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.

go to the trees

.

To escape from the insanity

that’s deluding humanity –

embrace non-duality:

and go to the trees

sit in the breeze

absorb the fire

go to the rivers and seas

.

.

.

the western world got obsessed

with the notion of right and wrong

with the tragedy of darkness and light

became blind to the powers of second sight

.

but the eastern world saw

that there is really more

going on than these notions in the mind

the eastern world saw

that the world is a divine dream

and nothing is ever as black and white as it seems

.

inside the yang there is the yin

and the yin inside the yang

inside the female there is the male

inside the male the female

life is a myriad of possibilities

and every one will be explored

.

so it’s really high time

in the 21st century

that the world listened and learned

and voices of bigotry, hate and separation

were finally and utterly IGNORED

.

WHERE ARE THE VOICES OF UNITY IN THE WORLD?

They are there but can they be heard

above the clamour of disarray and division?

Humanity on the brink

needs to come to a big decision

.

We have been lied to for long enough:

We’re not born to serve the capitalist machine

we are born to live out our dreams

to love and grow and enjoy life

find our own part in the divine dream

.

BECAUSE IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP

and those in deep sleep will suffer

but those who truly LOVE

and practise COMPASSION

will find another

WAY

we approach the holiest of days

when humanity finally is AWAKE.

The Awkwardness of Aries

The Spring Equinox arrives, days start to be longer than nights, the temperatures rise, the relief of Winter ending washes over us – then about a week or so later we might find ourselves wondering what the fuck is going on? Why isn’t Spring bringing joy and happiness? Why does life feel so challenging – so awkward?

Nature is growing fast now, and so are we. Life will offer new experiences. Our roots are deepening, our blossom is appearing, we are starting to put on our leaves, ie our summer energy. But growth hurts, it means disturbing the soil, the ground we are occupying, and it means stretching and pulling ourselves in some new ways, which, if we haven’t got the right mental framework in place, is going to hurt.

The appropriate mind-set for the first month of the zodiac year is ‘I AM’.

Aries is an individualistic fire sign. It is a sign of leadership, but the first place we need to be in charge is within our own being. This is the moment of the year when the cosmos tells us to think for ourselves, to focus on ourselves, to follow our own nose, our own weird, our own path. Relationships can come under strain because most couples want to believe in the ‘WE’ more than they do in the ‘I’, and they perhaps fear giving their lover space to do ‘I’ for a while. But for individual and relationship health we need a bit of space this time of year, time to work out our own personal goals and work on our own personal issues.

Beltane is just round the corner – in Taurus month the Sun moves into earth element and we become fascinated with the body again. Aries month is about the individual spirit – who am I is the focus. In Taurus we start to focus on what we have and what we want, tune in more to physical reality of our existence, and on the pleasures of connecting physically with others, in celebration, in dance, in sex.

English poet T.S. Eliot said “April is the cruellest month” – and so it can seem, for at this time others may not meet our expectations and we may find ourselves needing to find plenty of self-reliance and self-determination. Changeable weather – rain, shine, warm, cold – mirrors the internal energy movements we inevitably go through. Aries is the awkward month of being who we are, pushed back into knowing ourselves as an independent entity after the cosmically attuned, collective consciousness, months of Aquarius and Pisces.

When Full Moon comes along, opposite Aries in the sign of balance and relationship, Libra – the bright moonlight illuminates how well we are doing on that axis of self and others. The Libra Full Moon reminds us we do not exist on our own, we exist in relationship with others, which demands things of us – such as compromise and surrender, things the Aries sun isn’t generally hot on. The key to navigating the full moon is to put service to others at the top of the agenda, realising that is how we also serve our own best interests.

So during Aries month the best thing to do is to embrace a new year of energy growth, to focus on one’s self, on health and well-being, on changing our thinking patterns to support that health and well-being, on our plans for the year ahead. Also to work on the balance between our self-focus and our relationships. And crucially, to see the Ram’s fire as the small flame within that it actually is at this time of the year. This is not the moment for gung-ho, uber-dynamic, action… this is the time for small steps and self-care, leading to improved self-awareness and a chance to move away from the awkwardness of Aries.

THE ELEMENTS OF HEALTH

For two decades I have walked the pagan path – learning about existence through the language and practice of the elements, seasons, sun, moon and stars. What I have learnt is this path brings those who walk it improved health, awareness, compassion, understanding and wisdom. Why isn’t everyone on it?

My generation, born in the 1960s, was brainwashed from a young age to believe that the purpose of life was to get good grades, good job, a heterosexual relationship and debt. Religion was sometimes in the picture, but losing the battle in our minds rapidly in the fight with scepticism. Spirituality – pagan magic – metaphysics and mysticism were mainly ignored and certainly ridiculed when they did pop up. I came out at 21, failed to fit into the work and debt model either, and aged 30, while apparently approaching death, I woke up to the idea that life is a mystery to be explored, understood and then enjoyed to the max, not something simply to take for granted, led by the proclamations of religion or science.

Every day I hear of people’s struggles with their mental health. Depression, anxiety, BPD, DID, ADD, ADHD… As someone who was given an acronym 30 years ago – HIV – I strongly urge people to disassociate from the label, it’s absolutely NOT who you are. And, having turned my life around from the deathbed of AIDS aged thirty-three to being now a fairly-fit-fifty-four, strong in mind and heart and spirit if not always in body, having walked the path that the planet, the solar system and nature herself gives us to study, I gotta say – folks: there is a different, less toxic and disempowering, way of understanding life than the story most of the world is running – another paradigm is possible, a more revealing and evolutionary way of knowing ourselves and our existence here is possible. The scientific heights reached in the 20th century are not the end of the story. AIDS made me turn my attention inwards – I could not be out and about, active in the world. On the inside I found the gateways to other worlds, and my survival is dedicated to bringing human existence into alignment with the other dimensions. The only thing holding us back is the bullshit most people have in their minds, ie the life-crippling paradigm we have been sold.

The New Age has had a huge impact of human relations, communications and individual personal growth over the past few decades. The Internet reveals just how many awakened and purposeful people there are out there, how many groups sincerely seeking to serve the well being of the planet. Ayahuasca ceremonies have become popular in recent years, when just a few years before the practitioners had to be very secretive. Astrology is now more widely understood and practised than at any time before in human history – youtube enables astrologers to have a voice that mainstream media still denies them. Brian Cox is still the darling of the thinking classes, and he never misses a chance to ridicule the study of the stars. I would love him to wake up to the mysteries of consciousness – please somebody slip him some lsd or persuade him to go talk to Grandmother spirit Ayahuasca.

The New Age, a label knocking around since the 1980s, is a medley of teachings and practices from all the world’s cultures, spread and srengthened by the Internet. Cultural appropriation means little to me as we are all citizens of a new global civilisation, able for the first time ever to learn from all that has gone before – this is an incredible new horizon.

Part of this cultural development is the reclamation of the pagan practices of Europe, which were largely wiped out by the all-consuming ‘christian’ political-military machine from the Roman Empire onwards. It took a thousand years for the christian culture to tighten its grip, with much bloodshed on the way, and it never really succeeded in fully wiping out the pagan heart of european culture, as laws attempting to stop ‘pagan’ practices, passed from the 16th century onwards, demonstrate. In 1542 it was made illegal to practice witchcraft in England, further acts followed and the 17th century saw the peak of witch trials and executions. In 1736 in a new ‘rational’ age Parliament passed an Act repealing the laws against witchcraft, but imposing fines or imprisonment on people who claimed to be able to use magical powers. The Vagrancy Act of 1824 made fortune-telling, spiritualism and astrology punishable offences. In 1951 the laws against magical practice were repealed and replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, and it is only since then that the pagan roots of our British culture have been truly accessible to the British people.

So is it any surprise then that the core healing paradigm that celtic paganism offers us is hardly yet noticed by the British people in general. Wicca, a reclamation of pagan ways dreamt up in 1940s-50s England, is actually now a world religion, much more widely established and visible in the USA than in our own anglo-culture.

Currently the British nation is hell-bent on driving itself to a collective nervous breakdown. Centuries of perceived stability, strength and tradition are crumbling fast. The Brits are on a fast course towards a mass healing crisis par excellence. The Brits, as so often in history, on this tiny but intensely magically powerful island, may well be setting the pace for the world once more. For we who study the stars know that the Gods Saturn and Pluto are shaking up the ‘system’ good and proper – for the global political-military-industrial machine does not serve the well being of the planet, of people, of the animals. The political-military-industrial system serves death, it does not serve life, so it must die and be replaced by something new.

That something new is also something old. It is waiting in the wings.

IT IS THE PERENNIAL WISDOM.

Religion told us we are sinners, they lied

Science tells us we are simply biology, they lie

As Above So Below

We are multi-dimensional beings

who on earth can find health and well-being

through finding balance in our selves between

the BODY – EARTH

the MIND – AIR

the EMOTIONS – WATER

the SPIRIT – FIRE

we can know ourselves through our individual elemental mix

as shown in our astrological birth chart

know our connectedness with all beings through ceremony and meditation and plant medicine

come into internal harmony and balance through attuning to moon cycles and seasonal shifts

exploring who we are, what life is, how it all works

is a central, crucial part of being alive, at least for some of us

and for those struggling in darkness, it is the healing path, it is the solution

it is the missing part of our culture, the blindspot in the modern world

the pagan path is the path of the seasons, the moons and nature

and also of the goddess, of Pan, of ancestor spirits and the faerie underworld

it is a path of genderbending, shapeshifting and nature loving magic

of dropping the pretence of being normal, of being human

for inside everyone of us

is raw, animal, primal instinctual energy, pure soul

which we get to raise through our holy bodies, our open hearts

our free and enlightened minds

into ecstatic communion with the spirits of creation

of which there are so, so many

we simply forgot how to see them, to hear them, to speak to them

but they haven’t forgotten us

and when we get over our obsessions and delusions about gods and holy books and scriptures

and about economics and consumerism and the latest scandal and fashion

and return to the simplicity of pleasure, connection, presence, love

they will be right there

ready to help us bring peace and healing to our ailing planet home

Canaries in the Meth Mine

the second sexual revolution has been building since the turn of the millennium

once AIDS had disappeared from our hospitals and gay bars.

dating websites were the start of the cyber game, which gay men embraced with gusto

where drug deals and dates started to become a normal combination in some quarters

gaydar – gay romeo dominated

recon held the fetish market

moving to the darker zones of bbrts – bareback realtime sex

and eventually nastykinkpigs where the doings got deviant and dirty

.

meth was a rarity at first

but the examples of sydney and the usa could have shown us in London

that meth is a manifest curse

.

the smoking ban in clubs had an effect

dance floor flow was disrupted

outdoor smoking changed the night out

many guys started to prefer to party at home

where they could also consume sacraments in peace

grindr, scruff, tindr and the ilk

suddenly made partying from home that much easier and more fun

dates could be arranged and deals could be done

shopping for sex, for satisfaction

for adventure or distraction

bodies on the screen

for free or for sale

no love involved

so drugs are what we need

to free the mind, feel the high and find the connection

but there are sacrifices that can follow

like a fucked mind and no erection

an addiction quickly acquired that makes no sense

sex sacrificed to a game of pretence

.

20 years ago very few gay men injected drugs

in the second decade of the 21st century ‘slamming’ has become common

no need to repeat the horror stories here

gay men are not listening to them anyway

meth high continues to draw men in to the tinaverse

perhaps meth is a manifest curse

.

canaries in the meth mine

in the consumer age

use me, use you, take me, feed you

men use each other like commodities

and sex becomes a selfish fulfilling of need, a seeking of seed

to temporarily fulfill a deeply felt need:

a gay man ultimately seeks to feel and know the god inside him through the love of another man

.

canaries in the meth mine

men forget how to love, how to make love without the chem

lose empathy and the ability to care about others

as their own inner unacknowledged pain becomes immense

this manifest curse is a reversal of our humanity

it makes no sense

but is this the future for the human race?

slaves to the machine, manifest in our hands

everyone an object to be utilized at will

the deadly threat of aids kept at bay by a pill:

canaries in the meth mine

.

obsessed with economics, politics and war

in the post AIDS era

humanity is walking blindly through the open door

of liberated sexual behaviour:

we need to talk about the second sexual revolution

understand the pandora’s box we’ve opened

the canaries in the meth mine

are dying because sexuality is still not understood

.

a man’s body is a miracle

his love is a gateway to heaven

as loving brothers gay men could be changing the world

welcoming young men into a healthy, respectful, conscious scene:

we need to face our demons to free our minds and hearts

meet each man with love if we wish our sexual activities to nourish our souls

the shame was imposed on us, the guilt and the fear

it’s time we shook off these wounds

that led us into aids and lead into addiction

for we have the power to create a world built on love of man for man

it’s a simple and divine plan

.

the manifest curse is decimating us

as the manifest disease did before

but healing comes when we embrace every aspect of life as divine play

and drop the constant craving for more

the healing comes when we find queer family, queer friends

with whom our heart aligns and we share the best times

the healing comes when we remember love

is what drove us to come out in the first place

.

the healing comes when we remember we are spirit

here to live out a dream

we weren’t born for suffering 

we are GAY, we are lovers of life Herself

but we need to urgently attend to our own spiritual, emotional and mental health

in 50 years since Stonewall we have manifested a global revolution

but our community contains suffering, abuse and pain

as we are celebrating our massive achievements in just 5 decades

we must seek to change the narrative told in the world, the narrative about who we are

no longer the outcasts, the perverted, the sick

we are the wounded healers, we are artists and seekers:

it’s time for us to truly claim our worth

and see an end to the manifest curse

canaries in the meth mine:

scouts on the extreme edge of the second sexual revolution

and all of us

need to remember

a gay man ultimately seeks to feel and know the god inside him through the love of another man

Healing Power of the Drum

“A new study published in PLoS scientifically validates what so many drum circle participants have already experienced first hand: group drumming produces significant changes in well-being, including improvements in depression, anxiety and social resilience.” http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/group-drumming-better-prozac-study-suggests

It was round a queer pagan fire in a field in Dorset in the year 1999 that I first experienced the expansive joy of group energy united by the drumbeat – a circle of people all revelling in the feeling of being in union, connected by rhythm and emotion and something bigger, knowing that each is having their own experience of this, would describe it in their own unique way, and this fact is perfectly wonderful.

Each human is ultimately a mystic having a relationship with their own inner divinity – and when mystics merge their energy fields, in harmony with nature’s elements, magic is the word for what happens.

Other words might include healing, revealing, seeing, knowing

Uniting the human individuality with the spirit of the drum, the rhythm, the group can loosen blocked emotional energy, clear the mental frequencies, and liberate the spirit. It can rebalance the inner world, it’s good for our mental health.

samhain ancestor shrine at london radical faerie drum circle

Allowing the energy to rise and fall

Listening is the key to tuning in

The mind naturally takes a back seat

as the heart and spirit move into the dance with the drum

The body revealed as ecstatic vehicle

of the lightbeing you are and always have been

Step into eternity

Allow the elements to restore and renew you

All life is One Dance, One Power, One Strength

Flowing through you, me, space, time and mind

In the rhythm we find our way home

Humans have always communed this way.

2017-12-02 – London, UK : Albion Faeries Drum Circle and Al Head Book Launch

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