Mixed-Gender Dianic Wicca
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Article ID: 3278
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,826
Times Read: 48,598
Author: H. Byron Ballard
Posted: January 28th. 2001
Times Viewed: 48,598
I made my dedication as a Dianic priestess in the winter of 1975. I was halfway through my first year in college and was heady with the freedom born of the feminist movement. I was young, female and powerful in a way that hadn't been felt in generations. I was the first person in my family to go to college and had grown up wild in the country with a grandmother who was a Witch. When I was gifted with precognitive dreaming and learned to read the cards at twelve, I was being prepared for a spirituality that was both ancient and modern. Four years of high school Latin and involvement in the Junior Classical League also prepared me for the life of a modern-day priestess.
Through a bulletin board in the student center, I found a small group of like-minded women who met on the full moon to create simple dramatic rituals. We drank wine and discussed the Goddesses of classical Greece and Rome, of Egypt and India. We thought of ourselves as Goddess women and Witches. We came to the word "Dianic" long after we were. We read and discussed Z. Budapest, Mary Daly, Sybil Leek and JRR Tolkien. Each of the women dedicated themselves to a particular Goddess and took a ritual name.
I was a priestess of the Goddess with no temple, no festivals, no congregation. The group broke up about a year later as we all got more involved with our majors and in school life. I still read everything I could find about Goddesses and Witches. Some of it seemed right but often the books on Wicca showed a practice that felt overly ritualized, sexist and dull to me. I remained a solitary Witch and priestess, staring at the full moon, working an occasional spell.
Twenty-five years later, I light three candles on my altar most mornings, take deep breaths and meditate on life lived in service to the Great Mother. I am now an ordained Dianic High Priestess and I live my life in the lap of the Goddess.
To be Dianic is to be empowered by the Divine Feminine all around us. It is to know that time moves in a never-ending spiral of energy and love. It is seeing the Mother's face in the world all around us--in the elements of Gaia, the darkness of Hecate, the wildness of Kali.
First and foremost, we envision the Earth that birthed and nourishes us as female. We revel in all aspects of life on the planet and feel unbounding joy in living a Pagan life. The Earth is our mother and sister but, perhaps more exactly, she is our Grandmother. Wise, ancient, full of deep mysteries and ultimately unknowable. The Earth is a Woman and she is Goddess. We honor Her as home and womb/matrix of all life. We also respect her as an immensely complex system that is constantly engaged in the dual act of creation and destruction. This is an awe-inspiring power with which we are suitably awed.
Structurally, Dianic Wicca is affirmingly non-hierarchical. Consensus building is a conscious part of our decision-making and our spiritual practice.
Magical workings are only undertaken with the unanimous consent of the workers. We meet in circles, groves or covens and our work is as inclusive of all present as possible. A High Priestess often functions as the ritualist of the group and as group mother. A Priestess may work with a priestess-in-training (sometimes called the Maiden) or she may work at the altar alone. Dianic ritual often includes a talking stick with which we check in, honoring the speech of our circle sisters and brothers as they tell where they are (both emotionally and physically) at the time of the ritual.
Unlike the three-tiered system of initiation common to some Wiccan traditions, Dianic as we practice it has only two "levels" of clergy. When a seeker feels led to make a commitment to Goddess-centered spirituality, he or she may choose to make a dedication. The dedicant speaks vows or promises about their Goddess life. Some groups have set liturgy for initiation but most develop unique rituals for each set of dedicants. Many people prefer to remain life-long dedicants (equivalent to a first degree in most traditions).
Others chooseusually after many years of study, ritual and serviceto be ordained as a High Priestess or High Priest. This is equivalent to a third degree in most traditions. It means that the priestess or priest is ready to take a leadership role in the community, to teach, to lead a group, to take an advocacy role for the community within the dominant culture. We have no second degree equivalent.
On the subject of names...It is very popular in the general Wiccan community to take on a new name at the time of initiation. When one has achieved Third Degree (or equivalent), one is referred to as "Lady" or "Lord" followed by a magical name. Dianics in my tradition often take on several names as their lives change and grow. They may string these names together and use them all. Or they may change from name to name as the occasion suits. When we take our ordination, we usually take a name that is our ritual name and is only used in ritual. We don't use "Lady" and "Lord" as titles. Therefore it is inappropriate to refer to me as "Lady Byron" or, if you know my ritual name, to call me that when you see me at the grocery store. It may be different in other Dianic traditions, but this is how I was trained as a pup.
At a Midsummer festival several years ago, I sat in on a "Wicca 101" class. The teacher gave a brief overview of some of the Wiccan traditions and when she got to Dianic, she remarked that Dianics weren't "really Wiccan" because we don't honor the duality of "Lord and Lady" and, furthermore, that Dianics are lesbians who don't ever do ritual with men and are, in fact, gender separatists. At the conclusion of the lecture, I raised my hand and explained that I led a mixed-gender Dianic group, so obviously all Dianics were not as she had described them. She tore off her hat and stared at me, literally open-mouthed. "You have men in your group? How is that possible?"
How is that possible? How is it that men can be called to delight in and worship the Divine Mother? Perhaps they've found a spiritual community that honors them as co-creators and gives them a non-threatening environment in which they can explore their deeply loving natures. They have found a non-competitive and non-hierarchical place where they can be awed by the destructive/creative nature of the universe and the mirror image of it in their own psyches. They have found a place of deep personal connection with that which they deem Divine and it is a healing and joyous homecoming. These are some of the things that drew me to a Dianic path and I would be naive to think they would not draw others, regardless of gender.
I am often asked about the question of duality, of balance. I have been told that Goddess and God reflect the ways of nature where all things are balanced as female and male. I think we Dianics perceive energy in different modalities. We find the ideas of "male and female energy" to be uncomfortable and limiting. Our concept of energy flows from the world around us--in the tides, the seasons, the jetstream. We perceive it in the Wheel, the Spiral, the triskele. It is an energy that surges and retreats, again and again. We see it in our human cycles of birth, growth, death and rebirth. It is reflected in the phases of the moon and the silver wheel of the stars, in orgasm and the cycle of menstruation. We see few things as linear, preferring the Wheel and spiral.
Some Pagan friends want to convert me to their "balance of duality". "Look at nature!" they say. "Everything in nature is male and female!" I look at the stars and mountains, sea and clouds. In them is the pulsing music of that force that is and also runs the Universe. I name it Divine and I honour it as feminine. The Goddess is love, honour, power. Strength, nurture and chaos are hers. She turns the Wheel and is turned by it.
As all Wiccans do, we follow the cycle of the agricultural year. Most of us end and begin the year at Samhain when the Goddess in her aspect as Crone/Grandmother reaches the height of her power. We celebrate the same holy days but sometimes we take a different, decidedly woman-affirming, slant. The first on the Wheel is the celebration of the Winter Solstice, which we call Yule. It marks the rebirth of the sun as Sacred Child and is a 12-day festival of giving and receiving gifts, dancing the ring and singing. Our group is organized as a clan-family and we come together to celebrate this dark and holy night.
Next is Bridnasadh, sacred to the Goddess Brid and marking the beginning of spring. We make Brigid wheels, bless the candles for the year, make Brid promises (like New Year's resolutions) and give each other new brooms. The children prepare a special bed for Brid and invite her to bless the house. They do a special ritual where they are the Goddess and knock at the door for entry. We eat yeasty baked goods in her honor and drink beer which is important in the Goddess/saint folklore. We spread a cloth (called Brid's mantle or bhrat) on the ground to catch the first spring dew.
The third day on the Wheel is Ostara, sacred to Eostre and the East. We dye eggs (I do red only, the children do a rainbow of colors, one covener and his family make elegant Ukrainian-style eggs) and exchange them. The Goddess's sacred Hare brings basket of candy to the children and we balance an egg on its end. In our ritual, we turn the Wheel by planting seeds in soil from the cauldron.
Beltane is a time of creativity and fertility. We decorate the Maypole and dance the ring, as well as refurbishing the decorations at our outdoor circle. Our ritual includes a purifying fire, which we jump, shouting and clapping. It is the beginning of Summer and we delight in the long warm days.
Midsummer finds us feasting on watermelon and fried chicken (we are southern Pagans, after all!). Our coven pyromaniacs fill the sky with fireworks. We listen to the frogs and catch lightning bugs in jars. Our rituals include gratitude for the exuberance of the season. We are sunburnt, well-fed, dreaming lively dreams of gardens and sprites. We also acknowledge this as the longest day and shortest night.
At Lughnasadh, we gather tomatoes and cucumbers from our gardens. We feast on salads and fresh peaches. We honour Lugh's foster mother Tailtu with arts and crafts competitions, in which we all take part. The ritual gives us an opportunity to forgive old enemies (and ourselves) and forge new bonds of kinship.
At Mabon, we tell the story of Mabon, the son of Modrona and honour the Goddess in her aspect as Mother. We celebrate the bounty of our Mother Earth and honor the darkening of the year. We offer thanksgiving for the year that is rapidly passing. We dance a spiral dance and begin the deep dreaming and divination of Samhain. The children and some of the adults bob for apples.
Samhain honors our Ancestors, the beloved Long Dead and the Goddess in her aspect as Crone. The Crone joins us in our ritual circle, as do the Ancestors, for whom we light beacons at the four directions. Our particular group also hosts "Earth Religions Awareness Week" in our city during this time.
We expect a high standard of conduct from our Dianic sisters and brothers. We affirm that life in all its mystery is sacred, follow the Rede in all things and try to be ever mindful of the Law of Return. We believe it is important to take responsibility for our actions as well as our reactions. Because it is difficult for us to separate our spiritual life from our political one, we are active in local politics, especially on any issue which affects freedom of religion as well as the environment. We believe that the Earth is all sacred space and we refer to the cast circle as "ritual" space, being mindful that every space is sacred.
We acknowledge that centuries of living under an autocratic and misogynistic culture has left gaping wounds in the human psyche. We accept that we must all be healers as well as ritualists, that we must salve spirits that are hurting and feed those that are hungry. We do this through ritual as well as activism on behalf of oppressed people within our own communities.
We believe in rearing our children in our spirituality and we honor their transitions in several rituals. Following the birth of a new member of our clan-family, we hold a ritual called a saining in which the child is presented to the Goddess, to the Ancestors, to the Spirits of the Place and to the clan-family. When our children reach puberty, we ritualize the moment with the First Blood for girls and Green Manning for boys. In this rite, we accept them as Young Elders in the group.
Our other rites of passage are similarly Wiccan. We unite persons in love through a handfasting. We mark eldering through a Croning or Maging ritual. And we bid our beloved dead bon voyage to Tir Nan Og with a service of Passing. We do other Life Passage rituals as they arise. A woman with children gone to college might need a special celebration. A man who has lost a job may need something else entirely.
To sum up the story of who we are and where we've been, we Dianics acknowledge a great debt to our ancient forebears, to those who lost their lives, properties and will during the European Inquisitions and to the people who kept alive a glowing ember of the Goddess through generations of Christian veneer. We thank those people who worshipped the Goddess in her aspect as Mary (along with all the "saints') as well as those who kept their ancestral and household deities, passing them (often in secret) to the next generation. We also thank the women and men in the early 60's and '70's who gave the modern American Pagan movement its firm foundation, especially the MacFarlanes, Mary Daly, Starhawk, Z. Budapest, Marija Gimbutas, James Mellaart, Sybil Leek.
From Inanna and the Goddess of Laussel, from Malta to Africa to the Ring of Fire onward through the priestesses and warriors of classical times through the midwives of Europe and America and into the present day where we enjoy, at last, the return of the Great Mother in her glory. This is our history as we see it. A wide web, a long thread that reaches back from the modern priestess standing at her American altar to our Ancestors at the dawn of human time. A connection that has been strained and frayed but never truly broken.
I recommend the following books for more information about Goddess worship, Dianic Wicca and feminist thealogy:
Z. Budapest - The Grandmother of Time and The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries
Mary Condren - The Serpent and the Goddess
Mary Daly - Gyn-Ecology and Beyond God the Father
Riane Eisler - The Chalice and the Blade
Elinor Gadon - The Once and Future Goddess
Marija Gimbutas - Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe
Andrew Harvey - The Return of the Mother
Jean Markale - The Great Mother and Women of the Celts
Caitlin and John Matthews - Ladies of the Lake
Vicki Noble - Shakti Woman
Sylvia Perera - Descent to the Goddess
Shirley Ann Ranck - Cakes for the Queen of Heaven
Patricia Reilly - A God Who Looks Like Me
Monica Sjoo - The Great Cosmic Mother
Starhawk - The Spiral Dance and Dreaming the Dark
Diane Stein - Casting the Circle
Merlin Stone - Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood
H. Byron Ballard
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
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