SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - Rated "R" for Ritual
Do you believe in magick?
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, some hermit-ism required after all.
We love attention, we love sex, and we love love. As social animals, these intense displays of acceptance are intoxicating. The monks and nuns knew the only way to keep a mind clear enough to dedicate toward holy pursuits was to leave interpersonal pursuits behind. Not everyone agrees.
On the opposite side of the sexy spectrum lies the belief that love and sex are exactly the efforts best fitted to serve holy pursuits. We tend to think of ancient people as if they’re just old people — conservative and traditional. Compared to many ancient practices, it’s our modern culture that’s conservative. A lot of the ancient world, from the Babylonians to the Incans, were worshipping their gods in ways you’d go to jail for today.
Some people already have.
For some, the power inherent in human sexuality is too tempting to waste on mere lovers. From the 1970s to the late 80s, one particular cult decided to dabble in the ancient ways of what’s termed sacred prostitution. You probably never thought you’d see those words together, but that’s because you’re not an ancient Babylonian.
Under our modern lens, sex has reached the peak of meaninglessness.
It wasn’t unusual for sex to be part of religious rituals in the ancient world. After all, what could be more miraculous than the mechanism by which you came to exist? There was still enough wonder in the world to believe sex was more than simply biology and politics.
We don’t exactly need a return to temple prostitution, but ignoring the inherent and ancient power in sex only leaves it vulnerable to those who don’t.
Luis Ricardo Falero
We’ve all heard the tired adage “sex sells.” More than hear it, we live it. Our music shouts about the kind of sex acts its accomplished; our celebrities live on the blurred line between modest porn and sexy selfies; our commercials make the vague promise that a new and shinier car might mean a new and shinier lover, too. Sex has always been powerful.
Today, the power of sex doesn’t invoke Venus, it invokes your vulnerability.
Cults will be cults, which means they’ll surpass our expectations for manipulation at every turn. Enter, The Family (an extremely cult-y name that should already raise the alarm). This is the cult famous for the famous people it traumatized, like Rose McGowan and River Phoenix (Joaquin Phoenix, et al).
Some people use sex to sell themselves, others use sex to sell a product, The Family used sex to sell god.
There’s no shortage of the heinous and horrible from within The Family, but one strange practice is the perfect display of harnessing the sexual power we now prefer to ignore — flirty fishing. Much like the seemingly paradoxical sacred prostitution, flirty fishing was invented by the cult’s master monster, David Berg. His idea was simple: the cult’s women would use flirting (and everything else) to win converts, taking Jesus’ quote about disciples being “fishers of men” with a little less artistic leeway than Jesus would’ve hoped for.
Long story short, the cult conjoined prostitution with proselytizing. Within 10 years, 223,000 men were successfully fished into the cult. (This being one of the more tame practices of the cult).
Drake tried to warn us — fake love is a dangerous thing. The Family isn’t the first cult to weaponize affection. In a less insane way, the Unification Church’s leader, Sun Myung Moon, happily admitted to using fake love for fishing in his own way:
Unification Church members are smiling all of the time, even at four in the morning.[…] This is why we talk about love bomb; Moonies have that kind of happy problem.
If smiling at 4 in the morning wasn’t warning enough, the word love bomb should be. This term has become synonymous with an abusive tactic meant to manipulate victims. It’s essentially the stereotypical “I’m sorry, I won’t chase you with a knife again. Look! Flowers!” tactic that both follows and precedes the knife every time.
Acceptance is intoxicating. Without enough of our own self-acceptance, we get it on discount and pay the difference through submission.
Both cults still function today; though flirty fishing became defunct when the AIDS crisis hit, the Unification Church members are probably still out there smiling at 4 AM. Both contradict our complacent attitudes about affection today.
Sex and love are power, whether we admit it or not.
We know sex is power and we know power can be used for either good or evil.
We’ve also long known there’s something different, something unique, something not easily defined about the sexual energy of human beings. Humans have made strict religious rules to control that power and extravagant rituals to invoke it, but only in our modern, secular world do we quip that "sex is just sex.”
We even make distinctions in language that implicitly admit our sex is different from that of all other beings. Chimps and tigers don’t “have sex,” they mate.
Without the same level of self-awareness, animals don’t have the same experiences we do, and that includes our sexual experiences.
The occult is not shy about exploring what science has dismissed and religion has red-taped. The idea that sex holds a mysterious power wasn’t born in western occultism, but had its roots imported from the much older eastern Tantra, a philosophy that viewed the body not as an obstacle to divinity, but a path.
It’s not just a Red Hot Chili Peppers album — sex magick was a serious area of intellectual (and assumingly physical) investigation for occultist icons like Aleister Crowley and Ida Craddock.
Aleister Crowley, 1912.
The man your girlfriend told you not to worry about.
For the proper Victorians of his time, Crowley’s promotion of sex magick might as well have been a decree to bathe in the blood of lambs twice a day. Crowley was like the Victorian Kanye West — never averse to creating controversy for controversy’s sake.
Sounding like how a guy with dreadlocks and no shoes might hit on you, he described his vision for using the power of sex not for evil, but for growth:
The one injunction is to treat all such acts as sacraments. One should not eat as the brutes, but in order to enable one to do one's will. The same applies to sex.
Disappointingly, there’s no lamb’s blood nor boiling cauldrons. Sex magick, though not tame by any means, isn’t about unending orgies and hedonistic pursuits of pleasure. The average person today likely doesn’t live up to the standards required to practice it.
The power of sex is harnessed not through animalistic gluttony, but through conscious and disciplined indulgence.
This is the paradox of pursuing pleasure to pursue power. Crowley’s sex magick believed in what was ultimately a return to the sacred sex of our ancient past, with each act being its own sacrament in service of a higher good. Sex magick is no bacchanalia, but a careful recipe for rituals.
Big Glow, 2020. Corinne von Lebusa
Before the notorious Crowley came the lesser-known but pioneering figure in the occultist world, Paschal Beverly Randolph. During the mid-1800s, Randolph was the first to lay the foundation for returning to an ancient perspective that saw sex as more than sex. He was also an early promoter of medical cannabis and an abolitionist who taught freed slaves to read. Just a fun guy all around.
Randolph’s rules for sex as ritual were strict — friends with benefits need not apply. To obtain any magick through sex, Randolph believed you had to pay your dues by already having attained a connection that warranted pursuing such higher aims. He specifically mandates practitioners be a couple with the kind of deep connection that only time yields, that are perfectly in sync with each other, and that still feel passion for each other. Only then can you approach the recipe for ritual:
The entire mystery can be given in very few words, and they are: An upper room; absolute personal, mental, and moral cleanliness both of the man and wife.
An observance of the law just cited during the entire term of the experiment -- 49 days.
Formulate the desire and keep it in mind during the whole period and especially when making the nuptive prayer, during which no word may be spoken, but the thing desired be strongly thought.
49 days of ritual observance? Maybe sex magick isn’t so fun after all. Or so would say someone who Randolph believed to be unworthy of sex magick. All these rules and regulations around sex magick aren’t as sexy as the phrase sounds, but that was exactly the point.
Sex magick was a revival of an ancient kind of sexuality, one that wouldn’t recognize what we call sexuality today.
The power of sex was not in service of selling cars or staving off loneliness, but was seen as a path for pursuing something as expansive and mysterious as the human self-awareness that makes sex much more than just sex.
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.