Queer Magic is Real
by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn
Presented 27/10 at SDP Season of the Witch
I am a ritualistic person. I give objects meaning and power by placing them on altars. I write down my intentions and burn and bury them. I try to pull a tarot card everyday.
These practices are representative of my poetics, a queer poetics, which is interested in experimentation, sincerity, the personal as the political, transparency of privilege and a subversive quality of self i.e. as someone who passes as straight in the day to day I can find ways to use my passing power for good.
I believe the occult offers something to queerness that comes out of oppression and moves toward empowerment.
What I reference when I say queerness is a politicized identity that puts up active resistant to heteronormativity and actively tries to build a non-oppressive world.
As we know, the occult holds a loaded and various history. The colonized occults history is vast, continuous and present. It is racialized and gendered.
Rachel Pollock defines the Occult broadly in her book Tarot Wisdom, "Occult simply means "hidden" and the term refers to a tradition and a set of ideas considered by its followers as a scientific description of different dimensions of existence."
The word "hidden" stands out to me specifically as it relates to queer histories. Broadly, I think of notions of queer time, meaning a queer experience does not have the same trajectory, visibility linearity of heteronormative time. I think of the location of queerness relationally to hetero-cis-normativity as it is often defined by difference.
When Pollock says, "different dimensions of existence" I think of the self as a site of holding various identities simultaneously and that this is some how queerly energetic, liminal and simultaneous.
In my own writing and performance, I find myself creating or seeking queer magical sites as portals of possibility, inspiration and manifestation.
I'd like to offer you, 3 queer magical sites as examples of a queer poetics in contemporary writing through the Occult lens.
Queer Magical Site 1: Gaymous Music Video:
Oakland pop synth duo Gaymous recently came out with their second music video, titled Femme on Femme.
I turn to the online publication, Autostraddle, to describe the video, "a queer wonderland of magic, sex, kink, and femme on femme goodness. We get gorgeous fat femmes in skimpy black lingerie, femmes of different abilities, femmes of color, and femmes kissing and teasing and seducing femmes. the rituals begin.
Autostraddle also gives us some insight on what kind of political work this video is doing,
"Celebrating femme on femme desire through a queer lens is important. Femme identity is often positioned as dichotomous to butch identity, as though femme gender expression and desire only has meaning in relation to masculine gender expression."
So here the Occult performance becomes a magical site of body positivity and a critique on misogyny in queer community. It empowers and makes visible being femme on purpose. It pushes up against the gender binary through its intentiality and uses the Occult as a site of empowerment and reclamation.
As I watch the video, I see a rejection of the essentializing white cis-female witch and a moment of intersectional empowerment met. It is this intersectionality that is important to developing a queer poetics that considers the way racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.
Queer Magical Site 2: "the meshes an iteration in 2 acts"
The play is a part of my forthcoming book, the meshes. The book itself is written through my encounter with the filmography of Maya Deren. I follow her work through her silent avant-garde films and the documentary, the Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti.
I adapted the play in the book for a performance at SAFEhouse Arts in SF. This adaptation was very collaborative and my dear talented friends: Stella Peach, Ivy Johnson, Kate Robinson, Tessa Micaela, Cheena Lo, Zoe Tuck and Madison Davis all performed in it.
The play is an embodiment of the manuscript. A ritual of making and relatonality.
I ask, what is a queer poetics? How does it manifest? Is this book/this play a queer text?
One way a queer poetics is visible in the play is the embodiment of the text, occupied by queer bodies as well as the audience gaze or the encounter with the embodied text.
I think too it is a queer text in its iterative form. With each performance and adaptation there is a transformation. The text finds itself holding multiple identities simultaneously through its multiple iterations. This holding is also representative of a fluidity of making, perhaps a queer conjuring.
The play becomes a ritual, a spell an honoring or a dream. It manifests "different dimensions of existence."
Queer Site 3: The Collective Tarot
The Collective tarot defines itself in the introduction to its guide as, "Imagining a world where social justice is realized- prison is abolished, capitalism and colonialism are totally dismantled-requires creativity, perseverance, clarity and most of all faith that another way of being is possible [...] We intend these cards as a tool, which can help us in a world where struggle can be exhausting, and help strengthen our sense of community, and make hope a genuine feeling and place of action."
The Collective Tarot reimagines the Major Arcana imagistically and even replaces some card titles for instance the Wheel of Fortune, The Emperor and Justice become Liberation, The Code and Accountability.
The Collective Tarot also plays with its representation of the Minor Arcana: changing the Wands to Keys, the Cups to Bottles the Swords to Feathers and the Pentacles to Bones.
Notably, the court cards switch from the gendered representations of the page, the Knight, the Queen, the King to the Seeker, the Apprentice, the Artist and the Mentor.
This choice is made based on an attempt towards inclusion and a replacing of images that reinscribe cis-heteronormativity, ableism and white supremacy.
I believe the daily practice of the Collective Tarot is part of its magic. The more you practice the stronger your power.
I suppose the Occult offers itself as a lens in which to reimagine. It offers possibility. In tarot I pull a card and it zooms me inside of myself. I pull something out and I examine it. This just an ephemeral moment, a daily inspiration, a poetic instant.
I use queer magical sites to create intentional space to consider my position and role in this world, and in my relationships within queer community
I am interested in creating spaces, texts, performances that push up against the erasure of intuitive knowledge, emotion intelligence by a capitalist patriarchal system and also to address my own internalizations of that system, the complexity of my own cis-white privilege.