II. Mysticism Meets Sexology Re: Spectrosexuality Survey

Survey data collection is closed as of March 18. Thank you.


Online dictionaries give simple meanings for the word “sexology.” Examples include “the study of human sexual life or relationships” and “the study of human sexual behavior.” What’s not often expressed is the recognition that sexology often requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Any given inquiry may include investigations into history, erotic arts and literature, medicine, physiology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, pop culture, religions and spirituality, law and public policy, and so on.

I’m realizing that in writing about this simple survey of Neopagan people who report one or more sexual or “emotionally intimate” encounters with spirits (aka “spirit sex”), I will quite likely address a number of different topics. This blog post will describe a few. But first, another word about the (non-scientific, confidential, voluntary) survey itself.

The Survey Has a Simple Premise and Limited Scope

Premise: Human beings can and do have sexual and/or emotionally intimate encounters with unseen beings (gods, angels, demons, ghosts, the Fae, elves, etc.).

This premise includes the assumption that unseen beings (besides microbes) do exist. I can base this assumption on widespread beliefs and reported incidents, such as those found in religions, neopagan and witchy practices, mythologies, etc.

It’s not that I accept all superstition, but as I mentioned in Part I, science is now strongly considering the idea that consciousness exists in all forms of matter. And since science also reports that we’ve got a lot of unseen matter in this cosmos it seems logical to wonder about the types of consciousness that might be intrinsic to dark matter and how that consciousness could possibly organize itself in ways that we recognize as sentient and communicative.

Limited Scope. I am focusing on the experiences and practices of neopagan-esque people who say this has happened to them.

Overlapping Perspectives

In Part I, I described my personal perspectives on the topic. Here are some others.

(1) Sexology

a) Spectrophilia as a fetish or kink

In sexological literature, sex with spirits has been considered a fetish or a kink. For example, in the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices (1992), Brenda Love lists “spectrophilia” (pp. 269-270) and describes it as arousal by intercourse with a range of spirits. She says the union of the Christian God and the Virgin Mary provides one of the most famous examples of spectrophilia. I am not sure this is a good example as it falls more accurately in the category of spectro-sexual mysticism.

Seeking experiences with an incubus or succubus could be a better example of a fetish-like desire, as these beings aren’t known for a transcendental quality in their trysts.

In medical articles, night terrors are the explanation for adult incubus/succubus experiences.

Preliminary Survey Note: None of the survey respondents report “night terror” sensations in the comments sections, though many reported dream encounters with spirit beings.

b) “Psychic Masturbation” and “Mind-Gasms”

Sexual pleasure from a spirit sounds improbable. But sexologists have documented orgasms that occur without physical touch.

Sexuality in the Human Male (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948) found that only “three or four adult males” (out of 5,000 studied) were able to ejaculate purely from fantasy, without touch or physical stimulation (pp. 517-518). (Nocturnal emissions are another matter.) However two percent of “nearly 5,000” wide-awake women were able to achieve orgasm through “psychic stimulation”  (Sexuality in the Human Female. Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin & Gebhard, 1954, pp. 163).

In 1992, Beverly Whipple, Gina Ogden, and Barry Komisaruk compared blood pressure, pupil dilation, heart rate, and pain threshold in ten women who experienced orgasm (1) without physical stimulation and (2) with self-stimulation. In both sessions, the above physiological responses were approximately doubled during orgasm. In a later study Komisaruk and Whipple used fMRI to compare thought orgasms to physically induced orgasms. The only difference was a lack of amygdala activity during thought orgasms. Both studies were cited in The Science of Orgasm (Komisaruk, Beyer-Flores and Whipple, 1992. pp. 260-261).

Mary Roach describes an interview with a woman who learned a “hands-free” orgasm technique from sexologist Annie Sprinkle in the mid-1990s (Bonk, 2008, pp. 239-241).

Other people can achieve “hands-free” orgasms through hypnosis. With practice, this can be very effective. In 2014, I did a survey of 225 erotic hypnosis practioners. Fifty-five percent of 223 respondents said they were “very satisfied” with their “hypno-gasms.”

Preliminary Survey Note: some respondents are reporting the addition of physical sensation to enhance their encounters with spirits.

Close-up of marble statue--head of St. Teresa, leaning back, eyes closed. Wearing a head covering.
Ecstasy of St Theresa (detail), 1652, by Gianlorenzo Bernini. Cornaro chapel, Santa Maria Della Vittoria church in Rome. Photo by Nina Aldin Thune. Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5.

(2) Spectrosexual mysticism

An example would be the ecstasies of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), described in the Aras.org website as part of a tradition of “bridal mysticism,” a union with the Christian god.

Some ancient Tibetan tantra traditions include practices with an imagined and/or visualized partner. This could be a deity, dakini, or yogini. This is called jnanamudra (Miranda Shaw, Passionate Enlightenment:Women in Tantric Buddhism, 1994. p. 172). Judith Simmer-Brown describes the “creation-phase practice” of visualizing oneself as a “yidam deity” as “yab-yum in sexual union.” When done correctly, Simmer-Brown says this can generate “tremendous passion, communication, and connection” between the self-as-deity and the imagined partner deity (Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, 2001, pp. 216-217).

Tantric buddha
Yab yum position.

Devoted and passionate god or spirit connections are also found outside Christian and Tantric Buddhist traditions. Modern variations of Norse Heathenry and Norse-inspired practices yield examples. Dagulf Loptson’s well-researched book contains expressions of devotion to Loki as his “deepest love…most influential teacher…dearest friend” (Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson, 2014, Introduction).

Other examples of spectrosexual devotion and mysticism can be found in The Jotunbok: Working with the Giants of Northern Tradition (Kaldera, Ed., 2006). This book contains many passionate prose essays and devotional poems addressed to Loki, Hel, Angrboda and others in the Jotun pantheon. I find Elizabeth Vongsvisith’s poem, “To Loki,” especially moving (p.276).

As an aside, it doesn’t seem fair that a young Lokean godspouse blogging their ecstasies on Tumblr is more likely to be trolled by an Incel than to have their mystic love immortalized in marble. As a mystic sexologist, I’m just sayin’.

Preliminary Survey Note: several respondents are reporting feelings of emotional intimacy as well as ecstacy and great pleasure when in union (sexual or otherwise) with a beloved deity or spirit.

(3) Beliefs and Narratives

The ancient Hawaiians believed in kane or wahine o ka po (male or female spirit lovers of the night) (Pukui & Handy, The Polynesian Family System in Ka’u, Hawai’i, 1998. pp. 120-122). These lovers could be ‘aumakua (ancestor) or a kupua (ghost or spirit) or even a deity or a nature spirit like a mo’o (lizard-like fresh water spirit). Sometimes human beings could become so attached to their spirit lovers that their will to live could be weakened. In such cases, help would be sought from a kahuna (priest or expert).

The Hawaiian belief in spirit and human intimacy is also reflected in their mo’olelo (stories). The Epic Tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele (Ho’oulumahiehie & Vogelmeier, 2006) begins as the goddess Pele falls into a dream. She flies to the island of Kaua’i, where she entices and seduces a handsome human chief, Lohi’au. Pele falls in love with him. When she awakes, she sends her youngest sister, Hi’iakaikapoliopele, to travel on foot and canoe from Hawai’i Island to Kaua’i, in order to bring Lohi’au back in the flesh. Quite a lot happens along the way. It’s one of the great epic tales of all time.

Keith Dowman’s translation of Lady Yeshe Tsogyel’s life (Skydancer: The Secret Life and Songs of Lady Yeshe Tsogyel, 1996) describes transcendent tantric rituals, magical actions, and a vast array of supernatural beings.

Greek and Roman myths, and myths from other cultures, also contain many examples of love and lust between gods and mortals. Some fairy tales contain these as well.

A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye (1994) is a fine example in contemporary literature. It chronicles the relationship of a middle-aged scholar (female) and a very sensuous Djinn. The sex is fabulous.

This supernatural “human-meets-spirit” plot line never fails to intrigue: even Marvel’s version of the Norse god, Thor, falls for an attractive human scientist and mopes when he can’t be with her. In fact, you can find examples of spectrosexual love just about everywhere you look–practically under every bush, burning or not.

(4) Witchcraft Persecutions

Witchcraft is still illegal and/or socially punished in many parts of the world. During the European witchcraft persecutions, sex with the devil and lesser demons played a huge role in trials. Confessions were obtained under torture. Plenty of salicious material was offered just to obtain relief from the pain. Walter Stephens blames the church’s “crisis of belief” (in supernatural realities) for prosecution insistence on such “evidence” (Demon Lovers, 2013). As a sexologist, I can’t help thinking the prosecutors were also getting off on the accounts of hot witch on demon sex. I believe it was an insistence based on prurience as much as theology.

William Naphy describes three 16th and 17th century cases of demonic sex and witchcraft (including two men so accused) and discusses the attitudes and beliefs of both learned and common people toward witches and their powers (Sex Crimes, 2002, pp. 224-232). According to Naphy, in the 15th and 16th centuries, educated men began to believe that witches really did have access to knowledge from preternatural beings: angels, demons, and other spirits (p. 228). Learned men were also in pursuit of such knowledge and power through studies of alchemy, Kabbalism, numerology, and so on (p. 228). Though their actions were heinous beyond belief, it is easy to understand the ire felt by such learned and pious men, knowing that witches could access such knowledge simply by courting the favor of demons through sexual transactions. This was, in essence, unfair competition and a threat to their status quo. That they could have courted demons in the same way seems to have escaped them…

I mention this topic as a counterpoint to the blithe assumption that such persecution will never happen again, that we–as privileged, computer-saavy Heathens, neopagans, and witches with cellphones–are now free to do as we wilt (even unto Instagram and Facebook). However, the American Satanic Panic had real casualties and the sequel, Son of Satanic Panic, could be just around the corner. Torture and death are still visited upon people suspected of witchcraft in many parts of the world. This even happens to children. Imagine being two years old and accused of witchcraft and demonic possession, then tortured by your parents and other adults. Not much of a life, is it? If you don’t die during torture, you’re likely turned out into the streets to die there instead. So let’s give a thought for those folks–those kids!–and do what we can, even if only from afar. (See Part I.)

I find it ironic (and tragic) that the same religion that asks us to accept a divine baby conceived by a Holy Ghost and a human woman has also been responsible for the above. Perhaps I can be forgiven for seeing human history since the advent of the “Common Era” as a two-thousand-years-old war between dueling systems of magic?

FYI: if you travel internationally, there are a few places where perhaps you won’t want to go if you’re “out” as a witch or a god spouse on social media…

(5) Sex Magic

Before I mention the plethora of books (not to mention YouTube videos) devoted to obtaining a spirit lover, it’s worth mentioning that some sexologists and psychologists have been discovering “transcendent sex” outside of any particular tradition of spirituality, religion, or magic. An example would be Jenny Wade’s book, Transcendent Sex: When Lovemakeing Opens the Veil (2004). Wade discusses a range of phenomena, from unio mystica to taking on an animal spirit during sexual “shapeshifting.”

Could it be that the “learned ones” are actually coming back full circle to where the witches, ceremonial magicians, and sexual mystics have been all along? If so, it’s an interesting time.

So getting back to demons and spirits and sex magic and stuff…

In late medieval Europe, incubi and succubi became “a plague” (Tannahill, 1992, pp. 272-273). Incubi were most worrisome, as they gave pleasure to women. Plus, if they took the shape of a succubus, they could get it on with a man, retain the semen, change into an incubus, get it on with a woman, and get her pregnant with demon spawn (Tannahill, p. 273). It’s not hard to imagine that in spite of such concerns, more than a few people would start to contrive ways to summon these spirits and others for spectro-sex.

In my own library, each of these books deals with some form of sex magic. The last three touch upon sex magic with spirit partners.

Anand, Margot. (1995). The Art of Sexual Magic. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Connolly, S. (2006). The Complete Book of Demonaltry. USA: D. B. Publishing. (pp. 337-339).

Miller, J. (2015). Sex, sorcery and spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books. (pp. 151-167).

U.D., Frater. ( 2001). Secrets of Western Sex Magic. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. (pp. 143-147).

Margo Anand’s book blends western sex magic with western neo-tantra but is focused on human relationships.

For precise information about spirit sex (as well as humor), I would recommend Jason Miller’s book over the other three.

Of course there are plenty of other books out there. These are just what I have on hand right now.

(6) A Word About Everyday God or Spirit Spousery

It’s not all transcendent fireworks. Many god/spirit spouses or consorts have reported sharing quite prosaic activities with their invisible beloved, such as sharing food, drink, and movies. There’s a quiet beauty in feeling your favorite god/dess is nearby as you wash dishes or rake the leaves. It brings “sacredness” into what is commonly called “profane.”

(7) Spectrosexual Cautions

Spirit-human relationships may be much more widespread and “natural” (or preternatural) than we realize. Even so, there are many complexities and cautions to keep in mind.

Respect is key. For an overall perspective on creating respectful interactions with spirits (whether with erotic intent or not), I highly recommend Aidan Wachter’s book, Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic (Red Temple Press, 2018).

Now, for the cautions.

The last thing anyone should do is plunge into a spectrosexual situation without preparation. It may be tempting to liven up a lonely Saturday night by summoning a succubus, but you know, it might not work out as you planned. Read, learn, talk to other magical people. Don’t just look a ritual up on the internet and make a blood offering to something you don’t even know. Get a lot of good advice and take it!

Learn grounding, warding, and protection skills before you do anything else.

Learn to court and cultivate a relationship with spirits and try to do it without a “one-track mind.” Make offerings. Be sincere and humble. These are ancient beings who could be valuable teachers and allies for you, not just an astral hook-up. Again, respect…

Don’t do this stuff until you’re an adult. Honestly, just don’t. You can’t cultivate a good relationship with a spirit being until you know yourself a little better and get some experience dealing with other human beings with courtesy and respect. You’ll need this with spirits too. If you’re a teenager already involved in a spirit relationship, don’t worry. You can always grow and learn, and you can always ask for what you want and you can always say “no.” You have that right.

Whatever your age, learn to negotiate consent and boundaries with other human beings. Know your hard and soft limits.

I am sure there is much more to say, and others might want to add their comments below.


 I hope to begin discussion of the actual survey results in Part III. Thanks for sticking with me as a reader!

 

Updated References

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. 

Dowman, K. (1996). Sky dancer: The secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications. 

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.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B. & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders Company.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders Company.

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. 

Simmer-Brown, J. (2001). Dakini’s warm breath: The feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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.

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I. Preliminary Thoughts Re: Spectrosexuality Survey

Survey Data Collection is Closed as of March 18, 2019. Thank you.

Introduction

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.

Personal Context

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.

Spiritual and Sexual Snobbery

People take umbrage at the most ridiculous things these days. Last night I was weeding out the incomplete responses to my Neopagan Spectrosexual and God Spousery survey–since I need 100 surveys with all ten questions answered–when I stumbled across one person’s irate offering. [Data collection now closed.]

“I don’t consider myself neopagan” was the first sniffy salvo.

Okaaay…I’m thinking, sure not everyone can relate to the label, but it was the best umbrella term I could use. Otherwise I’d have had to put in a whole laundrylist of super-specific traditions: Wiccan with a twist, Heathen but also into crystals, hedge-witch-but-only-with-roses, corporate shamanism… and I would have left out a category and someone would have been offended. Umbrage, you know.

But I was prepared to be patient.

Then the respondent included their fairly specific list of magical lineages and explorations.

Cool. That’s the kind of information I’m seeking. So far so good. I can put up with a little attitude for the sake of data.

Then came the (inevitable) outburst in the comment box which I paraphrase as “god spousery is crap because you can only legitimately be a god spouse if you’re involved in: ________________, _______________, and _______________” (fill in the blanks with the most obscure religious tradition you can find during a five minute poke at a search engine). The respondent ends of course with a nasty little jab at “Tumblr Loki” (a jab which encompasses his god spouses, of which there are legion) and then disappears after question five.

I looked at the screen. I’ll admit, I felt something like dismay, at first, as I am always surprised when (1) people turn nasty for no reason at all and feel it is important to inflict that on others and (2) when people who pride themselves on their “intelligence” can’t read a clear statement about the intention and desired sample of the survey.

But my dismay evaporated quickly. “Is there any reason I should keep this response?” I wondered. “The…hostility is…interesting….though regrettable.”

But no, this isn’t a survey for people to weigh in on the topic of whether or not spectrosexuality and god spousery are real, important, delusional, silly, or only legit when practiced by a brand-name corporate shaman buggering the ghost of the company’s founder with the intention of boosting profits among the living. If it had been, hell yeah, I would have kept the response (assuming the rest of the questions were answered).


The point is, my modest inquiry is a survey of a specific sample: those people engaged in any sort of “neopagan” practices and traditions who feel they have or have had sexually intimate encounters or relationships with unseen beings.


Bottom line: the umbrage person did not fit the sample. I deleted the response. But now I wish I’d taken a screenshot. I was sort of interested in tracking down that corporate shamanism reference. (I’m joking.)

I am tempted to do a follow-up survey though–testing positive and negative opinions about spectrosexuality and god spousery among “neopagans.” People with umbrage would be welcome then. And I’d have time to armor my stomach against their vitriole.

Respect for human sexual (and asexual) behavior is a foundation of sexology.

The most important thing I gained through my sexology education was an immense awe and respect for the range of human sexual behavior and erotic response. As a result, I don’t rank anything that adult people do as “better” than what other adult people do. Whether it’s a Christian marriage between an asexual cis-het couple or a triad consisting of two human beings and a god (who has countless other partners, both spirit and human), my only criteria for “judgment” has to do with consensuality and age of consent.

Prejudice is ugly. And shame can kill.

I have always felt particularly concerned for outsiders, for people who are included in what is known as “sexual minority groups.” (Ditto for “gender minorities.”) Shame, scorn, ridicule, and shunning are profoundly aggressive methods wielded by people who set themselves above others, due to prejudice.

Spiritual shaming is a “kissing cousin” to sexual and gender shaming. There is no difference between a witchy pundit dissing an ardent “Tumblr Loki” god spouse and a right-wing minister calling down the wrath of god (and the congregation) on a gay teenager.

No difference at all.

Unconditional Positive Regard

That’s why I’m engaged in my modest inquiry. I suspect that god spousery and sex with spirits is the new “love that dare not speak its name” (and it won’t be the last). There’s plenty of ridicule and shame being heaped on the people who take my survey and I’m actually sick of that shit.

And I suspect that the phenomena of human-spirit intimacy is as old as humanity itself.

This is not a scientific or academic inquiry. I’m not an impartial researcher. I never was. My agenda is to discover “what people do and how they feel about it” and then to present those discoveries in a context of “unconditional positive regard” in whatever way I can.

And if my patron god chooses to shapeshift into “Tumblr Loki” now and then, who am I to denounce his pleasure? Or those of others? I have compersion–have at it, friends!

Hail Loki!

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Notes on Quotes:

The “love that dare not speak its name” is a phrase from the poem, Two Loves, by Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s lover.

“Unconditional positive regard” is a phrase from the psychologist Carl Rogers, founder of client-centered therapy. Here’s an article which explains the concept.

 

 

A Demon Named Amy?

Because I am willing to write and talk about the unknown, the unseen, and the inexplicable, many people in my life have told me tales of transformative incidents–often spontaneous, often happening outside a specific spiritual context or structure. Things happen. The clouds part, the rock speaks, the ancestors beckon, the spirit descends…or erupts! Yesterday I sat in a homey Lake County cafe–nothing pretty or upscale about it–eating (rather greasy) hashbrowns and one egg. (The salsa was good, though!) I was with a new friend and collaborator and we began to tell chicken-skin stories. Originally our topic had been the Norse gods, specifically Odin and Thor, but we soon branched off into personal epiphanies and occurences.

All over the world, people have these experiences. Some talk about them, some don’t. Some, like me, blog about them. But it took me years to get the nerve to do it.

Several years ago I began to see certain incidents in my life as signposts, perhaps planted by me before I was born. (I know, sounds weird). But there have been too many incidents, too many coincidences, to not have developed this odd little personal philosophy. Trouble is, do the signposts mean “go thataway” or “make a U turn, now?” Do they appear at entries or exits? Or both? This is a problem in discernment.

Two concentric circles with symbolic line drawing in the center. The letters A-M-Y are between the two circles.
Seal of Solomon for Goetic Demon #58, Amy aka Avnas. Image Description: Two concentric circles with symbolic line drawing in the center. The letters A-M-Y are between the two circles.

Earlier this week I came across one such “signpost” which is surely too durned odd and obvious even for me to disregard! But is the message stop or go? What am I to make of stumbling across the mention of a fiery Goetic demon named “Amy” (or “Avnas”) who is (according to one source) a Scorpio (like me) and rules the period Oct. 23-Nov. 1? (November 1st is my birthday.) Though in the U.S. we usually think of Amy as a female name, this demon usually shows up first as a flame, then as a dude, though he can appear as a woman too. He is said to teach astrology and “reveals treasures, bestows familiars, and provokes authority figures to give a positive judgment.”

As a self-proclaimed witchy person, I have to admit I just haven’t been drawn to Goetic demons. I’ve been more interested in other categories of beings, mostly in Celtic and Northern traditions. But I know people who work with the demons, like them, revere them, and who are respectful of them. And I am respectful of the knowledge and advice of these friends.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, the word “demon” has instant negative connotations of evil. They are imagined as horrifying, malicious, and perilous. But the original meaning of the word was more often positive or neutral. In Ancient Greek daimōn meant spirit or genius, or a kind of guardian spirit. In Latin, daemon or daemonium could mean deity or a lesser spirit (sometimes evil).

Now, there are forms of peril probably attached to most kinds of magic, just as there’s peril associated with all aspects of life in general. It doesn’t do to be stupid or naively romantic about motorists, food expiration dates, or unseen beings. I look both ways when I cross the street, so when I stumbled across this Goetic signpost in the middle of my Lokean life, I started looking both ways (as well as four directions, up and down, and inside and out). And of course I utilized my trusty search engines and pendulum to discover more.

So, I found info like this: Amy is number 58 in the roster of Goetic demons, is a fallen angel (therefore in Lucifer’s camp), and is an Earl or President of Hell. Amy also rules mediumship and possession, other forms of trance work (I’m a hypnotist), and likes snakeskin offerings. (I immediately thought of my gold snakeskin ankle boots from the 80s, carefully preserved, worn on stage during an Iggy Pop concert at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco…). And there was a bunch of other stuff I don’t understand, not being familiar with this tradition.

Little_Women-Demon-_frontispiece-1

And here I pause to giggle to myself. I never liked the name “Amy.” My mother said she named me after Amy March in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But now I dig it. I much prefer the idea that my mother was unconsciously and mystically prompted to name her firstborn after a Goetic demon–one who is sure to share my taste in boots–than the rather spoiled little sister of the peerless Jo March. Actually, the above could explain a lot about my dysfunctional upbringing and social difficulties.

Though I now have some information about the Goetic Amy, I have no idea yet what it means in the context of witchery, my mostly Northern devotional practices, and my life. Of course I check in with Loki (via pendulum and divination). The response is cautious/positive about my learning more, but the pendulum swing says they “get along.”

And there may be an ancestral connection as well. My context is the Ancestral Medicine practice from Daniel Foor. In his teaching, one of the discoveries we can make about our lineages are the spiritual traditions which were/are important for those ancestors, including those from pre-Christian times. For example, my father’s father’s line seems connected to Norse traditions and even to Loki. Another example: I recently started working with my father’s mother’s lineage. The Irish/Celtic Brigit showed up as being important here, which makes sense because this line brings my Irish ancestry. As a result, I’ve begun to add Brigit to my daily devotions. So it may be that the Goetic Amy was important to one or more of my ancestors. I’ve got some divinatory indications for that but they are too vague to say any more at this time.

So I’m giggling again. “Amy? It’s a family name.” And honestly, if this demon is known as a “president from hell,” he can’t be any worse than the one that’s currently seated you know where.

We’ll see where this goes.

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Love and Unholy Glee: Loki and the Positivity Ratio

Loki depicted as a shirtless god with long red hair and horns. One boot missing. Jewelry, skull belt, hands above head. Bent knees. Dark trees and crescent moon in background.
One of my favorite Loki Images, by A. Sceithhailim on DeviantArt. You can purchase this print! I did! Go to https://www.deviantart.com/sceith-a/gallery/49128055/Laufeyjar-sonr

Loki is great for my Positivity Ratio! I could never have dreamt I’d find such a rich source of positive emotions in the service (and the metaphysical arms) of a notorious trickster god!

This morning I woke up to find yet another clever Loki-themed meme posted on social media (I will share it at the bottom of this post). The meme caused me to experience immediate pleasure in the form of amusement–the kind I classify as “unholy glee”–as well as a feeling of an almost blissful love. That’s one of the many perks of being a Lokean–access to endless witicisms and scads of great artwork inspired by our favorite Norse deity (example at left) or his deft Midgardian cosplayer, Marvel Loki.

So, what is this Positivity Ratio? Psychologist and researcher Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., has found that we in Midgard need a diet rich in positive emotions in order to thrive. The minimum ration is three positive emotions to every negative one. I learned about Dr. Frederickson’s work through her free Coursera class on Positive Psychology. You can check your own emotional nutrition by taking her Positivity Ratio test online.

You’ll notice in the list below that “happiness” is not included in the list. It’s too vague. Instead, Fredrickson lists happy-making emotions as elements (nutrients!) that can enrich an emotional diet. The idea is, you can do this deliberately, just as you can choose to add vitamin supplements or a fresh salad to your daily menu.

B. Fredrickson 10 Positive Emotions

Now, when I took Fredrickson’s online course, I was in bad shape: I’d moved away from California and was desperately homesick, I was waiting for my divorce to finalize, a love affair had soured, I had developed a bad case of social anxiety, and so on. I was often alone, depressed, and hopeless. But when I encountered the above list, I realized that no matter how bad I felt, I could ALWAYS access Interest and Amusement. In other words, learning new things like magic (interest) and watching cat videos (amusement) could improve my mood, even if the improvement just lasted a minute or two.

Increasing the daily frequency of such emotions could–and did–build my resilience over time. Resilience is key.

I would say that Loki the trickster represents a deified personification of “Nonserious Social Incongruity” aka “Amusement” (among other things). I tried to get at this in a previous post, My Lord, I Offer Thee…Twisted Humor.

Through my devotion to Loki and my other deities, I access nine out of ten of the above positive emotions. Certainly I feel Love, Awe, Gratitude, along with Interest and Amusement. The only emotion that I don’t seem to experience in this context is Pride.

I never thought I’d understand what religious practices and beliefs did for people, but after a couple of years of my own daily devotions, now I think I do. Our imagined but not imaginary companions–gods, goddesses, non-binary deities, spirits, ancestors, etc.–present an opportunity to engage and enlarge ourselves through the above emotions as well as the larger beings we’ve contacted. I have a little more empathy now for people who are “high on Jesus” and those who have similar evangelical fervor regarding other deities. They think the rest of us are missing out on the bliss they experience. They don’t understand why others may reject their particular source (which they feel must be the ONLY source). They don’t understand that it may not be the specific deity or set of practices that provide that bliss, it’s the repeated, deliberate connection with something (anything!) larger that provides the emotions that eventually coalesce into a feeling of grace.

I should add that states of grace can be experienced through creative, intellectual, or generous actions–it’s not just a “gift of the gods.”

But for me, Loki is the fast track to all kinds of emotional goodies. When I wake up to a meme like this (based on Marvel’s Midgardian cos-player), I laugh, I feel glee, I swipe the meme and post it myself. I laugh at myself when I do it. And I enjoy people’s reactions. I am amused. And this improves my emotional diet, which can then be tracked via my positivity ratio.

This is just the beginning–sharing such emotional goodies with others is also a way to amplify them. That’s partly why our Lokean community is so vital. We can easily increase our Positivity Ratio by harvesting positive emotions through our Loki-related sharing.

It all makes perfect sense now.

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Google Image search did not reveal original source. I do not own this image. I found it on Facebook.

Hail Loki! God of Nonserious Social Incongruity!

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Sexologist Leaves Broom Closet

The “Broom Closet” is a term which refers to neopagans and witches who are not “out” about their religion and practices. As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I have worked with many people who at one time or another had to emerge from a sexual or gender closet in order to lead a more authentic life.  What I’ve just done is slightly similar, though more fraught with professional peril than with personal difficulties.

Jean-François_Portaels_-_The_witch
The Witch, Jean-François Portaels. Public Domain.

Of course it doesn’t escape me that outing myself as a witchy Lokean neopagan polytheist means my potential dating pool has now shrunk to the size of a small puddle, but hey, what’s not to like? (I mean that with the sincerest irony…)

So here’s the skinny. The last three years–after my divorce and the sale of our family home–have been personally and professionally difficult. I’ve been financially and geographically exiled from my beloved San Francisco Bay Area where my family resides. I’ve had difficulty re-establishing my professional practice in both Hawai’i and here in Lake County. Therefore I’ve struggled with a lack of interest AND motivation with regard to my work. The only truly consuming interest, besides general survival in a new region, has been a deepening of my spiritual life and the pursuit of magical knowledge.

I am a creature motivated by special interests. If I get bored with something, I drop it in favor of a compelling new shiny. Due to lack of business and time-wasting sexual harrassment by pretend clients, the field of sexology began to lose its appeal for me. I felt burnt-out. In Hawai’i, while working on my first novel, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I began to study magic and witchcraft as research for the book. I was soon hooked by everything about it. Whee! Something that’s even more fun than just plain sexology or just plain hypnosis but which can absorb elements of both (e.g. sex magic, tantra, and trance work)! And I’ve always been a mystic anyway, since about age twelve… (FYI, I’m now working on the second in the Ornamental Hermits series.)

I’m also not good at compartmentalization. I can do it, but it always feels wrong and exhausting. Over the last several months, I’ve been longing to combine my spiritual life with my work life with my (non-existent) romantic life. I just want put it all together in one oddly shaped package as so many others have done before me, and then spend that released energy on more interesting pursuits.

That rune reading, done on Imbolc with the help of my patron deity, Loki, encouraged me to take the leap. That’s what Loki’s all about–pushing his devotees out of stuck places and into new terrain. At first I thought he wanted me to leave my sexology practice altogether. Now I realize he wanted me to MUTATE and deepen it. Therefore, I spent parts of yesterday and today re-writing my professional website to announce my new direction. Doing this does feel like emerging from a rather stale crysalis and my wings are still a bit crumpled and soggy. However, my new page,  “FAQ: Out of the Broom Closet”, was actually a lot of fun to write.

Plus, the idea that I’ll be deliberately working in tandem with my deities and guides means I’m not going it alone any longer. I hope this means my clients will benefit from my improved access to insights and energy, gifts of the gods, belike.

Also the sexual harrassment from fake clients has been a source of worry, but I’ll be invoking protection and warding the heck out of my practice from now on. My Norse deities can be pretty hardcore…

So thanks to them, and Loki in particular, I am expanding and mutating once again. And with Freyr and Freya as deities of both sexuality and magic, I’ll also be appreciative of their ongoing guidance. I hope that in becoming whole, I’ll be doing work now that is “holy” in the best and most expansive sense of the word. I feel excited.

LOKI_0031-897x1024

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Breath of Life

So many estoteric traditions and magical practices make use of the power of breath. But what to do when even your normal ability to breathe is hampered by indoor and outdoor pollutants?

The ability to breathe is fundamental to most life on this planet. For almost thirty years, almost half my life, I have struggled to breathe freely, to breathe clean air. Now I know that billions of human beings (plus our animals and plants) are also struggling with this simple, necessary action in this astoundingly polluted world. However, as someone who experiences many kinds of health problems when exposed to even small amounts of common consumer toxins, my condition still seems exotic or even foolishly “special” or deluded to most people. However, soon people like me will the mainstream, not just outliers, and there is nothing in place to handle that public health disaster (Anne Steinemann’s 2018 study estimates one in four Americans already suffer some form of environmental illness). Medical practices and public policies in the United States have not kept pace with the impact of toxic chemicals on human and environmental health. Unlike many other countries, we have no precautionary principle to guide our decision-making.

Pollution, like climate change and war, is one of the apocalyptic challenges of our time. We will not survive if we don’t address them. These three challenges are interelated and are also deeply emeshed in capitalism and consumerism.

The Impact of Indoor Air Pollution is Seldom Addressed

In 1998, Wayne R. Ott and John W. Roberts published the results of their studies in “Everyday Exposure to Toxic Pollutants” in Scientific American. You can download the PDF here. Quote:

“…most citizens were very likely to have the greatest contact with potentially toxic pollutants not outside but inside the places they usually consider to be essentially unpolluted, such as homes, offices and automobiles. The exposure arising from the sources normally targeted by environmental laws–Superfund sites, factories, local industry–was negligible in comparison. Even in the New Jersey cities of Bayonne and Elizabeth, both of which have an abundance of chemical processing plants, the levels of 11 volatile organic compounds proved much higher indoors than out. (Concentrations of the other volatile compounds tested were found to be insignificant in both settings.) The chief sources appeared to be ordinary consumer products, such as air fresheners and cleaning compounds, and various building materials.”

Nothing has changed. In fact, things have gotten worse. MUCH worse.

Those Who Are Aleady Ill and Know the Cause

Do you have friends, relatives, co-workers, or patients who are afflicted by exposure to toxic chemicals? Are you seeking a way to understand this complex and derided condition? For an excellent discussion of the impact of environmental illness and chemical injuries on everyday people, please see these links to Linda Sepp’s Seriously Sensitive to Pollution blog. Note: “MCS” stands for “multiple chemical sensitivity” and “ES” stands for “environmental sensitivity.”

Part One: What’s It Like to Have MCS/ES? Arms, Brains, and Legs.

Part Two: What’s It Like to Have MCS/ES? Curbs. (I am quoted in this one.)

Part Three: What’s It Like to Have MCS/ES? Toast Chaos. 

For more information, go to the Environmental Health Network of California, Chemical Injury Information Network and The Environmental Working Group Not Too Pretty report.

And check out the documentary, StinkHere’s the trailer. It’s currently on Netflix.

Babies and Children, Innocents at Risk

Even babies are subjected to harmful volatile organic compounds. “Squishy” soft foam toys have been banned in Denmark, due to hazardous scents and other toxins. And here is a quote from “Volatile chemical emissions from fragranced baby products,”Air Quality, Atmosphere, and Health, June 2018:

“Fragranced consumer products have been associated with adverse effects on human health. Babies are exposed to a variety of fragranced consumer products, which can emit numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some considered potentially hazardous. However, fragranced baby products are exempt from disclosure of all ingredients. Consequently, parents and the public have little information on product emissions. This study investigates VOCs emitted from a range of fragranced baby products, including baby hair shampoos, body washes, lotions, creams, ointments, oils, hair sprays, and fragrance.”

As for the unborn or never to be born, human sperm counts are plummeting worldwide. Here is a link to “Air Pollution and Quality of Sperm: A Meta-Analysis,” 2015. Seventy-six articles were reviewed.

et tu
Meme source unknown

Animals Can’t Tell You They’d Like Clean Air Too

As for animals, it is a shame what we’re doing to them. Even people who adore their pets have no problem subjecting them to toxic personal care products, essential oils, “air fresheners,” scented candles, and scented animal washes and even toe nail polish on dogs. Here’s a quote from an article by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, which outlines some of the reasons pets are at great risk:

“Most pets are even smaller than kids.
They tend to spend a lot of time near the floor where all indoor air pollutants eventually wind up.
They groom themselves and each other, which means they’re ingesting the pollutant particles that have accumulated on their fur and in the environment.
Many pets spend up to 100 percent of their time indoors, and are living with very high levels of airborne toxins.
These factors combine to put pets at the highest risk of anyone in the household for health conditions related to indoor air pollution. Even if neither you nor your pets are having symptoms, it’s still possible the air fresheners in your home are harming your health. Most of the effects of these products aren’t immediately obvious and may not even manifest as respiratory issues. Some people say, “If I was having a problem, my pets or I would have watery eyes. We’d be coughing or wheezing.” But that’s not always the case.”

In other words, the use of products which create airborne toxins is chemical abuse of children and animals (not to mention adult humans). 

Some Products Used in Magic Rituals Can Impact Indoor Air Quality

From that same article by Dr. Becker, there’s also a caution for those of us who love our animals and children, but who also engage in magic and devotional rituals indoors:

“A 2001 EPA study concluded that candles containing fragrance produce more soot. It’s possible organic compounds in poor-quality candle wax may increase cancer risk.(2) A 2009 study warns that the chemicals emitted into the air by burning candles can have a harmful effect on human health.(3) Paraffin candles produce potentially toxic chemicals, including alkanes, alkenes and toluene.

Like air fresheners, scented candles can also contain dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde and VOCs. Cheaply made candles can contain toxic levels of heavy metals in the wicks. When one of these candles burns, the lead particles are released into the air. Frequent use of these candles could contribute to the development of health conditions such as asthma, allergies and cancer.

Research shows that burning incense can be dangerous to human health, and a 2015 study even suggested it’s much worse that inhaling cigarette smoke.(4) Incense smoke is mutagenic, meaning it can cause mutations in DNA that can lead to cancer. In the 2015 study, incense was found to be more toxic to cells and DNA than cigarette smoke. Of the 65 compounds identified in incense smoke, two were determined to be highly toxic.”

The Magic of Interdependence?

Switching now from science to metaphysics, I’ve touched before on the spiritual and esoteric quandries posed by artificial substances and toxins, those substances that result from what I call “unwise alchemies.” And I am personally desperate for anything–ANYTHING–that can ease my remaining years on this planet and provide a semblance of better health. I am frankly weary of fleeing fragrant products in particular, which are everywhere I go. And I am tired of living as a hermit (though I fancy myself “ornamental”).

And I’ve used various breath techniques for years–tantric breathing, HA breath for ho’oponopono rituals, the “six healing sounds” (Taoist) practice, and so on–though I often forget to resort to these techniques in times of crisis (like when the stove repair man comes into my home offgassing a scented deodorant).

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the uses of language, sounds, breath, and how to put these together to help myself. Obsessing, really. I don’t use the word “desperate” lightly.

So I was staggered this morning when I came across a possible helpful technique, a combination of breath and sound, explained in a way that I could understand. I found it in a link from a post made by Aidan Wachter (author of Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic).

The link was to the Perfumed Skull (I know, not a completely auspicious name from my perspective), a blog written by Ben Joffe, “a cultural anthropology Ph.D. candidate” as of 2016. (He’s probably received his doctorate by now.) His June 19, 2016 post is titled “The Magic of Interdependence: A General Description of the View of How Mantras Produce Results.” It concerns a book on mantra healing called The Science of Interdependent Connection Mantra Healing (rten ‘brel sngags bcos thabs kyi rig pa) by Dr Nida Chenagtsang and Yeshe Drolma, Beijing People’s Press, December 2015. The post includes a translation (his translation?) of “Chapter Four: A Rough Explanation of How Mantras Work.” Though there are all kinds of compelling implications for Western magic practitioners in this chapter, here is the part that grabbed my attention, because it may be of practical value to me:

“As an example of how the way in which breath flows generates results, if, taking the mantra-syllables OM AH HUNG, one intones OM when one inhales, AH as one abides (or holds the breath), and HUNG as one exhales, the three-fold arising, entering and abiding of the rlung flows in the proper way, and as a result this is greatly beneficial for the body. Through the good qualities of the proper movement of the constitutive elements, five winds, as well as life-bearing and upward-flowing (winds), bodily illness is cured (and) the constitutive elements are balanced. It (also) endows one with the good quality of mental happiness. These are the reasons that what are called the three Vajra seed-syllables are extolled by all mantra-holders or ngakpa as the highest of mantras. Moreover, intoning ‘HA’ and expelling HA! with a strong sigh for diseases of the vital and heart-winds, for mental discomfort, memory loss, mental agitation or anxiety directly expels stale rlung in the life-force channel(s) from out the body and thereby cures disease.”

[The above also credited by Ben Joffe as from ‘The Science of Dependent-Origination Mantra Healing’ (rten ‘brel sngags bcos rig pa), written by Nyida Heruka and Yeshe Drolma, 2015, mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 36-52.]

I am particularly struck by the instructions to inhale, hold, and exhale each syllable. In all the neotantric workshops and pujas I’ve ever attended, not once we were we ever instructed to OM on an inhale. (So, is a little–neotantric–knowledge a dangerous or an ineffective thing?)

The authors say “reciting the three Vajra seed-syllables (OM AH HUNG) balances the breath and resolves sickness.” I have tried this now a few times, in the recommended manner, and it will definitely take practice. To generate the mantra syllable “Ah” while holding my breath is no easy feat! And I have to take gulps of air between each series of syllables. I am going to practice this a lot and see what happens.

I am also staring hard at the chapter’s reference to “mantras for poisoning,” because poisoning is exactly what we are all experiencing at this time, on this planet. Do I sense a practice that might be useful for transforming the toxic effect of the unwise alchemies? What would happen if many practitioners gathered together to ease the poisoning of a place, with such a mantra? I want very badly to understand this.

Finally I am happy to find this sentence as well: “One’s own mind and the minds of others are made sick through harsh words, and conversely, expressing pleasant words can gladden others’ hearts.” I was attempting to address this very topic earlier this week in my blog post, “Try a Little Tenderness.”

I notice that toxic and uncivil words and harsh sounds are as ubiquitous as toxic chemicals in modern American culture. There are so many ways to make and keep us sick. But perhaps somewhere in a skillful use of our breath, and mantras of seed syllables, and the weilding of pleasant words, there may lie a little more healing for me and for all of you too.

As always, comments are very welcome. Thank you, readers!

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