Tabita Rezaire_Ultra-wet-recapitualtion_The Royal Standard
Tabita Rezaire Ultra Wet-Recapitulation, installation view, The Royal Standard, Liverpool, 2018.
Photo : courtesy of the artist & Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Drawing Down the Moon

Gwynne Fulton
People believed that Aglaonice of Thessaly controlled the moon. The ancient Greek astronomer and thaumaturge — one of 999 women acknowledged in the pyramidal Heritage Floor of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1974 − 79) — was renowned for her knowledge of lunar cycles. Aglaonice claimed that she could make the moon disappear from the sky, gaining herself a reputation as a sorceress. In patriarchal Greek city-states, skilled women were considered not natural philosophers but witches. Making use of this to obtain social power, Aglaonice taught the Witches of Thessaly to use their knowledge of lunar eclipses to “draw down the moon” with their rituals. Her contemporaries tried to discredit her powers as mere trickery, but this missed its true magic, which was to build emancipatory collectivity.

Refusing the binaries of science/magic and technology/mysticism, a new generation of Thessalian witches invoke the moon in their practices. A manifestation of divine feminine power and cosmic spiritual energy, Wiccans continue to weave their spells around the Earth’s only natural satellite, while contemporary artists and activists organize collective gatherings under it. From Isabelle Stengers to Starhawk, TikTok cyber-sorcery to digital covens, there has been a resurgence of witchcraft.1 1 - See Lucile Olympe Haute, “Cyberwitches Manifesto” (2017), accessible online. But there has also been a concomitant rise in new forms of violence against women, trans and gender-nonconforming people who organize in resistance to world-destroying forms of neo-colonial domination. Deploying technology in her spiritual and political rituals, French-born Afrodiasporic video artist and healer Tabita Rezaire belongs to this evanescent sorority. Speculating on the connections between technoscience and ancestral belief systems, her work focuses on everything that orbits around the moon.

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This article also appears in the issue 105 - New New Age

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