Pagan Studies

Focusing on the Arte Magical as a practice and profession, we study various facets of magic through the lens of both classical and modern perspective. From ancient myth to urban legend to fiction and philosophy, all viewed through the eyes of a very practical magician.

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Gender Magic

I apologize if this article is triggery to any of you, as it represents a departure from some of the more light-hearted blog posts I've been writing.  It's not the norm for this blog, but I felt it needed to be said.

So, posted a marvelous blog article on whether one's paganism is really very transgender/genderqueer friendly.  I'm sharing it here.

Those of you who know me are aware that I myself am genderqueer (I'm a man, not terribly effeminate, but rather feminine nonetheless, and I like to consider myself a bit of a genderblender), and I am also in a relationship with a transman.  The issue of gender has always been a close one for me, and often a confusing one.

In Ruadhan's article, he mentions the Pantheacon drama which erupted around Z Budapest's ritual, a controversy which I was unfortunately present to witness, being friends with some of the people who were involved.

Now, keep in mind that I never posted on this when it first came up because my input would in no way improve or aid the situation.  My opinions on the rights of all people, and also on unnecessary drama-llamaing or cruelty to others, can be found in a variety of places both online and in articles I've written.  It's should come as no surprise that I was very unhappy with Pantheacon, with Z, and with a number of the so-called "activists" who were causing disruption on either side of that conflict.

Ruadhán made some very good points about gender- treating all people of a particular gender as if they were the same is similar to racial white-washing.  It's not a good plan, it leads to tremendous misunderstandings about what makes a man a man (or a woman a woman, for that matter).  To say nothing of the fact that human beings are capable of expressing seven different gender types just physically.

However, my focus at the moment is upon Z and her behavior.  I realize this is two years of talk and argument later, but I wish to say something about her situation.

Now personally, I have always had the opinion that when learning from a teacher, or taking in wisdom from another person, one should understand that such a person is also on their own path, and has their own needs.

Being a teacher myself, I have had many moments where what I was saying was not actually helpful to a student.  They were instead words which acted as an object lesson, a reminder to the student that teachers aren't always right or wise.

I like to think of it like the Hermit card from the Tarot- we can guide, but we're really on our own journey, so any guidance we provide is only that which we have gathered.

I also believe that we can become so busy paying attention to our status as a 'guru' that we forget that the wisdom we're sharing isn't "ours;" even if that gnosis or experience has been hard-earned by us, the experience belongs as equally to any who approach it.

Essentially, Z's behavior in the past seven or so years leads me to believe that she is clinging to Diana out of a need for protection, and is probably not in a good space to teach anyone at the moment.  This should be respected by those around her, even if she herself cannot respect it.  We aren't always wise and perfect, after all.

The serious trouble here is that her message is so triggery and cruel.  In her desire to protect herself and her people from the ravages she has endured or witnessed, she commits the same atrocities, to people who never wished her harm.

When I was younger, I was involved in a great many spiritual groups and ventures in my local area.  There were several open circles which met for lunar or Sabbat holidays, and we used to keep in touch with each other through Yahoo! groups (remember those?) in addition to our regular in-person interactions.

On one of the groups, there was an older man who was very well-liked and respected by the community.  He was considered an Elder, and many people considered him their mentor.

Now, he and I came into conflict due to his unfortunate penchant for reposting other people's material off of various websites and forums without crediting them, passing it off as his own knowledge.  I was a voracious Net-surfer, and am still an avid reader, so a great many of these articles, I had read at their original sources.  Couple that with the fact that the information was (as is so common on the internet) often grossly inaccurate... and let's just say that it rubbed me in all the wrong ways.

Our mutual dislike of each other didn't start immediately- we began as friends.  Slowly I grew to dislike his arrogance and "Older = Better" attitude, especially considering the hypocrisy I was a silent witness to.

It shouldn't surprise anyone to know that I'm not actually very good at the silent part of being a silent witness.  I was just very young, and very few people gave me any credit when they contrasted it with my age.  So, it wasn't that I was silent- it was that I was ignored.

Finally, I had had enough of him, and I orchestrated a huge blowup wherein he would be exposed for being a charlatan and a liar, while simultaneously making a name for myself as someone who was "smarter than the average bear."

This... didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  The community splintered into fragments, and even now, we're trying to heal wounds that were caused by my actions.

We're healthier now, and some of the more disgusting habits we had been quietly fostering in addition to the aforementioned hypocrisy came to light, which meant that we could take a stand about such issues.

But it was painful, and several people are still dealing with that harm to this day.

I regret that.

It is my opinion that others in our global community will grow to regret their actions in this situation as well.  The shame culture we still surround our queer and gender diverse members with must fall, but we must replace it with something else, or we will merely cause division and destruction.

It is my fervent hope that people in this community begin building that new pattern of acceptance and support, and that we may fill the space with a new vision soon.

After all- many of the Pagans who came to the Craft from other religions had to accept a regendered deity, Goddess instead of God.  Many had to embrace multiple beings of divinity.  We mustn't think of this as something which accidentally happens.  We are initiated into these mysteries and understandings through the pain and joy in our lives.

For myself, I shall pray to the Mysteries, that they may open new gates to us and show us the new way through.

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S. Rune Emerson has been practicing witchcraft and sorcery since the early 90's, and has been teaching since 2004. He is the founder of the Risting Tradition of American Witchcraft, which is a large title for a small local tradition based in Northern Nevada. He also heads a coven tradition called the Cabal of Nocturne, and works as a diviner at Pathways Spirit, a metaphysical shop in Reno. He likes to describe his life as "extraordinarily simple." He is fond of observing that magic as a profession is the somewhat honest alternative to those of the same mindset as criminals- smart, lazy, and prone towards thinking outside the box, often in areas of questionable morality. He believes in a strong standard of accountability in magical practice, and has very strict ethics. He's also very opinionated about nearly everything.


  • Amarfa
    Amarfa Monday, 12 August 2013

    "Finally, I had had enough of him, and I orchestrated a huge blowup wherein he would be exposed for being a charlatan and a liar, while simultaneously making a name for myself as someone who was "smarter than the average bear."

    I had an eerily similar experience, though it was one that ended not only because of lies, but because of sexual intimidation. I was young, inexperienced, but wanted passionately to be a leader and start something wonderful, and I got victimized, badly.

    This lead to an extreme emotional 'blowout' on my part, and threats of violence on her (yes, another female) part. She finally walked away, which is what I wanted. And then I crumbled. I withdrew from all of my friends, and still haven't spoke to some of them in years. I got a restraining order against "her."

    It hurts too much, and they want to talk about what I went through, and I can't do it. This is not only because I've worn myself out over it in therapy, but because my friends, in their innocence and ignorance, want to reunite me with that abuser, and I know that that's not because it was their idea; they are still friends with that person and it is that person's desire to have the order removed from their record, which I will not do.

    It killed our religiously-themed, otherwise ecstatically happy college group. Killed it dead. Mostly because when 'her' behavior began, I did nothing. Then I regretted doing nothing, and blew up. Never again. I promised myself from that day forward that I would always speak up.

  • Amarfa
    Amarfa Monday, 12 August 2013

    P.S. - the word "her" in the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph is not emphasised due to any gender identity, but due to the enmity I felt, and still feel.

  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler Tuesday, 13 August 2013

    I went to First PantheaCon and didn't go back until I had a booth, but, I was there the first year of the blowup. I'm probably older then many on this list, and I know Z can be temperamental old Witch. But I consider her one of the Grandmother of the the Pagan movement of which her work has greatly influenced. Early on she was arrested by police for practicing and has fought the good fight. She was practicing when some of you kids where literally in diapers. Her books fleshed out Goddess worship for women when there was none, and had to fight to get it acceptable for women to have their own space. I feel that women's Spirituality is at the forefront of gender spirituality. But one of the first things I learned and am still learning is that there is no Guru that women have to go to understand their own divinity. I feel that to prostrate one's self in front of a Guru is just asking for trouble. It's a remnant of Patriarchy and hierarchy. Ultimately it leads to disappointment, because no one is perfect.
    I don't know the particulars of what went on with the “blowup” but I know it must have been painful. I myself have gotten the cold shoulder from both women and men. But I don't turn it into a “blowup” anymore, because I feel that sometimes we just don't always get what we want.
    I think it is wonderful that the younger people are be able to come out as who they really are and feel accepting of so many differences. But I feel that respect is part of understanding patience, and fighting most likely leads to regret and sorrow. Elders are not perfect but they diverse a modicum of respect...and remember you will be there all too soon.

  • S. Rune Emerson
    S. Rune Emerson Friday, 16 August 2013

    I agree with many of your sentiments. I'm not terribly fond of laying blame at the feet of "the hierarchy" or "the patriarchy" or any such institution, as if it were a coordinated conspiracy, though. And I am never going to be someone who gives deference to someone simply because they have lived a long time and done a lot of things. I live in the now too much for that.

    I do however offer respect for who a person has become. And I heartily encourage others to do the same.

  • Per
    Per Tuesday, 13 August 2013

    I have also had a similar experience.
    I dont understand gender in spiritual work, my spirit dont have a gendar.
    I dont understand why a guru should have power over people, i have alot of power, but dont hold it over anyone. I teach, i teach alot of things, i teach simpel things like tarrot, healing, and clairvoyance, and i teach special things, like how to become one whit your will and transform, life, world, self and more, but how can i teach people to use will, if i take it from them?
    A true teacher makes you stronger and sets you free. The rest are idiots or just not ready yet.
    *Love is the law, love under will*
    Be free, be strong!

  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler Wednesday, 14 August 2013

    I agree the soul has no gender. But patriarchy spiritulaity is based on gender. That is why many women latched on to women's spiritulaity, it balanced the equation. Dianics still fill a need for women who are healing. But, as young pagans become more in numbers things will change. But I worry that we will become too segmented and agrumentative with each other...many that's just humand nature.

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