Author and practitioner Jemma Foster is the founder of experimental botanical studio Mama Xanadu and multi-sensory publishing house Wild Alchemy Lab. Antenna talks to Jemma about the next issue of Wild Alchemy Journal, Water, due for release on the 12th of April.
Antenna: What is Wild Alchemy?
Jemma Foster: We are a global collective of artists, academic researchers and occult practitioners. Our multidisciplinary practice explores nature, science and esoterica at the intersection of plants, planets and people.
Alchemy is the arcane art of transformation, the physical and psycho-spiritual practice of turning the basic elements of our existence into a unified field that is aligned with nature and the cosmos. It is an incremental process of recalibration that supports and informs how we are able to digest our experiences and consciously navigate the future.
Why is the cross-section of nature/science/esoterica important to you?
The relationship between nature, science and esoterica can be complex, fractured and polarising. Science and esoterica are often viewed as mutually exclusive. Occult practices are, by definition, concealed and shrouded in obscurity, which can exclude and isolate. Wild Alchemy Lab seeks to unify and demystify the mystery.
Your next publication is on the theme of water. Can you talk about the magic of water?
The classical elements of earth, fire, water, air and aether provide a lens through which to investigate how both we place ourselves, and are placed, within our environment. Each edition of the journal navigates an element. The last two were Earth and then Fire.
World cosmologies often describe our origins as watery, a place where gods dive into the deep for our creation, and its sweet taste becomes an elixir that sustains life. These cosmogonic waters are almost always dark and still, a reflection of our own beginnings – a cosmic void of amniotic fluid that gives birth to form.
Water is the communicator between the cosmos and Earth, integrating air and fire into the material realm. Elemental water is the tides within, the ebb and flow of our internal fluids and our emotional body. In Jungian psychology, it guides our feeling selves, our sensitivity to our environment and experience, our memories and psychic self.
What is one of your favourite articles in the upcoming journal?
Witnessing the AR content unfold, particularly when it involves new collaborations between artists that were previously unknown to each other, is where the real alchemy happens. Immersive pieces are an invitation to the reader to move beyond passive receptivity and to actively engage in the journal as a shared, embodied experience.
An example of this is the Rainmakers article that features a conversation between artist Eileen Hall and psychologist Dr David Luke on his current research into acts of weather control by the Wixárika, an indigenous group in Mexico.
Eileen is a visual artist and she painted a rain sigil for the piece. Composer and sound artist Jamie Perera has created a sonification of precipitation data in Bernalejos, a town in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, an area sacred to the Wixárika. Listening activates the sigil as an act of collective dreaming, a communal prayer to manifest rain.
We just collaborated with you to create the AR piece the Scrying Pool, inspired by your inclusion of the Book of Dyzan by Madame Blavatsky in the next of issue of WA water Journal. Can you speak to why you have chosen to include the Book of Dyzan in the water issue?
Playing on Neptunian concepts of illusion and fantasy, we explored the realms of dream vs reality with the mysteries of lost civilisations submerged by deluge, ideas first offered by Plato in his works Timaeus and Critias. In the 1880s, controversial mystic and occultist Madame Blavastsky transcribed the Book of Dyzan, which she claimed to be a secret ancient Tibetan text written in an ethereal language predating Sanskrit she called Senzar. It details the pre-Atlantean civilisation of Lemuria which was said to have a liquid atmosphere and was inhabited by prehuman beings that were tall hermaphrodites with fluid form, 360 vision and reproduced by laying eggs.
Do you have any upcoming artworks or productions you would like to mention?
Together with Camilla French, I am working on a series of short films and immersive installations exploring interspecies communication and person-plant linguistics. This involves documenting plant, mineral and fungal frequency recordings, along with world cosmologies narrated in threatened indigenous languages, and looking at sonification patterns that represent a shared tongue that transcends species boundaries.
The Journal will be released on the 12th of April and will be available to purchase at Apiary Studios and other outlets.
Jemma’s book Sacred Geometry is published by Octopus. Wild Alchemy – An Astro-botanical Guide to the Magic and Medicine of Plants and Wild Alchemy – A Herbal Remedy Oracle Deck is due to be published by Laurence King next spring.
Follow Wild Alchemy @wildalchemylab and @mamaxanadu