In my ultimately futile effort to conclude my two-part Solstice-inspired series before Imbolc, here’s the other half of what I was led to reflect on during my trip to San Francisco this Yule.
I’ve long had a complicated, difficult relationship with what’s usually called the Sacred Masculine. A lot of Pagan practice, especially that related to or derived from Wicca, very much centres the notion of the Sacred Masculine as an essential and basic concept along with the Sacred Feminine in a duality that’s seen as the root of nature.
In many ways that’s understandable and very useful to many. But for me it’s always been difficult to relate to. I’ve previously related an especially revelatory incident in which it was assumed that I, as a man, would naturally be drawn to the Sacred Masculine, and how thoroughly that didn’t work.
Sadly, even where we manage to avoid the grosser patriarchal aspects that most of us are trying to get away from, we often present the Sacred Masculine in a way that concentrates on very specific traits or aspects of the world that are culturally defined as lower-case-m masculine.
Now, no doubt this works out well for a lot of men (of whom no doubt a lot of trans men, as well as masculinity-involved queer or genderqueer people, find it specifically empowering to concentrate on masculinity), but it also leaves a lot of us completely cold.
My gender is not about running-jumping-climbing-trees and even less about competition, bloodletting, or self-sacrifice, roles often assigned to the Sacred Masculine in many times and places. Nor is it something that means that I will just naturally be drawn to the Sacred Masculine in the same way that other men may be.
So for a long time I’ve more or less completely left the Sacred Masculine, as such, out of my work. But in a way, that’s only a temporary solution. I identify as male, so it follows that I have a male side, if only to that extent. And if I believe my whole being (like everything else) is part of the divine, that aspect of me must be as well. But how do I work that out for myself?
Part of that came through for me at Solstice, which is one of the holidays of our solar year most focused on the Sacred Masculine. It’s the rebirth of the Sun, the central male figure in much of Neopagan practice, when we vigil to ensure the Sun rises once more; and whether it’s the birth of the new god or the defeat of the old sun by the new, these are stories of the Sacred Masculine we are telling.
So it’s only fitting that this was a time I felt filled by what I could only identify as male energy. But it was distinctly not patriarchal energy, or competitive or bloodletting energy, or a rejection of my femmeness or genderqueerness, or any of those things that I’ve always dissociated so hard from. It was so comfortable and invigorating for me, and that’s what I found remarkable.
I guess if I could sum it up, it would be to say that if there is a Masculine Divine, He must include all the ways of being male, identifying as male, that there can possibly ever be. The God is a drag queen. The God is a nancy boy, a power bottom, a genderqueer faggot, a foofy decorator, a Radical Faerie, a lover-not-a-fighter, as much as he is any of the more normative images we’re used to having, all at once.
(And to follow up on last week’s entry – obviously, He’s a trans man as well. My brothers who are trans are as clear avatars of the masculine divine as any cis man, and it’s high time we noticed that in pagan practice.)
The divinity of my queerness can and very strongly does come through my relationship with the Goddess or with Sacred Third-Gender, but I think it has also got to come through the God. I have got to queer my knowledge of the God.
And I feel that, in certain ways — by no means abandoning my genderqueer identity, my reservations about maleness and manhood for myself — this will let me knit my gender together in a way I haven’t felt comfortable doing yet. At Solstice, I felt like this was letting me in some way draw on a power or reserve I hadn’t had access to before.
This is not without its challenges. Far too often, men’s rediscovering our relationship to the God has been framed as rediscovering our capacity to conform to the running-jumping-climbing-trees image I described above, when it hasn’t been out-and-out masculinist. (“Paganism has become too woman-oriented! We have to recreate a place for the manly virtues!”, and other such uncomfortable nonsense. I once went to something billed as a Men’s Mystery which ended up being – to be fair, against the organizer’s apparent intent – a locker room environment in which misogynistic humour was given free play. Someone even told an offensive sexist joke about the Goddess. I was pretty damn shaken, and it was a big part of what put me off men’s anything in Paganism for a long time.)
This is so far from what I mean that it isn’t funny. The difficulty is in articulating what I want to do without its coming off as more of the same – in fact, making it clear that I mean the opposite of that: not abandoning my genderqueerness or reservations about maleness, but having a sense of my maleness that includes and values them; not tritely “rediscovering” “manhood” and the “manly virtues” (as if anyone with social power had succeeded in dismissing them), but stretching my knowledge of the masculine divine to encompass my being and the full spectrum of deprecated and marginalized but gorgeous male beings it has been my privilege to come to know.
So here’s my attempt: to the extent that I identify as a man, it follows that I am of the God, not at all despite but utterly in and through all my femme, faggot, genderqueer glory. Learn to see Him as He is: He can wear my form, He can speak in my words, He can have the same reservations about manhood as I do.
The God is Queer. He’s beautiful and He looks completely different from what we thought.
It’s going to be a long journey.