Something that has bothered me for a long time is something that has come up frequently in magical discussion and that is the issue of women and magic, or to be more precise, sexism in the magical community. Rather than launch into the usual ‘all men a bad and all women are victims’, which is not true by any means, there are some things that as an older woman in my fifties I can pass on to young women stepping out into magic.
Like any aspect of modern life, magical communities are very much defined by the cultures they spring from, regardless of how hard a magical group tries to avoid that. What we can do as magicians is be aware of those cultural traps, particularly the subtle ones that tend to get missed, and avoid them as much as possible? In truth, behind the apparent smokescreen of sexism, is the real issue which is one of power: people seeking power or lacking in power, regardless of gender, are the most likely to exhibit sexism whether it is intentional or subconscious. The other deeper issue that can manifest itself as sexism is religious patterning in magic that is introduced or used in a magical system without being fully aware of the implications, power dynamics or limitations that accompany such patterns (Golden Dawners, WMT and OTO pay attention).
This is why one of the foremost ancient challenges to an initiate is ‘Man, Know Thyself’ (and I use Man in human terms, not gender terms). If you do not know why you think, act, learn and respond in a particular way, then you cannot know magic: magic is about ‘knowing’.
The most common manifestations of issues for women in magic range from being diverted to a path of being simply the ‘seer’ or ‘scryer’ or being the ‘Babylon’ or stand in for a/the Goddess. The other manifestation is the glossing over of work created by women adepts: many male magicians, once they climb onto a nice high pedestal, conveniently forget the women teachers/innovators that helped them there. It is the same in science, history, religion: it is an old issue.
Magic is not role play and it is not about roles generally: magic is techniques; it is a modus operandi that we use to interact/work with power and consciousness. Magic can then be transplanted onto a religion, philosophy or culture and it then becomes a ‘path’. But magic of itself has no philosophy, no religion; magic is an operating system. But once magic interweaves with religion, beliefs, philosophies and cultures begins, then the racism, sexism, idealism and dogma creep in.
In the last few decades most magical groups/orgs have moved forward a step and still work very hard to address these issues, some do not. But behind that development and still creating a whirlpool of disparity, are women themselves. How we approach magic is very important, but most important of all is how we approach ourselves as female magicians. And how we approach ourselves depends on how we view our own potential for power, how we then use that power in magic and in our lives in general.
A sense of self power comes not from how a magical lodge treats you, or how individual magicians treat you, self power comes from knowing your stuff. And by that I mean knowing yourself and most importantly knowing your magic. Respect is earned, it is not demanded, and that earning comes from hard work, knowing your magical/inner strengths and weaknesses, and not being afraid of either.
This can be a tough threshold for many women in magic as learning the basic foundations of magic often comes from joining a group/school which in turn often has a Neolithic attitude towards women in magic (even though they think they are being enlightened). The amount of eminent magicians I have known who sing the praises of the ‘Goddess’ and the ‘priestess’ and then undermine the females within the group on a near constant level… often without even realising it. A few times I have talked with groups of magicians, and when I would pose a magical question to a woman, often a man would cut in and answer for her.. and then smile and tell me how ‘goddess’ like she is. The woman would dutifully let the man answer on their behalf and I would want to slap the pair of them. This has happened more times that I am comfortable with. The female accepts that undermining and role play thus cementing the brick wall that can confront a woman trying to succeed – both parties are guilty of the sexism, not one.
It is a deep and complex issue with no baddies and goodies, rather it is a matter of clueless, thoughtless and dumbass. As I am writing this, I am beginning to realise just how complex this issue is within magic and I do not want to write reams and reams around this which will cause ‘glazeoveritis’. Rather, I think it would be more helpful to simply point out some basics for both men and women coming up the ranks of magic and also at the top of magic, to think about. We all have our generational limitations and we all make mistakes and can be dumb: but we can also all move forward a step to bring magic to new strengths.
The Basics to Think About
Women: if you join a magical school or group and they have a specific role for women (Babylon, goddess stand in, oracle, scryer, priestess of the west, healer) then back out and go elsewhere. If you went to a computer IT class and they only let women learn/work on blogging and shopping, you would be appalled and would find another class. Have the same attitude with magic. It is technique, it is all technique: learn it, all of it. And do not be afraid to walk away from such bullshit. There are always better places. And if you are the head of a lodge/group, step back and ensure you are not allowing such dead ends to exist in your organisational structure.
If the adept, hierophant, high priest, leader initiates using sex or any reference/ re enactment of sex through ritual, tell him to fuck off and walk away. That is not magic, that is getting rocks off with an added side of manipulation. If they tell you it is a deep mystery like Tantra, walk away: Tantra is not about sex, it is about power. Often these ‘teachers’ believe the bullshit themselves as that is how they were taught. It does not occur to them to deconstruct and question what was taught to them: they are essentially regurgitating an accepted dogma. Sex can play a part in magic, but only when it is a level playing field that has no dressing, power roles or drama: anything that has those elements is sexual psychology, it is not magic. Know the difference, and make your choices from that knowledge.
Just as damaging to the power of a female occultist is the ‘domination’ trap. This is another arm of magic that emphasises sexual psychology that is not magic. This is where the women play power roles and the men take on a submissive role to the ‘goddess’ or high priestess (Wiccans, sit up). This is just as damaging to a female occultist as being sidelined. It gives the aura of power which is false. That is not magic nor is it power: again it is psychological war games. Power does not come from playing a role, from being dominant or submissive, or from being sidelined/pigeonholed. Power comes from knowing how to create and implement magic, how to operate with energy, how to interact with beings. Power comes from knowing what you are doing and having confidence in that knowledge, regardless of whether you have tits or balls. And power comes from knowing what you do not know, and being able and willing to admit that.
Playing at Power
Both men and women in magic fall into the trap of playing at being powerful. Facebook and youtube is littered with images/videos of mages in their robes, casting circles, or doing rituals before altars, or ‘Liliths (have you ever counted just how many Liliths are on facebook? It’s astonishing) in tight basques standing before altars with their tits out, or ‘high priestesses’ is lowcut tops playing cute and sexy… That is not power, that is not magic; that is advertising your lack of knowledge and lack of power – the emperor or empress with no clothes.
Through films, media and the occult drama queens of the 1960’s, a typecast has been set and the unknowing wannabe magician sees images that shock, excite or impress – they perceive such images as power. They look up to those who generate such images, not knowing that small frightened person who wants to be powerful lurks behind those images. It is a difficult thing to say and it is a painful reality. Many would shout loudly against such an accusation (while furiously taking down the facebook images), but in the cold light of day, a little deep self questioning would benefit those loud shouting voices. If you have to project power in such a way, then you have none.
To women coming into the ranks of magic I would say this: do you work, learn your magic, practice your magic and continue to learn. If you find yourself in a role, either of your own creation or through a lodge, whatever that role may be (sex goddess, vamp, scryer etc), if it is a role defined by the fact you have breasts and not balls, stop and think very hard. Why are you doing it? If you enjoy it, then fine, but do not kid yourself it is magic as it is not. It is something else. If it is the ‘something else’ you are wanting, then fine.. it’s all about choice… but it should be an informed choice with the understanding that whatever it is, it is not magic and will not give you power. Think in terms of being an athlete – the outfit does not make a top class athlete… years of training and hard work do.
If you have climbed the ranks and find that your work is being sidelined, or those men you have taught/worked with attribute your work/contribution to another man, then get out of that group/partnership/lodge. It is pointless trying to demand to change such a situation simply because any man who has to do that is advertising very loudly that they indeed have no power and no confidence in their own ability. If they cannot admit they learned from a woman, they are not worth the time of day in magic. Such a delicate ego is deeply lacking in areas of magical power and is a waste of your time and effort. The same is true for men who find the same problem with women: if a woman cannot give a man his due for the learning, work and support he has given a woman, simply because he is a man, then that woman has a serious problem with her own sense of power.
Truly, the genitals need taking out of the early and mid stages of magic, just as the religions, culture and dogma does. It should be pure technique at those phases while the magician learns about magic, themselves and the world around them. Once they have developed a strong foundation of technique, of self understanding and have their own unique relationship with Divinity, then that foundation is strong enough to bear the fragmented loads of such filters which are operated magically with gnosis.
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After getting out of the masonic style sexism of the last century where the word “ladies” became in insult, magic hit another problem with sexism in the 1980s when everyone attempted to restate the same level of sexism under the term “male mysteries” and “female mysteries” claiming that it was traditional. This effectively created magical no-go areas based on historical tradition. These are exactly the sorts of tradition which should be sent to the dustbin of history, but it actually enabled both sexes to resume stereotyping. Other problems have been magical intellectualism which are still based on that prejudice. For example, Dion Fortune’s polarity on the planes, which is a big feature of her novels, makes men active on the physical planes but passive on the astral etc. At no point did anyone think “hang on that is a load of rubbish” polarity is not just sexual characteristics. Ever notice an inactive man or an active woman on the material plane? So why should a crap law like that be projected on to the astral where gender appears largely meaningless.
Besides why would polarity be defined as which meat package you incarnated in? Why in a system which is all geared to the “inner” do we suddenly start worrying what the “outer” is doing.
Some of the best psychics I have seen have been men and in the magical couples that I know of the men all admit that their woman partner is a better ritual magician than they are. So much for being Kings of this Plane. Over the years, I have never been able to see any difference magically between men and women and oppose anything that attempts to see the two as different. I should point out that it cuts both ways. Those numpty High Priestesses who delight in cutting the balls of male students on the basis that was what the goddess wants really do deserve to be burnt at the stake.
well said Nick. While there are some power/energy dynamics that do centre around the physical/sex make up of a magician, they really are a minor aspect of one stream of work and are to do with power mediation, not sexual politics. It is a serious issue for many magical lodges and thankfully people like you are actively addressing them in their work and organisations.
Thanks for sharing that Nick. As a man i who loves divination i have at the same time always felt to be at a severe disadvantage to the average women when it came to interpreting the cards. I guess there’s hope for me after all. :p
Thank you for this- I am glad to see so clearly stated a concept that I’ve been thinking about for many years. I’ve caught flack for daring to suggest that genderizing things just creates wheel-spinning wand-wavers and ego-thumpers. And it sidelines the real talent and Work- both male and female. I had to finally leave organized practice and strike out on my own to get away from those who insist upon sharply delineated gender roles. One group was a feminist Dianic Wiccan group that was separatist to an extreme that deeply disturbed me. And I’ve had to politely decline overtures from Thelemic and certain flavors of Gnostics who only wanted me because I was female, not because of any actual experience or wisdom.
And I’ve caught flack for calling myself a Mage- that’s a guy-title, apparently. The Currents still work the same, no matter who surfs them. Gender has its place, but its noise tends to drown out the signal of the Work.
hi Sunfell, thankyou fo ryour comment.. yes, it is sad to see such separatism, it is just such a waste of resources. And you got flack for using the word Mage because you are a woman??? AAAhahahahaaa tell em to feck off…. 🙂
Reblogged this on Light-Headed Thoughts and commented:
This fellow Mage has some insightful thoughts about the role of women and magic.
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