Danielle Dulsky’s new book (which came out March 10 2020), Seasons of Moon and Flame, drips poetry and takes you on a rich explorative cycle through the 13 moons of each year, with an invitation to embrace the “hag”. It’s not a sit-down-and-skim book. It’s immersive and invites a visceral response and is quite challenging to a person like me who is more used to checking out with a book and not moving until you’re done. Instead, she pushing you to your feet, to dance, to light candles, to follow untrodden paths, to race to message your aunties and cousins and learn the names of your grandmothers back and back and back through time. It’s an invitation to step into your own sovereignty, which is feeling increasingly like THE MAGIC WORD for me these days, as powerful as PLEASE MAY I which pretty much gets my kid my immediate attention. Sovereignty to replace this model of supremacy. Dulsky introduced me to the phrase “generative befuddlement” in this emailed interview – that phrase informed my recent Pique column, and has given me an approach to these strange days we’re living in. Her insights were so intriguing to me that I was moved to share the entire Q+A… below.
LR: Nine weeks into isolation, my hair is greying. I have a few friends who are anxious to rush out to the salon as soon as it opens, but there are a few others saying, “I’m keeping it. I have earned it.” But embracing the word “hag” (let alone the word “witch”) can be quite challenging. Can you talk us through the resistance of this word? What is your advice for those who are timid to reclaim it, and what made you want to reclaim it?
DD: As a Witch and a writer, I am always interested in the less palatable words. The Witch has always existed on the fringes of what is socially acceptable — just on the edges of conformity — and so for myself, the word “hag” is the next frontier. Also, the words “crone” and “Witch” have become pretty palatable these days, thanks to Instagram and the “new Witch movement,” but “hag” still gets to me (and many others). When a concept begins to move from the edges to the center, much like “Witch” has done over the last few years, it is time to keep a side eye on the fringes to see what else is there, and to see what might come next.
The archetype of the “hag” is the wise one. She is the outlaw-elder with the deep medicine, true magick, and best stories. We can find the hag in any number of fairy and folk tales. For me, the hag is in many ways, one of the shadows of western society. We have shunned and rejected the hag, and for that reason, she is who we need most at this peculiar and pivotal moment in time.
LR: We are currently living during a pandemic. Why is this a good time to embrace the seasons and ancient wisdom of moon and flame? What is the role of the witch right now?
DD: This has been a time of deep reflection for many people. For me, these cocooned times have brought me even closer to my own rhythms, and to the sort of life I want to be living everyday. In the absence of our usual escapes, we’ve been brought face to face with the parts of our lives and our world that are unsustainable. If we are being called to build a new collective — and my unapologetically Aquarian heart feels we are — then we’ve got to pay attention to what fragile systems are crumbling so we know what to build in their place.
I don’t think that the role of the Witch is much different now than it has always been, but the Witch lives very close to the Earth and to the elements. The reduced human activity during this pandemic has made nature louder, and has de-centered the importance of humanity, just a bit. This is a time of immense opportunity for creating a true paradigm shift, whether you’re a Witch or not.
LR: Your book Seasons of Moon and Flame is full of rituals, practices and practical suggestions for gleaning insight and clarity. What are your favourite practices for gleaning insight during these uncertain times?
DD: My favorite medicine for uncertain times is to get weird and fall in love with uncertainty. It’s what I call “generative befuddlement.” When we think we know something for sure, and we decide we’ve discovered the answer to everything — or “the one true way” — we are limiting the potential for Mystery to speak to and through us. I’ve been asking my community to get as strange as possible these days. Listen to dreams, build bizarre altars, and try to do at least one thing every day that feels peculiar.
LR: What is the benefit of attuning our lives to the seasonal changes?
DD: We humans love to forget we’re animals. This in turn, allows us to attempt to own and control nature, and so by extension, each other. Attuning to seasonal changes more acutely promotes a subtle but important realization that we are creaturely. In Winter, for instance, many of us do not actually have an embodied desire to consume all the food and drink, buy all the gifts, and go to all the holiday parties. If we look to nature, we can see that this resistance is valid. Nature rests during Winter. But resting isn’t good for capitalism, so we are told to go against our more creaturely inclinations. Attuning to seasonal changes is in effect, a radical act.
LR: Can you say more about how time is circular, not linear, and why that is important?
DD: For me, “time-weaving” is one of my most frequently used practices in spellcraft. It allows us to be met with that feeling of “generative befuddlement” that I mentioned earlier. It is a psychic dance between memory, present moment, and a vision for yourself or the world in the future. You do it until the vision feels just like the memory does. It brings the past and future into the present moment.
For me, it is not only about seeing time as circular. The lines around my eyes are deeper, my fourteen year-old son is six feet tall, and so on. I have these reminders that there is a progression to time. At the same time, I am holding the tension between linear and “spiral” time, knowing that it can be both/and. This strange knowing is a power source. What if the past is still happening and can be re-membered, and reorganized? What if that thing we call “the future” is already here? I like to hold the embodied sensation of this seemingly paradoxical tension and I feel my magick is stronger because of it.
LR: In your experience, what is the importance of community, to ritual and magic making, and how can we cultivate community right now, when so many of us have to keep physically distant from our friends?
DD: I have been calling people to go back through their “feeling mind moments” — those moments from childhood and beyond when there was a fleeting sense of being fully in the flow of things. We have all had these moments. It’s as if your body, mind, and spirit were all bound together as one, and you were completely present in the experience of what you were doing, be it a dance, gardening, or watching the sunrise. Look at the patterns of these moments. If you find that your feeling mind moments are often when you are alone, then a coven is maybe not something you crave. Alternatively, if you your moments are often with others (like myself), then you might want to lean more toward community in your magick. Both ways are true and valid.
There are great online covens and circles available to access right now. I myself run one through the Hag School [https://danielledulsky.com/study-with-me/] which currently has about 200 members. I think a lot of people are surprised at how potent the energy is in our online circles. As Witches, we already know that linear time and space are fluid when we work our spells, so the online environment is just an extension of that, as opposed to a hindrance.
LR: Who did you write your book Seasons of Moon and Flame for and how do you imagine it being used?
DD: I wrote Seasons of Moon and Flame for anyone who is a Witch or Witch-curious. It’s for anyone who feels a kinship with the lunar seasons, who has befriended their longing to belong, and/or is seeking a pagan story, medicine, accessible spellwork and rituals. I hope it is used by many as a magickal reference and bedtime story book.
LR: What do you hope this pandemic pause might offer for the world?
DD: Clarity. I think once the mud settles, whenever that may be, we will be transformed. We will see the fragility of many of our global systems, and we will be tasked with not wasting this opportunity to make the world anew.
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Danielle Dulsky is a heathen visionary, pagan poet, and word-witch. The author of Seasons of Moon and Flame, The Holy Wild, and Woman Most Wild, she teaches internationally and has facilitated circles, communal spell-work, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of The Hag School and believes in the emerging power of wild collectives, cunning witches, and rebellious artists in healing our ailing world. Find her online at www.DanielleDulsky.com.