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Subject:Gender and Celtic spirituality
Time:10:29 pm
Current Mood:contemplativecontemplative
I was poking around over at Witchvox earlier this evening and was reading the articles in the "gay" section. There are about 25 of them from the past five or six years. All of them seem to deal exclusively with Wicca and its everpresent gender-based dualism. I don't resonate with the binary. My spirituality is about more than breeding and being the "nurturer." We may all bear spiritual/magical children, but my spiritual life is not defined by my breasts and vagina, nor are the mysteries I pursue. I genuinely have no interest in "women's mysteries" that are all about menstruation and birthing, and I never have. Trying to fit everything into that overarching dynamic is as oppressive in its way as stereotyped gender roles in western secular society.



I found myself thinking about all the mysteries that don't involve gender, and all those mysteries that are transformative and boundary-transcending that we find in Celtic mythologies. Some of it is shapeshifting. Some of it is animist, and the irrelevance of "gender" to a stone spirit or a river spirit. Some of it is simply moving away from the idea that anything round is feminine and anything pointy is masculine. Some of it is gender-role-transgressive deity and the loud hints we have about the place of non-binary gender in spiritual roles in Celtic society.

Part of this is centered around my filidecht studies over the years, of course. Pursuit of imbas has no gender. It is an intense mystery and a completely transformative pursuit. Imbas itself is genderless while still being generative; it has nothing to do with "procreation" per se and needs no dualism for its generation. The fili in the otherworld may have no awareness of gender whatsoever, or their gender and awareness of it may be very different than that of their physical, waking life body. With the prevelance of shapeshifting in the myths, even species is not a given, so why should gender be any different?

When one of the primary symbols of a spiritual path is the triskele it becomes difficult to push everything into an either/or dynamic. I'm curious about how people express non-gendered, non-dualistic mysteries in their pursuit of Celtic Reconstructionist spirituality and the various mysteries contained within it. We can assign "masculine" and "feminine" labels to things, but how much of this is culturally driven by the original context, and how much is our modern western gloss on a worldview we have only a small grasp of?

When a critical metaphor of the spiritual path is the mist between the worlds, what is neither here-nor-there, day-nor-night, male-nor-female, what does it mean for how we structure our own selves and our self-perceptions? The three internal cauldrons are not classified as masculine or feminine, they are within each of us. Just because they're cauldrons doesn't mean they're automatically feminine. Just because they're active and mobile doesn't mean they're going to be masculine. Not all cauldrons are wombs, just as not all spears are phalluses. The cauldrons, like the mists, are liminal places where our world and the Otherworlds touch. They are between -- and note that it's not just a single Otherworld we're talking about here, so even that particular here/there dichotomy isn't, strictly speaking, a binary function. There are many Otherworlds each with different characteristics and inhabitants.

When you go out into the wilderness seeking poetry, risking madness and death, gender is irrelevant. What matters is your preparation, your knowledge, and your ability to transform yourself in accordance with the demands of the spirits you meet. What matters is your willingness to die and be reborn, allowing yourself to be filled with the brilliant light and force of imbas. What matters is bringing it back to the people so that it changes lives for the better.
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freakchylde
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Time:2006-09-28 01:12 pm (UTC)
For me, I see it more as masculine, feminine, and that of both. Linguistically speaking, the other line would be neuter. Being that we are a spirituality that is trinary vs. binary, there is space for the recognization of things that are neither one, nor the other. I always describe myself as an in-betweener, veil-walker, something in the middle, as I'm neither one nor the other. Not terribly interested in the feminine mysteries either, despite being obviously female, and I tend to lean more towards the masculine mysteries, or those that don't really involve gender at all. Well, actually, I take the masculine and drop the gender, as there were obvious representations in the myths of women who excelled in what we westerners describe as traditional male roles. I'll write more as I digest everything.
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erynn999
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Time:2006-09-29 08:26 am (UTC)
I'd be interested in seeing what else you think on the subject. When dealing with imbas, particularly, I find it a very non-gendered (but not "neuter") complex of mystery and wisdom. I definitely agree on the neither one nor the other thing -- and I'm not "both" in any classic way. I think there are third options that are entirely outside of a linear/binary scale. "Neuter" to me implies something on that linear scale that's between one end and the other, but what happens when you twist reality a little and get a third dimension? Suddenly that line becomes limiting and doesn't describe reality anymore. I think that's really where the mists are.
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freakchylde
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Time:2006-10-18 02:50 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to let you know that I'm still pondering. I have a draft of my ideas on one of my locked blogs, and I'm still developing them. I just wanted to note, that in use of the term Neuter, it's not necessarily that it's somewhere between, just that it's not one or the other. As in language, the use of it is for collective nouns, as well as nouns that don't really have a gender to them. In use of the triskele, you have 3 branches, you could use one as the female, one as the male and one as the "other". Least, that's the basis of the idea I'm working with right now.
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erynn999
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Time:2006-10-21 01:31 am (UTC)
I'll be interested in seeing what you have to say about it, certainly. I know that linguistically Neuter is its own thing. I'm currently looking at the triskele's triad itself as being nongendered, but your reading of it is just as relevant and applicable to most things as mine.
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bowenw
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Time:2006-12-07 03:49 pm (UTC)
Wow. This is a really good discussion. One of the many reasons I walked away from Wicca and towards Druidry was the binary outlook of Wicca. Now I have run across that a wee bit in some of the druid rituals I have been to but its no where near as rampant as it is in Wicca.

I feel that one branch of the triskele is masculine (but that doesnt necessarily mean male) one branch is feminine (but again that doesnt necessarily mean female) and the third branch is other and beyond almost beyond comprehension. All together they twist and swirl and give us insight, Imbas, Awen, etc...if we listen. All together they make us whole.
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erynn999
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Time:2006-12-09 02:45 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm still thinking about this, though I'm tending to want to avoid the whole masculine/feminine/neuter thing. I know that resonates pretty well for others, but I'm kind of in a different space about it. Right now I'm near the end of a 20 day ritual cycle, and after that I'll see about expanding on the idea.
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