Over the past 30 years Raven Kaldera has shat all over pretty much every boundary going. And this endless transgression has never got in the way of Raven looking anything less than amazing; like a Viking Biker, with a leather jacket and animal skin draped over his shoulders.
Raven’s a chilled out guy. He worships Norse gods by sticking his boyfriend’s fist in his arse and then at sunset goes home to his wife of 19 years. His boyfriend used to be a woman, his wife used to be a man, and Raven himself used to be a woman – but that’s semantics.
Born an intersexual, Raven was raised as a girl at the behest of doctors who figured that if they told Raven he was a girl enough, he’d eventually believe it. Turns out that was bollocks and after gender reassignment 20 or so years later, Raven’s been creating an identity of his own design ever since.
Depending on the circles you mix in, there are many roles you may identify Raven from. You could know him as one of the world’s prominent voices on paganism and BDSM; or an enthusiastic authority on polyamorous relationships. He’s a celebrated writer of transsexual pornography and an author and essayist on topics like vampirism and shamanism. Or he may be your abuse counsellor.
However, if you have a really exciting private life you’ll probably know him as an ‘Ordeal Master’. In this guise, Raven devises events to humiliate servile followers, looking to learn the limits of their strength and endurance. Testing them by acting out fantasies of rape and torture.
If you live anywhere near him though, you might just know him as a happy farmer in rural Massachusetts.
I gave him a call to see how the ordeal business is.
VICE: I guess no one should be surprised, but polyamory is apparently more popular now than ever before. Why do you think that’s the case?
Raven: Well, partly because of the sexual revolution and because the nuclear family can be very isolating. But it’s always been popular in queer communities. Trans people often get rejected by their family, which is difficult, so in a lot of ways we take up polyamory as a way to create a little tribe that won’t reject us. Also, I’m attracted to a lot of different types of people and I’m incapable of monogamy. There’s just too much wonderful sex out there.
What’s the difference between being polyamorous and just slutting around?
The difference is being open and honest with everyone involved. If I had one main partner and I had a million one-night stands, my partner would still consider that poly because they know about it and have the right to meet them. They might even form a friendship.
If I tried that, I think it would be really awkward. You’re probably most famous as one of the world’s most prominent voices on BDSM and paganism, how did that come about?
When I first got into BDSM, no one was talking about spirituality, so I started talking about it. All round the world, indigenous people use pain and endurance as spiritual rituals. Whether that’s the Lakota Sundance or Indian hook-hanging, it’s all over. But the fact they’re doing it in National Geographic makes it different somehow. I’m not saying you have to have a spiritual aspect with BDSM. You can just have kinky sex and have a great time – god bless you! But I have found it is incredibly empowering.
In what ways? I’ve read that one method you use is anal fisting?
Yes. For me it’s a tool. I’m a shaman. We have to master a wide variety of tools to go into altered states so we can do our work. Sex is definitely one that works for me. I first tried the anal fisting for recreation, I thought, ‘this sounds cool!’ When my boyfriend did it to me, I went into an altered state. I felt open to the universe, like I’d set my ego aside, and I was just a consciousness. It’s like I have a channel up my spine and opening one end really opens up the other end. It’s very blissful.
I can’t say I know the feeling. You’re quite frank in talking about sex and I’ve seen you describe yourself as things like a ‘sick fuck’. From your counselling work do you think everyone is shocked by their own urges?
A lot of people have fantasies about killing, or being killed during sex; raping or being raped during sex; or physically or mentally torturing someone during sex. These are common. Some of them you can help people with. Maybe not the whole way, but maybe you can find someone who will help act out and fake this fantasy. If you want to rape someone; who else thinks that’s hot? Who is going to scream convincingly when you break into their apartment? Will that scenario satisfy you? If not, then you have to keep it to yourself. Some people have these fantasises inside and feel terrible about themselves, when in fact they should feel good that they have these urges under control and can trot them out to use mentally when they want to.
**Whatever works, right? Personally, I hate being humiliated, it happens all the time. So I can’t really imagine being turned on by it. ** Most times, the ‘bottom’ is the person who’s getting most out of it. Seeing how far they can push themselves, enduring pain or testing their strength.
I’m an Ordeal Master. People come to me asking for me to design ordeals and perform them. Often they’ll want to face up to and relive something that’s happened in their life, it could be child abuse or anything. It’s not always sexual, it’s more like ritual theatre but with real pain they have to go through. It’s gone full circle where kinky sex is not even about sex any more. If they do want sex, we bring in other people for that.
Wow. So you organise full scenarios for people to live through rather than just perform sex?
Yes, it’s role play. We talk about who we’re going to be, what will be done with them. Whether they’ll be beaten, branded, cut, or something like that. Will there be a permanent mark that will remind them of this, or just something that will fade?
What kind of stuff do people want to happen?
Probably the longest, and most involved ordeal I’ve ever done for anyone was for a guy dedicated to the god Odin – the god of wisdom. Part of why he gained such wisdom was he gave up one of his eyes, lived as a woman for a year to learn their mysteries, and then was hung on a tree for nine days. This guy wanted to recreate this.
Sounds quite extreme. What did you do?
On the first day he was sent to sleep in a park. The next day we hosed him down, dressed him in skirts, and he spent a day forcibly feminised and we slapped him when he wasn’t learning fast enough. In the evening when he came home, three guys threw him on the floor and…. had their way with him, as if he were a woman. The first two were pretty rough but the third was gentle.
The next day, we taped one eye shut, then in the evening we stitched his lips shut so the words would build up but he wouldn’t get to talk. The day after we took the stitches out, and untaped his eye. Then I whipped him, and sang the Norse runes as I beat him, to get the energy of each rune in his body. Then we put hooks in his flesh and hung him from a tree. But not for nine days, only for about an hour. Haha!
The ordeal lasted for four days in total. There’s a bunch of us who are Ordeal Masters and we train people to administer this. We all go into it with the mindset that we’re helping this person have the experience they want. We are embodying the sacred darkness that one has to go through.
Jesus. Did he gain the wisdom he wanted to, after all of this?
It seemed to do the trick. He said he learned many, many things. I keep encouraging him to write about it, but he’s too shy.