And so I shake my head.
The new trend, the hip trend, the “youth” trend is gender-fluid and “godless”. Well because I read, and I am both old and young for the generation I happen to have peers with I can tell you categorically and excuse me: THIS IS NOT A NEW IDEA TO PAGANS.
Pagans have always been more open to what gender and identity can mean. From the trans priests of Inanna (4000 BC) to pagan Gods like Thor dressing as a woman. In fact hard concepts of what was male and female are really a Renaissance or post-Mediaeval idea. There have always been gender fluid and trans people. Hidden perhaps, and definitely not usually written about but always there.
The idea there is one kind of “acceptable” Wiccan belief, one kind of “acceptable” paganism belief is wrong. It has never been right. In fact in books by Stewart Farrar and Lois Bourne while the ritual always included a God and Goddess or Lord and Lady there was no strict idea of what this meant. To some it was a psychological construct! That’s right! It was for some about ritualised spiritual and psychological healing. A form of catharsis based on Jungian ideas that humans contain both male and female aspects that required care. As such the female that is often extremely suppressed culturally was brought into the fore to heal and educate. It was never about having a universal meaning. The ritual was the important thing. What you did and said, how you said it, but everything else was open to interpretation.
The idea that Goddesses and Gods must mean the same thing to everyone is an internet idea.
While Wicca exploded as a concept once the anonymous online happened in the 1990’s it also allowed there to be “experts” who wouldn’t have been given the time of day in their local moot, to have an equal or even raised standing. Some of that is fine, but it tends to make folks zealous and preachy. It needed to make itself a “proper” religion and it lost some of the intellectual and gnostic meanings.
If you go back and read occult books written before we were “out and proud” there are bread crumbs, ideas about balance. Ideas about magickal, spiritual and life balance gained through ritual and through sexual relationships*.
The idea that we have to be one thing or another, believers or cynics, rational or spiritual is a false dichotomy. This ignores the complexity of the human experience. In Farrar’s work it states women could be a substitute “man” in a ritual context with the addition of a belt and athame. Men (whom were the socially privileged and dominant cultural force) were not permitted to take a woman’s place. This is often seen as intolerance but it is about the balance. The social, spiritual and ritual balance of energy. That said there were ritual where men did dress as women but it was a deep and hidden ritual about ultimate spiritual balance and enlightenment. It is also true that the Hierophant was often a role in 20th century ritual and even before that. A gender neutral older magickal practitioner role to aid, observe and conduct the balance between the male and female aspects. Sounds pretty gender fluid to me.
To recap: your personal belief in Lord and Lady was largely considered irrelevant and you could be either or both within a ritual setting for a very long time. What mattered was the ritual. The concepts of balance within and without. That female was not lesser, but powerful and beautiful. Whether you felt that the Gods were ideas, internal and or magickal concepts or living breathing beings or all of these things was not a debate. Not important at all. It was the gnostic ideas of revelation, balance and growth.
My advice, which you can of course take or leave, would be do the work. Read the older books. Look within and without and find those balances. Do a ritual that draws in or balances your energies with your opposite. Embrace those whom and different than you. Embrace the God and Goddess within yourself. It will change you. Not because you abandon reason, but because you take into yourself more than you think you can be.
*This is a complicated and often dated concept but the idea that you have lovers to learn and heal yourself and this person is a lot more modern that Dion Fortunes 1920’s Britain would have largely accepted.