Moon Church — the Brooklyn-based sisterhood of witchcraft, pagan, and occult devotees — bid farewell to Fall on Wednesday and celebrated the release of its first quarterly zine, Autumn Equinox, with a night of poetry, performance and ritual moon worship.
Thankfully, the gathering at Bushwick’s most talked about esoteric bookshop, Catland, wasn’t the kind of zine release party where everyone knows you have to bring your own tallboy and in-scene snob glare. Nor was it some dark magic secret society meeting, or your weird Aunt Moon’s cat-infested horoscope reading circle. Non-practitioners and moonlighting occultists alike were welcomed, and laughter was just as much in order as were the (I’m not gonna lie) slightly creepy moans from crossed-legged dudes who were definitely having “a moment” and almost certainly responsible for the hints of armpit poisoning the incense-heavy air.
An abundance of drinks (rl spicy Bloody Marys, guys) infused the candle-lit, black-out painted room with just the right amount of buzz. Sure, there were somewhat forced moments of solemnity that echoed a teenage slumber-party seance. But add in music, film, and poetry readings complete with visuals and acrobatic authors, and a pagan moon-worship ritual featuring a nice looking naked girl and you’ve got yourself some Fin-de-Siècle Vienna shit, though with a grittier Bushwick edge of course.
Moon Church members Asha Man, Anna Fitzgerald, Susannah Simpson, and fellow Bushwick artist and friend Jillian McManemin took turns chanting poems between sets, heightening the ritualistic feel of the affair. And ethereal music was provided by local Brooklyn acts, including folk-psych musician Christina Caceres, surf rocker Bundlelyn (aka Elaina Morgan), and ambient act Ivy Meadows (aka Camilla Padgitt-Coles).
The pinnacle of the evening arrived with the pagan moon ceremony performed by Samantha “Sylena” Tomarchio and Danielle Mamie Duguay. Moon Church members called for everyone to quietly take their seats as the room filled with the scent of burning sage. As the room fell silent, one of the performers, wearing a black velvet cape, crouched down on the ground and started to flail about wildly as if possessed, thrashing up and down the center aisle between the spell-bound audience. Seemingly everyone was holding their breath. A woman in all white sat quietly on stage, a spotlight moon loomed behind her. When the caped girl ceased her savage fit, she joined her pal on stage who calmed her by anointing her with “Moon Milk” (the contents of which remain a mystery), undressing her, and reclothing her in a matching white nightgown. The performers recited some breathy spells to conclude the ceremony.
To clear some of the (Moon Milk induced?) morning-after fog, we spoke via e-mail with Moon Church co-founder Asha Cherian (aka Asha Man), to see what it’s really all about.
We always approach our events with love, a feminine high vibration, show-casing the powerfully talented women in our community whose creative pursuits we believe in and want to share with the world & care for curating each detail. As long as any event we do is true to our shared passions and our community, it’s always a success. In the past we’ve done moon ceremonies, goddess circles, healing tantra workshops, casual magic ritual workshops and dance parties — a wide range of events; some female-bodied only, others for everyone.
Our weekly Council meetings have been happening at my apartment in Williamsburg. But we all met in Bushwick and we are all inspired by the energy of Bushwick, the possibilities that energy represents for us and the world. Each of the 8 women in the Council, the founders, are free to initiate events and projects that inspire each of us as individuals. We come together as a collective to support those endeavors, to support one another. Everything is inspired by our deep commitment to art, nature, music, women & creativity in all forms.
I haven’t personally heard anyone expressing animosity to or about us. However there is widespread misunderstanding about and misassociation with our project in the press, mainly in terms of people judging us for our youth and idealism or associating us with “millennial hipsters,” a label none of us self-identifies with (really, who self-identifies with this lame moniker?). I personally don’t see this identification as productive or interesting.
Moon Church isn’t interested in dogma. Instead we’re into social practice, universal love & seeing the world with sensitivity to ideas of oneness — oneness with the earth, oneness as humans, oneness as living beings. We are all one; it is all one. All of our practices, rituals and events stem from this shared worldview as well as a common inspiration for the creative life. We do have shared interests in paganism and spiritualism, none of which are exclusionary, fixed or reflective of prescription to one tradition in particular. We are inspired by numerous goddess traditions as well as a mutual enthusiasm to create our own way, a new way, together.
Have you been accused of simply being part of a recent “trend” toward an interest in witchcraft and satanic aesthetics? This is undeniably sort of “fashionable” right now — I’m pretty certain you can buy a 666 t-shirt at Urban Outfitters.
Again there is widespread misunderstanding about us in the press. A lot of the stories about us thus far have been trend pieces, not arts/culture pieces, or a piece in another section that engages our vision and represents us according to our collective passions and commitments to our larger community of women.
If I can be candid, we aren’t that interested in press to begin with, but we do want women to know there is a safe, welcoming community of women interested in supporting them with love and openness. None of the stories done on us even mention the fact that we gather as women — that we are a women’s organization, one that seeks to share and create with like-minded men and women of varying backgrounds and human experiences.
In January of 2013 we officially started meeting as a group of friends who met at Body Actualized, the loving mother community that birthed us. It’s hard to deny that witches and moons have been aesthetically commodified for profit by various fashion, music and press outlets. I personally see the subtext of this cultural shift as reflective of a larger subconscious or cultural unconscious understanding that we are living in the dawn of a new age, one that is more accepting of the unknown, of non-rational forms of knowledge, as well as elevating the figure of the woman in unprecedented ways. The karmic moment for the modern woman is now. We are all goddesses!