6 - lovers
Updated: May 9
6 – lovers
relationality, connection, intimacy, exchange, generosity
COVEN-19 spring ritual (full script here)
Ancestry spell, written & performed by Tory Vazquez, Micki Kleinman, & Jemma Kepner
What do your ancestors look like and sound like? Do they have distinct behaviors you’ve noticed? Maybe the way they laugh, or the music they listen to, or the way they breathe after they drink a glass of water. Do your ancestors smile wide, or in a more reserved manner? Is there a certain way they say your name?
Are there life lessons, or nuggets of advice you’ve received from these ancestors? If so, what are they? Are there jokes or stories they’ve repeated over the years, or is every story of theirs a wild adventure you’ll never hear of again? Are there stories and narratives which have been sustained over generations?
Take a moment to return to the space. Open your eyes if they’ve been closed, slowly come back to us as we delve into journaling.
There is so much we have inherited from our ancestors, getting in touch with how they have influenced who we are today can greatly impact our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. To do so, we need to recognize these influences first, and then take a moment to decide what to do with what we’ve learned. You may begin writing or drawing, as we delve into the questions.
How have your ancestors brought you joy? Did they exemplify joy, or teach you about it?
Do your ancestors have toxic behaviors which you have distanced yourself from?
Are there traits and characteristics they have that you admire? Ideas or sentiments you disagree with?
Do you navigate the world differently because of your relationship with them?
Thank you for journaling with us, we’ll leave you with a few closing thoughts.
With every encounter we have with the world, we need to keep something in mind. Every experience and interaction is just an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, what we feel comfortable with, what we cannot tolerate, what we admire. The testing of our boundaries is just an opportunity to get to know our own boundaries a bit better.
Now that we’ve identified things we’ve inherited from our ancestors take a moment and think about what you want to continue and bring into the future, and what do you want to leave in the past?
Who do you want to be? What kind of ancestor do you want to be? What example and behaviors are you setting and perpetuating? What legacy do you want to bring into the future?
In a Zoom course that I had the privilege of attending recently, Rabbi Emily Cohen spoke of two kinds of ancestors: literal and mythic, a lineage that is expansive enough to include ethnic Jews, convert Jews, and all the Jews in between. During a guest appearance in a fall Coven rehearsal, Finn Lefevre (witch, scholar, thesis committee member) spoke to the importance of honoring chosen ancestors, a practice that centers kinship and lineage connections for queer witches whose genealogies are not visible by the norms of hetero temporality. Patrice Miller, theatre-witch and dear friend, holds seances with and makes offerings for her “art ancestors,” a term that I have adopted for this thesis to describe the writers with whom I am in deep citational dialogue. In all of these contexts, ancestral connection is a practice of acknowledging lineages that transcend time, space, and bloodlines. It is a naming of inherited knowledges, an act of gratitude, a positioning of oneself within a greater history.
This is how I’ve started defining Ancestor: a temporally distanced someone (see chariot) – a ghost, often -- from whom I inherited something invaluable; someone to whom I feel indebted; someone whose lineage I am humbled or desire to be counted among.
In the context of academic thesis writing, ancestors are honored citationally. Sarah Ahmed opens Living a Feminist Life by explaining her decision not to cite the institution of white men -- a refusal of an academic-approved genealogy that in turns requires finding and conversing with a feminist genealogy:
Instead, I cite those who have contributed to the intellectual genealogy of feminism and antiracism, including work that has been too quickly (in my view) cast aside or left behind, work that lays out other paths, paths we can call desire lines, created by not following the official paths laid out by disciplines. These paths might have become fainter from not being traveled upon; so we might work harder to find them; we might be willful just to keep them going by not going the way we have been directed. My citation policy has given me more room to attend to those feminists who came before me. Citation is feminist memory. Citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow. (15-16)
I have the privilege of following divergent paths already carved by my mentors in my graduate coursework. My WGSS courses in particular introduced me to feminist theorists generally, but Black lesbian feminism especially, through the Combahee River Collective, Audre Lorde, and adrienne maree brown, as well as theories in immigrant, queer of color, trans, third world, disability, and sex worker feminisms. My coursework revealed the hitherto uncited ways that feminism and queer theory, as I benefit from them as a white cis woman today, are built on the revolutionary words of non-white theorists. This is to say nothing of the writers who were missing from my WGSS syllabi, those whose aesthetics and practices do not meet academic standards of Theory, or who were lost amid the citational reproduction of white feminist texts. But still, I can name some of the ancestors to whom I am indebted as I attempt to articulate my own queer-feminist ways of working, living, creating, and theorizing.
The question I am left with, then, is how to cite my art ancestors responsibly. Thinking back to my previous scholarly work, I recognize the shallowness of my citational practice, particularly in my use of Black feminist texts. In a traditional, time-crunched academic context, I might read (skim) a few texts by Black writers to diversify my bibliography, pull a juicy quote or two that I could manipulate to support my argument, and move quickly on. I engaged with this practice unconsciously (see emperor): it’s what white academia teaches young scholars, and it’s taken significant reflection to recognize how this methodology uses and then discards non-white voices. How, then, to cite ancestors with care and gratitude, rather than appropriation and performativity? As a white witch, I am especially considering what it means to not only name non-white artists as mythical (rather than literal) art ancestors, but also to use their words in spellwork and ritual. How can I enact magicks that position me within feminist and queer lineages and offer space to express gratitude toward those who came before me? This thesis is full of ritual invocations of art ancestors, with the intent of deeply engaging with them as people rather than bibliographic references.
Five theory ancestors lovingly haunt this thesis. Three of them are living, but I am honoring them as ancestors so that I can honor the texts of theirs that I have inherited. I have written each of them a specific ritual with a corresponding elemental invocation. In these spell cards, I attempt to turn their theories into praxis, to engage in magickal dialogue across time and space, to transmute their words into action. These primary theory ancestors are:
Audre Lorde (Temperence)
Judith Butler (Justice)
José Esteban Muñoz (World)
adrienne maree brown (Hanged One)
Additional art ancestors who weave their way into my thinking in sometimes overt, sometimes subtle ways: Emily Dickinson; Jill Dolan; María Irene Fornés; Sara Ahmed; Melissa Moschitto; Eva Reyes; Patrice Miller; Donna J Haraway; Sylvia Plath; Suzan-Lori Parks; Cassandra Snow; Pam Grossman; Silvia Federici; Angela Jones; Pamela Coleman Smith.
invocation of mythic/chosen/art ancestor
a citational creativity ritual
ingredients: three spell candles; a favorite passage/book/poem of the ancestor’s (it should be brief enough so that you can read it three times while considering each and every word deeply and intentionally); an offering of something that the ancestor loves; a creative project that you are working on
pre-ritual tarot spread (you can also journal through these questions):
card 1: what have i inherited from my art ancestor?
card 2: how can i honor her in my working life?
card 3: how can i express my gratitude?
card 3: what message does my art ancestor have for me?
optional card 4: if the reader does not share the ancestor’s view from below, choose an additional shadow work card that asks, what additional work must i do as a [white or cis or able-bodied, etc] person in order to honor and invoke you? if you are called to do something specific and tangible, do it. treat the action not as an offering to your ancestor, but as a command from them to better the world you have inherited.
1. present your art ancestor with an offering. do some research on this person to ensure that you are giving them something they would want. what is their favorite food, drink, color, song? if possible, make this a literal offering; otherwise, you can tell them that you “offer them the spirit of café con leche/violin/overstuffed armchair/dark chocolate/etc” in their honor. speak words of gratitude with your offering. be specific: what have you inherited from your ancestor that needs naming?
2. invoke your ancestor by reading their words. speak each word deliberately.
3. light three candles: one for the ancestor you are invoking; one for the ancestor’s lineage; one for Anon ancestors within that lineage. For example, one might light a candle for Audre Lorde; a candle for the greater lineage of Black lesbian feminists; and a candle for the Black lesbian ancestors whose voices were silenced, forgotten, lost, or squelched before they were heard. as you light these candles, talk to your art ancestor. what do you need from them? inspiration? motivation? an end to writer’s block? again, be specific.
4. as the candles melt, create something. let it be in your art ancestor’s honor. follow your intuition if you get the sense that your art ancestor is directing you somewhere new. do not stop making until the candles are fully extinguished. (for the purposes of reading this thesis, you might need to set a much shorter timer -- but you should do a full version of this ritual later, trust me)
a word from my theory ancestors
card 1: page of pentacles
i have inherited the seed of my theory ancestors' ideas. i have a knack for understanding and connecting with the heart of their theories, rather than getting bogged down by the details.
card 2: nine of swords
my ancestors are asking for a little sweat, tears, and even blood. not an apocalyptic-level sacrifice a la Little Shop of Horrors -- just a drop or two. if this is a thesis about feelings-oriented time, then i cannot ignore the stuff of woundedness and grief. not if i'm being radically honest.
I've given you sunlight.
I've given you rain.
Looks like you're not happy,
'Less I open a vein.
I'll give you a few drops
If that'll appease.
Now please-oh please-grow for me!
card 3: queen of pentacles
i can express my gratitude by reaping what i sow. let their ideas blossom into a garden of nourishing, flourishing thought!
card 4: page of pentacles
my ancestors offer the wisdom of slow growth. i cannot rush inspiration or feelings. it's okay to not know what i'm doing yet: answers will come when they're ready to bloom.