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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

Gender and Nature in Contemporary

                            by Salamantis
    In recent decades, several social and political movements have 
        had profound impacts upon the popular Western psyche. 
     Collectively, they pose a powerful challenge to religiously 
     grounded relational paradigms which until recently have been 
    accepted almost without question. These movements include the 
 human rights trio (ethnic/racial civil rights, lesbian/gay rights and 
                   feminism) and environmentalism.
   The last two of these, feminism and environmentalism, have been 
   converging to the degree that a common discipline, ecofeminism, 
   has been born. Although some affinities exist between these two 
   and the others, the only solid connection seems to be the choice 
  by some feminists of lesbianism on ideological grounds in spite of 
   their personal sexual preferences. What could the womenÌs rights 
       movement have in common with the attempt to preserve and 
   protect our planetary ecology which the homosexual and nonwhite 
   rights movements do not share? To answer this question, we must 
    take a look at the paradigm they are all opposing, and in what 
                     ways each of them oppose it.
                         Our Present Paradigm
   This paradigm is drawn from the moral laws set down in the holy 
         texts of the religions comprising mainstream Western 
         Monotheism. These religions mainly include Judaism, 
   Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism; their texts include the 
   Bible, the Koran and the Zend Avesta. For purposes of simplicity 
          and brevity, we shall call this the JCIZ paradigm.
    JCIZ postulates a single omniscient, omnipotent and relatively 
    benevolent male deity (Jahweh, Jehovah, God or Lord, Allah or 
       Ahura Mazda), who created and populated the world but is 
  essentially transcendent with respect to it. This deity is opposed 
      by another somewhat less knowing and powerful, relatively 
   malevolent male deity (Lucifer, the Devil, Shaitan or Ahriman), 
  who is also essentially supernatural. These two opposed forces of 
    good and evil, light and darkness, contend with each other by 
   intervening in our affairs. Each of us shall spend eternity with 
   whichever one he or she allies with; in any case this earth is a 
     temporary inconvenience, unimportant in the greater order of 
 things. It is in our interest to ally ourselves with the Ïgood guyÓ, 
    and we know how to do this because HeÌs thoughtfully sent us a 
     male savior or prophet or avatar (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed or 
                    Zarathustra) to so inform us.
     We are now in a position to understand the special affinity 
       between feminism and environmentalism. Homosexuality is 
       condemned and slavery condoned in the JCIZ, but if these 
        tendencies were reversed, it would not compromise the 
    underpinnings of the theological structure; gay/lesbian rights 
  identical to those of straights and white/nonwhite equality are no 
  metaphysical threat to the integrity of the system. The religious 
   ramifications of feminism and environmentalism, however, strike 
 it to its very core. By criticizing the consequences of following the 
  JCIZ, they indict as immoral or unwise the premises upon which it 
      is based, and do so from the perspective of an alternative 
       paradigm which derives from many pagan sources past and 
             present, but which is crystallized in Wicca.
 In the JCIZ, all deities are male, the first human is male, and any 
   central prophets or saviors are male. In the cosmic play, women 
     are relegated to the roles of dupe, slave, rebellious whore, 
    broodmare and submissive saint. Mary DalyÌs dictum that if God 
  is male, the male is God has the existential corollary, within the 
    JCIZ, of reducing females to nothing. In order to follow GodÌs 
  plan, women must submit to their husbandsÌ rule in particular, and 
  to male authority in general. Men may have to attend the school of 
    hard knocks, but women are stuck with their homework. They are 
 to raise their many children but not their voices, for fear of getting 
     knocked about themselves. This excision of the feminine from 
 spiritual significance and their resulting societal subservience has 
    provoked, within many contemporary women, a soul alienation of 
     Marxian proportions. Revolt against the predominance of this 
    divine chain of being has followed, and the guerillas have not 
     been exclusively female. Some men have come to feel cramped 
      and pigeonholed in the role of overseer on the domination 
   plantation and degraded and ashamed of what is expected of them 
   there. They have therefore joined the rebellion against the JCIZ 
  gender hierarchy, agreeing with Martin Luther King that you canÌt 
    hold folks down in a ditch unless you climb down in there with 
     them. As women and men come to the practical conclusion that 
  only equality of rights, responsibilities and opportunities works, 
   however, they also tend to come to the spiritual conclusion that 
   this is true because the sexes equally approach divinity. This, 
   however, would require deity to be comprised of masculinity and 
  femininity in equal measure, which of course directly contradicts 
                              the JCIZ.
  In the JCIZ, the Creator packed a hostile and bountiful world like 
    a reluctant lunchbox for fallen humanity (read man) to suffer, 
    endure, dominate, subdue and exploit for his own benefit. This 
  divine license for exploitation without regard to consequences in 
  the name of greed has borne bitter fruit. Because we have not held 
    our common home in reverence, or honored her as sacred to us, 
  we have felt free to pollute, pillage, rape and otherwise profane 
   her. Yet, after fouling our own nest, we seem surprised to find 
        ourselves surrounded by human filth, with the blood of 
    extinguished comrade species crying out inconsolably from the 
   bleak bare ground. We are coming painfully to the understanding 
 that the earth is our source and foundation, and that poisoning and 
       impoverishing her can only hasten our own hollow demise. 
     However, the grasping of the fact that we are only a part of 
      something much older, wiser, grander and more complex than 
      ourselves draws us inexorably to an experience of awe and 
   sublimity in the presence of the sheer marvel of it. We begin to 
  see ourselves as tiny threads, which, by some miracle, are able to 
  sense the weave of a gigantic dancing tapestry (and the reality is 
    much more wondrous than that). The earth becomes hallowed for 
  us. But this contradicts the JCIZ premise that it is transcendent 
       Deity which is holy, not a nature which, compared to the 
                supernatural, must remain substandard.
     Ecological degradation may be divided into natural resource 
   depletion and biosphere pollution, but both have overpopulation 
    as a root cause. Overpopulation drives us like lemmings to mow 
  our global lungs for farmland, lumber and cattle pasture, sapping 
   species diversity in the process. It drives us to strip-mine our 
 eroding soil to build skyscrapers, cars and soda cans. It drives us 
       to burn our fossil fuels, overheating our atmosphere and 
   decimating our ozone sunscreen for the sake of light, mobility, 
      plastic containers and air-conditioned comfort for a small 
  percentage of our teeming billions. It drives us to turn our over-
     fished oceans into toxic cesspools when our rivers bear our 
        pesticides, factory byproducts and sewage to the seas. 
   Furthermore, the resulting competition for room and resources on 
 a shrinking sphere has led our infant race to nurse the barrel of the 
                             nuclear gun.
      It is ecologically imperative that we control our rate of 
    reproduction generally, and the fundamental pillar of feminism 
   that women must have the right to control their own reproduction 
  individually. To this dovetailing of the calls of personal freedom 
     and global necessity, the JCIZ responds with an iron demand 
    frozen for thousands of years in the face of catastrophically 
      changing circumstances; you must be fruitful and multiply.
     The realization that birth control is both a feminist and an 
       environmental issue is one of many pattern matches which 
  ecofeminists have found. They follow the clue given by the phrase 
   ÎMother NatureÌ to the conclusion that women and the earth have 
      both been victimized by the same attitudes of subjection, 
 rapaciousness, violation, penetration of virgin territory, stripping, 
    despoiling and defloration. They consider this an unfortunate 
   result of the separation of the sexes into godlike, transcendent 
      man and earthy, immanent woman, into man as mind and woman 
   as body, found in the JCIZ. This partition, for ecofeminists, is 
     based on the differing positions of the sexes with regard to 
   childbirth; men observe, women participate. Women also, like the 
  earth, produce food, and can be planted with seed when in season; 
        hence the ancient occurrence of the term ÎplowingÌ for 
  Sexist theological Cartesianism, however, is untenable; the JCIZÌs 
 gender-based spirit/flesh dichotomy has been an injurious illusion. 
     Self-aware parts of nature are still woven into the web they 
     perceive. Mind, whether abstract or concrete, and of either 
    gender, is a bodily based, earthly and evolutionarily emergent 
     The main division within ecofeminism is between ÎgenderÌ and 
    ÎnatureÌ ecofeminists. The ÎgenderÌ ecofeminists believe that 
   male-female relationships are the source of a domination pattern 
  that is generalized to apply to culture-nature relationships, and 
 that if we replace it with an egalitarian sexual partnership pattern, 
   our environmental abuse will stop. ÎNatureÌ ecofeminists believe 
  just the opposite; that replacing the egocentric, exploitative and 
   uncaring attitudes underlying environmental abuse with valuing, 
        consequence based stewardship will repair male-female 
   relationships by osmosis. I think that the domination pattern is 
    imprinted during child-rearing, and that to end it, we have to 
        embrace noncoercive methods of socializing our young.
                     The Challenge of Neopaganism
                        Neopaganism Generally
   The Neopagan alternatives to the JCIZ paradigm trace their roots 
    to prehistoric Eurasian and African tribal and shamanic nature 
    religions, and count the Amerindian and Australian aboriginal 
      traditions as siblings. From them, Pagans have taken their 
  reverence for the earth and their celebration of the more feminine 
    principles of divinity. They generally create sacred space by 
   casting a circle (which is the intersection between a sanctified 
    sphere and the ground), and calling the four directions, which 
  correspond to the four elements, and to the divisions of a day, a 
  moon cycle, a year and a lifetime, and much else. Their holy days 
  fall on the solstices and the equinoxes, on the midpoints between 
  them (the cross-quarters), and/or on full moons. In addition, they 
   honor personal rites of passage; such as birth, a naming of the 
   child (sometimes called wiccaning), puberty, marriage (known as 
      handfasting), menopause (croning), and death. Contemporary 
    neopagan groups include the Fellowship of Isis, Ar n Draiocht 
    Fein (Our Own Druidism), the Church of all Worlds, Asatru and 
                  the Church of the Eternal Source.
                          Wicca Specifically
 All the above is true of Wicca, but when casting their circles most 
    also call the Earth Mother, Sky Father, and Center, this last 
 representing both the individual selves of the participants and the 
    common center they create by joining together. They also thank 
        and dismiss them when they open their circles upon the 
      conclusion of their ritual workings.Wicca follows a gender-
      complementary immanent duotheism comprised of a God and a 
    Goddess; for Wicca, deity is double and non-transcendent. The 
  distinctions between them entail neither mutual hostility nor the 
   subservience of either to the other, but instead require the co-
       presence in dynamic symmetry of these differing yet equi-
       primordial principles for circumstances to proceed. The 
 fundamentalist belief in the actual existence of these deities is not 
   a prerequisite for becoming Wiccan. In fact, many, if not most, 
    Wiccans view the Earth Mother and Sky Father as archetypes in 
   the Jungian sense, and as lenses through which to apprehend, and 
   grasp in concrete, human-friendly terms, a totality which is too 
   vast and ineffable to be circumscribed by finite minds. Wiccans 
    consider all Goddesses and Gods throughout history as cultural 
    manifestations of these principles, revel in the diversity of 
    expression that they find, and borrow whatever they find that 
  works for them. In this sense, Wicca does not enslave and use its 
 adherents; rather it is the case that Wicca is made use of by them, 
      as a spiritual tool with which to focus their passions and 
   intentions upon the realizations of their plans and desires. The 
     conceptions and attributes surrounding these deities are not 
 inscribed for all time in any holy text, but are flexible, for Wicca 
   is an evolving, pragmatic religion with little dogmatic baggage.
 Wicca's central ritual, the Great Rite, consists of dipping a dagger 
     in a chalice of wine in symbolic intercourse. The Christian 
    Communion, in contrast, is symbolic cannibalism.Wicca has one 
     major law, the Law of Three (any action, whether well or ill 
      intentioned, is returned to its source threefold), and one 
     commandment, the Wiccan Rede (Îif it harms none, do what you 
       willÌ). While these admonishments do emphasize personal 
      freedom, they link it to personal responsibility, and the 
  consequences of following them are a strict self-discipline, since 
    one is expected to strive not to harm oneself, others, or the 
     biosphere we share. Their more magickal practices include a 
  Santeria-like invocation of the masculine principle by the priest 
   and of the feminine principle by the priestess (the Drawing Down 
       of the Sun or Moon), and Raising the Cone of Power. This 
 practice involves an entering of the group into a shamanic state of 
   consciousness, usually by means of some combination of dancing, 
   chanting and drumming, preparatory to attempts at divination or 
      The Earth Mother represents the foundation or substrate of 
   change; the matter underlying form, the being beneath becoming. 
   She is omnipresent, although aspects of her may undergo periodic 
      change. She never dies. The feminine principle of divinity 
       encompasses the cyclical-intuitive, synthesizing, fecund-
   formative, nourishing aspect, with its emphases on the personal 
    and collective dream worlds, and on relatedness.The Sky Father 
   represents the changes of form that must occur in the life cycle 
  and food chain. He withdraws and returns, and never lingers. He is 
  the God of the inseparability of hunter and prey, and of the cycle 
  of vegetation. He is born of the Mother, grows, flowers and dies, 
    to be reborn of his own seed the following year. The masculine 
   principle of divinity encompasses the linear-logical, analyzing, 
        fertilizing aspect, with its emphases on ego, task and 
 individuality.A combination of these traits is preferable to either 
  alone, and all people are considered to have their own particular 
  ratios of these attribute sets; their own yin-yang or anima-animus 
       Modern Wicca publicly began in 1949 when Gerald Gardner 
   published ÏHigh MagicÌs AidÓ, a book of Wiccan ritual disguised 
     as historical fiction. He then, in collaboration with Doreen 
       Valiente, published ÏWitchcraft TodayÓ in 1954 and ÏThe 
     Meaning of WitchcraftÓ in 1959. Although other Wiccan forms 
     exist, Gardnerian Wicca and an offshoot (Alexandrian Wicca, 
  after its founder Alex Sanders) remain the core Wiccan traditions. 
      Other important Wiccan theorists include Janet and Stewart 
                   Farrar, Starhawk and Z Budapest.
               WiccanTheo/alogy and the Foundations of 
                    Feminism and Environmentalism
  In a religion in which the God and the Goddess are equi-potential 
     (possess complementary and equal status), gender equality is 
      mandated rather than forbidden. Freedom of societally and 
  planetarily responsible choice belongs to all. In a religion that 
    urges its adherents to love the earth as a mother, rather than 
  resenting and coveting her as a rich, conquerable hostile kingdom, 
 children would be raised from birth to treat her with restraint and 
    respect, and to pass her on to their children in as pristine a 
   condition as possible. There is, in fact, a kind of Wiccan Eden 
    myth; a vision of a prehistoric peaceful eco-friendly agrarian 
   matriarchy which was overthrown by males banished for violence, 
   who banded together to conquer and enslave their former society 
    and pillage its lands. This Edenic vision is more admired than 
    believed. Most Wiccans desire a ÎreturnÌ to this Eden, even if 
              humanity has never in reality been there.
    Feminists and environmentalists, particularly ecofeminists and 
  deep ecologists, share this vision for the future; it is what they 
  strive for. It is therefore to be expected that many of them would 
  appropriate a belief system possessing sensibilities so in harmony 
  with their hopes, goals, desires and dreams. If the Wiccan Utopia 
 is theirs also, adoption seems eminently reasonable. In fact, these 
     movements receive both support and guidance from Wicca, and 
                         give both in return.
       Wicca and ScienceWiccaÌs attitude toward science is one 
 of intense interest and positive regard, for WiccaÌs perspective of 
  pragmatic self-conscious evolution and its anti-dogmatic character 
   resemble scientific ideals. Science, for Wicca, is attempting to 
  reveal the underlying nature of immanent divinity, and as such is 
      performing a sacred service. In addition, LovelockÌs Gaia 
 hypothesis, that the entire biosphere is an evolving, self-regulating 
       totality, appears to be to Wiccans the beginning of the 
     confirmation of their ecological suspicions, and the recent 
  comparisons of gender, brain structure and cognitive style bolster 
 the validity of their chosen deity attributes. They for the most part 
   accept that humanity creates divinity in its own image, and feel 
 flattered that science is indicating that they in particular are doing 
                           it rather well.
    WiccaÌs deities form a heterosexual couple, and sex with oneÌs 
  significant other is regarded as a sacrament. This has caused gays 
     and lesbians to sometimes feel uneasy with the energy in the 
   circle. For this reason, some gay men have formed Faerie circles 
     and some lesbians have embraced Dianic Wicca. Straight women 
 will also meet in full moon circles, or esbats, and straight men in 
      wild man groups. Although there are some differences, for 
 instance in the deity or deities invoked, the thaumaturgy, or ritual 
   structure, remains similar throughout. General meetings are held 
    on the sabbats eight times a year, and networking is constant. 
    Wicca and Neopaganism remain far more gay-friendly than JCIZ.
 Although racial diversity endures as an ideal in Wicca, it is sadly 
   lacking in reality. This failure to rainbow the Craft is deeply 
 disturbing to its members. It is almost certain that the reason for 
  the phenomenon of whitebread Wicca is that, for racial minorities, 
   the intensity and immediacy of their oppressed condition drives 
       gender and ecological concerns to the periphery if their 
    awareness. Also, it only stands to reason that they would feel 
  uncomfortable participating in ritual as the token minority, or at 
   best as one of the few. It is very likely that, despite the best 
  intentions of the other participants, such an experience serves to 
     reinforce, rather than relieve, the awkwardness and sense of 
     difference for which racial minorities would seek religious 
    comfort. Wiccans, having experienced discrimination themselves 
      on the religious front, understand these impediments, and 
                 continue to remain open and hopeful.
    Lastly, the Wiccan division of deity has inadvertently had the 
     corollary of evolving lists of masculine and feminine gender 
 attributes that seem disturbingly similar to those of the JCIZ, only 
    wrapped in positive-regard packaging. Also, in some cases, the 
    Wiccan backlash against patriarchy has swung the pendulum too 
  far in the opposite direction, subjecting men to the same ridicule 
 and discrimination that the phallocentrists previously reserved for 
     women. Wiccans must be on guard that they do not pigeonhole 
   individuals into these archetypes, and thus descend the slippery 
    slope into the very bigotry and gender expectations that many 
                     have joined Wicca to escape.

Next: A Code Of Ethics for Teachers of the Wicca