The Balancing Path: Nonbinary Perspective on Gendered Divinity

The Balancing Path: Nonbinary Perspective on Gendered Divinity January 24, 2020

Having a nonbinary perspective is for anyone, of any gender identity.  It is about framing your view of life, the universe, and everything, to include nonbinary ways of being.  Viewing reality from a binary perspective is akin to putting on blinders so you are hyperfocused on one small piece of reality (male and female), and making yourself blind to all the rest of the world around you, which will exist whether or not you acknowledge it.

You can view the world from a nonbinary perspective, regardless of whether your personal gender is binary or nonbinary. Image by author.

You can view the world from a nonbinary perspective, regardless of whether your personal gender is binary or nonbinary.  It’s about framing, acknowledgement, and acceptance.  Your gender is still your gender, regardless of your framing.  There are plenty of people who are nonbinary gendered, but view the world through a binary framework because that is what they have been taught.  Your framework does not determine your gender, and your gender does not determine your framework.  What your framework does do is profoundly impact your understanding (or lack thereof) of your gender and the genders of other people, objects, places, spirits, entities, deities, etc.

All that is required to have a nonbinary perspective is to acknowledge and accept that there is a whole world of genders out there besides just male and female, not only in humanity, but also in other beings and divinities.  When you view the world through a binary window, you only see male and female.  They appear distinct, and oppositional.  When you step outside so you can see the whole world, it becomes much easier to see that male and female are not actually oppositional at all, but instead are very similar in a great many ways.

When you view the world in a nonbinary way, it changes your perspective on male and female, because you can see differently how the two relate to each other and the rest of the world.  It’s not unlike how a close-up photo can look like one thing, but when you pull away it becomes clear that it is something else entirely.  If you look at two hands clasping without seeing the two people involved, it is difficult to know if they are shaking hands in a first meeting, joyfully reuniting, cementing a challenge or rivalry, tugging or pulling, etc.  You need the whole picture to understand clearly the details and the context.

One of the things that I think (hope?) most people involved in witchcraft and paganism want to do is expand their understanding of themselves and the world around them.  If that is one of your goals, then it is absolutely essential to remove those binary blinders and look at the entire world, even if you don’t immediately understand it.  I guarantee you are never going to understand it if you don’t bother to take a look around.  This is true whether or not nonbinary ways of being are a part of your personal experience or a central part of your personal practice.  Acknowledgement and awareness of the existence of other ways of being is the first step on any path to greater understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Gender Archetypes

An archetype is a simplified, idealized version of a concept or thing, so there are an infinite variety of archetypes one could create or work with.  Type “A” personality is an archetype, as is Divine Feminine (vs. a specific goddess), or Water Elemental (vs. a specific being of water), or Death God (vs. a specific deity of the dead).

Archetypes can be profoundly helpful when seeking greater understanding of the concepts or things that they encompass, but because they are idealized versions, they will never exactly equate to any particular individual or example that might fall under their domain.  Using Divine Feminine as an example, the archetype (whatever form it takes) is never going to exactly match the particular traits of particular goddesses, or particular human women.  However, those particular goddesses or human women still embody feminine divinity, even if they don’t match up perfectly trait for trait, because we are all unique and perfectly imperfect.

As idealized versions, the way archetypes feel and appear to each of us is going to be colored by our own experiences and biases, because each of us has different ideas of what constitutes “idealized”.  They are also not static.  They are actually quite mutable, and can and will change over time and location, and with experience and increased understanding.

What follows are a few gender archetypes as I currently understand them.  I encourage you to meditate upon them and work with them to deepen your personal understanding of the archetypes.  Keep in mind that your experiences with them may be different from mine, because your perspective is not the same as mine.  These are also not the only possible gender archetypes.  Any defined gender term is a good place to start for seeking understanding of archetypes beyond these.

I am including masculine and feminine gender archetypes because it is essential to reevaluate our understanding of those two archetypes as parts of a much more expansive whole.

Divine Feminine. Image by Author.

Divine Feminine

Divine feminine is intelligent, wise, compassionate, honest, principled, loving, and strong.  These traits are part of human divinity, and transcend all genders.

She is intelligence tempered with passion and intuition, for intellect alone is cold and unfeeling and unnecessarily harsh, but that intellect provides discernment for the actions she must take, or when she should take no action at all.

She is the dark womb which nurtures life in its most fragile states, and without her darkness we cannot begin.

She is the caregiver, providing shelter, support, and encouragement when they are most needed, tirelessly tending that which needs tending, and leaving alone that which must tend itself.

She is the defender, fiercely fighting for that which she cares about, and standing strong when it is most needed.

She is the heart of family and community.

She is the resolute woman standing strong against any possible storm.

She is loyal and fiercely defensive of loved ones and her principles.

She is the creator, using ingenuity and resourcefulness and creativity and tradition to create the things that we need to not only survive, but prosper and flourish.

She is candid and straightforward and honest, with a vision that can see beyond confusion and bewilderment, to illuminate that which we most need to see and understand.

She is always thoughtful, considering all the threads that weave in and out, and how they play into not only hers, but other tapestries as well.

She is the teacher, whose gentle but firm hand can guide others as they start new paths.

She is the leader, who understands not only the needs of individuals, but the overall flow of life.

She is inspiration, to any who would care to be inspired.

She is unending grace and beauty, no matter her age or scars or other features.

She is intuitive discernment, the awareness that the subtle and small things often precede the big and obvious things, and that the impulses of our hearts are as important as the impulses of our minds and passions.

She is unafraid of the harsh, painful, and difficult things in life.  She is unafraid of uncomfortable truths.  She knows that these things exist regardless, and accepting them makes us better able to work with and through them.

She is the serenity of a cool spring morning, and the calm at the eye of the storm.

She is perseverance and patience, understanding that all things take time.

She has the perspective to be able to discern when it is wisest to persevere, or her energies are best put to a different path.

She has the ability to adapt to changing situations so that she may still meet her goals and priorities.

She is understanding of both compassionate caring, and the harsh realities of suffering in life.

She is the ender, eternally strong in her wisdom and vision, to see that as all things begin, so all things must end.  She understands that, pleasant or not, wanted or not, her hand must lay down endings so that others may continue.

Divine Masculine. Image by Author.

Divine Masculine

Divine masculine is intelligent, wise, compassionate, honest, principled, loving, and strong.  These traits are part of human divinity, and transcend all genders.

He is passion tempered with intellect and vision, for passion alone is wont to destroy and create without concern for consequences, but that passion provides a driving force behind all his actions.

He is an essential fertilizer, which when provided at just the right time, can allow new life to take root and grow.

He is the caregiver, providing love, shelter, and support to those he loves and cares for.

He is the builder, doing whatever it takes to provide that which is needed to survive and thrive.

He is a creative force, able to take the most unexpected things and turn them into stunning creations, especially when things seem most bleak and unfeasible.

He is the storyteller, whether he is recounting his life, the histories, or weaving new and fantastical tales.

He is the warrior, whether he is seeking out new places to create his future, or standing strong to defend that which he and those he loves already have.

He is the defender, uplifting and protecting those who need it most.

He is loyal, and fiercely defensive of his loved ones and principles.

He is the teacher, who leads by example.

He is the leader who has the wisdom to seek not only his own goals, but to consider the goals of those around him, so they may all build a better future together.

He has cultivated the insight to be a reliable pillar of stability for himself and those in his life.

He makes deliberate plans and works unwaveringly over time to achieve his goals.

He is the explorer, delighting in the possibilities for what lays on the other side of the hill, and turning them into lived experience.

He is the trailblazer, who can navigate difficulties and forge entirely new paths for others to follow.

He is stalwart in the face of adversity.

His conviction in his principles is rooted in his passions.

He is capable of swiftly decisive action and energetic responses.

He is the ender, who destroys or takes life only when he must.

Divine Intergender. Image by author.

Divine Intergender

Divine intergender is intelligent, wise, compassionate, honest, principled, loving, and strong.  These traits are part of human divinity, and transcend all genders.

They have passion and intellect in equal weight, for neither is more important than the other, and both are essential for balanced reasoning and action.

They simultaneously embody both the flexibility of divine feminine and the stability of divine masculine, for they contain elements of both masculine and feminine, yet are most definitely neither.

They are the caregiver, who nurtures independence while guiding the way.

They are the creator, blending insight, inspiration, resourcefulness, and unique artistic vision to create both that which is needed, and that which is pure fancy.

They are the warrior who will draw a line, stand strong, and fight for what they believe in.

They are the traveler, for there is no better way to understand the world than to touch it and live it.

They are the listener, who seeks to understand the many ways of the world.

They are the negotiator and the mediator, for they see the compatibilities in differences and can find common ground.

They are the advisor, who understands the interconnectedness of all things.

They are the teacher, who listens in equal measure, so they can explain in a way each student can best understand.

They are the leader who understands and is considerate of all who follow them.

They are independent and indomitable, even in the midst of community, for uniqueness is a gift.

They are the beacon, forging unique paths and lighting the way for all who might wish to follow.

They are the contemplative visionary, capable of viewing with clarity where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.

They see and understand the beginnings and ends of all things, and can tap into that which both comes before and follows after.

Divine Genderfluid. Image by author.

Divine Genderfluid

Divine genderfluid is intelligent, wise, compassionate, honest, principled, loving, and strong.  These traits are part of human divinity, and transcend all genders.

Their balance of intellect and passion is ever changing to best suit them and their situation, for they understand that various approaches are not only equally valid, but equally viable for them.

They are the embodiment of adaptability, change, and flexibility.

They embrace impermanence, for when we live in true harmony with the changes of life, we are most free.

They can weather setbacks or hardships with ease, changing and adapting with effortless grace and dignity.

They are masterful at breaking down barriers and obstacles which prevent needed changes.

They are the caregiver, who nurtures the whims and desires of the heart and soul, for when we do so we are most true to ourselves.

They are the teacher who shows us that there are there many ways to reach any goal, and we can change our approach at any time, even after we have started on a path.

They are the dreamer, who moves forward and accomplishes their goals desires while dancing along an ever-shifting path.

They understand that the process of working towards a goal can change the goal itself, and that those changes make the goal even richer.

They understand that unexpected outcomes are often the best kinds of outcomes.

They are spontaneous and exist fully in the moment, for the moment is all that truly exists.

They embrace the process of transformation, and can help guide others through their own transformations.

They are capable of embodying any of the traits of any other archetypes, for their nature is to reflect that which suits them best at any given moment.

They have an indomitable sense of themself and their true nature, no matter the shifting tides of their traits.

Divine Agender. Image by author.

Divine Agender

Divine agender is intelligent, wise, compassionate, honest, principled, loving, and strong.  These traits are part of human divinity, and transcend all genders.

They are free from the trappings and complications of gender, be that masculine, feminine, or other.

They have the capacity to tap into the primal and the primordial, for agender has existed longer than gender itself.

They embrace freedom, with a lust for life and all of existence.

They have an unwavering sense of self.

They have a foundation that is as deep as the roots of the largest tree, and as strong as the base of a mountain.

They have the depth and complexity of the ocean, beautiful and vast, with untold wonders flourishing without restraint.

They know that what is undefined is as important as what is defined, and that absence does not mean empty.

They are, as time is.

Agender nature is so far outside my personal experience, that of the five archetypes I am exploring here, it by far has the least developed description.  Regardless, I feel that it is as important to acknowledge the absence of gender as the presence of gender, or the tendency is to try and define all things in terms of gender even if they/it has none.  What traits would you change or add to this list?

Exploring Additional Gender Divinities

There are a dizzying number of possible gender divinity archetypes to explore.  I started with these five because they cover very broad and distinct gender concepts, and can be used as a starting point for gender archetypes which are nuanced versions, or blended versions of these five.  If this interests you, I strongly recommend looking up additional gender terms, and meditating on how their archetypes are similar to or differ from the archetypes above.  The Gender Wiki will give you a good idea of the number of gender terms which have been defined so far, but keep in mind that some of them are satirical.

Here are a few to get you started (definitions quoted from the Gender Wiki).

Demigender is “a gender identity that involves feeling a partial, but not a full, connection to a particular gender identity or just to the concept of gender.”  As a stand-alone archetype, it would be a blending of Agender Divinity and overall gendered divinity.  It can also be a blending of Agender Divinity and any other particular gender divinity.  For example, Demigirl Divinity would be a blending of Divine Agender and Divine Feminine.  Other demigender identities include demiboy, and demiandrogyne.

Bigender is “a gender identity which can be literally translated as ‘two genders’ or ‘double gender’. Bigender people experience exactly two gender identities, either simultaneously or varying between the two. These two gender identities could be male and female, but could also include non-binary identities.”  Where the Divine Intergender archetype is both yet neither, bigender is simply both.  That means there will be multiple variations on the archetype depending upon which two genders are involved, being a blending of those two.  Similar genders are multigender (two or more genders), trigender (three genders), quadgender (four genders), quintgender (five genders), polygender (many genders), and pangender (all genders).

Genderfaun is “a form of genderfluidity that never encompasses feeling femininity. It can include male and any nonbinary gender but never encompasses feeling female.” Its corresponding archetype would be similar to the Divine Genderfluid archetype, but its variations would never flow into the traits of Divine Feminine.  Its masculine-exclusive counterpart is Genderfae.

My Terms and Traits are not the Last Word

They aren’t even the last word for me.  I’m still figuring this out too.  Question everything, and if something different works better for you and your practice, go for it.  My intent here is to encourage people to explore divinity beyond the binary genders, and to provide one potential avenue for changing your overall framework.  Exactly what your framework becomes is up to you.

I know that using the term Intergender will be a sticking point for some people.  If you are uncomfortable with that term, Androgyne is a workable alternative.  The two terms are very similar, but not the same.  Androgyne is, both linguistically and conceptually, about blending male (andro-) and female (-gyne), with connotations of indistinct gender.  Those linguistic and conceptual roots are mired in binary thinking, and consequently de-emphasize the “neither” part of “both yet neither”.  Intergender, on the other hand, is all about the “neither”, and I wish to emphasize that Intergender Divinity may contain traits that are commonly associated with either male or female, but it is distinctly different and exists independently of the other two.

Divinity is Everywhere

There is divinity to be found everywhere, in all aspects of existence, and you don’t need to be a part of some special elite club to be able to access it.  Divine archetypes are a celebration of life, and they are for everyone who is inclined to explore them.  It is usually easiest to start with divinities that are closest to your personal experiences, but it is also beneficial to seek understanding of diverse divinities outside your personal experience.

When talking about gender divinity, we are never talking about the physical body directly.  We are talking about the spiritual natures and divine aspects that we associate what those physical forms.  Even when it is based in human biology and experiences, divinity is independent and transcendent of such things.

Anyone can explore any gender divinities, regardless of their personal gender or sex.  Cis women can learn about the Divine Masculine.  Cis men can learn about the Divine Feminine.  Cis people can learn about nonbinary divinities.  It is not an erasure or an appropriation to explore divinity outside your physical or lived experience.  It is a celebration.  Always.  Don’t be afraid to explore these and other divinities in your own practice, whether or not I or someone else puts forward a potential description.

Gender Diversity Sigil. Image by Author.

This is a sigil for gender diversity, acceptance, and inclusion in pagan and magical spaces, community, rituals, and workings.

This has been magically charged with intent for:
*learning
*welcoming
*community
*crossroads and bridges
*inclusion and full acceptance
*open to other perspectives
*wards against hate and bigotry

You can read more about the sigil, what it means, suggestions for how to use it, details about its creation and the specific symbology used, and download high resolution image files.

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About Sidney Eileen
Sidney Eileen is a non-binary, asexual, animistic, polytheist witch and artist. They acknowledge divinity and unique natures in not just the gods, but in all manner of ephemeral and supernatural beings, spirits, living beings, and the souls that embody the physical objects and spaces around us. Their practice is lifelong and of an intuitive nature, seeking fulfillment through mutable asymmetrical balance. You can read more about the author here.

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