At least I know I’m not alone. None of us on this planet are having a super wonderful time of it, except perhaps some creatures who are benefiting from the “anthropause” to make their way into environments that they’ve avoided for awhile. How I wish we human beings could find it in our hearts to be a little less relentless once we emerge from current conditions.
So, not fun. And I’ve been sheltering in place alone except for the cats since mid-March. My errands (groceries, gas) are already as minimal as I can make them.
But there is a particularly harsh quality to waiting to see if a wildfire is going to spread to the area where you live, and wondering if you’ll make it out okay (with seven cats and a compact car, this is a huge concern). It reminds me of the early days of the pandemic when I obsessively checked the Covid-19 stats several times a day–national, statewide, and local. Now I’m checking the CalFire maps and local emergency scanner Facebook groups. Who is evacuating? How close is the northern edge of the Hennesey Fire? What’s going to happen next?
It also makes me even more reluctant to run to the market. I am consumed by the fear that if I leave my beloved felines for too long, that something might happen and they will be vulnerable to disaster. They are all indoor kitties and so they depend on me to open doors for them. How I wish I could invent an automatic emergency door that would work if the temperature rose to a certain degree. Then at least they could bolt to safety, and hopefully I’d find them later.
Thousands and thousands of people in the Western states are finding that their homes — the places where we shelter in place to avoid catching Covid-19 — are now threatened by 2020’s dramatic start to fire season. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad if it weren’t for 72 hours worth of lightning strikes that happened last weekend. I believe there were over 10,000 of them, and over 500 fires started as a result, just in California alone.
As for those people who haven’t had reliable shelter during this period–I can’t even imagine. I try, but I can’t. As a person with multiple chemical sensitivity disabilities, I rely so much on control of my home environment to keep me safe from chemical toxins. But with smoke pouring into the atmosphere of normally pristine Lake County, there is literally nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
I’m not complaining so much as describing. I know many are much worse off and are much closer to the fires. It’s the waiting and wondering and planning, and then replanning, that is wearing me down.
Is it any wonder that I’m on my fourth bingewatch of The Untamed? That is all.
This blog is a follow-up to to the April 19th Love’s Outer Limits podcast, with its topic of “Sex and Magic.” Here I want to expand more on the idea of incorporating international statements on Sexual Human Rights into attempts to deal with issues of sexual harrassment and predation in neopagan circles and organizations.
History of Sex and Magic
Very briefly put: sexual energy and behaviors have been and are incorporated into many esoteric traditions, often as part of inner mysteries or circles and initiatory rites or as a vehicle for spiritual transformation. A very few examples include: some practices in the Eastern traditions of tantra and Taoism; Western traditions of old-fashioned witchcraft (e.g. reports of witches sabbats with the devil); modern Wicca and related groups of magical practitioners (e.g. “the Great Rite”); Thelema/OTO; alchemy; modern Satanism; and other Western sex magic practices.
Many practices are symbolic, not explicitly or physically sexual. These symbols are often dualistic (e.g. a dagger dipped into a chalice) and binary-gendered (e.g. rituals calling in a “Lord and Lady” or named male and female deities in partnership).
Sex also may appear in accounts of encounters with deities, spirits, angels, demons, etc. Depending on who you talk to, this might be known as spectrosexuality or spectrophilia (psychology term). Such encounters may be part of a sex magic ritual, or not. They may consist of a single occurance or form part of a long-term relationship.
Some people also have sex with “the deity within” other humans, or as deities together.
This is creepy: I also believe that the tortures inflicted on suspected witches (usually female) during the European witch hunts may have been a turn-on for some of those inflicting, ordering, or witnesses the tortures.
What is Sex Magic?
Simply put, sex magic is any form of magical ritual that uses sexual energy and/or explicit sexual behavior, including orgasm, to add power to the spell or ritual. The sexual aspect may be partnered or solo. Partners may be human or spirit beings.
Sexual fluids may also be used in ritual context, as containing special powers. Some spiritual beings like these as offerings, others don’t. (Best check ahead of time.)
Sex magic is not designed to draw a partner to you for romantic or erotic purposes–that would usually be called love magic.
Magicians and Witches Behaving Badly
It’s not just magicians and witches: incidents of sexual harrassment, abuse, and rape may be found in the neo-pagan community at large, and in many other spiritual and religious communities including yogic ashrams and the Catholic church. These things occur in pretty much any cluster of humans: families, government agencies, prisons, businesses, you name it. By noting the pervasiveness, I am NOT writing this off as “human nature” or excusing spiritual, religious, and magical communities by saying, “well, all small groups reflect what happens in the larger society.” No.
I just want readers to think about this, and about how such traumas happening in a spiritual, religious, or magical community may well compound traumas that have happened to an individual elsewhere. And to notice the cruelty in how even a last refuge may become a place of danger.
And notice how people in communities that use practices already charged with sexual energies and behaviors might be even more vulnerable to such incidents. Notice how predators within such communities (including leaders) might be even more emphatic about pressuring other people to engage in behaviors “for the magic” or for “initiation” or for “advancement” but really just for their own gratification.
In preparing for the April 19th podcast, which I knew would be a mere dip into the sprawling topic of sex and magic–one which spans history, religion, spirituality, witchcraft, human sexual behavior, and so on–I knew I would include at least some discussion of sexual predation and abuse in neopagan/witchy circles.
Many people who trace the abuses found in neopagan groups point to the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960’s-70’s as something which made things easier for sexual predators, and which made it less likely that their creepy behavior would be questioned or understood as abuse.
I was twelve in 1967. Love-ins happened in the park across the street from my house. So I remember the 1960s-1970s Sexual Revolution very well. It was a time when “chicks” were just naturally expected to put out or risk being labeled as “uptight” and uncool. As a teenage girl, just discovering my own sexuality, I had a good time–mostly–but I also encountered predators, some of whom harmed me, or attempted to harm me. I eventually developed a fairly reliable radar for creepy older men. Back then, I also had relatives who up and joined a renegade (abusive) Thelemic commune in San Diego County. It took them many years to emerge from it. They never shared their experiences with the rest of my family. Now, as a sexologist, I also use that lens to understand the mixed impact the Sexual Revolution had on many people and communities, including neopagan and witchy ones.
Calls for Community Ethics
In the references you will find several excellent blogs and articles written by people in the neopagan/magic communities. These particular blogs and articles span 2015-2019 and encompass the “me too” movement. These are just a few of many written! Many of these blogs and articles recognize the need for sexual ethics and policies against harrassment and abuse, which would be enforced in their various communities. There’s a sense of frustration too, that such changes are often stalled or dismissed by an organization’s leadership as not generally necessary, since only a “rare” case might show up now and then.
Most people, including people in neopagan organizations, are not aware that the Sexual Revolution included discussions about sexual human rights. Early on, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco issued a statement of sexual human rights. Other organizations have done the some, either before or since. The discussion is international. Much work has been done to define sexual health and sexual human rights. The most powerful statement comes from the World Health Organization (WHO).
All a neopagan organization, coven, conference, what-have-you, needs to do is adopt this stance and this language, and perhaps add a sentence about spiritual and magical practice. Voila! You’ve got an ethics statement and policy based on the best contemporary thinking, created by a massive number of international experts.
Among other things, you can think of the WHO language as a popular element of spellwork that has the power to access the energy and intention of all who created it and use it! This reminds me a bit of Declaration 127 against racism and discrimination, a declaration adopted by many Heathen and pagan groups, including The Troth, that worship Norse deities and who wish to practice Norse spirituality and culture free of the taint of white supremacy.
According to the current working definition, sexual health is:
“…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)
And here’s a screen shot of the sexual rights language from the same WHO document:
I hope people will bring this idea to their leadership. I hope this helps.
Sarah Ann Lawless, September 2018: “So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community,” and two other pieces which have since been taken down, due to intense harrassment and trolling. I remember reading them when they were still online. (Please consider visiting her herbal apothecary store, Bane Folk.)
Mark Green, January 10, 2018: https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/killing-the-sixties-abuse-consent-metoo-and-the-pagan-community/
“The takeaway for our particular community, however, is clear to me.
First of all, we need to root this shit out. It is simply unacceptable to have sexually predatorial behavior in our community. And that means clear policies at events and gatherings about affirmative consent, and firm consequences for anyone—ANYONE, no matter how revered or well known—who violates them.”
“To my mind, we need a community statement of sexual ethics which can serve as a sort of “seal of approval” for organizations and groups which sign onto it. People will then know where the safe environments are and where they aren’t, and can choose where they attend events accordingly. I know that one attempt was made a few years ago to develop such a statement, and it ran aground when resisted by advocates of sexual initiation.”
Before I launch into the pagan/witchy portion of this blog, I want to share the medical and public health information that we should all pay attention to, regarding the spread of Covid-19, which as of today March 11th, is now officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. (WHO updates may be found here.)
I don’t know the source of the above infographic, but notice the bottom right–using a paper towel to turn off the faucet. Not all “how to wash hands” information includes this key piece of information. The recommendation is to wash hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds at least.
One thing seldom addressed: wash your hands before (and after) doing or touching up your make-up!
Below, the general U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.
Next, something about how to support those in higher risk groups. Remember that older people are already prone to isolation and loneliness, recently shown to be more hazardous to health than 15 cigarettes a day. Therefore, if you have an older relative or friend, check in with them frequently, daily if possible. It’s not so hard to do. Email, text, phone, or post on social media. Let them know you care.
I give importance to science and public health data, and I act on the common sense recommendations which have served humanity well in situations like this. But I also find ideas, comfort, and inspiration in my polytheist/pagan and witchy spiritual path for extra added “oomph.” (Can’t hurt, could help!). So here I will share a few things that have been shared with me that could be added to a pagan or magical practice to boost health, resilience, or to ward and protect.
Magical Social Distancing
Use this social “down time” to do magic stuff. Work some spells. Clean your altar. Listen to witchy podcasts. Catch up on your witchy reading. Get in touch with nature. Look for hagstones in the riverbed. Make friends with a new tree. Stuff like that!
Here’s an Immunity Boosting Sigil published by sigil expert, Laura Tempest Zakaroff, on March 8th. It is a shared magic sigil. Zakaroff gives permission for its use via Creative Commons licensing (see text below sigil). Please click the above link to read her blog about its development and use. Zakaroff’s book, Sigil Witchery–A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols, can be found on her page, here.
Energy and Breathing Practices to Boost Health, Resilience
Most of us know about yogic breathing and its cousin, tantric breathing, and other such practices. Here are two breath/energy practices that might be less familiar.
This is a brand new discovery for me, and I intend to delve and dive into this man’s work much more deeply. At the moment, I just suggest trying this (on an empty stomach, sitting or lying down). I’ve done a lot of energetic and breathing type practices in my life, but I’ve never felt anything quite like this. I’m making a habit now to follow the guided breath video below, as soon as I wake up. I really like what it does!
Six Healing Sounds
My dear friend, the late Marcia Kerwit (Wexler) was a senior instructor for Mantak Chia’s Healing Tao. She shared the Six Healing Sounds practice with me many years ago. I have just found my old page of instructions and intend to pick up this practice again! According to Marcia, this practice “talks” to your organs and keeps ’em happy. Here’s a link.
“Masturbation causes a rush of dopamine, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the “love hormone.”
This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases cortisol, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress.”
According to the article, masturbation and orgasm increases white blood cells and the hormones seratonine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine (which counteract stress hormones, thus lowering inflamation), and generally “promotes a healthy immune system.”
And when you add solo sex magic to the mix… perhaps incorporating the above sigil to boost your health and immunity… hey!!! (For a great book on this topic, check out Jason Miller’sSex, Sorcery, and Spirit:The Secrets of Erotic Magic. (Link to all his books here.)
Offerings to Deities, Ancestors, Others
Who do you work with? Is there anyone who is particularly focused on healing? Now is the time to make some extra offerings and/or cultivate a more regular practice, in order to ask for assistance. For example, one of the deities I work with is Brigid, a Celtic goddess who assists with healing (among other things). I’ve been making offerings to her on a (mostly) weekly basis now for several months, so I feel comfortable about asking. I also have asked my patron deity, Loki Laufeyjarson, to help me keep an eye on my health. He gets an offering of cinnamon tea every day, plus other beverages and goodies throughout the week. Again, I feel comfortable asking for extra help during this time, because I’ve taken the time to cultivate the relationship with more offering and less asking. On the other hand, another one of my deities has expressed a lack of interest in working with me at this time and so I have to take that “no” with grace. (The above ascertained using pendulum divination.)
Others have suggested working with White and Green Tara, but I personally haven’t worked with the Buddhist traditions. For those who have, here are two links that were given to me:
Two of my favorite guides for working and collaborating with unseen allies include the above mentioned Six Ways by Aidan Wachter and Daniel Foor’sAncestral Medicine.
Obviously, there are many, many options for contacting and working with unseen healing allies, depending on your own spiritual and magical practices and the pantheons you work with.
Talismans, Wards, Protection Spells, Servitors
There is so much to say on the above, and I am no expert in any of these methods. I am considering how to best use Zackaroff’s sigil, which is a form of talisman. And I did renew contact with a previous servitor and have enlisted its help in keeping uninvited or unruly “guests” away from my house. This includes any harmful microscopic guests who, with all due respect, are not wanted here at the moment.
One person on social media suggested that talismans and servitors could be used to warn us away from areas of contagion (so pay attention to that little voice of caution if you use such methods). Other people made health and protection recommendations, including: Benebell Wen’s book of Fu Talismans; the “2nd Pentacle of Mars from the Key of Solomon;” smoke cleansing of the home; working with the “Forty Servants” deck of servitors, particularly The Healer, The Depleted, and Harvan.
As you can see, there is something for almost everyone and the above list is a very short sampling of what’s out there. As I said before, can’t hurt, could help.
On social media, one person mentioned talking to their doorways, windows, and thresholds of all kind (to keep contagion out), as well as communicating with all foods, supplements, and medicines–asking all for extra boosts to the immune system and protection from illness. Practical animism dovetails with talismans and warding work.
Émile Coué (1857-1926) was a psychologist and pharmacist known for his use of suggestion and autosuggestion. The Wikipedia entry says:
“Coué noticed that in certain cases he could improve the efficacy of a given medicine by praising its effectiveness to the patient. He realized that those patients to whom he praised the medicine had a noticeable improvement when compared to patients to whom he said nothing. This began Coué’s exploration of the use of hypnosis and the power of the imagination.”
Coué later discarded hypnosis in favor of autosuggestion. He is known for the famous affirmation, “every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
As a professional hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, I’ve been aware of Coué and the power of self-talk for several years. Thanks to him, I’ve been charging my presciption meds on my altar, and I offer blessings and thanks as I consume them, along with self-suggestions that I will have the maximum benefit and minimal (or zero) side effects. I am reminded now to extend this to all foods and supplements which enter my body.
Such practices can have real results. I know a hypnotist who underwent chemotherapy. She did self-hypnosis to increase the benefit of the therapy and to prevent suffering from side effects. She had absolutely no side effects. Suggestion might have also played a role in the recovery of Precious Reynolds, an eight year old girl, who in 2011 was one of the few people in the world to survive rabies without getting the shots. From the article in SF Gate:
Her grandmother sat beside her bed, and every day she gave Precious the same stern encouragement. “I’d tell her that she had a big bad bug inside her, and she had to fight this big bad bug,” Shirlee Roby recalls saying to her granddaughter, who happens to be an avid wrestler in her Humboldt County town of Willow Creek. “I told her she had to put him on the mat and put him in a half-nelson and pin him,” Roby said. “And by golly if she didn’t do it.”
Note: A study has shown that positive affirmations are more effective when you deliver them to yourself in the third person, using your full name. See this article which references the study.
Cultivating a Conscious Relationship with “The Smalls”
Again, this isn’t something I’ve done yet, but I find it intriguing. Check out the website and work of scientist and animist Siv Watkins. Her video conversation with Daniel Foor (mentioned above) contains many interesting ideas that could be woven into a spiritual and/or magical practice. The feeling I have about this is collaborative and respectful.
On social media, at least one person has suggested making an offering to the spirit of the novel corona virus (Covid-19) to ask it to leave us alone.
The Sassafras School of Appalachian Plant Craft offers a free PDF document which is very well written, called Herbal Treatment for Coronavirus Infection by Stephen Harrod Buhner via their Facebook group. For your convenience, you may also download it here: coronavirus
I’ve come across a caution against using elderberry in this instance. It is apparently okay-ish as a preventative (ask your doctor!!!), but NOT to be used once you get ill, in case your illness is actually Covid-19. This is because of the herb’s normally helpful increase of inflammatory cytokine production can backfire with Covid-19, causing an autoimmune “cytokine storm” at about the third day, which may damage the sick person’s organs, and increase the chances of a fatal outcome. (Scientific evidence of elderberry’s normally helpful impact on cytocine production can be found here.) Also, read Buhner’s PDF above for a better explanation of all this than I can give here. (Echinacea is also contra-indicated for a similar reason, apparently.)
[A word about essential oils and aromatherapy. Don’t please. These products can be bad for children and pets, and for you too. I have studies to prove this. But I’m not posting them here.]
Of course there is a lot I haven’t covered in this blog. I would love it if my readers would share some of the things which they rely upon already, or plan to investigate, in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wishing us all health in the coming weeks! Thanks for reading!