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Gender and Nature in Contemporary

                           by Salamantis
   In recent decades, several social and political movements have 
       had profound impacts upon the popular Western psyche. 
    Collectively, they pose a powerful challenge to religiously 
    grounded relational paradigms which until recently have been 
   accepted almost without question. These movements include the 
human rights trio (ethnic/racial civil rights, lesbian/gay rights and 
                  feminism) and environmentalism.
  The last two of these, feminism and environmentalism, have been 
  converging to the degree that a common discipline, ecofeminism, 
  has been born. Although some affinities exist between these two 
  and the others, the only solid connection seems to be the choice 
 by some feminists of lesbianism on ideological grounds in spite of 
  their personal sexual preferences. What could the womenÌs rights 
      movement have in common with the attempt to preserve and 
  protect our planetary ecology which the homosexual and nonwhite 
  rights movements do not share? To answer this question, we must 
   take a look at the paradigm they are all opposing, and in what 
                    ways each of them oppose it.
                        Our Present Paradigm
  This paradigm is drawn from the moral laws set down in the holy 
        texts of the religions comprising mainstream Western 
        Monotheism. These religions mainly include Judaism, 
  Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism; their texts include the 
  Bible, the Koran and the Zend Avesta. For purposes of simplicity 
         and brevity, we shall call this the JCIZ paradigm.
   JCIZ postulates a single omniscient, omnipotent and relatively 
   benevolent male deity (Jahweh, Jehovah, God or Lord, Allah or 
      Ahura Mazda), who created and populated the world but is 
 essentially transcendent with respect to it. This deity is opposed 
     by another somewhat less knowing and powerful, relatively 
  malevolent male deity (Lucifer, the Devil, Shaitan or Ahriman), 
 who is also essentially supernatural. These two opposed forces of 
   good and evil, light and darkness, contend with each other by 
  intervening in our affairs. Each of us shall spend eternity with 
  whichever one he or she allies with; in any case this earth is a 
    temporary inconvenience, unimportant in the greater order of 
things. It is in our interest to ally ourselves with the Ïgood guyÓ, 
   and we know how to do this because HeÌs thoughtfully sent us a 
    male savior or prophet or avatar (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed or 
                   Zarathustra) to so inform us.
    We are now in a position to understand the special affinity 
      between feminism and environmentalism. Homosexuality is 
      condemned and slavery condoned in the JCIZ, but if these 
       tendencies were reversed, it would not compromise the 
   underpinnings of the theological structure; gay/lesbian rights 
 identical to those of straights and white/nonwhite equality are no 
 metaphysical threat to the integrity of the system. The religious 
  ramifications of feminism and environmentalism, however, strike 
it to its very core. By criticizing the consequences of following the 
 JCIZ, they indict as immoral or unwise the premises upon which it 
     is based, and do so from the perspective of an alternative 
      paradigm which derives from many pagan sources past and 
            present, but which is crystallized in Wicca.
In the JCIZ, all deities are male, the first human is male, and any 
  central prophets or saviors are male. In the cosmic play, women 
    are relegated to the roles of dupe, slave, rebellious whore, 
   broodmare and submissive saint. Mary DalyÌs dictum that if God 
 is male, the male is God has the existential corollary, within the 
   JCIZ, of reducing females to nothing. In order to follow GodÌs 
 plan, women must submit to their husbandsÌ rule in particular, and 
 to male authority in general. Men may have to attend the school of 
   hard knocks, but women are stuck with their homework. They are 
to raise their many children but not their voices, for fear of getting 
    knocked about themselves. This excision of the feminine from 
spiritual significance and their resulting societal subservience has 
   provoked, within many contemporary women, a soul alienation of 
    Marxian proportions. Revolt against the predominance of this 
   divine chain of being has followed, and the guerillas have not 
    been exclusively female. Some men have come to feel cramped 
     and pigeonholed in the role of overseer on the domination 
  plantation and degraded and ashamed of what is expected of them 
  there. They have therefore joined the rebellion against the JCIZ 
 gender hierarchy, agreeing with Martin Luther King that you canÌt 
   hold folks down in a ditch unless you climb down in there with 
    them. As women and men come to the practical conclusion that 
 only equality of rights, responsibilities and opportunities works, 
  however, they also tend to come to the spiritual conclusion that 
  this is true because the sexes equally approach divinity. This, 
  however, would require deity to be comprised of masculinity and 
 femininity in equal measure, which of course directly contradicts 
                             the JCIZ.
 In the JCIZ, the Creator packed a hostile and bountiful world like 
   a reluctant lunchbox for fallen humanity (read man) to suffer, 
   endure, dominate, subdue and exploit for his own benefit. This 
 divine license for exploitation without regard to consequences in 
 the name of greed has borne bitter fruit. Because we have not held 
   our common home in reverence, or honored her as sacred to us, 
 we have felt free to pollute, pillage, rape and otherwise profane 
  her. Yet, after fouling our own nest, we seem surprised to find 
       ourselves surrounded by human filth, with the blood of 
   extinguished comrade species crying out inconsolably from the 
  bleak bare ground. We are coming painfully to the understanding 
that the earth is our source and foundation, and that poisoning and 
      impoverishing her can only hasten our own hollow demise. 
    However, the grasping of the fact that we are only a part of 
     something much older, wiser, grander and more complex than 
     ourselves draws us inexorably to an experience of awe and 
  sublimity in the presence of the sheer marvel of it. We begin to 
 see ourselves as tiny threads, which, by some miracle, are able to 
 sense the weave of a gigantic dancing tapestry (and the reality is 
   much more wondrous than that). The earth becomes hallowed for 
 us. But this contradicts the JCIZ premise that it is transcendent 
      Deity which is holy, not a nature which, compared to the 
               supernatural, must remain substandard.
    Ecological degradation may be divided into natural resource 
  depletion and biosphere pollution, but both have overpopulation 
   as a root cause. Overpopulation drives us like lemmings to mow 
 our global lungs for farmland, lumber and cattle pasture, sapping 
  species diversity in the process. It drives us to strip-mine our 
eroding soil to build skyscrapers, cars and soda cans. It drives us 
      to burn our fossil fuels, overheating our atmosphere and 
  decimating our ozone sunscreen for the sake of light, mobility, 
     plastic containers and air-conditioned comfort for a small 
 percentage of our teeming billions. It drives us to turn our over-
    fished oceans into toxic cesspools when our rivers bear our 
       pesticides, factory byproducts and sewage to the seas. 
  Furthermore, the resulting competition for room and resources on 
a shrinking sphere has led our infant race to nurse the barrel of the 
                            nuclear gun.
     It is ecologically imperative that we control our rate of 
   reproduction generally, and the fundamental pillar of feminism 
  that women must have the right to control their own reproduction 
 individually. To this dovetailing of the calls of personal freedom 
    and global necessity, the JCIZ responds with an iron demand 
   frozen for thousands of years in the face of catastrophically 
     changing circumstances; you must be fruitful and multiply.
    The realization that birth control is both a feminist and an 
      environmental issue is one of many pattern matches which 
 ecofeminists have found. They follow the clue given by the phrase 
  ÎMother NatureÌ to the conclusion that women and the earth have 
     both been victimized by the same attitudes of subjection, 
rapaciousness, violation, penetration of virgin territory, stripping, 
   despoiling and defloration. They consider this an unfortunate 
  result of the separation of the sexes into godlike, transcendent 
     man and earthy, immanent woman, into man as mind and woman 
  as body, found in the JCIZ. This partition, for ecofeminists, is 
    based on the differing positions of the sexes with regard to 
  childbirth; men observe, women participate. Women also, like the 
 earth, produce food, and can be planted with seed when in season; 
       hence the ancient occurrence of the term ÎplowingÌ for 
 Sexist theological Cartesianism, however, is untenable; the JCIZÌs 
gender-based spirit/flesh dichotomy has been an injurious illusion. 
    Self-aware parts of nature are still woven into the web they 
    perceive. Mind, whether abstract or concrete, and of either 
   gender, is a bodily based, earthly and evolutionarily emergent 
    The main division within ecofeminism is between ÎgenderÌ and 
   ÎnatureÌ ecofeminists. The ÎgenderÌ ecofeminists believe that 
  male-female relationships are the source of a domination pattern 
 that is generalized to apply to culture-nature relationships, and 
that if we replace it with an egalitarian sexual partnership pattern, 
  our environmental abuse will stop. ÎNatureÌ ecofeminists believe 
 just the opposite; that replacing the egocentric, exploitative and 
  uncaring attitudes underlying environmental abuse with valuing, 
       consequence based stewardship will repair male-female 
  relationships by osmosis. I think that the domination pattern is 
   imprinted during child-rearing, and that to end it, we have to 
       embrace noncoercive methods of socializing our young.
                    The Challenge of Neopaganism
                       Neopaganism Generally
  The Neopagan alternatives to the JCIZ paradigm trace their roots 
   to prehistoric Eurasian and African tribal and shamanic nature 
   religions, and count the Amerindian and Australian aboriginal 
     traditions as siblings. From them, Pagans have taken their 
 reverence for the earth and their celebration of the more feminine 
   principles of divinity. They generally create sacred space by 
  casting a circle (which is the intersection between a sanctified 
   sphere and the ground), and calling the four directions, which 
 correspond to the four elements, and to the divisions of a day, a 
 moon cycle, a year and a lifetime, and much else. Their holy days 
 fall on the solstices and the equinoxes, on the midpoints between 
 them (the cross-quarters), and/or on full moons. In addition, they 
  honor personal rites of passage; such as birth, a naming of the 
  child (sometimes called wiccaning), puberty, marriage (known as 
     handfasting), menopause (croning), and death. Contemporary 
   neopagan groups include the Fellowship of Isis, Ar n Draiocht 
   Fein (Our Own Druidism), the Church of all Worlds, Asatru and 
                 the Church of the Eternal Source.
                         Wicca Specifically
All the above is true of Wicca, but when casting their circles most 
   also call the Earth Mother, Sky Father, and Center, this last 
representing both the individual selves of the participants and the 
   common center they create by joining together. They also thank 
       and dismiss them when they open their circles upon the 
     conclusion of their ritual workings.Wicca follows a gender-
     complementary immanent duotheism comprised of a God and a 
   Goddess; for Wicca, deity is double and non-transcendent. The 
 distinctions between them entail neither mutual hostility nor the 
  subservience of either to the other, but instead require the co-
      presence in dynamic symmetry of these differing yet equi-
      primordial principles for circumstances to proceed. The 
fundamentalist belief in the actual existence of these deities is not 
  a prerequisite for becoming Wiccan. In fact, many, if not most, 
   Wiccans view the Earth Mother and Sky Father as archetypes in 
  the Jungian sense, and as lenses through which to apprehend, and 
  grasp in concrete, human-friendly terms, a totality which is too 
  vast and ineffable to be circumscribed by finite minds. Wiccans 
   consider all Goddesses and Gods throughout history as cultural 
   manifestations of these principles, revel in the diversity of 
   expression that they find, and borrow whatever they find that 
 works for them. In this sense, Wicca does not enslave and use its 
adherents; rather it is the case that Wicca is made use of by them, 
     as a spiritual tool with which to focus their passions and 
  intentions upon the realizations of their plans and desires. The 
    conceptions and attributes surrounding these deities are not 
inscribed for all time in any holy text, but are flexible, for Wicca 
  is an evolving, pragmatic religion with little dogmatic baggage.
Wicca's central ritual, the Great Rite, consists of dipping a dagger 
    in a chalice of wine in symbolic intercourse. The Christian 
   Communion, in contrast, is symbolic cannibalism.Wicca has one 
    major law, the Law of Three (any action, whether well or ill 
     intentioned, is returned to its source threefold), and one 
    commandment, the Wiccan Rede (Îif it harms none, do what you 
      willÌ). While these admonishments do emphasize personal 
     freedom, they link it to personal responsibility, and the 
 consequences of following them are a strict self-discipline, since 
   one is expected to strive not to harm oneself, others, or the 
    biosphere we share. Their more magickal practices include a 
 Santeria-like invocation of the masculine principle by the priest 
  and of the feminine principle by the priestess (the Drawing Down 
      of the Sun or Moon), and Raising the Cone of Power. This 
practice involves an entering of the group into a shamanic state of 
  consciousness, usually by means of some combination of dancing, 
  chanting and drumming, preparatory to attempts at divination or 
     The Earth Mother represents the foundation or substrate of 
  change; the matter underlying form, the being beneath becoming. 
  She is omnipresent, although aspects of her may undergo periodic 
     change. She never dies. The feminine principle of divinity 
      encompasses the cyclical-intuitive, synthesizing, fecund-
  formative, nourishing aspect, with its emphases on the personal 
   and collective dream worlds, and on relatedness.The Sky Father 
  represents the changes of form that must occur in the life cycle 
 and food chain. He withdraws and returns, and never lingers. He is 
 the God of the inseparability of hunter and prey, and of the cycle 
 of vegetation. He is born of the Mother, grows, flowers and dies, 
   to be reborn of his own seed the following year. The masculine 
  principle of divinity encompasses the linear-logical, analyzing, 
       fertilizing aspect, with its emphases on ego, task and 
individuality.A combination of these traits is preferable to either 
 alone, and all people are considered to have their own particular 
 ratios of these attribute sets; their own yin-yang or anima-animus 
      Modern Wicca publicly began in 1949 when Gerald Gardner 
  published ÏHigh MagicÌs AidÓ, a book of Wiccan ritual disguised 
    as historical fiction. He then, in collaboration with Doreen 
      Valiente, published ÏWitchcraft TodayÓ in 1954 and ÏThe 
    Meaning of WitchcraftÓ in 1959. Although other Wiccan forms 
    exist, Gardnerian Wicca and an offshoot (Alexandrian Wicca, 
 after its founder Alex Sanders) remain the core Wiccan traditions. 
     Other important Wiccan theorists include Janet and Stewart 
                  Farrar, Starhawk and Z Budapest.
              WiccanTheo/alogy and the Foundations of 
                   Feminism and Environmentalism
 In a religion in which the God and the Goddess are equi-potential 
    (possess complementary and equal status), gender equality is 
     mandated rather than forbidden. Freedom of societally and 
 planetarily responsible choice belongs to all. In a religion that 
   urges its adherents to love the earth as a mother, rather than 
 resenting and coveting her as a rich, conquerable hostile kingdom, 
children would be raised from birth to treat her with restraint and 
   respect, and to pass her on to their children in as pristine a 
  condition as possible. There is, in fact, a kind of Wiccan Eden 
   myth; a vision of a prehistoric peaceful eco-friendly agrarian 
  matriarchy which was overthrown by males banished for violence, 
  who banded together to conquer and enslave their former society 
   and pillage its lands. This Edenic vision is more admired than 
   believed. Most Wiccans desire a ÎreturnÌ to this Eden, even if 
             humanity has never in reality been there.
   Feminists and environmentalists, particularly ecofeminists and 
 deep ecologists, share this vision for the future; it is what they 
 strive for. It is therefore to be expected that many of them would 
 appropriate a belief system possessing sensibilities so in harmony 
 with their hopes, goals, desires and dreams. If the Wiccan Utopia 
is theirs also, adoption seems eminently reasonable. In fact, these 
    movements receive both support and guidance from Wicca, and 
                        give both in return.
      Wicca and ScienceWiccaÌs attitude toward science is one 
of intense interest and positive regard, for WiccaÌs perspective of 
 pragmatic self-conscious evolution and its anti-dogmatic character 
  resemble scientific ideals. Science, for Wicca, is attempting to 
 reveal the underlying nature of immanent divinity, and as such is 
     performing a sacred service. In addition, LovelockÌs Gaia 
hypothesis, that the entire biosphere is an evolving, self-regulating 
      totality, appears to be to Wiccans the beginning of the 
    confirmation of their ecological suspicions, and the recent 
 comparisons of gender, brain structure and cognitive style bolster 
the validity of their chosen deity attributes. They for the most part 
  accept that humanity creates divinity in its own image, and feel 
flattered that science is indicating that they in particular are doing 
                          it rather well.
   WiccaÌs deities form a heterosexual couple, and sex with oneÌs 
 significant other is regarded as a sacrament. This has caused gays 
    and lesbians to sometimes feel uneasy with the energy in the 
  circle. For this reason, some gay men have formed Faerie circles 
    and some lesbians have embraced Dianic Wicca. Straight women 
will also meet in full moon circles, or esbats, and straight men in 
     wild man groups. Although there are some differences, for 
instance in the deity or deities invoked, the thaumaturgy, or ritual 
  structure, remains similar throughout. General meetings are held 
   on the sabbats eight times a year, and networking is constant. 
   Wicca and Neopaganism remain far more gay-friendly than JCIZ.
Although racial diversity endures as an ideal in Wicca, it is sadly 
  lacking in reality. This failure to rainbow the Craft is deeply 
disturbing to its members. It is almost certain that the reason for 
 the phenomenon of whitebread Wicca is that, for racial minorities, 
  the intensity and immediacy of their oppressed condition drives 
      gender and ecological concerns to the periphery if their 
   awareness. Also, it only stands to reason that they would feel 
 uncomfortable participating in ritual as the token minority, or at 
  best as one of the few. It is very likely that, despite the best 
 intentions of the other participants, such an experience serves to 
    reinforce, rather than relieve, the awkwardness and sense of 
    difference for which racial minorities would seek religious 
   comfort. Wiccans, having experienced discrimination themselves 
     on the religious front, understand these impediments, and 
                continue to remain open and hopeful.
   Lastly, the Wiccan division of deity has inadvertently had the 
    corollary of evolving lists of masculine and feminine gender 
attributes that seem disturbingly similar to those of the JCIZ, only 
   wrapped in positive-regard packaging. Also, in some cases, the 
   Wiccan backlash against patriarchy has swung the pendulum too 
 far in the opposite direction, subjecting men to the same ridicule 
and discrimination that the phallocentrists previously reserved for 
    women. Wiccans must be on guard that they do not pigeonhole 
  individuals into these archetypes, and thus descend the slippery 
   slope into the very bigotry and gender expectations that many 
                    have joined Wicca to escape.

Next: A Code Of Ethics for Teachers of the Wicca