Inspired by Raven Kaldera’s The Eightfold Path to Altered States of Consciousness, which is reproduced in the Appendix, Lee Harrington clearly draws from Kaldera’s work in Northern Tradition Shamanism and applies it to Sacred Kink. No, I will not be addressing any critics of Kaldera’s Shamanism work, there is a time and place for such shenanigans. This is not it. Also, I do not walk that path so I don’t care.
This is not a book for the beginner spiritual worker, this is not the book for the beginner kinkster. This book is for that delicate, intermediate stage of “I’m past my 101 stage and searching for something more.” or “I wonder if my kink means something more to me than just the sex, so I need some things to make me think.” Many of the concepts mentioned are not for the faint of heart. So you are going to need a grounding in the basics, and then some, before you think about picking this up, spiritually, kinky, and ethically.
The eightfold paths that Lee Harrington discusses in this book are:
- Path of Breath or Meditation
- Path of Ritual
- Path of Rhythm
- Path of Asceticism
- Path of Sacred Plants
- Path of Flesh
- Ordeal Path
- Path of the Horse
In each section Harrington stresses and encourages communication and ethics with your partner(s) as any good BDSM primer does. But the book falls flat when prompting the reader to think for themselves. It offers questions and problems with no solutions offered, these are instead expected to come out of thin air or the reader’s own ethics and consent with their partner(s). This is wonderful and all, to leave it personal but I felt like a baseline is needed within an introductory book.
Harrington accurately writes what kink tools are useful in each of the paths. Flogging or caning for the Path of Rhythm. Path of Ritual includes chanting or the timeless “Sir, One, Sir” “Sir, Two, Sir” when on the receiving end of impact play. The Ritual Path can include any daily ritual the reader would like to imbue meaning to, or as their dynamic applies. The Ordeal Path is using pain for catharsis, or spiritual awaking, and can involve suspend rope play or some other restrictive movement position for agreed upon length of time to name a few.
The Path of the Horse is perhaps the most controversial of the eightfold paths to BDSM and Beyond. Harrington writes, “The Path of the Horse is spirit or God embedded in our flesh, invoking holy names and calling down the divine. It is information and evolution found through channeling, evocation, and directly tapping into the forces of the universe. There are a thousand different degrees of personal interface, some where the divine manifests in us and we or our congregation gains insight from it, and others where we manifest within the divine and learn from that perspective.”
It is in this chapter that Harrington especially stresses the need for clear communication and consent with your partner(s). He recommends a “ground team” of individuals that can watch and monitor the scene, not unlike hallucinogenic trip sitter. This would be useful to people who are unfamiliar with Horsing or Aspecting with a deity. However should only be attempted after the partner who is being ridden is familiar with the process. While I agree with its purpose to keep the players in the scene ethically in check, Harrington doesn’t provide alternatives for a monogamous couple, or a couple that prefers not to be on display.
These eight-fold paths may be blended to varying degrees as individuals wish, such as the Path of the Warrior, which could include the Ordeal Path, Path of the Ritual, and Path of the Horse.
Appendices include Raven Kaldera’s essay that inspired Lee Harrington, an essay written by Lee, and some really great modern kink resources. Both bibliography and community references are solid.
The last section of the book is a small study guide for individuals, or groups. Lee Harrington makes you think about these paths, and what draws you to them. Forcing you to sit down, focus, and think more about your life and path and if this is for you.
This book sparked many discussions between me and my partner, and in that, it has value. If you are looking for a book to dip your toe into expanding your spirituality into your kink, or expanding your kink to include some spirituality this is the one to do it with. I just wish it had more meat to it. But that’s what the bibliography is for!
This post is part of a new, ongoing series of book reviews published from a variety of readers and perspectives. Check in on the bookshelf page often as more reviews will be added for each of the books regularly.