Hello, friends! I’ve recently polished up my Genderqueer Tree of Life workshop, and recorded it for all to enjoy.
The Hermetic Qabala is often perceived as an old-fashioned, patriarchal magickal tool full of absolutes and gender binaries. However, a deeper look within reveals all kinds of complicated, multi-faceted, and fluid gender and magickal polarities. This class will provide a brief introduction to Hermetic Qabala, including a pathworking where participants can experience the energy of each sphere on the tree, followed by an analysis on the use of gender and polarity in magick. We will then look at the use of gender and polarities on the Tree of Life and consider how this can relate to our magickal perspectives and practices. The class will conclude by offering a sample model for applying a queer lens to the Tree of Life, offering participants the tools necessary to develop their own.
I originally wrote this for an internal blog at work, and my colleagues and friends requested I repost it publicly to be shared more widely. I’ve adapted the original post with some minor updates and stripped out the stuff that was specific to the workplace.
Big thanks to my colleagues Tallulah and Basil for their help in assembling and editing this post!
There are lots of commonly-used phrases in English that are gender-exclusive. Because many English-speakers are used to hearing and using these phrases, it may not occur to people that these phrases are unintentionally exclusive. But knowledge is power, and we can do better!
For example, references to “men and women” exclude those of us who are nonbinary. Here are some helpful substitutions that are more inclusive:
I started this website almost exactly one year ago, and I’m so proud of everything it has become. I’ve kept up blogging every week (with a couple exceptions here and there), and I hope I’ve provided you with some helpful resources and ideas for your life and magick.
I’m going to take a little hiatus to refuel my creative juices, but rest assured I will return.
In case you missed it (ICYMI)…here are all the posts from this year, grouped by category:
Most resources about non-binary or genderqueer people coming out are aimed at teens and their parents. Resources for parents of non-binary adults are, unfortunately, sparse. I’ve pulled together the ones I’ve been able to find.
I’m using “non-binary” as an umbrella term for “identities outside of ‘male’ and ‘female.'” Your child may use a more specific term, like “genderqueer,” “genderfluid,” “bigender,” “agender,” or “xenogender.” We’ll get more into terminology later in this post, so don’t worry!
Step 1: When your child comes out, listen with an open mind.
For many non-binary or genderqueer people, telling our family members about our gender identity, even when we’re adults, is really scary. We fear we won’t be understood, or won’t be taken seriously. We worry that we won’t be able to express ourselves well. We are terrified our parents may reject our new names and pronouns.
It takes an incredible amount of courage to come out to those who raised us. Even if you don’t understand fully what your child is saying, even if you are hurt by your child saying they are something other than what you think they are, and even if you don’t believe their identity is real, resist the urge to push back in the heat of the moment, and try to take pride in them doing a very scary, courageous thing.
For those who celebrate the Wheel of the Year, Yule is a time of quiet, introspection, and solitude. It’s when we embrace a hygge lifestyle: one of less busy-ness and fewer social commitments, and more cosiness and rest. It’s a delightfully counter-cultural notion within a society that values productivity and busy-ness all year ’round. The idea that there are times that we must rest, reflect, and recover is radical…and incredibly healthy.
But, thanks to the pandemic, 2020 has already been nearly an entire year of canceled social commitments and staying home. And many of us don’t have the luxury of being able to slow anything down, as we frantically juggle childcare with working or trying to find work.
And if we do get the chance to rest, that rest doesn’t always feel restorative, since we’re all experiencing multiple, ongoing, months-long, nationwide trauma events simultaneously.
So…what does that mean for Yule? A few thoughts come to mind. (Usual caveats apply, here: I am not a mental health professional or trauma counselor. The recommendations in this post may not be right for you or your situation, and your mileage may vary.)
Qabala is the “operating system” of most modern Tarot decks. Mathematically, it works out very neatly: There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana, and 22 paths connecting the spheres on the Tree. The Minor Arcana features the numbers one through ten, and there are ten spheres on the Tree. There are four designations of court cards and four suits, and there are four levels of reality represented by three triangles plus Malkuth.
In an interesting and counterintuitive twist, the paths between spheres in the Tree are associated with the cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, and the spheres are associated with the cards in the Minor Arcana.
It seems weird at first – shouldn’t the spheres, the most prominent aspects of the Tree, be associated with the big events of the Major Arcana? But it makes sense when you think more deeply about it. The spheres represent more static states of being, whereas the paths represent the process of moving between those states. In much the same way, the cards of the Minor Arcana represent moments, or snapshots, and the Major Arcana depict the phases of The Fool’s Journey.
Every generation of Qabalists has the obligation and the opportunity to add to the treasury of knowledge and understanding of the Tree. In order to do that, you must understand the Tree in a way that makes sense to you. The best way to approach this is to make your own Tree.
The first Tree I created was to help me better understand and visualize the correspondences between the Tarot, Astrology, and Qabala. I used Adobe InDesign and mocked up the Tree, and then put the corresponding Tarot cards and astrological symbols on the various paths and spheres. I then printed it on a giant poster via an online print-on-demand shop, and as I worked with the Tree I wrote stuff on Post-Its and stuck them on the poster. All of that is still on my wall, and I still refer to it now and again as I work with the Tree. (If you want a copy of this to print yourself, I’ve made it open-source – it’s best printed as a 3×5-foot poster.)
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of “witchcraft 101” books, to update the reading list for my coven’s new members. I’m thankful to see so many of the new books in this category are less problematic than “the classics,” and many go beyond the basics and include brief overviews of a lot of the different aspects of magickal practice, like Tarot, astrology, herbalism, crystals, and kitchen witchery. I wish I’d had books like these as a baby pagan!
Queering Your Craft is a fantastic introduction to witchcraft for queer people who feel called to the path. Snow offers a queer-inclusive overview of various aspects of witchcraft: elements, sabbats, moon phases, astrology, working with deity, divination, and how to use magick in your daily life in a true DIY fashion. Throughout the book, she weaves in her core focus of magick as a tool for personal empowerment.
“Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, Just sing, sing a song!”
Those are lyrics from a song on a Sesame Street record I had as a kid. In 2017, I decoupaged a small Jupiter Ascending poster*, saying the same thing in a different way: “Make beautiful garbage.”
This is one of my mottos, because it tells my internal editor to STFU when I’m writing music, writing a blog post, making a mala, cooking dinner, baking, crocheting, or crafting. Not everything needs to be perfect. Not everything is intended to be distributed to a wide audience. Creating things is sometimes an end in and of itself.