The Magpie and the Wardrobe: a Curiosity of Folklore, Magic and Spells by Sam McKechnie and Alexandrine Portelli

By Kate Large

Magpie & Wardrobe - front cover

The Magpie and the Wardrobe: a Curiosity of Folklore, Magic and Spells | Sam McKechnie and Alexandrine Portelli | Pavilion | ISBN: 978-910496459

This big, handsome hardback book was a discovery from leftfield for me, as it doesn’t fit in the usual ‘Pagan how-to’ mould. But what a beautiful discovery!

Following the year from January onwards, each month has around 14 pages dedicated to folklore, myths and legends, seasonal recipes, crafts, sayings and important dates. But it’s the layout that sets this apart from the usual folkloric collection: this is hands-down one of the most beautifully-designed books I’ve handled.

Everything about it is a pleasure, particularly the way it holds small, delightful secrets throughout. The bookmark is weighed down by a small charm, which you’ll find secreted in the inside front cover of the book. You’ll also find a vintage floral postcard for you to detach and use (I added mine to my ever-changing altar layout) and there’s a little paper fortune-telling device inside the back cover too.

Add to this transparent overlay pages and a central fold-out section in which we discover the story of the magpie and the wardrobe, and you’re just irresistibly pulled in. McKechnie and Portelli have created a visual treasury of the year that is a thing of beauty as well as inspiration. Each page is individually and painstakingly styled with incredible care and attention to detail. Page layouts are heavily inspired by all things vintage, from vintage toys to fabrics, crockery, greeting cards, jewellery and books. No self-respecting vintage-lover should be without this book.

That said, this is far more than an assemblage of pages from Vogue: there is real magic to be found. Not, perhaps, of the most dread and portentous kind: a more everyday kind altogether. But then, who doesn’t need everyday magic? That’s the kind that inserts itself most easily in to your own life, and the lives of those around you.

On days when I was laid up sick, this book was a huge comfort: not only did it give me ideas for things to do when I felt well enough to be out and about, but reading it was in itself a cosy, nurturing experience that delighted both the eye and the brain. Hours would fly by!

McKechnie and Portelli have a website,, featuring a shop, blog, newsletter and a link to buy the book from the publisher, where it retails for £20. More, to be sure, than an average book, but given the amount of reading time, activities and sheer enjoyment on offer, it’s more than worth the money. It would make a perfect and unusual gift for anyone from the style-conscious teenager, to the not-quite-Pagan, and anyone in between. It goes without saying that it would also be a lovely present to yourself, helping you celebrate every single month of the year.