One God Plus One Goddess: Do We Need To Painstakingly Invoke Gender Binary Anymore?

One God Plus One Goddess: Do We Need To Painstakingly Invoke Gender Binary Anymore? November 24, 2020

Image credit: Katie Gerrard @ Manic Pagan Dream Grrl for Patheos

In Wicca we have a standard invocation style of one god plus one goddess in all rituals. This goes for British Traditional Wicca (or simply Initiatory Wicca as I prefer to call it) and generic.

We spend a great deal of time working out which god fits with which goddess and what multiple deity options match the theme of our rite.

But do we really have to do this?

I know what you’re thinking… there she goes again breaking Wicca, tearing tradition into tiny pieces and putting it back together wonky.

But hear me out.

The Abrahamic religions were very male focused. They concentrated on one god. When Wicca and feminist theory erupted in the middle of the 20th century, we realised we needed to correct the balance and our pagan religions focused primarily on the goddess.

There is of course debate within these two binaries still. Catholicism puts way more emphasis on the divine feminine than Protestantism. Judaism and Islam also involve the divine female in Sophia, Lilith, and Mariam (and I realise I’ve over-simplified this). Whilst Wicca always had a horned god, from the very inception of Gardner’s reconstruction.

The focus of modern pagan religions for many years was on the divine female in an attempt to redress the balance of the prior focus on the divine masculine.

However, as we neared the 21st century, Wiccans and Pagans sought to re-balance and add some more of the divine male energy into their practise.

The duality of god plus goddess within every rite became a staple. Gender balance was something to strive towards and as such covens aimed for equal focus on god and goddess in their patron deities and within the deities they invoked for rites.

Balance was not just about creating gender polarity within the ritual; it was also about showing equality within the genders.

Yet our understanding of gender has moved on dramatically from the days of the millennium pagan writers.

We no longer see gender as binary and are no longer limited to the concepts of male versus female. We aren’t even constricted to the idea of male plus female equals baby human as the only way to worship fertility.

So why, when our coven members are likely to include non-binary or gender fluid members, do we still cling on to the concept that a ritual must include one god and one goddess to be ‘correct’?

It seems quite short sighted of us to consider the concept of even the monotheistic ‘god’ as being a specific gender.

As a pansexual polyamorist, I don’t even see relationships as having to include one man and one woman so why do I continue to insist on limiting my rituals in this way?

The answer is, I no longer do.

Some may argue I never really did.

When I started working with Seidr high seat rites I used a triad of deities within my invocations – Odin, Freyja, and Hel. As I wasn’t looking to rebuild a Wiccan framework it made sense to include as many deities of whatever gender I felt the rite required.

I’ll be following the same pattern in my Wiccan rituals now.

Whilst my main choice of deities for ritual is more likely to be Odin and Freyja who fit the usual male plus female profile, I often just invoke one or will add an additional deity if I feel the rite needs it. Within open and group rituals I’m going to try to not feel I must continue the practise of god plus goddess for invocations.

Whilst the god plus goddess ritual motif suited my rituals in the past, I recognise gender theory has moved on so why not ritual theory?

That’s not to say there might not be plenty of times when god plus goddess works perfectly and suits the ritual I have in mind.

There’s no point changing things simply for the sake of it.

But on those occasions when we find ourselves desperately seeking a polar gender deity who “fits” our ritual when it doesn’t need an extra deity, why don’t we just… not…

Does the Morrigan (for example) need a shoe horned god to join her? Does Herne need a female playmate to bring the right energy into the ritual? Loki certainly doesn’t need a male or female counterpart, instead you might want to pair him with a deity who balances out his chaos with steadfastness. Or you might not.

Why not allow the deities to bring their own energy and imbalance to our rites and see where it takes us?


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