Sara Hannant

Wells have long been regarded as sacred - as a prime source of the waters of life and survival. Wondrous stories tell of cures, visions and divinatory practices occurring at holy wells and there remains a firm belief that wishing at wells can magically transform events. Traditionally in Cornwall, healing of an illness can be affected by tearing a strip of cloth or ‘cloutie’ from a person’s garment, dipping this into the well then hanging it on a nearby tree. As it falls and rots, it is believed the illness will disappear. The cloth acts as a charm connecting the person to the numinous - divine power or spirits thought to inhabit the sacred place. Sara Hannant joined the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network in their ‘clean-up’ removing the non-biodegradable clouties at Sancreed Well near Penzance. She left with these discarded cloths - a bag of wishes - which she then photographed. The images represent a form of visual alchemy as the rags are animated by the four classical elements of water, air, fire, and earth, mirroring the natural environment. While the work honours belief in ancient folk magic it also exposes the modern problem of indestructible ritual litter.

Wells have long been regarded as sacred - as a prime source of the waters of life and survival. Wondrous stories tell of cures, visions and divinatory practices occurring at holy wells and there remains a firm belief that wishing at wells can magically transform events. Traditionally in Cornwall, healing of an illness can be affected by tearing a strip of cloth or ‘cloutie’ from a person’s garment, dipping this into the well then hanging it on a nearby tree. As it falls and rots, it is believed the illness will disappear. The cloth acts as a charm connecting the person to the numinous - divine power or spirits thought to inhabit the sacred place. Sara Hannant joined the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network in their ‘clean-up’ removing the non-biodegradable clouties at Sancreed Well near Penzance. She left with these discarded cloths - a bag of wishes - which she then photographed. The images represent a form of visual alchemy as the rags are animated by the four classical elements of water, air, fire, and earth, mirroring the natural environment. While the work honours belief in ancient folk magic it also exposes the modern problem of indestructible ritual litter.

Wells have long been regarded as sacred - as a prime source of the waters of life and survival. Wondrous stories tell of cures, visions and divinatory practices occurring at holy wells and there remains a firm belief that wishing at wells can magically transform events. Traditionally in Cornwall, healing of an illness can be affected by tearing a strip of cloth or ‘cloutie’ from a person’s garment, dipping this into the well then hanging it on a nearby tree. As it falls and rots, it is believed the illness will disappear. The cloth acts as a charm connecting the person to the numinous - divine power or spirits thought to inhabit the sacred place. Sara Hannant joined the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network in their ‘clean-up’ removing the non-biodegradable clouties at Sancreed Well near Penzance. She left with these discarded cloths - a bag of wishes - which she then photographed. The images represent a form of visual alchemy as the rags are animated by the four classical elements of water, air, fire, and earth, mirroring the natural environment. While the work honours belief in ancient folk magic it also exposes the modern problem of indestructible ritual litter.

Wells have long been regarded as sacred - as a prime source of the waters of life and survival. Wondrous stories tell of cures, visions and divinatory practices occurring at holy wells and there remains a firm belief that wishing at wells can magically transform events. Traditionally in Cornwall, healing of an illness can be affected by tearing a strip of cloth or ‘cloutie’ from a person’s garment, dipping this into the well then hanging it on a nearby tree. As it falls and rots, it is believed the illness will disappear. The cloth acts as a charm connecting the person to the numinous - divine power or spirits thought to inhabit the sacred place. Sara Hannant joined the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network in their ‘clean-up’ removing the non-biodegradable clouties at Sancreed Well near Penzance. She left with these discarded cloths - a bag of wishes - which she then photographed. The images represent a form of visual alchemy as the rags are animated by the four classical elements of water, air, fire, and earth, mirroring the natural environment. While the work honours belief in ancient folk magic it also exposes the modern problem of indestructible ritual litter.

Wells have long been regarded as sacred - as a prime source of the waters of life and survival. Wondrous stories tell of cures, visions and divinatory practices occurring at holy wells and there remains a firm belief that wishing at wells can magically transform events. Traditionally in Cornwall, healing of an illness can be affected by tearing a strip of cloth or ‘cloutie’ from a person’s garment, dipping this into the well then hanging it on a nearby tree. As it falls and rots, it is believed the illness will disappear. The cloth acts as a charm connecting the person to the numinous - divine power or spirits thought to inhabit the sacred place. Sara Hannant joined the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network in their ‘clean-up’ removing the non-biodegradable clouties at Sancreed Well near Penzance. She left with these discarded cloths - a bag of wishes - which she then photographed. The images represent a form of visual alchemy as the rags are animated by the four classical elements of water, air, fire, and earth, mirroring the natural environment. While the work honours belief in ancient folk magic it also exposes the modern problem of indestructible ritual litter.

'Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year' documents folk traditions that mark seasonal change in rural and urban locations throughout the country. Cycles of growth and decay underpin many of the agricultural customs, costumed processions, fire rituals, traditional dances and mumming plays. While some customs claim ancient origins, others are re-inventions or modern revivals, taking ideas from international and local sources. Rather than present these collective observations as ‘vanishing’ the images show traditional culture in contemporary contexts.

'Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year' documents folk traditions that mark seasonal change in rural and urban locations throughout the country. Cycles of growth and decay underpin many of the agricultural customs, costumed processions, fire rituals, traditional dances and mumming plays. While some customs claim ancient origins, others are re-inventions or modern revivals, taking ideas from international and local sources. Rather than present these collective observations as ‘vanishing’ the images show traditional culture in contemporary contexts.

'Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year' documents folk traditions that mark seasonal change in rural and urban locations throughout the country. Cycles of growth and decay underpin many of the agricultural customs, costumed processions, fire rituals, traditional dances and mumming plays. While some customs claim ancient origins, others are re-inventions or modern revivals, taking ideas from international and local sources. Rather than present these collective observations as ‘vanishing’ the images show traditional culture in contemporary contexts.

'Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year' documents folk traditions that mark seasonal change in rural and urban locations throughout the country. Cycles of growth and decay underpin many of the agricultural customs, costumed processions, fire rituals, traditional dances and mumming plays. While some customs claim ancient origins, others are re-inventions or modern revivals, taking ideas from international and local sources. Rather than present these collective observations as ‘vanishing’ the images show traditional culture in contemporary contexts.

'Of Shadows: One hundred objects from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic' (Strange Attractor 2017) was shortlisted for the International Photography Awards Book of the Year in 2017. During her artist residency at the museum Sara Hannant produced images of carefully selected artifacts, which include wax dolls, wands, statues, daggers, pendants, robes and amulets, all used in the practice of witchcraft and magic. Some have been displayed at the museum for years, others have long been hidden in its archives. The book includes an essay by the museum director Simon Costin and a foreword by the historian Ronald Hutton.

'Of Shadows: One hundred objects from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic' (Strange Attractor 2017) was shortlisted for the International Photography Awards Book of the Year in 2017. During her artist residency at the museum Sara Hannant produced images of carefully selected artifacts, which include wax dolls, wands, statues, daggers, pendants, robes and amulets, all used in the practice of witchcraft and magic. Some have been displayed at the museum for years, others have long been hidden in its archives. The book includes an essay by the museum director Simon Costin and a foreword by the historian Ronald Hutton.

'Of Shadows: One hundred objects from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic' (Strange Attractor 2017) was shortlisted for the International Photography Awards Book of the Year in 2017. During her artist residency at the museum Sara Hannant produced images of carefully selected artifacts, which include wax dolls, wands, statues, daggers, pendants, robes and amulets, all used in the practice of witchcraft and magic. Some have been displayed at the museum for years, others have long been hidden in its archives. The book includes an essay by the museum director Simon Costin and a foreword by the historian Ronald Hutton.

'Of Shadows: One hundred objects from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic' (Strange Attractor 2017) was shortlisted for the International Photography Awards Book of the Year in 2017. During her artist residency at the museum Sara Hannant produced images of carefully selected artifacts, which include wax dolls, wands, statues, daggers, pendants, robes and amulets, all used in the practice of witchcraft and magic. Some have been displayed at the museum for years, others have long been hidden in its archives. The book includes an essay by the museum director Simon Costin and a foreword by the historian Ronald Hutton.

'Of Shadows: One hundred objects from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic' (Strange Attractor 2017) was shortlisted for the International Photography Awards Book of the Year in 2017. During her artist residency at the museum Sara Hannant produced images of carefully selected artifacts, which include wax dolls, wands, statues, daggers, pendants, robes and amulets, all used in the practice of witchcraft and magic. Some have been displayed at the museum for years, others have long been hidden in its archives. The book includes an essay by the museum director Simon Costin and a foreword by the historian Ronald Hutton.

This practice of photography is motivated by ideas of destruction and change as forms of creation. The use of fire also extracts latent content from the traditional Cinderella story. Early variations of the tale speak about the abuse of a young girl and her seclusion in which fire and ashes symbolise her ordeal and purification. The series ‘Cinderella: Your House is on Fire’ is a contemporary retelling of the 1964 Ladybird book. Transforming the stereotyped images into new works with new meanings in the light of Operation Yewtree and #MeToo. The image captions give agency to the heroine as she moves through the various stages thought necessary to heal abuse.

This practice of photography is motivated by ideas of destruction and change as forms of creation. The use of fire also extracts latent content from the traditional Cinderella story. Early variations of the tale speak about the abuse of a young girl and her seclusion in which fire and ashes symbolise her ordeal and purification. The series ‘Cinderella: Your House is on Fire’ is a contemporary retelling of the 1964 Ladybird book. Transforming the stereotyped images into new works with new meanings in the light of Operation Yewtree and #MeToo. The image captions give agency to the heroine as she moves through the various stages thought necessary to heal abuse.

This practice of photography is motivated by ideas of destruction and change as forms of creation. The use of fire also extracts latent content from the traditional Cinderella story. Early variations of the tale speak about the abuse of a young girl and her seclusion in which fire and ashes symbolise her ordeal and purification. The series ‘Cinderella: Your House is on Fire’ is a contemporary retelling of the 1964 Ladybird book. Transforming the stereotyped images into new works with new meanings in the light of Operation Yewtree and #MeToo. The image captions give agency to the heroine as she moves through the various stages thought necessary to heal abuse.

This practice of photography is motivated by ideas of destruction and change as forms of creation. The use of fire also extracts latent content from the traditional Cinderella story. Early variations of the tale speak about the abuse of a young girl and her seclusion in which fire and ashes symbolise her ordeal and purification. The series ‘Cinderella: Your House is on Fire’ is a contemporary retelling of the 1964 Ladybird book. Transforming the stereotyped images into new works with new meanings in the light of Operation Yewtree and #MeToo. The image captions give agency to the heroine as she moves through the various stages thought necessary to heal abuse.

Sara Hannant

Sara Hannant is an artist and photographer whose work explores magic, myth and folklore.  Her images have been widely exhibited including at The Royal Society of Arts, Christie’s and Towner Art Gallery and featured on the BBC, and in The Guardian and The Sunday Times among others.  Her book Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year (Merrell 2011) received the runner-up Katharine Briggs Folklore Award in 2012, and the exhibition of the same title is being toured by the Horniman Museum.  Of Shadows: One Hundred Objects from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (Strange Attractor Press 2016) was shortlisted for the International Photography Awards Book of the Year 2017.   Sara lectures in photography at City, University of London and London Metropolitan University.

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