The Changing Role of Men in Wicca
Author: Morgan Ravenwood
It is unfortunate but too often true that male Wiccans find themselves relegated to a passive, almost non-existent role in Wicca and many other Pagan traditions, thereby depriving their female counterparts of some potentially useful interaction, observations and teachings.
While many Wiccan women would defend this stance by pointing out that the Abrahamic faiths are male-centered and that they came to Paganism to avoid being forced to submit to male authority, they fail to realize that any faith that places emphasis on one gender over another is simply out of balance and deprives its members of both spiritual satisfaction and education.
We Wiccans must remember that it was a man, Gerald Gardiner, who originally gave birth and identity to the faith we practice today. However, he didn’t do so all by himself—he a lot of help and encouragement from women such as Doreen Valiente. Perhaps that is why the Gardnerian tradition has always promoted gender equality. Since then there have been some notable male Pagans such as Stuart Farrar, Oberon Zell, Isaac Bonewits, and more recently, Kerr Cuhulain and Christopher Penczak (who has written a great deal about gay Wiccans, whose numbers continue to grow) whose knowledge and experience have benefited us all.
A quick overview of some of the major Wiccan traditions certainly doesn’t inspire a man to want to join most of them unless he is willing to play a subordinate—and submissive- –role. While ones such as the various Druid groups and the Alexandrian and Gardnerian traditions seem to be more welcoming to the male practitioner, others such as the Dianic and Avalonian traditions are strictly matrifocal with no male participation at all. There are endless lists of Wiccan female-only groups on the web as opposed to barely a handful for men. All of this amounts to the same kind of sexism practiced by the mainstream religions, and is just as counter-productive.
We are all familiar with the concept of the Triple Goddess, which is of course worshiped by male and female Wiccans alike. While most female Wiccans relate the phases of the Goddess to our own lives, how do we apply this to the God, and in so doing, contemplate how this concept can be applied to men?
In my long years of study and correspondence with other practitioners, I have learned quite a bit from some very wise male Pagans. I recently asked some of them their opinions on this, and actually got some pretty similar answers, though one male friend said, “I hadn’t really ever thought about it!”
I can’t help but feeling that that is a very great shame indeed.
Equal gender identification really isn’t that difficult when you think about it. When we see the young Goddess as the Maiden, we could see her male counterpart as the Youth/Warrior/Student. As She reaches Her Mother stage, Her consort matures into the Father/Warrior/Hunter.
Opinions vary on when a woman has aged sufficiently to regard herself (and be regarded by others) as a “Crone, ” but on the other side of the coin, we again have her consort becoming an Elder/Sage/Grandfather. Though male Wiccans revere and venerate the Goddess in these various incarnations, might they not feel a little more comfortable if the God was given equal consideration?
Those female Wiccans who may belong to covens who worship the Goddess to the exclusion of the God might feel a little more in balance also.
When we look at the history of Paganism we find a large number of male deities such as Cernunnos, Dagda, Lugh, Cuchulainn, Pan, Osiris, Zeus, Apollo, and so many more. In ritual, particularly when petitioning for a special purpose, it is wise to aim such petitions towards a deity who may have certain characteristics particular to the object of the petition.
Male Wiccans especially may have certain issues that they feel more comfortable sharing with a male deity as opposed to a female one. That doesn’t mean, however, that they would (or should) eliminate worship of the Goddess in Her many forms—on the contrary, the male Wiccans of my acquaintance are very devoted to Her.
As in everything, balance and moderation are the keys.
We need look no further than our own Wheel of the Year to understand how important the God is to our religion. From Yule, when we celebrate the birth of the God, to Samhain, when He dies and prepares to be born yet again at Yule, our Sabbats are ironically centered on the God, with the Goddess both assisting and participating in a supporting (but no less important) role.
Consequently, it seems illogical and counter-productive to relegate the God along with male practitioners to a minor role in other Wiccan rites. While I am certainly not advocating the dissolution of all female-only covens, I DO encourage them to give some serious consideration to allowing serious male practitioners to participate in their rites. This would present many opportunities for fellowship and the sharing of knowledge, which would surely outweigh any perceived disadvantages.
The Religioustolerance.org website contains Edain McCoy’s description of the worship of Wiccan deities thusly: “We worship a deity that is both male and female, a mother Goddess and father God, who together created all that is, was, or will be. We respect life, cherish the free will of sentient beings, and accept the sacredness of all creation.” And yet, the same article also says, “Wiccans celebrate the sexual polarity of nature.
For example, the fertilizing rain is one manifestation of the male principle; the nurturing earth symbolizes the female. Females are respected as equal (and sometimes at a slightly higher rank) to males. A priestess is often the most senior person among covens — a local group of Wiccans. They aim for a female-male balance in most of their covens (local groups), although men are typically in the minority.”
The last sentence really reinforces the imbalance that exists in Wiccan practice and brings up a salient point: perhaps if more men chose to become involved in Wicca, it would drive up the numbers of Wiccan adherents and consequently make us more of a force to be reckoned with. The days of “broom closet” Wicca are coming to a close and we are already seeing the benefits such as the V.A. approval of the pentacle on the headstones of Wiccan veterans.
However, we must keep in mind that in order for more men to become interested in Wicca, they must be allowed equal consideration and status.
It’s a concept whose time has come.