“All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here, in my arms.” (Depeche Mode)
When I was a teenager, I would listen to these lyrics on repeat loudly through my headphones. Holed up in my adolescent bedroom, the words meant something different to me. I imagined the person I’d love this intensely.
Now, after feeling that kind of love once (and nearly twice), I think of this line completely differently: the arms wrapped around me are my own.
I’m writing about sex magic this month, because my life has reached a climactic point where I now recognize the distinction between choosing either intentionality or carelessness in my sexuality. I’ve used sex to both dissociate and be wholly (and holy) in the present. Although I could feel the difference before, it wasn’t important to me then. It is now.
I practice some craft rituals, my favourite being Samhain, which falls on Oct. 31. It is the original pagan holiday now associated with Halloween. It is a time to pay respect to loved ones who have passed and to welcome the death of things that we no longer wish to hold on to. It felt fitting to write about sex magic this month after the transition of Samhain, because both practices centre intentionality and manifestation through release.
Sex magic refers to the act of centring an intention during climax. Going by many names, it has also been called intentional masturbation, sacred self-love or tantric sex magick. But does an orgasm actually have the power to channel real-life change?
La petite mort translates to “the little death.” It is a French expression referring to the “sensation of death” post-orgasm. The idea is that climax is so sublime, that a part of a person dies with the influx of oxytocin and the outflow of cum.
Like writing down a habit on a piece of parchment and burning it in a black flame to watch it die, this “little death” of climax contains power. By embracing death as a necessary part of all life, we make room for new growth.
“To speak of the body as a critical interface for the study of magic, therefore, is to comprehend how the ritual body is successfully created to alter the phenomenological properties of the ritual setting to produce and embody the canonical sources and cosmological aspirations that inform the objectives and nature of the magic ritual.” (Damon Lycourinos)
The body and mind are powerful. This quote by Lycourinos suggests the real “magic” behind any ritual lies in the ability to open oneself up to the senses during any ritualistic experience. More or less, this quote illustrates that it is us who create the magic, and that this reality is by no means any less poignant.
This is how I find magic in my life: through showing up for myself. I recognize the potency of my sensations as a person in the world and the strength of my acknowledged intentions. We deserve to see and be seen during sex. Internalizing this to the point of ritual creates the abundancy for truly present, uninhibited and powerful sex, capable of manifesting growth and change.
Madeline Rae is a sex educator and writer living on Treaty 1 territory. She holds a BFA in performative sculpture and a BA in psychology, and she is pursuing schooling to specialize in sex therapy. Rae is trained in client-centred sex education, reproductive and sexual-health counselling and harm reduction. She works locally in both feminist healthcare and community support work.
Published in Volume 76, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 18, 2021)