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Home > Temple Questions > Wicca

And what was that about gender polarity and the union of the God and Goddess? Does that mean you guys have orgies or something?

Sorry, no. We mentioned before that Wiccans view divinity as having a masculine and feminine side; this gets expressed in a variety of ways by different traditions. And a central point of ritual in many Wiccan traditions is the symbolic representation of the union of those forces, often through the conjoining of the athamé and chalice in the blessing of the ritual wine, as shown in the WCC logo. However, exactly how this idea is expressed, and what it is felt to mean, vary considerably among different traditions, and even among different individuals in the same tradition.

Part of the reason for this variation is that as mentioned back in question 1.2, Wicca is based partly on pre-Christian folk tradition, and partly on 19th-20th century occultism — or as some might say, it's partly "low magic" and partly "high magic".

The folk tradition component, whether you believe it was handed down through the ages or researched from books by a handful of English eccentrics in the 1930s or thereabouts (and we'll get into that question later on), is based to a large extent around the idea of fertility religion — that is, ritual practices designed to encourage the fertility of the crops, herd animals, and the people. In small, traditional communities, this could often be a matter of life or death — if the crops didn't grow or the cows didn't calve, you might starve. Many fertility rites involved sexual symbolism of one sort or another, on the basis that fertility of the land and the animals could best be encouraged by acting out the process that led to fertility among humans. And one can still see sexual imagery in many Wiccan rituals, including the blessing of the wine mentioned above.

However, the other half of Wicca's magical heritage tends to view things in a more metaphysical light — perhaps in part because turn-of-the-century ceremonial magicians didn't usually have to worry about getting enough to eat! One can find dualistic imagery in many occult rituals and techniques, and it is often symbolized by gender, but in a less literal way. For example, the Tree of Life glyph of the Qabala contains a "masculine" pillar and a "feminine" pillar, embodying polarized qualities, but these are not seen as having much to do with physical gender — the task of the magician is to "walk the middle pillar", keeping the qualities of the outer two in balance.

So the union of the God and Goddess as expressed in the wine blessing some traditions use can be seen in (at least) two ways: one is as a symbolic sex act bringing life and fertility to the world; and the other is as a metaphysical conjoining of two complementary forces, like a western version of the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol, both of which, like the four elements, need to be in balance within each one of us regardless of our physical gender.

And while the use of sexual imagery in ritual does mean that Wiccans regard sexuality as a potential manifestation of the sacred, it does not mean that we run around having sex with everyone we meet! Wiccans are just as varied as anyone else in their expression of their sexuality, if not more so. Anyone who shows up to a Wiccan ritual intending to treat it as a meat market or pickup joint is likely to be shown the door very quickly.

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