Survey Data Collection is Closed as of March 18, 2019. Thank you.
At first glance, a lot has changed since 1587, when poor Walpurga Hausmannin, an aging midwife, was tortured, mutilated, and burnt at the stake in the town of Dillingen for witchcraft and other crimes, including a long-term sexual relationship with a demon (Stephens, pp.1-3). Naturally her confession was gained through torture. We cannot know what (if anything) was “true” and what was not.
But in other places, not much has changed after all. In West Africa (and perhaps other places) some children are being tortured and killed as a result of witchcraft accusations and “deliverance” rituals. (See the UK agency, Child Safe Africa, for information and ways to help.)
However I have the privilege of pretending things have changed for those actually practicing witchcraft (and for those suspected of it). I can sit here at the Pacific edge of the United States–an older white woman with New England ancestors, a professional as well as a self-proclaimed witchy person–calm and unafraid to run an online survey about other neopagan computer owners’s sexual experiences with gods, angels, demons, and other spirits. And I do not worry that my small village will be coming after me with pitchforks and torches.
It’s a blessing to be free to practice my own religion and spirituality, and to be able to conduct a sexological inquiry without fear of much in the way of reprisal. However, the topic of spectrosexuality and god/spirit spousery is still misunderstood and controversial even among practitioners in many neopagan and allied magical traditions. (And it may not be well-received among human sexuality professionals either.) People who claim sexual experiences with gods or spirits (either sought or spontaneously occuring) may be bullied, trolled, suspected of being super kinky, or “having a screw loose,” or outright mendacity. Of course, we’re still living under the shadow of America’s last Satanic Panic, so real world consequences for anyone “out” as a spectrosexual or god spouse could certainly ensue without much warning.
It is from this awareness that I perform this act of service–gathering and presenting information via an informal, non-scientific survey and through a series of blogs which will discuss the results, as well as overlapping contexts, which I hope will advance greater understanding.
This is the first in a series of blog posts which will expand on this topic, but not without some preliminaries. Let’s get ’em out of the way.
Note: I am writing in a deliberately conversational, non-academic way but my reference list is APA style.
I am a practitioner and student of neopagan and witchcraft traditions. I consider myself a Lokean (my patron deity is the Norse Loki) but my personal practice is devotional and polytheistic and blends western neotantra, Norse traditions, eclectic witchery, ancestor work, and other traditions.
I have written several relevant blogs, including Spectrosexuality: Spirit Sex and God Spousery. I have explored why Loki Pushes my Neo-tantra Buttons. I have also described my personal practice of neo-tantric meditation, energy, and visualization exercises that incorporate the “spiritual transformation template” of my patron deity. And more.
I am a sexologist. As such, I am also no stranger to writing about unusual sexual orientations and topics. My article, Love Among the Objectum Sexuals (2010), has garnered international attention and is still a popular introduction for journalists and scholars who are interested in people who are affectionately and sexually partnered with objects. In 2009-2010 I wrote a year’s worth of weekly columns called “Love’s Outer Limits” for Carnal Nation (an NSFW online gazette, longer published). A third of those columns have been collected in Sex Squicks. Topics were quite varied.
I am a professional hypnotist and hypnosis instructor. I do trancework. I know how the mind and imagination can create sensations not grounded in external physical experience. In fact, I teach erotic hypnosis as a sexual enrichment technique to individuals and partners.
The above combination gives me a unique perspective on the topic at hand.
I Act “As If” Interactions with Spirit Beings are Real
My approach to the many amazing things that have happened to me, as well as the things I’ve heard from others, is to say what happens when I act “as if” such and such is true? What are the practical and emotional results? Is my life enhanced? Diminished? Is my thinking clearer? Do more things make sense? Or do I feel muddy and murky and confused? I keep an open mind, but I explore the premise.
Common sense comes into play when I look at the vast amount of religious, spiritual, historical, anthropological, and even sexological material dealing with the impact of spirit beings on humanity. I have to say “why would we make this up if there wasn’t some truth in it?” Surely evolving human beings didn’t “need” to create gods, angels, demons, faeries, ancestral spirits, and others just for entertainment or comfort. However, we live in a cosmos which is now known to be made of matter infused with consciousness. Scientists are aligning with animists.
So, yes, Virginia, your egg beater does have a demon… offer a little milk and honey. You’ll get along fine.
Accepting an animist reality for the inexplicable happenings and for my personal relationships with deities and spirits has been overwhelmingly positive, once I got my bearings. Now that I am at the stage of cultivating such relationships, it has been very rewarding. I now understand people who are religious, who say they have a “personal relationship with Jesus” or Lucifer or some other divinity or spirit. My response now is, “Yup. Seems to be how this works. Just don’t tell me who I can and can’t hang out with.” And I go on my merry way with Loki and the gang.
The “Research Question”
Because this survey is not academic, and not a scientifically structured inquiry, my question is very loose: “what do people do [re: spirit intimacy] and how do they feel about it?” The survey has a small sample size (100 n.) and gathers open-ended responses as well as rough numerical data. I want to inform the neopagan community first and the sexological community second (the general public a distant third). And I hope to uncover some data that could be used as a precursor to a more truly academic inquiry.
The Draft Reference List
With one exception*, these are all books from my personal and sexological library. I’ll be exploring and positioning the results of the survey using material in these books for context and perspectives. There will be other sources, but I post this draft reference list in the preliminaries so you can sense points of entry and perspectives for consideration. What I write in the next several blogs won’t be based on an exhaustive literature search, as I don’t have much spare cash to order more books or access to journals in a university library. I know I’ll be missing key texts, especially magical ones. But between what’s below and what I can find on the internet (references to be added later) I hope to present a roughly comprehensive consideration of the topic.
Anand, M. (1995). The art of sexual magic: Cultivating sexual energy to transform your life. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Connolly, S. (2006). The complete book of demonolatry. USA: DB Publishing.
de Quincey, C. (2005). Radical knowing: Understanding consciousness through relationship. Rochester VT: Park Street Press.
Grundy, S. (2015). God in flames, god in fetters: Loki’s role in the northern religions. New Haven, CT: Troth Publications.
Ho’oulumahiehie & Nogelmeier, M.P. (2006). The epic tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele: Woman of the sunrise, lightening-skirted beauty of Halema’uma’u. Honolulu HI: Awaiaulu Press.
Kaldera, R. (Ed.). The jotunbok: Working with the giants of the northern tradition. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.
Komisaruk, B. R., Beyer-Flores, C., & Whipple, B. (2006). The science of orgasm. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lacquer, T.W. (2003). Solitary sex: A cultural history of masturbation. New York, NY: Zone Books.
Loptson, D. (2014). Playing with fire: An exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.
Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of unusual sex practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Baricade Books, Inc.
Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Vol. 13.
Miller, J. (2015). Sex, sorcery, and spirit: The secrets of erotic magic. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books.
Naphy, W. (2004). Sex crimes from renaissance to enlightenment. Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd.
Pukui, M.K. and Handy, E.S.C. (1998). The Polynesian family system in Ka’u, Hawai’i. Honolulu, HI: Mutual Publishing.
Roach, M. (2008). Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Shaw, M. Passionate englightenment: Women in tantric buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Stephens, W. (2013 ) Demon lovers: Witchcraft, sex, and the crisis of belief. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.*
Tannahill, R. (1992). Sex in history. [No location]: Scarborough House.
Taylor, T. (1996). The prehistory of sex: Four million years of human sexual culture. New York: NY: Bantam Books.
Tedlock, B. (2006). The woman in the shaman’s body: Reclaiming the feminine in religion and medicine. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
U.D., F. (2001). Secrets of western sex magic: Magical energy and gnostic trance. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Wade, J. (2004). Transcendent sex: When lovemaking opens the veil. New York NY: Paraview Pocket Books.
Wachter, A. (2018). Six ways: Approaches & entries for practical magic. [No location]: Red Temple Press.
See you for Part II.