Ritualising Intimacy – or, What Does Magic Have to do with Sex Anyway?

Twice this year I have had the exquisite pleasure of training a group of sexuality practitioners in the art of Ritual Fireplay. After the most recent course in Stockholm, a day immersed in ritual, bathed in firelight, and interspersed with sweet sounds of sensation and release, I’ve been thinking a lot about magic.

Specifically, why magic and ritual are woven around and through so much of what I offer in the work that is Making Love with God.

I often say this work is about relationship. It’s about relationship to the self – about practising radical self-love; integrating sexuality and spirituality to release shame and find our power; and making friends with all that we are.

It’s about relationship to our beloveds – about developing our willingness and capacity to be seen and to see one another; about working through the shit that builds up in the space between us; and about co-creating the relationships we long for, to access a deeper and more ecstatic intimacy.

And it’s about our relationship with the Earth as lover, the cosmos as co-creator, and life itself as our ally.

With so much rich and challenging relating to focus on, why do I keep bringing it back to magic?

There are so many ways I could answer this – but right now, as a for instance, I’m going to take a look at some of the gifts magic has to give to intimacy. Specifically, I’m going to talk about three of the six main components of magical ritual as I teach it, and explore how each of them can transform an encounter – be it with ourselves or another, be it wildly sexual or a difficult conversation, or just a few precious moments of connection.

The components I’m going to talk about are Creating Space, Setting Intention, and Surrender.

Creating Space is the first step towards creating ritual. It’s about carving out space and time enough for magic – whether it’s a three hour ritual run in the privacy of your own home, or excusing yourself to step into the bathroom in order to do the breathing practice that will help you get grounded and present for an important meeting. And it’s about making that space safe – as safe as possible, so that you can be fully present with what you’re doing – and sacred, whether for you that implies an intimate connection with the unseen, or simply something that is set apart as sacrosanct.

So what happens to connection when we treat it like ritual, and set about Creating Space for it in this manner?
We live in a culture whose primary narratives about connection focus on the trope of the whirlwind romance, on spontaneity and desires so overpowering we couldn’t possibly feel them and still exercise our free will. This narrative seems to leave little space for, e.g. a regular self-loving practice, or dispelling the day-to-day tensions that build up in long-term relationship, or navigating the complexities of ethical non-monogamy, or communing with the natural world – and yet arguably these all make for more sustainable intimacy. By expecting connection and/or desire to remain fresh and ever-present while we’re keeping busy, we are setting ourselves up for disconnection, disappointment, and in some cases a lifetime of chasing the next shiny thing, person, or experience, rather than being able to be present and delighting in what is.

However, if we treat intimacy like a ritual. If we acknowledge that, like everything else we value in our lives, it needs dedicated time and energy and practice. If we intentionally carve out space and time that is both safe and sacred, and dedicate it to our connections… Then we give ourselves much more of a chance to get truly present, real, and thankful with the beloved we are connecting to.

The next step is to set an Intention.

I say that Intention is the most potent aspect of magical ritual. It is what gives ritual a purpose, aligns and focuses everyone involved, and somehow takes an apparently random series of activities, and turns them into something meaningful – and often highly effective.

When it comes to connecting, clarifying an Intention, and stating it to anyone else we happen to be connecting with, helps us cut through the crap that gets in the way of that connection much faster. By stating what we’re here for – and also what we’re hoping for, since an Intention often encompasses both of these – everyone involved has a chance to get on board. Suddenly, we’re not fumbling around in the dark any more hoping we’ll hit upon something that works, or being distracted by errant thoughts, or spending precious relating time drifting between activities we wouldn’t have chosen if we’d taken the time to reflect and communicate.

Stating and agreeing upon an Intention also allies us more closely to any other person we’re being intimate with. We’re no longer individual units struggling to connect with each other; instead we’re co-creators moving together to fulfil that Intention. Setting an Intention, dedicating your connecting to a purpose, can transform anything – a walk, a talk, a touch, a date, a project – into something magical.

Treating our encounters – be they with ourselves, others, the Earth, or our deities – as rituals reminds us how precious they are, how necessary for a life well lived, and supports us in giving them the attention and nourishment they need to blossom.

Finally, like any good ritual, we arrive at Surrender.

I think it’s important to mention Surrender because we are such an action-orientated culture – but in magic, there comes a moment where we must cease to do, because what is ours to do has been done, and all that is left is to bask, to rest, to give thanks. Recognising and welcoming more such moments in our encounters allows them to nourish and replenish us in ways that neither love nor life can if we insist on continuing only to do.

So pay a little more attention to the moments in between – the moments that follow the first kiss or the most recent orgasm, the long walk or the end of the song, the repeated prayer or the carefully choreographed ritual. Lean into those moments. Relax. Let it in, let it under your skin, let it catapult you into bliss or cradle you in peace. Receive. Your work is done.