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.

####

Devotional Orgasm

The Talk

Me to (currently imaginary) New Intimate Partner (NIP), “Dear, we have to have a little talk first.” NIP pulls away a little and looks me in the eye.

NIP: “No problem. I’ve been tested for everything in the last six months. I’m healthy. Plus I’ve brought _______[condoms, lube, whatever].” 

Me: “Me too, except I’ve been exposed to herpes and that never goes away. So we’ll need to use protection. I appreciate your candor. [Kiss.] But I actually had a different talk in mind.”

NIP: “Oh? Now you’re scaring me! What’s up? Are you kinky or something?”

Me: “Not that topic either, though we can talk about that too.”

NIP: “You’ve got me intrigued. Say on!”

Me: “You’ve told me you’re a practicising polytheist neopagan…but you’ve never done sex magic.”

NIP: “Right.” 

Me: “And you know I’m a non-denominational witch, and a polytheist neopagan, and that I’m oathed to Loki.”

NIP: “I don’t have much experience with magic. I’m mostly an academic_________ [Druid, Heathen, astrologer, etc.]. And you never really explained the ‘oathed to Loki’ thing. What does this have to do with us having hot sex?” 

Me, bluntly: “All my orgasms are dedicated to Loki, for the rest of my life…so, much as I’ll enjoy whatever we do together, you just have to be able to handle that.”

NIP: “Uh, does this mean you might, uh, say his name when you, uh, you know?”

Me: “Possibly. Would that bother you?” 

NIP: “I am not sure. Maybe.” [Frowns.] “Is this like we’d be having a threesome with a god?”

Me: “No. Not really. It’s just that at one point I wanted to find the most loving and powerful experience I could imagine and dedicate it to my patron deity. That energy and joy I feel at the moment of orgasm seemed like the perfect gift to a being who has given me so much.”  

NIP: “That’s kind of kinky!”

Me [shrugging]: “I don’t really see or experience it that way. For me, it’s a form of sacred sexuality. You said you were interested in that, right?”

NIP: “Well, yes.”

Me: “Do you need time to process this? I’m okay with that.”

NIP: “Let’s just kiss some more and see what happens.”

Me: “Sounds good to me. And you know we can stop at any time if you need to do that.”

The Reason for The Talk

I’m a sexologist by training and profession. I’ve talked with adult clients about all kinds of personal and intimate issues and supported them without judgment in expressions of their authentic erotic lives (as long as those expressions were adult and consensual).
Even so, I have been wondering how on earth I will explain the above to a real life future partner, assuming there is anyone left on this green earth who can love me.

But writing and therefore rehearsing the above dialogue with an imaginary partner has actually diminished the shame (yes, surprising to find it there–shame!) and the embarrassment I’ve been feeling when contemplating an eventual plunge back into the very sparsely populated human dating pool (sparse due to my age bracket and interests). So, aside from that personal note, I highly recommend imagining and rehearsing a similar dialogue IF you feel you’d want to communicate this to a human partner.

However, if you are NOT comfortable divulging such information, or fear that it will have negative impact on your partner(s) or your relationship(s), please DON’T feel you need to share. It is completely okay to keep such information personal. You may also have agreements in place with your deities and spirits about such offerings, and what to express and what not to express. 

iduna_giving_loki_the_apple_by_h._l._m
Public domain. Captioned as “Iduna Giving Loki the Apple”. The goddess Iðunn hands Loki one of her apples. Date Published in 1901 Source Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology. Silver, Burdett and Company. Page 69. Author Signed “H. L. M.”

Some people may only do this in ritual space, as part of a sex magic ritual or other kind of ceremony. Others, like me, offer up sexual pleasure–in addition to food, drink, trinkets, natural objects, poems, chants, prayers, incense, etc.–as part of a devotional practice designed to cultivate and nourish a relationship with that spiritual being or beings. Loki likes donuts and whiskey (things which I don’t consume myself) and I am happy to provide them, along with conversation, poems, pleasure, and inviting him along to events I think he’d enjoy. My relationship with my patron deity is part of my daily life, as well as my ritual life. It’s not that devotional orgasm offerings mean I am “having sex WITH a god” but that I am offering the peak moment of the sex I do have (solo or partnered) TO that god.

However, there is nothing at all wrong with the former. See my blog on spectrosexuality and god spousery. I say that both as a sexologist and as a magical practitioner.

And I am hardly alone in doing this, though the topic is seldom mentioned outside of esoteric circles.

Sadly, there are otherwise reasonable people who sneer at those with magically dedicated sex toys. This seems a ridiculous position to take. If we magically dedicate a candle or a wand, a broom or a knife, why not a sex toy? Sheesh! And dedicating a toy to a god/dess could/would/should probably include a ward against any other unwanted energies or entities that might wanna come along for the ride…

Seems like common sense.

992px-a_terrifying_deity_in_yab-yum_lacma_m.74.139.8
Public domain. Deities in Yab Yum. Tibet or Northwestern Nepal, 19th century Paintings.Mineral pigments on cotton cloth. Gift of Dr. Ronald M. Lawrence (M.74.139.8) From the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Again, I am hardly alone. From the witches sabbat to tantric embrace, from “brides of Christ” to chaos magick, human beings have connected the experience of sexual energy and orgasm to an experience of god/dess and/or transcendence and have sought to harness or direct its power. You can find material about this in numerous cultures. I am not even going to supply links, there is so much information out there!

Anyway, writing this blog post has taken a load off my mind. I guess public confessions really are good for the soul! And as for the “‘ickle talk” which I may someday have with a future partner, heck, I could take the coward’s way out and just direct that person to this blog post!

But no, I’d rather have a real conversation.

Perhaps one day.

In the meantime, I still giggle at the moment in this 2013 Comicon footage when Marvel Loki commands, “Say my name!”

It’s a private joke…but one I’m now sharing with you. Anyone who gets close to me will have to have a damned good sense of humor…

####

Mourning a Real Life “Trickster”

I’m pretty sure yesterday, December 16th, was the birthday of the late Michael Rossman, of Free Speech Movement fame and the All Of Us Or None political poster collection (which now lives at the Oakland Museum of California).

MRboat
Michael Rossman on Captain Kiko’s canoe, Kealakekua, Hawai’i Island. His hat in the foreground.

It’s been over ten and a half years since Michael died, and I miss him and his friendship. He was fascinating, infuriating, kind, abrupt, inquisitive, eccentric, deeply political, an avid reader and writer, scary smart, a devotee of entheogens and dogs–in all ways, a true original.

Here’s Michael singing “Tom o Bedlam” with the Rude Mechanicals on Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits.

And here’s Michael talking at the Oak Tree Sit on the UCB campus in 2007, when we were all trying to save the oak grove from destruction.

We shared a tantric gazing practice that was so deep and committed that I began to refer to it as “extreme gazing.” We developed a profound and rather replicable familiarity with “subtle body sensations” or what Michael called “the gossamer realm.” In his bout with the leukemia that finally killed him, I believe these experiences helped to give him a bit of comfort. He was devoted to his family and friends and knew he would be leaving many dear ones behind, so his direct experiences of something beyond the physical body, subtle yet tangible…that might well give a dying man some hope.

MRAouonBirthday
The poster I drew to celebrate Michael Rossman’s All of Us or None (AOUON) political poster collection. His collection is now part of the Oakland Museum of California (but this poster is not).

I refer to Michael as a “trickster” because he was capable of mild mischief and smart ass remarks and seemed to experience, as I sometimes do, sensations of “unholy glee.” One of my favorite memories is the impromptu Bollywood style dance that we erupted into at a really dismal tantra “trance dance,” while Michael loudly declaimed a spontaneous poetic denunciation of the boring event. It was like dancing with Cyrano de Bergerac (a fictional character famous for composing a poem as he founght a duel).

Or there was the time he jumped off a double-hulled canoe in Hawai’i, stark naked, and swam to a nearby cliff and scrambled up it while the rest of us on the boat waited in astonishment. Was he ever going to come back? What had met him at the top of the cliff? We had no way of knowing what would happen next. Fortunately, he soon scrambled back down it and swam back to the boat. The captain, a Hawaiian man not happy with tourist shenanigans, was most relieved.

Kikocanoe copy
Michael Rossman, front right, on Captain Kiko’s canoe. I am front left, in black. Kiko’s wife is up front, in the middle.


There was also the time he blithely asked my fourteen-year-old, “and what’s your experience with pyschedelics?” and then realized, ooops, the mom (me) was right there. Nervous laughter all ’round…

Michael’s complexity hooked me early on. And though he was in some ways a sly and dishonest lover, he became, among other things, a very reliable muse. I have written more about him than I have any other man in my life. Probably, if he were still alive, he’d cringe at that, but he was also quite capable of writing just as frankly and intimately about the women he’d known (though he never, to my knowledge, wrote about me. I escaped that fate. He had other fish to fry, and fry ’em he did.)

Perhaps my most stunning UPG moment during our gazing sessions was the realization that he was my first sexual partner ever in my first earthly body, during an early pre-human incarnation. (But I was not his first.) Such a thought had never crossed my mind before, but it slammed me good when it did.

Here is where my writing about Michael can be found:

Three Square Blocks of Berkeley–An interiew about his early Berkeley days.

Off Road Tantra (previously published in Carnal Nation, November 4, 2009).

Eros in Action (previously published in Carnal Nation, April 14, 2010).


These two poems, written about Michael, might give you an idea of some of my struggles in the relationship. The only time he directly expressed love for me was when he scribbled “but how could you not have known?” in the margins of a student study I’d done on Asperger’s Syndrome and sexuality. He was reading my draft and shredding my numbers (he was a gifted mathematician) while getting a blood and platelets transfusion. And though he hurt me quite deeply near the end, with a completely unnecessary deception, he was still a better friend than I would have imagined and I still miss him much more than I’d like to admit.

Fire-walk Stage Left

You are, my dear, at times more coy,
Than any burlesque queen,
Who struts the stage fan-dancing,
Peekaboo.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

And I’m a front row, stage-door Jennie.
With flowers at every exit
and
I’m fervent in applause.
Hoping for a smile (oh see me too!)
From the
Glittering swinging
Hide and seeking
Whirlwind dervish–Hey!
Which way’d he go?

I also know the sequined strut,
The spangled life:
The more I show, the less you see.
Hiding it all by hanging it out in plain sight, yes?
My eyes have said
Too much that made it to the lips,
But I can slip behind the curtain too,
(peekaboo).
Backstage my question is perhaps
The same as yours:
Who is brave enough
To brave all this, and love me?

(Now you hear me, now you don’t.)

So what’s it gonna be? Your props or mine?
Or do we toss ‘em all together, bonfire style,
And fire-walk to stage left,
Winking.


A Poem About Paid Expertise

Hey you got those Qualified Professionals
For your sinks and pipes and CPU —
Doncha got
A Qualified Professional,
To fix the stuff,
That ails me too?

(It’s not the therapists who’ll do the trick.
They ain’t knowing what makes me tick!)

What I want is a Qualified Professional
For busted gut and leaky eyes.
What I want is a Qualified Professional
The kine detectin’ all kine lies.

Perhaps I need the Qualified Professional
With voodoun magic and a bag of bones.
Or maybe just a Qualified Professional
Who’ll cleanse my aura with chants and tones.

(It’s not the therapists who’ll do the trick,
They just can’t fix my kind of sick.)

If I could hire a Qualified Professional
To soothe my hurts with warm clean hands,
Perhaps I could find a Qualified Professional
To paint my grief in colored sands.

If one had Band-Aids for my heart,
As well as string and glue,
Perhaps I’d find the Qualified Professional,
To get me over you.


Rest in peace, Michael. I’m glad you’ve missed these last two years of extended misrule, but I’m sorry you’re not here to comment on them!

####

 

“So Proud of You…”

Sometimes even going to the grocery store is a sad experience. People–couples–selecting produce together. Or one making sure the kids don’t get run over in the aisle while the other pulls stuff off the shelves. Perhaps you know how it is. Loneliness strikes at odd times.

I’m the woman with long grey hair who eats alone, with a book, at the Chinese/Thai restaurant three miles down the road. I usually bring something light to read, like one of E.F. Benson’s Mapp & Lucia books, which are about aging women who live alone and have ferocious and hilarious social “Queen Bee” type duels with each other. (The British writers do this sort of thing so well.) But I can find that even these books are bittersweet. I am not good at social jousting, nor do I want to spend my days frothing with enmity over tiny matters (as Benson’s characters do), but sometimes I envy the characters with their daily marketing, out and about in the streets, exchanging gossip and thinking snarky thoughts about each other. Even that would mean some sort of regular social intercourse.

About reading in restaurants. It keeps me distracted, as I eat alone in a roomful of people. It makes me look… I dunno…not so pathetic? But I have to be careful what I select. If I brought some of the other books from my library (the witchy weird stuff), I might make the waitpeople nervous. I need them to be congenial, as they may be the only human beings I speak with, in person, all day. Ditto with grocery store clerks.

So the other day, I was driving back from the grocery store, saddened and frankly lonesome. But I thought about how much worse I used to feel during the latter days of my marriage. Is it worse to be lonely in a marriage or in a restaurant? I think there’s an easy answer to that one.

There was a period when I was really knocking myself out, going back to school, earning degrees, taking certification classes, trying to get a business together in spite of my multiple-chemical sensitivity difficulties–and trying to get my (now ex) husband to see me as a person of value, someone he could be proud of–not just the chronically fatigued wife and mother and the family business bookkeeper–but someone who really was trying to live up to her potential, in spite of everything. But in some odd way, it seemed that everything I did only made things worse. And it was a bad time anyway. Not faulting him–we had just grown utterly apart.

So I ventured into a lot of things, pretty much on my own. Neo-Tantra being one of them. And I went to pujas in Sebastopol sometimes and fancied myself as someone who was tapping into her sacred energy, and welcome to share it (in those brief tantric circle exercises) with others. The first time I went, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know anyone. And there was one man there who seemed gruff and a little scary to me. But there is a magic that can happen when those events are done well–you end up pairing with “the right person” for each exercise (breathing, dancing, whatever it is). And that’s what happened to me in the circle that night.

I eventually made my way around the circle to “Mr. Scary.” Do you know what that man did? He simply put his arms around me, very gently and very respectfully, and held me as he said, “I’m so proud of you.” Words which I had longed to hear from my husband.

That was years ago.

“I’m so proud of you.” Even now I cry as I remember.

hiding

####

Imagined, Not Imaginary

When I was very little, 1950s cartoon characters, Crusader Rabbit and Mighty Mouse were my invisible friends. These characters prompted stirrings of heartfelt yearning even at that young age–a mixed desire for romance and adventure. I remember those feelings quite well and could empathize years later when a five year old of my acquaintance told me he liked Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter’s version) because she had “nice legs.”

So now that I’m cultivating a robust spirit ecology (as a witchy pagan polytheist/animist), you might be tempted think that I never outgrew my childish fantasies. And perhaps you’d be right. Crusader Rabbit and Mighty Mouse provided the little me with unconditional positive regard and I was their comrade, their equal in every way (even though I couldn’t fly). I really loved those guys and I thought they loved me back. These days my deities also seem to radiate unconditional positive regard, even though I (still) cannot fly. Or shapeshift. Or whatever. And yeah, I really love them.

And that mixed desire for romance and adventure? I’ve still got that too. And it’s gotten me into heaps of trouble as an adult. (I haven’t learned my lesson yet, though I’m immensely wary now.)

The culture (so-called) that I reluctantly inhabit takes it for granted that childish imaginations will be dulled, tamed, or destroyed via K-12 education, school bullying, and the drudgery of adult life. And we like to think that’s a good thing, a sign of “maturity.” Anyone who resists the corrosion and destruction of their imagination is suspect.

Of course I think that lifelong resistance to that destruction is actually one of the most important things we can do. Childhood capacities to ensoul and engage with imagined companions are fundamental creative skills, plus they’re precursors to grown-up spiritwork and magic. And so, yeah, I’m unapologetically on the side of most of those who work and play in and about the unseen worlds, along with their spirit pals. (There are some jerks and worse about, of course, as there are everywhere else.)

My premise and ongoing theme is this: there’s a reason human beings have these innate capacities for engagement with unseen companions and worlds, from childhood on. Like the bee orchid, I believe we’ve evolved certain characteristics that facilitate a process of mutual attraction with those unseen. I can’t imagine any other root cause for religions and magic, for fey folktales and Marvel super heroes.

Three books have been my constant companions lately: Dagulf Loptson’s Playing With Fire–An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014); Jason Miller‘s Sex, Sorcery and Spirit–The Secrets of Erotic Magic (Career Press, 2015); and Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways–Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic (Red Temple Press, 2018). And readers of this blog might have noticed that I’ve referenced Miranda Shaw’s Passionate Enlightenment–Women in Tantric Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 1994) more than once, I recommend all of these books. They’re excellent.

My ongoing process is threefold. (1) To explore magic, defined as Jason Miller defines it: “the art and science of influencing change to occur in conformity to will” (as quoted in this Down at the Crossroads podcast interview). (2) To get to know and work with some of the “Spirits of the Field” (Wachter, p. 13. And listen to his Crossroads interview here.), including those that “indwell” in material substances (the concept of animism) as well as wights and ancestors (my own and the ones who reside in this area). (3) To cultivate devotional, loving, co-creative relationships with a few compelling deities, especially Loki Laufeyjarson, my “most trusted one.” (This makes me only as proportionately “batty” as any serious practitioner of any mainstream religion.)

It’s been interesting working with the precise combination of books I mention above. Miller’s book on erotic magic includes Tantric and Taoist practices as well as sigil work. And Shaw’s book elaborates on the role of women and female “energy” in Tibetan Tantra, while also describing the centuries-old traditions of working with “imagined partners” (e.g. deities, dakinis, and yoginis). Wachter’s book describes sigil work and devotional practices, and models respectful ways to interact with the Spirits. Loptson’s book–ditto, but with the focus on Loki. Without realizing what I was doing at first, I’ve been combining and reassembling elements from these books into a very individual practice, which I’ve touched on in this blog.

And I am finding that working with “imagined” (conceptually “summoned”) spirits and deities is not an “imaginary” process, as what happens as a result of this work is quite real and yields tangible results. In the last 78 days of my “Loki 90-Day Spiritual Fitness Challenge,” I’ve experienced ebbs and flows, ecstacy and plateaus, and my cats not leaving my toes alone as I try to meditate. Sometimes there are sudden “jumps” to what might be a new level, but so far, I’m still uncertain as to the terrain or my ability to reliably enter and inhabit it. 78 days of sustained, daily practice is nothing, really, and yet it is the first time I’ve ever pledged myself to such an endeavor. I do intend to continue on, because the last few days in particular have been very interesting indeed. My childhood yearnings for romance and adventure could never have imagined this path.

Indian_erotic_painting_Warsaw
“Are we there yet?”

####

Not-So-Solo (Neo)Tantra

Disclaimer: This is a follow-up to my previous blog: Loki Pushes My Neo-Tantra Buttons. What follows is the result of “UPG” (unverified personal gnosis) and is based on my own personal spiritual practices at this time. These practices are based on instruction I’ve had and books I’ve read, but I do not claim to be an expert in them. I am very much an experimental learner here. You, the reader, must do your own research and reading, and above all, cultivate your own discernment and “gut feelings” about what is right for you. I’ll do the best I can to provide resources and book links, as well as reasonable cautions and observations. If you decide to embark on any portion of what I describe here, know that I take no responsibilty for this decision of yours. Certain mental conditions might be contra-indicated for these potent energy practices. Check with your therapist if you have one. Likewise check with your health care providers regarding any medical conditions you have. 

Above all, please use your common sense. 


Dedication: I dedicate this blog post to my beloved teacher and “most trusted one,” the cosmic being known most frequently as “the Norse god, Loki.”

 

tumblr_m4qng4hFaK1qcogpco1_250
Urnes Snake. Scandinavian. Source: http://lokeanwelcomingcommittee.tumblr.com/

Okay, lets get on with it! In my previous blog, I wrote: “At this point, I’d say Loki closely fits the “profile” of a deity who offers a template of transformation fueled by sexual energy–using some symbols and methods that are at least superficially comparable to Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions.” In a more recent blog, I’ve mentioned that I am deliberately embarked on a tantric-like, energetic spiritual practice that involves (among other things) engagement with a non-corporeal spiritual being. And I mention that this is not unusual in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist Tantra. What’s different about what I’m doing is that I’m engaging in this way with a spiritual being outside the Hindu and Tibetan pantheons. But let’s set that aside for a moment. Let’s say you are curious about these practices (with or without a specific deity in mind) and want to know how this works. What follows is just ONE example of a Westernized approach.

First, please read my post Decolonizing Western Neo-Tantra on my sexologist blog, and especially go to the link to Yoga and the Roots of Cultural Appropriation by Shreena Gandhi and Lillie Wolff, as well as the other article I mention. This will give you a sense of my history with Western Neo-Tantra and why I am no longer formally associated with the organization where I received most of my tantra instruction. More importantly, you will get an introduction to the issues of appropriation and colonization of yoga (and therefore Tantra as well). Decolonizing Yoga is an excellent website! So please, start there!

Let’s be clear again that what I am about to describe is a hybrid practice, based on my own UPG and traditions that have been modified for–and commodified by–Westerners. This doesn’t mean the practices don’t have spiritual value–they do!–but that this is part of the “genealogy” of what I convey. There is also some meshing here of sexual mysticism (e.g. Tantra) and Western sexual magic.

Now ask yourself why you are curious about these practices? There’s no right answer. Just know what it is you want. A focus on sexual mysticism implies an impulse toward transcendence and perhaps a greater union with that which is larger than humans (including perhaps a union with specific deity or deities). A focus on sexual magic implies a desire to learn to harness the energy generated by such practices in order to create certain outcomes. Or perhaps you are interested in both. (I am!)

Re-examine your capacities for discernment. What tools and techniques do you use?

Please also ask yourself how you will ground yourself if the energies become too much at any given point. How will you handle a spiritual emergency? (Perhaps you might want to read this book by Stanislav Grof.) Who is your support team? Who will have your back in such matters? Do you already have magical or spiritual things that you do in such cases? What kinds of grounding and protection “tools” are already in your toolbox? If there are things you’ve used in the past, but not recently, I suggest brushing up on them.

Give some thought also to how you will involve or communicate with your present human partner(s).

What do you do already that is yogic, tantric, magical, etc.? Can some of what you do already be incorporated into this pursuit? Or should it? Give this some thought. Some things work well together, even if they are from different traditions, others don’t.

Be prepared to do some reading (below). Then to practice the techniques solo for quite a long time BEFORE involving an “imagined partner.”


BOOK LIST — Sorry, these books are all very “gender binary.” Adjust as you see fit.

Tantra:

Jewel in the Lotus–The Tantric Path to Higher Consciousness. Sunyata Saraswati and Bodhi Avinasha, 3rd Edition. 2002. Ipsalu Tantra International. [Techniques]

The Ipsalu Formula–A Method for Tantra Bliss. Bodhi Avinasha. 2003. Ipsalu Tantra International. [Techniques]

Passionate Enlightenment–Women in Tantric Buddhism. Miranda Shaw. 1994. Princeton University Press. [Background on the Tibetan dakini tradition and the use of “imagined partners.”]

Sex Magic:

The Art of Sexual Magic. Margo Anand. 1995. Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam. [Anand also wrote a famous book on Tantra, The Art of Sexual Ecstasy, but I am not referencing it here.]

Sex, Sorcery and Spirit–The Secrets of Erotic Magic. Jason Miller. 2015. New Page Books.

Secrets of Western Sex Magic. Frater U.D. 2001. Llewellyn.


I’ve been engaged in mostly solo tantra since 2005, sometimes with large gaps in having a consistent daily practice. What I am presently doing is a diligent daily practice of (1) the following Neo-Tantra exercise, energy, and breath techniques; and (2) twenty minutes or so spent in establishing a meditative, visualized, and energetic connection with my chosen imagined partner. Taking up this daily practice again is a condition I intend to meet for at least 90 days as a way to prepare for further instruction in sex magic. It is also a way to come closer to my patron deity. Some days are juicier and more rewarding than others. Some days I wonder what the heck I’m doing. (So be prepared for ups and downs.)

I generally do the following (1) and (2) after my usual daily devotions to my deities, ancestors, etc. so I am already in a somewhat spiritually receptive frame of mind.

(1) Daily Practice: These techniques follows the simplest Ipsalu Tantra ASATE formula (using the set of practices taught in Ipsalu’s “Level One” weekends).

• Activate the body — Rishi Isometrics (Tantra Bliss, pp. 57-60; Jewel, pp. 62-66).

• Still the mind — (1) Nadi Shodhana/Alternate Nostril Breath (Tantra Bliss, pp. 169-170; Jewel, pp. 83-84). (2) Hong Sau Breath (Jewel, pp. 152-156).

• Arouse sexual energy — (1) Aswini Mudra (Jewel, p. 174). (2) Vajroli Mudra (Jewel, pp. 174-175). (These two exercises work muscles in the perineum and pelvic floor.)

• Transmute the energy — I am initiated in three forms of the Ipsalu Cobra Breath, which I’m not allowed to share, but you might want to try some of the techniques in Jason Miller’s book (pp. 53-69),  followed by meditation. Inner Fire is particularly good. Do up to fourteen rounds of whatever technique you choose.

LokiWand
Immortals Wand. I painted a picture of Loki on it.

• Enjoy — You could just dance to something wonderful for five minutes. I also use the Immortals Wand. It requires an implement to cup and hold between the palms of your hands. I have a special wand from Ipsalu Tantra International, but a simple dowel, 1 in. diameter and 10.5 inches long, would work.  3. ITI – Instruction_for_Immortals’_Wand.

The above books have lots of other practices to offer, and I encourage you to find ones that fit the above ASATE pattern. Plan on devoting about 45 minutes to all this, per day.

(2) Connection. The practice of invoking and imagining my non-corporeal partner is a little more intuitive and less scripted. I usually invite my chosen imagined partner, Loki, to be with me, but also add that if that’s not possible, I’ll still be continuing the practice with “a semblance” (as the whole point is to DO the practice). This sets a relaxed, no-strings mood that seems to work well with this particular deity. Usually he “shows up” in greater or lesser intensity.

I have some special music that I am using at the moment and I often bring in the “Vase Breath” (Miller, p. 55) or other breaths before diving into the “connecting” imagery and breath work. This consists of several different kinds of visualized/imagined/experienced breath and energy cycles between me and the “imagined partner.” There are cycles where I breathe out and imagine my partner breathing in, and the cycle connects us between the heart and root chakras (for example). Or this pattern is reversed. Sometimes there is a figure eight pattern of energy and breath (which is wonderfully snake-like). Sometimes I visualize/imagine our combining the “red drops and the white drops” of inner alchemy (Miller, p. 49). And often after spending time in these specific patterns, I relax and allow a kind of inner dance, which often consists of feelings and images of shape-changing, joyous play.

At the end, I thank my partner and usually I will “check-in” (via pendulum). This may sound daft to anyone who hasn’t worked in this way, but I feel that this is respectful and satisfies a need for closure of the session.

Working in this way allows me to feel the benefits of self-discipline, the pursuit of transcendence and magical knowledge, and additional connection with my patron deity. I have not noticed any downside to this, at all. Even so, I would caution beginners to go slowly, curb expectations, and to really go with their gut feelings about what works or doesn’t work for them.

Also, use your common sense about who you choose for your imagined partner. Tantra is frequently known as “the heroes path” because all hell generally breaks loose when you begin a Tantric practice. And people who follow Loki (often called Lokeans) may often experience some similar shake-ups. Combining the two… well… think about it! If you desire a calm(er) entry to this kind of working, choose a less potent, less fiery being to work with, at least in the beginning. But as I said earlier, do these practices first for a long time before you move beyond solo. Every extra element you add just adds to your learning curve!

What I describe above is simply my way and it may or may not be helpful for you. Good luck!

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Loki Pushes My Neo-Tantra Buttons

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Urnes Snake. Scandinavian. Source: http://lokeanwelcomingcommittee.tumblr.com/

Snakes, fire, a robust sexual history and magic expertise… how can I comprehend Loki as anything other than the bearer of knowledge that resembles tantra (or Western-style sex magic)? (Yes, I know he has additional attributes but I’m not concerned with those at the moment.) What follows is my “unverified personal gnosis” (UPG) on this topic.

But let’s back up a bit. Let’s think a moment about this concept called “gods” (I’ll use this word to mean deities of all genders). Dagulf Loptson’s book, Playing with Fire–An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014), is an important source for me these days and he describes his concept of gods as “enormous, primordial, creative beings who manifest themselves in both the unseen and physical worlds via nature and human insight.” This works for me. Furthermore, Loptson suggests that gods take many forms, and we humans give them many faces. This also works for me.

I’d like to suggest that among other things, these primordial beings offer templates of spiritual enlargement to those humans who care to partake. Sure, the gods can also torment us, play with us, comfort us, blow our tiny minds, and request offerings (like the colorful donut-patterned shower curtain Loki wanted a few days ago), but when I really ask myself what human/deity interactions are all about, I get a kind of transcendent evolutionary vibe, if ya know what I mean. They can open themselves as doors, if we want to step through them, and change.

That’s why we have scads of spiritual traditions, religions, and magic rituals, with an endless array of techniques for getting in touch with these larger beings: meditation, prayer, trancework, offerings, mantras, visualization of yantras, contemplation, and quite a lot of sexual magic. Sexual actions, energy, and fluids have figured prominently in all kinds of practices, from Tibetan Buddhism to Crowley’s OTO and beyond. And sometimes there are elaborate rituals that include imagining oneself and/or one’s partner as divine (thereby stepping into the template). The process of cultivation is key.

So let’s say there really is an “enormous, primordial, creative being” out there that we call “Loki,” as well as various other kennings (defined as “indirect bynames,” Loptson, p.20). Like other deities, Loki has various attributes and associations, both ancient and modern. And like other deities, he can provide us with a template for spiritual expansion. I’ll repeat the four associations I mentioned above: (1) snakes, (2) fire, (3) a robust sexual history, and (4) magic.

Snakes. Loki fathered the giant Midgard-circling snake, Jörmungandr, and was also tormented by a poison-dripping snake when bound by the Aesir. These days, many Lokeans wear the Urnes Snake as a pendant, though there’s no actual evidence linking this image with Loki in ancient times. (The Lokean Welcoming Committee has a good discussion of the Urnes Snake here and points out that it has now become a modern symbol for Loki.)

Both Hindu and Buddhist forms of tantra are also associated with snakes, which are symbols of  kundalini energy, said to be coiled at the base of the human spine. There are also three snake deities in Hinduism. Shiva (the ultimate tantric god) is usually depicted wearing one of them, Vasuki, around his neck. Also notice that two of the carvings (below) feature two entwined snakes.

Nagaraja_-_Hindu_Deity_-_India
6 October 2011. Source: Nagaraja – Hindu Deity – India. Author: Natesh Ramasamy from Bangalore, India. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In Passionate Enlightenment–Women in Tantric Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 1994), Miranda Shaw writes:

“Kundalini-yoga offered a range of techniques to harness the powerful psycho-physical energy coursing through the body. In India it is believed that this energy can be channeled for procreation, sexuality, creativity, or spiritual experiences and heightened awareness. Most people simply allow the energy to churn a cauldron of chaotic thoughts and emotions or dissipate the energy in a superficial pursuit of pleasure, but a yogi or yogini consciously accumulates and then directs it for specified purposes. This energy generates warmth as it accumulates and becomes an inner fire or inner heat (candali) that burns away the dross of ignorance and ego-clinging.” (p. 31)

Fire: Dagulf Loptson’s book contains a chapter (pp. 136-154) which deals extensively with Loki’s association with fire, specifically with ritual and cremation fires. There is also an interesting comparison of Odin (Nordic god associated with cremation) and the possible role played by his fiery pal, Loki, with the Hindu Shiva (also god of cremation) and Agni (god of cremation fire). I can’t replicate the arguments here. Just get the book if you’re interested in knowing more. I still need to get God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Role in the Northern Religions, by Stephen Grundy (published by The Troth). With a title like that, I expect yet more examination of Loki’s associations with fire.

Cremation grounds were a popular setting for tantric practices and gatherings. Miranda Shaw writes that “Tantric Buddhists encountered their Hindu counterparts at the cremation grounds…” (p. 31). She also describes bone instruments, ornaments and skull-caps used to serve meat and drink at tantric feasts. Skull Imagery and Skull Magic in the Yoginī Tantras by David P. Gray (Santa Clara University) is another interesting resource.

I note here that one of Loki’s kennings means “vulture’s path” (Loptson, p. 36). Vultures were frequent visitors to charnel grounds. Loki is the father of Hel (or Hela), the Norse goddess of death. Her physical description could almost be that of a “wrathful dakini.” (For that matter, Fenris, Loki’s wolf child with Angrboda, could also have a symbolic association as a cremation grounds scavenger. This is pure speculation, however.)

I suggest it might be interesting to consider Loki’s connection with snakes and fire (and death) as an esoteric reference to the “inner fire” of transformative sexual energy, something that Loki may very well teach and/or provoke.

Robust Sexual History: In the Norse poem, Lokasenna, Loki reveals his sexual history with just about every goddess in Asgard (and these days some people speculate about a sexual relationship with Odin as well). Plus, he’s a shapeshifter who mated with a stallion and bore a magical horse. And he’s got more than a few present-day god-spouses (of all genders). Lots of deities have active sex lives, but Loki combines that with his most noted quality: bringer of chaos and transformation. In Western tantric circles, it’s a given that taking up a tantric practice inevitably means that all hell is going to break loose in your life. We would nod at each other and say, “yeah, hero’s path, dude!” in the same way that Lokeans frequently commiserate with each other about the fan-hitting stuff that goes down after accepting Loki into your life.

Loptson references Loki’s “ecstasy” in the thirteenth verse of his “Loki’s Stave.” Sophie Oberlander calls Loki a “God of ectastic union” (The Jotunbok–Working with the Giants of Northern Tradition, Raven Kaldera. Asphodel Press, 2006, p. 269). Fuensanta Plaza writes of an incident in which Loki manifests as a “huge, fierce joy” (Also Jotunbok, p. 265). I believe I have also felt something of this on several occasions, accompanied by delicious shivers.

Magic. Loki has magic powers, particularly shapeshifting (which Loptson also calls “skin leaping,” pp. 238-239). Loptson also mentions “bind runes” and fire magic and divination (pp. 235-237). Elizabeth Vongvisith also credits Loki with runelore (learned from Odin), seidr-craft (learned from Freya), word magic, and sex magic (Jotunbok, p. 258).

Loki is also known as “the mother of witches” (Mordant Carnival, Jotunbok, p. 271), birthing “troll-women” or “ogres” after eating a woman’s burnt heart (“The Short Seeress’ Prophesy,” The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee Hollander, University of Texas Press, 1962, p. 139).

Tantra is known for its association with magic. Powers known as “siddhis” just naturally come with the turf. Miranda Shaw writes that “…supernatural powers and expertise in magical arts…within the Tantric Buddhist context they are accepted as evidence of spiritual attainments.” This includes mastery of the body (including shapeshifting and ritual gazes), control of weather and elements (fire!), and the ability to magically transport objects (including food from people’s kitchens), and more. One famous dakini, Gangadhara, was known to turn into a wolf.

Many Lokeans complain that Loki will often make things disappear out of mischief. There are many anecdotes about missing items that are not “returned” (or made visible?) until Loki is asked (nicely, I hope) to bring it back. I had this experience with a CD that “disappeared” from my car for a couple of weeks, and I did look everywhere for it, several times. I figured out that I’d played one song way too many times in the car and asked Loki if he actually made things disappear or just prevented people from seeing them? Within a few minutes, I found the missing CD at my feet, near the brake. I do feel somewhat foolish for sharing this story, but honestly, many such are shared. I can only hope that if I ever begin to suffer from dementia, that Loki will go easy on me…

Finally, I’ve come across three kennings for Loki: Sky-Treader, Sky-Traveler, and Sky-Walker. These remind me of the term for tantric yoginis and dakinis: Sky-Dancers. I haven’t found a historical or lore source for these particular kennings yet, however, and would welcome one if you have it.

Based on much of the above, I revived my solo tantric practice and dedicated ninety days of continuity to Loki in return for some specialized instruction. I am now on day 53. It’s proven to be an interesting way to work with Loki, and I believe that committed energy work will prove helpful in this ongoing relationship, providing me with the necessary stamina and sensory refinement to “go deeper.”

At this point, I’d say Loki closely fits the “profile” of a deity who offers a template of transformation fueled by sexual energy–using some symbols and methods that are at least superficially comparable to Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions. I am not sure if scholarship will ever uncover the reasons for these similarities, which do not seem purely coincidental. But because human sexual energy holds the potential to become a transformational spiritual force, perhaps the answer to this riddle is that some deities will always be available to assist us with this, no matter what culture or epoch we (and they) occupy.

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P.S. Here’s a reminder that it’s important to decolonize yoga and tantra.