Someone recently asked a bunch of Wiccans whether s/he/they needed to be re-initiated due to being trans. Whether the discarding the identity one had had when initiated meant the initiation itself was negated. Fortunately, the question was raised in safe space, which enabled positive responses in a tiny attempt to heal the hurts done by others.
This wasn’t in the US, where being trans seemed to have caused hysteria for some cisgendered folk when they want to use a public toilet. The questions also arise elsewhere. Western Europe is not a bastion for LBGTQ rights – those that exist have been hard-won, and are still incomplete. Just as an example, look at the long road to same-sex marriage in the UK.
The Legal Position
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 provided for a limited decriminalisation of consensual homosexual acts that took place in private, at home, between two people aged over 21. (At the time, the age of consent for hetreosexual relationships was 16.) These restrictions were overturned in the European Court of Human Rights in 2000. The 1967 Act extended only to England and Wales. Same-sex sexual activities were legalised in Scotland on the same basis as in the 1967 Act, in February 1981, and in Northern Ireland in December 1982. The age of consent for gay sexual relationships was lowered to 18 in the UK in November 1994. Equality of age of consent was finally achieved January 2001. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 permitted single sex couples to register their relationships legally. Same sex marriage was finally enabled in England and Wales from March 2014, and Scotland from December 2014. Same sex marriage in Northern Ireland has been blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party using an extraordinary legal measure.
Trans rights are much further behind. In 1970 a court case removed the rights of trans people to marry when it was decided that a post-operative transsexual was considered to be of the sex they were assigned at birth.
Two Spirits, ergi and magic
Odin understood also the art in which the greatest power is lodged, and which he himself practised; namely, what is called magic [seid]. By means of this he could know beforehand the predestined fate of men, or their not yet completed lot; and also bring on the death, ill-luck, or bad health of people, and take the strength or wit from one person and give it to another. But after such witchcraft followed such weakness and anxiety, that it was not thought respectable for men to practise it; and therefore the priestesses were brought up in this art.
In Loki’s Flyting (a contest of insults) in the Poetic Edda, Loki says of Odhin:
But you once practiced seid on Samesey, and you beat on the drum as witches do, in the likeness of a wizard you journeyed among mankind and that I thought the hallmark of a pervert
The insult is made to counter Odhin’s insult against Loki that he spent eight years as a woman and bore children. This is a tale that hasn’t come down to us. However, he know the tale of Loki bearing Sleipnir after mating with a stallion. Taking it in the ass was normally an ultimate act of ergi, yet Loki silences Odhin by accusing him of something worse – an involvement in seid. Reading other texts, it’s clear that Odhin is one of the gods up to his neck in magic. So in the Heathen tales we have a god who has changed shape (and does so often) and carried children, and another who practices women’s magic. Not quite the gods a Brosatru might be expected to revere!
Practising seid was a dangerous business, due to prejudice:
Eirik Blood-axe expected to be head king over all his brothers and King Harald intended he should be so; and the father and son lived long together. Ragnvald Rettilbeine governed Hadaland, and allowed himself to be instructed in the arts of witchcraft, and became an area warlock [seidman]. Now King Harald was a hater of all witchcraft [seid]. There was a warlock [seidman] in Hordaland called Vitgeir; and when the king sent a message to him that he should give up his art of witchcraft [seid], he replied in this verse: -- "The danger surely is not great From wizards [seidworkers] born of mean estate, When Harald's son in Hadeland, King Ragnvald, to the art [seid] lays hand." But when King Harald heard this, King Eirik Blood-axe went by his orders to the Uplands, and came to Hadeland and burned his brother Ragnvald in a house, along with eighty other warlocks [seidworkers]; which work was much praised.
(Harald Hárfager’s Saga, chapter 36) The words in square brackets are from Dr Jenny Blain’s own translation in her book Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic pg 112.
Saying someone needs re-initiation after transitioning has a crazy logic of a kind. If I’ve got this right, it might be along the lines of “When you’re initiated as a man, the power is passed by the HPS. So, now you’re a woman, it must be re-done as the power must be passed to you by the HP.”
One small problem – the point about initiation is to pass the power. Each initiation, each degree, is a single event that creates a spiritual shift. If it were a continuing need, we would all have to be constantly re-initiated.
What may be troubling those who say “re-initiate!” is the same thing that afflicted our parliament to pass exceptions for trans folk in same-sex marriage in England and Wales, forcing someone who transitions while married to divorce or obtain their partner’s consent in order to legally change their sex. Just as that was purely and simply to prevent same-sex marriage by the back door, I suspect any cries of “re-initiate” are along the same lines – let’s prevent same-sex initiation by the back door.
Too bad. It’s over. The initiate has come to the attention of the gods. The power has passed. Transition is a different kind of process; a different initiation. It may take place on the physical, emotional and psychological planes but it does not alter spiritual reality. Only legal records.