Day 9: Beliefs – Deity Gender

I briefly discussed this in my first Non-Binary Mysteries post so it might sound repetitive, but I want to make the 30 days of Paganism structure as complete as possible.

My beliefs about deity gender (or the gender of wihts in general) are not strongly held. Several of my gods have been depicted in both male and female ways (no third genders simply because the source cultures were binary, as far as we know), but the depictions are usually in favor of one gender over the other. Volos (Veles), for example, is primarily depicted as male. Yet there are giant snake/dragon beings that share everything with the “standard” Volos associations, except they’re described as female (or they’re mentioned as suckling young, which is a traditional sign of being female). Many deity depictions of my gods are like that, where there’ll be either an opposite-gender version in one of the stories, or there is an opposite-gender counterpart with a similar name (Fra Berta has many names, one of which is Lady of the Ember Days. There is also a Man of the Ember Days, with no distinction other than being the male equivalent).

I do ascribe to certain gender depictions for certain deities without switching back and forth simply because that’s either how I’ve come to know them in the stories, or it simply “feels” right. Having Csodaszarvas or Fra Berta be female feels the most comfortable to me due to their motherhood associations and due to how “female” is viewed in the culture I’ve grown up in. When I left Catholicism and started researching all this, it was empowering to me to see these powerful and important figures as a sex that I’m viewed as, as the sex that’s lower in rank compared to males. But as I got older and became more comfortable with myself, the gender of the deities became less important to me as well.

I also started to realize that the deity’s genders were more symbolic of how they worked with humans and how the sexes were viewed in the source cultures, rather than anything actually involving sex or genitalia, which allowed me to become more apathetic about their gender as well. For instance, Nagy Boldogasszony is always described as female. This isn’t because she biologically has a uterus, xx chromosomes, etc., but because she has consistently been the god to petition to for women’s protection in pregnancy and birth. That association carries over to the more symbolic realm, where the Magyars considered agriculture and earth-related endeavors to be associated with female qualities due to the appearance of the earth giving birth to new life each year (my suspicion, assuming the “original” Magyars were steppe riders, that this is an adoption from their agricultural Slavic neighbors once they became more sedentary). Her becoming conflated with the Catholic Virgin Mary solidified the female depiction.

I find that the high gods, due to having more “official” descriptions compiled over time, tend to be the ones with gender associations, while the lower gods and local wihts are usually more ambiguous. The foxes have no apparent gender, for instance, nor do the nature wihts that I’ve come in contact with thus far. The one local wiht that I met up near Door County, WI  (The “White Lady”) was female, but that’s because she appeared as a form of Virgin Mary to a future nun and her followers accepted that vision as fact (I’ll go into that in a future post, as she was a one-time visit rather than a permanent part of my pantheon, since I don’t live there anymore). That’s how she “felt” to me too, so that’s how I’ll consider her until it’s indicated otherwise.

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