The Masculine Principle in Paganism- Part 2: The Stereotypes

Before we delve into understanding what the Masculine Principle is what do you think of when I write the word Masculine?  It’s ok, take a few moments to think about it, write them down if you want and see what you come up with.  And what do you think of when I write the word Feminine?  That’s alright, you take as long as you need, write them down if that helps and compare the two.

How many positive and negative connotations are there attributed to masculine?  How many positive and negative are there attributed to feminine?  Are they equal?  Does one have more positivity than the other?  Chances are the masculine has a more negative bias.

In 20th Century magical tradition, the masculine side, the male side is seen as a driving force.  It is dominant, powerful, dynamic as well as destructive.  The feminine side, the female side is seen as a birthing force.  It is receptive, gentle, creative and healing.  Or so we are led to believe.  I am of course working on stereotypes here.   And that’s what this particular post will be all about.

There was a podcast episode that had Penny Billington (OBOD’s Touchstone editor) give a story of a man at a Pagan Camp.  Music was being played and as he danced, a woman said to him “You’re very in touch with your feminine side, aren’t you?”  To which he responded with “I just like dancing to the music, what’s my feminine side got to do with it?”  So, like the preconception that masculine is forceful, there was a preconception made that assumed the man MUST have feminine qualities because he danced.  What is the definition of masculinity? According to Collins Compact English Dictionary, Harper Collins Publishers, 1998:

Masculine adj 1 possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to man; manly.  2 unwomanly; not feminine.  3 Grammar denoting a gender of nouns that includes some male animate things.

Uh oh.  There’s that word.  Gender, I was hoping to avoid it, too late.

Ok, let’s go with the idea that masculine is already laden with gender based terms, i.e ‘manly’.

The early 21st Century man is stereotyped as being successful, rich, and dominant in his world, has all the latest gadgets and cars, loves getting his own way and is basically a spoiled child grown up.  He is Mr. Cocksure and women love him.  Supposedly.


Mr Cocksure as represented by Fight Club’s Tyler Durden.  Pic from


The other, Mr.  Hardpec, is perhaps not so affluent, but loves going to the gym and with that stern jaw line and those huge arms, his tall well built frame puts the fear of the gods into you just by looking at him.


Mr Harpec….. was very tempted to put my own head here! Pic from

Then there’s Mr. Sensitive, he’s funny, he cares, he wishes he could be like Mr. Hardpec, but that’s way too aggressive and people like him scare Mr. Sensitive because Mr. Sensitive feels less masculine when Mr.  Hardpec is around.  Mr. Sensitive bitches about Mr Cocksure but secretly wishes he had Mr. Cocksure’s confidence and arrogance.  Well, just enough of the arrogance to have a spine.

Mr. Sensitive, nice hair! Pic from

It appears that to be a “man”, we must treat everyone like shit and have the body of Adonis.  When I gave the example of Mr. Cocksure in a talk, one man said out loud “But he gets all the girls”.  Sure, if all you think you need to prove your worth is solely based on getting laid.  And no matter who or what you class yourself as (in terms of gender or sex, or none at all), confidence goes a long way.

You’ll recognise these ‘manly’ examples as we see them all the time in our media, magazines, posters, television shows, games and movies.  And in all of them, Mr. Sensitive is usually the comic relief.  Guess which one I identify with?  The Masculine Principle has become, in our modern society either something to despise, something to fear or something to laugh at.  It seems that in our 21st Century society we are pushed to being one or the other, realistically the best way would be to have the confidence of one, the inner strength of the other and the openness of the last.

Cormac was a man who had everything, he was the High Chief of all four provinces of Ireland, had a wife, children, an entire court to himself, he wasn’t a typical draw swords now and ask questions later sort of guy.  But he was foolish enough to trade his wife and children for a cool thing.

Seeming that we are already discussing stereotypes, let’s break these down into archetypes:

The Provider:

In the Western Magical Tradition, the masculine principle is there to copulate with the Feminine Principle in order to recreate himself; he is fated to die- but shall be reborn again.  In this aspect the Masculine Principle is the provider.  And this covers a whole range:

Hunter, fisher, farmer, survivor, teacher, thinker, philosopher, devisor, entertainer, storyteller, creator, builder, as well as more I can’t think of right now.   We also see this in the characters of Horus, Jesus Christ and later, John Barleycorn.  Even the quite recent mythology of the Oak and Holly King’s can fall into this category.  In short, the Masculine Principle is to be sacrificed in order for others to live.


The Warrior:

Perhaps, this is the most renowned aspect of the Masculine Principle.  We see this often enough in our literature, movies and computer games in more of the Hero guise.  The warrior, sadly, is needed to fight wars made by people, mostly men.  The Warrior can also cover: hunter, defender, survivor, explorer, healer, physician amongst others.  According to Anne Ross (Pagan Celtic Britain, Cardinal 1974), in the British Celtic culture, the Warrior could also be the healer as well as fertility principle.

And we aren’t just limiting ourselves to simply men here.  It’s been found recently that women joined in the hunt for killing creatures for food.  This makes perfect sense, especially when in Celtic culture women could also be warriors.  The Morrigan, Medbh, Scathach, are all examples of warrior goddesses, queens and teachers of the martial arts.  As anyone knows, nothing is scarier in the world as a woman who is angry….


The Ruler:

Someone’s got to be in charge right?  The Animal Kingdom has its Alphas, its bulls, its studs, its kings…. Fact is we are a social animal and if we can’t make the hard decisions, we look to those who can.  The Ruler can be made, elected and even born, but depending on the type of person who is the ruler, lies the fate of the tribe.  A more instinctual and emotional ruler might be a warlord, desperate to save his position or his people.  A more rational ruler might be a peacemaker or one who knows how to play the game to keep in his favour.  A benign ruler might be generous and loved by his people, but will others see this as weakness?  Arthur, Cormac, Hannibal are a few names for the many types of Ruler as are Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Uther Pendragon.

The downside of the Masculine Principle is, again, what we see a lot in the media and tabloids, he is the thief, the murderer, the rapist, the abuser, the tyrant, the zealot, the warmonger…. need I go on?

It could be argued that the negative side of the Masculine Principle is the bestial side of the Life Force.  Our Human Animal uncontrolled in its urge to reproduce as well as claim territory: ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours, but if I want yours I’ll make it mine.’ To emphasise this, we can even look at the Greek Myths, where the characterisation of the predatory, rapacious and aggressive side is represented by the half-man, half-beast creatures: Minotaurs, Centaurs, Satyrs, etc.  With this in mind, perhaps there is more to the reason that the image of Cernunnos has come to represent strength, fertility and the hunt?   In ancient British cosmology, horns represent the solar aspect to a deity, and to be in touch with his animalistic side is to be fertile.  The phallus again can be represented here, have you ever seen the images of the god Freyr?

Freyr_idolPic from


In Modern Paganism we have the paradigm of the Maid, Mother and Crone to represent the three stages of the Feminine Principle.  Realistically, Humans are a little more complex than to be simply clumped into three types (what about infancy, childhood or even senility?).  The Masculine Principle can therefore be treated in the same way:

Seeker– Is the young man going out into the world to make his mark.  He has much to learn and wants to find his place in the Universe as well as who he is.

 Master- Knows who he is and what he has accomplished in life.  By now, he has become the ‘King in his own Castle’.  He has found his way and his place in the world, or he is on his way to making it happen.

 Sage– Been there and done that, this one has achieved what he needed to.  He is the wise one who teaches others what they need to know and can enjoy his legacy at best.  He is the cynical old geezer who should know better and yet doesn’t at worst.

Why use stereotypes and archetypes at all?  Its how we, as an animal acknowledge the world around us.  We put names to things, at our most basic this is identification of what we can eat, drink, what is a threat to us and who we choose to mate with.  One question we hear a lot nowadays: “Why does everyone and everything have to be labelled?”  Because, it’s how WE work.  We might not agree with it or identify with what we have been labelled with, but labelling is how we see the world:  That’s a chair, that’s a car, that’s a monkey (regardless of type) and so, when we see another Human Being we will ALWAYS on an instinctual level look at someone as either a friend, a threat or a mate.  Yes we have thoughts and emotions, but we forget that Homo-Sapiens is a creature too.  Instinct and emotion?  Yikes!

Stereotypes help us to form a picture of a type of person.  In the worlds of story a character that breaks the stereotype becomes much more memorable and fully rounded.  They become believable and someone we can identify with.

With looking at the stereotypes of the Masculine Principle, we gain the imagery in our minds of the strong, the brave, the gentle, the wise, and the creative.

When it comes to the glamorised image of the types of male imagery there’s this illusion that we have to be one of them.  We are in fact all of them in many different degrees.


Cormac found himself alone in his hall once he had awoken. Tears welled up in his eyes.  The anger, the rage built up inside him, how could he have been so…. stupid?

The Stranger had taken his son, his daughter, his Wife! HIS Family.  Never mind the dishonour he had made, his blood boiled within and he felt the hard wood of the Fairy Branch in his whitening grip.  If only The Stranger was here now!  He would stab it right through the silver-haired bastard’s skull.

“ENOUGH!”  Cormac roared.  His nobles came rushing through as he barked the orders for his horse, his armour and his sword.  The rational part of him knew it was his fault; it implored him to listen to reason and ask his advisors what to do next, where to go.  But there was something inside that was hurt and that something was in control.   Cormac would get his family back, even if it meant claiming them back by force.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s