The Triple Goddess of Sustainability

When we talk about sustainability, the trifecta of actions we can take to help it along consists of “Reduce”, “Reuse”, and “Recycle”.

I don’t really use the Triple Goddess concept in my personal practice, but this fit too perfectly into that framework to pass up! And honestly, the more I look at this the more I think I might have finally found a trio that works for me!

So. Here is my fun little exploration of the Triple Goddess archetype as seen through the lens of environmental sustainability.

Recycle: This lovely Maiden transforms that which is used and discarded into something completely new by restoring it to a base state. A blend of scientist and activist, She rattles off plastic grades while advocating for neighborhood recycling programs. I picture Her as a college student, maybe, checking off an address on Her clipboard (or ticking a box on Her tablet) as She tosses another bag of cans into the bed of Her pickup truck. She’s convinced that new up-and-coming technologies are the key to saving the planet, and She sees recycling as the first step to that. She also steers us away from things that can’t be recycled, helping us find better and more sustainable alternatives. Recycle teaches us that what’s old can be made brand new again, if we’re willing to go through the necessary work to make it happen.

Reuse: I picture Reuse as a lovely earth mother and DIY goddess, with a messy knot of paint-spattered hair and a toolbelt. Her creativity overflows when She sees the potential treasure in someone else’s trash, and She’s got the skills and know-how to bring it out both practically and aesthetically. That abandoned dresser on the side of the road? A little of Her magick turns it into an absolutely gorgeous showpiece in Her bedroom. Or maybe instead it becomes an entertainment center, a kitchen island, or a changing table – Her carpentry skills are matched by her vision. She’s the Matron of the thrift store, too, able to turn that 80s prom gown into something absolutely smashing for next month’s wedding. Reuse thinks answers to sustainability lie within the land, the natural world, and what’s available to us right now. She’s a proponent of plant-based diets and the glories of compost. She teaches us that a little creativity and elbow grease can breathe life into something thought dead and useless.

Reduce: An often-neglected part of the sustainability triad, Reduce is a strict task-mistress. She teaches us that the best, most effective way to walk with a light footprint is to carry less to start with. Reduce encourages us to embrace zero-waste groceries, no-buy commitments, minimalism, and smaller and simpler homes. She also helps us see that our quality of life doesn’t drop – and is perhaps even enriched – when we step away from our consumer-driven lives for something a little slower and more present. I picture Her as an older woman in a simple off-grid cabin, serving sun tea in old mason jars on a covered country porch. Reduce thinks that the key to sustainability lies in tradition, and looks to the lifestyles of the past (within reason) as the best inspiration for living in the present and prepping for the future. She’s the cautionary one of the three, teaching us that sacrifice is necessary for sustainability too.

Of course, Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce don’t exist in vacuums. The three generations of the Sustainability family are incredibly close-knit, and each takes joy and satisfaction from sharing Her approaches and discoveries with Her kin. Just think of the things we could learn from talking to all three, and following Their lead in our own lives!

And there you have it – the Triple Goddess of Sustainability! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and encourage you to invite this triad into your life for 2018!

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Prayer Ritual Basics

Since posting about my upcoming Prayer Ritual I’ve gotten several requests for a how-to guide. I figured the best place to start would be an explanation from the one who inspired me to do this, Stevie Miller over at Feathers in Amber. She graciously provided the below explanation and photos of her techniques. One of the things I most like about her practice is that she’s not afraid to experiment with different approaches, so you’ve quite a few examples to start with!

Starting an Open Prayer Ceremony
Stevie Miller

If you have spent any amount of time on social media–and really, who hasn’t?–you’ve probably seen a surprising amount of people asking for prayers. It might not occur to you, as it didn’t for me, until you start looking for it, but these requests are everywhere: sick and injured friends and family, job searches, hurting relationships, house fires, cars breaking down. In a circle of just a couple hundred people, things like this can be going wrong every day.

As a spirit worker, I seem to have something of an “on duty” sign that lights up when people specifically ask for prayer. Even if the people making the request are from different traditions than mine, or outside of polytheism altogether, I often feel moved to help. But since I didn’t want to impose my beliefs on others, I wanted to come up with a way to figure out who wanted that kind of help from me, and how I could offer it on a regular basis without it taking over my life.

A simple prayer ritual to Odin with an offering of mead and incense.

A simple altar layout for a prayer ritual, featuring an offering of mead and incense.

Enter the weekly open prayer ceremony. I let people know that I will be lighting candles and reading out petitions once a week and that I’m open to requests. Suddenly, those requests came flooding in from every direction–more than I even had candles for! People loved the idea, and I even got asked if others could pray for me in return, and if I wanted donations to be offered to any charities in return for this sacred work. I was also asked to write the article you’re reading now.

I also found that this practice has benefitted me. The routine is fantastic for ensuring that I’m offering to and talking to my Powers regularly. Social accountability–that is, other people expecting that you’re going to do something, and your posting evidence of it–is great for establishing and maintaining a good habit. It has also made me feel much more connected to others. Spirit work, especially when you serve a really niche tribe–and in my case, a discarnate, non-human tribe–can be an extremely lonely path. But with this, I’m using my skills to do good for others, and hearing back about how it has helped them. It has been starting to make me feel like I really do have a community, and they need me.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made. She kept the cord on the altar for a week so that the Gods could watch over everyone’s intentions.

The Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits seem to enjoy being needed too. I’ve consistently gotten messages over the years, both intended for myself and intended for others, along the lines of “Ask Us! Come to Us when you are in need! We want to be a part of your lives and your works. You don’t need to do this all alone.” Calling on the Powers regularly for the people has strengthened my bond with Them too.

I wholeheartedly believe the world will be a better place when more of us are praying for each other and offering to the Powers. So if you’d like to start an open prayer ceremony of your own–which I would strongly encourage!–I’d like to offer some tips.

Define your community: Maybe you just want to open your ceremony to people close to you, or maybe you want to make it public. I post publicly on social media about it, and, odd exceptions aside, accept every prayer petition I receive. You may want to do it differently. Whatever you choose, figure out who you’re offering this service to and how you will let them know about it. An alternative is to simply gather up the prayer requests you see and hear in day to day life. You’ll be surprised how many you encounter once you start looking for them.

Set your boundaries: What Powers do you want to work with? Will you let people request prayers to a specific deity or spirit? What kinds of prayer requests will you accept? When will you accept prayer requests? What is your maximum capacity? These are all things you will need to define for yourself and your audience if you’re going to do open prayer ceremonies.

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A beautiful altar layout utilizing nine candles to represent the collective prayers said. Note the rune stones in front of the candles – she drew a general omen for everyone she prayed for and shared the results.

Create your ritual: I’ve found that it’s easiest for me to deal with open requests if I keep my ritual format simple. I do a simple invocation, I make offerings to the Powers I have invoked, I read the petitions of the people while lighting candles, and I thank the Powers for Their blessings. Sometimes I will add a component where I take an omen, such as a three rune pull or a card draw, or a component where I meditate and listen to see if the Powers have any messages for just me personally or for all the people being prayed for. That’s it.

Distance offerings: Since I’m praying for people who are scattered all over the country, I took up a practice that seems to be gaining popularity in polytheist circles: I promote offerings to charity in the name of the deity being honored that week. For example, the last couple times that I have worked with Odin, He has made it clear that He would like offerings in His name to be made to Alzheimer’s research. This allows people who are not present at your ceremony to take part if they feel so moved by giving something in exchange. Reciprocity is important in many traditions. It also helps you work on causes your Powers find important, which can only improve your devotional relationships, right?

Simplify: I keep the whole process simple because it’s easier for me to focus on the petitions, and to keep this process going without getting burnt out. For example, you don’t have to light an individual candle for every single petition. I sometimes use 9 which is a symbolically important number in my tradition; for many 3 is also a sacred number.

An image of nine tealights arranged in a pattern centered on an Odin jar candle.

Miller’s use of nine candles during a prayer ritual.

Offerings can be low key, like a nice beverage or some incense. I use Wednesday as my day of the week because that day is named after my Patron Odin (“Woden’s Day”). Keeping it on the same day each week makes it easier for me to remember (I’m lucky if I know what day it is!) and also makes it easy for people to know when their prayer requests need to get to me by.

After my prayer ceremony is over, I usually share a quick snapshot of the lit up altar just to let people know that their petitions have been spoken. I’ll share any commentary that I have from the rite itself, especially if I took an omen and want to share my reading of it.

In the future, I plan to work with different Powers and offer prayer ceremonies focused on particular intents, such as healing and abundance. I’m hoping to foster connections between people and deities or spirits they may not be as familiar with too.

I hope that this has been helpful and that you are inspired to start your own open prayer ceremony! Blessings to you and your communities.

Eclipse/New Moon Prayer Ritual

I’ve been inspired by Stevie Miller over at Grundsau Burrow. She’s been holding regular formal prayer rituals of late and I think that’s a damn fine idea. I’m hopping on the bandwagon and joining in. In these trying times we need all the help we can get!

That being so, when better than the coming solar eclipse? I’ll be continuing this practice on every new moon for the foreseeable future, but this seems like a great time to start!

solar-eclipse-clouds

This is an open call for prayers to be ritually made on your behalf on August 21st. If you would like to participate, please let me know your name and what you’re praying for so I can add you to the list and do the prep work. You can comment here, tag me on Facebook, PM me, email me, whatever makes you comfy. And feel free to share! I’m taking the whole day off to make this happen, so let’s get it rolling!

I will stop accepting prayer requests at 5:30a EST, August 21st.

*Note: I reserve the right to refuse prayers for anything I find ethically dodgy. Thank you for your understanding.

The Elephant in the Room: Racism in Tarot Communities

This post from Tarotprose came across my feed recently and I immediately felt the need to share it. Written by a queer person of color in the Tarot community, it mirrors similar experiences I’ve heard from POC in the general Pagan/polytheist community too.

“I believe we should all feel safe and welcome [in the Tarot community] and to be completely honest, I haven’t always felt that way… I do not think anyone should feel threatened by the shared space they are part of. I do not think anyone should feel uncomfortable. I do not think racist acts should be ignored, silenced or tolerated. Tarot readers of color should not be forced to choose between silence and safety.”

This post outlines specific instances of racism this reader has experienced in what should have been a safe space. Do they ring any bells for you? For your community? For any POC you may know? We have to do better, folks. This is unacceptable.

AA Tarot

Three Major Arcana cards from the African American Tarot – the “black deck” mentioned in the original post, which was referred to as being inferior to a “normal” deck at a public event and then used to humiliate the reader. Which is a pity – that Empress is particularly gorgeous.

Sharing and brainstorming for solutions are welcome in the comments!

The original post can be read at Tarotprose.

Racism and Covenant of the Goddess

There’s a lot of unrest going on right now in the US. In several different cases around the country, unarmed black men have been killed by white police officers. None of these officers will be tried in a court of law for these deaths.

I haven’t been commenting on this much. I’m about as white a white girl as it’s possible to be, and the cops aren’t nearly as likely to respond violently to me as they are to a black person. There’s really nothing I can say on this topic that isn’t being better and more appropriately stated by black people. Because of that I’ve preferred to simply hold space for those who are unfairly targeted, showing my support by promoting black voices above my own.

Until tonight.

Tonight the Covenant of the Goddess, a well-known Pagan group, issued a statement regarding these events. Here’s the statement in its entirety:

“We, the members of the Covenant, acknowledge and share the concern that many in our world and within our Pagan communities have voiced regarding inequalities in justice. We find that all life is sacred, and as such, all lives matter.

Today, we the members of the Covenant especially stand together with people who are not privileged by race and class and say to you: Your life matters. We stand with you and work alongside you in ending the systems that disenfranchise you. We encourage and support all efforts by those within our communities to explore the realities of racial inequality and to work to find ways to eliminate these injustices. We hope this will create a wave of introspection and reflection throughout our world, bringing about new levels of understanding and an appreciation for the unique expression of the Sacred we each embody. We stand together with communities seeking nonviolent means of safety and reform, for the unnecessary harm of any person is an affront to the Sacred and is in contrast to our central ethical tenet: An it harm none, do what ye will. May the work we do together today create a peaceful and just tomorrow. “

And this response is useless. It’s actually worse than useless, because the mealy-mouthed way it’s written allows people to feel like they’re taking a stance without requiring them to actually understand why a stance is necessary.

The first paragraph refers to “inequalities in justice”. Which ones? It’s never specified. That’s a shame, because we’ve got quite a few to choose from. Is this addressing the refusal to try police officers for killing unarmed black men? Is it referring to the recent Native American land-rights issue before Congress? Both? Something else? It’s never once explicitly said. Quite a feat in an official statement. As Pagans and polytheists we know the power of names. Why not invoke them in an official document of all places?

The first paragraph also specifically uses the phrase “all lives matter”, simultaneously referring to the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and pointing out how utterly clueless the authors of this statement are. Because while yes, all lives matter, all lives are not being systematically and disproportionately targeted by our justice system. Black people are MUCH more likely to be killed by police officers than white people are. Saying “all lives matter” as an alternative to “black lives matter” has been pointed at, again and again and again, as yet another attempt to disconnect the inequalities in our justice system from race and thus derail the conversation.

The second paragraph then goes on to say absolutely nothing of importance or use in a grandiose way. It’s like politician-speak. Which systems disenfranchise those who are not privileged by race and class? What realities of racial inequality? A wave of introspection and reflection about what exactly? How does CoG, a Wiccan organization, distinguish between necessary and unnecessary harm? What kinds of safety and reform would CoG like to support or help bring forth? What are they actually going to do, besides make mouth-noises?

Nothing is specifically called out. Nothing is addressed or pointed to as a problem. Nothing is named. This statement is as devoid of meaning as the blank screen it was originally typed on.

I decided these problems needed to be addressed. So I rewrote it. Here’s my statement:

“I, a proud polytheist and member of the larger Pagan community, acknowledge that modern American society is sadly rooted in racial discrimination. In the wake of recent events – the very public deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, and the many other similar cases now coming to light – denying, dismissing, or ignoring the racial bias in our society,and especially our justice system, is unconscionable. I believe that it is our sacred duty to stand up to and speak out against injustice wherever we may find it, and even more so when that injustice actively harms other people.

Today, I especially stand with the black community, a community treated as lesser by our shared justice system because of the color of their skin. I say to you: Black Lives Matter.

In support of that belief I will work to end racial injustice in the following ways:

I will hold space for you to share experiences I will never experience myself solely because I am white.

I will listen to what you say and learn from your stories how to be a better ally in the struggle against racism. Furthermore, I will not rely exclusively on members of the black community to teach me about racism and its effects on society – I will do my research and teach myself all I can about it, because I too have a responsibility towards ending it.

I will share those experiences and lessons with other white people who might not understand that these things happen, and are real, and are a problem, because they have never themselves experienced them.

I will speak out against racially-driven injustice privately, publicly, and in the voting booth.

In doing these things I stand with every other person fighting against racial injustice.  Only by working together to understand the realities of race in America can we hope to eliminate racial injustice entirely.

We are all interconnected with and dependent on each other by the ground beneath our feet, the blood in our veins, and the Powers with Whom we engage. May the work we all do today lead to a more peaceful and just tomorrow.”

There. That’s better. That’s a damn statement.

Ending racism isn’t a fight we can win by making grand gestures and empty promises. We’ve tried platitudes, and we’ve tried fuzzy feel-good statements, and still a disproportionate number of unarmed black people are getting gunned down in the streets. Or in stores. Or apartment stairwells. That’s not ok. It’s just not. It’s been 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement – have we learned nothing?

The only way we can win this fight is to actively engage in it. We must commit. As above, so below. As without, so within. We can’t just say the words and make the gestures and leave them both hanging there, unsupported. That won’t accomplish anything, brings us no closer to our goals. We have to acknowledge the problem, clearly state our intent, and we have to move from problem to goal by actively doing something.

That’s why the statement I wrote is written the way it is. That’s the kind of thing we need from our leaders and our Elders. Please, give us fewer platitudes and more plans. Give us less kumbaya bullshit and more uncomfortable truths. How can we work on improving ourselves if we can’t work on improving our world, and how can we possibly expect to learn from the Powers if we can’t first learn from each other?

Pagan Men and Patriarchy

I haven’t written much here lately. To be honest, most of my attention has been wrapped up in discussions/debates about the UCSB shooting in other forums. Those discussions have been so draining I honestly haven’t had the energy for much else. And I didn’t have the heart. I had just finished a whole thing on consent in response to the Kenny Kline situation – what more could I say?

Well, according to my tired fingers, lots.

I don’t think it can be argued that we live in a patriarchal culture with a prominent layer of misogyny. The silver lining to the Rodger rampage is that the misogyny has been exposed for viewing in a way we can’t ignore. It seems like everyone I know has had at least one conversation about the #YesAllWomen hashtag, about rape culture, about male privilege. Misogyny might be “the way it is” now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can change it.  The question is how.

Again and again, as I’ve participated in these discussions, it’s occurred to me that Pagan men have a somewhat unique perspective when it comes to the fight against patriarchy and misogyny. In most cases, these men voluntarily stepped away from faiths dominated by a patriarchal Father-god to embrace faiths that include a Divine Feminine. That’s huge.

As a result of that step, they’ve learned whole new ways of relating to masculinity, femininity, strength, and power. Some of the most passionate feminists I know are Pagan men. They are pioneers, working with women to confront power-over structures and find alternatives. I’m not saying that Pagan men are the only men doing this kind of work, but they’re doing a lot of it!

These are exactly the kinds of lessons other men need to learn if we’re going to address the issues brought to light by recent events, and in my opinion, these lessons are going to be most effectively taught to men by other men. There’s definitely something to be said for effective role modeling!

I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about all of this and couldn’t find the words. Luckily, a bunch of Pagan men can, and have, and did. They stated this better than I ever could.

Here are some of my favorite posts Pagan men have made recently addressing these issues. May you be as encouraged by the reading as I was.

Dude, It’s You” by John Beckett on Patheos

“’Men Need to Decide if They Want to Stand Up and Be Allies’: Dude, It’s Not About You” by Anomalous Thracian on Thracian Exodus 

Thoughts About Being a Man” by Phil Brucato on Satyros Phil Brucato

Misogyny and Killing Sprees” by Adrian Moran on Looking for Wisdom, Ancient and Modern

Pagan Men Speak Out on Patriarchy and Misogyny” by Tim on Intersections and Circles

Fleur De Lis – A Symbol of Sexual Boundaries

In my last post I talked a lot about consent and the maintenance of boundaries. Those are both important topics for us to talk about as a community, which makes it something I’d normally cover on this blog. That post went further than I thought it would, though, and I got a lot of feedback on it – especially since it went up on Witchvox. And one of the comments that came up again and again was that I talked about establishing personal boundaries and how important that was, but I didn’t go into how to do that.

I didn’t think that was something I should address. This is a very individualized thing, and there’s no one answer for everyone. Which was a lapse on my part. Knowing where we stand on issues of sexuality and consent is so intertwined with community support of those boundaries that we really can’t talk about one without addressing the other. After all, it’s hard for the community to support us as we enforce our personal boundaries when we haven’t individually defined anything yet!

While this is a very individualized thing, and there are no wrong answers, there are wrong approaches. So that’s how I’ve decided to tackle the topic.

The Approach We’re Given

Here’s a visual of what most of us start with, I think:

boundaries

For the sake of argument let’s say that the top line in that graphic is the concept most of us probably grew up with: the only permissible sex is with a married spouse in the dark in the missionary position strictly for the purposes of procreation. The bottom line represents the Pagan ideal that all acts of love and pleasure are sacred.

These are the two extreme poles we as Pagans generally start off with. These are the theoretical standards we’re supposed to work with in the real world, when we’re dealing with real people and real emotion. Notice all that grey there? That’s where those theoretical standards get fuzzy, when real life makes those simple standards unexpectedly complicated. And the space between those lines? For most of us our personal boundaries lie somewhere in there. It’s simply up to us to figure out where we draw our own clear and distinct lines in all that space.

I say “simply”, but for many of us it’s not. Simple, I mean. Figuring out where we stand can take some pretty heavy internal work. I’ll be honest – it took me several years, working in the sex industry, and a vow of celibacy to get my internal mess sorted out. I didn’t know where to start when it came to grappling with this topic, and I had some personal issues besides, so it took awhile.

I could do something like provide a list of rules here. I do like my lists, and I could do something like the Ten Commandments of Sex. But I refrained. For one, I’m no Cosmo. And anyway, the way to figure all this out for yourself isn’t to get the answers from someone else but to ask yourself the right questions.

So here is the way I approach the whole topic, the questions I ask myself. It is by no means set, and I’m still tweaking the concept, so feel free to take what you find personally useful and discard what you don’t. I’m posting this in the hope that it’ll encourage thought among those who read this. As always, whatever works for you (so long as it’s legal!) is what you should go with.

My Approach – The Fleur de Lis

The fleur de lis is a stylized lily blossom and is an ancient symbol often associated with ideas of purity and chastity. Through the Middle Ages the symbology became more specific, and each petal came to represent a different concept within that frame: Faith, Wisdom, and Chivalry. The band at the bottom that ties the petals together is the unifying force between all of them.

Fleur de Lis

Isn’t it lovely?

Over time I have adopted the symbol as my own, and it’s become how I visualize my sex life. Each of those four concepts categorize a whole slew of things to think about and get comfy with prior to getting naked with someone else.

The Band – Sharing

I have a history of using sex to fulfill other needs – connection, touch, forgetting, approval, distraction, release. And sex filled those needs fairly well, at least temporarily. However, when using sex to fill other needs my partner became secondary to the whole thing. They were faceless stand-ins for what I really wanted, self-directed dildos I used for my own gratification.

It took a bit for me to recognize what I was doing, and even longer to understand what that meant for my partners. I was dehumanizing every partner I had. It was all about me, what I needed, what I wanted. And once I figured it out I was pretty horrified. Even with my head all messed up I understood that what made sex sacred was the sharing aspect, the feedback of pleasure and intimacy that can exist between two people who come together openly and honestly. I wasn’t doing that. I was using, not sharing. And since I wasn’t sharing with them, they weren’t sharing with me either – which meant they were using me too.

Not ok, not from any perspective.

So that’s the first question I have to ask myself. What’s my personal motivation when sex comes up, using or sharing? When we’re clear in our heads that this is an experience we want to share with the person in front of us, and that the experience alone is the goal, then we can move forward with the idea. Otherwise, without that sharing, it’s demeaning to everyone involved.

The Left Petal – Faith

The faith this petal requires is faith in myself, trusting my inner thoughts/feelings instead of what other people tell me I should think or feel. This has become much easier over time, but at the beginning of things I was utterly clueless.

One of the things I’ve struggled most with is the fact that I simply don’t feel romantic or sexual attraction the way that movies and books and the people around me told me I should. I never have. But instead of trusting that, going with that, I kept trying to force myself to somehow “get past it”.  I had this idea that my sexuality just had a really screwy lock, so if I could find the right key I too could enter the world of teen rom-coms and marital bliss.

By the time I was a junior in high school I didn’t care if I was straight or gay or bi or pan or anything else, so long as I found the key that worked. Or maybe it wasn’t a partner-based thing, but an experience or technique my particular lock needed. That was possible, right? So I experimented with everything, for years, hoping that one day I might find the key I needed.

It didn’t even occur to me that I could relate to my sexuality in a way different from the people around me and still be a warm, loving person with a fulfilling sex life. I was basing my identity on what people told me, instead of what I innately knew. And that seriously screwed my life in ways I didn’t understand until much, much later.

Once I started trusting myself, though? My eyes were opened to a whole spectrum of relationship configurations and approaches to sexuality that might not be mainstream, but certainly fit my needs better than anything else I had found previously. And once that happened sex became much more fulfilling and whole-hearted than it had been before. It’s easier to share when I know what I’m sharing, and it’s easier to be open and honest with partners when I know what’s inside of me and accept it as it is.

Now it’s not many out there that have this particular issue, but the question posed by this petal is still valid – am I trying to express my sexuality using other people’s standards or my own? By trusting ourselves to know ourselves better than anyone else does we lose the need to justify our sex life to others. That helps us find methods of sexual expression that work for us, and allows us to be much more honest and authentic when we’re sharing with others.

The Right Petal – Chivalry

Chivalry is a word that evokes images of knights on chargers adoring a far-off lady in a tower. It refers to an entire elaborate code of honor that was the pinnacle of medieval nobility. In this context I use it to refer to my own honor and ethics when it comes to sex.

It’s pretty simple. If I’m not comfortable doing it (or at least talking about it) on the front page of the newspaper than I don’t do it. At no point during the act, from foreplay to aftercare, should I feel dirty. Or ashamed. Or guilty. I should never worry that the sex I’m having is unethical, or that I’m bad or wrong for having it. Sex cannot be demeaning or humiliating (some people get off on that, so it’s fine for them – I don’t so it’s not).

This applies to my partner(s), too. They’re part of this too – sharing, remember? If they’re conflicted, then the sex is conflicted, and I share in that conflict. That’s not ok, and I won’t be a part of making someone feel bad about themselves or their sex if I can possibly avoid it.

This covers a ton of ground. Are either of us chemically altered? Are either of us involved in other relationships that have rules around this kind of thing (as so many do)? Are either of us lying about what we’re going for here, or under any false pretenses? Has any sort of pressure been used on either side to make this happen, that might make consent questionable? And a thousand other questions that fall along these lines.

So that’s what this petal asks – am I behaving honorably by having sex with this person, and do I trust this person to behave honorably when having sex with me? If there is the slightest doubt here, sex probably isn’t the best idea. These conflicts take away from the sharing aspect of sex, make it harder to connect with each, and could lead to actual harm. None of those are OK.

The Center Petal – Wisdom

This petal refers to my ability – my responsibility – to be an adult when it comes to my sex life. I am in charge of my personal safety. It’s all the unsexy parts of engaging in a sexual relationship, that I have to personally answer and then effectively communicate to my partner. After all, if I can’t talk about this kind of thing to the person I’m having sex with, then I probably shouldn’t be having sex with that person.

Everyone’s list here will be different. It changes depending on circumstance, but here are a few possibilities:

1)      Have I been tested for STIs (including but not limited to HIV) recently? What’s my status? How about my partner? Do I have this person’s contact information in case something health-wise comes up later that was unforeseen, and do they have mine?

2)      What safer sex practice(s) are necessary here, and which will be used? Can I handle the consequences should those safer sex practices fail? Can my partner?

3)      Have I arranged all the safe calls or other safety nets I might need to ensure physical safety?

4)      Are there any potential spiritual/magickal side-effects with this? If so, is that desired or not?

5) Are the Powers with which I’m involved ok with this? How about the Powers my potential partner works with?

These questions normally come up during the negotiation phase, and they’re important. This petal is all about physical, emotional, and spiritual safety. If anyone involved doesn’t feel safe and secure, then they’re going to be more occupied with keeping themselves safe than sharing sex. Which of course hits points on the other petals, and brings the entire encounter back into question, thus restarting the process.

Only when I have satisfactorily progressed through all parts of the fleur de lis is sex acceptable and within my personal boundaries.

Notes About Approach

Notice that the above guidelines don’t say anything at all about what kind of relationship status I have with someone before the sex. To my mind a one night stand can be sacred, and sex with a long-term partner might not be, depending on how it fits the framework.

The guidelines also don’t single out any specific acts as particularly sacred or not. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about how we approach it.

Like I said, figuring out our personal boundaries when it comes to sexuality is a very individualized process. How any of us choose to approach it, and the boundaries we come up with during the process, are ours and ours alone. Once we know them, though, we’ve got a system we can use when working with others, and a system our communities can help support and enforce in more public settings.