January/February 2003
According to Cléo
by Cléo Dubois




Roots to Rituals
Copyright 2002.

I was raised a good catholic schoolgirl, attended a private school run by nuns wearing full habits. In my late teens I had had enough! This was in the late sixties and I started my journey to another side of world and to another side of the coin. My path led me from France to San Francisco and the exploration of S/M. It was in this lifestyle that I found my way back to a very different form of spirituality.

In the 1970's sex was wild and I certainly enjoyed my share of it. Aids had not struck yet. But by the end of that decade I was getting a bit tired of just fucking around. Saturday nights orgies, as they were called, had their charm. So did the Sutro Baths, the only mixed bathhouse in the City, where I could pick up any stud I wanted. The women who ventured in that huge sex palace were few and brave. The picking was easy and quite empowering for a short brunette who did not fit the tall skinny blond American standard of beauty. And yet I was getting bored. Something was missing. At the hand of an accomplished Master, surrendering control in erotic bliss, I found the missing piece one unforgettable night. It was the missing link that connected my sexuality with my spirituality. His name was Jay Magus. He showed me how to connect all the dots: mind, heart space, sexuality and spirit. I was told to not forget the lesson. I didn't! It became my life work.

Eventually I became a self defined Sadomasochistic Dominant Bisexual Switch. So to this day, my work in the BDSM world as a Dominant and educator remains fueled by my passion for clean S/M and ritual play that began back then -- might it be in the privacy of my dungeon, facilitating a large ritual at a Leather Conference or making authentic play videos.

But back to my roots. In these days one did not Top unless one had experience on the other side of the equation by first bottoming. Earning your leather so to speak. My initial experience with erotic submission was truly magical. Jay, the Master who guided me through the doors of S/M sexuality was not only an excellent player but also a student of the human awareness movement based at the Esalen Institute in California. He was passionate about kinky sexual explorations, Earth/Goddess spirituality, energy play, Tarot and Tantra. In fact he saw that it all fit together. What a lucky girl I was to be initiated by this wise and true Master!

I met Jay, his wife Amber and their slavegirl kaye at the Society of Janus, the second oldest SM educational group in the U.S. I became friend with both women. That early leather triad was part of the burgeoning San Francisco mixed scene. He was mysterious, kind, quietly powerful and inspired great trust. I found that combination irresistible and very sexy. I was invited to their home for an initiation scene that was truly genuine and transformative.

The initiation took place one unforgettable night in 1981. I was, of course, nervous and excited. There were preparations I had agreed to follow. I was told exactly how to dress and ordered not to wear panties under my skirt. I was to reddened my nipples with rouge and wear a bra with a hole cut out to leave my nipples bare under my light blouse. I was led into the dark room lit only by candles. There He stood, soft spoken and calm. He picked up a black and white Tarot deck, shuffled the cards and handed them to me. I was to pick a card. I drew The Queen of Sword. He then had me undress and kneel before him at the playroom altar in front of a large mirror. His Lady Amber came up and dressed me in a simple shoulderless piece of lingerie that very much resembled the image on the card. He positioned me in front of the mirror to duplicate the Queen and placed two long, heavy, beautiful swords in my hands. Bathed in warm candle light, I was to hold them above my head like the archetypal figure on the card, above my head for as long as I could and look at myself in the mirror. Eventually I had to put the swords down. The pain had become unbearable. When I let go of the blades I was ready to submit to him: J'avais laissé tomber les armes. The french expression that literally means "I am surrendering". I was in a trance, ready to enter the unknown. He was strict, gentle, and attentive. His Dominance was also part of his spiritual path and in service to the Lady - the Goddess Archetype. The flogging that followed was exquisite. My tears flowed and the sex that concluded the ritual was extremely orgasmic, intimate and sacred. With that very ritual I started to recognize my needs for big pleasure that connects me to what I perceive as Divine. That pleasure (or should I call it pain/pleasure/surrender) I find over and over in the erotic rituals we call SM Play. Intense sensations experienced in trust and respect have the power to open the door to our inner landscape and let our spirit soar.

That year we also shared intense play at the early mixed parties held at the legendary San Francisco Catacombs. The parties were not called pansexual yet. It was the beginning period of a burgeoning San Francisco Leather Community. Gay leathermen were leading the way. And the women who dared come out of the "leather closet" were fierce lesbians or bisexuals, In those times and those spaces I felt I was in awesome company.

My roots are based in a community that played together, released big emotions and had orgasms witnessed by others who shared and valued their experiences. I came out as a S/M player nurtured by queer folks and queer friendly folks. SM spirituality knows no ethnic, gender or sexual preference boundaries.

Of the men and women I admired, the ones who survived the early devastating years of the Aids plague, became pillars of our community. Some became gifted writers and gave us many of the titles that make up a classic S/M library. If you have not yet, you may want to read Mark Thompson's Leatherfolk and Geoff Mains' Urban Aboriginals. Mark's Leatherfolk is a beautiful collection of interviews and written accounts of the pioneer years of our rich and now diverse leather community. Leatherfolk got reprinted in 2002. Urban Aboriginals is also being reprinted in 2003; it deals with the ecstatic states and the natural opiates generated in SM and radical sex play. Of course I must also mention Pat Califia's (now Patrick Califia) Sensous Magic and Macho Sluts that explain or demonstrate what we do from a very different perspective. And of course this is just the top of my list.

Many of us kinky folks have done, and continue doing, our passionate work, to make the SM lifestyle more understood. I make videos when I have the funds, give seminars, lead rituals and guide couples in their explorations. The most challenging for me is sharing with words. I only hope that some of my story inspires you.

I came out as a S/M player nurtured by queer folks and queer friendly folks. Our kind of body-based spirituality knows no ethnic, gender or sexual preference boundaries. As the whip Mistress, I love dancing in Fire for Kali, the great Mother Archetype. The roles we embrace in BDSM allow us to get to know what energies we resonate with in the sacred space of consensual play.

As fluid or rigid as a BDSM or DS exchange is, there is a path of connection not only to those we dominate or submit to but also to our core and spirit. Does that resonates with you?

May this New Year bring you prosperity and fulfilling erotic explorations. May peace prevail!

In Leather Pride, Cleo

© 2002 -Cléo Dubois - Visit her website at www.cleodubois.com