Men & Magic: Can Men Actually Be Witches?
In many witchcraft communities, the topic of gender in witchcraft is a hotly debated subject. In recent years, there has been a push to claim witchcraft as a women-only space and this push has led to many male witches and new converts feeling conflicted and out of place in their spiritual path. I mean, you finally find a spiritual path that feels right or is at least promising, and suddenly you’re met with gatekeepers claiming that this practice isn’t for you!
Are these people right? Do men really not have a place in the craft? Or is there more going on behind this push to remove men from the craft? Today we’re going to take a look at what place gender has in the craft and whether or not it’s a practice that’s suitable for men.
Where did this idea come from?
This idea of witchcraft being a women-only practice is a fairly new one. There are traditions that do fully exclude men such as Dianic Wicca but these traditions popped up in the ’70s when second-wave feminism was at its height. The struggle for gender equality made many women feel the need for spiritual safe spaces, places where men and the patriarchy couldn’t interfere and out of this desire these women-only lineages were born.
This policy of excluding men is not a universal part of the craft, however. It is only an element of these select lineages. Many forms of witchcraft including most traditional regional witchcraft, Wicca, Feri Witchcraft, and others continued to welcome both men and women into their ranks throughout this time period.
Over the years, as with many traditions, the ideas of some of these women-only lineages leaked out into the mainstream. Inevitably, people who are not a part of these lineages wind up believing that some aspects of these lineages are, in fact, universal within the craft. We can see evidence of this sort of bleed between traditions all over modern witchcraft. From the assertion that all witches follow the Wiccan Rede or the “threefold law”, to the idea that all witchcraft involves the same set of tools or practices, and yes, even the exclusion of men from the craft at times.
It’s important to note that the desire that many women have for a spiritual safe space separate from men is entirely valid and should not be discouraged. The current political climate and the experiences that many women have had in their lives leads some women to feel stifled, unsafe, or silenced in their spiritual lives and seeking to find a spiritual connection without that looming over them can be an important part of their journey. That said, ejecting men from a shared space is not the solution, utilizing and creating new women-only spaces within the craft is. It is not necessary to remove men from the craft in order to have women-only spiritual spaces.
Nearly everyone practicing the craft comes from a religion that is heavily patriarchal and those few who are not still grew up in a society that was heavily influenced by these religions. Witchcraft, for many people, comes as a breath of fresh air. It represents an opportunity to claim one's spirituality and connection to the divine without a go-between. There is no stack of rules a mile long, no man claiming to speak for god. Instead, we are presented with a set of tools and told to go find out what spiritual connection and power means to us. It is control. It is freedom. Is it any wonder that some women who come to the craft feel the desire to shield this newfound freedom and personal power from those who might try to take it from them?
Historical Support For Male Witches
I say all of this not to justify the removal of men from the craft but to foster understanding and hopefully open communication about these issues. Historically, men have always had a place in the craft and they will continue having a place in the craft because magic is innate to the human energy system and not something that can be taken away from anyone.
Men have had a hand in the creation and continuation of magical traditions all over the world. Modern witchcraft itself was championed by men just as much as it was women. Men such as Gerald Gardner, Victor Anderson, Robert Cochrane, Scott Cunningham, and Draja Mickaharic helped to shape and bring new life to the craft in the early 1900s, bringing the practice of witchcraft into the public eye. Their work, along with many other men and women, is what paved the way for what we practice today as modern witches, occultists, and cunning folk.
Even further back than the modern witchcraft resurgence, magical practices like Hoodoo, Ozark folk magic, and Pennsylvania Dutch hex and spellwork was practiced by both men and women. To deny men space in witchcraft circles is to erase our history and to shackle the evolution of a practice that has always been open to both genders.
Tensions between the genders have become increasingly more volatile in the last few decades. Women have found a space of freedom and power in witchcraft that they often feel deeply protective of, however, this does not give anyone the right to gatekeep what is, and always has been, an open and widely varied practice. Instead of trying to remove men from a space that has, since the inception of the craft, been a place open to both genders, we should be seeking to further open communication about the needs of everybody in our communities and focus on making the craft a safe and welcoming space for everyone. This means both respecting the closed safe spaces that certain groups may make for themselves and understanding that diversity in gender, orientation, background, and belief is what makes our community what it is.
To the men reading this post, you are welcome in the craft, do not think that you are an intruder here but try to understand the perspectives of those who might make you try to feel otherwise. They are often driven by fear and anger, and while those feelings may be misplaced when directed at you, reacting with more anger does not solve anything. Strive to make the craft a more open, welcoming, and safe place by your presence and do not let the naysayers get under your skin. You are magical and powerful and have as much right to the craft as any other person because remember, magic is human energy. It is yours by birth, you simply have to claim it.