Same Sex Initiation Should Be Valid In Wicca

Same Sex Initiation Should Be Valid In Wicca September 25, 2020

Image Credit: Katie Gerrard @ Manic Pagan Dream Grrl

When I was initiated it looked like the old heteronormative cisgender ideals of man initiates woman and woman initiates man were slowly being phased out.

Fast forward twenty years and here we are still arguing over the same tired old subject.

As Wiccans we scoff at other religions who insist on the written information being continually right and valid whatever new evidence and ethics shines a light on. Yet barely seventy years on from the repealing of the witchcraft act, our religion is already drowning in unnecessary dogma.

There are several arguments for keeping initiations cross gender, the first being it’s always been done this way. I think we can all see why a pin needs to be stuck in that bubble. Tradition is beautiful, blind faith when we can see a better way is not.

For many years the argument was based in polarity. The gender distinction between the God (male) and the Goddess (female) created an energy current which was essential to initiation.

Then the argument went down the sexual attraction line. You were supposed to have a sexual current with your initiator.

But what happens if you’re gay?

What happens if you’re asexual?

What happens if you really want to be initiated by someone you wouldn’t want to have sex with for whatever reason? Or let’s flip it… you want to be initiated by someone who doesn’t have a sexual interest in you.

It all seems a bit silly to me.

We no longer have the same beliefs when it comes to sexuality and gender. I don’t need a penis to draw down the God and I don’t need a vagina to be a woman.

I also don’t think Same Sex Initiation should be limited to whether you identify as gay or bi/ pansexual.

We know Alex Sanders initiated men; and yet whilst we claim him as one of the founders of our tradition, we reject a chunk of his downline. Men he initiated himself. Oftentimes men he loved dearly.

For what? “Tradition”?

I’ve looked hard at Gardnerian tradition and tried to work out why cross gender initiation was a thing in the first place; especially when Gardner clearly said mothers could initiate sons and father’s initiate daughters. He even said a woman could strap on a sword and play the role of the High Priest at any point. This suggests Same Sex Initiation can happen if it’s a woman initiating another woman.

Was Gardner homophobic? Are we enforcing a tired old tradition which doesn’t suit us based on one man’s homophobia in 1953?

Not necessarily his own.

Remember when the witchcraft act was repealed and Gardner was growing his new religion, homosexual acts between men were still illegal in the UK. You could practise witchcraft, but you couldn’t have sex with another man without risking imprisonment and being labelled a sex offender.

Gardner was advocating men being naked in the same room together. What he couldn’t do was allow any instance of sexual energy between men. Not if he wanted to stay within the law. The sexual element of early Gardnerian witchcraft meant he had to be careful how his practise was perceived.

I believe the boy – girl – boy – girl standing around the circle and the Same Sex Initiation was part of this rather than for any esoteric reason.

When Alex Sanders burst onto the witchcraft scene with his own brand of witchcraft homosexuality was no longer illegal which meant it was no longer a concern if men initiated men.

Therefore, Alex himself initiated men where he had a specific connection to them.

Some of the people we consider to be elders or movers and shakers today have Same Sex Initiation in their uplines. Often the same people who are against the practise are quite happy to include them in initiatory spaces.

There are many people, including myself, who are willing to give Same Sex Initiations. But we won’t start doing so until the wider community accepts them. Which is frustrating because it takes people to start doing so and then throwing their arms out and saying, “Here are my Same Sex Initiates, are you going to accept them or not?” in order to create change.

For me it’s too much of a risk to ask from a dedicant. Mostly because they have no idea how the Wiccan community works until they’re in it and can’t make an educated decision on whether they’re prepared to fight for their right to exist.

There’s rarely a time an initiator of the ‘right’ gender can’t be found. If this has happened I’d question whether that’s a coven you want to join when no one from the community is willing to stand in for them.

In many ways it seems unnecessary then to rock the boat when you don’t have to.

I’ve seen what having to question the validity of their initiation does to people. I would not wish that on anyone.

But whilst no one is making that first step for these important ethical reasons I think it’s key this conversation continues until Same Sex Initiation becomes a valid choice for initiates. Not just because they’re gay or transgender or non-binary. But because the person they chose to do the bulk of their training with was the same gender as them.

We need to keep having this conversation. Validating Same Sex Initiation is the right thing to do for the future of the tradition.

About Katie Gerrard
Wiccan by lineage, heathen by heart. I’m an author, workshop facilitator, and photographer. I can follow rules, but I don’t follow expectations Stereotype me at your peril! You can read more about the author here.

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11 responses to “Same Sex Initiation Should Be Valid In Wicca”

  1. Advocating for change you’re not willing to undertake yourself is just meaningless words. Not doing the right thing out of fear of what people might think of it ensures that the change you seek will never happen.

    Things don’t “get better” with time. They are either made better by people willing to bear the costs, or they are not. Had our LGBT ancestors going on 100 years ago not bothered to rock the boat, we would not have same sex marriage today. We would still be locking up people for being gay, and that’s a fact.

  2. Thank you for naming one of the bigger elephants in the Brit Trad room. Binary conceptions of energy need to be experimented with and discussed in community. Does initiatory energy in British Trad groups need to have sexual energy?Has this been tested in a coven?

    Masonic and similar lodge models of initiation could provide a viable alternative, where an entire group initiates a member into the tradition and its Egregore. No single person is then responsible for initiation, nor can they be.

    Most deities seem to manifest as they choose, making assignment of gender or any other attribute as an unchangeable characteristic problematic. This isn’t a result of social justice warriorship, it’s a feature found in many preserved tales from the Classical era of Greece and Rome, and elsewhere.

  3. There’s an assumption made that Wiccan Covens aren’t doing same sex initiation, or aren’t open to it. Some have been doing it for some years now. This has included ourselves and other covens that we know. I do suggest people check out Yvonne Aburrow’s Inclusive Wicca. BB Janet and Gavin

  4. “where an entire group initiates a member into the tradition and its Egregore” is unfortunately incompatible with how initiation in traditional wicca seems to work, regardless of the genders in question.

  5. I am willing to do same sex initiations, and have offered them to people, but had to warn them that it might not be accepted in some quarters. I do not want to have to go for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach.

  6. This has been a mess for decades, and the last time it came around it resulted in my vibrant tradition, Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca taking on that name, whereas before we had just called ourselves Alexandrians. I had a cross sex initiation, but I have three same-sex initiates, and one cross-sex one. For each one, we discussed the implications (ie, not being seen as legitimate by gatekeepers for conservative Alexandrian spaces), we offered to “job in” a priest if they preferred, which is ridiculous but what people often do when they need to rent some genitals, and they decided they wanted to do their initiation with someone they were connected to and loved. So my downline is mostly considered to be illegitimate by conservative Alexandrians, although our traditional Alexandrian cousins are perfectly fine with us and have attended the SS initiations. My initiates are terrific in ritual, they are trained to carry both male and female energy, and I challenge anyone in a blind taste test to tell which ones were same-sex and which weren’t. I think the recent (in past two decades) requirement of being able to state your boy-girl lineage in order to get access to certain spaces is against the notion of covens being autonomous, never mind the hypocrisy of taking Alex’s practices but saying (as one elder did ) that when he started initiation men, it was “after he dropped his basket).

    The only reason for not doing SS initiation, according to Gardner, is because of the fear of “fondness” developing between initiator and initiate. That, my friends, is pure and simply homophobia, and may be explained, as Ms. Gerrard did, by looking at the laws of the time. Propagate that if you wish, but I and mine have moved on.

  7. As Janet & Gavin said above, and Yvonne, there are groups who have been doing it for years – however, I think Katie is right that there are still (a loud and living in the past) majority in British Traditional Wicca circles who frown upon this practice and would argue that someone initiated in this way is “not valid”. In fact entire downlines are sometimes considered invalid because there is an allusion that someone had a SSI or that perhaps they were in a SS relationship with their initiator. It has caused a lot of distress, not to mention distractions, for those involved and their colleagues. So it is necessary to discuss it.

    Gavin and Janet mentioned Yvonne’s book – it is a great starting point for exploring the subject if you are wanting your coven or group to be more inclusive. Have a look at: https://www.avaloniabooks.com/product-page/all-acts-of-love-pleasure-by-yvonne-aburrow

    x

  8. Thank you! I would be more comfortable with being initiated by a woman. I don’t see why it’s not a thing…heopefully one day.

  9. “I would do this, but it’s not accepted yet. Somebody needs to blaze that trail.”

    You’ve kinda just set yourself up for it…if this is an issue you feel strongly about, maybe it’s time to start blazing?

  10. First and foremost:
    It depends on your traditions. If you studied wicca at any length, it’s theology is based on the natural polarity found in the nature world. NOW before all you jump down my throat, I feel the option of same gender initiations should be, however if you belong to any reputable Wiccan organization and you have learned their traditions and want to be initiated, you have to some degree agreed to their initiating terms. It’s doesn’t hurt to ask for special requests, But at the same time you have chosen to walk this path as an initiate of whatever tradition , so asking them to change their dogma to suit you is just as bad as them not acknowledging Gender issues. I’m here now do what I want! Wicca is about learning , growing with your personal environment. You can be apart of a collective group and have your own personal tradition. My coven based in Atlanta,Georgia deals with the western anglo pantheons. I being of African descendent, follow the teachings of Yemaya, but I’m not of Santeria tradition. If you want something bad enough, create it, or keep looking till you find a traditions or pagan path that suits you. Calling wiccan traditions because they are steeped in ancient lore horrible because they are moving too slow to catch up with modern day social change is just unproductive.

  11. Contrary to what Wiccan says, more than a few Craft groups do make explicit that what’s doing the initiation is the egregore of the Tradition and its energies and Spirits. Humans just mediate it. What polarity is being invoked in initiations? Sexually intimate compatibility? Reproductive capability? Or a magical dynamism between the initiate and another person in the group?

    Freud said that biology is destiny, but neither magicians nor witches are bound by that diktat. We do not need to be constrained by Jungian conceptions of an animus/anima or archetypes, which are largely irrelevant to theurgy and magical practices. Few of us are 19th century Swiss or Viennese patients of a late 19th century therapist, so that modality is likely not an appropriate fit for magic.

    The practical consequences of same sex initiation can definitely be devastating for an initiate in more than a few BTW lines, along with choosing the wrong initiator. Reculement (The equivalent of “Double Secret Probation” from “Animal House”.) can result in that initiate and all of their downline being thrown out decades later-the BTW version of Shunning. Those considerations definitely need to be disclosed to a potential initiate.

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