My Journeys into Faerie and What I Found There
While others have covered the history of the Radical Faerie movement, I wish to relate my own journeys into (and through) Faerie - that mystical site of Magick, shadows, of extraordinary reality. The intense individualism and anarchy of the Radical Faeries prevent me from speaking for or representing the Faes as a whole.
Long before I heard of the Radical Faeries (or much understood my own sexuality and spirituality), as a young teenager and a stranger in my own house, in order to escape the taunts of other children, the disgust of my parents (for having birthed this effeminate "crime against nature"), and the opprobrium of leaders of my childhood religion (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - or Mormonism), and having read many books on archaeology, anthropology, and ancient history, I began to create an imaginary land that lay far away from my daily misery - a magickal island populated by wondrous folk: Fairies, Elves, Amazons, and giants, as well as humans who lived close to and loved the Greenness and Sanctity of the World far more than they feared each other. I drew maps of this island, wrote histories of its peoples, and even plotted out a rather complex cosmology and theology for these Folk.
And of course, there were two human Heroes on this Island - ageless, handsome, strong, gentle, virtuous, mischievous, and magickal. I called them Berek and Khail, created elaborate epic prophetic poems and riddles foretelling their births and destinies, and recorded tales of their trials and their lives together. Through these Heroes, the guilt-ridden, fearful, and powerless boy I was back then lived a life in which I had power and control, I was strong and brave, and yet where I was valued more for my gentleness and passion than for violent might.
Now I am 37 years old, surviving and thriving in the Plague Years. I'm tall and strong, gentle and brave, my hair is long, my red beard thick and full - looking like some barbarian warrior who has stepped out of the pages of my childhood tales. I live a blesséd life, balanced and harmonious, full of joy and love, very engaged in a balance of the physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual, and psychological - healthy, healed, whole, holy - embracing both the Light and the Dark, fearful of neither. I have arrived here at this holy site via my sporadic, often tentative forays into Faerie.
In 2000 - long hair turned into Mohawk but the beard was still around
I first heard about the Radical Faeries in 1989, when I read Mark Thompson's book, Gay Spirit, which turned my frightful, depressing, confused life around. The photo on the front of the book, of a large group of naked Gay men covered in the mud of the Arizona desert, sent shivers down my spine - a reawakening of something deep, tribal, fulfilling.
Click to Englarge
Opening the book and reading just the words "Radical Faerie" for the first time in my life sent me into a mystical experience that left me physically and mentally drained but weeping tears of joy. I had found a Home at last. The intervening years of my explorations with the Fae Folk have healed my despair, giving me hope, a sense of self-responsibility, empowerment, expansive love, and enough courage to joyfully explore the juxtaposition of sexuality and spirituality through loving Fae Ritual.
While I cannot speak for anyone's else's Faeness but my own, during the past decade I have experienced Faerie dynamics at work during large and lengthy Gatherings, smaller evening Heart Circles, solitary rituals on the beach or in the desert or in the forest, and intense moments in Cyberspace via the Radical Faerie e-mail listserve. And this essay tells of what I have found there - what "speaketh to my condition" in Faerie.
It seems to me that as a Radical Faerie I readily assume (or at least desire) a site of fundamental liberation, which informs all of my life's activities. We have a paradoxically anarchist and communal utopian eschatology. In the introduction to Gay Spirit, Mark Thompson writes that "Chaos, terror and uncertainty seem the only true human inheritance in this, our age". However, he feels that the Radical Faeries (and other Queer folk influenced by us) are a teleological response to a post-modern (homo)sexuality: "these gay people finally stand at the edge of our time, resilient and resourceful, tending to the new life necessary for the future" (p. xiii). I see Radical Faeries joyfully and (rather) successfully integrating (even centering) this utopian ideal in our liberated lives. We know that we have not been expelled from the Arcadian Garden of homo-bliss. Instead, we take this burned-over wasteland of Sodom and through our daily acts of love and joy, we make the desert "blossom as the rose" in so many ways and on so many levels that others do not understand.
As a Fae man, I seek to live an Idea(l) of constant "Heart Space" - where there is full and mutual respect for Self and Others (indeed All Existence). My mystical journeyings (through High Camp ritual, exhuberant sex, playful nudity, song, dance, poetry, art, and many other magickal acts) have brought me visions of my connectedness to Nature, to the vast and complex web of All Existence, which in turn is the firm basis of my Fae Ethos.
And I must speak of an Ethnos as well - out of a profound feeling that in my sexuality lies the basis for important societal roles that I must play out. Two of the roles that seem to resonate with many Faerie Folk are those of the Shaman and the Berdache (or "Two-Spirit person"), which I define as Technicians of Sacred Ecstasy and of Sacred Mediation, respectively. Together, they emphasize our marginality and our liminality - our outness and our inness, if you will - for ecstasy is literally a "standing outside of" (the Self, the community, the mundane, the ordinary, etc.) and liminality is a mediation that occurs from the threshold betwixt two distinct spaces, a building of bridges over whatever dichotomies alienate the individual from the whole or the other (be it gender, class, race, sexual orientation, etc.); "entertaining irreconcilable differences" Thompson calls it (p. xvi).
Summer Solstice, 1996
The Homo-Hex Ritual, Corner of 18th and Castro, San Francisco
In the midst of the crowded street party the night before the Queer Freedom Day Parade, some 75 Radical Faeries and friends gather together just before midnight. We link hands and form a circle in the intersection of the road, at the heart of this Queerest Mecca, to publically give our deepest thanks to the Goddess for one more year of fabulous Queer Sex. Casting the circle, clothes come off, drums come out, and the beat begins. The crowd of curious (and often scandalized) mainstream Gays gather around us to see what the ruckus of these Freaks is all about. Naked in these streets, we raise our voices in chanting, we move our bodies to the rhythm of the drums and whistles and bells, flowing into and through the music and the Magick and the Love that are fully present.
And suddenly She is there. While the rest of the Dykes are out marching proudly, loudly through the streets of the City, one woman stays behind to be here, with us, her Feyest brothers. And I know suddenly why I have come here: to witness this post-modern incarnation of the goddess. No fecund, faceless, armless, legless mother-goddess she. No Venus of Willendorf who is all tits and cunt and baby factory. But lithe, muscular, strikingly beautiful, with arms that hold and haul, and hands that caress and break apart, and legs that dance and run, and eyes that see me seeing her, and a head brimming over with plans and pain and dreams.
Ancient ferility goddess - all teats and womb
Beauty and beauty and beauty as her clothes come off and she moves into the dance with us. A Faerie brother I have long admired grabs her and they laugh together, mad children, and he sucks her skin as they grind their sweaty bodies together. Following his lead, I move towards them and fall on my knees to suck this bliss from her tits. The pain of a failed marriage falls away from me in our embrace; all my fear about women and their bodies gone in and instant. Two naked men joyfully play with a naked woman at the very center of the Gayest crossroads of the Gayest street in the Gayest city on the Gayest night in the world. At last a goddess for whom I can fall on my knees to worship: strong, intelligent, loving, open, fully present in her body.
I have come to this place to lose and find myself, to heal from old wounds, to be vulnerable, to (re)claim the heroism of my childhood, to find power (the kind that is unrelated to the prevalent "power over" paradigm), to be extraordinary (not merely Queer), to remember Magick, to learn to spread my wings and fly free, to encounter ecstasy, to fuck and be fucked, to embrace my mortality (the authenticity of bodies), to make peace with decay, to love and be beloved, "to remember what I wanted to become". Expelled long ago from the Mormon Temple, I have finally found my truest Temple, and find myself as a Sacred Whore there.
I lose all sense of ordinary reality - and in this Perfect Moment, I encounter and am enraptured by the Faggot-God, and we make Love in this Circle of Dance. And I am become His lover, His bride, His friend, His queen, His hero, His high priest/ess, His beloved, and of course His god.
For I am [in love with] the Cosmos.
1. For example, see Mark Thompson's essay "This Gay Tribe: A Brief History of Fairies" inGay Spirit: Myth and Meaning, Mark Thompson (ed.), St. Martin's Press, New York, 1987; The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement, Stuart Timmons, Alyson Press, Boston, 1990; Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of Its Founder, Harry Hay, with Will Roscoe (ed.) Beacon Press, Boston, 1996.
2. I use the archaic spelling to distinguish this from the David Copperfield version of "magic". I recently defined Magick to my best friend (and fellow Fae) as "the mechanics whereby we embrace paradox".
3. These are two reconstructed Proto-Indo-European words I took from the American Heritage Dictionary's appendix, which have the modern English descendents of "bright" and "whole", respectively - purposely echoing the Hebrew divinatory items found on the priestly breast plate, the Urim and Thummim, which literally means "lights and perfections".