On Segregation In Pagan & Occult Circles: Why “Separate But Equal” Isn’t

On Segregation In Pagan & Occult Circles: Why “Separate But Equal” Isn’t August 1, 2018
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“But why don’t people in the LGBTQIA+ community start their own mysteries?”

“Just do your own thing and stop trying to change traditions.”

“But when Alex Sanders initiated a guy, the guy went crazy afterward.”

“But women aren’t really all that into ceremonial magic anyway.”

There are a variety of reasons why the answer to Why Cis-Centric Heteronormativity Must Die and the issues surrounding sexism, homophobia, and transphobia is not “go off and create a separate but equal tradition”. Let’s dig into some of those reasons now, shall we?

First of all, times evolve. Cultures have evolved. There’s absolutely no reason to stubbornly cling to 1950s homophobia and sexism. To those of you who are afraid of “changing tradition” within initiatory Wicca, tell me: does your coven or line dismiss your High Priestess when she gets old in order to be replaced by someone younger and (presumably) prettier? If you’re not paying attention to that particular law, then why are you arguing for picking and choosing what ones evolve with the times versus the ones which do not? If you can evolve on that issue without concerns over “preserving tradition”, then why aren’t you choosing to evolve on other ones as well? Why are homophobia and transphobia more acceptable to you than misogyny and ageism? And why are some people trying to gaslight others who received same sex initiations by Alex Sanders by describing them as “having gone crazy afterwards”? There’s an awful lot to unpack here, but I suggest we just light the entire match luggage set on fire instead.

And speaking of misogyny, I continue to find it deeply ironic that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was started in order to give women an equal chance at the mysteries versus Freemasonry, is being referenced as an example of a tradition that women should just leave and start their own deal away from in order to escape the old boy’s club mentality. Are people not aware of the history of their own organizations? Don’t you find it odd that an esoteric order that was started with the idea of gender equality is now a “boy’s club” that women should be encouraged to leave and just do something else instead? A tradition which began in 1887 has gone backward, and I continue to marvel at how behind the curve ceremonial magical traditions in regards to social progress are versus how traditional witchcraft ones are currently doing. What exactly is happening here?

I have so many questions. Why aren’t people thinking about this hard enough, and why are the ones who aren’t typically almost always are white, cisgendered men–in addition to white, cisgendered women? Who decided that they and they alone are the sole keepers and preservers of entire traditions as well as who belongs in it? Isn’t that up to individual groups for themselves within said tradition to decide, not some self-appointed “popes”? And why should it be everyone else who packs up and leaves? Why should the answer be a “separate but equal” tradition versus intelligently and thoughtfully challenging and reexamining ideas which no longer serve us? Why are some people content to essentially segregate a large portion of the population, and why does this not strike them as being the equivalent of regulated bigotry? Why is challenging the status quo and allowing things to evolve threatening to them?

Once again, people are using “tradition” as a shield for their own ignorance, bigotry, and often enough, a genuine hatred towards others.

What we should be striving for is equity, not some false equality that resolves nothing, answers no questions, and allows bigotry to thrive unchecked. When people are more insulted about the idea of letting traditions evolve organically versus outright prejudice and ideas on acceptability that are decades out of date, something is incredibly, fantastically out of whack. People are getting offended over all of the wrong things, and it’s time to think a bit harder about why that’s happening–and in addition, call people out who are doing it.

Thankfully those who are in opposition to change are in the minority, and their numbers will continue to decrease. If they want their tradition to be about them and only them and have everyone else who disagrees with them leave, then they will be a very, very small and lonely tradition. And those who shout in response to that “Then the tradition should die!” have clearly chosen what they care about supporting more, bigotry or the tradition–and it certainly isn’t the tradition. Such people should not be left to decide what happens to it in that instance, and we should move forward in our respective traditions without them.

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  • Anne Hatzakis

    This is part of why I started referring to myself as a Revivalist as opposed to a Reconstructionist. I want to revive and GROW a faith, not simply play-act a fossil. Of course, in the exoteric world, the United States tried “Separate-but-equal” in education only to prove that the “separate” was NEVER considered to be truly “equal” and was never treated as such.

    In my faith, the Theoi call who THEY choose, And if a (trans)woman of color who happens to also be an aromantic asexual quadriplegic happens to be called to be a devotee of those self-same Theoi, it is HUBRIS on my part to say that THEY are wrong.

    In the BASIC LORE of Hellenic Polytheism, the Theoi are said to have loved the Ethiopians. That in and of itself is evidence that they do not segregate by external factors

  • Pluto in Capricorn (Saturn). Saturn dealing with Tradition.

    Whatever Pluto wants to annihilate, it will. The gist…grow or die.

    This is what I have noticed as well with what is going on. Your post essentially just lays it out in detail.

    As a “Plutonian” person, I find myself playing the role of observer in seeing how things either grow/evolve or die.

  • Lavina of Rome

    no it’s not. hellenic polytheism is for the ethnically greek people. i don’t understand how you can claim to be so socially progressive but be okay with cultural appropriation of european religions. you don’t understand decolonial theory if you think its about the natives of Turtle Island only. its not not external factors, your ancestry is in your blood and every cell. the external isn’t meaningless either though. every human face tells a sacred story about one’s ancestors.


    *In Monotheism, proselytes, or converted followers, are always
    searched for to gain rewards from their god and increase their power.

    *In Polytheism, people belong to native cultures with distinct
    customs and distinct ancestries, which are respected and maintained.
    However, one may be initiated into a new neighboring cult, to worship a
    foreign God, by means of a fee, or through marriage within a foreign
    culture. Ethnic Gods constantly worshipped by foreigners is discouraged
    and suspected.


  • The gods call whom they call. And Hera walloped me upside the head, and Hermes flitted around my life until I said “ALL RIGHT, I GET IT!”
    As far as I know, I’m Irish, English and German, no Greek anywhere.
    Believe me, I thought once, twice and five times over about stepping out of my ethnic heritage, but the gods call whom they call.
    Which is exactly what Miss Anne said above you.
    Now, if you think you know better who I should be worshipping, *you* take it up with Hermes.

  • Our coven is having to create its own categories as many of us are trans or queer or both.
    We have Learner, Protector, Nurturer and Teacher life stages instead of Maiden Warrior Mother and Crone.

  • Shiroe

    Excellent answer, valar!

  • Shiroe

    I write criticism of modern feminism for exactly the same reasons you outlined for your criticism of tradition as bigotry. The gods call who they call, period. It’s not up to us to say what queer or minority people do, and it’s bogus to exclude us (I’m gender fluid) for any reason. Part of pagamism for me is honoring the growth and evolution of life on our planet. That includes practices and social attitudes. It’s not pagan to me to adhere so strongly to tradition as to exclude others in this way. This goes for our pagan brothers who are hetero as well. I love your point of view about that. Great article and I’m re tweeting it!

  • 1) You’re yelling your racist nonsense at an ethnically Greek person.
    2) The gods don’t care about your racist, fascist “ethically Greek” nonsense. They continue to choose their own.
    3) No one was “initiated” into the Greek gods in ancient times. If you’re going to be an annoying racist on my page, at least be an annoying racist who has actually studied history.

    Good talk. 🙂

  • Well said 😀

  • I think that this makes way more sense actually!

  • Anne Hatzakis

    The Theoi called me from youth. Are you telling me that although my father was of Greek (specifically Cretan) ancestry, but my mother was French-Canadian, that as a “half-breed” I’m not qualified to hear Them?

    With all of the trading and migrations over the centuries, how can you definitively say a person cannot be deemed worthy?

  • YuOfOwari22

    We all come from the same place originally. We are all made from the same materials. We all live in this universe, and interpret it as our senses are able. Fighting over things like this is meaningless. If they worship in earnest, not in ignorance or as pageantry, then tell me how is this appropriation? It is learning a different culture, perhaps. People “convert” religions all the time; is that appropriation?

  • Dave

    That all would be a real surprise to the ancient residents of Alexandria, Syracuse, Perga, and all the other cities that were culturally Hellenic but outside of the territory now known as “Greece”. It would also be a surprise to many of the Romans who adopted the Hellenic pantheon as their own, and of course the slave populations within what is now Greece captured from Zeus-knows-where that had to serve their masters when performing sacrifices just like any other time. Plus what do you mean by “foreigners” in an environment with lots of different city-states and variations on the religion before Philip of Macedon conquers them?

    The idea that gods like Hermes and Poseidon in particular could be confined to one geographic area flies in the face of everything we know about them.

    And like many others, I didn’t choose to honor the Hellenic gods, really. Apollo grabbed my attention, several more followed, and that was that. I make sacrifices to them, I sing the hymns in their honor in the language those hymns were written in, I remember and tell their tales, I study the history and practice of the ancient people who knew them, and I try to create poetry and music that would do them justice. They seem to appreciate my efforts. I don’t think I have any Greek heritage, but I only know my ancestry about 400 years back, so who knows.

  • Lavina of Rome

    lmao textwall. someone is triggered.

  • Lavina of Rome

    Conversion based religions are imperialist and by nature cannot be appropriated. You have a very universalist view of humanity and it is not comparable with polytheism. Universalism is an imperialist ideology itself, used well by monotheists for their wicked ends.

  • Lavina of Rome

    Has nothing to do with worthiness. You do have Greek ancestry so there is nothing wrong with worshiping the Gods of Hellas. There are different ways a mixed-ethnicity person can choose which polytheism they will practice. It can involve one’s features and which group they look more like. The human face is a sacred map of our ancestors that tells a lot. I believe u must follow your heart and choose a path rather than syncretic inventions. Does not service to either religion to combine them. I don’t believe the Gods wander around like dementia wards in search of followers. That is the task of the ancestors and other spirits who serve the Gods. In your religion, I think daemons would count among these spirits.

  • Lavina of Rome

    The ancestors call us not the Gods themselves. The Gods have important things they are busy with to keep everything existing and working.

  • You sound like one of those nationalist racists. Please leave now.

  • Scarlet Magdalene

    Happily banned the racist who thinks telling people that their genetics matter and that they sound “triggered” makes for a valid discussion.

  • Thesseli

    Saying you can only follow the gods of your ethnic ancestors seems to assume a soul will only reincarnate into that same ethnicity. What if you were Greek in a previous life and Egyptian or Slavic in your next one? And what about people whose ancestors came from multiple backgrounds? Not all of us can trace our ancestors back to one county in one country for the past 500 years.

  • Shawn Herles

    Arguing that “cis-genderded-heteronormativity” must die is like asking nature to die, because nature is responsible for that norm. Heterosexuality is normative because it is necessary for species survival. Breed or die is true of all species, humans included. Supporting freedom and rights for gay or trans people does not require that we ignore nature and biological reality, or that every tradition must change to be inclusive of every possible minority. That’s not diversity, it’s the opposite, a form of political conformity destructive of real diversity. Gay and Trans people do have their own sacred mysteries. I think groups dedicated to those mysteries would benefit the wider community, and add to real diversity. We are polytheists not monotheists. There is, or should be, a cult (in the original sense of the word) for everyone.

    Also, dismissing a persons views because of their race and gender (white males in this case) is just as racist and sexist as dismissing someones views because their non-white or female. And yes I have heard all the reasons as to why dismissing white males is supposedly valid. The’re just excuses . Bigotry is bigotry. Being politically correct bigotry does not make it right.

  • Arakiba

    Funny how white guys always say stuff like this…

  • I. H. Hagar

    I am of Mexican ancestry in this life but what I was in other lives I have only hints. I am drawn to Celtic Gods and Goddesses and I listen to them and follow. To me the “outfit” we are wearing this lifetime may not be the one we have always worn. I do not listen to those who say I must be of Celtic descent in order to worship and honor the Celtic Gods.

  • Shawn Herles

    I’m not white, I’m mixed race. Try again. Preferably without the racism and sexism.

    “Democracy demands that we’re able to also get inside the reality of people who are different than us, so we can understand their point of view, Maybe we can change their minds, maybe they’ll change ours. You can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponent has to say from the start, And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you because they are white or they are male, somehow there is no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.” – – Barak Obama.

  • Barros Serrano

    This biological reality rap ignores the reality of evolutionary science. Altruism exists in nature. Yet, how could an organism sacrifice itself, and thereby its hope of perpetuating its own genes?

    But anthropologists have discovered that behaving selfishly is NOT always in the best interests of survival of the GROUP, which is imperative if any of the individuals are to survive. It is quite likely that there is actually some socially beneficial result of homosexuality. Heterosexuality is obviously necessary to occur for survival to be achieved, but there is no necessity that EVERYONE in the group be heterosexual!

    In some species, very few individuals ever procreate, e.g., bees.

    To call a push for progress “political conformity” sounds like a re-working of the common, and eminently bogus, charge of “political correctness” thrown about so often by the Right.

    You are quite correct, however, that dismissing one’s opinion due to their gender or ethnicity is very wrong and in fact evil. Bigotry is just not cool…

  • Barros Serrano

    Right. It should be noted that one’s ethnicity and gender does NOT define one’s mentality, or even one’s culture. We define ethnicity in this country based on birth and ethnic culture, ethnic self-identification, but under the rubric of “white males” there is as much diversity as one could hope to find anywhere.

    It’s a cheap trick at best when alleged “progressives” use the “white males are invalid” argument.

    Things are so much more complicated.

    Me, I’m classified as a “white male”. Yet, my ethnicity is Appalachian, not mainstream “white”. My ancestry is part Native, as is common among Appalachians. And I am polyglot, thinking in Castilian or French as much as in English.So what do we know about me by calling me a “white male”?

    Today’s college leftists have become frighteningly doctrinaire and self-righteous. As someone from the generation of the 60’s who’s fought these political battles for decades, I can only be annoyed by their pomposity and conviction that they already know it all.

  • Shawn Herles

    Hi Barros,

    ” but there is no necessity that EVERYONE in the group be heterosexual!”

    I agree, and I was certainly not suggesting that, nor, just to be clearer than I was in my first post, suggesting that gay and trans folks must only have their own separate groups. I am arguing for genuine diversity. Some groups may choose to follow the advice of the article, and some may not. Both should do so on the basis of what their members want, and according to their traditions, not according to a universal political demand for conformity on this or any other issue. And if they decide it’s not right for them, they should not be labelled anti-progress. Progress is in the eye of the beholder. Nor should they be targeted with the eminently bogus and repugnant charge of hatred. Some groups might be mixed, and some gay and trans folks might want their own spaces, just as women and men sometimes want female/male only spaces. Women who want their own sacred spaces do not necessarily hate men.

    To me political correctness, a phrase which some on the Left have also used (I’m a moderate centrist by the way), is any authoritarian demand for universal political conformity of thought and practice, with those not conforming ostracised and labelled as haters and bigots as the author of this article does. That seems to me to be a rejection of the polytheist nature of Paganism. We are Pagans, not medieval Catholics with a “righteous” in group and “unrighteous” out groups. You cannot fight genuine intolerance with more intolerance. Vive le difference!

  • Barros Serrano

    Sorry, but “political correctness” is nothing but a cliche used by the Right to demonize anything the Left thinks or does. It is meaningless. look at your definition:

    “…any authoritarian demand for universal political conformity of thought and practice”

    Authoritarian? The closest to authoritarian in this respect I can imagine is hate-crime laws. But then any law is authoritarian, no?

    “universal political conformity”? Who can enforce this or even tries to? The closest to this I can think of is Faux News’ non-stop barrage of lying propaganda from the Right.

    “thought and practice”… again, who is enforcing any of this?

    You are pretending to support any grouping or configuration of differences, yet complain that somehow by being told you cannot discriminate against LGNT you are the victim of some “politically correct authoritarianism”.

    Do you also make this argument against the general social unacceptability of white people saying the N word? Bullying of gay kids in schools?

    You seem to be opposed to any effort toward inclusiveness, that it somehow is “authoritarian” against those who oppose that inclusiveness. And you pretend that opposition is legitimate. But it is not; it is best described with the word BIGOTRY. Sorry, but I am not going to lose any sleep over the deprivation of someone’s right to be a bigot!

    Is bigot too strong a word? When you pull out that “a species must be hetero to reproduce argument”, sorry but I smell bigotry.

  • Shawn Herles

    Hi Barros.

    To me political correctness is much the same as the Christian correctness we used to have, it’s just a secular version arising from the Puritan influence in early America, and while the Right may use it to dismiss any idea from the Left, that does not mean it does not exist. I read widely enough to have come across it’s use by Leftists many times. You made a similar comment when talking about the self-righteousness of some young people.

    “Who can enforce this or even tries to?”

    It’s a social sanction using public shaming, in which anyone who does not conform is labelled a bigot and hater. That’s a form of authoritarianism. The article we are responding to uses it.

    “yet complain that somehow by being told you cannot discriminate against LGNT”

    That’s not what I and we are being told in this case. We are being told that our traditions and practices must be purified of any heterosexual theology that offends some trans people. Individuals or groups that have a such a theology or mythos are not discriminating against anyone.

    “You seem to be opposed to any effort toward inclusiveness”

    Inclusiveness is a meaningless term. All groups limit their inclusiveness, and exclude some. This article excludes anyone who does not want to change their traditions. It excludes all of Gardnerian Wicca, which is based on a mythos of a gendered God and Goddess.

    “When you pull out that “a species must be hetero to reproduce argument”,

    Not what I said. I said a species are largely, not solely, hetero, which all species are. That does not have to mean anyone who is not should be discriminated against. It’s just a biological fact. How we manage that fact is another issue. In the past LGBT people were discriminated against based on Christian notions of morality, but that is changing, a change I support. But supporting that change does not mean we all must purify our understanding of the Gods and myths by getting rid of any and all gendered Gods and myths. Most people see themselves as gendered, because they are. Some don’t. There is room for both. But those that do have a right to their theology and myths as every bit as much as those that don’t subscribe to a gender have a right to discover to create non-gendered Gods and myths. Pitting one against the other is divisive and exclusive, not inclusive. And labelling heterosexual people as haters and bigots for having gendered Gods and myths and celebrating their gender is every bit a form of bigotry as that espoused by the Christian Right. And it’s a form of social authoritarianism, excluding those deemed to be insufficiently righteous. In this respect, parts of the Progressive Left are barely different to the Christian Right.

    Gay rights arose because of the push towards individual freedom that is a hallmark of Western civilisation, however imperfectly it has been practised. You cannot further the cause of freedom for all by demanding totalitarian ideological conformity, or by insisting that the majority who experience themselves as gendered give up their own self-understanding, and their Gods and myths. That is not freedom and choice.

  • Barros Serrano

    Many pagan belief systems and deities spread across ethnic lines. We can see this eveywhere.

    The obsession with “cultural appropriation” by the millennials who think they invented the Left is often misplaced. Culture diffuses, that’s a fact, and it has always done so.

    I’m Appalachian, ancestry Scot-Irish-Welsh-English-Danish-German-Cherokee-Shawnee, so to which traditions should I be restricted? None of those 8 are my culture; we are Appalachians ethnically. Can I practice Mexican paganism, or Hinduism, lacking that specific ancestry? I’m doing both and nobody is complaining except millennial whites!

    I was taught by an indigenous shaman. I did not run back to California and start holding expensive workships on “Native ways” for hippies, like so many do after spending 2 weeks with the Huichol or whomever. But I was given cargos, I struggle for a good English word for this, obligations, duties, relative to what I was taught. Abandoning those could likely kill me. The shaman told me, you are essentially now a (Native word for shaman), but not among our people. You are one to the gringos. They will not appreciate this. You want this knowledge, but it is a great burden.

    Well I teach and act based on all that, and so I am spreading something of that consciousness among people in the U$A.

    Appropriation? There is also sharing, learning, etc.

    I’m certainly not going to whine if a non-Appalachian plays bluegrass music or learns witchcraft or herbalism from Appalachians.

  • Barros Serrano

    And there is an interesting correspondence between the Gaelic “Samhain” and the Mexican “Días de los Muertos”, ¿no?

    Yes the lines are not so tightly drawn around ethnicities as some might think.