In the interest of not getting my latest book review caught up in spam filters, I will not be using its title here, instead I’ll use its subtitle “The Essential Ida Craddock”. How sad that even in these modern times there is still trouble trying to share Craddock’s work?
Now that we’re past the email excerpt that gets sent to you if you’re a subscriber (You are a subscriber, right?) let’s give this book it’s due by using it’s full title. Thanks to the kind folks at Red Wheel/Weiser I was given a copy of “Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock” to review.
Who is Ida Craddock? The photo of Craddock on the cover shows an attractive woman of her era (she was born in 1857 and sadly took her own life in 1902). If not for her claims of having an intimate relationship with an angelic being, she would very much fit the profile of a conservative spinster. However, Craddock’s willingness to discuss sex (and the idea that the act may exist for reasons other than procreation), whether you believed her partner was an entity from the “Borderlands” or an elicit, but earthly affair, forever changed the way that people view sex, magical and new thought traditions consider sex, and she ended up dying a martyr in the fight for free speech. She defended the belly dancers of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, championed the idea of sex as a spiritual act, and in the end, faced off with the notorious Anthony Comstock. Craddock lost the battle with Comstock, but the publication of her suicide note certainly turned the tides of the war champions of free speech were waging against him.
When Craddock took her life, her work was packaged away to be kept safe. Despite endorsements from medical professionals, spiritual leaders, and several members of high society, Craddock’s persecution led her to determine that society may not be ready for her work. Fortunately, through the diligence of the lawyer Theodore Schroeder her works were preserved, and now author Vere Chappell has polished and compiled them for a culture that may be ready to learn more about Craddock and her writing.
Vere Chappell provides the readers with important unedited Craddock writings, such as “Heavenly Bridegrooms” and “The Danse du Ventre (Dance of the Abdomen) as performed in the Cairo Street Theatre, Midway Plaisance Chicago: Its Value as an Educator in Marital Duties”, but more importantly he provides the necessary historical context to understand Craddock’s work and life.
“Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic” gives the reader amazing insight into the life and work of woman little mentioned but deserving in recognition.