Welcome to Discovering the Male Mysteries with Mel Mystery. This blog is a supplement to my podcast is for and about gay and bi pagan men. My podcasts are about what it is to be gay, what it is to be pagan, what it is to be men — sometimes as separate topics and sometimes all meshed together as one. I started this endeavor after seeing that there were few, if any, podcasts out there on this topic. The podcasts are informative, and present topics that challenge conventional thinking.

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Gay Voices and Gay Coded Villains

Villain

From the Wikimedia Commons.

Why do so many animated villains have stereotypical gay voices and mannerisms?

That’s something you may have noticed but not really thought much about.

A 2014 documentary titled “Do I sound gay?” by David Thorpe explored a surprising number of animated villains with gay voices and mannerisms, and apparently a thing for extravagant hats. Disney films were mentioned specifically, but Disney isn’t the only studio to do this.  Some of these villains include King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph, Jafar from Aladdin, Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas, Hades from Hercules, Scar from The Lion King, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, and Shere Kahn from The Jungle Book.  The Little Mermaid’s Ursula also fits this stereotype – not as a female villain, but as a drag queen stand in.  She is vain, has a husky male voice, and wears excessive make-up.  She was supposedly modeled after the famous drag queen – Divine.  Lesbian inspired villains do exist, but are harder to distinguish.  Some have suggested Maleficent, Cruella DeVille, and the Evil Queen from Snow White fit Lesbian stereotypes.

According to Thorpe, effete, aristocratic, effeminate men have been depicted as villains for a very long time. Even before the animated films, Hollywood’s effeminate villains have included Waldo Lydecker in 1944’s noir film Laura and Addison DeWitt in the 1950 drama All About Eve.

Gay male stereotypes used in depicting villains include femininity, talking with a lisp, being flamboyant, being vain, sassiness, and being sensual or sexual. Lesbian stereotypes include masculinity, deep voices, and brash personalities.

Depicting villainous characteristics as gay has been a film trope since at least the 1940s. In a way, it’s a kind of social coding.  The “sissy villain” is a sign of immorality which in turn assigns real life people with these traits as villainous. Since these stereotypes are introduced to children at an early age, since they are repeated often, and since there aren’t as many counterpointing gay acting heroes, the idea of gay people being villains is reinforced in society.  These stereotypes can also reinforce internalized homophobia in gay youth.

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What is Druidry?

English Druids

A depiction of ancient Druids. From the Wikimedia Commons.

Druidism was the religious and scholarly path of the ancient Celts. Druids were the priests, scholars, and advisors of the ancient Celtic world.  They studied for 20 years to become a full druid.  Other ranks included Bards who were storytellers and musicians and Ovates who devoted themselves to divination and healing. Unfortunately the ancient druids didn’t write anything down and committed all their beliefs and practices to memory and oral tradition, so most of what we know comes from secondary sources and conjecture. Modern druids tend to fall into one of several categories including: Reconstructionist druids, neo-pagan druids, and fraternal druids. Reconstructionist druids are dedicated to reconstructing ancient druid beliefs and practices to be as authentic as possible. Neopagan druids tend to focus on the spiritual aspects of druidry.  They honor and worship the ancient Celtic deities, nature spirits, and their ancestors. Other Neopagan beliefs and practices such as Wicca are sometimes merged and there is often overlap between scholarly druidry and spiritual druidry. Fraternal druids act as fraternal and charitable groups and use druid symbology, but aren’t necessarily Pagan in belief.  Druids have traditionally been considered male, though there are accounts of ancient female Druidesses. With the exception of some historic fraternal orders, most modern Druid organizations are open to men and women.  As with other Pagan groups, druids tend to be open and welcoming to people of all sexual orientations and gender associations.

As far as we know, the ancient Celts had no prohibitions against homosexuality. In fact, many of their tales mention homosexual relationships in a rather matter-of-fact way, while other tales talk of the deep bonds between same-sex persons.  Roman and Greek accounts of the Celts mention Celtic warriors who were deeply insulted if their advances for homosexual sex were refused. Some historic accounts mention Celts who slept on animal skins with their male lovers, and other accounts mention them having a male lover on one side and a female lover on the other.

Cuchulaiin's Lament

Excerpt from the Lament of Cuchulaiin for Ferdia.

At least one tale speaks of lesbian sex among the ancient Celts. In “Niall Frossach,” from The Book of Leinster, lesbian sex is specifically mentioned as “playful mating.”

The tale of Cuchulainn and Ferdia is often brought up as an example of male homosexuality among the ancient Celts. These two warriors were also lovers, but the tale ends tragically when they are forced to fight each other to the death on opposite sides in the same battle.  Cuchulainn laments the death of his friend with these words:

Fast friend, forest companions
We made one bed and slept one sleep
In foreign lands after the fray
Scathach’s pupils, two together
We’d set forth to comb the forest

Are you Guilty of Bi Erasure?

Bisexual Pride Flag

Bisexual Pride Flag

Bisexual erasure is the tendency to deny the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality and bisexual individuals. The most common forms of bi erasure include simply ignoring bisexual identity, and also believing that bisexuals are going through a phase and that they will eventually realize they are either homosexual or heterosexual. Extreme forms of bi erasure involve denial that bisexuality actually exists, removing or falsifying evidence of bisexuality from history, and ignoring bisexuals the news media (even from LGBT media).

Bi erasure is furthered by the misconception that sexuality is a binary with only homosexual and heterosexual orientations. For some folks, it is inconceivable that there are people out there attracted to both men and women (the idea that gender is a strict binary is perhaps a topic for a later article).  Believing in the binary model validates the experiences and perceived legitimacy of many who identify strictly as either heterosexual or homosexual. Gay people can be just as guilty of bi erasure as straight people.  Many bisexual people feel pressured and ignored by both the straight and gay communities.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Alfred Kinsey and other sex researchers interviewed thousands of men and women about their sexual attractions and practices. Out of their research came a tool known as the Kinsey Scale (also called the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale).  Kinsey and his colleagues discovered that sexual orientation falls on a spectrum rather than a strict binary.  This spectrum is often visualized as a bell curve.  This curve can be skewed for a variety of reasons, such as social conditioning and peer pressure, which affect whether someone identifies as or acts on their bisexuality, homosexuality, or heterosexuality.  Heterosexual people have the most support and affirmation from society.  Those outside factors aside, most of the population falls into varying degrees of bisexuality regardless of whether they acknowledge or identify their bisexual attractions and regardless of whether they act on them.  For many, sexuality is fluid and attractions can change at different points in one’s life.  Bisexual people are not necessarily attracted to both sexes and genders equally either.  They can fall at various points on the Kinsey scale and not necessarily at the exact center.

Some examples of bi erasure and misconceptions that support this erasure include:

  • Believing that bisexuality is a phase and that the bisexual person will eventually choose to be gay or straight.
  • Believing that bisexuals are simply straight folks experimenting with their sexuality.
  • Believing that bisexuals are actually gay, but not ready to admit it.
  • Omitting a person’s bisexuality from historical reports or media stories.
  • Leaving bisexuals out of discussions on LGBT rights and not giving them a voice in LGBT organizations.
  • Assuming that all same-sex couples are completely gay or that all other-sex couples are completely straight.
  • Assuming someone’s sexual orientation as either gay or straight based on the gender of their partner.
  • Believing that bisexual people are protected by passing privilege.
  • Believing that bisexual people are indecisive or confused.
  • Assuming that bisexual people aren’t affected by same-sex marriage debates.
  • Assuming that all bisexuals are in polyamorous or open relationships, but also assuming that some bisexuals are not.
  • If you are bisexual, calling yourself gay, straight, queer or some term other than bisexual because it’s less complicated than calling yourself bi.

What is Norse Paganism?

The Norse god Freyr was said to have homosexual priests who rang bells. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

Norse paganism includes Asatru, Heathenry, and Odinism among other related paths.   Norse pagans honor and worship the Norse gods and goddesses including Odin, Thor, and Freya.  The Norse gods and goddesses fall into two categories, the Aesir and the Vanir.  The Aesir are the principal pantheon and are typically war gods who live in Asgard. The Vanir are a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom and the ability to see the future. Norse pagans also honor nature spirits (such as elves) and their ancestors. Most of what we know about these gods and goddesses and their mythologies comes from the Icelandic Prose and Poetic Edda’s and the Norse Sagas.

Norse pagans celebrate feasts and rituals called Sumbels and Blóts, which usually involve food and mead or some other form of alcohol. There are two types of magic in Norse paganism – Galdr and Seiðr. Galdr (pronounced “galder”) is the masculine form of Norse magic and involves the use of runes and staves.  Seiðr (pronounced “seether”) is the feminine form of Norse magic associated with the goddess Freya and is a form of shamanism. There were accounts of male practitioners of Seiðr, known as seiðmenn, but in practicing magic they brought a social taboo, known as ergi, onto themselves. Ergi was a term of insult, denoting effeminacy or other unmanly behavior. Some of the Norse gods including Odin not only practiced Seiðr, but cross-dressed. Certain aspects of Seiðr were sexual in nature and likely involved actual sexual acts. While homosexuality was looked down upon in ancient Norse cultures, Vanir gods and goddesses such as Freya and Freyr are said to have had gay or effeminate priests. Freyr is a male fertility god, who while very masculine and heterosexual himself had effeminate male priests who were said to ring bells.

Who are the Radical Faeries?

The Radical Faeries (also known as the Rad Fae) is an LGBTQ Pagan movement that came out of the 1970s. In 1979, Harry Hay, his lover John Burnside, and a few others organized a spiritual conference that kicked off the Radical Faerie movement.  Harry Hay was also a co-founder of the 1950s Mattachine Society. This movement originally incorporated hippie, Neopagan, eco-friendly, and feminist ideals, but has since become so large and diverse as to be undefinable.

Modern Radical Faerie groups and sanctuaries may include elements of Native and New Age spirituality, the mythopoetic men’s movement, sustainable living, anarchism, Marxism, and other eclectic foundations, but the overall theme remains queer positive, countercultural, and community focused. Faeries tend to reject the artificial constructs of the heterosexual mainstream and assimilationist notions from within the LGBTQ community. The Radical Faeries celebrate the diversity within the LGBTQ community through Pagan concepts and ritual.  As with the assimilationist attitudes in the LGBTQ community, they have also challenged strict and formalized ritual structures promoted from within some segments of the Pagan community. Rad Fae events are both serious and playful, and often include a sense of gay campiness and sometimes they include drag.

Originally made up of gay men, the movement has grown to include men and women of all sexual orientations and identities. Rad Fae groups and sanctuaries can include anything from groups of only men who love men to those that include men, women, and all those in-between.

The term “faerie” is a reclaiming of the derogatory term “fairy” that was often used as a term of derision for gay men. The re-appropriated term “Faerie” celebrates gay men’s roles as magical and mystical healers, and religious and moral leaders.

Many Rad Fae groups and sanctuaries exist worldwide in both cities and rural areas.

Rainbow Pride Flag Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

The Rainbow Flag, also known as the Pride Flag and Gay Pride Flag, is a symbol of LGBTQ pride. The colors reflect the diversity within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of pride in LGBTQ rights marches and parades. The Rainbow Flag was originally designed and hand dyed by San Francisco artist and drag queen Gilbert Baker in 1978. It first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

The original flag consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors as follows:

Hot Pink: Sexuality
Red: Life
Orange: Healing
Yellow: Sunlight
Green: Nature
Turquoise: Magic and Art
Indigo: Serenity and Harmony
Violet: Spirit

Since then, the design has undergone several revisions. As of 2018, the most common variant consists of six stripes, with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The hot pink and turquoise have been totally removed, and indigo has been replaced with blue. Personally, I find it ironic that the two colors that were removed represent sexuality, art, and magic, since I find those areas to be symbolically important and defining characteristics for many LGBT people.

The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as the colors would appear in a natural rainbow.

Many variations of the rainbow flag have been used. Some of the more common ones include the Greek letter ‘lambda’ (lower case) in white in the middle of the flag and a pink triangle or black triangle in the upper left corner. Other colors have been added, such as a black stripe symbolizing those community members lost to AIDS. Other flags have been created to celebrate other types of Pride in the LGBT community such as Trans pride, Leather pride, and Bear pride.

Philly “More Color More Pride” Flag

Last year there was controversy in Philadelphia because black and brown stripes were added to their rainbow flag as part of the city’s “More Color More Pride” campaign to increase the visibility of LGBT People of Color. The campaign was started in response to racial discrimination in Philadelphia gay bars. This created a great deal of controversy and even some backlash.

This year another rebooted Pride flag (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danielquasar/progress-a-pride-flag-reboot) has been introduced. The new design features the traditional six stripes, but has an added triangle or arrow on the left side featuring more colors. The added black and brown stripes represent both people of color and those who are living with or have died from AIDS. Light blue, light pink, and white stripes were added to represent trans individuals.

The rainbow flag celebrates its 40th anniversary this year in 2018. During the Pride celebrations in June of 2003 during its 25th anniversary, Gilbert Baker restored the rainbow flag back to its original eight-striped version and has since advocated that others do the same. However, the eight-striped version has seen little adoption by the wider gay community, which has mostly stuck with the better known six-striped version. Baker passed away in 2017.

The Progress Pride Flag

Today many LGBT individuals and straight allies put rainbow flags in the front of their yards and/or front doors, or use rainbow bumper stickers on their vehicles to use as an outward symbol of their identity or support. The rainbow flag, in an LGBTQ context, has also found wide application on all manner of products including jewelry, clothing and other personal items and the rainbow flag colors are routinely used as a show of LGBT identity and solidarity.

As for the controversy over other flags, I advocate using whichever flag you like best or that best represents you and that you respect the right of others to do the same. I personally like the original eight stripe version, but I also see the merits of the newer flags aiming to be more inclusive.

What is Wicca?

Wicca is the most commonly known Pagan religion. Usually the religion is called “Wicca” and most Wiccans practice spells and that practice is called “witchcraft.”  It’s basically good witchcraft.  Wiccans have a law called the “Wiccan Rede.”  The short version pretty much says “Do as you will, but harm none.”  They also believe that anything bad you do to anyone else will come back to you three times. They call this the “Law of Three.”  Wiccans worship a Goddess and a God.  They generally believe that all gods and goddesses from various cultures and mythologies are just different aspects of one ultimate Goddess and one ultimate God.  Wicca is generally considered a feminine religion. Modern Wiccans are more likely to focus on the Goddess than the God.  Some paths focus on the belief in male-female polarity, especially related to something called “the Great Rite.”  This Rite is basically the sexual union of male and female – whether practiced as a genuine sex act or symbolically.  In some circles there’s debate about how LGBT people fit into the whole polarity thing. LGBT folks tend to have both masculine and feminine polarities within, rather than being exclusively one or the other.

There are many paths within Wicca including Dianic Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, and the Feri Tradition.

Dianic Wicca tends to be almost exclusively female and Goddess oriented and is a favorite of Lesbians and Feminists. Dianic Wicca was founded in the 1970s by Zsuzsanna Budapest. Its focus is on the worship of the Roman goddess Diana (Artemis in Greek mythology) and feminism.  Unlike traditional Wicca that honors a god and a goddess, Dianic Wiccans view the Goddess as complete unto herself.  She is the source of all life.  Originally most Dianic covens consisted of Lesbian women, but modern Dianic groups may be heterosexual or mixed, but they remain a female-only tradition. Dianic covens often exclude Transgender people who were not born biological females.

Gardnerian Wicca was founded by was founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Gardner, was extremely homophobic and believed that covens and rituals should be performed exclusively through heterosexual male-female pairs.

The Feri Tradition emphasizes the “fey” (elves, fairies, etc.) and is open to all sexual orientations. They often encourage bisexuality during rituals. Faery Witch covens made up of Gay men have also been formed and are accepted in the Faery Witch tradition.  Feri and Faery Witches should not be confused with the Radical Faeries which will be discussed in a later article.

Other Wiccan paths include Alexandrian, Celtic, Georgian, and Discordian Wicca. There are also Kitchen Witches and Hedge Witches.

Two must read texts on LGBT Wicca and Witchcraft are “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture” by Arthur Evans and “Gay Witchcraft” by Christpher Penczak.