Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral by Erick DuPree

Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral: Men in Ritual, Service and Community to the Goddess
Erick DuPree
Immanion Press/Megalithica Books, 2016

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Review by Hugh Eckert.

What is a positive and healthy expression of masculinity in spirituality? It’s a valid question for today- just skim the news and look at the reports of crimes stemming from toxic masculinity; you don’t have to look too deeply to see that all too many of them are rooted in the patriarchal structure of Abrahamic religions. Goddess-centered spirituality can (and has) provided a counterbalance, but sometimes devalues the masculine (if not casting the male as an outright enemy). This volume attempts to remedy that problem by showing paths many men have taken in revering the Divine Feminine while still honoring their own masculinity.

Despite the promise on the back cover copy of “a diverse tapestry of sacred masculine stories, rituals and poetry,” I was unsurprised (although disappointed) to find that the vast majority of selections in the book are written by followers of Wiccan, Wiccan-derived and other Goddess-centered Neo-Pagan paths. Since I’m Polytheist, there’s little of direct personal relevance to me here, but I think I can use my thirty-plus years of experience in the larger Pagan community to judge it fairly.

Much of this book consists of a series of heartfelt spiritual autobiographies- deeply personal stories of how the authors “came to the Goddess” out of stifling, unpleasant, even actively abusive backgrounds. I started to get annoyed at the repetition, but then I recalled my own past experience. This “conversion to Paganism” story is a powerful myth in and of itself, ringing changes on a litany of change and self-discovery. This is the core of the book: tales of faith and how the writers came to it; stories of hope that can bring hope to others in need of it.

There are other things to like here, as well. In his introduction, Ivo Dominguez (one of the most thoughtful and interesting writers in Paganism) give a useful exploration of the more “technical” aspects of the Powers and our interactions with them. Roxie Babylon’s poetry is intoxicating and lyrical. Puck DeCoyote and Blake Octavian Blair both had thought provoking pieces about gender fluidity and the Divine. I also found the rituals presented by Eric Eldritch and Matthew Sawicki to be powerful and inspirational (although the latter’s Hekate ritual is definitely not beginner material and should be attempted only by a well-trained group with deep existing connections to that Goddess). Similarly, Ian Allen’s work with the Magdalene was fascinating, but it’s powerful stuff and shouldn’t be done without grounding, centering and shielding.

Unfortunately, this book has its flaws. Many of the essays needed sourcing if not footnoting (and in at least one case, there were footnote numbers in the text but no notes provided). The level of writing is uneven and some pieces seem to be unedited blog posts. Many of the essays in the book were too short and compressed; I found myself wishing that Erick Dupree had limited his selection of authors and instead encouraged them to write longer and deeper pieces. And not all the contributors had entries in the “Biographies” section- this may seem like a quibble, but I find such material provides helpful context for reflecting on an author’s work.

Even so, this book is a passionate and informative exploration of the role of masculinity and masculine energy in Goddess Spirituality. Anyone teaching courses or workshops on gender and spirituality should be able to find valuable material for readings here. It’s also the kind of book I hope that young men in spiritual crisis will stumble upon or be given. With that in mind, I plan on donating my copy to a prison chaplaincy in ardent hope that it may help where help is most needed.

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When I See the Wild God – Ly de Angeles – June BBBR

When I See the Wild God: Encountering Urban Celtic Witchcraft
Ly de Angeles
Llewellyn, 2004
288 pages

This is one of those books that seems to have lost its focus. Some of it appears to be aimed at modern pagan men’s mysteries and the God aspect of the Divine, but then there’s also the (by now stereotypical) Celtic aspects of it. However, the bulk of the book is a rehash of Wicca 101, with the usual ritual tools, casting the circle and calling the quarters, etc. And the book doesn’t flow particularly well; sometimes the progression of chapters seems rather disjointed.

Because of this, I found myself skimming the book a lot, more because it was very familiar material than because it was poorly written. I actually like de Angeles’ writing style; she’s an excellent storyteller, and it perks up the fiction quite a bit. If it were just marketed as a Wicca/witchcraft 101 book, it’s be one of the better-written ones on the market. All the basics are here in an easy to read format.

Unfortunately, I just really couldn’t get into the book as I think it was meant to be. The male aspects are primarily a little bit of talk at the beginning of the book, and a mention of some gods. The Celtic flavoring is no different than in other books on “Celtic Wicca” or similar modernized systems with Celtic names in it. Granted, she does a decent job of Celtic mythology 101, but it shouldn’t be taken as genuine Celtic culture, just the usual mash-up.

If you’re looking for a basic book on Wicca 101, this one is a good intro, but if you want men’s mysteries, check out The Pagan Man by Isaac Bonewits or King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Douglas and Gillette.

Two and a half pawprints out of five.

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King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Robert Moore & Douglas Gilette

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine
Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
HarperSanFrancisco, 1991
192 pages

This is an absolutely spectacular answer to a lot of societal gender issues–not the only answer, mind you, but an excellent tool to have in your self-development arsenal. This includes women, too (I’ll get to that in a minute).

The four archetypes in the title are covered both in adult and juvenile versions, in brief in the first chapter, and then the mature archetypes get an entire chapter dedicated to each. Both the positive, healthy aspects, and the Shadow aspects, are covered. The language is wonderfully easy on the eyes, conversational without losing content.

As I read, I found myself recognizing a lot of the traits of these archetypes in people I knew–and myself. I strongly urge everyone, not just men, to snag a copy of this. It’s not just so that women can finally “understand men”. It’s because this is also a map to the Animus, that within women which is male, and which is often lost track of. I found myself nodding in recognition at both Boy and Man traits of various archetypes that I found to be familiar within myself, and this has definitely given me more to chew on.

And, in the very back of the book there are several meditations that basically amount to what magicians know as pathworking and invocation for readers to use to work with their own archetypal selves. This is very much a valuable tool, and I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more mention in the pagan community since I’ve heard grumbling now and then that paganism is too female-centric. This book has been out since 1990, and I think it would go a long way in helping not only pagan men, but (as I said before) people in general understand *human* psychology better.

I also like that it places responsibility at the foot of certain threads of feminism for some of the more recent anti-male sentiments in society, particularly that which blames all men for all the problems women have while vehemently denying that men actually have problems, thanks to their male “privilege”. My own approach to feminism had always been similar to Action Girl – Girl-positive and female-friendly — never anti-boy. While I think the work is far from being over, I’m less of a feminist these days and more of an “everyone-ist”. If we’re going to really bring equality into reality in any capacity, we have to extend that equality to everyone, not just women. I’ve talked to enough men who aren’t exactly happy with the bad conditioning and pigeonholes they get stuck into, and I believe that rather than trying to place the blame for the way things are in the hands of one sex or another, it needs to be directed at the culture in general that breeds insecurity. As the authors pointed out, patriarchy isn’t caused by masculine energy in general–it’s caused by immature masculine energy that is not only anti-female, but anti-mature male as well. This book is an excellent tool for deprogramming the destructive, immature masculine and helping to promote the healthy, creative masculine.

Okay, off my soapbox now….

For the bad parts–the authors refer to sadomasochism as “perversion” and male humiliation of women. Um, no. Ignore this part. It’s one of the few parts that does date the book. Also, I really wish they’d gone into more detail on how to work with the archetypes, instead of a couple of paragraphs at the end of each chapter. There are books for at least three of the four archetypes on their own, but they’re out of print and very expensive to get ahold of.

But, in short, really, really, really good book, recommended to anyone.

Five pawprints out of five.

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