20 January 2011


Vere Chappell. Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock. Wieser Books, 2010

Ida Craddock (1857-1902) was a pioneering American sexologist, who eventually committed suicide rather than face a long prison sentence imposed upon her through the actions of the moral entrepreneur Anthony Comstock. This book, by an officer of the Ordo Templi Orientis, provides a basic biography and a selection of her works.
What makes her story worthy of note in Magonia, is that she claimed to have been taught the arts of sexual ecstasy and the secret symbolism of belly dancing by her heavenly bridegroom, Soph, i.e. a ghost. 

Soph is supposed to have been the spirit of "a young man whom Ida had know when she was a teenager" a business associate of her mother's and frequent visitor to her household, who would always find some excuse to chat and joke with a Ida and give her presents, but who died before she reached adulthood. It is perhaps odd that Chappell doesn't even raise the possibility that Ida was the victim of sexual abuse. Whatever the case Ida recounted her experiences with her phantom lover in much detail in her diaries.

To back up her claims, she made an exhaustive study of the history of erotic relationships between humans and angels, spirits, incubi and succubi and the like since ancient times in a rather rambling work entitled Heavenly Bridegrooms, reproduced in this volume.

The idea of spirit spouses is one which occurs in a number of shamanic traditions, and, of course, reappears in modern UFO lore with such figures as Elizabeth Klarer, the South African contactee who claimed to have borne a child by her alien lover. Ms Craddock however would have been less impressed by abductees claims of meetings with hybrid children, as she would have assumed they were delusions implanted by negative spirits.

Beliefs that one has had sexual relations with non-human (or non-corporeal, a contradiction in terms surely!) entities might be more widespread than one supposes even now, as witness the numerous tabloid tales of 'randy spooks'.

Few modern psychologists would take such stories at face value, though few would seek to send those who told them to a mental hospital, as happened Ida for a time. They are more likely to be regarded as fantasy prone personality, one feature of the standard description of fantasy proneness was sexual fantasies so vivid as to lead to orgasm, which would certainly have fitted Ida. See also http://magonia.haaan.com/2009/fpp/ for more on fantasy prone personalities. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

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