Monday, 1 January 2018

Polarity, gender, and fertility

Wiccan ritual often uses the concepts of polarity and fertility to make magic and symbolism. These can be viewed in an exclusively heterocentric way, or in a more inclusive and diverse way. The reality of gender, sexuality, and magic suggests that the inclusive way is more reflective of the true complexity of human nature.


Polarity describes the process of creating magical energy from the tension of opposites.
"Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled."
The Kybalion, 1912
Some Wiccans take the view that polarity can only be created by the interaction of a male body and a female body.

This is definitely not true, as I have demonstrated in several workshops by getting people to make magic with the tension of opposites such as extrovert and introvert, morning people and evening people, beer lovers and wine lovers, and many other polarities. I generally do this in workshops just to demonstrate that it is possible to create polarity using any difference; I don't do it in every ritual. It is worth doing as a magical exercise to prove to yourself that polarity can be made with any pair of opposites - we have even done it with people who like Marmite and people who like chocolate.

Lynna Landstreet describes the ultimate polarity as the moment when the primordial lightning created life from the primordial waters. Other ways of looking at polarity could include self and other, lover and beloved, spirit and matter, energy and form, and so on.


Gender is distinct from polarity and fertility, and is culturally conditioned. Different cultures regard different traits and behaviours as 'masculine' and 'feminine'. It might be more useful to think of yin and yang, contraction and expansion, or form and energy. However you conceive of gender, the Kybalion states that everything contains an admixture of the masculine and feminine principles. Therefore, even with a traditional esoteric understanding of gender, it should be obvious that any two people can make magic together, because everyone has a mixture of 'masculine' and 'feminine' within them.

Gender is also distinct from physical sex. Your physical sex may be male, female, or intersex, and describes your biological characteristics. There are seven different indicators of biological sex, all of which can vary to produce an intersex person. So our understanding that sex is divided into 'male' and 'female' is something of an over-simplification.

A person's gender is about how they identify and express themselves, and can be a range of identities and expressions, including femme, butch, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, masculine, feminine.

Le Chevalier aux Fleurs, Georges Antoine Rochegrosse [public domain]
Le Chevalier aux Fleurs, Georges Antoine Rochegrosse [public domain]


Some people have described Wicca as a fertility religion, and have used the term 'fertility' to exclude LGBTQIA people from the Craft.

However, the making of fertility magic is usually performed by symbolic actions, not literal ones. It might be a couple making love, or the bringing together of an athame and a chalice, or planting seeds in a pot and waiting for them to grow. None of these needs human conception to bring the magic to fruition. The general idea of sympathetic magic is that a like action shows the energy which way to flow.

One of the most powerful myths of fertility involves two men. It is the story of the Grail Castle. The innocent young knight Parsifal rides in search of the Grail Castle. When he gets there, he sees many marvels, including the Fisher King, who is wounded in the thigh (presumably a euphemism for wounded genitals). On his first visit, Parsifal says very little and asks no questions, because his mother told him not to ask questions. He is then told that he has failed in his quest, and must find the Grail Castle again. On his second visit, he asks the right questions of the wounded King. By asking the right questions, fertility is restored to the land, and to "men's minds and women's wombs".

Fertility doesn't only mean literal biological reproduction. It can mean creativity, as the story of the Fisher King implies. The blight, or lack of fertility, that was affecting the lands around the Grail Castle, was affecting both "men's minds and women's wombs" (and presumably women's minds and men's reproductive equipment too). The restoration of fertility included both mental and physical fertility.

Further reading

All acts of love and pleasure: inclusive Wicca

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