A Graphic Novel
By Sabrina Scott
“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.
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