My Gods are Gay, My Gods are Straight (And Everything in Between)

I like to think of myself as a polytheist, but the truth is I kind of waffle back and forth between hard polytheism and half-assed Neo-Platonism. I believe in the gods as separate beings, but I also think of them as connected to something larger. That doesn’t mean that I think all horned gods are a part of one archetypal Horned God (Pan is not Herne), just that there’s a divine providence behind everything. In ritual I go back and forth between calling specific deity, to using the more generic Lord and Lady. Regardless of what theology my brian conjures up, there’s one thing I’m sure of; my gods are gay, straight, and everything in between.

The polytheist in me has long worshipped a god who has had as many dalliances with men (and possibly sheep) as he has with women. Pan is gay and Pan is straight, and as the inventor of masturbation I think Pan might also be in love with himself. While the mythology we learn in school and see in popular volumes (like Bullfinch) always tends to focus on Pan chasing nymphs, he chased guys too and it’s great. Pan is raw sexuality in all of its forms, and he doesn’t give a damn about what team you are playing on (unless, perhaps, you are on team celibate). Pan has been a muse to gay poets and I have to assume that my wife finds him sexy since we are still married. Like the amazing god he is, he plays many roles. Pan is not alone either, there are plenty of bi, gay, and lesbian deities, and that link is just the tip of the iceberg.

When embracing the composite Lord and Lady, I imagine the two of them as nearly everything. They are the fountain, the source of all things, all is an echo of the Lord and Lady. That means She embraces all aspects of being a woman. She is every color, every age, and every sexuality. Any way a woman is, the Lady is as well. The same goes for The God, and this of course means that both can also be transgendered on occasion. My gods are infinite, especially awe inspiring when some people interpret their deities as being petty and focused on ways of excluding people instead of bringing them in.

I love that my gods aren’t strangely remote. In their myths they have human-type experiences. They love, they screw, they argue, they cry, and they hurt. That my gods have a sexuality means that they might possibly understand sexuality. I don’t know how you expect deity to honor physical intimacy when your god doesn’t engage in it. My gay friends can pray to Dionysus about their relationships because he’s been there. It’s hard to imagine asking Yahweh for relationship advice, heck considering the way he treated his kid I’d be hesitant to ask for parenting advice.

I also believe that the gods aren’t changeless, meaning they adapt to our society. I’ve argued before that I don’t believe the gods care about politics, but I do feel as if they care about how they interact with us on a personal level. Not to get bogged down in theology, but I think the gods change. In the early 19th Century the literary embargo on Pan was lifted, and he found himself adored and honored by Romantic and Victorian poets alike. Much of their work changed how we see Pan, I’d even go so far as to say it changed Pan on the deity scale. He became Pan, the god of all, protector of the countryside. Much of the language used to describe Pan 100 years ago is the language we use to describe him and “The Horned God” today.

Pagan gods truly live, and those of us who believe, have experiences with them. The gods and the Modern Pagan religions that revolve around them aren’t frozen in time. I’m proud to be a Modern Pagan because my faith reflects the world as it now, and isn’t limited by some interpretation of deity from 2000 years ago. Certainly it’s useful to know how a god was worshipped in antiquity, and that information can only help us to grow closer to deity, but we aren’t locked into some sort of holding pattern. I certainly don’t worship Pan like the Ancient Greeks did. There are no grottos in my backyard and I have no male goats with genitalia intact to sacrifice; ancient god, modern practice.

The gods live and our traditions breathe, and probably best of all we lack “the book.” Certainly there are rules within many Modern Pagan traditions, and rituals and rites designed to be enacted a certain way, but there’s no ancient rule book full of bias and ignorance. Yahweh, his son, and many of their followers still seem to inhabit the year zero sometimes, unable to truly adapt to the modern era. I’m not ever going to claim that my faith is superior to anyone else’s, but I think it does more accurately reflect today than many others, even if much of it is an attempt to recreate a romanticized past.

Because my gods are both gay and straight and live in the present, I feel very strongly about gay marriage. Gay marriage is not just a political issue to me, it’s a spiritual one. When a blogger here on Patheos writes that gay marriage “leads to destruction!” there’s a part of me that gets sick due to the homophobia, and another part of me that pities his god for being so small. My gods embrace the world, and are a part of this world. Denying gay rights would be like denying the gods themselves.

My gods are both gay and straight, and everything in between. Their understanding is not limited to just one aspect of sexuality. My gods are powerful because they are inclusive.

*I almost wrote “Because the gods can be both gay and straight,” but that just felt presumptuous. My gods are my gods, they may not necessarily be yours, and we might have radically different interpretations of them.

Endings and Beginnings
Paganism: A Tribe or Tribes?
Pagan Festivals and the .25%
How the Claim of Being Old Saved Modern Paganism
About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I don’t see the gods as that caught up in sexuality, to be honest. I think that the only time that sexuality becomes important is when you are doing fertility rites (notably in spring.) But, then, age is just as important as sexuality.

    Getting onto the theology, I am wary of attributing too much to the gods, either from modern or historical sources. It seems to be too easy to make your own gods rather than find the real ones.

    In that sense, it is a bit like modern celebrity culture – all the mega fans think they know their idols, yet all they usually see is what is revealed by others.

    • Jason Mankey

      I find the sexuality of the gods of extreme importance. Unlike monotheistic faiths where sex is seen as dirty or simply for procreation, a lot of Modern Pagan traditions view it as a sacred act. It’s important to me, but I don’t ever expect everyone to agree with me.

      I think we shape the gods to a degree, we give them power by honoring them, singing their praises, indulging in what is sacred to them, etc. I think it’s important to have your own experiences with deity, but at the same time, I think those experiences are more informed if you understand some history.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I see sex as sacred in context. As I said, I can see the sacred nature of it at the right time – spring fertility rites (for example). I just think that some people make sex too important. There needs to be balance, after all.

  • Elinor Prędota

    Thank you for this, Jason. I especially love your description of / ode to Pan: he is, after all, right there in the word ‘pansexual’ :-)

  • Marc

    “I’m proud to be a Modern Pagan because my faith reflects the
    world as it now, and isn’t limited by some interpretation of deity from
    2000 years ago. Certainly it’s useful to know how a god was worshipped
    in antiquity, and that information can only help us to grow closer to
    deity, but we aren’t locked into some sort of holding pattern.”

    This. Thank you for this. It is basically how I feel, too. I have the utmost respect for reconstructionist paths, and the people who put the care and time into rediscovering these rites and practices as best as they can know. But I also feel that they can instill too limiting and restrictive a view. I’m not saying perform a sacrifice with a chalice of Mountain Dew and a lukewarm Hot Pocket, but still. Why not assume that the Gods are dynamic and changeable, as dynamic as many of the forces that they represent/control?

    • Sunweaver

      I totally made a libation to Zeus using a half a Diet Dr. Pepper one time. It was what we had on hand and better a half a Diet Dr. Pepper than nothing at all.

      I shall join you both in the “my deities are not limited to how they were in antiquity” fanclub.

  • Thorin Sorensen

    As a Polyamorous, Queer Pagan I love, love, LOVE seeing articles like this. I’m still early in the learning process in some ways, and part of that is relating to the gods through my other identities. I’m even blogging now as part of that exploration. So it’s really inspiring to see people that have it all put together and can relate to their deities on so many different levels.

    I want to ask you quickly about your views on same-sex marriage, because it caught my eye and it’s something I think about a good deal. Obviously Paganism isn’t (usually) as uptight about this idea as some religions are, and I’m thrilled to have found my faith community actually affirming my Polyamorous identity as well as my sexual identity, but as a marriage resister I have to ask how you tie the spiritual and the political together on this. Many Pagan groups are already happy to provide same-sex marriage ceremonies even if they aren’t state recognized, and I have no doubts at all about the spiritual side, but I’d like to know more about where you connect it all together. If it’s about equality politically, there is absolutely a requirement that the government offer equal protections, and that’s worth fighting for, but as spiritual people shouldn’t we seek real equality?

    The modern Christian standard of two parents and some children to a house, elders and relatives off in their own abodes, promotes squandering the resources of the Earth. Benefits allocated based on ones spouse rather than given equally to everyone like healthcare, or allocated based on personal desire like hospital visitation rights or inheritence are all tied to a belief system we can do better than to emulate. While I would never suggest we stop fighting for marriage rights for same-sex couples, because it’s the right thing to do with our political realities, as religious/spiritual individuals don’t we have a higher obligation to take it a step further?