In “Ask a Witch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age. From spellcraft to finding your path, explore what it means to be a millennial witch.
Question: Witchcraft seems inherently female. Is there a way for me to practice as a man while maintaining respect for that? Or should I shove off and leave it for others?
Answer: Can I just start off by saying the universe itself does not have a gender? The universe is gender-fluid as hell. It's true that in witchcraft, there is an emphasis on the goddess—especially in Wicca. It’s Mother Earth after all; she is Gaia, the creatrix and ultimate mother. The moon is a goddess, and her consort is the sun, who represents what’s often referred to as the divine masculine. The moon, in turn, is the divine feminine. However, this duality in divinity isn’t as rigid as we perceive.
Any gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, whatever it is, can answer the call to be a witch. The universe, divinity, whatever it is, is not human. It’s more than us earthly creatures, and it’s problematic to try to put the universe into a container. Especially one with boxes that are supposed to be black and white but are actually gray.
In witchcraft, especially for the solitary and/or eclectic witch, there’s an emphasis on working with what feels best for you. Yes, the essence of witchcraft may feel feminine, but there’s always the masculine, too. Many people are drawn to the craft for the emphasis on goddess worship because that’s not available in patriarchal, structured religion. But if this binary isn’t something you connect to, you don’t have to ditch witchcraft altogether.
These are actually relative terms. Nothing is inherently yin or yang, other than those essences themselves. So, for example, blood is more yin than bones, but less yin than saliva. Sorry to get into the body fluids here! But in some contexts, a thing will be considered more yin, while in others, it is more yang. Everything exists on a spectrum that is dynamic and non-linear.
And while it’s important to recognize what these constructs are so we can explore them freely, Emily reminds us that it’s important to have breathing room from them, and to remember that sides of the divine may express themselves in unexpected ways. Different prayers, activities, artistic expressions, and practices, all hold different energies, and we may feel more connected to what we think of as “masculine” while doing something “feminine,” and vice versa—and that’s totally cool.
“I feel it's more about dynamic interaction than these two discrete entities that match up to the gender binary,” Emily emphasizes. “We are talking about cosmic forces here! The source of all life! The same forces in play in the Big Bang or a plant emerging through the soil. These things are much more of a mystery than we allow them to be. I think that can put limits on the depth of our direct intimacy with the cosmos. And our intimacy with our own self, too.“
When you begin to explore these dynamics, it’s important to keep in mind to soften, to allow yourself some space to learn and grow and evolve. To have some self-compassion. To remember that in the end, we’re connecting to a sense of wholeness, with the goal of integrating both of these energies, not basing them so much off of gender constructs or binaries that split us up. “They’re two different textures of one fabric, the fabric that makes up all life,” Emily says.
The divine masculine and feminine, in the end, are two parts of one whole. And by breaking the thinking and language, Emily explains, “The full spectrum of gender expression is much closer to a true representation of the divine feminine and divine masculine than the binary! The more we break that down on a material level, the closer we can get to it metaphysically and spiritually.”
The key words here are "explore" and "evolve." Give yourself time to feel into what may feel uncomfortable at first. Any philosophy is going to ask you to be firm in your beliefs by questioning them, and witchcraft reminds you to stay flexible. We ebb and flow as the moon and tides do, and while it’s important to have these ideas of what’s out there in mind, it’s just as important to grow alongside them.
You don’t have to know what you believe in to be a witch. As your practice grows, so do your beliefs. If you’re turned off by the idea of working with a god or a specific male deity, don’t sweat it. Take time, let it grow. If you’re uncomfortable working with the goddess, well then, you may want to ask yourself why. See what comes up. Let that grow as well. Hold space for your learning, and for what’s to come.
Respect the goddess. Respect the god. Respect the divine feminine, the divine masculine, the divine gender-fluid universe. You can practice no matter what you identify as or connect to, but please remember, beloved: You are invited.