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Eco-Feminist Leanings in Wiccan Theology for Dummies

Eco-Feminist Leanings in Wiccan Theology for Dummies

Wicca is very much a religion of bringing dualities together to create a more balanced whole. Several components of Wiccan thought are very much eco-feminist, including emphasis on a hetero-normative gender binary in which women are clearly equated with nature. The patriarchy, embodied in the most severe forms of monotheism, has stripped women – and thus nature – of their inherent worth and power and have thus turned towards the artificial world of men. Wicca’s solution to this imbalance has been to reintroduce the concept of a sacred feminine, as portrayed by the Triple Goddess, in an attempt to bring its practitioners back in step with the natural (feminine) world. The technologies of both Wiccan theology and eco-feminism – which are just the technologies of belief- share many aspects, though do not necessarily work towards the same goal.

Wiccan theology teaches that the divine force in the universe may be personified into two interdependent, complementing deities known as the Horned God and the Triple Goddess, or sometimes simply the God and the Goddess. These archetypal beings encompass every other deity in all the pantheons in human history; this belief may be summarized as, “all gods are one god all goddesses one goddess.” (Beyer par. 3) The God and the Goddess are heavily gendered, representing the ideal sum of masculinity and femininity and the various roles a male-bodied, male-identified being may have with a female-bodied, female-identified being. Wiccans associate the Horned God with the sun, sky, and wilderness, along with the intellect, reasoning, willpower, and phallic objects like wands and daggers. (Cunningham 12-13) The Triple Goddess holds links to the moon; as it waxes and wanes, Wiccans see their Goddess transform between the guises of Maiden to Mother and Mother to Crone. She is associated with nurturance, motherhood, and above all the planet Earth and its biosphere, along with yonic objects such as cauldrons and chalices (11-12).

According to Keith Grint and Rosalind Gill, an overview of eco-feminism shows a similar divide along gender and biology. A woman’s anatomy – particularly that which allows her to bear and nurture children – “has led to a specific way of ‘knowing’ and experiencing the world, based on emotions, intuition, and spirituality.” (Grint 5) Women are, by the very fact of being women, linked with nature and the natural world. Eco-feminism, and by extension Wiccan theology, celebrates the “properly” gendered female attributes of “passivism and nurturance… creativity, tranquility, and harmony.” (5) Scott Cunningham, a well-known author of dozens of Wiccan books, suggests veneration of the God and Goddess comes from a similar trend in nature where organisms are also commonly divided along a male/female line. He states, “Since most (but certainly not all) nature is divided into gender, the deities embodying it are similarly conceived.” (Cunningham 9) Interestingly, Cunningham uses the word “gender” when it would perhaps be more correct to mention “biological/physical sex.” By referring to gender in terms of an inherent division springing from nature Herself, Cunningham redefines gender as biologically, rather than socially, constructed. It follows that such “natural” categories that other organisms and even the gods fall into would apply to humans as well.

It doesn’t take much effort to conclude that the God and the Goddess are the ideal embodiments of men and women; not only should men and women Wiccans emulate their respective deity, they already do. However, Wicca also teaches that instead of men sticking to the masculine and women to the feminine, both sexes should embrace the “other” within themselves. This is similar in concept to the Taoist yin and yang, two parts of a greater whole with their own distinct attributes that also reflect qualities of their opposite. While this does encourage appreciation for characteristics popularly regarded as feminine (and thus undervalued) and the acceptance of characteristics opposite one’s identified gender, it still sits squarely within the real of a gender binary. This deity and these aspects, as naturally and irrevocably feminine, pertain to women, while that deity and those aspects, completely and totally masculine, are for the men. Men and women seek to bring balance by embracing “opposite” parts of themselves, but in doing so they are reinforcing a black/white mindset.

Where the technologies of Wiccan belief and eco-feminism diverge, however, is in the use of other, more “traditional” technologies. Following the logic that equating women with nature necessitates equating men with artifice, and that this artifice has led to “masculine technological domination,” an eco-feminist position would argue that there is “no point in actually studying any particular technology, since its patriarchal nature can be assumed in advance.” (Grint 5) The lesson at the end of the day is that women have a women’s culture, long oppressed and in need of empowerment, and men have a men’s culture that, due to its inability to be anything other than patriarchal and oppressive, can – and should – be dismissed, if not outright rejected.

Wiccans seem anything but disinclined to utilize technology, if the sheer volume of online covens, book reviews, Pagan networking websites, and electronic journals has anything to say about it. Though they also recognize a gender divide, they do so in a celebratory manner. Wicca is cognizant of the fact that some sects place more emphasis on the Goddess and exaltation of the feminine, occasionally eclipsing the God and the masculine in the process. Cunningham explains, “this is a reaction to centuries of stifling patriarchal religion, and the loss of acknowledgment of the feminine aspect of Divinity (11).” He goes on to state that complete devotion to feminine spirituality is just as unbalanced as that devoted to masculine spirituality. Unlike eco-feminism, “The ideal is a perfect balance of the two. (11)”

Works Cited

Beyer, Catherine Noble. Wicca 101 – Concepts of Deity. 2008. Wicca: For the Rest of Us. 4 Mar 2009. <>
Cunningham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2006.
Grint, Keith and Rosalind Gill. “The Gender-Technology Relation: An Introduction.” The Gender-Technology Relation: Contemporary Theory and Research. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis, 1995. 1-28.

One Response
  1. Anne Dalke permalink*
    March 16, 2009

    The Doctor–

    You do a nice job here of spelling out the ways in which wiccans are like-and-different from the eco-feminists we “met” @ the beginning of the semester. But there’s lots I’d like to know more about:
    * what makes men more “artificial” than women?
    * what is a “technology of belief”?
    * (given all our talk of social construction) what is “a very fact”?

    The sharpest contrast you note is of course the willingness of Wiccans to utilize technology—but you only devote a short paragraph to that phenomenon. Given the topic of this course, that’s where most of your analysis should have been located; that section needs lots of extending and expanding. There’s actually been quite a bit written about the connections between internet space and Wiccan magic; for starters, see
    Nevill Drury’s Magic and Cyberspace: Fusing Technology and Magical Consciousness in the Modern World

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