CW: Discussion of rape, filicide, matricide
My plans for writing a blog today went totally off the rails, so I'm now writing this on my phone in bed at 1 in the morning. I hope you will all forgive me for my late posting. I have a lot of things circling my mind tonight but I'll start with one that will be the most relevant to what I originally envisioned this blog to be. I have had something of a breakthrough in regards to my Greek adaptation play.
Over the past couple weeks I have been reading (well, rereading in most cases) both classical Greek plays and modern adaptations. Originally going into this project, as early as two years ago, I thought I wanted to adapt the story of Phaedra, or Hippolytus if you're familiar with that telling. I think this was mostly because I was so awed by the raw storytelling I found in Sarah Kane's Phaedra's Love that I thought to myself "that! That is what I want to be doing!" I still think Kane's play is earth shattering in a lot of ways, check out an original review here, but over the last week especially I've been thinking about what I want to do with my adaptation.
I'm somewhat of the opinion that adaptation for adaptation's sake is just fanfiction, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I know it isn't what interests me right now. I kept thinking back to Portland Shakespeare Project's version of Pericles Wet by our own Ellen Margolis. And while I don't want to butter Ellen up too much, because I've definitely been guilty of that in the past, that play has stuck in my mind for almost three years now. In her adaptation of Pericles, a kind of nothing play by Shakespeare (Maybe? Check it out here), she explores the women characters from the original play and asks what their relationship with each other would be like.
I knew I wanted a story that wasn't just about Greek men being manly and imposing their will on the world, and I wanted a story that was queer in a gentle and tender way instead of the oft reported "fight for dominance" who's-on-top-is-the-real-man bullshit that Greek men recorded centuries ago. A queer story about Greek women (and trans people if I'm lucky although these are hard to find since no one wrote them down.) I wanted a story that, like Margolis' Pericles Wet, dug deeper into characters who don't get to have much story in their original plays, and perhaps even exist as merely devices or stereotypes.
I kept finding myself drawn to the stories of Iphigenia and Clytemnestra. (If you're unfamiliar, the wiki here will catch you up) But I was nervous that I felt drawn to this story because I recently watched The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which is a loose adaptation of Iphigenia in Aulis. I didn't want to piggyback on anyone, like I had almost done with Kane's Phaedra's Love. So I took some time, again very late at night, and spent a lot of time brainstorming what interested me about the women in Agamemnon. Surprisingly what I found most interested me was the representation of Clytemnestra's relationship with Cassandra, the kidnapped princess of Troy that Agamemnon makes his sex slave. In all the versions of this story I could find Clytemnestra was jealous and hateful of Cassandra and this led to her (or her boyfriend) killing Cassandra as well as Agamemnon. That just didn't set well in my tummy you guys. Supposedly, Agamemnon leaves for the Trojan war after sacrificing Iphigenia, his and Clytemnestra's oldest daughter, he's at war for 10 years, kidnaps the very young princess and r*pes her, and then brings her home as his sex slave. Clytemnestra knows that she wants to kill her husband for sacrificing their daughter, and she knows that he's bad news for the kids and so she sends her other daughters away. Electra and Chrysothemis are literally not around when she kills him. But her plans are upended when he brings home his child sex slave that's born him twins. Clytemnestra has to be in at least her 40s by this time and Cassandra is the SAME AGE AS HER DAUGHTER WAS when she was killed.
I don't want to give away too much more of the story I have figured out so far, but my mentor Charlene should be very proud of me that I have a full outline for literally the first time ever.
In a little bit of personal news, I may be having my top surgery as soon as November and I am having a whirlwind of emotions about this. I want to start doing some research in post-op depression and finding out what kinds of rituals I can set around my home to help me with that. We're having Shabbat dinners at my house now, and we are doing weekly Tarot to help keep us centered with ourselves, and it feels amazing.
See you all next week!
I know I’m a day behind in my weekly posting, and it’s only the second week so that’s pretty embarrassing. However, if you guys had known me when I was writing fanfiction back in the day, you’d know that sometimes deadlines mean nothing to me. This is a little different from my Fruits Basket fanfic that I never went back to, because I’m primarily writing it to discover what I’m learning, to help me put things into words. It’s like a public diary because I literally will not write just for myself. I need you all to help keep me accountable. I’ve read two of my new books that I ordered for myself last week, both of them were titled Queer Magic, which is a little on the nose. The first one was Queer Magic: Power Beyond Binaries, an anthology of sorts edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulyston. Check it out here. These were very powerful pieces of writing and art that pushed back against the assumed norm in pagan and wiccan circles. They spoke to cultivating a culture of inclusivity in covens and circles, and detailed many ways to do so.
I learned about queer black tantra and the ways that BIPOC queer pagans were navigating the waters and carving out their own spaces. I also learned a great deal about the ableism that is prevalent in pagan spaces, and ways that disabled folx are fighting back against that.
Something really powerful happened to me while I was reading this book, I felt very strongly that I was not the first person to question the status quo of wicca and other pagan traditions. Last week I was feeling vulnerable and alone and scared and I found myself wondering if paganism in a grand sense would ever be right for me. It was shockingly similar to the way I felt when I left Christianity in 2012, wondering if I’ll ever be able to mold myself to something that could fit into a religion. The works that Lee and Tai included in their book (Seriously you guys, read it) gave me a strong sense that powerful and loud voices were on this journey with me, even though I am mostly a solitary practitioner of magick.
It was the same feeling I had when I was at the BLM protest downtown, that I am one of many, and that the many is full of love, strength, and power.
Reading Tomás Prower’s Queer Magic: Lgbt+ Spirituality and Culture from Around the World felt akin to reading a thesis essay about queer mythos from old religions. Check it out here. I did find this very interesting, especially because I learned new myths from traditions close to my heart. Learning about the queerness of existing mythos did help me to feel solid in my desire to question the heteronormativity and cisnormativity (what’s the word for this thing but about the assumption that everyone is endosex?) that I’ve seen in wicca and pagan circles.
Why are people so eager to cling to this tired idea of “Lord and Lady” when there are a myriad of queer stories staring you in the face?
Something I find myself coming back to is that even if “Lord and Lady” is the one true way to create life (It’s not, but just go with me here) why must we confine the spiritual and divine to those biological (again, this is wrong, but just play pretend with me) truths? Who cares what biology says, the spiritual plane is different and anyone can be anything.
In beginning to think about my own practice and what it will look like, I find myself drawing away from forming attachments with deities that are traditionally represented as endosex and cisgender. I love Diana, but maybe she’s not right for me. I have a feeling it’s going to be time to do an awful lot of soul searching and research to figure out the representations of the great spirit that feel right to me.
I’ve also been very lucky to help along Jess, my platonic partner, with her own spiritual journey. I won’t say too much about this since it’s her personal information, but even though we are on different paths and following different traditions, I feel very lucky to be at her side.
In the coming week I’m going to be diving into more reading of adaptations. I’m going to be reading Kane’s Phaedra’s Love again and comparing it to earlier versions of the story. I’m also going to be diving into Chi-raq and rereading Lysistrata.
See you all next week,