by Christopher Penczak
I remember learning Greek mythology as I was growing up. I loved the stories of the gods and goddess, and was particularly drawn to all those finely chiseled statues. It wasn't until later in life I discovered how sanitized my Catholic and public school education was. The myths were filtered through a lens of conservative morality and I was denied a part of history, most notably a part of gay history. Bits shined through the cracks while I was in college, from more mature academic texts using a clinical tone. But when I found myself delving into the world of neo-paganism, I rediscovered a part of my divine heritage.
World mythology is filled with images of gay deities. As I struggled with my gayness throughout my Catholic school days, I always heard that homosexuality was "not natural" and "against God." I had no idea that prior cultures not only acknowledged same sex love as part of life, but some cultures actually celebrated such love as divine. In these societies, the priests and priestess were often gay or transgendered. In fact, it may be because the Judeo-Christian traditions wanted to disassociate themselves so completely from these pagan cultures that they "outlawed" anything connected with the ancient goddess faiths, including the divine feminine, the sacredness of the Earth and acts of homosexuality.
What survives now as myth was once scripture, viewed as symbolic, divine truth. As various translations and reinterpretations touch each myth, many gay characteristics are changed or deleted entirely, beguiling the true meaning of the story. Try reading the story of Apollo and Hyacinth with the word "lover" replaced by the word "friend." Their story has much less of an impact when the romantic and sexual nature of it is scoured away. The mysteries of many of our myths are omitted for this reason.
Most modern Earth spiritualities, including Paganism and Wicca, acknowledge we all have a divine masculine and feminine. Even so, some practitioners have difficulty looking at this aspect of the divine when so many rituals are based around "fertility" and traditional gender roles. Fertility comes in many forms, including creativity and not necessarily childbirth. Some of this information on gay gods may come as a bit of a surprise to traditional Pagans, because it is not often found in traditional books. I know I was surprised myself to find out some of my favorite gods and goddesses had gay, lesbian and transgender associations.
Such unusual research will be seen as biased by many, but from the gay community, traditional research on such topics has always been biased. The exploration of the topic invites a new image of the divine to us, and for practitioners of the magical arts, we can learn more about the gods and goddesses by having a direct relationship with them. By looking at the cross-cultural images of the divine with gay characteristics, we can each find a personal image as our divine connection. We can see ourselves in the divine mirror. We all get to share in the diverse love of the gods.
Here is an introduction to a few deities with gay themed myths or worship.
Apollo & Hyacinth (Greek) - Apollo, a god of music, dance, healing and inspiration, is known for taking male lovers, most notably Hyacinth. Hyacinth was mortally wounded. Unable to save his beloved, Apollo created the Hyacinth flower from his blood. Hyacinth later became a divine patron to those pursuing same sex love.
Artemis (Greek) - Artemis is the huntress, the goddess of the Moon and the protector of women and children. Artemis rejects traditional roles, such as marriage, and feels kinship to those beyond traditional roles. Her festivals included same sex worship from men and women.
Astarte (Phoenician/Canaanite) - Astarte is a manifestation of the Great Mother, sometimes depicted as a hermaphrodite. Astarte's temples were served by the kelabim, a gay male priest caste.
Chin (Mayan) - Chin, a small child or dwarf god, introduced homoerotic relationships to the Mayan nobles. The nobles obtained youths of the lower classes to be the lovers of the noble's sons. Such unions were considered legal marriages under Mayan law.
Dionysus (Greek) - As a god of wine, madness, poetry and love, Dionysus is depicted as soft and feminine, yet virile and strong. He wore women's clothing to hide from his stepmother's wrath. Dionysus became lovers with the gods Adonis and Hermaphrodite.
Eros, Hermes & Hercules (Greek) - Eros, Hermes and Hercules granted blessings upon male couples, the gifts of loyalty, eloquence and strength, respectively. Eros was called upon by warrior-lovers before a fight, because the ancient Greeks believed victory is often achieved because of the love between men.
Ganesha (Hindu) - Most popularly depicted as a four armed, plump man with an elephant's head, Ganesha is the breaker of obstacles and linked to homoerotic worship involving anal sex. Ganesha is mixed in terms of sexuality, masculine in gender, but soft, tender and portrayed with breasts.
Odin (Norse) - Viewed as the all father and creator, Odin would often disguise himself as a woman. His relationship with his blood brother, Loki, had homoerotic overtones, and he studied the feminine mysteries of the goddess Freya.
Pan (Greek) The goat god of music and nature, depicted with panpipes, erect penis and chasing after maidens and men, particularly shepherds.
Set & Horus (Egyptian) - Horus, the divine child, was in constant conflict with his uncle Set, but one story survives of oral intercourse between Set and Horus, and Set ultimately gives birth to Horus' child. Gay priests served Horus' mother, the goddess Isis, in ancient Egypt.
Zeus (Greek) - Zeus is a sky god and well known for his sexual liaisons, including his male cupbearer Ganymede. In ancient material, he is transgendered as Zeus Arrhenothelus, both mother and father.
For more information, I suggest Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit by Conner, Sparks and Sparks.
Bio: Christopher Penczak is a practicing Witch and the author of Gay Witchcraft and is forming a Gay Men's Spirituality and Meditation Group in Southern New Hampshire, starting in April 2002. For more information on his work, His link is in my Recommended Sites list.