Same sex initiation

Fantastic article from Katie Gerrard. I agree 100%. Same sexual initiation should be valid in Wicca.

Just one thing, though – Katie says that she believes that no-one has performed any same-sex initiations recently; I know of a group of them that were done 10 or 15 years ago. And since the whole situation is sort of in limbo right now, how would we know if anyone had done one?

Same-sex initiation should be valid in Wicca, by Katie Gerrard (2020)

“I’ve looked hard at Gardnerian tradition and tried to work out why cross gender initiation was a thing in the first place; especially when Gardner clearly said mothers could initiate sons and fathers initiate daughters. He even said a woman could strap on a sword and play the role of the High Priest at any point. This suggests Same Sex Initiation can happen if it’s a woman initiating another woman.”

Interestingly, Katie also suggests that same sex initiation can be done when the candidate feels a particular affinity for the person who has trained them, regardless of the sexual orientation of either party.

I have always felt that there should be some sort of sublimated erotic energy or tension in the circle. I am not suggesting that there should be overt sexual attraction between the initiate and the initiator. But sublimated Eros has a long and honourable place in the mystical traditions of all religions. Think of the Song of Solomon in the Hebrew Bible, for example, which has been interpreted in both the Jewish tradition and the Christian tradition as an allegory of the soul’s relationship with God.

Same sex initiation

The reason I’ve always argued in favour of same-sex initiation is that if the candidate is 100% same-sex oriented, then they are not going to experience that sublimated erotic tension with their initiator.

If you don’t understand the difference between erotic tension and sexual tension, think about those times when you found someone attractive in some undefinable way, but had no desire to have sex with them. That’s erotic tension. Sexual tension is when you want to have sex with someone and are spinning out the waiting until you are both ready.

Erotic tension is an awareness of sensuality and connection and a feeling of delight in the other person’s company; it stays relatively steady. By contrast, sexual tension is when you want to consummate the relationship, and that tension mounts to a crescendo.

The tension that may occur during ritual is erotic tension which gets sublimated into the general magical atmosphere; in other words it gets transformed into the general energies of the ritual.

Same gender initiation

Same gender initiation is not a particularly radical notion, since if the candidate was assigned a gender at birth (on the basis of physical appearance) but has transitioned to their actual gender, then it is in effect a different-sex initiation. Of course, if a trans woman is a lesbian, then it would make sense for her to have a same gender initiation; if she’s not, then it would make more sense for her to be initiated by a man.

Nonbinary people

I’m nonbinary and bisexual, so my preference is not to allocate roles in ritual according to gender. Anyone can cast the circle, call the quarters, and consecrate the elements. And cakes and wine can be consecrated in a variety of ways.

I personally am happy with the title priestess, because it’s a title that has only ever been applied to Pagan ritual officiants, unlike the word “priest”. I’d be very willing to initiate someone as a priestex if that was their preference.

I really like the Reclaiming tradition’s solution to what to do with this word — they call everyone a priestess regardless of gender.

Asexual and aromantic people

Asexual and aromantic people can also experience Eros and sensuality; they are probably better at not getting it confused with sexual tension or sexual attraction.

Find out more…

There’s a lot more on this topic in my new books, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft and The Night Journey: Witchcraft as Transformation. The revised, expanded, and updated second editions are available from the Doreen Valiente Foundation online shop.

4 thoughts on “Same sex initiation

  1. For me, the aim of initiation is an intersection with an otherness, a moving beyond whatever is comfortable/mundane/static for the initiate into another aspect/perspective on everything.

    As a common division in Western society (probably more so when Gardnerian traditions were created) is male vs. female, opposite sex initiation is a useful symbol of otherness; as is eroticism. However, other direct experiences of the initiate’s life not being the whole can equally work: for example, rather than eroticism the initiations described in some ritual magic systems seem designed to evoke terror and awe.

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    • Yes that makes a lot of sense. But if someone is same-sex oriented, they get their sense of otherness in other ways, such as the self/other dichotomy. The first degree in Wicca is said to be an encounter with the Goddess so I’d argue that the otherness we are encountering is the immensity of the Divine, or the otherness of deities.

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      • There’s an interesting—but very much wider—discussion here of the boundary between flexibility in a tradition and a separate tradition; when does setting aside the original/common perception of an act mean one is no longer practising the same tradition?

        For example, most practitioners would accept both the fluidity you champion in your post and a stricter male-female separation of equality as being Wicca. And I suspect it wouldn’t be that controversial to suggest the Goddess isn’t female in a purely biological sense. But would a group of practitioners whose initiatory path moved toward rejection of gender having meaning (drawing, inter alia, on male sea horses being the ones that nurture young so nature doesn’t have fixed gender roles) still be Wicca?

        Perhaps in the end we are not so much encountering the otherness of the divine as putting a shoe on our head and walking backwards out of the room toward the realisation we were never not encountering it.

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      • I don’t know where the boundaries of tradition are. I guess it depends if you think gender roles are a core part of Wicca or not. I have never thought that.

        I love your last paragraph 🙂

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