Damn it, Lupercus, I’m knotjokin!

CAESAR

Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.
The first time that I encountered the festival of Lupercalia, and the ritual races and fertility beatings that accompanied them, was in 10th grade English class.  Since I was already exploring a different path to sexual bliss than most of my classmates, I was really intrigued by the opening scenes of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  If you’re not familiar with the holiday of Lupercalia, you’re really missing out.  It’s our favorite holiday here at The Barbed Pentacle!  In honor of that, Dr. David Hillman–of past Barbed Pentacle appearances and the author of The Chemical Muse and Original Sin–has written a guest post explaining the holiday (just in case you were ignorant!).

The Lupercalia: Rome’s BDSM Holiday

by Dr. David Hillman http://roninpub.com/orisin.html

It’s February again….Release the naked guys with their whips!  And good luck ladies; if you are fortunate this year, a crazed group of muscle-bound, oiled, pagan teenage boys will catch you in the streets and stripe your bleeding back with strips of leather while you clutch your bare breasts and scream in painful ecstasy.  Congratulations, you are now no longer just girls, wives and mothers; your titillation, screaming and wounds make you  the purified devotees of nymph-chasing Pan, and Lupa, the great Roman She-Wolf.
And don’t worry, the randy youths will be accompanied–as they always are–by the leading holy men of the city; priests of Faunus, artists and statesmen, with their rugged George Clooneyesque good looks…guys the likes of Mark Antony himself; a little sanctified eye-candy for everyone involved.

And yes, the Lupercalia was indeed one of Rome’s oldest and most distinguished high holidays.  It was a time of sexual fervor, when nubile young men cavorted at a public banquet, worked themselves into a drunken mania, and then shed themselves of their clothing, oiled each other up, and ran around the streets of Rome in a mob, chasing ladies while wielding nothing more than whips and hard-ons.
And what was the purpose?   Enlightenment!  Yes, that’s right.  The purpose was cosmic enlightenment…an understanding of the musical harmony of Nature.  The screaming girls formed the chorus of existence, and the pain was a religious tool used to acquire wisdom.  After all, as the Orphics taught, Pan was a primal manifestation of Apollo, the sun-god who brings light into the world–of course he also brought his youthful good looks and divine rock-star talent along with his wisdom.  Yep, you got it; the take home message was that pain-induced sexual ecstasy brings self-knowledge.  I knew you’d get it.
Oh….and I’m not making up the screaming part; the vocalization of orgasmic ecstasy, like the shout of a warrior about to give his life in battle, or the cries of a woman giving birth, were considered to be forms of worship in antiquity.  So getting a woman to bare her skin and shout while you whip her is…well…sort of a sacred act.
Obviously, the Roman Lupercalia mystifies modern classical scholars, who are happy to “live” in a monotheistic universe; we proud academics neither understand the purpose nor the spirit of these festivities.  Modern educators will tell you in a puzzled manner that they really don’t know the ins and outs of the Lupercalia.  Of course, their ignorance is part Christian prudery and part comedic irony–for the god worshiped at the Lupercalia, Pan, was called Inuus by the Romans.  And what’s so ironic about that?  “Inuus” in Latin means “the penetrator,” something the Christian world would rather forget–unless you happen to be a Catholic priest in the rectory with a nervous young boy, who according to long-established Church tradition, requires a form of sodomy-induced “sexual cleansing” to save his soul–a practice that esteemed early church fathers like Cyril, the archbishop of Jerusalem, instituted in order to purge the world of festivals like the Lupercalia.  Wow, that is ironic!  (FYI, Cyril preferred his pre-pubertal boys to be dressed up like girls when they were escorted to see him.)
Try not to make sense of why the Christians banned the celebration of the Lupercalia…just roll with the historic moral irony.  What’s really the point? The god pair Pan/Apollo were protectors of pre-pubertal kids, and the purification ceremonies performed in the Lupercalia were celebrations that preserved the ancient world’s focus on child safety by means of natural, adult sexual enlightenment; so the early Christians ended up prohibiting a festival meant to protect innocent children, while simultaneously adopting the ritual rape of young boys by their own priests.  Don’t read it again, you read that right.
And yes, it kind of makes twisted ironic sense that a Pope who sheltered so many pedophiles would pick this week–the week of the Lupercalia–to shed his own holy garments.
For any decent Lupercalia celebration, you need a good scourge.  While traditionally the scourge would have been made from a bloody goat skin, modern celebrants can be much more hygienic and order a toy from Knotjokin Rope Floggers.
How long have you been making rope floggers and other toys?  How long have you been in business?
I made my first Rope Mace Flogger in the summer of 2009 and gave it to a friend who pimped it out at the parties she hosted, leading to a bit of a local craze.
Soon after that, I was asked to vend at an APEX (Arizona Power Exchange) event which was quite a success, as their events usually are.
Don’t let any “professional” appearance fool you. I am still transforming from hobbyist to small business and have only been selling online for a few months. Though I’ve made a handful of online sales, “business” is slow, and my pricing doesn’t leave much room for profit (especially considering labor) just occasional gas money, or a nicer meal than I had planned.
Hardly a business, but I welcome change.
What gave you the idea for making toys out of rope?
I didn’t set out to make floggers (emphasizing plural), honestly.
I learned the monkey fist knot as a challenge to myself; the flogger part was almost an accident. Being generous and single on purpose, I gave it to a friend versus letting it collect dust. The other flogger styles were and still are my way of not being a one trick pony. Honestly, I loathe making Boney 9 Tails and Meat Grinders, but it’s not about me.  It’s about the consumer. Ask Joe Dirt.
What kind of rope do you use for the toys?  How long does it take you to make the toys?
Though I prefer natural fibers for rope bondage, for toys, I only use synthetic rope –for too many reasons to list, including the fact that a 5 ounce bird cannot carry a coconut no matter how it grips it.
It takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2+ hours to make a flogger depending on the style. Happy Pants Floggers are quick but rough on my hands. Meat Grinders and Boney 9 Tails take forever and are even rougher on my hands.
You make more than just floggers.  Where do you draw your inspiration for creating the other toys?
I wasn’t sure how to answer this at first. To me, everything is a flogger…even one of my straight laced size 11 Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars will do in a pinch. Then I remembered all the people who hold my toys and say “what’s this for?”
A piece of rope can be a flogger, but it could fray if you didn’t knot it. Adding knots to high quality rope and finishing it the way I do just makes for a more attractive, reliable, reusable, sanitary, durable, fun toy than a knotted piece of rope or a dog toy.
What I’m doing may be a little different, but it’s not necessarily new per se. Pardon my French.
How many different types of toys do you make?
I lost count, honestly. I experiment often, and there are quite a few “one of a kind” pieces floating around out there.
Currently, I sell:
Rope Mace Floggers
Happy Pants Floggers
Boney 9 Tails Floggers (named for the human skeleton I tie into the design, not the number of falls)
and several other multi-fall floggers including my newest creations:
Meat Grinder Floggers ~multi-fall floggers with metal beads on the ends of the falls. My most recent Meat Grinders have 9 beads on 10 falls, plus some extras on the “hands” of the Boney 9 Tails “body”, making for 96 metal bits of pleasing punishment on a 2 way flogger.
(As with all of my floggers, the handle is also an implement and will fit inside a condom.)
I also have a small line of Glow-In-The-Dark toys including Happy Pants, Maces, and Multi-Mace pieces. They’ve been quite a hit since I introduced them a few months ago. That’s right; I said hit.
What tips do you have for people who are interested in selecting one of your toys for purchase?
My toys provide a plethora of sensations, but I do not have your superior intellect and education.
(See: Three Amigos. Really, see it. It’s a funny movie! *The fact that I just dated myself does not make this masturbation.* (Wait, yes it does. You like that?)
To answer your question by Knotjokin; I mean not joking, it really depends on the sensation you prefer. If you like: *THUD* -
There is no better toy than a Rope Mace Flogger. Nope. None.
If you like: *THUD+STING* -
Happy Pants Floggers are the way to go. The thinner/the stingy-er, er. A heavy hitting sadistic friend calls the thinner Happy Pants Floggers “little bastards” for their pain inflicting potential.
If you like: *STING* -
Boney 9 Tails and Meat Grinders are where it’s at. Ouch. Man, oh man; ouch.
Maces and Happy Pants will leave bruises if used heavily.
Both Boney 9 Tails and Meat Grinders will leave welts and even draw blood (especially Meat Grinders) if used heavily.
Finally:
*THERAPY*-
Rope Mace Floggers are surprisingly therapeutic on tight or sore muscles when used lightly. You don’t have to use the handle; you can choke up on them and use short, slow swings. I love the “ahh” look people make when they feel them like that…especially on their backs. I do it with almost every piece I finish, to be completely honest. Ahhh!
Really.
I also love hearing my name screamed from a sub in another room at a party ~after being struck by a sadist holding a Rope Mace Flogger…preceded by “fuckin”, of course.
(True story, sorta. I was outside and didn’t actually hear it, but I sure heard about it later!)
Do you take custom orders?  And if so, how do people/groups go about placing a custom order?
I welcome custom orders and have made a few recently, including a pink Meat Grinder purchased by a female dominant as a gift to her submissive husband for Valentine’s Day. I’m still flattered and proud to be a part of their celebration of love. Pretty cool.
You can hardly throw a rock without hitting a site where I can be contacted nowadays. Aside from www.knotjokin.com and my store www.knotjokin.etsy.com, I’m on Facebook, Fetlife, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Copious, etc…
Though my ETSY store is the best way to contact me, all of the above will work.
What is your favorite toy to use that you make?  And do you use it as a dom, sub, or switch?
It would take an incredible woman to make me consider any role other than dominant, with sadistic tendencies. Absolutely incredible.
With that said; I prefer Rope Mace Floggers. They’re just fun to wield, ya know?
ETSY
Facebook “like/share”
Facebook friend (I’ll accept any legitimate friend requests)
Fetlife

Hiss! Happy Imbolc!

Imbolc is upon us, and for many people, this is the time when they honor the goddess Brigid, who is a harbinger of spring.  Like most deities there are several different animals associated with her.  Cows, sheep, pigs, and roosters are often connected to her in myths.

A different kind of kine.

Snakes are also often associated with her.

It’s thought that the original “groundhog” was definitely not a groundhog at all because they don’t live in Europe, but that the animal eagerly anticipated every year was probably a snake.  Some of you at this point may be thinking, “Snakes and Ireland don’t mix.  That’s an oxymoron.”  Don’t think too hard about it or you’ll miss the point.  The point is that snakes, a symbol of fertility and sexuality, start emerging shortly after Imbolc in some places and represented the promise of the season.

And the snakes Patrick drove out of Ireland?  Those were Pagans, not reptiles.

Last Imbolc, I suggested tons of interesting ways to celebrate.  http://barbedpentacle.com/2012/01/candlemas-light-my-ass-up-baby-and-eat-whipped-cream-from-my-pussy/

This is still my favorite option from last year.

This year for Imbolc I’m going to be making a rubber snake scourge.  If you want to incorporate live snakes into your ritual, that’s cool, but rubber snakes from the dollar store are all you’re going to need for this project.

From other posts, you may remember something called “swish factor,” which is the difference between swish and sting or thud in a S&M toy.  If you want to make an implement that has a lot of swish and sting (a 10), then purchase very rubbery and slinky snakes.  If you like more of a thud, buy snakes that have more plastic in them and that are slightly more rigid.  Likewise, if you want more sting, have the snakes’ tails be at the end of the scourge falls and bind up the snake heads for a handle.  If you want more of a thud, then the snake heads will be making contact with flesh.  My snake scourge is going to be low tech and cheap; so for my handle, I am going to wrap a number of rubber bands around the rubber snakes just below the head (because I’m in the mood for some swish).  If you want, you can also use duct tape for the handle.  It’s slightly textured and comes in lots of funky colors now.  Of course, if you want to be fancy and make something like a cord-wrapped handle, go for it.  When choosing your snakes, also keep in mind length.  If you’re going to be working in a tight space, buy shorter snakes.  If you have plenty of room, buy longer ones.  If you’re looking to color coordinate, Brigid’s colors are typically white, red, and black, but other colors for other magics can be incorporated.  Scourges are usually used for fertility blessings or cleansings, so keep that in mind when selecting colors.

Make sure to charge these up in a sunny window prior to ritual.

A twist on the traditional candle crown.

Now it’s time to get creative and figure out how you want to integrate your scourge into your Imbolc observances.  Brigid is the goddess of inspiration, so listen for ideas while you drink some milk and eat whipped cream.  Your scourge can also be reused for Lupercalia on Feb. 15.

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 for heaven’s sake, avoid the spine and kidney area!

These folks like a snake in the pants:

Mystic Artisans: https://www.facebook.com/mysticartisans

Passion And Soul: http://passionandsoul.com/

Knotjokin Rope Floggers: http://www.knotjokin.etsy.com

Tonia Brown www.thebackseatwriter.com

Check this out!!! http://store.paganmusic.co.uk/track/Brighid

 

 

My Blogoversary Party Post: Sexy, Dark, and Bloody–Of Wiccan Bondage

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Of Wiccan Bondage
Photo by Nobuyoshi Araki
Ever since I’ve found this photo, I’ve been fascinated by it.  I like pretty Asian women, and I like them even better in shibari or other bondage.  I had thought originally that I might write a bit of fiction using this photo as inspiration (because believe it or not I can write some very strokable prose), but my muse has led me in a different direction.

I think all religion is bondage.  If you’re a good and proper adherent to your religion’s beliefs, then you’re a slave. Even with “free will” and “free choice”, if you’re a really ardent believer then you’re a slave to the Divine force that you follow.  Just as the Nazi’s had “Work brings freedom” over the gates of Auschwitz, I’ve had riggers whisper, “Bondage brings freedom” before they put the finishing touches on me. They were right.

People who are not into bondage, or any sort of dominant/submissive acts, may not understand what the bondage riggers meant. In voluntary physical bondage, you have willingly given up all control. You can struggle, but there’s no reason to because you can’t get away. You can scream, but there’s no reason to because your words aren’t going to change the plan that your Dom(me) has decided upon. There’s no reason to do anything but trust and go with the flow, and in that forced helpless state, your mind is set free to discover things about yourself you’re normally too busy to notice. Things are quiet enough, finally, for your mind to be free to roam within the depths of itself.

Spiritual bondage works the same way. Once you have given your will over to your Deity, and you fully trust your divinely provided intuition, you’re free from worry, free from guilt, free from distrusting the way things work, free to embrace happiness. This freedom opens up other freedoms that often merge with the same freedom that physical bondage brings. I know all of this sounds a little like butterflies and ladybugs, but just like everything, there’s a spider and scorpion side too.

Wiccans who embrace all aspects of their faith fully are bound by some fairly stout ropes, that if broken by free will, can bring about some pretty powerful strokes from the Cosmic scourge. The main belief that Wiccans (myself included) are bound by is the Wiccan Rede, “‘An it harm none, do what thou will.” You can ask five people, and each person will give you a different interpretation of it. This is where the freedom of being guided by Divinity comes into play. I believe that the Rede should be interpreted differently by each person because each person engages life differently. However, despite this belief, if I go against what my God and Goddess are leading me to do, if I break my bond not to harm, then there are consequences–just as there are in the play room when you choose not to stay put.

Most Wiccans also follow the Threefold Rule (or Law): What you do, say, and spell, will come back to you threefold. This is where the Cosmic scourge comes into play. Since you have willingly decided to be spiritually bound by Divinity, you have to trust that if you’ve been “good” that the lash will be soft and playful (and maybe lined with fur!), but feel certain that if you’ve broken your bonds, the lash will be harsh and bloody. The same is true of being in bondage to Divinity as was true in the Old Testament of being bonded to Rehoboam, “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” I believe that because most Wiccans have sought out this spiritual bondage and were not forced into it, that the Universe holds us to a higher standard of behavior. Like any good submissive, we need to push ourselves to meet that challenge all the while realizing that we’ll never reach perfection.

Just as all Wiccans have been given different interpretations of the Rede, Wiccans also engage their Deities in a myriad of different ways. While a lot of Wiccans like to chase the fluffy bunny aspects of Divinity down the endless rabbit hole, I tend to like to linger in the shadows for a quickie against the wall with my God and Goddess. Sometimes they don’t even take my panties off; they just pull them aside. Then we rip the fluffy bunny apart barehanded and enjoy it raw.

My bondage is sexy, dark, and bloody. My bondage has been sealed with sex and blood, just like an “Old Time” Gardnerian handfasting. And that’s as it should be. The only key that will unlock my shackles is my trust in my Deities, since my bondage and servitude to them has set me free.
Check out these Sexy, Dark, and Bloody folks:
Erotic Sensations eroticsensations.us
Tonia Brown www.thebackseatwriter.com

The Scourge: Part 4–How does it strike modern groups?

 

The scourge of a British Traditional Wicca coven in Georgia, made by Black Wing Arts.
The Lupercalia Tradition: a Strega vignette
     The fire flickers off of the participants’ faces as they wait in a silent line.  One by one they step up, most in a light trance from the setting and the previous events in the ritual.  The silence and wait add to the anticipation of the ritual’s end:  the scourging.  The female participants are anointed and scourged by a priest in the aspect of Lupercus and the males by a priestess in the aspect of Juno.
     The participants contemplate the things they want to purge from their lives, the things they regret from the previous year from which they want purification.  Earlier, the high priestess extolled the participants to be mindful that even loving deities punish their children when they step out of bounds.
     The scourge itself looks like many other scourges, made of suede with a stiff handle and flat falls.  A chain mail scourge that was made visible earlier in the ritual added a bit of unease to the proceedings and heightened everyone’s awareness.  The next participant removes her coat to receive the lash.  She takes a deep breath of acceptance in the chill night air.  She stands facing the priest with her arms outstretched, welcoming the lash.  He swings and brings the scourge lightly across her breast to purify her soul and heart.  He brings it down again gently across her lower stomach to impart fertility.  The priest places the third and final stroke across her back as a proxy punishment for perceived misdeeds known only to her and her gods.  The stronger stroke makes her gasp softly.  She bows slightly to Lupercus and Juno and moves out of the circle.  The ritual ends as the priest and priestess scourge each other and the participants howl at the moon with lupine enthusiasm.
The participants of the above ritual that I spoke to said that they enjoy this level of scourging.  It’s an annual event and is the only time that all the participants (who choose so) are scourged. [A representative of the Goddess is symbolically scourged during "The Descent" at Shadowfest.]  The participants said that this level of scourging is a level that is more comfortable than what some groups practice.  One participant said that the Lupercalia scourging seems sweet compared to the random punitive scourgings that a previous high priestess of his would dole out.
For this section I emailed 25 groups of all manner of traditions, paths, and nature religions in North Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey.  Many groups did not respond. (Perhaps they don’t scourge or perhaps my email disgusted them.)  However, 13 groups responded, enough to get a snap shot of what’s currently being practiced with the scourge.  Five groups responded that they do not use the scourge in ritual.  Out of these five, one was a Heathen/Asatru group, one was a Reclaiming group, and the other three were Wiccan groups of various traditions.  One Wiccan group, who says that they practice Congregational Wicca, said that they use the scourge in initiation, but that they don’t strike folks.  Instead, they swish it around in the dark for sound effect and to set a tone of dread before the initiates set out for their rebirth.
Seven groups responded that they do indeed use the scourge in their rituals.  The Strega group above and another group that describes themselves as Scoriada (another Italian Witchcraft tradition) only use the scourge for purification rites.  One Wiccan coven, that describes themselves as “closed,” confirmed that they scourge, but declined to say for what reasons because of their vows of secrecy (I guess it’s like spies and the Mafia!)  The Alexandrian group that responded said that they mainly scourge in ritual to raise energy.  However, they added, “The scourge is meant as a tool of purification, but most people see purification as a sort of cleansing and that’s not how we use it. In ceremony where we’d want to purify or “scourge” something, meaning cleanse it, my clan most often uses an alternate purification substance, salt, instead. In fact our actual ritual scourge is rarely even present on the altar because of that fact.”  It’s interesting to note how similar the word “scour”, what one would do with salt, is to “scourge”.
     Their priestess continued,”In the ceremonies where our actual scourge is used, it is used basically to “excite” the energy of the physical body, snap the person firmly into the physical by awakening their physical energy. This is its capacity as the magical tool of the sephiroth Geburah on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. So basically its a tool which purifies the body of its sluggishness, not something we use to “punish” or “cleanse” incorrect ways or thoughts.”
 The British Traditional Witch Coven that said they follow the New Forest tradition, said that they scourge during initiations and for purification and to raise energy. “There is a good portion of the Mysteries we interact with and experience whose symbolism finds a strong home in the scourge – in my opinion, those who practice the Craft as derived from the New Forest Wicca could never eliminate it and still be practicing that same Craft.”

The Golden Dawn group said that they scourge for the same reasons, but that they also scourge to help with “Godform assumption.”  They use what would be considered a flail instead of a scourge.  There are many pictures of these in the BDSM Rituals section.

The Gardnerian coven that responded to my email offered a wealth of anecdotal evidence for my study.  They use the scourge to:
  • “To purify ritual participants prior to ritual
  • To raise physical energy, and
  • To administer discipline if a student or Initiate makes a magical mistake *during* circle”

The priestess clarified, “Beyond raising “physical” energy prior to rites, it can and typically *does* induce trance helpful during immanent rites.  The scourge equates with “severity” as manifested in the athame’ — one of each side of the double-sided blade connoting “mercy”, the other, “severity”, which represents the fact that Witches don’t *start* trouble, but if met with it, WILL finish it. ;-)

Yes, I know the concept of using the scourge to discipline students is “controversial”, but it need not be, as it’s akin to “beating the bounds” of one’s property to ward off negativity, or doing other things to impress an idea or point on someone.
Using the scourge in this way is specifically allowed in The Ardanes. I’d rather impress someone so they don’t forget and repeat magical mistakes, than risk Initiates becoming “slack”" about sacred matters ;-) Mostly the discipline is good-natured, even funny — but my Initiates know that I can and will wield the scourge in this way if I choose to.
Scourges are also sometimes used to “whip” dancers during a Cone of Power, so they’ll dance faster and faster. And it may be used during certain bawdy Craft games as well.
Of course, we’re precise about how many strokes everyone gets. We use a Witch’s Ladder to count them so we don’t exceed the traditional limits (40, 80, or 160 tops), and note when 3, 7, 9, 21, and 40 strokes have been meted out.
My Initiates “bow” at each Quarter when calling the Guardians of the Watchtowers, and when we bid them adieu when our ritual is done (i.e., when dismissing the Guardians at circle’s end).”
Thank you to everyone who bravely responded to my emails and questions about scourging.  You helped keep the old ways alive.
Just to recap about scourging:

 

The Scourge Part 3: Gardner and the scourge’s falls

Gerald Gardner

In case you didn’t know, Gerald Gardner created the religion of Wicca based on other world religions, his travels in the East, Victorian ceremonial magic, the scholarship and pseudo-scholarship of others, and the knowledge of English witches.  I’m sorry to burst your bubble if you think Wicca is an unbroken lineage from ancient times until now.
In the Gardnerian tradition, and in many other traditions, the scourge is number 7 in the list of the Eightfold Path that leads one in the ways of worship and magic.  In his books “Witchcraft Today” and “Meaning of Witchcraft”, Gardner mentions using a scourge in ritual, primarily in initiations as an ordeal and for purification and energy raising. In “The Gardnerian Book of Shadows” he discusses scourging a magical partner to bind a spell and using scourging for maintain coven discipline.  He also goes on in great detail about using number magic and scourging as a way of giving an offering to the Goddess.  According to Gardner, “It is not meet to make offerings [scourgings] of less than two score to the Goddess, for here be a mystery.”  3, 2, 5, 7, 9, and 21 are also acceptable numbers and number multiples to use in a scourging ritual.
Since Gardner created Wicca, why would the use of a scourge be included in ritual?  From what we know, Gardner possessed a vast knowledge of myth, so we can assume that he knew about the Greeks and Romans using the scourge in their various rites.  He would have also known about various Hindu sects using scourging and other methods of pain to cause enlightenment from his time in India (the tradition of sky clad and indeed the term itself was something that Gardner borrowed from the Hindus).  Gardner was also a product of his times.  He was most likely influenced by different Victorian flagellant clubs as well as different scourging rituals that occult societies like Crowley’s OTO practiced.  Gardner also borrowed heavily from, and sometimes outright plagiarized, Charles Leland’s books about Strega and Italian witchcraft.  It is also believed that the Traditional British Coven that Gardner studied with used the scourge as a way to maintain discipline and secrecy, although there are some sources that dispute this.  The most compelling reason why Gardner included scourging as a tradition in Wicca is that people went along with his addition of the practice.  If his original coven had balked at the practice, it would have fallen by the wayside, as we’ll see later.

Alex Sanders and scourging during an initiation
                                      As time went on, Gerald Gardner taught others about Wicca and the “secrets” of the faith.  These other folks went on to start their own covens, and in some cases Pagan traditions.  One such person was Alex Sanders, who started Alexandrian Wicca.  Although he eventually broke from Gardner and claimed to come from a family tradition, a good many of his practices mirror Gardnerian Wicca, including the use of the scourge in initiations and other rituals and magic.  Raymond Buckland, another student of Gardner’s, discusses initiatory bondage (another Gardnerian practice), sensory deprivation, and scourging in his “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft.”  Doreen Valiente and Janet and Stewart Farrar all discuss the ritual use of scourging in their writings.  Of course, Valiente had direct dealings with Gardner and the Farrars were students of Alex Sanders.
So when did the scourge fall out of favor?  The easy answer is “when folks started to object”.  More seriously, however, I suspect it started to happen when Wicca came to America.  Americans have always been into eclectic modes of worship, and the practice of Wicca by Americans has been no different.  The further Wicca got away from the strict rules of Gardnerian Wicca and its offshoots, the less you see “unpleasant” things like scourges and secrecy.  If you look at the books published by American authors, most of them don’t mention the use of the scourge, even in initiations.  In fact, in most “beginner” books, you’re lucky if the scourge is even mentioned as a ritual tool.  Gavin and Yvonne Frost, well known for their views on sex magic, don’t even mention the scourge in their writings.
Another reason why scourging is no longer widely practiced in Wicca is Starhawk and the feminist/Dianic Pagan movement.  If you’re advocating for women’s rights and women’s mysteries, chances are you are not going to take the time to reconcile a religious practice that could be perceived by the outside world as physical abuse and patriarchy with your political views.   From the 1970′s onward there is a marked decline in the use and mention of the scourge.  Many groups today either don’t own a scourge, or have one that is only used as a witch prop.
Part 4 will be a survey of current groups and their use of the scourge.

Some points to consider as we travel along this section

This comparative list certainly doesn’t cover everything that it could.  I thought I would include it to spark some thoughts on how scourging in the BDSM tradition can be compatible with scourging in  Pagan and Wiccan traditions and how the traditions can merge to become a new tradition.

Frogs represent fertility in a lot of magic traditions–so does scourging.
Scourging
BDSM
  • You hit, tickle, and use a scourge for sound effects
  • The person being scourged is often bound
  • The act of scourging is used for tactile exploration, pain, sexual stimulation, to alter consciousness, punishment, fear, relaxation, building bonds, transformation, and pushing limits
  • There may be certain rituals proceeding the scourging or it may be spur-of-the-moment
  • Scourging can be dramatic or done in a mundane manner
  • Scourging can be utilized with role playing
  • Scourging may be private or public
Ritual Use
  • You hit, tickle, and use a scourge for sound effects
  • The person being scourged is often bound
  • The act of scourging is used for rhythmic meditation, to alter consciousness, fear, transformation, light pain, initiation, symbolism, and building energy
  • The purpose of scourging is usually not to cause pain–so light to moderate strokes are usually used
  • Scourging occurs in ritual
  • Scourging is almost always done in a dramatic fashion
  • Scourging can be utilized with aspecting
  • Scourging is almost never private

The Scourge–Part 2

     In my last blog about scourging, I discussed the tradition of Lupercalia, where runners flogged women to impart fertility (sort of like a drive-by—but on foot!).  Another Roman tradition related to fertility scourging and purification is the legend of the rape of the Sabine women.
The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna

When Rome was first founded, there were more men than women, as is often the case in new colonies and settlements.  To bring in potential mates, the Romans invited the Sabines to a festival, and then they raped the women and held them hostage.  The Sabine men, of course, took offense, attacked Rome and recaptured their ravished womenfolk.  There was a catch. The women were now infertile.
     The Sabine women appealed to Juno, who told them that if they made love to a sacred billy goat or a ram (we’re not sure because the leaves were rustling) that they would regain their fertility.  They found this remedy unappealing.  An oracle was consulted, and the dilemma was solved.  Instead of sleeping with the goat, they would kill the goat and make a scourge out of it.  By submitting to the goat scourge and by extension Juno, the women were being purified from the scourge of infertility.
Juno
     The whip served a duel purpose here: fertility and purification.  It’s been recently explained to me that in some traditions the handle of the scourge represents the feminine while the falls of the scourge represent the masculine.  Some scholars have linked the story of the Sabine women to Lupercalia, but others dispute that claim. Spring fertility/purification festivals using scourges and scourge-like implements still continue today all over the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and South Korea.  Evidently it’s not just a Roman notion.
     The scourge has also been used in many cultures as a tool for initiation.  Pain can be the ordeal that many folks are looking for when seeking a “real” initiation (ie fraternity paddlings) because it does prove something, if not to the outside world then at least to the initiate.  The rhythm of the blows and the brain chemicals released when the body is in pain can also lead to deep meditative states that are necessary to a good initiation experience.  Many of the Greek mystery cults realized this and utilized the scourge in this way.
This is Nemisis but pretend that it’s Telete
The goddess Telete, Dionysus’ daughter and the goddess in charge of initiations, was often portrayed holding a whip or a scourge.
     The scourge also makes an appearance in the myth of Inanna, in her descent into the Underworld.  This myth is seen by many to represent initiation at its best and is used as the basis for many Wiccan and Pagan initiation rites today.
There are many versions of the Descent myth and they give different reasons for her descent, but in all of them, Inanna must give up seven symbols of power as she proceeds through the seven gates of the underworld.  Eventually she arrives in the underworld naked and seemingly powerless.  In the ancient myths she dies at the hands of her sister Ereskigal and is hung on a hook (sounds a lot like suspension).  In Wiccan interpretations that some suspect to be Gardner’s embroidery on the fabric of older myths, she is scourged by Death as a punishment, perhaps, for refusing his advances.
Death and his scourge

 

The Inanna descent, regardless of which version you go by, represents for many people facing their inner demons and fears–which is one of the aims of initiation.  The myth also symbolizes not only death and rebirth but purification of soul and spirit by being broken down and built back up.  This is another aim of initiation and is a continuing cycle within life.

The Scourge Part 1

“The Goddess’ scourge is light—usually.”

           A scourge by any other name is still a scourge.  A scourge is the name given to what is basically a many-tailed whip used in Wicca.  People in the scene often call it a flogger, or if it has knots, a cat, and to outsiders it’s a whip, but all these boil down to a scourge.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word first appears in its current form in the 13th century and is originally derived from the Latin word corrigia, which means “thong” or “whip”.    It’s a ritual tool that many Wiccans either don’t own, don’t use, don’t understand, or have purely for show.
            Scourges and other whip like implements have been associated with religion forever. 
In Ancient Egypt, Osiris was often depicted with a crook and a flail, symbols of authority but also symbols of agriculture.  These symbols of agriculture could sympathetically translate to virility symbols.  There is more about the flail (which looks an awful lot like a scourge) in the “Ritual” section of this blog.
The Ancient Romans used scourges, whips, and switches sympathetically in their magic and rituals. These implements were seen as being phallic and were used in fertility rites, primarily Lupercalia.  According to a Hellenic expert, while Lupercalia is primarily a Roman festival, it has its origins in Ancient Greece. Originally male adolescents in Arkadia would reenact the feast of Lycaon every year. At the original feast, Lycaon prepared a feast for the Olympian gods that included some human flesh, perhaps from one of Lycaon’s male relatives. This so enraged Zeus, that he struck Lycaon’s house
with a thunderbolt and Lycaon turned into a wolf.
At the Arkadian reenactment, the teenagers would gather on a mountaintop and
partake of a meal of animal entrails. However, among the animal guts was hidden one piece of human intestine. If a participant ate this juicy morsel, he would turn into a wolf and was only able to become human again if he refrained from eating human meat for nine years. Another way that the boys could achieve this lupine transformation was to swim across a special mountain pool. Once again, after nine years, they could regain their human form.  

 

This tradition traveled to Rome via Hermes’ son, Euandros, who exported the cult of Pan Lykaios and the festival of Lykaia to Italy. This festival later became the festival of Lupercalia, which is described in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar.

Once the wolf festival was transported to Rome and became Lupercalia, many
different stories and deities became associated with the celebration.  To honor Pan, two goats and a dog were annually sacrificed. The dog was sacrificed because they were sacred for their ability to protect flocks and because Pan raised hounds.
           Skin from the sacrificed goats was used for the flails that the Lupercalia runners would whip the female spectators with. It was believed that through this aggressive behavior Pan would bless the ladies with fertility. 

 

 

In Julius Caesar, Caesar tells Antony:
Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren, touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.
Act I, Scene 2

Pain, Blood, Drugs, and All Those Fun Things: Taboo or Mystique?

            As discussed in my previous blog, pain and the Sadomasochistic practices that bring it about can fall into many different categories.  Some of these fit categories that most folks are comfortable talking about in public and fit into the “safe” side of Wicca and Paganism, but some of the categories do not.  As was also discussed in a previous blog, while these practices represent the dark side of how things work that doesn’t make them evil.  It makes them real.

Taboo and mystique walk hand in hand.  If something is taboo and forbidden then of course it gets whispered about and a certain mystique starts to grow around it.  The more we are told that we shouldn’t want something then the more we want it.  What is it like to get scourged?  Oh, I shouldn’t want to know because it’s painful.  Pain shouldn’t cause me pleasure.  My patron God shouldn’t make my knees weak and my vagina wet.  What if the thought of your God does make you wet while you’re getting scourged in ritual?  Is that not an act of love and pleasure and therefore the most meaningful kind of worship?
            The “Charge of the Goddess” teaches us not only about acts of love and pleasure, but it also teaches us about inner mysteries.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for within yourself you will never find it outside of yourself.  If the thought of a blood rite doesn’t make you feel swimmy headed and wonderful while you’re planning your handfasting, then it probably won’t when it actually happens. 
Personally, I think some taboo associated with the topics touched upon in this blog may be appropriate.  It certainly does heighten the mystique.  But also some things are not suitable in a family situation.  It just depends on you, your beliefs, your partner(s), and your group(s). 
            However, beware of too much mystique.  If something is built up beyond imagining, then the real thing will never measure up.  How are you going to feel if the pig doesn’t go down easy and you have to shoot your sacrifice three times?  It happens because it’s real.  If you’re easily disappointed when mystiques get shattered, then perhaps some of these taboos should take place in an inner or astral temple.  As anyone who works with these wonderfully imaginative religious places can tell you, the mystique rarely falls short of reality when you commune with the God and Goddess in your head. 
Aren’t you glad it’s the maiden and not the crone?