What if there was a secret key that could make you rich, prolong your life, and set you on the fast track to spiritual attainment? This was the view of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century esotericist teachers of sexual magic. During the Victorian period, human sexuality was the subject of intense debate, scrutiny, classification, and pathologisation — simultaneously seen as the bedrock of a healthy population and a source of pollution and social decline. This cultural obsession was mirrored in a growing body of magical literature on the use of sexual energy to attain any material or spiritual aim. In this talk, based on extensive research on both historical and contemporary esoteric currents, Dr Manon Hedenborg White will delve into the modern history of sexual magic from the fin-de-siècle until today. She will discuss how pioneers such as the women’s rights advocate Ida Craddock, abolitionist and physician Paschal Beverly Randolph, and occultist and poet Aleister Crowley laid the foundations for esoteric sexual magic and modern understandings of sacred sex. This talk will also explore innovations in sexual magic during the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries, such as the increase in sex magical writings by women as well as feminist and queer approaches and contemporary understandings of sacred kink and sex work.


Manon Hedenborg White is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Malmö University (Sweden). She is the author of ”The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Construction of Femininities in Western Esotericism” (Oxford University Press, 2020).

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