Thelemic and Pagan Portrayals of the Goddess and an Intersectional Analysis
Updated: Apr 21
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Bodacious Babalons abound online, and I can't help but feel that neo-paganism/wicca has done a better job in general of decentering male perspectives on the divine feminine than the Thelemic and ceremonial Magick
Ideas about "the goddess" or "triple-aspect goddess" may be somewhat vaguely described and/or non-specific in some places, but they are at least constructed with the inclusion of women, and greater detail is available to the avid researcher. We can connect to this pagan goddess through her roles as mother, sister, wife, daughter, etc. or traditionally: maiden, mother, crone.
If we unpack and compare the Thelemic and neo-pagan divine feminine archetypes (and there is certainly a good deal of cross-pollination of thinking to be found here), I believe we find within the neo-pagan community a much more robust and diverse creative exposition of the qualities of the divine feminine with far less influence of the male gaze -as if the goddess existed merely for the sexual gratification of men. (not to diminish this quality of the divine, but to assert that it is but one of many qualities we can connect with) and encode the message that women, even goddesses, are mere objects for male gratification.
Georgia van Raalte and others are doing an outstanding job of rehabilitating the scarlet woman by deploying correctives such as emphasizing her many qualities that go beyond just her voluptuous seductions. Thelema does, however, have another goddess: Nuit.
The star goddess, though generally depicted nude and stretched across the starry night sky, is generally portrayed in ways much less influenced by the male gaze, and she has much more of the mystery, symbolic feel, and veiled meaning that we have come to recognize in a true archetype from the realm of dreams, myths, and deities.
Does the emancipation of Thelema from the male gaze lie in the vault of Nuit? Perhaps.
No doubt it is also important for us to take care not to ignore the intersectionality of race locations as we tackle gendered perspectives on the divine feminine.
Not long too ago, we witnessed heated debated in one prominent Thelemic Facebook group about whether the large volume of quasi-pornographic depictions of fair-skinned women as Babalon was appropriate. Some members became especially upset when the moderators began intervening as these images began to proliferate. The moderators themselves incurred a great deal of hate for their removal of these images.
In light of this dynamic, it was very interesting to see how much blow-back a woman of color with body art received on that same forum for posting her own (somewhat sexualized) portraits along with text about the Thelemic goddess Nuit.
For reasons difficult to fathom outside of racial bias, when a woman of color used her own body and body art as an expression of the divine feminine, she was rapidly asked to do what she will elsewhere, thank you very much, yet it was somehow not only quite acceptable to many members to post numerous images of highly sexualized traditionally-beautiful white women, but even angered a large number of (mostly male) members when this was curtailed. I find that both fascinating and disturbing.
What does it say of us if we are only willing to devote ourselves to constructions of the divine feminine that remind us of our favorite flavor of porn to wank to?
If we truly seek to diversify expressions and constructions of the divine feminine, it is necessary for us to recognize that the goddess is not only a gendered construct that has somehow historically excluded input from the gender she portrays, but that her construction also intersects with race locations as well. We operate in a culture where white, traditionally-beautiful imagery is normatively defended, but expressions from other gender-race locations are eschewed and demeaned.
How then do we include women, men, and gender-fluid thinkers of all ethnic and racial identity locations in the construction of the divine feminine in particular, and the construction of Thelema in general? I can think of no better example that provided by the structure of TTO, the development of which I have been watching closely.