Bending the Binary; Polarity Magic in a Nonbinary World


Deborah Lipp
ISBN-13: 978-0738772622
Llewellyn Publications

Topics touching on social issues tend to be divisive, and polarity is no exception. But where many magical communities have drawn firm battle lines, Lipp refuses to do so. Bending the Binary explores the history and practical applications of polarity as an occult principle and magical technology from a position of many years of experience and from a deep love of magic, magical traditions and magical people. Treating polarity neither as disposable and oppressive nor as immovable, essential and irrevocably tied to the sexual characteristics of the physical body, Lipp outlines its broad role in occultism and its application in modern magical traditions, especially as it pertains to magical partnership. Keeping one eye always on the practical, she includes numerous exercises for readers wishing to explore polarity more deeply in their own practices. She also suggests journal and discussion prompts at various points throughout the book to allow readers to personally engage with the complex and potentially challenging ideas she presents.

In addition to its refusal to engage in polemic, there are two primary features that separate this book from the numerous blog articles on the subject and the few other books that discuss magical polarity from a queer perspective. First is its deep dive into the history of polarity in the occult, discussing its role in Kabbalism, alchemy and other older forms of occultism in addition to its post-Golden Dawn interpretations and its use in Wiccan traditions. Second—and perhaps most important—is that it is rooted in the author’s own story and the evolution of her own magical practices over time. She discusses how she was trained as a Witch in relation to polarity and the ways in which she both upholds and adapts that training within her majority-queer coven.

Not everything that comes to you from the past is a treasure, but not everything old is obsolete, either. Occult traditions come to the present through a gilt-framed Victorian filter, which does not always make them appear to match very well with many occultists’ modern lives. Lipp presents the possibility that you can accept, use and even love that frame without feeling that you need to redecorate your whole house to match it.

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