23 faerie folk gathered in Worthing on the south coast of England on the 7th April to mark the centenary of the birth of HARRY HAY, key figure in the origin of faerie community, in the town of his birth. Born of American parents, Harry’s family lived for a few years after his birth in South America then settled in California.
Childhood encounters with native americans introduced Harry to tribal ways and opened his eyes to a magical/spiritual presence in life, which was to greatly influence his later activity bringing gay men into nature to form loving circles where healing, awakenings and revelations would occur. A true and radical alternative to the commercial drive behind much of emerging gay life, faerie gatherings since 1979 have been places where gay men, and increasingly other queer folk too, shake off the inheritance of shame and guilt that society has imposed on us, and find our own special connections to the earth, to spirit and to each other.
Harry was politically motivated – active in the communist party until the witchhunts of the Mc Carthy era, he sought to work towards a brotherhood of man, built on egalitarian principles and love. He was influenced by the works of Edward Carpenter, the English writer who was the first to offer the notion that men who love men – he called us the Uranians, or the ‘intermediate types’ – bring special qualities and gifts to humanity. Edward postulated that gay men would be part of a ‘vanguard’ of humanity transforming the focus of human endeavour away from the urge to make money, instead putting love and relationships at the centre of human existence. Edward met and was greatly influenced by Walt Whitman, the american poet whose vision was that the ‘brotherly love of comrades’ would bring about true democracy and peace.
Harry pursued this line of thinking and suggested that gays might form ‘a separate people whose time has come’….. in order to find the talents and gifts we bring to humanity he urged us to shake off ”the ugly frogskin of conformity’ and ‘reveal the beautiful prince or princess within you.’
Harry’s ideas developed over several decades. In the 1950s he was a key figure in the creation of the first organisation campaigning for gay rights – the Mattachine Society. Very quickly the society was taken over by conservative, assimilationist types who pushed Harry out of the picture due to his associations with the communists. Harry’s focus became instead an exploration and reaching for the loving core of gay nature. He was part of a ‘Circle of Loving Companions’ for many years, working out principles and ideas that would later influence faerie heart circles and gatherings.
By the mid 1970s ‘faery’ was a word being used in the USA and UK by gay men who saw themselves as connected in some way to spirit and magic, experiencing this connection through their own gender fluidity, or a calling to be part of nature. Faeries were already criticising and stepping aside from the conformity and commercialism of gay life, finding sacred groves in which to meet, where faerie ways of relating and celebrating could be discovered. The first faerie gathering happened in a desert sanctuary near Tucson, Arizona, in 1979, billed as a ‘spiritual conference for gay men’, and since then faerie gatherings have happened across the world and there are permanent sanctuaries on three continents.
Gay scenes around the world have flourished and grown as more and more people have felt empowered to come out in a changing world. Built around profit, alcohol and glorification of the body beautiful, these scenes can however be rather cold and heartless. While providing a space for us sensitive souls to meet in safety, free from fear of attack and abuse, the scene is also a place that toughens us up as we deal with realities of rejection, bad attitudes, excessive drug use etc. Coming out opens up doorways to pleasure, love and self-discovery, but the shortage of compassion, spiritual awareness or sense of inner light and purpose amongst gay people means that our scenes provide little sense of united community, the only common factors between us often being the search for the next high or the next fuck. Gay people display very little common understanding of who we are other than as party people and lovers. Yet this urge to celebrate and to love can be just the start of an exploration of the spirituality that oozes from us once we dare to be open our hearts, heal our wounds and become aware that our passion for blissful experience and hunger for love comes from deep within the soul.
In faerie space we explore love by opening up to share the stories that lie in our hearts. We have space to discover and explore an innate love for nature that has often been smothered in our city based lives. We learn how nature loves us, and we get to experience powerful waves of love expanded beyond the focus of a single partner into the wide, compassionate and wise arms of community – and we still might find a special one to journey deeply into love with, gaining increasing awareness that love is a prime creative force that makes us grow. Moving beyond stories of attachment, possessiveness, jealousy and fear, love really can set us free. Just as our physical muscles are ripped through exercise, producing pain which leads to growth, so our emotional selves grow through the trials and wonders of love. When we have strong muscles in our emotional bodies we can become powerful channels of love into the world. In this respect, faerie life is part of a new evolutionary stage for humanity, as we learn to make love rather than fear the starting point of our relationships with other people and the planet, and experience the transformative energy that emerges when a community of folk is united through the heart.
It is a tough challenge for many of us to let go of the rational bias of our upbringing and enter through the doorway of intuition into the magical/spiritual level of life on earth. But most of us faeries lived in that place as children – we sensed the magic in nature and felt part of it. When we go into trust, open our hearts and let our wounds be healed, the child in us also comes back to play, bringing his spontaneous, bright and joyful energy into our lives. Through his eyes we see the beautiful patterns that give rise to our experience of life – through his sensitivity we experience that we are all connected, all part of a single journey that is love and life. Perhaps this is the most important feature of faerie life – helping us to shake off not only the hetero-imitative behaviours we have picked up, but also to clear the blocks that get in the way of the emergence of our natural divine being with its mystical powers and awareness. We do not have to live as isolated, lonely, entities – only when we are centred in the mind can we see life in this way. Faerie life gets us in touch with the feelings that unite us all, and shows that gay people have much in the way of love, healing and wisdom to bring to the planet.