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Author Topic: Kink and Spirituality - Special Topic Discussion  (Read 18099 times)
HeartShadow - Cutethulhu
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« Topic Start: March 22, 2010, 03:25:31 pm »

(note: I'm not an expert in the language.  If I screw up, please take it as ignorance and not malice)

Since the subject's come up a few times, I think a thread on the subject where we can talk about it explicitly might be a good idea.

What role does various kink play in your religion?  Is pain something sometimes to be courted, or always a bad thing?  Do your gods approve of things that aren't necessarily mainstream?  Why/why not?

If your gods are interested in things that are not mainstream, what sorts of things are they?  Why?  What do you/the gods/whatnot get out of this?

If your gods don't like these things, why is that?  Are they simply disinterested, or actively disapproving?  Why?

*moderator note* This is not a place for "oh but that's icky" discussions.  No one's saying you have to like it - if the entire concept freaks you out, please, don't read the thread.  If you really think your gods find something appalling, that belongs here.  If YOU find it appalling, that's not the purpose of the thread.  If you have questions on this, please, PM me.
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« Reply #1: March 22, 2010, 04:19:41 pm »

A note in advance: I am only comfortable responding to this in semi-abstract terms at the moment.  Perhaps, if the conversation goes well, I will be able to discuss more thoroughly what it is that I do; right now I am intensely feeling a dearth of spaces safe enough to deal with intimate spiritual matters.

What role does various kink play in your religion?

I would distinguish between "religion" and "personal spiritual life", personally.  "Religion" strikes me as being a word about shared practice and community, and my personal sexual practices are not public.

That being said: one of my religions is an ecstatic tradition, and sacred sexuality is a common realm of focus.  To someone who is wired up kinkily, the pursuit and establishment of a healthy manifestation of that sexuality would be a matter of personal spiritual concern.

Quote
Is pain something sometimes to be courted, or always a bad thing? 

"Life is pain, highness.  Anyone who tells you different is selling something."

I share a perspective on this with a kinkster I know who is also a person with disabilities: pain is a part of being alive.  Yes, being a chronic pain sufferer sucks, but the idea of living without pain in general is pretty equated with living without a body to me.  I have a dense physical form!  You know those things are considered pretty ritzy in parts of the spirit world?  And a life without pain is a life without potential gain - because every gain carries with it the risk of painful loss.

In practical and not philosophical terms: pain is a warning sign on danger.  It can be useful data, specious nerve firings, an indication of progress towards a goal, or something that goes sideways into something else.  It can take many forms.  Its meaning is ... pretty variable really.

Back to philosophical babble: I think an excessive fear of pain is one of the failings of the culture I grew up in, and is probably linked with death-denial.  At times I feel surrounded by people whose greatest ambition appears to be to be comfortable and never have their comfort zones tweaked - by people who are different, by disability or want, by change - who have their nice mainstream nook and white picket fence and no further goals beyond the accumulation of wealth.  It's a bit of a straw man, but it's a straw man that really feels like a face of my country's id.  I think it is a good thing to be at least a little uncomfortable every so often - whether to shake me out of complacency, or inspire me to do something better, or remind me that there are people out there who aren't just like me.


(Pain is also hardly the be-all and end-all of BDSM or other kinked-sexuality practice.  There's plenty of kink, even hardcore kink, that doesn't involve it.)

Quote
Do your gods approve of things that aren't necessarily mainstream?  Why/why not?

This is the point where I sort of go, "... I hang with Set!" and start to giggle.  God of foreigners, outsiders, deviants, and perverts!  I wouldn't be surprised if Himself sort of disapproves of mainstream behaviours in general, just on principle.  (I know He disapproves of normality-for-the-sake-of-being-normal rather than as a manifestation of one's individual reality.)

Quote
If your gods are interested in things that are not mainstream, what sorts of things are they?  Why?  What do you/the gods/whatnot get out of this?

Set is, as far as I can tell, interested in anything He can get away with. ("Hey Heru, nice ass!")  His cosmic purpose is to push boundaries and stresstest things to the point of failure; if it crumples when pushed it's not good enough.

His mythology is heavy on the sex and strength; while there are no explicit mentions of erotic power per se in His myths (though culturally speaking "Hey Heru, nice ass!" had to do with top/bottom power dynamics and the social lens on homosexuality and gender roles) it is not something I consider a stretch.
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« Reply #2: March 22, 2010, 05:42:26 pm »


....pain is a part of being alive.  Yes, being a chronic pain sufferer sucks, but the idea of living without pain in general is pretty equated with living without a body to me.

<snip>

Back to philosophical babble: I think an excessive fear of pain is one of the failings of the culture I grew up in, and is probably linked with death-denial.


I particularly agree with these points. I'm sworn to goddesses who deal with the liminal and with borders and boundaries and laws and with matters of life and death. Artemis gets pain (and She's good at inflicting it as relieving it). Hekate carries knives with Her torches and dances with edges and among the dead and orgiastic revellers. And even Athene takes joy in the fury and chaos of battle and is more than capable of handing out hard, painful lessons. Agon - struggle, torment, challenge; the Greek deities are all about it, and it was a central portion of many festival rites.



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« Reply #3: March 22, 2010, 07:40:36 pm »

What role does various kink play in your religion?  Is pain something sometimes to be courted, or always a bad thing?  Do your gods approve of things that aren't necessarily mainstream?  Why/why not?

*Challenge*, especially looking at the bits of myself that feel uncomfortable when pressed, is a big part of my religion. I've got a theory that religious witchcraft is a lot of looking at what hurts when you push it, and figuring out why that is, so you can fix it/change it/make it useful in some way. Ordeals - including pain - can be very useful with this. Sometimes it's a diagnostic, sometimes it's a tool, sometimes it's a way to clear the path for other work. Depends on the issue.

Some things I've done something with:
- Pain: Not so much, though it's an area (at least 'sensation on the edge of discomfort') that I'm actively interested in exploring but only in the right circumstances, and those haven't come around. (I'm interested in sensation and what my body tells me, not long-term damage, and that takes someone who a) knows what they're doing and b) who I trust.)

- Other sensation - experience with ritual scourging (which is generally *not* designed to be painful, just to remind that it could be, from both my experience and conversations with others) is experience with sensation. Again, would like to do this more and explore further, with someone I'd trust to do it safely. But repetitive rhythmic sensation is a really powerful thing for me.

- Restriction and bondage: Done this, done this in ritual setting, and got a lot out of it. I'm not talking forced blood restriction per se (though I've had that too, mostly through crossing my legs wrong while meditating and getting pins-and-needles), but things that change how my body moves and shifts and what opens up in my body as a result. There are ritual formats of this - but there's also other things that most people don't bat an eye at. (The water aerobics class I was at on Sunday morning would probably not think they were doing restrictive movement, for example, but that's part of how my brain experiences it.)

Not having to be the one in control is something I'd like to explore in a lot more detail in the right setting.

- Restricted input - blindfolding, being placed in a low-context environment (dark room, not able to see much, able to overhear things in the next room). Also shows up in a number of magical traditions about avoiding certain foods, words, etc. at certain points in the year. I find that these things tend to hone attention on the remaining senses in a way I find very useful (though not something I'd want to keep up all the time.)

I should note that none of these are particularly sexual for me, though they could be combined with that in the right circumstances. They are, however, *intimate* things for me (as pretty much anything involving physical touch is), and so they're not something I'd do randomly or with people I didn't want an intimate energetic/emotional connection with, because I don't do casual touch at all well.

On deity:
I have a very strong draw for a particular kind of commitment: I have an inherently feudal brain, and my brain is *much* happier when I'm in a clear-cut relationship with defined roles and expectations. I'm very much M'Lady's [1] handmaiden, not her equal. Valued, nurtured, treated well - but handmaiden. I've also got a particular kind of service commitment with my tradition (that I think honestly puzzles the founder of the tradition, who is not at all wired that way, so we don't talk about it much.) But part of that goes both ways - feudalism done well requires active work taking care of one's vassals, as well as for one's vassals to provide service.

In both cases, physical challenge is not a particular part of the deity commitment, not because it's wrong or bad - but just because that's not the shape of the interaction. I have had physical limits pushed more by Himself, but not particularly in kink-related ways. (though if he thought they'd be useful, I'm sure they'd be used, and that'd be fine.) And I think that physical challenge is not Their tool of choice, because I've already got enough of it going on. (Asthma is already a galaxy of potential breath restriction. I don't think They need to make that particular point over and over again, for example.)

Finally, in terms of community: I'm rather bemused because I've somehow become my trad's go-to person for kink curiousity, in large part because I treat it much the way I do witchcraft in general: it is potently soul-changing, so should be treated with integrity and care and attention to detail, but it is no more inherently wrong or bad or icky or dirty than any other part of witchcraft. That a tool can be misused does not make the tool inherently flawed. 

[1] For those not familiar: M'Lady and Himself are the names I use for the deities I work with primarily on a personal level. Being a fervent polytheist, I also honor the deities of tradition, coven, and a few others, but most of them have fewer Opinions on this particular issue. A little more on the personal deity stuff is available http://gleewood.org/threshold/about/background/personal/)
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« Reply #4: March 22, 2010, 10:06:53 pm »

What role does various kink play in your religion?  Is pain something sometimes to be courted, or always a bad thing?  Do your gods approve of things that aren't necessarily mainstream?  Why/why not?


HI Everybody,
I think that pain can be a very valuable tool spiritually. (someone else said that they separated spirituality and religion and I would agree with that. Spirituality to me, defines personal practice). I think that there's something about physical pain that can cut through emotional blocks and open me up. It brings a certain vulnerablity and I know that my Gods seem to respond very well to that and I've used it consciously in the past both as an offering and to get to where I think they wanted me to be. I don't think this is anything new though. I know there are lots of religious practices throughout history that involved some use of pain and ecstatic states. Pain is a good key for some people, at least I've found it to be so for me.

I also know some people who utilize bdsm techniques as spiritual tools and while I haven't experimented so much with that, (mostly for lack of opportunity--it's not that I think anything is wwrong with it),  I can say from observation that it works for them and helps them be closer to their gods. Maybe it is just that nothing works for every single person. I know that sometimes carefully applied pain gets me where I need to go and meets with the approval of my  Gods (Norse). That took me a long time to really accept.

I read a book last year called "Dark Moon Rising" that made me think a lot more seriously about these things. I would recommend that. I'd never thought about how sexual techniques could also be spiritual techniques. That gave me a lot of food for thought. I had already had some experience with using pain as an offering.

For me, I've used different kinds of pain from flogging, to sensory deprivation, to blood drawing, to needles to get past my own bull. It leaves me so open and so vulnerable that I am able to be in a clear headspace for a little bit, beyond all the excuses and fears that my "monkey meat brain" so often puts up. That's a good thing and I work with Deities who themselves used pain as a tool to go places. I'm kind of following in their footsteps. I just think its important to be mindful and upfront about why and waht is hoped to be gained.

Thank you for this question. It has made me think about my own practices again.
Aliceanna
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« Reply #5: March 23, 2010, 04:33:15 am »

A note in advance: I am only comfortable responding to this in semi-abstract terms at the moment.  Perhaps, if the conversation goes well, I will be able to discuss more thoroughly what it is that I do; right now I am intensely feeling a dearth of spaces safe enough to deal with intimate spiritual matters.

That would be why we placed the discussion in Special Topics - because it gives us extra tools to create a safe space for the discussion at TC, as well as we are equipped. We'll be keeping a close eye on things here in hopes of facilitating an open discussion on these matters. I'll make note that most of the staff is not personally well acquainted with the topic - several of us have noted that we're "so vanilla it hurts". That means we might miss things, of course. Please don't hesitated to contact staff if you feel things are headed in the wrong direction. I cannot promise we'll step in, as we'll have to balance the demands of creating a safe space for this particular discussion with the demands of creating a place for open discussion on the forum as whole, but we'll certainly take a good look at any comments we get.

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« Reply #6: March 23, 2010, 05:12:54 am »


My Patron is a Death Deity and, IMO, pain is like a little death- He seems to have no issue with pain at all. I have limits (and Cronic Pain Syndrome) so I think that the lines are not as clear cut as they are for some, but I don't have any personal objections to a little pain as part of pleasure. For me, a little pain can heighten all other sensations.

I think that sex can be a very spiritual experience (with the right person), and that whatever may constitute as good sex between two consensual, loving adults is a part of worshipping whichever Deity is your choice.

But as a side note in this: during a discussion with a friend of mine (with whom I can talk about anything and everything, and we frequently do) I came out with the world's worst pun, but it is completely accurate-BDSM never did anyone any harm that didn't specify it first! That is the point. In BDSM all things are discussed and agreed on before hand, and a safety word in place for if things get too uncomfortable. The same as in all parts of life, it is all about trust.
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« Reply #7: March 23, 2010, 08:01:18 am »

(Pain is also hardly the be-all and end-all of BDSM or other kinked-sexuality practice.  There's plenty of kink, even hardcore kink, that doesn't involve it.)

See, that TOTALLY gets into the whole "Shadow doesn't know what the heck she's talking about" category.

If there are other examples of kink that apply (I've noticed Jenett has mentioned some further in the thread) I'm interested in those too - especially that given my own pain issues, ANYTHING involving pain is right-out for me!
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« Reply #8: March 23, 2010, 08:04:46 am »

I share a perspective on this with a kinkster I know who is also a person with disabilities: pain is a part of being alive.  Yes, being a chronic pain sufferer sucks, but the idea of living without pain in general is pretty equated with living without a body to me.  I have a dense physical form!  You know those things are considered pretty ritzy in parts of the spirit world?  And a life without pain is a life without potential gain - because every gain carries with it the risk of painful loss.

See - that's where I start to get confused.

I'm also a chronic pain sufferer - and ye GODS but I'd love to be able to do stuff without this body getting in the way!  (probably a good thing my belief system doesn't think it works that way ...)

But it seems to me that dealing with what issues you already have is inherently different from seeking out additional problems.  Of course, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that my knitting frequently makes my arms ache, and I do it anyway, so maybe it's more of a cost-payoff thing than I realized .. we ALL do things that have side effects we might not like, but we do it because we value the reward more than the side effect.

Am I even on the right page here, or am I just wired to the point that I don't get it?
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« Reply #9: March 23, 2010, 08:07:49 am »


So is it safe to say that pain is a tool?  Not the end point, but a way of getting you there?

And how do you *offer* pain?  The mechanics of that confuse me.
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« Reply #10: March 23, 2010, 10:18:06 am »

If there are other examples of kink that apply (I've noticed Jenett has mentioned some further in the thread) I'm interested in those too - especially that given my own pain issues, ANYTHING involving pain is right-out for me!

Mmm.

Service.
Submission to the divine.
Realisation of personal power and control.
Sacred obligation.
Bondage as a tool of trance induction or consciousness alteration.

Just pulling out straight-up stuff that's in the acronym. Wink  (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission; 'pain' relates to Sadism, Masochism.  Yes, we reuse letters.  Efficiency!)

For a broader stroke: descent into the underworld style initiation work is - if you'll excuse my pun - PAINFULLY easy to do in a spiritualised kink context.  Everything is there.
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« Reply #11: March 23, 2010, 10:42:30 am »

But it seems to me that dealing with what issues you already have is inherently different from seeking out additional problems.

Perspective yoink:  I don't consider "being alive" a problem, and doing so to the fullest of my capacity is certainly not seeking "additional problems".

Quote
Of course, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that my knitting frequently makes my arms ache, and I do it anyway, so maybe it's more of a cost-payoff thing than I realized .. we ALL do things that have side effects we might not like, but we do it because we value the reward more than the side effect.

Precisely.

... oh, hey, I don't have to wait until I'm not under the baby to poke through Dark Moon Rising for the list of things on use of pain in ritual context, I can just dig up my notes.  This book suggests seven uses for pain in ritual/magical/religious context:

* altered consciousness induction
* energy raising
* centering/regrounding in the body
* sacrifice/offering to an entity
* strength ordeal
* emotional catharsis
* pleasing a partner

While I'm cribbing my notes, I'll throw out a few more things for chewing on without commentary, from my review of the book and some other things:

* sensory deprivation as divination/trance practice
* bondage as ordeal work
* bondage as energy flow tool
* bondage and knot magic
* combining energetic enhangement with sadomasochistic practice
* use of sex magic as a tool for opening cosmic awareness
* catharsis and healing moderated through sexual psychodrama
* priest as servant; ordeal master as a type of priest
* wholeness through acceptance/assimilation/recognition of "inner demons"
* dominance as the spiritual obligation to be an honorable authority
* (fulltime) submission as a form of monastic practice
* animistic approaches to developing relationships with magical/ritual tools and their implications for spiritualised d/s relationships
* submissive as a poppet for magical workings
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« Reply #12: March 23, 2010, 10:47:27 am »

But it seems to me that dealing with what issues you already have is inherently different from seeking out additional problems.  Of course, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing that my knitting frequently makes my arms ache, and I do it anyway, so maybe it's more of a cost-payoff thing than I realized .. we ALL do things that have side effects we might not like, but we do it because we value the reward more than the side effect.

Am I even on the right page here, or am I just wired to the point that I don't get it?

(Darkhawk managed commentary between when I started this and finished, but I'm going to post my take, too, since multiple views are probably helpful.)

Sort of going in the right direction, but it might be helpful to break things down a bit. Starting with "What does BDSM mean, anyway?"

BDSM is a compound anacronym: Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission, Sadism/Masochism. Many people who are interested in some subset of these are not interested in the others. My own two leanings are toward the first two pairs in various formats - but straight sadism and masocism hold very little interest for me. (inflicting pain, or receiving it.) There are plenty of people who are only interested in one or two of those six things, not all six, and 'kink' as a term covers all of that, plus a bit more (like sensation play, which isn't really explicitly in there - things like floggers designed for sensation, not pain, hot wax play, ice cubes, etc.)

That said, while I don't exactly seek out pain, I don't necessarily shy away from it either, if there's something else in the experience that's worthwhile to me. I think about the ache after a lengthy pleasant walk (I'm up in Duluth for a short vacation, and my legs ache from driving yesterday, and will hurt more today after I go look at nice waterfalls and lake views involving a bit of hiking.) I think about all the bruised knees and sore muscles I gained when I was doing serious horseback riding. (the knees from not getting the Dorothy pony all the way into her corners, and hitting the pole on the inside corner designed to help that happen.) And I think about the tradition of harpers staining the strings (to color code the octaves) with their own blood.

All of those involve pain, but they're all pains that would also have some interest for me - not pain for pain's sake alone.

But that said, there are some people whose wiring tangles pain and pleasure. That even while they feel the pain, they get other sensations that they enjoy. Most of us have *some* experience of this: the feeling of pins and needles (that hurt, but is also sort of cool). The ache of wiggling a loose tooth when we're children, or peeling off a scab, or pushing on a bruise.

Pain can be a tool - it can be a way to focus the mind in a way nothing else does (especially more acute pain: you're right that chronic pain tends to diffuse attention.)

As far as offering up pain - it's like offering up anything else. Say you make a commitment to say X prayers to a deity, or offer Y thing every day: pain is another kind of offering, a "Yes, I'm taking this seriously enough to do something that would probably not be my first choice, but as a way to show my commitment." Again, not for everyone, or every deity - but common enough in world religions that it's probably not surprising that people do it. (Medieval Catholic penances done by walking on the knees to a given cathedral were certainly not pain-free, for example.) It can be a way of making sure that what we offer truly is difficult for us - or it can be a way of echoing the commitments of the deity in question in some way.  
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« Reply #13: March 23, 2010, 11:01:57 am »

So is it safe to say that pain is a tool?  Not the end point, but a way of getting you there?

And how do you *offer* pain?  The mechanics of that confuse me.

(I'm also "painfully" inexperienced in kink -- so, all those caveats Shadow gave apply to me, too.  Cheesy )

I'm also a chronic pain sufferer, but I think we're talking about different kinds of pain.  I think the pain I experience from migraines is different -- both in location and in qualty -- from the pain experienced in a BDSM situation and/or the pain used in a spiritual context.  Reading Blood for the Divine, f'ex, I can definitely see how very specifically applied pain can induce shifts in consciousness.

Heck, I've experienced shifts in concsiousness with extreme migraine pain (or pain + narcotics, it's hard to know) and with pleasurable sensations, like massage therapy.  It hasn't happened often, just a couple of times.  But it's enough to know that deliberately inducing it would be both interesting and valuable, spiritually, if I knew how to do it safely.

I can also totally see how pain can be an appropriate offering for some deities.  Not mine, but others.
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« Reply #14: March 23, 2010, 11:26:56 am »

I'm also a chronic pain sufferer, but I think we're talking about different kinds of pain.  I think the pain I experience from migraines is different -- both in location and in qualty -- from the pain experienced in a BDSM situation and/or the pain used in a spiritual context.

I would note that my comment about chronic pain was perhaps slightly tangential: because pain is for me an inescapable part of living, I fundamentally don't get the cultural aversion to it that is dominant in able-bodied discourse.  "Ooh pain pain pain bad" is out there a lot, in ways that come across to me as very ... immature, I guess is the best word for it - this idea that if something ever hurts that means one has to go to extra-special justification to do it.

Back in magical theory land, I used to use deliberate pain as an energy-raising technique to dull migraines (though it worked better on my joint pain, as that is far less acute).  Whether it was just raising endorphins to take the edge off or also functional in an energy work context, it was a tool that got me notably more functional.
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