has cast a spell on us at Peachy with their exquisitely designed exploration of modern witchcraft. Published as a trilogy, each magazine has a distinct theme and subtly evolving design and colour palette, which saw last month's final issue ending in a blaze of vivid, fiery red. The witches' sabbath, a gathering in celebration of witchcraft, provided an apt namesake for a magazine that acts as an anthropological exploration of a movement steeped in female liberation. We talked to Elisabeth Krohn, the founder and editor of Sabat, about her motivation for the project and how she uncovered her inner witch.
Firstly, thanks for talking to Peachy! What made you pick the themes of Maiden, Mother and Crone?
I wanted to explore womanhood through these three lenses echoing the Neo-Pagan deity the Triple Goddess and the phases of the moon. I thought it would be an interesting way to approach the changing perspectives and new challenges that face us at various stages of female existence. It could also be an analogy for all the life-death-rebirth micro-cycles of our everyday lives. It’s not just been educational in terms of learning about witchcraft and learning to practice it, it has also been a feminist journey, from naive ingenue to admiring apprentice.
Why do you think witchcraft has become a popular subject recently?
If we look at witchcraft and feminism in particular, the upsurge in mainstream attention and awareness for both subjects correlated in the 1970s and 1990s and again now. For the girls that grow up today, this male-dominated world of insatiable consumption has an air of uncertainty, tragedy, even dystopia, about it. We appear to have an ocean of options, but at the same time: are we changing anything? Can we really be and do whatever we like? Do we have powers? Echoing the sentiments of a lot of women, the modern witch is informed of the structures that keep women in their place. She craves a less patriarchal and cynical world and uses new tools to hack the system. But she also offers us another, left hand path, one that is mystical and nature-orientated where we come into our own feminine power as women and witches. However ancient, witchcraft resonates with many values in contemporary society: individualism, gender equality, personal empowerment and environmentalism and becomes a surprisingly progressive passageway to spiritual enlightenment.
You've said that initially you weren't entirely part of the occult community. Have you ever worried about receiving a backlash like Alex Mar did after publishing Witches of America? Have you become more involved in witchcraft?
All along I’ve been genuinely interested in learning more about witchcraft, coming to the point now where I’m dabbling in divination and spell work, reading and going to workshops to learn more. I’ve not really had any major backlash experiences like that (yet), we’ve welcomed constructive criticism and some of our social media commentators have actually ended up writing for us.
Your graphic designer and art director Cleber Rafael de Campos lives in Brazil. How do you make that work?
He’s actually back in London now! We first met in real life the day he moved here at the Stack Award Ceremony in October last year. Collaborating online worked really well for the first two issues, so we actually kept our way of working the same for the third issue, even though we were now in the same city. We chat a lot through Fleep and use Google Drive for file handling. When necessary we have Skype calls. It works pretty well. I don’t see any reason why physical distance would be a problem - in fact most Sabat contributors are scattered around the world, from London to New York and Los Angeles. From the start we worked together to develop the design of Sabat, from a very humble collage-y zine to what it is today.
What particular things inspired your design? Does it change over the three issues?
We were inspired by the rich visual history of witchcraft and by the amazing work modern witches and Crafty creatives produce. There’s also a blooming indie magazine scene right now and we are very happy to be part of that. The design has evolved throughout the three issues, but we wanted to keep the overall concept and feeling the same. There is always a sense of “I should have done this or that” after an issue is completed. We tried to implement these things for each next issue. Feedback from designer friends and readers also drew our attention to details we’d missed or could rework in some way.
Is the monochrome design more stylistic, or simply necessary?
Working with limitations really helps craft the design. Ours were one typeface, one colour. Black is quintessentially witchcraft and the monochrome approach suited our aesthetic well and set a certain mood. To get a more zine-y feeling, we introduced a complementary colour for each issue. We played around adding colour sections and special finishings like fold outs, dye cuts, transparent paper, metallic pantones and embossings, making the printing really expensive. It would have been impossible to include these features if we were a standard four colour magazine, but the idea of the black and white came before the fancy finishings.
What's your favourite things you've produced over the project?
I really love our graphic spreads from the Maiden Issue, the fold out poster from the Mother Issue illustrated by Maria Torres and the #letitgo section designed by Dario Gracceva from our most recent Crone Issue!
Are you tempted to do a fourth issue?
I can’t say it’s not tempting, but at the same time Sabat was always intended as a trilogy so I find it nice to stick to that concept - Sabat was born, blossomed and we harvested a lot from it, so it makes sense that Sabat should die as well.
May it rest in peace! So what's your next project going to be?
I’m working on a reincarnation that might explore similar themes, although in a slightly different format.
Portraits courtesy of Adrenus Craton, and stills of Jim Buell.
For more information about Sabat, visit their site here.