In my neck of the woods, in my circle of friends who are Pagan that are scattered across the United States the hottest “topic” of debate was usually the role of males in Paganism. It would make women irritable, because they felt they were defending Goddess and had come to the religion in the first place so that they could be more “empowered”. Me, and my girlfriends felt that in the “real” workplace/political world we were “not listened too” and treated as “less than” and that if you really wanted to insult a man you called him “a girl" (or vaginistic type words a few months ago I saw this used by advertisers on a billboard to get men to buy a sportscar). My male friends, however, would argue that the world had changed to the point where they could hardly get jobs and that the world we described was not”real” or “had leveled out” leaving them competing against minorities for everything; they did not feel that they should have that same “bias” in their religious choices. So there was a gridlock…since the Highpriestess is what runs covens (unless you are involved in an organization that still venerates male over female) and since Goddess books there are aplenty and God books few my male Pagan friends felt they got the short end of the stick.
For years, when I was younger I would think," If you all feel this way then why come to this religion if you resent women running it? Go somewhere else, any other religion will let you run everything if you are male and not even let females become ministers!" However, the wheel turned and I started to hear with spirit filled ears, and listen with a spirit filled heart and realize that maybe just maybe they (my male friends and even my young son) had a few valid points. So, when I returned to Memphis once again I started to listen and the same points came up. Males saw all the women rituals that excluded them, the Goddess retreats and felt that they had nothing equivalent. They were being asked to participate and be “better” men than most of society but were not being treated “fairly”. When questions of rites of passage for men came up they were told they were “not important” and that “why should they need them?”. Some leaders of the organizations went as far as to say that the “separation of the two sexes” was silly anyway, and that it promoted more problems than solutions. Yet, everywhere I listened I heard them hurt and hungry for something more and “just for them” they wanted to also leave behind a legacy of "new Pagan men".
As a woman I understand the need for “just for me”. I read Virginia Wolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” while in college and firmly decided from that point on in life I would make a space and time for just me because it was important. Goddess devotional books, and companion readers emphasize over and over again how important it is for women who give so liberally to husbands, parents, children, and their bosses to make a space and time for themselves. So women started forming little groups, or girl nights out, or pampering sessions, by now I have not met a woman my age who does not have a “just me” hobby, activity, or time that helps her get back in touch with her inner Goddess. This is wonderful, it is liberating, it is empowering, it was not heard of in my Mamaw’s day and time unless you were rich!
But what about men who take care of their children, wives, bosses, friends, and families? The numbers are growing on how many men raise children alone and how are young men going to learn how to be comfortable and not defensive being a "man" (and no that is not a bad word) if they do not have role models, and mentors, and become more open minded? What if you do not think the perfect time to spend with men is in a Budweiser commercial at the Drag races? I know this is an extreme example but here in the south it is quite common…what if you like to read poetry, and play music, and paint, or just meditate and contemplate the universe? Where do we encourage this in our modern day society? Why is it okay for the woman to get in touch with her inner maiden with “hello kitty” houseshoes but the man cannot get in touch with his inner “rogue” playing video games or buying star wars collectibles?
I say this because you get a group of women together and more often than not you will hear references to men…just being more immature than women. That men, waste money on toys and don’t seem to care about childrearing like we do. It is like we women, force men into a role that they themselves might not want to be pushed into. If women do not like to be “cookie cuttered” then why is it okay for us to force “traditional” roles on men? I realize that in my marriage, I have to stop and re-acquaint myself with my gentle father- husband all the time because I have pre-conceived stereotypes that were fed to me by my parents and society that told me Brian has to be XYZ. However, he is not those things. To add to this, I have a compassionate soft spoken artistic twenty year old son who has expressed himself through clothing and words since he could articulate his mind. His ambiguity when it comes to sexual roles worried me at first, only to find me expanding and realizing that sexual roles are just that ”costumes” and that one size does not fit all.
Did you know that I do not hear my baby Cayden cry in the middle of the night? My husband does, and no he does not wake me up to take care of him he gets up cuddles and swaddles his son and rocks him back to sleep. Did you know that he has taken Cayden to the doctor alone more than me because if he does this I have time to color my hair and do my nails? He does that so I have ME time. Now, you can say that means I am a “less than mom” and he is a “better than dad” but I will argue with you we are doing what works for us as people and as a family unit. We have gotten to the point where doing what we are, is more important than what others think. My husband really has longed for a Pagan Men’s retreat for a long time now. Last year, he finally got a “fathering ritual” at the age of forty. He has two other children from a previous marriage, one twenty one the other twenty two and he has been a practicing pagan and a Highpriest for at least twenty years. That is took him that long to get this rite of passage I found dumbfounding and sad.
This weekend, he and my oldest son are going to a Pagan Men’s retreat called Brothers of the Sun < http://templeofthesacredgift.org/bots/info.html> our church , Temple of the Sacred Gift-ATC is co-sponsoring it with the only Pagan’s we knew in the area that celebrated the Male aspect of Paganism as much as the Female aspect, Southern Delta Church of Wicca-ATC. Rev. Terry Michael Riley has since 1993 been a legal ordained minister of the Pagan community with a Church. He fought for the rights of Pagans and it was documented in the March for Ft. God video < http://www.amazon.com/March-Robin-Anderson-Cuhulain-Terry/dp/B00023DEH6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1313519927&sr=1-2 >. He is a pioneer and courageous in ways I can only hope to become and yet for several years now in the woods he has continued to have a small men’s mysteries retreat.
Two years ago, when I met Rev. Terry Riley he told me he had a manuscript lying around that he had not gotten published but rejected everywhere he turned, and that he was ready to give up on since no one seemed interested. I asked him the topic, and he told me men’s mysteries and the relationship of Men to the God and the Goddess energies. I could not believe that he had such an important book tucked away and that no one wanted to publish it! So I asked him to look at it and edit it and I would study on how to get it published, I knew in my bones it was important and like everyone I know I love helping people. I formed a self publishing company (Heka House), took my income tax refund and published the book named aptly BROTHERS OF THE SUN: THE PAGAN MEN”S MYSTERIES (hey it is a great book you should read it and purchase it for every male pagan you know!). We (Terry, Brian and I) felt the book was integral to the future of Paganism and addressed a common complaint that was never addressed and always ignored. I have never been prouder than to help assist a person publish something I feel was important. I have never felt more amazed to realize that with helping fund a Men’s Pagan retreat in a nice facility that we are starting a rock solid tradition we can leave behind to future generations.
If we, the women, do not back our men then who will? Is the consort not just as important as the Goddess? You bet he is! I pray that this Brother of the Sun retreat will help heal some of the wounds caused in this community by not treating our the male energy as "equal to" not "greater than" the female energy. I pray that it starts a legacy that teaches and instructs our men on how to be better at being themselves. I hope that it helps each of them find a part of themselves they forgot about, that they make new friends and come home exhausted yet refreshed. Do I believe I finally listened to the universe? You bet you I did! Will I ever truly understand what the men in the Pagan community are expressing…maybe not, but I am taking a baby step in the right direction. That is all I know how to do, and I pray my Brothers give me a break and know I wish them the best! But if you are a male Pagan, and all you do is complain about the differences and do nothing to support a local festival and movement to help your own, then do not complain...hush up. You cannot complain about the President of the United States if you do not vote!
How do you all feel about the men learning how to be more comfortable being themselves and finding themselves? How pivotal do you feel this is to men and future men in our Pagan communities?