Both outside and inside the Wicca community there seems to be a notion that sex is an imported aspect in Wiccan ritual. Perhaps the reason why pagans some prefer a more modern form of Wicca, then say Gardnerian or Alexandrian, as in the ceremonial rituals, there is quite a few references to man-woman sexuality, or taken it upon themselves to adapt ceremonial ritual to be more fluid gender friendly.
Some are even attracted to Wicca just because of they like to celebrate their sexuality and Wicca certainly leaves room for that, as one of my favourite lines in The Charge is “Let my worship be within the heart that rejoices,. for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.”
But it has to be said that some people confuse principle with enactment of principle. I always find that those rituals that seem explicitly sexual (like the Great Rite is often perceived) are not fully understood. I do imagine that in a consensual setting, a full enactment of the Great Rite can be quite an experience, but the principle behind it is often forgotten.
The principle enacted is conception, or even more precise, creating the circumstances for conception to take place.
“Hold on”, you say, “isn’t that the same thing?” Yes and no. The act of sex in a pure biological point of view is indeed creating the conditions of conception to take place. but conception is a principle that applies to many things.
Lets see what the Merriam Webster dictionary says:
Definition of conception
2 a : the capacity, function, or process of forming or understanding ideas or abstractions or their symbolsb : a general idea : conceptc : a complex product of abstract or reflective thinkingd : the sum of a person’s ideas and beliefs concerning something
3 : the originating of something in the mind
Now take the last 2 definitions and place them in the context of an initiation. That suddenly makes sense, does it? I’m sure most Wiccan’s don’t get initiated for the sole purpose of getting pregnant (as much their biological gender would allow it)
Even more in Ritual magic, while sexual enactment is present or not, conception of the 2 latter definitions is of key importance of the magical work to have effect.
Through the degrees of many different pagan belief systems (and other spiritual paths), one learns and grows, the objective is conception of principle and ideas, as conception being a magical principle by itself.
Conception will lead to a birth of something, a creation, a result of forces interacting, growth, sublimation, alchemy, a Chemical Wedding, if you like.
This type of conception is completely gender neutral and leaves sex behind it. The reason that the traditional analogy to be enacted for the principle of concept is because it is the most immediate human biological event that embodies conception and nature replicates this in abundance around us, even plants have sex.
But here comes the catcher: we perform the enactment from a spiritual perspective, from a belief that in engaging the enactment, we are blessed with a conception of the mind – or spirit- if you like. Biological sex is a good way to explain the principle of conception in a way every one understands, but the principle of conception is much bigger then that and something people have to develop into to recognise the principle working at different levels, but always as being the principle of creation the conditions for conception.
That is why I never understood the outcry of “elders” that such a ritual has to be done with opposite sexes. I would understand their concern if the objective was to beget a conception as in the first definition of becoming biological pregnant. Sure, if your objective is biological, you must create the biological conditions to achieve it.
But in ceremonial and ritual magic, we seek to engage the magical world, leaving the limitations of the physical world behind: we endeavour to function on a higher plane of consciousness.
So when it comes to seeing people performing the rite of conception, in the spirit of trying to achieve conception of the mind, I’m not offended if they happen to be same sex or use words that fit their identity, as long they adhere to the tradition of celebrating conception. Whether that is biologically or mentally, I could care less. the danger with those who pressure others to follow “tradition” as they call it, it that they do not demonstrate being knowledgeable of the meaning of the ritual and confuse the form with content. That is not tradition, that is just blindly following dogma without having understanding of magical principle. As I recall, quite a few traditions were founded because the founder believed there was a better way doing things. And with that in mind, one is a traditionalists when keeping true to those founding values. If that would be the case, a lot of different beliefs and traditions would simply not exists in this day and age.
As for myself? I just keep performing those rites as passed on to me and happy to explain, just like I did here; to what the enacting really pertains to, so people don’t have to feel embarrassed. And if they want to do it differently, all blessings to them, as long they understand that they are supposed to reenact the conception of the mind.