Ida Craddock believed that she was wedded to an angel. In her works of mystical eroticism she discusses how others may also achieve such a wedding and demonstrates that references to such nuptials are found in the traditions of many ancient peoples.
I was first exposed to Ida Craddock in Aleister Crowley's enthusiastic review of her Heavenly Bridegrooms, published only a few years after her death, in his occult periodical, The Equinox. It was not until one of his successors, Marcelo Motta, published two of Ida's works in his much later The Equinox vol. V that I was able to actually read Heavenly Bridegrooms and Psychic Wedlock for myself. While Motta should be commended for having seen the value of these works and having brought them to the attention of his readers, his versions were problematic in several ways. In any event, they are largely unavailable now.
It was, therefore, beyond time for a new edition of these works. Chappell has done an outstanding job of providing it. Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic not only provides the text of her two classic works of erotic mysticism, Heavenly Bridegrooms and Psychic Wedlock, but also a number of other writings, some complete, and a longer one only in excerpt. The first of these writings is a delightful, yet fiery, defense of bellydancing performers at the Chicago World's Fair. Also, Chappell includes two of her practical sexual manuals intended for those who were married or contemplating marriage. While some of the advice in these works may seem quaint, superstitious, or even prudish to most modern readers, they remain valuable reading as important documents in the history of sexual liberation. And, it must be said, much of Craddock's advice rings true even today. Her diary excerpts are also remarkable. They include entries describing her actual experiences with her angelic lover. The accounts of these experiences are as raw, as intimate, as sweet, and as real, as a memoire of any mundane romance.
As well as anthologizing these writings, Chappell also contextualizes them by introducing them through sympathetic biography. Chappell reveals Craddock as a courageous visionary who faced estrangement from her mother, harrassment by Anthony Comstock, imprisonment by the government, and finally death to deliver her message of sexual health for couples and transcendent sexual gnosis for all. Her final letters, written as she prepared to take her own life (in preference to her impending return to incarceration), are a poignant portrayal of a woman still sure of her mission -- and of her place in the world beyond death.
Chappell ends his narrative in a moving account of how she was the ultimate victor over her oppressors, especially the man who hounded her literally to death, Anthony Comstock. This fine volume is a poignant testimony to this saintly woman. As she left life, confidently expecting to be taken up into the arms of her Heavenly Bridegroom -- her love, from whom she no longer need be parted -- I can imagine her spirit signing,
"Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if Thou abide with me."