Deep in the Wild Woods Where the Witches Live…
Walk through the gate of bleached white bones, set with grinning skulls whose eyes glow with fire. Here is the home of Baba Yaga, on the border between the world of mortals and the world of spirits. Ever watchful, restless, creaking, groaning, it spins on its chicken legs, dancing on the edge of reason…
(Soundtrack – Lost Girl)
“Deep in the Wild Woods Where the Witches Live…” was an exhibition that ran between the 8th and 16th November 2014 at The Wig in Birmingham.
This was a project about witches as entities of the subconscious. Symbols of our fear of dark desires, ageing (particularly ageing in women) and death. The image of the witch is about feminine power, shameless sexuality, but it is also about how we fear each other as women. We fight dirty, envy each other and try to undermine each other with gossip and dirty tricks. Witches are bad mothers, scary old hags and dangerous seductresses.
I grew up in Sweden, and fairy tales about witches were very much a part of of my childhood. In one of my dreams (nightmares) a witch was running under ground with a huge needle, trying to pierce my feet. At the end of my dream it turned out that the witch was my mother.
In adulthood witches would appear in my dreams as wise counsellors, messengers from the netherworlds or bearers of precognitive information. Certain symbolic objects would reoccur time and again over the years; needles, mushrooms, cauldrons, all obvious symbols of sexuality and reproduction. Not surprisingly these dreams were particularly vivid when I was pregnant or having relationship problems.
The image of the old witch is of course also a cultural cliche, a judgement passed by the patriarchal society in which a woman more or less loses her value as her beauty fades. We are all afraid of the old witch, men and women. She is dangerous because she has nothing left to lose, so can become unhinged and destructive.
But there is a strength that comes from facing the darkness and overcoming our fears, this is what the fairy tales are trying to tell us. Running away just makes the darkness feel even more frightening, and sooner or later it will overtake us. The question is if we are prepared to take up the fight.
(Soundtrack – It’s Real Magic)