Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sisters of the Moon

There's an episode of the Faculty of Horror that discusses witches in film - it's one of my favourites, and I have listened to it more than once. I had not, however, seen two of the films discussed: Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem, and Lars von Trier's Antichrist. Earlier in the week my sister and I watched the former, while last night we finally got around to watching the latter.

(Antichrist. Holy hell.That movie probably deserves it's own post, but suffice to say that I don't believe it to be a misogynist film. I personally found it to be quite the opposite.)

Luis Ricardo Falero
There is an acquaintance of mine from work who has similar taste in films as I do, and so of course I told her I'd seen Lords and was planning on viewing Antichrist. She told me that she was curious to know what I thought of von Trier's film, and then went on to tell me that of all the sub-genres of horror she found witch movies to be the least accessible to her - she wasn't sure she 'got' them.

Now, my initial reaction was basically "what's not to get?" but that hardly seems a nuanced response, now does it? And so for the past few days I've been thinking about the figure of the witch in popular culture, and how varying contexts can inform how she is received.

The Witch as an archetypal figure has changed remarkably little over the years. Anton LaVey described the witch as female, and stated that she is "a wretched looking old crone... or an extremely sexy girl." This statement can be very easily traced back as far as the publishing of the Malleus Maleficarum in the late fifteenth century, and continues to be the dominant view even today 44 years after LaVey`s Satanic Witch was published. That's some staying power, alright. 

Witches in horror cinema are, by and large, sexual creatures. In this way they are granddaughters of the Malleus, existing to tempt man to sin and revelling in carnal lust with the Devil himself. Their sexuality is a weapon, and is often depicted as perverse. There are films where the witches are not blatantly sexual, but in these too they are aberrant women - baby killers, Satan's disciples, vindictive harpies. 

Witches, in the view passed on to us most clearly by Kramer and Sprenger, are every negative stereotype of a woman ramped up to the nth degree and given magic powers.

It's perhaps not shocking, that the figure of the witch shifted slightly whenever feminist movements began to influence the dominant culture. The 60s saw Bewitched on television, and while horror films kept up their love affair with the dark side of the occult it is interesting that Samantha and her crazy family popped up in the mainstream at the same time second-wave feminism was making an impact. (Now, Samantha was a housewife but at the same time it was undeniable that she had more power than her derpy husband.)

Third-wave feminism coincided with The Craft, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All of these depicted witches less as concubines of the devil and more as young women trying to come to terms with their power. The past few years, we've seen American Horror Story: Coven and Salem appearing at a time when feminist issues are once again at the forefront of the cultural discussion.The witch serves as a handy shorthand for women's power, so this isn't terribly surprising.When the womenfolk start demanding their rights, it seems that the witch will once again appear, whether her depiction is positive or no.

Leaving archetypes for a moment, it's also interesting to consider the figure of the 'modern witch' in horror cinema. Coinciding with second-wave feminism again, we had the goddess movement and the rise of neo-pagan faiths. While not as common as the 'traditional' witch, we still saw this particular enchantress pop up in a few places - George Romero's Season of the Witch is a perfect example, where a bored housewife attempts to find meaning outside of her marriage by exploring witchcraft. This doesn't turn out well for her - a theme we see again in Antichrist, come to think of it. Both the character of Joan in Romero's film and She in von Trier's are drawn to female power and then find themselves terrified of (and terrorized by) it until everything explodes and goes to shit. Neither woman escapes the patriarchal trap laid for her - She winds up dead and burnt, while Joan becomes a widow still defined by her late husband.

Our 90s modern witches fared a bit better... unless they weren't 'nice,' of course.

So. What's to 'get' about the popular image of the witch? LaVey still isn't off the mark, but looking a bit deeper over both the history of cinema and further back into real events, we can see that it's a bit more complex than that - the witch seems very much to be the fear of woman personified. This fear permeates so much of our culture that is is simultaneously suffocating and barely noticeable, and so the witch remains both a scapegoat and something that more and more we seem to want to reclaim as our own. This reclamation, I feel, is important, and one that I hope to see become wider - I sincerely hope that our next wave of pop culture witches features more women of colour, trans women, queer women. 

If we must be feared, let us be because we are powerful. If that makes us evil, then so be it - a world in which subjugation is good is hardly one worth living in. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Strike the death knell.

Well, it's the start of a brand new year so I suppose it's time to take stock of the things we have learned. 2014 was a fine year on a personal level, but on a global one it definitely could have been a lot better - environmental, race, and gender issues dominated my newsfeeds, and not much of the news was good.

When one examines the continuing struggle for equality, one lesson stands out above others: you do not get to decide how a minority group should react. I've seen an awful lot of people react negatively to groups who are trying to achieve equality, and usually this is born out of a knee-jerk defensiveness. While this may be understandable considering that nobody wants to feel like the bad guy, it is also a destructive impulse that serves only to shut down any progress that could be made.

If you are a man, you do not get to tell me I am over-reacting to rape culture. As a Caucasian, I don't get to tell a person of colour she is overreacting to abuse by authority. As a heterosexual, I don't get to tell homosexuals to stop worrying about the legal rights of their spouses. And so on, and so forth.

If you are not in the minority group, you don't get to tell that group how to feel. You don't decide what is offensive. Doing that, or turning the conversation back around to YOU and YOUR rights, is douchebaggery on a level that in 2015 we should really not be mired in.

I'm sure everyone has their own resolutions for the new year. Get in shape, stop drinking malt liquor, learn how to wrestle a unicorn, all that shit. I think that maybe in addition to whatever personal goals we have this year, we could all benefit from promising too that we will listen - really listen - to our fellow humans and take steps to ensure that we do not through our actions (or inaction) condemn another to a life we personally would not want to live.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Longest Night

Today marks the both the winter solstice and the new moon. The solstice happened at 3 in the afternoon, meaning that I spent it with my mother and sister. This is fitting, as the first real witch holiday we spent together as a family was a winter solstice many years ago - my sister had just moved home after breaking up with a real douchenozzle. So it's always a bit of a special family holiday for me.

After my mom left, I brewed myself some mushroom tea - I mixed it with the African Mint I bought from David's Tea, which has both mint and ginger to negate any nausea brought on by the mushrooms. I banished and cleansed the house, then drank the tea while reading Women of the Golden Dawn.

It took some time for me to actually notice the effects - I was convinced the dose was too low right up until I realised I'd been mesmerised by the ceiling for an unknown amount of time. I didn't have anything specifically planned for the duration of the trip, but I certainly had expectations for the energy of it - I was thinking of sacrifice and wisdom, shades of the dead and glimpses of the future, maybe a visit from the old One-Eyed Bastard. Nope. Instead it was a very sensual, primal energy - I felt like Rosaleen Norton. Not what I'd planned for, as I tend to me more cerebral, but it was a fascinating experience. As is usual with this sort of thing, the physical events themselves read as utterly dull, but the things that cannot be conveyed well made it worthwhile.

After a while I found myself talking to the cat too much, and apparently I got both cold and jealous of her fur since I wound up going to the closet for my fur coat. I got a bit nauseous then and so I curled up and waited it out with deep breathing. Some time after that I got out my Vertigo deck and did a Journey of the Fool spread, which was a bit more intense than I'd anticipated. Apparently my new year's theme card is The Star. This is a card I've always had a hard time with, so I plan to meditate on it for the rest of the month.

I had my sister come over once her boyfriend was gone to his gig, and she brought her Froud oracle - the very one I'd bought her for that first Yule all those years ago. She gave me some more insight into my reading, and then we just sat around and watched a lot of Degrassi Jr. High while I ate pizza.

I closed up the evening with a bath and another banishing, and a cup of ginger tea. All in all, not a bad way to spend the longest night of the year.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"I should warn you, there's a severed hand on the wall."

So, last week my work had a mandatory meeting at eight o clock in the fucking morning, outside of the office. One of my work friends lives considerably far out from the city, and so she asked if she could stay at my place. I said yes, because I quite like her and because I had access to an air mattress. Only after agreeing did I then have the moment of, ", shit, she's going to see inside the house. SHE'LL KNOW."

The guy who sits next to me at work seems to think I'm a Satanist, but I think that's probably because of my Baphomet tights and the fact that he's maybe not the brightest man alive - I overheard him say that the pyramids aren't that impressive because they are just "shit stacked on top of other shit."

Duh, dude.
Most people are aware that wearing all black all the time just means you have terrible taste in music, and I like to think that I present a relatively normal face to the world. This facade crumbles once you get inside my apartment, because my apartment is very small and so even if I were inclined to hide my shit, there is literally nowhere to do so. Normally I don't care, because the only people crossing that threshold are people who are weirdos themselves. Oh, and Arnt, but he dates my sister so he's used to this bullshit already anyway.

But normals, you guys. The burlesque community has quite a few pagans and witches in it, and I've actually come to expect the nerd community to be either left of centre on spirituality or total atheists. I live in Vancouver, for fuck's sake - there's a lot of hippies here. So I sort of forgot that no, not everyone is down with the eye of newt.

I've had a few conversations with a friend lately that had me sitting there going, "you DO know what I am, right?" and then coming to realise that it was possible she hadn't pieced it together yet. There's also ample evidence that alternate spiritualities are NOT a thing she's researched, which of course baffles me but is possibly quite normal? I don't fucking know anymore. I assumed everyone close to my age had a high school coven, or went off to college and started telling everyone god was dead.

Anyway, as a result of these conversations, I was a bit nervous once I realised the woman staying with me was married to a Mennonite. Not because that's fucked up or anything, but because I honestly was concerned she'd be creeped out by my dumb house. Which was silly. Just because my one normie friend was scared of witches didn't mean ALL of them were. ...Right?
Pictured: Subtle clues.
Actually, yes, right. Here's the anti-climactic ending: she loved the decor, including the Hand of Glory on the wall, we stayed up chatting slumber party style, and like all polite adults she didn't say shit about the bookcase. Seriously, I can wind myself up over the dumbest things.

The moral of the story is this: nobody cares, and that's exactly as it should be.

Also: if your cat is a goblin, it will shove its gross goblin face into your guest's at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tarot for Tips

Friday night I was lucky enough to be invited to read cards for donations at the Neil E Dee Danger Thrill Show at Lana Lou's. The venue is actually really nice, and has the bonus of having booths in the back so that I could give readings in a fairly private environment.

The crowd was super fun, friendly, and generous. Not gonna lie, I was expecting to make enough to maybe pay for my drinks, but I walked away with enough to finance a little shopping spree and also two free glasses of wine. The evening was almost totally enjoyable.

Almost because of this one fucking guy.

So, a surprising number of people got their readings done with another person present - friends, partners, whatever. This one lovely goth chick came in with her handsome fella and I did as I do and asked her which deck she would like: the Rider or the Thoth?

Her fella, I realised, was quite drunk. He reached over and tapped the Thoth deck. "That one. That's the real one."

She seemed happy with the choice so I figured, fuck it, not going to ask what the fuck that's supposed to mean. I did ask him if he were a magician, thinking maybe this was some sort of metaphysical dick-swinging contest because he was an OTO freak or some shit, but he said nope, he wasn't.

All night long, I'd been doing Celtic Cross spreads with additional cards thrown if the client had additional questions. This is because when reading for strangers, I tend to read pretty fast - 90% of them do not give two shits about what the symbolism in the cards means, they want to know if they're gonna get laid or make it rich. So I laid out the cards and I realised the dude was frowning heavily as I turned them over.

"I don't do reversals," I told them. Which is true - I don't. The fella voiced his opinion that he believes cards fall rightside up or not for a reason, and I smiled and said that that is totally valid, but it's not my method. I've used reversals before in my fifteen-plus years reading, and to be frank I find they don't really offer a lot to a reading provided you're using a decent spread. His girlfriend sort of brushed him off and he subsided... but then proceeded to roll his eyes and make noises for the duration of the reading.

I've read for a lot of people. I've read for genuine nutcases, people who don't believe in divination (this actually happens more than you'd think), and the cataclysmically wasted. But I honestly don't remember ever having someone so aggressive sitting at my table before... and it wasn't even his reading! Throughout the entire encounter I tried to only focus on the woman, and stay as friendly and open as I always do. But holy bejeebus was it hard. One of the cards he was pissed I had flipped around I actually turned upside down for his benefit and said, "okay, so if we read this reversed it means this..." which considering the position, was basically what I had fucking said in the first place anyway. I figured if I played nice maybe he would back off and let his lady enjoy herself, but no.

When the reading was over, the woman went into her purse. Her fella looked exasperated, but thankfully got the fuck out of the booth so I could lean over and tell her NOT to give me money because I was thrown off and consequently felt that I had done a shitty job. She told me no, she was going to pay me if only for my patience. I actually have a feeling she overtipped me because she was embarrassed. At the time I would rather have had her keep her money, but whatever, it means today I got to buy a sweater so I guess it all worked out in the end. Dude probably didn't get laid that night either, since she seemed pretty pissed.

I'd been slammin busy all night, but I got lucky and had a few minutes to chill out and get back in the right headspace by drinking a little more wine and focusing on the High Priestess card for a bit.

I got home around one thirty in the morning. I probably could have stayed later and made some more money, but I was frankly exhausted by that point. Saturday I kind of slugged around too , still feeling drained. I slept in today which helped, and tonight when I go to the gym I think I'm going to make a point of visualising sweating out the icky vibes, then come home and do a proper cleanse. (Catching up on my blog reading I see Deb has a timely post regarding that.)

Overall though, I would totally do the event again. I just might ask dicks to wait outside next time.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


NYNY Prompt: Maps.

This week’s prompt is for you to go some place that is sacred to you and to use the experience to guide you in your work. Look for signs and omens everywhere...

My first apartment in Vancouver was next to the beach. The apartment itself was small and very narrow, with windows that let in the afternoon sun and roasted us alive in the summer. The bathroom sink once fell off the wall and wasn't fixed for a full week, and there was a crazy woman obsessed with traffic cones who would scream at anyone who idled their car in the turnaround in front of the building. It was the sort of shithole that's perfect for your first place in the big city in your 20s. And again: it was by the beach. I could walk to the ocean at night and let the waves break over my toes. I could stand at the edge of midnight in the dead of winter anytime I felt like it.

The sea has a way of claiming you, once you've heard the waves.

The moon is waxing now - the night of the Scorpio new moon I did work to release some leftover bullshit in my head. After you've hollowed yourself out is a good time to visit the shoreline, I've found - you can feel the vastness of the ocean better. It's so much bigger than you, and it can swallow you whole and forget your bones.

You will drown. At some point, we all do. Not literally, but there will always be a time when you are swept away, pulled down, lost. And it doesn't matter. Not really.

It's been stormy this past week, with today being the first truly clear day in a while. The winds, however, stay strong - the remnants of Hurricane Ana. Consequently as I walked beneath a sliver of early evening moon, the waves were hurling themselves against the sand with real violence.

They will take everything away if you let them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dot dot dot.

Did some catching up with myself today, when I wasn't sleeping through the flu. I realised I'd all but abandoned the New Year, New You prompts. I went back through them and checked the original prompts on Deb's site, figuring out exactly where I am in the process.

Some things I've already done without being prompted and just failed to write up. Others I have not, and so I think what I will do those rather than repeat myself and waste time. So, the next prompt on my list is this one:

Go some place that is sacred to you and to use the experience to guide you in your work.

This may have to wait a few days for the weather to permit it.

But right now I'm just going to crawl back into bed with Frances.