JOHN JOTA LEAÑOS American (Xicano-Mestizo), born 1969 Destinies Manifest, 2017 Digital animation, installation, 7 minutes Commissioned by the Denver Art Museum Courtesy of the Artist, John Jota Leaños Photos: Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe, NM © John Jota Leaños

What is haunting America? And why does it matter now?

By Lacey Prpić Hedtke //

At the beginning of the pandemic, I started looking more closely at America’s chart. There was chatter among astrologers that 2020 was going to be an active year, and now we know that it was. At the time, I was writing about contemporary witch culture for the catalogue of “Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art,” the exhibition now open at Mia, and I started thinking more about this idea of America being haunted—haunted by what or whom? After pulling up the chart for the United States, the show’s theme and America’s astrological transits started making a lot of sense together.

Astrological charts of the “Supernatural America” exhibition on opening day and the United States at its founding in 1776.

“Supernatural America” is a show that’s so much about radical and brave healing. I looked at the astrological charts of 76 artists in the show, plus the charts for the show itself and its curator, Robert Cozzolino. A Pisces theme emerged of breaking down boundaries between what’s real and not real, what is you and what is me, what is mine and what is yours, what’s here on planet Earth and what’s beyond the veil. Pisces encompasses inspiration from spirit or God or Infinite Intelligence, and empathy for anyone struggling or oppressed. Pisces is like mushrooms—we all look like individuals on the surface, but underground we’re all connected, and what impacts one community will ripple out to everyone else. Ultimately, Pisces is about healing in preparation for a new version of ourselves or a new journey.

This show touches on what is haunting America, and how it seeps in from the basement and affects all parts of our life. When looking at haunting in the context of America being founded in colonialism—the impacts of which we’re still dealing with—we’re connected to what’s going on in America’s astrology. Currently, Neptune—the planet of inspiration, art, collective consciousness, and healing—is in Pisces. The last time Neptune was in Pisces was 1847-1861, when the religion of Spiritualism was born, and photography was just starting to grow up. Neptune in Pisces helps us find new ways of understanding the worlds we live in and how to find healing through action.

 This post is being sent to the editor on February 22, 2022, the date of America’s exact Pluto return. A “return” in astrology is when a transiting planet returns to the exact place it was when the person—or in this case, the country—was “born.” This is the first time this planetary transit has happened in America, closing out the first version of the United States and inviting us to shed the skin of the old America, to prepare and envision what the next 250 years of this country could be. This transit is influenced by the planet Pluto, which represents phoenix energy, burning it down to build it back up again, examining the shadow elements of our country—all those things we aren’t proud of, that are hard to deal with or too painful, that we keep shoving down. We’ve been feeling this transit for the last two years, and we’ll be feeling it for two more. 

Agnes Pelton, American. White Fire, 1930. Oil on canvas. Gift of Ed and Coreva Garman to the Raymond Jonson Collection, 82.221.1949. University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque.

“Supernatural America” invites us to think about the ways in which this country is dealing with problems that were present since its inception, which need to be brought into the light, acknowledged, and healed in order to move forward as the next version of ourselves. We can look to the artists in this show for a clue to how we personally can make changes in our lives, making space for the mystery, the unknown, our ancestors. How we can be open to the possibility that a greater force than ourselves is at play, something we can begin to explore and possibly trust to help in healing and reconciliation. In this instance, the personal really is political. We can see the issues that the U.S. is dealing with by looking at its astrology—reevaluating the structures and systems we’ve been living with and exposing the ways they’re not working for most people is a big part of this Pluto return.

What does this mean for us as individuals? It means understanding that we all have access to “magic” and getting in touch with our magical selves is one way of working towards healing. Part of healing is connecting with a higher power, our inner voices, and ancestors, and looking at our values: where do we put our time, money and energy? Magic is approaching our lives with a purpose that we can get behind energetically. As we honor our ancestors in ritual or in our thoughts, honor the earth. Meditating or exercise or eating healthy is a way of putting a spell into practice. Connecting with spirit/working magic can feel holy and mysterious, and it can also be doing practical things to actively create the world we want to live in. Reparations are a form of magic. Honoring and advocating for the health of our planet is enacting magic. Being empathetic and choosing love is a form of magic.=

The religion of Spiritualism plays a big role in “Supernatural America” and made a big impact on our country. Spiritualism is the idea that we don’t die, we just change forms, and that we’re able to continue to communicate with spirits. Spiritualists in the 19th century drew a direct connection between connecting with spirit and our ancestors, and being active participants in the fight for women’s liberation, abolition, Indigenous rights, and the earth itself. We can look to the era when Spiritualism exploded—after the Civil War, when the country was experiencing overwhelming grief from so much loss, and Reconstruction, when the country was trying to figure out the next version of itself, for clues to how to approach contemporary America.

As America is born again astrologically, this is a great time to think for yourself how you might join this wave that we’re in, working to heal ourselves, our communities, and our land from past traumas, and to consider what ghosts we can acknowledge. The next significant astrological transit for America is Pluto moving into Aquarius in 2024, a time when we can be wild visionaries for what has felt impossible in the past moving into a realm of reality for the future. This show asks us to consider what healing can look like, and offers a way forward, out of being haunted into a place of healing, by trusting ourselves to have our own approaches to healing.

Lacey Prpić Hedtke is a photographer, public artist, astrologer, and witch and owner of The Future, a radical space and shop for witches and weirdos in South Minneapolis. She is co-chair of the Golden Dome, a mystery school dedicated to art, science, and spirit, and co-founded Free the Deeds, a public art project removing racial covenants off Minneapolis house deeds and pushing for reparations. She trained to be a medium at the Greater Boston Church of Spiritualism and learned the laying-on-of-hands energy healing practice. In her magical practice, she works with astrology, ancestor altars, sigils, processional banners, tarot, oracles, and mediumship.