Book Review | Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries, edited by Lee Harrington & Tai Fenix Kulystin
Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries, edited by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin, is a portal to the magical worlds queer folks across the spectrum survive and learn to thrive in through healing and empowerment, both self and collective.
It is suggestive, rather than prescriptive, though it does provide different frameworks for queer folks engaging spirituality and magic (whatever that might mean to the individual) to begin with and decide for themselves and their communities what resonates. It is a beautiful project that centers the margins and brings together a collective of authors who tell their stories through what feels like as many modalities as one could contain in a book.
What is Queer Magic?
I had some of my own answers to that question before I sat with this book – and after reading Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries I have many more answers to the question, some in sync and others contradictory.
Here’s what I do know for sure:
Queer Magic is ancestral.
The book begins, as we all must do, honoring our queer magical lineage, with a dedication to “our queer ancestors and magical forebearers who illuminated the way.” This places front and center our beloveds, who we chose and continue to choose as family, whose lives lit the path so that we may shine brighter, as in Pavini Moray’s “The Glitterheart Path of Connecting with Transcestors.”
Ancestral lineage is a foundation practice in many spiritual and magical traditions. This dedication and the various pieces honoring the lives of not just passed on ancestors but also our living elders, honors queer history and the magic of survival it has placed lovingly into our bones. Importantly, it challenges and I would say contributes to cutting the chords of the traditions that have been used as an excuse to suppress and extinguish the light of our lives.
It makes clear that queer folks choose each other across time and space- our magic too infinite to contain in just blood ties- and our chosen ancestors lift us up as we do for them in turn.
In my spiritual tradition, we say, Maferefun Egun.
Praise to our ancestors.
Queer Magic is survival.
One of Queer Magic’s stand-out pieces is M.C. MoHagani Magnetek’s “thaMind-Sol Lady’s Revenge,” a speculative revenge fantasy and biographical narrative depicting the violence of marginalization and the magical imaginary realities queer, trans, and non-binary folks access in order to not just survive but destabilize the systems and individuals that thrive on our trauma.
In the piece, Magnetek and her alter-ego thaMind-Sol Lady confront the monstrosity of a bigot head-on in this world and one beyond. There is no line between Magnetek and thaMind-Sol Lady, nor is there real separation between this world and the one beyond- there is no need for there to be. They are separate and together as needed for their survival and triumph, negotiable as it may be.
Queer Magic is expansive.
The pieces curated in this Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries by its editors are reflective of the infinite possibilities of queer magic, ranging from but not limited to art, narrative, sigil work, ritual, interviews, manifesto, framework, and queer magic theory. The author and artists embody the expansiveness queer magic, diverse across race, ability, gender, class, sexuality, and magical/spiritual traditions.
This book isn’t concerned with giving definitive answers on what is queer or magic, rather it provides windows into what those words mean from a myriad of perspectives. There are spaces to agree and disagree throughout the work- expected in such a project- and many questions left unanswered as much as so many were. It is clear there is no one path to queer magic and no one way to live it. Though it matters that it is revolutionary, radical, and in service to our collective liberation.
Queer Magic is embodied, personal, and political.
Queer Magic’s focus is on what happens when those two ideas are brought together, queer and magic, not just as an abstract idea but the material realities of those of us who embody it. We honor the power of intention without ignoring its limitation and work every day to ensure our actions speak louder than our intentions do. That’s the fundamental power of the book. Where it could have easily been lost in queer magical theory, the backbone of this work grounds itself in the lived experiences of its contributors. It means that we not only talk about what the possibilities of queer magic are, we use it as a praxis in our daily lives and ritual spaces.
Queer Magic is not radical by default, it must be practiced as such in its highest calling. This means confronting the shadow of queer magical spaces. This is so in the work of Maisha Najuma Aza’s “Queering Tantra: A Queer Black Woman’s Perspective” that doesn’t shy away from discussing the history of violent appropriation of the practice by the West, confronting her own place in that shadowy narrative, while also discussing the liberating possibility of a Black queer woman disrupting those histories in a practice of Tantra that she declares “fat, black, queer, kinky, lesbian devoted to social justice and healing justice.”
So what is Queer Magic?
Queer and magic belong together. Queer Magic is both infinite in the expanse and meaningful in individual moments. Queer Magic allows us to dream up the impossible futures made real. Queer Magic honors our lives as ritual necessary to free ourselves and the collective. Queer Magic is the deepening of our connection to each other and the world around us. Queer Magic is surrender to hope and defiance in the face of subjection.
Queer Magic lives in the boundaries, flourishes in ‘tween spaces and finds its power in undefined and liminal.