Creative in Confinement #2: Camille the Quaran-Teen Witch
For her, rituals give meaning to these long, locked-up months
By Victoria Rossi,
10:00AM, Mon. Jun. 29, 2020
There’s a special kind of heartache for young people in quarantine, who must social distance at a time when friendships hold keen importance and moods already run wild. Some live with abuse or food insecurity. Others mourn the missed milestones or squirm at the thought of endless unfilled days. Art has helped some get through lockdown. Here's one of them.
A few weeks into quarantine, Camille Kilday began to stalk the borders of her suburban Austin home, tucking slices of baked lime around the yard. She set out water beneath a full moon to absorb the light and make "moon water," then dribbled it in x’s across the house windows. “I wanted to protect it,” says the eighth grader, a newly self-identified witch. “There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world right now.”
At 14, Kilday’s confident that if she were infected, she’d have a mild coronavirus case. The safety rituals are meant for her parents. Crushing eggshells across her front door, drying foraged daisies, sending her teacher a protective potion laced with citrus – these small witchy acts “aren’t super heavy or anything,” she says. “It’s something to learn about, and it’s creative. It makes me feel like I’m doing something. I find it helpful.”
Witchcraft is far from her sole quarantine activity. She takes the Chronicle on a camera-quaking tour of her newest art projects, muting the laptop as we pass her mother working, introducing two foster kittens napping by the laundry. Just a handful of projects were for school – one a glitter-shellacked self-portrait, another a replica of Van Gogh's The Starry Night on the fridge that she mutters is ugly.
As classes moved online and Kilday’s extracurriculars dropped off, her art grew zanier, more playful, pushing beyond the bounds of a canvas. “I feel like I’ve been more creative honestly,” she says. “I didn’t have time before.” Now, the projects are all for herself. She writes letters, choreographs dance routines, and films the adventures of Queen Quarantine, a blazer-clad alter ego in constant search of food. “Not to say that I, Queen Quarantine, am ever a beggar, but in this situation, I cannot be a chooser,” she announces in one video, zooming in on an overripe orange.
“I strive to make the days in quarantine feel like the days in regular life where I just didn’t have anything going on.” She has a mental list going of things that make her happy, from large acts to small. She stirs her morning tea clockwise and arranges lights so that her bedroom glows pink. This is how she came to witchcraft. The magical rites recall Madame Camille’s Potion Shop, a favorite pastime when she and her friends were eight years old and they concocted love potions from mouthwash, essential oils, and her older sister’s acne cream. In place of the potion shop is a group chat, where she and other teen witches swap spells by text.
Lately, she has tried to push those spells beyond the walls of her home, out to front-line medical workers and the people on the streets protesting for racial justice. She’s not allowed to join them there. So on another full moon in early June, she lit a white candle, sending them love and hopes for safety.