Blessed Be #6 with Moss Angel Witchmonstr
Moss Angel Witchmonstr is a feral transsexual living in Oregon. She writes books the size of your hand or bigger. She lives beautifully among the ashes of her respectability, which she finally burned in the deepest heart of the sun earlier this year. Her newest project, Sea-Witch can be read online (patreon.com/monstr) or in print form — Sea-Witch vol. 1 is out from 2fast2house/oh! map books in January.
BBF: Can you share a bit about your creative practice? What is your origin story as a writer? What are some of your other passions, practices and ideas?
MAW: My creative practice is mostly cathartic and unstructured. I write when I feel like I can write, and do so mostly with whatever is at hand. Most of Sea-Witch’s first drafts were written on my phone in the iPhone notes app. I have on a number of occasions written pieces while in the midst of or while recovering from panic attacks or breakdowns of some kind. Sometimes, while in the middle of a particularly emotionally harrowing experience the only way I can feel okay is to pull out my phone and write about how Strawberry-Witch feels or whatever.
My origin story as a writer is that I started out writing in high school as an incredibly oblivious person who didn’t know who she was at all. I even thought I was a boy. Go figure. Anyway, I wrote a lot of things that were sort of pretending to be song lyrics for bands I liked. I started writing and playing music in college and did seven years of writing and recording and playing and touring. Trying to write some kind of absurdist folk-pop concept albums that never quite came together. Then after grad school, I got involved in a literary scene in Chicago because my ex-wife was in an MFA program there. The scene at the time had a lot of folks writing flash fiction and prose poems and things that were somewhere between those two things and that was kind of what I locked into. I was writing a lot of neo-surrealist prose poetry stuff. My second book, Sara or the Existence of Fire was my first attempt at linking surreal prose poetry into something that was kind of like my concept albums. It had a main character, Sara, which was definitely me allowing myself to be projected into a sort of idealized feminine version of myself. Imagining my post-transition self. Sea-Witch is sort of taking the little bit of world-building I did with that and making it the main focus. I love arcane worlds and unknowable mythologies and Sea-Witch has been my chance to let myself build a world that has all of my observations and impulses about our world and my experiences of it embedded in its structure.
I also love doing visual art, especially design. I’ve designed all my books. As I’ve become less and less attached to genre I’ve become more and more attached to focusing on the book as a form that I can create every aspect of.
BBF: Can you describe your relationship to the occult? Do you have any daily practices?
MAW: My relationship to the occult is similarly cathartic and unstructured. I create my own rules and practices and break them as often as I follow them. I consider art to be holy and I consider the holy to be art and I don’t make a lot of distinction about whether I’m doing something for aesthetic or spiritual reasons. I love sigils, which in my practice aren’t derived from specific intentions but instead are just symbols that come to me fully formed. I do a lot of stick n poke tattooing on my own body and these sigils are the first things I did that with. A lot of my personal magical sigils are in my books. Tattooing is a holy practice to me. I also love rituals, and I love sacrifice. My occult practice is inherently anarchist and anticapitalist and the most valued thing to sacrifice is your own respectability. We live in a world that runs on respectability and sacrificing something that is so valuable to that world is an incredibly holy act. This is why I have tattoos on my hands, one on my face. This is why I plan to change my last name to Monstr soon. Being other and outside is a position of occult power and a position from which you are least likely to be tainted by the whims of those people who control and manipulate the world around us on an everyday basis. The elite. They can get you anywhere, though. You have to be always vigilant.
Sometimes I like going into the woods and building bonfires. Sometimes I like eating acid or mushrooms. Sometimes I like fucking another trans girl in a particularly holy way. Sometimes I like building something intricate and complicated and meaningful. All of these things are beautiful and sacred for me. I need them to get by and feel okay with the universe or whatever name for it I have decided fits at that moment.
BBF: What do you think about the relationship between the personal and political? How does this show up in your writing, your day to day, within your relationship to the magical?
MAW: Oh wow, I think I pretty much already answered this. The political is constant, all around us. Capitalism is a totalitarian system and we are controlled by it at every turn. White supremacy, borders, prisons, colonialism, these things run our world. They are immediate and they are everywhere. How we choose to interact with them is important. Even if it’s just to survive. My relationship to the magical is about survival. I am a mentally ill person who has dealt with some very bizarre brain shit and the magical is about living in a reality I can stomach. It’s about not killing myself. My writing is probably the most concentrated version of this practice. It’s where all of these things in my head and in my life come to the finest point and manifest themselves.
It is me explaining myself and the world around me to myself and the world around me. My friend Jade made a meme that says “Capitalist ‘reality’ is a farce.” This is how I understand the world. I refuse to live in their reality other than the amount I have to, for survival.
BBF: I am very excited to have joined Patreon and become a subscriber to read your book Sea-Witch as it unfolds. I am excited to witness the process of this work, also coming out in tangible book form in January 2017. Congratulations! I am interested in some of the ways you describe this work online. The text is a multimedia work that you describe as an “occult mythology of contemporary queer transness through an anti-capitalist lens.” Can you expand on this description? How does this manifest in the work?
MAW: I think I got at some of this already, but first I want to clarify that the book coming out is only volume one of Sea-Witch. What is on the Patreon is going to be the entire series. Currently the text on the Patreon is over halfway through volume two, which probably won’t be out until late 2017 or 2018. I’m setting it up so I can keep writing this book forever. I never want to finish it.
I think mythology is the way we make sense of our world. Living as we do in the totalitarian capitalist hellscape (and if you don’t think it’s a hellscape, that is because someone is giving you the privilege to live in a way that lets you out some of the hellscape), it only makes sense that I (we?) would have a need to create a story to keep our perspective on straight. There are so many fucking head games that get played by capitalism that keep us locked in its perspective. The goal with creating a mythology against capitalism is to have a framework through which what is real and good can be valued and separated from what exists for the means of manipulation, harm and control. As for why it’s gay and trans, well, because I’m gay and trans and because capitalism hates gay and trans people and because god dammit we need some more of our own shit to call our own. I want to make this for all of the broke ass fucking crazy trans girls who barely make it through each day without killing themselves. Because I’m one of them. And because I love them so much and I know we are gods.
BBF: I am also interested in the fact that this text has multiple forms, that it accessible online a bit at a time instead of all at once and will be available as a holdable object. What made you decide to include the text both in process as well as in book form?
MAW: There’s actually another layer to it. There are the Patreon updates, which are the smallest, most immediate way to consume, then there are multiple print volumes which are the next biggest, next most immediate way to consume, and then if someone really wants to, they could wait to read the final collected edition of Sea-Witch. Who knows what year it will come out and who knows how many pages it will be, but it is my long term goal to make this happen. And then after I finish Sea-Witch I’m going to quit poetry/fiction and write a collection of experimental plays.
So, there are all these levels on which I get different amounts of material support and artistic satisfaction. I get the most material, monetary support from the Patreon, which helps me to be able to live and feed myself, but probably the least artistic satisfaction from it. I get less material support from the books, but a whole lot more artistic satisfaction. I imagine I will get the least material support and the most artistic satisfaction from the final collected version, but this is just a theory right now and I can’t prove it.
I’ve been dissatisfied with how the literature world expects me to create and release work for a while now, and so I broke up with that system and built my own. I also now only publish excerpts from Sea-Witch in literary magazines that pay me or in fun DIY projects by marginalized people (this wasn’t my policy until just recently). I don’t feel any need to donate my work to support established literary institutions, because more often than not their structure and goals don’t match up with my political values. Getting paid rules though. I’m all about $urvival money.
BBF: Can you tell me a bit about the multimedia aspect of this work? What is the relationship between the imagery and the text?
MAW: Yes! As my magical practice has a lot to do with things happening in my real life as well I like to document it and integrate that directly into Sea-Witch. The first sentence of Sea-Witch talks about how this book is not about my body, but you will notice that a TON of the photos are photos of my body, often naked. This is because my body is a very strong tool I have, but it is not the endpoint. It is part of a means to an end. Anyway, a lot of my magical practice has to do with my body, including the tattooing and the sex and the hormones and the sacraments so adding visual elements has been a way to incorporate more magic into the text than there would have been otherwise. It allows me to more closely turn the act of creation into a ritual.
The relationship between the imagery and the text is that they are all about the same thing. The mythology illuminates the system we must fight and the magic we must use to fight it. The images are part of and about the magic.
BBF: Sea-Witch also seems to be constantly in progress both online and with Volume 1 coming out in January. I wonder about the significance of its ongoing status? Does it have an ending? Should it?
MAW: SEA-WITCH FOREVER.
BBF: I am also curious about Sea-Witch as both a place and a body in which to inhabit. You write, “5. The whole time I was living in Sea-Witch I kept a stone in my pocket wrapped in old paper I tore from a book & held together with hair ties. Every night I would wash it in Sea-Witch’s hair & feed it bits of mushroom & herbs, whatever I had around. When I spoke to it I felt listened to. Before I left Sea-Witch I gave this rock to Sea-Witch as a present, & she ate it, saying I will keep it safe here. I wrote her a thank you note & signed it with all my names. I kissed Sea-Witch & felt the rock moving inside. When they come for us, we will climb the trees.” Can you speak to this relationship between place and body?
MAW: My relationship with my body is sort of like it’s this old apartment I moved into. I’m like dealing with the quirks and cussing at it a lot but also loving things about it and definitely doing a LOT of decorating and trying to make myself feel at home in it. I am also a person who is ~plural~ or multiple. Some people refer to this as dissociative identity disorder or multiple personalities. So in that sense there are literally a lot of people living in my (our) body. Body IS place in my experience, in a fairly literal sense. It is a place I am kind of agoraphobic about. Maybe someday I’ll finally leave but for now I’m living here full-time along with some other folks, so we’re collaborating making this thing about our experience. I tend to not really focus on the ~plural~ aspect of myself or incorporate it into my usual sentence structure because I’m already worried about being too confusing for most people most of the time.
But in addition to that, Sea-Witch as a place is a place of shelter from the storm. It is a place for the marginalized to go that exists in resistance to the world of harm and pain around it. I think such a place could only also be a friend and a lover and a family to you. It could only also be a personhood and a body.
BBF: I must say, I am so taken by this work and excited to continue on its journey. I read it as both an origin story and an apocalyptic one…holding many things all at once, what is it that Sea-Witch holds for you? What do you hope for your readers to find in its multitudes?
MAW: I hope my readers find solace in Sea-Witch because that is what she is built for. She is here to exist as a place of shelter. I also hope those in power feel threatened by her. I also hope they get hit in the head by a copy of the book and never wake up again.
BBF: Any final thoughts or questions you wish I had asked but didn’t?
MAW: The quotes! You didn’t ask about the quotes I have before each section of the book. These quotes are from people who have been feeding me, spiritually, creatively, politically. Some of them are friends of mine, some of them are more famous artists of some kind. But collecting these has been a HUGE part of the experience of this project for me. I love it so much. Something about being able to not just create, but also to curate alongside that feels necessary to this project, though I can’t say I entirely understand why yet.
check out Loone’s full song, “Silky” here.