The Pagan Heart of the West – review

Randy P. Conner is my favourite historian. His queer and pagan eye on humanity’s past brings awareness and understanding that historians of the past, approaching the subject through the prejudices and assumptions of their time, simply did not access.

The topic of queer sexualities and the sacred in history was opened in the 1970s by Arthur Evans in his work ‘Witchcraft and the Gay Counter-Culture’. The 80s saw a new wave of gay historians re-interpreting the past, but there was nothing produced to compare with Randy P. Conner’s masterpiece, ‘Blossom of Bone’. First published in 1993, Blossom of Bone covers a broad sweep of human existence from phallic cave art to the loosely neo-pagan sex magic of the Radical Faerie community, teasing out the links between “homo-eroticism, gender-variance and the sacred” in just about every culture of the planet that we have records for. Despite its broad remit, Blossom of Bone is packed full of detailed information and fascinating history that keeps me picking it up again and again. It is my primary go-to resource book for queer spiritual history, and although a few other books on the subject have appeared, I can’t recommend and praise this one enough.

In his new 5 volume epic, ‘The Pagan Heart of the West’, Randy has set himself another far-reaching task – this time to challenge the historical orthodoxy of the past that took for granted that ancient pagan faiths were inevitably superseded by more sophisticated Abrahamic religions, and then eradicated entirely under Darwinian influenced scientific rationalism. His wish is to “view them in their own light and perhaps in the light of other ancient and indigenous sacred traditions.” He makes a very convincing case for the continuation of pagan beliefs, customs and practices long after the establishment of the Christian religion, as well as presenting a very useful picture of the gradual spread of Christian dominance in Europe, without assuming Christian (or secular) superiority.

Volume 1 ‘Deities and Kindred Beings’ contains an amazing cataloguing of divinities celebrated throughout the continent, recording their legends and how they were worshipped, how long that worship continued, and where it re-emerged. Through reading this volume, for example, I now have a heightened sense of the central place that tree worship in sacred groves took in indigenous European religion and the impact it had when Christians burnt the massive ancient trees, replacing them with their stone churches. Randy also succeeds in overcoming the usual western European bias of so much religious history – here we also read in detail about the traditions of the Slavic, Baltic, Romanian… peoples.

The first chapter of volume 1 contains a review of the historiography of the subject, revealing that, as with LGBTQ+ history, our pagan past is yet to be properly appreciated, as he calls out various highly regarded historians for the cultural lens they look through. It takes a pagan eye to see the historical strands in their true light – eg his chapter on the earth goddess and her male consorts help us to remember just how important, how central, and for how long, female divinity has been a part of our European past. The whole book just drips with tales of glorious divinities that I bet most of us have never heard of before, as well as revealing how ubiquitous was belief and trust in the Goddess, Pan and other deities, throughout the past two millennia, how slow Christianity was to take hold in some places, and how the pagan divinities and practices re-emerged, adapted and survived.

The chapter on ‘Veneration of Fairies, Elves and Kindred Beings’ suggests that the pagan deities transformed into fairy in the Middle Ages because of the persecution from the Christian authorities. Randy does accept that elemental beings were known before this time – eg he mentions 16th century Scottish witch Alison Peirsoun who seemingly connected fairy to ancient Egyptian teachings of Hermes Trismesgistus – but makes a strong case for the arrival of a fairy magical culture during the Middle Ages, possibly influenced by the Persian belief in the peri and the Hindu devas. I personally wonder why he takes this line, for it seems equally likely to me that interactions with the spirits of nature had been a normal part of indigenous European society perhaps for many millennia prior to the arrival of Christianity.

Randy is one of still very few historians who are changing our understanding of humanity’s spiritual past. I am also a student of queer and pagan history – one who has realised for example that the references in the Christian Bible to goddess worshipping, gender-bending, sodomising temple priests never get mentioned by modern LGBT Christian activists because they have not made their own connection to the goddess path, to the mysteries of sex magic and pagan communion with the spirit worlds. They judge the pagan past just as heterosexual Christians too, without realising that the virulent condemnation of same sex love and transexuality was directly linked to the suppression of ancient holy practices. I write about the Qedesha (condemned in the OT) and the Gallae priest/esses of Cybele (condemned by Paul in the New), because I have found myself to be one of their receivers of their inheritance – a modern gay man who has discovered that the feminine inside himself connects him to this ancient path of spiritual service, of the Goddess. I live the reality of the pagan calendar, the moon cycles and seasonal festivals, and I live the reality of ecstatic communion (eg through drumming, dance and also sexuality) with the spirit, so I have a perspective on that strand of queer spiritual history that is just not available to either Christian or secular queers.

Like Randy, I seek also to reclaim and explore the holy energies of our pagan past. This is a practical goal, not simply an academic one. It’s a lived experience in queer spirited spaces, such as Queer Spirit Festival in the UK and Radical Faerie sanctuaries around the world – books like The Pagan Heart of the West are essential tools on this journey, as we reconnect the human spirit to its ancestors and its beloved divinities, to the unity that underlies our diversity.

I am so excited to read the next four volumes!

The healer within

For centuries the Church brainwashed people to believe they were sinners waiting for punishment. Then science came along and convinced people to believe they are biological accidents. Psychology came along and pathologised mental and emotional states, dishing out labels and pills that keep people sick..

Yet older than all three, and still around waiting in the wings, is the wisdom tradition astrology, which not only teaches that we are cosmic starbeings on a journey of infinite, never-ending, discovery, it gives us the tools to navigate the energetic shifts and get the most out of life while we are here on planet earth, the ultimate mystery school of the outer Milky Way. Souls come from far off galaxies to take this ride.

Breaks my heart when i see FB posts about depression, anxiety, helplessness etc. There is another language we can use. There is a crucial connection between mind-body-emotion and spirit: It matters what we think, how we think – our thoughts feed our emotions and manifest in our bodies. That’s how the Church cut us off from the holy light in our souls – by believing we are the opposite. This paved the way for Science to reduce us to meaningless atoms. This opened the door for Psychology to analyse and dissect our minds, separating them out and making them feel very, very alone.

The military-industrial, capitalist machine does not want us to be aware of the heavenly cycles flowing through our souls, any more than the Church did.

As Sun moves into Libra, the Equinox point is a perfect moment to turn this around. Equinox offers shift. The Cosmos is always waiting for us to step into its embrace. This is nothing new, humans have had to struggle against the dominant culture to discover the truth for a long time. Difference now of course is there are so many more of us ready for it, we can find each other through the internet, and the stakes are much, much higher.

The healer is within.

AUTUMN EQUINOX 2019

The Pisces Full Moon on 14th September opened the equinoctial spirit, a whole 9 days before the balance point of the solar equinox, which falls on September 23rd this year. These 9 days are a gift from the universe, if we are able to receive it – we are in a portal of transition out of Summer and into the Libran start of the Autumn, in which we are being invited to slow down, rest, release and see where we are in life now. I’ve seen so many huge transformations in lots of people over recent years – the ride of life is at high intensity, for most people personally as well as for all of us collectively. Having studied the Path of spiritual evolution and awakening since the mid 1990s, I can see we are heading toward even bigger shifts in the coming years, so this is the ideal time to engage the solar Virgo spirit that we are moving through right now and educate ourselves on the bigger processes underway in human consciousness.

The equinox shift into Libra month can be a jolt to the system. It’s not only the weather that changes at this time, so do the vibrations of our inner fields. Equinox brings the shift from the external, joy-focussed activities of summer towards the more emotionally and internally focussed journey of the darker half of the year.

Elementally, the shift can be perceived as moving from summer fire to autumn water – we are entering a time when emotional connection moves to the centre of focus after a period of summer creativity and play. When we do not make a conscious shift in our inner attention the body reacts to force us there, for example we get struck down with colds and flu – and sure enough this will shift us into our feelings, and hopefully bring us loving support from those who love us. Nature is clever, and always pulling or pushing us along the Way when we don’t go willingly.

The Pisces Full Moon was I’m sure one of the most intense energies of the year for some people. Full moons are always emotional and Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac, is able to feel every emotion going around. Without spiritual awareness of the cycles nature takes us through, we can be swept up in these waves and end up feeling battered on the post full moon shores.

Every full moon opens up a polarity in consciousness – invites us to pay attention to the state of play of that polarity in our own lives. Putting it simply, when the Sun is in Virgo and the Full Moon in Pisces we are being asked to find the balance between our physical and spiritual needs. This was a grounding full moon, since Virgo is an earth sign and Pisces water. Knowing this we can be prepared to make room to listen to what the body is asking/telling us, make way for the emotions in us to flow out and release. We can be aware that we are likely to be feeling very sensitive, as the piscean energy field is wide open, and aware of the danger of being over-analytical, over-critical, over-thinking (all virgoan hazards). Knowing that we are in an earth and water balance, it’s time to give the mind a back seat, let it become the observer, the witness of what is emerging.

Since April this year the teacher planet Saturn has been retrograde, taking us all through some big internal shifts, bringing the lessons and sometimes hard challenges. This phase ended on the 18th September and is adding to the possibility of finding some peace and calm right now. Saturn going direct gives us all the chance to move forwards, both with our projects and in our inner world.

Meditate. Study. Read. Write. Virgo Sun engages the mental fields at the same time as it invites us to take care of the body, to give it the sustenance and rest it needs at summer’s end. It matters how we use our minds, what we hold in them, what we give our attention to, how we view life, the stories we tell ourselves – the activity in our mind feeds directly into our subconscious, which then reaches out in the ether to attach to the things it is hearing. The subconscious does not filter out the negative/dark stuff, it just absorbs it all and attempts to manifest it, sending its efforts directly into our emotional field.

A largely missing point of understanding in the collective modern culture is that happiness or suffering are the result of the thoughts and beliefs we are harbouring. This is one of the points of the year when we can slow down enough to make improvements where needed in our thinking. Every thought leads to a feeling – the mind is a vehicle or tool for our consciousness just as much as the body, and it works much better when trained.

Autumn Equinox 2019: the world is on the brink of something huge, the next decade is going to be critical in deciding our future as a species, in deciding the future of our planet. Wake up world, there’s a big, big picture going on, and each of us holds a key to open up the understanding and awareness that is needed globally right now. Everybody has a part to play, for as we grow, our frequencies lighten and affect the world around us. Awakening is a game – perhaps a game of dominoes, when one person gets it, it triggers a chain reaction, spreading round the world, until a new dawn arrives.

When the Goddess Returns

WHEN THE GODDESS RETURNS

people will fall to their knees

begging forgiveness for all our destructive deeds.

– Isis-

Humanity forgot how to love the Earth as Mother

forgot how to treat all living things as sister and brother.

We take our Mother’s blood in the form of oil

we pollute and abuse her air, waters and soil

not knowing we’re her children

intimately connected to her rhythms

we continue to struggle, fight, create more schisms.

– Astarte –

The Sun rises every day illuminating Who We Are

the Moon guides us along the way

the Stars tell us we will go far

when we rediscover how to pray

learn how our thoughts and intentions create our experiences

that we are all one interconnected being.

– Diana –

The men of war killed Her priestesses and queer priests

shut down her temples, destroyed her groves and holy trees

until the populace no longer even believe

in the presence of Spirit, of the other planes

labelling those who communicate with them deluded or insane.

– Hecate –

Through the Goddess

we know our ONENESS

we feel our ancestors

and nature’s sprites.

Through her rhythms

we repair our souls.

– Demeter –

By attuning to the sun and moon cycles

we can escape the delusion and confusion

of a society built on separation

and give birth to our healing nation.

– Kali –

The people of the Goddess are coming:

We’re remembering that we lived before.

We’re remembering a time before war

when sexuality was sacred

and all forms of love were honoured.

– Inanna –

We have to die to who we thought we are

to become who we’ve always been.

The Soul is Trans

trans pride rainbow

In a small town pub in Suffolk I spoke to a lad about the inner feminine – he took great offence to the idea that he might have a feminine part to himself, almost to the point of aggression. What in heaven’s name are they teaching kids at school?

The Soul is Trans, we manifest as bodies through the interplay of various spiritual energies, male and female being a key polarity through which our physical forms and personalities find expression. This basic fact of our human existence was obvious to all the indigenous, ancient peoples of the planet and led to those people who manifested both masculinity and femininity strongly often regarded as special, holy beings.  The Hijras of India are a surviving remnant of what was once a vibrant queer spiritual/magical culture that manifested in some form on every continent.

The early modern European explorers found cross-dressing, gender-fluid shamans, witches and monks in every corner of the globe. This is how it once was in Europe and the Middle East too, until the rise of the monotheistic religions, with their all-powerful, male god. Assinnu, Kurgurru, Qedesha, Gallae are among our ancient names. As religion gradually became a tool of the political state, its teachings adapted to bring structure and discipline to society (mainly through fear, though calling it love), in contrast to the liberating, anarchic, sexualised rituals of the ancient Goddess – so those who sought the teachings of soul liberation joined mystery schools, covens and heretical sects in which over the centuries, magical wisdom was passed on.

Flower of Life with rainbow gradients

Kabbalists, Astrologers, Alchemists all found insights into the nature of reality through their practices, which are now openly available for us in the modern world if we seek them. But we are still emerging from the spirit-denying 20th century, still stuck in the domination of consumerism, fame and finance. Since the 1960’s there have been many who have made or are making the shift to a different way of being, one of compassion, seeking, healing and loving, but the mainstream culture is very slow to catch up.

trans symbol (2)

Trans people are emerging in the world in ever greater numbers quite probably because their souls have decided to to do their bit to hasten the evolution of the species, as we move beyond the materialist paradigm into a multi-dimensional reality, where we learn to unite the genders within in order to enter the higher dimensions of spirit, called the kingdom of heaven by Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas:

“When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the upper as the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male shall not be male, and the female shall not be female: . . . then you will enter [the kingdom].” Jesus in The Gnostic Apostle Thomas:Chapter 24, Saying 22

kabbalah

Reincarnation featured in all the ancient worldviews, was pushed out of the Christian agenda to suit the Roman emperors, and of course is ridiculed by the scientifically minded cultural leaders of the modern secular world.  The mass cultural paradigm is stuck in a tragic ‘one lifetime’ paradigm, and the transcendental nature of the soul not generally discussed, it’s highly possible that a person who feels they ‘were born in the wrong body’ is remembering something of their previous incarnation.

….And since the mystical goal of realisation of the Self involves the unification and integration of the inner genders (and other aspects), it’s highly likely that many trans people are evolved souls who have come into their current body to attain that integration and gain higher understanding of consciousness.

Since the western culture does not teach trans people who they are, trans people will have to teach the culture.

In fact all the queer tribes – the lesbians, gay men, bi and non-binary folk are in the process of unpicking centuries of being hated and misunderstood, of being seen as evil, dirty, sick… as sinners, outcasts, or as criminals.  We all are on the path of redefining who we are, on our terms, in our own ways.  Radical Faeries have been doing this since 1979.  500 magical, bright and creative queers just gathered this summer for the third QUEER SPIRIT FESTIVAL in the UK, celebrating the emergence of queers as a healing tribe within the human whole. 

The call is building for a SECOND COMING OUT – this time reclaiming and proclaiming our magical nature, our soul nature, our holy queer spirit.

north american Trans Shaman RAVEN KALDERA:

“Transgendered people have long been robbed of their own spiritual history, not knowing that there were once times and places where ours was considered a spiritual path in and of itself… We are all sacred and it is time that the world knew it.”

WHY CHECHNYA?

Chechnya is a focus of so much angst for queer people the world over, time we knew that it was once the centre of a culture that held queer shamanic priest/esses in high esteem

The murderous homophobia running rife in Chechnya since 2017 was in the news again recently. After the horrific tales of torturous treatment of gay men, this time we found out more about the situation for lesbians and trans women, as a woman who escaped the purge told her story to a news agency: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/lesbians-are-also-being-killed-in-chechnya-and-no-one-seems-to-care/#gs.lahdzc

I wanted to know why Chechnya, which is a pretty small area of the former Russian superstate, has become such a global focus in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality – and here is what I found in the history that I believe gives insight into the roots of the violent homophobia being enacted today:

Chechnya is located between the Black and Caspian Seas surrounded by Russia on 3 sides and Georgia on one, with Armenia and Azerbaijan close by: this area was once the central zone of the massive and long lived Scythian empire, which was founded by migrants from the Persian region as early as the 9th century BCE and lasted until the 2nd BCE. The Scythians had a complex, developed culture and became over time a very fierce, patriarchal tribe, but retained the ancient transgender enarees serving as the priest/esses of the Great Goddess, who had been around even longer. 5th century BCE Greek writer Herodotus described the enaree priest/esses as androgynous and recorded their skill in divination, saying they considered that to be a gift of Aphrodite. Hippocrates recorded that the Scythians considered the effeminacy of the enarees to be a divine blessing (though he tried to argue it was because of too much horse riding leading to impotence.)

The term enaree is said to mean ‘unmanly’ and came from the Greeks and Romans who disapproved of the queer shamanic and ecstatic ways, much like ‘berdache‘ was an abusive term (meaning the ‘bottom’ in the act of buggery) that was given to the Native American shamans by the shocked and disapproving Christian Europeans in the 16th century. We do not know what the Scythian transgender shamans called themselves, but we do know that they engaged in ritualistic same-sex eroticism, wore feminine clothes, undertook tasks traditionally assigned to women, performed divination and led ecstatic worship – as did transgender and gay/queer priest/esses of the Goddess throughout the ancient world, such as the Gallae servants of Cybele, the kelabim of Astarte and the megabyzoi of Artemis.

The homo and transphobia that is having devastating effects in the world today, such as for the queers of Chechnya, has roots in the rise of aggressive patriarchal masculinity, and is also intimately tied in with the arrival of a male deity on the religious scene who pushed out the Great Goddess and would stand no competition. The Christian and Muslim religions set out to distance themselves from the often wildly lustful and ecstatic Goddess worshippers by attacking homosexual practices and wiping out the widespread and ancient view that transexuals were closer to the divine. This is what queers of the world today need to grasp – not simply the history, but also to work out how this knowledge might inform how we act in the world.

But the enaree spirit never disappeared completely – a spiritual rebellion in 17th century Russia of the ‘Old Believers‘ saw pagan-christian cults the Khlysty (Flagellants) and Skoptsy (Castrators/Eunuchs) enacting ecstatic dance (radeniia ‘joyful whirling’) and sexual (including homosexual) rituals to attain altered states of consciousness, in which they would channel the prophecies of the Great Mother or Christ (whom they saw as her consort). These cults rejected marriage and revered women; the castration rituals, which men underwent to further their spiritual growth by becoming closer to the Goddess, connect them back in time to the Gallae priests of Cybele, the Magna Mater of the Roman Empire, whose roots go back to 6000 BCE in Anatolia, Turkey. These cults, and the practice of ritual castration, were still active in 20th century, pre-revolutionary Russia.

radeniia dance

Historians point out that the militaristic Scythians both respected/feared and at the same time ridiculed the enarees. Much the same happened to the ergi – queer/trans practitioners of the Seidr magic of the Germanic and Norse people. As patriarchy strengthened its grip, effeminacy in men became an issue in European cultures, but in earlier times transgender people were in many places highly regarded for their magical and spiritual qualities, an association that in fact took centuries to eradicate.

It seems to me the old battle between the macho, controlling male culture and that of the effeminate/genderqueer people of the Goddess is still raging today (even if it is presented differently and the goddess forgotten), with Chechnya a central battleground holding a long history of homophobia, but an even longer one of association between same-sexuality, transsexuality and the sacred. The gay men, lesbians and transexuals of the area today probably do not even know this history, yet it seems their recent ancestors were keeping this strand of queer magical culture alive up until only a century ago – so perhaps this awareness, this experience, this memory, is just beneath the surface, waiting to reemerge, as part of a global surge of queer spirit as LGBTQ+ people the world claim our human rights and reclaim the powers in us that connect the worlds of spirit and humanity.

www.queerspirit.net

Marc Almond in Cambridge 7th May 2019

“I have lived each single moment, as a man of flesh and blood
with my soul and all my senses open wide
I have lived and tasted everything
that called out to be tried
I’m afraid of neither heaven nor of hell
Never caring if I had a soul to sell.”

Marc’s passionate rendition of Charles Aznavour’s song “I Have Lived” opened a two hour celebration of life, largely focussed, as Marc pointed out, on songs written by dead artists. He shared that with no new album to promote he was undertaking this mini-tour for the pure pleasure of making music. Many of us life-long Willing Sinner Gutter Heart Cell Mates are very grateful.

I was 16 years old when Marc first appeared on Top of the Pops in 1981, black clothes, bangles and eye liner, with Dave Ball equally mysterious and strange on the keyboards. I was soon swooning to The Girl with the Patent Leather Face, Memorabilia and the sublime Tainted Love 12” with my teenage girlfriends – the other boys around were not so keen. Non Stop Erotic Cabaret arrived, and via the sublime electro from Dave’s keyboards and Marc’s sensuous lyrics we teenagers had our eyes opened to a fascinating, hidden, underworld of sex, secrets and sleaze. Marc’s prolific output in the early 1980s – two Marc and the Mamba albums (that quickly became, and remained, my favourite records of all time) and Soft Cell’s Art of Falling Apart and This Last Night in Sodom – played a role in helping me find an identity and warned me against the horrors of conformity, of being ‘normal’ in a messed up, hypocritical, world.

Last Autumn I was at the 40 year party, One Last Night, Soft Cell’s concert at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena in Greenwich – a magnificent occasion and performance that affirmed Soft Cell’s role as musical pioneers, punk romantics, and critics of society’s shallowness. But while the show was amazing, my inner emotional journey at the O2 was limited by sitting high up in the balconies, not being able to dance and express myself. When I got home my friends in spirit complained that I had not invited them to join me in the O2, cutting myself from internal companions who wanted to enjoy the show with me and so not giving myself internal emotional space to expand into.

I decided not to make the same mistake this time. I smoked before I went in, and chatted to the homeless people begging outside the Corn Exchange. I found the empty upstairs bar, chatted to the lovely staff and said a prayer to the divine mother. I went to my seat on row H which – thrill of thrills – turned out to be the front row! Then I started inviting in my dead friends, who in turn were opening the gates to more spirits – I was soon feeling very warm inside, faces of long lost friends were appearing in my inner vision, I found I was giggling and excited.

Then Marc came on and delivered for us through song the spirit of Aznavour, the Yardbirds, Dusty Springfield, T-Rex, David Bowie, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Lou Reed and plenty of Scott Walker. Marc’s rendition of Walker’s Big Louise, which he recorded on the first Mambas album, lifted me into the arms of paradise. Marc sang Aznavour’s What Makes a Man a Man, taking me back to the epic finale of the Twelve Years of Tears concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993. We also had a few living legends pop in – Cher (A Woman’s Story, one of Marc’s solo singles from the ’80s) , Mary Hopkins (Those Were the Days) and Lana del Rey’s Dark Paradise.

We were treated to a selection of some of Marc’s own fine cuts – that’s got to be the first time I’ve heard him sing Stories of Johnny since the ’80s – we got A Lover Spurned, Pearly Spencer, Say Hello…. plus a stripped down, acoustic version of Bedsitter that brought out the emotional reality of the song, nice to hear Marc acknowledge that it’s a really sad song! Yet there we all were in the 80s, gleefully singing it at the top of our voices, celebrating the misery of the lonely comedown! I’m sure on some level this did us a lot of good! I loved that Marc included the concluding Bedsitter line, ‘I’m waiting for something, I’m just passing time,’ for that is how I now can look back on my own bedsitter years in the late 1980s, when I was a gay caterpillar out in the big dangerous city hungrily feasting on the pleasures to be found. I was waiting for something though at the time I didn’t realise it was a wake up call.

My wake up call came through HIV – in the mid 90s I lived with full blown AIDS for 3 years. That was my cocoon period, when my internal understanding of who I am went through a complete transformation. I responded to the onset of AIDS by diving into a study of the world’s mystical traditions – and while my body was seemingly dying, my spirit came alive. I celebrated the darkness I was undergoing – just as indeed we have been able to celebrate the shadow side of life through Marc Almond’s music over four decades – for through that darkness I was finding golden seams of life’s true treasures. I found myself to be a channel, witch or ‘gatekeeper’ to the spirit worlds – then I discovered that queer shamans had played this role in nature-based pre-monotheistic religions the world over, that this was the case also in ancient Europe until our roles were taken over by the Christian Church, backed up by the armies of the state, from the 4th century Roman Empire onwards. I learnt that the Christians spent 1000+ years destroying the holy trees and sacred groves where the European peoples had worshipped for millennia, and eliminating any memory of the link between homoeroticism and gender non-comformity with nature and the spirit world.

This gay butterfly emerged from the AIDS cocoon and ever since my life has been dedicated to reclaiming this lost part of the queer soul, of our roles as channels and connectors of the worlds, and reclaiming the understanding that through intimacy with nature all humans can feel, intuit and know our place in the whole, rediscover our intrinsic oneness with all life – and with the dead too. The spirit world is not far from us, from a vibrational perspective, but unless we open our minds and hearts to it we will never be aware of it, will not experience it. One of the best ways to open our hearts to the dead, I’ve learnt over the years, is to celebrate them in song. Thanks Marc, you made a lot of living and a lot of dead people very happy that night.

For me, the heavens fully opened and the angelic love poured through the venue as Marc concluded the show with My Hand Over My Heart. I know a Marc show pretty much has to end with Tainted Love and Say Hell -, I have got used to that – so thanks Marc for slipping in your epic love song between the two, to help us Gutter Hearts not only look at but also truly touch the stars.

Queer Spirit(ualists) with Attitude!

ATTITUDE 4 (2)

Attitude magazine this month has a colourful, somewhat teasing and intriguing, feature about some of the team behind this summer’s Queer Spirit Festival.  The piece is appropriately enough entitled ‘Free Spirits’, making the point that here are queers finding our spiritual expression outside of formal religion. For some reason however the front page headline they chose to highlight the piece is ‘Meet the Queer Spiritualists’…..

Well spiritualism is generally associated with channelling the messages, wisdom and grace of the spirit world, with mediumship and sometimes trance possession. At first I was inclined to take some umbrage at the use of this word, after all a glance at the promotion for the festival will show that our focus is very much about this world – about healing, creativity, self-expression, love – about queer community, liberated from crippling religious structures, where our spirits can soar free.  But of course what makes this experience so powerful and liberating, I believe, is that we include the trees, plants, animals, insects and invisible worlds in our expansive queer community cosmos.

I remembered how much we love to invoke the ancestors into our circles, how important it is to us to call in the power of the elemental beings, how much we love to invoke the unifying presence of our shamanic forebears in the indigenous peoples of the whole planet,  and of the Goddess, of Pan.

Often we dance once the spirits are invoked, enjoying a space where it can come naturally to drop the chattering, questioning of the mind and move into synchronous rhythm with each other: rising gradually to peaks of ecstatic togetherness when the drumming takes off, when our dancing hits a frenzy, our voices open and the shouts reach to the heavens.

ATTITUDE 5 (2)

Attitude also used the term ‘HIGHER RAINBOWS’ – which I consider a peculiar choice of front page headline for the piece about us queer free spirits:

To me queer spirituality is about dropping the old patriarchal ways of hierarchy, of higher and lower, inferior and superior – and entering instead into the holoarchy of life, where every aspect of being has an integral part to play in the whole cosmic jigsaw of life. Astrology is one tool I use to understand that every part of who we are, that all of life and creation, is holy and has its own purpose, from the carnal and the banal to the  cosmic and the blissful. Without one there cannot be the other, duality only exists to help us navigate the third dimension. So Queer Spirituality is not about getting to a higher, or better, place, than other parts of the lgbtq+ universe, it is about bringing in the missing element, the essential piece of the puzzle, that completes the whole. 

I have written many blogs about the lost, forgotten or overlooked links between queerness and the sacred dimensions.. some links below.

Early May 2019 we are between the calendar Beltane MayDay and the approaching Beltane Full Moon in Scorpio on May 17th. The veils are thin.

We are between the worlds.

lotus

This morning the moon is in Cancer, water element, sign of the Divine Mother. So this queer spiritualist thought instead of being agitated by the label he would live up to it:

This is what I believe the energy of the Divine Mother that I feel within me is saying to us this Beltane:

From the heart of the Mother

from our ancestors enlightened

worlds connect and the message comes through

you are another me and I am another you:

we are not these bodies

not the ego-mind

not the turbulent emotions:

when we drop identification with form and thought and feeling

there’s much, much more to find

.

the dance of spirit on the earth

is reflected in patterns in the sky

and once we get that we are the dance

we can stretch our wings and fly:

to attune to the seasons, moon and planets

IS to find the way home –

is the way out of delusion, disconnection, disaffection –

it’s time for humanity to renew the pact with life Herself

.

love and spirit connect us all

through prayer and compassion

we answer the call, build webs of love, cones of power

invoking the return of Her magicians

bringing humanity back to the Way

in these dark 21st century days

.

The truth is within and it’s out there too

Christian gnostics and heretics, Kabbalists and Sufi mystics have long taught the way

Buddhist and Hindu sages were bringing the light of non-duality to the west since the 19th century

but the last thing the desire-driven, power-hungry west wanted to hear

was that the ego was controlling the show and out of control –

our own european earth wisdom so long suppressed

we’d long forgotten our intrinsic belonging –

yet now as Mother Earth shakes and and fear spreads round the world

soon everyone on the planet may scream out to be whole

and the people of the Goddess

will step forward – and take up once again their roles.

qs-logo2019-long edit

Queer Spiritualism WHY NOT?

To conclude, I offer this….

MAY THE SPIRIT RETURN TO THE PEOPLE

From whom She was ripped apart

May the Spirit return to the people

As the Queer Healers remember their Art

.

The Warrior swords of the Crucified Christ from the 4th century CE

Closed down our temples and slaughtered

Trans priestesses, women witches, genderfluid shamans and male sodomites.

Persecution of gay men and women witches intensified from the 11th century.

The political state took over this persecution from the 16th century.

The death penalty was in place for sodomy in the UK until 1861.

But the climate of fear, of arrests and blackmail hit another peak for gay men in the 20th century

And while the change over the past 50 years has been incredible –

No wonder we are a segment of humanity with health issues

Of course we are a people with emotional baggage that needs to be addressed

the issues arising from both HIV and CHEMSEX are the clear symptom of this wound

.

Still in the world today so many of our queerkind still have to live secret lives

have to live with fear, and the danger of arrest, violence, death

THE HISTORICAL PERSECUTION OF QUEER PEOPLE NEEDS TO BE UNDERSTOOD AND ADDRESSED.

OUR QUEER SPIRIT – REPRESSED FOR SO LONG – NEEDS ROOM TO BREATHE, ROOM TO HEAL, ROOM TO BECOME WHAT IT TRULY IS.

I applaud Attitude magazine for taking this important step in displaying through mainstream media that there are exciting developments going on in the world of queer spirituality.  Thanks Guys!

read more…

https://queerspirit.net/blog/211-the-queer-spiritual-frontier

https://queerspirit.net/blog/248-out-of-the-mists-of-our-long-oppression

https://shokti.blog/2019/04/28/gays-are-the-natural-priests-of-humanity/

https://rainbowmessengerblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/the-rites-of-queer-spirit/

Gays are the natural priests of humanity

The last few thousand years of human history might be called the Age of Patriarchy, when heterosexual men aggressively established their power over others. For this to happen they first had to destroy the spiritual power held by women and queers – at the time of Jesus Christ, religious life around the whole of the Mediterranean Sea had long been led by women and effeminate priests – the next few centuries would see straight men gradually imposing their desire for order, structure and control via the destruction of pagan temples and eradication of the memory of the sacred roles of same-sex loving and gender-variant individuals.

The men of war shut down our temples, rounded up the pagans and slaughtered them. The sexual practices of the pagans were seen as a justification for doing this. This pattern had begun in fact a millennium previously under the Hebrew kings, some of whom took great offence to the continuing tradition of Goddess worship, led by the sodomising, genderfluid Qedesha in the temples of Asherah. Qedesha means Anointed or Holy Ones, but was translated into the King James Bible as ‘sodomites’ and appears in modern translations as ‘male shrine prostitutes’. The idea that temples were where prostitution took place was planted early in the first millennium by Christians in order to discredit the pagan faiths – until that time sexual congress with deities, through the medium of a priest/ess, had been a respected practice dating back maybe 10000 years in the temples of Ishtar/Inanna/Cybele throughout the lands of the Middle East. Some have argued that Mary Magdalene was part of this tradition and see her as being the conduit for Jesus’s mystical revelations and growth.

The oldest term on the planet for priesthood is the ‘Gala’ priests of Inanna, whose name in the ‘cunieform’ writing of the time was a combination of the symbols for penis and anus. Similarly named, and extremely queer and flamboyant, Gallae priests served Cybele – considered the Mother of the Gods, her worship originated in Anatolia in the Asian part of Turkey and became the official religion of the Roman Empire around 200 BCE. The Gallae’s camp and loud behaviour upset many Christians, and, especially as Roman emperors converted to the new faith, emphasising the prohibition of sodomy became a way of setting Christianity apart from the pagan past.

The Hebrew persecution of the gay temple priests lasted, on and off, for four centuries from 1000BCE to 600BCE, it seems that after that the atmosphere became more relaxed again. Historian Randy P. Connor goes as far as to say that the period from 2nd century BCE to 4th century CE was the high point of queer-led religion, with the ArchGallus playing a leading role in Roman life. The ArchGallus wore a tall mitre hat, something that was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church and still worn by Popes today. The Gallae priests led the early Spring ceremonies which were focussed on the death of their god Attis, the lover of Goddess Cybele, who self-castrated in order to avoid marriage to a human woman. He died from the wound but was resurrected and became in the older stories Cybele’s daughter, in the later versions he became, like Jesus, the heavenly avatar linking humanity to heaven. The Christian Easter festival was timed to replace this older rite.

When Europeans set out to explore and conquer the rest of the world they came across gender-bending, sodomising, shamans and priests on every continent. There are many examples from Africa of queerness being associated with spiritual power – eg among the lesbians of the Azande people of ……. or the Quimbanda wizards of Angola. When African politicians complain that homosexuality was brought to the continent by the white man they have a point – until the Europeans came sexuality was not associated with the taboos it is now, and the spiritual role of same-sex loving or trans individuals was recognised. The Native American shamans were given the name ‘berdache’ by the Europeans (the name basically means a bottom in sodomy), which stuck until the 1990s when the American shamans chose the name ‘Two-Spirit’ to replace it, a term much more resonant with the many original names that the tribes used for us. In China and Japan homosexuality was regarded as a privilege of the monastic class, this view fully supported by the populace, and in India the surviving example of the Hijras point to a time when the spiritual power of queers was better recognised. Examples exist also from Australasia, Polynesia, Hawaii….

Gay men and women have always been drawn to the religious life in the Christian west as well, despite the homophobic atmosphere. Medieval monastic life saw a flowering of same sex love, and the Buggery Act was brought in by Henry VIII to destroy the power of the Catholic monasteries. To this day gays are drawn to service in the Church, and the arguments about us go on and on. But even the Christian notion of a celibate priesthood is a hark back to the ancient days when the gays ran religion. Celibacy had to be brought in once straight men got involved, to control them. Islam, for most of its history, has been less bothered about sexual expression, with a long tradition of mystical poetry in which god is known through same-sex erotic imagery. The savagery with which some Islamic states treat queer people now has more to do with the homophobia spread by Europeans over recent centuries than with Islamic traditions.

So the straight men kicked us out of the temples and monasteries and took our jobs, but what does this piece of the historical queer jigsaw mean for us today?

While some spiritually motivated queers choose to be active in established religious circles, there are many of us who are drawn to self-exploration in ways of our own choosing. Many of us are drawn to witchcraft, shamanism etc because these magical practices do not dictate a belief system – they instead provide tools we can use for our own self-discovery, and to build a relationship with the subtle energy fields all around us.

Coming Out is a spiritual process of self-affirmation, but it’s not the end of the story. In the 1980s I was a young atheist seeking nothing from life but good times, but who was quickly facing an HIV diagnosis and the onset of AIDS. This experience awoke in me the wish to understand life, and the roles of queers in the bigger picture, and kicked off a mystical journey that continues to this day – a journey that includes uncovering the forgotten or hidden history of the relationship between queerness and spirituality. Until this history is understood, ignorant religious preachers will continue to attack us, and spread their hate around the world, providing justification to those who would persecute, imprison or kill our kind. My journey since AIDS in queer spiritual circles such as the Radical Faerie community convinces me that we queers do have ‘magical’ powers – they come from our internal fluidity and creativity, they relate to the heart and spirit, to our relationship with nature and the unseen world.

I am one of the organisers of this summer’s QUEER SPIRIT FESTIVAL in Northamptonshire, UK, August 14-18th 2019. This third outing of the festival brings together a few hundred questing, evolving, seeking queers in a melting pot of play, creativity, sexuality, spirituality and magic for five days of magic and discovery, changing the story of who we are, remembering a hidden past, and creating a new, vibrant and more conscious future. www.queerspirit.net

London Rebels

Easter Weekend in London saw massive mobilisation of the British people. In sharp contrast to the childishness, bickering and arrogance of our political classes in recent years, the past week has given us a peaceful yet powerful expression of the true spirit of the Brits – focussed on respectful discourse, tolerance, collaboration, non-violent action and compassion. Just as with the massive pro-EU demonstration recently, the people took to the streets and showed the world how so many of us really feel.

Extinction Rebellion played their hand skilfully, clearly having learnt the hard lessons of past actions such as Occupy. The authorities have been spending money preparing for post-Brexit riots, but instead found themselves faced with truly peaceful protesters, who had no intention to cause harm to property or persons – instead they sought simply to disrupt the normal flow of city life to bring attention to the cause – to the Climate Emergency that is reported daily in the news but which our governments have no idea how, nor it seems the motivation, to tackle. The activities of the past week have brought to the fore voices such as George Monbiot that dare to say that the whole capitalist, monetary, economic system has to be dismantled. The Tory environment minister has been forced to admit they are not doing enough in regard to climate change, and the opposition Labour party have offered to sit down and listen to the campaigners.

Even more than this – at a time when crime, homelessness, poverty are all on the rise, when teenagers are murdering each other and terrorists lurk round every corner – the headline news should be that here is a mobilisation of people who sincerely believe life can be lived differently, we just have to get together, listen to each other and work out how.

Here is a mobilisation of people who come together peacefully, to explore and deepen connection, with each other and the planet we live on. The right wing tries desperately to pick holes in the movement, to attack it in any way it can – eg for taking up police resources which are needed to keep down the rioting hoards, and the islamic, irish and fascist terrorists. But it seems the dark forces were all taking a quiet Easter. We should not underestimate the effect that a few thousand determined individuals making a clear and determined message, that so many others are waiting to hear, can have on the collective spirit and consciousness of the whole nation. After all, we have seen how the horrific acts of lone individuals can unite us in grief – whatever the critics of Extinction Rebellion might say, this is not a movement spreading doom and gloom, this is part of a much larger and longer trend in human society – towards greater awareness and connection.

These words I found from an XR participant in a Facebook comment put it so well:

Fundamentally our movement, not limited to Extinction Rebellion… is about creating a society based on connection, awe and love for all beings. You feel it, I feel it, it feels right…. but we are rarely given permission to express it.

There’s been a steady shift in human consciousness for many years now and it is finally bubbling up to an explosion. Too many people are tired of wasting our lives in a society based on separation, fear, exploitation and depletion.”

But of course the opponents of XR, and probably the politicians too, believe it’s only a matter of time before the movement fractures and collapses, as other protests have done in the past. There are even signs of this happening already. The group’s Facebook page reveals that militant vegans, who like to insist everyone has to follow their example, are causing some to leave the movement. But also – the wonder of social media – we can see there how the overwhelming response from others, including other vegans, is to explain few things to the misguided but well-intentioned militants. Any movement for social, political, environmental justice doubles up as an intensive space of personal growth for all who get involved. The complex organisational co-creation that manifested as XR’s actions at Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus, or the mass die-in at the Natural History Museum, show that this is a collective with experience, talent, originality and the power to persevere. XR has staying power because all generations are involved here. Over 1000 people were arrested for obstruction, yet nobody was hurt, there was no criminal damage, no violence.

Natural History Museum die-in

The same spirit of openness, tolerance and freedom was celebrated in Hyde Park on Saturday 20th April at the 4:20 Cannabis Rally. Now in its 8th year, the warm sunshine brought out thousands – people of all ages, all races and backgrounds were openly smoking across the park, and at 4.20pm we all stood up and lit up together – the diversity of the modern British nation celebrated in smoke. What an incredible mass ritual, honouring the healing herb that has been used as medicine and sacred tool in cultures the world over, but which the men in power in the 20th century made illegal, something they had no moral right to do. Crucially, we were also standing up for freedom of the individual, in mind, body and soul. The days of the state dictating what we can or cannot do with our own bodies need to end. I’m a gay man, I get this deeply. But as we move towards liberalisation of attitudes towards cannabis in the UK it is crucial that the cannabis campaigners are listened to – for the money-grabbing eyes of big business are already excited at this huge future market. Cannabis cultivation and dealing has been in the hands of the people during this time of prohibition, taking risks with our own liberty to do so, and it should remain the people’s plant.

Nobody was arrested at the Cannabis Rally. The atmosphere was positive and upbeat. The only violence in the park that day was unrelated.

My personal journey through this liberating weekend began at the Queer Spirit Full Moon Drum Circle in Vauxhall, where about 70 radical faeries, questing queers and magical souls gathered to dance and raise energy. We do this regularly– an opportunity for emotional release and ecstatic expression at the peak of the full moon. This time we dedicated our dance towards empowering the message being put out by Extinction Rebellion.

At Heaven nightclub on Sunday evening my weekend peaked as the 24 year old me was resurrected on the very dance floor where he dropped his first tab of acid – thirty years ago at Gay Pride 1989. For 3 or 4 years I was a Heaven regular, spending my nights in ecstatic rapture, finding in house music (and lsd) a doorway into myself that led me to an absolute sense of freedom, love and connection. After 6 years of trips (and facing the impending doom of full-blown aids) I was motivated to dive into a mystical education in order to understand this freedom and connection I had felt when high in Heaven. 24 years on from that, aids survivor, queer pagan and radical faerie witch/shaman that I have become, I got to go back to my playground – where in my 20s I used to lose myself in music and light, become the dance, become pure spirit. This time no lsd taken. Acid opened up in me the idea that we are pure consciousness, free, eternal and powerful, and I have used the intervening years to explore and deepen this within me – 30 years after my first trip I was dancing back in the temple of Heaven, feeling my 24 year old self inside me glowing with joy, being my 54 year old self beaming in gratitude for this journey called life, and for the keys to mystery that the acid house wave of the late 80s, that Heaven the nightclub and the amazing DJs who played there, gave to me.

easter sunday 2019 acid boy resurrected

House music arrived as a soul-infused development of disco and hi-nrg. It celebrated liberation, as disco had done before – but perhaps while 70s disco revelled in individual freedom and joy, 80s house held a vision of collective liberation. Queers were at the forefront of disco – when disco got tired and too commercial, we then held the pure dance spirit in our hi-nrg tunes until it evolved into house. Heaven, London’s original gay super-club now celebrating its 40th birthday, held nights such as Spectrum, Garage and Troll that nurtured the uplifting house vibe.

Queers were central to the dance revolution and we also have a big role to play in the ongoing liberation of humanity from the delusions, the mind control and soul-numbness that afflicts the world, but we are still a deeply wounded segment of the whole, finding our power only gradually. 30 years ago I was dancing in nightclubs, this summer I will be dancing out in nature at QUEER SPIRIT FESTIVAL, where 500+ fabulous, magical queers will get the chance to deepen our experience of community, of connection, of personal and collective liberation. There will be workshops, performers, fire circles, drumming, cafes, discos – we will be celebrating the potential in our sexuality and our seeking for love to open us to the heavens, to multi-dimensional reality, plus celebrating our ability to connect to and care for each other and the earth. The festival, like XR, like the Cannabis Rally, is a manifestation of people taking power into their own hands. We queers will no longer let ourselves be bullied by religion or anyone else, we are redefining who we are, from within ourselves. Www.queerspirit.net

It was so good to be in Heaven dancing again to “Brothers, Sisters, we’ll make it to the Promised Land”, to feel tears running down my cheeks as Robert Owens performed live, to remember being in utter bliss in that place in my 20s – at a time when part of my mind was stuck in the new reality of a deadly HIV diagnosis, another part was experiencing the awesome, joyful wonder of existence.

return to heaven 21/4/2019

30 years on I celebrated my personal liberation on the dance floor where I first glimpsed it, during a weekend when the tide of liberation was riding high in London town. But let’s remember that Freedom is both an internal as well as external phenomenon. This summer I will be gathering with magical queers pulling together on the path to personal and collective liberation to our kind, and all humanity, through reconnection with nature, with the holiness of the body and sexuality, the transcendent potential of music and dance, with the ecstatic rites of Queer Spirit. Come play the liberation game with us.

London enjoyed a sunny and peaceful weekend, promoting the energy of communication, connection and harmony. Meanwhile terror did strike – in Sri Lanka, and we are left with this puzzling story that a number of affluent, educated, middle class Muslims went into Christian churches to blow up themselves and the Easter Sunday worshippers, showing how quickly and easily a country can be brought to horror, grief and fear. In our interconnected world the actions of hate affect all, but the forces and voices of tolerance and freedom do not get nearly enough of a look in – the media is always telling us the world is full of suffering and anger, but the hearts of the people of the world are drawn to hope, to peace and to love and liberation – as the activists of London have been showing loud and strong in the Easter sunshine.