I Ain't Your Goddess

What a relief! What a weight off of your shoulders! To discover there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you, and how could there be when God is a woman? For a woman, finding Paganism is like finding that you were only dirty because your critics kept flinging mud at you, and once you washed the muck off you found you were forged out of stardust. It's bliss. It's joy. It's the honeymoon with the Goddess.

I can't speak for Pagan women everywhere, but for me it didn't last. After a year of trying, I found I'd simply traded one warped view of women for another. Yet while in Christianity this view was derived from authoritative scriptures and the words of holy men, in Paganism this warped view of womanhood came from my own warped perceptions flailing about in a sea of possibility.

There is beauty in the idea of a benevolent omnipotent Goddess who engulfs all existence. It's just lofty and vague. Monotheism crosses this amorphous gulf by giving voice to their Gods in recorded scriptures. Their Gods haven't any faces, but words and those words are vibrant, lithe, terrible, and inspiring. For Pagans, the overarching Great Goddess has neither face nor authoritative scripture. There is nothing palpable to grasp onto and even a loving sea is scary if you feel you're drowning in it.

For me, a single overarching Goddess was depressing. I was direction-less, rudderless. I was used to being told what a woman was supposed to be but now I was being left to discover what true womanhood was on my own. As a young woman I embraced Artemis and was surprised to find myself beyond her realm after I took my first lover. I sought out Goddesses to adore: Athena, Hera, Brighid, the Morrigan, Aphrodite, and Danu. I didn't see myself in these Divine women but then I didn't recognize myself.

For me, the connection to the Divine formed first through the Gods: Manannaan mac Lir, Hephaistos Ambidexter, Pan, and the Horned One. In these male Deities I found values and ways of being that resonated with me. It was not that I discovered myself by finding my opposite, but that I had found myself in a place I could not go. True, if I truly wanted to be like Hephaistos I could take hormones, undergo therapy, and perhaps have surgery. I have no desire to go there, to be male and to take on masculine things.

Instead here with the male Divine I found myself without any of the trappings of womanhood. The male Deities did not expect me to conform to either their style of masculinity, or to some form of femininity, but to simply be true to my soul and my sacred purpose. Once I found my spirit at ease and my heart at rest with who I am, I found that I enjoyed being a woman. Without a female role model or focusing on gender issues I had discovered what it meant to be a woman who was comfortable with her body, her sexuality, and her role in the world.

By focusing on being a human rather than a woman, I also found Goddesses who spoke to me: Baba Yaga, Inanna, and Selu. Just as the Gods taught me to focus within, the Goddesses are teaching me to bring that which is within out into the world. For Baba Yaga, that work lies in mystery, crafting, pathworking, cooking, and gardening. She teaches me to entwine the material with the intangible. Selu whispers to me of relationships, family, ancestors, and the history of the land. She reminds me of the power of stories. Inanna has her hands full as she feels I need to be better organized, efficient, in control of my future and, ugh, stylish.

While I still have an internal flinch at things "Goddess-y," I am learning to embrace the expressions of the feminine without feeling that they are a judgment on women. I have to move past my bitterness of the role of women in Christian scriptures and not carry it forward in my spiritual journey.

In my experience the Wiccan gender polarity is merely the tension created when you connect to the familiar residing in a place you cannot follow. For me, that was connecting to male Deities, but for others that place you cannot go, the path you cannot tread, may be something different entirely. Polarity is simply finding that within the Other, that which is different from yourself, resides some common element that binds you as one. For me polarity isn't that we are all One, but that we are all connected despite our differences.

While I find it wonderful to have found a place of comfort with regard to gender in my practice, it doesn't mean that I don't still encounter gender issues in my interactions with the Pagan community. There are women who find my lack of enthusiasm for Goddess culture or overbearing feminism to be a type of treason. There are men who find my connection to the male Divine unnatural and suspect. When I advocate values and traits that are seen as traditionally masculine, I am frowned upon by those who feel that only traditionally feminine values have a place in Paganism. I still find that I am assumed to be an "ignorant girl" when I express an opinion of ceremonial magic, classical occultism, or other traditionally male reaches of spirituality.

Yet despite the assumptions, the bitterness, and the patronizing I occasionally bump into, I have great faith in Paganism as a place of tolerance, love, and inclusivity. I've seen these stereotypes broken and transcended in groups large and small. For me the Wiccan duality has so very little to do with gender and so much to do with embracing the Other. You are not me. You are Other. I cannot be you. You cannot be me. Yet we can reach out and embrace each other, lift each other up, because the bright spark in our souls recognize each other, though we keep our flames in very different vessels.