Maybe a roomful of 300 people wasn’t expecting that Pan would appear through a woman. When the Revel was over, it didn’t seem to matter anyway.
The last thing I think about when working with gods is the state and classification of my human reproductive system. Actually, I wouldn’t even say it’s “the last thing”, because it’s not even on the table, sitting on the chair, nor laying on the floor, or hunkering down on the porch, or skulking in the driveway.
Which is to say: the physical possibilities or perceived limitations of my corporeal body have no effect on my ability to successfully bring a deity through it. The other side of that is that it doesn’t matter what gender attributes the deity may be possess or be recognized as either. Those characteristics aren’t a hindrance to them taking up temporary residence in a body. Rather the it’s more like a traveler taking an AirBnB room in someone’s home – when it’s available and mutually agreeable to both parties.
What matters most is the agreement between the Witch (as the vessel) and the being called upon. Meaning that both parties consent* to the event happening. The Witch is willing and (hopefully) able to welcome the deity in, and the deity is equally willing to participate in the joint venture. Everything else heaped upon that event in terms of restrictions and rules has to do with the human-assigned tradition, religion, ritual, social constructs, cultural conditioning, and stereotypes.
Mind you, I’m not telling you that if in your system of practice, how it’s done is that male-presenting gods are called into male-identifying priests (and goddesses into priestesses) is wrong. Rather I’m saying, it’s not the only way. It’s also not wrong to feel uncomfortable when presented with something outside of your paradigm – that’s natural if any situation.
I do recognize that there are deities who are very specific about who or what they prefer to work with, and the same with Witches. These things are a matter of preference that may make or break an agreement because they are personal stipulations, and that’s totally fine.
But outside of those things? If both sides have a vested interest in the partnership and a respected agreement, then gender is a non-issue to both. It’s the work that matters most. We ourselves are spirits inhabiting flesh, and we can choose to be defined in any way we wish – though what society may think about those definitions is another issue.Speaking of which, while some people may roll their eyes and snipe about my “liberal agenda” – it would greatly behoove those individuals to do just a wee bit of research to discover there are a multitude of religious/spiritual traditions where the gods/spirits are not partial or beholden to gender binary-based constraints. From all over Africa to the Caribbean and South America, India and other parts of Asia, you’ll find the gods and spirits have been bypassing the supposed gender of the vessel for centuries. It’s not that unusual, and for good reason.
For years I have taught classes in dance and ritual movement. In one particular workshop titled “Genderblending” – the students explore “masculine” and “feminine” movements, pushing outside of their notions of gender while better understanding the powers of the human body. I also do an exercise when teaching ritual movement, where we study and experience the posture, poses, and movements of deities through our own bodies. Every class, students discover that things like gender, sexuality, and ability don’t have to hold them back in breaking past those definitions. It’s a simple yet very powerful way to understand and communicate with gods and spirits – and connect more deeply with our own bodies.
So when I choose to work with a specific deity, I’m reflecting on the purpose behind the work and what best connects us. I’m not thinking about what are the possible limits or other people’s preconceived notions of my physical form. That’s not part of the agreement or how it works. The relationship is that I’m creating the opportunity for the Deity to make contact in a way they deem useful for their needs.
Often times, it’s the ideas that we impose upon ourselves – from social conditioning and the cultural “norms” that can limit us from experiencing more. They make the stumbling blocks that can prohibit was from connecting more deeply with ourselves, each other, and the divine.
*there are definitely stories of where the human half of the equation is surprised by a god or spirit possession – though this tends to happen more at events where just showing up/participating is seen as consent/agreement by those spirits or deities. As in, all you have to do is be present to “win”. There are some other more rare instances as well, but that’s a whole other discussion.