My community is a small Pagan community located in mid-Missouri with most of the trappings that accompany small Pagan communities as a whole. We celebrate the sabbats together, come together for monthly lunars, potlucks, festivals, and do our best to be good land stewards of the land we are fortunate enough to hold.
I noticed when I started attending events on the land that this small community of Pagans had a glaring gender issue when it came to their rituals. Everything, and I do mean everything, was firmly rooted in the masculine and feminine dichotomy of the God and Goddess and their sacred union.
Why is this an issue? The sacred union of the God and Goddess is one of the holy tenants of Wicca and carries over into the folklore of other symbols of other beliefs systems. This in itself isn’t an issue. I think there is power in acknowledging the Divine aspects of the masculine and feminine. We run into the issue when we do that to the exclusion of everything else, and we don’t make room for other expressions of the Divine.
I spoke with some people and made some suggestions of how rituals could be made more inclusive for everyone involved. In this case we decided to include calling on the Divine presence of the “All” and “Nothing” when we spoke invocations at the beginning of rituals. This made room for our gender non-binary identifying persons to feel included when we also invited the God and the Goddess to our rituals. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive in some respects, and not so positive in others.
I think there will always be a contingent of folks who believe the “old way” is best. And this ties to larger themes we are seeing in society of gender identity and sexual orientation. The people who complain that using proper pronouns is too tedious and claim you can only be born one gender because it has to do with biology and hardware.
The truth of the matter is our society is diverse and complex and full of wonderful people who deserve to be celebrated in all the shapes and colors and genders and sexual orientations they come in. It is not a tedious thing to respect a person just as it is not a tedious thing to write a beautiful ritual honoring the Divine.
People desire to see themselves reflected in the Divine sources they worship. That natural inclination is built into us as surely as faith. What we need to see and hear about is more examples of gender-fluid and non-binary deities like Shiva and Hapi and Tlazolteotl played out in ritual space. I would love to hear more stories about how our communities are building bridges instead of walls.
And to the old guard who would rather have things stay the same—remember what it was like to hide in the broom closet with no one to support you? That is not the world we want to live in anymore.