19 - sun (3/13)
Updated: Mar 31
19 – sun
joy; abundance; desire; creativity; newness
how are you feeling right now?
coven ritual: journey to Coven Space
Aesthetic Witch Parker Traphagan created this ritual as a warmup towards the end of fall Coven process. We return to this ritual regularly, including for our new moon first rehearsal this spring. Parker invites us all to find a comfortable seated position, close our eyes, and breathe: they proceed to lead us on a journey to Coven Space:
Is it a meadow or a forest? Is it a cottage with a roaring fireplace? With herbs hanging from the ceiling and crystals on the windowsill? Is the sun out? Maybe the moon? allow yourself to let go of stress about the future or past mistakes. Can you see your fellow members interacting in this space or are you alone? Interact with this space. Interact with your fellow witches. Breathe the same air, safely and comfortably. You have helped to create this sacred space that has helped every single one of us in some way or another. This space isn't going away after coven is over. You can always come back to how it has healed you brushed away your tear and how it makes you feel safe. It lives on in all of us. Hold this space close.
queer, utopian, fractal witchery
I did not set out intending to cultivate a queer magickal space, but perhaps this was inevitable. Taking into account my own recently bubbling-to-the-surface queer identity, along with the queer curiosity that so many witches brought to auditions, glimmers of our collective queerness were present from the very beginning. Then of course, there’s also the matter of The Witch herself. No matter how mainstream she happens to be, she is counterculture embodied, the nemeses of heteropatriarchy – and a worthy nemesis at that, concocting her healing medicines and cackling at (or hexing) those who fear her power. As the capitalist world spins, she invokes better-world magicks from her overgrown cottage in the woods -- the only queer-er image that I can conjure is that of a whole better-world coven, a found family of spellcrafters who dance their joyful dance each month under the full lesbian moon.
My working definition of “queer” has little to do with sexuality or gender, although the Coven certainly dabbles in such magick – hexing transphobes, gender-affirming sigils, sexual energy tarot readings and the like. But more so, queer represents a set of ethics, a bountiful kind of energy, a dedication to nurturing our bodies and souls in resistance to a world telling us shut up and get to work. The Coven’s queerness is not political in the sense of attaining the material and institutional privileges that “the straights” have. Ours is political in the sense of rejecting these material and institutional systems altogether, but more importantly, desiring and becoming a world that is better than what those systems offer. Like The Witch in their off-the-path cottage, the Coven is queer from the margins. We don’t want out of these strange woods, but we do want to manifest collective power to transform the world that is trying to pave these woods into a parking lot.
In this queer, witchy way, Coven process is both emergent and utopian. It is strategically emergent in brown’s sense of the word: we engage with a litany of interpersonal encounters that instigate change in seemingly insignificant but actually radical ways; it is the kind of change that ripples outward, moving from small-but-deep to deep-and-everywhere. Everyday rituals, quotidian rituals, mundane rituals – these are the practices that manifest fractal magic. A few fractal rituals that the Coven has crafted over time:
Check-ins and Check-ons: This top-of-rehearsal practice transformed from informing the Coven of how we were doing at that moment into a full ritual of expressing and receiving our needs. More fundamental, however, was the act of checking in and on each other outside of these scheduled rituals. Percy, Ali, and I developed a habit of halting rehearsal when energies had dipped too far for us to be generous with each other, then offering an additional break, breathing exercise, or early end to rehearsal. Check-outs are important, too.
Affirmations: We affirm each other’s pain, certainly – “yes you are valid for being angry at your transphobic professor” and “that sucks, I hope you feel better soon” – but also each other’s joy: we are valued and valuable, not only when we survive, but when we thrive. We joke and banter and react accordingly, via heart-bursts, Zoom reactions, chat compliments, private messages, and laughter. Lots of laughter.
Breath: High Priestess Witch Helen Rahman leads the most beautiful breath warmup: she turns breath into magick, transforming it into a bountiful reservoir of power-from-within. For our fall ritual, we gifted each other clear quartz crystals, smooth, pocket-sized reminders of our permission to take up space: this spring, we turn to our crystals when tensions are high and we need to remember our breath, each of us holding our stone in the palm of our hand and existing intentionally together. For many of us in the Coven, myself certainly included, this is the only time in our remote lives when we remember to inhale and exhale.
what do you love about yourself right now? if that's an impossible question, what is something you did today that's worthy of celebration? hint: eating is enough. asking this question is enough. breathing is enough.
I cannot quantify the tangible ways that these fractal rituals reverberated beyond the Coven space. I can speak from my own experience, however, and attest that I grew more mindful, intentional, and compassionate through these rituals; I know that I cultivated a healthier classroom space in response, that I began checking in with myself throughout my Zoom-heavy schedule. I began moving through the day with more care, and I gradually developed a healthier capacity for being careful of others. I cannot prove that Coven space literally, measurably sparked these changes-from-within, but I can speak from a place of intuition (and as a witch, that is the strongest proof there is).
The Coven is utopian because this fractal ritualism is both visionary and embodied. In queer theory, utopia is not an eternally sunshine-and-rainbows paradise, nor a communal, self-sustaining farm community, nor is it free healthcare for all. Utopia is a performative, visceral way of being; it flickers as a world that we can feel and taste and see but never fully reach. To invoke Jose Muñoz:
Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. We must strive, in the face of the here and now that’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. (1)
Muñoz identifies queer utopia in quotidian and aesthetic performatives, such that it is happening all around us – and centrally, critically, to this embodied world-making is hope. This is not to be confused with “banal optimism,” described by Ernst Bloch as abstract utopia; rather, “educated hope” is the stuff of concrete utopias, which can be “daydream like, but they are the hopes of a collective, an emergent group, or even the solitary oddball who is the one who dreams for many” (X?). Hope is therefore historically situated. Queer utopia is not the “any time, any place” of a lazily written stage play, nor are its inhabitants “any gender, any race.” Queer utopia is a reaction to the past; rather than erasing this past – which is the realm of oppression, certainly, but also joyful resistance – queer utopia reshapes, repurposes, and rearranges it from within the present. Queer utopia lives on all of these temporal planes at once; it is therefore exhausting. It is also disappointing: because queer utopia is fleeting, felt, and out of reach, it leaves us inevitably disappointed; hope – educated, situated hope – keeps us moving toward the queer horizon anyway. “Utopian feelings,” in all their failings, “are nonetheless indispensable to the act of imagining transformation…. Hope needs to be risked if certain impasses are to be resisted” (9).
Reaching for utopia is an act of failure, but hope gives us the energy to keep reaching anyway -- and we must keep reaching. In a world that inhibits breath itself, we must continue imagining and believing in a livable future-world.
“Given a world based on power-over, we must remake the world” – Starhawk (8)
Perhaps nowhere is the practice of “imagining transformation” more potent than in the theatre: Agusto Boal describes his Theatre of the Oppressed methodology as “dress rehearsal for the revolution”; Brecht’s gestus are “actions in performance that crystallize social relations and offer them to spectators for critical contemplation” (7) – these are political moments, usually intentional and grounded in text. The actors (or spectactors) perform new ways of living; the audience is asked to bring these utopian ideals into the “real world” after curtain call. Jill Dolan’s “utopian performatives” expand beyond the realm of explicitly political theatre to consider the transformative potential of affective experience: “Live performance provides a place where people come together, embodied and passionate, to share experiences of meaning making and imagination that can describe or capture fleeting intimations of a better world” (2). These utopian moments can, and often do, happen as gestus or rehearsal revolutions, but they can also come from “the most dystopian theatrical universe. They spring from a complex alchemy of form and content, context and location, which take shape in moments of utopia as doings, as process, as never finished gestures toward a potentially better future” (8). Theatre artists hunger for these ephemeral successes, those magickal nights when a dark room full of mostly strangers is lifted out of mundane reality and into a livable, breathable world. We all leave the theatre a little high on utopian sensations, wobbly from the erotic tension suddenly palpable with everyone around us, savoring the delicious aftertaste of what-may-be. Utopian performatives usually happen, for me anyway, on rainy nights, when the theatre smells comfortingly damp from everyone’s boots and umbrellas. Sometimes, if a director is really lucky, utopian performatives even happen on opening night with the press in attendance – but the best utopian performatives happen when we least expect them.
When I put Dolan, brown, and Muñoz in conversation with each other and within the context of collaborative creation, I dream of utopian process. Come our Beltane ritual this May, COVEN-19 may accomplish utopian performance (on our midnight Samhain performance last October, I believe that we transcended time and space with our audience, for at least a moment or two, so we may well manifest that kind of energy again this spring). More importantly, however, are the small transformations that we enact through ritual convening with each other. We enact better worlds, through decentralized collaborative practices as well as habitualized acts of kindness. This enactment is small and slow. It is also embodied and intentional: we consciously, ritualistically do utopia. We are building utopian muscles (and spotting each other so that we don’t get hurt). In this ritualized, doing sense, utopian process is performance, and utopian performance is born out of process.
take three deep breaths.
 “I love the moon. Moon’s a lesbian.” – the interrobangers, m. sloth levine  I guess Joni Mitchell is a witch now  Show a picture of this eventually  Although at the same time it very much is all of these things at once  It is March 3, 2021 as I write this paragraph. We have been in lockdown for one full year. I really, really, really miss live theatre, in case that isn’t clear.