The Green Sheaf: A Natural Connection to Mysticism

Our discussion after the presentation about formatting our own content really made think about the important role editors played when constructing little magazines. Pamela Colman Smith had the ultimate say in how The Green Sheaf came together and what would be included. This means her own biography plays an integral role in her decision making and the ultimate presentation of The Green Sheaf.

As someone who identified as a “mystic” over an “occultist,” Smith claimed a natural connection to spirituality and mysticism, over an understanding procured through artificial means such as education. I think it seems important that there is a feeling of naturalness in something that seems to transcend the human experience. A lot of the images in this little magazine depicted nature and, I believe, explored the connection between humanity and spirituality. I also found the Pre-Raphaelite influence on this magazine very fascinating. Not only were the colours incorporated into the images quite similar to Pre-Raphaelite art, but the themes of nature and death also spoke to the movement. The image entitled “A Million Years Hence” especially seems to explore the relationship between humans, the landscape and death (which I assume is symbolized by the enlarged skull which takes up the most space in the image).

Another thing I found interesting was the comparisons of dreams and death, and how they linked to a spiritual connection. In the late 1800s, there were opium dens where people would try and alter their state of consciousness, but Smith positions dreaming as the natural alternative to enter such a state. There is lucidity and intent in her art; she does not create while her mind is under the influence different narcotics. This intent only places more significance on the natural state of her elevated spiritual connection, but also her role as editor.

It is also intriguing that, unlike so many other little magazines, Smith did not include a table of contents or a designated note from the editor. This must have been a deliberate choice since she acted as the only editor but I wonder why. Was it because that feature felt too mainstream or resembled a book too much? Was she trying to present her little magazine as different by omitting such features? I wonder what the form she chose says about what she wanted The Green Sheaf to present itself as.

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