This post contains sexual imagery and coarse language, but I didn’t write those parts; they are from some award-winning poetry.
I was lucky enough to see Sarah de Leeuw at the Writers Fest this year. I chose the event on impulse, not having read any of the works by the authors on the panel, and was surprised and delighted by the intellectual, thought-provoking conversation on women’s sexuality that occurred, mostly stemming from Sarah’s breadth and depth of knowledge. After, Robyn (of the Pagan Ritual Hack Space workshop) and I talked the whole way home about feminism, geography, bondage, bodies in nature and bodies in urban environments, sex metaphors, and whatever else came into our heads.
We both bought copies of Geographies of a Lover and I read it in a single sitting on Saturday morning. I will definitely have to read it several more times to even get a sense of everything that’s packed in the book, but in broad strokes, it is big: flowing, stream-of-conscious poetry full of icebergs and giant trees and mountains. There are urban geographies too, but they are limited in scope: “… i am concentrating on nothing else, not the city sounds of heels on cobblestones or the smell of chocolates and cigarettes or the snow starting to fall again, i am on my knees my cunt wet, wrist sore …” (page 38)
Contrast that with: “… as you fuck me from behind the speed of glacier retreats escalating with climate change a rapid withdrawal up valleys toward the comparative coolness of mountain tops soon there may be nothing left of the ice bodies and it feels as though a knotted leash of pumping blood connects my cunt to the pulse in my neck …” (page 20-21)
Most of the book is more similar to the latter quote. There are connections being drawn here between female sexuality and nature in all its power. As in much of Paganism, this work finds a mirror-image, writ large, of us in nature. Both say that we are animals, we are of nature, and perhaps that there is wildness in us yet, despite our steel and plastic surroundings.
My cat, Zoey, thinks she’s a wild animal too. When she hears the crows outside, she runs to the window and gets her hunter look on: alert stillness, but for her twitching tail, and pricked ears. That the birds are almost bigger than her tiny 7-pounds of fluff and eyeball, and that she has proven herself incapable of hunting even a little house mouse, and that she is terrified of outside and can only scream at the door when accidentally shut out of the house does not seem to factor into her reaction.
I like honouring that we are dependent on nature, and women’s sexuality has too often been dismissed entirely or reduced to metaphors about roses or orchids. However, I also like the idea of honouring who and what we actually are now; that we’re urbanized, that we’re domesticated. I think it would be interesting to explore urban sexual metaphors. Maybe we even need cyber sexual metaphors as we become more and more cyborgnetic in our interactions with technology.
A different kind of sexuality might be suggested by urban and cyber metaphors. Natural metaphors lend themselves well to animalistic, out-of-control passions, but not to other kinds of sexual expressions: elaborate role playing, bondage, fantasy, the complexities of sex in a long-term relationship; all manner of sex that is as much in the mind as it is in the body. We need room for all, especially when discussing women’s sexuality, as to not reduce us to only one thing. Perhaps we also need to add these things to our Pagan spirituality, as to keep our religion grounded in the time and place where we actually are. As Pagans, we know that the metaphors we choose to use are important; that’s the basis of magic.
A poetry book entitled “Geographies of a Neo-Pagan” would have to include physical geography, but also human geography: social and cultural, and probably the newer discipline of cyber-geography. And maybe a geography of the invisible and imaginary. If such a thing doesn’t already exist, we would have to invent it, as we work in in-between places.
What matters to us – beyond metaphors – are our physical and our social surroundings. Someone else will have to write the poetry of Pagan geography and the poetry of urban sexuality, as poetry isn’t my art form. It is perhaps because my main creative outlet right now is writing rituals, but as soon as I am inspired, I want to direct that energy into a ritual… when all you have is a hammer, you know. Maybe a ritual where natural images are paired with urban metaphors: grounding into bedrock and into cement; north as earth/mountains and as the foundations of homes; east as air/wind and as the sounds of the city; etc. Because, let’s face it, as much as we might want to hunt the crows, most of us are house cats.