This sermon, delivered in 2005, captures some of my current thinking in regards to sacred sexuality. As I begin a new thread, one that will focus on sex, this article serves as my preamble.
Thank you; I am honored to be here today. Sacred sexuality is one of my favorite topics. I would like to start out with some definitions, and then on into the subject at hand – sacred sexuality, pathways to the divine.
Some of the following are from the Merriam-Webster dictionary on my PDA, the rest however are the output of my own fevered imagination.
- Dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity, e.g. a tree sacred to the gods; worthy of veneration, i.e. holy; entitled to reverence and respect – not secular or profane; and lastly highly valued and important.
- Noun - Male/Female; biological designation;
Verb – consensual exchange of life force energy. (My words)
- Behavioral, cultural & psychological traits associated with one sex, Man/Woman/Transgender.
- Associated with sex (sex as a verb) or with the sexes (sex as a noun).
- State of being sexual; condition of having sex or sexual activity.
Well to look at the above, we could say that sacred sexuality is sexual activity that is dedicated to a deity, that is holy, that is entitled to reverence and respect and is highly valued and important.
Dr. Loraine Hutchins, a dear friend of mine who happens to also be a national expert on the subject, defines sacred sex as “a set of beliefs and practices which seek to heal the split between mind and body, the erotic and the religious, and to bring them together, through daily practices and ritual.” (from Sacred Sex Divinities)
I define sacred sexuality as sexual acts, rites and practices that seek pleasure, healing and spiritual growth.
Why Is Sacred Sexuality Important?
Although definitions are helpful, we also need to comprehend why sacred sex is important, why it matters in a world like ours that has seemingly gone mad.
For most of us, what we experience as sexual energy is more accurately life force energy. We modern humans spend a great deal of our time blocking, suppressing and repressing our life force energy. And it turns out that sex is one of the few areas where we may allow our life force to flow unimpeded.
And if we could find a way to remove these blocks and obstacles, we could harness our life force in ways that could potentially change not only our lives but also the entire course of human history.
A small illustration of this potential is the practice of muscle testing. Muscle testing involves measuring the change in a body’s energy field in the presence of a potential allergen. My acupuncturist used muscle testing to determine my body’s reaction to wheat or pollen. I would hold out my right arm as my as I held the wheat in my left hand. The relative muscle strength of my arm was compared to when I held nothing at all. If I was weaker, bingo, I was allergic to the substance. Although not widely used, it provides a quick answer and can be used in grocery store aisles as well as medical offices.
So now, let’s expand the concept. What if we each had the ability to check in with the flow of our own life force energy? What if we could do the equivalent of muscle testing on everything that we encountered in our lives? What if we could determine that this option increases the flow, while this one dampens the flow of energy? And what about whether this job or this home, or this freeway design or this person or this food or this political candidate increases or decreases my energy flow.
Expanding it further, what if you became sexually aroused whenever you were engaged in your true life’s work or whenever you engaged in habits that contributed to your growth and evolution? What if you had an orgasm when you met your soul mate or simply acted in accordance with your deeply held values? Maybe that is bit too much, but what if we were guided by the flow of life within us and not by our fears, not by our prejudices and not by our projections? What if every one was guided that way?
Man, what a concept, and the sad thing is that it is almost unimaginable.
So how do we heal and grow towards that ideal?
Well one path is through sacred sexuality practices. Sacred sex practices can literally be a tool of evolution, healing and ultimately global change. If it were only that easy; As with everything, the reality is much more complex.
The Great Rite:
Most traditional sacred sexuality practices in wide use today are based on some of the same principles as a traditional Wiccan ritual called the great rite. The great rite involves the ritualized sexual joining of a man and a woman either physically or symbolically using a blade and a chalice. In the symbolic great rite, the woman holds the blade, while the man holds the chalice, but that is pretty much as risqué as it gets for the most part. In many Wiccan traditions, the link with ancient fertility rites is unmistakable. It is one of the reasons that in some circles, Wicca is referred to as a fertility cult
Similarly, today most sacred sex practices are popularized via images of what Dr Hutchins calls the romantic tantric-couple embracing on a New Age greeting card motif. And many sacred sex groups embrace this image just as feverishly as many traditional witches hold on to the great rite. They both espouse the man/woman dyad as the singular model of sacred sex.
However to restrict sacred sexuality to such trite images and limited applicability does nothing to truly heal the mind-body split, nor challenge limiting beliefs such as white supremacy, patriarchy, economic exploitation, and the global concentration of wealth and resources. We have to better comprehend the larger role sex plays within modern culture. We need to grasp the potential pitfalls that exist when we try to go up against the prevailing wisdom of any of the big three.
What are the big three?
Money, Sex, and Power
Money, sex and power are the three-legged stool of modern culture. They are areas of human experience littered with land mines, quicksand and deep dark caverns of shame, fear and regret. We have to be careful when we march into these areas because we often unwittingly recreate within new practices, the very problems we intended to resolve.
So sacred sexuality, like cooperative economics and power sharing, can be revolutionary but they can also be repressive. We can use these progressive ideals to turn the world on its head, to build bridges and communities, and to personally grow and heal. But we can also use them to uphold, and maintain the status quo.
What we need is a richer vocabulary, respectful dialogue and safe places to truly share and evolve our understandings, experiences and interactions in the realms of money, sex and power.
Ultimately, studying the sacred sexual practices handed down to us is not enough. We must also bring our critical consciousness; we must bring our discernment. We must recall that money, sex and power are all political.
So we need to approach sacred sexuality with our eyes, along with whatever other orifices we prefer, open and alert.
Sacred sexuality has traditionally been based on a heterosexual dyad, employing gender and sex polarities to symbolize the eternal dance of the universe. Few, if any, even considered same sex lovers. And usually the practices targeted at same sex couples embraced polarities that resembled hetero role-playing. So the reigning model was, pretty much, heterosexual couplings.
Most of these practices were also not about self-love or masturbation. Even solitary eastern practices, which employ techniques to delay or eliminate ejaculation, often frown upon any direct physical stimulation as if the body itself was somehow profane.
Even given these limitations, many seekers have found these ancient practices and principles both enriching and healing. But for some seekers, the seeming lack of diversity can often be experienced as daunting, non-inclusive even unsettling.
Thankfully, modern practices have been developed that embrace the realities of a far more diverse spectrum of sexual variations, orientations and preferences. Many of the most exciting of the modern practices are being developed within queer and women only spaces. Many began with a critical analysis of traditional practices and then quickly evolved into creating what is called oppositional communities – places where people can heal from the ravages of oppression. They are a long way from the ideal, but it is in these communities that some of the most revolutionary practices are emerging; practices that offer the promise of integrating the erotic into the overall healing of our diverse communities.
Yes, money, sex and power are all political. But each of them can also be transformative, healing and spiritual, even sacred.
Pathways to the Divine:
There is a saying we quote frequently in the craft, “All paths are one.” It is our way of acknowledging the validity of all the world’s religions and faiths, including atheism and humanism. We are obviously not the only ones who feel this way, but because it is one of our central precepts, we are able, for the most part, to cherish the diversity that exists amongst Wiccan practitioners. This is not to say that we do not suffer from fundamentalism and forms of orthodoxy, it just means we have the ability to invoke this principle quite readily into most debates within our path.
So the question remains of why do I call sacred sexuality, a pathway to the divine? Besides acknowledging it as a legitimate spiritual path, it is also an invocation of one of Wicca’s most sacred principles – that the earth itself is sacred.
So what does the sacredness of the earth have to do with sexuality? We witches generally honor the ancient elements as sacred – Air, Fire, Water And Earth. It is our inclusion of earth that defines us as an earth-based religion. This is in contrast to the earth as inert view, which carries with it a concept of the body as corrupt or somehow lower or lesser than mind or spirit.
This is important, because we do not just honor the elements universally; we also honor them in a very personal way as breath, passion, tears and flesh. To name the earth as sacred means our bodies are also sacred.
This ultimately leads us to honor and appreciate our physical bodies, and this includes our sexual needs, urges and hungers. Sacred sexuality is one of the ways we honor and celebrate our flesh. We do not see our physical bodies as simply shells that we cast away at death so we can ascend into the sacred summer land. We declare where we stand as sacred and embrace life as a gift in and of itself.
We also recognize and honor the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth – so the body is also not held above spirit. We seek to heal the split between mind, body and spirit. One area where the mind/body/spirit split can be healed is within human sexuality.
Sexual orgasm is literally the closest we get as living beings to glimpse the eternity of creation, to gaze into the eyes of the nameless one and reconnect with source.
The practices of sacred sexuality allow us to walk the edge of this sacred blade, and to remember, heal, grow and evolve as a result of that connection. We do not have to die to experience the summer land; we only have to die a little.
As we climb the steps into the temple of love, we need to realize that to be human, to be alive at all, is the Goddess’ greatest gift. And to be sexual is to approach the magical doorway into the realm of the gods.
©2005 Katrina Messenger