After living the lives of Saints, now they are awarded the immortality of witches.
— The Feminine and the Sacred

I was ten years old.  It was Easter Sunday and (as part of a pretentiously small Southern town) I was plopped into lacquered white shoes and a heinous yellow blazer in due and proper form.  And my mouth was moving:

ourfatherwhoartinheavenhallowedbethynamethykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheavenamen.  Then UP (sing from hymnal), then DOWN (draw on tithing envelope while preacher talks, then UP (lip sync “My Father’s House), then DOWN.  Then, row by row, take communion (drink the wine, pretend to eat the cracker), then off we were to lunch and out of our ritual wear.  For “real” life.  Uh huh.  And I daydreamed, drew flowers and mushrooms, fantasized about how the preacher looked in his drawers . . . what were those words?  Why did everyone appear so damn zombified?  Why DID I have to wear pantyhose to access the Divine anything?  Everything was just so preciously . . . organized. Hmmm.  How every antithetical to . . . passion.

Now, I know that over half of my readers might get their panties in a wad over this topic, but I reckon being scairt has never knocked me off a dirt road.  So, let’s get a little mud on the tires, shall we?

Let’s talk about “ritual,” why it’s fab and why I do very little of it, regardless.  (At least, in terms of script, formalized and ritualized.)  Seems to be a point of contention against me, at times, although I am perplexed as to why folks need for me to do what they need to do.  Recently, this criticism came to my attention through a meme:  Can you even lift?  (Y’all ever notice how the Universe slings you a nemesis to keep you on your toes?  Yeah, me too.)  My answer is: yes.  I can do ritual.  Why, I can do a right smart one with the quarters getting called in all the right order and my short ass wearing the right color robes and everything. [1]  The question should be, I figure: Why do you not organize your Sacredness?  Now, that question I can answer.  All day.

Why do you need for me to do so?  

Now, I’m not posturing that my initiations do not occur without some ceremony.  (I like to tell my students:  We don’t stand on ceremony around here.  We dance on it.)  Yes, we have a blessing.  Yes, there are certain Oathes that must take place.  Yes, we hold a ritual sacrifice to our Earth Mother in wine.  And, yes.  We often “go off script.”  Call it magical improv, if you will, but it works for us–and isn’t that the point?  I suppose it comes down to this:  I need to align my words with the energy, not the other way around.  Everything else smacks of performativity in my bones, and performing the Sacred doesn’t bode well in my book.  (I do not posture that all folks feel the same way.  I reckon if that methodology works for them, if it doesn’t feel like performance for them, then: it ain’t.  You see?)  Let’s try this a different way.

Take Stanislavski’s performance theory of “the magic if.”  While others maintained that the skilled actor should echo only the character as a mirrored image, good ol’ Stanislavski insisted that such a performance was not magical transference.  Rather, he theorized that the (ethical?) actor should consider the “magic if,” or consider what if all of the character’s surrounding factors were his/her own and then act only from that place of resonance.  It transformed the stage, this magical thinking, and made the performance something so tangible that it became, in essence, real.  [2]  Give me that kind of performativity or let me out of the theater.  I need a cold beer and a cigar under a silver moon.

Let’s try it yet another way.  How about a little French feminism up yor’ bum?  (snicker)

All magical, purple-embossed and Amazon-hosted witchcraft books aside, the text that ultimately changed my life and stripped away all performance from my communion with the Great Mother was The Feminine and the Sacred.  Any Priest/Priestess in training under my wing must, must read every single word, regardless of education.  For its rigor, candor and downright bloody articulation of the Sacred, it cannot be beat.  The crux of Clement and Kristeva’s argument follows:

That is what you express so aptly as the “transitory quality” of the sacred.  As long as it is provisional, the sacred is indispensable.  If it “holds” too long, pathologies get mixed in with it, the unsteady structure reconstitutes itself with even more assaults than before, nothing new comes of it, and the conflicts increase.  The “blow”–the salutary shock–of the sacred is a miss.  The sacred is thus productive only in the transitory.  

I’m sorry, y’all.  But you have to hear the whole thing:

The sacred, if it is carefully monitored, can serve a good revolt.  What must be monitored?  It’s extension.  The sacred belongs to the private sphere, from which the rite stems, even if it is collective.  Initiation, ritual, healing, love itself have to do with individuals.  When the revolt contained within the sacred leaves the sphere of the private, it can become murderous.

I know, I know, but hold on a minute:

A “private” sacred, therefore, since, as soon as it claims to become public, it totalizes and turns into totalitarian horror . . . nevertheless, it is in the sharing of it that the sacred unveils its risks as much as its vitality. [3]

Now, let me do some good ol’ fashioned Southern unraveling of these French fantastics:  when you put a bit on that horse, all of the transitory (changing, flowing) thumpin’ begins to rot, to turn wine into undrinkable water, and becomes a colonized and broken thing that has forgotten how to run across fields and rear against sunsets.  Everything we loved about that horse, when contained, is gone in a flash of good will and dogma.  I’d rather ride the horse bareback.  Ary time.

“If it holds too long, pathologies get mixed in.”  Well.  Amen.  We then are only replicating, performing someone else’s part, rather than considering the “magic if.”  Am I arguing against ritualized phrases, processes, acts?  Naw, sugar.  I am arguing for my right/rite to surpass them as a seeker of the Sacred.  I am arguing, like a woman against the Catholic priest who blocks her view of heaven, for the place of ecstasy in my experience of the Sacred.  I am arguing for “revolt” in place of dogma, transcendence in place of performance and the rapture of risking the loss of a lock-step relationship with my Goddess and gaining . . . everything.  Improvisation, inspiration, ad-libbing in ecstatic, non-standardized testing of my spirit against the Universe.  That’s all.

Do I even lift?  Why, sure, honey.  I just do it bare back and no-holds barred.  My bad.  But, damn.  You oughta feel that weight when it hits the heavens.  And if that didn’t quite get it:  you ever seen a child dance?  Raise chubby fingers up to the stars, twirl, sing in rapturous abandon with dirty feet?  Yeah.  Me, too.  Now.  Tell that child that the Great Mother couldn’t hear her because she went off script.  Go on now.  Tell her.

Me in 1966: raised on barbecue

Me in 1966: raised on barbecue

For all of those who break the chains of dogma, linguistics, and institutionalized anything,


1.  I wish things would never “come to my attention.” Some folks don’t have the taste Goddess gave a goat.  

2.  Stanislavski, Konstantin (1937). “An Actor Prepares,” (reprinted 1988). United Kingdom: Methuen Drama, LTD.

3.  Clement, Catherine and Julia Kristeva.  The Feminine and the Sacred, New York:  Columbia University Press, 1998.

Seba O'KileyComment