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  • Maegan Clearwood

1 - magician

Updated: May 9

1 - magician

intention; manifestation; creation; doing; making


a ritual in methodology, creativity, self-worship

(this is a personal ritual, but you are welcome to join; i would appreciate the energetic solidarity)

tools: a photo, drawing, or other tangible representation of the writer (in this case, me); sacred space; a spell candle


1. hand over heart, i light my spell candle. i speak the opening incantation and blow out the candle, watching the smoke carry the intentions into the universe.

opening incantation: in this ritual, i enter a covenant with myself. i am the deity of my own research and writing process, and at my own feet, i make an offering of words. i write my methodologies and ethics as sacred texts. in speaking each intention aloud, i bind myself to its words.


2. I speak the below incantations, lighting and blowing out my candle each time.


incantation: i choose my words with care

light the candle

I am indebted to thesis committee member Dr Laura Ciolkowski, my instructor for WGSS 691B, Issues in Feminist Research, who pushed our class to define and redefine and define again methods and methodology; the course evolved into an interrogation of not only how we do our work, but also the very words that define that work. It was a semester-long exercise in developing a personal feminist glossary of terms, starting with methods and methodology, such that the exercise became a methodology in itself. In many ways, this thesis is an iterative project in interviewing words. As I reflect on my work thus far (March 16) I find myself developing an unexpected intimacy with power, utopia, queer, coven, knowledge, spell, ancestor, invocation, eros, vulnerability, I/me/my – words that even a few weeks ago I used without intent. I am finding that, in simply asking these words what they mean – here, now, for me, for the Coven – I am crafting my own theory about utopic process.

This theory-creation is slow and cyclical. Few of the revelations that I discover are mind-blowing; many are simply clarifications of feminist and queer practices that have been orally passed down as long as rehearsal rooms have existed. But in articulating these discoveries, simple as they may feel, I am cultivating an intentional artistic practice. In the capitalist-driven theatre world of low-paying gigs and ten-out-of-twelves and six week rehearsal processes, cultivation of intentionality is a rare gift. I am grateful for it.

incantation: i choose my words with care

extinguish the candle


incantation: i cite my art ancestors (see lovers card) with gratitude, humility, joy, and love

light the candle

Since becoming a witch, I’ve realized that my spiritual passions are actually magickal extensions of my dramaturgical passions. I love dead people, particularly authors. I have always felt passionate relationships with women and queer writers whose work finds a way to converse with me from beyond the grave. Unbeknownst to me then, my tenth grade presentation on Margaret Fuller was a séance; so too did was my college project on George Elliot, as was my MFA project on Edith Craig. These women have haunted me since: they are my chosen ancestors, and the words that they left on the mortal realm are my sacred texts. As a dramaturg, I realize the spiritual weight that engaging with dead playwrights and historical characters has always held for me. I have forged intimate friendships with Sylvia Plath, King Mongkut, Virginia Woolf, Susan Glaspell, dare I say Lizzie Borden; I am currently cultivating such a friendship with Emma Goldman.

I do my most fulfilling artistic work when I am spiritually connected with my art ancestors: why should my thesis not feel the same?

In a WGSS speaking event this spring, Durba Mitra described citations as “declarations of allegiance” (Issues in Feminist Research conversationseries); mine are declarations of love. The theorists, playwrights, poets, and artists who appear in my thesis are those with whom I deeply, personally engage. I feel pulled to cite them. Dozens of additional writers, including plenty of dead cis-het-white men, appear in my bibliography, and I am grateful for the knowledge that I gleaned through encountering their work. The authors whose words and minds are embedded in my writing, however, are those with whom I want to be in allegiance; with whom I want to banter, laugh, smoke a joint, dance, primal scream; with whom I am in love.

This thesis is a conversation with many ancestors, but especially: José Esteban Muñoz, Jill Dolan, adrienne maree brown, Judith Butler, and Audre Lorde.


incantation: i cite my art ancestors with gratitude, humility, joy, and love

extinguish candle


incantation: i speak my truth and assume no one else’s

i light the candle

The Coven is not a primary subject of this thesis. More frequently, I find myself to be under the microscope. This does not come from a place of ego (at least I don’t think it does), but from a place of desire, curiosity, and necessity. Coven space is tender. This is not to say it is weak: we take enormous risk in the realms of vulnerability and empathetic connection, and we usually succeed in the monumental task of being present together. This kind of work asks incredible emotional and affective contributions from the witches, and I am not interested in exploiting that labor for the written component of my thesis. I therefore rely mostly on my personal embodied experiences to bring the reader into the Coven process. I realize that this thesis is skewed. It reflects the narrative of a Coven leader who occupies a seat of significant power, and it is the narrative of a white, cis, able-bodied person (see hermit card). There are holes in my reading of the Coven process, and I will endeavor to at least name them when I cannot fill them.

In an lengthier, non-lockdown thesis process, I might have interviewed each Coven witch to gather broader embodied perspectives and weave their words into this text – but to be perfectly honest, I don’t want outsiders (readers) invading the Coven. Boundaries are critical in cultivating sacred space. On a personal note, I’ve had a really truth-shattering and transformative few years, with limited time to breathe and reflect. This thesis is deeply subjective in no small part because I need to look inward.

If you are reading this and are not in the Coven, know that you are privy to so much and yet so little of our practice. In writing from my perspective, I hope that I can imbue this written document with a glimmer of the magick we create on a regular basis; I hope to show, through an admittedly narrow lens, the many ways that this process feels so good.

Also, I give myself permission to speak my languages: tarot, Jewish questioning, showtunes, hope, rage, feminism, queer trouble-making.

incantation: i speak my truth and assume no one else’s

i extinguish the candle


incantation: theory is alive; people live theory; people are theory

i light the candle

My closest and longest mentor, Trish McGee, is not a theatre-maker, but a small town journalist, an archivist of narratives. She taught how to care deeply about the people on the other end of the recorder. I had the privilege under her mentorship to weave Eastern Shore fables using the words of important people: a lottery-winning 80-year-old shoreman; a high school girl who loved her ribbon-winning cow so, so much; three generations of barbers all working together in their tiny, worn-in shop. Trish showed me how to listen, deeply, to stories of all sizes, and that embodied knowledge is the most truthful knowledge there is.

Feminist theatre, devised theatre, queer theatre, witchy theatre – people have been doing caretaking, collaborative theatre in ways that a book or article will never grasp. A major part of my research process is interviewing artists and witches who embody theory: Patrice, Melissa, Bonnie Cullum, and Eva Margarita. I do not directly cite these four women very frequently in these cards, but their impact runs deep. These conversations shook me awake from the gloom and muck of quarantine winter break; they offered new directions for research and inquiry; I learned about ways of art-making that affirmed, challenged, and inspired my own. I take heart knowing that artists of such integrity and wisdom are manifesting magickal work in scrappy theaters across the globe.

incantation: theory is alive; people live theory; people are theory

i extinguish the candle


incantation: i reject the well-made thesis. i write what i need to write the way it needs to be written.

i light the candle

“I don’t explode the form because I find traditional plays ‘boring’ – I don’t really. It’s just that those structures never could accommodate the figures which take up residence in me” (8): Suzan-Lori Parks’ Elements of Style has proven a deeper well of knowledge than Strunk and White or owl.purdue.edu could ever be. I am exploring utopia, queer temporality, and magick, and I am not interested in squeezing these impossible and unpredictable concepts into the narrow confines of a traditional academic thesis. I am attempting to write intuitively and erotically. I therefore reject colonialist, white supremacist markers of good writing; I reject heteropatriarchal notions of rationality, linearity, and objectivity. I listen to what “feels right to me,” what Audre Lorde describes as “a true knowledge, for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light toward any understanding” (x).

incantation: i reject the well-made thesis. i write what i need to write the way it needs to be written.

i extinguish the candle


incantation: this thesis is enough. this tarot card of this thesis is enough. this sentence of this tarot card of this thesis is enough.

i light the candle

My current self is limited: in space, as I mark the 12th month of COVID quarantine (see tower card); in emotional capacity, as I facilitate difficult conversations in my classroom, the Coven, and my family; and in time, as graduation draws near.

I am therefore being forgiving with the scope of this thesis. I do not have an ideal page count in mind: each essay/spell card will be as long as it needs to be. I am also not engaging with extensive outside research – that is to say, I am mostly deepening relationships with art ancestors that I established in my production and course work, rather than seeking out new citational relationships. adrienne maree brown’s “critical connections instead of critical mass” (20) applies not only to the Coven’s iterative, interpersonal process, but also to my citational engagement with this written thesis. There are many areas of research that, in a non-COVID world, I might have explored further: devised theatre conventions and genealogy, the anthropological roots of ritual, representational and historical evolutions of the witch. I choose, instead, to continue down the theoretical paths that I have already forged in my graduate studies, so that my thesis may be limited in scope, but hopefully deeper in personal meaning -- an intuitive culmination of thoughts-in-progress.

incantation: this thesis is enough. this tarot card of this thesis is enough. this sentence of this tarot card of this thesis is enough.

i extinguish the candle


3. I light the candle again, speak this closing incantation, extinguish the candle, and let the smoke charge my self-portrait.

closing incantation: i light my spell candle once again, charged with these intentions, as an offering to my creative self. with this final waft of smoke, may my intentions take flight and strengthen my covenant between present and future self.


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