I wasn't quite sure where this belonged, but this was my best guess.
I know in Traditional Wicca that it is not unheard of for a woman to take a male's role in ritual if there aren't any men to do it (but I believe, from my research, that this idea doesn't extend to men taking up women's roles). What I'm wondering is if anyone has ever done this and/or if there is any advice they might have for a woman to prepare for this role.
I've worked with masculine energy and my animus before, even to the point where I no longer felt like a physical woman during the exercise, but I've never performed it in a ritual with others judging my performance, perhaps thinking only a man can project, channel, and work with those energies. I guess I'm just a little nervous and looking for something that might help me perform to the best of my abilities.
I, personally, am of the opinion that masculine and feminine energies are differentiated from one another and stored inside the differently sexed vessels for a reason... This may seem a bit sexist, but I assure you, I am not a misogynist. I've worked with energies for a long while now, and I have experienced masculine, feminine, and neutral energies.
A man cannot handle female energies the same way a woman can. There is ALWAYS a difference. it ALWAYS changes the way the energy works and flows and feels and effects the ritual/rite/working/whatever. In the exact same way, a woman's body, mind, and spirit won't handle masculine energy the same way a man would. It changes it by filtering it.
Think of the pure energy as water, and a man's body/mind/spirit as coffee grounds and filter. That water turns into coffee. It's still water, but with particles of coffee dissolved into it.
Imagine a woman's body/mind/spirit as a tea bag full of tea leaves. Steep the tea leaves in the water, and you get tea, still mostly water, but with particles of tea oils and whatnot suspended in the water.
Now... Fill your coffee pot with green tea, and try to make coffee. Or, alternatively, steep a tea bag in a fresh cup of coffee. The point of it is that the woman's body/mind/spirit (the tea leaves) is going to change the masculine energy (the coffee) into something not quite either, but not like the original product (water).
Some people say, "Well, what about gay men, or gay women? Don't gay men have a feminine energy to them, or gay women have a masculine energy to them?"
Not at all. I have worked energy with a good friend of mine, who was a lesbian, and her energy (at least in that working) was very very feminine. It was a perfect counterbalance to my masculine energy. The gay men that I have known still have a masculine energy to them, despite any effeminate actions they may have in their day to day lives. The point is, it's not the orientation that defines the energies, it's the physical vessel and spirit that define the energies.
At least, in my experience. I am fully aware that it is fully possible (and very likely) that there are exceptions to this experience. But, that's my $0.02.
Thank you all for your honest advice. I know it's a little unorthodox for a woman to perform a male role, but I do believe it can be done even more so than when I posted that. I've been doing a few more animus exercises and work with the male deities I'm familiar with over the past few days, and I feel like even in this short time I've made even more progress.
I don't think the idea that a woman can stand in for a man (or vice versa) is dependent on tools, though if a tool is imbued with masculine energy, it might be a good aid for her. I think that's the idea of "strapping on a sword".
I'm not really worried about what they'll think (though your words are appreciated, Hazel). It was more a worry if they will be able to take the same thing away from this ritual than if Braeden had performed the role. Now I'm not worried about that. They might not take away the exact same things, but they will still be able to learn from this experience, different though it may be. Since I've pretty much received the blessings of the entire group, I'm sure I'll be fine on that front now.
I agree and disagree with you, Beorc. I do believe the energies are very different for a reason, but I also subscribe to the belief in the anima/animus and the yin/yang of males and females. So, I think it's entirely possible for a man or woman open to the idea to perform roles of the opposite sex and/or aspect deities of the opposite energies if they work with them enough. It takes more practice, more study, and more concentration, but it also means you come away with a greater understanding of the opposite sex and yourself. At least that's my own opinion.
I will agree, however, that your own gender energies have nothing to do with your sexual orientation. As a lesbian, I feel I'm qualified to say that. Lol! And Brae will back me up. The idea of homosexuals and bisexuals automatically being more balanced with gender energy is a myth that gets on my last nerve. It turns it into an "us versus them" thing, and it's completely untrue. Sure, there are probably lesbians and gay men that are more in touch with their masculine or feminine sides respectively, but that generally means they lack in the area of the opposite gender energies meaning they are just as unbalanced as the rest of us are at birth.
Anywho, I will say that I think that the gender energies are tied to our physical sex about 90% of the time, but I would make a case for transexuals. I think their gender energies would be tied to their gender rather than their birth sex.
Wow, that was an unfocused post. Anyway, I thank you all again for your advice and/or opinions, and if anyone has any other advice, please let me know.
Like, OMG, you actually agree with me!
Does that mean you generally think I'm an ignorant git?
FWIW, I'm actually in agreement with Beorc on this (heh...first time for anything?). I'm guessing that you're working with just archetypes and not actual deities, which might be why there's the difference of views, however. At least for me, if I saw a priestess trying to take the role of vessel for a male god (either through actual aspecting/mediation or even just play acting), if I didn't outright walk out of the ritual, I'd likely never return to a ritual done by them again because I wouldn't feel comfortable as it would be disrespectful in my mind. (For me, it would be akin to seeing folks dressed up in blackface...in some cultures, still socially acceptable, but uncomfortable to me because of my extended family.) On the other hand, if your group is cool with what you're doing, they're the folks you have to answer to. Either way, any ritual you can walk away from in one piece is a learning experience.
I think there are little bits of the truth on the subject here and there, but I have thought it over extensively in the past dealing with my own nature from birth and observing the natures of other people like me, and I will venture a notion from that information. Gender, sex, and orientation are all linked to the body or vessel, and in turn may come from the spirit, which affects the energy a person works with. That being said, I think it is important to state that we as homosexual people, or heterosexual people are born this way, and that in turn must mean that these are clues to how deeply our orientation matters in our workings: which I believe to be greatly. That being said, I think there are varying levels of balance that set the mark for each individual, as in not all men have as close a connection with feminine energy as others or vice versa.
We are born, our sex and orientation decided to a degree at birth, we grow up and so develops our minds and the way we view ourselves hence our gender. The human experience while being pretty general, certainly has a great deal of uniqueness to each individual. Therefore as much as people would like to think that only certain things affect our energies, in reality if we are speaking from the point of our spirits and the vessels they fill in relation to our minds then we may find that our energies and their balance is decided by a great deal of factors. This also means that yes homosexuals can have a better grasp of the differences in energies, but not necessarily because we are born that way, rather that our culture greatly blurs the line of genders. Our mind frames differ because the way we view the world and our everyday thought processes (which affect the energies in our bodies), and therefore we can have a connection that others may not. The imperative word there is CAN, not always, but can, not every man or woman is connected well with the other sex and gender, no matter their orientation. So from that I draw that you can be born with a greater connection because or orientation and/or gender as well.
From personal experience, though I feel a deeper connection with women than most men who value the male role as I do (and I do...like a lot, being a dude is awesome!), I do believe it takes work to take advantage of that fact. I didn't just wake up one day and decide that my energy balance had changed and that I could do female parts, but rather through growing as a person and experiencing the different aspects that each gender and sex takes on, I came to a point where I realized that it was possible to work towards understanding and taking advantage of the masculine and feminine aspects more acutely. While its true that we may never be able to experience the physical foundations behind the archetypes that make up the masculine and feminine, there is just as much realization of the possibilities of that fact when we consider that men and women respectively may never actually take on those archetypes either but that does not diminish them and their energy any more or less.
While I wouldn't expect some of you to understand what I am trying to say, I suspect these are the same sorts that have a mentality based on their beliefs and not their experiences. Their beliefs tell them that they are what they are and there is no changing that fact to a point, therefore to enter the mindset and begin to take on the energies of the opposite of oneself sounds down right farfetched. To those of us who know better the boundaries and lack thereof in many instances it becomes easier to understand that there are realms of the mind and physical/spiritual views outside of our own and that we can take advantage of them with the right understanding. Gays weren't well liked by the BTWs originally, take that how you will, so it is clear it takes time and better learning about a subject to become open to the idea that things are different, even and especially when we are talking about spiritual subjects. Spiritual growth of any kind is linked to the understanding of the mind, body and spirit together, so to rule that some of greatest tools of growth and change are simply null and void in talking about how we were born would be foolish.
I think where the confusion is coming in is whether the discussion is about energy and/or archetype and actually assuming vesselship for deity.
Anyone of any gender or no gender can take on/bring out any energy that they have a connection with. Most people (unless they have major hangups within themselves) can also bring out certain archetypal forms. This becomes very useful in a lot of ritual drama experiences.
But when you set yourself up as a vessel for deity, suddenly you don't matter--it's all about what that deity wants/needs/expects. At one time, the membership coven I was with was about 1/3 gay and lesbian. Yet regardless of what one's sexual orientation might be, if you were a woman, no matter how much you personally have a good connection with male energies, you were a vessel for female deity and not male deity. If you were a man, no matter how much you personally have a good connection with female energies, you were a vessel for male deity and not female deity.
Now I'm open to the idea that there may be some deities out there who don't care what vessel they assume (and certainly this is true when it comes to certain spirits.) From my experience, deities are pretty picky when they choose to take on a human form, however. In most cases, if the vessel does not meet what they expect, they will generally just not show up. (Although I have heard a few of times where a lesson was to be taught, and the person was ridden...ridden into the ground and out of the Craft, usually with severe psychological damage.)
And Beorc... but of course, however we're just two different streams of ignorant gitness that just happened to intersect here. :P
For general ritual roles: the tradition I trained in believes
a) that polarity is a way at a lot of energetic potential and creative force.
b) but that we're more interested in the energetic flow than we are in biological sex/genetic identity or gender definition. Some people are cisgender (genetically female body, identify as female) but still prefer to flow and handle energy in a way that'd be more typically described as 'masculine' (active, direct, pushing, etc.) And, of course, any other combination that might come up: we've trained folks who are transgender, and pretty much every combination of gender identity and sexual orientation in combination at various points.
c) Thus, if there's a question, people pick the energetic mode they'd prefer to work with, and work with that consistently, most of the time. (There's certainly space for exploration, but for various reasons both individual and group-related, it's better if someone isn't swapping back and forth between modes all the time.)
d) However, it's good experience for people at certain points of training (definitely someone working towards their 3rd degree, but sometimes working on their 2nd) to work with energies that are not their top preference. First, it stretches the skills, but more importantly, it gives a lot of insight into how the ritual roles work together, and how each fits into the larger role of the circle. (We typically work with a four role model: High Priestess and Handmaiden, which would typically be feminine energies, and High Priest and Summoner, which would typically be masculine energies.) It's also handy if the group ends up short handed, someone is sick at the last minute, etc. (And of course, since people in that position may well be teaching, it helps us teach people who run the other kind of energy by preference.)
Aislynn - the stuff I'd suggest thinking about is being aware that long-term work in a particular energetic mode will likely change how you perceive and manipulate energy. That can be a really good thing - flexibility can be very handy! But it can also mean that it'll change some other options for you down the road, or may change things about how you interact with the rest of the world outside of circle. (because, after all, that's part of the point of circle: to make changes there that reflect how we want the world to look when we're back in the physical world.) Neither of those is a bad horrible thing - but it's something you probably want to be aware of, and make conscious choices about, rather than just drift through.
In terms of actual Drawing Down (inviting the deity into the body): I've seen people I otherwise respect do cross-gender draws successfully. There are certainly times I think they're reasonable (for example, not all deities fit into a strongly female or male gender: there are plenty of cases where the deity's gender preferences, social preferences, etc. are at least somewhere toward the middle. Dionysus is one of the better known, but there are a number of others.)
However, cross-gender a) seem to take a *lot* more out of people even with good preparation and b) I do agree with Lecia that without good preparation, they can definitely come across as rude or presumptuous to the deity. That said, I think the deities get to decide what's acceptable to them: I can (and have) seen situations where a deity would prefer, say, a long-time devotee of theirs of a different gender over someone who's never spent time with that deity, but who has the 'right' plumbing. In my experience, some deities care a lot more than others, too. Given all of that, it's something to approach very carefully, and with lots of out clauses and places to step sideways if something seems to be not going well. (And, like all Draws, in my experience, not something to be done casually or foolishly, or without substantial planning and support and appropriate after-care.
Keeping the dual "Never Draw a deity you don't love beyond reason" (to borrow a phrase from an elder of my acquaintance) and "Draw only in service of the community, not of the self" are pretty good places to start: in other words, have a pre-existing relationship, and don't do it just for giggles, do it because there's a specific need that only a Draw can fill. (If something else might work, go do the something else first.)
Absolutely it's strict. Some (although not all) things in traditional witchcraft are strict. That is a key difference between the ends of the spectrum of traditional Craft and wishy-washy new agery. Being a traditionalist isn't for everyone, but I can only explain the way that I do things from where my practices are at and have developed over the years.
At the same time, and in the great paradox of traditional Craft, the situation I mentioned is also an act of flexibility. If we don't have a man present to do certain rites, although we then cannot do those rites, we still have to do the Work. That oftentimes takes a lot of creativity and flexibility to find a way to do things instead of just grabbing a script from a book and running it through.
But I would disagree with the idea that all things in life are (or should be) flexible. A rock that is flexible does a poor job of holding its shape in a mountain. A riverbank that is too flexible becomes destructive to the world around it. A witch with a flexible Will isn't much of a witch--there's a reason why the Will is honed like a blade, after all. Heck, even the flexibility of pagan standard time doesn't fly well with me personally, as I like to call it for what it is--pagan standard time is just a cute way of saying disrespectfully late. ;)
The trick is to know when to be when to be rigid and when to bend. When it comes to me serving the gods I work with in the way they have told me to serve them, I don't try and short change them by being flexible to serve my convenience. For most other things in my path, I'm very flexible.
As far as pulling the age card.... aside from the fact that it doesn't tend to work on this site, we're about the same age. If you're willing to back down on your ageism, I'll try not to bring the fact you're a Correllian into the discussions. :P
Welcome to the site!
Sounds Very Strict ,
All things in Life are flexable it is Knowledge that comes with age, and it is Wisdom that we seek we as Witches,
Witches do not seek Rigid adherence to rules.
That is only the Belief of Modern "Label Defenders"
True Witches seek Better more efficient techniques.
As any scientist would. It is simply Human Nature. -Blessed Be
Leisha (Bayberry Moneybags) said:Not sure how other folks view it, but certainly although we've taught the folklore/fakelore about the ways a woman can "stand in" for a man by the use of certain tools, we have never done it. If we don't have a man available, we don't do certain rites...period.
Hooboy. Alright. I'm not sure I can go fully into the nuances of this thing. To understand the core of this concept, know that most people got the idea of working in gendered polarity from New Forest Craft, though its roots - like much in BTW, honestly - are firmly in the Western occult tradition.
The Kybalion contains the Seven Hermetic Principles, an excellent summation of these roots, and required reading for all of my initiates. In order to understand the approach we're using discussing concepts of Polarity, you need to understand these Principles. Here is a link to The Kybalion; this is a link to Chapter Two, which summarizes the Seven Hermetic Principles. Don't skip them - each builds on the ones before it, and provides foundation for the one that follows it.
Understand that the idea of Polarity recognizes the generation of power by means of moving from one pole to the next. Positive pole to negative pole builds a charge - this is simple science. The Polarity of Traditional Craft is not about philosophy or gender studies or my orientation or your identity. It is about the mechanics of raising power. Nothing more.
Understand next that there are different "layers" of existence. From least to greatest, these are Elemental => Physical/Etheric (these exist side-by-side, like a yin-yang symbol) => Astral => Spiritual => Divine. Each of us can be sort of thought of as a tube that runs through each of these layers, sort of like a core sample of multiple strata of soil. This is true of all layers save the Elemental and the Divine: the Elemental layer is that of the base, unrefined building blocks without identity (but upon which identity can be impressed), and the Divine is the general term for those realms too numinous for us to visit ourselves, but we do have a connection, by which we commune with the Intelligences and Powers thereof.
Now, the Hermetic Principles also say that everything has Gender. By which it means that everything in existence has a corresponding Other that, when the two interact, they build power. One is positive/projective, the other is negative/receptive. In the physical realm, Gender manifests as Sex (not the act). It is other things on other planes. Now here's the kicker:
As we move through each of our interactions with the different planes, we switch Gender. If you are Male/Projective in your physicality (and it IS about your physicality), then your Etheric body is Receptive. If you are Female/Receptive in your physicality, your Etheric body is Projective. On the Astral, your astral form matches your physical gender - most people who genuinely interact with the astral do so in a hyper-idealized version of their physical body. On the Spiritual, it shifts back - this is the animus/anima, basically. See where this is going? Our connections on the Divine, by the same token, then switch back and more closely match our physical Gender once more.
Notice the back-and-forth of this pattern. A to B to A to B back to A, and vice versa. When two magicians, one of each Gender, work together, their power criss-crosses, back and forth, rising through these planes they knowingly or unknowingly work with, forming (essentially) a double helix. This is the caduceus, and conforms nicely to the modern symbol of that as well, the DNA strand.
You can generate power on your own, through your own internal Polarity. We do it all the time, especially in trance work (which is, in many instances, the shifting of one's Perspective back and forth along the path to the upper planes). Ecstatic trance is rooted in Etheric flows, generally, vision trances and prophecy are usually rooted in the Astral, and spiritual trances are rooted in the Spiritual planes.
But the two people working together generate incredible power. Not just additive, but synergistic - they generate more than the sum of their individual potential power.
So, all this is great, but what is my answer to the query? Sorry - don't really have one. But I see a lot of assumptions about what Gendered Polarity work means, and why its used, and I wanted to make people sure knew exactly what the origins of what they were discussing were from, and how it is actually used, separated from the immense amount of cultural baggage the concept has accumulated.