Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why I'm a Solitary Neo-Pagan

Not much in the dream department today; all I can recall is a mish-mash.

So instead, here's a review (another one) of Gay Neo-Paganism:

I've been frustrated for a while with Neo-Paganism, the major approaches of which seem to be
  • "Everything's the Goddess" (which seems about as unbalanced as saying "Everything's God"); or,
  • "Girl-Goddess meets Boy-God, and Their love makes the universe go 'round" (which strikes me as terribly heteronormative); or,
  • "You can do spells to get parking spaces" (which seems to view the universe as a psychic mail-order catalogue); or,
  • "I had a counselling session with my deity yesterday, and S/He told me that I needed to be less codependant," (which seems more like therapy and less like religion)

Unfortunately, turning to my "gay brothers" doesn't help much. Most gay male Neo-Pagan schools of thought fall into several categories:

  • The "Adam and Steve" approach -- we'll make Robert Graves' Winter and Summer Kings lovers. Well, yeah; OK. Sacred sex is nice, but I'd like my spiritual practice to be more than sex. Is there more to being a man than physiology ? Besides -- when one doesn't kill the other --the Winter and Summer Kings are traditionally either brothers or father and son, so recasting them as lovers feels like a gay Pagan retelling of Lot's Daughters. I'd say that Micheal Thomas Ford's The Path of the Green Man falls into this category.
  • The "Goddess in Drag" approach -- we'll put on our Cher wigs and draw down the moon. I'm sure this can be fun, and I like dressing up as much as the next guy. And sure, Cher's a goddess. But I'm interested in exploring divinity as a man. I mean, how far can singing the praises of a wig get one? I'd say this is the approach advocated by the likes of Harry Hay.
  • The "Jungian Anima" approach -- since all Wiccan rituals require one man and one woman, we'll get in touch with our inner woman. This is kind of insulting to me, as it has an implication that queer couples choose one partner to "be the man" and the other to "be the woman." Conversely, you would be hard pressed to find this sort of suggestion in a book for lesbian Neo-Pagans who seem to have no problems forming Dianic Circles; but it's what you find in The Gay Wicca Book by Bruce K Wilborn.
  • The "King Victim" approach -- we're a persecuted minority of men, and persecuted minorities have heightened powers of perception and consciousness. I'll grant you minorities have a different perspective, but if you carry this one out, then victims of social injustice should have some pretty impressive powers of ESP and magic. Harry Hay came up with this line of reasoning, and you'll find this approach in Mark Thompson's, Gay Body.
  • The "Left-Hand Path Adept" approach -- the purpose of sex is to combine the participants' auras so that the scattered divine cosmic energy from the male may be "earthed" through the female on its journey back to the divine source. Since the male-to-male sex act does not complete the "cosmic circuit," the raised sexual energy may be used for "left-hand" rituals and Black Magick. This one shows up in Dion Fortune's writings (along with many euphemisms, references to decadent, decaying cultures, and electrical batteries) and is illustrative of homophobic (and sexist) attitudes of some of Neo-Paganism's roots.
  • The "Ritual Semantics of High Magick" approach -- this one actually works a bit for me. The argument is that, ritually, a man and a woman coming together is symbolically the same thing as touching a chalice to a blade and vice versa. It's not about sex, it's about the ritual symbology behind the sex. I read this one on the web... and it turns up in Wilborn, too. And what's this got to do with getting in touch with the divine? It's all very well to clink a chalice and a blade together; but it's so vanilla and it reduces the world to terms of electronegativity and which battery-ends are showing. So what happens when you touch two blades (or chalices) together? And, uh, if it's not really about sex, how can it be about sexual orientation?

So there it is: after years of reading books on Neo-Paganism and gay men's spiritual studies, it appears that in order to be a Real Western Neo-Pagan, I have to have a gender change or to think of The Goddess when I'm having sex. Some other common approaches that attempt to address gay male spirituality are:

  • The "Dutiful Initiation to Love" approach -- since our heritage as whole gay men has been lost, we must seek to reconstruct it from feudal or aristocratic societies -- usually from Greece or Japan. This typically involves an older, more experienced man instructing a younger, less experienced man. I think some people find it attractive because of the defined roles of Mentor (really the Goddess Athena) and Telemachus. But, it's so Lord and Page Boy; so Coach and Athlete. It's so Iron John. So NAMBLA.
  • The "Jesus Loves You Even If You're (a Sinful) Gay" approach -- this one would work for me if I wasn't a Neo-Pagan and if I were into the whole sin thing. Not to be confused with the ...
  • The "Jesus Was a Sexual Deviant" approach; which would also work for me if I wasn't a Neo-Pagan; although it is fun to wonder what kind of "foot washing" was going on in Gethsemene between Jesus and the unnamed man in a towel. (Kripal, J John 1962. "The Serpent's Gift." Chicago. Suggests that when the authors of the bible wrote "foot" it was a code-word for penis. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "The Goddess is alive and magic is a foot." Roscoe, Will. "Jesus and the shamanic tradition of same sex love." San Fransisco. Suggests that Jesus may have performed ritualized, erotic baptism, and that the man in the towel was Lazarus.)

At least I don't have to deal with Original Sin, but I do wish that I could connect with more folks who were interested in Neo-Pagan Communion, Celebration, and Transformation -- and less hung up on finding sex and parking spaces.

I guess there's a reason I'm a solitary practitioner again.
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