Artwork > Hag's Taper

Hag's Taper
3 min

2020, HDV, 3 min
Director, performer, editor, sound: Alana Bartol
Camera: Bryce Krynski

The many names of mullein: hag's taper, Jupiter's rod, flannel leaf, velvet plant, felt-wort, tinder plant, candlewick plant, witch's candle, lady's foxglove, candlewick plant, torches, cowboy toilet paper, and more.

Brought by European settlers to what is now known as Canada over 250 years ago, mullein is native to parts of Europe and Asia. The introduced plant was valued for its medicinal abilities and its use as a fish poison. Today, it is considered a noxious weed in so-called Alberta.

Thriving in disturbed areas including former coal mines in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, mullein is tied to legacies of settler-colonization and ongoing colonial violence and environmental degradation.

From ancient to medieval times, the end of the plant’s stalks was used as torches in Europe. Parts of the plant have also been used for candle and/or lamp wicks. Mullein was used to light gatherings, funerals, and ceremonies. For those working in the dark, including mining prospectors, it provided light in caverns and tunnels. One can imagine witches and healers using mullein as both medicine and light source, though it may also have been used to burn those accused of witchcraft.

This work is part of a new series of artworks exploring the past, present, and future of coal mining in what is now known as the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.

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