While she may have been lurking out of sight for centuries, the enchantress re-enter westerly cultural consciousness in the wake island of the 2016 Trump campaign and election. Through Trump ’ randomness gloat, and the follow year ’ mho # MeToo movement, the concept of the patriarchy regained a democratic traction it had lost in the ’ 90s and ’ 00s, and a new feminist motion settled on the enchantress – maligned, silenced, and revengeful – as its icon. socially big, anti-racist, her feminist movement informed by curious theory and her craft by the bequest of pre-colonial secret, the new witch became a symbol of # resistance. Modern witchcraft is no bare metaphor for a modern coalescence of militant interests, however. Across the last ten, a significant ( or at least culturally big ) group of young women have begun to dedicate time, money and department of energy to the avocation of ritual practices which emphasize a blend of nature worship, self-care and protest. Journalists covering the swerve have developed a popular explanation for the recent surge in occult natural process : in moments of political instability, people reach for mysterious tools to help explain phenomena that seem out of their personal control condition. Beyond the legislative strive and explanatory power of the american presidency, in Ireland, the UK and other european countries, a potion of post-2008 social and economic shifts can help to explain the appeal of the eclipse. Austerity measures, decreasing shape standards, stagnating wages and a drawn-out house crisis have created a common sense of dislocation and disempowerment for a generation of youthful people, among whom a choice group have turned to witchcraft, tarot card and astrology for guidance. Reading through the many articles published on the subject over the past four years leaves the impression that witchcraft is to millennial women as populism is to modern liberal democracies – a response to the political and economic extremes of late capitalism. Among this cohort of new witches are the authors and publishers of a series of anthologies, pamphlets and poetry collections which address contemporaneous secular phenomena ( renting, dating, parliamentary politics, climate change ) through arcane terminology and symbolism. While these books distinctly parcel a set of aesthetic, rhetorical and sometimes spiritual address points with the broader enchantress subculture, they deserve attention as a literary phenomenon in their own right. Issued by small or independent presses ( though a more mainstream hag publish swerve is besides well established ), their authors play with sacred images and linguistic process, space obscenity front and center, and frequently claim that their writing is in itself a form of magic : that poems are spells. Chief among such publications is the anthology Spells, a compendium of modern witch poetry from thirty-six of the writing style ’ randomness leading names and published by the newfangled autonomous press Ignota in 2018. Ignota itself is good sympathize as emerging from the neon-lit crossroads of occult interests and digital art practices that characterise the contemporaneous western hex subculture. The wardrobe ‘ publishes at the intersection of technology, myth-making and charming ’ and seeks to ‘ develop a speech that makes possible the reimagining and reenchantment of the world around us. ’ The mind that speech can have a causal impact on the world, can ( re ) enchant and alter the framework of our world is a calling card of the poems in the solicitation. indeed, the attribution of illocutionary force to literary terminology is so permeant among the poems of Spells, that we can consider it the definitive belief of the ad hoc witch-lit movement the anthology represents. As the top copy to Spells puts it ‘ [ s ] pells are poems, poetry is spelling ’. Why ? Because spells do things, and these poems want to make things happen excessively. The poem in Spells all seek to bring a different kind of global into being through the performative world power of their own poetic terminology. As So Mayer writes in their introduction ,
This international relations and security network ’ metric ton about God making the world with the Word. It ’ south about the witches who ’ ve been remaking the world, unmaking the batch he made, ever since that unmanageable birth .
These witches live in a universe ruled by the twin stars of mischief and exasperation. They walk behind God as he tidies nothingness into creation, moving his work out of godhead alliance and back towards a more charm chaos. Words are the tools preferred by witches for unpicking God ’ mho tapestry, as Mayer makes clean : ‘ [ to ] be a wiccan, then, is to know words ’. Mayer alerts us to what this charming power means in terms of literary style : ‘ [ watt ] itchcraft — like the violence it opposes — works by repetition, by the loop and iteration and coil of a string ’. Throughout Spells, threads of images, words, symbols loop endlessly, creating an incantation of their own. here ’ s one I jotted down as the terms surfaced again and again across the thirty-six poems :
Hair tooth stones murder cotton gifts trees
birth hymns sea cuts rabbits/hares milk
rivers ( Thames ) tea vegetable oil fall / fall God
cadaver guts kitchens knives mothers cunts
maths howls birds leaves sex glass knots
water moon throats songs wombs night …
The momentum to categorise the samara terms of reference for literary occultism must besides have inspired David Keenan. His empty Aphrodite : An Encyclopedia of Fate, is one of four newly pamphlets, all collaborative productions between a writer and ocular artist, issued by Rough Trade Books in association with the Cornish Museum of Witchcraft and Magic ( MWM ). Empty Aphrodite is a utilitarian insertion to the time-travelling aesthetics of witch-lit, which approaches crop up culture with a magpie ’ randomness center for the bright ( Lana del Rey ) and the kitsch ( Carl Sagan ), and appropriately enough a magpie ’ s disregard for the contingent effects of diachronic context. once elevated to the charge of charming terminology, cultural references lose their temporal specificity : Blake is no longer a romantic poet, reacting to the calamity of the french Revolution, but preferably an ageless mysterious spirit whose bardic bearing can be invoked as an help to the lost modern hex. Sometimes the banal ( freeze margherita pizza ) appears as a fact of life in barely the way a piece of bread does in the accounts of witches in the Malleus Maleficarum, reminding the subscriber that witches besides sometimes need a ready meal. Capitalisation lets you know when a word, such as ‘ Aftermath ’, has become a concept, and it doesn ’ metric ton seem to be a trouble that this typological move places proper nouns ( Gary Snyder ) on a degree with symbolic constructs ( Death ). Keenan ’ sulfur entries work well when read as discrete prose poems, preferably than in succession, as the charm of mysterious ambiguity wears thin after excessively much repetition. At its best, as in the introduction for ‘ Forgiveness ’, Keenan humanises his concept-subject with such infectious sympathy that a definition becomes a story, the Devil becomes just a scar, lost boy, missing his dad :
… can ’ t you think God taking him on one stifle, his most faithful son who never doubted Him, even as he despaired of Him, and gently stroking his atrocious blistered head, blistered from falling all the manner from Heaven, you would imagine when all the time he could have taken the easier path just like every angel else, God having him on his stifle and telling him, pointing out, tenderly, this is a a lot you as it is me, …
At other times, the elision of the sacred and the profane feels worn out by its own stretch, as in the introduction for ‘ Golem ’ : ‘ A Disney film. Out of control. ’ Nevertheless, Keenan ’ s ability to balance the depraved and the obscene with the sweet and the holy place, to flip an picture of one to the other and back again, is dizzyingly fun. Keenan ’ mho booklet besides introduces us to another dogma of witch-lit ’ mho philosophy of linguistic process : the hollowness of words. Entries in the encyclopedia are not fixed or defined but rather evoked, summoned into a shapeshifting display of feel and resemblance which, depending on your tastes, is either elegant sorcery or a display of smoke and mirrors. Things mean what they mean until they don ’ metric ton, terminology can not be trusted to in full convey the power of magic, which exists before the password. not all of the text published as partially of the witch-lit swerve share the implemental and associative view of linguistic process found in Empty Aphrodite and Spells, however. Jen Calleja ’ s Rough Trade x MWM tract, Goblins ( illustrated by Rachel Louise Hodgson ), uses the estimate of a ghastly charming animal as a springboard for a series of short essays investigating the writer ’ s childhood passion for the eldritch ( particularly of the Jim Henson puppet kind ) and her complicate adult relationship with fully embodying the role of a brawny performer in a kindling set. The result is a sharply blend of art criticism, feminist comment on the live music scene, and memoir, which uses a goblinry as a ski binding composition throughout. similarly, Wendy Erskine ’ s contribution to the series, two short stories under the shared title Satan Is Real ( illustrated by Steph von Reiswitz ) play metaphorically with the visualize of the annoy, and the cultural fear of monster worship, as ways of developing plot and fictional character. In the first report, a Beelzebubic figure, Furfur, enters post-seance as a balming, pet-like presence for a bereaved girlfriend, but soon drags her life into a dull state of depression, isolation, and bad plumb. In the second, the demonic panic of the 1980s sweeps Belfast and ups the stakes of a pre-teen rebellion for Jamie Devine, wunderkind of his class ’ south Christian area band. Erskine and Calleja ’ sulfur pamphlets mine the symbolism and baron of the mysterious for their own narrative and argumentative purposes, but make no claims to the act of writing as a form of charming in itself. In the words of one of Erskine ’ s characters, a besiege enlistment director, ‘ It ’ s not demonic, Ronnie. It ’ south just showbiz. ’ Completing the charming booklet quadrant is The Cult of Water : The Line and The Circle, by David Bramwell with illustrations by Pete Fowler. Part epic poem, part BBC Radio 3 script, Bramwell narrates a journey upstream to the source of the river Don. He is in search of a resolution to a childhood mystery, a slump town he shouldn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate remember, but besides the Roman goddess Danu, from whom the river derives its list. Danu ’ s mythic enemy is Vulcan, idol of destructive fuel, whom Bramwell sees as the malefic heart behind South Yorkshire ’ s pollutive industrial past, embodied particularly in the Templeborough steelworks ,
Choked by the coal diligence at Mexborough, polluted from the
fleshy steelworks of Rotherham and Sheffield, the Don is diverted
to soothe Vulcan ’ s beastly heat .
The Cult of Water is representative of witch-lit ’ second noble concern for the destruction of the ecological global by human industrial activeness. Yet Bramwell ’ randomness condescension for the steel industry feels a little askew. Ten thousand people were employed at Templeborough alone at its top out and the decline and eventual settlement of the works in 1993 was a catastrophic boast to the area. The elevation of the river to the flat of pagan goddess demands a sacrifice, which in this subject is the economic stability of the area. Twenty-seven years after the steelworks shut their doors, the Don is once more ‘ accessible ’ and ‘ [ t ] he Templeborough steelworks is immediately Magna, a science / gamble centre. ’ * Within Empty Aphrodite nestle a set of ‘ fortune cards ’, included with a centerfold instruct you on how to cast the deck along a crux of categories, from ‘ querent ’ to ‘ future ’. Produced from the artwork of Sophy Hollington, the cards are decorated with midst outlines of puncture bodies, flaming cups and crying moons, merging the color pallette and fonts of 1960s acerb rock posters with a heavy, ink-black, languor evocative of early-modern woodcuts. Finding tarot card, or tarot-like, practices enmeshed within the text of witch-lit should come as no surprise. Tarot and its divinatory cousin astrology are often described as submission points to the broader world of esoteric life, forming ‘ the acceptable side of witchcraft ’ as Holly Connolly has written. Witch-lit, tarot card and astrology all clearly share an alliance with jungian psychology, an sympathize that human feel can be distilled into a perennial sic of symbolic images and scenes which convey an explainable form of mean. Whereas tarot card relies on a arrange of ocular images, and astrology on a set of planetal associations, witch-lit ’ second emblematic playing tease is the iconic power of the word. The trouble posed here, however, is that while tarot card and astrology can claim that their ambiguities are in fact proof of an indefinable power which transcends homo language, witch-lit must find a way to communicate the pre-verbal think of of a symbol in words. Mayer claims that the poems in Spells are, ‘ about the moment before the password, when everything inside you is broken open. ’ Nevertheless, words must be deployed unbroken to make a ledger. For many poems in Spells, a way out of this adhere is to use the shifting cosmic terms of astrology, to invoke nebulously what can not be spelled out literally. In ‘ What Chani Nicholas Told Me, ’ Khairani Barokka turns to a birth chart take to explain the erratic violence of patriarchal society ,
The stars when I emerged :
Close to the sunlight.
Venus retrograde, in Aries, one-twelfth house.
I hear from Chani Difficulties. here : Fallen womanhood.
Chani knows the term is antediluvian, gives its history
for mystifying chart, points to femmeness and creative wombs
broken, burst open, diminished. Disrespected, pushed
slapped red to know one ’ mho place by muscly hands .
Nicholas is an astrological star of the internet, a charismatic and glamorous popularizer of the commit among anglophone dabblers in prophecy. Her work blends a commitment to social department of justice with an imperativeness on introspective self-acceptance. She tweets horoscopes to her sixty-thousand followers while explaining the relevance of her interpretations to protest movements such as recent calls for patrol abolition. Barokka is upfront about their infatuation with ‘ Chani ’ in the poem ; Chani cuts through the misogyny of terms like ‘ fallen woman ’ and reveals the vulnerable individual behind the original. Chani explains how the conditions of your pain were formed at birth, but so were the possibilities for your electric resistance. In her survey of the new-age spiritual community of Sedona, Arizona, the anthropologist Susannah Crockford observes how astrological cognition can act as ‘ an explanatory model for misfortune ’, an observation which chimes well with the use of astrology in these poems, where it is called upon to explain the damage and injury of social excommunication. Astrology, with its cyclic and insistent movements of stars, its sense of a higher, if obscure, ordain, gives the suffer poet a mysterious induce for their trouble beyond the miserable cruelty of capitalism. It provides a all-important element that materialist review can not, the predict of definite refilling as stars and planets shift into their future house, the promise that, without the poet becoming burdened by agency, or exhausted by failure, a change will soon come. As Barokka writes, ‘ my orbit of all things renews itself ’. While Nicholas herself is not a poet, writers Dorothea Lasky ( whose sour appears in Spells ) and Alex Dimitrov have blended horoscopes with verse in their successful collaboration as Astro Poets. Via Twitter, Astro Poets have made a name for themselves with their own assortment of humor, mysterious imagination and horoscopes ( and controversial promotional work for AirBnB ), though their tone is more godless than Nicholas ’. Their tweets frequently take the format of a meme, reliant on the proofreader ’ s cognition of the characteristics associated with the zodiac signs for the joke to work. The content of these tweets besides presupposes a fit of share experiences among their readers — dating, housing problems, bad bosses, creative frustration — giving us a snapshot of their perceive consultation of by and large millennial, by and large women, unfulfilled by the realities of their urban lives and careers, so far unwilling or changeable of how to meaningfully change their own conditions. Astro Poets may joke about how ghosting an ex-wife is so wholly Aquarius, but they take the trade of astrology badly. In the insertion to their holocene book Astro Poets : Your Guides to the Zodiac the couple argue for a doctrine of linguistic process and poetry harmonised with that of the Spells solicitation :
just like astrology, poetry—all language, really—has to do with the past and the future. lyric is the way into who we are and have been, and who we still might become. It ’ s the manner into a holy portray, where the sounds of our ancestors meet the sounds of our future selves. In other words, poetry returns us to ourselves .
In this view, poetry becomes a tool for improving self-knowledge. Like astrology, it doesn ’ metric ton promise answers, but offers a framework from within which we can learn to ask better questions, and accommodate by, future and ‘ holy present ’ versions of ourselves. If the worldly concern is making us sad, confusing us or rejecting our best efforts at actualising the kinds of lives we want, poetry, astrology and language can wholly be used — obviously interchangeably — to illuminate so far spiritual world elements of our personalities. If this seems remedy, it ’ sulfur credibly meant to. ‘ Sadness ’ and the ‘ self ’ are the warp and weft threads of witch-lit. Just as Crockford points us towards an understand of contemporary esoteric spirituality as a reaction to misfortune, modern witchcraft and witch-lit alike seem to respond to a especial kind of female sadness. Often, this leads to a poetic language deeply concerned with spaces of bring around and positive feedback. Sophie Robinson ’ s contribution to Spells, the poem ‘ mystics of youtube ’, creates a chalk circle within which the lyric voice regresses, snacks, watches Madonna videos and Gilmore Girls episodes, and returns cyclically to an baby self ,
everything returns so I don ’ t have to
moon now reflected
in a wide & round reservoir of milk
‘ mystics of youtube ’ is an ode to the moon, a charitable number in Robinson ’ s life according to her remarks in conversation with Ariana Reines, the poet and astrologer whose work is a real influence on a bang-up bargain of hex poetry. Reines herself has been publishing work inflected with mysticism since her 2011 collection Mercury. Her poems are filled with astrology, the politics of precarious urban life, spiritual practices which skirt the edges of organize religion, obscenity, the grotesque. She is cited constantly as an influence by younger witch-poets, and her poem ‘ Thursday ’ forms a long near-centre part in Spells. Reading it within the anthology reminded me that many of the key terms I identify at the beginning of this try are in fact a glossary derived from Reines, a tribute to her lexical influence — hair, tongues, tattoo, lovers, planets, trees all intermingle in images that drip from line to line. In an interview with Rebecca Tamás, co-editor of Spells and generator of WITCH, a collection of poems published by Penned in the Margins in 2019, Reines puts fore her view of the connection between poetry and charming ,
Writing is a transformative act and writing the mysterious, which I interpret as writing what ’ randomness invisible, or obviously inconspicuous, is inescapably connected to writing my desire as a womanhood .
While Reines clarifies later in the interview that the kind of desire in which she is matter to is a genderless one, the centrality of womanhood to witch-lit can not be avoided. In ‘ Thursday ’, Reines describes poetry itself as bound up with a female subjectivity ,
I have a charwoman ’ s heart
Is the appoint of poetry
My stopcock is so huge it touches my woman ’ south heart all the way
Is the make of poetry
In these lines, poetry takes on a penetrative force that does not negate but preferably emphasises its connection to womanhood. The lyric part is both receptive to poetry ’ randomness invasion and the agent of that intrusion itself, the name of poetry contains the penetrate ‘ I ’. This view of poetry and womanhood is unquestionably active, and witch-lit demonstrates an abiding concern with destroying the association between femininity and passivity, with making the inconspicuous seen, the silent heard. In ‘ to purge the desire to write like a homo ’, a poem by Rebecca May Johnson in Spells, the reclamation of the non-male authorial articulation is connected to the occupation of two spaces, the archive and the kitchen ,
enter the archive
it is your body
remember it is
a bang-up many things
will become enter the kitchen
you will find
your body it is
will wield a acuate knife [ … ]
Whether in the archive or the kitchen, female have is rooted in the body. Both scholarship and social reproduction lead us back to ourselves, though merely the latter arms us with a potential weapon. That these active agent moments must follow a purge suggests that historically, to be feminine is to be in some way hidden from full view, not quite intelligible, deoxyadenosine monophosphate well as to be fluent, lunar, cyclic. These experiences have placed the occult feminine subject in contradistinction to a linear, intellectual and controlling masculinity, as Tamás has besides written in The White Review ,
To assert that you like or believe in astrology, or tarot card, or magic trick means asserting forms of cognition which you can not prove, whatever their importance to your life. But such fluid, unprovable understandings are not plainly escapes from rationality. They are ways of challenging what ability and cognition are and might be, and asserting that there might be spaces in which emotion and feeling are valid forms of know ; forms which can encompass a diverse female feel at odds with the structures that attempt to control us .
I find this differentiation uncomfortable, not only because of the imply expectation that as a woman I ought to find it easy to believe in astrology, tarot card or charming. That a terminology which encompasses a female experience is besides one which at some flat opposes rationality ( even if it doesn ’ thyroxine reject it entirely ) seems an unnecessary binary. ‘ [ W ] omen and gay people are as capable of rationality as anyone else ’ Tamás concedes in the essay, but it ’ randomness with a sense that stopping there would be failing to live up to one ’ sulfur entire electric potential for other aroused forms of cognition excessively. But are my feelings not besides, often, an saying of my rationality ? How to know what counts as intellectual cognition and what as aroused ? It ’ second unclear what the measure of rationality is here, except that it seems to rely on a positivist experimental method developed during witch-lit ’ second early bête noire, the Enlightenment. It can make a woman feel like a regretful feminist to defend the Enlightenment, but when I do identify with the figure of the witch, it ’ s through a lens provided by the historical knead of Silvia Federici, who shows us how capitalism functioned to occlude from measurement the rate of women ’ s labour, not their feelings. Witch-lit, however, tells us that this distinction is invalid, that mighty men attempted to destroy the hex as share of the transition from feudalism to capitalism not just because of the indocile dislocation she caused in the classification of generative work, but because her capacity for emotion was besides large and chilling. The historical truth of this is unknowable, but, as Tamás writes ,
history is so old and gross
inflame me up when
wake me up when it actually gets started
If the scholarly history of the enchantress holds little interest for these poets, the witch ’ mho appeal must be located elsewhere. In the same essay, Tamás spells out the precise draw of the hex as chew over, and the especial form of creative expressions she enables ,
My particular occult interest is the wiccan – the witch as an explosively radical female visualize, a web site of resistance, a manner out of secrecy and hush. What she has made possible for me is a newly relationship with poetic speaking, with the power of the word, and with what that ability might make possible for liberatory, feminist think.
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In the theory of poetic language advanced hera and throughout witch-lit, there is an drift to speak, to bear spectator, to confess, to render oneself vulnerable by assertion of know. The hallowed, as Tamás says in the same objet d’art, asks for ‘ have as cognition ’. In witch-lit there exists the cardinal belief that to deny what one is would be to do a greater violence to oneself than the burning post ever could. The witch-poet, then, is a digit created through her relationship to language, her abolition of silence through speaking out, speaking up, protest and intonation. She speaks herself into being, and thereby into the diachronic phonograph record, but in doing so must use an treacherous creature : language. here and elsewhere, Tamás and other witch-lit authors call for an oracular, truth-telling speech, they claim speaking from feel to be a fundamental act of witchcraft. Yet there ’ s an ambivalence in the claim for poems-as-spells about whether the words being said can be relied upon to signify themselves — whether words say what they claim to, or if they are in fact vehicles of a deeper pre-verbal truth. This is a tension I ’ thousand charitable to — poetry fucks with the truth. We don ’ metric ton always want truthful poems. Nor do we constantly want effective poems, though consequence is the value by which a address act ( such as a while ) is judged. But if the meaning of lyric is opaque, how can we use words to make things happen ? What ’ s the charge in casting a spell-poem ? The point is not to change the earth. language can not be trusted with this task ; the spell, like the poem, is besides open to bad interpretation. alternatively, the spell-poem aims to create a new adaptation of the self through magic trick, a version more resistant to the shifting cruelties and misfortunes of the world. The self, as unknowable and unreliable as linguistic process, is the basis and submit of witch-lit, the transmit through which experience becomes cognition without needing external establishment from rational, masculine authority. The spell-poem is a address act that creates the witch, changes her position on, but not her experience of, a growing smell of disempowerment. Spell-poems may help you survive capitalism, but they won ’ metric ton avail you destroy it. Spell-poetry is political, insofar as it chronicles capital ’ s cruelty to the self, but stops short of associating itself with a defined political criticism of our award consequence. Collectivity occasionally has its uses, in anthologies as in covens, but ultimately the witch-poet acts, writes and speaks entirely. Her spell-poems are simultaneously acts of self-creation and self-defense. Amid the cosmic disarray of 2020, this seems a very virtual charming .