Do You Dance Round Stone Circles Naked? / Is Paganism All About Orgies and Sex Rituals?

I live in Britain. The average temperature in summer – *summer*, that is – is 16°C. Believe me when I say we don’t usually notice if it gets that high, because it’s generally Brass Monkeys here.

Colder places there might be. There are fewer that are similarly cold, wet and miserable in equal measure.

Stop it, Tiro; it’s a lovely place. Lovely.

Seriously, though: there might well be people so dedicated to their beliefs that they’d be willing to strip off and prance about in the cold and the piddling rain, but I’m not amongst them; and frankly, I’m not aware of any pagan tradition, certainly around here, where it’s absolutely required or even suggested.

There are, I seem to remember reading, certain branches of Wicca – a magic-using witchcraft tradition – that recommend performing magical rituals in the nude, a state which they call being ‘skyclad’, in order to allow the maximum connection with the energy of the natural world. Even so, this isn’t common practice and isn’t a universal requirement of pagan traditions.

“But what about the Daily Mail?” I hear you cry. Well, let me take this opportunity to address the next question as well:

Is Paganism All About Orgies and Sex Rituals?

According to the Daily Mail’s recent campaign against pagans, our entire lives consist of little but sex and mead. In either order. They say that paganism involves… let me get this right here… “unabashed sexuality and promiscuity”. This phrase crops up quite often in the Daily Mail’s pieces, and always in quotes – yet they always conveniently forget to give the source of the ‘quote’.

The simple fact of the matter is that pagans are just like anyone else when it comes to sex. Some of them are utter tarts; some complete chilly prudes; and most fall somewhere in between. I think probably what gets the casual observer confused is that a lot of pagan philosophy is rooted in nature. Nature follows certain regular cycles; cycles relating to life, death, and rebirth. Let’s be blunt: that means reproduction. And that means, at least for much of the animal kingdom, sex.

Fertility, and the celebration thereof, is a strong central theme of paganism because it was – and is – essential for our survival. If our species as a whole isn’t fertile, it will die out. If our crops and livestock aren’t fertile, well, our species will still die out. Ancient societies recognised this, and depended on it. Nowadays, while we still depend on it, we’re more distant from it. Most of us don’t need to worry about whether the weather’s been good this season, because our food comes from Tes… from Your Favourite Local Supermarket. Milk comes in bottles. Eggs come in those cool little cardboard trays. Meat’s just something that arrives in vacuum-sealed plastic packs. While most of us know about these things at an intellectual level, we might not spend a great deal of time on what they actually are – or were. We don’t generally see bread and cereals as the product of a months-long struggle for survival – yet a more agrarian society would be conscious of the difficulties in producing the grain.

So, to give it as simple an answer as I can: sex and fertility are important in paganism, because paganism is about nature – however, where they crop up at all they’re usually symbolic. A constant parade of orgies and indulgence (orgy, sex ritual, orgy, breakfast, orgy, lunch, orgy, work for a couple of hours, come home, orgy, sex ritual…) sounds fab, doesn’t it? But I bet it’s bloody tiring after the first hour or two. So generally we just knit. And go to work, or clean the house. Or bake cakes. Or just eat cakes. Cakes are good.

No, we’re not constantly at it. Next question, before I start sounding too bitter.

– Tiro

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