All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals– in the sacred invocation by Doreen Valiente, the goddess calls us to recognise that pleasure and love are acts of divine relationship. This is the heart of a Pagan attitude towards sexuality. Pagan sexual morals are notably different to mainstream religious teachings on the subject. Our model of sacred sexuality is fluid. Even in the most rigid balance-based traditions of Paganism (those that see the male/female balance as crucial to worldly wellbeing), there is a respect for the sexual self – sexual expression is at the heart of Mother Earth’s generative powers. And as nature is the model for our spirituality, we acknowledge that there are multitudinous patterns through which the world creates itself. Many of us who are parenting as Pagans understand that this can be expressed through allowing our kids to experience their body as a site of pleasure and joy. At Beltane, our festival of the blossoming earth, we honour joyful pleasure and the sacred nature of sexuality.
I watched with fascination when my then two-year-old youngest son discovered the pleasures of the sensual world. He loved to roll in mud, to walk barefoot in the rain. In fact when a giant rainstorm arrived, he would strip and go running in it with glee and delight. Understanding the relationship between sensual pleasure the formation of sexuality and spirituality is at the heart of Pagan celebrations. Pleasure comes from allowing kids freedom of sensual experience, and it is a natural part of kids’ creative expression. In a culture that seeks to associate children’s nakedness as a site of anxiety – projecting onto them the very real fears of adult lust – we run the risk of denying our children the basic right to be themselves freely.
To allow our children to live in the sensual world for as long as possible we ensure their spirits are enlivened to the force of raw nature. In homes where physical affection and the joy of the body are restrained or without appropriate boundaries, children’s relationship with their desire and their own physical nature doesn’t thrive. For young adults coping with the onslaught of media messages telling them how adult sexuality is ‘performed’ it is even more important for them (and us!) to understand their blossoming sexuality as an extension of a natural sensual process. Transitioning into adulthood is the time when our adult sexual identity blooms. However, it can be difficult to maintain a positive and encouraging explorative attitude towards burgeoning sexuality when our youth are bombarded with contrary messages from mainstream culture. What can we do to counterbalance that? No amount of goddess imagery around the house will do it.
By allowing our kids to live in the sensual world, lessening their time on screens, getting outside, encouraging quiet, we help them foster a mindfulness around their sensual understanding of the world. Being in the elements and allowing the elements to touch their skin we can counterbalance the current distortion of children’s sensually. As always we look to nature. Just as the natural world presents us with different matrices of love and pleasure, so do our cherished human communities. Above all else, as parents and guardians, love the body you are and you will encourage your kids to accept and see beauty and strength in their own.
Hannah E. Johnston