So I finally finished Dark Moon Rising: Pagan BDSM and the Ordeal Path (ed. Raven Kaldera). What can I say about this book? Well, let me first give you some back-story on why I wanted to read it.
I am, somewhat perpetually, on a bit of a quest to “get my groove back”. More accurately put, I’m on a bit of a quest to figure out how to cultivate things like sexual ecstasy and “top space” (which has a variety of meanings, into-which I will surely go further in the next little while), so that pre-planning a date or a scene with (or for) my sweetie doesn’t tend to include questions around “But what if I get tired before it gets good for her?” or “What if I can’t get into my zone, and wind up feeling resentful?”
(Granted, while I worry about that stuff, it doesn’t tend to happen. What does happen, though, is that I will sometimes talk myself out of jumping my girl if I’m worrying about that stuff happening).
Basically, I’m looking for ways to reliably keep the energy flowing and building, and the desire to find actually techniques to help me do this has been growing in me, particularly over the last six months or so.
So… why Dark Moon Rising?
Well, quite some time ago, I picked up a copy of Dear Raven and Joshua (my review of-which is here), which talked about O/p relationships in a way that – thank goodness – really worked for me. Raven may be prone to blustering (which can be irritating), but he and I appear to occupy roughly the same area on the Service-Control spectrum, and it was a relief and a help to read about this stuff from a perspective that was both service-focused and taken well beyond the bedroom.
So Dark Moon Rising was kind of on my radar already because of that.
And then I started reading a bunch of Lee Harrington’s stuff – a fair amount of which focuses on the intersection of spirituality and sex… and I started getting ideas. So when I found out that he’d contributed to Dark Moon Rising, along with a few other books that Raven’s edited, I figured it was time to give it a shot.
Dark Moon Rising is about Pagan BDSM. I had hoped, when I started reading it, that I was opening a book about bringing polytheistic, sex-positive, earth-centred spirituality and ritual/energetic techniques into BDSM. It’s not. It’s quite the opposite, actually. It’s about incorporating BDSM techniques and dynamics into your polytheistic, sex-positive, earth-centred spiritual practices and rituals. So, right off the bat, it wasn’t what I had gone in hoping for. That doesn’t, however, make it a bad book. So let’s pull it apart.
Dark Moon Rising is cut into six different sub-sections of varying lengths. Part One is a basic intro, including a section wherein a collection of kinky terms are defined with regards to how they’re going to get used in the book. I confess, I skimmed this bit.
Part Two is a series of essays looking at how the tools of pain play – everything from suspension bondage to flesh-pulls to less S/M-related stuff like fisting, tantra, and energy work – can be linked to, and used in, Pagan ritual. Some parts of this section were… a bit of a stretch for me. I wasn’t particularly interested in a rundown of which toys could potentially correspond to which elements when casting a circle, for example. For me, it felt like “filler”.
But, then, I didn’t come to the book looking for ways to incorporate BDSM into wiccan-influenced sacred sexuality. The subsection called “The Invisible Toybox” was rather more what I was looking for: Suggestions on how to charge your toys, or push your aura into them, or similar in order to deliver more (or less) bang for your buck. A handy trick if you’re a top who gets physically tired fairly easily. 😉
But things really didn’t start getting interesting for me until Part Three. This section included a few really beautiful sample rituals (not what I was after, but a great way to see how Sacred Kink can work in a group – or not-so-group – ritual context), but what really got my attention were the sections on “The Way of the Ordeal Master”, “Ritual Catharsis”, and “Sex Magic from the Top Perspective”. Those sections offered some thoughts about, and descriptions of, how to get into a headspace where you are running the scene, and comparing it to getting yourself into a headspace where you’re running a ritual, as well as a bit of a road map of where you (may) have to “go” in order to get into that headspace. While I haven’t tried it in practice yet, just having that map has been a help in terms of understanding what it’s Okay to do.
The description of the four gates to the underworld actually made me cry. I’d like to read more on that subject – like a whole entire book worth of more (hint hint…) – exploring how to follow the red thread of fear or shame or what-have-you into the place your bottom is afraid to venture but badly needs to go… and then how to bring them back up again (which I could really do with learning. Seriously…)
So Part Three had some definitely Good Bits in it.
Part Four looked at D/s from a spiritual perspective. It’s a collection of essays – really interesting essays, actually – talking about things like: The difference in how one trains one’s property when one has an animistic worldview versus when one has a mechanistic worldview, and What it’s like to be the dedicated servant of someone who is, himself, sworn to serve a particular deity. There are also a couple of sample Dedication Rituals that some folks might find helpful. This section includes a poem that really hit home for me – spoken from the perspective of a submissive, it asks “Let me be useful. Use me, because to be put to good use is to be valued”. I need to remind myself of that, periodically, when it comes to my own Servant, so it was good to see it written out like that.
Part Five is a series of personal essays (and some poetry) from different authors, talking about the O/p relationships they have with their patron deities (wherein the deity is the Owner and they are the Property). Part Six is simply a concluding poem. I confess I was kind of “meh” about it, and would have preferred that the poem be included with another essay. But that’s just me.
All in all, I found this book had enough Good Stuff in it, in terms of what I was looking for, to have been worth picking up. Am I glad I bought the e-version (which is waaaaaaay less expensive than the bound version, fyi, when bought through the publisher’s website)? You betcha. But I am glad that I bought it.
Next up, I’ll probably dive into Barbara Carrellas’ book Ecstasy is Necessary, which I have in hard-cover, and then move onto Sacred Power, Holy Surrender, which is about living in a spiritual power dynamic. That said, having read Dark Moon Rising, I’m kind of leaning towards Lee Harrington’s Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths Of Bdsm And Beyond, which is looking like it might be a neat one for actual techniques and altered (altared?) states of consciousness.
 For a given value of “sex” which could be “kink” or “power exchange” or “S/M” or “polyamoury” or a variety of other things that actually go rather beyond rubbing various body-parts together.