Sacred Sexuality and Spiritual Identity
Sexuality, while it should be a topic of freer thinking in the pagan community, is still viewed with great suspicion in many of our circles, covens, and pagan philosophies. In fact, it has become a very sensitive topic, bringing out suspicion, fear and misinformation, which we would normally discover in the world of our evangelical Christian counterparts. I for one, being a former evangelical seminarian, and well versed in their philosophy, have come to see many pagans as harboring the same misconceptions. And those who have published anything on the subject are seen by some as strange or otherwise abnormal. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this phenomenon.
Many pagans come from abusive, strict, religious upbringings, where the ideas of sexual expression were literally in the vise of fear based teachings. Being a child of the Catholic Church, my peers and I were deeply indoctrinated — anything sexual was purely for the bonds of marriage, and primarily for procreative purposes. The topics of pleasurable sex, masturbation, desire, and normal biological functions were taught as “sinful,” dirty, and repulsive. Many parents, ingrained in these ridiculous doctrines, passed on the teachings to their children as universal truths to be obeyed at any cost, whether that cost be physical or emotional. What is really amusing to me is that in the Bible itself, there’s a book named “Songs of Solomon,” that is filled with sexual references. However, I never received one iota of teaching in seminary school from this book. In fact, I never heard one speech, lesson, or sermon on this book.
If you expressed sexual desires that were biologically normal and functional, you were told this was bad in the eyes of God” and that it would lead down the road to damnation. This just furthers the damage in a child and in many adults in the religious world, who, instead of doing their own independent research, are instructed to simply, “trust and obey.” One is never to think, and then decide if one should obey. Sadly, the Christian world, even in this calendar 21st century, continues to espouse these spiritually and sexually damaging teachings.
As pagans, we are supposed to be on a higher plane, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Remember why you became a pagan? Was it not because you experienced the spiritually deadening effects of the fundamentalist realm? Would you as a pagan still carry and pass along that emotional baggage to your children? Did you not discover a newness of spirit and emotional freedom in being pagan? No matter what your tradition, why would anyone allow themselves to be bound in the past?
As a person of color, I am often asked whether it matters about my “alternative” view of spirituality, and my personal practices. This is a question that seems to bother a lot of people, especially those reared in very structured backgrounds. I ask them this question. Was there a law written somewhere, that because you were raised a certain direction, that you have no power to change your spiritual path? None have ever answered in the affirmative. Yet too many people, because of birth culture and customs, simply refuse to change, or to even explore the possibility of different paths.
Some are afraid that if they do make a conscious change, there will be ethereal after effects, such as their “soul” going to hell. This has been deeply ingrained in most people I encounter, especially those whose background was of a very strictly enforced religious nature. When I was an evangelical, there were numerous episodes of hearing ministers strenuously warning people against exploring other spiritual paths. Their way was the “only true way” to whatever God they worshiped. To do otherwise was to endanger your afterlife. For many years, I sort of believed this, although there were many lingering doubts. I could not fathom in my mind and heart any loving Deity that would throw someone into a burning, boiling, hellish atmosphere, simply because they were of another faith. What if such a person died without ever hearing about my religion? Are they going to hell? What about deeply spiritual people such as Gandhi, Hindu by faith, who lived a great life. Is he in hell now? The rules seemed impossible, narrow-minded, and bigoted.
Spirituality and birth culture do have many common roots, especially when you delve into the issues of ancient history, tribal customs, and sectarian beliefs and practices — you can understand why people adhered to their particular spiritual or religious practices. Some tribal cultures were not as educated as we are, and certainly did not have the diversity of ideas that we enjoy. And yet even in these so called “modern times,” there are still those who live under this type of emotional and spiritual bondage, along with others who are imposing the so called “rules.”
People have an inborn nature of exploration, seeking new ideas that lead to more innovative thinking. If not, the computer I write this on would probably never have existed. We would still be lighting our homes with candles, and cooking with fires and cauldrons. The old superstitions of life would still apply in everything. People such as Galileo, Copernicus, Marco Polo, Isaac Newton and others would have never made their wondrous discoveries. Think about a world where Leonardo DaVinci did not invent or create. And yet, even today we still have many people following as sheep, rather than striking out and discovering their true spiritual identity. Fear of the unknown, potential loss, and admonitions from rather turgid doctrines are the elements of blame here. True spirituality is where you have balance and harmony. It comes when you have a newness of life and spirit, not ignorance and fear or preconceived notions of the world and people around you who are “different.” It accepts all as true spiritual beings who harbor hopes and dreams and are unique in their individual natures. There are still too many people bound by the traditions of parents, birth cultures and upbringing. When they finally break free, then the truth of spirituality will enliven their hearts, and spirits. Their minds will be open to new and wondrously creative concepts.
Ancient pagans did not view sexuality for the sole purpose of having children. They understood the joys, ecstasies, and pleasures of sexuality. For many paths, sex is considered the “Divine Union” of the goddesses and gods. For example, look to the works of the Kama Sutra. Filled with sexual positions, there is the deep belief that the Indian deities engaged in sexual dalliances, doing so with joy and enthusiasm. Even in pre-Christian parts of Asia, Europe, and Africa, one will discover many examples of various deities having sexual exchange. If you are willing to do the research, these ideals will become clear as crystal.
Sacred sexuality has a rich history. In the pre-Christian era of the Roman and Greek empires, two gods and several goddesses are noted for sexually attuned festivals, and practiced open sexuality in many rituals, temple practices and in certain cycles of the seasons. Bacchus and Dionysus were among the gods who notably embraced sexuality. Celtic deities too numerous to list had rituals that were intermingled with sexual activity. Certain sabbats and esbats are sexually attuned with nature. Sexuality is not just a physical expression. It is a mixture of physical, emotional, and spiritual investment that, when mixed with an atmosphere of love, reverence, and mutual honor, reaps joyful and boundless rewards.
We are born as sexual beings. From birth. sex is very much a component of our linear existence, in both spiritual and physical terms. To deny, hide or misinform ourselves or others shows a highly abnormal attitude concerning that which is perfectly natural, as well as nurturing. The pagan community needs to examine itself as a whole and come to grips with this issue. Sexual freedom is a part of our very being.
Does this mean that we should not be sexually responsible? Should we just have “free for all sex” just because we are pagan? Of course not. As with anything, there are responsibilities. Sacred sexuality should never be treated as a libido driven hippie fest. Unfortunately, there are those who do so, making otherwise responsible and respectable pagans who explore this issue appear as “perverts” or “bent abnormally.” Sexuality should be joyful, and a free expressions of your pagan personality. It does represent the “Divine Union.” Each person should honor their sexual partner as Goddess or God, according to their gender.
Even in a circle or Coven, rituals of sacred sexuality should be carefully scripted, composed with the sacred being the highest goal, and all activity should be safe, sane and consensual. Consider those words as a Wiccan would the Rede, or the Law of Return. Even spiritual tools, such as crystals, runes, tarot, and pendulum are useful in the discovery of sexual wisdom. Unlocking the mysteries of love, romance, intimacy, sexual desires, and partnership will elevate your spirituality, I encourage us all to explore our pagan sexual natures.
©2010 by Mel Fleming II.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Bio; Rev. Mel J. Fleming II is organizer of the Circle of the Pheonyx Sacred sexuality groups. He is an eclectic pagan of 15 years, having completed courses in human relations, human sexuality, marriage and family, counseling, abnormal psychology, comparative religions. He is ordained by the Universal Life church, with a Masters in philosophy, just having obtained his Ph.d. He is the author of the newly published book The Tarot, and the Mysteries of Love and Sex, along with Ms. Cynthia Joyce Clay of Oestara Publishing.