In this first of a two-part interview, Amy talks to performer and activist, Phoenix, about goddess worship, the power of women, the power of protest, and of course, the power of magic.
Online Resources From This Episode:
@sickamour is Phoenix’s Instagram
Glamgam.com is Phoenix’s cabaret-vaudeville collective.
Witches she follows:
@labannababalon @hoebarf @domonique_echeverria @monster_femme @thewombalalchemy
Here are links to stuff that came up in our chat:
Lucas Charlie Rose: https://www.lucascharlierose.com/
Catrice Jackson: http://www.catriceology.com/
EarthBound Wrestling: https://www.earthboundwrestling.com/about
Phoenix Part 1
[00:00:00] Amy: Our friend, Phoenix Williams! Once upon a time, there was a goddess of sex and women, and she reigned upon the earth. And the flowers bloom, and the stallions rose, and the women frolicked, and they married. On a fateful day, tragedy struck, and Inanna's love was wrenched from her loving arms by an early death.
Mad with grief, Inanna begged of hell to be with her beloved. Who dares pass Amy Nana?
[00:00:56] Phoenix: And you have something that belongs to me.
ha, Inana. And I'm the Dark Queen of the Underworld. From whence, no one can return.
I'm gonna get
my baby back, and there's nothing you can do to stop me.
[00:01:28] Amy: Hey witches, it's Amy with... Witches Found, the companion to the Missing Witches podcast. This week, we're bringing you part one of my interview with Phoenix. She's a performer. You just heard an audio rip of a bit of one of her performances. She's an activist, a healer, sex goddess, and so much more. Of course, covering race, sex, and class was a bit too much for one episode, so be sure to check out part two of my conversation with Phoenix next week.
[00:02:00] Phoenix: I'm a performer, uh, I perform burlesque and vaudeville, um, I dance and I sing and I write comedy plays with, um, a group of ragtag misfits called Glam Gam Productions. That's here in Montreal. It's here in Montreal. Uh, we do something like burlesque, but we don't really like to call it that because it comes with certain expectations.
But maybe neo burlesque is somewhere good. Yeah. Neo burlesque is like a way of doing burlesque outside of class restrictions where you have to have like the most expensive rhinestoning or whatever. Who can afford that ostrich feathers that are 10 feet tall. Beautiful. But like near burlesque is more about like conceptual stuff and kind of pushing boundaries and subverting things.
And I love to subvert things. You know,
[00:02:48] Amy: get, get specific with us. Tell us what you're
[00:02:51] Phoenix: subverting. Um, I talk a lot about culture in my performances. I express parts of my identity, my ethnic identity. I'm, uh, Arab African. Sort of, uh, semitic, I, you know, follow along many intersections. I'm non binary, but socialized as a woman and also identify as a woman.
Sometimes, and pronouns don't really reflect my gender, so I accept all of them. Also, I'm a drama therapist, so I engage in drama therapy for healing, and I think that really relates to the kind of magic and the kind of activism that I do, and the kind of performance work that I do. It's all related. In Glam Cam, we usually talk about gender and sexuality in a kind of...
Shocking or provocative way. Um, a lot of like slapstick humor. Um, a lot of like drag or, or, or, um, you know, kind of, I don't know, stare at making fun of stereotypes, things like that. Um, but on my own, I tend to focus a lot about racial topics. So like, it's kind of a separate world. I like to compartmentalize, as I was telling you earlier.
So I do a lot of different things that are kind of connected, but also unrelated. And I think my own performance work, which I'm starting to develop to develop a lot more outside of Blam! Gang, is like, really related to my spirituality and um, my cultural, like, experience. So how do you characterize your
[00:04:17] Amy: spirituality?
Do you think of it in the same non binary terms as you do your gender, or
[00:04:24] Phoenix: do you have like a set on this, in terms of your spirituality only? Yeah, I guess I'm very fluid spiritually as well, um, but my focus is definitely like my source of inspiration and like my model for like goodness and these kinds of concepts, um, definitely comes from ancient Egypt.
I worship ISIS, um, in myself and in the world. Um, yeah, she's kind of like a great metaphor for the way that I want to relate to the world. Um, she was someone who really protected and like, uh, helped the most marginalized people, like all the shuns, the outcasts, um, the unsanctioned, you know, like all of these people were.
Like she, she was their patron, their patron kind of goddess. Yeah. So I like that about her. I also like relate to her story of lament and loss and how she was able to kind of like resurrect and a life and, and, and bear a life from death and like create her own magical penis. And like, there's a lot of amazing, tell us a little more for our listeners who don't know
[00:05:43] Amy: about this magical penis.
[00:05:45] Phoenix: So the, the, you know, the. So the, the, you know, the. The story on Isis is that she was the patron saint of sort of all things magical and fertility related and, you know, learning, teaching the people how to like, you know, do things with wheat and make baskets and do all this other stuff. So she was kind of engaged with people on like a daily level and she was a protector of people who were, who didn't have a place in society, who were dispossessed.
Like lepers and, you know, sex workers and, um, all kinds of people who were just shunned in whatever ways, um, she didn't have judgment in the same way as a lot of gods do. And, um, she married her brother, as people did in that time, um.
[00:06:34] Amy: It's like a preservation of genetics. material, right?
[00:06:38] Phoenix: I'm not sure.
Preservation of power, more like probably a combination of these things. I'm not really sure. Cause it's like goddess and God myth. So I'm not sure how much it related to like how people were living at the time. Um, but definitely the gods and goddesses would were sort of lover brothers and sisters and things like that.
So she kind of gets her big spotlight moment when she, her husband's brother is She's tricked into getting into a coffin by his jealous brother, um, and then locked into the coffin and tossed into the river. And she laments by, like, sort of shearing her hair off and just crying for days, mourning forever.
And it's said that she cried so hard that she burst through River Nile. And that's like things that people say to this day. And, um, I just really relate to that kind of, like, vast emotion, and that, like, really, really deep grief and mourning. And she was very committed to finding her, her love, and so she searched all of Egypt and made, there's all these other stories about meeting the Queen of Phoenicia and having a story with her where she, you know, nursed her son and loved her son so much.
That she tried to make him immortal by like basking him over the flame But then her mother queen walks in and was like what the hell are you doing burning my son? And so he doesn't get to be immortal, but then she has to explain who she is And then she's here looking for her Husband and so the queen helps her by telling her there's this coffin that has lodged itself in the sycamore tree And so that's part of why my Instagram is sycamore And also because I'm a lovesick puppy But so yeah, so then she finds him and takes him back on you know The and the scorpions all protect her while she sleeps But then the coffin is stolen again by set who's a jealous God and he butchers the body.
He dismembers the body into 14 pieces and throws it all across Egypt so she wouldn't find it. But she, she does. She becomes a wing, a winged bird and she flies over all the, the Nile and, and she finds every piece except one that was eaten by this type of fish that is like, argued about what kind of fish it is.
But his penis is eaten. So she puts them all together and then she creates a penis out of gold and clay because the earth Kemet is, is sacred soil. It's, you can't find it anywhere else in the world. It's rejuvenating. So she makes this magical penis, attaches it to the body and births Chorus, the son, the literal son of God, who is the reincarnation of Ra.
And eventually she's able to capture Ra's name in a different story and gain power over Ra too, in a way, which, who is the all kind of God when the all mother God became bastardized into smaller. Anyway, that's a lot of information. No, we're here for the stories
[00:09:37] Amy: that we've been missing, and I think most of our listeners don't necessarily I mean, most of us who consider ourselves to be witches, or witch affiliated, or witch curious, are familiar with ISIS, you know?
So, we're goddesses.
So I'm sure everybody is happy to hear the story of the magical penis. I know I was, but let's get back to you a bit. So like, tell us about how, how your, your background has, um, informed your politics.
[00:10:12] Phoenix: It's funny. I think I, I've always. I've always been artistic, and I've always loved to perform, and I think that's been a strength of mine that's kept me through some really dark times, and like, led me to other strengths, one of which was my sexual strength, a source of knowledge that I also relied on, and led me to burlesque and other forms of expression that are super powerful and like, continue the education process for everyone, um, but I also, as someone who really cares about other people and experiences.
Certain oppressions that make it so that I have certain experiences that I can, like, have insight on, like that I'm racialized, that I have a genderful person, um, that I, you know, grew up in the Middle East and then moved to this place where, like, I experienced race in a very different way, and a concept of race in a very North American centric sort of way with a different language.
Which was also associated with my class privilege, because I went to university, I went to McGill, I went to Concordia. And, um, I'm a drama therapist and that also informs my politics because drama and therapy are the two worlds that are of great importance to me and how I exist in the world and what my purpose is is to heal and to perform and heal myself through it.
So it's like a self fulfilling cycle. And like the Phoenix is very much a great symbol for those two things. It's like a formative and regenerative healing power thing. So drama therapy is like. Very much the way that I do activism in the world is I help by engaging in performance knowledges to unleash and unlock and engage in dialogues and Create fantasy and engage in nonsense because nonsense is very much what's needed in the world I think that rationalism has brought us to a very destructive place Um, and the need to justify, and quantify, and classify, and do the science thing, which science is an amazing, powerful knowledge base and I super respect it and engage in it absolutely, but I don't think it's absolute.
And I, I think that to think it is absolute is like culturally biased and, uh, and yeah, and like things don't, like I was telling you a little bit earlier, it's like, I'm coming to the idea that things don't have to make sense to have real effects in the world and to be real and to be considered, um, and valued and appreciated for what they can do outside of what Practical, functional reality can be.
[00:12:56] Amy: a lot of us mystics too, we don't, mystics for lack of a better word, you know, um, we don't see as much of a line between science and magic as a scientist, you know, might like to, uh, everything that is natural is natural and is as much science
[00:13:13] Phoenix: as magic, I think. Like technology, the internet. It's, yeah.
I mean, I've said it's so many times the
[00:13:20] Amy: internet is like the new God. Absolutely. We've never had a more democratic, uh, distribution of information. Where anybody can get any information that they want. I often say the internet is the best book of shadows, you know? And we're all free to, free, you know, but we're all free to
[00:13:38] Phoenix: access it
[00:13:40] Amy: in a way that was impossible, even when I was growing up.
I mean, I'm not that much older than you, but I'm old enough to remember a time where you went to the library and you went through the card catalog and the only books about the European witch hunt. And... So if you were into witchcraft, you would know a lot about the European witch hunt, but nothing about that philosophy, or Kemet, and certainly not Aoife, and certainly not, you know, all of those
[00:14:10] Phoenix: beautiful
[00:14:11] Amy: things that come from the rest of the world, and we have this problem with Euro centricity, and
[00:14:16] Phoenix: it's ridiculous, and we're, we're overdoing ourselves.
[00:14:20] Amy: But anyway, we could go on all day, but
[00:14:24] Phoenix: we're here to talk about how
[00:14:27] Amy: performance is witchcraft, how activism is witchcraft. Like what, what comes to mind when I say to you, activism is witchcraft.
[00:14:39] Phoenix: Activism is witchcraft. Wow. I mean, connecting through activism. Fighting, like, forces that are invading you, uh, protection magic, all of these things come to mind, like, leveling magic, like rebalancing, redistributing through activism, like, using your power, your privilege, to boost, that's magic, like, oh my gosh, just, what you're doing right now, channeling the voices of others, that's, that's magic, that's activism, yeah, like, what.
Coming, coming together, I just like think about protest, protesting and like how protests just have this energy that is created through them that like I swear ascends to the heavens and is like rippled through the universe, you know, like, and the power of protesting and the power of other kinds of non, like, Physical protests, because like not everyone can show up to a protest because of money reasons, or like the
[00:15:40] Amy: sign holding in the streets, yeah, but just that we think of like a manifestation, a man, it's funny that man, if it's the word that we use in French, because that's a very magical word, right?
A manifestation of man, if, you know, so not everybody can do that.
[00:15:57] Phoenix: Yeah, speaking and naming and holding your, your ground and being in your truth. All of these are magic tools. Creating space where there wasn't before, surviving, all of these are magic tools. Like making sense of things that don't have automatic quantifiable sense, giving sense, creating sense.
You know, like, I feel like sense has been so restricted because we have to make it, but like, we can, like, live it, we can, like, breathe sense, we can, like, express sense, you know, like, we can feel sense, we can sense, you know, we can just sense and, like, bring it back to the body instead of make it just a thing of the mind.
[00:16:38] Amy: Well, binaric oppositions are very patriarchal, right? Dad! Cho gets into this in, uh, The Great Cosmic Mother, which you heard about in the primary podcast, where she talks about, like, the, there's no difference between medicine and Healing arts, being a chef and cooking food for your family, you know, these, these are ways that patriarchy has created hierarchies, or like, emotions are bad and stupid, intellect is good, you know, so if we can sort of wipe out this binaric opposition in general, maybe we could have a better sense of
[00:17:17] Phoenix: how witchcraft is.
It's all life
[00:17:21] Amy: and everything we do, you know, which is basically like they
[00:17:27] Phoenix: want to do something to change the world. Oh, that's great. Yeah, it's true. And it makes me think of like protests we've been having recently in Montreal around slav. Speak on it. Yes. Okay. So slav is a, um, what is it like a musical odyssey, a musical odyssey based on slave songs performed by a majority white cast.
A white lead singer who has done quote unquote research on it for years after also making her entire career, um, with like lots of albums all on slave songs and slave music. And anyway, she gets funding to do this with Robert Lepage, one of the great theater giants of Quebec. Um, you know, and, uh, and, uh, you know, it goes to show and it, and it gets It's played in the ThÃ©Ã¢tre du Nouveau Monde, which just the name of the theatre is so gross.
[00:18:26] Amy: The New World, for those of you who don't speak French. There you
[00:18:29] Phoenix: go. So this Theatre of the
[00:18:32] Amy: New World. Let me just interrupt for one second to say, pretty sure this is the same world we've been living on since the dawn of time. Nothing new about this racism, that's for sure. There's nothing new about any of this.
Carry on. So people
[00:18:44] Phoenix: hear about this in the normal way, like being advertised, and so a bunch of us You know, are called to protest by this amazing black trans activist and performer called Lucas Charlie Rose. He like, Lucas Charlie Rose. Yeah. He puts Google, Google it, Facebook support, send money, send money to Lucas Charlie Rose.
So anyway, he puts it out, like, let's go protest. So people show up in droves, well droves, I guess like maybe like a hundred people show up. That's a drove. That's great. It's like a mini drove. That's a commitment. So people come out and you know, we do the thing and it's really amazing and there's like people expressing in all these different ways we sing and speak and, and, and, you know, we're yelling and we're.
laughing and we're, you know, writing on these awful billboards that say like, Slav, you know, racist. And it's just so brave. I just saw like black people doing really brave things against, this like oppressive authority and the police were called in and they were protecting the patrons to come through unhassled and one of the patrons slapped one of the protesters and the police didn't see it.
They didn't care. They didn't do nothing because they weren't protecting everyone. They were just protecting the people going in to see these slave songs where people were protesting so loudly and that didn't deter them from going in. After they had paid their innocent monies. You know what I'm saying?
Like, you're not innocent. You just walked past all of us yelling shame on you, and you went in there being like, Black people are so angry though. Give it a chance. You never know what might be good. You never know what might be good. Anyway, I'm not gonna get into that. The point of bringing it up is that that is totally protest magic and that, that it was shut it down, you know, like it didn't happen at the end of the law and it got cancelled.
Um, and then now like all of Quebec is like a light with these conversations about appropriation and what's allowed and what can we take instead of What can we give the question is still being answered wrong. It's it's like oh, this is a heated debate instead of no This is like a reality like for so many people.
We're still thinking
[00:20:58] Amy: about what we
[00:20:58] Phoenix: can take. Yes What are we entitled to like where are you gonna draw the line at what I can take from you? You're being so mean by saying I can't not only borrow your clothes, but take them and keep them and not give them back Sorry. And like, make money off of them.
Like, hello. And if you're doing the work to deserve, even to share, like, it's like, okay, you want to wear cornrows. That's cool. Are you speaking for black voices? Are you boosting black voices? Are you helping your black friends? Are you a good friend to your black, like to black people? Are you good in the community?
Then maybe you can start to talk about, am I entitled to this? But before you do that work, I'm not hearing that question. Right. You're not entitled. And as far as, if I see you in a stranger in the street and you're wearing a dreadlock, like you have to be comfortable with the fact that I'm going to assume that you haven't done the work.
Yeah. You might be amazing and you do so much for the black community, but I don't know that I see a white person in the street taking culture. Exactly. And I don't, I don't want to know the answer to the question.
[00:21:58] Amy: And I think the, what we as, um, appropriators, okay, I'll say it, I'm white, we as white appropriators need to, um.
Be prepared to be questioned, which I think is, don't tell me what to do, no, I'm gonna question you. Yeah.
[00:22:18] Phoenix: Because you have a voice. Initiated a dialogue,
[00:22:23] Amy: basically, yeah. The world taken everything that you could from us and then treated us shabbily, you know, it's like the Josephine Baker syndrome, where she's good enough to be on the stage, but she's not good enough
[00:22:34] Phoenix: to be in
[00:22:35] Amy: the pool.
Yes. So I need to know, you need to know, we all need to know whether you think I'm good enough to be on the stage, or if you think I'm good enough to be in the
[00:22:45] Phoenix: pool. It actually makes me think of something like. hair braiding lady. So I'm African and, um, she does my hair, but I am light skinned as you can see.
Uh, so I have, you know, a lot of passing privilege. And so she, I asked her to do my hair like really big for this number. So I told my African hair braiding lady, like, I want this hairstyle and I want it to be really big. And she was like, okay. I'm gonna do it. And so she did it and it was great. It's really big.
And as I was walking out, she goes, Ooh, and she kept saying this all through. She kept saying, Oh girl, the police is going to stop you. You're going to get stopped by the police. And I just felt sad and heartbroken because I knew that that made me more susceptible to police like intimidation, but that blacker because I look blacker and that I didn't have nearly the experience of darker skin folks every day.
Yeah, so that's just one more, like, toss into the appropriation argument and, like, just the idea that identity is, like, is, is, like, negotiated and it's fluid and it's okay but you gotta engage and you gotta be there for the people and not just take from the people. And how does magic fit into this because how is so much of magic appropriated and how are we still trying to negotiate a place for us in the modern world?
As folks with different traditions and different robbings and losses of traditions and how like capitalism and white supremacy and ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism has robbed everyone of their individuality and their ability to access their heritage. And so it's necessarily going to be messy in the appropriation angle.
It's necessarily going to be people doing things and taking things that don't belong to them in ways that are not respectful or regenerative. And that's, that's, you know, it's flawed. It's flawed. And it hurts because I recognize the trauma and the loss of white folks. But I recognize the need to, like, have some sort of access to some sort of culture and some sort of spirituality that, like, really, like, rocks you foundationally and changes your...
thing, but you're not going to be accessing that properly if you're not intersectional and if you're not politically activated and if you're not engaged. Because that's the only way to true magic, I guess is my point. It's the only way to true spirituality is to live also in the present moment, right?
You gotta live the physical to get to the, to the portal, you know, like we are the door. Like, unfortunately, our bodies are real lived experiences and like, we can use our bodies for magic because they're built for different things and we can have access and privilege and that's a kind of magic too. Like it's not magic because it's built on violence and like restriction, but we can make magic out of that.
[00:25:37] Amy: Sorry.
[00:25:38] Phoenix: And magic would be activism, really. Magic would be engaging. Magic would be helping in your life, being that witch, being that. A person who recognizes when someone's trouble, in trouble, or someone needs help. Someone just needs like a meal, or a safe place to sleep, or like some help doing their fucking taxes.
Because, you know, the government's out to get everyone. And like, we can like, use the little energy we have on ourselves and on others. Like, it's, it's, it's gotta be balanced because it's regenerative. Like, doing both, like, helps to do both. Mhm. My magic is people. People are really such a incredible resource for me.
I'm so, because I'm an immigrant too, and I come from a collectivist society, like, relationships are fundamental to me. Like, they are my survival. More than capital and, um, all this stuff, like, definitely bureaucracy has contributed to whether or not I survive, but relationships. They give me the, the, the self, and the self grounding that like, I'm got, someone got me, I'm held.
Someone's there. If shit goes to shit and I don't have that as an immigrant, you're alone. And I have to battle a huge system. Nobody has any idea about. And as an Egyptian citizen, it's like even more like restricted towards me because I gotta do all this stuff to prove I'm like worthy of being here. I have to be really good.
I can't break the law. I'm like, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And like, I'm just trying to be a person in the world, you know? And like, I'm here settled on native land and reinforcing genocide and generations of, you know, settler colonialism. And my people are colonized and it's just like this reverberating cycle of pain and trauma and relationship, forced relationship.
Forced engagement, engaged, you have to engage. So what are you going to do? Yeah, and magic is like surpassing the limitations that are put on us. Magic is rising above all of that stuff. All
[00:27:39] Amy: else is magic.
[00:27:40] Phoenix: And just being resilient and like having something good or higher or beautiful. I don't know what language to use but like something outside of like this everyday that like keeps you Ironically grounded and like, You know, it's not like an escapism so much as like an inspiration.
You gotta have an inspiration in this life because it's so hard It's so hard to live. Just being a person is so hard to do Being a good person is so hard Being a flawed human is so hard to do.
[00:28:29] Amy: Hey, witches,
[00:28:30] Phoenix: we're doing this podcast, not to teach, but to learn. So if you have a story or you have some information that will help all of us understand better what this world of magic is about, Oh my God, we want to hear from you. So please email us at missingwitches at gmail. com or share with us on Instagram, tag us in your photos, missing witches, or use the hashtag.