Sex, Sin and Samhain: The Sexualisation of the “Wicked”

Listen to audio narration of this article

It’s time to prepare for the next spin around the Wheel of the Year, with Samhain, AKA All Souls Night, the Feast of the Dead, Pagan New Year, and more commonly, Halloween, falling on Saturday. Samhain sees us entering the dark part of the cycle, as we head towards Yule and the rebirth of the Sun King upon the Winter Solstice. No matter how, or if, you celebrate the date, I wish you all many blessings for the season.

There is an undeniable sexual frisson around Halloween, arguably more so than at any other Pagan Festival (with the exception of the Spring-time festival of fertility, Beltane/ May Day, perhaps). It’s dark, and we all know that lots of sexy shenanigans take place under cover of darkness. It’s a festival of the dead, and as far as imagery goes, sex and death go together like dark chocolate on ripe cherries. And many of the classic Halloween “monsters” that are so prevalent in popular culture at this time of year are based on sexual archetypes.

Consider Count Dracula

The real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s infamous vampire was Vlad III, or Vlad ศšepeศ™, most famously known as “Vlad the Impaler”: 15th century Prince of Wallachia (modern-day Romania), who was believed to have a particularly gruesome thirst for blood. Now, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought of him as a rather sexy looking fella (the allure of the “bad boy”, I guess, and they don’t get much worse than Vlad!).

Vlad III, or Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula

The historical reality of the bloodthirsty Prince Vlad was merged with the folkloric figure of the vampire, an undead creature that feeds on the blood of the living . Vampires were particularly prevalent figures in Eastern European folklore, and when crafting his classic horror character Count Dracula, Stoker amalgamated the legend of Vlad the Impaler with the vampire lore of the same region.

There’s a strongly sexual component to the idea of a creature fuelled by (blood)lust creeping into one’s bedroom as they sleep in order to press their lips to their victim’s neck, sensually, before literally penetrating them with their fangs and sucking on them. Yeah, not-too-subtle that symbolism, is it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

When Hollywood brought the Count to the silver screen, that sexual symbolism found expression through portrayals of the damsel in distress predictably clad in a diaphanous nightgown of white (denoting her purity, virginity) being loomed over, seduced and finally, penetrated by the suave and sensual Count Dracula….

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)
ca. 1931 — Original caption: : Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler in “Dracula”, 1931, movie directed by Tod Browning for Universal. — Image by ยฉ Bettmann/CORBIS
Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”

And What of the Witch?

Another (in)famous figure of Mediaeval and Early Modern folklore was the witch. Most often a woman, the witch was a “cunning woman” who possessed the ability to heal through the skilled use of herbs and potions. Within her community, the cunning-woman held a position of power- relative, of course, to her inherently lowly position as a female.

Fear of evil, demons and the Daddy of all Dark Forces, Satan, along with anxieties about independence, power and any whiff of female autonomy coalesced in the Early Modern period (c. 1500-1800) into the figure of the Witch, and saw the subsequent persecution of both women and men as minions of the Devil, working evil magic against the innocent. Often, witches were portrayed as highly sexualised beings, who were believed to engage in “depraved” acts, with each other and also with Satan himself: by kissing Satan’s anus the witch was said to declare her covenant with him. Witches, it was believed, emasculated men- quite literally- by removing their penises while they slept, sometimes keeping them as pets, or stashing them like baby birds in nests (Malleus Maleficarum, Kramer and Sprenger, 1487). Similarly, the “witch’s broom” can be seen as both a distortion of the domestic realm (historically seen as an entirely female domain) and as a phallic symbol, with witches “riding” the broom. And, if ever there were an ideal visual representation of this concept, take a look at this c.1530 etching, “A Witch Riding on a Phallus”, one that has been one of my favourite “Witch” images ever since I first encountered it back in my University studies:

c. 1530, “A Witch Riding on a Phallus”, Francesco Mazzola

This is just one of countless sexualised images of the much-feared witch during this period. As you can see from this selection of contemporary etchings, engravings, wood-carvings and drawings, witches are frequently shown naked, with hair long and wild, engaging in debauched and libidinous behaviours. Thus, in the Early Modern stereotype of the “wicked” witch, sexuality (most especially female sexuality) was exaggerated, distorted, and used as evidence of her sinfulness and a sign of her pact with Satan.

“The Four Witches” (1497) Albrecht Dรผrer
c.1500 “Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat”, Albrecht Dรผrer
c.1514 “Three Witches”, Hans Baldung-Grien
c.1515 Hans Baldung-Grien
c.1515 “Standing Witch with Monster”, Hans Baldung-Grien. Note how it is unclear whether the witch is in the submissive aspect here, and being vaginally penetrated by the monster, or whether it is she who is exerting dominance over the monster (and thereby inverting her “natural” role of the receptive and submissive female) by penetrating it, either by a very heavy stream of liquid (urine?, sexual fluids?) or some kind of phallic-type protrusion from her vagina.

Get Sexy This Samhain, Get Horny For Halloween

There is much, much more that can be said about the connections between sex and the “wicked”, sexual arousal and the fear response, lust and Lucifer, whether it’s Incubi and Succubi, the hint of bestiality in the relationship between the Witch and her “familiar”, all the way up to representations of sex and horror in film, where we often find the trope of the young lovers sneaking off to engage in illicit sex who are then massacred by the monster mid-coitus, as if to suggest that their slaughter is a kind of punishment for their debauchery. Indeed, perhaps you yourself would like to take up the thread and further explore the subject. It’s a huge topic with lots to discuss.

For now though, it’s a time for a quick, shameless plug for my short story collection, “A Horny Halloween: Six Smutty Stories for the Samhain Season”, which includes sexy and explicit tales of witches, vampirism, body-snatching, an virgin’s encounter with an Incubus, sex-tech horror and some Halloween-based Femdom. It’s available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited , and Audiobook (or, get the best of both worlds with Kindle + Audio Narration, and you can follow along in print while I read it to you).

However you plan to spend your Samhain/ Halloween night, I send you the best wishes of the season. Watch out for monsters, ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, et al. But, don’t be too hesitant to get up to a bit of wickedness. ‘Tis the season, after all ๐Ÿ˜‰

Love,

Jupi x

“A Horny Halloween” Kindle / Audible.com / Audible UK

“A Horny Halloween: Six Smutty Stories for the Samhain Season” by Jupiter Grant is available on its own, or as a part of the bundle “Interplanetary Quartet #1: A Collection of Four Titles from Jupiter”.

“Interplanetary Quartet #1: A Collection of Four Titles from Jupiter” Kindle / Paperback / Audible.com / Audible UK
  • Note: Where gendered language is used in this article, it has been done so in deference to the historical context of the material discussed.

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