Mother Goddess and Subversive Witches: Competing Narratives of Gender Essentialism, Heteronormativity, Feminism, and Queerness in Wiccan Theology and Ritual

Graduation Year



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Wicca has typically been viewed as an empowering alternative to institutionalized and partiarchal religions, and women especially have been drawn to this religion because of its inclusion of women as goddesses and priestesses. It is also seen as a sex-positive religion, and many LGBTQ+ people embrace Wicca due to its lack of concepts such as sin and shame, especially around sex and sexuality. This research, however, troubles the claim that Wicca is a feminist, woman-friendly, queer-friendly religion. While women are celebrated and valued, I argue that women's positive portrayal as mothers, nurturers, emotional, and intuitive portrays women's nature in a gender essentialist way. My research also explores the consequences and limitations of emphasizing Wicca as a fertility religion, as women's power is theoretically restricted to their potential for motherhood. The resulting heteronormativity and its procreative focus can create an exclusionary environment for gay men and women as well as for transgender and genderfluid or non-binary individuals. For this research, I engaged in ethnographic participant-observation of a local Wiccans and Pagans from across the United States and England. In doing so, I was able to gauge Wiccan practitioners' attitudes related to gender and sexuality and explore the ways in which Wiccans are modifying their practices to be more inclulsive.


Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology

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