Pagan Faerie Piercing Rituals:
An Editorial on Body Play
by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
Copyright c 1993, 2007 by William A. Henkin
[Fakir Musafar invited my contribution to his magazine Body Play and Modern Primitives Quarterly, and first published this essay under the by-line of Princess Cruise with my transcription, in that magazineís Vol. 2, No. 3, 1993. It was reprinted in Spiritual Transformation through BDSM, edited by Sensuous Sadie and published in 2006 by Ephemera Bound Publishing]
for Cynthia, David, and Kurt, in memoriam:
their absences do not change my life as much as their presences would have
ďOne does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.Ē
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† †‑‑ C. G. Jung, 1945
* * *
Five months after we met, my life partner took me to a Pagan Faerie Piercing Ritual where I nearly passed out when a man had his cockhead pierced for an ampallang: my vision went white and I lowered myself quietly to the floor wondering why people did this sort of thing. The next month my partner and I announced our engagement by having our ears pierced at another Ritual Ė my first permanent piercing, her fifteenth Ė and exchanging diamond studs. Six months later, after showing me in a couple of scenes that I certainly could deal with needles if I had to, and even with the edge of her Athame, she slid a fat gold ring into my scrotum in a private claiming ceremony. And on and off since that long‑ago night Iíve wrestled with conflicting feelings: should I get a tattoo or two? Might I actually want a ring of my own somewhere? What are the benefits of pubic electrolysis over the never‑ending quest for fresh razor blades that do not nick?
The world of body play is not where I was born or reborn. I didnít reinvent Lakota hangings in my adolescence, nor in adulthood deprive myself of mobility, engage in ordeals, or seek spiritual transformation by leaving my body through intense sensation. In fact, after spending most of my early life in an ivory tower with my head in the clouds, I had worked very hard to learn to live in my body and I still had a fairly new relationship with the physical world when at last I located SM on my sexuo‑spiritual lovemap and so, in a roundabout way, was brought to the Piercing Rituals. For unlike me, my life partner was reborn among the tribes that celebrate their bodies, and in marrying her I married into this far‑flung nation. But since at first my path seemed to me to lead in the opposite direction, I have only recently really recognized that and how I belong.
About a year ago one gracious, passionate man, eulogizing a belovŤd, departed brother, spoke to his community about what it meant to be an erotic pioneer. He talked about how the two of them, and others he addressed at the memorial, had lived as our societyís unlikely scouts on the frontiers of liberation; how, as lone outriders, they ranged far afield from the usual cultural settlements, tracking and defining what they learned so that wagon trains of settlers yet to come might have a map to help them find their ways through the previously uncharted territory; and how they lived and sometimes died with the risks adventurers always must assume. He spoke from his own grief and rage that noble people doing honorable work should be called upon to pay so heavily for the privilege of serving, and he also spoke from his need that we should not forget to celebrate the value of lives given or taken as this whole community of tribes journeys to identify, define, and then transcend itself.
Some people play the tambourine, some play baseball, some play hookey, some play the horses hoping there is no foul play, some write plays for actors who play to the gallery, some like the wind to play upon their skin, and some like to make plays on words. As artists and inventors have apparently always known, play is a wellspring of creativity; as child psychologists have known for many years, children learn through play far better than they do by work. Yet, nowhere in the Oxford English Dictionaryís 5‑1/3 pages of definition and commentary regarding the word play is there any mention of the ways our games and joys and explorations may modify our reality, or alter who and how we perceive ourselves to be.
Iím writing this editorial instead of revising the dictionary. Iím writing to celebrate the man who spoke, to celebrate the man he eulogized, and to celebrate the whole outlandish caste of outlaws and outcasts, gnostics and mystics, primitives and faeries, priestesses and priests, shamans and sex magicians, each and every one of whom is a lone scout marking out the meaning of uncharted ways. And Iím writing to celebrate the way we loop back in, from time to time, to meet around some outpostís fire late at night; to see ourselves reflected in each otherís joys and tribulations; to share the wonders weíve discovered since we last met; to give each other heart to go on when the road is rough; and to set back out, each of us on her or his own special branch of the path, each on his own odd and holy mission that cannot help but enrich all our lives and enrich all our offerings when next we find ourselves in one anotherís company.
A few months ago I lounged in my priest persona on my goddessís couch while a priestess from a different tradition called upon her own spiritual powers and incised in my goddessís shoulder a potent symbol of the crone she was growing to be. The cutting testified to a successful journey she had made to her particular underworld, and an assertion that she had the right to claim what she had discovered there. I loved the process of her cutting, and I loved the process of my life that enabled me to be with these two holy women in so intimate a space. I went away from that sacred hour with a deeper understanding of my own journey, though no knife touched me and I didnít bleed Ė that time.
Itís not that now Iím any more attracted than I was to the thrill of sharp steel passing through my skin or flesh: I still donít get off on that sort of sensation, though the process of submission that can lead me to accept it is, as we said when I was a yíungíun, a trip. And itís not that I think of myself as a Modern Primitive, either: Iím a thoroughly nineteenth century guy with a pretty committed brain-play orientation.
But I do think a lot of the tats, jewels, and cuttings I see in the world Iíve come to inhabit are compellingly attractive; I know from personal experience the value of the rituals that have underlain many of them; and besides, I recognize the spirit of the person who makes her or his own way, who is cast out from the citadel of safety or escapes from its rigidity, who will not or cannot settle within the limits of whatís known but may and must extend the nature of the Self, and extend thereby the nature of all Selves.
Among the people I love and respect, whose worldviews I share in fundamental ways, so many have cut, colored, stretched, compressed, decorated, and otherwise modified their bodies that I even want to do it too: I want to be like them; I want them to know when they see me across a crowded room that I associate myself with them; that I, too, have journeyed in my body from an unrepentant exile to an unexpected home; that we are alive and dying together; that different as we are from one another Ė as loners and scouts we cannot help but be Ė we are family.
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