Being both a pagan and a writer of erotica, sex magic is something that I think about a fair bit. For an author wanting to combine erotica and paganism, or occultism, then it’s rather an obvious route to explore. There are a variety of forms sex magic can take, both in life and in fiction. I thought it would be fun to explore some of those, and offer suggested reading.
For those not familiar with the concept, The Great Rite as a practice is a modern wiccan ritual act. I’ve seen it done symbolically, with the priest placing his athame in the goblet of the priestess. I’ve heard of it done actually. The Great Rite is basically sex in ritual.
There is an idea that floats around on the ether, and I’ve no idea exactly how it grew. I believe it starts with a legend in which a King of Ireland has sex with a horse as part of a ritual to do with kingship, and that this is understood as symbolic as his wedding to the land. The idea is that kings of ancient pagan folk would have sex with a priestess, annually, to affirm the relationship between king and land. I know of no historical source for this – if you do, please post a comment. Modern witchraft includes the idea of ritual sex, (literal or symbolic) bringing together the energies of the god and the goddess. I’ve seen a fair few writers along the way take the modern (so far as I know) notion of Great Rite and imagine it as the practice of (usually) druids of old.
I’ve never performed the Great Rite, in a symbolic or an actual way. If you have experience and want to share, please do! The idea of trying to do it symbolically has never really spoken – in part because I’m not a duotheist, my world view doesn’t feature one god and one goddess combining to make everything happen. I believe in multiple deities. I have channelled, and had fleeting encounters with what felt to me like divinity. The idea of calling a goddess into me, in order to have sex with a partner who had called upon a god in the same way, is terrifying beyond words. (And therefore has an undeniable attraction). Deities are scary powerful, and sexual highs create openness and vulnerability. It seems like a recipe for insanity to me.
I can however, imagine sex in the context of private ritual, not summoning deity, but sharing the intimacy in a conscious way with the spirits of place, the land, the wind, the sky. Opening to each other, and to any other presences, offering love as a sacred act, affirming relationship, both personal and in a broader sense. Ritual lovemaking as a way of opening to the divine spark within, and seeing the magic inherent in the other. These days, I can’t really imagine sharing physical intimacy without it seeming inherently sacred and magic (but those are themes for other blog posts).
One of my favourite stories exploring notions of Great Rite is Jeanette Stevens’ Closing the Circle – with a historical Celtic/Druid setting and some consideration of what can go wrong as well as what should go right, it’s a beautifully written tale, sexy, heartbreaking, and very believable.