Q-Moon Ordeal Ritual

This ritual was developed by Q-Moon, a queer Pagan ritual group in Boston. We had been doing a series of sex magick-oriented ceremonies, and we had worked very hard to make sure that the context was such that everyone would feel completely comfortable and not pressured to do or view anything they didn't wish to. However, those of us who take part in S/M wanted strongly to have our sexuality -- and its sanctity -- validated. We knew that not everyone would want to take part in or even see this ritual, and we let everyone know that there would be some explicit pain infliction, although like all the other rituals there was no genital contact. About a quarter of the group actually ended up coming, and of those, over half chose simply to watch.

The ritual was held in the finished basement of one Q-Mooner. We decorated it with trees and leaves to simulate being outside in the woods, and spread rough rugs and mats on the floor for people to sit on. We knew that the "heavy metal" spike-heels-and-chains aesthetic of modern S/M, although a valid fetish for many, might turn some people off; so instead we (the priest/esses) dressed in furs and wool tartan, dangling bones and feathers, leather in ragged tunics rather than biker jackets; a "dark ages barbarian" effect. We four ritualizers, so attired, ranged ourselves at the four points of the compass.

The Leather Ritual started with us welcoming everyone in and telling them that we were The Tribe, a nonspecific tribe that might have been any of their ancestors. We told them that they were here to watch the initiation of young warriors, to honor their strength and courage. One individual had already volunteered ahead of time to be a "young warrior", and s/he entered naked and painted with blue spirals. Another volunteered on the spot! Each warrior was led first to the position of Earth, where the hooded, cloaked Earth priestess lay them on a mat, massaged their backs, and laid semiprecious stones on them to do a cleansing before they would begin the ordeal. Thus fortified, they were sent to the Water corner, where the priest of Water, naked save for loincloth and blue body paint, fastened their wrists to the ceiling and proceeded to run ice up and down their bodies, telling them how the water was strength, and would teach them to endure discomfort and hardship.

Then they were sent to the Fire corner, where the priestess of Fire had her cauldron burning over several candles, and her mortar and pestle. She was dressed in a long sleeveless tunic of tartan wool and wore much barbaric jewelry. Hanging from the rope in her corner, they were treated to a barrage of candle wax, in counterpoint to the ice that they had previously endured "Fire purifies," she informed them. The final initiator, the priest of the Air, wore a mask of feathers and stag's horns, and layer upon layer of whirling black leather fringe. He hung them up yet again and whipped them with a bone-handled whip (actually not a very brutal one, only made of horsehair) while they took deep breaths and cried out, "I can fly!" over and over again.

Afterwards the warriors were hailed and congratulated, hugged by all and told that they were brave and fine, and they did obeisance to the initiators in gratitude. Feedback on the ritual was overwhelmingly positive; people who came not knowing what to expect found it was "much cooler" than they thought it would be. Its success shows that people can accept almost anything if it's put in the right context.