Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 7: Dancing on Kristallnacht

Dancing is used all over the world to induce pleasure.  Pleasure for the spectators and pleasure for the dancers.  Dance is a social act but also a religious act.  Dance in a religious context is often employed to induce ecstasy.  The physical exertion releases pleasure chemicals in the brain which often makes the dancer feel jubilant and closer to Divinity. To heighten these feelings and to stimulate the brain to release even more pleasure chemicals, some groups, like the Fakirs, add an element of pain to the dance ritual.  Most famous and most often portrayed in popular culture is the fire walk or dance.  However, equally employed is glass walking and dancing.  Glass walking and dancing is moving out of the realm of exotic religious practices and side shows to find its way to Fetish events and even main stream belly dancing shows.



Glass is a unique medium to use in ritual dance because it encompasses all of the elements:  sand to make it with, fire to transform it, air to give it shape, and water to cool it.  The website “Life Events”  makes all kinds of health claims about glass walking/dancing and about napping on a bed of glass (which I imagine would be similar to sleeping on a bed of nails).  According the the website’s author, walking on glass acts as reflexology and improves your internal health (I would surmise that walking on anything bumpy would have the same effect).  The glass from wine bottles is what is recommended for the healing bed.
The juice of grapes are like tears form Earth….Preparing the Bottles: 40 to 50 wine (or champagne) bottles should be soaked in water to remove any paper labels. Use fairly large bottles so that the pieces are not so breakable once they are in small pieces. Heat the bottles in an oven (at 400 degrees) for 15 to 20 minutes. Place them in a canvas sack and use a hammer (iron skillet) to break them into small pieces. Wear gloves and eye protection. Remove the bottle necks.
Making and Using the Bed: Use a wood frame or place the glass on a tarp with an old blanket to give a little cushion. Spread the glass to about a 8 cm (3 inch) depth. Use a folded hand towel for a pillow and a sheet for a bed cover. Use a separate towel to brush off glass that sticks to the skin. Be careful not to step on the splinters that appear at the edge of the glass.
We ask our spiritual teacher(s) to bless the glass, use a smudge stick and recite healing mantras to energize it before first use.”
The author suggests this chant as an appropriate healing mantra or opening blessing: “I have a key.  I may do anything I want.  My body is elastic and flexible. I give all of my pain, illness and discomfort to the glass.”

Martina, who graciously shared her story in a previous post, uses glass dancing in Wiccan purification rituals.

“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.

Blessed Be Thy Feet, Supplement B: Pedicure for the Sole

Our dead cells not only contain the physical memories of the time they were a part of our bodies via the DNA of which they are made, but they also contain a psychic memory.  Both positive and negative emotions, memories, and energy are stored in dead cells, particularly dead skin and nail cells.  The dead skin on the soles of our feet probably store the most psychic build up.  To combat this, treat your feet to a magical pedicure.  If possible, do this with a partner so that you can fully relax (and then return the favor).  However, this is also a good solitary ritual.
Set up a relaxing ritual space in an area where you will be able to soak your feet.  Call in your deities and elementals as you would for any other ritual.  Breathe deeply, and at each step of the ritual make sure to think about your intent.
If you do not already have pedicure items, visit your local pharmacy or dollar store.  Ritual tools, in this case pedicure items, should not be expensive.   If your budget is super limited, only get nail clippers, a nail file, and clear fingernail polish.  If you have a little bit more money, invest in a foot file, pumice stone, or a Pediegg.
Step 1–Removing negativity
Start by clipping your toe nails.  As you clip, say one thing for each nail that you are letting go of.  After you’re done, collect the pairings and save them to bury after the ritual.  There are many traditions about what to do with nail pairings, but giving them back to the Earth keeps them out of the wrong hands and is easy.  Plus, the earth is a good neutralizing element for the negativity you are removing from your life.  Then file your toe nails.  As you do this, focus on how you can file away any rough edges in yourself that may be getting snagged on the fabric of your life.  Finally, take your Pediegg (or you can use your nail file in a pinch), and file away the dead skin on your soles in counterclockwise circles.  In most traditions, widdershins or counterclockwise is the direction for banishing.  Think about removing all the negativity that your feet may have accumulated as the dead cells are filed away.  If you wish, you can chant. 
Step 2–Healing
In a large basin or other foot soaking vessel, prepare a foot soak.  The easiest foot soak is warm water with Epsom salts.  However, any salt will do.  Don’t spend money on this step.  Just use what you have in your kitchen.  Salt and mint is a good revitalizing foot soak.  Salt and rosemary or tea tree oil is an excellent anti fungal soak.  Salt and oatmeal is good for soothing itchy skin.   Be creative and experiment. Don’t be afraid to use aromatherapy.  As you soak your feet, meditate on healing any ailments you are experiencing physically as well as emotionally/spiritually.  Envision the warmth from the soak moving up your body to heal and strengthen you.  Finish this step by rubbing lotion on your feet.  Any lotion that you want to use will work (if you don’t have lotion, you can use cooking oil, butter, or Crisco).  Rub the lotion on the top and bottom of your feet in a clockwise or deosil motion since you are attracting healing into your life.
Step 3–Attracting Magic
Now comes the fun part.  Using color magic, choose the color of nail polish that will help you attract the good things you want/need in your life.  If you need money, choose green.  If you are a student, choose yellow.  If you are not really into nail polish or you can only afford to buy one shade, go with clear.  Just like a white candle or a quartz crystal, clear nail polish can be used to represent any color.  As you paint each toe, envision yourself walking towards what you want to attract to your life.  If you are looking for money, see yourself walking into work and later walking into a bank to deposit the money.  
To end the ritual, give thanks to your Deities and close up your circle.  Once your nails dry, don’t forget to bury your nail pairings.

Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section B–2: My Ironic Flight

If you have not read “Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section B” please do so now:
http://barbedpentacle.blogspot.com/2012/01/blessed-be-thy-feet-part-3-section-b.html

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 `Alaykumor “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.

Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 6: Martina’s Story


    “Some of the trails are rugged and rocky, and I am probably saddled with a backpack full of bottled water, lunch items, and maybe campfire wood.  I am usually tethered to one of the horses with a hemp rope around my waist, so it’s necessary to keep pace with the horses.”
      For Martina, this is just another adventure in the woods with her Mistress.  Martina is a Nature Pagan, submissive, and full time barefooter.  ”It can become quite an ordeal to endure for several hours on the trails.  But it’s another way we use and experience nature and natural things in our activities.”
      Martina goes barefoot full time, in all terrain and weather.  ”I go barefoot….about everywhere really.  It keeps me grounded and allows me to draw energy from the earth.  It also makes me feel more at one with nature.”
     ”I always watch out for snakes when hiking…, but not so much in Fall and Winter because they stay sheltered in cold weather.”  Despite snakes in the forest, walking barefoot is relatively safe.  ”It is more of a problem in poor or underdeveloped countries where sanitation is a problem and cities are dirty.  Like streets that have both people and livestock using them, along with garbage and trash.  They can be quite filthy.”
    Going barefoot full time is a relatively recent development in Martina’s life.  Like most children, she was barefoot a majority of the time, but she didn’t “shuck the shoes” completely until recently when she moved away from home.  She found herself wearing them less and less until she wasn’t wearing them at all.  As a final act of her commitment to being barefoot, she turned her shoes over to her Mistress, who is Wiccan.
    “It is something I want[ed] to do, and something that Mistress says is right for me.  That is why she asked for my shoes…as a way to encourage me to be true to my commitment.  And it is something that she finds erotic in a way that relates to how we first met and connected.”
      Martina and her Mistress like to incorporate nature into a lot of their activities.  This includes outdoor ritual glass dancing, which will be covered in “Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 7″.




Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 5: Salvation for Your Sole– Ceromancy, Falaqa, and Bastinado

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:
1bas·ti·na·do

a blow with a stick or cudgel; a beating especially with a stick; a punishment consisting of beating the soles of the feet with a stick; stick, cudgel
According to the entry, the word is Spanish, but originally from Latin, and it was first used in 1572.  I suspect, however, that the date may not be entirely correct.  The custom of punishing the soles of a person’s feet has been around far longer than that, especially in the Middle East.  If bastinado was not in Spain before the Moorish Invasion, it definitely was after 711 AD.  The practice is also know as falanga and falaqa (the Persian word for it).  Falaqa refers to the board, which looks like an English foot stock, that is often used to immobilize a person’s feet for whipping.

 Bastinado is a delicate subject, not only because it’s administered on a part of the body that is both tough and delicate at the same time, but because most instances of bastinado aren’t for “love and pleasure”.  It often falls into the dark side of the light and dark dichotomy.  Historically and in modern times, it was used in religious schools as punishment, by the military as an interrogation and torture method, by governments as a sentence, and in seraglios as a way to keep order. 
Bahá’u'lláh of the Baha’i’ faith under went Falaqa in Iran.
Political dissidents and religious minorities are often the ones to suffer bastinado.  The insidious thing about bastinado is that it’s a lot like being beaten by a phone book: it can inflict ungodly pain and physical damage but it doesn’t usually leave marks.  People tend to fold quicker under bastinado than they do with other types of torture.
So, if there is so much pain and horrid misery associated with bastinado, why am I covering it?  For one thing, a reader requested that I cover it.  I try to be a pleaser, when I can.  For another thing, it’s a perfectly valid thing to discuss within the context of this blog.  Lots and lots of people have a bastinado fetish: giving, receiving, and watching.  More than you might think.  Type anything in this blog into You Tube and your mouth will drop and your eyes will bulge.  
It has been awhile since I’ve been around any bastinado, and even then, it wasn’t something I was around very much.  In doing research for this blog, I came across a series of videos by Barefootcecilia on Youtube, which gave me a lot of ideas.  However, just now when I went to link her channel to this blog, I received: “This account has been terminated due to repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines and/or claims of copyright infringement.”  Sorry, darling.  Guess you were just too hot for You Tube (and she was hot!)


 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! 






Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 4: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem!

For many of us, going barefoot during childhood was a way of life, especially during the summer.  Our mothers would admonish us to put on shoes and we’d laugh.  Eventually, though, we grew up and donned the footwear that best suited our needs.  Tight shoes for formal occasions, rubber shoes for gym, and flip flops for the summer.  Some people, however, have reverted back to their childhood ways and go barefoot everywhere.  These people, commonly known as barefooters or in some Pagan circles as Earthwalkers, go barefoot a majority of the time: summer, winter, city streets, stores, restaurants, etc.   Some of you may laugh, some of you may roll your eyes, but the Barefoot community is growing, not just for humans but for horses as well (I kid you not!).



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.”

So where does that leave Pagans in the barefoot movement?  Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure.  From my brief survey of folks from several different paths in different parts of the United States, there doesn’t seem to be a large Pagan presence in the Barefooter movement.  In the Southwest, people don’t go barefoot much because of scorpions, snakes, and nasty sticker plants.  In the Midwest, it’s usually too cold.  In Hawaii, nobody would respond to my emails.  What I have found, though, is that a lot of Pagans will take their shoes off in circle, so that they “can feel the Earth energy and connect” or something like that.  I’ve also had several Pagans tell me that they’ve noticed that people will go skyclad in circle but still wear shoes.  That’s a little like wearing utilitarian socks during sex: visually unappealing and just wrong.  If you’d like to get started going barefoot slowly, see Christopher Penczak’s book The Inner Temple of Witchcraft for a nice Earthwalking meditation.


Blessed Be Thy Feet, Supplement A: My sole is bound to you

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!

Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section B: Wash My Tired Feet!

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. 

“For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:222) is the verse from the Quran that is commonly used to support wudu.  There are many rules surrounding what kind of water can be used for ablutions, but the most important rule is that the water must be clean and pure.  The more natural the source the better.  While performing wudu, the participant should not only think about how the water is getting them literally clean but also on how the water is symbolically cleansing them as well.  It sounds like sympathetic magic at its best.  
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
Wikipedia has a lot of what I assume is good information on wudu, but I called the Islamic Center of Charlotte to double check some facts.  Instead of answering my questions via the phone, the gentleman that I spoke with invited me to Friday prayers where I’ll be able to participate in wudu with the ladies.  When I get that all arranged, I’ll post a supplemental section detailing my experiences.

Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section A: Wash my tired feet!

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:

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,/Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them./When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”“ 
[The image of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears and drying them with her hair has always fascinated me and has become my ideal act of submission.] 
I forget exactly how the minister linked this act to marriage, since I’m sure she was progressive enough that the vows didn’t say “obey”.  However, there are a multitude of ways that this tableau can be worked into a handfasting, initiation, or as a visible sign of submission to your deities via a statue or someone who is aspecting.

There is another passage in the New Testament that deals with foot washing.  
 1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
   Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1-17)

These verses are the basis for many Christian denominations to practice footwashing from time to time as a special service.  Some these denominations are Pentecostals, Mormon, Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians.  Many of these churches incorporate the practice into their Maundy Thursday service, when the Last Supper is traditionally celebrated.  This custom could easily be incorporated into Pagan ritual.  It would be an excellent way for the balance of power to be re-calibrated in a group that has undergone some strife.  It could also be used to show gratitude or solidarity.
The Pope washing the feet of his cardinals
To find out more about what the Mormon church calls “The Ordinance of Footwashing”, I set out to interview some Mormons.  The Mormons have gone high tech since the last time I dealt with them.  They now have Mormon Chat, which is good because the quality of their call center personnel has gone down dramatically.  The woman I spoke to barely spoke English and sounded like a recent convert.
Here is the chat that I had with “Austin” (I assume he’s Elder Austin):



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?
A missionary will be with you shortly.
Agent [Austin] is ready to assist you.
Agent [John] has joined the chat.
Austin: How can we help you?
Austin: :)
Me: I am doing a comparative study on the practice of foot washing, and I have some questions.
Austin: okay
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.