FETISH & MAGICK Ruth Ramsden

Sex has been used in religious practices since humans began the process of communicating with the weather. Whether it’s been joyfully embraced or desperately prohibited as part of the doctrine, depends very much on the mood of the godhead. In most conventional monotheistic religions, any kind of carnality is, by and large, regarded as a bad thing, simply because the definition of spiritual purity is equally prohibitive. Likewise, any kind of sexual activity outside nuptial lovemaking between heterosexual couples is only grudgingly acknowledged, if not actually frowned upon. So what of magickal practice and fetishism? Are these two outsiders to accepted belief and sexuality rude bedfellows and is there a dialogue between them? Fetishism is undoubtedly as old as the ‘C’ word. And by that I mean cult – the demeaning little label that\s been applied to any non conventional form of worship which utilizes practices relegated to the apocrypha along with the Gnostics. It seems odd that the same synod acknowledged the Song of Solomon, with all its talk of keys, as a thing of beauty - (“My beloved put his hand through the key hole, and my bowels were moved at his touch…” Quite so) - particularly when you remember that the Greek word for key comes from the same route as clitoris. The Greeks knew a thing or two but never mind. Setting aside the kinky Mr. Crowley and a bit of eleventh degree anal, most pagan beliefs and their off shoots, even when they enthuse in the most orgiastic terms about sex, still seem hidebound by the heteronormative. But many so called cults, from antiquity to the modern primitives, have also used pain as a way of reaching spiritual nirvana. Scourging, particularly, is a well known rite in magickal practice. Still, fetishism, though unquestionably lurking in the shadows, hasn’t been out and proud in its modern form for very long at all. And it is a very broad church indeed. Where the paths in magick and kink cross is, strangely enough, where they also diverge and that is the question of purpose. Many neophytes to the fetish scene are in the process of making their fantasy a reality. Whether it’s bondage, humiliation, impact play, age play (insert your choice here), it’s not always a straightforward journey and not without hazards. The roleplay between a top (master or mistress) and a bottom (submissive/slave) is a very complex and often very deep one. It is intuitive and based on personal dynamics. Experienced, responsible players will always do a lot of ground work and proceed with a light touch. Trust and communication are issues not to be taken lightly. Especially when the reality of a scene involving pain and humiliation can be a frightening departure from the fantasy.

Consent in fetish play is a golden rule that cannot be broken. Safe, sane and consensual is the mantra. As in any power based dynamic, abuse must be guarded against, even when it’s unintentional. For the submissive, the state of mind habituated by play, might make them feel they can no longer opt out of situations that are dangerous or uncomfortable for them; when going against the will of their master or mistress has simply become impossible. Dialogue is essential and a good top will always be alive to this possibility. Sadly, there will always be some for whom consent is a word that can be whittled away to a collection of meaningless letters, or others that are just too dense to be sensitive to the danger and something that seemed a like good idea at the time can turn into a nightmare. Fortunately, in my experience, this is pretty rare. The fetish scene is good humoured and open and mercifully free from the kind of inhibitions that make this kind of behaviour easy to conceal. You really will get a bad rep if you behave like a pratt. The rewards, on the other hand, are without limits. Although fetish play by no means always involves penetrative sex, the purely physical impact of exploring your sensuality in this way can be astonishing. An intense session, with or without orgasm, can induce a chemical high in the body of exquisite transcendence, a euphoric physical collapse, a spiritual revelation. In the submissive partner this is known in scene jargon as ‘sub space’. From the point of view of the top, from my own experience at least, the sensation has as much to do with the duality of this ‘becoming’ as any physical exertion. The joy of holding someone, in your charge and care, in such a state of grace is profound. There can be a moment where, regardless of how deep your relationship with your play partner is, you can touch love. Within a loving relationship it’s an affirmation as well as a celebration. And aside from the purely physical, this is magick. From beatified nuns in orgasmic concordance with their lord, to the conflated paradigms of Chaos Magick, that’s the spot you’re trying to hit, right there. And trust me, it goes beyond simply getting your rocks off with a few accessories thrown in. The fetish scene works within no other framework than effecting personal revelation and fulfilment. That’s not to belittle its importance (it’s certainly been very important to me) but it has no other construct. Ritual magick of any kind has foundations and occasionally some quite airy fairy scaffolding. Even Chaos Magick works within its own Nietzschean moebius strip. Still, I don’t suppose I’m risking much to suggest that a journey resulting in fulfilment and revelation, especially in physical transcendence is the place where magick is at it’s most potent. Controlling this process to focus and channel anything beyond the purely self indulgent is the difficulty. But there’s no reason why it couldn’t be cultivated, just as concentrating on your partner, or a sigil or a vision at the point of orgasm can be cultivated. Similarly, there’s no reason why a fetish scene couldn’t be incorporated into any magickal rite, for the benefit of all participants. Elements of fetishism

have been used in summoning ceremonies and initiation rites but from my own experiences, I feel the dynamics are more suited to personal exploration, either within a belief system or as a way of furthering an individual magickal journey. As an older woman and a top, my journey through fetishism and magick is ongoing and it may be that realising the transient nature of the journey as well as acquiring the skill to manipulate it, requires a certain amount of maturity. From my point of view, the sacred and the profane are the relief and shadow of a design for living. Appreciating the two in tandem is the richest understanding there is. Ruth Ramsden is co-author with her husband Mark of Radical Desire (see below) and also the creator of The Dark Tantra Oracle Deck. Ruth & Mark made a guest appearance at Arte: An Elemental Happening in Bristol. Arte was an fascinating - numbers a bit down so a small "more secret chiefs than injuns" as someone remarked - but even so it was a very special day ... Jerked to sense by MC Jake's ritual opening. Then Mark John Ramsden & Ruth Ramsden - actually Ruth did most of the talking. According to his Google entry, Mark played sax with TRB and composed the riff on Tom Robinson's "War Baby" - so he is a cool dude - he started his talk saying he couldn't think what to talk about! Ruth gave him that look and they soon got going - Ruth showing some of the 120 images she made for their "Dark Tantra Tarot" (First edition now out of print)...

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