Sex Magic for The Shadow Year

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Image by Chani Nicholas

So often we attach our sexuality and self love to external sources (partner[s], social media feedback, etc), and we forget that our sexuality, as our life in general, begins and ends with ourselves.  While having a sexual relationship with a partner can be beautiful, ecstatic and fulfilling, it can also be detrimental and dependent if we rely on an external source(s) for our sexual expression and joy. 

We now lie in the midst of the Sun and Mercury retrograde both in sensuous, venomous Scorpio.  This death and rebirth season is ripe with opportunity to explore and renew our sexual relationships with ourselves; both the light and the shadow.  

In the Dark (or Waning) Year, which begins at Litha* but feels more prominent after Samhain**, the Earth invites us to go inward and explore our real, raw selves.  In correspondence with the death and darkness that the Earth experiences, we are called to examine and embrace the Death processes occurring in our own lives. These can include physical deaths, but also breakups, career changes, therapy and shadow work, and any type of transformation or loss that we have no choice but to surrender to.  

While we are honoring the archetype of Death at this time of the year, it’s equally important to invest in our creative, sexual selves.  Sex and death are inextricably linked in astrology, herbalism, tarot, and nature. Life inevitably elicits death, and death always begets the promise of new life.  

We can channel the balance of sexuality and death through work with the sexual shadow self, sex magic to manifest healing through death processes, and returning to our sexuality as a relationship with ourselves.  These practices fortify and balance our tender hearts during this often-difficult season, and ultimately aid us in recognizing ourselves as our primary lover, supporter, and healer.  

Working with goddesses and herbal allies that symbolize sexuality and shadow work can help focus and support one’s practices.  There are almost-infinite possibilities of archetypes and energies that support these intentions; I’ve outlined a few that have been meaningful to me, and that can serve as a starting point for one’s own exploration.  

 

Goddesses

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Freya, The Goddess Oracle, Amy Sophia Marashinsky

Freya is a Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, sex, death, and seiðr, an Old Norse divination magic predominantly practiced by women.  While deities can vastly differ in each individual’s experience of them, Freya is a goddess of self-confidence, self-love and self-worth for me.  My most powerful experiences and rituals with her were in times when I needed to be reminded of, and grounded in, my worth and my boundaries.

Magical correspondences for Freya: amber, gold, rose quartz, fresh flowers (especially roses), strawberries, raspberries, sweet wines, cat imagery.  

If Freya calls to you, you can read about her in the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda.  

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Lilith, John Collier

Lilith is an ancient Sumerian figure, later depicted as the first wife of Adam and subsequently as a demon and succubus in Jewish mythology and folklore.  Lilith is the archetypal independent woman; she refused to lie subservient to Adam, and she disobeyed the Abrahamic god in her pursuit of knowledge, magic and equality.  Due to her fierce sovereignty and self-empowerment, many feminist spirituality traditions elevate her to a goddess figure.  

Lilith has guided me through overcoming an abusive relationship, navigating situations of social exile, and embodying my power and confidence, especially in times of stress and uncertainty.  

Due to Lilith’s power and intensity, I would not recommend direct work with her unless you are an experienced devotee or dedicant.  However, folks less experienced with Lilith can still honor her and invite her energy into their lives.  

A shrine with her images and symbols is an excellent way to establish a physical and spiritual space for her in your life, and provides a space for meditation, offerings and magical workings. Acts of service dedicated to her are a wonderful way to earn her favor.  Mine was an undergraduate thesis, but writing a behemoth of a text isn’t by any means required; anything that involves empowering women, honoring sexuality, and pursuing justice is excellent devotional work to Lilith.

Magical correspondences for Lilith: tarragon, the color red, red and black crystals, red wine, menstrual blood, serpent imagery.

If Lilith calls to you, you can learn about her origin story in the channeled Liber Qayin.  The text for Liber Qayin is available in book format or online.

Additional goddesses: Venus/Aphrodite, Kuan Yin, Persephone, Bloddeuwedd, Hathor, Bastet, Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, The Morrígan, Hera, Circe.

The additional goddesses I’ve listed are deities that may represent one or multiple aspects of sexuality, self-love, death, and magic.  I’ve worked with some of these goddesses in different capacities, and some I do not have experience with.  I wanted to provide more possibilities for deities that may call to readers, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.  I highly recommend researching a deity and their cultural context before developing a relationship with them.

 

Herbal Allies: 

 

As the Earth exists in cycles of life and death, herbs that correspond with vivacious properties of sexuality are often also herbs of grieving and death.  These herbal allies draw in one’s own sexual power, as well as the ability to understand and surrender to the cycles of life and death. As herbs of love, they aid in developing one’s sense of self love, and recognizing the aspects of the shadow selves that must heal in order for one to better love oneself.  There is a plethora of herbs associated with love, sexuality and death; I’ve included a few here that strongly connect with both energies, and that have served many practitioners well.  

Damiana increases arousal, psychic abilities, and the intensity of sexual magic.  It can be taken internally as a tea, or macerated in an oil to make a sacred lubricant.  As an arousing and empowering herb, Damiana is ideal for establishing and deepening one’s sexual relationship with oneself.  As an herb corresponding to Pluto, Damiana can also be used to empower one’s Underworld journey, confronting their own shadows, fears and insecurities, and navigating the Shadow realm in a loving and healing way.  

Marshmallow embodies the dichotomy of love and death as an aphrodisiac and a funereal herb.  Ancient Greeks planted the flowers upon the graves of loved ones, and Marshmallow is the flower of Althea, a Greek fertility goddess who hangs herself after learning of her brothers’ deaths.   Corresponding to Venus, marshmallow root may be burned, kept in a sachet, or used to dress a candle to increase the power of sex magic. As it is high in vegetable gum, marshmallow root has also been used to prepare a sacred lubricant.  As with anything to be used internally, I’d recommend exercising caution and allergy-testing it on the wrist first.  

Mandrake is one of the most powerful and potently fabled herbs in folklore and magic.  It is linked with death, as it can be fatal when taken internally, and is used to honor the crone archetype and deities that preside over the realm of the dead.  Complementing its associations with death, mandrake is also considered an aphrodisiac that increases sexual power and magic. As a visionary herb, it empowers one’s psychic awareness and the ability to manifest one’s intentions.  Sometimes used for exorcisms, mandrake can aid in banishing negative energies (emotions, people, etc) from one’s sexual and emotional self. Corresponding with the Fool card and the World card, mandrake aids in honoring the cycles of beginnings and endings, life and death, risk and potential reward.  Mandrake is ideal for use at the full moon, to reflect one one’s accomplishments and embrace one’s full power. For safety, I would recommend only using mandrake in a sachet or on the altar, and drawing energetically from its presence during one’s magical workings. 

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Womandrake, [Gart der Gesundheit], Hortus sanitatis, 1485
There are endless ways to practice sex magic and shadow work, from physical movement to quiet contemplation.  I hope the suggestions I’ve outlined here can help you begin or continue on your own journey of self-love, sexual sovereignty and death work.  

I’ll be opening a Q&A on my Instagram (@hhexennachtt) on Thursday, November 14 to answer questions about this post: more information about any of the deities or herbs I’ve mentioned, ways to expand or individualize one’s practice, or any other questions y’all may have about sex magic, shadow work, or anything related to the post.  

Notes:

*Litha is the pagan sabbat celebrating the Summer Solstice.  Also called Midsummer in Germanic and Norse traditions, it is celebrated when the sun enters Cancer, usually on the 21st of June.

**Samhain is the pagan sabbat of the third and final harvest.  It is celebrated as the witch’s new year, and focuses on honoring ancestors and the dead, as well as divination and spirit contact.  Lunar Samhain is celebrated on the New Moon in Scorpio, and Solar Samhain is celebrated on October 31st.  

Resources:

The Poetic Edda, Snorri Sturluson

The Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson

Liber Qayin, Lorelei & Natalie Black

A Compendium of Herbal Magic, Paul Beyerl

Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure: Awaken Your Sensual Energy Using Crystals and Healing Rituals, One Chakra at a Time | Book Review

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Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure by Vanessa Cuccia

Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure by Vanessa Cuccia is an uplifting, aesthetically pleasing and comprehensively accessible guide to crystals and chakras, both in general and within the context of pleasure.   

The book is easy to understand for those beginning their journey with crystals, chakras, and pleasure.  Cuccia provides an introduction to the realm of sacred sexuality with a context of self-love and relaxing, accessible language.  Aesthetically, the book is very beautiful, with lots of images and negative space to balance the emotionally-attuned, heart-centered text.  

For those with an intermediate knowledge and practice of chakras and crystals, Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure may feel rudimentary.  As someone who has a working knowledge of this realm, I found that the book didn’t offer me any new information, but served as a light and affirming review of my existing knowledge.  It is not a dense or academic text, but allows space for fluid, intuitive interpretation on the part of the reader.  

Each chapter is dedicated to one of the seven chakras, and includes a ritual for its corresponding energy center.  The rituals are fairly simple and easy for the individual to adapt to their needs and preferences. As someone who comes from a background of deity- and sabbat-specific rituals, those in this book feel more like spiritual exercises rather than ceremonial rituals.  However, this in no way negates the potential power and positive impact of the practices. Personally, I found myself selecting certain aspects of the rituals and integrating them into my already-existing practices. I didn’t radically change my rites and devotional works, but the book’s rituals added a wonderful new nuance to them.  

The book’s appendices include further reading resources and correspondences chart, adding to the value of this text as an accessible reference book and a resource for further learning. Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure ultimately provides a substantive and holistic introduction for beginners, and a well-rounded review for intermediate and advanced practitioners.

Sacred Travel: an Interview with The Wandering Witch

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The author, The Wandering Witch and Elizabeth, our witch friend

Between Pantheacon in San Jose and my trip to Arizona, I’ve been traveling a lot recently.  Both of those trips in particular were very spiritually charged. Thousands of pagans were packed into the San Jose Doubletree for Pantheacon, and Arizona was electric with the energy of the vortexes, yet heavy with the imprint of trauma inflicted by colonizers on native folks and on the land.  During my travels, I tried my best to honor the land I was visiting and turn my trips into sacred experiences.

My friend and fellow witch, Julia, writes The Wandering Witch, a blog on travel and spirituality.  I spoke with her on her experiences, practices and insight on sacred travel.  

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The Wandering Witch’s logo

Gwen: Tell us about your blog, The Wandering Witch.

Julia: I started my blog in 2016, while I was traveling in New Zealand for a year. I wanted a way to document everywhere that I was going.  I always try to connect with wherever I’m going, to develop a sense of place and a relationship with the landscapes that I’m interacting with.  Before I go I research, read books and learn about the indigenous peoples of the area. Originally [The Wandering Witch] was just an Instagram account, and then people asked if I would start a blog; so now I have a blog, an Instagram, and maybe a book!

 

G: Why is it important to make travel sacred?

J: As a witch and as a pagan…there’s something so special about connecting with the spirit of the land.  I’ve had these incredible experiences all over the world, and each place is so different. I feel like I’ve grown immensely by traveling, and connected so deeply with different places, and you can’t get the same experience by going to all the typical tourist spots.  

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Julia, The Wandering Witch, in Giza, Egypt

G: How does one make travel sacred? Are there certain practices, rituals or resources that one can use to honor the sacredness of travel?

J: Before I go anywhere I research [the location], and in my blog I am doing the research for the reader.  If you look at a map, look for the magic in the names of places, like “Fairy’s Glen” or “Devil’s Canyon.” Especially in this country, a lot of place names are Anglicized.  There are a lot of place with “devil” in the name, which can indicate that a place has a strong spirit. Even if there isn’t any information in history books, you can guess based on the names, or by sensing which places feel sacred.  There are so many magical landscapes all around us, whether or not they’re “famous.”

 

G: By being perceptive and intuitive, we can find the sacredness anywhere, whether a place is “famous” or not.

J: Exactly; you can just feel it. If you go somewhere, like a sunny glen, and it makes you stop and feel truly present, that, to me, is sacred space.  

 

G: What is the most magical place(s) you’ve traveled to, and why?

J: I think all spaces are magical, but New Zealand, Iceland, Egypt and England.  As much as I have issues with England because of their horrible imperialism, going to Stonehenge was an amazing experience for me.  I was there with my sister and while we were there, we remembered that it was the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, and she was English.  It was a really incredible, beautiful experience we had. We sat in the grass, meditated and poured libations. I know it sounds tacky because Stonehenge is so famous, but I have such an amazing memory of being there.  

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Julia, The Wandering Witch, at Stonehenge

G: That makes sense.  As people develop their individual experiences in a place that they consider to be magical, it would build a reputation as a magical place.  

J: Exactly.  A place like Salem, for example, is so well known as a “witchy” town.  Historically, the women and men who were executed and killed probably weren’t witches.  But all of these magical practitioners go there year after year and put their intention into that place, and that place then becomes magical.

 

G: There’s a reciprocal relationship between people and place.

J: Yes, reciprocity.  The lands gives to us, and we give back to the land.  We would be nothing without the land, and people take that for granted.

 

G: Yes, especially when we exploit a place.  In places like Salem, there is a lot of exploitation of its historical context.  Some folks go just to capitalize on that and make it into a tourist location. However, there’s also a movement toward honoring the people who were executed with the stone Memorial; that can be a sacred space where folks can have a more authentic and spiritual experience of Salem.  

 

Do you have any habitual rituals that you perform when you travel somewhere, or does it depend on the place?

J: It definitely depends on where I am, but when I travel someplace new I always acknowledge the local deities, or genius loci, the local spirits.  I always pour libations, which can be as simple as pouring water out.  Water is one of the most sacred elements, and it’s never harmful to the environment.  

I will also offer a libation specific to the place, such as wine when I visited the Temple of Saturn in Rome.  I was in Sweden this summer and visited Gamla Uppsala, which is the only known heathen historical temple space.  Knowing the preferences of the Norse gods for mead, I brought mead specifically to pour at that place. If I know that the spirits or gods in a specific place like something, I will bring that if I feel that it’s appropriate and won’t hurt the environment.  Otherwise, I will just pour water.

 

G: How can we cultivate that sacredness and reciprocal relationship when we return home?

J: Start with where you are; the land that you walk on, sleep on, live on.  Acknowledge your local spirits. As someone living in North America and as a descendent of  first-generation colonizers, it’s really important for me to acknowledge the ancestral caretakers of this land.  They were caring for this land for twelve-thousand years before us Europeans showed up. A big part of my practice is acknowledging that they were the original caretakers of this land.  Especially as a magical practitioner, it’s really important to acknowledge that.

Additionally, go outside to your backyard if you have one.  In my backyard, there are two sister trees, and that’s where I offer my offerings to my local land spirits.  When it’s nice out, I just sit there, connect with my space, and walk in my woods. Never in human history have people been indoors so much, so the simple act of going outside is a ritual in and of itself.  

G: Is there anything else that we didn’t include that you’d like to express?

J: As human beings, pagans or not, we have a responsibility to be caretakers of the land.  If you go somewhere, don’t leave trash. I pick up trash as an offering. An offering is supposed to be something that isn’t always the easiest or most comfortable thing to do, and cleaning up sacred space is an excellent way to care for it.  Be mindful of what you’re doing and if you are caretaking for the environment. If you don’t have that awareness, you’re just being selfish and not thinking of the long-term effects or the descendants.

 

G: Keeping the ancestors in mind, keeping the descendants in mind, and being aware of where we are presently.  Making sure that we are contributing positively to the spirits and to our land, whether local or not.

Follow The Wandering Witch:

Blog: http://www.the-wandering-witch.com

Instagram: @the.wandering.witch

Facebook: @thatwanderingwitch

Witchbody by Sabrina Scott: Book Review

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Witchbody by Sabrina Scott
I was gifted this graphic novel at Pantheacon to review, and I am so grateful that it found me.
Reading this book is a sacred act; a ritual to be performed with purpose. The cerebral and occasionally convoluted language inspires the mind to meditate on the integration of individual and Earth.  The illustrations provide a raw and provocative visual journey which is both accessible and profound.
Each aspect of this graphic novel stands on its own.  Together, though, the text and artwork co-create a deep, primordial dreamscape for the reader to delve into.
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Back Cover of Witchbody
Scott fearlessly embraces the reality of industrialization and environmental degradation, while maintaining honor and appreciation for our modern world.  Their acknowledgement of our personal and collective ontology in relation to magic, environmentalism and our own selves re-orients the reader’s view of what (and who) is “of value,” and calls those beliefs into question.
Witchbody utilizes no sugar-coating of our current collective reality, no antisepticizing of the muddy intermingling of earth and industry.  The literary, artistic and energetic aspects of Witchbody are organic and authentic.  The novel touches something within the soul of the reader that affirms, in their naked, unembellished, vulnerable selves, they are innately valuable and magical.
Scott provides the reader with an intellectual, emotional, visceral and even tactile experience of Western occult magic and environmental advocacy.  Scott identifies the book as a “talisman;” this appellation resonates deeply with me, as I already feel a living, ongoing, working relationship with the wisdom and contemplative stimulus that this creation provides.
Witchbody is a salve for the soul that yearns for a sense of connection to their craft, and the body that desires a a deeper immersion into the Earth it inhabits.

Featured Sexuality Boutique: Femi Toys

Femi Toys is an ethics-oriented, black- and LGBTQ-owned online sex toy store, which I recently had the pleasure of connecting with and becoming an affiliate of.  

Femi Toys was founded in early 2018 by Chamaine Bather and Joanna Salazar, Florida-based life partners of seven years.  Chamaine attends Florida Atlantic University as a Psychology major, and Joanna is currently mastering coding for Femi Toys’ website. From their interest in becoming entrepreneurs and mutual love of quality sex toys, Chamaine and Joanna co-founded Femi Toys.

The couple chose the name Femi Toys as a symbol for feminism and empowering female representation in the sex industry.  They saw the need for a positive and liberating source for sex toys, and named their company in correspondence with their values.

Just as feminism encompasses equality for all people, Femi Toys provides safe sex toys for every body.  They prioritize inclusivity and avoid unnecessary gendering of their products. In a refreshing contrast to the often-gendered marketing of sex toys through specific colors, images and descriptions, Joanna simply states, “If a toy works for you, you should buy it.”

Femi Toys also upholds strict standard for the quality of their products.  Although the adult toy industry is not regulated, Chamaine and Joanna carefully select Femi Toys’ products from reputable, body-safe brands to avoid toxic ingredients present in many sex toys.  The founders keep a list of materials and ingredients that they do not allow in the store, including TPR, TPE, PVC, and CyberSkin (due to their porous and potentially toxic nature), as well as glycerine and propylene glycol because of their propensity to elicit allergic reactions and infections.  While no one can control the lack of regulation in the adult toy industry, the folks at Femi Toys do the work of only providing toys that they themselves would be comfortable using.

As Chamaine and Joanna continue to grow their business, they hope to become a top retailer of quality sex toys, and in the future, make their own line of body-safe toys.  

To purchase products from Femi Toys, and to support The Love Witch as well, click my affiliate link here:

http://femitoys.com?aff=6

Free shipping is always available for orders, and Femi Toys is including a free gift with all orders until March 2.

As always, I am happy to answer any questions or offer suggestions on sexuality toys and tools.

Keep an eye out for my first overview of a Femi Toys product!

Friday Practice

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Friday//Frigga’s Day//Freya’s Day//Day of the Goddess

Friday is the day of Frigga, the Norse Goddess of Love and Transformation.  Friday corresponds to the planet and Roman goddess Venus, and it holds the loving, nurturing and intuitive energy of the Divine Feminine.  Fridays are ideal for spiritual practice with the goddess, whether she manifests as Freya, Yemaya, Ishtar, Erzulie or any other incarnation of Feminine Divine.  

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My Friday practice today began with 9 am Kundalini yoga at LIV Kundalini.  Today’s class focused on the Sacral Chakra, the energetic home of sexuality, pleasure and creativity.  We honored the yoni, the sacred space of feminine divinity, and released the shame and self-consciousness that society places upon that area of the body.

My Friday practice continues with my work as a sex educator, assisting folks in finding the toys and tools best for them as individuals, and providing them with information to be their happiest and healthiest sexual selves.  Throughout the day I am also developing a Sacral Chakra Dark Moon ritual and The Lovers tarot workshop, both of which I’ll be facilitating next month.

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Image via @felipedavilaa (Instagram)

My evening practice will involve The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and my weekly offering ritual of Irish whiskey and a rose to The Morrígan.  I will end the evening by continuing my reading of Women Who Run With the Wolves, a fundamental feminist text on the Wild Woman archetype.

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Every individual’s practice is different, and what I’ve written represents a highly productive day for me.  Whether your personal practice involves a full day devoted to the goddess or a moment in prayer, dedication and appreciation to her, it is equally valid and valuable.  Taking time to acknowledge the Divine Feminine, especially on the day dedicated to her, amplifies her energy and presence in our lives.

I’ll end with the Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, and equivalent of the Roman goddess Venus.  If you’re looking for a simple yet profound way to honor a deity and find yourself drawn to the Greco-Roman pantheon, the collection of devotional Orphic Hymns are a beautiful resource.  

 

Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite

Heav’nly, illustrious, laughter-loving queen, sea-born, night-loving, of an awful mien;

Crafty, from whom necessity first came, producing, nightly, all-connecting dame:

‘Tis thine the world with harmony to join, for all things spring from thee, O pow’r divine.

The triple Fates are rul’d by thy decree, and all productions yield alike to thee:

Whate’er the heav’ns, encircling all contain, earth fruit-producing, and the stormy main,

Thy sway confesses, and obeys thy nod, awful attendant of the brumal God:

Goddess of marriage, charming to the sight, mother of Loves, whom banquetings delight;

Source of persuasion, secret, fav’ring queen, illustrious born, apparent and unseen:

Spousal, lupercal, and to men inclin’d, prolific, most-desir’d, life-giving., kind:

Great sceptre-bearer of the Gods, ’tis thine, mortals in necessary bands to join;

And ev’ry tribe of savage monsters dire in magic chains to bind, thro’ mad desire.

Come, Cyprus-born, and to my pray’r incline, whether exalted in the heav’ns you shine,

Or pleas’d in Syria’s temple to preside, or o’er th’ Egyptian plains thy car to guide,

Fashion’d of gold; and near its sacred flood, fertile and fam’d to fix thy blest abode;

Or if rejoicing in the azure shores, near where the sea with foaming billows roars,

The circling choirs of mortals, thy delight, or beauteous nymphs, with eyes cerulean bright,

Pleas’d by the dusty banks renown’d of old, to drive thy rapid, two-yok’d car of gold;

Or if in Cyprus with thy mother fair, where married females praise thee ev’ry year,

And beauteous virgins in the chorus join, Adonis pure to sing and thee divine;

Come, all-attractive to my pray’r inclin’d, for thee, I call, with holy, reverent mind.

Sexuality & Disability: An Interview with Marika of SexyDisability

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Within the feminist, body positive and sex positive movements, disability is often omitted or oversimplified in favor of other aspects of identity.  I spoke with Marika, sexuality and disability advocate, Druid and creator of YouTube channel SexyDisability. Marika and I had a long conversation about relationships, representation, confidence and connection within the realm of sexuality and disability.  

G: What inspired you to created YouTube videos on sexuality and disability?

M: It was my own personal experience, and the assumption that individuals with disabilities either couldn’t have sex, aren’t interested in sex, or aren’t sought after for sexual experiences.  

A key turning point for me was seeing a young woman who looked just like me, who had cleft of the palate, running for Miss Canada. As a young women growing up, I thought that my appearance made me automatically less attractive than anyone else.  I would have never imagined that someone like me, who had those scars, would be in a beauty pageant. My own physical difference is Popliteal Pterygium Syndrome, which includes cleft lip and palate, and webbing on my legs and hands that has had surgical intervention.

G: So seeing representation of yourself brought you to realize that you are beautiful.

M: Yes; and seeing her [run for Miss Canada] made me do the [YouTube] channel.

 

G: How do you view the body positive and sex positive movements in relation to folks with disabilities and physical differences? How do you think it serves them and how do you think it does not?

M: This has been on my mind and heart a lot. I’m currently not seeing the body positive movement really embracing people with disabilities to the degree that they’re embracing other parts of our society, such as plus size [people] or women of color. Folks with disabilities are waiting for our turn, in some respects.

My other perspective on the body positive movement is that it’s a little awkward for me, someone with a disability, because there are simply parts of my body that I don’t think are attractive, and that’s okay. I don’t think attractiveness is necessarily the most important part of sexuality to me. I’m more interested in functional sexuality.  I really appreciate how different types of bodies are being celebrated, but I’m okay with not loving every part of my body. There’s also the question that, if someone doesn’t find themselves attractive, can they still be an empowered sexual being? Is that allowed?

 

G: That’s an important question.  Expanding from that, what is the relationship to attractiveness and empowerment? Are they mutually inclusive? Is it possible to have one without involving the other? So much of the body positive movement is declaring, “You are attractive, regardless of body shape, size or color,” but what if we removed attraction from the conversation and asked why that has to be a factor?  

M: [Attraction] is definitely an important part, but [it’s] not the whole movement.  I was listening to a podcast recently and the speaker said, “I’m just an average woman; I don’t look like a supermodel or anything,” and that should be fine.

G: Attraction puts a lot of pressure on people, and it can feed into narcissism. Our culture is very consumerist and is greatly based on vanity, and on thinking that you’re either the most attractive person in the world, or you’re not attractive at all. The idea of restructuring that mentality, taking attraction out of it and asking, “Who are we without physical attraction?” is a testament to how much one loves oneself as a whole person.

M: As women, especially, our culture uses women’s sexuality to sell objects. In a sense, [women’s sexual attractiveness] is overrepresented.  Yes, a woman can be considered sexy, but can we please talk to women about how to enjoy themselves [and] how to pleasure themselves? I don’t understand this emphasis on women’s appearance only as their sexual nature. We need to be helping men learn how to pleasure themselves, and women as well. If you only focus on the physical, it can be a really shallow view of sexuality. It’s not as spiritual.

G: One’s perception of one’s own attractiveness can also change by the second.  If one’s sense of self love and sexuality depends on attractiveness, that’s a very fragile factor to depend on.

M: Exactly; and what’s popular in terms of what is considered an attractive body or face can change. We also change with age, and women who are older aren’t viewed as attractive, [even though] they are still equally as attractive.

G: Taking attraction out of the equation, and instead building a foundation for one’s self-love and sexuality on something stronger, is a powerful notion.  

M: Right. Physical attraction is important and we don’t want to demonize it, but we don’t want to make it the most important thing [either].  People consume beauty products, like makeup, lipstick and spanx, [and through these products they] can take on this different persona. But if you have a physical disability, there’s only so much you can do to “fit the mold.”  

 

G: Instead of attraction being the main factor, what would you suggest people focus on primarily, for their foundation of sexual freedom and self love?

M: What are your own sexual desires? How do you want to be, sexually, in the world? Do you want to wear a sexy outfit? What fantasies do you have? What senses do you want to highlight in your sexual play besides sight: touch, scent, hearing or smell? What kind of relationships do you want to have? What kind of self-pleasure do you want to have?  [And] if you have some sort of physical difference, that [is] something you will need to be tender with yourself about.

 

G: What would you like to see more of in the body positive and sex positive movement in relation to representation of folks who have disabilities and physical differences?

M: It may sound counter-intuitive, but I’d like to see more images of people with disabilities; someone with a physical difference being a romantic lead in a movie, or in an ad campaign.  I’d like to see people with disabilities represented with romantic interests in a sexual way that’s not perceived as fringe.

G: Or fetishized; but rather, normalized.

M: Yes.  That’s a big problem with sexuality of people with disabilities.  They can be infantilized: either seen as too pure, or [as] someone who needs a lot of care.

G: As someone who can’t be sovereign and dominant; rather, someone who needs to be a passive participant?

M: Yes; or seen as “cute” or “sweet.”  

 

G: What would you like to see in contrast to that representation of disabled folks as pure and passive? What kind of sexual identity would you like to be more visible for these folks?

M: I’d like to see people with disabilities being seen as strong [and] participatory.  I’d like to see people who are relating to people with disabilities to be nonchalant, and [to treat] them like normal people with normal desires who are worthy of exploring sexuality with.  

Society does not think that people with disabilities are worthy of having a partner.  If they’re already with a partner, [society is] concerned that they won’t find a future partner, or [that disabled individual need] to find a partner who also has disabilities, because no one else would want to be with them.  [Society does not see] the possibility that someone without a disability would like to be with someone with a disability.

 

G: In regards to sexuality and spirituality, how does sex and disability intersect with spirituality? What does that intersection looks like?

M: Going along with our conversation earlier about our consumerist culture, when sexuality is seen as an outward physical manifestation that can be commodified and sold, people who are disabled are left out of that equation.  They aren’t able to add up on a physical level, and sexuality [that is] only focused on the outer appearance [is robbed] of its spiritual power and significance. In addition, if people with disabilities are seen as weak or powerless in a sexual sense, then they aren’t able to feel empowered sexually.  [Thus,] they aren’t able to feel empowered as a spiritual being, sexually.

There are also some spiritual traditions that see disability as a punishment for past life ill-doings, rather than as a powerful journey towards a spiritual path.  There are some traditions who use prayer or crystals to “cure disability,” which is problematic because it’s emphasizing that the disability is something that needs to be cured. Wrapping that into spirituality is dangerous and disempowering.

 

G: I agree; it’s extremely disempowering and insensitive to pathologize disability as an indication that, karmically, someone is a “bad person” or needs to make reparations. Disability does not translate to something spiritually negative.

Following up on that, are there any aspects of spirituality or spiritual practices that you would suggest for disabled folks who are looking to foster confidence, empowerment and positive representation?

M: It depends on the person. Brian Froud’s faerie oracle decks have body types that are nonstandard, because they are fairies, so they have different shapes which is empowering for me. I sometimes find that representations of spirituality are body-typical, because, I guess, goddesses are supposed to be “hot,” (laughs) and only crones are supposed to not be “hot.”

G: That connects to the value of attractiveness we discussed earlier. In that mindset, if a goddess isn’t perceived as “attractive,” then perhaps she’s not as worthy of worship.  Within that same mindset comes the fear of the hag, or crone goddess, because of her appearance.

M: I actually just took all the neurotypical women off of my altar and put up some crones, because I needed some different energy: of powerful women who don’t appear [aesthetically] perfect.  In my own work, I’m exploring the archetype of the crone. Not to say that being physically imperfect is something that should be relegated to old age, but it’s an aspect of it: the woman who defies this need to be desired by men in order to be seen as valuable and powerful.  

[I’m exploring] the fairy archetype too, but everyone’s practice is unique. Spiritual practice in general is really helpful, because looking at a different paradigm, away from consumerist culture, is really healing in and of itself.  [Spirituality] values you not just for your appearance or your work ability, but values you for your character and the way you move ethically in the world. Building relationships with others and with nature, and building alternatives to consumerist culture [are also important].  

 

G: Are there other areas you would like us to cover in this interview that we may not have covered?

M: How society at large can be inclusive to folks with disabilities, and how a body-typical person who is a friend of someone with a physical disability, or who wants to date someone with a physical disability, can be supportive of that person.  What to ask and what not to ask. How to respect someone who has a physical disability (a friend or partner) in a sexual sense.

 

G: So how would we address that?

M: If you are a friend of someone with a physical difference, always make sure you include them in the conversation and not assume that, because they have a physical difference, they’re not interested or don’t have things to share about sexuality.  A lot of people think that folks who have a physical difference are virgins. People with physical differences get asked a lot of odd questions, like, “Do you have sex?”, “How do you have sex?”; and that is an abrasive way to ask that.

 

G: Is it more a matter of  not asking those questions because they’re abrasive, or asking in a different way? How would you approach it?

M: In the dating arena, sometimes people without physical differences are interested in [asking those questions], but people with physical differences want to be seen as a whole person.  They want to be appreciated for all their different interests. So I think that question is better to be approached once you get to know someone, and once you’re closer to them; and it will often come up anyway. But if you bring it up right away, it can be seen as, “Oh boy, I have to give another medical lecture for another person in my life.”

G: [Asking those questions] instantly isolates the sexual aspect in a way that could feel alienating, in the sense that someone is only viewing the sexual aspect.  Just like if someone approaches another person in any situation and immediately asks something sexual; it’s not okay.

M: And the same goes for [asking], “Hey, what’s wrong with you?” That is asked a lot, and it’s not your business. For people with physical disabilities, their most vulnerable part is out in the open for everyone to see, and it’s a little too intimate to ask that right away. It’s important to see someone as a whole person before diving into the most “Dr. Phil”-type questions.

G: Right. You don’t immediately ask someone invasive questions.  Again, normalize language and don’t isolate a certain aspect of a person. We’re all different, but we’re all the same as well.

M: And if it came up in a dating relationship, depending on the type of physical difference, it may or may not affect the sexual arena.  But instead of asking “How can you have sex?”, a better question would be “What do you like in bed?” or “What are your preferences?”.

G: Because sexuality, at its core, is mental, emotional and spiritual. The physical is simply the individual’s manifestation of what’s going on in the head and the heart.

M: And if people find themselves uncomfortable or bothered by physical differences, it’s important to ask why that makes them uncomfortable.  

G: Right; unpacking our views on difference.  Rather than trying to change another individual, we should examine ourselves and why we feel the way we feel in regards to difference.

M: I’ll give you an example from two dating experiences I had. There was one experience I had with a guy and we went out to dinner, and he asked “What’s wrong with your mouth?” How do you answer that? And then I had another experience on a date, where the person I was out with, very innocently said, “Oh, you have four fingers on your hand.  That’s really cool! That’s awesome,” and that’s a better way of looking at it. The first person saw it as a negative, and the second saw it as a positive. Maybe risky to bring up on the first date, but he pulled it off because he wasn’t uncomfortable with my physical difference. He saw it as a positive, but also didn’t dwell on it.

 

G: Are there certain aspects of your current relationship that you really appreciate in terms of this subject?

M: The partner I’m with now really loves my differences, and finds them beautiful.  

 

G: What are the main takeaways, to wrap up this topic?

M: Not having it be the first thing you bring up, is always great.  Instead of treating someone like an oddity, treat them like a person, and the disability is one part of their experience.  Keep in mind that people with disabilities and physical differences may be used to people bringing it up, so they may like to have a break from that.  Follow the lead of the person with the physical disability. And if you want to ask a question, frame it in a more open way. For example, “What do you like to do in bed?” instead of, “What can you do in bed?” We’re all human; let’s just have good relationships together.  

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Further Resources:

 

Marika’s Youtube Channel, SexyDisability:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcaHEFKbhbijtmn0lEFXt4A

 

Body Positive Movement and Disability: 

https://www.buzzfeed.com/lucywebster/how-feminism-informed-my-identity-as-a-disabled-woman

 

Disability and Sexuality Playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCnX7UJ5bevUYPxxk-e2E2EvShUTAT-IC

 

Disability and Sexuality Awareness Campaign:

http://www.enhancetheuk.org/new-sex-disability-page/

 

The Crave Curve Glass Dildo

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As a sex educator, an ecofeminist and a Taurus moon, it’s important to me that sex toys are body-safe, environmentally-sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.  The Crave Curve glass dildo is all of those things and more. The Curve is a consciously-designed and artfully-executed sex toy that can be used for pleasure and healing purposes.  

The Curve is a beautiful C-shaped dildo made of borosilicate glass.  According to Crave’s website, the Curve’s borosilicate glass is heat- and shatter-resistant, making it great for temperature play and durable enough for the clumsiest of users (myself included, again citing my inner Taurus).  If the folks at Crave can drop the Curve from atop a 6-foot ladder (which they did), it’s safe to say this toy is pretty tenacious. Additionally, the Curve comes with a protective hard-shell case for safe, sanitary and discreet storage.  

Borosilicate glass is a non-porous material, meaning it can be completely sterilized and will not hold onto any bacteria once it is cleaned.  Non-porous toys are ideal for folks who may struggle with UTIs, BV, yeast infections, etc, and for hygienic purposes if the toy will be used with multiple partners or multiple orifices.  That being said, the Curve is not recommended for anal use, as it does not have a handle or flared base.

   New Crave Glass: sculpture meets pleasure

Image courtesy of lovecrave.com

The toy’s eponymous curve and rounded ends make it ideal for G-spot stimulation.  One end is slimmer and the other is girthier, thus accommodating a wider spectrum of anatomies and preferences.  

The angle and firmness of the Curve is also ideal for pelvic floor physical therapy stretches.  Folks who have vulvodynia, vaginismus, or other conditions involving vaginal muscle spasms/excessive tightness (from stress, trauma, etc) can use the Curve to massage and stretch the internal muscles in accordance with a pelvic floor physical therapist’s guidance.*  These stretches can help relieve pain in general and during penetrative sex, as well as release muscle tension and, emotionally, provide the user with a path toward healing by reacquainting themselves with their body in an autonomous way.

The Crave Curve glass dildo can be found at Nomia Boutique (24 Exchange St, Portland ME).  For folks who aren’t local, Nomia takes phone orders and will ship products in discreet packaging.  

Overall, the Curve is great if one is looking for a non-mechanized, smooth, firm toy for G-spot stimulation, temperature play, and pelvic floor massage.  For those of us who are environmentally-mindful and aesthetically-inclined, the Curve is a beautifully-sculpted and sustainably-crafted addition to one’s sex toy collection.  

*Note: If you are experiencing vulvovaginal pain or discomfort and think you may have one of the conditions listed above, I strongly encourage you to seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist.  Based on personal experience, pelvic floor PT is extremely helpful for overcoming physical/emotional/trauma-induced pain and malaise. If you are unsure of where to start in looking for a pelvic floor PT, feel free to reach out to me.  I can recommend pelvic floor PTs in the Portland area, or refer you to a recommended professional in your area. Pelvic floor pain is not something to be ignored and it can be treated.

The Full Moon in Gemini

The full moon in Gemini is Friday, November 23. Gemini is the corresponding zodiac sign to The Lovers card: the “twins,” the “partners,” the multiple facets of ourselves that make up our identity and make us whole, complete beings.

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Image via Chani Nicholas

The full moon calls upon us to revisit the intentions we set at the new moon and reflect on our accomplishments and manifestations of those intentions. In Gemini, the focus of these reflections and accomplishments is in the realm of intellect, social life, communication, collaboration and mental/cerebral pursuits.  This energy is in stark contrast to that of November 7th’s new moon in Scorpio, which focused on our inner Void, the depths of the subconscious, darkness, wisdom and internal/spiritual evolution.

 

Whether or not you already follow lunar cycles, how were you feeling around the time of November 7? What aspirations did you have in mind? What were you looking forward to?

 

How have those hopes and goals manifested themselves thus far? What have you accomplished within the realm of the social, the intellectual, the communicative? What are the separate parts of your identity that make up your whole Self? Are they harmoniously balanced, or do they conflict in a way that makes you feel fragmented? If the latter resonates with you, how could you find a way to integrate the facets of your Self into your whole Self in a way that feels balanced, authentic and serene?

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Image Via Chani Nicholas

How could you channel the energy of Gemini in your life, and what would the embodiment of that energy look like in your life? Perhaps it would encourage you to be more open and friendly, to nurture more social connections, to offer more ideas at work or school, or to have that difficult-but-necessary conversation with your partner, relative or coworker.  

 

Make the most of this Gemini full moon power by meditating on these questions, and using corresponding crystals and herbs (which I’ll include in my next post) to amplify the energy of this lunation.

 

On this Gemini full moon, we are emerging from the dark, watery depths of Scorpio and leaping into the light of Gemini’s open air.  Whether you are freely dancing under a cloudless sky or still doused in the tears and sweat of Scorpio’s subconscious spiritual work, this full moon invites you to reflect on your efforts and achievements, connect with your community and celebrate the passing of Samhain season, while looking forward to the return of light at Yule and the next full moon.  

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Image via Mystic Mamma

The Lovers

The Lovers card of the tarot is a complex and nuanced archetype with the potential for profound healing, autonomy and self-love.  Traditional imagery and interpretation, however, can impart a flat, single-faceted meaning to the card. By understanding the full spectrum of this card’s significance, we can gain a better sense of what The Lovers indicates when it comes up in a tarot reading.  We can also use the energy of this beautiful, powerful archetype for healing in magical practice.

 

For those who are new to divination and the Craft, the Tarot is a deck of 78 cards, each with a symbolic image and highly nuanced meaning accompanying it.  The cards can be drawn singularly or in multi-card layouts, called “spreads,” and interpreted to gain a better understanding of the influences and energies informing one’s situation, mindset, relationship dynamics, etc.

 

Tarot decks vary in design and structure, but most are made up of 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards.  While the minor arcana cards represent journeys through daily and transitory matters, the major arcana cards are strong, individual archetypes that represent an evolutionary “journey” toward enlightenment, from the Fool (numbered zero in the deck) to the World (the twenty-second card).

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The Lovers (Rider-Waite tarot)

 

The Lovers is the sixth card in the major arcana.  The card corresponds to Gemini, the zodiac sign of mutable Air, which carries the qualities of communication, intellect and duality.  As such, the imagery of The Lovers reflects the duality within a union. In the Rider-Waite tarot deck, The Lovers card shows a man and woman, a heterosexual incarnation of a romantic union as well as the binary of feminine and masculine energies.*  (Please see note at the end of the article)

The couple stands in a fertile landscape, reflective of their primal sexual connection and potential to grow together.  Their nudity indicates mutual trust, honesty and openness. They have nothing to hide from each other and are comfortable being vulnerable with one another.  The couple stands beneath an angelic figure, who many consider to be Raphael, the angel of physical and emotional healing, and who blesses the couple’s union as Divine.  Behind the woman is the tree of life, present in the Christian lore of the Garden of Eden, accompanied by the serpent and apple that Eve is said to have eaten from. Behind the man are the fires of passion, also considered to be the forces of the zodiac signs as there are twelve of them.  These images behind each individual are traditionally seen as “temptations” that may draw the couple away from each other. As the Tarot is highly interpretive, however, many of these symbols and concepts can be read and re-evaluated toward a more inclusive and holistic perspective.

 

The traditional meanings of The Lovers lean toward romantic and sexual love stemming from a union between two people.  These interpretations include harmony in a relationship, an alignment of values between partners, commitment, and a sense of completeness due to a “soulmate” union.  This bond is one of open communication, of each partner complementing the other, and of profound emotional connection within a relationship.

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The Lovers: Trungle’s Tarot

 

The traditional interpretations offer a (limited) level of nuance as well.  They expand to include being true to one’s own values, making choices in alignment with one’s values and identity, and acknowledging individuality within a relationship.  Some sources encourage self-reflection of discerning what “love” means to the individual and determining one’s own values.

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The Lovers card (Serpentfire tarot)

 

Joie Grandbois, my good friend, fellow witch, and tarot reader of over 30 years, offers an alternate perspective on the Lovers which prioritizes self-love, individual evolution and pursuit of one’s passion:

There are many who assume that The Lovers represents a romantic partnership, but…the Lovers, [as] a major arcana card, represents a very different kind of love.   The Lovers represents the “thing” that completes you in a way nothing else does: your higher calling or purpose. It is the ‘why’ of your being. When you discover that, and you follow it, there is a rightness to it that you feel deep in your soul.  Following that calling is not always easy; we often fight against it because we try to follow the path of what everyone else tells us we should be doing. We might even feel selfish for pursuing the very thing that completes us.

But it is in feeding ourselves, in finding the joy [in which] we are meant to live, that we are best able to serve others.  A person who is whole, who is fulfilled, [and] who loves themselves is able to give to the world in a way others may be unable to because they are able to do so freely.  Their value is not based on how their gift is accepted. [The Lovers] is a powerful card, and often comes up when someone is facing the decision of whether not to follow a calling or questioning if they have one.  It is a card that requires listening deeply to one’s own heart.

 

According to Joie’s perspective, our true “wholeness” and completion lies not in a romantic relationship with someone else, but by discovering and pursuing the passion that fulfills us.  Equipped with this interpretation, we can see the couple not as two people who are dependent on each other, but as the facets of ourselves that make us whole. Perhaps we could see the twelve zodiacal fires as the varying energies of our passion, as we all have the entire zodiac in our natal charts.  The serpent in the tree, rather than symbolizing disobedience and sin as in Christian lore, could stand for the serpent of wisdom and liberation, as it does in so many other cultures (Lilith as the serpent liberating Eve from the patriarchy, the Kundalini serpent, and the Ouroboros, to name a few). Instead of considering these influences as harmful temptations, one could see them as an individual’s assets of wisdom and passion, which will aid them in their journey toward personal fulfillment.

 

The Lovers calls on us to find fulfillment within ourselves and to pursue our passions.  While it depicts very traditional imagery of a romantic union, a nuanced interpretation indicates that this “union” is between an individual and their calling: the receptive and the assertive; the union of “being” and “doing.”  The Lovers is a powerful card of a different kind of love, which compels the querent to understand their own sense of self-love and nurture their individual journey toward self-fulfillment.

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The Lovers: Marigold Tarot

 

*Note: While the Rider-Waite tarot deck is the most well-known deck and thus the deck I chose to use as a reference for the imagery of The Lovers, it absolutely exemplifies a heteronormative, cis-normative and binary view of relationships and gender.  This blog post is written to prioritize the meaning of The Lovers as a card about self-love and individuality, but it’s still important to acknowledge the limiting and exclusionary nature of the way the Rider-Waite card represents a romantic union. As we know, a relationship is definitely not only defined as one cis-man and one cis-woman, and the terms “masculine energy” and “feminine energy” do not correspond to only men and women, respectively.  Ultimately, the message of The Lovers is the balance of energies, independent of sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of whether one interprets these energies as within oneself or within a relationship. Additionally, there are multitudes of amazing and inclusive tarot decks such as the Slow Holler tarot, the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn, and the Dust II Onyx deck. Asali Earthwork (https://www.asaliearthwork.com/tarot-of-the-qtpoc/) and Little Red Tarot (https://littleredtarot.com/product-tag/queer-feminist/) both have great resources for queer and feminist tarot decks.  

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Queering The Lovers card, courtesy of Little Red Tarot (http://blog.littleredtarot.com/queering-the-tarot-6-the-lovers/)

 

Sources: Biddy Tarot (https://www.biddytarot.com/), The Tarot Bible by Sarah Bartlett, A Compendium of Herbal Magic by Paul Beyerl, Joie Grandbois (http://www.joiegrandbois.com)