Greg Sez: Divinity and Gender (2009)

Question from Gianfranco Geroldi (in the Glorantha Digest), answer by Greg Stafford. Published 15th Aug 2009.

Q:Months ago I had a short but stimulating “conversation” with John Hughes about the nature of perception of Cosmic Sexism in Glorantha. The final question was: are Gods, like Orlanth and Ernalda, really male and female, or is their worshippers’ vision and society that which needs to attribute a sex even to gods and so has (artificially) called them male and female?
A:The key here is what level of recognition, projection and identification we are talking about.We have to look at what we mean by “really male and female.” We have a tendency to equate these with sex and gender, but in fact the sex and gender part are only manifestations, not the root origins.We have to look at what we mean by “really male and female.” We have a tendency to equate these with sex and gender, but in fact the sex and gender part are only manifestations, not the root origins.In the ultimate Divine world male and female do not exist. However, such etheric understanding is just about impossible for mortals to understand due to the finite nature of human beings. This universal descends from on high to be more understandable to humans.At a slightly less universal but nearly as etheric understanding we find a dualism which has no gender or sex, but whose differences are apparently exclusive. Call it This and That.


These active and passive powers are nearly worthless to human beings in a practical way, and we need to have a more detailed understanding of them to use them, perhaps even to understand them. They manifest in a more perceptible way as a variety of dualistic perceptions. We find the recognizable oppositions of light and dark, of active and passive, and also as everyone’s favorite: male and female.

A god manifests a type of energy which is predominantly “male” when perceived by human beings, a goddess of “female” energy. I will stress that almost all entities consist of mixtures of the two (which are, remember, actually both from the Universal singular that we can’t understand). Another fine definition of this exists in that we can separate “masculine” from male, though our vocabulary starts tripping us up. I am going to consciously (for this argument) separate men from masculine by stating that male and female are the sex part, not the gender part. Men and women have different body parts.

So where on the spectrum of differentiation do Orlanth and Ernalda exist? We know both are connected to the Universal Plane, which means that they have direct access to and/or part of that Universal non gendered and non differentiated state. However, by definition they would not be separate from each other there. They would be one, joined in eternity (much like the state we may obtain at that moment of coital orgasm).

On the plane of This and That they exist separately, but since gender is not present then they are equally non gendered. Both exist, but they are not god and goddess, but a kind of pure deity. Are they Orlanth and Ernalda? Well, that depends on the perceptor. Did we get there by refining our understanding and experience with Orlanth? Then it might be Orlanth. How about the level where they have gender? Orlanth is the manifestation of the masculine energy, Ernalda of the feminine. Do they have real sex and gender? I’d not talking here about their ultimate nature, but about their nature as perceivable here. By definition we say they do have gender: Orlanth is masculine and Ernalda is feminine.

Here lies the answer to the question you asked.

Yes, I say, they are male and female.

Are they so entirely subjective that we can change their sex? Not, really. If we start to jiggled their genders and confuse their ultimate nature with their perceptible and accepted (social and experiential) nature then we are just throwing away everything that has been assembled about the Orlanth and Ernalda experience.

What happens if we do jiggle it then? It can be done, I will hear the subjectivists say, “We have only accepted/perceived that Orlanth is predominantly masculine/male, and Ernalda feminine/female.”

Sure, this might be done, and I can cite a bunch of deities where it has been done from terrestrial cultures (mostly tricksters, mind you. Yea yea, don’t tell me about Loki’s accusation that Odin became a woman, etc. We are concerned with the rules, not the exceptions.)

What DOES happen, though, is that we get a feminized version of Orlanth (Nandan), a masculine version of Ernalda (Vinga) or some kind of mixture of the two (Heler.) These, however, are separate entities at the perceivable level where humans interact with them.


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