WHY DANCING IS THE ULTIMATE WITCHY WORKOUT

In his latest column, resident fitness witch Russ Marshalek shares how to make your next dance party a witchy workout—whether you’re dancing solo or with friends …

Photo: George Bohunicky

Last weekend, the Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic threw a rave for hurricane relief with her activist group W.A.F.T (Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism).

What are a bunch of witches doing throwing parties and DJing? While using the adjective “spiritual” to describe a dance party might seem cliche, sweaty, unconscious movement to raw primal beats IS a magical thing.

Dancing raises our energy, loosens inhibitions, connects the physical body with the earth, and creates a feeling of “in-between” where anything can happen and creation is limitless. And a great DJ commands a crowd and uses song selection to cast a spell.

As Alkistis Dimech of Sabbatic Dance told me in an interview on the New Jack Witch blog, “For me, [dance] is to do with crisis and transformation. I hurl myself into the unknown, I encounter the ‘other’ in my body. In this way I remember and invoke the witches, demoniacs, ecstatics, hysterics, whores, the mothers who came before me.”

Ultimately, it’s the alchemy of all of this—joy, pleasure, connection to body and spirit—that makes dancing the ultimate witchy workout. An act of spiritual rebellion. Particularly in these times when legislation on and regulation of the body, particularly the female body, is at an all-time dangerous high.

This is reflected in the “radical softness” movement that empowers sensitivity and the body, and in media like Brit Marling’s stunning reflection on dance as resistance on Netflix’s “The OA,” and in the canonical “body as a tool of magic” essay Forging The Body Of The Witch.

So if your dancing body can be a weapon of resistance—be it against that jealous witch in the corner or the modern fascist regime—how can you put it to work? Read on for the Numinous rules of rave …

Ana Matronic and friend at the W.A.F.T Witches Howl hurricane relief rave

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DANCING AT A PARTY

So you’re out dancing. This is the physical work, congrats! There are a few ways you can subtly alter your reality or tweak your consciousness to bring a ritualistic element to your night out.

1) When you first enter the venue, set your eyes on the dance floor/dance area. Imagine it being circled in a ring of white light, ideally one white candle at a time encircling the dance floor. Guess what? You’ve just done a moonshine version of casting a circle! Expect to feel more protected and in control of your dancing body from just from this simple act. (If you can, on your way out, imagine the lights going out one at a time, or fading away.)

2) At the start of the night/party, set an intention, however major or minor, for something you’d like to achieve relatively soon. This could be as simple as finding your favorite flavor of seltzer at the store tomorrow, or more complex, like getting a new job. As you dance, imagine all your movements infusing  that goal with positive energy, grounding it in the here and now.

3) Close your eyes. No, really, close your eyes. Allow yourself to merge with the beat of the music and become one with it. This is harder than you think, and a rapture that seasoned ravers have come to treasure as a way to touch the ekstatik (which, coincidentally, is also the name of the next New Jack Witch dance party!)

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DANCING ON YOUR OWN

1) If you live by yourself, great. If not, kick everyone out for the night, or shut yourself in your room. Take off your clothes. Turn off the lights. Sit with yourself for a moment. Think of something you need release: a care, a concern, a shitty thing your boss said, a voice inside your head saying heinous shit about yourself. Meditate on this for a moment, and recall how it made you feel. With this in your mind, say aloud “Do. Not. Need”. Believe it and feel it in your core.

2) Now, feel your feet touching the floor, whatever that surface is for you. Let yourself feel your feet, the ground, your spine, your body. Take one or two slow forward folds. Then, with your intention firmly set to rid your body of whatever needs to get the fuck out, crank up some music and let your body move. To paraphrase Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper, don’t plan it, don’t overthink it, just do it, allowing the music to flow through you and your body in whatever ways feel right in the moment. Allow any emotions that surface to pass, acknowledging them but not dwelling on any feeling overlong.

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CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC AND YOUR MOVES

Depending what you need and how you’re feeling, one song might be perfect, or nowhere near enough. I’ve chosen 4 songs, one for each element, as a guide …

For instance, for Earth, try rolling around on the ground. For air, make wispy moves. Fire can be big, bold leaps, suited to the drum beats of the track chosen here, and water should be fluid, rolling your shoulders and limbs like a stream (but not necessarily gentle).

Air: Sky H1, “Huit”—think wispy moves and swirling shapes.

Water: Apollo 440, “Liquid Cool” —get fluid, rolling your shoulders and limbs like a stream.

Fire: A place both wonderful and strange, “Hex and the City”—go for some big, bold leaps.

Earth: Corbin, ICE BOY—try rolling around on the ground.

Again, these are just suggestions. Ultimately, this is about you and your body, and what it needs and wants to express. When you’re done moving, sit quietly with yourself for a moment, and offer up a silent thank you to the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits guides that have been your silent dance partners.

TIME FOR CHANGE: 10 SIGNS I WAS LIVING A LIE

As Mercury goes retrograde, the coming three weeks are the perfect time for some life laundry. For Victoria Cox, this meant asking: “am I living a lie?” Artwork: Aneta Ivanova via Behance.net

It’s an unsettling feeling to look back on the last decade of your life, only to discover that you’ve been living a lie. No, I haven’t recently been arrested for identity theft nor do I want to be the next Caitlyn Jenner. What I mean by living a lie is this: upon looking back at the arc of my burgeoning adulthood, I was astounded to discover that the career choices I had made, had never, in fact, been the choices I wanted to make.

There was no gun being held to my head. I made these decisions entirely voluntarily. Succumbing to my own burning desire to please others, I began to emulate a path that would impress my father. Abandoning my creative desires, I launched headfirst into a career in law.

Essentially, I took on what had been one of his ambitions and pursued his goal for myself. All, I can see now, in the hope that he would love me just a little bit more. Of course I didn’t realize what I was up to until much later in life, that’s the power of the subconscious mind. But there were signs along the way, tiny whispers asking if this was truly what I wanted.

Ultimately, it was finally paying attention to these signs that opened my eyes to the fact I’d been faking it all along.

SADNESS: The first sign was the persistent, heavy sadness that was my constant companion. I spent so long convincing myself that I was doing the right thing that I simply chose to ignore it. I knew it wasn’t normal to feel this way, but it took me years to confront my sadness and ask myself that terrible question. The one you don’t want to ask because you already know you don’t want to hear the answer. “Why are you really doing this?”

FEAR: Then there was the fear – fear of making any changes to my life. So, cushioned by my regular paycheck, I chose to play it safe. I convinced myself that it was the fear of losing my job that kept me awake at night, when actually I was afraid of something completely different. I was afraid I was missing out on living MY life.

RESISTANCE: I had always wanted to be a writer, yet I never wrote. Instead of putting pen to paper and creating a story, I created a litany of excuses. I was too busy, too stressed and this was killing off any creative inspiration. What I was really doing was a classic case of self-sabotage; I was refusing to get out of my own way.

DISTRACTION: I would do anything to avoid facing up to the truth of my situation. Cue night after night when, instead of turning on my laptop to write, I poured myself a glass of wine and checked in to see what The Real Housewives were up to. Anything to divert myself from… myself.

EMOTIONAL GUIDANCE: Sensing my malaise, a friend suggested I try a meditation class. Once my monkey mind finally settled I discovered a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in years. Meditation began to show me the true purpose of emotions and how they can actually provide valuable guidance. Quieting my mind had highlighted the fact that anxiety and fear were my sole companions while I was at work. In stark contrast, I discovered that the only time I felt any semblance of joy was in a creative environment.

BOREDOM: Another sign that showed me I was living an inauthentic life was a constant sense of boredom. I was bored by my work and bored with life. I would plan vacation after vacation in the hopes of brushing up against some kind of enjoyment, but nothing excited me anymore. The world seemed to have become one, long, monotonous…nothing.

ILLNESS: Being stressed and unhappy takes its toll on the mind, and on the body. My body decided to give me a sign of its own making, a physical wake-up call. My skin reverted to its teenage years and broke out constantly. I had severe insomnia and my adrenals were burnt out. My body was essentially screaming at me to get my attention the only way it knew how, through sickness.

IDENTITY LOSS: Despite the fact that I was desperate to change my career I hid behind my profession. I used my identity as a lawyer to impress people, because I was too afraid to show them who I really was. Ironically I spent so long holding up this mask as a “successful lawyer” that it was no longer a mask. I had morphed into somebody that I didn’t want to be.

SELF-LOATHING: I was disgusted by the realization that I had let fear hold me back from pursuing my creative dreams. In an attempt to remove these loathsome thoughts circling around my mind, I began journaling every evening. A torrent of hateful words poured forth providing another sign I desperately needed before I could move forward. I now needed to forgive myself.

PERSPECTIVE: The act of writing out my deepest fears in my journal showed me that I was stuck in a victim mentality. Instead of throwing a 24-hour pity party, what I needed was a change in perspective. Why was I choosing to hide this experience in the Life Mistakes folder, when I could file it under Life Lessons instead? Looking at my situation from a fresh perspective showed me that my experience had actually created a swath of writing material. What if I chose to write about my story so that it could help others who were in the same boat?

I’m still a long way off from the writing career of my dreams but that’s the not the point. The point is that each step of my journey has shown me I was living life out of duty rather than desire; acting always to please others rather than pleasing myself.

I hid behind my fears because I didn’t want to face up to the fact that in order to follow my writing dreams, I had to let go of those parts of my life that no longer served me. Yet the very act of finally facing these fears gave me the permission I had been desperately seeking; the permission to pull off the mask of inauthenticity and show my real self to the world.

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: THE SCENT OF A GODDESS, AND 5 EMPOWERING TAROT LESSONS

This week, 5 empowering tarot lessons that helped me past my fear of the cards…

I got over my fear of the Tarot. Confession. As much as I’ve always been attracted to the tarot, it’s also a tool I’ve shied away from as a lot of the time the cards I pull for myself tend towards the negative – if not downright scary! Anybody else with me on this?? It’s one reason I love Louise Androlia’s Tarotscopes, as no matter how “heavy” the message, she finds a way to put an empowering spin on it.

When my friend Elyssa told me she’d got over HER fear of the cards with a tarot lessons from her favorite reader Lindsay Mack (a.k.a. Wild Soul Healing), I decided it was time to move beyond my own pussy-ass position on the tarot, too. So I booked a session with Lindsay – and it was so, so awesome!! Here are 5 key fear-busting take-aways from our 90-minute tarot lesson:

  • Tarot is not a predictor of anything. Tarot is just a mirror, a bridge to an awareness of the answer that is for your absolute highest good – the Truth with a capital “T”.
  • The only thing all living beings have in common is that we all experience evolution. Which means there’s nothing that can come up for you, or happen to you, that isn’t for you. See the tarot this way, and you’ll see that every message in every card is an invitation home.
  • The Major Arcana in particular (The Fool through The World), contain an invitational energy from divine intelligence to ask us to evolve and to wake up. But since our nervous system and brain chemistry prefers the comfort of staying still, evolution and growth will always be accompanied by resistance and fear.
  • Evolution is a process of expansion (excitement about change) and contraction (resistance to / fear of change). “Negative” cards (like the Devil, the Tower) simply represent BIG contractions, to show us where we’re slipping back into old patters, and ask us to examine why this is.
  • Finally, when reading into a card, interpret the message as if you were reading for your five-year old self – with loving kindness, and a protective attitude.

Which is already making me feel way better about my future tarot lessons. If this is where you’re at too, Lindsay suggests a daily card pull to begin to get to know your deck better, with the enquiry: “Highest power, please can I have some more information on the truth with a capital “T” about (insert pressing concern of the day here).”

Oh, and read this book! Rachel Pollack’s Tarot Wisdom

Book a reading or tarot lessons with Lindsay at the link, and follow her on Instagram to find out about her Sacred Tarot School.

I reconnected to Lakshmi. My fave – the Hindu Goddess of wealth, prosperity and fortune. And no, not through meditation, prayer, a badass new Goddess deck, or any other sort of spiritual practice – I simply restocked my supply of Lakshmi fragrance oil from The Goddess Line! Which happens to smell a whole lot like an old favorite of mine, the now discontinued Rumeur by Lanvin…only it’s totally vegan (as in the “musky” element of the scent comes from a blend of oils, opposed to the glandular secretions of actual animals) and chemical free.

V important to me these days, since I had a facial with celebrity aesthetician Christine Chin. Known as “Mean Christine” for her take-no-prisoners approach to pimples, she told me: “perfume is poison to the neck!” As in, the alcohol in most mass market fragrance is what dries out the skin on your neck, causing a crepe-paper effect, enlarged pore and wrinkles. And Christine is Gisele’s go-to. I rest my case.

The Goddess Line Lakshmi Roll-on Fragrance Oil, $30