Fine Art Witchery: Where the Arts & Magick Meet

An exploration of the metaphysical intersection between the Fine Arts & Witchcraft: including history, current usage, and practical application.

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Objects can hold power, and collect energy.  In "The Magick of Making", we explored how magick can be instilled into artwork by the maker.  But what if you're not an artist/maker? And what about items that weren't originally made with magical intent but take on meaning for you? 

Even if you don't consider yourself a "material" person, there is undoubtedly some sort of token that means more than the sum of its parts to you: your grandmother's thimble, a book from your father, the feather you found on the street on that really rough day, the rock from the hike you went on during that vacation, your "lucky" sweater. 

Whether an item is made by humans, manufactured by machine, or created by nature, it has the potential for meaning, and meaning can be acquired most typically via association or by function. 

Meaning by association is when the object is linked with either the place it came from, the person who originated it (via gift, legacy, or maker), or a time that it commemorates. Consider a souvenir from a trip you took.  It was collected or purchased to act as physical reminder of the place you visited, or perhaps the people you met on the trip, or those went with you - essentially commemorating the experience of that time and place. A token handed down from a deceased relative, such as a thimble, book, mug, or picture may not be worth a lot of money, but rather it's value comes from the memories associated with that person. Mementos or favors from a wedding or party, or a trophy or ribbon from a game are linked to that occasion, marking that moment and achievement. There is a very specific pine cone on my altar, which I collected near the gravesite of my grandfather on the day of his funeral.  It's not that the particular kind of pinecone is special - but rather where and when it came from, and that it also reminds me of the numerous nature walks he took me on as a child. 

Meaning by function refers to when the specific use of an item creates a bond, whether it's for the daily pattern life or special ritual times. The mug that feels perfect in your hands and starts every day off with your tea or coffee - you might not even remember where it came from or how you got it, but the tactile sensation and the morning ritual makes it special to you.  Consider that "lucky" sweater - you might have picked it up at a thrift shop for $2, but it flatters you physically, which makes you feel awesome.  It seems like good things happen when you wear it - hence why you may consider it lucky - because it bolsters your confidence. Or perhaps that pretty ceramic pot you picked up at a garage sale, and now use for a cauldron for ritual.  It very likely wasn't made with that use in mind, but it does the job well, and so now it has a special place. When an item performs an important function for you that sets your day, it can take on new meaning - despite its origins, because of the role it plays in your life. 

As so it happens while I was working on this article, this past Sunday, the local esoteric group had a gathering with a "magical show and tell" where members brought in an item and told a story about it. Items ranged from rocks and Tarot decks to coats and handcrafted items. During one of our discussions about the variety of items and their meaning, it was remarked that memory is just as important as will. I think that observation perfectly sums up how an object you acquire can be just as powerful as something that was specifically made with metaphysical intent. 

Memory has the power to transport us, to help us remember people, places, and experiences. It helps us link energy to those objects, lending spirit (our own, our friends/family, of a place) to it. If will is a focus of your intent, then memory is a focus of your experience, and be directed onto and into objects. 

I am sure that most people of a metaphysical path have heard the advice to "cleanse" items you acquire from antique shops and thrift sales, usually paired with a story of what happened to so-and-so when he/she/they didn't cleanse the object.  (Personally I think mileage on that advice will vary depending on you, your personal practice, and the object.) Regardless, I do believe that items can certainly be linked to specific people, and can either house or draw spirits.  Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes not so much.  I remember touring the Winchester Mystery House about 10 years ago and it felt oddly empty to me in a way I couldn't put my finger on - until the end of the tour when the guide said that all of the furniture was not original to the house, and was brought in later after the fact.  While surely spirits can be drawn to specific locations, there's an added energy that those daily objects they had interacted with that can't be replaced. 

Lastly, there's also something to be said for the curation of objects - the wunderkammer  or cabinet of curiosities effect.  I am known to collect random bits of nature such as shells, rocks, bone, and plants, as well as small statues of deities, tiny sculptures of owls and snails, ceramics, and jewelry bits. Sometimes these things hold a specific meaning individually to me, and others I couldn't even begin to remember where they came from.  But when they're assembled together on a shelf, in a case or cabinet or on an altar, they collectively take on a new meaning.  For me personally as an artist, these assemblages become altars to inspiration.  I could take any item and give it away, but it won't lessen the power of the collection - and there's always room to add more! 

I invite you to take a look around your living space and the objects that surround you.  What has traveled with you? What is close to your heart, and why? 

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Laura "Tempest" Zakroff is a professionally trained visual artist, designer, writer and a Modern Traditional Witch. Her artwork explores the realm of Myth and the Esoteric and has been featured in numerous publications and shows across the world. She is also is a world-renown belly dance performer and instructor, focusing on sacred and darkly inspired fusions that pull from the traditions of North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. She is based in Seattle, WA.


  • Melissa
    Melissa Tuesday, 24 November 2015

    I had to smile when you started talking about mugs. I have a mug that was given to me by a good friend of mine, just before she died. She bought it at Pantheacon, and it has a hobbit hole on it. She was very into kitchen witchcraft, and knew an herb for everything. I use it a lot when I'm brewing an herbal tea for magical purposes (though I use it for every other hot beverage too). But if I am doing some drinkable kitchen witchcraft or something I want to give an extra punch, I use that mug. I also use it any time I am doing ancestor work with her.

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