Posted Under Paganism & Witchcraft

The Rainbow Pentacle: Five Pillars of a Queer Witchcraft

Abstract Rainbow Pentacle

Queer men often find ourselves alienated from religion. Many of us walked away from the religions of our upbringing, having found them to be detrimental to our spiritual and mental health. That the major religions have been mostly antagonistic toward our kind (and quite often violently so) should offer ample explanation as to why we would search elsewhere to sate our spiritual longings. Unlike its mainstream counterparts, Modern Witchcraft mostly dispenses with a moralistic attitude toward sex and on the surface is quite accepting of queer folk. I say, "on the surface" because if you start to dig even just a little, you can start to see the unconscious biases that often lay at the heart of our shared philosophies.

One such Witchcraft philosophy that rears its ugly head is the insistence on gender polarity as a foundational absolute. In Wicca we see this clearly in the mythos of the Goddess and the God, paired together as the divine example of how magic is believed to work. It is the cojoining of the male and the female that is at the heart of the mysteries of Wicca, a religion that is firmly centered on fertility, both personal and, as in the case of their agricultural celebrations, transpersonal as well.

For cisgender heterosexual people to subscribe to such a philosophy makes sense, as it is through their couplings that reproduction occurs, and the attraction of male and female is part of their own nature. Add to the equation that roughly 94% of the population identifies as cishet, and it might not be surprising to find that a good portion of them regard anything other than straight cishet people to be "abnormal" even in the derogatory sense of the word. Sure, they might be polite in public, and even consider some of us to be their "friends," but many also harbor prejudices and unexamined biases that allow them to actively (or unconsciously) reinforce bigoted power structures and paradigms. And those structures infect many spaces in Modern Witchcraft.

I formally began my "career" in Witchcraft way back in 1985 when I called upon the goddess Diana and dedicated myself to the Craft. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to meet and share magical space with a good number of people from nearly all races, cultures, sexualities, gender identities, and levels of ability. I was often told by the (most often cishet) people who ran these groups that they were quite accepting of gay people in their spaces, provided we were prepared to perform within the heterosexist parameters upon which their rituals were based. This even extended to how practitioners were to be placed within the circle, alternating male and female members to allow for the magical energy to flow "correctly."

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with queer people participating in a religion that centers on the cishet experience, as long as we are aware that this is precisely what we are doing. The mysteries of the male/female union are beautiful, and wonderful, and powerful… but do not represent the entirety of the universal mysteries available to all of humankind.

Our magic is not necessarily the same as those of our straight cousins. We are perfectly capable of "translating" what the straight mysteries offer and find some part of it that resonates with our souls. But we also have our own mysteries. And we deserve to explore those in a way that actively celebrates us for who we are, and not simply tolerate us or treat us like an afterthought. We deserve a Queer Craft.

How does a Queer Craft differ from mainstream Wicca and Witchcraft? To begin, we first must understand that "Queer" is itself an umbrella term that includes a lot of different peoples and cultures that all share a common thread: we have been "othered" by the mainstream society because of our perceived sexual or gender non-conformity. In this we are confronted with one of the base problems of the human condition: the unconscious rejection of others who are not like ourselves. Those who are in the majority have often demonstrated a willingness to suppress or even destroy others who were perceived as being "different," a fact that any queer person or person of color can attest. This provides our first pillar, and is the very first thing we must look for in a queer-centered Witchcraft.

1. Embrace Diversity
A Queer Craft must –first and foremost—celebrate diversity. This means all races, cultures, genders, sexualities, ages, body types, and levels of physical and mental ability, are included under our rainbow umbrella. Our baseline must be one of inclusion and celebration if it is to mean anything at all. While we can (and probably should) experiment with circles or covens that are "specific" especially when the groupings serve a particular minority (i.e., lesbian, gay, bi, trans, Black, etc.) we must learn that whatever differences we may have with each other pale in comparison to what we all share. No matter our particular sex, gender, race, or sexuality, we have all been "othered" by the mainstream and subjected to oppression and violence as a result. From the mainstream perspective we are all "weirdos," and so we should show solidarity with other "weirdos." We have a unique perspective in that we all know what it is like to be on the outside looking in. We should take those often-painful experiences and direct them into a space of compassion, acceptance, and celebration for those who we perceive as being unlike ourselves. In short, a Queer Craft is diverse, and colorful, and blissfully weird.

2. Share Our History
The telling of stories is a foundational element of any community. The stories that we share with each other, as well as those that we tell ourselves, provide a means to better understand our culture and our place within it. Often queer people have been erased from history, or when our contributions are too great to ignore, it is specifically our queerness that is conveniently forgotten. For any queer spirituality to be meaningful, it must provide a place within it to examine and celebrate our own history, honoring our own martyrs and heroes, as well as remembering our triumphs and our defeats.

3. Encourage Authenticity
Most of us had the experience of being "in the closet" for a good portion of our lives. As such, many of us became skilled at hiding our true selves from the outside world. While it was done largely for self-preservation, it also could have the unintended effects of causing us to lose touch with our own deep feelings. In effect it could foster a sense of duplicity in which we are forced to play a role for others while denying our own truths. Any spiritual path that is worth its weight will provide a space and a practice to encourage its members to more deeply explore who they are, instead of how they might "fit in" to the mainstream. We've had our whole lives learning how to fit in… now is the time to explore how best we might grow and blossom. Remember that, to some degree, each of us are the weirdos. What makes you weird? Yeah… do more of that!

4. Honor Sexuality
Sexuality is an important aspect of the queer experience. Since we have been told for so long by society that our sexual desires are "dirty," "wrong," or "unnatural," it is important that we reject such biased and uneducated attacks and embrace our true sexuality, even centering it in our spiritual practice. Sex is a powerful force, and queer sex should be understood to be just as natural and spiritual as any cishet-oriented sex might be. Sex between consenting adults is a beautiful thing and also a source of tremendous power.

That said, we should also do well to understand that just because a person is queer, this doesn't mean that they are automatically inclined to want to incorporate sex into their spiritual practices. So, a Queer Craft should make such things available for those who wish to engage with them, but not make them mandatory for participation in the larger tradition or for moving forward in their work. Asexual people are also part of our Queer community, and their experiences and desires are just as valid as any other.

5. Offer a Path for Healing
The simple act of just being in the presence of others who have had similar life experiences can be a healing experience, and so a Queer Craft is perfectly poised to offer such an experience to its members. But in order for the healing to truly begin we must also take responsibility for our shadow. The Queer community is one that is understandably rife with issues like substance abuse that stem from or are exacerbated by being marginalized by society. Often, we have had to live in secret, in constant fear of being exposed, which–depending on where we live or work—could have devastating consequences. (For example, in eighteen US states one could legally be denied housing just for being gay and there is no specific law that would prevent it.) Living in this environment takes a psychic toll and can result in unhealthy behaviors. A Queer Craft acknowledges the special set of circumstances in which we find ourselves and works to assist its members in finding healthy ways to explore ourselves and our places within our communities. As healing as our magical circles can be on their own, it should be understood that they are not a substitute for qualified medical or mental healthcare. An authentic spiritual practice will affirm the reality of things like doctors and qualified mental health professionals. If your circle claims to know better than doctors or psychiatrists, then you should RUN (not walk) as far away as possible because that group is a cult and is not interested in your actual healing.

Groups should be sensitive to the individual needs of its members, especially in relation to issues around sex, drugs, and alcohol. While it might be tempting for a regular queer get-together to have a Dionysian element of debauchery, there are times in which this might actually be harmful to those present, as they are struggling with their own issues of addiction. A Queer Craft should be adaptable to accommodate those for whom certain elements might be triggering, while also allowing a space for those who do wish to engage in certain behaviors. We are all adults here, and while we should be responsible for our own boundaries and limitations, we should also be sensitive to those of others and do our best to help our fellow humans. It takes a (queer) village. Ultimately a Queer Craft is one that is here for each other, in all of our beauty-flawed weirdness.

Ultimately, a Queer Witchcraft is one in which we truly feel at home, without the need to play a role for someone else or to pretend to be something that we are not. A Queer Craft affirms who we actually are, on every level. It affirms our sexuality, our gender, our race, our talents, our flaws, and our weirdness. A Queer Craft is not simply our grandparents' Witchcraft, dressed up in lavender clothing and sprinkled with rainbow glitter. It is raw, and real, and challenging, and hilarious, and gut-wrenching, and tender, and powerful: it is everything that we bring to the table, each a single thread now woven together with others into a vibrant tapestry. We celebrate our differences instead of just tolerating them. In this we learn to open up to one another and in so doing we learn more about ourselves. We are all different, together. And that is worth celebrating.

About Storm Faerywolf

Storm Faerywolf is a published author, experienced teacher, visionary poet, and professional warlock. He is a regular contributor to Modern Witch and is a founding teacher of Black Rose, an online school of modern folkloric ...

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