SKY PILGRIMS: GRANT HANNA IN THE HAUS
Grant Hanna stopped by one of these UH-MAZING sunny days and told us all about Sky Pilgrims, his new work up on the art wall at the Salem, MA HausWitch shop. Take a look online, too!
How did you get to this spot in your life where you make crazy-awesome astrological paintings in Witch City?
I’ve lived in the area for about 12 years. I really like Salem, but I also like that I can live in Beverly and not have to deal with October. But I’m still 5 minutes away. I mean if we were in any other place it would be the same town, but because it’s Massachusetts, and everything is tiny, it’s two separate towns—at least that’s how I think of it. Sometimes I think I should move here, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it will someday.
Totally! Come hang. About the medieval astrology though…
I’m interested in medieval and renaissance astrology. Some of the traditional writings we’ve had access to for a long time and others we’re just discovering now, or just getting new translations of. There are a lot of Greek texts that we haven’t even had access to that are suddenly being translated and we’re finding out more about how people use to do astrology.
I decided to work with the original seven visible planets that were worked with in medieval and renaissance times. And to really explore the idea of the essential dignities, which was this scheme that they had, which is still used today, but now that people are working with the outer planets, if you bring in outer planet rulerships it breaks that up a little bit. Whereas, if you just use the OG seven it creates this very symmetrical, ordered set of rulerships that go with the zodiac.
This is over my head. Can we go deep on this? What is a rulership?
So, each planet rules one or two houses or signs. Venus rules Libra and Taurus. And in the renaissance it was set up so that each of the original seven planets ruled 2 signs and the sun and the moon, The Luminaries, ruled one sign each. It created this symmetrical shape. Then when we started discovering outer planets, we were like “Well, how do these fit into that?”
So the new planets kind of messed it up?
Kind of, you know, they’re there. We have to do something with them. But, if you give Aquarius to Uranus and Scorpio to Pluto and Pisces to Neptune, that takes away all these other traditional ideas about what signs go with what planets. And it’s not that the modern rulerships aren’t useful, but looking at the old rulerships can inform how we work with the planets, or how we think about them.
I wanted to bring that back into the conversation for people who weren’t familiar with it. And offer that slyly, in this artistic way. The secret of the show is that it’s actually, kind of a visual textbook. You could totally look at it from an abstract art point of view—if you didn’t know anything about astrology, they’re just pretty. And if you know a little bit about it you can get an emotional sense from the color about the planet, and if you want to get very technical—which is like my nerdy space, I love getting technical—then there’s this whole astrological science part of it. Where they’re like charts in a textbook, basically.
I know a little about astrology, but not as much as I should. It looks like each one is an astrological chart?
Yeah, so if you look at each one, they’re divided into the 12 sections, which are the 12 signs. And each planet does a different thing in each sign, or ‘house.’
And the idea of Sky Pilgrims, which is the title of the show, is that if you think about the planet compared to yourself. This is super cheesy—doing the show reminded me of that Joan Osborne song, ‘What If God Was One Of Us.’ And the lyrics go ‘he was just trying to make his way home’ or something like that. I was like…it’s actually kind of the same, in that when a planet is going through the zodiac.
So, we say each planet has two signs that it rules. That’s like if you were at your summer home, or like your mansion or something. You’re super chilled out, you knew where everything was, you’re ordering people around and sitting back. Each planet has one sign where it’s exalted—which is even better. It’s like if you were at your rich friend’s house and they were all “whatever you want, the servants are going to take care of, you’re not paying rent, just chill.” Those are the awesome houses for the planets.
In the signs opposite those, we say the planet is in detriment, or is in fall. Which is like, if you’re trapped at your step-aunt’s house, and there’s no cable, and the room is lit by a single light bulb. It’s like you’re slumming somewhere and you’re like “How do I get out of here?”
If you read renaissance or medieval texts that might seem really negative. There’s a lot of death and mishaps in astrology. And nowadays we work in a much more psychological level. Where it’s all about achieving a different vibration, or enter into a different state of consciousness to access planetary power. Which I think is useful, but kind of bringing in a little bit of the old way of thinking about planets where there are some negative things to planets, it’s not just all a different viewpoint. In some cases, maybe a planet isn’t really working that well.
Like for a person?
Or, say you were doing intention setting or a spell with a planet. Traditionally speaking there’s times of the year when a planet is in a certain time when it’s not a good idea to use it.
Maybe your whole spell is going to backfire because you didn’t do your research on the planet you’re working with. If you were doing a love spell with Venus….
…But Venus is in Scorpio, which is more like a crazy dominatrix than love. Maybe you want that! Maybe not.
Is this the artistic direction you hope to continue in?
I’d definitely like to continue in the direction of doing charts for people. The seven planet ones aren’t referring to any particular time. Those are more like if you just looked at a map of a city, those are like the roads in the city, whereas, the specific chart that I did for HausWitch is a snapshot of where the planets are at a specific time. SO it’s one single moment in time, in one single spot in the world. That’s a little more exciting and interesting to me. The other ones are done. Other than meditating more on the ways the planets move, there’s not much more to say about them.
It’s like you’ve told their story, and now you’re ready to delve in and tell the lesser known, in-depth stories. (And Grant will be doing these on commission so you can get your very own!)
I think of them as a kind of mandala, and of course, it’s my perspective on someone else. So, I’m going to being looking at your chart through the lens of my Cancer Rising and all my planets clustered in Sagittarius. It’s a cool way to visualize your chart in a way that’s more artistic.
I work a lot with color and where the different planets are and what their attitudes might be. And try to interpret that visually. It’s like a meditative mandala that you can muse on—are the planets are working for you or against you.
Come see Grant Hanna and the Sky Pilgrims this Thursday at HausWitch! And find his art for sale in the shop here.
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