The following question was posted to my blog earlier today from a reader, and due to the nature of it, I thought the answer deserved its own blog post. Here is the question:
Off topic, but I guess this came up because of mother’s day. In recent times particularly on the internet there has been a lot of discussion about women what they should be like and what there place should be. You have feminists and counter feminists all telling women what they should do, with some saying its okay to submit to a male partner, and others being completely insulted by the idea. Saying women shouldn’t project sexuality, and others saying its okay for women to be sexual and embrace their sexualty. And saying a woman should behave and etc etc. But I was curious from your perspective being a female magician ( born in Cancer no less) and having worked with female spirits and feminine energy, and having understanding of the feminine from a spiritual perspective. So from your own life experience and knowledge of spiritual wisdom. What does being a woman and being feminine mean to you? Sorry for the long question.
So here is the “short” answer to such a broad and sweeping question. And if I’ve missed anything, feel free to comment below and we can have an ongoing dialogue.
I won’t lie. Being a woman isn’t easy (especially with gender stereotypes). Hell – being human isn’t easy. Neither is being different whether it’s sexuality, gender identity, or just having taboo interests. In some parts of the world, even being an intellectual makes you a target. So let me start by saying that I think a woman’s place is where ever she wants it to be. She should be whoever she feels like being. She should submit to a male partner if she chooses too. Or she can choose to be the dominant partner in the relationship. I, for example, have been the bread-winner in the family for the past four years by choice.
Basically, what I’m saying is I am of the stance that a woman can do and be and act like whatever the hell she wants.
That being said – I am a feminist (though I loathe the word because so many erroneously equate it with man-hater, which is not the case) in that I believe in equal rights for women. It goes beyond equal pay, the right to vote, being able to own property, and being able to wear pants. It means that just like men, we can be sexual if we choose to be, or we can choose to not be sexual. We can be complete bitches, or we can be soft and demure based on personal choice. We can be lovers, mothers, warriors, politicians, tyrants, sisters, your best friend, or your worst enemy. We all wear many different hats – regardless our gender.
The key to remember here is that just like men, women should have a CHOICE in who they are without someone else dictating (male or female) what or how we should be, based on a pre-determined gender role.
Now with regard to how this translates to spirituality – there are a lot of things people seem to think are different for males and females spiritually and magickally. I don’t know that I agree. Biology aside, I’m not sure I think women are more in touch with the feminine divine than a man can be. I’ve known many men who have deep and spiritual relationships with feminine god-forms. Just as I’ve known women who have deep and spiritual relationships with gods and Daemons of war. All genders host masculine and feminine traits, and each individual has their own unique mix of (what we deem) masculine and feminine qualities. I know males and females who are good a divination and spirit communications. I know both male and female magicians who are fantastic spell-casters and who are badasses at manifesting their will. I don’t think one gender excels in any one magickal discipline more than another just because my life experience has taught me that’s not the case. Admittedly I used to believe that women excelled in spirit communication and divination until I met males who were equally good in both arts.
I’ve known some males who are wonderful with children and very paternal, and some women who hate children with a passion and don’t have a maternal bone in their bodies. So to say all females are maternal would be nothing more than a stereotype. Not all women choose to have children and not all women are motherly (myself included).
To be female means one simple thing to me. We have a different biological chemical makeup and different reproductive equipment than men do. Basically, most biological women can grow a baby inside their body and biological men can’t. I, unfortunately, have been infertile since birth even though my physical shell does contain the right working “equipment” to bear children. Chemically and physically my body believes it’s a woman. On a deeper cellular level, my body actually thinks I’m male. So I guess you could say I’m a-sexual even though I am physically female, have female chemistry, and have always been sexually attracted to males.
So that’s the difference between men and women. Biology.
Now I know some women would argue with me that women are more caring or empathetic or maternal, and maybe their experience is different from mine and that’s fine. I would never assume I should dictate their experience of being a woman to them. I’ve never had children so that doesn’t weigh as heavily into my spirituality as it might a woman who has given birth. However, not having given birth does not keep me from understanding what it’s like to want to protect a child, or love someone so much that you would die for them. It doesn’t keep me from feeling deep emotion or hinder my empathy or ability to “see”. Just like being male doesn’t mean one is emotionless or unable to practice divination or understand the feminine divine.
When you step back from society and look at the constructs we create and try to force each other into – it’s laughable. Of course, we perceive things in gender because procreation is something that’s hardwired into the primal, instinctive parts of our brain. So as physical beings we have a pre-occupation with sex and gender identity because of this. In turn, we take that perspective and overlay it onto the spiritual world in a way we can better relate to it.
But the spirit world doesn’t really work that way. Gender is meaningless to non-physical beings and energies. This is why some practitioners will view Lucifer as female, and others will view Lucifer as male. Many Daemonic or spiritual forces take on a gender based on what the practitioner needs as an individual. So basically – we project gender onto the spiritual because WE need that association. I do think for a lot of people, their spiritual identity is closely interlinked with their gender identity and that’s great! As long as it works for them.
Admittedly my gender identity played a larger role in my spiritual identity when I was younger. When people are young, they have a very strong sex drive. Males are certainly wired differently in that their primal instinct is to spread their seed far and wide. Women, while we have a strong sex drive, are often driven to find strong males to father their children, and responsible ones to raise and provide for said children. Sometimes that male is one in the same, sometimes it isn’t. As a result, a lot of males live in-the-moment, and a lot of women are planners who think about the future. Notice I said a lot and not all. There are exceptions to every rule and I’ve met the exceptions. Also, some women, due to hormones, may be more outwardly emotional and cry at the drop of a hat, whereas you are less likely to find that trait in males.
Now that I’m in my forties and going into early peri-menopause – I don’t have the same sex drive I did in my twenties or even early thirties. Nor do I have the same hormonal make-up. So when it comes to sex and gender identity – it doesn’t matter nearly as much to me as it did when I was younger. Sex does not play as large a role in my magick. I lose my gender identity when I’m working in the temple. The only thing being a woman does make easier in my spiritual practice, is collecting blood for various rituals. When it comes to blood magick, biological women do have an advantage when it comes to menstruation providing us plenty of blood for whatever we might need it for.
Now that you’re done saying, “Ewww” I will say that being a woman who practices Daemonic Magick and who delves into Ceremonial techniques can sometimes be a bit trying. The occult world does produce its fair share of males who still believe women can’t practice this or that kind of magick. In some ceremonial orders and circles, females practicing the occult are minimized and downgraded to nothing more than vessels and sex objects.
While I don’t mind venerating procreation and a woman’s ability to bear children, both of which should be celebrated since without it none of us would exist, it is not the beginning and end of all magickal or spiritual work.
Do I believe one’s gender can affect the work? Certainly. A person’s chemical make-up (i.e. testosterone vs. estrogen) can affect the work, but we learn to navigate that as we go. This goes for both biological men and women, as well as transgender people going through hormone therapies. We learn to adjust our magickal work as we go, to get the desired result from the magick.
Back to the mundane part of being a woman who practices magick — there’s a reason I write as S. Connolly. I suspect my work would not be nearly as popular if I used “Stephanie Connolly” because there are a lot of men who would have passed right over it, even without consciously meaning to, because they may have immediately felt we had nothing in common due to gender. So I do feel there is some sexism in the occult. Some of it is unintentional and more a societal construct, but some of it is very deliberate. You’ll notice, for example, in the ceremonial magick and darker path realms that the number of women writers pales in comparison to males. This is slowly changing since more and more female practicing magicians are finding their voices.
So that’s my answer to your question. For everyone else – feel free to share how your gender identity affects your spirituality, or your relationship with the spirits and your magickal practice.