Path Of An American Traditionalist: Washing Away the Past: A Spell for New Lovers: Blessed Esbat Friends. May tonight’s new moon bring you peace, clarity and reflection. I finally did it! I managed to complete a spell I’ve …
“Coven members bring bottles and break them before the dance (wine and beer bottles) and spread them out on a tarp. I lay down with bare back on the broken glass, and each of the coven girls puts one of their feet somewhere on my body, so that the glass can pull anything impure from their bodies into mine. I then stand on the glass and each of them adorns me with something that will assist in pushing or driving all impurities out of me and into the glass through bare feet as I dance. (nipple clamps, added weighs or brass bells, or a thorny wrap around waist, hips, ankles, something that adds an element of pain to the dance) Then I dance on the glass while they drum and chant until they tell me to stop.”
While glass dancing isn’t for everyone, nor is it necessarily safe, but other materials can be substituted for glass if you wanted to give it a try. Obsidian or volcanic glass is a good substitute, as is lightening glass, pumice, gravel, and wood chips. Depending on why the dance is being performed, different gemstones with the appropriate correspondences can be used as well.
If you have not read “Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section B” please do so now:
|Head scarf I wore, English version of the Qur’an, and prayer beads|
As many of you know who read this blog on a regular basis, during the course of my research on feet in religion, I was invited to attend Friday prayers at the Islamic Center of Charlotte. I cashed in that invitation on Friday. I thought I had been invited to the evening prayer, but Friday morning at 7:20 on the dot, I was informed that it was noon prayers that I was to come to. So, being a good journalist, I arrived early to look around a bit. Because I arrived early, my escort was not ready, and I entered the building through the front door when I should have gone in the side entrance. That was the first faux pas of my little adventure. I was also informed at 7:20 to wear loose pants and to bring a scarf. Thankfully my intuition told me to wear long sleeves, but I should have hunted up a tunic and the fanciest, biggest scarf I could find. Once the ladies started to arrive, I felt very under-dressed, both in terms of coverage and glitz.
The center looks like any other place of worship built with in the last twenty years, except that it has a small minaret attached instead of a steeple, and it is enclosed by a privacy fence with barbed wire on top and a security gate. Cameras constantly watch you, inside the building and out, and shoplifting mirrors are mounted in the ceiling corners of the hall ways. I’m not sure if that’s for security or to insure separation of the sexes.
Since I had arrived early, Hadji Muhammad, the secretary (maybe?) who had invited me, instructed me to sit on a chair in the hallway in a segregated part of the building. He handed me a bottle of water and said, “Now you put on your scarf” and disappeared back to his office. The scarf that I put on turned out to be really plain compared to what the other ladies wore, but I had chosen it because sometimes I wear it as lingerie and it gave me a thrill to wear such a sexually charged item in a such a sexually austere place. When the ladies started to arrive, I realized that I should have pinned my hair up. NOBODY in my section of the center had any hair showing.
While I was waiting and waiting and waiting, I pieced together that not only should I have come in the side door that lead directly to the place where I was now but that I was in the woman’s section of the building. Both the front door and the side door had tall racks for folks to put their shoes on. In my section, there was a door that lead to a kitchen, a bathroom, a prayer room door, and a door that said “Store”. Women with babies were instructed by different signs in Arabic and English to use the prayer space in the store. The store, as it turns out, is a little room with no prayer space that sells female Islamic prayer clothes–but no burquas.
I decided to go into the bathroom, and snapped this photo:
This is where the women wash their feet before entering the prayer room.
Finally a woman walked in, the first one that I had seen since I had arrived and introduced herself as Fifi. I thought she was to be the escort that Hadji Muhammad promised me at 7:20 AM, but it turned out that she wasn’t. She told me to take off my shoes and to come into the prayer room.
“Why do we take off our shoes?” I asked.
“Because we worship on the carpet.” Fifi replied.
“Do I need to wash up first?” I asked.
“That’s for only if you pray,” she responded.
“But, I’d like to pray, if that’s OK.”
“No. No, today you sit and watch and learn.”
I was ushered into the prayer room and instructed to sit in one of the chairs that lined the wall. Another lady sat next to me, very close. Then an older lady came in and sat down up close to me on the other side. Islam, I learned, is a touchy-feeley religion. I introduced myself to both women, and they smiled. They talked some to each other over me in Arabic. Everybody spoke Arabic but me. Then they started to read their Qur’ans that were in fancy Arabic calligraphy with flowers and vines bordering the pages. They, and all the other ladies, would mumble the scriptures just under their breaths. Nobody explained it, but I gathered it was important that the scripture be said and not read in your head.
The ladies’ prayer room is a large plain carpeted room with chairs along the walls, a book shelf full of Qur’ans and other religious texts, and lines taped to the floor. These were prayer lines. When you prayed, you had to stand on the line or you were doing it wrong, just like in gym class. In the corner diagonal from the door is a flat screen TV mounted to the wall and a line of chairs in front of it. The TV shows closed circuit coverage of the “pulpit” and the back of the heads of the men in the next room over. The chairs are for the old ladies who no longer can sit on the floor.
When the women would come into the room, they would make the rounds shaking hands and saying “As-Salāmu `Alaykum” or “Peace unto you.” The younger women had painted finger nails, but the old ladies had hennaed finger and toe nails. One of the ladies who was reading her Qur’an noticed that I seem to be left out of things, so she thrust into my hands Woman in Islam the Myth and the Reality by Dr. Sherif Al-Sheha. I looked through the book looking for pictures, like maybe of a dreamy Omar Sharif type guy, but instead I came upon two passages that informed me that if my husband invites me to bed for his pleasure and I deny him, that all the angels in Heaven will curse my name until the next morning, and another passage that instructed me that I was not to teach my daughters how to dance for the purposes of corruption.
|Betty Page dancing for corruption|
As the prayer room started to fill up and ladies and small children were silently praying and reading, Hadji Muhammad made another appearance. There was lots of talk in Arabic and pointing and gesturing.
“You come now,” he told me, and I was pawned off on a lady whom he told me was in charge of all the women’s activities at the Center. After arguing with Hadji for several minutes about some misinformation spread on Facebook about youth programs, she ushered me into the store and told me to sit down. No item, according to the price list on the wall, was more than $20, which was hard to believe considering how heavily embroidered and spangled most of the clothes were. I suspect that list was not comprehensive. The head lady was very nice but soon became busy playing shopkeeper. Hadji popped up again and handed me an English Qur’an with a promise to reappear with the “Message” written out for me in English. Everybody really wanted me to stay for the “Message” which the “Sheikh” would give soon. Instead, Hadji came back with Ahlam and never reappeared. Ahlam was the escort Hadji had promised.
Ahlam is an older middle-aged real estate broker who likes to wear heels. She came to prayers with her daughter (who had made her own prayer clothes) and her grandson. While her daughter went on into the prayer room, we put our shoes back on and went out side, where a few of the women were frying food to sell after prayers.
“Islam is a religion of practicality,” Ahlam explained. ”Our scriptures tell us how best to do everything in our lives.” According to Ahlam, Muslims wash before prayers not so much to wash away physical dirt, but to wash away metaphysical dirt and negative energies. The act is a way to let go of everyday worries, and it helps the devout to get in the right mindset to communicate with Allah. It sounded a lot like sympathetic magic and meditation to me. She then explained that although women were somewhat segregated in Islam, a lot of segregation was a bid for equality. The sexes, according to her, are segregated during prayers so that people are not distracted by the opposite sex bending and kneeling. Considering the submissive vulnerability that some of their prayer gestures and positions suggest, I could see her point.
Everybody was called to prayers by a singsong voice blaring from the minaret. As we walked back inside and removed our shoes, I asked if I needed to wash up. ”No” was again the response. Ahlam and I sat on the floor on one of the taped lines beside her daughter and grandson and the main event began. The older lady who sat beside me earlier once again sat beside me, and Fifi sat on the line in front of me.
The service started with a solo prayer. The prayers that were said aloud were all recited in a singsong tone, like a person lining out a hymn. They were also all in Arabic. Then the Sheikh delivered the “Message”–in Arabic. From watching him on the closed circuit television, he looked a lot like a minister–reading some scripture and then preaching on it. Then, with no warning, the Sheikh started speaking English. I’m not sure if he was repeating what he had said in Arabic in English or if this was just the English half of the “Message”. In English he preached about how good Muslims need to show the world how nice they are, how they need to be nice, generous, and friendly to new converts, and how they need to extend hospitality to visitors. Yeah, I know. I’m not sure if the content of the “Message” was coincidental or if it was said specifically because I was there.
The chanter sang something in Arabic, and Ahlam whispered, “We’re going to pray now. You can go and sit over there.”
“I’d like to pray too, if it’s OK.” I whispered back. She smiled and nodded.
The chanter then lead a call and response prayer, which I didn’t know the response to. I’m not sure what all we prayed for, but I’m pretty sure Libya was in there. I distinctly heard “Libya” a couple of times. Then everybody said something that sounded like a hum or a buzz.
After the call and response prayer, it was time for the active prayer. As the chanter sang different things, we would stand up, kneel, hold our hands palm up, touch our heads to the floor and then repeat and repeat. Sometimes we hummed again, almost like an “Om,” and sometimes we said “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is Great.” Prayers were nice and somewhat fulfilling. At various times I felt like I was presenting myself to a Dom for inspection or a like a cat in heat waiting to be mounted, but given my relationship with Deity, I don’t think those feelings were inappropriate.
After the active prayers, everybody shook hands with each other and said “As-Salāmu `Alaykum”. As things wound down, announcements for the Center were read and the ladies did individual silent prayers. I wanted to ask Ahlam about the meaning of the prayer gestures, but she handed me her card and rushed off. Perhaps I’ll email her.
Despite being constantly told where to sit, everybody was very nice and polite. Everybody was even nicer after the “Message.” The older lady who was always sitting next to me even gave me her prayer beads. ”I have another pair at home just like these,” she kept insisting.
Leaving the Center was a nightmare. The traffic was like the parking lot of a stadium after a concert. I finally got out of the security gate and had a nice lunch of spicy pork and fried rice with Mistress Marmot.
I never saw any women wash their feet, and I never got to wash my feet.
|Wonder if he’d wash my feet?|
*You can get all the free Islamic books you want at www.freequran.com.
He, sir, that must marry this woman. Therefore, you
clown, abandon,–which is in the vulgar leave,–the
society,–which in the boorish is company,–of this
female,–which in the common is woman; which
together is, abandon the society of this female, or,
clown, thou perishest; or, to thy better
understanding, diest; or, to wit I kill thee, make
thee away, translate thy life into death, thy
liberty into bondage: I will deal in poison with
thee, or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy
with thee in faction; I will o’errun thee with
policy; I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways:
therefore tremble and depart. (As You Like It (1599); Act V, Scene 1, 45-56)
From Merriam Webster’s online dictionary:
|Bahá’u'lláh of the Baha’i’ faith under went Falaqa in Iran.|
Before I go further, the standard warning statement should be made: All things should be safe, sane, and consensual. As with any sort of S&M and/ or sex ritual, be responsible. Use safe words and condoms and respect boundaries. No under aged participants or spectators. Outdoor sex should be on private property. Bondage should allow for blood flow. If you break skin, use first aid to treat it and clean your equipment properly. And with foot whipping, don’t over do it. The object is to lightly stimulate nerves, not break bones (and break bones you can very easily).
There are several options for integrating bastinado into Pagan worship. Some ideas have been mentioned in the The Many Textures of Deity section and in the Cut Me a Switch, Bitch section that is under BDSM Rituals. Another idea is to have one person offer their feet up as a ritual object. In this case, the person’s feet would be used for several different things. Their feet could be used as a drum, an incense holder for stick incense, a candle holder for small tapers, and if they’re talented, a flat surface to hold a chalice or a bowl of water. If the person is really good at being still and completely zoning out, their whole body could be used as an altar.
Feet as a drum: Since most people don’t regularly undergo bastinado, I would advise only using your hands, like with bongos. If you’d like to use drumsticks but want to play it safe, super thin plastic rulers are good implements for bastinado. They have a loud “slap” but a fleeting sharp sting that won’t do any damage.
Feet as an incense holder: Unless the person has extremely calloused feet (which I’m not covering here), only use stick incense tucked in between the toes. For added sound effects that will make the “incense burner” squirm, you can periodically wet the foot down. As the ash drops, it will sizzle.
Feet as a candle holder: You can implement this idea in much the same way you would do with the incense, even down to the water. However, everybody involved should be aware that candle wax will get on the person’s soles and aloe should be available for possible burns. After all the wax has dripped, ceromancy can be practiced on the images left on the person’s sole. Ceromancy is traditionally the practice of divining meanings from the images of wax dripped into water, it can easily be applied to flesh as well. As with other types of divination that deal with formed images (like tea leaf reading), different shapes mean different things. After becoming familiar with the with the meaning of the shapes, use your own intuition to divine what they really mean to your situation or that of your sub’s. This is a well honored method of divination among those of the kinkier sort. According to Jesterbear.com, the Italian courtesan Veronica Franco faced the Inquisition on charges related to ceromancy. I wonder if she underwent bastinado as part of the inquest?
As a nice way to wind down after circle, don’t forget to tickle your “altar’s” feet. According to Mistress Marmot, who started out as a sub, “When I was a sub, my Doms would tickle my feet, except I wasn’t ticklish there. Instead, it would make me want to scratch my feet. It would bother me.” So, tickling might not be the pleasure you intended!
I got started on this path about feet because a fellow sister-in-arms who reads this blog is a barefooter. I’ll share her story and exploits in a future blog. I also heard a Micheal Sandler, who is a barefoot advocate and runner, do an interview on the radio and my interest was piqued. He wasn’t Pagan, and he seemed fairly main stream. However, when I requested an interview, I received no response (shame on you, Micheal Sandler!).
|Micheal Sandler’s site: runbare.com|
While there are many sites and researchers who do not promote running or simply going barefoot because “it’s dangerous”, a fair amount of research has been done that proves that going barefoot and running barefoot is healthier for humans over all. According to the researchers at Harvard’s Skeletal Biology Lab, running barefoot tends to make people land on their fore foot to mid foot, which is more natural and healthier for the foot than landing on the the heel.
Just like with any movement, there are lots of groups springing up to meet the demand for education, publicity, and fellowship. One of the many out there is the Society for Barefoot Living. Their site has a lot of good information, but the site hasn’t been updated since 2010. Some of the information about laws may be outdated. There are also tons of Yahoo groups for barefooters out there, but I’ve found that they were either non-active or didn’t want me in their group. I was really curious about the group Spiritualbarefootlifestyles, but they seem to be dead. I joined several months ago, and there has been no activity. It’s a shame because they taut themselves as for “Pagans, Wiccans, Spiritualist, ‘Mystics’, and the like who enjoy being barefoot as a lifestyle or as a part of worship.”
Shibari (and all its bastardize, alternate spellings) is Japanese rope bondage. It is more properly know as kinbaku. The art form is a true discipline, every bit as much as karate, and people who master it are true masters, not just in the S&M sense. It can be done to any part of the body, including hair, and the designs range from simple to a level of complexity that takes hours to create. Most shibari designs appear to be knotted but really are not. That’s the beauty of it.
I love having shibari ropes on me. It puts me in a most delicious head space, perfect for play or ritual. Shibari makes me feel special and cherished–one of the nicest feelings you can convey to a partner. While I love having the ropes on me, I, however, make a mess when I try to put the ropes on other people. At the end of this blog, I’ve included two simple tutorials for foot shibari. Also, if you decide to really get serious about the discipline, check out anything by Two Knotty Boys or try to see Nikki Nefarious.
Foot shibari is ideal in ritual situations because not only does it lend itself to several different uses, but it can be done in solitary, partner, or group ritual. It can be done to help you reach a meditative state. It can also be done to help with prayers in much the same way prayer beads are used. For every knot or special loop, a line from a prayer can be said or a specific deity remembered. The knots and loops can also be used in conjunction with number magic and knot magic. If using knot magic, you may want to cut the ropes off instead of untying them so that the magic is not undone (unless, of course, that’s part of the ritual).
Probably the most intimate and meaningful way foot shibari can be used in circle is in binding rituals. Usually when folks say “binding rituals”, they mean a ritual to bind someone, thing, or tendency up so that it/they can’t do any harm. This isn’t that type of ritual. What I mean by binding here is becoming bound to someone, a deity, or a group. Think of it this way, whoever controls your feet controls you. Feet are your mobility and free will. That’s why it’s worse to have a foot cut off than to have a hand cut off. However, many of us would gladly give up our freewill to a god or goddess, which is why foot shibari makes a good addition to group or self dedication ceremonies. If your deity has a sacred number, make sure to have that many knots or twists in your design. If your deity has a sacred color, get the right color of rope.
As with any bondage, make sure all participants are of age and do consent. Make sure that your bondage is not so tight that you lose blood flow. Numbness isn’t really ideal. Also, make sure that safety scissors are handy in case the bondage needs to be cut quickly. Test cutting your rope with your scissors before you start. Have fun being all tied up!
As was stated in the last blog, Christians are not the only ones who wash their feet in a ritual setting. Muslims do it as well, but for a very different reason. Instead of the foot washing being an act of submission, it’s an act of hygiene and literal and symbolic cleansing. It is also performed on one’s self instead of by one person to another.
|Real sexy, huh?
The act of washing the feet and other body parts is called “Wudu” and is done in preparation for salat, which are prayers. According to the Islamic Center of Charlotte’s website, “Prayer for a Muslim involves uniting mind, soul, and body in worship……In the ritual prayers each individual Muslim is in direct contact with Allah. There is no need of a priest as an intermediary.” Sounds kind of Pagan.
As Pagans, we can incorporate the practice of wudu as a shorten form of a ritual bath. Magical and medicinal herbs that promote cleansing and purity could be added to the water for a bath tea or oils could be substituted. Herbs and oils that promote deity consciousness would be another good choice. Gem stones could also be added to make gem elixirs.
I first encountered the act of foot washing in a religious/ritual context several years ago at a wedding. The couple was Pagan, but for various familial reasons, they had a Christian ceremony led by one of those “New Age” ministers. I think she might of been Methodist. You know the type. A lot of times they are women. Sometimes they wear a robe, sometimes not. Their stoles are usually of some sort of African or other tribal design that they acquired in a “fair trade” arrangement during a mission trip, and they rarely mention Jesus or God as masculine. The groom was seated while the bride knelt on a pillow and washed the groom’s feet from a basin of water. Then she rubbed some lavender oil onto them, and then symbolically dried them with her hair. To finish that segment of the ceremony (because it was a long ceremony), she dried his feet for real with a towel. The minister, as a prelude to the washing, read from Luke 7:37-39:
|The Pope washing the feet of his cardinals|
Welcome to Missionary Chat.
Thank you for your interest in talking to a missionary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The purpose of Mormon.org chat is to answer basic questions about the church and its beliefs and to provide opportunities to learn more.
Before we begin, will you share a little about what brought you to chat with us?
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Agent [Austin] is ready to assist you.
Agent [John] has joined the chat.
Austin: How can we help you?
Me: I am doing a comparative study on the practice of foot washing, and I have some questions.
Me: I’ve read through different things, but I’m still having trouble piecing together in my mind exactly how the ordinance of foot washing is practiced. Is there anything special to it or is a basin brought out and the washing begins?
Austin: I have no clue. Do you have any questions about our beliefs?
Me: Oh my. I’ve called the hotline twice and kind of gotten the same answer. On your website (I’ll have to hunt down where), it says that Joseph Smith (I think) set up the ordinance to go along with Jesus’ washing of feet at the Last Supper.
Me: So I’m guessing by your response and the others that I’ve gotten that it’s not a widely practiced thing.
Austin: Right. I’ve never heard of it being performed in a religious way since Christ did so, but I did just find the page you’re talking about and I’ll read up on it as soon as possible. Is this the page? http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/journal-1835%E2%80%931836
Me: Yeah I think so.
Austin: Okay I’ll read that as soon as I can Are there any other questions?
Me: No, that’s it. Thanks! I really appreciate the help.
Austin: No problem Have a good day and God bless
Me: You too! Blessed Be!
Agent [John] has left the chat.
The chat session has ended.
Remember, Jesus and I love you! (I couldn’t resist.)
As soon as Austin gets back to me, I’ll post another section to part 3. Part 3, section B will be about the Muslim practice of footwashing, which is somewhat different from the Christian practice.