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.