A few years ago me and two of my best friends travelled through the south of Frane. At a lake under Nice we decided to set up camp. It was so warm that I chose not to bring my sleeping bag. My friends on the other hand did bring theirs. We chose a tree formation and hung up our hammocks in a triangle. At midnight I woke up from a horrible nightmare. The dark around me made me very disoriëntated. Also I was unbearably cold. I sat like this for a while, being in a very weird state of conscious. Everything had changed and took form of a ghost or a witch; the bushes, the trees, the stones and my friends. It doesn't feel malicious, but the deformations are evident. Or does it just look like so? I awake my friends and describe to them my experience so they will come with me to the car. Here, we fall asleep. I now reckon I understand why people believe in angels, but at the same time know that it was the cold speaking to my body. Nevertheless I've perceived 'ghosts' with my own body. I like to remember this experiencing as something magical that happened to me rather than it being something explainable. This brings me more pleasure. I think my fascination for mysticism started here.
In the west we seem to have abandoned a lot of (historical) rituals and traditions. We think that we don't need them any more. We think that to find spirituality we have to go very far to the East or elsewhere. This is not true. Spirituality can be found in The Netherlands too. Europe has a rich spiritual history where The Netherlands have played their part. My country is rich in stories about witches and the movie I'm making will be one of them. I believe that there is huge value in a magical worldview, especially in our current Western world, which is way to real. Why would we undermine our dreamlife when it may just as well be real? Who decides our dreamlife is less real?
THE PROJECT: BLESSED BE
The film I'm currently making will be a portrait of Pia, a witch that lives on the most Northern part of Groningen, next to the Waddenzee. Here, after the passing of her late husband, she lives alone with the exception of her cats Hocus (of course a black cat, because having a black cat goes hand in hand with being a witch) and Mauwpie. As a witch she is always busy with magic. On the wad (mudbank) next to her house she often carries out mooncelebrations and other kinds of rituals. Pia feels closely connected to nature and the seasons. Her life is focused around being a witch. Out of fascination and admiration for her practice I started to document her.
Maxim: Alright Pia, I really wanted to ask you; why are you a witch?
Pia: “You can leave the why out of that question, because you just are. But why do I call myself a witch? I call myself a witch because I feel very much in tune with the elements. With the earth, but also the sky, fire, water. I think the elements are the basis of our world. I'm also very conscious of the yearwheel. Everything always comes around, however hard we try to ruin it. I really think everything comes back around. Albeit sometimes in a different form. Also being a witch is a party. You've got twelve to thirteen mooncelebrations in one year. You basicly go from party to party."
The magical path a witch walks seems to no longer be at home in our modern Western zeitgeist. A lot of people think the things that witches do are weird because it's not exactly rational. Witches only exist in fairytales. At the end of the day to me it's not about what is true or what is false. It's about the magic that exists within in Pia's (and my) experience. Despite the judgement of others she follows a path that she deliberately chose. She chooses to experience the world in a certain way and to do this she develops mechanics to control and focus her perception. Witchcraft enables practitioners to be in the here and now and gives them techniques to look at themselves and their surroundings in a composed way. I really admire this a lot.
My goal is not to convey knowledge about witchcraft with this film, because my knowledge in this area is too limited for that. Instead, with this film I want to try to give my audience an understanding of themselves in the world. I want to bring that about by having them look at themselves through another, because I believe that you learn the most about yourself by looking at the other. With the camera and my sound recorder in my hand, I let myself be carried away in the customs and rituals of modern witchcraft. I try to look for the magic until it doesn’t seem to matter anymore whether it is real or imagination.