This post is something that has brewing in my mind and so has formulated finally inspired by several posts. I have given some attention recently to feminism as it relates to Ares and also the prolific appearance of the focus on the divine feminine in feministic paganism to the exclusion of the gods, but I wanted to take the opportunity to talk more about these relationships that women (and not to be exclusive but for clarity I am speaking of cis-gender women as this is the experience I can speak from) can potentially have with goddesses and gods, and its value.
The main focus of this subject is that we have everyone telling us how we should relate to goddesses and gods. We have other women telling us that we should focus on goddesses, and develop our strongest relationships with them, tocelebrate the womb and all that that as cis-gender women we experience. We are told that (with the exception of a few seemingly not threatening gods) that gods, like men, are repressive. We are fed with false histories of male gods suppressing goddesses much in the way that women have experienced historical suppression by men. Thus we are told by women that our allegiance, as women, is to the worship of the “great goddess” and other goddesses. Because we are essentially in the image of the goddesses, with wombs that can potentially bring forth new life, with breasts that can potentially nurse young (never mind that not all women have children, nor do all goddesses give birth or are related to birth and nursing), and thus embody everything that is nurturing, giving…and a list of other “feminine traits.” To worship goddesses is to embrace some sacred mystery of womanhood. A lot of goddess spirituality literature that is common in paganism beats this particular drum with a passion. Not only that but it is regarded as commonly acceptable in the pagan “community” at large for women to go nuts about their goddess(es), because we are celebrating something of ourselves. Of course this often brings up certain issues of inclusion and exclusion, oftentimes excluding transsexual women from the club so to speak because they are not cis-gender women and therefore do not possess the right reproductive potential and equipment given by nature. This causes great emotional harm to transgender women who feel a desire and need to have a strong relationship with a goddess in their lives. However what people also do not realize is that this attitude of goddess worship is necessary to cis-gender women is also harmful to us, because it demands that we adhere to a doctrine in which we place primary importance in our spiritual lives on a goddess figure due to our “plumbing”. For us this means that we are defined in value, in our spiritual value, by our reproductive value. This is no better than those who have held in the opinion for generations that a women had no value for anything but bearing sons (and cooking and cleaning..but these were secondary and for the wealthy a non-issue). And yet for women who have the strongest relationships with a god rather than a goddess, and especially if it is not one of those preapproved gods, we tend to get marginalized or our own spiritual needs ignored by other women. For myself, despite having been devoted to Artemis for a little over a decade before engaging in a deeper relationship with Apollon, my spiritual focus is on Apollon. I have goddesses and other gods I worship in my household, I am after all a polytheist, and I value these goddesses as much as the gods. But it is not a goddess to whom my life is dedicated…nor do I see any reason for it to be. There are things I take to my goddesses very rarely that are more female related matters, but I feel no need to establish a deeper relationship with a goddess on the basis of my gender, when it is Apollon who calls me.
Then on the other hand we have men, who don’t seem to particularly care about our relationships to goddesses, but those who want to dictate our relationships with our gods and how they manifest. It is almost as if the goddess zone was ok, but entering into the manly zone by having relationships with gods that we are somehow an intruder (though in the sake of fairness I have seen men treated this way by the above mentioned women when they are particularly devoted to a goddess too). If we happen to be heterosexual identifying cis-gender women, then we are criticized for placing to much personal emphasis on heterosexual pairings of the gods in myth and sometimes implied that we ignore homosexual pairings….which seems further from the truth to me, even if we talk about myths that relate to our own spiritual experiences as heterosexual cis-gender females, I don’t know any devotee of a god who outright ignores male loves of their god. For myself Hyakinthos is one of my favored loves of Apollon, second to Kyrene, and it is with great pleasure that I celebrate the Hyakinthia every year. I rarely publically talk about Hyakinthos, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a significant part of my spiritual practices. Nor does it mean that I am ignoring other loves of Apollon because I tend to focus on female loves, as one who identifies as a female. I naturally expect that other women will likewise identify stronger with other females in the myth of their god they are devoted, just as I am not surprised when members of the GBLT community among pagans and polytheists identify with lovers that reflect their own spiritual experiences and relationships with their gods. But this doesn’t mean that either is ignoring the other loves of their god. And yet I have seen recent railing against heterosexual cis-gender women and their exclusive heterosexual language as being alienating to other worshipers who have a relationship with the god…and admonishments of how we should be behaving. Oh and please no girlish squeeing about the gods, because where it is ok to squee over a million different things when it comes to the goddesses, we are just being annoying when we do so about the gods. Essentially it seems as if we are being told that if we are going to be devoted to male gods then we need to be “one of the guys” among other worshipers and devotees of the god rather than express ourselves in our own ways which may be uncomfortably too feminine for other folks. But so what? It is our own experiences and spiritual life.
And that is the basic point, as women what we do and talk about (and yeah we do tend to be more vocal than our male counterparts) is about what is important to us in our relationship with the god (or goddess) we are devoted to. You don’t have to like what we say (the you being a general you applicable to either women or men as discussed above), but that doesn’t give you right to criticize our spiritual expression. Now I can understand criticizing historical inaccuracies, but criticizing personal worship and ones relationship with the gods and how they talk about their relationship with the gods is demeaning. Every relationship developed with a god or goddess is unique and should be treated that way. None should be held as the standard for another, but nor should it be dismissed as not meeting the standard set up by someone else. What god or goddess we are attracted to, that we devote ourselves to, is going to vary among women just as it does among men. But as we are spiritual beings and far more than our biological bodies, and as I believe in reincarnation I also believe that we go through lives experiencing different biological sexes, so too is our relationship with a god or goddess far more than our biological bodies. We may focus on certain experiences and calls in this life, but that doesn’t mean that it is the sum and whole of our relationship with the gods. After all the gods themselves don’t possesses biological bodies and therefore don’t have an ascribed biological sex….rather their “gender” is often determined by prescription of their activity and their nature, and is something that is often quite fluid as a god has more than once appeared as a woman, a goddess appeared as a man. However, the value that a woman may get from her relationship with a god can be just as profound in a different way as that which a woman gets from her relationship with a goddess, because it is a relationship that fulfills something within us and inspires us with great feeling of devotion and love.
And these relationship can vary, it can be paternal, maternal, mentor, master, lover, spousal etc. There are many ways in which one may feel that their relationship has taken form with a deity that they are devoted to, and this seems particularly true among many women who quickly define what kind of relationship they feel manifesting. But whatever the relationship may be it is between them and their gods ultimately, and not open for commentary. No one else has an insight into how our relationship take form in our lives with our gods. We, and our gods, are the only ones privy to that particular bit of knowledge. But these relationships also serve a purpose too, because they feel very particular functions in our emotional and spiritual lives.
Among newbies I understand that this can sometimes be annoying. Especially among girls. It often seems that girls start developing relationships with whatever deity they feel they are devoted to at fairly young ages. I was 14 when I was devoted to Artemis. And with the excitement of all the newness, well young girls who are devoted can be annoying. Most of us ladies have went through that phase…although many of us who have been around for a while are fervently thankful that we didn’t have internet access or the kind of networking that exists today to “tell all”. Although I have read old diary entries and I admit I was just annoying back then. I am sure I still occasionally have my moments of annoying in fact! It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but sometimes being mindful that their behavior is typically a phase that they will grow out of does help. And otherwise they are finding something meaningful in their relationship with their god/dess.
At the end of the day being a woman doesn’t determine by some fateful fairy wand which deity we will experience that profound love and devotion for to dedicate ourselves (and admittedly there are those who don’t feel it for any god or goddess), and nor should it place expectations upon us in how we carry out our spiritual lives or how our relationships with our deities manifest. It all plays out individually, with each having her own story to tell. And that is really how it should be. Everyone own their own story and has their right to tell it as it is.