The Circle of the Mountain Fire

A Correllian study group for Colorado Springs, Colorado

How We See Sexuality in Wicca

Pagans tend to view sex as a normal part of human sexuality. While some groups may disapprove of, for example, homosexuality, Pagans tend to be more accepting of and open to homosexuality. In the same vein, many Pagans are also more accepting of polyamory.  Sex is a good part of life and it is a desirable part of life.

            The Book Religions are seen as being more sex-negative. Sex is somehow dirty, shameful, and sinful. Because of this, sex had to be regulated and controlled and one successful way of controlling this aspect of the creative process was to subjugate and dominate the outward representation of the creation of life, the female half of the human species. Nurturing, love, and caring were relegated as inferior things that a part of the woman’s domain while aggressiveness and strength were somehow masculine.

            Fortunately, not all of the Book Religions share that antiquated and barbaric view. For example, Rabbi Glasier of Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs, Colorado cheerfully asserts that sexuality—including gay sexuality—is a gift from God.

            The Correllian perspective on human sexuality is somewhat unique to the Tradition. While it shares a positive outlook on sexuality with other Pagan Traditions, it also incorporates the following:

1.   Skyclad is honored (okay, many Gardnerians also believe in honoring skylclad, but I tend to agree with Sybil Leek who noticed that skyclad is not always conducive to ritual and working in 25 degree weather)

2.   Sexual matters, while holy and honorable, are best left in private for practice

3.   Sexuality is a personal thing that is subject to individual views and tastes

4.   Love and passion are functions of the soul

5.            People often notice that there seem to be a lot of gays and lesbians in the pagan world. Do they ever notice the anti-gay discrimination in the pagan community, however?

A couple of summers ago, I got into a conversation on a mailing list that I belonged to where someone was commenting on how shocking it was that there seem to be so many gay men, lesbian women, and bisexuals in the Pagan community. This ignited a conversation that lasted for a while because of people responding to that original post about some of the possible reasons why gays, in general, seem to be more comfortable in the Pagan community and whether or not the Pagan community was more accepting of gays than non-Pagan groups may be.

One point that I must make here is this: while Pagan communities may appear to be more open to gay people, this is not a Universal Law that is engraved in stone. Yes, we do tend to think that Pagans are more accepting than Christians, for example, but the truth is that many people … including the leaders of our Pagan communities … carry their emotional baggage and prejudices with them when they become Pagans. The subject of homosexuality is an emotionally loaded topic … including for the leaders of the various Pagan communities!

Generally, I would have to say that it is easier in many ways to be gay and Pagan than to be gay and any other religion that I have been exposed to. The majority of Pagan faiths do not seem to have any strictures against homosexuality. Pagan faiths generally do not require that their members procreate in order to be able to act in ministry. Pagan faiths do not require their members to get married just to show that they are spiritually grown and that they are not “selfish.”

Certain (not all, however) Pagan paths have a tradition of accepting homosexuality. The Native American communities are noted, for example, for their acceptance of their berdaches, men and women who lived between genders because of their homosexuality. Historically, those who walked in two worlds were often given special roles to fulfill for the communities’ religious life.

So, if Paganism is supposed to be so all accepting of variety in life, of the various life styles, why on earth should there be any anti-gay prejudice within the Pagan community? Let’s be honest; there is homophobia in the Pagan community. There are some various possible reasons. I would like to examine each one as a unique and separate point from the other.

[1] Social Norms

(In this category, I am also thinking of certain cultural biases that are evidenced in certain magical traditions. Certain Pagan groups have opted to discriminate against gays and lesbians on the grounds that their ancestors in Europe would not have tolerated homosexuality in the tribes, clans, and villages.)

It must be remembered that the majority of Pagans come from non-Pagan backgrounds. They have generally been raised in or exposed to a Judeo-Christian culture. One of the strictures in such a culture is that homosexuality “is an abomination” to the Lord.

We see the examples of anti-gay prejudice in our society by the assumptions that people make about relationships; if you tell people who do not you that you are involved in a relationship, for example, the majority of people will assume that you discussing a heterosexual relationship. In our society, seeing a boy holding a girl’s’ hand does not carry any threatening or scary message. If people see two boys holding hands, however, you will get an emotional reaction.

When people come to paganism, they come out of this type of background. Becoming Pagan does not ensure an overnight change in attitudes, especially attitudes that have been engrained and reinforced by a larger society and culture. They often carry with them the idea that homosexuality goes against the cultural norms and is therefore inappropriate in a pagan setting as well as in society at large.

[2] Gender Identity

Many people come to Wicca and to Paganism as a way of escaping certain sexual discrimination issues that take place in the secular and religious world at large. Many of these people, women especially, have come from a background where they have been discriminated against and/or abused simply because of their gender. Many men have also come to Paganism as a way to escape the oppressive roles that have been traditionally forced upon them.

For some of these people, gender identity is key to their very being. For some, a part of this gender identity goes to the core of their religious identity. For example, many Wiccan Traditions are noted for their emphasis on Goddess worship. This form of worship may appeal to many women who feel they have been left out of the spiritual realm because of a Male God demanding masculine worship and imagery. For some people, homosexuality is a threat in that gender identity does not always demand the polarity of heterosexual male and female to work magic or to worship the Goddess and God. For some, gay men are a threat because of the masculine being further attracted to the masculine.

[3] Fertility Religion

Paganism is noted for its open sexuality. It is noted for its reliance upon the old holidays and for being descended from the ancient fertility religions. If Paganism is to be a fertility religion, however, such as the religions of old, then where do gays and lesbians fit into this picture?

Many people who emphasize the fertility aspect of Paganism will point out that many gays and lesbians do not have children and will not have children. They point out that if lesbians and gays are truly free to be who they are, then they will most likely opt to be in loving relationships with people of their own sex. Obviously, gay men cannot get gay men pregnant and lesbian women do not get lesbian women pregnant. This line of reasoning would seem to indicate that lesbians and gays are not fertile by the definition of reproducing children.

Going along with this objection is the problematic nature of the Great Rite in some Traditions. A while back, I was in contact with a High Priestess from one of the British Traditions; I won’t say which Tradition simply because some of her coven’s requirements were a bit out of line with the practices of that particular Tradition. One of the requirements in her coven was that to earn any degree above the First Degree, the candidate would have to physically enact the Great Rite with the High Priest/ess of the opposite gender. I advised the High Priestess that this would be an impossibility for me in that I am 100% gay; I would not be able to pass this test as required by her coven.

Many people see polarity strictly in terms of opposing genders and do not take into account that many gays and lesbians embody much of the concept of polarity within their very souls. Because we do not physically symbolize polarity in our relationships, many people do not see that polarity is still maintained when our hearts, minds, and souls connect with the right person. They see the Great Rite as a male and female connection and not as the connection of the female and male principles that inhabit all of us.

The Craft is a fertility religion. That much is true. However, how many covens actually … sexually … enact the Great Rite every time they meet for the Esbats and Sabbats? As Kurt Hunter stated in an e-mail to me,

"The masculine/feminine dynamic is not necessarily dependent upon the genitals, or the orientation! There is more to being `male’ than the need to bang your woman, for Goddess’ sake! Furthermore, being able to invoke the Goddess and be invoked upon with the God is not hampered by being gay—this is first hand experience talking …" (Hunter, 2001)

An additional consideration in the issue of Wicca being a fertility religion stems from the following two factors: [1] many heterosexuals are incapable of having children for whatever reason (thus, not fertile) and [2] many gays and lesbians do have children (thus, fertile). Are these heterosexuals guilty of not fulfilling their role in promoting Wicca as a fertility religion or are these gays and lesbians superior to these infertile heterosexuals because they, as gays and lesbians, have had children? In this case, then, isn’t Wicca a homosexually oriented religion in that gays and lesbians, as opposed to heterosexuals, are being fertile and producing new life?

[4] Sex Roles

Our society has generally conditioned us to fulfill certain sex roles. Those of us who were raised in the Baby Boomer generation or before often find it harder to leave those expected roles we have had more time for these expectations to be engrained in us than many of the younger people have had. Homosexuality often defies these sex roles, including in religion. We were brought up in churches where God was very male and used Father imagery. We were taught that the feminine is either to be nurturing (the Virgin Mary) or to be despised as the whore (Mary Magdalene). We were not shown women as strong warriors or men as loving and gentle. We often carry these tendencies with us into our Pagan faith; women are wenches and men are Viking warriors, for example. Gays can threaten that by having strong warrior women and men who may want to play the wench role for the night.

[5] The Craft, meaning Wicca, is a heterosexually oriented Craft

Yes, people do argue that the Craft is a heterosexually oriented Craft or religion. For a gay person to want to study the Craft implies a willingness to be discriminated against by others on the same path. Why would a person want to undergo that?

Personally, I feel that too many of the influences in early Wicca were either bisexual or homosexual, such as Crowley and Sanders—both experimented with bisexuality, yet no one denies their contributions to Wicca despite this playing around with sexual and gender roles! If such early influences can be respected at this day and age, how is it possible that there is an argument that the Craft is a heterosexually oriented Craft? Should religion have a sexual orientation? Christianity generally does because of the belief that we must procreate (the sole purpose for sex it would seem for the sexually negative views that many Christians seem to hold), but it is not generally argued even among British Traditional witches that this should be the case for the Craft!

[6] It feels different

Perhaps the most unusual argument that I have heard against homosexuality in the Craft is the simple fact that homosexuality feels different from heterosexuality. Yes, I have actually seen one Alexandrian make this argument (in all fairness to the Alexandrians, I have seen many criticize the argument that gays cannot be true Wiccans—I even know one heterosexual Alexandrian High Priest in England who was trained by a gay man into that Tradition); homosexuality feels different in the bedroom because it involves members of the same gender as compared to heterosexuality and members of opposite genders. If it feels different in the bedroom, it must be different in Circle. The only thing that I can think of in this instance is that there must be a lot of sex happening in his coven so that he must be concerned with the sexual practices of his fellow Wiccans!

It is indeed a strange argument to make: homosexuality and Wicca may not be able to work together because homosexuality feels “differently” from heterosexuality. As Anderson stated, “I don't doubt the effectiveness or validity of a homosexual Craft, I simply doubt (provisionally at this point) that it feels the same as a heterosexually oriented Craft (Anderson, Personal e-mail, 2001).” Yes, it does feel differently from a heterosexually oriented Craft; however, again, there are no Wiccan scriptures to back up the assertion that Wicca is a heterosexually oriented Craft!

Anderson also notes that,

"As I understand it, the magic in traditional Craft flows along not only sexual, but definitely heterosexual lines. There are certainly many good and effective ways of connecting to deity, but they are not nor do they feel the same as that in the Craft. Most pagan but non-Wiccan paths consider sexuality and sexual orientation quite irrelevant, and there may be spiritual paths derived from Wicca (and even called Wicca) which downplay or do not use the methods of the older Craft, but that doesn't invalidate the traditional heterosexual orientation of the Craft (Anderson, 2001)." 

Anderson misses the point: [1] while heterosexuality and homosexuality are indeed different from each other, so are males and females and yet we do not argue whether or not it is equally valid in most of the British Traditions for men and women to worship and work together and [2] again, there is no Wiccan commandment to be heterosexual.

Energy is energy. It is neither positive nor negative. If the energies in a gay gathering are different from the energies in a heterosexual gathering, then the energies are simply different. The word different should not be a value judgment; it should merely express a difference in type, not worth. The argument that homosexuals cannot be Pagan, Witches, or Wiccan because their energies are different should not be a valid argument in that it implies a value judgment simply because of a relatively (from a spiritual perspective) minor difference. Wicca is not supposed to be a fear based on differences; it is supposed to be a celebration!

[7] Everyone is heterosexual

It seems that many people assume that everyone they meet is heterosexual. They never seem to know any homosexuals. If you say that you have a new love in your life, they tend to assume that this new love is a member of the opposite sex. People often tend to take it for granted that the world is heterosexual! It is a built in assumption that is supported by our society and media. It often comes as a surprise to them when they realize that they have been around gay people for a very long time and especially so when they are in the same Coven! Often times, these same people have a hard time dealing with the sudden fact that they people they have been associating with are not exactly the same people that they thought they were.

[8] We are modeled after the God and Goddess

There is a Wiccan expression, “As above, so below.” In other words our reality reflects the spiritual dimension and the spiritual dimension reflects our reality. The two are intertwined and interconnected. They are not separate.

One of the most common beliefs in Wicca is the belief in a Goddess and a belief in a God, Her Divine Consort. This seems to sum up a heavenly heterosexual relationship In other words, we perceive Deity as heterosexual; there is no celestial space for homosexuality. One objection raised to homosexuality, based on this reasoning, is “that gay people were perverted, and that `most pagans believe in a God and Goddess. There is a reason for that you know. Or do you believe there’s a God and a God?’”

Our view of Deity is informed by our personal beliefs and convictions. Many of our personal beliefs and convictions are based upon many of the values that we are taught and exposed to in our societies. It just so happens that Wicca is based heavily upon European and American cultures, both of which have a strong heterosexist and homophobic bent in their cultures. Is it any surprise that these same traits have been carried over, by some, into their understanding of the relationship between Goddess and God?

Homophobia and heterosexism, when encountered in the pagan community, are often more hurtful than when encountered in the non-Pagan community. In the non-Pagan community, we have already heard the message: gay is not good; we do not accept lesbianism; God hates faggots. We do not generally expect to walk into a Southern Baptist meeting and expect open arms when they know who we are. We already know to brace ourselves for the condemnation and the hatred. If you consider the phrase that the Craft is a heterosexually oriented religion and then substitute the word “Southern Baptist” for the Craft, you end up making a statement that would just reinforce the negative teachings about homosexuality that we have already heard; there would be no difference in meaning—it would be putting the Craft on par with the Southern Baptists in this area.

When we walk into a Pagan gathering and encounter prejudice, it is often an unpleasant shock to us. We expect our fellow Pagans to be more accepting. We expect them to be more open. Let’s be honest—we expect our fellow Pagans to be more of a family to each other. When this doesn’t happen, we are hurt because of the lack of family and acceptance from those we expect to have gotten rid of the prejudices. Because of the smaller size of so many Pagan groups and the insistence upon everyone in a coven is family, we are shocked and hurt in this more intimate environment when we encounter hostility based on something that we have no control over and no desire to control. This past Beltane, my lover and I attended a public ritual in a park. Like a couple, we held hands and hugged. Most of the people at the gathering seemed to have no problems with our open display of affection. One female friend of mine commented that we look more like a married couple than most of the married couples that she knew! Of course, there were a few other people there who, upon seeing RainBear and me hugging, looked shocked and scandalized.

Homosexuality and bisexuality have an extended history in the world of Paganism. Aleister Crowley, who made certain Thelemic principles more public (thus indirectly giving us the Wiccan Rede), was a noted sexual explorer who indulged in various bisexual practices and relationships. Indeed, it seems that Crowley’s first and most powerful act of sex magick was performed with another male and not with a female as many practitioners of sex magick would now demand.

The argument that Wicca is a fertility religion and therefore heterosexually oriented is the beginning of dogma. The Goddess doesn’t forbid homosexual relationships, but some would choose to forbid them on some level. Again, to quote Hunter (August 6, 2001),

Homosexuality is a natural state! Why would the Goddess create something and then forbid them from honoring Her? DOH! She wouldn’t—but individuals would. This is where dogma begins. The Gods are immanent, they exist in our world in every rock, tree, stream, frog, straight, gay, lesbian, and transgendered person. Using orientation as a defining criteria for practicing Wicca short changes the Craft, as well, because it is deliberately cutting off part of the natural experience of sexuality. Gay people have an enormous amount of talent, energy, enthusiasm, vigor, perceptivity and appreciation for balance that comes naturally as breathing to many of us (ibid, 2001).

The argument of fertility in our religion cannot and should not be an argument against homosexuality. There are a couple of points against the fertility qualm:

[1] Population

The world is already over populated. There are over six BILLION people on this earth. I fail to see how any religion … especially one that demands that its adherents take care of the earth as their mother … can insist that the only valuable relationships and members are those that will produce still more people, consume more resources, and create more waste.

[2] Fertile Minds

Fertility, productivity, creation need not be the adding of more bodies to this overcrowded world. Creation can take place in the form of new art and of greater discoveries. Lesbians and gays have much to offer the world in terms of art, music, literature, inventions. While many would not choose to have offspring, many would love the opportunity to leave their mark on their secular and religious worlds by leaving behind their very ideas, that part of the soul that we can all learn and benefit from. Gay Wiccans are no exceptions in this regard.

Now, I have heard of some heterosexual groups complaining that gay Pagans discriminate against them. Personally, I have not seen this happen, but I would argue that … in some instances … this form of discrimination may be a reaction that some gays may be experiencing to the discrimination that they have received in the past. This would really be no different than women’s covens where they gather together to work with other people who operate on the same energies and where they can have the safe space to heal from the abuses and discrimination that they have suffered from in the past.

Gays and lesbians are able to relate to the Deities of the opposite gender. Everyone has certain masculine and certain feminine attributes. Many men are perfectly nurturing as if they were the Mother aspect of the Goddess and many women have a Warrior aspect to them. Gender does not limit aspects nor does sexual orientation. Historically, homosexuality and witchcraft have been long intertwined and neither witchcraft, nor Paganism nor Wicca rule out homosexuality as a viable life.

I wish that we could all learn to be accepting of each other’s differences. It is a wonderful idea, but it is an idea that will take time to realize. Perhaps the coming Age of Aquarius may help push us closer to that point!

I do not consider the Craft to be a heterosexually oriented religion. There are no Craft scriptures to back up such a position nor should there be such scriptures. I believe that the Ancient Gods are big enough … and enough of a part of us and our everyday reality … to be able to accept followers from all sexual orientations as well as from both genders. Indeed, the Charge of the Goddess, one of the closest things to scripture that many Pagans and Wiccans have, would seem to indicate that “all acts of pleasure are My worship.” Who is anyone to say that homosexual pleasure is less valued by the Goddess than heterosexual pleasure? Wicca need not be limited to heterosexuals only simply because Gerald Gardner was heterosexual. To insist that it should be reflects a very narrow point of view and a refusal to see beyond black and white too often!