Excerpts from The Woman Magician: Why woman magicians?

I’ve finished reading The Woman Magician by Brandy Williams, and it was still fabulous after the beginning. The second half or so is a workbook, so I went through that part quicker.

In the section entitled “Magical Women as Men,” she writes about Victorian-Edwardian women:

“It is important to note that in a patriarchal culture that privileges the needs of men and in which women are treated as servants and adjuncts to men, women may not identify with the gender “woman,” seeking the freedom of being gendered male. Carol Lee Flinders explores what feminists call the common divide: “On the one hand, one feels moved as a feminist to celebrate the beauties and strengths of women’s culture, so long and grievously ignored, and to identify oneself as woman and with other women. On the other hand, most of us have also felt — again, as feminists — another kind of need as well: this one can pull us sharply away from other women, or at least from being “woman-identified,” because women have been so relentlessly defined — as nurturing, patient, and compassionate, for example — that we simply aren’t taken seriously by a male-centered culture.” (Flinders 1998)

Feminist magicians chafed at the restrictions of women’s roles. Alex Owen points out that it was precisely the image of magician as male that attracted women to the lodges. “For women, the occult presented an opportunity to develop a masculine persona that in a quite different context was being pilloried by critics of the ‘manly’ woman.” In contrast to the feminine passive temperament, the masculine temperament was characterized by the assertion of will. The magical lodges encouraged women as well as men to develop the will and as a consequence exercise authority and self-direction. Magic, says Owen,”suggested that women might acquire if not already possess the ‘masculine temperament'” (Owen 2004).

Stepping into a masculine persona, imagining herself as male, the feminist magician at the turn of the century could step into a role that permitted her to develop her own magical power and occupy positions of authority. It was precisely the freedom from the restrictive women’s role that formed the appeal of magic for those women.”

From “The Magician Is A Man”:

“The habit of thought that constructs the sense of self as centered in unchanging disembodied reason is embedded in Western metaphysics and occult metaphysics. All our rituals start from this assumption — the magician stands in the temple and speaks, gestures, performs a magical act. When the magician is imagined in a body at all, that body possesses a phallus. If a woman is meant to be a magician, she stands in the place of a man, as a man.[…] Western occult metaphysics rests on Western metaphysics, and Western metaphysics declares that reason, will, and accomplishment belong to men, and that my body does not fit me to think or act. I am compensated by automatic unwilled access to the life force that flows through me, and my purpose is to challenge this for the benefit of the magicians I work with.

Many of my magical sisters are content with this. Many of my magical brothers insist to me that this is the path of magic: that the universe is divided into two energies, the masculine active and the feminine passive. That the man’s path to enlightenment is to act out his will while bringing his feminine nature into marriage within himself. That a woman, in order to walk the magical path, must represent the lover and mother to a male magician, or herself take on the masculine persona.[…] If this is the way the universe works, if my sisters are content with this and my brothers insistent on it, why should I insist on being a woman magician?

Because I know, in the center of my being where I know that I am a woman, that the body matters. There is a wisdom in the body that cannot be overwritten by any intellectual formulation. There is a meaning in the body that is the true meaning of my life. No man can know it, no man can explain it to me, no man has ever gotten it right, and it is a transgression when a man arrogates to himself the task of explaining to me what it means to be a woman.[…] Because there are those among my sisters who cannot navigate the common divide by abandoning their bodies. They cannot bring themselves to sacrifice what the body knows and the company of other women in order to achieve in the world. So they give up — they never enter into the lineage at all, or if they do, they content themselves with embodying the muse, the sexual vamp, the all-accepting whore, the love-without-limits mother, and they pursue accomplishment vicariously through the magical men in their lives.

Because I know, in the center of myself where I know the most important truth of my life, that I am not deformed or incomplete, that I am not fitted only to be a helpmeet, that it is not my purpose in life to be someone else’s inspiration and servant. I know that I reason clearly, that I possess a soul, that I am both a material and a spiritual being. Thelemite that I am, I know that my will is my own and no one else’s.

I refuse to accept that I must abandon my body and my sisters, call the universe Lord, call myself he, center my magic in an organ that looks suspiciously like the male member, enact mystery plays about men’s lives in the world, in order to be a magician. And I am incensed that I struggle every day of my magical life with this divide that no male magician has ever had to face, because his body and his gender and his way of knowing in the world is perfectly reflected in the lineage.

I challenge this.”

From “Masculine/Feminine”:

“Freud’s disciple Carl Jung articulated the dual gendering of the human being. Jung saw both women and men as psychologically bisexual, containing both masculine and feminine sides. However, still in the Aristotelian tradition, Jung viewed logos as the fully developed clarity of thought belonging to men only. The masculinity of women, their animus, is a pale reflection of this male power, so that women lack logic but instead form opinions and prejudices. Men’s femininity is their anima, the soul or psyche, the source of inspiration. It is the artist’s task to combine reason with anima in order to create. This anima may be projected onto a woman who becomes the artist’s muse. In fact, a woman’s masculine side can fertilize the feminine side of the male artist, to enable him to complete his work.

In Gender and Genius, Christine Battersby points to the gender inequality of characterizing the male’s feminine side on positive terms, as a spiritual artifact, while characterizing the female’s masculine side as a negative parody of reason. The ideal of the artistic androgyne turns out to mean men getting in touch with their feminine sides. Feminine qualities derogated in women are positive when men seek them out, while women displaying masculine qualities are disparaged (Battersby 1989). This gender model turns out to have the same end result as the others, acting as a means to prove out the superiority of men and women’s unfitness for any other role than helpmeet.”

From “Daughter of the Goddess”:

“I am not a mother. Motherhood is a noble, critical, and spiritual endeavor, and I strive to support all the mothers I know, but bearing and raising children is not my purpose in life. Although I am a lover, this is not my primary magical identity. I continue to seek a magical methodology by which I can myself undergo the hero’s journey, not serving as the hero’s helpmate, mother, seducer, initiator, or feminine half, but myself acting as the center of the story — and not vicariously, as a pretend man, but as a woman, a daughter, myself.”

From “Evaluating the Magic”:

“In Western Traditional Magic, the goal of the system is to bring the magician into an awareness of being divine by working toward balance and wholeness.

Because women and men have different roles in Western culture, our path to wholeness differs. For men, the path to wholeness is well defined: bring out the feminine within, by developing personal intuition, acknowledging the divinity within real women, and worshipping embodied female deity. The tradition puts the priestess on the altar, allowing both women and men to relate to deity in female form.

Women in Western Traditional Magic embody the Divine Feminine and the Human Feminine. As we have seen, the male magician can project the female within onto real women around him. [Note: This really should be “the feminine aspect within him,” there is no female within in a male body!] The priestess embodies intuition and the ability to create with the body. For the heterosexual magician, the Goddess becomes a lover, and the woman who embodies the Goddess can become a physical lover.

As priestesses embodying human intuition, women can act to assist men on their path to wholeness, helping them to find the intuition within themselves. As priestesses embodying the Goddess, women can receive the worship directed at the Goddess. This position has its own power; it’s heady to hold onto the mysteries of the universe within, to stand in the position of teacher, to have the priest kneel at your feet.

People who are intersexual, not strictly heterosexual, not white, differently abled, or not  young [Note: There is no place in ceremonial magic for old or non-menstruating women as there is in witchcraft] don’t map easily into the coupling of young while male magician and his young white female priestess-muse.

To undergo the magical journey in the tradition, women have to date stepped into the position held by men. The power to think, to act, to move in the world and make changes in it, has been a male power, and the woman who takes on that power becomes an honorary man, either an implied man as in the Golden Dawn rituals, or actually called a man and brother as in the O.T.O. The image of the whole person, the realized magician, is a man who has integrated the feminine.[…]

What happens when we take the stance that a woman magician’s path to wholeness is to integrate the male within? [Note: Again, this really needs to read,”The masculine within,” otherwise it’s conflating sex and gender] Because of the still unequal balance of power in the world, just flipping the gender of the practitioner doesn’t quite work. For example, we could place the priest on the altar and worship him, but the Abrahamic religions have long valorized the power of the male divine, so worshipping the male divine doesn’t act to balance the power of male and female. Witchcraft has moved farthest in exploring the suppressed sexual and nurturing aspects of the male divine: the God becomes loving son to the divine mother and consort to the divine lover.[…]

We can evolve a system in which women relate to male magicians who embody the divine lover, and women and men relate to the male divine as nurturing father. These are important moves to make. However, on the magical journey toward wholeness the act of projection does not work in the same way for women — if we project the ability to act, to exercise will, it’s still the male magician, or the male in ourselves, that changes.

In all these moves we are still fighting for a place to stand, a way to think of the female, of women, of ourselves, as being powerful not just in relationship to men or male power, but standing alone.[…] To look on ourselves as woman magicians, we have to call ourselves women.”

Relevant: Woman-identified Woman – Male-identified women – Behaving like a man – Some musings on polarity – Feminism and the Absolute


About Cammy

female artist knitter bookworm 34 years old bisexual spiritual atheist 420 friendly traveler occasional poet i have 3 blogs - 1 for poetry, 1 for politics and 1 for spirituality. anything else you want to know, take the time to get to know me and ask. concern trolls need not apply.
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One Response to Excerpts from The Woman Magician: Why woman magicians?

  1. Pingback: Fascinating Female Occultists | Your god is a fraud

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