Ecstatic Ritual by Brandy Williams
Review by Stephen Blake for the Esoteric Book Review
Ecstatic ritual is published by Immanion Press
The main problem with approaching sex magic for the first time is not an ignorance of the techniques, but a whole load of baggage about sex. There’s still the stigma that sex is naughty or bad, that we shouldn’t have lots of partners, that it should only be within marriage, that the naked body is something to be embarrassed about… body issues alone affect a huge number of people, helped along by advertising and societal pressures.
So it’s quite reassuring to find that this book doesn’t even mention the actual magic in the early chapters. Instead it starts on the basics you’re going to need to be comfortable with your body, and a sexual partner. This part of the work is massively significant, and often missed when an author is more interested in appearing scandalous or knowing cool secrets than writing something which can be used practically (which happens a fair amount in this genre). So when I say this is a book suitable for beginners, that’s actually a compliment.
I’d heard good things about “Ecstatic Ritual…” in the past, and it has been out of print for a while. I was immediately pleased with the tone and scope of it. Williams looks at the whole picture: she uses the word “Hetaera” to describe someone who follows her system, because she wants it to be more than just a type of magic performed by a ritual magician. It isn’t just about actions or sex, but should involve a full journey with “emotion, relationship and spiritual engagement”.
Her advice on starting the work is very good. There is a chapter on “Caring for the body”, which includes exercises and stretching, using materials like a rough sponge or oils to explore sensation, playing with your normal choices for shaving or not, dyeing your hair or not. She encourages awareness of everything: your body now, the moves you make during the day, your diet and needs. This isn’t just a health manual, though. The emphasis is on loving your body as it is, taking ownership of it, fully experiencing the movement and life of it.
The author then moves on to the mental and emotional side of things. She stresses the need to clear mental space for this work, setting time aside to dedicate to being sexual without distractions. As well as emotional healing, the two biggest drives of the next chapters are to learn to take control of decisions about your body, and to “accept pleasure with an open heart”. Again we come back to overcoming stigma about sex.
You’d be forgiven for thinking “What, still no mention of the actual sex magic?” but of course all of this IS magic, and is also absolutely necessary for the later parts to be meaningful and safe. Feeling safe and secure is a big theme throughout the book, whether it’s “establishing trust space” or “calling time out” with a safe word. (In this case, it’s not just that you might want to stop a certain activity, but that the energy could get too much to handle during the working and you want to cool off).
So what about the actual techniques, then? She covers several typical areas of sex magic: generating energy for your own body, sharing it and combining it with someone else, raising energy to direct towards a goal, healing (both physical and emotional) and devotion to a deity. Her ideas on body energy are mostly chakra-based, although she also brings in Chinese meridians and other channels which are sometimes missed. There is practice at visualisation, opening and closing energy centres, and physical control.
The section which has changed most since the first edition is the one on bodily fluids. Combining substances (genital fluids, saliva, sweat, tears) and then taking them in to absorb or transmute the new energy is a big part of some systems, but with the rise of AIDS and other health issues Williams puts an absolute emphasis on safety.
Her section on worship is excellent. Seeing the body as sacred (and sex as sacred) is difficult enough for newcomers to these ideas, but she describes it with great clarity, reverence and seriousness. She says “The Hetaera works through physical pleasure to worship the Divine, to court the touch of the Divine.” The ultimate aim of this branch of sex magic is to unite with the Divine, and not just at climax.
The final chapters are on many aspects of this devotional work, followed by Appendices on sacred sexuality in Classical-era priesthoods and one on Ethics. The Ethics section is interesting, and boils down to “Sex magick requires consent.” You have the right to say yes, to say no, and to be equal. You have the absolute right to your body. She stresses that every activity in the book is for consenting adults only.
Overall, I was very impressed. Brandy Williams writes in a reassuring voice, but focuses on getting a solid magical grounding to achieve results. The message is “You have the right to be a sexual being”. Whether you want to use the content to explore yourself, you and a partner, or the Divine, her love for the work and enthusiasm for the benefits of it are inspiring. She treats a profound subject in a way that is always suitable for beginners. I’d recommend this book not only to practitioners, but also those who have never thought of sexuality as sacred, or a legitimate way to worship Deity.
Available from Immanion Press