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Gender-based Exclusion in Dianic paganism and Christianity

July 10, 2012

This is a guest post by Ann Nyland:

Last year the Guardian UK ran an article which said that trans women were excluded at a Dianic tradition ritual in honor of Lilith at the PantheaCon, a significant annual pagan gathering in February. The article said, and I quote, “Many of the defenders of this position – the veteran witch Z Budapest, for example – argue from an essentialist position (“you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and ovaries and moon bleed and not die”) but also by an appeal to tradition.” (Why won’t pagans accept trans women?)

This year’s ritual at PantheaCon was for “genetic women only.” This month, gender issues sparked a major split within Dianic tradition. The Amazon Priestess Tribe, Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik, and the Living Temple of Diana split from Z Budapest’s Dianic tradition  and renamed themselves as “Pan-Dianic.”

Lady Yeshe Rabbit on behalf of The Amazon Priestess Tribe released a Press Release which noted in part, “We offer our reverent thanks for the wit, writings, and wisdom Z Budapest has offered us and the world, while acknowledging that we nonetheless find ourselves at theological and ethical crossroads with some core practices of her lineage.

Namely, we cannot support a policy of universal exclusion based upon gender at our Goddess-centered rites, nor can we condone disregard or insensitivity in communications regarding the topic of gender inclusion and Goddess-centered practice. We feel it inappropriate to remain members of a lineage where our views and practices diverge significantly from those of the primary lineage holder.”

The “genetic women only” policy in Goddess worship shows, at the very least, a blinkered approach to history. The Greek goddess Aphrodite gave birth to her son Hermaphroditos, obviously the source of our word hermaphrodite. Diana’s nymph Salmacis saw Hermaphroditos bathing and instantly desired him. She prayed to the gods to join her with the unwilling Hermaphroditos. Her prayer was granted and thus the two merged into one. Surely this was Diana’s time to intervene if she had such a problem with trans gendered people.

Let us also look at Lilith as the ritual was in her honor. Historically there is a dearth of information about her, but the information we do have provides no evidence that she would have a problem with any trans woman.

Isaiah 34:15 states, “The wild animals of the desert will meet with the howlers, and the hairy goat demon (se’irim) will cry to its fellow. Lilith will settle there and find for herself a resting place.”

In the Jewish Kabbalah, Lilith is the wife of Sammael – an important angel in both Talmudic and post-Talmudic literature – and both are seen as evil. However, the concept of evil was developed by Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Kohen in Spain in the later thirteenth century.

In 1927, Gershom Scholem published “A Treatise on the Left Emanation,” Rabbi Isaac’s treatise on evil. This book was the first in Jewish work to say that Sammael and Lilith were husband and wife. This idea was later adapted into the Zohar.

The Talmud literature has Lilith as a danger to babies.

The main source of legends about Lilith is the Alpha Betha of ben Sira. In 1977, a scholar named Eli Yassif studied this text as part of his doctorate. He found that it existed in two versions: an earlier version closer to the original, and a later version dated to around the eleventh century which had many additions by a later writer.

The early version says that God created Adam and created a woman for him from the earth and named her Lilith. He brought her to Adam, but the two began to fight. Lilith uttered the holy name and flew away. Adam prayed for God to bring her back. God then told three angels to ask Lilith to come back, and if she refused, to bring her by force. The three angels caught up with her at the Red Sea. They told her to come with them or they would drown her.

Lilith replied that God created her only to harm male babies from birth to eight days old and female babies from birth to twelve days old. The angels would not leave her alone until she swore by God’s name that whenever she saw any of them or their names on the amulet, she would not harm the baby. (The names of the angels were Sanoi, Sansanoi, and Samanglof, which current scholarship believes were invented names.)

The later writer added to this part of the story, perhaps as an attempt to explain why the angels left Lilith alone. The writer reversed the part about Lilith and the babies, and the angels’ threat to drown her. The writer then has Lilith say that she cannot return to her husband due to the Torah, for she has been defiled, as she slept with The Great Demon.

The Great Demon did not appear in Jewish literature prior to this writer’s invented addition to the ancient text. An even later editor decided that The Great Demon’s name was Sammael, as he was already associated with the Garden of Eden.

Rabbi Isaac then said that Grand Old Lilith is the mate of Sammael, and the Younger Lilith is the mate of the powerful demon Asmodeus. The evidence suggests that Rabbi Isaac invented this story and alleged it to be myth.

Thus we have no evidence to suggest Lilith would have a problem with trans women.

It is interesting that that Z Budapest’s branch of paganism and modern Christianity as a whole have gender-based biases.

When The Source, my New Testament translation, first came out, Christian women’s groups embraced it wholeheartedly. When my Study Bible for Gay, Lesbian, Trans and Bi came out, these very same groups were outraged, refused to stock The Source, asked for their endorsements on The Source to be withdrawn, and started hate campaigns against my work, even to the extent of organising prayer groups to pray against me.

When The Source first came out, complementarian Christians (those who believe that God divinely sanctioned women to have subordinate roles to men in the home and church) attacked me, saying I, being a woman, put it out to suit my own agenda.

When the GLBTIQ Bible came out, I received frequent hate email which included statements such as, “You group of gay men will burn in hell for twisting God’s Word to suit your own perverted lifestyle.” Trouble is, I am not a group; I am not a man; I am not gay. I soon found out that not all feminists are fast to embrace social justice for others.

The Bible in the original languages does not say anything against homosexuality. Where the Bible speaks of going after “different flesh” or “strange flesh,” the reference has been assumed to be to homosexuality. However, the reference is to the Watchers, a class of angel, coming to earth and getting it on with human women. This is stated explicitly in the Old and New Testaments as well as in other ancient literature – it was a common belief of the times.

The Bible also explicitly blames the acts of the Watchers for the flood, and for the destruction of Sodom.

It is the general belief that the Bible is anti-gay. However, just because the majority of Christians think something, does not mean it is factual. The large majority of Christians believe that there were three wise men who visited Jesus as a newborn baby, and they also think that it is wrong to be gay and Christian. Yet no Bible version in any language says there were three wise men or that they visited Jesus when he was a newborn baby. The number of men is not mentioned. There happened to be three different types of gifts, and perhaps that is where this misapprehension came from. Nowhere does it say Jesus was a baby, but instead the Bible said they visited Jesus in a house, and also says that Herod ordered that all the children under the age of two be killed. The reason for this is that it took the wise men all that time to get to Herod, and then to find Jesus. He was not a newborn baby at the time.

Now the Three Wise Men Error (that is, that they were present just after Jesus’ birth) is not even a result of mistranslation; it is there for anyone to see in any Bible version. Mistranslation of the Bible makes the situation even worse. For example, these men were not even wise men; they were astrologers and sorcerers. English Bible translators have censored this. Magoi were in fact astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and spellcasters. One of the titles given to Daniel was “Chief of the Magoi” (“Chief of the magicians, magoi, Chaldeans, and astrologers.”)

In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, being gay was on the same level as planting two different crops in the same field, breeding two different types of cattle together, wearing two types of fabric at the same time. These days, most people do not have a problem with wearing cotton and nylon clothes at the same time, or owing a mixed breed of dog – well, hell, the whole cattle industry is ritually unclean by that standard.

It is a shame that “genetic women only” were the only ones seen fit to be at the ritual in honor of Lilith. I myself consider that an anti-feminist viewpoint. I also find it not a little disturbing that certain paths of paganism can take the same course as the gender-exclusive biases of “Religious” Christianity. Seems as if any sort of “Religion” with a capital R can be gender-biased.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 7:50 am

    Well, I’m just absolutely shocked to learn that the language of the New Testament and even of the Hebrew Bible is not more specific and precise and delineated and is so very open to human speculation and interpretation about the number of the μάγοι, and their individual IQs and their respective levels of wisdom, and the age of Jesus when they visited him. I cannot tell you, therefore, what a relief it is to realize, after all, that the gospel of Matthew in fact does give the exact number of gifts they gave him: It was 3, not more and not fewer (1. pure 24 carrot gold, 2. only the lightest colored and largest clumps — 7 clumps — of pure ultra-high-end B. sacra frankincense, and 3. the most aromatic aromatic oleoresin Myrrh in a gift-wrapped box from a certain shop in an Eastern town of Αἰθιοπία the proprietor of which is a genetic woman, or was she a man, well, the genetic thing is a fact for sure, or does that really matter to the story now?). Thanks Ms. Nyland.

  2. July 11, 2012 7:37 am

    This is Rosmarinus Stehlik responding kindly to the author of the article above.
    I wish to correct the on-going misconception of my person having split from the Dianic Tradition as fostered by High Priestess Zsuzsanna Budapest.
    I have ***NOT*** left the Dianic Tradition. I have my own autonomy to account fro where the Dianic Tradition is concerned, and see myself as an ALLY of the Self Determination of the Pan-Dianic Tradition, ***NOT*** a Pan-Dianic Witch.

    I remain an Eclectic evolved Dianic Witch and Priestess of the Goddess, and wish to have this error corrected, and my position clarified to reflect the Truth in relation to the sentiments of the article above!

    With Deepest Gratitude, and Cosmick Blessings,

    Lady RO

  3. July 11, 2012 7:39 am

    ***spelling correction: “I have my own Autonomy to account FOR where the Dianic Tradition is concerned…”

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