One key issue facing many modern pagans is the question of the relevance
of the God in what is often termed a "Goddess religion." I would like to
make it clear from the start that I agree that the God often gets short
shrift, and I am firmly in favor of the inclusion of male divine images.
However, I'm tired of these images always portraying a god who is
"virile," "active," "penetrating," "fertilizing," and "protecting." I find
that although non-patriarchal Goddess-forms are easily found among modern
pagans, non-patriarchal God-forms are far more elusive.*
Now, the argument I almost always hear in favor of including the male
divine goes like this: "We need to have both male and female represented,
because they are opposite energies which complement each other, in the
same way that the phallus and the vulva fit together."
Key question here: is biology destiny?
I would say that it does not need to be. And I would argue that
reproduction should not be presented as the key to all human interaction.
of all, not all sexual relationships lead to conception of children,
whether by chance or by choice. So the reproductive model of male/female
interaction, while it may hold true in some instances, really doesn't
apply to everyone.
Second of all, fertility (in the childbearing sense) is not the only
product of human relationships. From our relationships and friendships
come new ideas, creative works, laughter, and everything else that allows
us to grow and change. In this sense, the essential question is whether a
relationship is productive, not whether it is
But it is also extremely important to consider that not all human
relationships follow the active phallic male/ nurturing passive female
model (which is the one I most often hear depicted in modern pagan
deities). Supposedly, as long as we are valuing both roles instead of
denigrating the female role, that makes it all right to keep these roles
In reality, there are many men and women who relate to each other in a
non-sexual way - as friends (When Harry Met Sally notwithstanding),
as coworkers, as relatives. There are also many men who relate to men in
a sexual way, women who relate to women in a sexual way, and men and women
who relate to both genders in a sexual way. There are people who do not
identify with the categories "men" and "women." And many
romantic/sexual relationships between a man and a woman do not fall into
the active/passive model; I have witnessed and participated in many
"heterosexual" relationships to which this paradigm simply didn't
If I find this paradigm, when applied to humans, to be at best limited
(not representing the full range of relationships) and often limiting
(excluding those who do not feel that their relationships fall into this
category); if I resent the idea that women need to be "fertilized",
"penetrated", or "protected"; then why should I continue to use these
images to represent my gods?
Now, many feminist pagan traditions have used this argument to justify
working with a solely female deity, saying that various aspects of a
Goddess can represent all facets of human experience, and that this
solution will do away with dualistic dichotomies. I disagree with this
interpretation. If we, as women, don't feel included by the assumption
that the divine is male, I don't think we should expect men to feel
included by the assumption that the divine is female.
"All right, all right," you're saying by this point, "so you don't like
the existing God/Goddess polarity but you don't feel that it is fulfilling
to worship the divine solely as male or as female. So what in the name of
Hermes do you want from your divine images?"
Okay, I'll tell you! One god or goddess isn't enough for me; I want lots
of deities, to represent all the possibilities I can feel within myself
and within the people I know. I want them to be male, female, and
As far as male divinities go:
I want a god who is gentle, nurturing, and tender, who wears dresses and
cradles a baby and isn't afraid to cry.
I want a god who is strong and aggressive and likes to hunt (hey, even a
vegetarian can go for that Hunter image sometimes).
I want a fey god who is wild, untamed, and sweet, and plays his flutes and
lyres on the edge of the woods.
I want a sexy water god whose sweat, tears, and semen feed the rivers and
streams and give life to the earth.
And I want gods that I haven't even dreamed up yet.
Any of these gods might love a man, or a woman, or a transgendered
person, or no one at all. I don't think gods automatically need to have a
sexual orientation. I'm not sure that the way a deity relates to other
deities is necessarily hir most important characteristic, just as I don't
think that my relationships with other people are necessarily the most
important thing about me.
These ideas are most obviously appealing to GLBT pagans and those who
don't fit into stereotypical gender roles. In contrast, a lot of men
(heterosexual ones in particular) seem scared to think about honoring gods
who are "feminized" or "less masculine". But these men have nothing to
lose by allowing new paradigms to flourish. If you are a man who feels
that you are, in fact, best represented by a god who is virile penetrating
active fertilizing protecting etc., there is nothing to stop you from
continuing to work with such a god. Of course, you may have to accept that
not all women are going to want to be fertilized, protected, etc., since a
new plethora of possibilities for men goes along with the (more or less
already existing) plethora of possibilities for women. But you never
know - you might discover that something in you really connects
with a butch warrior goddess. You might learn new ways of relating to
other men, and new ways of relating to women as well. And you just might
learn something new about yourself along the way.
*Note: Interestingly, this mirrors popular culture, where images of
strong, assertive women are much more frequent than they were thirty
years ago, but images of men who are tender and compassionate with each
other as well as with women are few and far between!