The love of the body

…if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you shall never find it without.
-Doreen Valiente, The Charge of the Goddess, Starhawk’s revision

One of the things that neither of my parents really passed on to me was the love of the body. That’s partially because they were both raised in fairly grim Protestant sects which always distrusted the body when they did not outright disdain it. Moving away from that was part of what drew me to Paganism and to Wicca in particular. But I still find that there are lots of Pagans and Wiccans who spend more time getting away from their bodies – whether it’s in meditation or trance journeying or astrology – than being in their bodies, loving their own bodies, loving themselves.

I just recently got my first tattoo: a Brigid’s cross on my shoulder.

Brigid's Cross Tattoo

Tattoo by Paul Roe at Britishink. Image by blogger; please do not reuse.

Tattooing has a history of being a shamanic practice in the broad sense of the term, a practice that is a purposeful spiritual transformation for the person going through it. I certainly think that taking my matron’s symbol into me – into my flesh, literally – is having a deep effect on me in ways I couldn’t expect. Right now, it’s taking my love of my body to a whole new level. I’m experiencing the love of the body in way that’s very joyful. It’s not at all the grim calorie-counting, crunch-requiring kind of self-hate that is prevalent in our society, especially among women subject to the pressures of commodification. My sensuality is cranked to eleven. I’m making “healthy” choices for myself without guilting myself into them for the first time because they feel inherently right in my flesh in a way they never have before. So do the pleasures! As a result, I’m living, and moving, and acting so much more vibrantly, being more aware and more present, that it’s simply amazing.

This is a kind of mingled wild desire and joy that I have seldom experienced before; it’s Beltane, all right, Beltane coming calling in my own person, heralding the turning of the Wheel, helping me celebrate it in new ways. It’s my matron’s healing and forging and poetic inspiration deeply immanent within me. It’s the love of the body.

How are you experiencing the love of the body?

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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7 Responses to The love of the body

    • Literata says:

      Thank you! It has healed really, really well.

      You’ve helped me construct the framework in which I’ve been able to better understand what’s going on, so your feedback is a special blessing.

  1. I experience the love of the body by hurting it. XD

    Whether it’s two hours of drum circle that leaves my hands throbbing and ultra-sensitive, or a good hard 1600 meters in the pool that makes my shoulders feel like over-stretched taffy, or chopping wood, or dancing… when I ACHE, that’s when I love my body the most.

  2. I’m back in a Dionysian phase, so wine and rare meat and sex and dance are my ecstasy just now, and my way of connecting with and loving my body — and my brain as part of it. Remembering that my brain is part of my body is important for me pretty often, because my brain has chemical problems (I’m bipolar), and my disorder needs just as much consideration as any other organic problem my body has, whether it’s my bad knees or my acid reflux or whatever else. I am my body and my body is me, and what feeds me feeds my body and vice versa. And, conversely, trying to do the things people wrongly tell me are good for my body — certain kinds of exercise, losing weight, eating certain ways — always turned out to be bad for my body, because it is bad for the rest of me, and it backfires. (If I try to follow a food plan or lose weight, I get hyper aware of my eating, and then stop eating enough. If I try to exercise in ways that aren’t pleasant for me and don’t feel good to do, I will find some way of getting out of doing them, by getting hurt or making myself sick or just avoiding them, and then I wind up feeling terribly guilty for avoiding them and then I also don’t do any exercise which does feel good. These tricks never work for me. Never.)

    • Literata says:

      Yeah, understanding the brain as part of the body is vital, in my opinion. As I see some areas of understanding backing away from a strict Cartesian duality, sometimes it’s replaced with brain v. body instead, which is almost equally irritating. And it sounds like you’ve found the one and only “trick” that works for you…in which case it isn’t a trick. :) Blessed Beltane!

  3. ivyseed says:

    Nice work! Looks very good. :-)

    Content warning: I’m about to talk about dieting

    I’m currently in the middle of a lose-the-baby-and-postnatal-depression-weight diet, and diets are one of those things we’re usually encouraged to treat as a kind of ascetic penitence, punishing ourselves for the sins of the flesh by suffering to get rid of as much flesh as possible. Those can end up in an endless cycle of self-loathing because really, very few people can stick to them, and why should they?

    On the other hand, I find it’s very doable to lose weight if I diet on the principle that actually, yes, you do need to eat, and it’s best not to get too hungry – and that most importantly, there is no moral issue here except that I should be calm about my body. It becomes a question of planning and feeding myself good things. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t like a cookie right now (I would), but it actually feels body-positive: I regard the weight accumulated in an uncomfortable pregnancy and during a depressed period as a kind of scar, and getting back to a more physically comfortable shape is a way of healing it. Some people lose weight when they’re having difficulties and some people gain, and there’s no moral difference between the two; I gain, and I do best when I see that as a symptom of a bigger problem, something to treat with compassion rather than blame. Likewise, I find it best to treat dieting as a symptom of having more spoons; if there’s enough wellbeing it becomes possible, but if there’s not, no judgement.

    • Literata says:

      Thank you!

      Yes, I absolutely agree about the spoons interpretation. It’s also true that losing weight will in general increase my spoon count, so it’s self-reinforcing when I really get it going…once I get it out of the negative side of the feedback loop.

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