This article is going to be speaking of Witchcraft within the Pagan umbrella because, due to my personal practice, it’s all intertwined. As a polytheist, I don’t separate the two.
With more and more of us discovering that we don’t fit within the binary of standard gender – that is, we don’t associate with our agab (assigned gender at birth) so identify as transgender, or non-binary – there’s a shift occurring within Neo-Paganism, shaking up the human constructs that magick has gender.
Most will be aware that we tend to assign gendered traits to most things within our spiritual practice, even if we don’t realise we’re doing it. We celebrate the “divine feminine” or the “divine masculine” within us. We have women’s only workshops and gatherings, gendered-covens and practices. I’ve seen a small handful of “men’s spiritual events” but not a great deal.
For some of us, placing gender on aspects of our craft doesn’t make sense. I never knew why it didn’t work for me until I came out as non-binary. I’ve recently come out of the end of my “year and a day” journey of self-discovery and I’m adjacent to where I began – I am both, and I am neither. I am male, and female, and none at the same time. Most importantly, I am happy. With trying to force myself into the binary I found myself extremely depressed, battling an uphill battle, and oblivious to what my Inner Circle could see – that I was a fish trying to be a dog who was raised a cat.
As someone non-binary, I understand the importance of gender within ritual, especially when it comes to balance or focus. I have been apart of female-only covens and Circles, and I’ve seen how important it can be. But I’ve also felt on the outside of those same circles, especially when my masculine counterpart “Brian” is really active. I have had to excuse myself from ritual because it fell under the guise of “women’s business” and it became my role to lead all the men hanging about (both physically and spiritually) away so ritual could properly commence.
Outside of group work I don’t utilize gender within my spiritual or magickal practice. I don’t feel the need to. My Gods are who they are – they are their own beings and I go to them for assistance where they can help me. Working with gender-central groups in Sydney, Herne often would wait at the fence line as, “that’s women’s business” but within my home environment I am his student, his apprentice. My genitalia doesn’t come into play.
I’ve also noticed that there is an aspect of tug-o-war when it comes to associations – of plants, animals, flowers etc. We assign them humanized traits that fights with itself. One discussion recently was regarding the platypus. One said they can represent women’s mysteries given “they lay eggs and suckle young”, where another mentioned “the males have spurs which are poisonous… they represent mystery, the hidden dangers of seeking out hidden places without taking the necessary precautions.” My favourite comment was, “maybe they represent queer mysteries because they don’t fit in a box.”
While gendered associations can assist us connect better to the energies we are wanting to work with, they aren’t completely necessary for the wider audience. They can also make those of us who don’t associate with either, or our agab because it puts up a veil between us. Please don’t take this as me saying, “well that’s bad! We need to stop!” because whatever works for you is great, and amazing, and as long as you connect then that’s what matters.
In this regard it’s a bit like working with the Old Gods – some of us do, some of us don’t. Some of us connect, some don’t. Neither is wrong, it’s entirely personal.
If you are someone who is struggling to navigate these waters within your own path because you are trans or non-binary, you’re not alone. Whether you choose to follow the gendered associations is up to you, but know that it’s perfectly fine to remove them.
When it comes to the Gods, however, you’ll need to take it up with them.