An essay summarising some of my historical research into the spiritual roles played by Queers throughout human history appears in a new anthology of writing, just published and available from Cutlines Press and other places, including a Kindle version retailing at around a dollar! Excerpt and links to book below
ARCANE PERFECTION is a collection of essays, poetry, art, rage, love, rituals, spells, and musings by, for, and about Queer, Trans, and Intersex Witches. The book began as a coven project to further curate the Witchery of our Queer, Trans, and Intersex members, and then the project was expanded to encompass Queer, Trans, or Intersex people from around the world. – See more at: http://www.cutlinespress.com/articles/26/arcane-perfection-an-anthology-by-queer-trans-intersex-witches#sthash.8CtawT6l.dpuf
Arcane Perfection mixes personal stories with mythology, spiritual and political visions, and actual witchcraft, including rituals and spells such as the “Queer Sovereignty Spell for Pride, Power and Protection,” and the “Deadname Decoy Spell.” Articles like “Queer Bears & Berserkers,” “Candles for Queer Magic,” “The Transgender Body as Holy and Liminal Witchcraft,” and “A Trans Positive Ritual Space” are some of the explorations of queer- and trans-centric magickal practice. – See more at: http://www.cutlinespress.com/articles/26/arcane-perfection-an-anthology-by-queer-trans-intersex-witches#sthash.8CtawT6l.dpuf
Here is an excerpt from my essay…..
WE ARE THE OLD PEOPLE, WE ARE THE NEW PEOPLE
Sexual practices and homosexual priests and priestesses were normal in the pagan religion of the ancient world. Pan, Dionysis, Aphrodite were among the deities worshipped sometimes in single sex cults. When Roman Emperor Hadrian’s young lover Antinous died mysteriously while sailing on the Nile, the spirit of Osiris was invoked and Antinous raised to the level of a god. His worship was popular, it spread throughout the empire within a decade and was an attempt to revive the power of the old religion in the face of the competition of the more rigorous new faith, Christianity.
In Scandinavia Seidr was a shamanic practice led by women and feminine men. The word for the femininised nature of these men was ergi, which would become an insulting term as the macho patriarchal Christian culture wiped out the pagan past. It was one of the longest enduring shamanic traditions of Europe, only gradually wiped out by the Christian church.
The suppression of heresies that challenged the rising Christian state and of vestiges of the old pagan religions went hand in hand, and both were associated with sexual libertarianism and the acceptance of same sex activity. The Cathars of southern France are a well-known example, but were just one of many ‘Free Spirit’ movements challenging Christian dominance in the middle ages. The Church opposed the Free Spirit notion that the soul in mystical union with god was unable to sin, whatever it does. From 15 to 17C the dark work of the Inquisition was continued in the witch hunts, which can be seen as a concerted effort to finally wipe out the spiritual power of women and of queer nature men from Europe. In Britain we know it was mostly women who were burnt as witches but across Europe there were also large numbers of men burned for the practice of sorcery.
Of course many spiritually inclined queer men and women were drawn into the Christian church, serving their communities, living in monasteries etc. The monasteries of the Middle Ages saw a flowering of same sex love, and resulted in the church issuing ever more edicts against the sexual consummation of that love. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in England in the 16th century he was able to use the accusation of unnatural sexual practices against the Catholic monks. In the Middle Ages and right up until fairly recent times the sacred potential in same sex love was recognised in the Islamic faith by the Sufis, with much of the world’s great mystical poetry (eg by Rumi, Hafiz) inspired by it. The modern religious taboos against queer people have been created by heterosexual men (whose power comes from physical might not intuitive, spiritual gifts) to suppress our spirit, our power, our expression. But the story isn’t over yet.
Having spent a millennium wiping out the spiritual resonance of same sex love and gender fluid individuals on the old continent, what a shock the European explorers had when they arrived in the new world. They found homosexuality was accepted as perfectly normal amongst the Native American tribes, and that the sacred functionaries of the native peoples were gendervariant individuals. The Europeans called them ‘berdache’, a French word for a passive queer, and this word stuck until the 1990s when the native shamans began to reclaim their power, giving themselves a new name – Two Spirit. And it was not only in north America that the Europeans found this link between gender bending and the spiritual work of the tribe. It was documented also in Africa, south America, Australasia. In China and Japan homosexual practices were seen as privileges of the monastic classes, and when the Jesuits protested at this they were literally laughed out of town.
One tribe in Africa has managed to keep alive its ancient wisdom relating to our kind. Sobonfu and Malidoma Some, teachers from the Dagara of western Africa, speak of gay men as gatekeepers and lesbians as witches. They say that to define a person by their sexual practice is to seriously limit them. They teach that it is entirely normal that a person’s inner gender may be different to the gender of their physical body. They teach that same sex erotic behaviour can be used to unlock gates to spirit, to access non-physical dimensions, and that this is vital work that brings balance and well-being to the whole tribe.
There is a vast history, and a beautiful, miraculous spiritual reality awaiting the queer peoples of planet earth, when we awaken to the deep relationship our souls have with nature and the cosmos. Rejected by religion, many of us are drawn to explore our souls through witchcraft and other magical practices, we are drawn to eastern practices of yoga and meditation, because we sense instinctively that spirituality is about having a personal relationship with creation, with nature, with the cycles of life, and not about obeying the rules set down by churches. Spirituality is about finding and manifesting our true self – which sounds a lot like Coming Out. Queer communities might try embracing coming out as a spiritual act, an act of self-actualisation and a step on the path of self-realisation. Then we might see that being queer is a process of self-discovery, an ever unfolding one in which we never stop growing, discovering and becoming more of who we are.
IImage from The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, 1977.
YOU CAN PURCHASE ARCANE PERFECTION IN PRINT OR KINDLE VERSION FROM: http://www.cutlinespress.com/articles/26/arcane-perfection-an-anthology-by-queer-trans-intersex-witches