Modern Paganism is a movement, an umbrella term for a variety of individual faith groups that share common practices, goals, outlooks, and theologies. In this, modern Paganism is more like Hinduism, than, say, Catholicism. There is no Pagan “Pope” or acknowledged leader that can label one group heretical, or cast individuals out. There is no singular statement of belief, or religious rule, that binds us all. So when schisms happen, when new groups form, our “umbrella” simply expands to encompass them too. That said, changes, evolution, and yes, schism, can signal a sea change within the larger whole (think of Buckland and Cunningham ushering in the self-initiatory “solitary” paradigm). A barometer to measure changes in our community’s weather. It is within this context, I feel, that we should view the press release just sent out by Lady Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe.
“With gratitude for a wonderful learning experience and warm memories of sisterhood over the past 5 years, Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe announce that as of today, March 8, International Women’s Day 2012, we are retiring from the Z Budapest lineage of Dianic Wicca in favor of forming an independent lineage that reflects our particular approaches and views regarding Goddess-centered practice.
We offer our reverent thanks for the wit, writings, and wisdom Z Budapest has offered us and the world, while acknowledging that we nonetheless find ourselves at thealogical and ethical crossroads with some core practices of her lineage.
Namely, we cannot support a policy of universal exclusion based upon gender at our Goddess-centered rites, nor can we condone disregard or insensitivity in communications regarding the topic of gender inclusion and Goddess-centered practice. We feel it inappropriate to remain members of a lineage where our views and practices diverge significantly from those of the primary lineage holder.”
Yeshe Rabbit was ordained by Dianic Elder Z. Budapest in 2007, and founded the Amazon Priestess Tribe soon after. Rabbit is also co-founder of CAYA Coven, a popular religious organization that provides public rituals in the Bay Area of California, of which the Amazon Priestess Tribe is a part. This break is quite significant, as it comes after over a year of controversy and dialog over the issue of transgender inclusion within women-only rituals. An issue that was sparked at the 2011 PantheaCon in San Jose after an Amazon Priestess Tribe ritual turned away transwomen and acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. That ongoing dialog was complicated, some would say damaged, by events at this year’s PantheaCon.
“Z. Budapest is part of our beloved community. I honor the work she and our foremothers have done to enable the rest of us to worship as we will. Sometimes we need to gently tell members of our beloved community that we feel they are in error. There are many ways to do this. Last year, we tried dialogue. Much was written and discussed on the issue of trans inclusion or exclusion. A whole conference was organized to help further this. An anthology was just published to continue the conversation. Steps were taken by CAYA, around whom much of last year’s controversy centered, to rectify the situation, including the planning of two rituals this year: one for self-identified women and one pan-Dianic rite for all genders.
The only words attributed to Z as part of the conversation of anger, exploration and healing last year felt ugly, hateful, and inflammatory to me, and this year, her one offering to our collective included the words “genetic women only.” After all the work so many put in last year, my heart could not let this stand unmarked. So I decided to engage in another form of dialogue: sitting in silence. Z has the right to perform her ritual. I have a right to sit outside in silence and prayer.” – T. Thorn Coyle
Initially, it seemed that Yeshe Rabbit was trying to pursue a middle path between Z. Budapest and those sitting in silent protest, proposing a path of conflict resolution on the issue. Holding sacred space between the two positions. While that desire for conflict resolution may remain, it seems obvious that it was decided it could not happen while they are still formally affiliated with Z’s lineage. In today’s press release, the Amazon Priestess Tribe, along with Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik, and Devin Hunter’s Living Temple of Diana will henceforth refer to themselves as “Pan-Dianic” to differentiate themselves from the Dianic Tradition of Budapest. What does that mean? According to the statement, it means a formal realignment on issues of gender.
“We support, for those who wish it, ritually gathering around specific experiences with appropriately- and respectfully-invited attendees rather than biological determinism as a matter of universal exclusion. For example, we believe it is every 11-year-old Maiden’s right to determine who will be present at her First Moon ceremony. We equally support gatherings that are open to all self-identified women for exploration of the varieties of women’s experiences. We equally support groups of gay men gathering to honor their own Goddess natures. We support the right of trans-women to create rituals specific to their experiences, and to share these with other trans-women and cis-women as they see fit. We support the idea of cis-gender, cissexual, heterosexual men gathering to explore the Goddess as daughter, friend, universal love, mother, queen, self. And so forth, into infinite beautiful variety.
We hold for clarity, compassion, and linguistic sensitivity in delineating intentional sacred space, and mindfulness toward how we communicate around the topics of privilege, healing, and spirituality. Our discourse shapes the universe. Words are breath, power, actualization. We hold our use of language as a significant magical responsibility.
We hold a commitment to elevation of all women’s rights at the center of our vision. We believe that elevation of cis-women’s and trans-women’s rights to a position of honored equality will open humanity as a whole toward a more balanced and healthy approach to life, the planet, and consciousness.”
In addition, the Amazon Priestess Tribe has decided to stop using the term “Amazon,” and have renamed themselves the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe. Part of the rationale for dropping the term was its link “with those whose approach to Goddess worship is predicated upon gender exclusivity.” You can see all the signatories to this statement, here.
One year ago, I said that the emergence of this debate, this dialog, was historic. That it would change us in ways we couldn’t envision within the moment. That our movement, our community, was readily adapted to accept the changes and challenges ahead in ways that other religious communities aren’t.
“If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.”
What we are witnessing, in real-time, is change happening. A realignment and reconsideration of gender within a Dianic context that seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago. No doubt there will be debate and analysis of this statement, and what it exactly means in practice, and what its true significance is, but I think that all might agree that this “retirement” can be, and should be, seen as a predictor for future changes in how modern Paganism thinks about, and engages with, gender identity.
ADDENDUM: Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik asked that the following clarifying statement be added to this post.
Please let it be known, to whom it may concern, that I have personally not retired from the Z Budapest Tradition. I Love, Honour and cherish the Dianic Tradition as I stand upon the Precipice of Personal Introspection and Reflection. My Inner Dianic Vision is evolving beyond my present experience. In the unfolding of Pan-Dianic Self Determination, I was present for a decision that engaged a Deep Current yearning to expand, and I agreed to embrace this nomenclature as one part of the Whole that I am. This does not negate my position as Dianic Heritage Keeper; as a matter of fact, it is Deep Devotion to Dianic Witchcraft that has motivated my actions. I Hold the Dianic Tradition as the Sanctum Sanctorum of Personal Autonomy, with a desire to Honour Understanding and Growth in All callings of the Goddess Diana from a point of Relation, moving forward. There is no either/ or in my logic, but a “this and that” thinking. All is One. In this Spirit, I stand as friend of Pan-Dianic Intent as a Dianic Priestess and Witch in search of understanding for All Walks of Life. I envision a Future in which the Dianic Community takes part of Future conciliatory realms of respect within an extended Dianic Reality; where It’s voice remains within Pan-Dianic Dialogue. Where it comes forth to speak of ItsTruth and Radiance. I feel called to facilitate dialogue in this quest; to build bridges of relation and to ensure a fostering of a common ground of Solidarity in the Name of Diana within the Greater Pagan Community.
With Love I support The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe in facilitating possibilities for dialogue in this unfolding. To support the fostering of bridges of Peace, and Conciliation.
I am moving forward as a Dianic Priestess and Witch in the Spirit of bridge-building with the Pan-Dianic Paradigm- in celebrating the Beauty of Our Collective Diversity. I stand as bridge to All Dianic Worlds moving forward in Unity!
In Cosmick Sovereignty.