A Note to Readers
This year for Pride Month, we're exploring connections between the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, neopaganism and witchcraft. We acknowledge that these explorations are not a complete picture of all of these connections, but we hope they can be a starting point for people to dive deeper and learn more about 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, queer magick, and spirituality.
We're also holding a contest to give away a $50 gift card to someone who read the blog and answers a few quiz questions about the content. Enter the contest by June 7, 2023 for your chance to win.
The fabric of neopaganism, witchcraft and the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are beautifully entwined. The concept of holding autonomy and agency over the lens through which we see ourselves and move through the world has drawn many of us to neopaganism and witchcraft, and draws strong parallels in the 2SLBGTQIA+ community.
Neopaganism has called to many 2SLGBTQIA+ folks over the past several decades as a means of cultivating a place for oneself, belonging to one's chosen community, and owning that which is personally scared. This beautiful community has painted the canvas of secular spirituality with modern and vibrant hues! Neopaganism gives practitioners the agency to add, change, substitute and personalize their beliefs, rituals and sacredness, allowing it to evolve and blossom into a community lush with diversity.
The Sacred Lens: Individual Autonomy
This individual, scared lens is at the core of neopaganism.
"All things are inherently neutral; it is our personal lens that gives them meaning." - Tomas Prower, Queer Magic: LGBT+ Spirituality and Culture from Around the World (p. 16).
Depending on where your lens is focused, the origins of queer magick and spirituality could start as far back as ancient Mesopotamia's divine devotions that included a third gender (Prower, p.10). In fact, many ancient spiritual ideas and practices have some connection to elements that modern societies would classify as belonging to the 2SLGBTQIA+ experience. We highly recommend Prower's Queer Magic book for a deeper exploration of these connections.
The sacred personal lens is apparent in many aspects of the neopagan community, from individual magick practitioners who identify as members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to pagan authors, tarot and oracle deck creators who bring rich, queer content to pagan spiritual groups and tarot landscapes. This inclusivity enables so many more people to see themselves represented and feel empowered to participate, especially when 2SLGBTQIA+ authors and creators are given a platform to have their work and voices amplified.
Modern Lens: Evolving for Inclusive Spirituality
"We are devoted to ancient gods, yes, but we do so as moderns. In that context it makes complete sense to look to the queerness of ancient gods, because while we are indeed looking to the inspirational mythologies of the past, we're looking through modern eyes." - Misha Magdalene, Outside the Charmed Circle (p. 126).
Examining concepts with the luxury of modern eyes allows us see things that were previously lacking. In paganism, this is particularly important for anything that emphasizes heteronormative symbols like the ones found in Heathernry or British Traditional Wicca, which are still popular belief systems today. Their original constructs are often critiqued for being heavily based in heteronormative symbolism, with deities represented through the Triple Goddess and Horned God.
The pagan wheel of the year*, which follows the eight Sabbat holidays, is often told through the story of these God and Goddess figures. While many practitioners find this empowering, it can also leave many folks in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community feeling unseen. Another example is Dianic Wicca, which worships goddesses only, which was seen as progressively feminist when Zsuzsanna Budapest created it in the 1970s, but is now viewed as dated and exclusionary.
The beauty of neopaganism in all its modern forms, and what continues to draw so many 2SLGBTQIA+ identifying individuals to it, is the sacred personal lens. It encourages us to craft a set of values and beliefs, and while these beliefs may have their roots in more rigid, historical traditions, we add to them, subtract from them, remold them, and paint them with fresh, vibrant colours to become a spirituality and way of life that is uniquely individual. We experience a curated magickal path that breaks open old molds and transforms them into brilliant, glittering stardust that scatters across spiritual, physical, political and societal structures to create a unique sparkle and infinite spiritual possibilities that empower neopagan practitioners.
Radical Faeries: Paganism and Gay Rights
A great example of this in the pagan community is the Radical Faeries movement. This punk-rock pagan faction was founded in California in 1979 by gay rights activists Harry Hay and Don Kilhefner. Seen as more of a "non-movement" but a way of life, the group's goals were social activism that became a source of spirituality for gay men in the context of the 1960s counterculture that evolved in conjunction with the broader gay rights movement. Environmental sustainability was also at the forefront of their practice.
While its roots were strongly planted in the gay rights movement, today's Radical Faeries factions encompass many genders, sexual orientations and identities, and they remain autonomous and without a hierarchy. An explanation of the philosophy appears on radfae.org:
"Nobody speaks for the Radical Faeries as a whole, certainly not us! Generally, we tend to be queer people who look for spiritual dimension to our sexuality, many of us are healers of one kind or another ... our shared values include individual responsibility rather than hierarchy, gender fluidity, feminism, respect for the Earth. Many of us are pagan and follow a nature-based religion."
Spiritual Exploration Through Inclusive Discovery
There is a special kind of magick that comes with the ability to enjoy nuance in spiritual practice. This ability leads us to new ideas; we can discover concepts and practices from others that sing to our souls. We can also discover new ideas that don't resonate with us, and that is completely okay! The existence of many new and inclusive ideas are gifts to the pagan community.
Politics, modern paganism and secular spirituality all have passionate participants wanting to make change. They are not mutually exclusive things, but they do nurture different aspects of the self. Spirituality can allow us to enjoy this nuance rather than weaponizing it and wielding it in a political sphere. The spiritual aspect of the political is the element that nurtures the warrior, and provides them with some respite from battle, as we see in the Radical Faeries movement.
Sigil for Gender Diversity and Inclusion in Magical Spaces
A great example of inclusion in the neopagan community is this sigil created by Sidney Eileen, a non-binary, polytheistic witch, for gender diversity and inclusion in magical spaces. Ze've crafted this gorgeous sigil that represents: "learning, welcoming, community, crossroads, bridges, inclusion and full acceptance, open to other perspectives, and wards against hate and bigotry." Sidney also specifies that the sigil is under Creative Commons so that others have the freedom to use it the ways that are the most meaningful and empowering for them.
*An arguably more common and used Wheel of the Year practice is celebrations in tandem with seasons and agriculture, with particular attention paid to harvesting times, equinoxes, and solstices.