Gender in Russian Rodnoverie
Keywords:conservatism, gender, paganism, Rodnoverie, Russia.
AbstractConservative and essentialist gender roles prevail in Rodnoverie literature, in which men are regularly presented as strong warriors and women as tender mothers and homemakers. Patriarchy is presented not only as a societal model of the pre-Christian Russian society but also as an ideal model for contemporary Russia and Pagan communities. Rodnoverie rituals also feature a conservative understanding of gender, and this tendency seems to be reified by the processes of unification and elaboration of ritual practices in the movement. Nevertheless, one may also detect features that break the simplistic idea of Rodnoverie gender roles as patriarchal and conservative. An integral element in Rodnoverie’s identity vis-à-vis Christianity is the criticism of the demonization and subjugation of women by the latter. In Rodnoverie ritual practices, women often creatively fashion their gender identities. The bipolar division into femininity and masculinity also characterized such Western Pagan religions as Wicca for a long time, and a more inclusive and open understanding of gender was the result of a conscious labor of widening the understanding of, for example fertility. Similarly, I suggest that Rodnoverie rhetoric about gender should be assessed in its social context. Admittedly, in comparison to many forms of Western Paganism, Rodnoverie seems extremely conservative in this matter. However, in Russian society, much of the essentialism simply reflects the general attitudes and underlying assumptions. Therefore, in a Russian context views that could be regarded as conservative in some Western discussions may in fact be moderate or even liberal in the context of Russian religiosity.
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