Homosexuality in Paganism: Deities Love the Same Sex, Too

Chinese DeityAs societies and cultures change and adapt, so do the ways that people practice their faith. In recent years American culture has slowly but steadily been moving towards an embracing of the LGBT community. In 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled the banning of same-sex marriage by states as unconstitutional and therefore gave the same rights to homosexual couples their heterosexual friends already enjoyed. For many it was a joyous celebration of love conquering adversity, and for others it was a cause for mourning and anger. Shockingly, some of those dissenters of same-sex relationships came from the Pagan community; calling it “unnatural” and encouraging others to “covert” people who were attracted to the opposite sex. This is puzzling because there are a lot of instances of homosexual love in Pagan beliefs that some choose to ignore to justify their own prejudice and hatred.

 

Greece is probably the most common place to find love between deities and mortals of the same gender. The god Apollo and the hero Hyacinth were lovers, and when Hyacinth was killed by a wayward discus it is said that Apollo refused to allow his soul to be claimed by the underworld and turned him instead into the hyacinth flower. His tears are said to have stained the petals at the loss of His lover which gives the flower its streaks where the color seems to be washing away.

 

Dionysus also took a male lover named Ampelos and was so distraught at the young satyr’s death that He either turned the man’s body to the first grape vine and created wine from his blood, or took the body of his fallen beloved and created the constellation we now call Boötes. Either seems a fitting tribute to the loss of a lover that was the same gender as the Dionysus was identified as.

 

Zeus Himself had the moral man of Ganymede as a lover when He was struck by his beauty. Zeus eventually granted him eternal youth and immorality, as well as making him his personal cup-bearer; a position of honor and respect. Eventually Ganymede would also become a constellation in the sky; Aquarius. A moon that orbits Jupiter (the Roman equivalent to Zeus) was named Gaynmede because of the enduring tales of Zeus’s love for this man.

 

Even the famed hero Hercules was said to have at least three male lovers during his lifetime: Abderus, Hylas and Iolaus. In the case of Iolaus, a shine in Thebes was supposedly erected in his name where male couples would worship or make vows to one another. The Greeks celebrated love between the same genders and even built places of worship dedicated to just that. Historically, the pagans of Greece were completely accepting of homosexuality.

 

In ancient Chinese tales, Tu’er Shen, the Rabbit God, manages the love between men. The legends surrounding His origins were that He was unjustly killed for his homosexuality but the underworld officials rectified this by making Him a deity of homosexuality between men. Even though homosexuality in China at the time was frowned upon as a culture, it could not stop the worship and even elaborate marriages of these men. In Taiwan there is currently a temple in His honor in the Yonghe District.

 

In Polynesian beliefs, it is not uncommon to find deities engaged in bisexual relationships with one another; both holding merit and love. In Hawaii, there is the story of Wahineomo having relationships with the goddesses Hi’iaka and Hopoe. Hi’iaka is also said to have been a lover of Hopoe, as well as the fern goddess Paupalae. Multiple sexual partners, some of the same sex and others of the opposite sex, are not uncommon and accepted as a natural form a love.

 

Even the Mayan culture from our own continent had a deity of homosexuality named Chin. This deity was said to have introduced the idea of homosexuality and the culture embraced it; with wealthy families creating relationships for their sons with legal binding (like a marriage) to a young man of a lower class. Xochipili was also a patron god of homosexuality as well as art, beauty, dance flowers and song; hinting at more of an effeminate deity that was worshiped during the Mayan civilization.

 

Also from our neck of the woods is Hatian Vodou traditions and beliefs even have a young man by the name of Ghede Nibo. He is depicted as a leader of the spirits of the dead and dresses in effeminate drag. Farmers in Haiti would honor Him with various erotic gestures known as “Massissi” which is a Haitian word for a man who prefers the sexual company of other men.

 

And yet, with all this evidence from all these different walks of faith there are still those who would oppose homosexuality and ostracize Pagans in the community who identify with or support the LGBT community. Some have argued that in times long past where lifespans were short and wrought with danger homosexuality was seen as dangerous simply based on the fact it produced no offspring, but today, with our rampant overpopulation that is hardly a concern. In fact there are plenty of adoptable children just waiting for homes with these couples.

 

And for those who would argue it is “unnatural” or “against the nature of things”, they clearly haven’t taken a good look around them at the animals of the world. Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, etc.… engage in same gender sex and even bonded pair relationships. Most famously there is Roy and Silo, the mated pair of male penguins who were given an egg that they raised into a healthy adult penguin named Tango, who later started a same sex relationship with another female penguin.

 

Ultimately this type of exclusionary line of thinking has little to do with faith or nature and a lot more to do with ignorance and narrow minds. Like the beliefs that the world is flat or that the sun rotates around the world, they will eventually die out, save for a few crazies that still insist they must be right, despite evidence to the contrary.

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