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Sex and Ritual

from the archives

Those of you who follow my blog and read my books know that I’m fascinated by the
connection between sex and spirituality. I’m not a mystic. I’m a bit of a skeptic these days, but I’d be the first to say that there’s definitely something spiritual, something magical about sex, and not the least of it is the ritual involved.

 

I’ve always loved ritual. I made rituals up when I was a child. Later, I was involved in everything from conservative Christianity to practicing in a Wiccan coven — drawn in by the ritual. I spent three years training to be a spiritual director. I did it for the ritual. Contemplative prayer, meditating upon passages of scripture, the use of movement, dance, chant, are all tools of ritual. During my time spent in the Wiccan coven, the year itself was lived out in ritual — full moon, new moon, the changing of the seasons, the celebration of spring and harvest. During that time my husband and I even underwent the ritual of hand fasting in the stone circle at Avebury.

 

Ritual is a set of actions performed mainly for their symbolic value. But that’s only the beginning. The real power of ritual is that it’s the gateway to something beyond itself, it’s the gateway to a deeper understanding of what it represents.

 

That ritual infuses my erotica is not surprising. Sex is steeped in ritual, and often the rituals we practice before sex are strikingly similar to religious rituals. We often wear special clothing for the occasion, just as priests and acolytes do. We may share a romantic dinner together before hand, with special foods, just as the priest serves the Eucharist. Flowers and gifts may be offered. And all this we do in hopes of experiencing and celebrating le petit mort, the sexual version of death and resurrection.

 

When life was a lot more tenuous than it is now, fucking the world into existence was an act of high magic, sympathetic magic. One hoped that by having sex in a field or a cave or possibly a stone circle, the birds and the bees would see what was happening, and take a hint. Pollination would take place in the plant kingdom, plants would grow. Procreation would take place in the animal kingdom, animals would give birth. There would be food to eat, and the next generation would be guaranteed. Our ancestors got it — that there was something in the act, something in the lust driving the mating rituals of all living creatures that brought about new life. New life was in itself magic.

 

Today sex is more about recreation than procreation. The urgency is no longer there, nor is the belief that our efforts will encourage the cattle in farmer Jones’s field to breed. The urgency may be gone, but the ritual is still there. Strangely and wonderfully, so is the magic, albeit a different kind of magic.

 

 

The beauty of sex as ritual is that we don’t have to be members of a religious group; we don’t have to undergo years of training to practice the rituals of sex. Whether it’s BDSM, kink, vanilla or masturbation, sex contains the built-in default rituals of all humanity, just like it does for our animal cousins. Yes, I get that it’s biology. But when cranes dance and grebes do synchronised swimming and apes groom each other, it certainly seems like more is happening than just the old in and out.

 

Giving and receiving pleasure is the ultimate ritual of human connection, even if it’s
just some much-needed connecting with ourselves. There are as many versions of the ritual as there are people to practice it. No organized religion can offer a ritual that is more personal nor more universally compelling. Perhaps that’s why so much effort  has been made through the centuries to regulate it, to control it, to limit it.

 

Back in the dawn of humanity when sex was both ritual and religion, our ancestors got it right. Though the science wasn’t yet available to back up that intuitive connection, that visceral urgency of fucking the world into existence, even back then, our ancestors already knew that the ultimate ritual, the ultimate magic takes place in the arms another.

 

 

 

 

Lakeland Inspiration and Free Reads

Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland … no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it.

— Alfred Wainwright

 

 

 

I’m just back from a lovely few days in the English Lake District. As always, I had a glorious time and would have loved nothing more than to stay a little longer. Few places inspire me quite like the Lakes. Proof of that is in the fact that all three of my giveaways for the month of July are set in the English Lake district. More about those later.

 

 

I’ve never seen it this hot or this dry in Cumbria. Many of our favourite walks involve being up high enough that there are no trees. While that is not a problem under an overcast sky, with the July sun beating down and not a bit of shade in sight, it can be brutal. As you can see, I was in shorts. I’ve never before walked in shorts on the fells.

 

 

That being the case, we spent some of our walking time down lower on more shaded walks. This is Ashness Bridge, iconic Lakeland, and a part of our walk that involved an ascent up the back side of Walla Crag and then down to walk around Derwent Water.  One of the best parts of that glorious walk was the wild bleaberries. For those of you that don’t know what those are, think mini blueberries that bite back. They’re tiny and sweet and deliciously tart, and I didn’t get any photos because I was too busy stuffing my face. We all had blue fingers and teeth by the time we were at the top of the fell.

 

 

We had a nostalgic walk retracing the steps of the walk that inspired Anderson’s slate quarry shelter in Body Temperature and Rising, the first of the Lakeland Witches novels. In fact the whole walk from Grange, up to High Spy and down Rigghead Quarries figures into the series over and over again. This walk is a part of the Newlands Horseshoe Ridge, which one of my very favourite walks in the Lakes.

 

 

My best British memories come from the Lake District, and it’s the place I write about most often just because I get to be there vicariously when I write, and I get the remember and dwell on all those places I love so much.

 

 

 

Follow these links to FREE READS all set in Lakeland.

 

 

 

 

The Hotter the Better Steamy Romance Giveaway

https://books.bookfunnel.com/thehotterthebetter/7o1156uuyo

 

 

You’ll find my sizzling novella, In Training in this fabulous library of steamy romance. Read blurb and excerpt here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kick-Ass Women of Urban Fantasy

https://books.bookfunnel.com/womenurbanfantasy/r09cfeffoq

 

 

 

 

You’ll find my novel, In The Flesh, here. It’s the first novel of the Medusa’s Consortium series. Read blurb and excerpt here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short but not Sweet

https://books.bookfunnel.com/shortromance/mkz0o5zg9l

 

 

 

 

You’ll find my M/M novella, Landscapes, here. Read blurb and excerpt here

 

 

Demon Dreams

Dreams have been a driving force in story and magic since our ancestors told tales
around the campfire. The connection between what goes on in our dreams and our unconscious is so startling that it’s no wonder mythology and religion are full of stories in which dreams are the way for the divine to speak to mortals. When we dream, it feels like we’ve fallen asleep in one dimension and awakened in another where different rules apply every night – every dream in fact – and where, struggle though we might, we are most definitely not in control.

 

People have always believed that there’s something magical about dreams, that in our sleep, we can see the future, be warned of coming catastrophe, see the face of a lover, even see our own doom. These days there’s not a lot that can’t be explained by science and technology. Magic is the realm of fantasy novels and super heroes, but dreams, well there’s still something almost magical about them. We can tell when someone is dreaming; we understand the physiological process, we can understand in part why we dream certain things. But even knowing what we do about the anatomy of sleep and dreams, a nightmare is still terrifying, a disturbing dream still stays with us for ages after it happens, and a sexy dream, well who doesn’t wish we had a lot more of those?

 

One of my very favorite classes in Uni was a psychology class that involved keeping a dream journal. All we had to do was write down what we’d dreamed every night. I was surprised to find that, in the beginning, I had trouble remembering much more than an image here and there, but then I’d never thought much about my dreams before that class. My teacher suggested I keep a spiral notebook and a pencil on my bedside table and that I set my alarm at two-hour intervals. Each time the alarm went off, I was to jot down just a few key words that would kick-start my memory in the morning, then go back to sleep. At first it was mostly mundane bits and pieces that I remembered, but it didn’t take long until I was remembering multiple dreams and detailed sequences.

 

I was so impressed with the results that I kept a dream journal for a long time after the class came to an end. I only stopped because it was beginning to take more and more time as I remembered more and more details. Later, when I worked with a Jungian analyst for a couple of years, dreams once again took center stage in exploring my inner workings. The thing about dreams is that every image, every action, can either symbolize something that could be important for the dreamer or, as Freud observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

 

Long after I stopped keeping a dream journal, I still wrote down powerful dreams, dreams that disturb me, or dreams that left me feeling like maybe I’d touched something deeper in myself. I recorded them and then I analyzed them and explored what they meant to me, what the Self was trying to communicate. I almost always found my efforts rewarding and enlightening.

 

There are dreams we’d like to linger in a little longer, there are also dreams we can’t wake up from fast enough. In the interviewing of the Guardian, which I am sharing now on my blog, as it unfolds, I am doing a lot of dreaming. In fact, I must approach the Guardian’s prison inside of Susan through a dream, and even from there, I am never sure I am in a nightmare I can’t wake up from or a dream I want to linger in.
While Talia, the succubus who helps me enter that dream state, promises me I’m perfectly safe … well, between a powerful succubus and a demon imprisoned inside a vampire who is herself a Scribe, with a capital S, I’ve seldom felt truly safe since I began the interviews. And no matter the reassurances I get from both succubus and vampire, how can anyone guarantee my safety in the Guardian’s presence.

 

New episode of Interview with a Demon coming up Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

 

At last! The Pole Shoot!

 

This past Saturday, a year and two weeks after I began pole training, the long awaited
photo shoot finally happened. It was nothing like I had planned out in my head. There were a few unexpected turns at the end. On Tuesday before the shoot, I pulled a muscle under my shoulder blade during the pole class warm ups. That meant no going over my moves for the shoot and no last minute practice on Thursday either.

 

On Wednesday, I spent time with my personal trainer, Klaudia, working to mobilise the shoulder and neck and other areas that had stiffened up to compensate for the pain. The next three days were filled with lots of stretching, Epsom salt baths and a diet of anti-inflammatories. Meanwhile my pole instructors were very supportive and promised me they could get me into the moves for the shoot.

 

 

It seems that for a photo shoot it’s all about getting the shot, and as my instructor, Lauren McCormick, told me ,technique goes out the window, which took the pressure off me and off my shoulder.

 

I wish I could say I documented everything in photos right down to the packing up of what I’d need for the day of the shoot. I wish I’d done that, but I didn’t. There are not shots of me getting on the train, me putting on make-up, no shots of me warming up. All my detailed plans went out the window with the injury, and suddenly the game plan was simply to get through the shoot with minimal pain.

 

 

Fortunately I went in with the very best supporter. Mr. Grace went with me to cheer me on, take photos of the shoot and to set me down and give me strong drink after it was over. Having him with me made everything a little easier. Plus it was great to share the experience with my best friend.

 

The photo Shoot was held at the fabulous My Body Rocks Pole Rocks Studio in Reigate, a place I’ve become very familiar with in the past six months. It’s the parent studio for the Guildford studio, and the brain child of one of my heroes, Samantha Holden. I have secret fantasies about just moving in to this place.  Yes, it’s as totally cool inside as the door suggests.

 

 

Most of the mistakes I made had to do with the planning, not the shoot itself. I needn’t have worried about that. Between the lovely photographer, Simon Hooley, and my instructors, Lauren McCormick and Ben Weeks, and with my husband there to cheer me on, I was in good hands.

 

But I showed up way too early, thinking I would use the time to warm up and maybe relax a little, go over the moves in my head. Warming up was limited because of the shoulder, my head was such a muddle that I couldn’t actually think enough to go over my moves even in my head. I already had on most of my make-up. Changing clothes took five minutes, and putting on the feather necklace and playing about with the feather fan took another five.

 

 

It didn’t help nerves that the second studio, which was open for us to warm up and practice in, was a hive of activity. There were people working on hoop. There was a couple of women practicing doubles on the pole next to me. Along with that there was a constant flow of people coming and going. They were all fabulous, and I would have loved watching them any other time. But Saturday, I just felt intimidated, even though they were all very supportive.

 

 

However, once my time came, two very strange things happened. First of all, the half hour photo shoot felt like it went on forever – in a very good way, but I was exhausted by the time we were done. Simon joked that he made it his job to make sure we left the shoot completely broken. Actually, he was very helpful and very lovely. Second of all, it was over in a heartbeat. I don’t know how it could be both. I only know that it was.

 

Yes, the shoulder did hurt with almost every move – especially the getting into the moves. But it didn’t hurt as bad as it could have, and I was careful and took advantage of offered help to get into positions. I quickly learned to intersperse the hard moves with some easier ones. That saved the shoulder and saved me from being more exhausted that I already was at the end. When I started out with a superman, which is one of the hardest moves for me, and I managed it without too much trouble, I knew I’d be okay if I paced myself. After that the nervousness went away, and the whole thing became fun.

 

 

Another lesson I learned is that sometimes the very simplest of moves looks far more elegant than the ones that are the most difficult. The camera doesn’t really show technique or how hard a move is. It only shows the subject, and really, it’s all about the subject … that would be me … looking her best. And that is something Simon does VERY well.

 

During the shoot, Raymond took photos and short vids on my camera so I would have some idea of what the whole process looked like – what I looked like. I’ll have the proofs probably later this week. My husbands documentation, his efforts are what I’m sharing with you in this post. Believe me when I have the actual photos back, I will be sharing them far and wide.

 

 

I say that, but the truth of the matter is that Saturday afternoon when I shared a couple of them on Facebook, I found it a little hard to let them go. I found myself feeling shy and nervous, even still worrying about what other people might think of a 59 year old woman getting half naked and hanging from a pole. Sometimes the things we do for ourselves other people might not understand, and a huge part of the challenge is often to remember that it doesn’t matter. We’re doing it for us. Having said that, I have had nothing but support and positive feedback from people. Perhaps that’s another major lesson to me. While we might not always understand why someone feels compelled to do something, I think everyone understands that need to pursue a challenge that speaks to us.

 

I’ll have the final post of this year-long pole journey when I get the photos back from the shoot.

 

 

Writing it Down

 

Sometimes you just have to improvise, as a writer. My good friend, and fabulous
writer, Kay Jaybee always writes everything long hand before she transfers it on to the computer. I seldom do any more because generally speaking I can’t write fast enough to suit myself.  And more importantly, I can’t read my own hand writing. But sometimes needs must.

 

Last Thursday I found myself waiting for a friend in a coffee shop with a dead battery on my phone, no laptop, and the Muse poking me really hard in the ribs with her big stick. The friend was stuck in traffic, and here I was with time on my hands, a story to write, and not a damn thing to write it on. I couldn’t even find a napkin.

 

The Muse, however, does not take excuses under any circumstances, so I was forced to find another way to get the ideas down. There was a roll of blue paper towels — the kind sometimes used in bathrooms and for cleaning tables — sitting on the edge of the counter. When the barista wasn’t looking, I nabbed a couple of feet of it, dug a pen from the bottom of my day pack, and started to write.

 

An hour later, when it was clear my friend wasn’t going to make it before I had to leave, I had filled a good bit of my “scroll” with tiny, but not too terribly sloppy, chicken scratches. I had to slow down to keep from ripping the paper, and the resulting story, believe it or not has benefited. The claustrophobic, trapped, unable to move feeling I was hoping for comes across well on the medium of blue paper towel.

 

Inspired by the necessity of the situation, I have taken to carrying a small notebook in my day pack now. It’s a lot lighter than my laptop, and the feel of pen to paper does access my creative self differently. So far, I’ve managed to keep my handwriting relatively legible for easy transfer into the computer. I’m pleased, and better still, the Muse is pleased.

 

 

 

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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