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Magic is a many gendered thing

witchcraft_and_the_gay_countercultureInteresting essay I found on the website for Queer Pagan Camp based in the UK – – which seems like a kindred to Free Cascadia Witchcamp. Exciting to find others! Looking into the possibility of attending as I may be in those parts this summer…

Other texts that relate to this subject I have been reading lately are: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture by Arthur Evans and Baedan II a queer journal of heresy (both available from Little Black Cart –



“This paper was written (by Lou Hart) to be presented at the Pagan Federation Conference Scotland in May 2005. As such it is a personal and basic overview of the relations between gender and Western neo-paganism and its, sometimes, failure to embody the concepts concerning gender and, indeed, sexuality in its practice of traditional forms of magic and paganism.”

The history of Western paganism is inextricably linked with a history of cross-dressing, same sex relations, trans-gendered priesthoods and free sexuality. From early centuries onwards bulls and decrees, issued by the Christian Church, against heresy, nearly always contained admonitory warnings against lesbianism, homosexuality, gender-bending, heterosexual group sex or bisexuality. Indeed, Jeanne d’Arc, originally sentenced to life-imprisonment, was finally burned alive at the age of nineteen after being discovered yet again wearing men’s clothing in her cell. Additionally, folk customs of these islands are littered with boys in girls’ clothing and girls in boys’ clothes; with bearded ladies and female princes.

Until 1957 the ‘King’ at Castleton Oak-Apple processions was accompanied not by a ‘Beauty Queen’ but by a man dressed as a woman and at Brideog ceremonies in Scotland, Hunt-the-Wren and Samhain festivities and at Mari Clywd ceremonies in Wales, cross-dressing was again the choice of the day. Lord of Misrule and Hallowe’en ceremonies, notorious for their gender-bending, shape shifting play were once such a popular feature of winter festivals, that church priests were admonished for taking part in them.

Further back in history there are records of the pagan Celts with both male and female lovers; trans-gendered priests of Inanna; and some juicy gossip about Bride herself in Ireland (a Triple- Goddess, but in this case about her as a Saint) and her female lover Darlughdacha (Daughter of Lugh and herself also a Goddess, from Leinster) and, more recently, in over 150 Native American Societies, there are descriptions of a seemingly cross-dressing man or woman who sometimes partakes in traditionally opposite gendered work and is often seen as a both bridge between men and women and a shamanic figure. Women are also recorded by anthropologists as warriors or chiefs or hunters and as taking other women as wives, and the anthropologist Alfred Metraux, in his 1958 study of Voodoo in Haiti, casually mentions many of the priests or hungan as homosexual. What on earth is going on?

For the purposes of this paper I am going to relate to three topics. One is gender and what is meant by it, two is gendered magical practices and three is drawn from my own experience as one of the founder members of Queer Pagan Camp.

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