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Is Ceremonial Magick Sexist?

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on March 29, 2010 | Comments (19)

Holy art Thou, Lord of the universe!
Holy art Thou, whom nature hath not formed!
Holy art Thou, the vast and mighty one!
Lord of the light and of the darkness!

The above expression of honoring the Divine is found in rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It has been held up as showing that ceremonial magick is sexist. Some Golden Dawn temples have changed the vocabulary so it is not what they consider sexist. For example, the first line might be changed to “Holy are Thou, Source of the Universe!” and the last line might be changed to “Lord and Lady of the light and of the darkness!”

To discuss this I would like to introduce you to a philosopher named Jacques Derrida (1930–2004). Derrida pointed out that any structure must have a source, and the meaning of the structure must be associated with that source. Thus, the words above need to be taken in the context of their source: the people who wrote them. But it’s not quite that easy. The logic behind this is that the source is itself a type of structure, so to understand it you have to go back to its source. And that source goes back to its source. There is simply no way to know all of those sources, so we need to look at the structure (the words above, in this case) not as they were intended, but as we see them today. Structures, including language, are incredibly complex and have natural contradictions that make them ultimately meaningless. So we should look at language only from our modern point of view. This is known as philosophical deconstruction.

Receiving the Deconstruction Axe

A decade ago a man named David Howard described a person as “niggardly.” This is a perfectly good word meaning “stingy” or “miserly.” The source of the word is the Old Norse nigla which means “fussing about small things.” It’s related to the word “niggling” which means “small” or “petty.” Unfortunately, is sounds like a well-known derogatory term for people primarily of African descent. That word is so volatile in today’s world that I’m not going to even string the letters together here.  The source of the negative word is a Latin term by way of the Romance Languages.

A person heard Mr. Howard’s use of the term and either didn’t know its meaning or its source or ignored it. He ended up equating it with the word that causes so many problems and pain. All he thought about was the similarity of the sound and considered it a racial  slur. A furor erupted and Howard was forced to quit his job. The complainer and his supporters may not have realized it, but they put Deconstruction to its logical result: It doesn’t matter what you mean. All that matters is the way I interpret what you say.

Deconstruction and Magick

When people today look at expressions such as at the top of this post and see it as sexist, they are, knowingly or unknowingly, deconstructing the meaning. They would be absolutely correct in making such changes to the passages for the term “Lord.” By itself, that term certainly could be seen as sexist. But it does not say “Lord” in the passages above.

Huh? I can see the word right there!

In the first passage, it’s not “Lord,” it’s “Lord of the universe.” In the last passage it’s not “Lord,” it’s “Lord of the light and of the darkness.”

Both “Lord of the universe” and “Lord of the light and of the darkness” are titles. They are not descriptions of something male or female. They are titles for certain universal energies. This is similar to the way many women in movies and theater today refer to themselves as “actors” and not “actresses.” Even the famous woman Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh or the eighteenth dynasty, was called “pharaoh,” not “pharohette.”

The Lord of the universe is not the creator, creatrix or source of the universe. The Lord of the universe is simply the Lord of the universe. The same is true for the Lord of the light and of the darkness. As you can see, when it comes to magick, I am not a deconstructionist. Rather, I prefer to look the inner meaning of concepts and terms. If something better and more accurate is available, I say, “Replace it!” But I’m not in favor of change because of a deconstructionist attitude.

Sexism and Magick

So is there sexism within magick? A lot of times, as illustrated above, sexism is seen where it doesn’t exist. Many years ago, a friend who was a Wiccan told me she didn’t like the Kabalah because it was sexist. I asked her how it was sexist. She replied she didn’t know, but she had heard that it was.

The truth is, after years of study, I don’t see the Kabalah or Magick as being sexist at all. However, people are products of their environment and upbringing. The history of magick, unfortunately, has had people who were sexist or racist. Some of them were far less prejudiced than the rest of their society, but would be considered highly prejudiced today.

In each generation, we evolve in our thinking. I believe it’s important to take a stand against injustice, even if that stand is only that we will not participate in it. I also think it’s valid to abandon what is obsolete and no longer of value. But when it comes to magick, I don’t think we should change things without fully understanding them first.

What do you think?
Do you agree?
Have you been in a Golden Dawn temple that made changes like this?
What do you think of it?

Reader Comments

Written By Victor
on March 29th, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

I think the OTO made a mistake when they started tinkering with the first degree title. A female initiate should be termed a “Man and Brother” still, not a “Woman and Sister.”

The ritual setting, mythic time and sacred space, of the OTO Oasis degrees lends weight to this idea. At the time of Saladin the designation “Woman and Sister” would be much less significant than that of “Man and Brother.”

Written By Cynthia Jurkovic
on March 29th, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

I agree with you to a point. While it is important to bring oneself to an understanding of the source and root of all things, it is, imho, equally important to look at the context of all things. With written language, context provides the substance of meaning. The word “Pagan” as it is used today is almost completely opposite of it’s original meaning *and* context. The word, “Lord”, originally is and always has been deeply connected to the male gender, so on that level, most individuals will automatically interpret it as relating to a male. In one of the entymology dictionaries, it is defined as: “M.E. laverd, loverd (13c.), from O.E. hlaford “master of a household, ruler, superior,” also “God” (translating L. Dominus, though O.E. drihten was used more often), earlier hlafweard, lit. “one who guards the loaves,” from hlaf “bread, loaf” + weard “keeper, guardian, ward.” Cf. lady, and O.E. hlafæta “household servant,” lit. “loaf-eater.” Modern monosyllabic form emerged 14c. The verb meaning “to play the lord, domineer” is from late 14c.; to lord it is from 1570s. Interjection Lordy first attested 1853, Amer.Eng. Lord of the Flies translates Beelzebub (q.v.) and was name of 1954 book by William Golding.” Although it does not specifically mention gender, the words used to define “Lord” also relate to the male gender, ie – ‘master’, and ‘drihten’; which some will recognize as a term used in Witchcraft to refer to the male Divine. “Lord” and “Lady” are also formal titles that are gender specific. It appears that the source of the source correlates the word “Lord” specifically to the male gender by it’s connotation and context, and therefore in the minds of individuals who read and interpret the word in all forms and context.
Though one may choose to view the word, “Lord”, as being gender neutral, as an individual interpretation, we cannot overlook the ‘common’ association. Whether Ceremonial Magick is sexist will be an individual matter of perception. In my limited experience, I have attended a Gnostic Mass ritual with an OTO group, and read some of the liturgy. As a woman, my perception is that it is very easy to connect that Tradition to what most people understand as sexist – BUT – I also appreciate and understand that Ceremonialists revere the Feminine Divine, just in a different way than they revere the Masculine Divine. Yes, I feel it’s a bit on the sexist side of the fence, especially when, in the Gnostic Mass that I participated in, it was the woman who sat skyclad on the altar. Why not have both man/God and woman/Goddess receive veneration in the same manner if they are considered “equal”? But, if you go there, you must then posit, how much of a tradition can be altered before it becomes a different tradition? I say, when you start monkeying around with
I do not believe that the individuals who wrote the liturgy put nearly as much thought into whether it was sexist or not. They simply conveyed the expression of their Tradition according to the common context of the written language. It should be taken at face value.
The inner meaning of the titles, “Lord of the Universe” and “Lord of light and darkness”, imho, is exactly the same as the outer meaning. Those are also both titles one might use when invoking or evoking the God energies. If it was not meant to be defined in a male context, then it would have originally been written to express that, don’t you think? As detail oriented as most Ceremonialists are, there is little to no margin of error to be gleaned, nor context misinterpreted. Within many of the older Neo-Pagan Traditions there is an undercurrent of sexism from both the male and female standpoints, that make them unpalatable to many modern people who espouse Paganism. My philosophy is, if it works, use it or do it, or change it so that it evokes the meaning you wish to express. If an individual feels out of sync with a particular tradition, then they need to find one that suits them liturgically, energetically, and through expressed practices. Whatever meaning you assign to a word, title, or phrase is going to influence your individual perception.

Written By Cynthia Jurkovic
on March 29th, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

Sorry I should have proof read that a little closer before I hit the ‘submit’ button, and there does not appear to be a way to revise my comment. Where I started to write,”I say, when you start monkeying around with..” I meant to add…”any tradition’s liturgy, or the context of the liturgy, then, energetically, it becomes something other than what was originally intended.”

Written By John Love
on March 29th, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

Hello Donald,

Agreed. The above paragraph is not sexist.
It describes different considered aspects the Entity has.
As if the Entity is also the universe, light and darkness, but the Soul which is a Entity does not create anything.

Take care,
Author John Love
author of The Entity and the Entity’s Pure Divine Magick a grimorie and a book of the dead and The Secrets of Western and Eastern Occultism and Mysticism

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 29th, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

I would have to politely disagree with you on this one, As Merlin Stone Points out in her “Seminal” work,
“When God Was a Woman” the Ancient Hebrew Priests were utterly unable accept that the chief Rival for the peoples affections was a Goddess, Astarte, that they repeatedly and consistently refer to her in the Masculine as Ashtoreth; (See pages 9 and 173-179); The Suppression of Women, and the Coincident Suppression of the Goddess was carried out most Ruthlessly. (Pages 180-189).

More recently but still in historical time. Let us consider
the case of Lavinia FontanaI was recently watching a Video introduction to
the National Museum of Women in the Arts,
Which is the home to a few of her surviving works, a Bolonese painter of the 1600’s quite famous in her day, but almost completely forgotten a century later, and she is certainly not the exception; when the NMWA in the arts was established in 1987 less than 2% of all holdings in the worlds major Art Museum’s were by woman Artists.

In our living memory …
Consider the Case of
Pat Ireland, former head of the National Organization for Women, and the first woman admitted to their Law School. Who in her Biography describes being told by a well meaning, but sexist professor, that a woman could not possibly succeed as a lawyer, and that she was wasting her time pursuing a law degree.

In the Ancient World, in the Medieval world, in the Modern World, Patriarchy and the suppression of women has always had an active component, it is not, was not, simply a passive environment that people simply accepted as the natural state of affairs; and I think we cannot give Magick a Pass here, we cannot assume that Magick was simply, Passively shaped by the Patriarchal Environment of the Time; and was not an as Active as Art, Philosophy, or any other “Manly” pursuit of the time in the active exclusion and suppression of women. Indeed the history of the Burning certainly tells us otherwise; while church fathers explored the Ceremonial Magicks, they actively suppressed, the Goddess Honoring Earth based path.

No …
I absolutely disagree with your proposition, this is not simply a matter of deconstruction, or Linguistics, this stretches into the History (His-Story) and Environment that produced those Male Honoring/female dismissing, Linguistics. It is no wonder that the Pharaoh “” in her time, nor Actresses today adopt the Masculine term to describe themselves, their station, their craft when the Feminine term is not Equal but denotes a essential Lack, an essential weakness (no Pharaoh could afford) and essential 2nd best-ness.

I strongly urge U to reconsider your position and your argument.

That Said,
It is my understanding Ceremonial Magick is a very exacting thing, and I would think anyone making changes in Name/Gender be most careful about how they craft those rites. And would suggest instead seeking out Ancient Rites that Honor the Ancient Goddesses, rather than trying to put a politically correct spin on rites developed in a Patriarchal Milieu.

Brightest Blessings All, BB.

Written By Brian
on March 29th, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

I agree with you Donald.

I don’t consider those terms sexist. As you mentioned, they are titles.

However – beyond this passage, the Golden Dawn itself is a Osirian based belief system. It’s based on the male figure of Osiris as a redeemer and resurecting God figure. So the Golden Dawn specifically might have some people bothered by the same Christian male dominated savior figure.

I do agree with most of what Cynthia Jurkovic wrote in response to you. One thing she brings up is her personal feelings on rituals she has been introduced to. The OTO she mentions is much more (IMO) open to the Divine Female then The Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn as you quote, while this passage is not sexist in my opinion, the order itself is based on a Christ figure/redeemer of Osiris. The Heirophant is a male figure who prosides over the rituals (either played by a man or woman, it’s still a male energy.) The figure is the same resurection diety we see in the Christ story. While Isis is also mentioned in the GD rituals, I think the GD is still very centric to a male dominated energy system. For some it’s not going to be compatible.

While the OTO offers more of a Divine female role (Nuit) at the core of their tennets… There is much controversy of how Crowley viewed women in his day. The student Phylis Seckler (Soror Meral) of the OTO/Thelemic current raises this exact point for women today in the Thelemic world, in her old newsletters of the “In the Continuum.”

I can see why some women would be put off by Ceremonial Magick due to these issues… and not so much the passage you quoted that the G.D. uses… but more with the male dominated central figure of Osiris in the G.D. rituals… and for those in the OTO… Cynthia Jurkovic raises some good points here in these comments, as does the late Phylis Seckler in her “In the Continuum.”

It’s perhaps this reason alone that draws more women to Wicca then ceremonial magick.

Written By Anita Perez
on March 29th, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

I place more importance on intent than on anything else, and I don’t think that the was intended to be sexist. The thing is, it’s the language that is sexist, because the society that developed it was steeped in beliefs about gender roles and characteristics. There is no way to use the language intelligibly, without sometimes expressing some unintended assumptions made by the people who in previous centuries developed the language. So, what do you do? Never utter an imperfectly expressed sentiment? All that is left is banal greetings, the ability to complain about physical pain, and the ability to order take-out.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 30th, 2010 @ 9:09 am

Hi, BlackBird.

Thank you for your comments and your position. I think we may have to agree to disagree on this.

The basic concept of the feminist archeology movement, which was for many years heralded by Pagans and countless reiterated, was the idea of authorities such as Stone and Eisler that there was some idealistic matriarchal period, where we all lived in peace with Women ruling and worship of a goddess. Over the years this was modified to individual cultures, men and women living in equality, etc. However, as shown in books and papers by other experts, such as Cynthia Eller in her well-researched book, “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory,” this concept is an “ennobling lie.” which deconstructed some 19th-century scholarship and re-expressed it during the second feminist wave of the 1970s. Eller contends, and I agree, that accepting this myth as anything other than a myth is both scientifically unsupportable and harmful to feminism as it hangs its hat on something untrue.

Even a casual reading of the Bible shows that the early Priests of Judaism were not out to destroy the Goddess, they were out to destroy any and all faiths that were not Judaism of the time in order to establish and maintain their religion and authority.

The Golden Dawn was the first magickal order to allow in both men and women (quickly copied by the inner order of the Theosophists and later groups). It had women as leaders and for a time was even run by women. The rituals clearly state that people need to find a balance between male and female, darkness and light. I have no doubt that some members were sexist (and/or racist, anti-semitic, etc. The original documents were specifically anti-Catholic.

I would agree with you that there has been, and remains, a strong anti-feminist and strongly sexist aspect in various parts of the world’s societies. However, I would suggest that this is part of geo-political, economic, and social attacks on anything outside the status quo, a sort of universal xenophobia that is not limited to keeping women and the Goddess excluded.

As Crowley’s “Book of the Law” said, “Success is your proof.” This has been traditional throughout the history of magick. The long road of powerful women teachers and practitioners of magick–unfortunately mostly ignored by male (and female) writers–shows this to be true. It remains true to this day.

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 30th, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

Thank you for your reply, and I expect you are right we will likely have to agree to disagree on certain points, just the same I would like to venture a brief reply before leaving you the last word.

The basic concept of the feminist archeology movement, which was for many years heralded by Pagans and countless reiterated, was the idea of authorities such as Stone and Eisler that there was some idealistic matriarchal period, where we all lived in peace with Women ruling and worship of a goddess. Over the years this was modified to individual cultures, men and women living in equality, etc.

I would agree with you to an extent; the thought that there was ever on this earth a Utopia, Matriarchal or not, that preceded the current era, is likely not true, our evolution does not support it, nor does our Metaphysics. If we are Incarnated here to learn something, then presumably so were our ancestors. At the same time as Marija Gimbutas points out the very signs we look for that indicate “Civilization” are signs of growing Male Dominance and Militarism.* What physical evidence we are going to find for a “Matriarchal Civilization” is going require not just that we dig deeper, or better; but dig with different set of eyes. At the same time it is not surprising, that the work of persons like Merlin Stone, and Eisler and even Margaret Murray should be challenged; that is the Model we live with, Science is in many ways an arena governed by Trial by Combat; that the work of these authors has been challenged now, does not mean their work will not be refined and championed again, but as Feminist Consciousness has waned in the larger world just now, I expect we will have to wait for the next wave of expanding Feminist Consciousness in the future (hopefully near future) to see new champions take up that cause. I think we must be careful and aware of just where our language and assumptions come from, and challenge ourselves to sculpt them, as they will sculpt us. (In the mean time I will be reading the book you quoted) but … In our Real – Magickal World (Which Science of course would deny even exists.) On the one hand I do believe we do need to take up the Chisel, and get about the business of Sculpting a more equal future, that future will not arrive on its own, and so I suggested readers might look at Ancient – Sumerian, or Egyptian texts for more Goddess/ Feminine Friendly rites. But I would not suggest Editing Existing Ceremonial Rites Ancient Rites Calling out to Adonia or Sandalphon have power, they have more power in their own language (you of course know this, but our readers might not) and the God-Goddess-Eregore that is called up is a specific being. IMHO it is much better to Call upon Sophia, or the Shekinah, than to try to cram Yahweh into a dress. I do appreciate your taking time for a thoughtful reply, and as promised I leave the last word to you. Brightest Blessings, BB. __________________________________________

*I cannot find the citation I am looking for immediately but anyone intersted please contact me off list and I will email you the citation and a link to the book on Amazon.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 30th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

Hi, BlackBird.

Thank you for you wonderful comments. You’re absolutely correct concerning the way science tends to be a battle. As we learn more, our concepts change and evolve. The problem, of course, is that new concepts are influenced by our current beliefs. In my opinion there is still a tremendous amount of sexism and racism in U.S. society, but it is not as bad as it was 100 years ago. I imagine a century from now there may be people who say the same thing.

As I’m sure you know, there are people today who claim we have moved beyond such prejudice and it no longer exists. I would strongly disagree. Frequently, they make such claims to advance their own political or philosophical agendas. If there is so much as a slight error in the facts we present, the people trying to advance their agendas will latch onto it and declare that everything else must be false, too. That is why I believe it’s vital to be as factual and as accurate as possible.

People such as Murray, Eisler, Stone, and Gimbutas are important for having triggered a more open and honest look at history, prehistory, and archeology. They have been heavily dissected and critiqued for everything from using secondary sources to making leaps of interpretation not indicated by the evidence. They will have their supporters and detractors for years to come. I think we should look at their factual statements and come to our own conclusions as to what the facts mean. I would contend that a lot of the conceptual ideas put forward by these scholars are important mythically, but may not be accurate historically.

I think it’s important to remember the idea of Stephen Colbert’s concept of “truthiness.” We often choose to believe something because we want it to be true or because it sounds like it could be true instead of it actually being true.

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 30th, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

I think it’s important to remember the idea of Stephen Colbert’s concept of “truthiness.” We often choose to believe something because we want it to be true or because it sounds like it could be true instead of it actually being true.

Indeed we should. I’ve enjoyed our discussion, and look forward to our next, Brightest Blessings, BB.

Written By Andie Kantor-Bender
on April 9th, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

Dear Mr. Kraig,

My husband forwarded me your article this morning. I know that you are a respected and learned member of our magical community, while I am still but a novice, yet I feel the need to respectfully disagree with you on this subject.

I absolutely hear what your point is, however, the subject of sexism–discriminitating against women– is not the issue any longer, although I do know that it once was. As we explore this, the real question becomes, is this study of magic inclusive all of genders?

In the English language, our pronouns are mostly gender-based, with a third “it” that never seems to feel respectful when attributed to an animate thing, so it rarely gets used except for inanimate objects. I think this might be because we, as humans, like to identify with everything animate. When we look closer at gender-based pronouns, the male pronouns seem stronger and to command more respect–King versus Queen, Lord versus Lady, etc. However you might want to slant it, in the English language the title “Lord” is male. The Lord of the Universe, if to be called “lord” is male. That is how our language works, just as Lady of the Infinite Stars is, generally, considered female. When we address the Lord of the Universe, we are addressing a male. This, in itself, is not sexist, and does not contribue to sexism, but this misses the bigger question posed of ceremonial magic and of Kaballah.

Your arguement about Hatshepsut and actresses might fall a little flat–you say there were many pharaohs; are you inferring that there are many Lords of the Universe and that it is a title that entities can hold for a period of the time/space continuum? Also, as you said, some female actors -choose- to be called actors. Is the Lord of the Universe making this choice, as well?

I know parts of the above paragraph sound ridiculous; it was meant to. Just as your one example of your Wiccan female friend. I have a male, PhD Wiccan friend who, after hearing that I had joined a ceremonial group, waved it off and said something to the effect of, “oh, I can’t stand ceremonial magic. You have to think too much.” Everyone can say something stupid at one point or another, and using one example of what one person who was speaking about something about which they know nothing about is useless in an arguement. I also have Wiccan friends–male and female– who are superbly intelligent and can explain in great detail how important it is to have a balance between the genders in everything one does. While they are not Thelemites, peronally I find this to be a thoughtful and solidly balanced New Aeon practice.

I ask you to do a little spelunking. Of the Sephiroth, how many are attributed to female aspects, and how many are male? In the traditional spelling of YHVH, how much is male and how much is female? When asked the question, “is this magical tradition gender-balanced,” what is your answer?

As a woman, Jew, Neo-Pagan, and Thelemic ceremonial magician (…a friend said to me once, “labels are for pickle jars.” I agree, but I also think it’s important to give you a little background on who I am and where I am coming from, as you probably don’t remember me from the one time we met) I do not, as a woman, feel included in many of the rituals and prayers in ceremonial magic. In many traditions, prayers to male energies highly outnumber prayers to female energies. Additionally, men telling women that a ritual or prayer–or whatever–is sexist or not sexist, or balanced or unbalanced, seems a little condescending, much like a successful white person saying that our society is not racist, that everyone can be successful if you just work hard enough.

Women are, oftentimes, classified as either harlots (sacred whores, Scarlett Women, etc) or mothers. In this day and age, women can be harlots AND mothers–and thinkers, and magicians, and librarians and whatever else we choose to be, all at the same time. The study of magic has long been made by men while women stayed home and worked on feeding them as they raise their children. Yes, that is somewhat an exaggeration, but I think of the rabbis of old, getting up early and going to shul while their wives stayed home. (Yentil also comes to mind. 🙂 ) It has traditionally been argued in Judaism (and Islam, I believe) that, due to women’s natural ability to create life, they are already holy so therefore don’t need to study. Because of the tradition of women being homemakers while men are thinkers, the entire study still to this day has a masculine flavor that men just don’t seem to comprehend.

And I’m not even addressing the other genders, the Queer Dieties and their followers–partly because I think that one battle needs to be fought at a time and partly because I don’t really feel qualified to comment.

So, to respond to you, is the Lord of the Universe prayer–and, to expand, the study of ceremonial magic– sexist? My answer is no, as it does not denigrate women or is anti-feminine in any way or discriminates against women (although I have heard rumors that within certain groups of certain organizations the trend is certainly not very respectful). But, when we delve deeper to ask the more pertinent question of whether or not it is an inclusive practice, with a focus on balance and equity within the genders? Absolutely not.

Written By Lalisa Derrick
on April 12th, 2010 @ 2:27 am

One point that comes to bear is “The Lord of the universe is not the creator, creatrix or source of the universe.”

The “Lord of the universe” is simply the male ruler of of the universe, not He Who Created All, simply he who currntly has the remote control (and may not know where the spare batteries are kept).

By virtue of balance–and many of our traditions have that–where there is a Lord there is Lady, or perhaps a Queen or Empress, at any rate a feminine polarity. Do we draw on her, do we call to her? Some do so first, sone do so not at all. (and like AKB above, I am not qualified to comment on LGBT Magickal practices/trads, though I would love to here about the polarities and balance in them–there’s always cool stuff to learn!)

Four elements, two male, two female

In YHVH, we see male and female, though granted in the Tetragrammaton there are two different male letters, and only one feminine.

This brings up a side question I have long had: Is there a chapter yet to be writ in Liber Legis? We have Nuit, the mother of all; Hadit the father; and then Ra Hoor Khut, the child (and how prescient was this chapter, for indeed the age of Thelema is is the age of the child–but that’s a whole other essay); surely for the V there is another H?

Perhaps the manifestations are much like the four virtues, SVAT: To know–Nuit is all knowingness; to Will, and surely we see this in Hadit; to Dare–and certainly is it daring bold to follow that path. And what of the fourth virtue, of which we do not speak ;)? Perhaps the fourth aspect, for balance, is still still secret?

In Kaballah–and I admit my neophyte stature with regards to all of magickal nature, so I may be a little spinning in the dark here–Binah is the first planetary manifestation, and feminine, and that to me carries great weight–the first singular manifestation of the universe is female.

The universe being well, the universe, is neither masculine nor feminine; it encompasses All, and oh that we had a word for IT beyond the inanimate two letters.

The “masculinization” of certain traditions comes from those who wrote of the traditions, seeking to find a language within their languages which could express the the inexplicable, the unspeakable, and the unpronounceable as I heard once joked.

Is ceremonial magick sexist? Well, I have been told many times that truly wise women lets men think they are in charge…

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 12th, 2010 @ 11:36 am

I would like to thank both Andie Kantor-Bender and Lalisa Derrick on their comments. Although we may have to just “agree to disagree” on certain points, I would like to respond to your comments.

Ms. Kantor-Bender, I do think that sexism is still an issue in society and in all forms of magick. I can honestly say that the situation is better today than it was 50 or 100 years ago, but I also believe that 50 or 100 years in the future, people will be saying that the situation is much better now than it was in 2010.

You wrote: “…the male pronouns seem stronger and to command more respect.” I agree that that is the way some people feel. However, I would contend that is an aspect of their sexism and not the actuality.

The term “Lord” is a male term today, although it originally meant “one who guards the loaves” or a guardian. “Lord of the Universe” is a title that applies to a spirit who is neither male nor female.

No, I’m not inferring that there are many lords of the universe. I’m stating that many women today and throughout history have rejected terminology that isolates them from their masculine counterparts.
Of the Sephiroht, there are multiple ways of looking at them. In the most common, 3 are male, 3 are female, and 4 are both. In another way of looking at them all are male (in that they send out energy to other Sephiroht) and all are female (in that they receive energy from others). The Tetragrammaton, YHVH, is composed of 2 masculine and 2 feminine letters. So in answer to your question, this tradition IS gender balanced.
As you wrote, you feel unincluded in rituals. I realize that many people feel that way. If any does, I would respectfully suggest that each person might consider what he or she needs to feel included. IMO merely changing a word or two won’t change the essence of the ritual as you seem to be interpreting it.
I agree with you concerning certain aspects of certain religions being sexist, but I would say that is not the subject here. However, if anyone finds that magick isn’t inclusive, I would urge them to consider making it inclusive. I know several women who are standing their ground and saying that they are as vital and as important as any man.
As I see it, ceremonial magick is inclusive and isn’t sexist. Unfortunately, some ceremonial magickians are not inclusive and are sexist, and should be called on it.

Ms. Derrick: I respectfully disagree that the “Lord of the Universe” is a male. This follows the old idea of God being an old man with a beard on a thrown in the clouds visual. It is a title such as “teacher” is a title. Any person, male or female, can be a teacher IF he or she has the qualifications to be a teacher. Similarly that aspect of the Divine we call the “Lord of the Universe” is neither male nor female any more than “teacher” is male or female.
Actually, thee are four different letters in the Tetragrammaton. The first Heh is different in shape from the second Heh and they cannot replace each other in a word.
Concerning Liber Legis, I do know of at least two attempts to write a fourth chapter. There may be more. I believe Llee Heflin claimed his The Island Dialogs were a fourth chapter with commentary (and I do consider his book sexist) although I could be misremembering. A quick web search shows another proposed fourth chapter. However, I do not know of any that are generally accepted.

Written By Lalisa Derrick
on April 12th, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

Dear DMK,

by “lord” i meant the gender ascribed to the word, oh for a word that had no gender, that did not create a diminutive when feminizing. Ruleress? Ruleless? Rulerette? The roulette for the word keeps spinning, perhaps that is why the plural They/their makes some sense.

The two Hehs are part of the mystery–they are one but they are not the same. And I joke a bit when I say that.

Exactly, no generally accepted 4th book…and that book is a Great Mystery; perhaps we are each writing it by living a thelemic life as best we will?

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 12th, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

Der Ms. Derrick:

I fully agree that “lord,” by itself, has a certain meaning today, and that meaning is masculine. However I also contend that certain expressions, such as “Lord of the Universe,” need to be taken as a whole and should not be seen as subdivided via deconstruction (as described in my original post) into component parts.

You may be right that the 4th chapter of the Book of the Law is what Thelemites write for themselves. Similarly, I am currently of the opinion that “enlightenment” is not a location. Rather, it is a constantly evolving path.

Written By L Gardner
on April 13th, 2010 @ 7:54 am

Dear Mr. Kraig,

This issue comes up fairly frequently in some Golden Dawn circles. It seems like on the one hand there are those who want to change everything (even YHVH), and then those who are die-hard traditionalists who refuse to make any change without historical documentation. I wish there could be more of a middle ground.

The term “Lord of the Universe” is so fundamental to the GD current as it is; it’s not about gender at all. In the GD though I do take issue with the officer names, for instance, “Hierophant” and “Hierophantissa.” Traditionally a female Hierophant is a Hierophatissa, a name I find quite awkward. I wonder if the power of the name “Hierophant,” backed up by the archetype of the tarot card, etc, carries just as much power when it’s “Hierophantissa.” I am not sure. Furthermore, the female of Praemonstrator is Praemonstratrix, and for anyone who isn’t at least a little familiar with Latin, well, it sounds a lot like “dominatrix”. In a lodge where there are few or no women, use of feminine officer titles is uncommon, cumbersome, and most of all reinforces a gender difference which (I don’t think) helps the fraternal spirit of a lodge.

One other point: in the GD, certain titles are earned through the grades, such as “Lord of the 32nd Path.” In this case if it was a Soror who earned the grade, her title would be “Lady of the 32nd Path.” Here it’s a gender-specific use of the word “Lord,” like it is with Lord of the Universe. I can see how that might get confusing for someone not familiar with the terms. Unfortunately it reveals a sexism buried deeper in the language, but if you change everything to be gender-neutral, you are hurting the impact of the ceremony. Though I do wonder if it might not be better to adapt those titles the same as the officer names, so everyone who makes it to the grade of Theoricus, for instance, is “Lord” of the 32nd Path.

There’s no easy answer to this and it’s especially difficult to connect people on both sides of the issue. It is refreshing to hear a more moderate viewpoint which acknowledges sexism without jumping to change the fundamentals of the GD.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 13th, 2010 @ 10:23 am

Dear Ms. Gardner,

Thank you for your comments. I like traditional rituals, but I’m also in favor of changing them when warranted. When referring to a specific person, I would think that having a gender specific term is appropriate. The example would be the “Lord” or “Lady” of the 32nd Path. However, if people want to create genderless terms, I would hope that they would at least be creative rather than going with the first, knee-jerk thought. For example, some people don’t like “chairman” and “chairwoman,” and have concluded that the appropriate replacement should be what I consider the ungainly “chairperson.” In fact, there’s already a perfectly good genderless replacement, “The Chair.” Similarly, some people have been offended by the term “manhole cover” and have suggested replacing it with “personhole cover.” Why not focus on the actual purpose of the entryway and call it an “access cover?” That’s far more reasonable and makes sense to me.

Written By Kay
on October 21st, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

I had a friend who was from Philly. A black skinned man. Some guys were loudly saying the word “n [word]” with the obvious desire for him to hear them. I knew this man quite well, and he could have “handled” them without much issue. However, when I asked him if he wanted to confront them he said, “that word has no meaning to me.”

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