Saturday, August 14, 2010

X-posted: Enlightenment at the end of a scourge

I am currently reading the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess by Starhawk. I'm somewhat chagrined to say that this is the first time I've read anything by her, considering her importance in the pagan and ecofeminist movements. I will admit that I've been avoiding Starhawk up until now because of her prolific nature; it seemed everywhere I turned I saw her books with their slick, trendy covers, and I figured she was one of those commercial hacks, like that Sylvia Brown "psychic" woman.

Shame on me for assuming.

Though the edition I'm reading is twenty years old (and the original publication even older), I have found an emotional and intellectual resonance with Starhawk's writing that is unlike anything else I've encountered. I knew, as a queer woman and a feminist, that I did not like the heterosexist, cissexist bent of a lot of pagan ideology, with its focus on the Divine Polarity/Union of the Goddess and the God. However, I did not know how to adequately conceive of an alternative; Starhawk has eloquently provided one for me, one that made me grin with joy when I read it.

In fact, that seems to have been my reaction to a lot of what I've read so far. This is the first time I've seen religion and feminism thoroughly and intrinsically integrated, which is something that I've wanted for a long time.

And then I read this:
In Witchcraft, love is never associated with actual physical violence, and nothing could be more antithetical to the spirit of the Craft than the current rash of violent pornography. The God does not perpetrate acts of sadomasochism on the Goddess or preach to Her the "power of sexual surrender." (114)

I had thought that finally - finally! - I had found the key that would unite my spirituality, my sexuality, and my politics into one cohesive whole - a unifying theory, as it were. And Starhawk's book came so close, so so close, to doing that for me.

But apparently the most fulfilling form of sexual expression for me is not right - is "antithetical to the spirit of the Craft." Just like I've been told that it is antithetical to feminism, to being a healthy member of society, to just about everything I'm supposed to be and think and am.

This isn't going to make me give up on the Craft - in the same way that reading anti-kink screeds from certain feminists isn't going to make me give up feminism. I'm cutting Starhawk some slack, since I like most of the rest of her writing and this was written during the height of the polarizing Sex Wars anyway. Hopefully her views have changed since then; I find it hard to believe that she could maintain the views she espouses in the book and still be against kink without a decent amount of cognitive dissonance.

Now, it's true that I don't need to find validation in the writings of others for my sexuality/spirituality/politics. Obviously I'm going to continue being kinky, a witch, and a feminist all at once regardless of what Starhawk or Dworkin or anyone else says. But it is nice to read the thoughts and theories of like-minded people, as it helps me develop a cognizant framework to describe my own life experiences and my own feelings, which are often chaotic and half-formed even to me; I know what feels right, but I can't explain why or how without help.

Fortunately, I've already seen hints of kink-friendly paganism. I just finished reading Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism and Witchcraft by Llyn Annwn, and she briefly mentions the traditional use of the scourge in rituals. Though she doesn't go into detail - only saying that, in the proper circumstances and for the right people, it can be a powerful experience - it provides a hint that, yes, I can incorporate every aspect of my sexuality into my religious practice. However, I don't know where to look to find more material about this. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

(x-posted to my witchy blog)

1 comment:

pet foxie said...

In Paganism, BDSM is actually a fairly common lifestyle. I have been Pagan since childhood and many of my friends in the community are also involved in or seeking a BDSM relationship.

You are right that the feminist authors would tend to stand against it but, in general, Paganism is a spirituality about freedom.