I would like to know a lot more about Hindustani classical music than I do. I want to know more about the chord structures and history of this music, how it works as a culturally specific Ecstatic technology. I would like to know a lot, lot more about the history of the Raaga and the traditions that birthed them, I would like especially to know how this history interweaves with both colonisation and the extant South-Asian Caste system/s. We can't talk about Western Classical music without also talking about class history, who has access to certain Ecstasies and why. So I expect a conversation about Hindustani music would incorporate similar concerns. There is a question sitting as yet un-articulated in my research surrounding different types of Ecstasy, and the social, historical and cultural hierarchies that separate them.
I'll riff on this a little as I'm listening, as a means of speaking to Ivan's task for me, which was to map the progression of Ecstacy, its cumulative stages, and to speak to the essentially repetitious nature of many of the practices through which we might achieve Ecstatic states.
I've given it some thought, and to be honest I'm not quite sure how to map the progression of Ecstasy most effectively, mostly because I believe there are so many variations in the Ecstatic path, and they all have their own features, pitch, speed and frequency. But, if I were to make a comparitive study of Escstasy, and part of that were to try and map its differential trajectories, mapping it through either Musicology or Choreography would be a good start, because these are arguably the most culturally ubiquitous Ecstatic technologies that exist. Maybe when I have a more confident grasp of both music theory and dance theory I will be more equipped to venture that analysis.
Speaking for myself, and to this theme of repetition: repetition and duration have been prevailing themes in my art for as long as I can remember- they are governing principle in what I do, and I have always quite conscientiously borrowed from Ecstatic practices and disciplines in order to achieve this. In fact, I would say that my involvement in Ecstatic practices was what was responsible for that pattern emerging. I was able to observe with interest the embodied course of numinous energies, and likewise observe their affects and potentials, because as a young performer I was immersed in Butoh training, Magickal practice, Astanga Yoga and BDSM. All of these disciplines- any discipline really- have repetative elements and gestures, and the cumulative dynamism of the repetition itself is integral to all of them. My grounding in certain physical and esoteric disciplines has supported my arts practice and fundamentally shaped my interests, and my art practice has likewise served to deepen my grasp of those practices. I have always considered myself a Witch first and an artist second. Though in truth neither is subordinate to the other, they are in a symbiotic relationship. Art has taught me almost everything I know about ecstasy, and the ecstatic has taught me everything I know about art.
I have difficulty with talking about the essentially sacred nature of art making when I am speaking as an Aboriginal artist who works within and negotiates with a western colonial paradigm of what art is. It's fraught. Way more fraught than I'm prepared to tackle in a casual blog post. The "sacred", as far as western colonial art and culture configures it, is haunted by the abuses of Christianity as much as by its genuine raptures. Sacredness means something different again when we speak it in Blak space. If I were to position what I do as "sacred" practice within an Aboriginal context, I would be crossing a line culturally- because that is the word we use to denote pre-colonial practices, knowledges and places we are striving to protect. So when I speak specifically about my practice as a contemporary artist, I don't talk at all about the spiritual or sacred intention that is at the heart of what i do. I would much rather talk about art as Witchcraft. First of all because Witchcraft and Rootworking, unlike the ecclesiastically sacred or any other kind of sacred, is ordinary labour. It's every day, kitchen sink stuff . It's denigrated, the same way art often is. It's improvisational and responsive, often about mending cultural fissures that have been created by oppressive forces (the same function which art making has been known to perform). These vast bodies of knowledge represent the spiritual and healing technologies of women, the poor, the desperate, the disposessed, of revolutionaries and slaves. That 's why the humble broom is among its most enduring symbols. So fuck the sacred, really. Let's talk about what it means to be a Witch, and where the ecstatic fits into that.
I was brought up by an Aboriginal mother who taught me to talk to ghosts and a Yorkshireman father who was raised in a multi-generational Matriarchal household Northern Cunningwomen and seers. They were technically C of E, of course, but everyone knows C of E is a fucking con. I met these crones: they were Witches, and declared themselves as such. Both of my parents have complex reltionships to their own magical inheritance (and indeed i have a complex, by which i mean, non-existant, relationship to my parents) and therefore its transferrence to me came with a lot of baggage. That said, I do remember having my first revelatory magickal experience when I was 10, when my father sat me down and tought me to Dowse with a pendulum. This was means of interacting with Earth energies which for him, as a Northern Englishman, was deeply part of his own cultural magickal lineage. For me, that was when I first became aware that I could interact with, and affect changes via, my interaction with non-corporeal forces. It also reinforced concretely what I already knew at that point to be true, which was that the Rationalist Materialist paradigm was totally bankrupt (my 10 year old brain didn't use those words, but that was the sentiment). It was hard evidence that I could affect changes in the world with a concentration of my will and by attuning that will to therhythmic, occupying force of spirit.
That truth has shaped my life as a person and especially, my life as an artist. The path of my craft, both as a Witch and as an artist, has dovetailed with mostly academic, but occaisionally practical studies into the more Patriarchal terrain of Western Ceremonial Magick and its gnarly, bastard offspring, Chaos Magick. I have mixed feelings about Alan Moore but I believe he is actually paraphrasing Austin Osmond Spare when he talks about artmaking as inherently magickal, as an artwork (an effective artwork, at least) being an act of magick. For better or worse, I align with this principle very strongly. Magicians have always engaged with Ecstatic technologies as a means to a Magickal end. Spare in particular, as an early proponent of what would become Chaos Magic, centralised the Ecstatic in his own workings (and spoke about it in a generally much less obnoxious way than his contemporary Alistair Crowley). This is not even to venture to touch upon the role of art in my Matrilineal Aboriginal traditions; frankly the subject is way too vast and complex for me to begin to address here. Witches and Animists of all lineages and traditions dance in circles, work in cycles, with spirals and loops. That is the morphology of our spiritual craft and discipline. I still work with a pendulum to this day.
Music, of course, is integral. Going back to the Raag: Something that you will find in almost all Ecstatic music- from Raaga, to Techno, to drone metal, to ceremonial Yidaki, to Medieval monastic chants, to Jazz- is a governing structure of of ever expanding and intensifying loops. Physically, spatially an sonically, the Ecstatic is has an Oscillating structure. If we think about various forms of Ecstatic dance-as-worship, for instance, they all hinge on a revolving structure that is exponential, but non-linear. It's Ourouboric, and in this sense mirrors the atomic logic of all magnetic life, on both a macro and micro level. Rather than repetitious I would argue that the ecstatic is, quite literally speaking, revolutionary.
As a Queer Indigenous Syncretic Witch (a curious admixture perhaps, but it works for me) I have zero problem pillaging monotheism for things that I find useful. That said, I think much of the prevailing discursive model through which we consider the Ecstatic is one of Ascension. I disagree with this. Wholeheartedly. I feel like this upward-thrusting structure describes a relationship to the numinous which we have inherited from a Judeo-Christian paradigm, and it is not useful. From both an Animist and a Magickal perpective, the Ecstatic, or the experience of the Divine, is not a matter of transcending one lateral plane for a higher one. It is not a top-down relationship. It's as much about sinking as it is about rising. It's about utilising the body and the breath to close a circuit between the celestial and the chthonic, the vulvic and the phallic, the so-called light with the so-called dark, as if any of those things were separate in the first place. Witches, Butoh dancers, Tantrikas, Indigenous Healers (I steer clear of the word Shaman, personally), Alchemists, Daoists (and indeed, Daoist Alchemists) all have different words to describe more or less the same process. For me, as an Indigenous Queer Syncretic Witch , I don't have a name for it. And that it a deliberate choice.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!