Beauty, music, bellydance, the Dark Goddess, Nature, magick, ritual-theatre, death and love.

compendium of Aepril's communications on art, beauty, bellydance, the dark, faery tale, nature, magick, ritual, theatre, death and love. The talk of a priestess and shaman of the Dark Goddess.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

serpent moon

Please visit my dance and health diary, serpent moon. I write for one cycle of the moon, new moon to new moon, to create better habits and authentically chronicle my practice.

serpent moon:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hekate, and Aiming Above Morality

Tonight is the Dark of the Moon. It is Hekate's time.

I work with Hekate tonight. She has called me to that. Her call is unmistakable to me, like the time at Winter Solstice 2011 when I stood outside at the crossroads, the liminal space where all is possible and ghosts dwell. Here in Salem, there was an odd winter thunderstorm, and the thunder clapped and boomed, and lightning flashed. Hekate blew the wind through my damp hair, lovingly hissing that yes, change is coming, yes it is. Use your power. Do not pull punches now. Curse, elbow, cut, hex, do what you have to. I'm counting on you to find your way.

The Sun stood still.

And then the Son was born during the night, amid the thunder and wind and rain. And I, one person among billions in the world, felt the awesome power of this difficult birth. Hecate, goddess overseeing childbirth, merged with the Black Madonna for me. The Dark Goddess as One, they were, we were, the Night giving birth to the Divine Child.

We are all the Dark. We are all the Divine Child. We are always both, and contain both within.

The Dark Moon is tonight.Hekate's time.

 The dark moon is a perfect time for divination. And so I pulled a card from the Dion Fortune deck. It was the Ace of Wands, "ROOT OF THE POWERS OF FIRE". The caduceus is shining, with the Sun sitting on top. The card is inspiration and creativity, of living spontaneously and owning power. It is a symbol of psychopomp Mercury, who, like Hekate, is a liminal divinity.

I think of trickster Maude's statement in the 70's cult movie Harold and Maude, " Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully.".

I will go and be with this Goddess tonight. I like Her darkness, and Her liminality. I shall accept change, I own my power, and I aim above morality, so I may live more fully.

I leave you with this video by Hekate devotee Jade Sol Luna, called "Witch Moon". I appear in it as Hekate several times, dancing.

Hail Hekate!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Witch Who Cannot Hex, Cannot Heal ("H" is for Hexing and Healing)

“A Witch who Cannot Hex, Cannot Heal…”.
 This statement is often met with a sharp intake of breath, as though the utterance of the statement is in itself a curse.

  But don’t you know about the threefold law? I do know that some people believe in that law, but I do not. Experience has shown me that there are laws in Nature of cause and effect, that there is the power of intention and attraction, and that all things are interconnected. Nature is not moral; She just IS. She wants balance most of all.

 I think of Jung’s concept of The Shadow. We all have it; we all have dark unconscious material that exists inside the psyche, places that we cannot or will not accept. Places that we’ve pushed down, or shut out, or just don’t know are there, but guide and inform our actions nonetheless.

 I think that if one is to do magick well and with real ovarios, one must be able to truly see oneself authentically. Otherwise there is too much unconscious shadow in the working. If one sees oneself as a practitioner of Light and Healing only, then its almost 100% likely that there is a lot of shadow material present. No one is all light and goodness. To see oneself in this way is willful naiveté. It’s also dangerous. The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.

 I think that in order to be a powerful, empowered Witch, one has to be aware of, and accept, Shadow. We have to know that we have Shadow, and to embrace this part of ourselves. A Witch who is worth her salt must be able to travel into the Underworld and deal with the Shades and Shadows who live there. Like Persephone, we all must become initiated Queen in our own personal Underworld spaces.

 Part of the job of the Queen of Darkness is the ability to curse. It’s just a part of the deal. We must have the balls to use this power sometimes. Not a lot. Not every time someone gives us a hard time. But when it counts, we need to know what we are doing. And we can’t be guilty or ashamed about it. It needs to be owned.

 Because of the laws of Nature, we curse knowing that it will come back to us. "When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."--Friedrich Nietzsche. We lose innocence. Maybe more. But this is the part that takes courage. This is the sacrifice.

 Scorpio, the 8th sign of the Zodiac and ruled by Pluto (Persephone), is the sign that deals with both hexing and healing. Scorpio natives are known for being the best in the Zodiac at seeing deeply into any situation. When unevolved, Scorpio can be all too ready with her stinger when she feels crossed. Then, maybe the need for a new way to handle things comes along, a need to integrate the dark psyche to become more whole emerges. There can be resistance, swinging the other way, a time of going through a “no, not me, I only use MY powers for good!” denial stage. But when evolved, she soars above resentment and denial, and uses her deep powers for knowing the right time for the right medicine.

 We all have Scorpio somewhere in our astrological charts, representing the area in which these transformations can happen.

 “Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.”--Carl Gustav Jung

I think of the veterinarian who has to euthanize the 4 legged. Or the surgeon who must cut into the body to get to the cancer. The friend who must tell the friend about the infidelity. The Fall that takes away the Summer, and the Winter that must give birth to the Spring. Where does the healing end and the hexing begin? And vice versa? They are two sides of the same thing.

Published as a participant in the Pagan Blog Project. This week's theme is "H". 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"G" is for Gwyddion the magick dog

Photo by Pamela Joye

Gwyddion has been a part of our family now for over 6 weeks. A rescue dog from Arkansas, Gwyddie has taken to his New England digs like a fish to water.

A slippery fish at that! Gwyddion was aptly named for the Welsh Trickster-Magician-Hero of Welsh mythology. He is a tricky little fellow, part Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) and, we think, part Pointer. He is quite a joker, clowning at every opportunity he can get, hiding my things, throwing his tennis ball for himself, running faster than the speed of sound, disrupting everything I try to do around the house, highly curious about everything, and even disappearing once or twice.

Photo by Pamela Joye

Gwyddion came to us with the name "DC", short for "Diamond City". His Foster Mom tells me that he was found after he approached the mayor of Diamond City, AR, at their annual Fall fair. (Right to the top!) The mayor was kind enough to take him in, but by law she had to pass him onto the city pound in order to give his "owners" the opportunity to claim him.

They didn't.

Photo by Pamela Joye

So, after 15 days, Gwyddion, aka DC, was released to the rescue group Ozark Homeward Bound. He remained in his foster home with his foster mom Jacki until he was adopted by us!

And how did he end up being found by his parents in Salem, MA all the way from AR?

I was perusing rescue sites online looking up Blue Heelers for adoption. And there was his face! I knew right away that he was the boy for our family.

Deep in contemplation of the wonders of nature in the Salem Woods

I emailed OHB, and they sent me more info about him, along with the phone # for his foster mother. Jacki and I had one of many long conversations about "DC", partly in order to determine if we were a good match.

It seems we were. The day that DC/Gwyddion was transported here from AR (covered as part of his adoption fee along with neutering and shots) is one of the high points of our lives! Michael and I couldn't be happier, Gwyddie brings us so much joy!

And Gwyddie has helped heal our hearts after losing Coda, our infinitely beloved wolf-dog who passed away a few years ago. although I can't help but wish that I had the both of them with me forever. Big and little, King and Jester.

He loves to be chased--and to chase!

And as a public service announcement, I'd like to say this: PLEASE, before you decide to go to a breeder for a dog, please consider adoption from a shelter or rescue group. So many of the Goddess's creatures are sitting in kennels, waiting to be adopted, hoping that they might be the ones to go home with someone special. Rescue dogs and cats are the best! We cannot preach about loving the Goddess and Her great earth while we ignore the possibilities that await us in the love of an animal who has already been born. Why should anyone have to feel rejected, or, worse, face the possibility of death just because no one stepped up and took them home, preferring a new puppy, bred to be bought, over them?

Many organizations will transport a four-legged right to you from far away. Salem, MA, where I live has a great shelter. (For whom the bellydance community here just raised over $1400!) so if you see a dog online and have the intuition that this may be the one for you, ask about transporting.

I can't tell you how much I LOVE GWYDDION! Our magick dog.

I have posted this as a participant in the Pagan Blog Project. This week's theme is the letter "G".

Photo by Pamela Joye 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What is Theatrical Bellydance?

I've been involved in many a discussion about what makes Bellydance "Theatrical".

Let me put forth the Wikipedia definition of theatre, and go from there:

"Theatre (in American English usually theater[1]) is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance. Elements of design and stagecraft are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience."

There has been a trend in Bellydance in which many dancers call themselves "Theatrical" Bellydancers. I am very glad for this! But, I do have one condition for my gladness: that the performances that self-described Bellydancers do are indeed "theatrical". 

Photo by Alison Perkel
By the definition above, one with which I mostly agree, theatricality involves the creation of an experience for the audience and the performer. And I would say that it involves communication, the creation of an "event" through which the participants can be transported to another place and time. Or, conversely, or even simultaneously, become more aware of, and deeply involved in, the present. 

To me a truly successful Theatrical performance makes the audience (even other bellydancers!) forget about the technical aspects of a piece; that they become wholly engrossed in the performance, in the story and the emotional experience.

I recently had a discussion with a lovely student of mine about what constitutes "theatricality". She had mentioned how much she enjoyed Theatrical Bellydancer Anasma's performances, in that they have a story with a beginning and ending, and that her work is inspiring in that way. (I, too love Anasma's work.)

Ruth St Denis
Narrative theatre is one way to express oneself as a Theatrical Bellydancer, and one of my favorites (and one of the most difficult to do well.). I think, too, that there are other ways. There is also "Ritual Bellydance", which has its overlapping areas with Theatrical. Ritual can be a theatre event; indeed, it is the oldest form of theatre, transporting us back to ancient Greek and Egyptian ritual-theatre. The public was able to live out the mythical stories of the Gods and Goddesses through the theatrical-ritual performance of the actor-priest/esses.

There is also cabaret style theatricality, which does not necessarily have a ritual or narrative element, but embodies a character on the stage none-the-less. Through watching the Theatrical cabaret performer we are brought into her world, maybe made to laugh, or cry, or become conscious of our own sexuality or foolishness or grace, or inspired to dance ourselves.

I sometimes see performers calling themselves "theatrcial" when they are not. Let me make a few fast friends here: it is not enough to write a great performance intro to be read by the MC stating that one is the goddess such and such doing a shamanistic ritual theatrical piece about the myth of such and such and then get on stage and do the same Tribal schtick that one always does. No. that is not theatrical. Nor is it Theatrical to get dressed up in an elaborate costume and say one is (Fill in the Blank) and then do a bunch of super-duper moves without meaning. Costuming is important but it is only part of the art form.

No. Theatre is an fine art form in itself. It has technique, theory, history, etc. Many dancers (particularly, eh-hem, Tribal Fusion dancers) will complain that Theatrical dancers are not demonstrating enough "technique" in their performances; that they are "resorting" to "tricks" instead of really "dancing". Oh bullshit. (Though maybe this is true sometimes with an unskilled actress) Again, Theatre itself has a technique, a technique that takes years to learn. And, when done well, it can make the difference between dance that is truly art, as opposed to dance that is a series of skillful moves, which  is craft.

A successful Theatrical piece has both excellent dance form and technique as well as dramatic skill and technique. It also requires an extra element of heart and soul in order to create the magic needed to bring the audience into the experience of the piece. 

To do good Theatrical Bellydance: keep going to Bellydance classes. Study form. Do your drills. But also, study Theatre. Take a class. Try improv. And maybe most important of all: study yourself. Study your psychology. Learn what moves you. Define what you want to express. Take the chance at being emotionally authentic. Be vulnerable. Be bold.

Aepril will be teaching her workshop "A Look Beyond: The Art of Costuming and Male-up for Theatrical Bellydance" on Friday at 6pm at Lumen Obscura in Santa Cruz, CA.