At the Stonewall Riot in New York 1969 the Queers fought back. Enough of the persecution, enough of the shame and fear, enough of the denial of our Queer Spirit. We stepped into Pride and began a journey of self-acceptance that kicked off a global process, which, 50 years later, is in full swing. As our Pride gatherings around the world we declare loud and clear – we are a rainbow people who celebrate freedom, love and self-expression. A people rising from the ashes of a conflagration against our kind that has lasted for far too long and now has to end…
For gay men, 1969-1981 were the Gay Garden of Eden years, not that many on the planet actually got to enjoy them. Homophobia was deep-rooted in just about all the cultures of the planet by this time, having been spread by Christian European explorers seeking to break the spirit of the cultures they came into contact with – for as the world opened up, the shocked Europeans found cross-dressing, gender-bending, sodomising shamans, witches and priests everywhere. They did not know that in ancient times the religious life of Europe and the Middle East had been just as queer.
The 1970s tide of gay liberation was riding on the tailwind of hippy culture and the sexual revolution – so, while for many queers the new sexually free atmosphere was enough, for some this whirlwind of counter-cultural energies opened up a very radical vision of the role of gay, lesbian and trans/non-binary/genderqueer people in society. While many sought to fit in and be accepted by society at large, the radical edge of the queer community was seeking something more. Those on that edge found that the way into this exploration of our true, and long denied, nature was through our hidden spiritual history, and certain gay men were to push this search forwards.
San Franscisco was of course a hotbed of this essentialist wave – in 1975 the ‘Faery Circle’ was called into being there by Arthur Evans to explore the magical roots of queer consciousness. His 1978 book ‘Witchcraft and the Gay Counter-Culture’ (‘A Radical View of Western Civilization and Some of the People it Has Tried to Destroy’) opened up understanding of the connections between patriarchal religious control and the suppression of the feminine/mystical/magical pagan past. He argued that the role of gay men today is to re-establish our communication with nature and the Great Mother, to feeling the essential link between sex and the forces that hold the universe together.
Larry Michell‘s inspired piece of queer literature, also from ’78, ‘The Faggots and their Friends between Revolutions‘ spotted that the motives behind this suppression of the spirit were political,-
“The first revolutions destroyed the great cultures of the women. Once the men triumphed, all that was other from them was considered inferior and therefore worthy only of abuse and contempt and extinction. Stories told of these times are of heroic action and terrifying defeat and silent waiting. Stories told of these times make the faggots and their friends weep. The second revolutions made many of the people less poor and a small group of men without color very rich. With craftiness and wit the faggots and their friends are able to live in this time, some in comfort and some in defiance. The men remain enchanted by plunder and destruction. The men are deceived easily and so the faggots and their friends have nearly enough to eat and more than enough time to think about what it means to be alive as the third revolutions are beginning.”
Life-long activist Harry Hay founded the first gay rights group the Mattachine Society in the 1950s, but was edged out quickly as gay men who sought conventionality and assimilation into polite society took it over. In the ’60s he set up the ‘Circle of Loving Companions‘ and by the 1970s he was totally focussed on the unique gifts that queerkind bring to humanity. He had become convinced that our sexuality was intrinsically related to the spirit realms, –
“Our beautiful lovely sexuality is the gateway to spirit. Under all organised religions of the past, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, there has been a separation of carnality, or shall we say of flesh or earth or sex, and spirituality. As far as I am concerned they are all the same thing, and what we need to do as faeries is to tie it all back together again.”
These 1970s visionaries were getting bold. In Witchcraft and the Gay Counter-Culture, Evans declared, –
“We look forward to regaining our ancient historical roles as medicine people, healers, prophets, shamans and sorcerers. We look forward to an endless and fathomless process of coming out – as gay people, as animals, as humans, as mysterious and powerful spirits that move through the life cycle of the cosmos….. Like butterflies we are emerging from the shells of our past restricted existence. We are re-discovering the ancient magic that was once the birth right of all human beings. We are re-learning how to talk to the worms and the stars. We are taking flight on the wings of self-determination. Come, blessed Lady of the Flowers, Queen of Heaven, creator and destroyer, Kali – we are dancing the dance of your coming.”
Out of this swirling pool of potential was born the first Radical Faerie gathering, which took place in a desert sanctuary in Arizona in September 1979. It was billed as a ‘Spiritual Conference‘ aiming to explore “the spiritual dimensions of gayness” – 220 men got to this gathering, sat and listened to each other’s stories, found a common love of nature and the, now global, Radical Faerie Community was born. Arthur Evans described faeries as demonstrating a “gay sensibility, neo-paganism, and a sheer Whitmanesque celebration of the body and of sex.”
The reference to Whitman refers to the person considered to be America’s greatest poet, Walt, who in the 19th century had dared to write down his vision of a future democracy living in peace due to the strong loving bonds between men. He wrote, –
“Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.”
Whitman opened the doors to the celebration of the body as holy through works like ‘I sing the Body Electric’. As a gay man he saw that the denial of the pleasures of the flesh that religion imposed on society cut humanity off from its divine potential, –
“Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from, The scent of these armpits is aroma finer than prayer, This head more than churches, bibles and all the creeds… if I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body”
Mitch Walker carried this theme in the ’70s, publishing ‘Men Loving Men: Gay Sex Guide and Consciousness Book‘ in 1977, concluding it with a section on the mystical potential in gay love and sex to reveal to us the divine play of consciousness in the universe.
“When we fall in love with another man we’re getting in touch with an unconscious spirit-source, by evoking it in our beloved. We can follow this magic inside us back to its source, and use it to uncover our real nature.”
19th century European pioneers of queer consciousness also had grand visions of our role in society, and from the first stirrings of self-conscious gay sensibility proclaimed a link to the spiritual. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in Germany and Edward Carpenter in England used the term ‘Uranian‘ to refer to gay men, lesbians and all, what they termed ‘intermediate types‘, seeking to connect us to the perceived nobility of ancient Greek culture – Urania being a form of the Goddess Aphrodite particularly concerned with spiritual love. Carpenter published the results of his research as ‘Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk’ in 1914, exploring examples from America, feudal Japan, the cross-dressing, sodomising Qedesha goddess priests of the Middle East so hated by the ancient Hebrews, and also same sex Christian unions in the Balkans. Carpenter dared to write about the link between same-sex love and the shamanic practitioners in tribal cultures – although this link had not been lost on the European explorers arriving in the New World from the 15th century onwards: discovering that the spiritual power in the tribes was held by gender-bending, same sex loving individuals they set about destroying that power by spreading their Christian judgement of effeminacy and sodomy – they called the holy shamans ‘berdache’, a French word for the passive partner in that act. This term stuck until the 1990s when the shamans chose the word ‘Two-Spirit‘ to replace it, this term having resonance with the some 500 words Native American cultures had once used.
By 1990 of course the gay male community was deep in the middle of a crisis that threatened every gain we had made. AIDS ravaged our world, making the magical promises of the 1970s seem far away. “Come, blessed Lady of the Flowers, Queen of Heaven, creator and destroyer, Kali – we are dancing the dance of your coming” said the emerging queer witches of the Eden decade – and She came: dark, ferocious, deadly. The Goddess came as darkness because she had been banished into darkness by patriarchal religion for a very long time. We, her queer priests, servants, lovers and fools no longer knew who we were, we no longer knew what we could do with our sexuality, what it could bring to the world. In a secular, religiously conflicted age, nobody seems to remember who the queer ones are. Which is why we need time and space, in our own sacred groves and healing sanctuaries, to explore within ourselves, to find out.
Harry Hay said, –
“Out of the mists of our long oppression,
We bring love for ourselves and each other,
And love for the gifts we bear,
So heavy and so painful the fashioning of them,
So long the road given us to travel them. A separate people,
We bring a gift to celebrate each other,
‘Tis a gift to be gay!
Feel the pride of it!”
In the 1980s and 90s our energies had to be channelled away from potential and into pure survival, and this period also revealed just how deep-rooted was societal homophobia and how much work there was to be done on political, legal and social levels before we, or the rest of the world, could really start to take on board the journey to spiritual liberation that is the logical and ultimately inevitable end place of the journey of sexual liberation that began in the 1960s. This political work has continued since the advent of effective medicine to treat HIV, with equal marriage rights spreading through the western world – and producing a backlash in Africa and other countries, which has served to put the question of our rights and our identity into a global focus.
The quest for queer spirited conscious community has been going on on the sidelines of gay life throughout this time. Two years after the first Radical Faerie gathering the first permanent Faerie sanctuary was founded, at Short Mountain in Tennessee, and in the four decades since there have been other sanctuaries established in the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe, plus gatherings in Israel, Thailand and China. As a group of mainly gay men, the Faeries have been one of the few outfits celebrating the feminine, cissy side of our nature, in contrast to the enduring machismo obsessed mainstream gay culture, and over the decades the Faeries have become more diverse, and how could they not, since themes of gender play and transcendence of limiting human beliefs are a big part of faerie magic.
In fact as we approach the 2020s there are way more gay men involved in the spiritual search than there were back in the 1970s, a fact that is reflected in the number of books on gay spirit that have been published since, by authors including Toby Johnson, Mark Thompson, Andrew Harvey, Christian de la Huerta. Men’s spirituality is growing up and there is perhaps now a chance for gay male spirituality to join with the other tributaries of queer spirituality to find their common ground.
In this essay I have had a lot to say about the gay male journey through these decades. The parallel stories to be told are those of the lesbians in the Goddess movement, of their radical history of protest and community building at Greenham Common and through Spiral Camp and Women’s Land etc, and of the emergence of the Trans/Non-binary identities, with the subsequent reclaiming of the spiritual power going on there also, via the work of Raven Kaldera, Bright Daffodil and other. The vision behind the brand new Queer Spirit Festival, which launched in 2016, is to bring together all the queer tribes under the rainbow of our united quest for spiritual knowledge and liberty. The joined prayers and healing that we experience when we come together are for ourselves and for all our kind across the planet.
Meanwhile the mainstream gay universe has not woken up to any sense of spiritual growth yet, it generally continues its flirtation with the commercially driven, marriage-approving, patriarchal military-industrial complex and doesn’t give attention to the magical paths of self-discovery that many queers choose to explore. Gay media over the years has looked at the efforts of gays in established religions to find acceptance, but little to the radical, nature-based pagan faerie celebrations or to gays who seek self-awareness through magical practices, yoga or meditation, or even psychedelics for that matter – the sacraments that our gay culture subtly promotes encourage us to self indulgence not self discovery. In London the Connections conferences of the late 1990s and LoveSpirit in the early 2010s brought hundreds of queers together to share their spiritual interests, but against the huge tide of intoxication and indulgence that continues to sit at the centre of gay culture they had little impact.
The trend was clear from the 1970s – an obsession with the physical aspect of who we are puts sex firmly in the centre of the picture for gay men, and things are not so different at the end of the second decade of the 21st century. For trans people also, the focus on the physical aspect of the process can mean the ancient, spiritual roots of trans nature are completely overlooked. But now the gay mainstream is increasingly aware that the superficial is not after all supreme and is looking for answers to the ongoing sense of crisis in gay life – some go so far as to say that the spread of drug use among men who have sex with men, with resultant addictions, crises and deaths is a second plague amongst us.
So many reasons underlie this drug using trend, and are much discussed elsewhere – but one underlying factor that isn’t yet properly grasped is that humanity has always used substances to open the inner being and commune with the spirit realms of existence. Gay men, liberated sexually in age that doesn’t recognise the spiritual reality within us, using Tina etc are turning their own gifts on themselves, cutting off their natural ability to commune and empathise with others soul to soul, using drugs that feed the ego (as opposed to those which open the heart or consciousness). The drugs enable some men to forget their minds, their issues, their fears and enjoy the moment of ecstatic connection, but they gradually lose the ability to find that natural bliss through empathic loving connection to others. Only nature can restore this gift to us once lost, and I believe that in our faerie sanctuaries, and our queer spirit enclaves wherever they may pop up, we offer the healing, the insight and understanding that is needed to bring the LGBTIQ+ community to a level of self-awareness that will change things, and that will reverberate strongly around the world, bringing a revolution in understanding and a new mythology about Who We Are on a global level.
It is in Chechnya, and Uganda, Nigeria and Egypt, in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and too many other places that our queer sisters and brothers are most in need of this change of consciousness, in places where the homophobia imposed and justified by religions is still having its evil effects. We in the west have our issues to sort out, but we also have a freedom to explore our queer spirit that was never there before – and this time round, unlike the 1970s, when the queer spirit was first attempting to burst forth, we are five decades into a journey of liberation. We survived the AIDS holocaust, and grew through the experiences of that time, we have had a chance to mature somewhat and accept this journey is a longer one than some at first thought.
Queer Spirituality is the next step for the global upsurge of difference that has for five decades been daring to proudly declare its name… but it is slow to make an impact on mainstream gay male life because MANY OF THE PIONEERING, RADICAL QUEER MEN WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN PART OF THIS REVOLUTION IN CONSCIOUSNESS DIED OF AIDS.
This was history repeating itself. The shamans were culled and as a result the people, ie the wider gay community, has become lost in an ocean of substance abuse, just as happened to the tribal peoples when the Europeans took over. But shamans are born in every generation, and some of us – just a crucial few – survived the plague, and we are here to tell some tales.
I am an one such AIDS survivor who used my sick years to question reality, to become aware of Kali, the Great Mother, shrouded in darkness for so many centuries, and to receive her visions of gay love, seeking to find fellow explorers of the Goddess mysteries and be ready for the next resurgence of the queer phoenix, of queer spirit, calling us to know, love and BE our true, liberated, horny, magical, queer Selves. As an organiser of Queer Spirit Festival I am excited to sounding this call, on behalf of queerkind of all genders, sexualities, races and nations.
hiding in temples, then theatres,
monasteries, molly houses
we knew all along
our time would come again.
In Mesopotamia, in the temples of
the God Enki created the Galla, the
name means penis-anus,
priests made to serve the Great Goddess
of Love and War
In Turkey we were Gallae, serving Great
Mother Cybele for millennia,
spreading into Greece, Rome and around
long haired, bejewelled, loud and
leading ecstatic, raucous celebrations
for hundreds of years:
beloved of the people and feared by the
crushed to extinction by the Christians
in the 4th century –
but the Jewish Kings were at it first –
over 1000 years before…
in Palestine we were Qedesha, Anointed
Ones, and sodomy was our service
in the temples of Asherah, we were
rounded up and massacred.
Muslim leaders did the same, wiping out
goddess worshipping people
and her genderqueer priest/esses as
they spread the
dictatorship of the Father God.
YET HERE’S THE THING…..
A sacred black meteorite was worshipped as Cybele’s symbol in her temple in Anatolia for thousands of years
and was brought to Rome in 200 BCE,
installed with great fanfare in a new temple
as the Magna Mater was welcomed as the official deity of the Roman Empire.
She was served by the genderqueer Gallae priest/esses who spread her worship across the whole Empire, Cybele was loved as the Great Mother from Turkey to Britain, across north Africa as well as southern Europe, and her long-haired, bejewelled, loud and lewd queer priests were loved by the people, feared by the authorities because of the wild, sexual and bloody dionysian-like ritual celebrations they threw.
This Goddess religion was the major rival to Christianity – and the Church adopted a fiercely homophobic attitude to distance itself from the hated pagans. But its priests had to be celibate, because priests were not expected to have partners and children (they’d always been gay), and the Pope adopted and still wears the mitre headdress of the arch-Gallus, the High Priestess of Rome.
When Rome collapsed the Great Mother’s holy stone ‘disappeared’
But a sacred black stone, which “came down from Jannah (Paradise).” (At-Tirmidhi, Sunan, hadith no. 877) was installed by Mohammed at the Kaaba in Mecca not long after, in 605 AD –
this oldest mosque itself was placed on
the site of an ancient pagan temple –
and to this day, Moslems flock to visit
that may well be the meteorite held
sacred to the Mother Goddess for many millennia.
Note too that in India the great god Shiva, who is both male and female, is worshipped as a black phallic rock, the shiva lingam.
Astrology is a 5000 year old wisdom tradition that teaches us about the nature, purpose and direction of life on Earth. It gives us a set of tools which can be used to know ourselves, to heal, develop and find fulfilment during our earth-bound incarnations. It works because we live in a fractal universe of repeating patterns that can be understood – these patterns operate on mental, emotional, spiritual and physical dimensions.
It is usually stated that astrology developed in the Babylonian and Egyptian empires around 2-3000 years BCE (and independently at same time, or even earlier in India and China). Alexander the Great’s conquests brought the Greeks into contact with these older eastern cultures, and from the 4th century BCE astrology grew to be a respected science in Greece. From there it was imported into Roman culture, and as Rome collapsed the Islamic faith enthusiastically embraced the science of the stars. In Europe astrology entered a dark age until the 12/13th century, when Islamic texts were enthusiastically translated and astrology adopted as a medical tool. In the Renaissance astrology was riding high. By 1500 physicians across Europe were expected to calculate the position of the moon before undertaking medical procedures. Christianity disapproved of course, but only in regard to personal horoscopes and destiny – it was considered ok to use it for medical and other practical purposes, eg weather forecasts!
The development of astronomical observations of the heavens from the 16th century onwards and the rise of rationalism diminished the belief in astrology, but at the start of the 21st century the science of the stars is probably more widespread and popular than ever before. The vogue for sun-sign horoscopes that developed in the mid 20th century has given way to a much broader exploration, with vast numbers of astrologers broadcasting on YouTube. The internet has made astrology accessible to all, with birth charts easy to cast online, and an appreciation growing that daily horoscopes are just skimming the surface – one of the great tools astrology gives us is to know what energies are affecting the subtle emotional, mental, energetic frequencies underlying our experience every day.
Why this surge of astrological interest? Simply put – because it works. Monotheistic religion has been exposed as a control system put in place by the patriarchy, forcing people to obey a Father God. Astrology is one of the tools of the Mother Goddess, and was originally practised in her temples. The Goddess offers personal liberation through knowledge and experience, not salvation gained through faith in an external being. In the 21st century the lies of religion, and inadequacies of materialism, are prompting vast numbers of people to turn to the path of self-discovery, to seek wisdom and deep connection to the planet, spirit and other people. There is no better tool than astrology for anyone called to this path. There are no absolutes in astrology – it is a science but also an art, it requires knowledge but also intuition and interpretation. There is a lot to learn, but even knowledge of the basics can improve our quality of life.
The SUN takes 12 months to traverse the zodiac, beginning its journey at the Spring Equinox. Each month of the astrological year has a distinct energy, which we can tune into within ourselves, in order to explore and develop that aspect of our personality.
The MOON completes this 12 stage journey every month, spending 2.5 days in each sign, from which we can interpret underlying emotional energies affecting us all. A the moon journeys from new to full to dark phases, so do our energy bodies – the Moon influences our emotional and spiritual nature, its position in the birth chart tells us a lot about ‘who we are’ and therefore any horoscope reading simply based on the Sun sign is extremely limited.
MERCURY, VENUS AND MARS in the birth chart give us insight into key personality traits – Mercury is the archetype of communication, Venus of love and beauty, Mars of action. Awareness of their movements through the signs helps us to navigate the subtle energies affecting these areas of our lives.
JUPITER AND SATURN were once regarded as supremely important because of the powerful background energies that affect the whole world at once. Jupiter is seen as the expansive, beneficent energy of the zodiac, while Saturn imposes structure, order and limitation. Jupiter changes sign about every 13 months and Saturn about 3 years. Where they appear in our charts tells us about the presence of these energies in our lives.
URANUS, NEPTUNE, PLUTO were added into the astrological pantheon as they became known, with Uranus (discovered 1763) associated with freedom and revolution, Neptune (1846) with transcendence and mysticism, Pluto with primordial energy, death, rebirth and all that is hidden.
CHIRON, CERES, JUNO, VESTA, PALLAS ATHENA, ERIS are among the newer members of the astrological pantheon. Chiron (1977) is considered the archetype of the wounded healer, its position in our charts shows the shared wound of each generation. Feminine divine presence gets more recognition through these energies: Ceres (1801) was the Roman equivalent of the Greek earth goddess Demeter, like Vesta a sister to Jupiter; Juno (1804), Pallas Athena (1802) are named after Jupiter’s wife and daughter, Eris (2003) the sister of Mars and goddess of discord. Ceres teaches us about our mothering instincts and how to run in harmony with the universal flow; Juno is about soul mates and emotional commitment, marriage and beauty; Vesta a goddess of the hearth, brings focus and dedication; Pallas Athena is a weaver of patterns and gives warrior strength; Eris is an underworld goddess and rules over chaos and discord.
Another female divinity, LILITH is associated with the cosmic void, and is calculated as a position in space between the earth and moon. She is said to relate to the dark side and power of sexuality.
The Sun, Moon and planets journey through the sky from the fire sign Aries through a repeating four step pattern through to water sign Pisces. The pattern is FIRE-EARTH-AIR-WATER. In the first four signs (aries-taurus-gemini-cancer) we explore our individuality, in the next four (leo-virgo-libra-scorpio) we are taken on the journey of relationship, and in the last four (sagittarius-capricorn-aquarius-pisces) the focus shifts to the collective, and our individual place within it.
Emotionally, it is so very useful to know which energy the moon is traversing. Simply put, Fire Moons encourage our enthusiasm, impulsiveness and passions; Earth Moons bring grounding, calm, realism; Air moons are outgoing, social, intellectual and encourage our curiosity; Water Moons are emotional, moody, spiritual and inward pulling.
New Moon is a great time for launching new plans and ideas, because it heralds two weeks of expanding emotional and spiritual energy. At full moon there is an emotional peak, often requiring release in some form, and during waning moon an inward pull calls us to take more rest, more inner time. At dark moon we can purge and renew our energetic fields ready for a new month.
These energies affect us all the time. Becoming conscious of them enables us to navigate the subtle waves – eg to know when it’s good to act, and when good to step back. Consciousness itself is just like the breath, just like the cycle of day and night – there are times of expansion and then of contraction, of light then darkness. Knowing that our experience of life will flow on the same lines helps us to find acceptance. Having an idea through which elemental energies our inner archetypes are channelling into the world can assist to find peace with who we are, with our individuality and the moods we go through. The zodiac opens up awareness of the energies at play in the world, helping to come to peace with our part in the whole, and to make the most of it.
Your Sun is about yourself. Your Moon is your heart. Your
Rising is how you look. Your Mercury is the way you think. Your
Venus is how you love. Your Mars is how you deal with life. Your
Jupiter is your luck. Your Saturn is how you discipline yourself
and your responsibilities. Your Uranus is how unique you are. Your
Neptune is your imagination. Your Pluto is your
transformation. Your Chiron is how you heal. Your Ceres
is how you take care of yourself. Your Pallas is your
relationships. Your Juno is beauty and Influences. Your Vesta
is your potential and your organization. Your North Node is how
you develop in your current life. Your South Node is how you
developed in your past life. Your Midheaven is your career, how
others view you. Your Lilith is your hidden emotions.
Healing involves un-learning so much nonsense that has filled our minds and developing an understanding of ourselves as a multidimensional being. There is nothing more fundamental to human life than the search for who we are, but that’s the last thing we are generally told. Once religion dictated its answers to us and science tends to do the same. Capitalist consumer culture has provided us with the means to easily fill our lives with temporary, gratifying fascinations and ignore the question all together. Things are however changing gradually, as more people are taking steps to think for themselves, and are experiencing their spiritual nature through rituals, medicine plants, meditation, yoga, reiki etc.
Yet gay life is in another crisis, this time it is an epidemic of irresponsible chemically fuelled sexual behaviours among gay men leading to breakdowns, infections, addictions and DEATHS. Increasing numbers of gay men are pushing themselves to the edge.. an edge not so dissimilar from AIDS – many of today’s younger gay generation already know or know of someone who died through drug use. This time no medication is going to save the day.
The reasons for the arrival of this situation are much discussed – but there is a root cause that rarely is – the perspective that we pursue extreme experiences because WE ARE ALL ON A SEARCH FOR THE TRUE SELF, FOR TRANSCENDENT EXPERIENCE THAT GIVES US A TASTE OF THE NATURE OF OUR SOUL. Self-Knowledge is what we all seek, though chances are we have no idea that that is what is going on. Nor do we know that there are easier ways to come to self knowledge than the path of excess and self-destruction. Gay culture could turn this crisis around before it gets even more out of hand by putting the soul at the centre of things. In the last 30 years beautiful gym sculpted bodies have become so prevalent in gay life so by now it is surely time to ask how can we also look after our souls better?
Because a horny physique .. and a shining soul… is a lot sexier than a hot body with an intoxicated, self-hating, spiritually unaware man inside it.
Many queer people like to get high, to love intensely, to explore sexual extremes. Our voyages into ecstasy are openings to our spiritual nature, with the potential to reveal to us the multidimensional, vibrational reality we are part of. Because of the attitudes of religion most of us do not choose to explore the spiritual urges we find on our sexually charged, often chemically enhanced bliss trips, but if we look beyond the limited scope of the commercially driven gay scene there is an ever increasing rainbow of avenues for us to explore and express who we are, one example being Radical Faerie community gatherings. Gay liberation is only 5 decades old, our collective culture has yet to fully evolve. We are big on passion and play but short on compassion and prayer. But we are a spiritual people, finding our way in a world that has denied us for too long, and our journey of liberation is ongoing.
That world is sick and it needs our healing gifts.
This is the calling of the twenty first century queer: to learn to unite the body and soul, the genders within ourselves, the sexual and the spiritual and find the healing role we are here to play in the human family.
HEALING IS VITAL
AIDS SHAMAN, by Shokti, available on Lulu and Amazon
here’s an excerpt:
For me HIV was the key
That revealed the spirit flowing through life
That opened the gates to eternity:
Facing mortality is the quickest way to see through life’s illusions
Befriending death the key to escaping confusion
About why we find our selves here
Why we find our selves queer
And just what is Self anyway?
Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans know
Mystical Christians Jews and Muslims know
That this is the real question to ask
But the modern world doesn’t want to know
It keeps us obsessed with the trivial and inane
It prefers to medicate away all pain
Gay life doesn’t want to ask the question
Of why we born this way on this rock hurtling through space
it’s simpler to take more drugs
Have more sex parties
Devour more flesh
Desire more men
For some this leads to addictions and breakdowns
Has a second plague come upon our kind
But this time the sickness in the heart and mind?
In the 80s and 90s we met death up close
We learnt to face our fears
That way some of us saw there’s more to the mystery of life
Than the modern world wants us to believe
Now we take pills to stem the virus
Now we can take one to prevent it getting a hold in the first place
And we self medicate to hold off hard feelings and fears
It’s so long since the dying days ended
What has happened to us in these years?
I survived the first plague
I turned the key
And now I wonder
When will gay life stop living in the shallow end
How many more casualties will there be?
HIV revealed to me…
We are born to be whole
We are born to be free
We are born to become all we can be
Beings of eternity
But we have to wake up!!!
We have really to face only one thing
Life isn’t about economics, grades, muscles, money and fame
It’s about playing our part in the consciousness game
Writing this in the Autumn of 2018, I am witnessing around me, amongst my friends and in the world, a striking and rapid acceleration of transformation and awakening. I see people breaking through the outworn paradigms of separation and division, of power and control, of religion vs science etc, and opening to co-operation, co-creation, community and direct communion with the many levels of our existence. I observe too how this produces intense crisis for some as well as epiphanies.
The parallels with my personal journey 20 years ago are striking home in me. In the course of 1998 my journey with HIV and AIDS turned the corner. After 7 years of preparing myself to leave the body, I now began to return to health, having gone on to the new protease inhibitor medications. My CD4 count had reached a low of 3, leading to gruelling experiences such as PCP (pneumonia) and KS (Karposi’s Sarcoma). I had sat for some time on the edge of life, with an expectation of the end, but now had to turn that expectation around. 9 months into taking the new meds I suddenly found myself entering a period of rapid internal change, opening up to spirit again as I had already done in 1995, when the shamanic aspects of my soul woke up. This time though I was not preparing for death, I was re-entering life.
The acceleration kicked off at the Connections Conference at ULU (University of London Union), an event put on London’s Gay Spiritual Group, and new gay charity Kairos. A couple of hundred queers met for a day of workshops and discussions. I took along a bag of mystic tricks – poetry that I’d written, mandalas, incense and set them up in a broom cupboard that had been set aside as a shrine room, but which nobody had bothered to do much in. After a day of fascinating meetings and workshops I went on to have a high energy, world-connecting interaction with a brother in that space. Our chakras opened and the light came in, we shared our stories and I learnt that he had just come out of hospital, having been sectioned for being too way out ‘mystical’. At the conference I experienced a powerful shamanic journey led by Daniel Stone (in which I saw myself in another life amongst Native Americans), a heated debate around the role of gurus and divine mothers (where I was struck by the hostility to gurus coming from the queer witches in the room – people I would go on to meet properly the following year at my first visit to Queer Pagan Camp), and met an ‘avatar’ soul, Dr Carl Shapley, an 80 year old American wizard, with whom in the following months I would go on to do much mystical channelling and energy work.
Shifting from a path toward death back into life, with a brand new outlook on the magical, mystery school that we inhabit, produced an incredible rush of excitement in me. After the conference I dived into mystical study and practice, creating ceremonies in my home in Stockwell to commune with other worlds. At this time I received chemotherapy as an experimental treatment for the Karposi’s Sarcoma, which had spread as purple lesions all over by body, plus internally too. I believe it was my gradually strengthening immune system that sorted the purple spots eventually – the main effect of the chemo seemed to be to set the molecules of my body on fire, and my mind as well as a result. I recall spending weeks ‘flying’ on my sofa, on a magic purple/white blanket that served as my portal to the other worlds, drawing my journeys in my notebooks as I went. I was often awake all night, deeply enjoying the quieter vibrations of the city, feeling that at 3-4 am the holiest energies were active and accessible. I spent many nights studying the Kabbalah, feeling the presence of discarnate entities guiding me, helping me create rituals that opened gates of energy. Sometimes Carl Shapley would join me, we would spend the night together in Kali’s cave, channel the words of the Ascended Masters, and enter into a glittering, hyper-aware zone that I remember he called ‘Crystal Consciousness’.
By November I was taking this magic out into the city, sometimes with Carl, and a witch friend from Earlsfield named Serena, whom I had met at a Full Moon ceremony in an old pub in Victoria. We three mystics met in Piccadilly Circus one night, with the spirit wild, high and open in us. I could feel the invisible energy pouring through me and sensed portals opening around Eros. London, as the mystical ‘Jerusalem’, was singing to me. I hung out with homeless people on the streets of Soho, shared conversations about Jesus and spirit, felt they had a role in anchoring the light into the planet. ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’. I went into a Jesus Army bus parked up near St Martin in the Fields, where my presence sparked an African lady to fall into trance and start screaming over and over ‘the blood of our lord Jesus Christ’. The Jesus soldiers soon ushered me out of the place, suspecting me of witchcraft…
Ah yes, the BLOOD. Her words struck home in me. The BLOOD. HIV in the blood had killed my friends, but it had given me life. The journey to death’s door had woken up the Soul in me, and the Soul was now teaching me who and what I am, and why I was here. The BLOOD had woken the Christ Consciousness in me – by which I mean mystical awareness of the interconnecting dance of life. I could now see the interplay of all life as one infinite, holy event – it was suddenly so OBVIOUS. How could anyone believe anything else? I felt that the gates to eternity must be about to open for the whole human race. There I was, awoken by spirit, meeting avatars, making ceremony in central London, and feeling part of a long history of magical work over centuries, preparing this city to be the receptacle for the divine light and the beacon to the world.
In January 1999 Carl invited me to a meeting at the House of Lords. Surely this was it. A spiritual meeting about changing life on earth, I thought. I had a poem in my pocket, but I wasn’t there to speak. I sat through a long and verbose meeting covering many topics, but it never quite reached the mystical moment of breakthrough I had imagined. I was soon walking home along the Thames to Stockwell, my head overloaded suddenly with confusion and loud angry voices. Getting home I smoked with my partner and something in me exploded. All the tension, all the pain, all the stress of the intense AIDS journey of the last 4 years overwhelmed me. What was I doing, going to the House of Lords thinking I was about to witness something akin to the Second Coming? I felt suddenly very wounded and very small. Suddenly aware of the enormity of the task ahead – in terms of the global shift in consciousness and to bring myself to a point of health and strength where I could even meet the energies of other people, and not be damaged – I felt myself dissolving into a non-physical realm, the room disappeared, and I panicked. Had I survived AIDS now to dissolve into nothingness? I fought to come back into my body, but I arrived back in pieces, shattered by this rush of experiences over the few months since I had stopped ‘dying’.
In 2018 I have friends going through mental and emotional challenges and breakdowns, I know lovely people who are sectioned because their transformation was getting out of control. Some of those people are aware they are on a magical path and have studied it deeply, others are less aware, less committed to such a concept. Whether consciously pursuing the path or not, we all may need help sometimes. In January 1999 the shock of coming back to life hit me so hard that I fell into the deepest hole possible…
Overstimulated by everything, with a myriad of voices screaming inside, I spent three months mostly in a darkened room, only getting up in that quietest time in the middle of the night, when I could hear and feel spirit, let their presence in to do energy work on my shattered mind and body. I sought and found help from spiritual healers and psychiatrists. One German psychiatrist seemed to grasp the transformation I had been through, advising me to do yoga and spend time with trees. Having opened up this magical part of my soul, i now had to learn how to look after it, nurture it and protect it. The true healing of this breakdown came the following year, summer 2000, at my second visit to Queer Pagan Camp – here, in the company of 100 queer magical folk, the spirits of nature got through to me and showed that it is through nature, through living in tune and awareness of her cycles, seasons and shifts that I would be able to live, heal and thrive as a shamanic soul.
In 2018, twenty years on from that intensely mystical autumn, I still live in Stockwell and still make ceremonies in the city that connect matter and spirit. I still spend my time making connections with other queers – from all over the world – who are in some way called to raise their awareness, their vibration, their spirit. I still believe that humanity is ready for a quantum leap in understanding of our nature, but I now accept that these kind of leaps take decades to complete. So in service to spirit I create spaces in which awakening queers can find each other, practice and expand our magic, re-write the story of what queerness is, and play our role in the fulfilment of the divine plan for human consciousness.
“The soul has neither beginning nor end. [They] come into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives”– Origen,183-253 A.D.
The two major Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam, deny the reality of reincarnation, but looking back at history we see this denial has more political than spiritual roots. Reincarnation was taken off the Christian agenda at a church council, called by the Roman Emperor Justinian in opposition to the wishes of the Pope (whom the emperor held prisoner at the time), in Constantinople in 553 AD, It did not serve the interests of the political state to have the populace believing in the transmigration of the soul (and in the 21st century it still doesn’t). Internet sources tie in the behind-the-scenes maneuverings Justinians’s wife Theodora, who had her sights on the goal of deification no less, in securing this denial of the teachings of Origen. We are still living with the destructive consequences of this twist in humanity’s tale.
The council was called to deal with a group known as the Origenists, who believed that after a series of incarnations a soul could achieve divine status, equal to Christ. Orthodox Christians could not accept this – at the council the belief in the pre-existence of the soul was condemned, and reincarnation disappeared from Christian teachings. Debate over reincarnation – metempsychosis was the Greek term used – had raged from the time of Origen, one of early Christianity’s greatest teachers, until this politically motivated move. Since then the Church has taught that a new soul is created with each birth, and it put great effort into dispensing with every heretical Christian group that saw things differently during subsequent centuries. The Cathars, Bogomils, Albigenses, Waldenses and other ‘Free Spirit’ groups which the Church wiped out, embraced reincarnation, and indeed these persecuted groups also saw all forms of sexuality as acceptable and believed the soul could reach divine status while in the body.
Islamic teachings encourage a linear view of life too, and it seems likely that was also inspired by the needs of the political rulers more than the spiritual seekers. Some of the early Islamic Caliphs wiped out the followers of reincarnation-believing faiths, such as Manichaeism in Mesopotamia and Persia (Iran/Iraq), but belief in it remained amongst the mystical Sufis, some Shia sects and in cultures in Asia which retained some of their pre-Islamic shamanistic cultural beliefs.
Note that the oldest of the Abrahamic religions has always accepted reincarnation as part of the great mystery. It forms part of the central understanding in Kabbalah, and orthodox Judaism also acknowledges it, without emphasising it. It really is about time that Christians and Muslims knew that they have been manipulated and controlled by this denial of the soul for a very long time, and that the motivation behind it was political.
And please note that all the other religions of the world include reincarnation as a given. When challenged on this by scientist Carl Sagan, the Dalai Lama replied, “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation… but it’s going to be mighty hard to disprove reincarnation.”
Make the population afraid of death and you have a subservient people, easily controlled. The Roman Empire oversaw the turning point in human evolution that led us into fearful, obedient servants to our self-appointed masters. We then became soldiers, workers – and most recently, consumers, doing what our leaders wish, ie maintaining their wealth and power. Science removes spirit all together from the picture, and instead of judgement after death sending us to heaven or hell, we are told a dark nothingness awaits us, an obliteration of our very essence of being. We are still being controlled, discouraged from seeking our own answers and manipulated into serving the economic system.
Yet surveys show over and over that a third or more of people of the western world do accept reincarnation as a fact, and consistently this is the case whether people have a religious belief or not. The soul in us knows that we come here to grow – and maybe eventually reach the point of realisation of our own divinity. The Kingdom of Heaven is within, said Jesus, and at this time of mass obsession with the external world, those that turn within will surely find what they seek.
“I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as an animal and I was Man.
Why should i fear? When was I less by dying?” – Rumi
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4 King James Version
SAMHAIN: the pagan new year festival of death and rebirth, when the dead are honoured and our place in the cosmic whole remembered. Across the world so many people feel the call to mark Samhain, whether in formal ceremony or the informal celebrations of Halloween. More ancient than any religion, this festival has deep roots in our souls, and gives us the chance to connect to them.
The veils are thin, we remember the dead, we make fun of the darkness, we celebrate the shadows and the spooks, we just know this is the witches’ time of year.
The veils are thin and we may pass through them, recall once more the ancient ways
the dance of creation, the rhythm of seasons, the power of moons, the light of the soul
and how the Goddess, through the Wheel of the Year, shows us how to be whole.
In London queer witches will gather on Samhain night at the Oscar Wilde Temple in Clapham to remember our kin, honour our kind, celebrate our power and invoke the hour of our magical return as healers, teachers and soul warriors of the human race, reuniting the worlds, lifting the veils
rediscovering the Way, reinventing it for today
inviting a renewed understanding and experience of the relationship between the living and the dead
invoking health and balance mentally – emotionally – physically by honouring all parts of ourselves: Samhain brings a time of endings as we release the summer and old beliefs that no longer serve our wellbeing, and a chance to prepare for the more inward journey of winter
to achieve this we remember the elementals and the spirit world….
Now comes the time of year when the cosmos is inviting us to enter into a deeper relationship with dimensions beyond the physical, to let our belief in our isolated individuality die and take a journey of communion and connection to the higher self and the collective consciousness. If we step through this portal, the Gate of Samhain, we will be ready for the rising fire of the centaur spirit Sagittarius and the journey through Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces months, taking us through to the Spring and giving meaning and depth to our experience of Winter.