Spelling the City Witch: Reimagining Environmental Stories in WITCHBODY
The graphic novel WITCHBODY is a 72-page meandering synthesis of poetry, spirituality, magic theory, and philosophical speculation. It is an illustrated essay about how techniques of magic can re-orient humans to feel and enact different relationships with environmental relationships with both built and natural environments. I contend that a common contributor to widespread environmental destruction is the Othering of so-called ‘Nature.’ There is currently a deeply imagined rift between nature and culture. Genus loci, spirits, and gods are often depicted only in so-called ‘natural’ environments: pushed to the side, protected, retreated to on holiday. What philosophical opportunities emerge when an illustrative lens is shifted towards towns and cities, towards where we live: towards contemporary urban witchcraft? This graphic novel depicts urban landscapes littered with dandelions and trash; skyscrapers, manicured downtown parks, and the mundane interiors of downtown apartments. Phantasmagoric swims in Lake Ontario and daydreams of conversations with animals and plant life also pepper the book’s pages.
What can it mean to find spirituality and folklore in the city? Can illustration help?
The book’s physicality is crucial to its philosophical labouring: this comic book is both about witchcraft and an act of witchcraft. The format of the work is inspired both by study of practitioner-made talismanic books (both about spirits and containing spirits), and the talismanic graphic novels of practitioners (ie, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison). Thinking with (mostly filmic and documentarian) work emerging from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, I position this series of illustrations as a kind of sensory (auto)ethnography. How can illustration map out environmental philosophy in a pedagogically useful way so that dominant and harmful environmental narratives can be displaced, rewritten, and reimaged?
WITCHBODY was nominated for a 2016 Doug Wright Spotlight Award. The Doug Wrights are the highest standard of recognition in Canadian comic arts.
Sabrina Scott is doing their PhD in Science and Technology Studies at York University in Toronto. They have a Bachelor of Design in Illustration and a Master of Environmental Studies and Sustainability Education. Their research seeks to interrogate the relationship between magic, science, ontology, epistemology, and phenomenology. Sabrina is a lifelong witch and Spiritualist, and works as an illustrator, designer, and tarot reader. They teach studio illustration and critical theory at OCAD University in Toronto.