“Scrying Box” is an outdoor installation that uses rocks, coins, other found objects as well as the natural landscape. Scrying is the practice of putting oneself into a psychic state that allows inner-journeying or reflection. Commonly this takes the form of staring into a crystal ball or tea leaves in a cup.
Using glas pendants that hang from the box, the scryer should allow the play of light and shadow in the box to reveal to them deep truths. For a few years I have been occupied with the idea of witch art and how this feeds into notions of spell-casting and magic making.
This piece has been developed over a long period. It began with a box that I sprayed green some years ago and left in a shady, hidden part of my garden. Over time ivy and moss grew in and around the box. I watched as an old cabinet I salvaged transformed or reverted back to a part of the natural setting.
I enjoyed the notion of the piece being dynamic as it changes and moves with the elements, but also slow in it some its changes. In spell work it can take some time before the practitioner fully understands the process they have initiated.
Since childhood I have enjoyed creating places that sit in the world but are liminal spaces or thresholds. Cellars, attics, spare rooms, large bushes all became “spook rooms” or “secret lairs”. “Scrying Box” continues this tradition. It evokes childhood stories of portals to magical lands. The green paint, moss and rocks give a façade of antiquity and the lights make it glow alluringly in the night.
Part of the piece is a tall vase of pennies. They were chosen for texture to encourage a play of light and shadow and they also hark back to paying fortune tellers or providing offerings to spirit guides. Those who come to the box to scry, would do well to add their offering.
“When there is no future, all one can do is the next right thing.” Pabbie in Frozen 2
On the day we made a magical chamber, you were screaming in the garden about how you hated the virus. It had been a tough day, of trying to balance child-rearing with work and school. I was weeding and tidying the garden as a respite and marveling at how calm it made me feel. I suddenly thought, what would a witch do? What should I do to help you feel less helpless and frustrated? I make altars and spaces for contemplation, places that are portals.
So, I suggested we make a magic chamber with an altar. You loved the idea and we spent the remainder of the afternoon decorating the plastic playhouse that sits upstairs in our house with silks and cushions, electric tea lights, and fake flowers. Your piece de le resistance was an altar to Elsa from Frozen.
It was appropriate the altar was to Elsa, because for you right now she is the embodiment of Spirit. She is your deity. Her struggles and desire to find answers, to know herself seem to resonate with so many of us. Watching Frozen 2 now I am amazed at the parallels between the sudden plight of Arendelle and the sudden upheaval in which we have all found ourselves. Towards the beginning of the film Elsa grapples with being called away by a siren or staying home with the people she loves. She is afraid but is also facing the reality that she doesn’t feel she belongs. It is the start of another journey for Elsa and also Anna, her sister.
The first Frozen film definitely played with Pagan themes, as many Disney films have, but in Frozen 2 they really let that Pagan flag fly. The standing stones with their ancient sigils, trolls that wear glowing chrystals, the concept of five spirits – earth, air, fire, water and the one that Elsa embodies a sort of conduit between the magical realm and the physical one. Most importantly, the film addresses the importance of knowing our past and preserving the earth. Elsa finds a magical chamber that is a portal to ancestral secrets and like a shaman she must explore not only the past of her family but how a spiritual imbalance has created danger for Arendelle. Like a shaman she must bring what she knows back to the physical realm to heal her community. A hero’s journey.
Anna follows Elsa on her adventure but loses her deep in a cavern. Elsa has gone even deeper and in so doing, the magic that keeps their beloved snowman Olaf alive fades and he blows away into nothing. Anna is alone and lost. Her journey means she loses all that she loves but she also overcomes her grief and fear to save beloved Arendelle and eventually becomes the new queen.
Joseph Campbell talked of the cycle of adventure that exists in many cultures and stories, known as the Hero’s Journey. To be taken from what we love and be forced to face a foe. Facing that foe takes the hero lower than they ever thought possible and they lose everything but struggle through to be victorious. Victory is slaying the foe or the dragon, a Jungian concept of our shadow self. The self that keeps us back. However, part of our victory also is to return to the community we left and share what we have learned or gained in our struggle.
Dearest Daughter, we are all in the midst of our own hero’s journey right now. Our old way of life is gone. People are dying and struggling, and we are so afraid. But my love we also have a choice. To slay our dragon which is to say the fears that hold us down. We are low, we may get lower. Countless more will die. But countless more will not. The question I ask is, how will we let this change us for the better?