IX and X. Spectrosexuality Survey: Challenges and Sensations

Just because a partner is “imagined” (as opposed to “imaginary”) doesn’t mean the relationship or encounter is ideal. It also doesn’t mean that sensations are imaginary either. The people who took this survey had a lot to say regarding both topics.

For the purposes of discussion, I am using the word “imagine” to describe a way of sensing something that transcends visual, auditory, and tactile sense, yet which “feels real” even so. Newer readers might like to refer to my blogs on preliminary thoughts and  mysticism and sexology before continuing.

This post discusses the final two questions in the spectrosexuality and god/spirit spouse survey.

Question Nine


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Secrecy: Some (perhaps many or most) people need to keep spectrosexual relationships and encounters hidden.

“I’m not actually sure how to broach the subject with my human partner. He knows I’m oathed to Loki, but he’s unaware of the nature of that oath. So far, Loki seems okay with that, as the god marriage is new still (since December).”

“I struggled with secrecy and possibly facing a negative reaction from others if they found out, which made trying to explain my lack of human dating awkward.”

“I don’t share this with anyone.”

 

Discernment: There were several responses on this topic.

One person felt that group experiences with witchery helped with discernment:

“I work alongside other witches so we often have a giggle about it. I’ve never had any problems defining this world from the unseen.”

But others said:

“Communication discernment. It’s often hard to tell if it’s him or me, or something else.”

“Discernment can be an issue, however, if something is working for me and meeting my needs, it isn’t anyone else’s problem. And if it ends up being in my head, well then I have a great imagination that isn’t hurting anyone.”

“Dreams can sometimes be misleading.”

One person was concerned that lack of discernment, especially as reported by some human godspouses, could lead to damaging or abusive human/spirit relationships. There is also a concern about how lack of discernment can reflect poorly on others:

“One concern I have had that I have mixed feelings about is that other people with similar experiences to my own often show behaviors or ideas about said experiences that I don’t find wise. I’ve heard many other godspouses report that they are concerned their deity may be acting in nonconsensual or abusive ways toward them (not the reporter’s own works, but clearly what they were describing), and I’ve also seen godspouses who clearly didn’t have a great grasp of consent and healthy relationships themselves and who may have actively been seeking out unhealthy dynamics. I tend to chalk those experiences up to projecting human behaviors onto gods, but these types of statements make it easy for me to understand why some people look with suspicion upon godspouses, since some godspouses do seem to have unhealthy or unbalanced ideas about their Divine partners.”

Managing multiple spirit/human relationships:

“I tend to feel bad I don’t spread my love or attention equitably. I gravitate from one to another, then realize I’ve been neglecting several.”

Noncorporeality:

“Being in a relationship with someone who does not have a physical form and who long term contact with requires focused mediation and otherworldly travel.”

Change:

“Our relationship morphed into an even deeper one where sex is not needed and/or would actually hinder our work together. It’s only very rarely that we become intimate.”

Finally, one person added this important reminder:

“I have the ultimate magickal power of choice.”

Question Ten

I am a hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, as well as a sexologist and sexuality counselor. Because I am so familiar with hypnosis, as well as offshoots like guided imagery and autogenic training, I know that very real physical effects can be created simply through imagination and suggestion. So I could be tempted to stop here and simply say, “well, this spirit sex stuff is all in the mind,” but I won’t.

Sure, there could be a bit of malarkey, mendacity, and/or mental dishevelment among some of the responses to this survey, but I am used to generally accepting people’s accounts of their lived experiences, especially with regard to sexuality, intimacy, and gender. Who am I to say what’s “real” and what’s not?


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Here are a selection of responses from the comments section.

Physical Sensations Not Caused by Self

“I’ve felt a physical sensation that I did not cause once, but it was not in a sexual context.”

“It was like this constant pressure/energy that almost became a part of me. I could feel a presence hugging me, like a blanket of energy. I’ve also felt him physically touch my back—but that was only once. Because of self doubt and trouble discerning what’s actually him or not, I tended to dismiss what I thought I felt a lot.”

“Most of my intimate encounters happen when I trance and journey to the Otherworld but I can still feel the sensations within my physical body. On very rare occasions, usually with the deity I am spoused to, I do not need to journey and can feel their presence in the room.”

“Warmth.”

“Chakral stimulation, seeing with physical eye, smells, taste, touch, etc.”

Unusual Energy

“One time in particular during intimacy I went out of body so far that I felt a connection with every thing in the universe. It was glorious, and I forgot to breathe for a short time. My spirit spouse let me stay that way for a moment, then gently called me back to my body, but I didn’t want to come back. The experience was rich with sensations, and it was very profound. I felt like I was in very deep space, yet I felt every planet, every organism, every human and nonhuman thing all at once. And it all felt very natural. Peaceful would be a word to describe it, but it doesn’t do the feeling justice. I will never forget that feeling.”

Sense of Presence and/Or Communication

“Sometimes I am more in tune with Loki than other times, especially depending on my stress level and if I’m distracted by something I have to do the next day. He doesn’t seem to mind if I’m not all there and am unable to enter a full meditative state. I’m very busy with university at the moment and my area of study leaves me with almost no time for social activities, so I feel like our time together is Loki’s way of taking care of my mental health.”

“he once demanded i say his name instead of the name of the mortal man i love then proceeded to tell me to call him by one of his older names (Loptr) & laughed in a pleased & pleasing way when i followed instruction.”

“Spiritual revelation/gnosis.”

Adding Physical Touch, Solo or Partnered

“Sometimes I add physical touch, but not always, and pretty sparingly.”

 

“Certain encounters took place solely within mental spaces, in which I might have been physically turned on but didn’t always feel a physical need to masturbate. I didn’t always worry about what my body was doing because I still felt emotionally satisfied. Other times, I’d be masturbating and feel Someone’s presence, which might turn into an impromptu offering, but sometimes, I’d check in divination wise to make sure I was clear on particulars of the mental story/vid to masturbate with and would feel Their presence once I started physically (intentional offering).”

“Sometimes I feel my spirit lovers join in while I’m with a physical partner or partners. Some people know and some don’t-depends on how I think they would react.”

Seeing or Hearing Things That Others Might Not See or Hear

“I have never had full-blown audio/visual hallucinations, but neuroscience research (that’s my area of study) suggests that “mental images” may actually be on the same spectrum as hallucinations and that the intensity of sensory experience may simply be determined by the strength of the neural connections involved. It’s been experimentally demonstrated, for example, that synesthesia – a condition in which people experience one sense, such as seeing a shape or color, when they encounter another sense, such as a certain sound – may actually be something that all humans have at a subconscious/subsensory level. Almost all people will say, for example, that certain sounds “feel” round vs. spiky, even if they don’t experience sensory hallucinations to that effect. I always feel the need to explain this related to my spiritual experiences, because I do “sense” things in the form of mental images, but these are not of sensory-hallucinatory quality like some people report. Most people seem to assume it’s one or the other, that sensations I experience are either “made up,” consciously fabricated by me, or are full-blown sensory hallucinations. Neither is the case. I’ve never had a full sensory hallucination, but neither do I control, decide, or “make up” the actions of the spiritual entities I encounter. I perceive them at a level below that of full sensory hallucination.”

Intense Emotions

“Most common is intense pleasure during meditation.”

“Idk about “spiritual emotions.” I can feel strong emotions i’d normally feel in sex, but shared with the spirit. Ya know? Also sex is one of those shamanic paths (ecstacy?) that works to change my state of conciousness, so I can see things in my head, like a eureka moment, but no hallucinations.”

Other Information

“It took years for the connection to get strong. The relationship had to evolve just as any human to human relationship, with trust, communication, and clear intentions in place. The encounters have grown stronger and more “real” and undeniable from the beginning 7 years ago. He has even manifested randomly during sleep and literally gotten into my bed 3 confirmed times.”

Final Thoughts

My motivation for doing this confidential, non-scientific survey was to (1) include spectrosexuality and god/spirit spousery in the broader and legitimate context of human sexual and erotic behavior and, (2) more personally, to discover where my own “unverified personal gnosis” (UPG) may match up with other people’s experiences. Does this survey indicate that we may actually have more peer corroboration (PCPG – Peer-Corroborated Personal Gnosis) than we know? I think it might.

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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.