2nd Symposium on Spiritual Technologies – Ethnobotany within Witch Trials and the Capitalization of Health.
8–10 April 2021, Kunsthall Trondheim and online
The 2nd Symposium of Spiritual Technologies within Creative Practices explores the history of witchcraft in Norway and Europe and discusses the capitalization of health in the Middle Ages as well as its repercussions today. Joining the voices of artists, ethnobotanists historians, herbalists, and researchers from related fields, the symposium offers talks, panels, a Witch Trial walk in the local area, ritualistic performances, and a plant ceremony in ethnobotanist and animistic practices.
The events raise questions such as: How can we approach nature as an intrinsically living archive and bearer of memory? Can we reimagine contemporary pharmacopeia to include learning from plants and folk medicines during today’s social health crises? What modes of convergence between new technologies, ceremonial spaces, and ritualistic re-enactment can we envision together?
The symposium is curated by Invisibledrum Art Platform, an artistic research collective investigating animistic practices and spiritual technologies within the field of arts and new ecologies, founded by Amalia Fonfara and Nazaré Soares. The theme emerges from the research of Invisibledrum’s current initiative, The Witch Trial Project, and is closely aligned with Diana Policarpo’s exhibition Nets of Hyphae at Kunsthall Trondheim.
The symposium is organized with Invisibledrum Art Platform in collaboration with Kunsthall Trondheim and the Norwegian Historical Association (HIFO). Supported by Trondheim Kommune and Trøndelag Fylkeskommune.
The events take place at Kunsthall Trondheim with remote digital presentations and are live-streamed. All events are free of charge but require advance booking. Tickets for the different programs are available via Kunsthall Trondheim website .
Online registration link on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-ghULZrxRNidsDTPy-NVHA
Symposium Program: #1 (NOT ONLINE)
Summoning the 8-pointed Star:
Symposium Program #2 (ONLINE)
Claviceps Purpurea: Sacred Fungus:https://www.facebook.com/events/2510912522537108
Symposium Program #3 (ONLINE)
Neo-Pharmacopoeia & The Magical Body:
Symposium Program #4 (ONLINE)
Kunstner-kuratorsamtale og boklansering med Diana Policarpo og Stefanie Hessler: Fungi, Witches, and Sexual Health Justice: https://www.facebook.com/events/161132852510836
Symposium Program #5 (NOT ONLINE)
Witchcraft in Trondheim – Historical Walk:
Symposium Program #6 (NOT ONLINE)
Thursday, 8 April
#1 Program: Summoning the 8-pointed Star
Ritual performance. Duration: 60’. Place: Kunsthall Trondheim
Heaven, Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Lake, Thunder, and Mountain.
In sacred space, we ask for permission to open the archives and traumatic memory held in the Norwegian trials of witchcraft. Through ritualization of the space, and by invoking pharmacopeia (healing medicine) we embody and re-imagine herbcraft and the practice of magic today. This performance honors the beliefs, knowledge, and skills of oracles, seers, magicians, healers, midwives, and wise women. It calls for the return of medicine women and men.
Performing artists affiliated with Invisibledrum are Marita Isobel Solberg, Amalia Fonfara, Nazaré Soares, and Jessica Ullevålseter.
Friday, 9 April
#2 Program: Claviceps Purpurea: Sacred Fungus
This program explores how the history of humanity is interwoven with the history of poison and medicine. Though ergot has an old connection to sacred origins of medicine, in the Middle Ages, the spirit of ergot was often rooted in religion, the supernatural, or demonology. Evidence employed in the Norwegian witch trials stated that witchcraft was “learned” by consuming ergot, usually in the form of black objects in bread, beer, or other flour products. To explain the effects of the sacred fungus, one first needs to visit the world of Hades. This program establishes an ethnobotanical discourse on the history of ergotism and human relationships with plants, perception of poisons, and the understanding of medicine and vegetal allies. Participants discuss the origin of pharmakós and how the mystic golden key of poison conveys healing, magic, and science.
ERGOT AND ERGOTISM IN NORWAY AND BEYOND: A DARK HISTORY
Lecture and group discussion. Duration: 60’. Place: Online and streamed at Kunsthall Trondheim
This lecture highlights ergotism—the disease or poisoning caused by ingesting ergot (Claviceps purpurea s.l.), a parasitic fungus infecting many grasses, including most grains. Poisoning of humans has a long history in Europe, killing and maiming thousands. Alm reviews the history of ergotism in Norway, from early evidence in the sagas through a veritable catalogue of the unpredictable, but also unmistakable, and often horrid symptoms in the witchcraft trials and beyond.
Torbjørn Alm is a professor and botanist, and Head Curator of Programs at the University in Tromsø. He is also responsible for the vascular plant herbarium at the Tromsø Museum. Alm has researched the connection of ergot with cases from the historical archives of the Witch Trials of Finnmark. He is interested in the interaction between peoples and plants, including popular plant names and the use of plants for various purposes, from folk medicine to tools.
ERGOT: A FORGOTTEN MASK OF THE MYSTIC POISON
Lecture and group discussion. Duration: 60’. Place: Online and streamed at Kunsthall Trondheim
This lecture intends to provide an overview of the evolution and perception of poisons/medicines throughout the ages, taking ergot as the leitmotiv symbolizing such transformation. Carreras analyzes the mushroom’s initial role as an ancient medicine/poison, its presence in the Eleusinian Mysteries, the connection between witchcraft and medieval ergotism epidemics, and its implications in later modern and contemporary folk magic and folk religion in some communities, taking the Pyrenees as an example.
Júlia Carreras is a researcher, practitioner, and teacher of Pyrenean Metzineria (“Poison Making”) and Bruixeria (“Witchcraft/Hedgeriding”) who graduated in English studies and linguistics from the University of Barcelona. She is the co-founder and co-owner of Occvlta, an endeavor focused on crafting high-quality herbal products and artifacts since 2013, as well as on contributing to the divulgation of witchcraft and occult herbalism history and tradition among the general public through collaboration with museums and the like. She has lectured in two editions of the Viridis Genii Symposium in Oregon (2018 and 2019). She is one of the founding members of the Gremi de l’Art, an initiative whose goal is to spread the magical traditions and lore of the Iberian Peninsula through academic insight and both individual and collective practice. She currently resides in the Pyrenees of Spain, where she works with the local museum (Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu) on organizing ethnobotany walks, workshops on folk magic, and guided tours. The focus of her work revolves around the awakening and remembrance of forgotten Witch and Plant Lore.
#3 Program: Neo-Pharmacopoeia & The Magical Body
Witchcraft in early modern Europe was found within the domains of the household and health. The persecution of these activities aimed at controlling beliefs and old spiritual traditions as well as folk medicine and healing. Witchcraft is the practice of magical skills, spells, and herbal abilities that comes out of a living and embodied relationship with energy and matter. This entails the knowledge and skills of communing with plant beings as real living entities. In the midst of a global health crisis, we ask what are the points of convergence between witchcraft trials in the Middle Ages and today? How can we re-imagine contemporary pharmacopeias?
THE WITCH TRIALS PROJECT
INVISIBLEDRUM: JESSICA ULLEVÅLSETER, MARITA ISOBEL SOLBERG, NAZARÉ SOARES & AMALIA FONFARA
Lecture performance and group discussion. Duration: 50’. Place: Kunsthall Trondheim and online
This lecture performance by the artists affiliated with Invisibledrum and with the Witch Trials Project proposes art practices to reactivate the essential teachings of plants and folk medicine in an urban contemporary context. The intellectual incantation accentuates the power of oral knowledge, explores constellation work for healing trauma, and reconnects to akashic memory and artistic work. Invisibledrum presents the collective’s collaboration with pharmacologist researcher Aleksandre Smakosz in the creation of a contemporary mobile pharmacopeia, digital pilgrimage, Nordic herbarium, and a “black book”. We will present our findings in the work of historian and archaeologist Liv Helene Willumsen and other historical sources.
Invisibledrum is an artistic research platform investigating holistic practices and spiritual technologies within the field of art and new ecologies. We study animistic practices within transdisciplinary fields of knowledge, encompassing amongst other the arts, creative ecologies, technology, embodied cognition, healing practices, speculative design, herbology, and ethnobotany.
THE BODY AS A MAGICAL ENTITY AND THE MECHANICAL BODY AT THE AGE OF REASON
Lecture and group discussion. Duration: 60’. Place: Online and streamed at Kunsthall Trondheim
This lecture exposes the capitalist roots of particular socioeconomic conditions that fomented witch hunts throughout Europe. Federici uncovers the basis of these misogynist and femicidal responses as indivisible from men’s fear of women’s knowledge, labor, and power. Witchcraft and magical views of the world continued to prevail on a popular level throughout the Middle Ages, despite the suppressive efforts of the church. At the basis of witchcraft was the animistic conception of nature that did not admit any separation between spirit and matter and thus imagined the cosmos as a living organism, populated by occult forces, where every element was sympathetic to the rest. Plants, herbs, metals, and most of the human body hid virtues and powers peculiar to it. Eradicating these practices was necessary conduction for the capitalist rationalization of work since magic appeared as an illicit form of power and an instrument to obtain what one wanted without work—a refusal of work in action.
Silvia Federici is a Marxist feminist researcher, educator, and activist of Italian origin. She is the author of the acclaimed book Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body And Primitive Accumulation (New York, Autonomedia, 2004), and has taught at various North American universities and at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria. She is Professor Emeritus at Hofstra University (Long Island, New York).
#4 Program: Artist-curator Conversation and Book Launch with Diana Policarpo and Stefanie Hessler: Fungi, Witches, and Sexual Health Justice. With an introduction by Guilherme Blanc
Join the conversation between artist Diana Policarpo and curator and director of Kunsthall Trondheim Stefanie Hessler. We will discuss Policarpo’s new work highlighting feminist intersectional concerns and sexual health justice. We will also celebrate the launch of the new book published on the occasion of Policarpo’s exhibition Nets of Hyphae at Kunsthall Trondheim and Galeria Municipal do Porto.
With an introduction by Guilherme Blanc, former Artistic Director of Galeria Municipal do Porto, and currently Artistic Director – Batalha Film Centre.
BOOK LAUNCH: NETS OF HYPHAE
DIANA POLICARPO & STEFANIE HESSLER
Conversation and book launch. Duration: 60’. Place: Kunsthall Trondheim and streamed online
Diana Policarpo draws geographical connections between Norway, Portugal, and Spain, where the Claviceps purpurea fungus is found. This parasite infects the ovaries of rye plants, creating purple protrusions. These knobs have been used traditionally by women for abortions and to initiate labor in childbirth. The mushroom is also one of the substances used in making LSD. And, allegedly, during the witch trials in Vardø and other places, women were said to have visions of the devil after ingesting a purple substance—possibly the Claviceps, as Policarpo speculates. These themes are present throughout the exhibition and the book, in which their philosophical implications are discussed from artistic, curatorial, and theoretical perspectives. Making connections across times, geographies, and scales, Nets of Hyphae humbly points to shared habitats and, in the words of the anthropologist Anna Tsing, to possibilities of earthly survival on a precarious planet.
Book design by João M. Machado
Texts by Guilherme Blanc, Emmy Beber, Rune Blix Hagen, Stefanie Hessler, Margarida Mendes, and Katrine Elise Pedersen
Co-published by Kunsthall Trondheim, Galeria Municipal do Porto, and Mousse Publishing
With support from the Arts Council Norway
Saturday, 10 April
#5 Program: Witchcraft in Trondheim – Historical Walk
This program offers the format of the walk as a tool to explore history’s fabric. To deal with history is to deal with time. On this walk, creative tools and urban mises-en-scène are used to propose different relations with time and communicability of languages and forms.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the witch bonfires burned in Europe. In Norway, about 800 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, and of these, about 300 were executed for witchcraft. Even though we know the period of the witch trials was cruel, what do we actually know about its effects in our local area? This walk will explore the history and locales of the witch trials in Trondheim, which are mostly hidden in plain sight. The walk will start at Kunsthall Trondheim and conclude in Illa.
WITCHCRAFT, TRIALS, AND DEMONOLOGY IN TRONDHEIM
Historical city walk. Duration: 120’. Place: Start at Kunsthall Trondheim and endpoint at Ila.
During this historical city walk, we will talk about the witch trials of Trondheim and explore the relationship between religion and local society. Why did some people hurt under demonology and when did it end? In historical accounting, we can find records that show how the executioners got paid for their services, including torture, the tools they used, and later the executions. We can also see what nutrition the witches were provided in prison at Erkebispegården. Linda Fjølstad will guide the walk and focus on three different cases: the trials of Grøtkall-Marit, a widow who was burned in 1656; the married couple Lisbeth and Ole Nypan, who were executed in 1670; and the Sámi woman Finn-Kirsten Iversdatter, who was the last witch executed in Trondheim in 1674.
Linda Fjølstad was born in Trondheim in 1989. She started her education at The University of Tromsø in 2012, where she was introduced to witch trials as studies, and obtained a master’s degree in history from The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2016. In her thesis. Fjølstad’s master thesis focused on the witch trials of Lisbeth and Ole Nypan in 1670. After her studies, she remained at NTNU, at the Department of Historical Studies as a Research Assistant. In 2018 she became a Senior Executive Officer at the Faculty of Engineering. She also joined Heimdal Historielag in 2018 and is an active writer.
#6 Program: Plant Ceremony
Ethnobotanical knowledge is rooted in observation, interrelationships, needs, and animistic ways of knowing. The impacts of modern society on traditional cultures and natural habitats caused huge losses of individual plant species and profoundly disrupted communities of botanical diversity. Paramedical industries have taken over traditions of oral knowledge of plant medicine, creating a contemporary society that is mostly blind to the medicinal wonders and allies from the plant world in our backyard. This closing ceremony of the symposium invites participants to open the senses to re-remember our sacred reciprocal connection with plant allies.
CLOSING TEA CEREMONY WITH A PLANT ALLY
MARI JERSTAD AND MAI LØVAAS
Tea ceremony. Duration: 90’. Place: Kunsthall Trondheim
This ceremony is a meeting with plants through the body and senses. By listening and exploring the ways a plant can be experienced, we interact with it as an ally. Meeting a plant can be as simple as a walk in the park or a cup of tea. In this case, it is a cup of tea. The tea is served with a guided meditation, silence, creative tools, and finally the possibility to share reflections on the experience of the plant ally.
Mari Jerstad has wished to work with medicinal plants since her early teens. She studied organic farming at Sogn Jord og Hagebruksskolen, and later attended a three-year bachelor’s degree in herbal medicine at Lincoln University, England (2014). Since then, she has worked as a herbalist, storyteller, herbal journalist with the radio program Ugress, as well as a course leader with numerous herbal events. She is a third-generation storyteller and appreciates that plants have their own valuable lives and therefore also stories. Recently, Jerstad completed a master´s degree at the University of Oslo in International Community Health. Her thesis on the topic of medical ethnobotany was a qualitative study exploring the perception of plants in rural west Norway. Her findings were of embodied tacit knowledge of human-plant relations, animal-plant relations, and relations with the wider local land.
Mai Løvaas grew up in Trondheim and has recently returned to her hometown after living in California for 18 years. She has studied clinical western herbalism at Berkeley Herbal Center and has taken year-long herbal apprenticeships with Green Wisdom Herbal School and The Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education. She has spent numerous years roaming the hillsides, mountains, valleys, and deserts of California looking for plants and mushrooms of edible and medicinal quality. Mai takes people on plant walks, facilitates plant meditations, leads workshops on topics such as medicinal mushrooms, herbal potion-making, seaweeds, and mushroom ID. She is currently in the process of doing a master’s degree in Global Health at NTNU, focusing her thesis study on ethnomycology and people’s uses and perceptions of mushrooms. Mai spends her summers traveling, studying, and harvesting plants and mushrooms all throughout Norway. Instagram: @maiwildmedicinals www.maiwildmedicinals.com
About Kunsthall Trondheim
Kunsthall Trondheim is the largest international arena for contemporary art in Trondheim and the Trøndelag region. Through our exhibitions and public programs, we engage with the local scene, introduce leading international artists as well as overlooked positions, and connect to a large and diverse audience. Kunsthall Trondheim offers a varied program of mediation for children and young people, workshops, concerts, performances, film screenings, and lectures.
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