Modern Witchcraft is strongly associated with feminist movements and feminists principles, so much so that it is often assumed that all Witches are feminists. This is often compounded by the fact that most practitioners, both in reality and the eyes of the rest of the world, are often Women.
I don’t want to loose sight of the fact that just as men can be Witches they can also be feminists but the very nature of the post is going to rightly place the emphasis on the female sex.
Revival of the Great Matriarchy
The idea of a great ancient matriarchal society of peace and harmony is the great fallicy created by Margaret Murray which is perpetuated by those who wish to throw down the Patriarchy. These individuals may simply desire for equality or even look to create a society which places women in a supreme role but the truth if the matter is such a society is unlikely to ever have existed. Whilst it is true that the role of women has ebbed and flowed throughout history; ranging from a position of equality to one of subservience, it is very hard to prove that there has ever been a society which placed women in complete ascendancy over men.
Gender Balance and Equality
Many Witchcraft and New Age traditions place an emphasis on the importance of feminine principle. If we accept the premis that society today is engendered by, and for the benifit of, cis-gendered white males and feminists seek to redress this imbalance. Most often this is done through equality and polarity with women both mortal and divine being placed in positions of respect and power equal to that of their male counterparts. Female Mysteries are explored alongside Male Mysteries and in some cases promoted above them. Stories in which divine female figures bestow kingship or promote the independence of the sex are just one way to achieve this. Another is to explore monuments and landscapes through the eyes of women and how they fit with women’s Mysteries of life death and rebirth this is not without risk. There are, to my mind unfortunate, cases where traditional myths are rewritten to exclude male characters. I don’t believe that this is actually helpful in anyway, particularly when ancient myths are completely canabalised to achieve the desired goal.
Whilst there are a number of Witchcraft Traditions which allow power/energy/tradition etc to flow down the female line this does not make them feminist traditions by default. Many of the same traditions utilise initiation by opposite sex (male to female/female to male) and have male founders who created structures which reveared Feminine Powers.
Women Only Traditions – the pros and cons
I am only aware of two female only witchcraft traditions; Filianism and Dianic Wicc . Dianic Wicca is probably the better know tradition and has historically has been a single gender tradition focusing on Women’s Mysteries. There are groups claiming Dianic lineage which may include male members at the disgression of the High Priestess however this lineage descends from Morgan McFarland and it’s links to the main Dianic stream is open to question.
Most readers will recognise Dianic Wicca as descending from Zsuzsanna Budapest and a women’s only tradition. Dianic Wicca follows the broad neo-Panagism traditions of the Wheel of the Year and incorporates the Wiccan Rede and Threefold Law with additionsl emphasis on issues affecting women. Rituals confronting issues of abuse, rape equality etc are common within Dianic Circles and particular coven and individuals will count bindings and hexing associated punishing male perpetrators as permissable under their laws. Such groups can create an environment where women who, for example, have been the victim of abuse may feel safe and in which they may feel more valued. Participants are encouraged to let go of pain and hurt caused by men they have encountered in their lives and whilst this is a healing environment for many it can have its problems.
One that particularly dogs the Dianic is the charge that that they are Transphobic, a charge that particularly came to the fore during PantheaCon 2012 where Z Budapest hosted the so called ‘Genetic Women Only‘ ritual. This sparked a massive debate about not only the transphobic language of Budapest and her supporters but the role of inclusiveness in public rituals.
Whilst I do believe that autonomous groups and traditions have the right and authority to structure themselves as they see fit I am someone who values inclusivety. If a tradition chooses to base admittance on genetic identify and birth gender and exclude people from their private rituals then so be it; transgender seekers would be better finding covers and groups able to accept them for who they are. The issue at PantheaCon 2012 was that these restrictions were brought to a public event and excluded not only Trans participants but by extension their LGBQ and Straight allies. My personal stance is that rituals taking place at an open even should either be inclusive or shouldn’t be hosted by the organiser at all. A tradition may organise a so called ‘fringe’ event, employing any criteria their tradition sees fit, but it should be unaffiliated with the main event.
Back To The Question – I am not a Feminist
I’ve drilled into some specific issues that I am particularly conscious of and hold strong feeling on but it’s time to get back to the question at hand.
I’ve never really labeled myself as a feminist and even in the course of writing this I couldn’t find relevance in the label. I’ve always believed in equality, not just amongst the sexes but in all things. Whilst of course I want to see women’s rights protected and made equal to those of men I don’t believe that they should be placed above the rights of men. In raising one group up we should be seeking to drag the group down but seek the highest standard and apply it to both.
To put it simply I don’t want to live in a Patriarchy, I don’t want to live in a Matriarchy. I want to live in an Equaliarchy (FYI I may have made that term up).