March 7, 2015 § 3 Comments
(This is my submission for Prompt #2 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)
The sun rises, dawning color and warmth into the world, nurturing and burning, illuminating and changing. It visits any given area for longer and shorter times throughout the year, rising through the sky, falling through the season. Hours and seasons are set by its movements, heating and cooling, growing and harvesting.
The sun sets.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a researcher found that people who fit solidly into the gender roles proscribed by society were far more likely to assign gender to words and objects than people who didn’t fit so cleanly into societal gender norms. Read up on Gender Schema Theory by Sandra Bem and the fascinating research and ideas within it. It’s a bit dated and incomplete, and yet it has usefulness within its limitations, like any model.
During a cognitive task study, people who were strongly gendered and gender-normative (“sex-typed” in Bem’s theory, meaning they process and integrate traits and information in line with their assigned gender, conforming to the cultural definition of what it means to be “male” or “female”) tended to remember more traits assigned with their gender role, and processed “sex-type congruent” information more efficiently… perpetually reinforcing their concept of gender normativity, a continual process of confirmation bias. When given a list of words to cluster either by semantic meaning or by gender, they were also more likely to cluster words by gender. They are “gender-schematic”.
In contrast, “cross-sex-typed” individuals (in Bem’s theory, people who processed and integrated information and traits in line with the opposite gender role from their assigned gender) had the lowest percentage of words clustered by gender, followed by “androgynous” individuals (people who process and integrate traits and information from both genders). They are “gender-aschematic”.
Strong gender-schemata provides a filter through which people process incoming stimuli… making it easier ability to assimilate information that matches the stereotypes, which further solidifies the existence of gender stereotypes. It is one model through which to approach reality, and a highly dominant one in a number of societies, enforced and reinforced throughout the culture. It is incredibly prevalent, too, in much of Neo-Paganism: Lord/Lady, God/Goddess, Male/Female, elements and correspondences all sorted into Masculine and Feminine. Sun God and Moon Goddess, in so much of mainstream Paganism.
The moon rises, lining the world in silver and shadow, the cool colors of night. The face of the moon waxes and wanes, cast in growing shadow, brightened in growing light. Months are measured by its cycles. Its pull sets the rhythms of the oceans, the tides and waves, and perhaps it even influences the rhythms of mind and heart.
What, then, for those of us who are gender-aschematic?
I am fortunate in that my tradition leans gender-aschematic, itself. Kemetic philosophy is non-dualistic and polyvalent, the One and the Many, both/and. Many seemingly contradictory things can be true all at once. There are deities with the title of “The Great He-She”. There are deities that are explicitly hermaphroditic, deities that are very male, deities that are very female, and deities that are downright sexless. There are deities that are more concept than person. There are deities that merge into one another, split into pieces, and those pieces join with pieces from other deities to make new ones, fission and fusion and fluidity.
The sun is a goddess and the sun is a god and the sun is a scarab. The moon is a child and the moon is a god and the moon is only rarely a goddess, but the gods of the moon are not strongly masculine. The sun and moon are not so much gendered as they are personified in many different ways.
The sun takes the form of scarab, cow and bull, lioness, falcon, cat and leopard, cobra, vulture, and heron. The sun is nurturer, warrior, queen, king, healer, lover, creator, avenger, guardian, mother, father, and son. The moon takes the form of ibis, baboon, and falcon. The moon is healer, defender, scribe, protector, creator, child, traveller, embracer, time-keeper, mathematician, magician, judge, mediator, arbitrator, counselor, and scientist. Both sun and moon are incredibly multi-dimensional, and go so far beyond gender.
Wepwawet is my Parent deity, and I associate Him with shadows and night – though not the moon itself. So often for me, He is gentle soothing darkness, and also an edge of mischief and unknown mystery. He is the moonlit crossroads where your shadow stretches black and long before you at the point of choice and possibility. He is a magician and something of a gambler, a warrior and a scout, the standard-bearer and guide. Yet He has never seemed strongly gendered to me, this wolf-wanderer of the ways between.
Bast-Mut is my Beloved deity, and She is most definitely the sun. She is Bast on Her throne, Bast Who is Mut, the Devouring Lady, the hunting-cat goddess crowned with uraei. She is an Eye of Ra, a title given to a number of martial or protective solar deities. Fierce yet motherly, regal yet warm, and I see Her in the kind of sun-warmth that invites basking, the sun that warms me slowly and gently down to my bones. For me, She is the revitalizing warmth of the sun, and I feel Her most strongly in the dark of winter when the sun shines forth and brings me back to life. She is joy and care, protective nurturing.
The sun has many different faces to me. There is the harsh beating sun-in-summer, Ra as King and Sun, the Apis-bull, Sekhmet’s wrath. There is the warming sun-in-summer too, Mut and Heru and Wadjet. There is the cool distant sun-in-winter, hawk and scarab, watching, becoming. There is the warm revitalizing sun-in-spring, Hethert returning from Her travels, Bast crowned in glory. There is the fading sun-in-autumn, Hethert-Nut as the Wandering Eye in Her departure.
Sometimes the moon sings to my blood, intoxicating and invigorating. Sometimes the moon is a rabbit and sometimes the moon is an ibis as Djehuty or a falcon as Khonsu. Sometimes the moon is a mystery, magic, and the hunt. Sometimes the moon is madness, its fullness corresponding with a spate of crisis in the mental health centers I’ve worked in. Always, the moon is genderless. Never have I experienced it as feminine, and never have I identified with the menstrual cycles that so much of modern mainstream Paganism associates with lunar cycles. I love the moon and thrill to the sight of it, sparking dreams and visions in my mind.
The sun is a different thing entirely. I connect so strongly to the sun, and I am keenly aware of its seasonal increase and decrease. The seasonal rites of equinox and solstice resonate with my heart and biochemistry, not for their celebration of the cycles of agriculture but rather for the marking of the sun’s departure and return. My mood brightens with sun’s presence and suffers significantly in its absence, seasonal affective disorder weighting my body and mind. The hawk in me is a solar creature, thriving in the daytime, hunting in the sun’s light. The phoenix I identify with at the core of my soul is solar above all else.
The moon sets.
The sun rises.
February 7, 2015 § 3 Comments
(This is my submission for Prompt #1 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)
It always begins with stories.
Once upon a time – was the word and the character and the question. A blank page, a blinking cursor. A dream.
I read fiction, and wondered. I looked online as my roots were torn from me with multiple cross-country moves, and found a community of fellow fans. I made my own characters, penned my own stories, and wrote collaborative fiction in the form of roleplaying.
In researching werewolves for a novel, I found therianthropy: the idea that some deep intrinsic part of a person could be a non-human animal, somehow. A shock went through my system. What if all of the metaphors in my poetry and journaling were more than allegory? Could I be a bird and a human both? Could symbols be reality?
This was the dawning of my spirituality, though I refused to see it as such, as I was striving to be all things acceptable to my parents: straight, cisgender, monogamous, Christian. I was mired in the depressive swamp of my adolescence, denying myself so desperately that the voice of my soul could only cry out in symbols, metaphors, and stories. My repressed fury turned in on myself, leaking out in self-harm and self-loathing, snarling out through anger-ridden characters. My sexuality hid itself in cautious fiction. My gender only peeked through obliquely in the genderlessness of hawk-identity (though it expressed in childhood play, too, the neutral and masculine roles I took on, the characters I identified with).
Some of my friends came out as transgender (binary and non-binary both), and the question tickled at my subconscious. I wondered, and then I denied. I buried the inkling. Yet the question kept arising, and as I ripped away from Christianity with a tearing of flesh and soul, my objections shifted from “it would be unacceptable for me” and into “I’m not genderqueer enough for it to count.”
Stories – and experiences. A beloved friend invited me to a Samhain ritual, and felt a thrumming in my core when the druids called upon Manannán mac Lir. I attended the same grove’s Yule (that life-changing event that sheared me at last from the Christian faith that hadn’t fit me for years), and I staggered at the resonance I felt when they called Heimdall.
Gatekeepers, threshold-walkers, the crossroads and the way between. Transitions, liminal spaces. Neither/nor, both/and – this has long been my space, the role I fall into again and again. The cultural context of Manannán mac Lir didn’t fit, though, and Heimdall’s Norse context was closer, but still not right.
A cat walked across my path one night around a fire, as I questioned, meditated, and called into the night for a sign. I searched for cat-gods and found Kemet, and a kind of home: non-dualism, fluid deities, a world of Seen and Unseen. I explored the Names of Netjer, and the thrumming of resonance became a thunderous sound that filled me to overflowing and shattered me into wholeness as I recognized Wepwawet, Opener of Ways.
It is a colloquial Kemetic Orthodox saying that you can learn about a deity through their children, that the children of a Name reflect the character of their Parent(s). It’s my personal experience and belief that working with an entity brings forth the elements within you that are akin to that entity. Like my Parent deity Wepwawet, I live so often in the liminal, in the in-between. My Shemsu name in Kemetic Orthodoxy is Djeriwepwawet, meaning “Wepwawet is strong”, or Djeri, “strength”. It takes strength, resiliency, and endurance to occupy the middle-place, to hold the container for transformation, to keep the threshold.
My spirituality is a complex, nuanced thing. The liminal is part of it, being other and in-between, transformation and shapeshifting. Kemetic practice and faith is another part of it, and that too is non-binary and non-dualistic, fluidity within a structure. Animism and non-human identity is another piece, as is my lack of gender, as is metaphor, archetype, and all the myriad threads of story.
Every dawn is a return to the beginning that is Zep Tepi, the Kemetic first time. Every new year, too. Every birth from the phoenix’s pyre, every death, every new exploration. This piece of writing, too, is a beginning.
To the journey.