Like many other occultists, my first introduction to group magical work was through my local Wiccan group. A curious blend of “traditions”, they nevertheless gave much prominence to scourging, “knots and cords”, blindfolded initiations and other elements which of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with s-e-x. If only the High Priestess had access to a book like Carnal Alchemy – who knows, I might just have retained my enthusiasm for Wicca!
Given the current vogue for S&M, body play and “modern primitivism”, this is a very timely release. Good books dealing with sexual magic generally are rare enough, which makes this one all the more interesting. Printed under the imprimatur of “The Order of the Triskelion,” Carnal Alchemy explores the magical implications of sadomasochistic sexuality with both boldness and directness. Eschewing the symbolism which some magical authors use to gloss over sex-magic “secrets”, Dawn & Flowers have produced a very practical guide to S-M techniques and relationships. Included in Carnal Alchemy is a historical overview of notable examples of the pleasure-pain gnosis; sado-magic themes in the works of famous magi (Crowley, LaVey, Gardner); useful tips on creating the ambience of one’s chamber/dungeon, and an extensive bibliography of Sadean works. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in sexual magic or personal transformation. Or, if you want to be kind – buy a copy for your local neighbourhood neo-Wiccans!
What a title! That truly exquisite pairing of words raised expectations in this reader that would not be easily fulfilled. The more specific promise of the cover blurb is the treatment of “Sadomasochistic sexuality…combined with spiritual or magical aims.” The authors claim to be the first to offer a book-length study of the topic, and so far as I know, they did indeed break some new ground on the publishing side.
But perhaps there is a reason that this particular soil had been untilled. As the authors must frequently admit in various cautions to the reader, such experiences and techniques are best transmitted in the flesh, not on paper. So this text is happily devoid of cookbook ritual instructions. What it does attempt to convey are 1) an historical survey, 2) a magical theory; 3) a notion of the range of possible practice, and 4) leads for further study and practice.
The historical survey, while fascinating, is not a pinnacle of scholarship. Statements like, “The A∴A∴ did not fulfill its function as Crowley had envisioned it,” cast a shadow of doubt over other information presented by the authors. The theory and practice sections are in the manner of a primer, and will best serve those who are new to either magical theory or S/M practice. In general, the authors do not seem to be suggesting any departures from existing techniques of S/M, but simply stressing the addition of a magical sensibility to the work. The leads for further investigation include a couple of helpful bibliographies and listings of addresses for various groups and suppliers.
Running throughout the text is a thread of shameless self-promotion for the author’s own magical order, the Order of the Triskelion. This firmly traditional feature of magical writing culminates in a full manifesto appended to the book.
Overall, Carnal Alchemy seems to fall a little short of its goal of boldly defining a new field within current sex-magical practice. It could certainly be an eye-opener for those ignorant of such technologies, and it remains an intriguing curiosity for those already working with them. [via]