An artpiece I made yesterday! Paint pen on black paper.
Featuring rosemary and juniper for protection and rememberance.
Even though it isn’t without its flaws, I’m quite proud of this one.
An artpiece I made yesterday! Paint pen on black paper.
Featuring rosemary and juniper for protection and rememberance.
Even though it isn’t without its flaws, I’m quite proud of this one.
Happy Pride everyone! It’s the rainbow time of the year again… This will be the first time for me where I will incorporate Pride month actively into my witchcraft practice. As I’ve written about before, self-discovery and self-love is a big part of my daily and monthly practice and exploring gender- and sexual identity has dominated that over the past two years or so. I learned a lot, not just about myself but about queer history and the queer community as well. Which is why I decided that this year, in a year where everything still sucks, I will take Pride month as a sacred celebration, not only to celebrate my own identity and the journey that I’ve made, but also to celebrate how far we’ve come, as a community, and the things that we’ve already achieved.
But there is still quite a way to go. Homophobia and especially transphobia is on the rise again. There is a lot of infighting in the community as well with the rise of TERF ideology and purity politics based on white, Christian values ingrained in our societies and cultures. Which is why a friend commented that for her Pride had a very double feeling this year. We talked about how we both looked forward to it, and didn’t, because of these issues and struggles. We also talked about doing some community magics, where we as a community practice our witchcraft to better the queer community, which I will talk about below.
So, what are my plans for Pride? (My Pride bucketlist, if you will)
So let’s talk about the community magic. We invite everyone to join us on a witchy Pride weekend! June 18 to 20 we will be doing various spells to help the queer community, and the more people who cast them, the more powerful they will be! We’ve also chosen this date because we can harness the potent energies of the Summer solstice into our workings.
Binding and banishing
On June 18 we will perform a binding and banishing spell to bind queerphobia, harmful laws, and any other personal things you might want to include. Use your own binding/banishing method, or use the following, which is my preferred method. Take a piece of black paper, or paint one side of a white paper black (protection/banishing). Write down the things you wish to banish, think of things like homophobia, police brutality, job inequality, the names of certain laws, TERFs, or more personal things like people using your deadname or the name of a homophobic uncle (for example). Make sure the black side is on the outside. Focus on binding and banishing every point as you write them down. Now fold it up in a way that the black is the only colour that’s shown. Wrap your folder paper in some black twine, wool, thread, laces, whatever you have. Focus on binding the things you’ve written, say some words if you wish. I like to bury my bindings/banishings, but you can also dispose of them by simply tossing them in the trash where they belong.
On June 19 we will cast a protection spell for the queer community. I designed a sigil for this to function as a focal point for your magic. You can print it out or redraw it yourself. Place a candle over it, use it as a base of a crystal grid, place it on your altar and meditate, make it the centre of a (digital) moodboard, whatever feels right for you. The centre of the sigil is the Pride flag, symbolizing our community (you can redraw the sigil and place a different flag inside, if you wish to focus on a specific part of the community). Around it is a circle (protection, community) which is made by five stickfigures holding hands (people, community). Around them is a square (protection) and then a ring of intertwined briar branches with the thorns pointing outwards (again, protection). On the right side I also snuck the rune Thurisaz (briar, protection) into the ring of briar branches. The pentacle in the centre stands for magic as well as, surprise, protection. Customize this for whatever you need, the pentacle is optional, place more stickfigures, change the flag, whatever makes it work for you.
Celebrate and Remember
On June 20 we will celebrate! Celebrate our own identities as well as the community and all we’ve achieved so far. Watch a fun movie, shop for some fun merch, eat and drink something rainbow, dance to music of queer artists, whatever you want! We do also want to acknowledge and remember those who we’ve lost, those who have paved the way before us. You might want to do this by making a toast to your queer ancestors (by blood or – more often – not). By saving a place for them at the table and inviting to join you. Or by using a Beloved Dead sigil and burning a candle in remembrance. I will also be making a list of names of those I wish to honour, which is at the same time a nice excuse to dive deeper into queer history!
So please join us for a witchy Pride weekend! Share your thoughts and experiences with #PrideWitchcraft and share this post far and wide so we can have as many witches adding their magic and power.
One thing that keeps popping up when I write about why paganism and witchcraft draws me, it’s “community”. To be a part of a group of like-minded individuals. To connect. Somewhere in the beginning of this hell-scape that is 2020 I’d decided to finally look into Red Tent ceremonies. To figure out what they were, how they worked, and what happened during one of these nights.
As I’ve spoken about in my Gender in Witchcraft series, I do think a place where women can meet and be accepted is a very important thing, so I was intrigued. Unfortunately, we’re in the middle of a terrifying global pandemic, one which has already had a (maybe permanent) effect on my health. I am not in a position to meet new people right now, especially not in groups. Travel is difficult. But I did want to do something with exploring these ceremonies and what they would mean to me. So, what to do?
I looked deeper into women’s circles and rituals related to that, and found that sometimes, instead of linking it to menstrual cycles, the rituals and gatherings are tied to the new moon. This spoke to me. Like I said before I’ve been doing some (ritual) self love work on and off for over a year now, but perhaps by choosing a time to set apart would be a very powerful thing. I could have one evening a month dedicated to self love and self care, no matter what else was happening in the world.
My first new moon was in June, where I explored what “being female” means to me. I’ve never felt drawn to the “sacred womb” and “sacred yoni” paradigms. Next to that, due my personal experiences I feel very little connection to them at all. (PMS so severe that I am on medication to no longer menstruate, not being able to become a mother, trauma, vaginism and my sexual- and gender orientation, just to name a few.) They are a part of my body, I acknowledge that and feel love to those organs for that, but they are not more sacred than say, my heart, or my eyes. So that first new moon I made sacred space, called out to my deities, sat down and meditated on that. Afterwards I drummed and drew oracle cards, and ended with a journaling session about what I had learned during the ritual and my thoughts. It was amazing. Richly empowering and eye-opening.
I’ve been setting time apart every new moon since then. I have it marked in my calender and try to keep those nights empty. So far, it worked. Some hurdles of course: my husband having the evening shift while working at home, so no space available upstairs. That night I just sat downstairs behind my laptop and wrote. Last new moon where I was having a terrible day and didn’t feel good enough to do ritual, I did it the day after. I’m approaching this very intuitively, for what I need in that moment. Somethimes that will be centred around a chosen theme (gender, community) and other times those themes will pop up naturally because of what is going on in my life (body positivity, boundaries).
So my message to you, dear readers, is this: Set time apart for yourself. To explore yourself. To find those answers within you that you’ve been looking for for a while. Pick a time (the new moon, the full moon, Sunday, the festivals, the first of the month, whatever works for you!) and keep your calender clear. Create your sacred space. Sit with yourself and listen. Ask yourself the difficult questions and listen to what you have to say. Without judgement and with acceptance. Work towards loving and empowering yourself, a small step at a time. You might be just as surprised as me with how this will change not only yourself, but the world around you.
In my last post I dove (or well, dipped my toes) into the history of gender in witchcraft, to see where our thoughts and visions on gender come from. When I was thinking and journaling about gender and witchcraft came the question: does it matter? Does it matter in our magic whether we focus on gender?
For witchcraft and paganism in general I would say yes and no. Yes because we are a path that stands up for the marginalized, and being yourself and being true to yourself is something we value a lot. To know yourself, to truly and fully know who you are as a person, can hold great power. Exploring gender and what this means to you can be a (big) part of that. It can also reveal shadows; suppressed parts of ourselves that often have to do with trauma or pain, that we often have to work through. Standing in your own power with confidence and pride can spring powerful magic. Acknowledging and owning your truths can be super empowering!
So therefore I do think it’s important for women (and I mean all women) to have a space where they can be themselves without the pressure of what society expects from them. A space to talk about the things that concern us, as women. The problems that we run in to and the worries and sorrows that we have. To find the strength and power of being a woman without the weight of the patriarchy on our shoulders.
I also think it’s important that men (and I mean all men) have a space where they can be themselves without the pressure of what society expects from them. A space to talk about the things they run into, in this society that portrays them as “the bad guy”. To explore a version of masculinity that isn’t toxic. A place to connect to others in an emotional and deep, meaningful way. To form a brotherhood that is not about being a warrior and being aggressive, but instead is gentle and soft in the same way we feminists see our sisterhood. That is what I wish for them.
And for all of us who fall outside of that binary, I wish the same thing. A space to explore what gender means, what falling outside of the norm entails and the troubles that we face because of that. To explore how that influences spirituality, connection, life in general. To find power and strength in being who we are, openly.
So yes, it can be very important to focus on gender, even (or perhaps especially) in spirituality.
However, there is another side of this coin. Discrimination is, unfortunately, also found in our community and has been there since the very beginning. Gardner was a misogynist and a homophobe. He created a “sacred” rite which hinged on him, and other High Priests, to have sexual intercourse with young women. Gay and lesbian people were not allowed into Wiccan covens for many years under the guise of the Wiccan Laws.
In 2011 on PantheaCon a group of Dianic Wiccans refused entrance to Transwomen who wished to participate in a women’s only ritual, stating that only women born with a womb were allowed to enter. Budapest, the founder of Dianic Wicca, came out with a statement which was, frankly, hurtful and outrageous. Claiming that “transies” (her word, not mine) were just men trying to encroach on women’s spaces again. This incident, which was in no way the first, sparked a lot of (trans)people speaking out against gender discrimination in our traditions.
Then there are those who take the “divine feminine” and “divine masculine” so far that it becomes toxic. An example of this is the phenomenon of the “twin flame”. Like many spiritual beliefs, it has been ripped out of context and is now to many an idea where every woman, a.k.a. the Divine Feminine, has a perfect soulmate somewhere out there, their man, a.k.a. the Divine Masculine. They claim it is our divine duty as women to heal men, so they can step into their power as true divine masculine. With lovely ripped-out-of-context poetry like: “If you want to change the world, love a man; really love him” and “Because you have a womb, a sweet, deep gateway to wash and renew old wounds.” That last one is because we (supposedly) should see the “ancestral burden” of all the confused, angry warrior-men who came before him and we, as women, can heal that with the magical power of our wombs. Right.
The idea that “feminine” means that you have to heal others, that you have to be “of service” to those in need (not just men), that you have to use your “divine gifts” of gentleness, and patience, and true love to better the world is extremely toxic! Just like the idea that all men (yes, all men, apparently) are these wounded little boys stuck in a violent rampage of fear and ancestral aggression is. Does that sound healthy to you?
Then there are the women’s movements who believe, like the Dianics mentioned above, that you can only truly connect with the inner feminine goddess if you have a womb. After all, life is created from the womb, it is the source of all living things (or so they believe). So if you don’t have one, either because you weren’t born biologically female or because of medical procedures like a hysterectomy, because of, say, cancer, you aren’t a woman (anymore). And some take it even further. Since life comes from the womb, you are only truly a woman if you’ve given birth. So anyone who can’t, for whatever reason, or anyone who doesn’t want children, is no longer a woman. Which is of course insane, hurtful and extremely toxic.
Also, I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely offensive to be reduced to a single body part. The only value I have, according to some of these feminist fringe “goddess” movements, is a womb. And sometimes a vagina. Aren’t we always accusing men of reducing us to that? Now we’re doing it to ourselves as well, but it’s in the name of spirituality so it’s okay? Hell no! I am more than a womb. You are more than a womb, or a penis, or boobs, or a vagina. We’re people! Our body parts don’t define us.
Does it matter in our magic whether we focus on gender? No, because gender is something earthly, something of our societal world, and witchcraft is from the fringes, from outside polite society. We work in the liminal, in the in-between. In both the realm of spirit and the mundane. We work in the shadows. With a lot of our workings, we go beyond the physical.
I spoke about the Gods in my first post. There are a lot of Gods who are shapeshifters, some of whom can also change between genders: Zeus, Loki, Dionysus. There are also Gods who are neither man nor woman, or a combination of both: Hermaphroditus, Hapi, the Christian God. There are Gods who were known to have both a male and female form: Fosta, Aphrodite, Shiva. There are Gods who could upon request change the sex of mortals: Inanna, Isis. In myth gender is a very fluid thing. Sometimes it matters a lot, usually in stories about humiliation or love, but mostly it doesn’t matter at all. We, as pagans and sometimes as witches, take a lot of inspiration from our Gods. We see (part of) ourselves reflected in what they stand for, or in their stories. So if for them gender is something fluid, something that could change one way or another, or glide along something of a spectrum, then why would ours be one or the other? If we work with them in our space, in our world between worlds, then wouldn’t we then also be granted to be something else? To rise above the expectations that modern society holds for us? Not to mention the many cultures whose shamans, spirit helpers, guides, witch doctors, clergy and magical practitioners were not man ór woman.
To become rigid in your magical focus, on any subject, is to limit yourself. It’s important to keep an open mind. To keep yourself acceptive of change, or you’ll grow stagnant. This is true for any part of witchcraft and paganism, so also with gender. It’s okay, and perhaps sometimes good, to focus on what it means to you. But don’t let this focus limit yourself and your magic.
Up next: let’s get personal!
Last year I read a post (which I can’t find anymore) about devotional tips to Frigg. The writer wrote a note at the top of the post stating that they would be referring to Frigg as “They”, since the Gods don’t adhere to our human binary of “male” and “female”. It was such a simple sentence, but it was such an impactful thing for me. I’d never thought of it that way. But to me, it made perfect sense. So I accepted it, and then never looked any deeper into it. Never thought further about what that would mean for me, or my craft.
That changed earlier this year. I was feeling a call to deepen the relation I have with the deities I am devoted to. Which led to me researching and redefining my bond with whom I then still called Horned One. As I wrote in an earlier post, I still very much saw Him as an archetype of the divine masculine. The God to complement the Goddess, which was a paradigm left over from my earlier wiccan-adjacent roots. It didn’t mesh with my earlier found beliefs that Gods are outside of our human gender structures. I couldn’t wrap my hear around it. Which meant one thing: research.
Because why does everything in western witchcraft practices have to adhere to a binary gender system? Why do we have a “divine feminine” and a “divine masculine” when it comes to our inner worlds? And further than that, why does seemingly everything in western witchcraft need to be gendered? Open any book on modern witchcraft and you’ll see gender assigned to everything. To the elements, to the days of the week, to crystals, to herbs, to planets, to runes, everything has a gender or gendered “energy” attached to it. I’ve found, especially in witchcraft and paganism, that when we want to figure out “why?” we need to ask: “where does it come from?”
It seems to start with the Greek philosopher Empedocles. He is the one who gave us the four elements that make up all matter: earth, air, fire and water. The elements are a big part of modern witchcraft, especially the wiccan traditions, or the traditions which have their roots in wicca. We call upon the elements to protect us when we cast a circle. We use the elements to bless and consecrate items. Just to name a few. Empedocles not only posited that all matter was made up out of these four elements, but he also linked them to the Gods Zeus, Hera, Nestis (Persephone) and Aidoneus (Hades). So we have two elements tied to a God, and two to a Goddess. This is where the belief that the elements are either “feminine” or “masculine” probably originates. It’s not a strange thought that this could have easily been stretched: if the elements are “feminine” or “masculine”, and things like crystals or herbs are associated with the elements, then they are also “feminine” or “masculine”.
Of course the influence of monotheistic religions can not be ignored. Our western society gets a lot of its views from Christianity. In the Christian bible God created Adam and Eve, one man and one woman. A strong binary where there is no room for deviation. It is also seen as an ideal to strive towards: a husband and wife, standing in the light of God, who together can create new life. This monotheistic view has been part of our western culture for millennia, which has influenced a lot of scholars, philosophers, artist, etc. Which in turn influences the information that we have access to now. Everything we know about our ancestors is written later, often by Christian scholars or even monks, who wrote from their (gender-binary and patriarchal) worldview.
Then of course we have the beginnings of our contemporary witchcraft: wicca and Gerald Gardner. In the wiccan faith a God and a Goddess are worshipped. Some believe them to be source of all life, others believe they are facets or avatars of a bigger force (Spirit, the All, etc.). The Triple Goddess stands for the phases of a woman’s life: the maiden, the mother and the crone. She also embodies the “feminine energies” such as nurturing, giving, sensual, loving, and wise. The Horned God is the masculine aspects, such as providing, protecting, strengthening, sexual, and also wise.
Covens are led by a High Priest (HP) and a High Priestess (HPs), where in Gardner’s days they took part in a ritual called “the Hieros Gamos” or “the Great Rite”, where the HP and HPs engaged in sexual intercourse to raise power, or as part of an initiation rite. Because, as our tradition’s wiccan inspired ritual states: “where the masculine and feminine are joined, spirit is born.” Nowadays this is mostly done symbolically with a chalice and an athame, luckily, since Gardner is known to have “asked” High Priestesses to step aside when they were no longer young and beautiful in his eyes, which… ew.
The God and Goddess also complete a life cycle in the Wheel of the Year. The God impregnates the Goddess, after which he travels to the underworld and is born again from Her womb. Because of this, life will begin anew and nature will grow once more. Heterosexual procreation and that bond between man and woman is very important in the wiccan faith. The duality of male and female; and together they create life, is very ingrained into our modern, contemporary paganism because of this.
Then, we need to talk about Jung. In the first big wiccan revival in the ‘70s many prominent witches, like Janet and Steward Farrar, stepped back a bit from the ideas that the Gods were indeed outside of us, but instead incorporated Jungian philosophy into their faith. The Gods are then archetypes living deep in our subconsciousness, which we contact through prayer, spells and ritual. In that first revival this was a pretty common view of the world, which in turn, influenced a lot of books that were written in that time.
One of Jung’s theories is about the Anima and the Animus. Jung stated that, much like the yin-yang symbol, every woman had a bit of masculinity in her unconscious, called the Animus. And that the man had a bit of femininity in his unconscious, called the Anima. If the Animus or Anima was not recognized properly, it could have negative repercussions for the person in question. That part of the subconscious would then dictate the way the person would react in certain situations. For example, a woman acting in a way we would normally “expect” (back then) from a man, so through means of violence and aggression. So an integration, a joining from both the feminine and the masculine inside us is needed to become whole and to become a complete, spiritual being (sounds familiar, no?)
Last but not least, we have feminism. Contemporary witchcraft and paganism gained a lot of popularity in those same ‘70s, as well as the ‘60s, by being more Goddess oriented. Many of us, even now, come from the monotheistic religions which heavily centre on the divine masculine, without giving a female counterpart in that. Many of those religions are also often oppressive and discriminatory when it comes to the treatment of women. For many women witchcraft and paganism gives therefore a sense of freedom and equality not experienced before.
Witchcraft is also the craft of the marginalized, protects those who aren’t in a position to protect themselves and are an enormous source of empowerment for many.
With the arrival of Dianic wicca, a branch of wicca focussed solely on the Goddess, the Goddess movement within wicca and later witchcraft grew. Many were drawn to a path that celebrated women, and all that this entailed. This meant that the “divine feminine” became more and more important. The womb being the source of all creative power in the universe. The yoni being something not to be ashamed of, but instead something to be proud of and to take pride in. (I will talk about my views on all of this in a later post) An emphasis on sisterhood and the sacred bond we all share through the ancient mothers.
I believe all of this influenced and shaped the way we see gender when it comes to witchcraft and paganism. This all contributed in gender having the heavy influence that we see now. So now we know where it comes from… now what? Well, join me next time as I try to figure that out.