Wicca and LGBT people
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Various Wiccan traditions hold a wide range of differing beliefs about sexual orientation. British Traditional Wicca is known for stressing "male/female polarity" in their theology and rituals. Gerald Gardner, the founder (with Doreen Valiente) of Gardnerian Wicca, particularly stressed heterosexual approaches to Wicca, whereas Alex Sanders, the founder of the Gardnerian offshoot, Alexandrian Wicca, came out as bisexual later in life and created new rituals in which sexual orientation was irrelevant. Newer Wiccan traditions do not usually hold to this historical aversion to LGBT-friendly approaches to Wicca.
LGBT issues in Gardnerian practice
Gardnerian Wicca and other more traditional groups form their covens from male-female pairs. This practice may stem from the influence of Gerald Gardner who wrote (ostensibly quoting a witch, but perhaps in his own words):
The witches tell me 'The law always has been that power must be passed from man to woman or from woman to man, the only exception being when a mother initiates her daughter or a father his son, because they are part of themselves' (the reason is that great love is apt to occur between people who go through the rites together.) They go on to say: 'The Templars broke this age-old rule and passed the power from man to man: this led to sin and in doing so it brought about their downfall.'
However, the above quote is in the context of a section in Gardner's book examining why the Templars were executed by Gardner himself, so it is entirely possible that the reference is to Gardner's own opinion of homosexuality. Gardner goes on to defend the Templars by saying that the charges against them were "trumped up". Gardner was rumored to be homophobic by Lois Bourne, one of the High Priestesses of the Bricket Wood coven:
Gerald was homophobic. He had a deep hatred and detestation of homosexuality, which he regarded as a disgusting perversion and a flagrant transgression of natural law.... 'There are no homosexual witches, and it is not possible to be a homosexual and a witch' Gerald almost shouted. No one argued with him.
However, the legitimacy of Gardner's rumored homophobia is disputable because Gardner showed much more evidence of an open and accepting attitude about practices in his writing which would not be characterized by the hatred or phobia which was common in the 1950s:
Also, though the witch ideal is to form perfect couples of people ideally suited to each other, nowadays this is not always possible; the right couples go together and the rest go singly and do as they can. Witchcraft today is largely a case of "make do".
Most traditional Wiccans worship the god and goddess, and a central part of Wiccan liturgy involves the Great Rite; an act of actual or symbolic ritual sexual intercourse between the two deities. This is traditionally carried out by a priest and priestess who have had the deities invoked upon them, and the conventional practice appears to be exclusively heterosexual. When performed 'in token' this involves the athame (representing the masculine principle) descending into the chalice (representing the feminine). However, there is no evidence to suggest that a gay priest or lesbian priestess could not carry out this ritual for the sake of what it represents.
According to Ann-Marie Gallagher, a professor of women's studies and long-time author of many books related to Wicca, "there is a moralistic doctrine or dogma other than the advice offered in the Wiccan Rede... The only 'law' here is love... It matters that we are gay, straight, bisexual or transgender– the physical world is sacred, and [we are] celebrating our physicality, sexuality, human nature and celebrating the goddess, Giver of ALL life and soul of ALL nature."
More recent beliefs and practice
According to the Pagan Federation of Canada: 'Over the last few decades, many people have thought that the emphasis on male/female polarity in Wicca excludes homosexuals'. However, this source goes on to make the case for the validity of LGBT orientations even within traditional Wicca, suggesting that gay men and lesbians are likely to be particularly alive to the interplay of the masculine and feminine principles in the Universe.
Historically, the Christian church and lay-people have believed that more women than men are involved in paganism and witchcraft, which can be seen as far back as 1487 with the printing of the Malleus Maleficarum Several modern authors of Wiccan books state that, in current Wicca, the situation is the same.
An exception is Dianic Wicca (also known as Feminist Witchcraft and/or Feminist Spirituality), claimed to be a branch of Wicca (despite not being in line with Wiccan beliefs) practiced almost exclusively by women, most of whom are heterosexual, preferring to practice their spirituality with other women in pursuit of Women's Mysteries. Some Dianics, of course, are lesbians, just as there are lesbians in other Wiccan denominations. Dianic Wiccans worship a goddess but not the god, and form female-only covens, for the most part. There are some mixed-gender Dianics, specifically the McFarland Dianics, who practice in either all female or mixed-gender circles, and who may or may not include the god in their workings.
Since the 1980s, a number of all-male or "Mithraic" circles have been formed. These masculist circles worship both the god and the goddess, but tend to emphasise the role of the god in their lives. It is thought that these circles may have been formed In response to Dianic Wicca.
Gay- and lesbian-oriented traditions
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Dianic Wicca is a religion that welcomes lesbian pagans and celebrates their perspectives on feminism, sexism, and women's empowerment within patriarchal culture. However, many Dianic covens ban transgender women, claiming they are solely for "womyn-born-womyn."
Although not specifically Wiccan, one branch of traditional Witchcraft has provided a home for many Neo-Pagan LGBT men and women. The Feri Tradition is very open to all sexual orientations and some sources encourage bisexuality during rituals to reach states of ecstasy. The Feri Tradition should not be confused, however, with other spiritual traditions bearing the name Faery (including the Radical Faeries as well as branches of Wicca that focus on fairy/faery lore.)
Faery Witch covens of gay men only have been formed and are readily accepted among the larger group of Faery Witches. Both heterosexual and LGBT couples are married and handfasted in Faery Witch ceremonies every year.
The Minoan Brotherhood was founded in 1977 in New York City by Edmund Buczynski, an elder in the Gardnerian, WICA and New York Welsh Traditions, in order to create a Craft tradition for gay and bisexual men—one that would celebrate and explore the distinctive mysteries unique to men who love men. The Minoan Sisterhood was founded as the Women's counterpart to the Brotherhood soon thereafter by Lady Rhea and Lady Miw-Sekhmet in collaboration with Buczynski, based on his work with the Brotherhood. Legitimate Minoan initiations and elevations are all conducted in same-sex only circles. Both traditions continue to this day. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood are oath-bound, initiatory mystery religions which use a ritual framework descended from Gardnerian Wicca.
The Brotherhood of the Phoenix was founded in the summer of 2004 by seven gay men from diverse traditions such as ceremonial magic, shamanism, and pre-Gardnerian witchcraft in order to create an ecumenical Neopagan tradition which serves the community of men who love men. The mandate of the Brotherhood is to help gay, bisexual, and transgender men overcome the burden of societal labels. The Brotherhood rejects the limiting beliefs and prejudices of modern culture and religions that preach intolerance and hate. Instead of didactic teaching, they stress a simple Neopagan principle: "Find the Divine within your own experience." To impart this principle, they hold public rituals near the eight common holidays of Neopagan tradition where they celebrate the embodiment of the gay male divine through the life-cycle of human experience.
There is another predominantly gay male, Neo-Pagan oriented group called the Radical Faeries, which emphasizes queer spirituality. Certain branches are exclusively focused on gay male spirituality; others are open to all genders and orientations.
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