What does a witch do? PlanetShifter.com Magazine Interview with San Francisco Visual Mythologist Natalya Kolosowsky, lunariusgraphics.com.


Interview by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Magazine

Interview with Natalya by Willi –

What does a witch do?

On a most basic level, I think a witch bridges two or more realities, and communicates information between them. Often witches have a specific role or responsibility within their community, but not necessarily. A witch lives her life in accordance to the rules of her own heart, or other planes, which I think is what has created the tremendous fear and hatred surrounding the concept of a “witch” that exists today. A witch is aware of the power that we all carry inside ourselves and observant of the flow of patterns in the world, and through her awareness and knowledge has a refined strength, control, and focus that sets her apart from most other people. A witch encodes her intent through ritual – spellmaking – and may occasionally help others to do the same. Witches often guard ancient wisdom, whether it is historical, spiritual, cultural, scientific or medicinal.

Witches also often make patriarchal societies very uncomfortable :]

Where are humans down on the evolutionary path? I am interested in your predictions on anatomical morphing and spirituality.

I think we are sitting on some very powerful tools: a wealth of knowledge obtained through empirical science, an exquisitely beautiful informational network that expedites communication to an unprecedented rate, exorbitant computational power and memory, a vast history of spiritual and creative exploration…and these tools are growing every day.

I predict that if we can maintain and promote the freedom to access all of these tools (which of course requires political and economic stability – not necessarily our forte at the moment), we will experience a huge shift in how we perceive the world and ourselves. With increased ability to recognize patterns and integrate different disciplines, we may start to see ancient spirituality coalescing with contemporary systems science (the work of Stephen Lansing comes to mind as a forecaster of this.)

Similarly, as our instruments get more sensitive and precise, perhaps we will make discoveries that confirm, rather than dismiss, things that today get labeled as “paranormal” or “extrasensory.” Perhaps spirituality will become viewed as a direct and vital extension of our biology that has simply been misunderstood in the past rather than a quasi-fictional realm to be scoffed at by “hard science.” Perhaps biological systems will be used as models for business organizations, and business and commerce itself will break down to resemble more of a metabolic process, and spirituality, biology, and technology will become interwoven in a whole new way. True Globalization will be possible, and from there…who knows?

In regards to anatomical morphing, the only thing I can predict with certainty is that if we keep up our current habits, we will resemble giant flaccid lumps with tiny stumps for arms and legs, permanent tension headaches, and solely internet-based identities (IF we manage to live long enough for evolution to actually effect our anatomy, and don’t destroy ourselves beforehand.)

Is SF a magical place? Why?

San Francisco is a very magical place. I think purely on a physical level it is incredibly beautiful – there are so many elements coming together creating a gorgeous natural landscape. The fog rolling into the city – watching that is like watching the sky bleed into the ocean and engulf the land, it’s really quite breathtaking. The sun setting into the water on a clear day paints the whole city gold at sunset, it feels like the end of the US, the very edge of this country and this culture, and the beginning of something new.

Also the many layers of ideological history here are so profound, and very much based on myths – the gold rush, the intoxication with the American West that drew so many people here in crowds, the Victorian and Edwardian influence that really defines the skin of the city (endless narrow houses), the more recent emergence of the counterculture, the New Age movement, the amazing technological development that is blossoming here (it is our modern-day alchemy)…a lot of those things are embodied by San Francisco, by its very geography and streets, by its soul. These days, half the city annually attends a giant hedonistic ritual in the desert, burns an effigy of a man, and indulges in some very Bacchanalian rites. It’s all ridiculously magical.

The citizens of San Francisco believe in magic, and if they don’t call it magic, they call it “innovation,” “social change,” “technology,” or perhaps “the internet,” but the end result is the same.

Are you seeing any shifts away from traditional religion to a more Nature-based view?

I am seeing two kinds of shifts in that direction.

One shift is among people questioning and doubting their traditional religious upbringing and explicitly coming to a more Nature-based view through a process of searching and reflection. This has probably been going on since the late 60’s or 70’s, and it’s accelerated a bit with the hype around “going green” in the past decade. I see a lot of people in their 20’s go through this process and develop a fascination with paganism and shamanism, though my guess is that it’s still a relatively small fraction of the population.

Another shift I see is just within society as a whole, and it’s much more implicit. I am seeing people come together in communities and celebrate the various natural transitions – summer, spring, autumn, winter – with more awareness that most major religious holidays are actually based on the solstices and the equinoxes anyway. I’m seeing more people concerned about sustainability and climate change, altering their daily habits and routines with the greater understanding that they are part of a global system. I am seeing people become more interested in their bodies and how their physicality is connected to their emotional well-being – their actual nature, if you will.

I am seeing scientific and medical research finding more and more ways in how tightly organisms are interwoven into their environment, how reactive genes are to their surroundings. So the relationship between people and Nature is definitely shifting – in our post-industrial state, we are beginning to see (or perhaps remember) that we are a part of Nature, and that a Nature-based view is ultimately one of self-preservation. There’s a lot of stigma attached to Nature-based spirituality, especially in a Christian society, but the irony of the situation is that contemporary science is pointing us in the same direction…so this shift is happening, but slowly and rather covertly. It’s very exciting to watch.

How does myth work with science fiction or fantasy?

In general, I think of myth as the DNA of culture. The structure is very constant, as is the flow of mutations and alterations that happen around it. In this way, traditional myth is the grandparent of modern science fiction and fantasy, and the contemporary work in that field today is the new layer of mutations that symbolically articulates the pain, joy, sickness, and love, etc specific to our current state.

We don’t really have that many stories to tell – whether its prehistoric tales passed from oral traditions for generations, or the latest science-fiction novels or video games set far into in the future, I guarantee that the archetypes and narratives found there will be very similar. But the ways in which we are telling those stories, the way we are experiencing them, and the connections that we make through them are constantly changing and evolving, which allows myth to remain relevant, dynamic, and alive.

Are modern shamans helping to create new mythologies? If so, can you give us some examples?

Yes! This is actually very similar to the question I asked Brian Froud this summer.

Joseph Campbell said that “the artist is the one who communicates myth for today,” and I think it’s very true. The artist has the most freedom these days to transverse all kinds of planes of existence, and access to the greatest multitude of languages to express what is found there. I think if we step away from the traditional view of the shaman (and of mythology for that matter), and zoom out a little to include all kinds of figures in society we see a tremendous amount of work being done in the realm of the mythic that is highly exciting and very powerful. People that come to mind are Tom Robbins, Haruki Marakami, Brian & Wendy Froud, Neil Gaiman, Amagatsu Ushio, Bjork…this list can go on and on, but I think you get the idea. These people work in very different realms – ranging from visual art, to literature, to dance, to music, to technology and virtual worlds – but they are very much responsible for the mythology of today, encoding our fears and our desires into their own stories, into popular culture, into visions of the future.

Artists may go through many initiations on their alchemical journey. Please tell us about some of your key learnings, wing busters and transitions.

A major transition for me was a series of physical injuries I experienced in my late teens. I was training to be a ballet dancer, dancing and rehearsing 20-30 hours a week. I had been dancing since I was 3, and it was my life – I had no identity or concept of myself outside of that world, even though I often found myself very unhappy there. Just as I was beginning to understand that there were other modes of movement that I could explore and be very successful in – modern dance, improvisation, circus arts – my body gave out, and I was forced to stop dancing. It was a very sudden change, and a very painful experience at the time because this one thing that had completely defined me was no longer available. It was infinitely frustrating to be unable to simply will my body into working again, to realize that I had very specific physical limitations and couldn’t simply keep pushing myself without rest. Our culture values blind drive and willpower so much…but the truth is, infinite willpower without self-reflection is ultimately destructive.

In a way, I had to re-construct myself as an individual almost from the ground up after that, which ultimately gave me a lot of internal strength and awareness, as well as an understanding of how fluid identities and concepts of self really are. Shifting away from dance allowed me to focus more on the visual arts, which are something that I had always had a huge passion for, but seemingly never enough time to pursue properly. Searching for a form of physical activity that would help me heal, I came to yoga, and found it to be one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had outside of dance. As my body recovered, I’ve been able to explore a variety of movement outside of my classical training – butoh, aerial arts, modern, improvisation, physical theater – and weave those things together with my love for the visual arts, myth, ritual, technology, and psychology. I will always be a performer and a dancer at heart, and it’s still difficult sometimes to exist in-between categories in a world that is so furiously intent on specialization and compartmentalization, but I feel very lucky that I can transverse so many worlds comfortably and find a common language between them.

How do you connect mythmaking and innovation in your work?

I think of my work as visual mythology – it’s all really just me processing my own experiences and interactions through various archetypes and narratives. I’ve always loved fairytales, fantasy, and science-fiction, and connected to the non-linear, metaphorical nature of that world as easily as to everyday life. That vocabulary of myth and symbolism is very comfortable for me, so I’m constantly going back and forth between the modern social scape that we all exist in and this rich history of magic and fantasy and finding bridges between the two. The bridges then become drawings, or animations, or performances, and the innovation is finding the right set of tools to bring them to life and make them visible.

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Natalya Kolosowsky BIO –

“Natalya Kolosowsky is an artist, designer, and performer currently residing in San Francisco, California. She has a deep fascination with the role of myth, magic, ritual, and technology in the modern world, and seeks to explore these themes across multiple visual media. Natalya is particularly interested in the intersection of art and science and an integrative and multidisciplinary approach to research.

Natalya’s interests have lead her to a wide variety of projects, ranging from working as a research assistant in an existential social psychology lab, to being an active part of Tucson’s Annual All Souls Procession, to collaborating with the fire/circus group Flam Chen Pyrotechnic Theater. Her artwork has been exhibited in New York, Arizona, Italy, and Germany. She holds a BFA in Visual Communication and a BS in Psychology from the University of Arizona.”

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Connections –
Natalya Kolosowsky
Lunariusgraphics at gmail.com
lunariusgraphics.com

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About [ open myth source ]

The [open myth source] project gathers conversations, symbols, songs, visual art and stories. Building a house for Myth in the Sustainability Age.
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