• Maegan Clearwood

6 - lovers

Updated: 5 days ago

6 – lovers

relationality, connection, intimacy, exchange, generosity

In a Zoom course that I had the privilege of attending recently, Rabbi Emily Cohen spoke about 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 thats 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 – 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.

written reflection: who are your ancestors?

free write for 3 minutes.

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: 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. One ever-changing example is below.

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)

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