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The witches’ dance

I am looking forward to returning to Seattle to speak at the 2018 Texts and Traditions Colloquium. Organised by Mortlake & Company, the colloquium will take place on 15th and 16th September, and is host to authors, publishers, artists, and booksellers participating in the unique field of esoteric thought and practice. On Sunday 16th I will share my work on the witches’ dance (abstract below); not a conventional history, but affective, and informed by my own explorations of landscape, dream and movement. More on the other presentations and participants can be found on the event website.

There is no assembly carried on where they do not dance.
— Jean Bodin, On the demon-mania of witches (1580)

The witches’ dance is one of the central motifs of the sabbat, a diabolic fantasy elaborated in the writings of demonologists such as Bodin and De Lancre that has the power to move us still. In this talk I will trace the haunted kinaesthetic and psychic territories of witchcraft through the sabbatic dance. In the first place, I situate the dance in its socio-political context, showing how it emerges from a history of disorderly movement and unruly bodies: from popular seasonal festivals and folk dances to the dances of death, disease and ecstasy that periodically irrupted in medieval Europe. Following this, and drawing from my own practice, I will examine aspects of the witches’ dance that are suggestive for contemporary practitioners of magic and dance to explore.