I have been a witch almost as long as I’ve been a dancer. Art and magic, choreography and ritual, came into my life at the same time—the same years that I came to acknowledge and accept myself as a queer person.
As I have moved through and between these practices for nearly 20 years, I have come to recognize their deep inextricability in my life. Dion Fortune famously described magic as “the art of changing consciousness at will”—a definition popularized by Starhawk.
What we know as dancers—and yogis and body workers and healers, not to mention athletes, neurologists, biologists, philosophers, and so on—is that consciousness is embodied. To change consciousness at will is a physical practice; making magic is always doing so with and as a body, or as iele paloumpis teaches, witchcraft is a corporeal practice.
We also know that our bodies are part of—not separate from—the Earth. Every part of ourselves is constituted of this place, thus to recognize the Earth as sacred is also to recognize the body as sacred. Or, as Joy Harjo writes:
“Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.”
Over the last several years, I have been teaching classes and workshops on the ways in which we embody the elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These are not symbols and they are not separate from us. These elements compose us, connect us to worlds within and beyond us. Doing this work in my dance practice has informed my magic-making and how I facilitate rituals. It has affected how I understand the elements in astrology and tarot. Invoking the elements, working with their energy and qualities, is to invoke and work with that which is inseparable from our humanity—yet remains irreducible to the human.
On March 1, I premiered a performance-ritual entitled “Elemental Rites at the End of the World” at the Wexner Center for the Arts. This piece is one way in which this body magic is fusing my art and my witchcraft. It is an effort to grapple with the sacred, with the more-than-human, in the context of devastating troubles. How do we call on the deep and abiding resources of our sacred connections to this planet while we as a species also hurdle ourselves through relentless violence and the threat of our own extinction?
You can view a video of this performance-ritual here: https://vimeo.com/325694048
Choreography, performance, and original text by Michael J. Morris
Videography by Abby Koskinas