Emily Jones escapes down the rabbit hole and into London’s underground unicorn scene.
Do you reckon he dresses as a unicorn all of the time, or is it a special occasion thing?’ I asked Olivia, Head of Design for Quench and fellow unicorn enthusiast, as we sat in Victoria station Starbucks downing sugar saturated hot chocolates. Having stumbled across the bizarre VICE documentary that chronicled the life of a polyamorous unicorn movement; contacting the creatures that identify as mythical beings for an interview sounded like a totally acceptable thing to do during deadline period. So off we went, inspired by curiosity and adventure, gallivanting across the country to this mysterious man’s ‘crystal castle’ with nothing but a whacky documentary to prove his authenticity as a real person (i.e. not a murderer). The road trip excitement began to dwindle as soon as we hit the steady stream of bodies piling out of the station, replaced by a jittery, nervous tension. We clumsily navigated the London walkways, contemplating our impending escapades. It’s a cold December evening, and we are in London missing lectures to meet a unicorn cult. Shaft, recovering alcoholic and founder of this ‘glampede’ following a spiritual awakening at the Burning Man festival, is back in London to recruit fellow like minded individuals to grow his mythical empire.
Armed with a Dictaphone, minimal information and marginally less of an idea as to what we were walking into, hot chocolates did not seem strong enough to calm our nerves. Dutch courage was necessary in this instance. A glass of red in a conveniently located pub helped a little to dispel, or at least mask, the feeling that we were completely unqualified for the task ahead. We began to speculate further; lead unicorn, glitter enthusiast, creative director, who is he really? Early for our meeting, the waiting only served to enhance our imagination. We wondered whether these guys were at all sane, but mostly we contemplated our own sanity in agreeing to do this. With wine flowing through our veins, we eventually set out down the rabbit hole (the tube) to meet the mythical creature at his house. What could go wrong, right?
And there we were, loitering on a street corner in a slightly dodgy looking area of London, getting cat-called from cars passing by. We dithered around for quite a while, attempting to muster up the courage to knock on the door of the disappointingly ordinary ‘crystal castle’. An average looking terrace house, one that wouldn’t look out of place in Cathays, didn’t resonate any magical qualities at all. We loitered for a while longer, apprehensive, but laughing, both at the incredulousness of our situation and in a wine-fuelled excitement. We decided to give him a call, on the grounds that this was marginally less scary than stepping over the threshold and knocking the door.
Our nerves are dispelled immediately when Shaft threw open the door, enveloping each of us in a warm hug, ‘You’re early guys! I just got home from work!’. It seemed he did not, in fact, go to work in a unicorn horn, but, his whacky jumper, nose piercing and arm full of festival bands suggested that he was a little eccentric in day-to-day life too. Almost instantly, the nerves had turned to infectious giggles as we entered this ‘crystal castle’. Walking into the living room, we encountered with a curious-looking woman with dreadlocks sat on the floor, sketching something beautiful on a white canvas. Next to her, a woman with razor-short hair and piercings sits at a sewing machine, threading an intricate black and blood red gothic corset that would not have looked out of place in a Van Helsing drama.
‘Do you want to watch me get ready? Come on, come upstairs to my cloud guys!’, Shaft said, as if he had known us forever, connoting a sort of fantasy-like universe in which he is the White Rabbit, leading us up the stairs and into Wonderland. Transfixed and intrigued, we are already under the spell of this man, whose energy radiates like a dance as he leaps upwards. Sneaking a glance at each other, we silently agree that this is more than a little crazy, and we already love it.
As Shaft prances through the door and begins to rifle through his wardrobe, we spy a myriad sequins and colour as he contemplates his outfit. His bedroom is indeed a cloud; imposing, feathered angel wings hang from the white-washed wall and the bed below is painted with his own personally designed bedsheets that read, ‘The Fabulus of Unicorns’ amongst splashes of swirling colours. We sit on the bed, and Shaft bounces around as the doorbell starts to ring; once, twice, three times. More people have arrived to join us. Bodies pile in, and we meet Patrick; part unicorn, part phoenix changeling, whose soft London drawl and laid-back, spiritual character indeed embodies a certain mystery. The others, all girls, are dressed in quirky ensembles. Danae, an Australian-born teacher living in London, wears a full-body psychedelic cat suit and pink, studded platform heels; a pink tiara perches upon her auburn hair. In our monochrome outfits, we feel rather underdressed and under-sparkled.
The conversation begins to flow rapidly and randomly around ‘the cloud’. Each voice is animated and words swirl confusingly. It is a discussion like no other, and we try to keep up. Looking at Shaft I try to form a coherent question, but I am too transfixed to say much of anything. He twirls his moustache until the ends stand erect, illuminated against the silver glitter that glides along his cheekbones. He prances over in a gold sequined jacket and trousers; an ostentatious diamante necklace is nestled on his bare chest. His very realistic unicorn tail sways and his golden unicorn horn glints proudly from his third eye. He has transformed into something else, something other, and it is spellbinding.
‘This is the cloud guys…yes the unicorn empire came from my bedroom, as you can see I put my degree in Wales to good use!’ he laughs, half hysterically, half elatedly. Chuffed and intrigued that he was once a Cardiff student, we ask about his degree at UWIC in Graphic Design, and the path that it has led him on. ‘Graphic Design is basically Pictionary! I work in advertising now, I literally sell dreams. I have visions and create art…I’ve rebranded ideas as ‘visions’, it sounds much better’. It becomes clear that Shaft is highly intelligent, and a master at his craft. He’s tired of it though, he says.
‘But we have ideas and we make someone feel insecure by the way they look, through advertising, and I want to do the opposite to that. I love my job, but I’ve been having visions of new things. I want to heal the world, and make it a much better place for you and for me’. His words are whimsical, poetic even, speaking as though he exists within a world beyond the one we know. Shaft pulls a copy of Mein Kampf from his bookshelf and looks at us, his lips twitching with mischief and amusement. ‘This guy for example, he ruled through hate and fear, but he had great graphic design!’
“I mean, the idea that a short guy with black hair became the leader of the Aryan race, isn’t that a bit fucking weird? It was originally a gift from my racist friend, as a joke, but it showed to me that one man can make a difference when I’ve always actually thought ‘I can’t make a difference, I’m nothing.’
‘We all make a difference, all of us being alive makes a difference I realised; the way we interact with people changes the way they are, and the way we are…and I realised all that because of Hitler!”
We gape at him in poorly disguised disbelief. His thought process, being like none other we have ever encountered, is lightning fast. The words that twist from his mouth captivate the room and hypnotise us into believing his world is our reality. He is believable because he believes every word he speaks.
This movement, we ask, where was it born? ‘It was born on drugs, mainly Ketamine.’, He laughs again. Shaft maintains that his addictions have saved him from death, allowing him to escape the darkened realms of his own mind and descend into a world that is considerably more beautiful. Thus behind the glitter, the sparkles, and the horns, there lies something more sinister and raw. This is the life of a man who has struggled in a world full of depressing mundanities.
As a recovering alcoholic, current drug addict and a youth plagued by thoughts of suicide, his past is etched behind wild and vibrant eyes. ‘My internal monologue for my whole life has been ‘I hate myself’…most creatives are really insecure, we do amazing things but close ourselves down. I never loved myself until now.’ This hedonist, unicorn movement, was born out of shadows, yet in its wake there is joy. It has become a coping mechanism, perhaps, for Shaft and people like him to escape; to heal, and to embrace both the love of the world and find a peace from within.
‘The whole thing around the VICE documentary, they followed me around for a year whilst I was having a mental breakdown; I’d given up booze and was like ‘Oh shit I don’t know who I am’ – and I’ve been trying to figure it out. And that was year one, and now I’m going to give up drugs, which is going to be even harder because drugs actually saved my life. Drugs have helped me to gain superpowers and open up my heart, but my journey next year will be to do all of this without the drugs.’
He continues, without any attempt to explain his complex and strange vocabulary to us. We are in his world now. We are simply to listen and accept his words, not to question them.
‘I used to be a ‘Trash-acorn… we all start off like this, as hedonists who love partying and being wild, taking all the drugs and making out. And then you start getting bored of it, and realise there must be more to life than this. Then you take Ayahuasca [later we discovered this to be a hallucinogenic drink originating from South America], and then you see some shit, and what I saw was to become a ‘Light Warrior-corn’. I saw myself training as a Jedi warrior and Mother Aya taught me how to dance. And then we had a gangbang, up in the galaxy with Mother Aya [in my head], and she taught me how to love myself. I got into a bliss state that I’ve never felt before, and things changed.’
‘Now I have Light Warrior-corns which is a harder path, where we actually have to tackle our own shit and get stronger, and raise the vibrations wherever we go. My job has always been to make everyone feel happy and fabulous and sexy, and Morning Gloryville has taught me how to harness that as a ‘thing’, so that wherever we go as a ‘fabulus’ we can make everyone feel happy and help people to connect with themselves and their sexuality.’
Rather lost for words, and feeling unable to ask for an explanation at this point, we nodded along, mouths slightly agape. ‘I do it in some of my tantric work, and I’m going to be doing it in my new workshops in London – it’s more sexy stuff though.’ Using this as an opening to discuss the more sexual nature of the movement, we ask about his polyamorous lifestyle.
‘In the urban dictionary, when a polyamorous couple go out and get a girl to join their relationship she’s actually called a unicorn.’ This is related to the third principle of Unicornia, he continues, a set of commandments if you will, that form the core ethos behind the glampede.
‘If you love everyone there will be more love in the world. Have many lovers and love all of them; make-out and make love with a pure heart and make everyone feel fabulous and sexy.’ You don’t have to be polyamorous to be a unicorn, Shaft explains to the fledgling members sat with us, slightly abashed. Though he muses, if you are truly on a spiritual path then giving up the ego and attachment comes hand in hand with polyamory. He speaks in a light, playful tone, yet under his free-loving persona I sense perhaps a more vulnerable man, who has suffered deeply from a broken heart in another life. Sexuality, it is clear, has gained a central importance to Shaft’s vision.
Basically I was on Ryan Air going to Nowhere Festival; all the best ideas come from Ryan Air! I meditated for 2 hours. I had a tiered vision… about how we are unicorns, and we create positive energy in the room. Well, we also work at high-end sex parties, so we open up these orgy rooms and work at body positivity events. It’s conscious sexuality, and that’s what I promote.
His visions, he continues, told him to create tantric unicorns characterised within a flowing, beautiful dance of love and sexuality, making and spreading love in an ethereal and undulated way. ‘And now I am no longer a Trasha-corn or a Pega-corn god, and I am changing from a Light Warrior-corn to Tantri-corn.’ The ability to transform remains at the heart of Shaft’s philosophy. He is on a journey of self-discovery, a quest to discover and validate his existence through change and evolution.
These high-end sex parties, Shaft explains, work to manifest and promote the belief that we are all gods and goddesses in this world; that we must harness our natural powers to give and create love. Visions that manifested on the Ryan Air flight have led him to create tantric goddess activation sessions, which are one-to-one client based workshops that teach the awakening of conscious sexuality. ‘I am the creator and manifestor of my reality, Iboga [a psychedelic plant from Central Africa] showed me that I should become a full time tantric unicorn. I want to help people to activate the goddess within.’
We wonder aloud whether he feels he is living another life, with one foot in reality, and one hoof in the fairy-tale world he has created. ‘No not at all because I tell everyone everything all of the time; I would not be suppressing anything, otherwise you would not be living your true authentic self. Everyone knows I am a unicorn.’ He is self-assured, as he sits dripping in gold, exuding a love for his life and a thirst for the future.
‘What’s in the future? The visions I’ve been having is about my tantric unicorn stuff, I’ve learnt all the superpowers; it’s weird, all the fucked up people on a journey to try and heal themselves have become healers, and they are using that to help others, and that’s what I do now.’
What was it that made him so mesmerising? Maybe it was the way he giggled; high-pitched, and ecstatic, like a child playing with helium balloons. He laughs at his own words, and at the world, like someone who knows suffering and love and heartbreak, and it has driven him mad, but in the best way there is. ‘Just be happy, really, that’s the main goal, isn’t it,’ he states matter-of-factly. By now we are inclined to agree with everything he says, as a Catholic would unquestionably believe the words of his priest. Though battle-scarred and appearing wiser than his 36 years, he embodies a youth that I have never known in a man. And like Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory, Shaft is the king of this house and the God of his own mythical universe. Some may think he is more than a little mad, but as Bukowski once said; “some people never go crazy, and what truly horrible lives they must live.”
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