For the love of Sex
Article ID: 2102
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 7,813
Times Read: 66,411
Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 4th. 1998
Times Viewed: 66,411
One of the most empowering things about being a Witch is the relative freedom we enjoy regarding our sexuality. Modern Witches and Neo-Pagans are encouraged to express their sensual selves, and to be at complete ease with their bodies, whether this means dancing nude around bonfires, participating in skyclad rituals, performing sex magick with partners or alone, exploring the wonders of Tantric sex, breaking gender constraints as we develop our magical personalities, consuming aphrodisiac herbs or foods, and, for some, participating in polyamorous relationships.
Even while many of us may welcome and enjoy the relative sexual freedom of being part of a larger pagan community, we are all individuals and cannot be expected to agree on what is appropriate in any situation. There are bound to be conflicting opinions within our community, diverse as it is. And since sex is a very volatile topic, near (and dear!) to all of us--how can we agree on basic standards of sexual ethics and "morality" without sounding like hypocrites? And how can we address what we consider inappropriate behavior within our community?
COVENS AND GROUPS:
THE PROBLEM: Sad but true, there are many "legends" of various high priests and priestesses, or other "magical teachers" or even so-called "elders" who have used sex in manipulative, inappropriate ways, simply as a way to control someone. Some groups practice "skyclad", some don't. Some feel that this is the ONLY way, others leave it up to the individual.
Okay, a few words about ritual nudity...
"Skyclad" means working in the nude. Some Witches believe it is an effective way to work because they think clothing impedes the flow of magical energy (although wearing loose robes with nothing underneath has virtually the same effect). Others think we should work magic "as the gods made us." The Charge of The Goddess, a chant used by many Gardnerian and Alexandrian Witches, even contains a line specifically dictating the appropriateness of nudity: "And come ye naked to the rite, in token that ye be truly free."
Even a favorite film of Pagans refers to it:
"Well, naturally! It's far too dangerous to jump
through the fire with your clothes on!"
--Sargent Howie and Lord Summerisle, "The Wicker Man"
Say, for example, your coven has a habit of working ritual in the nude on hot summer nights (those attic temple rooms get pretty warm!), but for some reason you are not yet comfortable doing this. You should be able to say to your High Priestess or Priest: "I know it is customary for everyone to remove their robes but I feel uncomfortable with it; I would like to stay robed for this ritual."
There is no reason for anyone to compel you to change your mind, nor should you be made to feel uncomfortable about your choice. In time, as you become more comfortable with your covenmates, or with your own attitudes about nudity, you may change your mind...or not. The important thing here is to be able to build trust among people who work magic together. And ultimately nudity has very little to do with that. When there is not sufficient trust among coven members, that coven does not tend to keep its members very long. Sad to say, some Witches make careers moving from one coven to the next, either because they unwisely join groups too quickly without learning enough about them, or because they themselves create conflict wherever they go.
A Witch War can come about when seekers move from one type of group to another because of difficulties in communication, or simple differences in styles of working magic, or, sometimes, because of personality conflicts which arise out of power struggles or manipulation. So people leave groups with unresolved feelings of anger or frustration or hurt. They tell the tales. The rumors start and away we go!
One of the Number One reasons Witch Wars start is because of bad experiences with covens. There are so few covens out there that have kept the same members over the years; unfortunately so many Witches are so desperate to join a group that they will join up with any group willing to accept them, instead of waiting for the right one. And there are groups out there looking for naive, inexperienced newcomers who will blindly follow what they say, in order to make their leaders feel important or powerful.
|Witch Wars as related to SEX:|
THE TYPICAL VICTIM: Pagans and Witches who are just starting out on their path. Often these newcomers have no idea about what is considered appropriate sexual ethics in the Pagan community.
If you hear phrases like:
- It is part of your "initiation;"
- This is a necessary component of the ritual ("But this is the way we have always done it!" or "It's not a Wiccan ritual without the Great Rite!");
- Here is a way to "open yourself up" psychically or magically;
- Or a way to learn the deepest secrets of a certain magical tradition;
- Or a pre-requisite to learning from them ("I always have intimate relations with my students; it is necessary, in order to forge a magical connection!");
- Or a way to "become one of us" ("We think this is the best way to make you feel like you are really part of our coven/group")--Then think very hard and very long about getting involved with this coven/group.
THE ANTIDOTE: Ask before you enter the group's "mystery tradition.' If you have strong feelings about sex or nudity, one way or another, you need to find a group that will accomodate your own comfort zone. If you don't, you will end up feeling exploited, used or otherwise abused. As a result you will have nothing GOOD to say about this group and when you tell that tale of woe, you could start a local Witch War.
WHERE'S THE LIGHT?: Most groups are very ethical and caring about coveners' needs and personal boundaries. The best way to avoid sexually inappropriate behavior is simple: remember the key rule of behavior for Witches: Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
If complete trust and caring exists among you and your working partner/s, then there is little chance that anything will occur that is harmful. But in every instance, it is important to keep the lines of communication open! Never allow anyone to do anything of a sexual or intimate nature that feels wrong. And just as your coveners should be willing to listen and respond to any of your concerns, it is also reasonable for them to expect YOU to listen to their explanations of why things are being done a certain way...perhaps when all the facts are out in the open, both sides will find themselves better-informed or at least more open to each others' views.
Those of us who are on the pagan path may well feel relief at not having to feel guilt or shame about our bodies or our desires, and may find profound joy in expressing that most sacred of pleasures in honor of the Lord and Lady within us all...However, many of us have experienced occasions where we may have felt our Goddess-given right to be a free and open sexual creature has been compromised or violated; sad to say, this happens far more often than we would like to believe, as certain clueless individuals attempt to take advantage of others.
American culture in particular is full of mixed messages about sex: the media barrages us with titillating images, yet the Moral Majority preaches abstinence. Many of us were raised during or after the so-called "Sexual Revolution" and this of course affected our beliefs and behavior; still more of us have had to contend with the horrible reality of AIDS, and the very serious issues of safe sexual practices, and rampant homophobia. In a world so full of intellectual contradictions about this very primal human urge, Witchcraft and Paganism can appear as a spiritual oasis where sexuality is not only accepted, but exalted. But just as sex is often used to wield power over others in society at large, it is also used to wield power in Pagan oriented situations.
The difference is, that in a magical or ritual setting, our physical and psychic boundaries are often vulnerable; and sexual abuse or manipulation can ultimately have damaging effects on us, if we don't know how to protect ourselves.
(with inspiration from Wren Walker and Fritz Jung)
Important Note:This article is presented by the author as a starting point for discussion on the issue. Each author has submitted his/her article independently and may or may not agree with all the viewpoints in the entire series.
Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
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