Let’s Hear it for the Men!

A lot of my work focuses on women and has for many years. I don’t actually feel any particular need to rationalize, explain, or justify this—working with women is December 2013 011something that has held deep meaning, relevance, enjoyment, passion, and purpose for me ever since I started working in a battered women’s shelter as a volunteer when I was seventeen years old. My age has since doubled and the type of work I do with women has morphed, expanded, shifted, and changed texture over time, but it is a strong, defining, consistent thread that is tightly woven through my professional life, my academic work, my volunteer work, my teaching, and my spiritual path. I’ve noticed, however, that people occasionally misinterpret my focus on women and my enjoyment in creating rituals for women, for honoring “women’s mysteries,” and for exploring thealogy and the Goddess, as well as helping women with birth and breastfeeding, somehow indicates that I don’t value men. My enjoyment of priestessing women’s circles is not a statement about men, it is a statement about something I like to do with my time and life energy. I also value and appreciate my husband, my sons, my dad, and the other men in my life. I have family full moon rituals each month with my husband and our kids (two sons, one daughter). My dad, husband, and sons enjoy our annual family winter solstice ritual. My husband and I work together making our goddess jewelry and I love that this collaborative project represents a harmonizing of our energies, efforts, and time.

I agree with Melissa Raphael’s remark that, “Thealogy has no wish to simply reproduce the masculinist account of divine sovereignty and redemptive power in feminized form” (p. 201). To me this is one of the most beneficial and beautiful elements of Goddess feminism.” And, from Judith Laura’s book, Goddess Matters, she describes Goddess as “she who flows through all” and contrasts this with “God as manipulator.” Goddess is “She what connects us, not only like a link in a chain but also like an electrical current.”

These things said, I’ve been meaning for several months now to give a shout-out to the male bloggers that I very much enjoy. I subscribe to a lot of blogs. I like a lot of writers, but there are only a handful from whom I read every post they write as soon as they post it. These three guys definitely make that list:

  • John Beckett writes Under the Ancient Oaks on Patheos. He initially appealed to me because he is associated with a UU church and we have that in common. I continued to read him though because he is very logical, solid, practical, and even-handed in his writing and interaction with others, with a nice dash of interesting polytheistic stuff thrown in. One of his recent posts about pagan unity is a good example of the practical style I find so appealing about his blog:

I prefer a Big Tent approach to Paganism – a big tent with four main posts. Some of us are right in the middle, some cling tightly to only one post, while others are in one of the corners. Some people are close enough for me to see them but not close enough for me to tell if they’re actually under the tent or if they’re standing outside. What about Green Christians? I think they’re outside, but their fundamentalist brethren over in the next camp think they’re standing right in the middle of us. What about the Kabbalists? I think they’re in, but many of them say they’re only in the Jewish tent. The Hindus are over in that corner – some of them are insistent they’re in our tent and others are just as insistent they’re not.

Complicated? Yep. Messy? Sure is. Living, growing, reproducing organisms are like that.

The problem with big tents is, well, they’re big. Try to embrace the whole tent and you can find yourself bouncing back and forth between pouring libations to Zeus, protesting fracking, organizing the Beltane picnic and meditating on The Fool. Those are all worthwhile things to do, but they can lead to a personal religion that is the proverbial mile wide and an inch deep. That’s a problem – if you’ve been reading Under the Ancient Oaks for any time at all you know one of my favorite soapboxes is the need for spiritual depth.

via Pagan Unity.

  • John Halstead writes The Allergic Pagan (as well as another blog at Witches and Pagans and for Humanistic Paganism). He’s willing to tackle somewhat controversial issues and engage in intelligent conversation and debate. He never fails to make me think and is just a really smart guy with a lot of interesting stuff to say. I recently shared this quote in a different post, but trust me that he has lots of posts that rank as thought-provoking favorites:

This is your Goddess,” my wife said to me smiling.

“It’s the slimy side of her,” I responded.

“This is life,” she replied.

It’s strange when a seemingly mundane moment is transformed into a sacred one. I looked at my Mormon wife standing in the ocean, holding a shell, and I heard her speak the words of a true priestess: “This is your Goddess. This is life.”

via My Goddess is gross.

  • Jason Mankey is the often light-hearted and funny, but not afraid to be serious and occasionally blunt, author of Raise the Horns at Patheos. I love the way he writes about ritual, modern paganism, personal practices, and the way he digs into holiday origins. One of his recent posts that really spoke to me was this one:

In our own practice becoming a High Priestess and Priest was not something we aspired to. It came about because people viewed the two of us that way. I’ll admit to even being uncomfortable with the title on occasion. I have a thirst for knowledge and history and write pretty good rituals, but there are many Witches and Pagans who know so much more than I ever will. That a few people think of me in such august company is flattering, but I often feel like I don’t belong. (I got weirded out when one of our coven members referred to me as “a spiritual leader,” I’m much more comfortable just being the guy who drinks cider and listens to 80′s hair metal.)

Even with my occasional reservations about the title I feel like I’ve earned it, and I know my wife has earned her title of High Priestess. How do you know you’ve earned the right to call yourself a High Priestess or High Priest? You’ve earned the title when someone asks you to officiate their handfasting or wedding. You’ve earned the title when every eye in the circle glances your way looking for instruction or guidance. You’ve earned the title when your High Priestess deems you ready for elevation. It’s an honor that finds you, and it finds you when you are ready.

via Becoming a High Priestess.

When I first began writing this post back in October, Teo Bishop would definitely have been on my list as well. I really enjoyed his contemplative, gentle, personal, enriching style of writing. If you follow pagan bloggers at all, you’ve probably surmised that something happened and it involved Teo Bishop. If you follow me and read my other blog, you also know that I, personally, spend virtually zero time talking about “current events” and/or controversies within either of my primary fields. I call this dissecting of current events a “putting out fires” mode of blogging and I just don’t like to do it myself. It seems reactive in a way that bothers me, and reminds me a bit too much of the dominating, semi-oppressive energy that can spread so fast in other areas/topics (dare I mention Miley Cyrus, for example?). So, I’ll just say that I read Teo’s blog Bishop in the Grove for at least two years. This month he decided to discontinue Bishop in the Grove as he moves in a different direction with his spiritual path. His new path doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me, though his same contemplative writing style is still engaging, he’s no longer speaking in a spiritual language that I find compelling. He should still get a shout-out though, because I’m pretty sure it was his blog that introduced me to interesting pagan men’s blogs I love to read and learn from.

In keeping with the collaborative energy with my husband that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we’ve been painstakingly finishing up our first ever free-standing pewter casting that is male! While I made a polymer clay “daddy goddess” sculpture before when requested by my toddler daughter, most of my artwork is Goddess/female-centric. After one night of full-moon drumming with my husband and boys, I knew the time had come to introduce some masculine energy into my art and the result was this little drumming team: December 2013 006

The casts are still on the rough side and we’re having a terrible time getting their hands to work correctly. Many, many, many of these little guys have been plopped back into the melting pot for another rebirth (my husband often turns them face down, so he doesn’t have to watch their little “faces” looking up at him as they dissolve). We’re keeping these two sets, but probably need to start over with another sculpt altogether as well as a fresh mold because we do anything more with this design idea. December 2013 005I felt like they were a symbol of our own work together, as well as the harmony possible between men and women in the rest of the world.

December 2013 009

They work together and I like them!

This morning when I went to the woods to take these pictures, the cinnamon sticks I offered up last night were sitting there on the rock in this arrangement evocative of an “equal” sign. I thought that was pretty cosmic.

December 2013 012

Categories: art, community, feminism, feminist thealogy, resources, spirituality, women | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Let’s Hear it for the Men!

  1. Yay for men, and monkeys!

  2. Tony/Terra

    It has taken me all day to think about all this,

    You did, Rationalize, Explained, and Justified…………yourself!

    I am asking to be included in those women’s mysteries. How else are us men going to learn from you?

    I have ask to be included in Baby Showers, Are men not part of the baby?
    If women want their men to be involved, THEN involue us!

    I have asked to be involued in Wedding showers, If you want us to be involved in the marriage, then involved us!

    Men are afraid to be involved because most men are afraid to be put in a box of Gay, or sissy.
    or less of a man. Remeber women have just as much if not more in raising their children as men so part of the problem still involes you women. “Be a man! Don’t be a sissy, Don’t cry!
    Shake if off and get back in the game. Don’t play with dolls, only girls wear……..

    I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner last year and the bride bought braclets for her bridesmaids. A family had to bring their children to the dinner, a dad and son sat next to me and his little boy asked to see the bracelet. After looking at it for some time He asked his dad if he could put it on, His dad replied, “NO it is for women only” the look on the little boys face. I had to get up and leave the table. I have seen the same thing come out of mothers mouth’s to their little boys. No it is for girls only!
    What do we tell our little girls when they want something of a boys world?

    My Daughter did, my son and his wife involed me. WHY because they know how I feel. If you want us to be involve then involve us! I went with my daughter to pick out her wedding dress. Picked out flowers,, just her and I. To many stores I sat through dress after dress. I loved every minute. My son and his wife are including me in their first baby. I am part of the decission making process. The joy in seeing their eyes light up in joy.

    A lot of men are scared of what other men (and women) would think if we are there in the baby shower, or wedding shower. Am I weird? I say no! I am not wierd. If you want us to be involved then involved us in the process. Some men may say no out of this fear, but how do you know until you involved us?

    By this non involvement of men by women you do NOT value men.

    You are doing the same thing you hated about men in the 50’s and 60’s that brought on Feminism of the times.
    You are doing the reverse the way men valued women then. A lot of men still have no value of women.
    A lot of men do value women. The men that have no value of women will stay away.
    The men that do value women will become involed.

    I was involed with the domestic violance ‘Someplace Safe” for years until a new woman took over the organization. She wanted me out of there. I supplied so much of furniture, clothing, toys. I fixed a stove on so many occassions and once on Christmas eve so they could cook on Christmas. (I paid for it myself) My son went with Me………….they lost a valued person when I was chased out for being a man. I knew where the hiding place was and never told anyone where it was located. I once had their stock room so full of stuff I was told to stop getting stuff at that time.

    I’m a doer, not by words! Yes I have words but I show my caring by doing.
    I sew, wear your clothes, love nail polish, love to have fun, Yet at every oppurtunity I get devalued by women. Laughed at, and put into the same box as ALL men! Until you know me please I ask don’t…..
    My ideal stands, we will not have equality until there is equality by both sexes.

    I supported my wife breastfeeding both our children. When others were not tolerable of this!

    I was involved in her monthy moon cycle. Every month with her. I kept track of her days and informed her a week in advance. Then days before. Then the day before. I went through the week with her. She involved me in her cycle. It was not a chore, I do believe we keep the monthly so quiet and secretive because we feel it is someting degrading. When the monthly should be a celabration of both the woman and the man. What a wonderful celabration it should be, you can give new life!
    You are connected to nature, the universe.

    “She who flows through all” and “She what connects us”
    (Judith Laura’s, Book GODDESS Matters.)

    If she flows as you believe through all then are not we all part of the GODDESS?

    I am asking to let us become involved and make those decissions on our own. Not kepted out with “For women only.” You are in a position along with so many other women to make a change. You have the ability to help in this change.

    I feel pacified. Not valued.

    • Yes, I do agree. That is why I included that specific quote. I offer a variety of different rituals, classes, and services for different purposes and groups. I do not offer any public rituals at this time. I gather together with my friends and family at this point, which is what I have the skill, time, and energy to offer at this time. I enjoy what I’m doing and I feel good about what I offer to others in my community. Much of my practice is solitary and is Goddess-focused, but I have a panentheistic view of the Goddess and see her as one possible name/image for the holding web of all creation.

      It is difficult to respond to some of your comments because of the persistent use of the first person “you,” which makes me feel like you are addressing me personally and also sound very accusatory, when really I believe you are often speaking more generally (for example, I personally, was not alive in the 60’s and 70’s). And, you are just simply wrong that I do not value men. My husband, sons, and male friends would agree with me. I am a humanist, a feminist, and a UU and as such I value *all* people as holding inherent dignity and worth. I also have a group for homeschooled kids—that does not mean I do not value kids who go to public school (or people who are not kids). I have a group for breastfeeding mothers–that does not mean I do not value women who bottle feed OR fathers. Sometimes I offer rituals that are for my female friends. Sometimes I offer rituals that are for whole families. That is what I am able and called to provide at this time and it remains true that I do not feel as if I need to justify or defend this–I’m happy with what I offer to my community and it is offered with positive, compassionate intent and is based on what the community has asked for from me (for example, when at the end of last year the husbands of some of my friends said they’d like to be more involved with our practices as well, I immediately planned a ritual intended for whole families. However, the increased logistical details, such as what to do with all the kids/how to have a nurturing/empowering ritual for a multi-age group, etc. makes it a lot more complicated to repeat these types of rituals often). It is important to remember that many of the things you share above as examples are rooted in patriarchal norms and assumptions–and are perfect examples of how patriarchy hurts both men and women (and how women can perpetuate patriarchy as well–like with the little boy and the bracelet). Yes, I believe we can do better as a culture.

  3. Tony/Terra

    To quote John Becket, “Let’s start with a couple of basic principles. First, every person has the right to choose his or her own identity and his or her own labels. If you want to call yourself a Pagan, a polytheist, a Druid, a Nature worshipper, an occultist, whatever, that’s your business. Further, every person has the right to choose who he or she will associate with. If the fine points of your religion are so critical you must set yourself apart from this group or that group, again, that’s your business.

    Next, Paganism does not have a definition. Institutions have definitions and boundaries. Paganism is not an institution, it’s a movement. Movements have centers.”

    I agree with him on this, I agree as a person you have a right to focus on the Feminine. This is your focus an I am fine with it.

    Here is were my focus is, I want to be able to be included in the Feminine, I want to be a part of it.
    I am kepted from that part because I am a man. Inside though I am female. Sometimes I feel I was a Woman in another life. She is so strong in me. I weep inside because I cannot be side by side with other females. It is very hard for me to connect with other males. With all their arrogant, aggressive, mocho, better than women…..attitudes.
    When I feel this in women It seperates me from them, I have no place to come home to.
    Imagine going through life because you do not belong in the manly man’s camp! Nor are you wanted in the Femininie camps. Where does one go? All my life I have been fighting for the right to be included in the feminine. No one wants this!
    Men include women and are made to include women in eveything we do. But slandered when it comes to being in the Feminine. Go try and buy clothe at a sewing store and see what happens, not only when we are in the store but afterwords. “He must be gay” Sorry but I am not afraid of gay. I am not gay, but I am not afriad of gay! If I were gay It is my busness. I would not hurting anyone. Try looking in the women’s department for clothes and see what happens. (unless it is Christmas)Yes the clothes are for me. So what. …Have you gone out to eat at Olive Garden…..? the women are wearing men’s ties. Men’s shirts. Walmart, KMart.
    Men are babies when ot comes to men wearing women’s clothes and so are a lot of women. Why?

    I want to be with women, I want to be treated as one of the girls! I am one of the girls.
    I may not have all the stuff but I am one of the girls. Femimmie is in me.
    I have no home…….caught between those worlds……I am shouting to belong.
    Where do I go?

    • I feel like this comment helps me to understand you better. Since I do not know where you live or what the resources around you are like, it is difficult for me to actually make a concrete recommendation. Are you asking about an actual in-person circle to meet with? Are you looking for online support/community? What can YOU offer to your community that would provide the connection and involvement that you seek? I am a big proponent of creating that which you would like to see exist, rather than waiting for someone else to offer it to you—so, what you can do for others who are seeking to belong? I wanted more spiritual involvement in my own community and so, gradually, I’ve been building that and expanding what I can offer to those around me.

  4. Thank you for the shout out! High praise indeed.

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