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Author Topic: Finding a path without the male/female binary  (Read 3766 times)

PetitAlbert

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Finding a path without the male/female binary
« on: July 24, 2012, 05:52:26 am »
All the pagan and wicca or sub-wicca paths and books I'm reading seem to have a very strong gender binary at the heart of things. God and Goddess. It's there in the wheel of the year, it's there in the high-ritual-qabala I'm reading, and so on.

I don't believe Male and Female are these two essential poles, and I don't believe they have these innate qualities, like water/fire, or active/passive. While they are admittedly powerful symbols, they are not symbols I want to support.

On the contrary - I do a lot of feminist work around breaking down "women are like X but men are like X" stereotypes, and lots of queer activism too, with people who are genderqueer, genderfluid, agendered and so on. It seems ridiculous to revere a concept religiously which I fight against in real life, and two enshrine two genders as most important when, to me at least, they're not.

I know there are individual deities who are queer-er or gendercomplex, but the new age frameworks for revering them - at least, the ones which are widely available - all default back to male candle/female candle stuff. I'm not at a point where I can freewheel, I need 101ish resources to give me groundings.

Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?
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Nachtigall

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2012, 06:21:52 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
All the pagan and wicca or sub-wicca paths and books I'm reading seem to have a very strong gender binary at the heart of things. God and Goddess. It's there in the wheel of the year, it's there in the high-ritual-qabala I'm reading, and so on.

I don't believe Male and Female are these two essential poles, and I don't believe they have these innate qualities, like water/fire, or active/passive. While they are admittedly powerful symbols, they are not symbols I want to support.

On the contrary - I do a lot of feminist work around breaking down "women are like X but men are like X" stereotypes, and lots of queer activism too, with people who are genderqueer, genderfluid, agendered and so on. It seems ridiculous to revere a concept religiously which I fight against in real life, and two enshrine two genders as most important when, to me at least, they're not.

I know there are individual deities who are queer-er or gendercomplex, but the new age frameworks for revering them - at least, the ones which are widely available - all default back to male candle/female candle stuff. I'm not at a point where I can freewheel, I need 101ish resources to give me groundings.

Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?

 
Have you looked at any hard-polytheistic, recon based path? Those actually worship the gods as individuals, instead of treating them as a symbol for "all things feminine or masculine".
You mention that you've already found the deities that you would like to revere; see, how they are/were worshiped in their culture before going to new-age concepts.

Jenett

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2012, 07:02:12 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
All the pagan and wicca or sub-wicca paths and books I'm reading seem to have a very strong gender binary at the heart of things. God and Goddess. It's there in the wheel of the year, it's there in the high-ritual-qabala I'm reading, and so on.


The thing to realise is that Wicca - both traditional and a number of neo-Wicca variants - has a strong focus on physical reproductive fertility (at least in myth), which does, for biological and historical reasons, have some implications for ritual polarity.

That said, there are traditions out there that practice religious witchcraft, and whose sources of polarity come from other places than gender. (Feri is fairly well known for it. My trad's gone that way. There are a bunch of GLTBQ focused groups where gender is not the driving factor for ritual magical friction. They're not the ones you see front and center in books, but they're out there with a little digging.)

Quote

Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?

 
The way I approach it is that male/female is one polarity among several. I do think it's got value in some ways - not in the sense of "your gender is X and you can only do X" but in the sense of "having two different approaches to running energy produce useful results, and for a variety of reasons - many of them cultural - these often map into gender." (and with taking individual preferences into account: my trad has had students who are pretty much everywhere on the gender identity spectrum. People do more with the stuff they find easiest, in terms of ritual roles, though ideally everyone learns to do everything at least enough to fill in.)

I've often described my own group's polarity as song versus dance, for example, and that's been written into the Great Rite I use in that setting.

There's also a part, when you dig deeply into group ritual roles, where, say, female=passive is not particularly accurate. It's a lot more complicated than that. My usual ritual example is spinning yarn: one person's job is to gather all the fiber together, one person's job to get all the fibers pointing the same way, one person's job is to spin it, and one person's job is to make it into finished usable yarn and do something with it, and direct the final shape it takes in the world.

Those things happen to map to some jobs with gendered terms historically (summoner, handmaiden, priest, priestess, in our case, in that order) but the actual *work* is much less of a map to gendered roles or assumptions than it looks at first glance.

The trick, of course, is that books rarely talk about that because a) it's something that you really do need other people to learn in that mode and b) it's not something a lot of books talk about anyway.
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HeartShadow

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2012, 07:20:42 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
All the pagan and wicca or sub-wicca paths and books I'm reading seem to have a very strong gender binary at the heart of things. God and Goddess. It's there in the wheel of the year, it's there in the high-ritual-qabala I'm reading, and so on.

I don't believe Male and Female are these two essential poles, and I don't believe they have these innate qualities, like water/fire, or active/passive. While they are admittedly powerful symbols, they are not symbols I want to support.

On the contrary - I do a lot of feminist work around breaking down "women are like X but men are like X" stereotypes, and lots of queer activism too, with people who are genderqueer, genderfluid, agendered and so on. It seems ridiculous to revere a concept religiously which I fight against in real life, and two enshrine two genders as most important when, to me at least, they're not.

I know there are individual deities who are queer-er or gendercomplex, but the new age frameworks for revering them - at least, the ones which are widely available - all default back to male candle/female candle stuff. I'm not at a point where I can freewheel, I need 101ish resources to give me groundings.

Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?

 
A quick look at your flag says you're in the UK.  And as I understand it, traditional Wicca is a much greater shaper of your pagan world than it is over here.

If you get away from Wicca and offshoots, though, the male/female thing goes WAY less.  (f'ex, FlameKeeping specifically rejects that binary).

RandallS

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2012, 08:11:49 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
All the pagan and wicca or sub-wicca paths and books I'm reading seem to have a very strong gender binary at the heart of things. God and Goddess. It's there in the wheel of the year, it's there in the high-ritual-qabala I'm reading, and so on.

Asking for a Wiccan or Wiccan-like path that does not have this gender-duality is like asking for a Christian path that does not have Jesus -- Gender duality is as core to Wiccan religious belief as Jesus is to Christian religious belief. However, if you step away from Wicca and Wicca-like Pagan religions, you will find many that do not focus on gender at all. Few recon Pagan religions focus on gender, for example.
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Nyktelios

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2012, 08:34:47 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?


Like Jenett mentioned, Feri is a Witchcraft tradition in which the male-female duality is pretty irrelevant. It's very much an initiatory tradition, but some helpful books are "Fifty Years in Feri Tradition" by Cora Anderson, "Evolutionary Witchcraft" by T. Thorn Coyle, and for something more 101, "The Spiral Dance" by Starhawk is very good, especially the later editions that include her commentary on the first edition.

You can find the basics of Feri theology here: http://www.lilithslantern.com/thealogy.htm.

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2012, 04:45:37 pm »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773


Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?


Like a couple of others have said, I would recommend you look at Recon-based paths. I have problems with stereotyped views of women and the gender binary as well, and I've found that Kemeticism, for example, has a refreshing lack of both for the most part. (In fact, many of the Kemetic goddesses can and will set you on fire if they have to. ;)) There are a couple of things that make me grit my teeth a bit, though.

You could also identify those deities that you're drawn to, and then research how they were worshipped in their home cultures. Then you could construct your own religion around those deities.

Also realize that you're almost always going to find things in belief systems that you don't support. You can choose to ignore those things, reinterpret them slightly, or you can avoid that system entirely. Take the idea of God and Goddess, for example. At a social level, this binary is too simplified. At a very basic level, there's some truth to it. How much influence should the basic level have on the social level? That's for individual believers to decide. :)
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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2012, 07:49:38 pm »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
Any path suggestions?

 
Any type of basic animism works fine here: working directly with the spirits of nature: animals, plants, rivers, etc. Gender is pretty irrelevant there. Indeed in many cultures, those most "attuned" with shamanistic paths were those of the "third sex", or had other neutral gendered qualities.

I have also heard Feri is works very well with genderfluid people, but I don't know much about it personally.

(Yay genderqueers, by the way.)

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2012, 07:53:34 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;65903
(Yay genderqueers, by the way.)

 
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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2012, 08:50:25 pm »
Quote from: Sage;65906
We're pretty awesome! :D

 
Yes we are! *high-fives*


OP, I don't really have an answer to your question, but I feel the same frustration, and so am in the process of constructing a path of genderqueer paganism that I can hopefully share with the world someday. It's still in its infancy, however. I have three main gods, my Sacred Triad, and each of Them represent a different gender with Their energies. While I don't really believe that human notions of gender can apply, fully, to deities, I do frequently refer to m'Lady as a genderqueer goddess; She just has that energy to Her, if that makes sense.

There are queer gods out there, in all senses of the word -- maybe just start with one that you feel a resonation with, and go from there? Other poster's suggestions of looking at more recon or scholarly ways of working with deities is a good one. Feri is also something worth looking into.

Sorry I can't be more help.
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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2012, 12:47:25 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65773
All the pagan and wicca or sub-wicca paths and books I'm reading seem to have a very strong gender binary at the heart of things. God and Goddess. It's there in the wheel of the year, it's there in the high-ritual-qabala I'm reading, and so on.

I don't believe Male and Female are these two essential poles, and I don't believe they have these innate qualities, like water/fire, or active/passive. While they are admittedly powerful symbols, they are not symbols I want to support.

On the contrary - I do a lot of feminist work around breaking down "women are like X but men are like X" stereotypes, and lots of queer activism too, with people who are genderqueer, genderfluid, agendered and so on. It seems ridiculous to revere a concept religiously which I fight against in real life, and two enshrine two genders as most important when, to me at least, they're not.

I know there are individual deities who are queer-er or gendercomplex, but the new age frameworks for revering them - at least, the ones which are widely available - all default back to male candle/female candle stuff. I'm not at a point where I can freewheel, I need 101ish resources to give me groundings.

Any path suggestions? Book suggestions? Ways of approaching the resources I have to create something which isn't in violation of my value system?

 
I'm genderqueer, and I'm also building a type of queer paganism because I couldn't find a way to reconcile it all together in an existing framework. My Gods have pretty bendy genders, to be honest, and I don't really see the Divine as being as explicitly sexed or gendered as humans are either. I'm pretty sure that They can appear however They like. I did have something akin to a recon path, and I've done a lot of Kemetic practice in the past, but it needs more than just a pure recon base now, so I'm adapting it and figuring out how to make it all work.

If you haven't read Raven Kaldera's Hermaphrodeities, you probably should. It was one of the books that got me thinking about just making my own queer path and writing my own queer myth rather than using existing things. It's been a frustration of mine for a while now, that queer paganism resources, particularly for those outside the binary, are in short supply. That, and when I suggested to some friends about making a queer Wheel of the Year, they just encouraged me to do so. There's also a queer myth book I'm still waiting to buy as a reference, which I've heard good things about.

I haven't got too much work done on my own queer paganism path though. I'm still building other parts of my path before I tackle the queer bit. But I've written about some of these issues over at my blog, if you're interested in getting some insight on how I'm approaching this. It's by no means complete, but I'm working on it.
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PetitAlbert

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2012, 01:57:29 pm »
Thank you everyone for your replies! Much to think about.

Quote from: RandallS;65786
Asking for a Wiccan or Wiccan-like path that does not have this gender-duality is like asking for a Christian path that does not have Jesus


I think you're right, and that's a good analogy. I mainly started with Wicca because it's overwhelmingly the most accessible - lots of resources, both in real life and on the web.
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PetitAlbert

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2012, 02:08:33 pm »
Quote from: cymrudraco;65939
I'm genderqueer, and I'm also building a type of queer paganism because I couldn't find a way to reconcile it all together in an existing framework. My Gods have pretty bendy genders, to be honest, and I don't really see the Divine as being as explicitly sexed or gendered as humans are either. I'm pretty sure that They can appear however They like.

I haven't got too much work done on my own queer paganism path though. I'm still building other parts of my path before I tackle the queer bit. But I've written about some of these issues over at my blog, if you're interested in getting some insight on how I'm approaching this. It's by no means complete, but I'm working on it.


Your queer wheel of the year sounds like an amazing idea! I'd definitely be interested in reading your thoughts if you ever finalise it, or chatting further about it. I think I agree with you, about Divine genders being something they can put on and off.

Thank you so much for your blog link! Your writing is most grand, on this topic and others. I also managed to surf onwards from there to a number of other good posts. I'll definitely look out for the books.
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Maps

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2012, 08:04:35 pm »
Quote from: Morag;65910
Yes we are! *high-fives*


OP, I don't really have an answer to your question, but I feel the same frustration, and so am in the process of constructing a path of genderqueer paganism that I can hopefully share with the world someday. It's still in its infancy, however. I have three main gods, my Sacred Triad, and each of Them represent a different gender with Their energies. While I don't really believe that human notions of gender can apply, fully, to deities, I do frequently refer to m'Lady as a genderqueer goddess; She just has that energy to Her, if that makes sense.

There are queer gods out there, in all senses of the word -- maybe just start with one that you feel a resonation with, and go from there? Other poster's suggestions of looking at more recon or scholarly ways of working with deities is a good one. Feri is also something worth looking into.

Sorry I can't be more help.

 
Jumping on the GQ train, here. I'm extremely recon-oriented in my path, and am also trying to figure out where I stand in the grand scheme of things as told by myths and gods and practices of Latin America, specifically the Maya. I too don't have much to add beyond seconding (or fourthing) the suggestion of looking to reconstructionist religions as an alternative.

But you can check out my blog as I do talk about the role of gender in my religion sometimes too. Hope you find something that works.

Sobekemiti

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Re: Finding a path without the male/female binary...
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2012, 06:04:02 am »
Quote from: Unmutual;65992
Your queer wheel of the year sounds like an amazing idea! I'd definitely be interested in reading your thoughts if you ever finalise it, or chatting further about it. I think I agree with you, about Divine genders being something they can put on and off.

Thank you so much for your blog link! Your writing is most grand, on this topic and others. I also managed to surf onwards from there to a number of other good posts. I'll definitely look out for the books.


I've just put up my draft Wheel here, if you or anyone else wants to check it out and comment on it. I'm starting from the more traditional Wiccan base with the eight Sabbats, if only because that's what I know, and trying to build out from there with the possibility of new festivals if the old ones can't work. I also had a thought that maybe we could start a group here on TC to chat about or collaborate on the queer paganism paths we're working on, but I don't know if there's enough interest in that.
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