From the Bacchanalia of Ancient Greece and Rome through the orgies of witches in pagan Europe to the backrooms and bathhouses of contemporary queers, same-sex sexuality is associated with depravity. However chaste and circumspect our personal lives, just by being queer we invoke for others the heat of Satanic sexual fire. According to the Westboro Baptist Church, homosexuals are “a group of people who BURN in their lust for one another, and who FUEL God’s wrath.”[1] We break laws, pass over limits and boundaries, exceed what is possible. We tend the sacred fires of sex.

Lesbian orgy, Shunga scroll, Japan c. 1870

Sex turns us upside down and inside out, erasing certainties and separations. Lust burns up the boundaries with which we construct a sense of self, differentiated from the world around us and defended from its incursions. Intercourse opens our bodies to an other and initiates us into a deeper and more terrifying knowledge of self. When sex is hot, we experience disintegrations of body and soul. Gigantic sexual energy is an ancient doorway to the sacred. It connects humans with the energy of green and growing things, and to the Earth’s deep mysteries. No matter what our personal sexual choices, we are called to use this energy as a technique of the spirit, a way to erase boundaries and achieve metamorphosis. Through the fire, we lose our sense of self as a discreet entity. We become water, mud, blood and stone – and we are willing to defend the earth’s life with our last breath. Sex is radical, fearsome and dangerous when it evokes this unity with all that is other, opening self to world, and world to self.

Shadow: In the effort to gain social acceptance, we may be tempted to disavow the historic association of same-sex sexuality with sexual depravity. In order to be tolerated, homosexuality must be erased, desexualized and silenced. But we may find more power in allowing our identity to be shaped through the rich associations of this archetype. The word obscene is derived from the old Hebrew word Ob, meaning wizard or sorceress.[2] Depravity – whether real or imagined – can be a form of worship and a practice of magic. “The inner world is a place of blood and fire, tears and mud,” Mark Thompson writes.[3] Given time and attention, sex can feed culture and nourish the soul.

Related Figures and Attributes: Animal, Wild Man, Witch, Innocent

For more writing on this symbol, see these chapters of Orientation: Mapping Queer Meanings: Innocence, Sex, Danger

[1] See, emphasis original.

[2] Clarissa Estés, 1992, (335).

[3] Mark Thompson, ed., 1991, (xviii)