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Spelling tests: A brief look at wiccaphilia and witches’ sexuality

“For years I have had a real fetish for witches – I believe its called wiccaphillia – or something like that! My wife indulges my interest and she has sixteen sexy witch outfits!” (from the Sexy Witch website)

There are various websites that list hundreds of different types of sexual paraphilias. Many of these paraphilias are simply the names of specific phobias with the suffix ‘-phobia’ replaced by the suffix ‘-philia’. Examples of this include: agoraphobia and agoraphilia (fear of the outdoors; sexual arousal from the outdoors), cremnophobia and cremnophilia (fear of steep cliffs and precipices; sexual arousal from steep cliffs and precipices), and kynophobia and kynophilia (fear of getting rabies; sexual arousal from getting rabies). Another sexual paraphilia that often appears in these lists (such as the one at the Sensual Swingers website) is wiccaphilia (sexual arousal from witches and witchcraft) that I assumed was just based on the opposite phobia (wiccaphobia – fear of withes) and didn’t really exist (especially as it doesn’t appear in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Furthermore, there is not a single reference to wiccaphilia in any academic article or book that I am aware of.

I obviously tried to look up wiccaphilia on (…ahem) Wikipedia but there was surprisingly nothing. The Wikipedia entry on ‘wicca’ noted that wicca is a modern pagan religion (developed here in England in the first half of the twentieth century) concerning witchcraft, drawing on a diverse set of ancient pagan rituals. In relation to sexual behaviour, the article noted:

“A central aspect of Wicca…often sensationalised by the media is the traditional practice of working in the nude, also known as skyclad. This practice seemingly derives from a line in Aradia, Charles Leland’s supposed record of Italian witchcraft. Other traditions wear robes with cords tied around the waist or even normal street clothes. In certain traditions, ritualized sex magic is performed in the form of the Great Rite, whereby a High Priest and High Priestess invoke the God and Goddess to possess them before performing sexual intercourse to raise magical energy for use in spellwork. In nearly all cases it is instead performed ‘in token’, thereby merely symbolically, using the athame to symbolise the penis and the chalice to symbolise the womb”

In the course of my research for this article, I came across lots of references to witches’ sexuality but these were light-hearted and non-academic including photographic sites of the 25 sexiest witches, artistic sites of the sexiest witch pin-ups (i.e., drawings and paintings rather than photographs), the sexiest witches seen in the movies, articles on having sex with witches and ‘wiccan sex’, and articles on the application of make-up for sexy witches. There is also the Sex. Fetish, Witch, Artphotograph website run by a woman who claims: I’m a 50+ year old average everyday woman who still likes ‘Sex’, is a ‘Fetishist’, identifies strongly with my natural ‘Witch’ instincts and gets off on ‘Art’. I see myself as a type of Carnal Muse”. All of these sites make the assumption that witches are female but one thing that surprised me when researching this blog was an article in The Frisky online magazine that noted male witches are not called warlocks but are also witches. The article claims that the term ‘warlock’ actually refers to an oath breaker, or someone who was banished from a witches’ coven.

Professor Walter Stephens published a 2002 book entitled Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief where he describes alleged sex between witches and demons, and the mechanics of their lovemaking (and also confirmed that some witches were male). Dale Keiger interviewed Stephens for the John Hopkins Magazine where it was noted that:

“Before 1400, tales of sex with demons existed but were almost always accounts of rape; in the 15th century, the sex becomes consensual, and more. Accused witches speak not just of sex, but of good sex, the kind that brought them back for more and seduced them into forswearing God and agreeing to do the Devil’s bidding. Not only women were seduced by demons; men, too, were lured into sex with beings who turned out to be something other than just willing village girls. (Scholars estimate that 20 percent of the people accused of witchcraft during this time were male.)”

In another article in The Frisky, one article claimed that medieval witches inserted magic potions or ‘flying ointment’ into their vaginas with a special dildo or ‘broomstick’ (i.e., ”getting high and pleasuring themselves”) that may explain the origins of the flying broomstick. In response to this claim, one person under the pseudonym ‘Snagglez’ wrote:

“I wrote my Masters’ thesis on the appearance of demonic creatures and witches in 16th century wood block prints in Germany and I can completely verify this theory. One of the reasons female witches were seen as so scary was because of their rampant sexuality which was a threat to society – basically sex for pleasure rather than procreation. They would subvert the natural order of life and become the sexual aggressor instead of the man. They were often attended by male witches but women were in charge. Part of the satanic ritual involved the unholy mass which culminated in group sex with the devil on an altar. But, witches were believed to be unable to bear children because of the polluted nature of their bodies. That is why there were often depicted as crones – mainly because post-menopausal women could also not bear children. In fact it was believed that some of their spells required the blood of small children (completely perverting their gender’s purpose) so witches were often blamed if babies died for unexplained reasons. I really suggest reading ‘The Witch as Muse’ by [Linda] Hults”

Most reference to witches’ sex is usually made in relation to ‘sex magic’ (or ‘sex magick’ as it is often spelled, and which I will look at in a future blog). A 2010 online article by “herbalist, writer and artist” Sarah Lawless examined sex magic in traditional witchcraft (but wiccaphilia was not mentioned). She made some interesting observations:

“Our animistic ancestors believed that the earth was a fertile woman and the sky god her lover. When it rained, it was the god’s semen fertilizing the earth goddess. Worship of the phallus is found the world over, as is worship of the Sacred Whore…In etymology the proto-Germanic root word for Witchcraft – weik – from which wicce, wicca, wiccaecrafte and related sorcerous words stem from literally translates as ‘cunning and guile’. This possibly explains the use of sexual initiation for certain traditions, especially within Medieval and modern traditional witchcraft. Sex is a way to connect with the Gods of both the Upper and Lower Worlds. There are accounts from the witch trials of women having sex with the devil himself to be initiated into a coven and into the mysteries…Sex magic has multiple uses within Witchcraft. It can be used as an offering for deity worship, for acting out the mysteries of the gods, to attain knowledge/ awareness /inspiration, to be initiated into a tradition or mystery, to raise energy for workings, to empower sexual fluids for magical uses, to conceive, to act as Sacred Whore, to empower a working or sigil, for healing, or for flying”.

Arguably one of the best websites discussing witches’ sexuality is the Sexy Witch blog. The website is one of the very few that go beyond an informational definition of wiccaphilia and attempts (in an admittedly speculative way) to provide an insight into different types of wiccaphilia from a witch’s perspective. The female author notes:

“Curiously, Wiccaphilia seems to be a lot less common than Wiccaphobia. At least, if you Google the two terms the ratio is 3:18,500 (or about 1:6000). But I am sceptical: everyone loves witches, don’t they?…Someone suffering from mild Wiccaphilia might, for example, take particular pleasure in accidently finding pictures or descriptions of witches or Wiccans on the internet. Someone with moderate Wiccaphilia might search the web for images witches and take particular pleasure in locating a blog dealing with Sexy Witches. Severe Wiccaphilia might result in the victim spending a small fortune on books and objects featuring witches and then shamelessly parade their affliction by starting a blog about Sexy Witches. Sad, but true”.

Given the complete lack of academic and/or clinical research on wiccaphilia, I am not in a position to either conform or dispute such claims. I came across a book written by LaSara Firefox (simply called Sexy Witch) but from the summaries on various bookseller sites (e.g., Employing a unique blend of feminism and magick, this refreshing guide to female self-empowerment helps women acknowledge the beauty, strength, and sexiness within themselves…LaSara FireFox banishes the damaging misconceptions and shame often associated with female sexuality and sheds light on what it truly means to be a Sexy Witch”) is not an academic tome (but appeared to get lots of positive feedback from those who had read the book). Given the lack of empirical data, there is nothing known about whether the paraphilia really exists, and if it does what the incidence, prevalence or etiology of wiccaphilia is. If it does exist, there could perhaps be some psychological crossover with those who have specific uniform fetishes (that I covered in a previous blog).

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Farsaci, L. (2009). I’ll get you, my pretty: Sexy women and witchcraft. Carnal Nation, October 20. Located at: http://carnalnation.com/content/35869/615/ill-get-you-my-pretty-sexy-women-and-witchcraft

The Frisky (2012). 5 things you probably didn’t know about witches. October 5. Located at: http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-10-05/5-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-witches/

Keiger, D. (2002). Sexy devils. John Hopkins Magazine, 53(4). Located at: http://www.jhu.edu/jhumag/0602web/stephens.html

Lawless, S. (2010). Sex magic in traditional witchcraft, July 30. Located at: http://witchofforestgrove.com/2010/07/30/sex-magic-in-traditional-witchcraft/

Stephens, W. (2002). Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wikipedia (2013). Sex magic. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_magic

Wikipedia (2013). Wicca. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca

Doggy day care: An overview of Puppy Pregnancy Syndrome

In my previous blogs, I have looked separately at pregnancy delusions (i.e., women and men who think and claim they are pregnant but are not – including Couvade Syndrome) and culture bound syndromes (i.e., a combination of psychiatric and/or somatic symptoms viewed as a recognizable disease within specific cultures or societies). Since writing those blogs I unearthed a fascinating academic paper examining one of the strangest culture bound syndromes I have ever come across. While idly looking for some inspiration for a new blog, I happened (by chance) to come across a blog written in November 2011 by Jesse Bering on the Scientific American website which began with this opening paragraph.

Are you suffering abdominal pain or discomfort, fatigue, nausea, flatulence, heartburn, and acid reflux? Have you been having difficulty urinating, or experiencing pain while doing so? Oh, and one other question – have you been spontaneously expelling microscopic bits of disintegrated dog fetuses through your urethra? If you answered “yes” to all of the above, then you may be suffering from “Puppy Pregnancy Syndrome”.

Bering’s report was based on a 2003 paper published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, entitled Puppy pregnancy in humans: A culture-bound disorder in rural West Bengal, India”. The paper described a phenomenon that has only ever been reported in this one Indian area (near Kolkata) where both and women are convinced that it is possible to become pregnant and carrying a canine foetus if they are bitten by dogs – particularly if the dog is sexually aroused and because the dog’s saliva contains dog gametes. The phenomenon is a fairly recent one as there are few reports of ‘puppy pregnancy’ prior to 2000.

The paper, by Dr. Arabinda N. Chowdhury (Professor of the Institute of Psychiatry, Kolkata, India) and colleagues featured seven cases of people suffering from puppy pregnancy (six males and one female). The men claim to give birth to the puppies via their penis (in a similar excruciating fashion to the way that men have to pass kidney stones). At night, the female case claimed she could hear the puppies barking in her abdomen.

They also interviewed a further 42 adult villagers to see how prevalent the belief in puppy pregnancy was. They reported that three-quarters of the villagers interviewed believed with “definite certainty” that puppy pregnancy existed (73%), while only 9% had no belief in the phenomenon. In fact, it was reported that almost all the villagers could name someone whose unexplained death they believed was the direct consequence of a toxic puppy pregnancy (including those who were among the most well educated). The authors noted that in relation to the cases they outlined that:

“Psychiatric status showed that there was a clear association of obsessive-compulsive disorder in two cases, anxiety-phobic locus in one and three showed no other mental symptom except this solitary false belief and preoccupation about the puppy pregnancy…One case (11-year-old child) exemplified how the social imposition of this cultural belief made him a case that allegedly vomited out an embryo of a dog foetus… the cases presented a mix of somatic and psychological complaints and their help-seeking behaviour was marked”.

Due to the widespread belief in the existence of puppy pregnancy fact, the village community has their own “medical” specialists who “treat” the condition called bara ojhas. These so-called specialists provide remedies and/or perform abortion-inducing rituals. During the early stages of “pregnancy”, the use of herbal medicines by bara ojhas are said to help dissolve the puppy foetuses so that they are naturally expelled through the person’s genitals in an unobtrusive way. In Jesse Bering’s account of puppy pregnancy, he describes the case of a male:

“After one 24-year-old college graduate had an encounter with a stray dog that scratched him on the leg six months earlier, he became extremely wary of dogs because he was deathly afraid that one might knock him up. He was so preoccupied with dogs that even in the interview room he was apprehensive that a dog may come out from under the table. To address his unending circular ruminations about puppy pregnancy, his dog anxiety, and his obsessive-compulsive need to search for microscopic fetal canine parts in his urine, he was prescribed Clomipramine (an antidepressant) and Thioridazine (an antipsychotic). Importantly, he also underwent a month of behavioral reconditioning with a dog while being treated as an inpatient”.

Obviously, the condition may have no medical basis, but on a psychological level, the people in the Indian community experiencing a puppy pregnancy believe it is real. Dr. Chowdhury and colleagues believe that the crux of the condition is “the absence of any realistic consideration about the absurdity of asexual animal pregnancy and pregnancy in males (to the degree of delusional conviction).”

Dr. Chowdhury and colleagues believe that Puppy Pregnancy Syndrome meets the criteria for a genuine Culture-Bound Disorder because the mass delusional belief occurs as a consequence of “emotionally fuelled social transmission” only found in a very particular community (in this case, rural West Bengal), and that the disorder needs “proper cultural understanding for its effective management”.

Jesse Bering’s blog also made reference to another culture where giving birth to animals is a widely held belief. Bering cited the anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s account of the Azande people in Africa who believe that some women can give birth to cats. I actually managed to get hold of Evans-Pritchard 1976 book Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande. The Azande believe that many animals are witches or dead witches inhabiting the animals. The most feared animal by the Azande are wildcats (called the adandara) that they believe have sex with female villagers. These women then allegedly give birth to kittens who are then said to breastfeed them like human children. The appendices in Evans-Pritchard’s book (based on his interviews with the Azande) reported:

The male cats have sexual relations with women who give birth to kittens and suckle them like human infants. Everyone agrees that these cats exist and that it is fatal to see them…There are not many women who give birth to cats, only a few. An ordinary woman cannot bear cats but only a woman whose mother has borne cats can bear them after the manner of her mother”.

When interviewing Azande people, Evans-Pritchard said that his personal contacts included only two cases of people who had actually seen adandara. He then went on to note:

“Azande often refer to lesbian practices between women as adandara…This comparison is based upon the like inauspiciousness of both phenomena and on the fact that both are female actions which may cause the death of any man who witnesses them…Homosexual women are the sort who may well give birth to cats and be witches also. In giving birth to cats and in lesbianism the evil is associated with the sexual functions of women”.

Given that so little information was given in Evans-Pritchard’s book, I have no idea if the belief in adandara could be classed as a culture-bound syndrome, but there do seem to be similarities with Puppy Pregnancy Syndrome.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Bering, J. (2011). Puppy pregnancy syndrome: Men who think they are pregnant with dogs. Scientific American, November 15. Located at: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2011/11/15/puppy-pregnancy-syndrome-men-who-are-pregnant-with-dogs/

Chowdhury, A., Mukherjee, H., Ghosh, H.K. & Chowdhury, S. (2009). Puppy pregnancy in humans: A culture-bound disorder in rural West Bengal, India. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 49, 35-42.

E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1976). Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Voice of America (2012). Bizarre medical myth persists in rural India.Located at: http://www.voanews.com/content/bizarre-medical-myth-persists-in-rural-india-143818636/179310.html