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Pagans and Polyamory

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Pagans and Polyamory

It's not uncommon to meet polyamorous families in the Pagan community.

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Because Pagans and Wiccans are pretty liberal-minded when it comes to bedroom-related stuff, it's not uncommon to find people in the Pagan community who are part of a polyamorous relationship. Before we get into the whys and hows, though, let's clear up a few definitions so we're all on the same page:

Polygamy is not the same as polyamory. Polygamy is found in cultures all over the world, but in the Western world it's often linked to fringe religious groups. Most polygamist groups that receive publicity in North America and the United Kingdom are heterosexual, religious based organizations that promote marriage between an older male and multiple younger females. In these situations, the wives are not permitted to have any sort of sexual relationship with anyone other than their husband, and the man's word is law. However, these are not the only kind of polygamist groups; there are some in which marriages are only made between consenting adults. This second group, in which everyone consents, typically is forced to keep their polygamous relationships secret, because of fears that they will be lumped in with the fringe groups who prey on underage girls in the name of religion.

Polyamory, on the other hand, is not related to marriage at all, although it's not uncommon to find polyamorous people who have had a commitment ceremony with one or more of their partners. Polyamory means a group of three or more people who have loving and committed relationships with one another. Open communication between all parties prevents anyone from feeling unequal, and both male and female partners make sure that any boundaries are set ahead of time.

Again, Pagans tend to be very open and liberal about their sexuality, which is why you may encounter polyamorous groups at public Pagan events or even within your own coven or tradition. It's hard to describe a traditional polyamorous relationship, however, because by its very nature, polyamory is non-traditional. It may consist of members who are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or a combination of all three. Some poly relationships have what they consider the "primary" couple, followed by "secondary" partners. Really, it all depends on how the people involved wish to structure things. Here are a few examples of ways a poly relationship could work:

A. John and Mary are the primary couple. John is straight, but Mary is bisexual. They invite Laura into their life. Laura, who is bisexual, has a relationship with John and a relationship with Mary.

B. John and Mary are the primary couple, and they're both straight. Laura joins them, and she's straight too. She has a sexual relationship with John, but her relationship to Mary is an emotional but non-sexual one.

C. John and Mary are the primary couple, and they're both straight. Mary has a relationship with Scott, and John has a relationship with Scott's wife, Susan. Scott, who is bisexual, has a relationship with a fifth partner, Tim, but not with John or Mary.

D. Any other combination you can think of.

A Wiccan from Lake Tahoe, who asked to be identified by her magical name, Kitara, says, "I'm part of a triad, and we all love each other. It's not about the benefits of me having two men in my life, like I've got one guy taking out the trash while the other rubs my feet for me. It's about the fact that I love two people very much, and they love me, and we've found a way to make it work as a relationship, rather than denying ourselves the love we feel for one another. My two men are each other's best friends, and just as importantly, they're my best friends. On the flip side, it takes a lot of work, because when I say or do something I have to consider the feelings of not just one partner, but two."

It's important to recognize that polyamory is not the same as swinging. In swinging, the primary focus is recreational sex. For polyamorous groups, the relationships are emotional and loving, as well as sexual. A certain amount of effort is required to keep everyone happy. If you're married, think about how much work you and your spouse have to do to keep each other happy. Now multiply that by the number of people in a poly relationship -- not only do John and Mary have to work on their relationship, but they each have to work on having a loving relationship with Laura, Scott, Susan, or anyone else who happens to be involved.

For a Pagan-specific viewpoint on polyamory, read Isaac Bonewits' page on Pagan Polyamory.

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