Thea's Inbox: Questions from Beginners

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Let's Talk About SEX

Do I have to have sex to be a Witch/Wiccan? 

The first person who wrote me with this question was a young woman. Much of what this woman had read about Wicca resonated with her, but she was a survivor of sexual abuse, and she was afraid to pursue study of Wicca because there might be a “requirement” to have sex—something that terrified her, given her history. I assured her that she absolutely did NOT have to have sex to be a Witch or Wiccan.

There is a pervasive myth floating around on the Interwebs and elsewhere that Wiccan rituals are loaded with sex. The rumor is fed, I suspect, in part by ignorance—we’re Witches, so we must be doing something naughty, right?—and in part by fundamentalists who enjoy portraying Wiccans as participating in orgiastic rituals for the glory of Satan. It makes me wonder whether the fundamentalists are more offended because they think we’re worshipping the devil or because they think we’re enjoying ourselves having sex.

Sexual Symbolism

Of course, Wicca doesn’t have anything to do with Satan. But plenty of Wiccan rituals include sexual or fertility symbolism, and some do include actual sex. Many Wiccan rituals celebrate the changing of the seasons and the fertility of the earth and the living things on it. Symbols for the Spring Equinox, for example, are similar to those for Easter—eggs, bunnies, flowers—and these represent spring, new life, fertility, and sex. The traditional maypole raised at Beltane (May Day), is a phallic symbol. And many Wiccan rituals include what some call the “Great Rite,” which involves plunging a blade into a chalice to symbolize sexual union.

Ritual Sex

Although sexual symbolism is far, far more common in Wiccan ritual than actual sex, some Wiccan rituals do include sex. The Wiccan community tends to be fairly sex-positive, and many Wiccans left more traditional religions in part because of the rigid beliefs about sex taught in those faiths. And even if they don’t want to participate in sex ritual themselves, most Wiccans don’t believe in shaming others for their sexuality, in ritual or outside of it.

Many Wiccans feel sex is something to be celebrated; sex between consenting adults who love, trust, and respect each other is beautiful; and there is no act more natural and sacred. Sex is a gift; it brings us pleasure, communion with another, and sometimes new life, and it raises a lot of energy. Certainly there is no act that celebrates fertility more. And there is something exquisitely joyful about making love with someone you love in sacred space.

Etiquette

That said, many Wiccan groups do not use sex in ritual, or use it only in very special circumstances. For those Wiccans who do sex rituals or sex magic, there is etiquette. All sex must be between consenting adults. No one should be coerced into sex. Children should never be present. And everyone who might participate in the ritual should know about the sexual element well in advance so they’re not caught unaware and they can choose for themselves whether or not to participate.

If you are looking for a Wiccan group and you are worried about sex in ritual, ask the group leaders outright if sex is part of the working of the group, and if it is, what that means. Although some Wiccan traditions are oathbound—meaning they can’t share their rituals with someone who isn’t a member—they can tell you whether or not sex magic or sex ritual is part of their practice, or at least that they think you might not be comfortable with their practice if you aren’t comfortable with sex. Rest assured that there are many, many Wiccan groups out there who do not practice sex magic or ritual.

Be aware that some Wiccan groups do practice skyclad—meaning “clad only with the sky,” or naked. Don’t assume that because a group practices naked they’re having sex. Most of the time, Wiccans who practice skyclad do so because it feels more natural or because they feel clothing inhibits the flow of energy. There’s another benefit of naked practice: It’s hard to trail your sleeve through a candle flame and set yourself on fire if you’re naked. Don’t laugh; I’ve seen it happen more than once. (You can set your hair on fire whether you’re naked or not, however. I’ve seen that happen more than once, too.)

Your Body Is Yours, and It Is Sacred

Sex is sacred, but your autonomy over your own body is even more sacred. You have the right to say no to any act you do not want to participate in. It is absolutely unacceptable for a potential teacher to try to convince, coerce, or guilt you into having sex as part of a ritual or as payment for Wiccan training. It is an unforgiveable abuse of the teacher-student relationship and the power differential inherent in that relationship. It’s also rape, regardless of your gender and the teacher’s. And it’s statutory rape if you’re under age and the teacher isn’t, even if you consent to sex.

Most people in the Wiccan community are honest and would never take advantage of a less-experienced person for sex, but there are predators in every spiritual community. If someone tries to coerce you into having sex, please report it. Get help from a friend, family member, school counselor (if you’re a minor), the police, or a rape crisis hotline. If you suspect a child is being abused, report on his or her behalf. If you are not sure how to report child abuse or that the circumstances warrant reporting, call the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD. They are trained to handle these situations.

It can be terrifying to report. You may worry about what others will think or that they will ostracize you or not believe you. It may also feel like an invasion of your privacy at a time when you are already feeling violated, and like you’re setting a process in motion that you can’t control. But the only way to stop people from doing this is to expose them. Ask for help. You do not have to deal with this alone. And remember, protecting the community by reporting predators is a sacred act, too.

 

 

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Thea Sabin is a writer/editor whose professional work currently focuses on web content management, curriculum development, and instructional design. She has taught a variety of subjects—including editing, high school English and theater, gardening, crafts, Wicca, and astrology—off and on for more than two decades. A practicing Wiccan since her teens, she first started teaching Wicca—very, very badly and long before she was ready—in college. She wrote her book Teaching Wicca and Paganism in the hope that it would help other teachers get a better start than she did. Her first book, Wicca for Beginners, was designed to help seekers new to Wicca build a foundation for Wiccan practice. Find Thea on Facebook or at www.theasabin.com.

Comments

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Monday, 16 June 2014

    Thank you, excellent post!

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Wednesday, 18 June 2014

    It is said that the ancient history is that of a fertility cult, and that meant human breeding as the most sacred act of creation. We, of course, would not require anyone to participate in sex of any kind. But neither would we welcome someone who was ready to call the authorities for imagined "abusive" thoughts or deeds. We just don't need that kind of troublemaker. Maybe you don't have to participate in sex to be part of a fertility cult religion, but that seems contradictory. We celebrate the divine union of the Lord and Lady. As above, so below.

  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis Wednesday, 18 June 2014

    I don't think it's really fair to call those who are concerned about religious groups pressuring young people into sex "troublemakers." Some may be, but it seems presumptuous to assume most or all are (just as it would be presumptuous and offensive to assume most or all Pagans are abusers).

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