The Witches and the Stripper

Someone at the Daily Mail no doubt had a good time writing the headline “The drunken stripper from the Golden Banana, a coven of Salem witches and the ‘groping’ man horrifically impaled when she crashed into a flatbed truck.”

Yes, it is link bait, and I bit. Wouldn’t you?

But it made me think: One of the many untold stories about the beginnings of the Craft in North America (I can’t speak for other places) is the involvement of people who were in or peripheral to the world of sex work.

I have to make some revisions to an article that I wrote for an edited collection on sex and new religious movements. I’m doing Wicca, no surprise there, and am concentrating on sexual metaphor in ritual.  I think, however, that the editor wants more on the “sexy witch” archetype.

Certainly a lot could be said about that, but in one article? Likewise,  a lot could be said—but has not—about the nexus of sexual experimentation and contemporary Paganism. It’s not just Paganism, of course—alternative sexual relationships and new religious movements have intersected many times. Hence this book. Consider, for instance, the Oneida Community and its doctrine of “complex marriage,” a sort of 19th-century polyamory.

The sexual impulse and the religious-creation impulse are often closely linked, it seems.

8 thoughts on “The Witches and the Stripper

  1. Have you read either of Robert A. Heinlein’s books that have alternative marriage forms described as part of the character’s lives, such as “Friday” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”?

    • “Moon,” at least, and of course, “Stranger,” and like everyone else I have noted their effects on at least some Pagans. See, e.g., Oberon and Morning Glory Zell’s writings on polyamory.

  2. Do you think if the Wiccan revival had preached abstinence from sex, it would have got very far. I think not.

  3. Rummah,
    I would paraphrase you question slightly, like so:
    Do you think if the Wiccan revival had preached, it would have got very far?

    Oh, and how far has it got?

    Chas,
    obviously, when there is choice, people choose a religion that matches their pre-existing beliefs and attitudes. Some create one to justify their behaviour. Sometimes I think that the function of religion is to legitimize things rather than restrict. But than I shake off this thought as immoral and sacreligious and move on 🙂

    • Bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, isn’t it. Literary models can serve as inspiration, such as Stranger in a Strange Land’s sexual-sharing “nests” becoming a model for polyamory in the Church of All Worlds and elsewhere.

      To refer to Wicca only, however, there are many facets that could be examined, for instance, these, in no particular order:

      1. The continuation of the sexuality-and-witchcraft meme forward from the witch-trial period.

      2. The involvement of sex workers in creating Wicca. See, for example, Allen Scarboro, et al, Living Witchcraft: A Contemporary American Coven, about the group started by Lady Sintana of Atlanta, a former burlesque dancer.

      3. The importance of the nudist/naturist movement for recruiting — and the overlap there with “swinging,” which is greater than the organized nudists usually admit.

      Although my wife and I did not come in that way, our first coven did some of its recruiting at a nudist resort.

      4. The centrality of the sexual metaphor, the Great Rite, in Wiccan cosmology.

  4. You may well have already thought of it, but there’s also the idea of a sexual encounter that acts as a form of initiation into Paganism. Immediately, Fred Lamond’s account of when he lost his virginity in Fifty Years of Wicca (2004) springs to mind; he described having a vision of Aphrodite, after which he set about on the Pagan Path, ultimately leading to his initiation into the Gardnerian Craft.

    In Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, she also discusses the claims of Victor Anderson, who told the (possibly tall) tale of when he met a witch in the woods, who then offered him an intense spiritual-mystical experience through sex.

    Hopefully these might be of some relevance to you Chas.

    • Indeed, and I think the first is mentioned in Aidan Kelly’s Inventing Witchcraft as well, together with his hypothesis that Wicca was, shall we say, the magical child of Gerald Gardner and Edith Woodford-Grimes.. We shall never know about the last, however.

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