Cis-centric Heteronormativity Must Die: The Craft, All Of Magic, And Paganism Is Marching Into the 21st Century Whether You Like It Or Not

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It’s pretty clear at this point that we are at a crossroads of a social revolution, one that is taking us into a direction where the long-held and accepted notions of both gender and sexuality are being questioned and in many cases, outright thrown away. However, it’s nothing new–they’ve been questioned for some time now, but people have gone on willfully ignoring or blowing it off for literally decades, and so the battle continues. Conversations which began years before I was born that were never resolved and ended in blood and tears are still happening. Why? Because people are stubbornly clinging to their security blankets and shields in the form of tradition, religion, and/or philosophy in order to avoid self-examination. And we can’t afford to coddle these individuals anymore, because it’s quite evident that hatred, ignorance, and bigotry mean more to them than the dire need to allow the craft and other magical traditions to evolve, not to mention entire pagan and polytheistic communities.

We can’t pretend it’s all about adhering to the tradition, or the letter of the law. For instance, there is more than enough documentation to demonstrate there were conditions under which Gerald Gardner himself was fine with same sex initiation, and that Alex Sanders himself performed such rites. So we can’t argue that “strict opposite gender initiates always” is core to either lineage. We also know that during their time that the laws and culture surrounding non-heterosexual and non gender conforming people were pretty negative, to say the least. This is increasingly no longer the case. As a result, it would appear to be that the majority opinion within various initiatory Wiccan traditions is finally heading in the direction of acceptance of same sex initiation in addition to recognizing the validity of those who identify as a different gender than the one assigned to them at birth. Even more importantly, people are finally beginning to publicly admit that this is where they stand. This is both huge, and necessary.

And these traditions are not alone in these discussions–far from it. People can point fingers and claim that initiatory Wiccan traditions are the only ones having the gender and sexuality issues and debates, but the reality is that in many if not all pagan and polytheistic communities, there are problems. I’ve regularly had to block homophobes, transphobes, and all sorts bigots in general from the Facebook group I run on Hellenic paganism. Those people whom I blocked and banned included people from white supremacist groups. We cannot pretend, as these screaming bigots want, that the Greek gods were all heterosexual and that homosexuality and bisexuality did not exist among them. Given the countless tales of the gods and their same sex trysts, I don’t think I need to state what an incredibly inaccurate view this is. And I’ve already gotten into some of the genderqueer, non-binary, and genderfluid gods in that pantheon besides in another blog post. Once again, we have an example of narrow-minded, hateful people trying to apply historical revisionism presented as “tradition” and using it as a shield for their bigotry.

I’ve seen similar issues as described above in Thelemic groups, Asatru groups, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn groups, and a ton of other places. In all these communities I have seen people from the alt-right, neo-Nazis, TERFs, and all sorts of hate groups attempt smear their maggot-ridden feces everywhere while they try to twist facts, science, and history to support their bigotry. These groups are also very typically anti-women and filled with internalized misogyny, which surprises no one who is aware of the studies linking misogyny with white supremacy. And the reality is that these movements are painfully in support of nothing but the cis-centric heteronormativity that is anti-women (either cis or trans, they hate them all), anti-non whites, antisemitic, anti-LGBTQIA+, anti-anything of the non-binary gender because let’s face it, it’s harder to police what you consider to be women when gender is far, far more complicated than mere genitalia. All of these movements are connected to that concept, which is why in order for all of us to continue to exist let alone evolve, cis-centric heteronormativity must die–and why we need to be suspicious of anyone seeking to strictly preserve that overly rigid, limited narrative. We must stand up to these movements and not tolerate intolerance, so that we may preserve and protect tolerance.

Unfortunately no pagan, polytheistic, or occult community is without its loud, bigoted minority. If you think your community is exempt, think again. The problem is widespread, and we need to own it. We can no longer afford to pretend it does not and will not affect us, and those of us not directly impacted by the beliefs of the loud and hateful few need to learn how to be good allies and stand up on behalf of others in our community. And not enough people are doing that.

We also need to stop being afraid of challenging people who are perceived as leaders when they say or do inappropriate and outright hateful things in regards to large groups of people. Misha Magdalene in their blog sums up the issue with such savage finesse that I will quote from them here:

“(I)f it’s not some ceremonial magick dude managing to simultaneously junk-punch himself and hang himself with his own tongue by clumsily conflating rape and rape culture with BDSM, it’s some Pagan dude bloviating about uppity women, queers, and trans folks getting peanut butter in his Ten Thousand Year Old Book of Cisgender Heterosexual Shadows… or, in the case of the current bee in my bonnet, it’s a Well-Respected Feminist Elder™ running her tattered TERF1 flag up the flagpole to see who salutes.”

I’m honestly not sure why so many Known Names™ are becoming louder than usual in banging their bigot drum, even including those who normally describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate”. It’s certainly not that they’re secretly hateful people who side with neo-Nazis, as most of them are pretty far from it. But those same self-described liberals and moderates are also painfully oblivious to how their attempt to “see things both ways” is harming people who have considerably less societal advantages than they, and so much of the discourse seems to be very defensive of their own position in society. My theory is that we are seeing the “rage, rage against the dying of the light” from those whose comfort zones have been challenged as they desperately cling to those very societal advantages. But the “dying of the light” is happening, and as a result, we are seeing a much-needed shift in power and dynamics. Challenging the status quo, particularly when it has benefited you, can be very uncomfortable. And these people are not just uncomfortable; they are chafing from the friction of the reality around them against their cushy privileges. They need to realize that they have nothing to lose having others gain vital and necessary civil rights. After all, it isn’t pie; you don’t suddenly have less rights once other people who have been traditionally under heavy societal disadvantages finally get rights too.

It pays to be be self-examining, and realizing your own prejudices due to institutionalized sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and so forth requires a great deal of that examination. It also means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Part of it is realizing that there’s a vast difference between hatred due to bigotry versus ingrained biases that are the basis of prejudice. Truth is, you don’t have to hate a group of people in order to have incorrect judgments and assessments about them. You just have to be raised from birth in a society that sees being different as dangerous, and questioning the status quo doubly so. And unfortunately it is entirely too human to stick groups of people into biased boxes. Once one realizes that having these biases is not a negative judgment on them as a person–and therefore being on the defensive is unnecessary–they will be able to move beyond the constrictions of those prejudices and relearn what they have learned.

For spiritual and/or esoteric movements to have issues challenging societal standards is sadly ironic given how much of what we do and what we believe being so terribly, vastly different from the mainstream. But for those who were raised in strictly religious homes (read: orthodox or even fundamental), taking those ideas with them into a new religious or tradition is all too common. They may be able to take the pagan or polytheist out of strict orthodoxy, but sadly it is often difficult to remove the strict orthodoxy from the pagan or polytheist.

Thankfully, these attitudes which stem from rigid orthodoxy are a part of a minority that is rapidly becoming outnumbered by those around them. And the more of a minority they become, the louder are the cries of discomfort, rage, and belligerence from said minority. Because truth be told, the rest of us are marching into the twenty-first century whether they like it or not. We do not require their consent nor should we desire it. Should they choose to change their minds, they’re more than welcome to join us. But as our march continues, their days are numbered for the old ways must die in order for us to continue to live, let alone thrive. And it’s the essence of the reality of those numbered days which makes them protest, because their world is ending and ours has just begun.

And as I keep mentioning, the future is not just female; it is intersectional.

Toxic Christianity, Patriarchy, White Supremacy, Toxic Masculinity And Its Impact On Pagans And Occultists

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I tweeted recently that at some point as a nation, we need to sit down and have a serious chat about toxic Christianity and its relationship to the patriarchy, white supremacy, and toxic masculinity. Screenshot and link below:

Now to the meaty bits (or seitan if you don’t eat meat): what exactly do I mean by toxic Christianity?

Like with the phrase “toxic masculinity“, I’m not saying that all of Christianity is toxic. I’m referring to a very specific flavor of Christianity which IS toxic, and has perpetuated a number of problematic to outright bigoted and hateful behaviors, particularly here in the USA. This especially includes Dominionism, which everyone needs to read up on in order to understand some of the political and religious power struggles here in the United States. It’s also led to a number of people to get involved in lawmaking and try (and sometimes succeed) in passing a number of laws based on them. These laws are actively working towards making the rule of the land be mostly white cis men while taking away the rights of literally anyone else.

We can’t pretend that Christianity is the only place where we’ve had this toxicity, as certainly a number of ancient cultures were patriarchal and in them women had few to no rights. But right now, those cultures are not in a position of power, and neither are we pagans/polytheists/witches/magicians/etc for the most part. While some of us do indeed come from a Christian background–particularly since witches and magicians can pretty much be of any religion–we are still partaking of a lifestyle that is not mainstream and often targeted for abuse.

So where am I going with this, and what can we be done? What do we collectively need to realize in order to withstand the potential threats we face to our rights and well being?

First of all, we are all affected by politics, some of us more than others. And we are all impacted by our upbringing, some of us more so than others. This is a good chunk of why I have urged pagans and polytheists to work on dumping their baggage as too many have come into polytheism–especially reconstructionist and revivalist polytheism–and other branches of paganism dragging their match luggage behind them and letting it color their perspective on the faiths they are attempting to practice. We all need to work on dismantling our pasts and the crap that holds us back, and in dealing with this topic especially so. There’s a lot we have to rethink, and institutionalized sexism, racism, transphobia, and homophobia are among those things. Unfortunately there’s a great deal of religious fervor devoted to the feeding and protecting of those -isms and phobias, and that is part of why the struggle continues in the United States.

More than anything regardless of our respective backgrounds we need to discuss the problem of toxic Christianity, as it’s dooming us all. We have Dominionists in the White House, people making laws not based on science but based on beliefs that focus around misogyny and the control of anyone with a uterus (especially black women), and children in cages in actual concentration camps. Yes, they are concentration camps and yes, I am Jewish. “Never again” is now. America needs to wake up, strengthen the protections and walls between church and state, get the offenders, enablers, and grifters out of their respective offices and take back our government from toxic Christianity and its followers which infiltrated the Republican party.

We need to stop making excuses for the attitudes that enable the behavior to go on. We need to stop pretending that voting won’t solve the problem, and also that voting alone will solve the problem. We must become comfortable with multitasking and with being vigilant long after the danger has past. Our culture, lack of proper regulations, and lack of consequences for those responsible are just a few things that are letting the cancer continue to grow and eventually kill us all. Toxic Christianity and its beliefs prop up white cis men at the expense of literally everyone else while tax exempt churches make large donations to politicians who back up their views.

I know that people are exhausted of the state of the world, especially those who have been fighting the longest and hardest, but I’m talking about the very heart of the issues that allowed America’s current government administration to do all that they are doing, and with the issues that affect us globally it won’t just be Americans who are in trouble, but the rest of the entire planet. Climate change alone has become a huge part of this, and it will literally kill us all if we don’t do something. We have 10-15 years left to be able to do anything about it. Toxic Christianity won’t care because toxic Christianity wants to usher in the end times and bring back Jesus. Toxic Christianity doesn’t think women should have rights let alone vote. Toxic Christianity only likes white people, heterosexuals, and cis men. The rest of us are deemed unworthy, unacceptable, and less than human.

I realize that there are a fair amount of occultists who are Christian, engage in Christian mysticism and Christian derived magical practices (yes, they exist). I’m also painfully aware that most occultists are not engaged in toxic Christianity. However, some are. There are a few fairly famous examples that I could give, particularly in the ceremonial magic communities. Some of you who are Christian mystics, witches, magicians, and occultists are already actively involved in fighting against fascism, white supremacy, and the patriarchy. I salute you and stand by you. We need to stick together and remember our commonalities over our differences. Please continue to use your religious privilege to call out those who continue to act as if religion is synonymous with Christianity and try to make decisions for the rest of us based on those beliefs and ideas. It continues to amaze me that someone like Jesus who challenged the patriarchy, those in positions of power, and his culture in general could possibly have inspired the ideas which these people perpetuate, and the failure falls not on religion but that of humanity.

The rest of us, however, do not come from Christian backgrounds. While most pagans and polytheists were originally Christian or from Christian homes, I was not. I lack religious privilege on a fairly substantial level. I run into monotheists and atheists all of the time who equate religion with Christianity and monotheism in general and use phrases like “Judeo-Christian” when they really just mean Christian. Religion is assumed to be entirely anti-science when my very faith honors deities for whom science and medicine are both sacred. When I don’t run into bigotry against paganism and polytheism, I run into anti-Semitism. Antisemitism stems from toxic Christianity, too–as does Islamophobia. Anti-witchcraft and magic sentiments? Also from toxic Christianity. Anti-science beliefs and ideas surrounding climate change denial, anti-vaxxers, and flat earthers? Same.

And the list goes on.

We don’t need less religion or less Christianity; we need greater protections, more conversation, and the dismantling of the support toxic Christianity has received up to now. The problem lies not with specific religions, genders, or races, but in disproportionate privilege and power. Deconstructing privilege and balancing the scales begins with starting the necessary conversations about concepts such as the Paradox of Tolerance, and why tolerating intolerance needs to stop. We need to challenge ourselves and call on people around us who behave and speak inappropriately as compassionately but as decisively as we can.

Removing toxic Christianity from power both in our culture and in the American government will unfortunately not remove the attitudes and ideas it perpetuated. But it will prevent further harm to those who are among the marginalized and disenfranchised while we continue to try for a better world.