Androgynous Archetypes
Most cultures have had divine beings who were both male and female at the same time. The Hindus have Ardhanaishvara, the Egyptians had both Atum and Neith in Their early forms, the Greeks had Hermaphroditu and Athena, ancient Palestinians had Baal, the Templars had Baphomet. Many of the Shinto Gods are androgynous deities, such as Amaterasu, Toyuke, and Kayanuhime. Indeed, world mythology is filled with androgynous deities. Many stories involving creation involve dividing a previously androgynous deity into male and female forms. Androgyny incorporates a notion of totality.

All universal Gods of the world, including the Tao, Atman, Allah, Great Spirit, and such are so completely beyond form as to have the concept of gender seem ludicrous to Them. Indeed, These are male, female, both, and completely beyond the concept of gender.

Elohim is the masculine plural of a feminine noun. The Tree of Life through which the divine is seen by Kabbalists has masculine, feminine, and neuter/androgynous pillars.

It is my opinion that the fact that we do have so many divine images that are either male or female merely reflects that is the way we view other human beings and ourselves. If we were of a species with a single gender or no gender, we wouldn't even have the concept. If we were of some (possible) species that required multiple individuals contribution in order to reproduce, we would view the world in terms of multiple genders. This is but one example of humans creating the gods in our image rather than the other way around.
Androgynous Deity
Androgynous deities may represent balance, union, harmony, and resolution of all dichotomies. Such deities do not deal with us in terms of "one up, one down" as tends to be the case with masculine and feminine, or as "like me/other than me". With androgyny, both viewing oneself as primarily androgynous and as human beings, and others as primarily androgynous, human beings, and whoever and whatever they are as individuals, a whole issue of equality comes up. Getting rid of the label of "man" or "woman", and merely using "human" or "spiritual being" allows for a lot more equality, as well as looking at the differences that really might be better or worse in some way.

Rituals for these androgynous beings do not merely lie within the temple, circle, or other ritual space. Holy acts involving these beings necessarily involves our entire lives. It is a matter of living in a holistic manner rather than a compartmentalized manner. Envisioning the divine as without gender, and worshiping Ker in this way allows for nondualism.
Striving toward Androgyny
There are two ways to view androgyny. One is a physical androgyny of having physical attributes of both sexes simultaneously, although often with a preponderance of one sex or the other. The second is a mental form of androgyny. This is to view yourself primarily as a person, and choose from the smorgasborg that life has to offer, picking the best from both the male and female sides. There are often repercussions from this, especially among children or youth, both from their peers who pressure them to act like their own sex, will call them "queer" or "homo" if they go outside these sexual bounds, as well as from adults who expect their children to act like either a girl or a boy. Indeed though, it is much more functional to teach the child both sets of things - teach the boy how to cook and change a diaper, and teach a girl how to fix the car. This can cause problems since math is one thing that is viewed as "not feminine", and pubescent girls are often pressured to not be good in math. That very much limits their career choices from the more lucrative ones such as scientist, engineer, computer scientist, architect, and accountant which require a great deal of math to do. Likewise, it's no better for boys to be told they cannot do linguistic or artistic things, at least in all ways, because "boys don't do that". Males cutting themselves off from their emotions is cripling.

All people, indeed all animals that have sex, have both male and female sexual homones to various degrees among individuals. It is rare indeed to have a person who solely exhibits the traits of the gender which is the same as the sex of their body. Indeed, such a feminine woman or a masculine man is almost a caricature. Truly, women assemble things, women are protectresses, women can act rough and rugged. Men are nurturing and emotionnal, men are gentle and passive, men appreciate beauty. People naturally are something of a mixture. Indeed, sex roles are mostly a product of culture and the ensuing beliefs.

It is a mistake to view the "masculine" as "strong, good and desirable" and the "feminine" as "weak, bad, and undesirable". That is a product of patriarchy. It is commonly held that patriarchy itself came from religion such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but closer examination shows that is not the case. Elohim and Allah are androgynous Themselves, plus Judaism had Lilith as well. Gnostic Christianity very much revered the feminine side of the divine in the form of Sophia as well. The Holy Spirit is often viewed as feminine within Christianity.

If God is a creator, that implies that either Ke incorporated both the masculine and feminine principles within Kirself from the beginning, or the creation was performed by a divine couple. Within polytheism, the latter is often the case. Some dualisms contain male and female as possible ways of dividing up the whole. Strict masculine monotheism will usually do some handwaving over the fact that a single male entity with no consort created everything. Monism has the whole thing being a non-issue, since the single entity that is Everything incorporates all possible sexes and genders.
Sexual Orientation vs Masculinity, Femininity, or Androgyny
I wish to emphatically state that how masculine or feminine a person is has NOTHING to do with their sexual orientation, or to whom they are attracted. Sexual orientation really has nothing to do with behavior either. The sexual orientation is most likley something either inborn or set in early childhood. The Nature of Sexual Orientation develops before the person has a chance to decide on how masculine or how femine he or she is going to act or prefer to be in any area of life. Indeed, there are feminine men, masculine men, androgynous men, feminine women, masculine women, and androgynous women who are found among the entire spectrum of gay, straight, and bisexual. Indeed, it is often in trying to "prove" some particular orientation to themself or to others that causes a few people to fall into the caricatures of ultra-femme women or ultra-butch men, or a few deliberately trying to act in reverse of their physical sex. No matter why or by whom this is done, it detracts from allowing the human being his or her full potential of life.
Sex Not Always Clear-Cut
It is estimated that 1% of babies are born with some degree of physical sexual ambiguity. Approximately 1 in 1000 are sufficiently ambiguous as to require the attention of a medical specialist. There are many causes for intersexuality, but nonetheless it is clear that the male/female dichotomy that we like to categorize everyone into just does not work. People love to categorize, and male and female is an "obvious" categorization. People even ask immediately whether a new baby or even a pet is male or female without asking anything more significant first. This seems to be an innate need for people to know. Just as people are uncomfortable not knowing whether a person is male or female, we are often uncomfortable without "knowing" whether our God(dess) is male or female. I believe that is why many people just use the pronoun "He" to refer to a deity Who may have both male and female traits, and why most people are uncomfortable with the pronoun "It" to refer to a deity. The gender neutral pronouns "Ke" and "Kir" have not caught on widely enough to be of much use.

However, most people still think in terms of everyone being a boy or girl, or man or woman. We foist this notion onto our gods as well as onto everything else. To me, this seems like one more attachment.
Ritual Gender Exploration
Since we are intrinsically both male and female, even though our body appears as one or the other, ritual and spirituality is a good and safe way to explore the gender possibilities and gender roles. Within Wicca, it is not uncommon to hold rituals in which a woman acts as the high priest and a man acts as the high priestess for a ritual. In some groups in a balanced tradition, meaning that they honor the God and Goddess equally and the group is made up of all one sex at least for some time, someone will have to take the role of the opposite sex in the ritual. These rituals can be pretty enligtening.

This has been done in many other religions. Ramakrishna acted as a handmaiden in the household of his temple boss, Mathur. During such periods he dressed and in all ways acted as a woman throughout his day-to-day tasks. Ramakrishna's periods of ritual gender-bending are described in Kali's Child: The Mystical & the Erotic in the Life & Teachings of Ramakrishna. This book describes in great detail what he was trying to accomplish. One thing he was trying to get rid of was lust. Lust can only exist when viewing someone as a sex-object, and thus viewing them in some sexual role. In forcing oneself out of that role and mindset, lust disappears. According to Ramakrishna's teachings, everyone in the world is 'female' in relation to the divine. Personally, I do not think that I agree with Ramakrishna, since the idea seems to incorporate a sex role and apply it between human and divine.

Copyright 2004, 2011 by Elizabeth Harper
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