How Do NeoPagans Feel About Homosexuality?

How Do NeoPagans Feel About Homosexuality? October 27, 2022

As a queer, Arab man, I couldn’t see myself in any of the Abrahamic faiths, even less in the conservative environment I grew up in. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I felt lost, but I did feel lonely for sure, wandering on the internet as I tried to find someone like me. Since I became a Pagan, or more specifically, a NeoPagan Witch, I felt more empowered, taken care of, and appreciated. It’s something that I’ve seen a lot when meeting with other Witches, reading their blogs, their books, listening to interviews. NeoPagans are not only okay with homosexuality or any other shade of queer, but also celebrate them.

“When I started learning about witchcraft and paganism, I was surprised to find such an open community”. Image by Boris Štromar from Pixabay.

Arab, Pagan, and Queer?

Although I thought there was no queer representation on Pagan Arabia, reading and looking closer into the matter proved me wrong. There’s a lot of representation in social roles, mythology, religion, and I’m sure there are tales out there that celebrate queerness. This was a big surprise because Arabic countries criminalize homosexuality.

A quick look into LGBT rights in the Middle East reveals some details. While homosexuality is legal in Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Bahrain, Palestine’s West Bank, and is a complicated issue in Lebanon and Iraq, it is explicitly punishable in Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Also, none of them recognize any gender besides male and female, except for Israel which protects queer people and considers any crime based on anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity a hate crime.

It surprised me to find such an open community when I started learning about witchcraft and paganism. Being raised in a traditional, Arab family, meant that I always felt uncomfortable sharing parts of myself that would go against the expectations set in me. Being queer was among the worst things, if not the worst of them all, a person could be. I’ve heard all kinds of comments on the matter, most of them negative and insulting, but those first contacts I had with other pagans and witches showed me there’s all kinds of people out there, some of which are absolutely fine with someone not being a cisgender straight person.

“A safe place to learn, celebrate, and honor what makes us different, unique, and special. Every identity is valid.” Image from ShutterStock.

All Acts of Love

Those first friends I did showed me that I had nothing to be ashamed of, something I would be told over and over again no matter who I encountered. Witches of all kinds, traditions, paths, and beliefs would tell me that it was unimportant whoever as long as it was a healthy, enriching relationship.

One of those first examples and celebration of uniqueness was when I read The Charge of the Goddess, especially one particular segment:

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

I’m not a Wiccan witch, not anymore, but that part of the Charge made me smile the first time I read it. I did it again when, in the Arabian Paganism discord server I’m in, a lot of people started saying they were this or that, that there were other fellow queer Arabic pagans in that group.

I also smiled when reading some of Rumi’s poetry (this, this, and this book, to be specific), several of which spoke about a strong love towards Shams Tabrizi and to God, bordering the erotic. Some poems were more symbolic, while others were explicit, maybe even homoerotic, which amazed me because of who was writing them: an Arab man born in the 12th century! More than 800 years ago, when queer rights seem impossible, and there he was, writing things like “The Divani Shamsi Tabriz, XXXVI“:

All through eternity
Beauty unveils His exquisite form
in the solitude of nothingness;

Here at Patheos I’ve seen a lot of acceptance as well. I lost count of how many articles, interviews, and content in general, that celebrates the diversity of practitioners of all kinds of backgrounds. Patheos is a safe place to learn, celebrate, and honor what makes us different, unique, and special. Every identity is valid. I can dream that this will happen not only in all other platforms, but also in real life.

The Middle East is a world that needs a lot of work regarding LGBT rights for sure, but there has been improvement as well, such as the revival of male belly dancers, and the interest of people from other countries, regardless of their identity or orientation, in belly dancing in general; there are some talented men out there, let me tell you! This is not exclusive to the Middle East, either. The same happens with the pagan community, because even with all that into consideration, trans people still face discrimination in some circles, especially on Dianic groups, some of which don’t seem to accept trans women.

About Bader Saab
I’m an Arabic witch and journalist, also with a master’s degree in digital research. I have worked as a book reviewer and written about pre-Islamic folklore. You can connect with me by Private Message on Instagram: @saab.bader. You can read more about the author here.

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