Revisioning Gender and Deity By Kore RavenSea and Elyse Welles
Gender and American Society: It’s Never Been Simple
People are always asking, “do the Gods notice gender?” Or “Is gender important to deity?” Our answer is no. Gender is a social construct, created by humans. Deity knows no gender, sex, race, ethnicity, or orientation, yet this is always a hot topic of debate within the pagan community. We will let you in on a secret: there are many Gods, throughout history, who do not identify with any gender.
Our Gods will not discriminate against you for your gender identity - They are older than any traditional teachings or expectations for you based on what lies between your legs, and indeed much older still than any language or terminology for gender identity of any kind. Gender as a construct can be a useful lens through which to view and build understanding of different cultures and deities, but it is not definitive and certainly not limited to only 2 or 3 simple categories! As we work to fit genders and pronouns into the modern, patriarchal worldview, there’s a lot to strip away within ourselves to expand that understanding. Our modern Western society often strives for binaries and puts all things into a hierarchy (classism is deep folx!), and it can be overwhelming or freeing depending how we approach ourselves and our worldview.
A third gender, or an agender depending on one’s personal perspective, can be found in ancient and modern cultures globally, including:
The Hijras in India
two-spirited people in native North American cultures
Māhū in Hawaii and Tahiti
Muxe in Mexico
the Bakla in the Philippines
In the Albanian countryside many women elect to “become men” or “sworn virgins” as leaders of their community
In the Philippines and India those of the third gender are holy peoples. Many cultures revere a third gender, and in ancient as well as modern pagan temples the “Priestess” was expected to embody this sacred gender between the genders (see: “Inanna” below and kagurra).
A map depicting legal recognition of third genders - much of these laws have basis in the ancient pagan cultures of these lands:
Deities of Genderless and Multigender Identity
Researchers recognize 155 androgynous deities and deities who support gender neutral followers. For the purposes of this article, we will touch upon some more common place deities who were identified as gender neutral.
Hekate is known for having gender neutral followers known as Semnotatoi. Hekate acknowledges and accepts all followers, including those who don’t ascribe to a gender.
Isis is most prominently known for granting the petition of Iphis to turn from female to male. Iphis prayed to Isis at her temple and was granted this wish.
Dionysus, like Hekate is also known for bigender followers known as Ithyphalloi. Dionysus has also been known as the God of transgender and intersex people.
Asgaya Gigagei is a Cherokee diety who is androgynous. This deity appears to the caller as various genders, depending on who is calling them. So, while Asgaya may appear to Elyse as feminine diety, they might appear to Kore as a non-binary deity.
Aphrodite was sometimes known to have a male presenting counterpart, known as Aphroditos. This deity has also been known to identify as bisexual.
Betty de Shong Meador compiled and translated the poetry of Enedhuanna, the first published female author in human history. She was the High Priestess of Inanna for the entire city of Ur, the NYC of the ancient world when Mesopotamia reigned supreme across the East. Enheduanna wrote lengthy epic poetry to Inanna and served as her consort. Inanna “goes about” as a prostitute - “I have readied your room in the tavern” Eneheduanna writes to Inanna in her sacred poetry. In turns Enheduanna would serve as the male in the marriage bed, or a female, embodying the bisexuality revered in holy figures across ancient cultures.
In the Sumerian religion, the Goddess cult of Inanna venerated Her as Queen of Heaven and Earth, and her priestesses were known as kurgarras - “men and women who carried sword-belts and spears… [and] dressed their right side in women’s clothing and their left in men’s.” Inanna walks with the Male and the Female, or between the two at any given time. She was called upon by her followers and had the power to “turn” men to women and women to men. Inanna is depicted and described in androgynous clothing - robes, carnelian and lapis lazuli jewelry, a flame on her brow and a seven-headed mace in her hand. Her worship was intended to be a mockery of the concept of social order, orgiastic ritual and transgender ceremonies were a key part of her worship, showing that the fluidity of gender has long been a means of protesting social order and honoring chaos of the universe.
Teiresias was a prophet of Apollo. Part of his myth was that he turned from a man to a woman for 7 years. He was a priestess of Hera during this time. After seven years, he became a man again.
The Hindu God Vishnu is widely depicted as gender neutral. Vishnu also often took on the female avatar Mohini. While presenting as Mohini, Vishnu actually gave birth.
This Goddex of Hindu origin is worshipped as the creator of the hijras-those who are considered to be “third gender”. Bahuchara Mata is the patron of those who are transgender and intersex.
Honoring Genderless and Multigender Deities
When you are called to question gender and identity, lean on these deities for guidance and support. They can help us understand and shift our perspective on ourselves, and bring to light the truths we feel within but cannot yet understand. You are the only person who can ever understand your journey in this life, being true to yourself and finding the strength to exist authentically is the greatest honor to these deities.
To incorporate these deities into your practice, there are many ways you can honor them.
Add them to the Charge of the Goddess or the God, if you use that in your practice, or write a charge of your own to those who resonate most with you
Light a pink, blue, and white candle for blessings in a transition and invoke the Gods of your choice
Light a black candle to banish your deadname
Invoke deity without expectation of gender and be open to who presents themselves
Don’t assume the identity of the Gods’ you are working with; let them reveal themselves to you
Advocate for transgender pagans in your communities and spread awareness of non-binary deity
Use gender neutral pronouns in your practice
Light a rainbow candle to honor all genders and gender non-conforming persons and deities
Develop a relationship with one of the deities listed above and use them for social justice magic
Wear gender neutral clothing in ritual or practice skyclad
Use the term “Goddex” instead of God or Goddess
Use the term “Priestex” instead of Priest or Priestess
Write your own rituals, incorporating non-binary deity
Set an altar for non-binary deity
Write morning and evening prayers to honor non-binary deity
Continue the discussion here and on the Darksome Moon community pages, we’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the interactions of genders in the Craft, and how you’re engaging in a multigender or genderless practice. You are also welcome to contact Kore at email@example.com.
In your circles and spirals of magick, may you always lead with and be lead by love.
Enheduanna. and Betty De Shong Meador. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna. University of Texas Press, 2000.
Estrada, Gabriel S (2011). "Two Spirits, Nádleeh, and LGBTQ2 Navajo Gaze". American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 35 (4): 167–190.
“File:World Map Nonbinary Gender Recognition.svg.” Wikimedia Commons, 25 Apr. 2020, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:World_map_nonbinary_gender_recognition.svg.
Young, Antonia. Women Who Become Men: Albanian Sworn Virgins. 2000.