LGBTQ+ Affirming Wicca

LGBTQ+ Affirming Wicca September 26, 2018

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A few days ago, I was having a conversation about polarity, sex magick, and the Great Rite with a High Priestess friend of mine. And we, inevitably, began talking about the changes that are happening in our society’s understanding of gender and sexuality and how we need to incorporate them into our religious and spiritual understanding and practices. We’re both heterosexual, cis-gendered and basically British Traditional Wiccans, and aware of both the strengths and the limitations of our approach and understanding.

It appears to me that talking a good line about being affirming and welcoming to LGBTQ+ Wiccans and Pagans is a first step. But it is meaningless if it does not include a commitment to action – action to transform our spiritual understanding and practice to involve specific, special, insights from inside the several different perspectives of the various sexual and gender minorities.

I’m blessed with friends and coven-mates who are not cis-het (or vanilla, or monogamous) and with whom I can explore other spiritual expressions inflected through their sexual/gender variety. Within a tradition that centres on ecstatic and Mysteries practices which are often worked through the lens of heterosexual polarity and sex magick, practices which are powerful and nourishing to the soul, it is nonetheless possible to bring in other perspectives and stretch the boundaries to create meaning in new ways.

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(c) 2018 Paula Kirman (used with permission) – my temple in Edmonton Pride Parade this year.

The Mysteries are not all gendered and we should resist the temptation to make them so. We all will be born (a great mystery), we will age and die (another), we will love (the greatest Mystery), and so, on and on. These experiences, which can continue to unfold deeper levels of meaning over and again as we engage with them, must be explored through different lenses to become richer and more transformative, more meaning filled and real. Those Mysteries that are experienced only by a portion of humanity – the longing and lust of a man for another man, the surrender and receiving of power in an S/M exchange, the joy of holding one’s newborn child, for examples – can be explored and should be, but they are no less or more valid as routes to the divine for humanity as a whole than any other. And even those that are about a polarity are not all about boy-girl polarity.

So, where do we go? Well, the first place to start, of course, is by asking people to speak from within their experiences, and in their position, to give voice to LGBTQ+ spiritual understanding. Beginning, even further back, with finding a language, teaching and learning ritual skills and building a tool kit of ideas, experiences, and techniques that will assist in bringing forward these things. To have a LGBTQ+ accepting spirituality we must have powerful and moving ritual that connects us to the divine through those lenses – ritual is the means through which religion moves in the communities of faith, building meaning together, celebrating our joint understandings.

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(c) 2018 Mark Chiang (used with permission). Edmonton Pride Interfaith ceremony leaders 2018. Wiccan, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian, Catholic.

One of the clergy-in-training in my temple, now the associate Wiccan chaplain at U of Alberta serving alongside me, is a trans man. His in-depth research into the seithr religious and magical system of the ancient Norse (a path which was for homosexuals and women only), the intended focus of his graduate work, is fascinating and will greatly expand our understanding of pre-Christian northern European religion and culture. The ritual work that has come out of this research is already powerful and transformative and I am excited to see what further work will come out. This kind of work will advance Wiccan religious understanding and spiritual growth, by using our ritual tools and sensibilities, hybridized with Norse concepts, filtered through a queer sensibility.

This rethinking and revisioning is not an impossibly difficult task. It just requires us to stretch a little and accept spiritual insights that come from positions other than our own as valid, for the people who experienced them, and to trust that they are honestly trying to share those insights with us. A tremendous gift; to be given a thing of great meaning to someone else. But one thing that does not do anything is to require the expression of LGBTQ+ in structures that come from rigid boy-girl polarity notions, essentialist dogma (i.e. “women all are” or “men all are”), or that recreate the notions of other religions inside ours (compulsory monogamy, a gift from the Christians?!).

Just like Reconciliation with Indigenous people must mean real exchange of power, and an end to automatic privileging of European-origin ideas, and ending the secondary status of women does not just mean allowing women to vote for male leaders inside a set of unfair structures, coming to reshape gender/sex/sexual preference into an open and accepting society will mean changing to include and experience the world in new ways.

That’s okay. It will make a more just and more interesting world. It will express more facets of the divine, open up the world to new forms of ritual and music.

About Samuel Wagar
I've been doing this Witch thing for a long time (since 1982) but I'm still having fun. Now that I'm an old fart, my focus has switched from doing a lot of things to mentoring, teaching, and writing. I'm a chaplain at University of Alberta, in charge of the Congregationalist Wiccan Assembly of Alberta's clergy training program, a doctoral candidate in theology, and the dean of the baby Edmonton Wiccan Seminary. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Thank you for taking the time to not only write about this, but to also start a discussion on this topic.

  • Thank you for writing this. A small but meaningful note: the preferred term is “trans man” (two words, like “tall man”) not “transman”. I know from the context of this post you don’t intend it as an insult, but the one-word use of “transman” or “transwoman” is often used by anti-trans activists to deny trans people’s gender.

  • Sam Wagar

    sorry. I fixed it. think of it as a typo.

  • No worries, I knew from the context of your piece that you didn’t intend it as a slight. Thanks for fixing it!

  • Para_guy

    I like this article a lot and as a rule am very supportive of inclusive and of adapting practices for the times. One thing I wonder about is this: I understand that a gay man or woman might not find connection with the great rite (in actual or symbolic) when it calls upon masculine and feminine polarity. By that same token, I don’t really connect with the great rite that is masculine in all respects (or feminine in all respects). How is this reconciled within a single ritual act?

    -Do we always do two or more great rites depending on who is at ritual (masculine/feminine, masculine/masculine, feminine/feminine, other/other, etc?)
    -Does it become a majority rule situation where we attempt to provide something that the majority of the people in attendance feel like they will connect with?
    -Do we tell one group of people that they are just out of luck?

    Historically there have been traditions of Wicca and Witchcraft which developed in order to explore these topics (I’m thinking of the Minoan Brotherhood and Dianic Wicca in particular). Now though these traditions tend to be looked down upon because they don’t want (or at least I have heard they don’t want) to open their practices up to those who have not traditionally been seen as part of them (inviting women into the Brotherhood or transwomen into dianic spaces). It makes me wonder what the end state will be?