My statement concerning the Dianic Tradition- response to recent debate and statement by Z. Budapest
Recently there has been much discussion regarding a supposed statement made by the Dianic elder and leader Z. Budapest in reference to men and transgender individuals being involved within the tradition. If this is in fact a statement that Ms.Budapest has made than I must first begin this post by saying: Shame on you. As a male witch whose first traditional craft experience was via a Dianic coven in the spring of 2003 and an initiate of the Northern Star line of British Traditional Wicca, an outspoken Diana-centric line of Wicca, I cannot but look at this statement with both confusion, disillusion, and apathy as to the recent flame fanning of this constant struggle. In truth the Dianic tradition has never been strictly female, especially females who were born female. There is plenty of history in the books to support this be it the Castrata who would castrate themselves in sacrifice to the Goddess Diana, or the priests of Artemis at Ephesus who would dress in drag and serve the temple as sacred prostitutes who were known as the Megabyzos. The Megabyzos were known as gender bending priests who flocked from all over the world to serve in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. In Dr. James Frazer’s The Golden Bough we are given an account of male priests of Diana who served at the temple in Nemi, often times these priests were escaped slaves seeking sanctuary who would dedicate themselves to Diana and live in relative peace through-out there lives.
History shows that the worship of this Goddess and her cult predate most of antiquity and her worship was observed throughout the ancient world in several forms. Ms.Budapest’s version of this tradition is but the most recent interpretation of the traditions long history, and is not by any means the end-all be-all default to the mysteries. When I was initiated into the cult of Diana in the winter of 2004 I was quick to be informed that I would never possess the same sacredness in the eyes of the tradition as my sisters, but that men within the tradition were expected to sit back and act as guardians. Initially I saw no issue with this as I was in service to my Goddess however as time moved on, I sought a different form of the mysteries and I received a very different message. I too, even with a penis, was as sacred in the eyes of the goddess as a woman who might bleed, I was a priest of Diana and regardless of the feminist pull of the current majority within the tradition I could serve as a priest and be quite successful. I sought to connect the missing pieces, spending countless hours in research, connecting to other gay men and scholars that also were searching for something similar. What we found was a rich history of men, women, and transgendered persons working together, sharing mysteries, and practicing together be it through reconstructionist modalities or the search for new mysteries.
What we first must understand is that the more seperatist practices of Ms. Budapest were forged within the flames of the Women’s rights movement, and as such her line reflects the plight of women in their search for sacredness. There was a time in which paganism and witchcraft highly resonated with the cry of women to reclaim Goddess spirituality and witchcraft was seen as being a “Women’s religion”, however as we look around we can see that the cards didn’t fall that way. As a community we all must understand this first and foremost; Z. Budapests take on Dianic spirituality is one fragment of a larger puzzle, the work however that was done on her behalf is highly potent, highly influential, and highly inclusive to the female mysteries of those who might give birth. No one is attempting to steel her work, however due to its popularity those who are knowledge seekers will always be influenced by her work. I can understand her defensiveness as she attempts to protect the sacredness of women born women spirituality but with the dawning of the twenty-first century the very dynamics of gender was thrown up into the air. When Ms.Budapest began her work the resources were not available for transgender people to actually undergo the medical procedures to transition from male to female, and men were still trying to put women in the kitchen. Her work in the Dianic tradition was honorable in its intention and interpretation, however it is being challenged in our modern times, as is the work of Gardner, Sanders, Valiente, and the other ‘greats’.
The issue of male to female transgender individuals not being allowed to enter the rites and rituals of the separatist Dianic tradition are strictly due to the nature of these rituals, and we must respect the decisions of the ritual leaders as they attempt to create a safe place for the attendees. This is not to say that the introduction of transexuals and transgender threaten the mysteries observed within the ritual, but it is to say that the prime directive of this work is to empower women as they observe changes within their own bodies, rites of passage such as those related to pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause- facts of life that transgendered individuals simply don’t know about due to biology. I personally do not support the exclusion of any minority from spiritual practices, however I do support a ritual leaders decision to facilitate a comfortable environment for those attending rituals. The majority of the rites of Diana do involve being sky-clad and it is perfectly reasonable to expect women who are already dealing with image issues to be confused by the introduction of a sky-clad transgendered person. In a perfect world this would not be as big of an issue, unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world.
As a man who has always identified as male I would not expect to be a part of these rituals, however as an active member in the GLBTQ movement I do see that those transgendered persons who have always felt that they were a woman on the inside would be completely offended by their exclusion from the mysteries. Society and culture is just now recognizing these individuals, and as they undergo the emotionally and physically painful process of transitioning into womanhood they too must be honored. When the Castrata would undergo the castration process they were accepted into the faith as a priestess, so why is it now that the transgendering process is safer and no longer holds the dangers it once did that those who seek to empower the Goddess within are denied this sacred acknowledgment? Are the mysteries different? Yes! Should those who have studied Women’s mysteries be open to helping these individuals find these mysteries? Yes! The work of Ms. Budapest is simply beautiful, and as someone who has such a definitive background in pagan gnosis I ask why it is that she chooses to show these individuals and men who might study Goddess spirituality the door when simply saying, “ I do not believe that all of our mysteries can be shared, however I am available for questions for those who seek to explore these mysteries.” Instead of showing respect to those who have undergone such sacrifice as the surgical removal of their genitalia as they seek to embody the Goddess by opening discussion, they are treated as individuals who are less than- a similar feeling for those who were involved within the Women’s right movement. In my personal opinion I believe that it is not the chromosome that makes the person, but the struggles they endure and how they choose to live their lives, I have an immense respect for anyone who would be as bold as our transgendered brothers and sisters.
As I stated above Z.Budapest’s take on the Dianic tradition is only one piece of this puzzle. As a male Dianic witch I strive everyday to be the living embodiment of Diana in every way that I can. I chose to not accept the projection of the feminist elitism seen in the Amazonian sect, I also chose not to feel rejected because I did not fit into the category of the majority. As a gay man I have struggled with similar issues my entire life so this is nothing new.
I also would like to add that for those who feel hurt by this statement and those who feel angered by the exclusion of men and transgendered people from the practices you are welcome into this tradition! You do have a home here, you will be received with open arms, love, respect, and support by our priesthood. The incident with the Amazonian ritual presented by the CAYA (Come As You Are) Coven at this years Pantheacon has led to a lot of resentment from our community. I would like to publicly support their decision to close this ritual off to women who were born women as that is their right, wires were crossed and the foresight was not given to the exclusion of the transgender community. Ms Rabbit Matthews the founder of CAYA has made several public apologies for this oversight and I must commend her and CAYA members for being pro-active in their apologies. True pagan leaders acknowledge their mistakes and own up to their faults. As a Dianic Priest I also must apologize to those who were hurt by all of this, but I must also thank those individuals who stood up and said something as your contribution is helping us to heal old wounds within our faith.
In the midst of all of this debate a new collaboration has been born. CAYA founder Ms. Rabbit Matthews and myself have begun to work together to explore the mysteries of a joint Dianic practice, one that is open to all regardless of gender or gender variation. It is our belief that through a collaboration we can correct the prejudices and imbalances within this tradition so that the true message of Diana can be offered to those who are willing to listen. Diana is and always will be the Goddess of ultimate love, ultimate pleasure, ultimate mystery, ultimate freedom, and ultimate truth and it is our hope that that message rings louder than the messages of ignorance and prejudice, all while respecting gender mysteries and transgender mysteries. As I do not speak for Rabbit nor CAYA on this subject I want to make it clear that I respect Ms. Budapest and her work, I however am appalled by her use of the English language. I can and will forgive her and I hope that you too see that we are all human, and when in defense of our ways we can lapse in judgment.
Ms. Budapest does not own the trade-mark ‘Dianic’, nor do I, however I would like to have it known that there are others sects within the tradition that do acknowledge and support men, women, and transgender people. We are a large faith that needs to band together to support a revolution of our practices. Women’s mysteries will always be Women’s mysteries just as Men’s mysteries will always be Men’s mysteries however there is more than the mysteries of gender, and those mysteries especially within the Dianic tradition are more empowering than those of gender. The beauty of our tradition is that you can look up into the night’s sky, draw down the light of the moon into yourself, and call upon Diana in any one of her million names. In the Roman myth of Diana, Diana sat on her father’s lap and demanded that she too be given a bow and arrow just like her brother, that she too be allowed to run free through the forests, and that she too may be given the liberties of any man. It is my belief that the mystery of claiming our own right to power regardless of gender is the first mystery that we should be looking towards, for only in the acceptance of the individual can we begin to accept the nature of Diana.
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