Paganism: A Religion of Sexual Gods

On my first post, A Tale of Mythology and Paganism, I shared the story of the day I refused to confess my sins to a priest. Why should I tell anyone—other than my dearest friend—my deepest secrets? I was eleven for goodness sake. I didn’t have any secrets! My body, on the other hand, was a never-ending field of mystery.

I wanted to get in touch with my deeper self, so I explored my body’s mysteries. Until I found out that according to my priest’s teachings, my exploration could send me to a place of eternal torment. In one day, a healthy preadolescent curiosity morphed into a state of absolute horror, which barely allowed me to bathe without feeling guilt. That bizarre outlook on sexuality made me question the foundation of my former belief system. 

I didn’t want to follow a spiritual path that turned healthy sexual curiosity into something filthy. So can you imagine my happiness when I stumbled into Paganism? I told myself, “Finally, a religion of sexual gods!”

In Paganism, sexuality is viewed as something beautiful; an act so precious that it is used to honor the gods. Pagan gods approve—even encourage—safe consensual sex between mature adults

In What Is The Great Rite? And What Is Ritual Sex? Patti Wingington, a Wiccan who has practiced her craft for over two decades, explained that some Pagans revere the divine by having sexual intercourse or implying the sexual act during ritual. She also said that for many Wiccans and Pagans, sexual intercourse wasn’t a ritual necessity. Peter Nash, another follower of the Wiccan tradition, saw things a bit differently. His article The Great Rite suggested that actual intercourse was “crucial to the Craft, as the sex act itself is the central theme of polarity, that most essential concept of the Wiccan religion.” 

Would you like the opinion of an Eclectic Witch? I hope you do because I’m giving it to you. I believe that safe consensual sex between mature adults is the gods’ ultimate gift to those who can welcome its delights. How else would one explain the wondrous feeling that lingers in one’s soul, after a satisfying sexual experience? Or that almost ethereal sensation that makes everything in the world look pretty and perfect, right before one passes out? 

I’ve never witnessed or participated in any form of public ritual sexual intercourse. Nevertheless, every time I make love to my partner, I honor the gods by enjoying their great gift to the fullest. I have nothing against Pagans who believe in the essentiality of The Great Rite, on the contrary, more power to them—literally, according to Peter Nash. But it wouldn’t work for me. The same goes for skyclad celebrations; sexual ritual would be too distracting for me. I wouldn’t be able to honor the gods properly, if I knew there were people waiting for me to be done. I don’t know about you, but I always want to give my best. And sex where I have to stay lucid after the deed is done, wouldn’t fit the “my best” category. 

How do you feel about ritual sex? Would you do it? Have you ever witnessed or participated in ritual sex, such as The Great Rite? If you have, and decide to honor us with a brief description of the ritual, please don’t be explicit. Pagan Culture is not behind an adult content advisory and I would hate to have to delete anyone’s comment.  

26 comments:

  1. Yes I have witnessed 'The Great Rite' but only a Beltane as an enactment of the fertility significance of this festival. It was performed by the priest and the priestess as the culmination of an extended series of events leading up to it. Afterwards the 'congregation' were free to go off in couples or not as the fancy took them. These rites took place on a remote farm in a field with a stone circle surrounded by tall trees. Only during this time was the rite performed. Something similar with a different emphasis took place at Midsummer. But at other rites it would not be appropriate. So this was not a sexual free for all so much as an honouring of the season.

    As for 'safe consensual sex' the pastoral pagan elder in me endorses this, but as for the gods at Beltane, I'm not sure that they know the meaning of the word 'safe'. 'Safe' is to be with the Mother Goddess, but hers is another festival.

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  2. WOW thanks Heronmist-

    I’m so glad you’ve decided to share a bit about your experience. It sounds amazing. I can just imagine it: the priest and priestess reenacting the glorious union of the God and Goddess and a group of blissful Pagans gathered to celebrate the miracle of it. Their souls being fed by the wildness of Nature’s open fields… *sigh* I’m a bit jealous :)

    And you are right, when it comes to actual sex of any kind, ‘safety’ is a relative term. One can never be too careful, for there is always the risk of getting hurt, both physically and emotionally. One must be very conscientious—not to mention informed—if one wishes to participate in the act.

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  3. Hello,

    thanks for your comment on my blog, it made my morning! I love receiving comments. Me and my mother do spend time together, but we still have our bad moments. We just had one before actually. Blah.

    This post was interesting! Its good to see some religions being open with sex. I'll be coming past here often to read your stuff. I really like your style of writing and what you write about. Its all very fascinating to me. I love learning about other cultures and religions and myths and what not.

    Hope you can leave me more nice comments,

    Pearl.

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  4. Anonymous5/20/2009

    I've never seen the The Great Rite, but then again, I've had a Christian upbringing where stuff like that would never happen among the pews. Thank goodness for small favors. Knowing some of the deacons and deaconesses, I think my eyeballs would melt out of my head if I had. ;-)

    However, during my research into witchcraft for my upcoming book, I saw a documentary where there was a group of people standing in a circle in the woods and they were performing a rite that had to do with fertility--I think. Considering this was on the Discovery Channel, they didn't show anyone (they were all nude with strategically placed blurs) having sex. I recall the priestess, taking her male counterpart and walking off camera and that was the end of it. So whether or not what they had shown was a part of The Great Rite, I can't say. Also, I remember each member had written words that held meaning to them on slips of paper and burned them in a metal bowl of some sort. Sorry I can't be more specific about the details, but it's been a while since I've seen the documentary. Nonetheless, I found it interesting.

    But I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to sex. Consenting adults. Doing it any other way isn't honoring anyone's god, regardless of religion or beliefs. But that's my $0.02. :)

    Marcia

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  5. Pearl,

    Sorry you had a bad day with your mom, but you know those things happen. We learn from them, move on and hope for good moments.

    I'm glad you liked my post. I also find learning about new cultures and religion fascination, which is the main reason why I'm an Eclectic Pagan. I think all cultures and religion have something good to offer.

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  6. Marcia-

    "my eyeballs would melt out of my head if I had". You are so funny, but I agree. I would probably stare so hard that I would forget to breathe a pass out!

    So they were burning messages in little pieces of paper, huh? Out with the old in with the new I suppose. I've done rituals were I 'burn' away my problems and start fresh. I usually do it in Samhain (Halloween) maybe they were doing this, who knows.

    I can't wait to read the result of your research!

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  7. Can't say I have, but then, that's not really my approach to magic. These days, I focus more on celebrating the polarity within, rather than the polarity outside myself. (Though "as above, so below" - Metaphysically it may amount to the same thing!) And more to the point, I share your feeling that great sex and lucidity kinda work at cross-purposes to each other. For myself, explorations of one's sexuality are something to be celebrated, not utilized as some ritualized focal point.

    Now on the other hand, I have been known to let my senses slip a bit more into the astral while in the bedroom. Letting yourself feel that vortex of energy created by the sexual act, and for that matter feeling the confluence of energy currents flowing through your partner, is something really awe-inspiring, at least for me. But then, I think in the end magic is more about awareness than sheer power.

    Blessed Be!

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  8. Grey -

    "For myself, explorations of one's sexuality are something to be celebrated, not utilized as some ritualized focal point."

    So very true. There are some things that should be be enjoyed withing themselves, and sexuality definitely makes the list.

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  9. hmmmm.... very interesting imma start following your blog I wanna hear more!

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  10. Journalismkidd-

    Thanks for following! I'm glad you want to hear more. I'll try to give an ear full :)

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  11. I'm totally with you on the distraction of sexual rituals! I cannot even entertain the idea...I just can't wrap my head around it.
    Luckily, in response to your sexual experience with the church, my church never spoke about the sins of "exploration". However, I did feel like I was being watched ALL the time. Since it was a daily ritual for me since I was very young, I would always whisper in my room for my "guardian angel" to please step outside for a few minutes. Lol.
    My Boyfriend, on the other hand, (and maybe I shouldn't say this) but he has some repressed sexual issues from the things the Catholic church told him. He "explored" but felt guilty and confessed... and he only had one sexual encounter before he met me. Now- at 25, I have to deal with HIS exploring, because he never did it younger... and even though we've been together for 7 years and have been intimate since week one, he is a naturally shy person. He is slowly developing his own 'thang' as it were. Just as i'm beginning to wind down from having a young start and having my own sexual issues.
    Sigh... life is grand.

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  12. I’m sure my “guardian angel” resigned a few days into my exploration lol. At least your boyfriend is not damaged; I know more than one who are. I’m glad I was born *grin* with enough determination to hold my own. And goodness, I’m not shy! At first, at was a little, but as soon as I rationalized the situation I realized the hold concept made no sense. So there was very little guilt, if any, after that ;)

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  13. You must have been raised Baptist!! LOL, or Catholic. Although Catholics do love them their sex. Marrieds only please.

    As a Christian, I can tell you the only sex that's filthy is the sex of puritanical denominations - not God's. God gave sex to us as a gift - with conditions, but a gift nonetheless. A gift to enjoy. Personally? I don't think masturbation is a sin, and neither do I believe that there is a special place in hell for fornicators. I believe the God wishes for us to be responsible with our bodies and our minds and ourselves. To have a degree of discipline. And most of all to enjoy the world He has given us. If God is love (and He is) then love is good. Period.

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  14. I was raised Caribbean Catholic indeed ;) I think that this fact was what made me Eclectic Pagan; I needed to preserve some of the the things that are great about Catholicism. Then I started learning about other spiritual paths and told myself "Wait a minute, there is a religious world out there I never knew existed. I want to learn about everything!"

    Soon I realized that I didn't want to "just learn" about it. I wanted to practice some of it too! So here I am: an Eclectic Pagan who believes in magic, the power of Saints, the renewal properties of Communion and every other great thing I find in different religions.

    Some might say that I'm a big mess, and you know what? They might be right, but by the Gods I love my messy self ;)

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  15. My name is Don Gray. I was raised Southern Baptist, but became disenchanted with the outrageous hippocracy I witnessed from the elders sneaking around and seeking the sins of the flesh in secret. I wandered about and studied the religions around me to see if I could find one that I could believe in. I was disappointed to learn that there is really little difference in the so called "main stream" religions.

    I was interested in Native American Shamanism, but couldn't find an authentic teacher. There were many around, but they felt phony. So, I kept going until I literally stumbled into an outdoor Wiccan ritual one night.

    I felt the need to go for a walk in the forest, then...

    I stood quietly at the edge of an almost visible boundary, and watched until a woman approached and greeted me. My eyes must have been glowing with wonder, as I asked, "What is this?" She cut a circle in the air between us with a small dagger and extended her hand. "This is Wicca", she said,"will you join us?"

    I accepted that invitation on the night before the eve of Beltane in 1985, as I stepped through that portal and never looked back. Twenty four years later, I have received training from many people, performed many rituals, had a few students, and witnessed the awakening of Nature's Spirituality returning to this world.

    I am currently working on a degree in anthropology, with the intention of earning a PhD in Celtic Studies.

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  16. Oh InkWitch, your comment gave me goosebumps! I know those feelings well, for I experienced them too. The one where feel absolutely cheated and wonder why things of the sort happen in the world. Then the feeling of jubilation when you find the place you've always searched for, even if you didn't know what you were doing.

    I'm so glad you found your path!

    Blessings and tons of luck with your studies. I'm going for a second degree on Creative Writing and my purpose is to use it to illustrate, to the entire world, the infinite beauty of Paganism.

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  17. I'm not sure how I feel about these sorts of rituals. First of all I have really bad stage fright so I'm not sure how well I'd do... And I think I'd be a little uncomfortable observing someone else performing the Rite. I saw a couple kissing in a mall once and had to look away, so I'm not sure I could handle full blown sex...
    I think I'm of the same mind as you are on the subject... I'd just be too distracted. But, also like you, if that's how someone chooses to worship I say go for it.

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  18. Yep, it would be a bit much for me. I don't mind public display of affection, such as kissing and hugging, but I could NEVER have sex in front of other people, no matter what the purpose was. But for those who find glorious joy and blessings in the act, more power indeed!

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  19. You must have been raised Baptist!! LOL, or Catholic. Although Catholics do love them their sex. Marrieds only please.

    As a Christian, I can tell you the only sex that's filthy is the sex of puritanical denominations - not God's. God gave sex to us as a gift - with conditions, but a gift nonetheless. A gift to enjoy. Personally? I don't think masturbation is a sin, and neither do I believe that there is a special place in hell for fornicators. I believe the God wishes for us to be responsible with our bodies and our minds and ourselves. To have a degree of discipline. And most of all to enjoy the world He has given us. If God is love (and He is) then love is good. Period.

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  20. Yep, it would be a bit much for me. I don't mind public display of affection, such as kissing and hugging, but I could NEVER have sex in front of other people, no matter what the purpose was. But for those who find glorious joy and blessings in the act, more power indeed!

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  21. Oh InkWitch, your comment gave me goosebumps! I know those feelings well, for I experienced them too. The one where feel absolutely cheated and wonder why things of the sort happen in the world. Then the feeling of jubilation when you find the place you've always searched for, even if you didn't know what you were doing.

    I'm so glad you found your path!

    Blessings and tons of luck with your studies. I'm going for a second degree on Creative Writing and my purpose is to use it to illustrate, to the entire world, the infinite beauty of Paganism.

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  22. hmmmm.... very interesting imma start following your blog I wanna hear more!

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  23. earth_mommy12/02/2011

    Glorious joy and blessings indeed!!! Since the birth of my son three years ago, my feelings about sex and sexuality have blossomed. Not that I was ever shy about it, necessarily, but now I feel like I positively glow with the energy of love and the creation of Life. My husband and I have reached, for me, breath-taking heights in our connection to the Earth and the Universe. Would I engage in the act of love in a ritualized, ceremonial fashion? Hmm ... I dunno. I'm not philosophically opposed to it. I undoubtedly would be at least a little shy at first. But then when I think of all the violence and hatred that is ritualized and ceremonialized in the world today, I think my little act of love would seem rather sweet and innocent.

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  24. We need many little acts of love, indeed ;-)

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  25. As a Shaman I can say that sex is one of if not the greatest act of communion between not just those preforming the act/ritual but between them/human kind and the universe. Various forms of sexual ritual have been practiced for as long as humanity has existed. Sex is one of the strongest connecting acts we have; again not just between the participants but them and the whole of the universe. The nakedness of the people in ceremony declares and reveals their true person, weaknesses, strengths, beauty, flaws, vulnerabilities and potential. Sexual practice is a bonding of the people to each other as well as to the universe and all things in it. The energy/power of these rituals goes so far beyond anything describable and the creative force released has healing power for the whole universe. These are the greatest gifts from the creator with which the people can give both thanks and reverence back.
    It is very sad that so many people have been “infected” by the twisted and infirmed ideals of organized religion who’s main desire is to control and manipulate the people that so many find it almost impossible to break those chains. My good thoughts and prayers go with all those who find themselves chained and I hope that one day they will be able to free themselves from this unnatural state.

    Blessings!

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    Replies
    1. It is sad when people can take something as natural, beautiful (and necessary!) and turn it into something ugly and shameful. Very sad, indeed... particularly for them.

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