Following on with the exploring of sex magic in life and in fiction…
“Aiffe was chanting, the cold words whining out of her in the same rhythm with which Nicholas Bonner entered.” (Peter S Beagle, The Folk of the Air).
There’s a branch of sex magic that isn’t about the sex at all. The erotic content is a focus for a spell, or the means of raising energy for some other action. I own a book titled ‘The Art of Sexual Magic’ which offers techniques for just such things. I read it, I’ve never tried any of them. It’s all about using the energy of sex as a focus to send your intentions out into the world. Techniques mingle sex and visualisation. It didn’t inspire me in the slightest.
“It is in these moments of expanded consciousness that you can project a vision of your goal, your creation, into the harmonious fabric of the universe that surrounds you. In ecstasy, you come very close to the universal source. The creative womb out of which all things arise. What better moment to make magic?” (Margot Anand)
I recognise the connection and magic, but for me, the idea of using sex for something else is uncomfortable. The evidence would suggest I am not alone in this. The quote from Beagle above shows a couple undertaking sex magic, more excited by power than eroticism. Satanist villains in Phil Rickman’s fiction use sex for magic too. I can’t think of a single fictional example of people using sex magic in this way, when those people didn’t turn out to be the bad guys.
Sex is incredibly powerful and inherently magical. Taking that magic and subverting it for another purpose seems a betrayal of the essence of lovemaking. Most of the Druids I’ve encountered have expressed disinterest in this kind of magic. For Druids, magic is more usually transformation through experience and connection. Concepts of ‘harness’ or ‘use’ simply don’t fit in with how most of us choose to be. I don’t offer this as any particular judgement on people who do practise this way – each to their own – more as an explanation for why I wouldn’t. Other people may understand the subject in entirely different ways.
However, with all of the above in mind, the use of sex magic for other purposes is a very easy way of portraying characters as morally suspect. It’s something I first explored years ago when co-writing with Emy Naso. Since then I also used it in ‘Beauty in Tears’ – it’s the point in the story that defines certain characters as definitely unpleasant, and begins the redemption of another. Here’s the aftermath of some rather twisted sex magic…
“She located a lantern, and stood in the hallway for an hour, struggling to keep focused as exhaustion worked on her nerves. At last, one of the men came and unlocked the door for her. With faltering steps, Jemima descended into the darkness beneath the house. It smelled damp and unwholesome. After thirty or so stairs, she turned a corner into a large, underground space. The flickering light from her lantern barely reached the walls and thick shadows threatened to hide all kinds of evils. Stepping forward, she saw there were strange symbols painted onto the floor. Finding them ominous, she muttered a brief prayer. Religion had never played much part in her life, but the familiar words of childhood devotions offered some comfort. As she stepped over the sinister markings, her skin prickled and the hairs rose on the backs of her arms.
This is very wrong. Every instinct told her to turn and run, to seek cleaner air and sunlight. It seemed they had left Imogen down here all night, alone in absolute darkness, with only the cold and painted floor to lie on. Whatever the three men were about, she somehow doubted it had anything to do with money or inheritance. The scene struck her as being like something from a darker fairy tale – the bloodier kind that kept small children awake at night.
Taking small steps, she swung the lantern in slow arcs, illuminating as much of the room as she could. After a while, she found Imogen’s prone and naked form. Jemima dropped to her knees beside the girl, touching her shoulder. The skin was dreadfully cold, but the girl stirred. Releasing a breath she had not consciously held, Jemima brought the lantern nearer. It showed her dried blood in abundance.
I didn’t write the actual magic sequence in the end. It seemed better to imply. Sometimes things are more sinister for not being pinned down too closely.
Beauty in Tears available here.