The Changing Role of Men in Wicca

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.

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Balancing Ourselves

Balancing Ourselves

Author:   Moonspider   

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

So says the line from the Charge. Does this mean we are wishy-washy? Quite the contrary. It indicates a balance that we all must come to deal with everyday of our lives, magickally and mundanely. If we don’t we become unbalanced and unhealthy.

Because of this, we must recognize a lack of balance in others we come in contact with daily. They have their own sh*t to deal with, and they can be off too. And, from time to time, people do need sympathy and understanding. Given appropriately this can be very helpful and therapeutic. It is when compassionate people go overboard and enable the suffering to go on that it is inappropriate.

I will share another segment of my own experience with this. Some of you may know that in 1998 my world got turned upside-down with emergency brain surgery. Parts of that are in other essays here on The Voice, so I won’t rehash it all.

In a nutshell, a sinus infection traveled (yes, infections can move), it jumped the protective blood-brain barrier. Not a good thing since blood and its products are caustic to brain tissue. This caused an abscess (simply a puss-ball). So, I took ill at work while talking to a colleague, lost consciousness, woke up 2 1/2 days later with what resembled half a yarmulke on my head. Plus my head felt like it had been run over by an 18-wheeler.

I definitely needed compassion. I received it. Friends (and at times like these you find out who they really are) were great during the healing process. Much magick was done for me, and folks were understanding. Best of all, they treated me like me. Which is probably the most helpful in all healing situations.

Some friends, well-intentioned, kept after that, how are you, you know what I mean. Well that was fine for a while, but it’s over. I am not my abscess. We are not our illnesses. These times are tools to learn with. And yes, I did learn a great deal about myself during this period. As I should have. You can’t have an experience like this and not.

Can I ever forget it? No. I mean I have a j-hook shaped scar crowning my head to remind me of it. Life does go back to normal, whatever normal is. After years of working with mental health related areas, normal is relative.

I will always be grateful for the compassion bestowed on me by the community. It was necessary. It has also helped me be compassionate to people who need it. I’ve also been able to help others who’ve had brain surgery, seizure activity and stroke, since many experiences have related aspects.

So, my compassion is not limited to this community alone. As it shouldn’t. We are a Witch always, not just at Sabbats and Esbats. This comment likened to the Sunday, or Christmas Christian. Though I found true compassion from many communities, Pagan and not, during my healing process. I was dealt with as a person who needed help.

And, I got it. My healing was very rapid. Within less than a week I was out of the hospital. Because I was now prone to seizure activity I could not drive for 3 months. People were wonderful at keeping in contact however they could. Picked me up and took me places I wouldn’t have been able to get to otherwise. I try and remember this as I work.

Actually it fits in perfectly with the work that I do as a librarian for a state agency. My customers have problems, that need to be solved with information. Because of the work our agency does, I need to be aware that the customer needs the information to help a client. They are compassionate to the client. I in turn, need to be compassionate about both needs, since what I will provide will ultimately effect both of them. And, myself to a certain degree. I can’t handle all the information that I come in contact with, without being affected by it.

I need to be compassionate to my own needs too. This does not mean feeling sorry for ones’ self. Just a realistic understanding of what you can reasonably deal with.

Remember the flip side to compassion is power as we utter the Charge. We have to understand both. My own experience certainly has made me more powerful as a person. Understand this, you can face anything. And, I do mean anything.

In my own healing process, I had to face every single demon I had. Real or imagined. I took power back from them. They had been leeching off vital energies from me. It was the most terrifying, exhilarating, and easy thing I’d done.

Terrifying, because who really likes confrontation of anything, much less your own demons? Why do we create such monsters for ourselves? Growth, I suppose.

Exhilarating, because of the freedom it gave me. Now I am unencumbered by nonsense that had been hanging on—some of it for a lifetime.

Easy, yes, easy. Ultimately it was the easiest thing in the world for me to do. What else did I have to do? I was in the hospital for a week, drugs kept me awake for half of that, probably hallucinating for half of that. Great breeding ground for demons. One by one they came. When you face a demon squarely in the eye, it usually dissolves. You may have to talk to it, hit it, or, laugh at it. Demons don’t know what to do with laughter. Laughter is great healing medicine.

What did this leave me? A much more powerful person. Things that used to bother me don’t. Oh, do I get annoyed, sure, especially at stupidity. I’ve become much more cognizant of our internal power. For remember this. No matter how much others want to help, the only one who can truly help you is you. With others being compassionate, especially at trying times, it makes that process easier.

Please remember that power is knowing just the right amount of energy to use. A truly powerful person rarely exerts much energy. They simply know how to tap the source. The power is within. Be sympathetic to those in need, for you never know when you will need it, too. Both, power and compassion, are achieved, not owned¹.

1. Kerr Cuhulain, Wiccan Warrior (St. Paul, MN : Llewellyn Publications, 2000), pp. 22, 84, 117.

Mark MoonSpider Sosnowski

The Changing Role of Men in Wicca

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.