Animism and Objectum Sexuality

This last weekend’s full moon in Scorpio was one heck of a wild ride. Between deeply grieving over my deceased temple cat and attending Saturday’s sunrise ceremony to honor ancestors of the local Pomo community who were killed in the 1850 massacre, it was already pretty intense. Then I got the news that Australia’s Channel 7 “Sunday Night” was finally going to air their segment on objectum sexuality.


Objectum sexuality is an affectionate, romantic, and/or sexual orientation involving emotional and physical intimacy with beloved objects as partners. This is far beyond using sex toys or having a fetish.


As a sexologist, I was interviewed by the “Sunday Night” crew back in February. I had been wondering when the segment would air so news of the broadcast cheered my weekend. Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a link to the show that works for me here in the U.S. so I have no idea if my lipstick was on straight or–more importantly–if I made much sense.

Now I’m trying process this latest episode in my on-again, off-again “fifteen minutes of fame.” And what comes up for me is this: I’ve written several times about the sexological aspect of objectum sexuality (read my 2009 study here) but I haven’t written about it from an animist (and mystic) perspective.

First let’s talk about animism: the idea of ensouled and conscious matter. Animism is fundamental to many forms of magic. After all, why bother with magical practices if we don’t believe that the objects and spirits we wish to influence will understand and respond to us?

Science now validates this ancient concept, asserting that consciousness appears to be an intrinsic quality of matter. (Here’s a link to a PBS/Nova article on these new findings. It’s possible to find many more.) But for many Westerners, even a scientific validation of consciousness-infused matter will be tough to accept. Westerners are so used to thinking of “things” as inert receptors that we seldom entertain a notion of mutual relationships with “non-living” sentient matter.  However, it’s interesting that we’re now seeing such things as legal recognition of the personhood of rivers. May this trend continue, including recognition of our planet as a legal person!

Enter the phenomena of objectum sexuality. But I want to start first with people who actually do detect personalities in various objects. This is known as object personification synesthesia. You can read an entire case study here. In 2009 I proposed object personification synesthesia as a possible explanation or component of objectum sexuality. But this is a hypothesis at present. We need a proper study to confirm or deny causality or correlation. We need to find out if any of the various forms of synesthesia are found among any or many OS people, and if so, is object personification synesthesia one of them? And if that is so, does it have an impact on their partner preferences and erotic desires or is some other factor at play?

It’s an interesting hypothesis, since people with object beloveds feel quite natural about this part of their lives. In the documentary Animism (below), Erika Eiffel said she feels “wired” for these kinds of relationships. When I conducted my 2009 survey with a small number of OS people, their accounts of their relationships, emotions, and “ups and downs” were pretty much what you’d expect from anyone in an intimate relationship. A few people did report instances of trauma and a few had mental health conditions, but these did not appear to cause OS. For some, the recognition of object attraction predated a trauma or condition. Given all that, why not investigate object personification synesthesia, since it is already acknowledged in scientific literature, and see if it helps to explain why objectum sexuals so often describe their attraction to the personalities of their beloved objects? Somebody fund something, please!

Veering back to the connection with animism, many OS people identify as animists. I mentioned the documentary called Animism: People Who Love Objects. Here’s the trailer. (I found it on Netflix several months ago. It might still be there.)

While OS people offer love to their object partners, magical practitioners partner with  objects by charging them with ritual significance, power, tasks, or thought forms. Animism is why we hug trees or pray to the sun and moon, why we bless the food we eat or the car we drive. It just doesn’t make sense to me that these are vestigal superstitions, only “myths to live by” which serve no practical purpose. I’d rather explore the common sense benefits of this outlook and to cultivate awareness and good manners along with my magic skills.

More speculatively, does the existence of object personification synesthesia mean that some human beings are gifted with a natural ability to sense forms of non-living consciousness (beyond just having their senses “cross wired”)? Did our ancestors develop rituals to reach non-living beings, based on the perceptions or directions of synesthete shaman? Why have people throughout time and in every culture taken such pains to develop rituals and practices to contact beings (both invisible and non-living)? Why so much work if none of this is real?

Scientific proof of animism will be resisted in capitalist consumer cultures until enough humans have contact with non-living but sentient material beings (and post about it on social media…LOL). “Artificial intelligences” may reveal profound and surprising discoveries, drawing upon not just their programmed capacities for learning, but also from their own innate material sentience. And the relationships of those outliers currently known as objectum sexuals will begin to make more sense to more people. When we reach these tipping points, profound changes are inevitable.

Of course, we have a long way to go. There are numerous cruel people in the world who can’t even accept the personhood and rights of other humans and other living beings. Such people aren’t likely to care about the rights and personhood of a river or a chair. In fact, they’ll probably take extra pleasure in destroying objects when they hear that a “thing” could experience some of what living creatures feel and think. The rest of us will develop rites and rituals for communicating and engaging with non-living sentient beings, from the pill in a medicine bottle to an old car that would rather not be junked.  We’ll need to find ways to ask permission and gain consent, cut deals and negotiate courses of action, to forgive or ask forgiveness, to release, transform and transmute…

Oh wait, we’ve already got lots of that stuff lying around! To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future we’ll all have fifteen minutes of magic. And marriages to a bridge or car will become just another thing that some people do. No big deal–only awkward when the china pattern IS the groom.

[P.S. in case you’re interested, here’s a fascinating general article about synesthesia and sex–published in the Smithsonian so probably “safe for work”.]

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My Gods are Fragrance-Free

What follows is imagined, an eco-parable. Gerda, a Jotun, smells only of rich soil, bruised herbs from her garden, and luscious Jotun pheromones. This was enough to dazzle the Vanir god, Freyr, from afar. His sister, Freya, adorns herself with amber jewels, but cares for her skin only with salves of honey, clear water, and powdered grains. The dry tips of her hair are moistened only with the tiniest bit of melted butter. She scorns the feckless chemistries, the unwise alchemies, of Midgard’s humans, which propel poison into every living thing. Freya has complained to Odin that dead warriors are no longer what they once were–they are now creatures with flacid muscles, except for their texting hands, and that they die now with withered sperm counts, and distortions in their DNA.

Even worse–“They (the humans) are even going after the roots of the World Tree,” she whispers, “with something called ‘Round-Up.'”

Freyr, the Corn God, nods. He dies each year for the harvest and comes back reborn, but it’s becoming apparent that the humans who once honored him for this would now rather manipulate the mysteries of the grain themselves. Perhaps an extended vacation in Vanaheim is in the runes…let the humans spend a year without him for once, prefereably after an Icelandic eruption, when ash clouds herald global famine. That’d learn ’em, he thinks, but in the next moment he backs away from such thoughts. He will serve as he has always served, all these long eons. “Perhaps Ragnarök will be a blessing after all…”

Freyr smells of rich earth too, and Gerda’s herbs and mead, and a not-unpleasant tang of godly sweat and semen. Vanir pheromones are also rather scrumptious, carrying a faint scent of apples. But humans, drunk on designer petrochemicals, can no longer detect them.

As for Ragnarök, Loki has no comment. What will be, will be, and has been–so many times. Contrary to his bad press, Loki finds no happiness in wanton destruction…but cleansing…the metabolism of poisons when all else fails…sometimes that is something to be desired. He should know. The next cycle has already unleashed forces powerful enough to bake the planet, to scour it of the unwise alchemies of the paltry, money-grubbing humans. Midgard will eventually recover (Gaia is strong) but Loki isn’t all that keen to be the trickster god of cockroaches. However, he recognizes the cosmic joke about to be played on them all. He’ll do his best to find some fragment of mirth when the time comes. But onlookers will mistake his battle grin for vengeful joy, misunderstanding the mask that hides his hot, angry tears. It was all so unnecessary! It always is! Meanwhile, cremation fires are at hand for another death of a too beautiful world. It’s Loki’s job to ensure that creation follows cremation. Somebody has to do it…

Sometimes Loki wishes Sigyn had gone in for systems change, rather than holding the bowl for him alone. He imagines he could have borne his suffering–bound with his son’s entrails and scorched by viper spittle–if he’d known she was battling the powers that be, on behalf of all sentient beings. Sigyn might have known better though, and who really is to say? Her victory might yet be won.

1920px-Loki_Bound_by_Collingwood
Sigyn holding the bowl, to keep the viper venom from dripping onto Loki.

It doesn’t take a völva prophecy to know what’s coming. Freya sheds tears. She and her daughter want to save a cat or two. Freya wants the falcons to be okay, and bees. Freyr puts in a word for boars and grains. Dogs too. Their father wants to save whales, sharks, sea turtles, guppies, and coral polyps, among others. His is a long list. Loki would like to send wolves and snakes and salmon and horses to Hel, for safekeeping. Gerda hides seeds in safe places, and waits. The souls of animals are already reluctant, but plants and fungi have not yet given up all hope. Neither has Gerda.

Loki says, “Don’t shoot the messenger (especially if I’m it!). Don’t ignore the voices of doom, of climate change, or the canary in the coal mine. Invite Cassandra onto your podcasts–she’s still got a thing or two to say! Don’t disregard the muttering sibyl, the trancing völva, or anger of witches and Jotuns.” He’d slap this message on t-shirts, even though it’s not a sound bite, in hopes that humans would pay attention, but he distrusts capitalism–particularly the kind that sells toxic petrochemical perfumes wrapped in bottles that look like Marvel Universe characters, especially his!

This last is a particularly painful mockery–big anime eyes and golden horns on keychains are one thing, but this is quite another–all those bottled endocrine disruptors ending up in the salmon, just so a few fans can pretend they have access to “his” scent.

11123127_hi
Product of a toxic industry making a mockery of our god, adding yet more petrochemicals to the planet and its creatures, all in the name of money.

Meanwhile the big money laughs and this makes Loki mad. “Stick to cosplay,” he mutters. “Is nothing sacred?” but he already knows the answer to that question. Rather say that nothing is so futile as the sacred, and nothing is more powerful. After all, Loki knows how to stand with two, four, eight legs, or none, in the spaces between all the worlds you could ever name. (Some say that’s why he drinks so much sometimes. He’s so sick of stupid.)

All matter is alive and aware. If we could hear it, all Midgard is screaming at us right now, “Stop it! Go back! You’re hurting us!” The Earth is our hearth. Hearth fires are lit for warmth and nourishment, not destruction. But we have forgotten this. We have forgotten to extend our hospitality (our frith) and our care to all living things. Loki-as-Lóðurr awoke the first humans with his breath, which was clean and alive and full of strength. He warmed us with his breath and gave us fire to warm our hearths. He certainly did not give us a command to go forth and pollute.

I would like to think that human beings still yearn for that first clean breath, that pure air granted to us by a being as old and as vast as a star, and that we’d do anything to get it back. Instead we diddle with gadgets, toys, herbicides, GMOs, scented candles, and guns. We’ve poisoned our Midgard and every living creature in it. Our own bodies now shit microplastics. We’ve inflicted this same diet on animals and plants. Fragrance chemicals are harming aquatic wildlife. Our reproductive systems are drenched in endocrine disruptors (like phthalates) from deli food containers, Round-Up, shampoos, and perfume. Babies are born with birth defects as a result.  Our breast milk contains countless contaminants, including an array of self-inflicted consumer toxins from such beauty products as “Loki-Master of Mischief” cologne. Soon plastic golden Marvel Loki horns from the above bottle will find their way to the Pacific Garbage patch, floating among the discarded grocery bags, to be eaten by starving whales who can no longer find enough krill. I don’t think this (below) was the kind of “mischief” Loki had in mind…

Water_pollution_due_to_domestic_garbage_at_RK_Beach_01
Water pollution due to domestic garbage at RK Beach in Visakhapatnam. Date 22 September 2013, 09:53:32. Author Adityamadhav83. Creative Commons Attribution

Is there any hope at all? Or do I just put another gaudy, food-colored donut on Loki’s altar and sigh, “fuck this shit, Worldbreaker, we’re doomed. Bring it on…”

But Loki will have none of that. He absolutely refuses to let us dodge this wyrd. He says, “Stop buying this crap, especially not in my name. Use your breath for something decent, like saving the planet, while you still can.”

“Do this,” he says without winking, “and maybe you’ll get a whiff of my pheromones…”

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LokiFest CA is a “fragrance-free” event.

NEW & BEST LokiFest Flyer 4:22

V. Spectrosexuality Survey: Intimate Partners, Physical Sex

Question Five begins to collect specific responses about spectrosexual experiences and god/spirit spouses. I begin asking about current intimate partners, both spirit and human. By using the words “intimate relationships” instead of “sexual relationhips,” the question was intentionally broadened to include emotional intimacy and partnerships that aren’t physically sexual (physical sensations for human beings can occur whether the partners are spirit or human). I did not want to exclude people who identify as asexual, demisexual, or any of the other subcategories of asexuality. (Please see AVEN – the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network for more info.)


Data_Q5_190318

Before I get to the twenty-four “other” comments, I notice that there could be some unintentional overlap between the first three answer choices. That is, some people could have answered all of the first three. I should have written “only one or more human partners,” “only one or more god/spirit partners,” and “currently both human and god/spirit partners” to avoid unintentional overlap. That’s a flaw. I’ll be taking a look at the individual responses to see how much overlap there is.

I’ll also be checking to see how many people who say they are god/spirit spouses or consorts overlap with “both human and god/spirit partners.” But that’s a future blog.

Selections From the “Other” Responses

Notice how the respondents address such issues as monogamy, non-monogamy, dating, various sexual or asexual orientations, and disclosure to human partners.

Both Human and Spirit Relationships

“Cis-hetero with a marriage to a cis-hertero husband….but a strong presence of Loki within our sexual intimacy.”

“I used to have a partner with whom we used to channel each other’s gods. It sometimes included getting intimate too. Now, my husband isn’t into such things but I do suspect he has been taken over a few times…. it’s not a regular thing however and seems to be completely random.”

“My physical partner and I are physically intimate. I have had a few sexual interactions with deities.”

“God spouse, plus human partner. Human partner is unaware of God spouse.”

“I have a human partner-my husband. I don’t know how to class my experiences with god/spirit partners: apart from one real life experience where I felt an interaction with a deity, all the others have been in the realm of ‘fantasy.'”

“I have a wife and I am occasionally intimate with Loki.”

Spirit Relationships

“I’m asexual as far as physical people go but it doesn’t seem to apply as strongly with spirit partners.”

“I have had sexual encounters with spirits, but none currently and none that I would label as a true partnership.”

“I am not currently seeing anyone other than Loki. I don’t have much of a desire to date humans right now, but if someone who was right for me came along, I would not reject them because of my relationship with Loki.”

“Spirits usually get ‘daydreams’ of various focus/attention, or dedicated sex toys.”

“My relationship with Loki was not initially sexual, but became so over a period of time. I’m of the opinion that it is more natural for relationships with the Divine to have some sexual aspects than not, since sexuality is an essential part of how we perceive the universe, and of the creation of new life. Based on my own historical studies it appears to me that sexual relationships with gods were more normal than abnormal in the pre-Abrahamic world, but that the Abrahamic faiths scrubbed any and all sexual references from religious theology and ceremony.”

“I have ongoing intimate relationships with a number of spirits, currently these are sexually intimate…I know it is possible to be sexually intimate with spirits.”

“My tradition was initiated by the sex with the Devil-Witchfather as many Scottish Trads are.”

“All my life I have been in touch with spirits. At times I am overcome with their sexuality in my sleep.”

“In the past, I have had romantic non-sexual, non-romantic sexual, and romantic sexual relationships with spirit partners. At the time, I was ‘exclusive’ to my spirit partners and did not have simultaneous human partnerships, whether romantically, sexually, or both.”

Gods or Spirit Spousery

“I have an interesting experience with godspousery. Loki has told me we’ve been married for a very long time, and I could do with that information what I will. He expected nothing from me. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of being a godspouse because I did not fully understand it. I warmed up to the idea as time went on.”

“Married to a deity; functionally monogamous for 14 yrs.”

“I am married. But I’m celibate physically. I no longer have sex with my husband.”

“I’m a Thor spouse. Thor is the only person I’m committed to right now and I don’t have any physical people I’m committed to, but I am dipping back in the dating scene.”

Discomfort with Spirit Intimacy

In a later question, a few people reported non-consensual experiences with a deity or spirit. This response to Question Five shows how one person is not happy to be sexually  pursued by a god:

“Herne/Cernunnos claimed me as one of his consorts. I’m not entirely sure what it means, but he tends to bring a very sexual energy with him when he appears to me. I’ve taken to using a protective barrier against it because I’m not comfortable with it and I’m not willing to commit to a relationship like that with a spiritual being. He seems to think I’ll come around eventually, but I’m just not seeing it anytime soon.”

Beyond Sleep Paralysis

Only one person mentioned being “overcome by [spirit] sexuality” in their sleep. This is the only comment that resembles the classic incubus and succubus narrative (now thought to be caused by sleep paralysis). (However in a later question some respondents do mention dreams.)

Most of the other responses to this question indicate a conscious state of mind, or at least conscious thought regarding intimate spirit relationships or encounters.

Stay tuned for Question Six.

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100 Respondents to Spectrosexuality and God/Spirit Spouse Survey

Data collection is closed as of March 18.

Now comes the fun! Please go to the Survey page for a look at raw data charts of responses to questions 2-10. And stay tuned to upcoming blogs where I’ll discuss the question responses in detail, included some excerpts from the open-ended comments sections.

You might also want to read Part I–Prelimary Thoughts and Part II–Mysticism Meets Sexology, if you haven’t already.

Here’s one of the most interesting charts.


Data_Q4_190318


Stay tuned for more!


 

Loki Blesses the Meds, Émile Coué Sanctions the Method

The brand new bottle of new-to-me meds is set before the altar. Offerings have been made. The candles are lit. Several consecrated pendulums are beside me. And thus the ritual begins.

“Beloved Loki, this medicine has been prescribed for me. Do you sanction its use?”

Pendulum swings yes. “And will you bless it for me, helping it to be free of any side effects?” Yes again.

“Thank you, my Lord Loki.”

And so on through my pantheon: Lord Freyr, Lady Freya (and her namesake cat appears at my knee to also add her blessing), Lady Gerda, Lady Brigid, and the Peerless Bastet. Ancestors too. One by one, via pendulum divination, they all accept and bless this medicine. I know they want me to be healthy and resilient.

And then I address the beings of the medicine itself–an artificial creation of “big pharma”–asking it to cooperate with me in a healing and resiliency building process. (Notice the animism in this approach?) I also ask my body to collaborate with the medicine. I pledge to continue taking care of my health in general.

And then I take the first dose, confident in the love and blessings of the spirits who are my family.


Caution: Never discontinue or avoid using any medication without first and always consulting with your doctor and health practitioners. 


What would I have done if one of my deities had said “no” to the “will you sanction its use” question? I would have replied, “Thank you. I am going to follow doctor’s orders, as I made a vow to do so, so while I understand your concern for me, will you please bless this medicine anyway, so that I can safely fulfill my vow?”

Spirits understand vows. And doctors understand that you will call them if side effects arise.

Better yet, I would have just asked for a blessing on the medication, without using the first question. That’s what I recommend for anyone reading this article. Just ask for the blessing. (And follow doctor’s orders.)

Why Did I Do This?

Unknown
Emile Coue. Source: Wikipedia.

I’m a hypnotist (among other things) and so I know a little hypnosis history. One of the “greats” was a French psychologist and pharmacist, Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie. He’s the founder of autosuggestion. You have probably heard some variation of the saying, “each day in every way I am getting better and better.” That’s from Coué.

He realized his patients often did better when he offered a positive remark while handing over the medicine, such as “Oh, this is exactly the right thing for you. You’ll do very well with this” (imagined examples). Here are two key paragraphs from the Wikipedia article:


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

And:

Coué believed in the effects of medication. But he also believed that our mental state is able to affect and even amplify the action of these medications. By consciously using autosuggestion, he observed that his patients could cure themselves more efficiently by replacing their “thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure”. According to Coué, repeating words or images enough times causes the subconscious to absorb them. The cures were the result of using imagination or “positive autosuggestion” to the exclusion of one’s own willpower.


So with my ritual, I have gone one better. Instead of creating a hypnotic autosuggestion ritual, which of course I could have done easily, I wanted the full blessings of my divine pantheon and my ancestors. They are deeply rooted in my subconscious and their participation means the world to me.

Also I had a curious incident a few weeks ago. I was in a crisis state triggered by a family situation. I prayed fervently to all my deities, but to Bastet in particular, for help. There is a line in the supposed “ancient prayer to Bastet” that you find on the internet:

“…slay the evil that affects our minds as you slay the serpent Apep.”

And so I begged her to slay the evils of depression and despair that blight my life. Weirdly, the persistent feeling of being bogged down by a constant state of depression and anxiety actually lifted by the next day and I felt light and free, much better than I have in years. This lasted for a few weeks. It’s like I knew I had been wounded but no longer felt it. “The edge” was definitely not just off, but gone.

Dude! I almost didn’t keep my appointment with the psychiatrist!

But though the deities grant grace and boons and blessings, we mortals are the ones to do the heavy lifting. Loki would rather teach magic and mischief and inspire my writing. Bastet prefers to focus on pleasure, beauty, and dancing. Gerda wants me to water the garden and talk with plants. Freyr reminds me that even toxic relationships can be composted for a new harvest. Freya and Brigid bring me back to explorations of the sacred feminine. In other words, there is more to explore in life and magic and if I want to step up my game…well then! My deities and ancestors are quite willing to give me a boost now and then, and blessings too, but I can’t waste my time in tears.

So I kept the appointment. And this morning I lifted the now consecrated tablet to my lips. I washed it down with tea and set the bottle on the altar, to remind me that the medicine is now sacred.

This approach could work for anyone, monotheist or pantheist, no matter who or what you call upon for assistance. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So mote it be.

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.

####

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.