Temple of the Red Lotus Vending Tent

Temple of the Red Lotus Vending Tent
See us at pagan festivals in the SouthEast!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Dark Side of Sex

Inara de Luna (c) 2007
Temple of the Red Lotus

In the world of sacred sexuality, there is a lot of focus on how sex can lead to enlightenment, how it can bring you closer to the divine, how it can help you and your lover overcome difficulties, how it can be used in magic to help you attain your goals. It is described in light, bright, airy terms, which seem to ignore or dismiss the darker aspects of the sexual drive. We have all experienced, or known someone else who has experienced, sex as violence, sex as control, sex as manipulation, sex as self-medication, sex as addiction. There is desperate sex, immoral sex, irresponsible sex. There is mediocre sex, uncomfortable sex, painful sex. How can we possibly say that all sex is sacred when it also carries all these dark colors?

I also believe that all humans are sacred; that everyone is a representation of the divine. Does that include serial killers, rapists and terrorists? Yes, actually it does. Some of these people become these things because they experienced neglect and/or abuse at the hands of their caretakers and society. Although as adults they are responsible for their actions, I believe the rest of us bear some measure of responsibility, too, for allowing these kinds of abuses to take place. But more than that, each one of us represents an aspect of the divine, and not all of those aspects are rosy and cheerful. The darker, shadowy aspects have lessons to teach us as well. And it could even be argued that those darker lessons are necessary in order to be able to appreciate the lighter aspects. Light and dark are intertwined, as lovers. They are two sides of a whole. You can't really have one without the other. But to call the darkness bad or evil or wrong or "lower", etc, is to assign human judgment to something that simply is. We could just as easily choose to see the darkness as primal, instinctual, animalistic, and not bad at all.

Look at Kali, the Destroyer; Zeus, the rapist; Dionysus, the insane; Lilith, the baby-killer. Many of our Gods have darker sides to their natures as well. Does that make them any less divine? Do we simply dismiss those dark aspects that we find unpalatable? Do we explain them away as metaphor? What are the lessons we can learn from the dark Gods? What can we learn from the darker sides of our own natures?

We've been taught that what brings us pain must be inherently bad. But that's not true. We wouldn't grow or evolve or improve if we didn't have pain, if we didn't need to survive pain and learn its lessons. Look at Inanna, hung on a meathook in Ereshkigal's throne room for several days. Look at Sysiphus, forever pushing a boulder uphill. Look at Odin, sacrificing his right eye for the gift of knowledge, or hanging upside down from a tree, in order to attain wisdom and power. Each of these beings, which we call Gods, endured pain and sacrifice, in order to attain or learn something that in the end improved them at some level.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. That cliche is true, up to a point. But I believe it is only half of the truth. The rest of it is that what could make us stronger can only do so if we allow it to. We can choose to allow our pain and hardships to make us better people. If not, we are destined to repeat and relive those harsh experiences until we finally learn the lessons inherent within them. A piece of steel must be thrust repeatedly into the fire and must be beaten over and over before it becomes a sword, wrought through intensity into a thing of beauty and usefulness.

I do not believe in a God or Goddess who does not love us. I do not believe in a God or Goddess who exacts retribution on us, who cannot forgive us, who is harsh and demanding, judgmental and punishing. I rejected that form of divinity when I walked away from the Christian church. I do believe that we have free will, and that the Gods allow us to make our own choices. I believe that the Gods send us opportunities all the time; we choose whether to see them and grasp them. I believe that all of the experiences we endure, both positive and negative, are intended to help us hone ourselves, to grow and heal and improve ourselves, so that we can eventually become the best manifestation of the divine that we can possibly be, each in our own individual ways.

Yes, sex can be used cruelly; yes, love can be manipulated, neglected and abused. Yes, the darkness is there. But without it, would we be able to identify the light? Would we be able to appreciate the light? Sometimes enlightenment is not enough. Sometimes, we must proceed with endarkment as well, both in the realms of sexuality and in spirituality. It is our choice and our responsibility. Will you turn away from the Darkness, or will you embrace your Shadow, and be transformed?


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sacred Warrior Harlots

Sacred Warrior Harlots
Inara de Luna, Temple of the Red Lotus (C) 2007

Sex is a very powerful force. Many who use sex in magic and ritual recommend that it NOT be used by those new to magic or the Craft, because of the amount of power generated by the sex act. For millenia, church officials and political authorities have made laws and moral guidelines intended to contain the power unleashed by sex.

Unfortunately, these laws and guidelines, written from fear and the desire for control, have had an opposite effect. Rather than suppressing the sex drive and its associated effects, these policies and practices of control, oppression and minimization have actually increased the problems. Rather than educating and training people about their sexuality, we have given them loaded guns with no instructions on how to shoot, or the ethical framework to decide who and when to shoot. People are ruled by "instinctive" drives, which they are taught to be ashamed of, and so they seek to satisfy these urges quietly, furtively, guiltily, and often non-responsibly.

I believe that sex and sexuality are inherently sacred. Sex and pleasure are gifts from the Gods and Goddesses. When we use these gifts in negative, malicious ways, when we engage in sex in exclusively self-serving ways, we devalue, desecrate and contaminate those gifts. In my mind, things like rape are not sex, they're violence. Rapists may use sex as a tool, but the intent and effect is violent.

Yes, this world is quite bereft of the joy, wonder, sweetness and sacredness of sex. Yes, we see a LOT of sex desecrated all around us, from the media and advertising, to the use of rape as a tool of terror in war, to the unhappy and neglected and abused people in relationships everywhere who don't know any better way to be.

And that is where the modern Qadishti or Sacred Whores or Temple Harlots come in. We are uniquely positioned to start changing the world, one embrace at a time. We, who understand the awesome power and sanctity of sexuality, have the responsibility to pass along that understanding to whoever else might be ready to listen. We, who are capable of channeling the Goddess and using her gifts of love and pleasure to heal, have a responsibility to heal the wounded souls, hearts and bodies of those sad, broken, hurting people who come before us. We, who feel overwhelming compassion and love for those who have been neglected and abused by the system and society, have a responsibility to share that compassion and love with others, in an attempt to overturn the thousands of years of suffering this world has endured.

It's not easy. It's a difficult path to follow, for many, many reasons. We will get discouraged. We will get frustrated. We may suffer misunderstandings and sabotage in our efforts. But we must be Warriors, as well as Lovers, resolutely standing by our beliefs that Love can indeed change, and maybe save, the world. We must invoke both sides of the Deities of Love and War. Learning to temper our need to stand resolute with our capacity for compassion is tricky, but it can be done. We can be passive resistors, conscious objectors, role models, activists. We can stand firm in our principles and patiently endure the coming years of darkness and oppression, while our Light grows and our influence finally begins to shift things to a healthier, more sacred place, where sex, pleasure and love are ultimately revered and treasured as the gifts they truly are.

Knowing that what I do and who I am carries a sacred charge helps me shoulder the load. Before I found the concept of the qadishtu or sacred prostitute, I experienced great internal conflict about who and what I was and what I perceived I *should* be based on the larger society's expectations. I am now at peace within myself, although a battle still rages without. I choose to take this head-on by creating my Temple and my various discussion groups. By taking every opportunity to speak to people about the possibilities and promises of sacred sexuality. By subscribing to $pread magazine to support their great work. By any of a number of other little things, I choose every day to confront the issues of our world around sexuality, including prostitutes' rights. By engaging in these things which uphold my values, I maintain integrity and attain serenity with my chosen life, so that I can handle the storms and sacrifices this calling demands. Like I said above, it's not easy....but it's oh soooo worth it!