In the early 1980s sex suddenly became scary – the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s took a very dark turn. At first known as Gay Cancer or GRID (gay-related-immune-defiency), the world eventually settled on HIV and AIDS as the terms for this deadly manifestation. A brief decade of sexual ‘innocence’, where play was plentiful for those who dared risk the social taboos, dissolved. It soon emerged that it was not only gay men affected – the hiv test revealed the virus to be widespread in Africa too, leading to notions that the virus had somehow spread to humans from monkeys. Some believed the virus had been cooked up in a laboratory specifically to target, and wipe out, black people and gay men. Others were sure there was no virus at all, that the whole thing was made up, perhaps thinking our immune systems were suffering the overload of toxic modern culture.
Mostly overlooked, there is a link between gay men and black Africans – it is that our very nature, our spirit and our self-expression, was denigrated and suppressed by the dominant straight, macho, white male culture of recent centuries. We are two groups carrying a dark and heavy ancestral load in our soul energy. Some ‘new age’ teachers have been much criticised for saying that AIDS is a manifestation of self-hatred, but what the critics are missing is that shame and guilt are deeply programmed into the subconscious culturally, historically and socially. AIDS was, in my direct experience, more than a physical illness – it was a soul crisis, resulting from lack of internal self-belief, balance and yes, self-love, from accumulated mental, emotional and spiritual injuries and blocks.
In the western world AIDS was a spur that got the lesbian and gay movement moving. Activism was stepped up, coming out became a big thing, our pride celebrations grew rapidly. We knew we had to fight for our rights or risk being pushed back into the millennium of relentless repression we were emerging from. The LGBT community gained a lot of political influence and social acceptance through its passionate and compassionate response to the AIDS crisis.
Those of us on the front line of the epidemic, the People With AIDS (PWAs), had to work out our own methods to cope with a terminal diagnosis and crippling infections. Community meeting points opened up such as the Lighthouse in west and the Landmark in south London. Here we could access complementary therapies and learn things from each other. We caught on to the notion of positive thinking, engaging the power of the mind to lighten the tough experience of encroaching sickness and impending death.
Some of us took this even further. I
was 30 years old when AIDS started to hit me hard, and I was hit by a
surge of anger at my fate. I had become an atheist at the age of 12
but now I needed somewhere to direct my anger, so I decided to ask
the fundamental questions about life that the modern, rational,
scientific, entertainment-driven world had kept me distracted from
until this point.
Like many reasonable people I had
looked at religion as a teenager and found it lacking. I rejected
notions of God and just got on with my life. Now I needed answers –
why are we born in the first place if just to die from disease? A
graduate in History from Cambridge University, I knew how to tackle
this subject. I went to the source materials – ancient teachings
from all the world’s religions, magical paths and mystical teachers,
plus modern new age writers and psychedelic gurus. I started to
meditate and make my own simple rituals. As my mind opened up I saw
that all the world’s holy teachings were basically saying the same
thing, acknowledging an underlying reality of consciousness – unity
– love and bliss that gives rise to all creation, a reality that
most of the world is completely asleep to. I saw that giving this
divine dimension a gender and a personality was not necessary at all,
but that doing so might help us to form an emotional relationship
with it. I discovered devotional practice, and through opening my
heart to the spirit world I received massive waves of inspirational,
healing, revelatory energies.
My understanding of life changed and through that my experience of it shifted too. My inner perspective moved from that of the little me-self, to a broader soul consciousness that embraces our eternal nature as manifestations of the divine Self in creation – just like the whole universe is. We humans are uniting the material, mental, emotional and energetic (spirit) dimensions of Creation – this is such an awesome, divine, undertaking, one that deserves some conscious attention, to be widely understood and discussed, yet I had been brought up to believe none of this.
Now the world is teetering like never
before. Humanity and our planet are facing a crisis of apocalyptic
proportions. As an AIDS survivor I know what that can feel like at
times -as the encroaching dis-ease worsens and we scurry around for
anything that might help, we may even find ourselves getting very
angry at this horrifying road humans seem hell bent on pursuing.
This could get very nasty – but it can also be a turning point in
our civilisation, where we face the big questions of life head on.
AIDS triggered me to pursue the spiritual search – so intense was my longing that even in my darkest hours I was attuned to the love-presence of the divine within me – I went on to recover and to re-enter life as a transformed being, who now seeks to assist the growth of spiritual intelligence, compassion and liberation in the world. Like many who have a Near Death Experience (a slow motion one in my case, lasting a couple of years), I returned to life with a sense of purpose that was previously lacking.
AIDS brought me a Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self – looking at the crises rocking the world today it seems to me we are all being pushed to the edge of destruction, a place where we might finally face ourselves and heal our separation from the planet, from spirit and each other. We may be, one way or another, heading for an Accelerated Collective Discovery of Self – the underlying unity of life will eventually demand to be know and will push us kicking and screaming to that point –
OR WE COULD LISTEN TO THE MYSTICAL
VOICES THROUGHOUT TIME THAT LEFT THEIR TEACHINGS OF UNITY
AND TO THE EXPERIENCES OF AIDS, CANCER,
NDE AND OTHER SURVIVORS
WHO ARE GETTING ACCELERATED UPGRADES IN
AWARENESS, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING IN THIS LIFETIME
AND CUT THE FIGHTING, CUT THE GREED,
CUT THE ABUSE, CUT THE ALIENATION, CUT THE DESTRUCTION
AND CHANGE LIFE ON EARTH RIGHT NOW.
In 2017 I published AIDS
Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening,
a collection of my mystical poetry and drawings plus quotations from
gay ancestors and spiritual teachers.
And just published:
AIDS Shaman 2: Through the Veils
is now also available, in print or e book from
MONDAY OCTOBER 28TH, 2030 GMT. Queer Spirit Channel on YouTube.
My intention with AIDS Shaman 2: Through the Veils is threefold
To encourage more conversation about CONSCIOUSNESS, the thing that we all have in common, the thing that we are – also the thing that the collective belief system of the modern world – science – has so little to say about. Although quantum physics is revealing the same truths proposed by mystics since long ages past, there are some scientists who try to prove consciousness is a by product of the material evolution, ignoring the millennia of research into the deep, true nature of existence by the many proud and profound spiritual traditions of the world.
To expand awareness of the role that same sex erotic love and gender-variance has played in the spiritual life of the species – among shamanic tribal peoples, the ancient pagan faiths of the Middle East and Europe, and also in the sexually repressed father religions too – and so encourage conversation about the roles of queer people in the world today, as we stand up for our rights and grow to discover the power in our queer spirit.
To inspire more communion with the dead, our ancestors (who are so much closer than we think), to celebrate them, and through knowing them finding the strength to release our fears about dying and open to a bigger, brighter understanding of our own being and the joy of being alive.
My hope is to get people thinking, talking and growing.
The mysteries of consciousness are ours to explore:
we are each the inheritors of everything that has gone before.
UPON A TIME
the worlds lived together
was no separation between matter and spirit
talked daily to the dead
the trees, the plants, the animals
remembered to honour the faerie elementals
who kept nature in balance.
was the Roman Emperor, not the Church
eradicated reincarnation from the Christian worldview
priests seized the spiritual power that had long belonged to the
women, transgender and queer peoples,
priests claimed to hold the keys to heaven:
of ecstatic rites that brought people in touch
went to church to hear the preacher
them God could only be known after death
only if they obeyed the Church’s rules in life…
The biggest threat to the military industrial complex
the people remembering that I am another You
You are another Me:
through the lies, all the way to infinity.
we think we know will change –
can live multidimensionally
the dance of synchronicity
the knots and blocks in our souls
the remembrance of ONENESS our greatest goal
again the holy Whole
one of us has a role.
CAME TO US TO BE
END OF DISEASE
GATEWAY TO ETERNITY
is my message and I will say it over and over
IS NO DEATH
IS NO SEPARATION
time has come to break down the old paradigms
defeat the darkness that grips the world
time has come to birth a new humanity
puts love, cooperation and peace at the centre of the play
world is gripped by darkness and fear
the solution to all our woes has always been here
in our hearts.
“The position that gay people take in society, the function we so often choose, is that of mediator between worlds….. In a tribal environment, this means shape shifting into wolves, birds, stones, wind and translating their wisdoms for the benefit of the people of the tribe… in the long patriarchal history that has gradually enveloped the world’s people, the gay function has been to make crossover journeys between gender-worlds, translating, identifying and bringing back the information ……..gay culture is always on the cusp of each intersecting world or way of life, on the path between one world and another.”JUDITH GRAHN
can open the gates to heaven,
part of what gay sex is actually for
the grand scheme of creation –
what we were honoured for
pagan temples around the world,
phallus was the symbol of God,
body was holy in the age of the Goddess –
temple of the spirit divine
the task in the 21st century
is to renew this understanding for this time.
AIDS Shaman Books 1 and 2 are available in print and ebook versions from
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 inThe Gnostic Apostle Thomas:Chapter 24, Saying 22
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.
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 theenareepriest/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 theenarees to be a divine blessing (though he tried to argue it was because of too much horse riding leading to impotence.)
The termenaree 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.
Historians point out that the militaristic Scythians both respected/feared and at the same time ridiculed theenarees. 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.