There are a number of people who blazed the trail out of the broom closet back in the late fifties/early sixties, long before I'd ever heard of any witch besides the one on The Wizard of Oz, who scared me -- as she was meant to scare little girls considering female power -- shitless. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them, including Yvonne and Gavin Frost. And I'm as disinterested in witch wars and controversy as it's possible to be. Oddly, I've never found that sort of thing to contribute to my growth as a witch, to my connection with Divinity, or to my general well-being.
So it's with a bit of reluctance that I note a grave concern that I have with Gavin and Yvonne Frost's book: Good Witches Fly Smoothly: Surviving Witchcraft. In general, it's an easy read and it contains some advice that I'd just ignore as not relevant to me as well as some generally helpful suggestions. Chas Clifton has a good review of some of the helpful advice offered.
I particularly agree with a point that the Frosts make early in their book, when, via a few entertaining stories, they note that it can often be a mistake to cling:
too tightly to some ancient tome for your circle casting. Just as with other subjects, examine the validity of the information. Would you make a potion by grinding up the magical bugs that appear in horse dung that stays warm and moist? That is the recipe from the widely-acclaimed bookThe Magus. . . . If you have a new way of doing something that's easier and/or more effective than the "traditional" way generally accepted, you may have to endure the slings and arrows of the traditionalist knee-jerk reactionaries; but you will be doing the whole community a giant favor. . . . [Pagans and Wiccans] are not dinosaurs unable to adapt -- follow your path and grow. Grow and learn. It is a mistake for modern people with modern mindsets to stick with rituals designed by and for people who had less knowledge and a different mindset, people who lived in a different time and place with different perceptions.See Chapter 2.
And, so, it's particularly disconcerting to see the Frosts assert that:
Any initiatory sex should be with a "stranger" -- an initiated Witch of the coven [that] the neophyte plans to join. . . . The underlying tradition here is sometimes overlooked. If the Craft means enough to you that you are willing to abide by its tenets thenabide by them! If you cannot transcend your cultural brainwashing and accept the assignment to have sex one time with an assigned partner, in accordance with centuries of Craft tradition, the Craft can't mean that much to you. Here's the door. Don't call yourself a Witch.See Chapter 12.
This is just wrong.
And I need to point out the wrongness so that any young or impressionable people new to Wicca, who may stumble upon the Frosts' work, don't believe what the Frosts say about initiation and sex. The Frosts are, I'm sure, lovely people and have much to offer. And I'll preface my comments by saying that I'm a big believer in sex magic, I do it often and find it effective, and I imagine that, in the right situation, the sort of initiation that they advocate could be quite empowering and effective. But I have never had sex with an "assigned partner" and I think I'm a reasonably devoted and powerful witch. So, sex magic: good, however, also possibly: devastating.
I've no idea how far "back" the notion of initiation into Wicca involving sex with another coven member may or may not go. It's hardly the universal that the Frosts proclaim. Uncle Gerald, may the Goddess hold him in her arms, loved nudity and flagellation, and he swore that they were key elements of ancient witchcraft, going back to the dawn of time. He swore that less than a century ago. How far back before that period initiation into witchcraft may or may not have involved sex with a "stranger" is anyone's guess.
But I can tell you -- without qualification -- that you can certainly adhere to the tenants of Wicca, that you can call yourself a Witch, and that the Craft can mean the world to you even if you never allow someone like Gavin or Yvonne Frost to order you to have sex with some "stranger." What, Solitaries aren't witches?
Especially for women, sex in this society is a loaded proposition, and you can decide never to have sex, never to have hetero sex, never to have sex with anyone but your chosen partner, or to have sex with whomever you -- not some High Priest or Priestess -- like, and you can still be a dedicated, magnificent, initiated, powerful Witch. I would never let anyone tell me that if I decided to control my own sexual behavior, I was therefore the victim of "cultural brainwashing" or that the Craft didn't "mean much" to me, or to suggest to me: "Here's the door. Don't call yourself a Witch."
As the Frosts, themselves, note, It is a mistake for modern people with modern mindsets to stick with rituals designed by and for people who had less knowledge and a different mindset, people who lived in a different time and place with different perceptions. That's as true of rituals designed by and for people who came to Wicca in the 1940s and 1950s as it is of people who wrote Books of Shadows centuries ago. One of the most important things that I ever read about Wicca, and I apologize for forgetting who wrote it, is "A witch takes responsibility." That sentence guides all of my practices within Wicca. Above all, I am responsible for what I do or do not do with my body, which is my only tool for being immanent in this reality. And I will never give that responsibility away to anyone, not even some v eminent witch, or High Priestess, or elder.
Sia, as is often the case, has some simple, common-sense advice about sex and Wicca here.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."