BOSTCASTLE, Eng. — The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, the south-western corner of the Isle of Britain, has been a rich repository of artefacts and lore since 1960. Its collection has grown to more than 3,000 objects and some 7,000 books to cement it as a place of pilgrimage for Pagans of all stripes and a curious draw for tourists visiting the fishing village. However, sited between Bude and Tintagel – the fabled seat of King Arthur – on the county’s rugged northern coast, getting to tucked-away Boscastle, is not easy for a majority of Brits, never mind those from further afield. To help out the curious or those unable to make the journey, a new book was published giving a glimpse of 100 selected items in the museum, including wax dolls, wands, statues, daggers, pendants, robes and amulets.
CHICAGO — Photographer Allan Spiers is a self-taught artist whose life began in Peru surrounded by the magic and religious beliefs of its culture. After moving to the United States at the age of 13, he carried a natural call and love of Witchcraft and the occult into adulthood and, eventually, into his professional career. As highlighted in part one of our interview, Spiers recently merged his artistic talents with his spiritual beliefs to launch several multi-image projects, allowing for a new level of artistic freedom. In his newest project The Sabbath, Spiers explores both the male form and occult expression. In part two of our interview, he talked with us about the specifics of the project, its inspiration, and how his unique and evocative imagery fits into the extensive canon of traditional western-based Witch visuals. TWH: Considering the attention given to the female body and sexuality with regard to Witchcraft imagery, your use of male fitness models creates an irony.
CHICAGO — Looking across western culture, women and women’s bodies have dominated mainstream depictions of Witches and the practice of Witchcraft. In a famous drawing from 1798, two nude elderly witches fly on a broom over trees and fields (Francisca Goya, Linda maestra). In 1497, artist Albrecht Durer depicted the meeting of four nude young witches (Durer, The Four Witches). Far more recently, in popular films like Witches of Eastwick (1987) and the cult classic The Craft (1996), the transformation from average woman to witch is depicted visually with increased displays of female sexuality and body exposure. For better or worse, the woman’s body has had profound meaning within traditional western-based visual witchcraft narratives.
Lauren Pond’s photography had me the first time I saw the Spam. In a photoessay about Heathens, one would expect to find pictures of things like wooden statuettes, leather belts, and offering bowls – the kinds of items that have an intrinsic ritual significance, which seem to automatically activate the area of the brain designated for religion. But one does not expect to find the blue cans of meat nestled in right next to these icons. Of all the things I have read about Valgard Murray, the controversial (to say the least) leader of Asatru Alliance and owner of the items in the photograph, the depths of his predilection for Spam were not among them. But Lauren Pond’s pictures focus on exactly these sorts of details – the human quirks of religious cultures that are often drowned in the seas of theology and ritual.
In 2014, artist and pop surrealist Dina Goldstein finished her third large-scale project called “Gods of Suburbia.” The series is comprised of 11 photographs that depict gods, goddesses, prophets and other figures of religious import within a thoroughly unexpected composition. Each photograph challenges the dominant visual and narrative concept of deity by tearing down religious stagecraft and putting up something completely mundane. In other words, Goldstein takes these sacred or celebrated figures and drops them into the framework of contemporary Western society. “‘Gods of Suburbia’ is a visual analysis of religious faith within the context of modern forces of technology, science and secularism.