I am an ordeal master.
What this means is that I have been recognized by my community as someone who is skilled and talented at creating and facilitating rituals that challenge a person’s boundaries and fears in order to bring about spiritual breakthrough.
It means that I have performed rituals like this for many people, most or all of which have thanked me profusely and have had permanent, marked, beneficial change in their life due to the ceremonies I have facilitated for them.
It means I have studied various forms of challenging the human being. This does include BDSM, but that is not the only or even the most important tool in my box. People can have their boundaries pushed in a variety of manners. As I have said so many times I cannot count, my own most powerful ordeal contained nothing but myself, a thunderstorm, and a rubber duck. No leather pants, no physical assault, no whips and chains. I have created ordeals for people that sang with the simplicity of the human mind, and some that were so gear-heavy that it took longer than a year to get all the necessary tools together.
Sometimes, but only very rarely, do my ordeals involve sex. I would say of all the ordeals I have facilitated, two or three had sexual components, and none of them had any sort of sexual component that involved my genitals or any sort of pleasure on my part. I do not find ordeal sexually stimulating, and I do not perform ordeal to fulfill some personal fetish.
It is true that, in addition to being an ordeal master, I am a practitioner and educator in the world of BDSM. And yes, BDSM sometimes involves activities that are purely for my own pleasure. And some of the techniques and tools that I own and use in ordeal are also used in my own personal BDSM practices. But to say that I cannot use a tool for two very separate and disparate uses is to say that I can only use duct tape on actual ducts.
When I am asked to create an ordeal, I look at all the skills I have gathered in my almost 40 years on the planet. Some people come to me specifically for some skills I am known for being gifted with – I have a theater background, so I have an ability for the dramatic, for costumes, for creating a mood. I have a body modification background, so many people seek me out for ordeal because they’re interested in hook pulls or suspension, as well as many other skillsets from that arena as part of their ritual. I have a keen understanding of psychology, and sometimes I employ that as part of the ritual at the person’s request. I can be physically intimidating (at 5’10” and 400lbs), and that can be useful for pushing boundaries. I am genderfluid, able to present as either woman or man or something in between, and that definitely pushes buttons in people who struggle with their own gender issues. There are many facets of my life that I employ and integrate into the rituals I create.
Here’s the part that you’re probably skipping over: it’s all by request. I do not seek people out for ordeals. I do not advertise myself as an “ordeal master” – you’ll never find a classified ad on Craigslist or even in a Pagan magazine horking my talents in this arena. I do not troll the Internet looking for opportunities to mention my calling, in hopes that more people will become clients. Sometimes, if it seems appropriate, I have offered my services to someone who seems to be looking for an experience similar to what I create, or I mention my abilities when someone is openly seeking someone to facilitate an ordeal
I also happily refer people who ask me for ordeals I am not qualified to perform. For instance, I can’t tie a knot to save my life. (I can barely tie my shoes.) So if someone envisions an ordeal of being encased in rope and suspended from a tree, I know several other workers-of-ordeal whom I can recommend. If a client feels that they need a cisgendered male facilitator for whatever reason, I know plenty of those I can refer them to. Maybe they live far from me, and cannot afford the travel (and I can’t either). I put a lot of effort into keeping a “rolodex” of sorts, so I can hopefully help match them up with the right person. I have absolutely no ego tied up in how many ordeals I do a year, or how many clients I’ve worked with, or how showy and dramatically interesting my rituals are. All I care about is that the person who seeks out this sort of experience gets the experience they need. That, and nothing more.
This also means that sometimes I turn people down. I do not perform ordeals for people who have to keep their work a secret from every single person in their life. I need to know they have someone in their life who can provide emotional and physical aftercare, especially if they live far from me and I am incapable of doing so. I do not take on requests I feel are too dangerous, or life threatening, or illegal. And I have had such requests. Sometimes I turn people down for personal reasons – that I can’t interact with them cleanly due to interpersonal relationships, or because I don’t get that inner connection with them, or because they need something physical from me that I do not provide.
I do mention my work in places where I talk about myself in general. It is a part of my life, as much as my roles as devotee to my Gods, child to my parents, spirit worker for Those I Serve, lover to my romantic partners, owner to my slave, and any other role I have. I never called myself an ordeal master until people I had worked with in this capacity called me such. It is a title that has been bestowed upon me, not one that I invented or claimed for myself.
I have taken an Oath of Ordeal Mastery, in 2009, in which I begged the Universe and all the Gods that should I make a move, a decision, a word, anything that would cause unintentional harm to anyone, let my hand/mouth/words by stayed. I pray for quite some time before I begin crafting an ordeal for a client, and I am in communication with them throughout the process to make sure that they continue to consent to, and collude with, whatever I feel will work. If there are parts that are kept secret for dramatic or spiritual reasons, I make sure to gain consent by sending a list of actions that “may” take place, putting the secret one in the list, and making sure to gain consent that way.
I do not make money doing this work at all. Sometimes I am reimbursed for materials, sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am reimbursed for my time, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I see this as sacred Work, and therefore money is not a barrier to entry. I would not call this a “career”, or even a vocation. It is a calling, yes, but not one that I expect will support me in my old age. In fact, doing this work ends up costing me hundreds to thousands of dollars a year, in training, disposable tools, phone calls, education, travel, time, hiring other professionals to help, etc. Let me be clear about this again: I almost always lose money on ordeals, rather than make money. Those who think I am out there scamming my way into people’s pants and rolling in the dollar bills it creates is lost in a masturbatory fantasy.
But it’s not my words that count. I encourage those reading this, who have benefited from, witnessed, helped facilitate, or in some other way worked with me in my role as ordeal master, to speak out. And yes, this means my critics too. I feel very strongly that this, like other sacred titles, is one that is given by the communities you serve. So let their voices tell you what I have done, what I do, and whether or not the title is an appropriate one.