Men and the Goddess
“Feminism and the Modern Pagan Male” was the title of a rather controversial talk, first given at Pagan Pathways in 2010, by Silverspear. As a result, some members of the audience expressed their desire to explore in greater detail the interesting question as to how modern pagan males can successfully embrace the Feminine Principle while still remaining faithful to their masculinity. The points raised at the time are even more relevant within the context of gender issues today.
That opening paragraph is an extract from an email that was sent to individuals on Pagan Pathways mailing list inviting them to take part in a discussion based on an earlier talk. The intention was to explore how pagan men could best relate to the Goddess, or the Feminine Principle as some describe it. Having spent many years studying this issue, the debate for me was rather frustrating because one or two individuals who attended the talk were reluctant to explore the issue in any depth.
With the benefit of hindsight, that is hardly surprising. The subject is undeniably complex, and particularly emotively challenging to women who consider that they are victims of a patriarchal culture and therefore feel passionate about defending the role of the Goddess in the world today. However, the purpose of the discussion was not to undermine the Goddess or attack Feminism in any way at all, but to examine how men can find the Goddess, or the Feminine Principle, within themselves without attempting to seek Her externally – such as in the opposite sex. In fact, a perusal of some feminist websites confirms that many women share the view that men have no right to project their gender fantasies on to women by regarding them as token goddesses.
This stance would certainly seem at odds with the position of some modern pagan traditions in which women are regarded as priestesses who embody the Feminine Principle, and men are regarded as priests who embody the god or Masculine Principle. Is there a problem with polarising the sexes in this way? The short answer, according to many, is yes, because of the primary focus on gender, which essentially is dualistic. Unfortunately, when one is entrenched in the idea of opposites, then envisaging an alternative paradigm becomes almost impossible. Pagans in particular, for example, tend to perceive the whole of Nature in terms of opposites, such as active/passive; male/female; dark/light, and so on, that any consideration of an alternative and holistic approach is often regarded as tantamount to heresy.
If men therefore deceive themselves by attempting to seek the Feminine Principle in women, then how can men succeed in finding it within themselves? Perhaps the first point to recognise, as many feminists remind us, is that often what we regard as Archetypes (universal and timeless qualities) are no more than man-made stereotypes. An example of that would be the creation of God in man’s own image. Perhaps there is a danger nowadays, in a reaction to so-called patriarchy, that women are creating the Goddess in their own image and falling into the same old gender trap.
In his quest for wholeness, a man must understand that integrating the Feminine Principle into his being has nothing to do with becoming effeminate, or 'going soft'; the idea that that which is feminine is entirely soft is based on masculine delusion. Rather, a man has to learn that male posturing and expressions of machismo are un-evolved guises or masks that men have been told to adopt to conceal their vulnerability lest they be seen in society's eyes not to have essential 'maleness'. However, the truth is that every man already possesses within himself the qualities described as 'feminine' but which are not to be confused with the erroneous, gender-centred and condescending patriarchal ideas of femininity. The quest might take a lifetime, or many lifetimes, but it is after all the only way for a man to become whole.