While I would mostly be considered straight or binary by the LGBTQ+ community, I have been a supporter for decades and was brought up around gay people, along with having room-mates, friends and colleagues in the community.
I’ve often felt at odds when researching and creating content about the craft, in terms of elements and deities such as Gods and Goddesses, male and female principles and so on – with the thought in the back of my mind that there seemed to be no wiggle-room for those who don’t consider themselves heterosexual.
I imagine that being gender fluid and non-binary must be a headache for the practitioner who wants to align themselves with deities, mythology, folklore and magic when the majority of these elements are based on binary considerations. I’d first like to acknowledge that I am no expert on LGBTQ+ living, but I have been exposed to many stories, emotions, thoughts, books, movies, art and people who have generously shared their knowledge.
In this post, I’m exploring deities and characters - known and obscure – who might border on LGBTQ+ energies and principles, as well as those who are overtly related.
WHY THE CRAFT?
For many people, paganism (to use a general term) is a safe haven for those who either feel ostracized by organized religion or who want to explore their spirituality without the confines of dogma and strict adherence to a faith that has obvious ties to psychological imperatives that are closer to personal beliefs and biases, rather than altruistic and spiritual guidelines.
Paganism offers a more natural approach to the exploration of spirituality and the expression of sexuality. Connectedness and the feeling of belonging seems to be more open in the craft and since the 1960’s – with feminism paving the way – people have flocked to paganism, which provides a sense of empowerment and an escape from oppression.
The Craft includes the good, the bad and the ugly, meaning that all levels of life can be freely explored and expressed, without fear of recrimination. That said, there are those who like to dictate how you should practice witchcraft, but for the most part (especially as a Solitary practitioner), it’s easier to venture into unknown territory and safely create a path that suits your way of life.
Deities have always mirrored our own psychology, sometimes providing an ideal that we can strive to achieve, but they can also possess energies that can be destructive. Researching mythology and history will reveal a rich variety of behaviors and stories that range from whimsical to terrifying, which allows us to accept our own foibles and gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to be a complex human being.
Gender fluidity and different ways of expressing sexuality and spirituality is aligned with elements such as Shamanism, Shapeshifting and going beyond the veil. Pathworking is also a great tool for those who like to pave their own individual road to spirituality and self-discovery.
Pagan communities are usually accepting of all members, regardless of their orientation, due to the expression of love being sacred no matter what. Spirit is what counts, so it makes sense that physical considerations are secondary – if considered at all. Of course, being transgender has its own possibilities, such as the idea of existing as a “two spirit” when it comes to Native American systems.
Some transgender people might only identify with the sex they feel is right for them, so their practice might only be aligned with that gender, in terms of the deities they choose to worship, but that doesn’t mean that they would totally turn their back on other deities. Fluidity is often a part of everyday life for all of us who are open and accepting, so there’s no reason to believe everything is cut and dried for cisgender practitioners, transgender or otherwise.
Not all communities are open to everyone and there are gay pagan groups who are strictly for those in the LGBTQ+ sphere. Some are only accepting of certain groups and do not accept transgender practitioners or cisgender pagans, so it’s important to do some research if you want to connect with a coven or group.
One of the reasons I like being a Hedgewitch is that I get to choose what works for me and what doesn’t, without the need for acceptance from others, which could be a consideration for you if your sexual orientation is a factor.
In a way, there is a trans element in witchcraft, such as the idea of shapeshifting, invocation, totem magic, working with masks and so on, so at the end of the day – whatever works should be the determining factor.
LGBTQ+ people were sometimes considered to be closer to the divine element of spirituality in ancient paganism and were revered for their ability to traverse other worlds. From Greece, Rome, India and China to South America and beyond, there were a wide variety of deities who delved into myriad sexual escapades - especially in the Hindu pantheon - where gender changing was a frequent occurrence.
Mythology is rich with stories, from pan-sexuality to gender fluidity, detailing elements contained in the collective unconscious that are sometimes repressed according to the rule of the day. Mystical and sacred experiences were often depicted with homosexual, transgender or androgynous characters to denote mythic or spiritual interventions, possessions or reincarnation.
Having aspects of cisgender identities at the same time or characters who can switch genders are common themes in ancient mythology and there are many stories about deities possessing humans and even animals – such as in the story of Leda and the Swan – to have sex with mortals.
Many creation myths tell stories about androgynous or hermaphrodite entities being involved in creating the world. In the Christian bible, (Genesis 1:26) God said “…Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Some Christians believe this was in reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – although others believe that it refers to Elohim being both male and female.
Some say that that the androgynous aspects of deities who possess both female and male energies represent how – when combined – they are elevated to the level of a higher spirit.
For those of us who border on Agnosticism and Atheism, it makes more sense to say that humans created deities and not the other way around, which rings true when we look at the humanistic behavior exhibited by almost all of the Gods and Goddesses.
Ranging from jealousy and anger to love and compassion, emotions and therefore the actions following them are specifically human when you read these stories.
LGBTQ+ Deities and Historical Characters according to Region
Nana Buruku was the Great Mother who created the Universe in Dahomean mythology, containing both male and female energies, which were passed on to her children: Lisa (moon) and Mawa (sun).
Combined, they were called Mawu-Lisa, representing transgender and androgynous essences. In Ghana, the Akan people have similar deities, such as Awo for the Moon, Aku for Mercury and Abrao for Jupiter.
In Zimbabwe, the Shona people worship Mwari, who is a creator god that sometimes exhibits male and female aspects.
Derived from Catholic and Yoruba beliefs, the religions of Candomblé and Santería are mostly practiced in South American countries, such as Brazil and Cuba, where some of the spirits (called the Orishas) have similar androgynous and homosexual attributes.
Inle and Abata were brothers banished by their mother: Yemaha (a sea goddess) to live at the bottom of the ocean, after she was tricked into having intercourse with her other son – Shango. Inle’s tongue was cut out and Abbata was made deaf.
They became lovers and communicated empathically, which explained the origins of incest and homosexuality, along with deafness and muteness.
As a side note, this seems to have negative connotations, in terms of the brothers being punished, however their story can be interpreted in different ways.
In Voodoo, along with other spiritual traditions with roots in African mythology, being possessed by spirits is a common motif. No matter the gender of the practitioner, they are considered brides of the entity while under possession, with sexual and sometimes violent undertones. These spirits (known as Iwa) can be singular entities or groups, representing different aspects of life.
Transgender and homosexual attributes have been ascribed to several spirits, such as:
The Barons and Ghedes – linked with death, magic and ancestor worship. Ghede Nibo takes care of spirits of those who died young and he sometimes appears as effeminate (or like a drag queen!) when he possesses practitioners, leading them to exhibit all kinds of sexual activity.
Baron Samedi and Mamam Brigitte are Ghede Nibo’s parents. Baron Samedi is sometimes represented as transgender or bisexual, wearing women’s clothing and a top hat. He has a predilection for sensual behavior and a “lust for anal sex.”
The Barons Lundy and Lima are lovers who teach practitioners homoerotic nude wrestling, to increase the strength of the magic and Baron Oua Oua is considered to be the spirit more often associated with homosexuality.
Erzulie is an Iwa associated with love, beauty and sensuality, often manifesting attributes related to LGTBQ+ traits. Erzulie Freda is a protector of gay men, while Erzulie Dantor watches over lesbians.
Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo have spirits called Loa and two notable lesbian entities are La Baleine and La Sirene, who are lovers represented by a mermaid and a whale.
Some historians state that depictions of homosexuality and androgynous or transgender behaviors were repressed in the later period, due to negative connotations and views on so-called deviant sexuality in the area. There are, however, many stories in Egyptian mythology that detail LGTBQ+ events, deities and beliefs.
Set (or Seth) was a Storm God who also presided over the desert, and was associated with natural disasters and was said to be impotent. He was considered an evil entity, not necessarily because of his foray into homosexuality, but rather his impotence, which was akin to death, in opposition to his siblings Osiris and Isis, who represented life due to having children.
Horus was the Sky God of power and healing and the son of Isis and Osiris. Horus and his Uncle Set had a power struggle that involved Set trying to prove his supremacy by admiring Horus’ backside and even attempting anal intercourse, which resulted in Set ejaculating on Horus’ thighs.
Horus threw the semen in the river, when Set mistakenly claimed triumph. Horus then ejaculated on some lettuce, which was Set’s favorite food and after Set ate the lettuce, they went to visit the Gods to see who had dominance over Egypt. When the God’s called forth Set’s semen and it “answered” from the river, his claim was voided.
Calling Horus’ semen resulted in the answer coming from inside Set, which proved that Set was evil and resulted in the belief that homosexuality was also evil, although there’s a different story where the sexual act between the two was consensual. In this story, Horus’ semen in Set created Thoth’s lunar disc, which denotes a positive result.
Human and crop fertility were often intertwined in Egyptian civilization, in accordance with the flooding of the river Nile. The God of the Nile river was Hapy (or Hapi) and the God of the Nile Delta was Wadj-wer and while both were male, they were often depicted with pendulous breasts and female attributes.
Hapy (a son of Horus) was represented in hieroglyphics as transgender, wearing a false ceremonial beard. He was a fertility deity and ruled over both male and female reproduction, according to some historical scholars. Wadj-Wer was also a fertility God, who was known as the pregnant God.
Wadj-wer (which means the Great Green) had sovereignty over rivers and lagoons. He presided over prosperity and procreation and was depicted with a pregnant belly, along with breasts.
Several Goddesses and female Pharoahs were shown with male genitals and attributes. Hatshepsut is considered by some scholars to be the first transgender figure in recorded history. She was always depicted wearing men’s clothing, unlike other female rulers and was also shown with a male body. Her history was almost wiped out by her descendant Thutmose III.
In ancient Egypt, it seems that lesbianism was tolerated more than male homosexuality, possibly due to the fact that women were still fertile, regardless of their sexual proclivities. Isis (moon Goddess of life, magic, protection, healing and many other attributes) was often worshipped by gay priests in ancient Egypt.
She appeared in the dream of a pregnant woman (Telethusa) who was worried about having a girl and disappointing her husband. Isis told Telethusa to have the child (Iphis) and raise her as a boy. Iphis later begged Isis to make her male, after having fallen in love with a woman called Ianthe. Her wish was apparently granted.
Some scholars believe that Isis and her sister Nephthys (Goddess of death and protection) were lovers, although they were often seen together and noted for their epic mourning of the death of their brother Osiris. Nephthys was believed to be a lesbian but was married to Set and had no children with him, probably because he was impotent. She did have a son with Osiris and some say that she was the mother of Anubis.
The first deity in Egyptian creation mythology was Atum, who was both male and female. Atum was self-created from nothing and then went on to create - through a sneeze or semen - Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture), who begat Geb (earth) and Nut (or Nuit - the sky). After a few generations, Isis and Osiris were born, representing the female and male archetypes.
Shai was the God of Fate in ancient Egypt and sometimes appeared in female form, known as Shait. Representing birth in the material world as well as rebirth in the afterlife, Shai/Shait was associated with Renenutet, who was the Goddess of fortune.
The Goddess Ninmah (also known as Ninhursag) in the Sumerian creation myth was the fertility Goddess of the mountains. Her offspring include a woman who cannot give birth and a being who has no reproductive organs, signifying androgyny or a third gender. The Supreme God Enki assigned roles to them, such as priestesses and servants.
Third gender priests/priestesses (called Gala) sung laments in worship to the Goddess Inanna, who was the Queen of Heaven and had powers of love, sex, beauty and war, among other attributes. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu was the intimate companion of Gilgamesh and some scholars believe that the relationship was sexual.
It was considered a sign of good fortune in ancient Assyrian society if a man had sex with another male of equal status or even a cult prostitute. Religious texts of the era contained prayers and blessings for homosexual relationships and art depicting anal sex in religious rituals reflected an open attitude towards same sex lifestyles.
Enheduanna was a High Priestess of Inanna and a poet in an ancient Sumerian city (Ur), who wrote the poem “Passionate Inanna” – with the notable line: “To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inanna.”
Inanna herself was considered by some to be androgynous and even sporting a beard, although this could represent her appeal to transgender disciples and temple eunuchs of that era.
Homosexuality was approved in Mayan culture (prior to the Spanish invasion and Christian taboos re: sexuality) thanks to the God known as Chin, who was a Maize God from the Classical period.
Some scholars state that Chen (the Moon Goddess of Magic and Maize) was also known as Chin and she was associated with homosexual relationships, when Mayan nobles wanted to encourage their children into same-sex marriages.
Noble families procured young men to be lovers for their sons, who then lived together in a marriage-like relationship. Chin was depicted as effeminate and he represented a third gender, also associated with dance and art.
In Aztec mythology, the God of maize, beauty, dance, art, games, song and flowers was Xochipilli, who was known as the “Flower Prince.” He was the patron of homosexuals as well as homosexual prostitutes, while also personifying same-sex eroticism and the appreciation of entertainment, exotic foods and perfumes.
The Huastecs were lesbian or transgender priestesses in the Aztec period, watched over by the Goddesses Xochiquetzal and Tlazoteotl. The latter was also known as the “Filth Eater”, who turned suffering into gold, representing her powers of protection for the oppressed.
The two-spirit concept is a theme in some Native American tribes, representing both male and female principles. Aakulujjuusi and Uumarnituq were the first two humans (male) in Inuit mythology and were drawn together by a desire to mate, resulting in Uumarnituq becoming pregnant.
A spell was cast to change his sex so that he could give birth. Once female, Uumarnituq became responsible for guarding against overpopulation, by using magic to create war.
Sedna was a creator Goddess in Inuit mythology, who presided over marine animals and was sometimes depicted as a hermaphrodite assisted by two-spirit shamans.
Also known as White Whale Woman, she apparently married a woman, according to some stories which portray her as a lesbian or bisexual.
In Lakota mythology, Anog Ite or the Double-faced woman sometimes appears in women’s dreams in a variety of disguises, indicating that the dreamers are destined to become lesbians or two-spirits.
In Hawaiian mythology, Wahineomo (Thrush woman) was a Goddess shown to have relationships with the Goddesses Hopoe and Hi’iaka. Hopoe was killed by the volcano Goddess Pele, who used lava to consume her, to get back at her sister - Hi’iaka - who supposedly had relations with Pele’s husband.
Hi’iaka also had lesbian relationships with Pauopalae, who was a fern Goddess, as well as a devotee of Pele, called Omeo.
Prince Lohiau was bisexual, having relationships with Pele and Paoa, who was male. Pu'uhele was another sister of Pele and was a hill Goddess who was a lover of the Goddess Puuomaiai.
In Polynesian mythology, the term “aikane” denotes sexual love and passionate friendship, which was often used to describe the relationships between many of their deities. Haakauilanani was a Goddess who was the lover and servant of Papa – the Earth/Creator Goddess, as well as Wakea, Papa’s husband.
Kamapua’a was a pig God who sent Lonoikiaweawealoha (the love God) to seduce Hiiakalalo and Hiiakaluna (Pele’s brothers), to thwart attack. The bisexual God of mirages and the sea was Limaloa, who had relations with Kamapua'a.
In the Philippines, there’s a story in Suludnon mythology about female binukots (well-kept maidens), who could transform into male warriors. Nagmalitong Yawa was a powerful binukot who rescued a warrior after transforming into a warrior herself. Matan-ayon was another binukot who averted unwanted advances from a male by transforming.
The supreme deity in Waray mythology had male and female attributes. As a female, she was an understanding and ancient Goddess called Malaon, while as a male, he was a destructive “leveler” God called Makapatag.
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the Rainbow Serpent was an androgynous deity, with various manifestations, such as Ungud – reflecting the energies of an erect penis identified by the Shaman – also associated with ceremonial subincision. Another transgender manifestation was Angamunggi, who was worshipped as a giver of life.
Labarindja were wild or “demon” women who had blue skin with smoke colored hair. They were sometimes depicted as having both male and female genitalia and in ritual, men dress as women to represent the Labarindja.
These mythological beings were thought to have evil in their vaginas and had no interest in relations with men, who would die if they tried to have sex with them.
There are many Shamans who act as intermediaries for spiritual beings in pantheons across the Pacific, who were third gender, such as the Bajasa in Celebes, the Bantut in the South Phillippines as well as the Bayoguin (also known as the Babaylan and Katalonan.) The Shamans (usually male) have feminine attributes and dress as women during rituals.
In pre-Christian times in the Phillippines, there was a polytheistic religion that had transgender deities, known as Malyari and Bathala, meaning woman and man in one as well as powerful one. They were worshipped by the Bayagoin.
Homoerotic relationships between men were “divinely” approved by the Big Nambas in Vanuatu and the older man was known as the Dubut. The name is from their word for shark, which also represents their creator God Qat, who was a human/shark hybrid.
In Borneo, the Ngaju Dayak worshipped a transgender/androgynous deity called Mahatala-Jata. Mahatala was the male energy who governed the Upperworld, depicted as a Hornbill bird living above the clouds on top of a mountain, while the female aspect (Jata) ruled the Underworld, located under the sea as a water-snake.
Rainbows were thought to be their jewel-encrusted pathway, which served as a bridge between the two.
The Balian (female temple slaves/prostitutes) served Mahatala-Jata and the Basir were transgender Shamans, described as water-snakes combined with Hornbill birds. Other transgender Shamans were discovered in the Iban Dayak people and were called Manang Bali.
First a male God, Menjaya Raja Manang became Menjara when his sister in law became sick. As a female or androgynous deity, she was able to heal the sister in law and became the world’s first healer.
Like Greek Mythology, the Hindu pantheon and Folk tales have scores of LGBTQ+ accounts, deities and characters, where homosexuality was considered just as relevant as heterosexuality, including gender transformation and beings that were androgynous or hermaphrodites.
Whether a natural result of reincarnation or the outcome of a blessing or curse, Hindu Mythology is a rich source of LGBTQ+ stories.
The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Sanskrit religious text that was written as a guide to living well, including finding a life partner, the nature of love and the pursuit of all aspects of pleasure. Chapter nine involves the art of fellatio, stating that the act can be used in homosexual relations.
While Shiva has been described as the epitome of masculinity, he has also been depicted as androgynous when used as a composite of himself and his wife, Parvati – the Goddess of fertility, love, etc. This composite came about when Parvati wanted to share her husband’s experiences, resulting in the understanding of ecstasy through the joining of male and female principles.
Malini was Parvati’s lover and after licking the powders and oils from Parvati’s body (or mixing river mud with the blood from their vaginas), she became one of Ganesha’s mothers. (Ganesha – the Elephant-headed God – was considered by some to have been associated with homosexual worship.)
Vishnu was a major God of strength and Universal power, considered to be the protector of the world and often depicted as gender-fluid. Taking on the female form of Mohini, (an avatar considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world), Vishnu mated with Shiva and produced their son Ayyappa, who was celibate and became a yogi champion of ethical and dharmic living.
Krishna was an incarnation of Vishnu who also took on the avatar of Mohini, so he could marry Aravan – a patron deity of transgender communities – to satisfy one of the hero’s final requests. When Aravan died, Krishna stayed in the form of Mohini as the hero’s widow and mourned for a significant amount of time.
Rama was the seventh avatar of Vishnu, who went on an adventure that lasted fourteen years. Before he went, he addressed his subjects in the forest and advised them to return to the city until his return. When his epic journey was over, he came back and discovered that some of his subjects had never left the forest.
They’d become intersex or transgender people, which was the origin of the Hijras (and the Badhai tradition), who are now called the Kinnar in the Indian subcontinent. Rama gave them the power to give blessings and they continue to give performances portraying mythological beings who express themselves in song and dance.
Agni was the God of fire, wealth and creativity, depicted as married to Svaha – the Goddess of burnt offerings as well as Soma – the God of the moon. Agni received Soma’s semen orally and the God was also said to have received Shiva’s semen the same way, which resulted in the birth of Skanda, who was the God of war.
The male and female aspects of God in Hindu Mythology are called Radha Krishna. Radha is the Supreme Goddess who controls Krishna and members of her sect lived and dressed as women to show their love for Krishna. Samba was the son of Krishna and was the patron of eunuchs as well as transgender people, dressing as a female to infiltrate and seduce groups of women.
Bhagavati-devi was the Goddess of cross-dressing and every year, thousands of male devotees dress as women for the Chamayavilakku festival in Kollam, Kerala, which is a tradition that has been carried out for hundreds of years.
While traveling with her sisters, Bahuchara Mata (Goddess of chastity and fertility) and the group were threatened by Bapiya, who was a marauder. The women self-immolated their breasts, which cursed Bapiya with impotence and he ended up dressing and acting as a woman. Bahuchara Mata is worshipped as the patron of the Hijras and those considered to be third gender.
The deities Mitra and Varuna personify brotherly affection as well as intimate male relationships. They were depicted as two alternate phases of the moon (also connected with the Sun), based on the story that Mitra deposits his semen in Varuna on nights of the new moon, starting the moon cycle, resulting in the favor being returned via the full moon.
The main ancestor of the lunar dynasty in Hindu mythology was Ila, who was an androgynous deity known for switching genders. The male name was Ila or Sudyumna and the female name was Ilā. In one story, Ila was born female but was soon changed to a male by divine grace.
As an adult, he entered a sacred grove by accident and was then cursed to change gender every month (or to become a woman). As a female, she married the God of Mercury, known as Budha (not to be mistaken with Buddha) and produced offspring every alternate month (when female), resulting in the creation of the lunar dynasty.
Budha’s own birth was the result of an adulterous affair between Tara (Goddess of the Stars) and Chandra, the moon God. When her husband (Sage Brihaspati - personification of Piety and Wisdom) discovered the affair, he cursed the unborn child to be neither male nor female.
Shikhandi was a warrior who was female at birth, but she was raised as a male (her original name was Shikhandini). She married the Princess of Dashana, who discovered on their wedding night that she’d married a female. Depressed, Shikhandi went into the forest and was given her masculinity by a nature spirit.
Arjuna was a protagonist and a great hero in the Mahabharata (Indian epic) as well as the Bhagavad Gita, where he was known as the “shining one” and other names related to silver or brightness.
In one story, he rejected the advances of the Dawn Goddess (or beautiful spirit known as Urvaśī) and she cursed him to live in exile as a eunuch. King Indra intervened and decided that Arjuna would live for a year as a woman, teaching princesses how to dance, under the name of Brihannala.
Bhagiratha was the Hindu King who was said to have brought the Ganges River to Earth and was “born from two vulvas.” This came about when the King of the Sun Dynasty (Maharaja Dilipa) passed away with no heir, so Shiva decreed that the two widows could have sex and produce the desired heir themselves.
A mystic poet named Nammallvar often expressed himself as female and wrote hundreds of devotional songs from the female perspective, declaring love for the Lord Vishnu. Every year, an icon of Nammallvar – dressed as a woman – is brought to a sanctum of Vishnu in an annual festival, to unite the two.
Narada was a Vedic Sage and his story was similar to the story of Job, with a gender-bending twist. A devotee of Vishnu, he boasted about being too good to fall prey to illusion, so Vishnu told him to have a swim in a pool, which resulted in his memories being wiped and being turned into a woman.
Narada then married a King and had several sons, who died in war. After mourning them, he was turned back to a male, with the understanding of the power of illusion (Maya).
In the Mahabharata epic, there was a kingdom of women, known as Stri Rajya and much like the Amazonian society. Their sexual exploits were described in graphic detail and a Chinese legend also mentioned this magical place, where the women ruled and were impregnated by bathing in special waters. Any boys born were said to have passed away by the age of three.
The Khajuraho Temples still stand, located in the Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh, India, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Famous for depictions of a variety of erotic encounters in bas-relief and statues, they show how important sexuality is in Hindu mythology. Orgies, gay sex and fellatio are included in the artwork, along with bestiality.
Prior to Confucianism and Taoism, Shamanism was the predominant tradition and homosexuality was believed to have influenced practices that began in the south, sometimes called the Southern Wind. These myths were further influenced by Confucian and Taoist beliefs, with Buddhist myths incorporated later.
Various deities and spirits exhibited behavior from the LGBTQ+ spectrum, with homosexual relationships occurring often in Chinese folk stories. From fairies and animal spirits choosing same-sex partners to Dragons involved with older men. One story tells of an old man who was ferociously sodomized by a Dragon, leaving wounds that required medical assistance.
Even though several Taoist schools taught against homosexuality in later times, there are a variety of stories depicting sexual and romantic relationships in Chinese folklore, with one sad story holding particular relevance till this day.
A rabbit deity called Tu’er Shen has been presiding over the homosexual relations between men, since the 17th Century. This God was initially a man whose name was Hu Tianbao during the Qing dynasty. He fell in love with a young Imperial inspector from the province of Fujian and was caught peeping on the inspector, prompting his confession of his adoration.
This resulted in a death sentence, where Hu Tianbao was beaten until he passed away, thanks to the inspector’s disgust or fear and lack of compassion. A crime of love, this injustice led to underworld officials declaring that Hu Tianbao was a God and the protector of homosexual relations.
According to legend, he returned from the dead in the avatar of a leveret, which is a young rabbit. Appearing in this form in the dream of a village elder, he stated that a shrine needed to be erected in his name, where affairs of men could be discussed and incense burned.
Some of the villagers agreed to donate money and resources and the temple was built, while they kept the elder’s vow to the rabbit God a secret. Others came to worship at the temple and Fujian customs advised that it was acceptable for boys and men to bond like brothers.
Later, the cult was often a target for Government officials who wanted to tear the temple down and eradicate the worship of the homosexual Rabbit God, whose adherents refer to him as Ta Yeh (the Master). Calling homosexuals “rabbits” became a slang term used to degrade them.
A temple for Tu’er Shen was founded in 2006, in the Yonghe District in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Attracting around nine thousand pilgrims every year, the temple is a place where adherents can pray to the deity to find a partner, as well as holding gay ceremonies for couples.
Quan Yin (also known by other names, such as Guanyin and Kwan Yin) is one of the more popular deities in Chinese mythology. Worship of this Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion can be found in other Asian countries and around the world. She is often referred to as the female version of Buddha and likened to the Virgin Mary.
Said to have been a beautiful princess who turned her back on marriage and a life of luxury, Quan Yin went out into the world to seek enlightenment. Once she achieved the status of a Bodhisattva, she was granted entrance to Heaven, but halted at the gate when she heard the cries of the world.
Returning to Earth, she dedicated herself to heal suffering with her miraculous powers and to help others attain enlightenment and access to Nirvana. The traditional method of appealing to Quan Yin’s compassion and intervention in times of crisis is to chant the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum".
Some have said that this Goddess is both male and female (although this theory is inconsistent with Buddhist dogma) or that she transcends gender in order to appear in whatever form is needed to quell suffering.
A secret society called Chai T’ang is apparently a place where women can go to escape marriage, (emulating Quan Yin) where women can form lesbian relationships, called “sworn sisters”. There are even stories about Quan Yin having impregnated women when she took the form of a male.
Lan Caihe was one of the eight Immortals in the Taoist tradition whose gender is unknown, considered an intersex figure. Born during the Tang Dynasty, he was a homeless street entertainer who sang philosophical songs. It’s not known how he gained immortality, but his emblem is a basket of flowers, making him the patron of gardeners and florists.
In Chinese theater, he is portrayed as a man in women’s clothing, with a masculine voice. Some say that Lan Caihe was a man who didn’t know how to act as a man, in an attempt to explain his feminine attributes, although others say that he was transgender.
Chou Wang was a ruler who was known for debauchery and cruelty, hosting sadistic orgies and bizarre feasts. When he was finally overthrown, he committed suicide and was then branded as the God of Sodomy by the judges of Heaven.
From the early Zhou Dynasty, there’s a story about Duke Ling Wei and his lover Mizi Xia, who shared a peach with him, as well as the story about the King of Wei who had a relationship with Lord Long Yang.
The Lord convinced the King to remain faithful, after likening himself to a small fish that the King might throw back if he found a larger fish. These characters became archetypes for homosexual love in later years.
A belief based on compassion and detachment from suffering, Buddhism was formed around 600 BC in Nepal. Indian Buddhist monks brought the philosophy to China during the late Han Dynasty. While Buddhism forbids sexual activities among monks, there are no rules against it among lay people.
In the Thai tradition of Buddhism, homosexuality is said to be a karmic result of violating heterosexual rules in previous lives. In one story, a beloved Buddhist disciple known as Ananda had several incarnations as a woman and one where he was transgender.
A passionate and emotional character, Ananda was once a Yogi who fell in love with a serpent King (a Nāga) who had taken the form of a handsome young man. Ananda had to break the relationship (once it became sexual) so he could focus on his spiritual practice.
Buddha (also known as Gautama Buddha and Siddhartha Gautama) is said to have had close, affectionate relationships with young men before he became a Bodhisattva, but some say that they were not sexual.
One of the two main faiths in Japan is Shintoism (the other is Buddhism) and it originated around 300 BC. Considered an indigenous nature religion with great diversity among its practitioners, the faith is polytheistic and involves spirits and deities (known as Kami) who are believed to inhabit all places and things.
Ritual purity is the main focus and Shinto has no particular rules about morality, which changes according to the region it’s practiced in. In one legend, homosexuality was introduced by two disciples of Amaterasu (a Sun Goddess), known as Shinu No Hafuri and Ama No Hafuri.
When Shinu died, Ama committed suicide due to his grief over losing his lover, and they were buried in the same grave.
Another story involving Amaterasu tells of the Goddess retreating to a cave after an altercation with her brother Susanoo (the Storm God), which deprived the world of sunlight. To coax her out of the cave, Ame No Uzume (the Goddess of Mirth) performed a lewd dance, exposing her breasts and vagina, to encourage Amaterasu out of the cave.
When the Sun Goddess emerged, Ishikori-dome (Goddess of the arts and protector of smiths and stonecutters - some say she was a God, maybe trasngender) shone a magic mirror to dazzle Amaterasu, which – along with Ame No Uzume’s sexual dancing – distracted her from seeing the other spirits closing the cave behind her.
A deity called Shudō Daimyōjin was the patron of male lovers, although the word Shudo does have disturbing connotations (as the latter version of Chigo), which was the practice of traditional, institutionalized pederasty. Young boys were groomed to be servants, including sexual relations, which resulted in many committing suicide at a later age.
A half-snake, half-human deity known as Shirabyōshi was the inspiration for the Shirabyōshi dancers, who were female entertainers who performed dressed as males, singing and dancing for noble visitors and at festivals and celebrations.
Inari was the spirit of rice, foxes, agriculture, fertility and had many other attributes, most commonly represented as a young food Goddess. Depicted as different genders, she was also shown as an androgynous spirit, an old man carrying a basket of rice and was often represented as a fox – specifically a Kitsune (a shapeshifting fox spirit who was a trickster.)
The Kitsune sometimes took the avatar of a woman, who would trick men into having sex and there was a belief in medieval Japan that any woman who appeared at night alone could be a fox in disguise. Inari is the patron spirit of Shiseido, the cosmetics company, who has shrines to her at their corporate headquarters.
Another transgender spirit was a mountain deity called Ōyamakui, who protected childbearing and industry.
In the sixth century BC in Ancient Persia, Zoroaster (also known as Zarathushtra) founded the pre-Islamic monotheistic religion, which also had aspects of polytheism and is still practiced today. The Supreme Being was Ahura Mazda (which means Wise Lord), who was a God of wisdom.
Some scholars state that Zoroastrianism involved a hatred of male anal intercourse, since the mythology involves the story about Ahriman, who was considered to be the Lord of Lies and the Spirit of Aridity and Death – hell-bent on the destruction of the Earth and engaging in “self-sodomy”.
Explained as an explosion of evil power, his self-sodomy resulted in the creation of many demons and evil minions. Nonetheless, Ahriman was considered the patron of homosexual men and their original bible (the Gathas – direct sayings from Zoroaster the prophet) did not include the negative connotations of homosexuality that evolved later.
One of the most famous folk beliefs in Islam involves the story of the Jinn (or Djinn - Anglicized as genies), who were shapeshifting spirits that were created from “smokeless” fire, corresponding to another group of angels who were created from “flameless” fire.
Although inconsistent with Islamic lore, the Jinn were said to be able to change gender and their ability to travel and fly with great speed was well known.
The Jinn (a name that translates as “hidden from sight”) can travel to the heavens and eavesdrop on the angels, therefore bringing back secrets and wisdom to oracles and prophets, hence their association with magic. Homosexual and transgender servants (known as Mukhannathun and Al-Jink) also entertain the Jinn and perform spiritual tasks.
Third-gender characters (including Mukhannathun) also worshipped Goddesses in pre-Islamic cultures, such as the daughters of Allah, who were later described as false idols by Muhammad. Forming a holy trinity, these Goddesses were Al-Uzza, Al-lat, and Manat - respectively the Maiden, Mother and Crone.
Another curious story in Arabian folklore involves a fountain called Al-Zahra, which has waters that change the sex of anyone who bathes in it or drinks from it.
In the first book of Samuel in the Old Testament, the relationship between David and Jonathan is considered a justification for homosexual love. While some say that it was only a platonic friendship, (they were rivals for the crown in the Kingdom of Israel), David’s lament over Jonathan’s eventual death stated:
“…Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women…” Of course, this is open to interpretation, but some say that his refusal to eradicate the former King’s lineage and allowing Jonathan’s son a seat at his royal table hints at a relationship deeper than friendship.
Noah was another Biblical character, famous for building an ark to save the pious and the animal kingdom from the flood, who later became a winemaker.
When naked in a drunken sleep, his son Ham enters the tent and either has anal sex with him or castrates him, according to third century Rabbis, who equated seeing nakedness with having sex.
There’s also a story about a supposed lesbian couple – Naomi and Ruth. Apparently, Ruth married only to obey the law of the time and to make sure that Naomi (Ruth’s mother-in-law) would be safe. When their husbands died in battle, Ruth made the following vow to Naomi:
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whether thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God". (Ruth 1:16)
There are some scholars who state that Paul the Apostle was homosexual, even though he spoke out vehemently against such things, which is usually what people do when hiding their own latent homosexuality – to deflect persecution and to reinforce their status as “normal”.
Paul spoke about his negative attitude towards his own body and the sense that something else was trying to control him. Along with his ideas about the repression of women (including the admonition of those who dared to leave their hair uncovered in the church, which was a symbol of female sexuality), his refusal to marry and his many young male companions, Paul seemed to have been passionate about protesting too much.
Then there’s the relationship between Paul and Onesimus, who was the Epistle to Philemon and who Paul called his “beloved brother”. Of course, platonic relationships are often referred to as beloved, but when you take all the other facets of Paul’s story into consideration, there could be some “there” there.
Apart from Paul’s vitriol against certain abominations, he had his moments of compassion and thoughts on togetherness, such as the time when he tried to get Gentile and Jewish Christians to live in harmony with one another, stating:
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)
An interesting statement that appears several times in the Bible, is that “God shows no partiality”. A popular slogan in early Christianity, which was often curiously used against homosexuals, it was also used by Paul when he stated that his readers had no excuse for judging others, because they in turn would be judged and condemned.
In Luke 17:34-35, it is written that:
“In that night, two men will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding; one will be taken and one will be left.”
Some scholars interpret this passage as showing irrelevance of sexual orientation regarding salvation.
Another famous story in the Bible involves Sodom and Gomorrah, which modern day anti-gay Christians refer to as a place of sexual deviation, including homosexuality and bestiality, but some historians argue that the story was more about xenophobia.
The inhabitants of the city threatened strangers with rape, which is more about violence and less about homosexuality.
Along with most pantheons, Greek mythology is riddled with Gods having relations with mortals, which often included rape. There are many stories of girls and women trying to fend off the Gods and begging other deities to protect them, which resulted in them being turned into things such as fauna, flora and even inanimate objects.
Translations state that the mortals were “seduced” by the deities, which reminds me of some graffiti I saw in Melbourne as a child:
“Romance = rape by seduction.”
Deciphering and interpreting ancient myths can be difficult, especially when it comes to sexuality and gender. Going by historical interpretations without projecting modern assumptions or wishful thinking is challenging, but many scholars consider Ancient Greek mythology as a “goldmine” for LGBTQ+ stories and characters.
There are some gay Pagans who worship a character from Greek history called Antinous, who wasn’t a God. He was the lover of Hadrian the Roman Emperor, who had him deified after he drowned in the River Nile. Antinous was apparently worshiped by homosexuals in Antinoöpolis (a holy city) and he is still worshiped by modern Pagans.
A recovered love spell includes an invocation to Antinous, asking for a woman’s obsession and lust by a man who commissioned the spell.
Also, an ancient text considered to have been written around 280 CE tells of how Antinous became deified, after the Goddess Selene placed him among the stars due to being enamored with him.
Zeus (Roman = Jupiter) was well known for his sexual exploits, which resulted in many Demigods after “seducing” mortal females. In one famous story, he chose a beautiful Trojan boy called Ganymede to be a cupbearer for the Gods on Mount Olympus.
This relationship was the foundation for the practice of paiderastia, in which Greek men had erotic relations with adolescent boys.
Like Zeus, Apollo had relations with many mortals, which included all genders. He was a symbol of eternal youth and he apparently had the most male lovers among the Greek Gods. In one story, he fell in love with Hyacinthus, who was a Spartan Prince – killed by Zephyrus (Apollo’s enemy) in a fit of jealous rage.
The Prince’s blood was transformed by Apollo as it seeped into the ground, producing Hyacinth flowers, making his beloved immortal. Other notable relationships with men included Thamyris, who was a Thracian singer and he was also linked with Hymen, the God of marriage.
Hermes (Roman = Mercury) was the messenger of the Gods and he was believed to have had several male lovers. One of which was Crocus, who was killed by a flying discus that was thrown by a God. Like the story of Apollo and Hyacinthus, his blood was transformed into the Crocus flower.
Some historians state that Hermes had a romantic relationship with Perseus, the Greek hero and there are varying stories about his relationship with Daphnis, who was the inventor of pastoral poetry, although some say he was the son of Hermes.
Daphnis was also associated with Pan, the satyr (half goat, half man) God of music, who was often depicted in artwork chasing women, men and nymphs with a large scrotum and erect penis.
The God of Grapes, Fertility, Wine, etc. was Dionysus (Roman = Bacchus), who often presented as a woman when he was younger and decided against identifying with any gender when older. His cult worshipped him with festivities and celebrations that involved wild shows of self-expression, breaking taboos and loosening inhibitions. Lovers of the God included Adonis and Ampelos the satyr.
His wife was Ariadne, who he considered his equal. When she was killed in battle, he reclaimed her from the realm of the dead and made her immortal. During his journey through Hades, he was accompanied by Prosymnus - a shepherd who led the way through Hades – in exchange for sex, however he died before the deal could be completed, so Dionysus created a wooden phallus to keep the promise.
Aphrodite (Roman = Venus) was the Goddess of Love and there are stories about her at least supporting same-sex relationships, however many believe that some of her lovers were female, due to the stories from the poet Sappho who lived in Lesbos (where the word lesbian originated). Sappho herself had relationships mostly with women, and she advised that Aphrodite watched over lesbians and homosexuals.
Aphrodite apparently enjoyed hearing the erotic stories of other deities and her entourage consisted of her son – Eros (Roman = Cupid), Pathos and Himeros, creating the trinity of men who had homosexual relationships. They were called the Erotes. The Goddess presided over self-love and was said to have been in relationships with the Three Graces.
Aphrodite and Hermes were the parents of Hermaphroditus, (also known as Aphroditus – although some believe that Aphroditus was the male version of Aphrodite). Born male, he was changed by Salmacis – a water nymph who fell in love with him at first sight. She wanted their spirits and bodies joined and when her prayers were answered, they became one.
Hermaphroditus wore women’s clothes and was both genders, which inspired the festivals dedicated to the deity, where men and women would swap clothing and worship the phallic form. The word Hermaphrodite was derived from the deity’s name, who governed fertility and represented the harmony of the sexes in one form, as well as protecting homosexual love.
Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and one of the most popular Greek deities (Roman = Diana), had cults where homosexual and lesbian Priests/Priestesses dedicated themselves to her, two of which were Agido and Hagesichora (priestesses) who were married. Artemis was the twin sister to Apollo and was considered by some scholars to have been either a virgin who was asexual or a lesbian.
Artemis left the city of Ancient Greece to live with the nymphs in a forest, where they created a female only society, after the Goddess promised her Father that she would remain a virgin. The trick was that the promise did not include interactions with females, according to some historians. She was said to have many nymphs as her lovers, including Dictynna, Atalanta, Cyrene and Anticleia.
Some also say that she was in a relationship with the nymph Callisto, who was later raped by Zeus, after he took Artemis’ form. Callisto was turned into a bear once she found out she had been tricked. She and her resulting son became the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Daphne was another nymph associated with Artemis. The nymph had once “torn a man apart” when she discovered that he was dressed as a woman, in order to seduce her.
Athena (Roman = Minerva) was the Patron of Athens and the Goddess of Wisdom and War. A virgin who was favored by her Father Zeus, had several liaisons and relationships with women, including Gaia and Pallas. She apparently used her divine wisdom to entice the mortal Myrmex, who was an Attic maiden.
Their relationship lasted for years until it was discovered that Myrmex took credit for the invention of the plow, but it was Athena’s creation. The Goddess turned the maiden into an ant as punishment, which ended their relationship. (Athena’s owls were women who had been transformed by her magic.)
Athena also had a relationship with the nymph Chariclo, and when they were caught together by the nymph’s son Tiresias, he was blinded and became a blind prophet of Apollo in Thebes. He was also transformed into a woman for seven years and was famous for his clairvoyance.
As a side note, there are some stories that say Tiresias broke apart two snakes (male and female) that were sexually engaged, which upset Hera (Queen of Heaven and consort of Zeus) – resulting in his transformation into a woman.
During this time, he married and bore children, but when he was changed back into a man after seven years, Zeus asked him which gender he preferred and he advised that being a woman was better as the sex was more enjoyable.
Hera (Roman = Juno) herself had female lovers, according to some historians, including Flora (Goddess of Flowers and Plants), Iris (Goddess of Rainbows who lived under Hera and Zeus’ bed when not delivering messages to the Gods!) and the nymph Echo.
Lesser Deities and Characters
Heracles (Roman = Hercules) was the son of Zeus, known for his heroic exploits, masculinity and strength. His male companions included Hylas, Abderos and Iolaus, who helped with the beheading of the Hydra.
Heracles dedicated a shrine to Iolaus in Thebes, where male couples exchanged vows and proclaimed their devotion to each other.
Orpheus was the son of the muse Calliope and he was a legendary musician and poet. Taught how to play the lyre by Apollo, he was known for his descent into the Underworld to bring back Eurydice, his wife.
He failed his mission when he looked back at her before returning to the world, so he swore off women – choosing only male lovers from then on.
In Thrace, Orpheus was eventually torn apart by Ciconian women in a Dionysian orgy, after being spurned by him.
Achilles was another Greek hero famous for his heroism in the Trojan War and was considered the greatest of warriors. His only weak spot was his heel, which was shot with an arrow from Paris’ bow.
He was believed to have been “struck” by the beauty of a Trojan Prince named Troilus and some say he had a romantic relationship with his sidekick Patroclus, since he was the only one who could appeal to Achilles’ compassionate side.
When Prince Hector killed Patroclus, Achilles flew into a fit of rage and slaughtered the Prince, then dragged his lifeless body around Troy, wracked with grief.
Narcissus was the son of the river God Cephissus and the water nymph Liriope (the result of a rape) who was known for his vanity. A hunter from Boeotia, he was said to have been beautiful and a lover of all beautiful things, spending the last of his days staring at his own reflection, due to a curse after having caused many cases of unrequited love.
He had spurned anyone who fell for him, including a young man named Ameinias. Narcissus gave him a sword, which he used to kill himself to end his depression over the rejection. The term narcissism is derived from this character, denoting obsessive fixation with one’s appearance and public adoration.
Palaestra was the daughter of Hermes who grew up in Arcadia and she was connected to the Olympian games, having been credited for the invention of wrestling.
A patron of same sex relationships, Palaestra was considered androgynous, as she wore her hair short, had small beasts and expressed disdain for femininity, which may have been why her wrestling schools were burned down later on.
The Amazons were once thought to have been a myth, but it was recently discovered that they were a real society of women. Some say that they had two Queens – one of which was a warrior and the other a kind of housewife.
In other accounts, they’re believed to have been Scythian nomads in a society where women were strong and free.
Credited with the invention of trousers, due to being on horseback for long periods of time, the Amazons were tattooed, smoked cannabis and hunted with eagles. Their warrior status was legendary, with their expert use of archery and their spirituality contained Pagan overtones, including Totemism, Animism and magic.
Some of the more fanciful legends involved stories about the Amazons living in a society where men were used only for procreation and Queen Penthesilea was said to have received a gift of love from a Thracian huntress.
The Celtic civilization began around 1400 BC, in the upper Danube region in Central Europe and after centuries of wars and settlements in other regions, the Celts made their way to Scotland around 700 BC, then Ireland in 500 BC. Most of their religious history comes from foreign accounts, such as the Romans – due to their lack of unity and sporadic foreign invasions.
In ancient Celtic times, the Celts were known for their warlike traits as well as their numerous love affairs and erotic sensuality. Male warriors had their groups of special friends and conducted homosexual relationships openly.
These accounts were relayed by the Ancient Greeks, who stated that this behavior was a redeeming factor, even though they were considered Barbarians.
In pre-Christian times, Celtic women were able to enter battles as warriors themselves and were considered more equal to their male counterparts than women from other cultures, which included their sexuality.
While Christianity became established in other regions during later centuries, Ireland remained a Pagan culture, until the Christians came to their shores, bringing their dim views on sexuality with them.
Therefore, there are scant stories about homosexual activities in Celtic mythology, save for the ones told by the Ancient Greeks and Romans from pre-Christian Celtic tribes.
Anything other than heterosexual beliefs and activities were severely punished by the Celts, thanks to the Christian influence and any tales told about “non-procreative” experiences were erased from the Celtic myths, but there was opposition.
Known as Pelagius the Heretic, Morgan was a Celtic man who would not separate love from sex. He didn’t believe in Original Sin and his ideas struggled against Christian principles for a while, until Christianity finally reigned.
One Celtic tradition that endured was the idea of “special friends”, which was an essential part of their culture. An old saying from the time stated:
“A person without a soul friend is like a body without a head.”
During the Dark Ages, Irish monasteries attempted to take control of the sexuality of their Nuns and Monks, but the practice of soul friendship remained.
One particular habit involved men sucking each other’s nipples to confirm their friendship, especially after an argument. It took a long time for that practice to be squashed. Several Monastic texts (called Penitentials: records of penance for various sins) contained penalties for kissing and sex between Monks.
While women’s lives were controlled as they had been throughout history, one woman named Brigid went to the hill of Kildare, which had been the Druidic site where sacred oaks grew and there was a sacred flame that had been kept alight. She was soon followed by a group of women who formed a society devoid of men.
Brigid was later ordained as a Bishop to ensure her sovereignty and the exclusion of men from her convent. A compassionate woman, she became the patron saint of milkmaids, since she was known to milk her cows three times a day to provide food for her visitors.
Her stories were aligned with the Celtic Goddess of the same name, who was considered the divinity of fire, inspiration and childbirth. One myth involved Brigid tearing one of her eyes out to thwart a male’s advances and while Monks and Nuns were advised to sleep alone, she apparently slept with a young Nun called Darlughdach, whose name means “Daughter of the Sun God”.
A story regarding this young Nun, involves a time when she saw a warrior and gazed at him lustily, resulting in Brigid reacting like a jealous lover, forcing Darlughdach to perform penance. This included Brigid placing hot coals in the Nun’s shoes, which was intended to purify and punish her sins.
Later on, Brigid made up for her violent punishment, by giving Darlughdach the right to succeed her and become the Abbess Of Kildare and they were said to have lived together happily ever after!
Some scholars suggest that the heroes Cúchulainn and Ferdiadh (foster brothers) were like Greek “warrior lovers”, since Cúchulainn responded to the death of Ferdiadh much like in the tale of Achilles and Patrocles.
Since they had been trained by the female warrior Scáthach, they were considered equal apart from special gifts bestowed upon them.
Cúchulainn was taught how to use the spear called Gáe Bolga and Ferdiadh was gifted with thick skin that no weapon could pierce. When fate placed the two on opposite sides, they fought to the death, during which they kissed and Ferdiadh remembered them sleeping together. The fight ended when Cúchulainn thrust the spear up Ferdiadh’s anus, where his thick skin ended.
In the Mabinogion (a fourteenth century manuscript containing Celtic folklore, myths and legends) the hero, magician and trickster of Welsh mythology known as Gwydion assisted his brother Gilfaethwy with the rape of a female servant called Goewin, who was in the employ of their Uncle Math – Lord of Gwynedd.
As punishment, Math transformed his nephews into mated pairs of animals over a period of three years. For example: Gwydion was in turn, a stag, a sow and a wolf – as Gilfaethwy became a hind deer, a boar and a she-wolf.
During this time, while paired, they had to mate and produce offspring, which were given to Math. Then the nephews were released from the spell, hopefully penitent.
While homosexuality was often condemned as passive and unmanly in Norse culture, there are stories that involve changing genders and queer sex. Like most ancient myths, it’s important to remember that the written records we have today regarding Vikings date from up to three hundred years after they were said to have taken place.
In terms of homosexuality, Norse sagas stated that it was the passive male who was discriminated against, rather than the masculine or active partner. For women, who had a certain amount of power and autonomy (since they could threaten divorce if the husband complained, due to a shortage of “marriageable” women) they could take a lesbian lover as long as they fulfilled their roles as wives and mothers.
Some scholars say that there was a group of effeminate or homosexual Priests who worshipped Freyr – the God of Fertility, Peace, Prosperity, etc. (and twin brother of Freyja).
They were said to have performed on stage in women’s clothing and wearing feminine hairstyles, along with using feminine gesturing and “…the unmanly clatter of the bells."
Grettir was a famous Icelandic hero who was said to have had a wide variety of sexual encounters, including maidens, widows, farmer’s sons, abbots, courtiers and even cows and all types of living beings.
Odin the Allfather and King of the Norse Gods was accused of being unmanly for his practice of “women’s magic” (Seiðr), since he learned these skills from Freyja, the Goddess of Magic and Witchcraft.
Seiðr was a magical art that was only reserved for women, which occasionally involved sexual rituals between the practitioner and a passive partner, who was sometimes the same sex. Odin was also said to have shapeshifted into a woman to attract male lovers.
The Trickster God Loki once accused Odin of homosexuality, but Loki himself often dressed as a woman and he famously turned himself into a mare to have sex with a stallion called Svaðilfari.
As the mare, Loki gave birth to the eight-legged foal called Sleipnir, who became Odin’s horse. Loki also used his shapeshifting abilities to become a woman, usually to play tricks on others and to cause trouble.
The following is a story more about cross-dressing: When Thrym the giant stole Mjölnir (the hammer) from Thor, the God of Thunder – the ransom to have it returned was Freyja’s hand in marriage, but when she refused, Thor and Loki dress as women, with Thor disguised as Freyja and Loki as the bridesmaid. When the hammer was handed to Thor (as Freyja), he killed the giant with it.
So - that's the end of this long post! As I stated earlier, it's important to try and dig deeper since modern perspectives sometimes change or even warp ancient stories and mythology is riddled with personal projections, especially when it comes to sexuality.
The bottom line is, our humanity is reflected in the tales of deities and mythological creatures, so it makes sense that LGBTQ+ themes are abundant in stories and history since time began here on Earth, even when so-called "aberrant" behavior was repressed and persecuted.
See my Ritual page for further information about incorporating LGBTQ+ deities into magical workings, spells and invocations.
Are dreams worth analyzing?
What are Dreams?
After years of sporadic blogging over a variety of platforms, I realized that it would be best to have all my content on one site (especially those in the realm of Paganism and Psychology) so, now that I've created Hedgewitch Herbarium - my content finally has a forever home!
The following post was originally on my Collective Unconscious Wordpress blog - but I'd like to share it with you here - to illustrate my own perspective on dream interpretation and to kick off my Dream Interpretation service!
I will also be sharing my own dreams and their interpretations in future posts, to inspire you to create your own Dream Journal and to give you an idea on how to go about analyzing your dreams - in order to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your relationships and your life.
Learning how to heal and assimilate the knowledge you unearth while interpreting your dreams is an invaluable skill - so let's get started!
Dreams inform our lives and stories, providing inspiration for art, music and literature; affecting change in the world, from science to politics and religion.
For me, my dreams are like chapters of my life story. I gain much inspiration and ideas from them to include in my writing.
A while ago, I finished listening to an audio book (the Great courses) about sleep, which pretty much dismissed dreams as random images with no meaning. I was dismayed and disappointed, even though there was a side to me that understood that some people – especially scientists – view dream analysis as a fanciful aberration.
When I stopped recording my dreams, they diminished quite a lot, to the degree where I barely registered any dreams or found it difficult to recall them – if I had dreamed at all. It wasn’t until I re-dedicated myself to the Pagan path, when it dawned on me that the information delivered in the audiobook was faulty.
I’ve said before, that dreams notice you noticing them – then they become more rich and vivid.
Delwyn and the Portal Stormers - from my fantasy series -
The Storming Archives (shameless plug!)
Every day there are images, impressions, emotions, memories, attitudes and other things related to the human experience that are filtered through our minds, then stored in the subconscious. When we dream, those experiences, ideas etc. are filtered back up to our conscious minds.
Yes, they are sometimes “random” images, but they are gleaned from the subconscious, where they “mingle” with our behaviors and memories. They are shaped and infused with our own belief systems, psychologies/personalities, before they appear in our dreams.
That’s why – when we dissect and analyze our dreams – common themes and symbols become known to us, then we can recognize patterns and relate them to any issues we have in our lives. This is something I have always done with my dream interpretations. My Agnostic/Atheistic side forces me to keep “fact-checking” myself when I am interpreting my dreams, as I don’t want to muddy the waters with wishful thinking.
Throughout the years, I’ve discovered things about myself, my life and other people when I’ve analyzed my dreams and I’ve developed a richer and deeper understanding of human nature and the world we live in.
How else can you explain nightmares and recurring dreams – if not generated by the subconscious or brought about by chaos or problems that we deal with in waking life?
Why would great thinkers - like Carl Jung - spend a great deal of their lives devoted to researching the psyche, if there was no evidence to support their theories or any positive outcomes and insights gained by their analysis of their patients and students?
I’m a firm believer in the adage, “Whatever works!”
If – after all is said and done – dreams are just random images, then it still shouldn’t matter if we record and analyze them for personal growth and understanding. I’ll also say that you could obtain a similar result when analyzing your emotional responses to a piece of music, work of art, great novel, sumptuous food or glorious lovemaking.
The only thing that matters is the end result: deeper knowledge and understanding of yourself and the world.
Dreams have brought answers to puzzling questions, closure for grieving people, comfort and happiness, as well as fear and introspection. All of these and more allow us to analyze our lives from a different perspective. The human experience is a shared experience – even if you’re a hermit!
Dreams alert us to aspects regarding ourselves and our lives that might need to be dealt with. They sometimes alert us to dangerous behavior and have been – at times – prophetic.
I’d like to add that in terms of prophetic dreams, I’m also talking about the ones where it’s obvious that the current path we are treading can be leading to danger. We all have the ability to see (particularly when observing and contemplating others) behavioral patterns that could lead to a terrible end. The subconscious dredges up symbols that “it” thinks will alarm us enough to convince us to change our ways.
There are also dreams that mystify us by depicting events that actually come true. Taking into consideration futurism, common sense, psychological and even spiritual awareness, dreams have the capacity to not only explain the past – but to track our progress through life and to hint at what is to come.
Dreams are our own thoughts and memories coming back at us. If they originate from the subconscious and are supposedly meaningless – what does that say about us, our experiences and our lives? Are we meaningless? Does it mean that we are just microbes, with our conscious minds being the only “worthy” part of our psyches?
If dreams are just random images – then what is the point or reason for showing them to us in the first place? If that’s the case, then there’s no reason to dream at all. It’s an aberration.
Some would say that it’s just the brain idling or cleaning the memory banks in order to prepare for another day, but that doesn’t account for recurring dreams, themes or symbols. Sometimes the imagery can be so complex and convoluted, it’s difficult to believe that they are random and meaningless.
Fair enough, our minds are complex, but when a dream comes from nowhere with an intricate story-line and attention to detail, it’s hard to consider it unimportant and not worthy of our attention.
If you were to argue that those more likely to have vivid dreams are also more likely to have active imaginations and creative streaks, I would reiterate that they are also more likely to have a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. It’s the chicken and egg conundrum all over again.
When you ignore your dreams because you think that they’re bogus – you probably won’t remember them and you’re likely to continue through life thinking that everything is okay or that everything that happens to you is someone else’s fault or at the very least – a random event.
Now, I’m not saying that those who ignore their dreams are ignorant and live boring lives. It’s just that analysis and examination of projections, perceptions and behavioral traits enrich understanding.
Of course, an intelligent person who doesn’t believe that dreams are worth interpreting can obviously see (if they apply critical thinking) that their current circumstances and the events in their past, were brought about by certain decisions and choices.
I would ask, why wouldn’t anyone want a better handle on their emotions and evolutionary growth? Why wouldn’t anyone find symbolism and mythology intriguing – especially when applied to things like self-analysis and contemplation?
Dreams are a part of us – a deeper side to our personalities and our lives. They can provide revelations that we might not have considered otherwise. I’ve gained so much wisdom from analyzing my dreams and have decided to continue to do so. Aside from anything else – it’s thoroughly enjoyable!
Dragonflies are Totems for the Dreamworld
Self analysis would be pointless (in my view) without the inclusion of dream interpretation. The subconscious world is the playing field where our daily events, relationships, memories, impressions, problems, personality issues etc are ‘played’ out – like a nightly performance. They afford us the opportunity to dissect, analyze and integrate the messages into our waking consciousness.
When our consciousness lapses into sleep, the subconscious mind takes over and dredges up all the things we have repressed, ignored or denied – to produce the dream. When we’re awake, it can filter through to produce visions.
It’s also the realm that gives us the playground for daydreaming and creativity – offering us the forum and tools we need in order to explore and understand ourselves, others and the world around us.
how do we interpret dreams?
By interpreting the symbols, atmospheres, emotions and actions – even the time of day. It’s been said that if the dream was in the morning, then it represents our early years. Midday indicates now or our middle years. If the dream was in the evening or night time, then it denotes our later years.
If you dream in color (some people don’t) – analyze the meaning of the colors – also shapes, numbers, etc. The list is endless. Dreams sometimes speak in puns – for example: seeing someone kicking a bucket could be death (which in turn, could represent the ending of old habits or way of life, transformation etc) – or it could just mean a bad tempered person!
Another example would be a crumbled cookie – saying “that’s just the way things are” – regarding an issue that might be bothering you – basically saying “That’s the way the cookie crumbles”. Or it could just mean that you feel you don’t have enough to eat – with only crumbs available.
Our dreams can also speak to us in riddles, in contrast to blatantly direct messages. That’s why dreams can be so difficult (and sometimes annoying) when we’re attempting to interpret them – however – the process is also interesting, illuminating and definitely rewarding.
They can also show sides of ourselves as reflected through others, which is confusing when we try to place the blame or try to figure out who and what the dream was talking about. (We’ll explore this further, regarding the elements of the Shadow, the Anima/Animus and the Self, later on in this post.)
The most vital tool to interpreting your dreams is understanding universal or ‘classic’ symbolism – in contrast to your own personal symbolism. A monkey can represent a mischievous character to one person – and to another – it may symbolize a wise man or woman. A flower could mean beauty, growth, coming of age, sexual attractiveness, pregnancy and so on. It all depends on the dreamer and what’s going on in their lives.
The Swan is another Dream Totem
It’s important to keep a dream journal – whether a notebook or a word document on your computer. (If you’re not much of an artist – you can cut and paste images to represent the symbols, which makes the process fun.
Alternatively, keep a tape recorder or note taker by your bed, so you don’t have to scramble around trying to find your pen and journal in the dark.
A handy tip – You can remember your dreams more easily when your eyes are shut. The theta waves are in play – just like when you’re dreaming.
It’s somewhat difficult to interpret dreams as ‘prophetic’, due to the many possibilities regarding the symbolic nature of them. People have had them throughout history: like the man who dreamed that there was going to be a plane crash and tried to alert authorities – to no avail. A plane did crash, as per the details in his dream. But as plane crashes happen a lot –it’s hard to 100% apply it as prophetic.
To dream of death – even dead bodies, pronouncements of death, headstones etc – does not necessarily mean that you or someone else is going to die. It usually represents endings, transformation and so on. It’s important to take into consideration other symbols surrounding it, such as the atmosphere, what the people were doing, saying, how they were dressed etc.
Seeing dead bodies could signify issues such as illnesses in the body, lethargy or certain aspects of the body changing. Sometimes we don’t see that a dream was prophetic until way after it occurs.
I had a dream once, where (to cut a long story short) I had a fly agaric toadstool in my pocket (the red ones with white specks on them.) The pocket was in a white jacket made of wolf’s fur. In front of me was a congregation of rabbits, who trembled every time I faced them.
I tried to interpret it to the best of my ability at the time, but it wasn’t until later – a few months later – when I realized that it meant that I needed to be careful as to who I told about my being a witch, as some people were afraid of me afterwards. (Their projection – not mine, I assure you. I’m quite a pleasant person!)
There are also dreams that can alert us to the fact that we might have medical issues that we’re not aware of – or are about to manifest. For example: I had a dream that I was on the second floor of a house, where the lower floor was in flames. I tried to escape down a ladder, but it was also on fire.
Not long afterwards, I had problems with a very painful hip, due to a joint problem. It felt as though it was on fire and I had to get x-rays and tests done, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. For two months I had to take anti inflammatory medication, until it went away by itself.
To dream of a house sometimes means you’re exploring the ‘Mansion of the soul’. Apparently the basement can represent your repressed memories or hidden self. The kitchen sometimes means your family memories or the nurturing side of yourself. The bedroom can represent your sexual side; the attic can signify what’s going on with your mental or spiritual attitudes; the lounge room can denote how you present to others or how you act in a crowd, and so on.
I’m not trying to dissuade you from interpreting your dreams as prophetic, but just be careful, as you may be - at times – deluding yourself to the point of being disappointed when they don’t come into being. (Especially if you dream about becoming wealthy!)
wish fulfillment dreams
Not all the wonderful dreams we have are wish fulfillment. For example: some sexual dreams deal with our attitudes towards our own sexuality, our sexual history or even the desire to ‘unite’ with someone, an idea or group of people, etc.
Once again, it all depends on the dreamer and their circumstances. We often have dreams where we are having sex with a famous person we either secretly adore or never had any attraction to.
You don’t necessarily need to be single to have sexual dreams, therefore – it doesn’t automatically signify that you are sexually starved! (Even though sexual starvation does occur in some relationships.) For some sex addicts, to dream of having sex rarely occurs, but usually appears in some other format, such as packed trains or laundry baskets full of dirty underwear.
Sometimes their dreams involve grossly abnormal sexuality or bizarre events – even animals (denoting base or animalistic desires.) But that can also occur for people who are celibate.
To dream of eating delicious food such as gourmet cooking, chocolate, cakes or feasting at a smorgasbord – can represent physical starvation – e.g. someone on a diet or financially challenged. It can also signify other issues – even sex. Once again it all depends on what else is going on in the dream and your life, your attitudes, etc.
Dreaming of finding a wad of cash or a wallet bursting with money usually appears when we don’t have any! Also, dreaming of being successful and powerful sometimes appears when we feel powerless and unimportant. The subconscious tries to make up for any shortcomings, which again makes the interpretation of dreams harder still. We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions and to assess the dream from all possible angles.
Recurring dreams and common themes are usually an indication that we are not paying attention to ourselves and what’s going on in our lives. Of course, some common themes do continue occurring, as either it ‘worked’ before – when you paid heed or where your subconscious ‘knows’ what symbols to use to grab your attention.
universal or classic dreams
Having a good understanding of basic symbolism helps when interpreting your dreams, as well as a working knowledge of archetypes, which we’ll discuss soon. I’ll include here a brief list of ‘universal’ or ‘classic’ dreams, which we all seem to have at one time or another. Again, this all depends on the dreamer, the circumstances etc. But on average, the following can be applied for general purposes:
Flying – a desire to get away from difficulties; escape, desire for freedom. Some say flying represents an idealized view of your sexual capacity! Look at how you’re flying, where, the weather, your feelings – e.g. elated or fearful?
Falling – sometimes linked with flying, but usually an anxiety dream, indicating lack of support, feelings of insecurity, a need for structure, etc. Successful people often have this dream, for obvious reasons.
Nakedness – feeling exposed (where you might be worrying about others finding out your hidden side, etc), repressed sexuality, vulnerability, concern about social status, etc.
Loose teeth – falling out or being pulled can signify the desire to change your situation, feeling powerless, insecurities regarding your appearance, impotence, etc.
Snakes – can signify new perceptions and realities. Historically they meant psychic or sexual energy or deep seated fears; a “snake in the grass” to watch out for (as a pun).
Travel – depends on the vehicle. e.g. Airplanes could mean foreign concepts, or the same as flying. A train could signify how you ’travel’ in life alongside others and so on. Are you going left or right (wrong or right)? Are you driving or is someone else, meaning - who’s in charge of the vehicle (your life) etc.?
Weather: Rain – water usually represents emotions, so being in the rain or seeing it could mean tears or emotional issues. Alternatively it could mean washing something clean or a welcome sign of rejuvenation.
Also, being underwater could mean being swamped by emotions, but water can represent the subconscious and being lost in your thoughts or depression. Therefore, swimming might indicate being on top of things or coping reasonably well, while standing on a pier or looking over an ocean could show how in control you are - or even void of emotion/cut off from your feelings.
Weather: Storms – struggles, personal disaster etc. Raging emotions, war of words, chaos – sometimes necessary to clear the path.
Weather: Tidal waves – I used to often have these dreams – it usually represents feeling overwhelmed by your emotions. It depends on what’s going on. For example: I used to dream that the wave was washing over me and I had no control, but once I resolved these issues (to a degree!) – I dreamt that the tidal wave came, then crashed – but by the time the water reached me I was sitting down calmly, letting the foam tickle my toes.
Being chased – this is a very common, universal dream, as we all have times in our lives where we are either running away from ourselves or the things that we think can hurt us. Who is the person chasing you – a monster, wild woman etc? Could it be an aspect of yourself? (To be discussed further down.)
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of good books about dreams out there – depending on your needs, e.g. you might want the mystical interpretations or folklore, rather than psychological, etc. Mythic themes are useful in the interpretation of dreams – but we still need to focus on how the symbols speak to us personally.
what if we ignore our dreams?
If we ignore our dreams (especially if they are important) our subconscious may eventually create a nightmare, where there is more urgency and the symbols become more exaggerated and sometimes terrifying.
Even though nightmares can be frightening, they do afford us the opportunity to dissect difficult things or situations in our lives, and help us realize that things aren’t as grim as we thought they were.
That knowledge helped me with the fear I used to feel in dreams. Now – even when I see a terrifying image – I’m more like a scientist, trying to figure it out whilst in the dream. (Lucid dreaming is covered further down.)
Facing our ‘demons’ is usually the reason the nightmare comes to us, if we’ve ignored the messages in previous dreams. We need to treat dreams like mini documentaries and take them seriously. Our subconscious is like a reporter on the edge, feeding back relevant information – the news!
discovering your personal symbology
Symbols are everywhere, as encapsulations of all kinds of information, depending on how they are used and who is looking at them. Interpreting symbols – even whilst awake – is a great exercise in understanding your reactions to imagery. For example: you’re walking past a field and see some horses. Meditate on what they mean to you – e.g. strength, freedom, spirit?
If you see leaves falling from a tree, what does it invoke in you? Maybe the cycle of life, the autumn years, waste? If you witness an argument, can you read between the lines as to what’s really going on, or are they just having a spirited discussion? What does their body language tell you?
Or perhaps you see an abandoned car by the side of the road. Does it represent a discarded life, forgotten dreams, rubbish? Doing this exercise not only helps you hone your interpretation skills, it also trains your mind to analyze things from different perspectives. Believe me – it’s amazing how quickly this skill transfers to the dream world and awakens the possibility for understanding, as well as lucid dreaming.
This is where we actually become aware that we are dreaming, whilst in the dream. This is a level of consciousness that allows us to keep a foot in each world simultaneously, bridging the conscious and subconscious realms. In this state, we are able to delve deeper into our unconscious motivations and the psyche, and to work out issues (some of them serious). We are also able to explore the wonderful dream realm and are only limited by our imaginations!
The word lucid comes from the Latin ‘lux’ – meaning light – which is interesting, as it is about the concept of ‘shedding light’ on the subject. While this is a fascinating experience, it is by no means easy. Sometimes it happens randomly without any prompting from our conscious mind; other times – it needs to be planned and ‘activated’.
One way to activate the experience is to program yourself, before you go to sleep. A little later I’ll talk about incubating dreams. One of the methods is to tell yourself before you go to sleep, that you will be alert during the dream and that something – a symbol or action – will prompt you to become aware that you are dreaming, therefore taking control of it.
Apparently lucid dreaming also reduces the frequency of nightmares, so it’s obviously a useful tool. It has been noted that children dream lucidly – more than adults – though the reasons why seem to be a little vague, such as sleeping patterns, etc.
Being more aware of your subconscious world, through analysis and dream interpretation is helpful – as well as meditation – which assists in helping you gain more control over your inner world. Again, programming yourself is useful, especially when coupled with hypnosis (or self hypnosis – which can be gained with such things as affirmations, meditation and creative visualization, even combining the two: pathworking.)
If you program yourself before you go to sleep, so that you will be alerted once an ‘unreal’ action or event occurs in the dream, it should prompt you to take note (hopefully!) If there’s a common theme in your dreams that could be considered as ‘unreal’ – a great exaggeration of reality or some other recurring symbol – program yourself to recognize it when dreaming, in order to trigger the process of lucidity.
If you often dream of blue birds, stairs going this way and that or suddenly ‘teleporting’ to some other place (unusual or not) etc – then use them as ‘lucidity triggers’.
This doesn’t mean – by any stretch of the imagination – that you will be 100% successful. It takes a lot of practice and programming. Just make sure you continue recording and analyzing your dreams – maybe you’ll achieve and possibly even master lucid dreaming!
It’s funny how it becomes easier when you take the time to dissect them. It’s like your subconscious mind ‘knows’ it’s being watched! I’ve met a few people who dream lucidly, all the time – so just keep at it. I assure you, it’s definitely worth the effort.
Be mindful that there will be times that the lucidity will slip through your fingers. It’s easy to get caught up in the dream world and forget that you’re dreaming. One way to trigger lucidity is to recognize – in the dream – that what’s going on wouldn’t happen in waking life. For example: people with apples for heads, or driving cars without your hands on the wheel, etc.
For some people, it helps to wake themselves up, with an alarm clock or some other method (like drinking too much liquid before going to bed, so you’ll wake up – hopefully – to go to the toilet). Then stay awake for a while, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour.
The reason for this is that it ‘disturbs’ the sleeping patterns and sometimes evokes lucidity. But be careful that you don’t disrupt your whole sleeping pattern. You don’t want to spend your days walking around like a zombie or ending up an insomniac!
Another method is to try to retain consciousness whilst going to sleep. This is difficult to do, but the theory is that you’ll stay alert for the entry into the dream state, therefore – you'll be lucid and aware that you’re dreaming. I have tried this myself, but found for me – I might be aware for a few minutes and then forget that I am dreaming. Vigilance and perseverance is definitely a factor.
There are several methods for the incubation of dreams. One way – as discussed – is to program yourself before going to sleep, such as repeating a mantra, like “I wish to dream about...” The same could be done for a particular dream that deals with a certain issue. For example: “I will dream about a solution to…”
To start with, I find it useful to read a certain type of book before bed, or listen to a particular type of music, watch a movie etc., that embodies the kind of issues and images I’d like to have in my dream. Also, talk about it during the day (to yourself or others) as though it’s an established fact – that you’re going to have a certain type of dream.
A good way to achieve self-programming is – of course – ritual. Ritual speaks to the subconscious, so it’s an excellent tool for dream incubation.
You don’t need to be a witch to conduct a ritual. We have little rituals in our life every day. You might want to align yourself with a particular archetype or deity. Even if you’re Christian, you could ask Jesus to help guide you in the process. Other deities could be:
Another deity is Bes – an Egyptian god, whose likeness was carved on headboards to chase nightmares away. (It is said that if you draw a picture of him on your left hand and wrap it in a black cloth – that has been dedicated to Isis – he will bring you the dream you want.)
There are many other deities out there, or you can use an archetype. Whatever makes you comfortable. The correspondences you can use when conducting your ritual could be as follows:
You don’t have to use all of them – even one herb/plant or stone will suffice.
Dream Totems to consider:
The above is just a guide. You might not want to incorporate ritual at all, and might be more comfortable just meditating. It’s up to you to choose the methods that you feel most comfortable with and then go from there.
DREAM INCUBATION RITUAL
If you like, draw a picture of the deity/archetype you’re going to use, as well as a Totem animal (or all three), if you like. Write out your question or statement regarding what kind of dream you want to have.
Get a white or silver candle, consecrate it with sandalwood oil (again – depending on your preference) and prepare a cauldron or dish for your charcoal and incense (made from the herbs/plants - dried) and set them on your altar or bedside table – being careful with the flame of the candle and charcoal.
You can place the gems on your altar/bedside table or put them under your pillow (with the note, if you won’t be burning it in the ritual).
Light the candle, sprinkle some of the incense on the lit charcoal and call the quarters. Invoke the deities etc that you wish to have assist you in the ritual. Cast a protective circle and state the following (or write your own verbiage):
“Hear me, Morpheus – God of dreams, I invoke Thee” (or whoever you’re using) “I seek your assistance tonight. Bring me a dream that answers this question” (either put the note in the cauldron to burn or put it under your pillow.)
“As this candle burns, the energies of dream incubation will be released. Thank you Morpheus” – or whoever your guide is. Then meditate on the flame, performing creative visualization, incorporating the Totem animal – giving you the answers you desire. Mix it up to suit your purpose.
When you’re done, close the quarters and circle, go to bed and go over your question in symbolic format – e.g. if you want to know how to combat an emotional issue, see the issue as a tear falling down your face, and so on. Use your imagination, which speaks to your subconscious.
When you awake, record your impressions. As I said before, you don’t have to conduct a ritual, it’s just that ritual is a great way of programming your subconscious will. If you prefer to only meditate and/or put the gems under your pillow with the note, that’s perfectly fine. The important thing is – to set the tone for your desired outcome.
You might notice that the symbols in your dream seem totally nonsensical in regards to what you asked for, but don’t be discouraged. This is always the way the subconscious appears (at first.) Do analyze the dream and keep a look out for the next few nights – as the answer might not come straight away.
basic archetypes and individuation
Carl Jung regarded the individuation process as involving the developmental path that we all take during our lives, taking into consideration the fact that each of us are individuals with unique destinies. He stated that we have two personalities: the outward, ‘conscious’ personality and the hidden personality, contained in the ‘collective unconscious’.
Under the conscious self is a well of repressed, ignored or forgotten feelings, memories and behavioral patterns, which he called the ‘personal unconscious’. Beneath that lies the ‘collective unconscious’ – a depository which is massive and encompasses all the behaviors and imagery that have been recorded right throughout history, since ancient times.
Jung believed that this collective unconscious – this depository of human memories etc. – shows how history still has an incredible impact on us and our lives.
The Archetypal Stages of Individuation
1/ The Shadow: this is the archetype that embodies all the personal traits that we ignore, deny or repress. It usually represents itself as the same sex as the dreamer or as a monster, depending on the level of repression, etc.
2/ The Anima/Animus: usually the archetype that represents the opposite sex to the dreamer or the male/female aspects of the dreamer.
3/ The Self: this is the archetype of the integrated persona – the ‘whole’ self - usually represented by a wise man or woman, but it can take on other forms, such as animals, inanimate objects – in nature and man made – or a variety of human forms. In our dreams, we are often pulled back by our past and prompted by our future.
These energies are sometimes personified or objectified by our archetypes. The individuation process is when we begin to integrate the whole of our consciousness into a singular being, rather than a fragmented being. Dreams are the individuation process reports; they tell us how we’re going in relation to our integration of various personas, attitudes, beliefs and so on.
The archetypes appear in our lives through the individuation process, which is determined by the type of person we are. This is why each path for each person is different.
Usually, the individuation process involves the second stage of life, according to Jung. He believed that we spend the first half of our lives building the personality, and when that’s accomplished (if not, then the process is difficult to say the least!) – then we can focus on going within.
During the first half of life, we learn how to live and how to deal with the world and the people in our lives. Our parents are the be all and end all, when we are young. They are the authorities and what they say usually goes. We become who we are depending on their expectations and how they present themselves to us – often mimicking their behavior.
We all enter into this world with a blueprint of who we can become. It needs to be able to adapt to all the different energies, experiences and people we encounter, in order for us to fulfill our destiny. We all have inherent skills, abilities and desires, which are sometimes denied, ignored or repressed in order to satisfy the expectations of others.
According to Jung, one or more personalities grow around these ignored or repressed desires etc. – which become the Shadow. When new issues arise in our life and we don’t know how to deal with them, the Shadow figure appears in our dreams, which symbolizes the energies we need in order to deal with them. Jung said that the Shadow appears when a new cycle is about to begin.
To start with, the Shadow appears as non-human, like a monster, zombie, etc. Later on they become fully human, the same sex as us – but still frightening. Later still, they become more of a nuisance, rather than a scary persona. We then look down at them and put up with their presence.
Further on, they become acquaintances (although not important), then they evolve into friends, family members, or even partners. If we have integrated their traits into our persona, they will no longer appear in our dreams, as they have become a part of us.
If we continue to deny our true identity, the Shadow will pursue us in nightmares, which is why we need to stop and engage the Shadow, to find out what it wants. (This is why shadow figures appear in nightmares and dreams – because we have become too set in our ways or have forgotten our true path.)
When we think that we are perfect, the Shadow figure contrasts this with the opposite persona – imperfect, dark, menacing and so on. The Shadow teaches us about how misguided we are about our desires.
When we repress ourselves sexually, a shadow figure appears who emulates all kinds of sexual ‘aberrations’. The more we deny the shadow, the more power we give it. After a while, it becomes too powerful for us to ignore. We either slip up and do things we’d rather forget or project it onto others, especially those who aren’t as inhibited.
If we acknowledge the Shadow, we can evolve. If we repress it, we suffer its wrath. In order to understand the Shadow, we need to see our projections and break them down.
If we don’t examine our hidden selves, they build to monster proportions and break through to our conscious lives. If you come across someone in your dream who frightens you or if you fight with them, observe their qualities and investigate what correlates to your personality and integrate them. The more the conflict – the more likely that you’re dealing with a Shadow figure.
The Anima and Animus
The Anima is the males’ feminine aspect and the Animus is the masculine aspect of the female. It’s more difficult to integrate the Anima/Animus than the shadow. Intense emotional energies occur when we transform from the shadow to the Anima/Animus.
Once the Shadow qualities become integrated, the Anima/Animus issues appear – although I’ve found they can occur simultaneously. The Shadow appears to alert us to our hidden, ignored, forgotten or repressed desires and the Anima/Animus takes it from there.
The world of the Anima/Animus is the testing ground for how we conduct ourselves in relationships (personal and with the world.) Our issues with our parents are also reflected in the workings of the Anima/Animus.
The Anima/Animus appears in our dreams in many formats. As God/Goddess – such as Mars (embodying war, fortitude, etc.) and Aphrodite (embodying beauty, love, compassion etc.) They also appear as a variety of different archetypes, like the mother or father. They personify those particular qualities that we need when we are about to go through a transformation.
The Anima/Animus shows us how misguided we can be about our emotions and relationships. In the Shadow stage, we discover that the ‘monster’ is actually us. In the Anima/Animus stage, we discover that we are connected to everyone and everything.
The Self teaches us that we need to discover our inherent nature, in order to be wholly integrated.
The Self is even harder to interpret than the Shadow or Anima/Animus. As an archetype, the Self encompasses many images and forms, which is what makes it so difficult to interpret. The Self is who we were destined to be; the supreme goal. It’s the divine aspect of ourselves.
As we have an idealized view of ourselves (or who we should be), we usually use the archetype of the Self to measure other people against. When we stray from our true Self, a Shadow figure appears, but as we draw closer to our Self – the Shadow becomes less of a monster and more like ourselves.
In dreams, the Self can be represented by an animal or even a tree, flower or river. Jung also believed that the Self could be symbolized by things such as mandalas and other forms.
These images often appear in our dreams when some kind of order is being restored within ourselves. If we don’t see the image, animal etc. as an expression or symbol of ourselves, then integration will be difficult. When we dream about animals, usually depicted as aloof or disinterested, we need to realize that the Self has appeared to us.
Reptiles – especially snakes - are usually representative of the Self, as they appear when a new cycle is about to commence. They embody wisdom and powerful instincts. Apparently the most common representations of the Self as an animal are: snakes, horses, bulls, elephants, bears, black and white birds, fish, turtles, spiders, snails and beetles!
The “Mana” Personality
In dreams, this is a being with magical powers and is evocative of the occult. Once the Anima/Animus is integrated, the Mana personality appears – sometimes before the Self does – and is considered a lesser representation of the Self. It forces us to question out true identity; to ask ourselves the question – “Who am I?” This is the part of the individuation process that is key – “How do I go from who I’ve become to who I’m supposed to be?”
We are ‘self actualized’ when our motivations are ‘pure’ and not colored by external expectations. Put another way, we can only truly be ourselves when we follow our own path rather than someone else’s, or their idea of what our path should be.
Self actualized people are those who adhere to concepts such as truth, justice and beauty. They cope with life better than others, no matter how difficult the journey is. They truly ‘feel’ or experience the good and the bad in life. They are truly connected to their emotions, but once felt and expressed – are more able to move on - quicker than those who are not self actualized.
We can’t be our true selves without having confronted and dealt with who we are and what we want in life, without other people’s projections interfering. (Notwithstanding solicited advice, legitimate concerns and so on.) According to Jung, there are strange side effects when the Self appears, such as emotional outbursts that seem to happen for no good reason, or strange illnesses that seemingly appear out of nowhere.
Other symptoms might include prophetic dreams which come true and other ‘paranormal’ activity. This is the time when we need to guard against assuming we have become everyone’s ‘guru’ – especially towards those we think are less evolved.
This apparently occurs because of the archetypal energy released when the Self appears. We can counteract this distorted use of the energy by channeling it through a creative outlet. This is the process of sharing the collective unconscious with the world.
final notes on dreams
We surely now understand why analyzing our dreams is important. When we take notice of our dreams they take notice of us noticing them! We form a ‘bond’ with the dream realm and it reacts accordingly.
See how your dreams change once you start taking them seriously. When analyzing your symbols, use free word association and stream of consciousness methods. Let your imagination run wild! This helps amplify the meaning, giving you every possible angle, so that you have a better chance of finding what makes the most sense to you.
Words are also symbols, so check out their meanings in the dictionary, thesaurus and even world history, to see if you can shed any light on the subject. If your dream resembles a mythic story or fairy tale, research it to see if you can gain any more insights.
I can not emphasize how important it is to record your dreams. Give them titles and dates so that you can access them easier. Use drawings if you can’t find the right words to describe them. You’ll discover that your dreams contain many wild adventures and opportunities for growth that will literally change your life.
P.S. If you want to see examples of my own dream interpretations, check out my post - and thanks for hanging in there!
further reading and links
Since I began in the 1980’s, I’ve visited many bookstores
– in person and online – doing my best to refrain from
spending all of my hard-earned dollars on the vast array
of fascinating books and ritual tools.
I shudder now when I think of all the books I had to give away
when I immigrated over here to the USA, but I managed to
keep the most precious ones.
I haven't included all my books, but the ones you see
below might be of interest!
Herbs and plants
symbols and sigils
oils and incense
You might find these links useful, but if you know of any you think
should be included, please let me know!
*Click on the images to link to the sites
Mountain Rose Herbs offers bulk herbs, spices and tools
for a great price - including Organic, Fair Trade, Kosher, Non-GMO, Wildharvested and Forest Grown products.
The Penn Herb Co is another go-to for quality Herbs, Spices
and Essential oils.
Also known as Isis Books, this is one of my favorite stores
for sourcing a variety of books, ritual tools and lots more.
For bulk herbs and spices as well as Essential Oils
and other supplies.
Herbs, Oils, raw ingredients and much more.
The Bulk Herb store also offer Herbal teas and accessories.
A wide range of Ritual supplies made in the U.S.,
including a "shop by symbol" menu.
For Books, Tarot decks and Ritual supplies -
a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.
A wide range of ritual supplies, divination tools, Herbs, Oils
and a whole lot more at reasonable prices.
Interesting items that are hard to find elsewhere,
especially if you don't mind things like taxidermy!
My main source for gems and crystals.
They have great deals for bulk stones!
A great source for quality Essential oils, Absolutes, Co2 extracts,
books on aromatherapy and accessories.
This wonderful store is in Australia - but they ship overseas.
The first store that set me on the Pagan path!
Lots of great ritual supplies, books, herbs and much more!
Another Aussie store that ships worldwide!
Not only do they stock books from all walks of spiritual life,
they also have a great collection of music, DVD's and a
second-hand selection of books - as well as Tarot cards,
crystals and gems, incense and lots more.
If you want to learn about herbs from the ground up
- from earth to seed and harvest to product - then this course is for you!
After a lot of research, I chose to study at the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, due to their gorgeous modules, videos and extensive courses.
After 2.5 years, I've learned how to grow my own herbs and
how to prepare my own medicines. Once completed, you have access
to their lessons and videos - for life!
Operated by the ethereal Asia Suler, (who also features in the courses offered by the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine) - One Willow Apothecaries
offers spiritual courses and retreats, as well as handmade elixirs and
seasonal medicine. Here's one of her videos to give you an idea:
Honorable Herbal Heroes
My favorite source for seeds, live roots and plants, run by Richo Cech and his family (formerly known as Horizon Herbs.) An extensive selection of common and rare plants and seeds, backed by the knowledge of a true herbal hero!
Operated by a wonderful teacher - Joe Hollis - Mountain Gardens has a focus on Chinese as well as Native Appalachian medicinal plants.
They offer an extensive array of seeds, plants, fresh and dried material.
Dina Falconi is a Master Herbalist who has produced a great book about
foraging for wild foods and has started a wonderful course.
Here's a sample of her lovely style: