“Bonobos: Make Love Not War” Guest blog by Britta Love

Britta is taking the 8 week Sensual Shaman Immersion I offer and recently discovered on a shamanic journey that the Bonobo was her sexual power animal. Her research on this beloved creature has made its way into her Masters Research.

Enjoy!
Isis

Bonobos: Make Love Not War by Britta Love Bonobos

Bonobos are our peace-loving cousins, a little known and only recently discovered species of monkey. Previously thought to be ‘small chimps’, they’re actually an entirely different species. As opposed to chimp society, which is a ‘dominator’ culture, bonobo cultures demonstrate remarkable cooperation and peacemaking capacity.

The bonbobo is an omnivorous frugivore. The majority of its diet is fruit, but it supplements its diet with leaves, meat from small vertebrates such as flying squirrels, and invertebrates. They nest high up in the trees of their jungle, which is swamp jungle (there’s half a mile of swamp inland from the river before you hit the ground, tough terrain.)

In 20+ years of research, there has yet to be one instance intergroup killing by bonobos (complete opposite of chimps.) In fact, when two different groups come across each other, the males do stand and posture, waving sticks and baring their teeth. But the females from both groups immediately gather together and start sharing food or grooming each other. Now bonded, the men can do nothing but acquiesce to the new peace. In fact, groups of bonobos have been known to then integrate and travel together for a week or more.

There is also no infanticide in bonobo groups. This is because there is no way of discerning paternity due to bonobos’ nonstop sexual exploits! So killing a baby could be killing your own baby. In fact, male bonobos are known to babysit and interact with little ones even though they don’t know that it is ‘theirs’. Overall, bonobos are more sensitive and emotionally aware than chimps. Bonobos are known to show empathy and help other species too. Young bonobos stay with their mothers for five years in a prolonged childhood. In fact, sons basically never leave their mothers, staying always by her side. This differs from chimps who leave their mothers to bond with other males.

Bonobos live in a kind of ‘matriarchal’ society. The females are the first who have access to food and resources and they decide who gets what. Females form strong bonds by sharing food and through sexual activity like tribadism (rubbing genitals with/on each other for a period of 10-20 seconds, which females do every two hours on average!!!) While the males are physically stronger, they lack the bonded group that females form, and therefore their occasional attempts to dominate fall flat on their face. From the PBS documentary: “Males want to muscle in but if females stand united the males remain under their collective thumb.” (!!!) The sons of powerful females in the group have higher social status – but once their powerful momma passes away, they immediately lose their status.

When there is tension, sex is used to diffuse the situation. There was AMAZING footage in one documentary I watched. A male bonobo is running, clearly aggressively, large stick in hand. Mid-run he realizes he’s approaching a female bonobo and drops his stick for a quick shag. Anger forgotten!

In fact, sex has all number of social functions. It is like a handshake or greeting, it’s used to bond/create intimacy, to resolve issues and for reconciliation. They have all kinds of sex as well – gay, straight, masturbation, tongue kissing, oral sex, and they have sex face to face which is rare in the animal kingdom. They have much gentler sex compared to chimps. In a group, female will have sex with all the males. This constant sexual interaction creates calm in bonobo life. Intimacy makes it hard to stay angry!

Bonobos give us insight into our lineage of cooperation and partnership societies, that likely existed farther back in hunter-gatherer (pre-agricultural) times. They share the DNA we have that is correlated to affiliation/bonding, which chimps lack. It is interesting to realize that a lot of what we think is ‘natural’ about ourselves comes from our knowledge of chimpanzee culture – when actually we are equally related to bonobos, and in fact, resemble them more physically (more distinct faces, longer legs, pronounced breasts, larger penises). Although on a side note – a female bonobo weighing perhaps half that of a human teenager, “has a clitoris that is three times bigger than the human equivalent – and visible enough to waggle unmistakably as she walks”! (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately bonobos are very difficult to study. They are an endangered species, there are only about 30,000 of them left, all in the jungles of the Congo – where they are hunted for bush meat as well as the pet trade. Researchers have barely had a chance to study them because of the constant warfare and uncertainty in the region and it’s a very difficult place to be a scientist! But there seems to be so much hope in this cute cousin of ours. Interestingly, the translation of ‘bonobo’ in their language is ‘ancestor’.

After watching a few documentaries, I thought I’d better start doing my reading for my next packet of masters work. I was astounded to find an entire chapter devoted to primates, particularly the bonobos, in Riane Eisler’s “Sacred Pleasure” which I’m reading for my master’s program. The premise of her book is that there are two strands of our evolution – ‘dominator’ culture based on fear/pain and ‘partnership’ culture based on pleasure. She stresses that “bonobos demonstrate an evolutionary movement toward sex as a means of reinforcing social relations based on the give and take of shared sensual pleasure rather than on coercion and fear.” Bonobos are masters of using sex as peacemaking ritual. It’s important to note that bonobos aren’t inherently peaceful, or there would be no need to make peace! They just know how to use female bonding and all kinds of sex to make peace and prevent violence.

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Learning all this about bonobos has been so powerful. I knew a little bit of it but hadn’t thought about bonobos in a long time. The deeper I got the more powerfully it resonated and the more I saw the importance of their discovery for our evolutionary understanding – as well as my own personal understanding. I want to be a master of using sex as peacemaking, healing and spiritual ritual.

Yesterday during my morning meditation, I discovered a new direction for my career. From the signs I received and the direction I’m now heading, I feel this is connected to the animal totem work we did this week.

In honor of my bonobos I did skip a few meals this week which actually felt good, it reminded me that as animals our bodies are more adapted to eating when we find food, rather than at scheduled mealtimes. I also introduced fruit (bananas!) into my diet, kind of by accident because my sister kept bringing them home and forcing me to drink the banana smoothies she makes every day. I realized I almost never eat fruit these days, I’ve gone off fruit for the past year! I think it’s a good time to start reintroducing it into my diet.

I completely resonate with bonobo sexuality. I can easily see how sex can be used completely pragmatically for any number of social functions. I would say that I have always seen sex as a way to create and maintain intimacy – even when I identified as an asexual, I saw the value of sex in that capacity and was happy to participate for that reason only.

It’s a shame that in our society, it would be a bit dangerous to go down on all fours with your skirt raised in between two blokes about to have a fight – what a powerful image!”

New York Encounter Part Deux: MalloMars to Venus

New York Encounter Part Deux: MalloMars to Venus

MallomarsIt’s Sunday evening around 8pm and I am walking home from parking my car on the west side. I have a bag of groceries in one arm, a score from the an out of town trip with my theatre company. I’m an opportunist when the option arises to stock up on suburbia goodies for $20 when the same bag of groceries will cost you $55 in New York City. My husband’s favorite cookie Mallomars were on 2 for $5 which retail for $8 at the arm and a leg gourmet grocery around the corner. I felt victorious on my saunter home with my dirt cheap booty tucked under one arm. As I was strolling crosstown, a gruff sounding “Excuse me!” erupted from behind. Everyone’s in a hurry in this city. I moved to the side to let Mr. Bad-Attitude pass. A rotund black man with a 6” long beard who was missing his front tooth brushed passed me in linebacker fashion. We locked eyes. His stormy gate suddenly turned to slow motion.

“What’s your name?” he said to me, switching gears quickly from get-the-fuck-out-of-my- way to I’ve-got-plenty-of-time-for-you-babe.

“What’s yours?” I bounced back at him.

“Ishmael,” he said a bit lasciviously, looking me up and down again.

“I’m Isis,” I responded.

“Are you spoken for?”

“Very,” I quickly replied.

“He better hold onto you tight.”

I smiled. Ishmael continued “I’m just returning to dating. My sister is encouraging me to get out there.” Just then, his hardened player face cracked and I saw a wash of sadness sweep over him. His voice quivered for a moment. “My wife, I lost my wife.”

We both stopped in our tracks.

“I’m so very, very sorry to hear that Ishmael. What happened?”

“My wife died of breast cancer a year ago,” Ishmael’s gruff voice softened almost to a whisper. Tears pooledon his lower eyelids. “My sister tells me its time for me to start dating again. I’m… it’s so hard”

We stood silent for a few beats.  The sounds of New York City muted into the background and somehow I could hear only the sound of our breath. Two strangers simply being with each other in a deeply vulnerable and intimate moment.

“Ishamel, I am so very sorry for your loss. I know this must be very hard for you. You will never replace your wife. But you will absolutely find love again.”

“My wife was so special Isis.”

“I know she was Ishmael. And she would absolutely want you to love again and she absolutely wants you to be happy.”

A soft smile cracked through the dark clouds on his face.

“I think she would want that, yes,” spoke Ishmael.

We stared at each other another moment.

“Thank you,” Ishmael bowed his head for a moment and then walked away.

I shifted my armful of groceries to the other arm and continued my walk home, a little slower, more present and filled with the gratitude of small miracles –  more love just opened on the planet… and Mallomars were 2 for $5.

Energy Orgasms ~ A Romp with Queen Anne

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“What’s wild carrot?” I asked on my first herb walk several years ago.  It was a name I’d heard Kate, our herbal guide, say several times as we began our afternoon walk through Prospect Park.  Kate led us over to a tall slender stemmed white flowering plant with a red center.  “This,” she said triumphantly, “is wild carrot.”  “Queen Anne’s Lace?!” I exclaimed overjoyed that I knew a plant, and wasn’t a total herbal neophyte.  “Yes, also called Queen Anne’s lace,” Kate confirmed.
Hypnotized, I moved closer to the plant.  Something about Queen Anne’s Lace always attracted me. Growing up, I would often find myself simply standing by her, feeling the draw to be close to her stately presence. On family vacations, I had a tendency to walk over to her at road stops and run my fingers over her bird’s nest of delicate white flowers with the mysterious solitary red center that appeared even more crimson in the summer’s sunlight.
On this particular herb walk, Kate, our guide, invited us to speak with wild carrot and open ourselves to receive any intuitions or information from the spirit of the plant.  Having never actually had a dialogue with a plant before, I played along and followed my intuition as it guided me towards a tall statuesque Queen Anne’s Lace towards the middle of the field.  I stood in front of her delicate flowering top and introduced myself.
“Hello.  My name is Isis.”  In that instant, I was immediately swept into a deeply ecstatic state, as if meeting a long lost love.  I felt my womb space open and expand and the edges of my labia begin to tingle and become moist.  A pleasurable wash of energy galloped up my spine and my mouth opened letting out a sound that could only be equated to an orgasmic surprise.  I blushed and quickly looked around to see if anyone heard me.  The other women were deep into their own meditation and did not hear my very public pleasure-filled moan. My Goddess, was I having an orgasm in the skirts of Prospect Park?!
I turned my attention back to Queen Anne.  Rather than having a happy chatty conversation like I assumed the other women were engaging in, the waves of pleasure continued to roll through my system, and the hair on my arms goose-fleshed and stood straight up on my body.
 “Oh Isis,” I heard a voice say.  ‘Ha!’ I laughed out loud losing all awareness of anyone else around me.  “Did I just make this plant, moan?”  I stammered in my mind.  I then felt the two of us, the spirit of the plant and my spirit pull together like magnets. I could feel my heart beat in my uterus and my energetic roots unfold from my legs and reach out and twine around Queen Anne’s roots.  Wave after wave of orgasmic energy moved up my spine.  After about five minutes, Kate, our herb guide, asked us to circle again. I was sure my energy field looked like I’d just had a romp in the hay.  My cheeks were flushed, my heart racing and a glint of perspiration covered my skin.  Had I just made love to a plant?  Kate looked at me quizzically catching my eye and asking if I was okay.  I nodded, and darted my eyes around.  Did anyone else notice my quickie with the plant?  When she asked for impressions around what we experienced, my lips remained sealed.  I wasn’t one to kiss and tell.
My life’s work the past decade has been dedicated to the study and teaching of sacred sexuality through the lens of Shamanism.  Orgasmic experiences were a dime a dozen in my line of work.  But having an energy orgasm with a plant… This was an entirely new paradigm that raised even my eyebrows.   Startled by my experience on the herb walk and feeling the calling of my spirit to immerse more fully in the green world, I signed up for an herbal apprenticeship with Susun Weed at the Wise Woman Center.
The day before the start of my herbal apprenticeship, my husband and I drove up from New York City and stayed in a B&B in the Catskills.  We unpacked our bags and checked into our room.  As we settled into our cozy accommodations, I took a look around our room and discovered that above the bed on the wall was a picture of Queen Anne’s Lace.  So that’s what this apprenticeship is going to be like, I thought, silently laughing to myself.
As apprentices, our main assignment over the course of our apprenticeship is to cultivate a green ally relationship with one plant.  We were asked to ally with one plant by sitting with her each day, breathing with her and listening for her song.  When the apprentices were given our plant ally assignment, I felt Queen Anne dance beside me. “Yes,” I told her. “I know. We’re allies.”
Throughout the seasons of the seven-month apprenticeship, I meet with Queen Anne  daily for the first two weeks and then weekly.  I saw her grow from a feathery rosette with a white tasty root, to a statuesque Queen who towered over most other wild flowers and finally to the dried hand of the death crone as fall and winter turned and all that were left were her seeds, holding her blue print for the next year.  During the seven months we spent together, she and I moved from rapturous romps to bosom buddies.  I realized too that our first meeting was her acknowledging my work in sacred sexuality and was also her way of telling me she too was an ally in the sexual arts.
As a young maiden plant, her green feathery hair drapes along the Earth’s floor and her curvy and plump womanly root body nestles against the grooves of the Earth cradling her powers for her second year’s growth.  In sitting with her maidenly form in her first year, Queen Anne tells me “Most don’t, but you can actually sauté my greens and root as a tasty vegetable addition to any meal.  My maidenly first year leaves are brain food and supports cell health in the brain and circulation in the body.”
Her second year, she grows a long slender stem and has a crowning white head with a mysterious crimson center.  This is when she is ready to be harvested and when her womanly magic is afoot.  Queen Anne tells me “With strong intention brew my crimson spotted flowerheads in boiling water for fifteen minutes and drink the day after an unwanted potential impregnation.  I will support a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the womb by making the inner surfaces slippery so that it comes right out.” 
In her final phase of life, after her head closes, she instructs me “Take my seeds and carry them in a sweet medicine pouch next to your night table where you keep condoms and lubricant.  I go there if an ‘accident’ happens. Take two teaspoons of seeds every four hours for two days after your ‘opps moment’ and I will keep you from being with child.  In my second year of life I have a hairy stalk to remind you of the psyllium like qualities to move eggs from the womb.” 
“My second year head furls back in the fall but my first year leaf stays green.  In two years, my life is complete and seeds scatter and begin again.   I am the keeper of the maidens moons my red dot shows you when your cycle is upon me and I help bring it on.”

After spending seven months with Queen Anne and graduating my herbal apprenticeship, I feel like my relationship with her has only just begun.  As a sacred sexuality teacher, I’m not surprised that Queen Anne chose me as an ally when so much of her energy teaches about healthy sexuality and reproductive choice, something that our religious and political climate still attempt to usurp control over.   Queen Anne reminds me how to listen to the seasons and cycles within myself and to honor my body, my sexual energy and my reproductive choice as my own intuitive right as a woman.  My relationship with Queen Anne brings me deeper into my own inner rhythms around conscious conception and personal sexual power.  As a sexual shamanic teacher, my wish is for each woman to align with and feel Queen Anne’s support on the rapturous road of their lives.

Herbalist Robin Rose Bennett has researched and written substantially about the effects of Queen Anne’s Lace as herbal contraception.  For more information on Queen Anne’s Lace as herbal contraception Click Here