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Animism

Book Review – Witchbody: A Graphic Novel by Sabrina Scott

March, 2019

Book Review
Witchbody
A Graphic Novel
By Sabrina Scott
74 pp.

“Can magic teach us how to love?” asks Sabrina Scott partway through their graphic essay, “Witchbody: A Graphic Novel.” As Scott builds up layers of radical environmentalism and transformative animism through the book, the answer crystallizes: yes, magic can teach us how to love, because empathy and experience are the way forward, and magic gives us the tools to learn and practice both. While it is difficult to pin down a single thesis for this essay — perhaps only because the scope of Scott’s topic is so broad — one clear theme is that through the intentional sharing of spaces and bodies, and the experience of other bodies in relationship to our own, we come to know, understand, and love each other. By experiencing pain, grief, loss, and transformation, we learn to recognize and honor these experiences in others, and in the world around us. By seeing ourselves as we truly are, what we share and where we differ with others, we come to be one.

More
a poetic essay than a narrative, “Witchbody” is a book which
muses about ontology, experience, physicality, and spirituality —
and what these things all have to do with each other. Scott’s
beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations enrich their words,
lending reinforcement to their message through the depiction of
interactions between humans and the liminal spaces that guide us
between and within our urban and natural environments. 

Scott’s
magical attitude takes flight as everyday activities are transformed
into moments of transcendent beauty, during which awareness and
empathy inflame a daily sense of unity with the surrounding world.
Man, earth, and animal engage with each other on a daily basis. In
these watery, organic panels, bones, phones, ferrets, and flowers all
float down the same stream as the self; all inhabit one sphere and
collide with each other in the same space, as one body. And in these
bodies, and in our shared body, we can suffer pain, illness, and
death — and when we deny the truth of our shared body, we truly do
damage to each other. At the same time, our sensuality is a gateway
to ontological understanding; by having a body and engaging with our
own bodies, we can come to understand what it means to have a body,
to be a being in the physical, natural world.

But
Scott does not praise only sameness or the recognition of shared
traits by different bodies; while this is an attractive shortcut, it
can also invalidate more experiences than it validates, and ignores a
lot. Instead, Scott delves into how the self-as-same and
self-as-different juxtaposition propels animistic empathy forward,
causing true transformation and understanding through primary
experience and communication, rather than analysis, reflection, or
judgment. It is in the active compassion for the other that we build
the bridge between our own experience as human individuals, and the
experience of the others, by extending our own capacity for feeling
and our borders past our own skin.

Sabrina Scott’s “Witchbody” is a beautiful book which will appeal to animistic and environmentally-minded witches, artistic witches, and anyone who believes that we are all one. While there is more text here than in a regular graphic novel of the same length due to the dense and complex nature of the content, it’s still an easy afternoon read that will leave you eager to experience how engaging with the natural other can strengthen and sustain our collaborative, shared world.

Witchbody: A Graphic Novel on Amazon

***

About
the Author:

Sarah
McMenomy
is
an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork,
trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at
https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com

MoonOwl Observations

August, 2013

Animism

 

Animism is the probably the earliest religious philosophy employed by our ancestors. It is still practiced today, mainly in Africa and the Americas. The dictionary defines Animism as “the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls”. Also, “ the belief that natural objects have souls that may exist apart from their material bodies.

 

This does not mean that Animists personify the gods with human characteristics, names or myths. It means that everything in nature is ascribed a spirit and an energy.  The Wheel of the Year and the cycles of life are then actually seen as divine in their own right. It encompasses philosophical, religious and spiritual beliefs that souls or spirits exist in animals, plants, rocks, rivers, trees, fire and other entities of the natural environment.

 

Animism comes from the latin animus , which means “soul, life”. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas are two people who contemplated the possibility that souls exist in animals, plants and people. Sir Edward Tylor was responsible for the definition currently accepted in anthropology. This happened around the 1870’s. He defined it as “the general doctrine of souls and other spiritual beings in general.” There is a lot of information surrounding these people and their views that I cannot summarize it all, so instead if you wish to-  research more into them.

 

Traditions such as European Cunning Craft often follow Animism. Some neo-pagan groups will describe themselves as animists, meaning that they respect the diverse community of living beings and spirits with whom humans share the world. This belief system is also very popular with Native American tribes. It is also found in Shinto, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Pantheism.

 

Animists attempt to live in the world as if the world is a community of living persons, and not only humans. We live in a realm of living, personal beings and we should live respectfully within this multispecies world.

 

If you believe in Animism you should demonstrate respect to all of earth and not it as an object.