Column: Ten Essential Books for the Queer Pagan

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This month, I wanted to highlight some of the books on Queer Witchcraft and Paganism that I have personally found to be essential to the Queer practitioner.

All of these books have been helpful to me in various ways and appear in the bibliography of my latest book project, a work focusing on Witchcraft for Queer men. (Stay tuned!) As I have been compiling my research materials, I have been struck at how some of the titles that were especially important to me when I was younger are now out-of-print, with some now going for hundreds of dollars from second-hand book sources. This greatly reduces the availability of this information to the general public and is a terrible blow to the Queer Pagan community. Thankfully, many titles are still available, with new ones being released all the time. What follows are my top ten favorites with a mixture of both old and new.

Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe by Christopher Penczak

The cover to Christopher Penczak’s “Gay Witchcraft” [Red Wheel/Weiser]

Now a classic, this 2003 release was really the first to explore the specifics of Witchcraft through the lens of the gay experience. Prior to this publication, the vast majority of books written by Witches were from the perspective of heterosexual fertility, as exemplified by traditional Wicca, which often left queer people feeling left out, marginalized or outright excluded. Here, Penczak offers up a vision of Witchcraft that is both traditional and modern, paving the way for queer people everywhere to practice in a way that speaks directly to them without apology.

Cassell’s Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Lore by Randy P. Conner

One of the most important books on the subject of queer spirituality ever written, this book is now sadly out-of-print, and copies are being sold by used bookstores for nearly a thousand dollars. Exploring the vast dimensions of queer culture, myth, religion, and literature, this book opens the doors to the myriad of queer spiritual experience throughout time and provides us with a necessary anchor to the past, revealing that we have always been the custodians of the divine. It inspires us to reclaim this sacred role in ways that are both personal as well as traditionally informed.

Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture: A Radical View of Western Civilization and Some of the People it Has Tried to Destroy by Arthur Evans

While a bit dated – Margaret Murray was still considered a reliable source when this was published in 1978 – Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture does provide an illuminating view of how queer expression has been both suppressed, as well as how it has been lumped in with other “heretical” acts (i.e., Witchcraft). Especially where sexual imagery and acts were featured and especially when those acts involved same-sex activity. Using references from around the globe, including cave-paintings, Evans explores a world in which sexual relations between those of the same sex were not only tolerated, but revered or even considered necessary for the survival of the group. It is definitely an eye-opener for those who have only been exposed to ideas stemming from post-colonial repression. Sadly, it is also out of print.

The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell

Another “old school” entry, this book presents itself more as a poetic myth and instance of storytelling, depicting the struggles of the queer culture as an underground counterculture. A mythical manifesto, it is a critique of patriarchal capitalism and a romantic call for perseverance in the face of adversity.

Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn

The cover to Judy Grahn’s “Another Mother Tongue” [Beacon Press]

One of the foundational books of my queer youth, describing the evolution of queer language. Certain terms have long been associated with our peoples, but how did they come to be? With a combination of scholarly research and inspired speculation, Grahn attempts to present origins for some of the words that we have used and have been used against us. “Faggot,” “dyke,” “fairy” – each has its place in the queer historical lexicon, and where their origins have been obscured, here they are revealed, or at least given a suggested poetic context.

Queer Magic: LGBT+ Spirituality and Culture from Around the World by Tomás Prower

I have previously reviewed this book for the Wild Hunt, but my list here would not be complete without it. It is a great primer on the multi-cultural experiences of queer people and how those experiences have been suppressed – often by their own cultures – as a result of colonialism.

Blossom of Bone: Reclaiming the Connections Between Homoeroticism and the Sacred by Randy P. Connor

A scholarly work describing the variations of sexual and gender-variant people from numerous cultures and how homoeroticism has played a foundational role in spiritual and religious practices for centuries.

Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan by Michael Lloyd

I also previously reviewed this book for The Wild Hunt and cannot recommend it enough. It provides a much-needed snapshot of life in the Witch community in the 1970s, and it involves some of the key players at the time and how they helped to shape the movement, especially through the lens of queer experience. A treasure-trove of how queer practitioners helped to shape the greater Witchcraft community and practices.

Queering Your Craft: Witchcraft From the Margins by Cassandra Snow

This is a newer title, released in 2020. It is a Witchcraft 101, but one that is not only inclusive of queer people, but centers us in its narrative. While much of the foundational information will be familiar to experienced practitioners – the Sabbats, tools, elements, and so on – what makes this book unique is that it unabashedly shines a light on the modern queer experience and refuses to shy away from some of the aspects of our lives and culture that others would like to sweep under the rug. It includes spells for attracting sexual partners, and even a spell involving the use of poppers as a devotional! But before you think that it’s all just fun and games, there are also spells for the protection of sex workers, for removing unsafe individuals from one’s life, and even a spell to “deflect and not internalize microaggressions.” (And a spell to hex the patriarchy, too!)

Queer Magic: Power Beyond Boundaries by Lee Harrington and Tai Fenix Kulystin

This anthology explores the intersection of magic and the queer experience, drawing from many sources, cultures, and practices to weave together a diverse tapestry of narratives, scholarly essays, and more that reveal the inherent beauty and power of what it means to be divinely queer. Whether we are drawing from Wicca, Heathenry, Paganism, or Vodou, we find a common thread that expresses the power of the queer soul, regardless of sexual or gender identity, and how that moves beyond the boundaries of what has been considered the norm, to the benefit of us all.

This list is by no means exhaustive and only reflects those that I have personally found to be essential to the queer practitioner. What other titles would readers of The Wild Hunt suggest for the queer bookshelf? Let us know in the comments below!

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.