The Role of Physical Sensuality in Witchcraft

(Author's Note: This article was originally published in the August edition of the Moon Journal, an online newsletter by the Embracing the Moon Community.)

Take a moment to stop and consider your sense of touch. Close your eyes and focus on the physical sensations you're experiencing. Is your tongue pressed against your teeth? How does it feel? Think about where your clothes come into contact with your skin. How do they feel against your body? Shift about in your seat a bit and notice how those sensations change. Does your shirt slide across your skin slightly? If so, consider how that feels. Think about the air around you. Is it hot against your body? Is it humid? Is there sweat running down your face? Or maybe you're shivering slightly from a draft across your leg. Take a few more minutes and see what other physical sensations you notice. Don't rush yourself, because this is important.

If you're like most of us, you probably noticed a lot of tactile stimuli that you weren't aware of before you tried this exercise. That's because we train ourselves to unconsciously filter them all out as "unimportant." There are perfectly valid reasons for this. There are circumstances where conscious awareness of all these stimuli would be distracting and unwelcome. But let's ignore those circumstances for the moment and talk about the importance of physical sensuality in witchcraft.

It would be wise at this point to clarify what I mean by both "sensuality" and "physical sensuality." Unfortunately, many people in our society have come to equate these concepts with sex. And while it's true that sensuality plays an integral part in sexuality and sex itself, it is not limited to those areas. For example, I would be slightly concerned if someone equated the exercise at the beginning of this article with sex!

Instead, "sensuality" would be more appropriately understood as a level of awareness of and appreciation for the stimulation of the five senses. In turn, "physical sensuality" as I use it would limit the concept to the stimulation of the sense of touch. (Additionally, one could argue that the sense of taste is also partly involved in "physical sensuality." However, I have chosen to leave that out of this discussion for the sake of practicality.) And it is these stimuli and our awareness of them that is integral to a fuller understanding and enhanced practice of witchcraft.

At its heart, witchcraft is a celebration of life. The most direct way for us to celebrate that life is experiencing it through our senses. Such an experience is directly related to a sensual awareness. The act of becoming more aware of that sensual nature allows us to intensify those experiences and therefore our celebrations.

From a magical standpoint, we seek to reach a higher level of awareness during and through our rites and other magical workings. Unlike those who practice a more ascetic form of religion, we do not seek only a higher spiritual awareness. Instead, we seek to heighten our awareness on every level - including the physical level.

Already, witches commonly incorporate numerous stimuli of some senses in their work. For example, candles are commonly used to provide a visual focus. Witches often engage their sense of hearing in the task at hand through the use of bells, drums, chants, and music. And incense is burned to stimulate the sense of smell. But we rarely give thought to how we might engage our sense of touch.

After having gone through personal reflection and magical workings to make me more aware of my sensual side, I have considered ways in which this oversight can be corrected. The following list offers my suggestions to help bring physical sensuality to our practice of witchcraft:

  1. Set aside times just to ask in physical sensations. Rather than always trying to focus on a thought or image, include exercises that involve lying in a field and paying attention to all of the tactile sensations involved.
  2. Try to engage the sense of touch in visualizations. Add textures to the images and scenes that you create with your mind.
  3. Become more aware of your state of tension during preparations for any magical work you are planning.
  4. When you choose ritual attire (be it comfortable clothing, silky robes, or the air around you), bear in mind how it'll feel against your skin as you work. Take the occasional second to notice such sensations during rites.
  5. When you pick up a tool, take a moment to appreciate the texture of it as it presses against your palm.
  6. When you light a candle, take a moment to appreciate the warmth of its flame against your skin. (Without burning yourself, of course.)
  7. If you drink or eat in a ritual, pay attention to textures as well as tastes.
  8. If working with someone else, take note of the physical sensation whenever the two of you come into physical contact. Enjoy both the physical and the magical intimacy of such moments.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, it should give enough ideas to help anyone get started. Perhaps it will cause you to come up with your own ideas. If so, be sure to share with the rest of us. Until then, may your Work be enhanced by a greater awareness of physical sensuality.