Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gerald Gardner and homophobia

Was Gerald Gardner homophobic?

— Very probably, yes. (See Lois Bourne's memoirs.)

Does this matter for practitioners of modern Wicca?

— No.

Why not?

— Because whilst Gardner is respected as the founder of modern Wicca, his views on many issues are seen as a product of his time. in the 1950s and 60s, not being homophobic was the exception, not the rule. I can remember as recently as 25 years ago, it was rare to find a heterosexual man who was not homophobic. Now, thankfully, it is regarded as abnormal to be homophobic (at least in the circles that I move in).

Gardner does not have the same status in Wicca as Jesus does in Christianity. He is not believed to be some kind of messiah figure. Wiccan practice and tradition is not about Gardner, it's about magic and Nature.

There are some practices in Wicca that are heterocentric, but people are changing these to be more inclusive of LGBT people. If the coven you are in is not changing to include you, there are other covens that might be more flexible. There's also the option to start your own coven.

These heterocentric practices may have been started because of Gardner's homophobia, so in that sense it is still relevant, but for heavens' sake, Wicca is less than a  century old, so it's perfectly possible to change things. Tradition is not set in stone; it evolves.

A good place to start is the excellent book, Cassell's Encyclopaedia of queer myth, symbol and spirit.

Further reading on LGBT sexuality and Paganism.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Liberal Christianity made me a better Wiccan

I am not a Christian, but I highly value the liberal Christian strand in Unitarianism, as its alternative interpretations of the new testament in particular have helped to liberate me from the oppressive and painful interpretations I received from my fundamentalist and evangelical upbringing. People who do not have that particular painful experience perhaps can't know the fear - and actual physical pain - that it induces. I am very grateful to liberal Christianity for liberating me from that fear. Despite being a Pagan since the age of 17, I still had that fear (of hell, basically) lurking at the bottom of my psyche, encased in a volcano of anger. Once the anger had gone, the fear was still there, and it is liberal Christian interpretations of the Bible that have liberated me from that fear.

On a more positive note, I also value the fact that I can find a lot of common ground with liberal Christians, on values, shared appreciation of the beauty of Nature, and frequently shared understandings of the nature of the Divine as immanent and loving and including both genders as well as transcending gender.

If we have travelled by very different paths and still arrived at a similar understanding, that suggests we might be onto something. I met an ex-Franciscan who has a remarkably similar apophatic understanding of the Divine. I have met Unitarian Christians with a deep appreciation of the Divine immanence in Nature.

As a dear liberal Christian friend remarked approvingly, "Ah, so liberal Christianity made you a better Wiccan?" To which I replied, "Yes."

Liberal Christianity liberated me from my fear so that I could concentrate on my spiritual path of joyous communion with the Divine in Nature, with spirits of place, and with the land.