There are many ways we attempt to cast the spell of remembrance, to leave our mark, to cause a beautiful and painful ache in our absence even if it is only temporary. This is just another way we strange and intricate humans crave to be loved.Read More
I think about the smell of the earth after it rains when I think about wilderness. I think about wild animals. Speaking personally, I am currently trying to figure out a way to get out of the city. So, I think I embrace these things that make me feel like I'm more a part of the earth, through gardening, or through making herbal products, or through doing rituals with the Moon, or different things that I do just to feel grounded and on the actual earth because, living in the city, I feel like sometimes we get so caught up in the grind of just trying to pay our bills, or trying to be a good friend, or trying to take care of our animals, or trying to take care of our other friends who are upset that we lose sight of the fact that we are actually in the wilds. If we collapsed all these buildings and nobody did anything in a hundred years, then it would all turn back to the wilds.Read More
When it comes to fiction about witchcraft, the canon is limited. That much is obvious.Read More
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She has lead workshops at Brooklyn Poets.Read More
This May Day was completely sans May, and instead a drearily beautiful pastiche of early autumn. The rain-splashed winds in conjunction with the rush of traffic in Times Square made my bell-sleeve floral dress sway gently against my thighs, and I clasped my jacket close to me, smiling through the mist. Sometimes life does imitate art, but I had no idea how fully this chilly Sunday would complement Ivo Van Hove’s rendition of Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible," now on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre.Read More
Hands down, the best decision of my life was joining a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. When I think about my experience, I imagine Mike Teavee from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My poems, like Mike, started out normal sized and a bit naive. Then they shrunk. This tiny poem phase didn’t so much reflect the length of the verse, but instead the humbling of my ego. Everywhere I went, I met beautiful poets and read amazing collections. I currently take in every bit I can of anything that might even closely resemble a poem so that my tiny, metaphysical mind-poem can grow. And that’s just what it’s doing.Read More
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the chief editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She has lead workshops at Brooklyn Poets.Read More
BY LARISA CASILLAS
'Your head is a haunted house.'
Sometime during the Occult Humanities Conference this phrase was uttered and it stuck with me throughout.
Afterwards, during a private viewing of Language of the Birds: Occult and Art (which will show at NYU February 12-13) I was able to see what it meant.
Spanning over a century of occult art, the exhibition has 60 works by different modern and contemporary artists who delved deep into their minds and tried to transcend rationality. The exhibition is curated by Pam Grossman, the creator of the occult blog Phantasmaphile and also the co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference.
"By going within, then drawing streams of imagery forth through their creations, each of these artists seeks to render the invisible visible, to materialize the immaterial, and to tell us that we, too, can enter numinous realms," she writes.
Language of the Birds is divided into 5 sections: Cosmos, Spirits, Practitioners, Altars and Spells. The art ranges from the visually beautiful to the unnerving and intellectually engaging; from Aleister Crowley’s alter ego self-portrait, Ken Henson’s portrait of the goddess Ishtar, Robert Buratti’s dreamy Sub Rosa and Paul Laffoley’s Astrological Ouroboros, with the twelve signs of the zodiac paired with the twelve stages of changes of attitude toward life--each piece challenges you to feel rather than analyze.
Speaking to Luna Luna about the current appeal magic and the occult has on the younger generation, Grossman cited that for women it honors cycles and gives agency, "witchcraft is about embracing the body," she says. And as for men, it gives them the freedom to explore alternative types of spirituality--"you don’t just need one book," she concluded.
Language of the Birds: Occult and Art
January 12 – February 13, 2016
80WSE, 80 Washington Square East, NYC
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
All images via here.
BY SOPHIE MOSS
First airing on The WB in 1998, Charmed is the story of three sisters who discover they possess powerful magical powers and fight to defend their home city of San Francisco against the demonic population. As a curious and defiant fourteen year-old woman trying to make peace with myself and the universe, the three sisters in Charmed represented all that I looked to: they were ordinary women who possessed extraordinary mental and physical capabilities, thereby illustrating a fantastic resistance to the hegemonic gender roles that characterised much of contemporary television. For me, the sisters represented a unique brand of witchcraft, feminism and fantasy, and they did so with wisdom and flare. I saw myself as a fourth Charmed One, fighting both the demonic underworld and the gendered power structures it represented.
What is fascinating, for me, is the way the three sisters encapsulated the tensions of contemporary femininity, and they did so fiercely and unapologetically: They are desiring and desirable. They are independent and dependant. They are superhuman and human. They see and are seen. They are imperfect. They sleep with men who are rotten. They save humankind in high-heels. They are both dependent on, and dismissive of, traditional feminist ideals. It is in this historically specific period that I discovered Charmed, as a young teenager trying to figure out my own identity as a woman.
Prue, Piper, and Phoebe (and later Paige) are as much human as they are super-human. They struggled. Relationships failed. Jobs were lost. Just because Piper inherited the power of molecular manipulation, that didn’t mean her business wouldn’t threaten to go bust; while Prue could astral-project to be on two planes at any given moment, this didn’t give her the power to forgive her father for abandoning her and her sisters when they were young. Yes, witchcraft is here to protect us, and it does. But, as Almásy writes in The English Patient, “the heart is an organ of fire”, and no magic can protect that from being broken. The sisters knew that. In fact, they grappled with it frequently -- most of all, perhaps, in the season three finale, when they learned their hardest lesson to date: that magic could not save the life of their sister, Prue. It was at this moment that the audience were to understand that the Halliwell’s are not defined by their magic, or by their power, but by their humanity: they are sisters first, witches second. It was this display of solidarity, this unwavering loyalty to sisterhood, that played an important role in how I see myself as a woman, sister, and feminist.
Charmed existed in a sort of mid-90s golden-age of the super-powered female lead on television. There was Buffy. There was Sabrina. There were the Charmed Ones. What remains so unique about the latter, for me, is the show’s postfeminist values and the way it challenged traditional notions of what it meant to be a ‘strong woman.’ They were attractive, fashion-forward, individualistic, and sexually experimental. They kicked demonic ass and raised babies. They held down demanding jobs and threw fireballs at ex-boyfriends. The sisters were multifaceted, powerful women with a ‘girl-power’ rhetoric, though never entirely paradoxical to second-wave feminist ideals. What Charmed did, and did very well, was create a whole community of powerful, unique women, or, as Susan Latta writes, “[represented] the interconnection of empowered individuals and collective action.” Power, style, sin, sisterhood, desire: suddenly, these tough girls with innate supernatural capabilities found themselves understood within the wider context of contemporary feminism.
But Charmed wasn’t merely concerned with a popular mediation of femininity. Rather, the show is unique in its representation of an alternative, often marginalised religious paradigm in contemporary media. Focusing specifically on Wiccan philosophy rather than ‘witchcraft’ as an umbrella term, the sisters’ magic is rooted in the beliefs, structure and limitations of Wicca. Granted, there was glitz, glamour and special effects to-boot, but Charmed worked hard to represent the Wiccan faith with respect and accuracy. As Michaela D.E Meyer notes in her essay “‘Something Wicca This Way Comes’: Audience Interpretation of a Marginalized Religious Philosophy on Charmed”, the show’s writers were particularly skilled at weaving Wiccan philosophies into the narrative, such as not using magic for personal gain and an understanding that magic comes at a price.
For me, though, as a young woman obsessed with locked doors and unknown worlds, I found this popular representation of witchcraft entirely accessible. It was as though everything suddenly clicked into place. I devoured all that I could on Wiccan philosophy and Pagan cultures. I created my own Book of Shadows, a grimoire full of awkwardly written spells and uncomfortable rhymes. I would lay an atlas on my bedroom floor and scry for family members. I would stare at glass vases and wait for my powers of telekinesis to kick in. I can still recite “Dominus Trinus”, the spell to invoke the sisters’ powers (In this night and in this hour / We call upon the Ancient Power). As fervently as I waited for my Hogwarts letter, I waited for my powers to come.
But, eventually, that curious young girl would grow into an adult woman with a registry for darkness. While I follow no set religious path, I recognise and honour an innate spirituality. Witchcraft, ritual, spell-casting, the Occult -- these are all important to how I see myself as a woman and writer. I practice the tarot. I collect moon water. I celebrate the seasons. I’m constantly learning to better work with my own spiritual source. Constantly learning to be a better feminist. A better person.
It is this sense of constant growth and personal reinvention that characterises much of Charmed. A recurring theme throughout the series is that of reconciling their witchcraft with their personal selves, their womanhood, and the consequences that come from this. They aren’t perfect versions of themselves, by any means. They make bad decisions and have been known to choose themselves over the Higher Cause. They can be selfish. Piper chooses to marry Leo in secret, against The Elders’ rules. Phoebe falls in love with Cole, a half-demon and later The Source of All Evil, despite her sisters’ disapproval. In many ways, Phoebe is the most feminist of the three sisters, in spite and because of her many imperfections. We see her evolve from a reckless young girl with few prospects into this fierce, successful, loyal woman with great spirit. She put herself through school, worked hard to get a job she loved, and she did it entirely on her own. She grew up fast and hard and well, and did so in a universe filled with demons, death, and madness. But for me, it was her imperfections that made her who she was. She screwed up. Routinely. Fantastically. Sure, she married the Source of All Evil and became the Queen of the Underworld, but she sure as hell came to her senses and vanquished his demonic ass, too.
That’s what’s so great about the Charmed Ones: they never claim to have it all figured out. They’re always learning, questioning, struggling, and they take responsibility for their actions. They know that what’s coming will come, and they face it when it does. That is what I took from Charmed: that to be imperfect is okay. To be human in a world of chaos is okay. I might not be the best version of myself, but I am, much like the Halliwell sisters, an unstoppable cyclone of female strength and femininity, and that’s all my fourteen year-old self could ever have asked.
Sophie E. Moss is a dark witch & literary maven. She writes essays for Luna Luna and poetry for all the people she used to be. @Sophiedelays