dummy ritual

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A profane ritual marking the end of infancy in a Copenhagen park. A rite of passage: not spiritual, closer instead maybe to modern self-help practices or post-disciplinary parenting. What are the equivalents to the meditative incantatory practices of life logging, diets, Facebook declarations of positive thinking? On the face of it a therapeutic, motivational, behavioural act as much as an initiation. But the public, performative character of the tree brings it toward the initiatory and away from the pseudo-negotiations and sticker-reward systems of contemporary parenting.

It resonates with the recent emergence of collective discarding / display of perishables, particularly flowers marking the site of a violent death. These dummies in plastic bags echo the odd collective reluctance to remove flowers from their cellophane wrapping, most spectacularly evident in London after Diana’s death. Closely connected too to the accretion of tokens or coins hammered into tree stumps – descendant of wishing trees, wells and fountains, across the world and across time (Japanese paper-hung wish trees, or the leaving of strands of wool on sacred tree in South America noted by Charles Darwin).

algorithmic occult

“Games do, though, have their own occulted forces: AI and the logic-based machinations of an invisible computer layer, as well as the Skinnerist arrays of feedback from which games are constituted. These can be exploited thematically and textually towards entropic ends when placed in pervasive Gothic context […] a game’s algorithmic system potentially accrues a mysterious, godlike power that steers choice, behaviour and morality through arrays of determinants, and positive or negative reinforcements’.

Tanya Krzywinska 2015. Gamification of Gothic. Here, and here.

sympathetic magic

But when the god happens to be a deity of vegetation, there are special reasons why he should die by fire. For light and heat are necessary to vegetable growth; and, on the principle of sympathetic magic, by subjecting the personal representative of vegetation to their influence, you secure a supply of these necessaries for trees and crops. In other words, by burning the spirit of vegetation in a fire which represents the sun, you make sure that, for a time at least, vegetation shall have plenty of sun. It may be objected that, if the intention is simply to secure enough sunshine for vegetation, this end would be better attained, on the principles of sympathetic magic, by merely passing the representative of vegetation through the fire instead of burning him.

Frazer The Golden Bough.


“the contemporary world retains the power to enchant humans and […] humans can cultivate themselves so as to experience more of that effect. Enchantment is something that we encounter, that hits us, but it is also a component that can be fostered through deliberate strategies. One of those strategies might be to give greater expression to the sense of play, another to hone sensory receptivity to the marvelous specificity of things. Yet another way to enhance the enchantment effect is to resist the story of the disenchantment of modernity”. Jane Bennett 2001 The Enchantment of Modern Life.