Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sex, Ritual, and Magic

By K.D. Grace (Guest Blogger)

I was very excited when Lisabet Sarai asked me to write about ritual for Oh Get a Grip! I’ve had a love affair with rituals for as long as I can remember. I was always making them up when I was a child, and for a good part of my life I was involved in different religions, from conservative Christianity to practicing in a Wiccan coven, and all routes in between -- drawn in by the ritual. I spent three years training to be a spiritual director with a Catholic organisation that trained spiritual directors, though I was not Catholic myself. I did it for the ritual, and the sharing of those rituals. Contemplative prayer, meditating upon passages of scripture, the use of movement, dance, chants, music, among other things, are tools with which all spiritual directors are familiar, tools of ritual. During my time spent in the Wiccan coven, the year itself was lived out in ritual -- full moon, new moon, the welcoming of the seasons, the celebrating of spring and harvest. My husband and I even underwent the ritual of hand fasting.

In all of my studies and practices, it was always the experience of ritual that fascinated me most. I love ritual because it’s so much a part of our humanity. Our lives are steeped in ritual whether it’s making a fry-up every Sunday for breakfast or folding the towels a certain way after we’ve done the laundry; whether it’s the way we choose lottery numbers or the way we bathe and prepare ourselves to face the day. In some cases rituals bring order where there might otherwise be chaos. In some cases rituals bring focus and a sense of direction and anticipation.

I like the Wikipedia definition of ritual -- a set of actions performed mainly for their symbolic value. But that’s just the beginning. The real power of ritual, for me at least, is that it’s the gateway to something beyond itself, it’s the gateway to a deeper understanding of what it represents.

Though I’m much more of a sceptic now than I was in my religious days, ritual, whether it’s the way my husband and I say good-bye to each other every morning or whether it’s the walk that I take to prepare myself to write, is still very much a part of my life. It’s most especially a part of my writing. It’s not just important to the routine of the writing process, but it also plays a crucial part in all my novels and stories, both contemporary erotica and paranormal.

The fact that ritual infuses my erotica should come as no surprise. Few acts are more steeped in ritual than sex. The rituals we practice before sex are strikingly similar to religious rituals. We often wear special clothing for the occasion, just as priests and acolytes do. We may share a romantic dinner together before hand, with special foods, just as the priest serves the Eucharist. Flowers and gifts may be offered. And all this we do in hopes of experiencing and celebrating le petit mort, our version of death and resurrection.

Back in our distant past, not only were religion and sex similar, but they were often the same thing. Fucking the world into existence was an act of high magic, sympathetic magic, an act in which one hoped that by having sex in a field or a cave or possibly a stone circle, the birds and the bees would see what was happening, and take a hint. Procreation would take place in the animal kingdom, pollination would happen, plants would grow, animals would give birth and the next generation would be guaranteed. When life was a lot more tenuous than it is now, it’s no wonder that the early religions were fertility cults. Our ancestors got it -- that there was something in the act, something in the lust driving the mating rituals of all living creatures that brought about new life. New life was in itself magic.

[Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria]
Now sex is not so much about procreation as recreation. The urgency is no longer there, nor is the belief that our efforts will make the difference as the whether the cattle in farmer Jones’s field breed or not. The urgency may be gone, but the ritual is still there. Strangely and wonderfully, so is the magic, albeit a different kind of magic.

In a way it feels as though my writing of erotica has brought me full-circle, back to the same place of ritual that led me to explore religion so deeply in the first place. For me, at least, writing sex is always writing ritual. Erotica is a way of exploring sex as ritual. Sex is the ritual that can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and a deeper relationship with the other. And sex is the only ritual I know of that allows us to literally get inside the skin of another person. Sex is the ritual which can take us deeper into our animal nature while at the same time transporting us to places reserved for the gods.

Sex is not an exclusive club. Sex is universal. We don’t have to be a member of a religious group; we don’t have to undergo years of training to practice the rituals of sex. Whether it’s BDSM monogamy, menage, masturbation, or whatever ritual gets us there, sex contains the built-in default rituals of all humanity, just like it does for all of our animal cousins. Yes, I know, it’s biology. I get that. But when cranes dance and grebes do synchronised swimming and apes groom each other, there’s more happening than just the old in and out.

The act of giving and receiving pleasure is the ultimate ritual of human connection, even if it’s just connecting with ourselves. It’s a ritual that has as many versions as there are people to practice it. It’s a far more personal ritual than any offered by organised religion and far more universally compelling. That’s powerful stuff! Perhaps that’s why so much effort has been made through the centuries to regulate it, control it, limit it.

That brings me back around to the dawn of humanity when sex was the ritual and the religion. Our ancestors got it right. Though the science wasn’t there to back up that intuitive connection, that visceral urgency of fucking the world into existence, our ancestors already knew that the ultimate ritual, the ultimate magic took place in the arms another.

K D Grace believes Freud was right. In the end, it really IS all about sex, well sex and love. And nobody’s happier about that than she, cuz otherwise, what would she write about?
K D has erotica published with Xcite Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, Erotic Review, Ravenous Romance, Scarlet Magazine, Sweetmeats Press and others.
K D’s critically acclaimed erotic romance novels include, The Initiation of Ms Holly, The Pet Shop, and her newly released paranormal erotic novel, Body Temperature and Rising, the first book of her Lakeland Heatwave trilogy, was listed as honorable mention on Violet Blue’s Top 12 Sex Books for 2011.


  1. Hello, K.D.,

    Thank you for being our guest today. I had no idea you had experienced Wiccan rituals when I asked you. I just sensed, based on your stories, that you had a fondness for ritual in general.

    Talk about getting lucky!

  2. Thanks for having me on OGG, Lisabet! It's a real pleasure to be here and even more of a pleasure to write about one of my favourite topics. I think I was the one who got lucky:)

  3. Wow, what a fantastic post, KD. I loved reading about your previous ritualistic experiences and how now they can enhance the writing process, erotica and the act of sex. Great insight :D Adore the closing line of your post! Rebecca x

  4. Thanks Rebecca,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Ritual is one of my favourite topics and how it weaves itself into every part of our life, but especially our love life still amazes and fascinates me. Thanks for the comment.


  5. Hi K D

    We have a Wiccan priestess as a prominent member of my church (Unitarian) and very often she shares or invites us to participate in pagan rituals. I remember once when she was teaching a children's story to the sunday school class of little kids - a part of out sunday service rituals I thought "I'm seeing a witch teaching moral lessons to little kids. I'm seeing the realized Harry Potter." Personally I have an interest in Tarot cards which are descended from hermetic Kaballah, so I think about these rituals a lot.


  6. The rituals of the pagan wheel of the year are, indeed, very beautiful, Grace, and extremely moving. The connected with the cycles of the earth and the seasons was something that I found very life-affirming. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Great post on the topic, KD. True enough that sex is a ritual which has power even when the goal isn't to populate the world (even further). Love the photo!

  8. Thanks Jean Roberta,

    I'm very thankful that's true!

    The stone circle is Castlerigg in the English Lake District, one of my very favourite stone circles in Britain.


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