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Author: Dusty Dionne
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The topic of this article and its contents are very important and sacred to me. Sex in the craft is a hot button, and I have some strong opinions on the matter. I am often asked about them. Some of you won’t agree with me, and that is okay. Some of you will agree with me, perhaps already having the same views as me. But by the end of this article, I hope you will at least have something to think about. I hope to let you see my true opinions on the subject, unabashed.
I am a Consort. I have grown on the path through the sacredness of having a teacher that was also my lover. It has been difficult. It has also been continually fulfilling since day one. Great priests who I know very well have been consorts. It is my belief that it is a sacred path, and that the training I have had is divine. So important is this part of the path, and so lost, that I have been invited to events strictly to speak on why my training has been so powerful, and what it has been like training under a powerful priestess, while also walking the Son/Lover/Consort mysteries. I have had the benefit of ten years of hands on training with a live-in priestess. Ten years of laying in bed and dissecting the universes of magick and possibility. I can’t help but know how wonderful my training has been. But don’t worry – I know everything isn’t love and light, everywhere. You will also hear my opinions on what I think is NOT okay. So strap in, and let’s take a ride through this one, and I hope to see you at the end.
Today we will be talking about sex, the craft, student-teacher relationships, and what does and doesn’t constitute using sex for nefarious purposes vs having consensual, adult sex.
Let’s jump right in. Sex is one of the best things ever. It can stand toe-to-toe with any single experience in the world, and it still has a fighting chance of being the better activity. It’s hard-wired into our systems to be one of our favorite things in the whole world. In fact, the act of having an orgasms is so important that studies have shown that the same centers that light up during orgasms, light up while we sleep. The pyramid of human needs even categorizes sex as a basic human need pertinent to survival. And in Wicca , it is one of the Eight Paths of Power – nestled right between the use of incense and dancing.
Sex is an integral part of a fertility religion.
Wicca is a fertility religion.
Ipso facto: Sex is an integral part of Wicca.
In modern magick we have tried to tell ourselves that the Great Rite just isn’t that important. Symbolize it, throw it into ritual to appease the Hard-Gard, move on.
The concept of sex within the craft itself has lost a large amount of favor due to the unsavory antics of leaders who abused their station. Like all things, a concept can be manipulated, twisted, tainted from its original purpose, and branded unsafe. We have people with “triggers,” rape victims, abuse victims, family of those who have been hurt from sexual encounters, and the well meaning but completely off-base pseudo-scholars who attempt to be the loudest voice on the subject. It is obviously a noble and powerful feeling to stand up for others, and against concepts that you may feel need a champion. Many of us, this author included, have people in their lives who have undergone abuse and want to help protect them. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and say that you think something is unfair.
Likewise, it is very, Very, VERY difficult to allow someone the freedom to live their life and to simply be there for them when it breaks down. It’s a learned skill to be able to understand that just because something has the power to be misused doesn’t mean it is bad. That even though something may be difficult for some people, that is their issue.
Wicca is a “teacher-to-student” spirituality. It is also a spirituality that puts the power of becoming a priest/ess into the hands of the people who worship. Wiccan Initiations have sometimes been referred to as a “Sexually Transmitted Degree.” This is because even when the sex is taken out of traditional degree elevation rituals, IT IS STILL SYMBOLIZED. Sex is so important to the understanding of projective and receptive energies coming together in the act of creation, that as much as some have tried to remove it from our worship, it is fundamentally entrenched. I would be willing to argue that it is more difficult to find someone that does not want a sexual partner in magic with whom they can delve into those mysteries than otherwise. Pagans come to the path because of their love of nature, longing to understand the human condition, belief in naturalistic energetics controlling the universes ebb and flow, and the desire to live outside the dogma of the Abrahamic religions. All of these things are what make Wicca a “Nature Based Fertility Religion.”
It’s a faerie tale of disillusionment, though. The hard working devoted seeker finally finds the teacher that suits them. The teacher works to empower the student, and peel away the programming that is based on shame, and victimization. The student evolves their perspective on life, finds their personal power, and becomes the God/dess that they are aspiring to become. Along the way the student has also sought to free themselves from sexual programming as well, and has come into contact with empowered, sexy, sacred, amazing, potential partners, only to have those partners be socially taboo ONLY BECA– USE they are also training to be magical. What kind of twisted discrimination is this?!? You want a magical partner, but everyone that you work magic with is off limits as a sexual AND/OR romantic partner SOLELY because you work magic with them. There is something mindlessly out of balance with this predicament.
It’s born from abuse. Many of the abused have the mind set that abuse can be situational, and if we remove the situation from the equation, then the abuse is far less likely to strike. That if we remove sex from the craft, if we make it taboo and against the rules, rules made up by some ambiguous group of witches that didn’t agree with the BOS, that the abusers wont be able to find a hold. That sounds like a beautiful idea. One that trades your freedom for security and your love for fear. You can lock down your world, but you will not stop the Universe from presenting you with the lessons you are destined to face – even if it means being confronted with an abuser.
It is a trap to make a blanket rule and restrict the world around you. It is far less abusive to deal with each instance individually. It takes more work. It takes more time. But when every instance is considered singularly on it’s own merits and flaws, then everyone gets a fair shake, and no one’s rights are stepped on in the name of universal “safety.” Universal Safety: A concept of which I believe to be a white knuckled response to fear, at best; or a dystopian horror dressed as a saving grace, at worst. When you remove the rights of one individual for the possible safety of another, especially when there is no actual law of the land in place, then you are acting in accordance with fascism. Literally an aggressive form of nationalism-like lockdowns placed atop an already accepted order of law. We have the Wiccan Laws. They are totally up to interpretation, the same as U.S. law – but they are there, and nowhere does it say not to have sex in the craft.
I was once sitting in a camper with a prominent Pagan leader. We shall call this person PL1. We were having a really great conversation. This person has been around for a long time, and has a great number of stories about other prominent Pagan leaders. One story in particular comes to mind. I was being regaled with a story of another prominent Pagan leader, and their beliefs on sex within a group. We shall call this person PL2. It should also be noted that neither of these leaders has ever been in any kind of embroilment over sexual discrepancies. Short and sweet it goes as follows:
PL2: “It’s very simple PL1, magick is an extremely intimate practice. The only way that you can create the bonds that are needed to truly work magick, is for you and every one of your coven mates to have sex with every one of your coven mates, every day.”
PL1: “PL2, I won’t tell anyone you’re crazy. But you’re f@%^#ng crazy! Not that I have any problem with sex, but I don’t have enough time in my day to have sex with everyone in my group.”
Case in point, sex has a long and sacred tradition within the Craft. Have people misused it? Yes, but people misuse “An Harm None” to harm MANY, and to control people. So the concept of “is it safe?” isn’t entirely appropriate in this author’s opinion, either. Anything can be used to hurt someone. The printing press, television, candy, lead, the atom, sex. There have been people who have taken sex and tainted its sacredness, even our own leaders.
It’s entirely understandable that some people don’t feel safe around the idea of sex being an active part of the craft. Those people have places to go and groups to join that share their same beliefs. Just like a recovering alcoholic has the option to join an Amethyst Group (quasi traditional name for Pagan Recovery Groups) so as to be sure of alcohol free worship. But the alcoholic doesn’t expect the world to stop drinking. They know that their addiction and their issues with it are their own. Most AA members know they can’t expect the world to spin on a different tilt just because they have had bad experiences on this one. It is just another form of abuse. One that looks on the outside like it is filled on the inside with good intentions.
But we know what they say about good intentions.
With all the fear and judgement surrounding sex in the craft, we subjugate and demoralize an entire path of power. We also shame and judge an entire group of people. Wicca teaches us that we should seek out a working partner/s. A partner/s whom we connect with on a level so deep, we can do magick with them. The bonds that the initiate makes with their teachers and coven-mates can be so strong that a theoretical coven-mates spouse, who is not in training, can sometimes feel threatened. This is without any talk of sexual intercourse.
Wicca, as with many of the non-Abrahamic faiths, teaches personal responsibility. That means that my experience is not dependent on your experience. It means that I am solely responsible for how the universe interacts with me.
Yes, I said that sentence correctly. I am responsible for how I interact with the universe, but I am solely responsible for how the universe interacts with me. Everything I do to others, and everything others have done to me is of my own creation. Yes, even the really, truly, horrific parts that seemed to happen TO me. It’s called Relative Truth. It means you get out of your experience what you need to. And your truth is not my truth, your truth is not hers, theirs hers, theirs, zir, xyr, eir, vis, nir, or his. Everyone experiences the world differently. The pain of those who have experienced sex as a weapon is very real.
The problem with blinding pain is that you stop being able to see how your pain is removing the rights of others. Why WOULDN’T someone want to remove all possibilities of sexual abuse out of Wiccan society? That sentence can also be read as, “You may not engage in activities that might bring you love, because these activities might also bring you pain,” or “You may not decide to learn from someone traditionally, because it makes people outside of your personal situation uncomfortable,” or even better, “I don’t want others to have what I can’t have, so I will say that no one can have it.”
I don’t get cookies so neither do you.
I am allergic to cookies, so you cant have any.
I’m scared of cookies, so it’s your responsibility to make me feel safe by getting rid of all cookies.
Well duckies, no one ever said the path is safe. Hard? Challenging? Takes faith? Makes us face our darkness? Isn’t for everyone? Is a fertility religion? Has sexual initiations? Has sexual rites? Doesn’t have hangups on the human body, or the expression of desire? Yes. It says the path is all of those things. It is a sacred thing when you find someone that you can share sex, magick, and learning with. Not everyone can do that.
It is a sacred thing to be a part of a society that isn’t ruled by the Middle Eastern Dogmas surrounding sex, faith, and shame. Am I telling you to have sex with your students? If your student is an adult, and they want to have sex with you, and you want to have sex with them, then it is the opinion of this author, based on reams of Pagan writings and history, that it is nobody else’s business. We aspire to be able to practice magick as it was meant to be, without shame, without hang ups, and without pressure.
Another comment that comes up is that a student and a teacher can’t have a fair relationship outside of circle. That the teacher already has an unfair hold over the student/lover. I can understand that trepidation. I would say in response that I am blessed with being a pirate. On a pirate ship, everyone was equal outside of a conflict. Additionally everyone had a job. And when it was time to work, everyone did their job. One of those jobs was captain. So, for me personally, there has always been a clear delineation between my girlfriend and my priestess. In the bedroom, at the store, at my mother’s house, at her mother’s house, at a lawn party, at the bar, in the car, and everywhere not associated with my training we are lovers and equals. When it is time for ritual, or I have overstepped myself in the realm of spiritual training, then I am the student and she is the teacher. But everyone is different. What works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa.
It may seem easier to make a rule for everyone to follow, but people deserve to be treated individually with each issue as it arises. In Australia they call it “Getting a fair rub.” Giving everyone a “fair rub” stops people making blanket statements that lock down the rights of the people in our communities. One guy gets in a drunken fight at festival. Ban alcohol for everyone?
Deal with the drunk. Don’t punish the whole for the few. Really, don’t punish anyone at all. It’s not our jobs to punish people. It’s our job as Wiccans to help elevate our brothers and sisters into the realm of personal responsibility. Make the few responsible for their actions, individually.
I DO have a strong opinion for why someone should not have sex with a student, or within the craft. It goes as follows and I will format it in such a way as to simulate the intensity of my feelings over this situation:
It is COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE/ABUSIVE to hold someone’s training as a carrot in front of them FORCING them to sleep with you IN EXCHANGE FOR THEIR DEGREES and/or CONTINUED ACCEPTANCE in the circle. If you make someone feel like they can’t train unless they sleep with you, then you are ABUSING YOUR POSITION, AND THE PERSON.
That being said, people break up. Things become unworkable between people. Getting in a sexual relationship with anyone is risky business. You start dating a guy in your social circle, you break up, and then you all of the sudden don’t feel comfortable around that social circle, precipitating you finding a new group of friends. The same thing can happen in a circle.
Too often we associate “pain” with “abuse,” but they are worlds apart. Pain and Change take up the same part of the brain. This makes change hurt, sometimes. Hurt makes us think of abuse. And so we associate change with abuse. People break up. Things change. Abuse is introduced when you start trying to control other people with pain. Abuse is introduced when you act without considering others feelings, or the impact your actions will have on them.
Like making blanket rules that all love and pleasure between members of a fertility religion, is wrong.
And so in summary, I would first like to say “Thank you.” You made it to the end of this article! I appreciate your diligence. If you didn’t read the whole thing, and you just want the TL:DR version (That means ‘too long: didn’t read’ for those not in the know), then I will summarize my opinion. Consensual sex amongst consenting adults in a fertility religion that was born of teaching its mysteries through sexual rites is not only appropriate, but desirable. Will everyone find it? No. It is closer to something to strive for, rather than an energy to be feared. Abuse stems from intent. If your intent is to subjugate wide eyed seekers into sexual conquests, or find short cuts to your degree by sexually manipulating your teacher, you will soon find out why that is a bad idea. If you have been abused by someone like that, my heart goes out to you and I wish you healing.
If you have found someone to share the most sacred mysteries of the waters, and the secret of the wine of life, and the cauldron of Cerridwen which is the holy grail of immortality, then blessings be upon you as well, and let naught stop you or turn you aside. For behold: all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.