In Defence of the Masculine
Why is it that far fewer men than women are attracted to Paganism, and specifically in Wicca far fewer still? Why do covens that celebrate and practice a religion that promotes a balanced gender polarity often aim but struggle to have equal numbers of male and female members? Does the idea of dancing round in a circle holding hands fill the average male with horror? Perhaps so, but there is a reason that many men can and do combine ‘normal’, socially accepted male hobbies with a spiritual lifestyle.
I’ve never been one for hyper-feminism, despite being female myself. I spent my childhood and adolescence in an expensive, all-girls school, where it was rammed down our throats every single day for nine years that there was this aching need for us to ‘break through the glass ceiling, and surpass men in business!’ Their level of enthusiasm was often slightly hysterical. Expectations of us were high, and our teachers had seemingly been trained to set us on a golden path, at the end of which we could spend our careers running board meetings and sniggering down at our inferior male employees. On many occasions I wondered what on Earth they were doing, seeing as the idea of becoming a generic ‘businesswoman’ filled me with dread, and nor did I ever have any desire to ‘surpass men’. Quite the opposite, as I’ve always had the impression that nowadays men and women by law are to be given equal opportunities in the world of work, and a number of people I’ve spoken to on the subject inform me that female friends and relatives indeed run their own businesses, having put in the same amount of effort as their male peers, without making a hullabaloo out of it.
I fear that overemphasis on the Goddess may make many males shy away from the Craft and make them feel unwelcome. Far more frequently do I find poems and passages written about the Goddess than the God, so I usually try to write a God equivalent to keep the balance. I feel that this is of great importance; else the balance of male and female energies that make up the Universe and make one of the core tenets of Wicca and many other Pagan religions is compromised.
At Beltane, Pagan couples all over the world choose this time to perform handfastings, the Pagan equivalent of a wedding, in which the couple declare their love for one another and vow to care for each other with the blessing of the Gods. Of-course, these couples need not always be a man and a woman; two women or two men may also handfast, and this I believe does not contradict gender balance. For in every man there are feminine qualities, and in every woman, male qualities, and so a different kind of balance is created in gay and lesbian couples, but nonetheless still as valid and powerful.
A prevailing attitude among many males (but not all) is that Pagan religions appear to be fluffy, over-sentimental, and well… downright girly. Most girls my age, teenagers on the brink of adulthood, would not be caught dead doing what I do; the majority of my female peers would much rather dress themselves up in a uniform of mass-produced clothes, splatter their faces in makeup and march into the centre of town in droves at weekends to guzzle as much alcohol as they can in the least amount of time until they vomit. This behaviour I don’t see at all as feminine, or indeed masculine; I view it as a sea of identical, made-up faces, wearing similar clothes and jewellery, following one another and living in their body as though it were a plastic shell, used to move them from one place to another and to withstand regular binges of alcohol, nicotine and sleep deprivation.
These girls wouldn’t dream of digging their carefully manicured hands into cool, freshly tilled soil, feeling the Earth’s pulse below them. They would not consider carefully cultivating a vegetable garden when processed food can be literally grabbed for a small price on the go. Nor would they perform binding magick for example to prevent the spread of a rumour, when they could much more easily spread an equally acidic rumour themselves in response. Yes, these girls are ‘girly’, but I do not deem them ‘feminine’. Feminine energy, in comparison, I feel is distinctly masculine by our society’s standards. Real women, in my opinion, are those who are not afraid to connect with the Earth, those who have the courage and will to make a stand for what they believe; supposedly ‘masculine’ qualities. No, boys, Paganism is not remotely ‘girly’.
Neither is it just for ‘gay men’, who are attracted to the Craft often because of the representation of the Horned God as a wild, free, sexual consort rather than the domineering, strict father as represented in many monotheistic religions; or perhaps due to the aspects of Paganism that involve theatre, dance, and celebration of life, as an escape from the expected hobbies of playing football and videogames or being encouraged to hunt down scantily clad girls.
In the Dianic tradition of Wicca, the Goddess is revered with little mention of the God at all. There are a number of good reasons that this tradition exists and that it is so popular, and I understand why many women join. Perhaps it is to escape a lifetime of male oppression; centuries of patriarchal religions, a domineering father, unpleasant brothers, abusive husbands – but don’t forget that men, too, are often victims of domestic violence. Many lesbian women find solace in a vagina-friendly community where they are loved and appreciated for being female by many similar-minded women. It is all very well to venerate our Mother the Earth, as after all, She provides us with bountiful gifts, the trees, the meadows and the streams, and gives us a home; but where would we be without our Father the Sun?
Even if you do not attribute the Moon and the Earth as a female energy and the Sun and sky as male, whichever way you look at it, there are masculine and feminine energies intertwining all the time. In the past, the Horned God was the Lord of the Hunt – communities would have starved without the keenness and cunning of the male eye to hunt prey. The communities would too have starved without the craftsmanship and skill of the women, but if the Goddess has no male consort, how can the Earth be replenished with new life in the spring?
I am grateful to have grown up in a society where gender discrimination is minimal, but I also know of a many great males who feel oppressed for whatever reason. I personally despise gender stereotyping, and I believe that there is a lot of pressure on boys to be sporty/competitive/to lead the family. Many of those who are not aware that it is open to them would greatly benefit from a balanced, Earth –based lifestyle. I cringe at the prospect of sounding like the Proselytising Pennys of many other religions, so I shall state here that I am fully aware that Paganism is not for everyone. However, I don’t believe that the idea of practising a Pagan religion should be discarded on the grounds of gender; too often is its content perceived as ‘not masculine’ – on the contrary, the role of the Priest as the Horned God I couldn’t perceive as anything other than the raw energy of men.
I have a great admiration for the men, particularly boys and younger men who break the trend and take the leap into any spirituality that suits their beliefs far more than the ‘masculine’ mould of expected interests and beliefs which is laid out for them. I cherish the few rituals that I find which are written solely for males; I recently found a Litha ritual which was designed to coincide with Father’s Day, and it instructed all the males to dress as the horned God and thank the male members of the family for all their work, love and support. What a fantastic way for fathers and sons to bond in a spiritual way which is so frequently overlooked in favour of female figures in Wicca.
So yes, I believe there is a place for any male alongside females in Paganism, and while ‘the love for the Goddess I hold deep inside’, I too love and revere my God.
Sophie Horrocks, Southeast England.