US academic tells of Wizard of Oz legacy

Dr Gita Morena during her visit to Carrickfergus.  INCT 18-723-CON
Dr Gita Morena during her visit to Carrickfergus. INCT 18-723-CON

A renowned psychologist and great-granddaughter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L Frank Baum has told of her “delightful” visit to Carrickfergus.

San Diego native Dr Gita Morena led a unique two-day workshop along with an evening seminar on the ‘Wisdom of Oz’ in Belfast over the weekend.

An author, international seminar leader and certified sandplay therapist, Dr Morena stayed at the Carrick base of Art Therapy Works during her visit.

The practice at Collin Heights is run by Jean Gascoigne, a fellow art and sandplay therapist.

Although she has previously travelled to Northern Ireland and parts of the Republic, it was the first visit to Carrickfergus for Gita. “It’s been delightful,” she said. “I went to the castle on Thursday; I had no idea it was here and it was great fun to explore.

“The museum is so well done; it was amazing to see how far back the history of Carrickfergus goes.”

The legacy of Oz, meanwhile, was prevalent throughout Gita’s childhood. “I was always aware of it,” she said. “My mother used to read the stories to me when I was little and as I was called Dorothy then, I thought they were about me.”

The Oz tales originally began as bedtime stories Gita’s great grandfather would tells his four sons, growing to a saga that all the neighbourhood children were enthralled by.

“Everyone loves the story; it’s so universal and it’s very positive, because she does actually get back home again,” she added.

In later years, Gita was encouraged by her colleagues to explore some of the real-life lessons implicit in the Oz stories, eventually writing her dissertation on the topic.

Her book, The Wisdom of Oz, was released in 2000.