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Week 4 ~ Kat

⁕ Spell-casting ⁕

Tutorials ~ Thursday & Friday

Sadly again, I was absent for the tutorials and classes, when they were switched to Thursday and Friday. I had to go away to Cardiff for 4 days, so while I was there I read through our set reading: ‘Magic: A Gramarye For Artists by Jamie Sutcliffe’.
Particular parts of the text stood out to me, like the talk on the “weaponisation of witchcraft accusations against women”, and how for centuries witch trials were a disguise for political and patriarchal groups to do violence against women and persecute them for being ‘too different’ or ‘too female’.

I know that my great-aunt is a practicing witch, and that witchcraft and paganism is deeply intertwined in my culture, despite my family being Russian orthodox. Witchcraft has generally coexisted alongside Orthodox and other religions there, compared to the western world where witchcraft is considered to be satanic by Christians. Still, witch persecutions in Russia did happen, just not on a big scale like in Puritan America and England.

I think most Slavic people tend to be extremely superstitious people, and many people there still practice arts that have been derived from witchcraft, such as fortune telling, palm reading and dream interpretations. There are many books like this in my house and my mum often teaches me practices, like how to cleanse off a curse by throwing matches into water and drinking it, or waving blessed candles to get rid of bad spirits. There are also many witches and spiritual characters derived from folktales like ‘Baba Yaga’ who is the stereotypical-looking witch of ancient Russia, who has magical wisdom and connection the the natural world. She has been represented differently in many books, good and bad, but my understanding of her is that she is dual and unpredictable, a metaphor for Mother Nature, and a symbol for motherhood.

I also didn’t realise how much art connected into magic, the history of gynocide, spirituality and powers of inner and outer nature, all of which can be shown and created through art – or rituals and spells that are art in themselves; “Magic’s relationship with art is deeply strange and symbiotic. We could even say that magical practice is inherently artful”. I think if you choose to think that way, art is like a ritual or a spell, in the sense that making art can come through emotionally and spiritually, to weave and craft something that is similar to spell-casting. This way of thinking helps me complete chores and and housework as treating those things as an offering or ritual, which also can be used with things like dance and creating artwork too.

In the future, I would want to definitely explore making art through almost ritualistic or performative ways; for work that has more feeling and purposeful meaning. My relationship with art has always been rigid, I think from being a perfectionist and overthinker, but also from being afraid to be completely involved and to explore my horizons (all I’ve stuck with in the past is people pleasing) – but now understanding this and having finally found my direction of interest, I can start reorientating and putting these goals into place.

Ana Mendieta, Blood sign 2

Class exercise on spell-casting

Because I wasn’t there for the lesson, I did this part by myself when I got back. To inspire creativity, I decided to close off all my senses, by switching off my bedroom lamps and waiting for complete silence before starting this exercise. Even though I was in the dark and couldn’t see anything, I started seeing phosphenes after a while, and I felt my whole body enter a completely different state. The whole air and my head felt dense too. It made me think of Odilon Redon’s ‘Silencio’, probably one of my favourite pieces of all time, to how it conveys silence to be a ‘portal’ to the mysterious – the hand of Harpocrates gesturing two fingers held to his lips, showing that through silence we can hear our inner voice.

I think our modern world aggressively contrasts with the inner world of silence, daily life almost drowning in loud and different noises, which to many of us becomes so integrated into our realities that we forget to switch off and even enjoy complete quiet. I spent a lot of my childhood in silence and solitary, I always found myself in quiet places to hide from people, but just now I found it surprisingly hard to do this and switch off, so I’ve set down to do this exercise more often before starting on my artwork, as a way to cleanse and refresh myself from the disorder of the outside world.

Silencio, Odilon Redon (1911)
The Chamber of Internal Dialogue, Seward Johnson.
Installation homage to Odilon’s ‘Silencio’


Sutcliffe, J. (2021).

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