The Autumnal Equinox: Non-Binary Wicca and Persephone’s Descent

The Autumnal Equinox: Non-Binary Wicca and Persephone’s Descent September 4, 2020

Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels
Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

I was born on Beltane. Opposite Hallows, I’ve always found myself regarding them in reverse. Beltane is the time of year when I’m most aware of death and liminality, and come Hallows, contemplating the vibrancy of life as I turn over the year, at the beginning of all things filled with wonder. Halloween, Thanksgiving with all the connectedness of community that it brings, Yule, and all it’s unmistakable joys.

Perhaps my magical poles are reversed. But here at the Autumnal Equinox, and again at the Spring Equinox, are the times of year when I feel most balanced and I wanted to share why, for me, they are my non-binary holidays of choice.

The Wiccan Binary

The Autumnal Equinox is the time of year when Persephone begins her descent into the Underworld, to her beloved Hades, and to the dead. My own life as a Mortician is wrapped up in death, and yet, I am a mother. When I leave my children’s smiling faces to work with the dead, it is a Katabasis of my own; and returning from the realms of the dead at the end of a day to my family, my home, is my Spring Equinox – a return to fullness and life. This dichotomy of life and death swirls around me daily, an array of experiences both magical and mundane that occupy who I am.

In British Traditional Wicca, of which I am a 3° elder, there appears to be a binary of oppositions. Priestess and Priest, Female and Male, Goddess and God; but I have always considered them a dichotomy of roles and functions, existing like opposing poles along a continuum. Life and death, creation and destruction, east and west.

As someone assigned female at birth (and whos gender presentation is female), it is an expectation that my magic be about life, that I hold the title Priestess and exist within ritual space as a representative of the Goddess. But for a non-binary death worker like myself? Persephone has become a bit of a role model, as equally inclined toward death as she is to life.

Like Persephone, sometimes I mother the living, sometimes, the dead.

When we throw out the painfully simple gender binary and regard these oppositions as functions, it encourages members of traditions like my own to be fully participatory in their role. Allows us to better collaborate with one another, and to add context to the challenges of running a coven on ones own (as I myself do) rather than reinforcing often harmful stereotypes.

In my work I have had the weighty responsibility of being entrusted with laying a child down to their final resting place. Returning home after an act like that to my own small children, children who regard me as only a small child could; as their source of comfort, of safety, and of love. To hold them in the same arms that hours earlier cradled the now cold form of what remained of another parents joys, hopes, dreams; now a symbol of all their worst fears, the scales of the universe feel balanced in a way I cannot fully express or explain. My arms have given comfort to life and death in equal measure.

Words Matter

When I chose to take the title High Priestex, and reject being called Priestess, I knew that it would be a challenging path that I’d decided to walk. But words have power. They have the ability to welcome, or to exclude, and this word makes welcome those who may not have been. This open recognition of what I believe the functions of a “Priestess” or “Priest” to be encourages us to consider the tasks to which we are best suited. I stand alone on my path, and embody all those roles; I mother the living, as well as the dead, and as such, I hold my head high, a High Priestex of the Art.

This Autumnal Equinox, I encourage you to take a moment to consider where you fall along this magical spectrum. Is your magic more aligned with death, or to life? Are you able to balance both equally in your magic? Lastly, has your magical alignment changed as you’ve aged or grown as a person? Drop me a comment and let’s chat about it!


Postscript.

Athena (definitely not a poser) thank you for the lovely conversation on this topic, it was well timed.

After this post first aired, my LQBTIA+ Gardnerian friend Thumper of the Marjorie’s Forgeries blog pointed out to me that perhaps Beltane on earth is Hallows in the underworld, and well, I think that bears considering.

Additionally, while researching (who am I kidding, research was Googling to make sure I spelled “Dichotomy” correctly), I came across a post by Scarlet Magdalene titled “The Descent of Persephone: Honoring The Autumnal Equinox,” I found it inspiring and hope you do as well.

About Mortellus
Mortellus is a Gardnerian High Priestex, Mortician, and Necromantrix living in beautiful Western North Carolina. You can read more about the author here.

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