project image
Chris Switzer

first performed on July 31, 2016
The Tangent Gallery, Detroit, MI
performed once in 2016



Detroit, MI


“Incendium” was a ritual performance inspired by “Malleus Maleficarum,” a legendary medieval treatise that taught magistrates how to identify, interrogate, and convict ‘witches.’ Written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic clergyman, the text led to the torture and death of tens of thousands of free-thinking, non-conforming women throughout the centuries.

Shiva and Thea conceived of “Incendium” in 2016. The two met several years earlier through their work with The Satanic Temple. There, they created rituals and campaigns centered on advancing civil rights, women’s rights, and strengthening the separation of church and state. This experience gave them a renewed sense of purpose, strength, and self-love, as well as a desire to bring people along on a transformative journey within their own work.

Shiva and Thea began preparing for “Incendium” over a year in advance. They baptized themselves in Great Lakes and oceans, emerged renewed, and reconnected to the world around them with an intense desire to heal lingering wounds and learn to fully love themselves and live their best lives.

Through “Incendium,” Shiva and Thea aimed to reclaim the label of ‘witch’ and celebrate the femme. Instead of burning at the stake, participants were able to cleanse themselves of insecurities and fears through fire and celebrate the rebirth and transformation that can occur through embracing ‘otherness’ and finding self-acceptance in the face of degradation.

“Incendium” opened with Ashlee anointing attendees’ foreheads with gold leaf upon arrival to the venue. She then gave them small cups of ancient tea, which symbolized imbibing self-love and forgiveness. After finishing the tea, Ashlee gave attendees parchment paper and dove’s blood and instructed them to write an insecurity or fear that they wanted to purge themselves of at midnight. At the witching hour, Vince began spinning fire as Shiva and Thea came to the stage. They both spoke an invocation and asked participants to bring their insecurities and fears forward to the cauldron to be burned. The crowd pushed forward, putting their parchment paper into the cauldron. Once every single piece of parchment had been deposited, Vince handed Thea a sword which she then lit on fire and passed to Shiva. Then, together, Shiva and Thea held the burning sword and with it set the cauldron, along with all of the participants fears and insecurities, aflame as the attendees roared with joy, tears flowing.