Queer Pagans

by Adrian Gillan for Bent  Gay Sex Shop and Magazine

Refuge from religion, back to Nature or secret sex cult? As the Summer Solstice (20/21 June) draws near, Bent’s own little heathen Adrian Gillan asks a gay Wicca Witch why more and more Pagan queers are falling under the spell.

INTRO: POTTED PAGANISM

Paganism is a catch-all title for many and varied Nature-based spiritual traditions, perhaps the most well-known of which are Wicca and Druidry. It is mainly practiced by solitary individuals or in small groups – called “covens”, “hearths” or “groves”, depending on the Pagan path.

But there is no rigid creed or format in any Pagan tradition, and only one golden rule: “Do what you want but harm none.” All pagans have a profound respect for Nature in all its forms, a part of which we are. Their morality is built on the inter-connectedness of Nature which informs their relationship with the environment and with each other.

All Pagan paths revolve around the four Elements (water, earth, fire and air), the Seasons and the phases of the Moon, and involve harnessing energy generated by various natural polarities, including that between the God and Goddess figures, who themselves spawn all creation, including other gods. This energy is used to perform “magick” (correct spelling).

The Seasons and the phases of the Moon dictate times of worship (such as solstices and equinoxes) which occurs in designated “circles”, indoors or out, demarked by symbols and often involving tools of witchcraft such as wands, broomsticks, blunted knives, crystals, candles, chalices and cauldrons. The encircled five-pointed star is a major Pagan symbol.

Many Pagans are “eclectic”, drawing on more than one Pagan path in their ritual. Pagan traditions are non-evangelical and commonly co-mix at open social gatherings called “moots”.

 

Aren’t Pagans all New Age hippies?

New Agers tend to pick and choose specific bits of Paganism in isolation – like crystals, say – but they take such things out of context and so lose much or most of their power.

You follow the Wicca Pagan path and are a gay Wicca witch: do you cast lots of spells?

Yes. But Wicca witchcraft isn’t all snails and pointy hats. We harness the energy produced by natural polarities through ritual to work our magick. And you don’t cast spells asking for money! In fact, when you start Wicca you get less materialistic. Much of our magick involves healing – physically and emotionally. Our group recently tried to stop war in the Middle East.

Don’t all Pagans take a magick name like Night Jewel or Dew Drop?

I have a magick name but we only use it “in circle” during rituals – so I’m not telling! You pick a name that reflects something about you or that you respond to. Merlin’s quite common!

How long have you been practicing Wicca?

I’ve been practicing a branch of Wicca on my own since the 1970s, but joined a coven in the 1990s. I set up my own coven a few years ago and there are currently around a dozen of us. I’ve been training up other witches to be “third degree”, like me, so they can “hive off” and form groups of their own. We take it in turns to lead in ritual – we’re not hierarchical like organised religions!

How would someone join your coven?

We’re not at all evangelical – I haven’t even told my neighbours I’m a witch, I couldn’t stand the hassle. And I’d never ask someone to join our coven – they’d have to ask me. Then, I’d only let them in after a long chat and face-to-face meeting. I’m good at sussing out weirdoes.

Is homosexuality accepted by all Pagans?

I’ve always been “out” as a Pagan. Paganism thinks all creation is part of Nature. If we deny our own natures, including our sexualities, we deny and insult the God & Goddess who created us. Any so-called “Pagan” who is anti-gay is in fact anti-Pagan. That said, you’ll still find the odd homophobic exception.

How integrated are openly gay LGB people into Pagan groups?

In general, I’d say completely. If you go to a Pagan Federation conference, the place is full of queers! Our Wicca coven is mixed – half straight, half gay, both genders. We’d never exclude a true “seeker”.

What do you think of gay-only covens?

I suppose some gay people might want a gay-only coven – there are few hard and fast rules in Wicca or in wider Paganism – but personally I can’t see the need. You’re not, in my experience, likely to encounter much homophobia out there. And if you did, just jump coven.

Some people say the enactment of “The Great Rite” – the ultimate physical expression of God-Goddess polarity that some Pagans celebrate through actual sex in private or “in circle” – cannot be performed by LGB people. What do you say to them?

Most covens practice such rites only symbolically anyway, and not through actual sex, so this should exclude no one – so long as both genders are represented in the symbolic re-enactment. And I’m sure a gay couple can produce a charge in other sex-magickal contexts.

Can solitary-practicing Pagans use sex magick?

You could certainly charge up a love talisman, say, by masturbating over it. But, again, this could also be done purely symbolically using an altar and wine.

So how central to most Pagan ritual is sex magick per se?

Tabloid hype! I’m aware some Wicca covens, at least, perform sex magick actually – to produce energy through orgasm, which some say has more power than symbolic enactment. But I myself don’t know of one directly. I don’t think it’s so common, although I gather if a male and a female do enact The Great Rite through sex in circle, the rest of the coven normally turns their backs in respect. But, I stress, most Pagans practice such rites only symbolically.

Do some people, including some gay men, enter Paganism for the wrong reasons?

Regardless of gender or sexuality, if anyone approaches Paganism looking for sex then they’d soon get bored. You’d have far more fun that way down your local sauna!

Aren’t many Pagans, gay or straight, in fact a little overly prudish about sex magick?

It’s down to the individual group. But, if it all revolved around sex, things would soon unravel.

Even if not for sex reasons, are many rituals performed “skyclad” (naked)?

My coven doesn’t, we all wear robes. Some do strip off though – claiming being naked helps the energies flow better – but it seems to me if energy can pass through brick walls it can surely pass through a piece of cloth! I personally think it’s a bit silly, but call me a prude!

Do you suspect some Pagan’s misuse magick and cast nasty spells?

If they did, it would rebound on them threefold, so not wise. However, some groups out there are more drawn to the Black Side, worshipping the less friendly gods. But I don’t know much about that.

How does bisexuality rest within Paganism, given the emphasis on natural polarities?

A guy called Raven Grimassi claims the best Pagans are bisexual! That’s a view.

Do you think gay people can bring something special and unique to Paganism?

I think gay people tend to be more enthusiastic, and happier to try new things out. Organised mainstream religions treat worshippers like sheep and I don’t think gay people make very good sheep.

Do you think many gays are drawn to Paganism since shunned by mainstream faiths?

That wouldn’t surprise me. Most of us in this country are brought up in a repressive Christian tradition or by one of the other hierarchical, organised mainstream world religions where gays are made to feel terrible about themselves. I can’t understand anyone wanting to stay in such an environment. Christians have historically attacked Pagans whilst ironically stealing much of our tradition. They recast our lovely Horned Man as the wicked Devil; whilst our Earth Mother was somehow made-over as their Virgin Mary! And as for Christmas and Easter!

What other issues specifically affect gay people in relation to Pagan practice?

Nothing. For me, it’s all a big non-issue.

How does your Wicca coven celebrate the Summer Solstice (20/21 June)?

We normally go to Glastonbury Tor and join hundreds of other Pagans to scream and shout – just like at some great football match – as The Sun, the giver of Life, rises through the sky!

WEB WIZARD – You’ll find many Pagan groups and forums out on the web, including gay ones:

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