You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.
In this weekly musing, I’m documenting a ritual that I’ve been exploring this summer. But I find it challenging to describe it, in the sense of what structures and words to use. Because I believe that the power of a ritual is on the symbolic level, and I wonder if that also demands a more figurative language. Symbols exist in borderland in-between the concrete, logical and conscious mind, and the intuitive, subconscious and transient mind. Therefore they are a powerful tool to approach the subconscious consciously. But that requires the symbols are culturally shared. I started to explore this ritual in a tantric community, where the symbols of masculinity, femininity, brotherhood, and surrender have much power. And therefore, I will also describe it using that language even if its different to how I usually express myself.
I’ll first give a broad background using that symbolic language and then break it down into more general terms. In a traditional tantric relationship, there is the sexual polarity between the masculine and the feminine. The masculine oscillates between serving and dominating, while the feminine between surrendering and submitting. There is no strict connection to physical gender, or what one has between their legs. However, there is a risk of getting stuck in one polarity, and that can be very draining. I believe that every person need spaces to serve, dominate, surrender, and submit. That means to act out both their masculine and feminine.
As they are all acts of vulnerability, they are often only explored in intimate relationships. It can be hard to embody several different polarities with the same person, especially if one is diving deep. One consequence is that the masculine loses its ability to surrender. In my Men tying men workshop, I offer men to surrender to a symbolic brother, instead of a lover. Here I often suggest leaving sexuality and adventure behind and focusing on safety and compassion, because that makes it more accessible. However, this doesn’t give space for the dominating feminine to participate. And once the brotherly surrender is over the relationship is once again stuck.
The ritual addresses this by adding a third person, and therefore creating a triangular polarity, with the following dynamic. I’ll describe them as wearing three different masks during the ritual, indicating that they are an architectural role, rather than personality traits.
The magician mask is the driver of the ritual. The wearer will start by brotherly tying in the stuck masculine in ropes and dominating the feminine to serve the brother. The goal of the magician is to remove themselves when a new polarity is emerging eventually, hopefully, the polarity of the dominating feminine and surrendered masculine.
The surrendering masculine mask is the receiver. The wearer will initially surrender to a brother, and then eventually transfer surrender to the dominating feminine. It is import that the transference is gradual and that the feminine only is allowed to enter when the brotherly bond is strong.
The transforming feminine mask is the enabler of the ritual. The wearer will initially show their support of the brotherly bond, by keeping distance. When invited to enter, they will first submit to the direction of the magician mask, and eventually, slowly overtake the driver role as the magician withdraw—and finally becoming the dominating feminine.
The overall ritual narrative is that of a brotherly bond that transforms into feminine domination and masculine surrender.
The ritual space has three areas—the inner space with the surrendering masculine in the middle, and the middle space for witnessing, and finally, the audience space. The magician masks make the brotherly bonding with ropes in the centre, while feminine witnesses from the outside. As the ritual continues, the feminine is invited inwards based on the premised described above. And at the end, the magician and the transforming feminine mask will have changed place. So that the magician is witnessing from the outside. The audience space holds potential visitors to bring more weight to the ritual.
There are some key inquires to the surrendering masculine to know when the ritual is ready to move from one stage to another. First, once the masculine is safely bound in ropes, the magician mask asks “Do you want them to enter?”. If the answer is yes, then the feminine is told to enter the inner space and make eye-contact with the surrendering masculine. The yes must be followed by a please to indicate the willingness to submit. The next inquiry moves from detailed and demanding “How can they serve you?” to surrendering and accepting “Do you want their touch?”. The aim is to move from empowering requests to gratitude, to give more power to the dominating feminine mask gradually. The last inquiry before magician leaves the inner space is “What are you grateful for?” to enable the surrendering masculine to validate the new polarity. Another powerful question to the feminine is “What do you see?” to hold space for them to express the power and vulnerability of the surrendered masculine.
I believe that there is a great power to include a third party in a ritualistic manner to move through challenges in a relationship. Maybe it is similar to comparing my therapeutic rope sessions to talking therapy. As in many couples might understand their dynamics on an intellectual level but still being helpless in making a physical change because the behavior is subconscious and instinctual. I’m looking forward to offering this ritual as a session for more couples in the future.