Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Men and Stereotypes

Over the past few days I have been reading other blogs and getting a feel for the pagan blog community. The vast majority of blogs are by women, hardly surprising as there are more women than men in the pagan community. One exception seems to be among the Druid community, where I have found more men, perhaps this will be turned upside down as I explore further, or maybe men connect Druidism with being male (this would be strange given classical references to powerful female Druids). Maybe we all want to emulate the greatest Druid of all:

(I hope I am not offending Druids, but I loved reading Asterix as a Kid)


Modern paganism certainly appeals more to women and this makes sense when you consider the intuitive aspects and how it follows the cycles of the year, the moon and life. Some articles say that it is because modern paganism is Goddess-centric but I disagree. I don't think any man who thinks about his beliefs follows the male Judeo-Christian God just because he is depicted as a man, or because there have been wars fought in his glory. It is true that Judeo-Christian religion leans towards male control and this is a shame. It is as much a shame that some modern pagans desire a lean towards female control. Some men might think this is already an established principle and be put off. In either case, imbalance feels wrong. There must be a place for men in neo-paganism for the sake of balance.

So how do you explain the prevalence of the female? The fact that the Goddess is considered powerful and equal to the God, an undisputed place leading practice and worship, the cyclical nature of the year and holding intuition in high regard might be a few reasons that women are attracted to the Old Religion. There is also a lack of dogma and plenty of free debate - so women have a strong voice and there is room for discussion - and women are great communicators and society builders, more so than most men.

How could men be put off Pagan ways? The first is mentioned above, the impression that it is completely matriarchal and that men are not welcome (although this is obviously untrue). Perhaps men have lost touch with the cycles of the year, society is less agricultural, and even the seasons can be side-stepped with modern techniques and tools. Seasonal food is available all year round. Fewer people follow hunting seasons (not a bad thing). We leave an air conditioned house, get in a car, go into an office, sit under strip lighting and drive home without experiencing the world outside. The seasons seem to merge. Of course this still happens to women, but women seem more naturally attuned to time, cycles and change and this might simply be because of the menstrual cycle. Perhaps modern women have this last, vital thread linking them to nature - a lifeline! Men probably have bodily cycles, but we are less attuned and the changes are probably more subtle. In the past men marked the cycle of time by task: ploughing, planting, harvesting, hunting. Now, unless we work outdoors, tasks are independent of season and weather.

Another thing that might put men off is the use of some quite kitsch Pagan imagery. Nowadays, some Old Religion archetypes are presented in a childish or camp way that does not have wide appeal with adult males. Lets take the fairy as an example. Most non-Pagan men, especially those with children, see fairies like this:


Now, if they have looked further into fairy lore they might be familiar with:


Still quite cute!

Unless they have read further, much further, they wont have seen fairies like this:


Or this:


Lets face it, Tinkerbell is aimed a little girls. She is cute nowadays, although J.M. Barrie originally depicted her a pretty jealous, selfish and vindictive. They start out liking Tinkerbell but this might lead to a broader interest in fairies and fairy lore as they grow up, culminating in a deeper knowledge of Fae Folklore. An interest in fairies might never develop in a male as he is never introduced to them. Also, the "darker" images of fairies might never crop up in a non-Pagan's life, unless they find them by some other path - as a folkloreist, goth or metal head.

And so we come to another sticking point for many men - Camp.

To lots of men, the Pagan world can seem quite camp, or even retro-camp. Dressing in robes, chanting, dancing in groves all seems a bit over the top. Of course some of it is just imagined. Now, unless you come from a culture that already celebrates campness, this can be a bit disconcerting. Many Pagans I have met also love rock and metal, already a heady mix of masculine and camp.


If you can see the irony in all this and are secure with your sexuality then there is probably no problem. Gay men seem to have no trouble with this and they too revel in the camp - they are famous for it! And why do they feel unabashed at celebrating this side of themselves? Probably because they can see the irony and fun in it, or are open to different ways of being. They can accept different types of sexuality and therefore different ways of thinking and expression. And I think that it is partly because of this, that there are many gay male pagans (not because they are like women, as some heterosexual men seem to think - in my view all men are equally masculine unless they feel trans-gender).

Paganism is heavily stereotyped and it takes a unique individual to see through all this, quite often a person who is stereotyped themselves!

As well as being stereotyped as cute and a bit camp, the history of Paganism is often sanitized. Even the darker stereotypes have become camp classics, aided by the horror genre. How camp (and admittedly cool) is The Wicker Man? (not the latest one, that was crap). But were the original wicker men camp, not if you were burned in one! And what else did the Celts enjoy? Collecting heads. And some of our heathen ancestors tied their enemies to trees by their own entrails. Tolund man was strangled. Odin lurks at gibbets and talks to hanged men. The list goes on...

I am not suggesting that Neo-Pagans should practice this in the modern age, we live in more enlightened times, but we should avoid presenting a squeeky clean Pagan past where everyone lived in blissful harmony with nature and where more gruesome practices were a perversion introduced by men. There are plenty of Goddesses and female deities that deal in the darker side.


Paganism Disney style has alot to answer for.

Unfortunately the average man (and often woman) in the street will see all this and conclude that Paganism is just silly. They might even feel threatened by it, express hatred for it or react violently against it.

It is a shame that many men feel like this and do not get the chance to explore beyond their preconceptions and assumptions. If they did, they might discover more about themselves and how the sacred male and sacred female in all of us balances and makes us who we are.

They might also get to thinking about the male principle and its place in the universe. Despite the apparent dominance of the Goddess, the male is still present. He courts the Goddess, is her lover, a father, a seer. He dies and is reborn. He brings light and fire, but also destruction. He is the Lord of the wild hunt. These are the male mysteries and I can't wait to explore them.

5 comments:

  1. I cannot speak for the Pagan community in the UK, but I most certainly can for the US (& speculate I will!). Here in the US, the explosion of the neo-Pagan (I know the term is passe now, but I am old-school) movement was linked very closely with the feminist movement, very, very closely. It was here in the States that Dianic Wicca really spread its wings & grew. I think the prevalence of the feminist theaologies is troublesome for some men (& women). So the perception of it being a "women's" religion makes sense to me, given our history over here. If you haven't read it, you might consider Chas S.Clifton's Her Hidden Children, it is a wonderful, honest, scholarly history of the neo-Pagan movement in the U.S. very much akin to Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon was for the UK, only shorter (...which in some ways is a relief! It took me a month to read Hutton's book!)

    There is also the problem (as you said) of movies & television like "The Craft," et. al. Girly, girly, girly, ad nauseam. You would think the Craft was only for teenage girls.

    There is also the issue of being rational. Men seem to be more attached to rationality (IMHO). All the intuitive stuff might be a hurdle they are not ready to jump.

    That said, as a college student/baby Pagan, I had more male Pagan friends than female. This may have had something to do with being friends with quite a few Ásatrú/Norse Heathens. If you look at Heathenry, you will find a bounty of male voices. I suspect there many even be more male Ásatrúar than females. But, I also knew some male Trad Witches, a solitary (& straight!) male Pictish Wiccan (originally from Scotland) & one of my dearest friends to this day, a gay male eclectic Wiccan. I promise you, those guys are out there. :)

    I love men & I bond well with men. I am very much drawn to more of the gods than goddesses, that is, when I am not talking to fungi, birds, canyons & whatnot. My current community has many women. They are mostly Goddess-oriented. The men are Heathen or Druidically inclined. I know nothing of the Druidic path, but it does seem there are more men. Perhaps it is all that fire-building?

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  2. Thanks for the book recommendations.

    I think that you are right that men are not generally inclined towards intuitive paths and are fond of rationality, but to a point. As you say, you had male friends that leaned towards a Norse path. I once did myself, in my college days. But rather than a spiritual draw it had a cultural draw. Norse Gods and Goddesses were just cool, with great myths, legends, runes, sigils etc. The Norse had a huge impact on English culture and language. And I felt a bit Norse heritage-wise, with long blonde hair to boot (the hair emigrated back to Norway a while ago !). But I was not really participating spiritually. I think the Norse path appeals to alot of young males for the same reasons it did me. As I have developed, I find I am trying to dig deeper into my spirituality for fundamental truths, things that pre-date or underly the Norse beliefs if possible. This inevitably draws me into a period for which we have little written evidence and circumstantial evidence for the dominance of Goddess worship and matriarchy. And this is where the waters seem to get dangerous as it links in with modern feminist ideology.

    The sheer range of beliefs and paths out there is mind boggling, but I'll keep looking and asking questions and maybe find some truth.

    Thanks for the comments.

    M

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    Replies
    1. Tethered to a baby, I thought I would browse my reading list for some male voices for you (assuming you have not found them already). Perhaps there are a few that might resonate for you:

      Feral Druidry: Driudry + Witchcraft, candid & reflective, besides, I love all things feral!, http://bloodandbone.wordpress.com

      New World Witchery: co-written by a man & woman w/great podcasts (I know, I know, American, but awesome!) http://newworldwitchery.com

      Chas S. Clifton/Letter from Hardscrabble Creek: Pagan author & academic @ Univ. of Colorado, editor for The Pomegranate, a scholarly peer-reviewed periodical, he posts a really random assortment of bits, http://blog.chasclifton.com/

      The Alchemist's Garden: gardener, herbalist, mixer of many traditions, very thoughtful http://herbalwitchcraft.com/blog/

      Strategic Sorcery: I have read one of his books thus far & really enjoyed his honesty, non-fluffy use of magick & the way he makes use of his experience w/many different traditions, he also has a sense of humour, http://herbalwitchcraft.com/blog/

      No Unsacred Place: this is a community blog w/regular contributors & guest submissions. It is oriented toward nature & science, there are many male voices there. It's pretty new, but very worth reading. Or contribute -- I did. http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/

      Ravencast: Some old friends' Asatru podcast/blog site. It has been inactive for awhile since they are moving & had a great loss not long ago, but worth checking out if you still have any inclination towards the Norse pantheon. http://ravencast.podbean.com/

      Time for dinner. Have to fly, hope you enjoy! ;)

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  3. Wow, lots to look at there.

    very much appreciate the time you have taken to write these. I probably won't blog for a few days whilst I digest it all.

    Hope you had a nice dinner.

    Take care,

    M

    Ps. Thanks for joining blog

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  4. not so long after I began following the Pagan path, I sensed a missing element. The presence of the Goddess was strong, even if I could not name her; I had not yet identfied those aspects of Her that I could relate most closely to. But she was there, and yet, something else was not. When I found Cernunnos I realized I needed the male aspect of deity. Ying and Yang is necessary. I have a lovely prayer to Cernunnos I found, that I'll post on my blog once I can retrace the source, because its not my original material. This prayer shows the gifts unique to the male aspect of deity. Cernunnos has become quite special to me He is always there, a source of strength.

    Aine
    http://thehemlockgrove.blogspot.com

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