I started thinking about witchcraft. It started the same way as anything else, it just bubbled up to the surface at some point when I wasn’t paying attention. It might have had its seed in a show I signed on for at Haven Gallery, a show themed for folklore, and so I had to fit something into that. It was sneaky and so I don’t recall the actual beginning, just the point when it had taken hold. I only noticed once I was reading about the various poisons associated with western witches, the plants that they used to kill and to create dark magic like nightshade, mandrake and fly agaric mushrooms, the creatures they worked through like hares and goats. The pieces are three separate aspects of musing about witchcraft, about trying to cajole order out of confusion, looking for a system.
A milkhare is a manifestation of a witch, a familiar they would use to steal milk from farmers. The hare drinks the milk and returns it to the witch. I’m not certain why the concept is so fascinating, but I find it deeply troubling. Maybe it’s easy for me to relate to the concept of darkness and uncertainty all around, that odd and awful things are happening and there must be some culprit. But who’s to blame? The outsider? Maybe there really is a monster out there beyond the pale, living in the dark woods. Anecdote and superstition substituting for fact and reason still seems to be our standard mode of operation and it doesn’t seem to have changed much over the past several hundred years. It’s disheartening.
Sacrifice is a curio to make sense of the disordered world. Surely death, blood and poison can help me through this maze. Sometimes I let the strangeness pour out and I try to hang logical sense on it later. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any reason or sense to be had. This seems like one of those times.
A lot of mourning doves live around my house. I end up putting them in paintings just because I see so much of them. I know that they’re just living their lives, near the neighbor’s bird feeder, but it’s easy to pin something more on them, on their sad songs and watching eyes. They’re always watching, always. Portent is about a clinging sense of dread. I don’t generally have what I’d call a hopeful outlook on the world, and the last several years feel even darker. The black goat is calm and still and grows an extra horn. The birds are carrying poison and the horns are tangled in string and hung with more nightshade. It’s uncertain. I’m uncertain. It feels calm and quiet and humming with unease all at the same time. If only I could figure out what they’re trying to tell me, maybe then I could navigate safely.