There is an ancient religious text from Persia that directly associates men who love men with the magical underworld of demons and faery spirits – the Vendidad of the Zoroastrian faith. Written around the same time as the 5th book of the Jewish Torah, Deuteronomy, which forbids Israelites from cross-dressing, becoming temple sex-workers, or bringing the earnings of female or male sex-workers (the males were known as ‘dogs’) into Jewish temples, the Vendidad basically calls men who sleep with men ‘faeries’.
In Deuteronomy the Hebrews were attempting to clearly define themselves as different to the many other tribes around. The prohibition in Leviticus against men sleeping with men uses the word word ‘toevah’, which has been translated into English as ‘abomination’ but etymologically is related to foreign ritual practices, and very possibly related to the Persian term used in the Vendidad. In the Zoroastrian text men who have sex with men are named ‘daevas’, translated as demons and related to the ‘deva’ spirits of the Indian sub-continent. Devas however are simply magical beings in India, not associated specifically with evil, whereas the Persians over time came to regard them as supernatural entities to be avoided. The oldest Zoroastrian text, the Gathas, calls the daevas ‘gods that are to be rejected’. In the Avesta, they are divinities that promote chaos and disorder, and in later tradition they become personifications of every evil possible.
The Vendidad is an early Zoroastrian text, dating back to around 800 BCE, that records conversations between the prophet and God, Ahura Mazda. One goes….
“Ahura Mazda answered: ‘The man that lies with mankind as man lies with womankind, or as woman lies with mankind, is the man that is a Daeva; this one is the man that is a worshipper of the Daevas, that is a male paramour of the Daevas, that is a female paramour of the Daevas, that is a wife to the Daeva; this is the man that is as bad as a Daeva, that is in his whole being a Daeva; this is the man that is a Daeva before he dies, and becomes one of the unseen Daevas after death: so is he, whether he has lain with mankind as mankind, or as womankind.”
— Avesta, Vendidad, Fargard 8. Funerals and purification, unlawful sex, Section V (32) Unlawful lusts.
From nearly 3000 years ago we have this religious text directly associating gay sex with the underworld of magical spirit beings. At this period, and for another millennium until the rise of Christianity, across southern Europe and the Middle East gender fluidity and homosexual acts were strongly associated with worship of the Goddess. She was known in many forms and by many names, all served by women and gay/transgender priest/esses, and that service could include sexual acts that brought connection to the deity. In fact round the whole world gay/queer beings once served in sacred roles, as shamans, medicine men, priests and sacred sex workers… our power was taken away, as was that of women, by men seeking to dominate and rule over others, to conquer territory and accumulate wealth. This process has now reached its apogee, the world is on the brink of global disaster unless humanity changes the way it lives.
To achieve this women and queers need to be brought to the table as equals to men, and all forms of love respected and honoured.
To achieve this we all need to seek deep within ourselves to find our reconnection to the planet, to the spirit and go beyond ego to our true divine selves.
To achieve this the Gatekeepers are needed.
The journey of Gay Liberation, the gradual emergence and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people around the world, is still in its early stages. Queer people have more to discover about who we are….
SOBONFU SOME, priestess of the Dagara Tribe of western Africa – a tribe that remembers the magical role of what we call queers – said in her book ‘Spirit of Intimacy’:
“The words gay and lesbian do not exist in the village, but there is the word gatekeeper. Gatekeepers are people who live a life at the edge between the worlds – the world of the village and the world of spirit…
“Gatekeepers in the village are able to do their job simply because of strong spiritual connection, and also their ability to direct their sexual energy not to other people but to spirit.
“There are many gates that link a village to other worlds. The only people who have access to all these gates are the gatekeepers. I should mention here that there are two different kinds of gatekeeper.
“The first group has the ability to guard a limited number of gates to the other world, specifically,those that correspond to the Dagara cosmology – water, earth, fire, minerals, and nature – because they vibrate the energies of those gates.
“The second group of gatekeepers… has the responsibility of overseeing all the gates. They are in contact not only with the elemental gates but also with many others. They have one foot in all the other worlds and other foot here. This is why the vibration of their body is totally different from others. They also have access to other-dimensional entities such as Kontombile, small beings who are very magical and knowledgeable. They are known as leprechauns in the Irish tradition.
“Gatekeepers hold keys to other dimensions. They maintain a certain alignment between the spirit world and the world of the village. Without them, the gates to the other world would be shut.
“On the other side of these gates lies the spirit world or other dimensions. Gatekeepers are in constant communication with beings who live there, who have the ability to teach us how to deal with ritual. And gatekeepers have the capacity to take other people to those places.
“Gays and lesbians in the West are often very spiritual, but they have been taken away from their connection with spirit. My feeling is that without that outlet or that role in the culture, they have to find other ways of defining themselves.”
FROM TWO FLUTES PLAYING, channelled by Andrew Ramer:
“It is time for the gay community to heal itself. It is time for the gay community to assume the place in the human community that it was created for. It is time to come together in loving communities, for gay men to explore their inner femaleness so that they can help men and women communicate. It is time for gay men to own their capacity for youthfulness and their ability to be wise elders, so that they can once again sit with a child and be an adult who remembers being a child, so that they can talk to parents who thought they needed to forget their inner child in order to have children of their own. And it is time for gay people to start using, for planetary transformation, the global network that already exists, spreading information, love, advice, support, money, food, clothing.
“The gay community can heal. It will not heal from focussing on combatting disease alone. A healing must include a spiritual element. And this is what has often been withheld from gay people. The religious communities of this planet have for the most part excluded, or at best ignored, their gay members. But religions is not necessarily spirituality. And it is through a spiritual connection, not a religious one, that the human community of this planet will find its healing.
“What is spiritual, what is sacred, is being redefined. It is being redefined in a fluid way. Gay people, by their very nature, exist in a state of internal fluidity that will make us vital in this time of planetary challenge. As we enter the Age called Aquarius it is useful to remember that the constellation Aquarius represents the youth Ganymede, who Zeus took up to Mount Olympus to be cupbearer to the gods, and his own lover. Gay people have a share in this coming transformation. To the ancient Epyptians, the water carrier was the source of the Nile, pictured as a man with breasts. When Jesus was preparing for the Last Supper, it is recorded in Luke that he sent his disciples into the city to meet a man carrying a jar of water, in a culture where only women were supposed to carry water.”
“To be gay is something that begins within ourselves. In begins in our hearts, in that place that is never separate from the living heart of Infinite Oneness. To be gay is something that begins with ourselves, that finds itself mirrored back, echoed back to us by the tribe of men who love men. This tribe, our people , is a scouting tribe, a Walks-Between people, bridge-making people, walking between men and women, between night and day, between matter and spirit, between the living and the dead.”
“When purposeful, spiritual connection is forgotten, the depth of sexual connection often takes it place. Sex points one in the right direction, deep into the self, into the mystery. But sex alone is not the answer to the gay dilemma of the present, the sense of meaninglessness. A sense of spiritual participation in the community of the planet is the answer. For no one else will tell us our purpose. Its discovery must come from ourselves.”
Since 1979 gay men, and nowadays an increasingly queer medley of magical folk, have been meeting in Radical Faerie gatherings and sanctuaries, seeking to create community from the heart, in harmony with nature, and to reclaim and explore our innate spiritual magic. The term Faerie was chosen as a reference to our connection to nature and spirit, as well as being a positive reclamation of the term ‘fairy’, so often used as an abusive insult in western cultures – and therefore implying a folk memory in Europe too between gay men and nature’s magic. Radical refers to getting to the roots of who we are:
HARRY HAY 1912-2002, gay rights activist and Radical Faerie Duchess:
“We have been a SEPARATE PEOPLE…. Drifting together in a parallel existence, not always conscious of each other.. yet recognising one another by eyelock when we did meet… here and there as outcasts… Spirit people… in service to the Great Mother.. Shamans.. mimes and rhapsodes, poets and playwrights, healers and nurturers… VISIONARIES… REBELS”
“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.”
According to certain mythologies, humanity once lived in Paradise and since leaving it has been trying to return. This can be interpreted as referring to the natural state of feeling our interconnectedness with all existence, which humans lost once we began to develop our own individual self-awareness, as society became more complex, language developed and the incredible variety of human cultures emerged.
All religious, magical and spiritual rituals and practices are designed to help bring us back to union with All That Is.
The most ancient written sources on the planet record humanity’s efforts to restore connection with its divine source:
GILGAMESH (c. 3000 BCE) is an epic tale from Mesopotamia of love between two men which turns into the hero’s search for the meaning of life. Gilgamesh is a part-mortal, part-divine, king out of control – the people of the city of Uruk appealed to the Gods for help because the king was claiming the right to sleep with all of their sons and daughters. Enter Enkidu, a wild and free man so strong and attractive that Gilgamesh pairs up with him. When the Goddess Ishtar later demands Gilgamesh become her consort he declines: She sends the Bull of Heaven to attack him. With Enkidu’s help the bull is killed – but this leads to divine punishment, and Enkidu gets sick and dies. From that point on the inconsolable Gilgamesh goes searching for the meaning of life and immortality – and almost achieves his goal. He is given a plant with the power of rejuvenation but leaves it by the shore where it gets eaten by a snake, thus explaining why the snake can shed its skin!
The EGYPTIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD (Book of Emerging Forth into Light, is a more accurate title translation) is a collection of spells and prayers written over thousands of years designed to give mystical knowledge of the afterlife, find safe passage through it and harness the powers available there for one’s own use after death.
DISPUTE BETWEEN A MAN AND HIS BA (SOUL) dates from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) and features someone struggling to come to terms with life’s struggles. The soul encourages him to pursue his spiritual practice in the hope of attaining the afterlife, but to enjoy the experience of being alive, and not rush to end it.
Ancient pagan faiths developed out of shamanistic cultures of the Stone and Bronze Ages and took union with spirit as granted, as our natural state of being. There was no need to philosophise about the meaning of life until we became aware that we had forgotten it, you simply went to the temple to make offerings to the deities that would help and empower you here on earth. As civilisations emerged and rulers sought to bring order to society and a sense of cohesion and belonging, they understood that the way to achieve this was to manipulate and control the spirituality of the masses, using tools such as fear, doubt and shame.
The 8th to 3rd centuries BCE, known as the ‘AXIAL AGE’, was a period when, as put by German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) who birthed the term, “the spiritual foundations of humanity were laid simultaneously and independently in China, India, Persia, Judea, and Greece. And these are the foundations upon which humanity still subsists today”. During this period, cultures were established and settled enough for deep thinkers to emerge and the long journey back to reconnection with our natural state of union with all existence began to be written about. The widespread existence of tombs, sacred stones and other evidence from several millennia preceding the Axial Age show that rituals to affirm and strengthen belief in and experience of the holy state of union were a central feature of our ancestors’ lives – the earliest Greek philosophers looked to the Druids of western Europe and Shamans of Eurasia as their forbears, but from this Age the quest to unite everyone under structured and defined religious banners came to the fore, leading to the religious age.
In PERSIA, Zoroastrianism became the world’s first state religion, and remained so for over a thousand years until the rise of Islam in the 7th century CE. Its roots go back to the 2nd millennium BCE, but Zoroaster is generally reckoned to have lived in the 7th or 6th century BCE. With a monotheistic take on God, a clear duality between good and evil, messianic and apocalyptic themes and emphasis on judgement after death, Zoroastrianism had a profound effect on subsequent religious cultures.
ANCIENT GREECE birthed an exploration of philosophy. Greece was where the relationship between philosophy, the heavens and love between men was deeply explored, providing models that influenced Arabic and later European Renaissance cultures. The Greeks worshipped a vast number of gods and goddesses, yet also appreciated that all deities were divine powers ultimately coming from the same source, be that seen as Mother (as it was in the vast majority of ancient cultures) or Father (as among the ancient Celtic peoples, who saw Dis Pater, a Plutonic underworld figure, as the Source of all, and by the Hebrews who were the first to make efforts to eradicate the worship of the Goddess, and Her gay/queer priests the Qedesha).
Some of the earliest Greek philosophers wrote lines that can speak to us clear and loud today.
Lyric poet Pindar, (518-438 BCE):
“Creatures of a day! What is anyone?
What is anyone not? A dream of a shadow
Is our mortal being. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of heaven,
Then rests on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days.”
“Pindar makes all men akin to gods if they realize their full potential: their innate gifts are divinely bestowed, and even then success still depends on the gods’ active favour.” Wikipedia.
In INDIA, Hinduism also teaches that the potential in humans is nothing less than divine. “Atman (the individual soul) is Brahman (the god soul)”. During the Axial Age a synthesis of many ‘Vedic’ teachings developed over the millennia formed the roots of Hinduism in the form of the Upanishads. During these centuries Jainism and Buddhism were both born – the Buddha’s teachings focus on transcendence of the individual ego to attain Nirvana, a state of reunion with the Source which ends the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhism spread throughout Asia, and continues to grow globally today, a truly world religion. Jainism and Hinduism also teach that ‘moksha’ (liberation) is the goal of life, though for most people the recommendation is to create good karma in order to achieve a good rebirth which will bring liberation closer.
In JUDEA, Judaism also took a more regulated and formalised structure during these centuries, revitalised by prophets such as Isaiah and forced to reorganise during the time of Exile from the homeland. The Torah took shape and influences from Zoroastrian thought took hold. It is from this point that Judaism drops its associations with Goddess Asherah, once seen as wife of Allah, and monotheism takes a firm hold. The universe starts to be seen in absolute terms of right and wrong, and an elaborate depiction of the afterlife gradually develops, filled with judgement and punishment, while previously the ‘land of Sheol’ was just a place of dust where souls went for a brief period of time before rebirth.
In CHINA the period of the Zhou dynasty (11th to 4th centuries BCE, the longest lasting Chinese dynasty) brought the birth of the spiritual philosophies Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism does not separate the spiritual from the earthly, instead seeks to find the sacred in the normality of everyday life. Taoism teaches how to attune to the Tao, the Way of Heaven, and both paths affirm that humans are capable of attuning themselves to the ‘Law of Heaven’ by being compassionate and doing good deeds.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
WHY DID ALL THE CLEAR TEACHING OF THE ANCIENTS TURN INTO THE LIFE DENYING, MISOGYNIST, PLEASURE PHOBIC, HOMOPHOBIC MIND CONTROLLING AUTHORITARIAN WORLD RELIGIONS OF CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM?
BECAUSE OF POWER-HUNGRY, GREEDY MEN
FIRST THEY INVENTED SIN
THEN THEY CAME UP WITH SHAME
THEY NAMED THE HOLY LOVE OF MEN FOR MEN UNNATURAL
AND FOR LIFE’S TRIALS GAVE WOMEN THE BLAME.
THEY TOOK UP THE SWORDS OF BATTLE
AND BELIEVED THE END WAS NIGH
THEY BROUGHT DESTRUCTION AND DEATH
TO GOD’S PEOPLES
TO GOD’S CREATURES
TO MOTHER EARTH.
THE AIR IS POLLUTED
THE SEAS ARE SICK
FIRES ARE RAGING
AND THE LAND IS SUFFERING
THE LIES OF MEN HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT THIS END
YET THE LIGHT OF TRUE SPIRIT CAN HELP US TRANSCEND
THE DELUSIONS THAT ARE CLOUDING OUR MINDS
THE DIVISIONS THAT FUEL HURTS OF MANY KINDS
UNION IS OURS TO RECLAIM
THERE’S ULTIMATELY NO FAULT AND NO BLAME
WE ARE ALL INVOLVED IN THIS DIVINE GAME
THE DARK AND LIGHT TWO SIDES BUT THE SAME
UNION IS OURS TO RECLAIM.
“… human consciousness is a monitoring system with almost the sole function of calling attention to unusual changes and disturbances in the environment. It has, therefore, an extremely superficial, restricted, and, shall we say, one-sidedly anxious apprehension of all that is going on in the organism-environment field. In particular, it is ignorant of the unbelievable harmoniousness and perfection of our constant and basic psychophysiological functions, and of their exquisitely complex ties and balances with the outside universe. It is possible, then, that any method of turning the senses back upon themselves will restore awareness of this ignored aspect of life, for consciousness is thereby led back to its own organic roots. The extreme subtlety and beauty of these processes thereupon invade consciousness like a vision from heaven.” —Alan Watts, The Two Hands of God, ‘Dismemberment Remembered’
Alcibiades The Schoolboy is a book from the 1630s praising homosexuality and providing us with evidence that a self-aware gay identity existed long before the 19th century, when such a self-conscious identity is generally supposed to have been formed. Originally in Italian, the novel was finally translated and published into English in the year 2000.
Writer D.H. Mader says that Alcibiades is “the first clear expression of a homosexual identity and subculture in the modern West; and it is significant as a reminder of the cultural importance and heritage of age-structured homosexual relationships in European culture.” Love between men and youths has in fact been a feature of many cultures around the world, and was held in very high esteem in the philosophies of ancient Greece, which left Europe with a cultural legacy that men who loved men would draw on throughout the dark, homophobic Christian ages.
“The earliest editions bore the attribution “D.P.A.,” which the reader was clearly supposed to expand into “di Pietro Aretino.” Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) was the bad boy of Renaissance culture… A true Renaissance man, he was a painter, art critic, poet, playwright, religious biographer, epistler, gossip monger, political satirist and pornographer… He rose to fame in the mid-1520’s with a series of lewd sonnets … Not just his pornographic works, but all the fruit of his pen proved wildly successful commercially, making Aretino the best-selling author of his day, and for a long period afterward.”
However, Mader points out – “To create the impression that a text came from his hand – particularly an erotic text – was merely smart advertising.” Written, or at least published, a century after Aretino’s death, there is debate about the actual author, with the most likely candidate being Antonio Rocco (1586-1652), a priest and philosophy teacher in Venice, who was denounced for his religious views and sexual behaviour and is recorded as arguing “that tool was made by Nature for us to have from it our pleasures and delights.”
Alcibiades the Schoolboy is presented as a conversation between the pupil and his teacher, echoing debates from ancient Greek texts and similar offerings from the medieval Christian monasteries. The story rises to a sexual climax following a detailed discussion of the joys of sexual relations between men. At first hesitant, Alcibiades ends up hot, horny and eager to please his master.
The teacher, Philotemus, is not holding back: having pointed out many examples of male bonding amongst animal species, he advises that:
“To acquire more virtue, to rid themselves of sorrow, it is necessary, too, that men will mount the one upon the other, and it is they who are made in the image of God, it is they who must truly make the most of themselves and be fully self-sufficient.”
However, this is not always easy…
“…if a man cannot find the love of a boy to complement his imperfect existence, a stream to extinguish his ardours, he will lose his liberty, his mind, his activity; he will become the most miserable, the most wretched of creatures.”
“Give up your love for boys, then,” replied Alcibiades, “And in an instant you will have put an end to your torments.”
“It is not within our power, my dear Alcibiades, to decide to love or not to love someone who has captured our heart, who attracts us with an incomprehensible force, whose very soul we endlessly gaze upon. A divine appearance, provoking dreams of the infinite joysof possession, inflames love, ignites desire. And if it cannot become intoxicated at the spring of such a coveted pleasure, if it cannot bathe in it, dive in it, it will burn until it becomes reduced to ashes. And if a coveted liquor invites the lips to bathe in its sweetness, what matter, provided that we drink, whether the drinking-vessel is round or square? When we want to extinguish the flame, can we? When we could, should we? He who wants to do it cannot, and he who can do it does not wish to.”
The novel is also a polemic against the religious disapproval of same sex relations, stating bluntly…
“…it is boys who carry the sceptre of love; women stand only in the second rank of authority, as those to whom power is delegated. So those who believe that this sovereign desire is an affront to the gods, and that they who taste of it consign themselves to dreadful punishments, are as far divorced from truth and justice as is the man who punishes a slave for following the orders of his master. If you subscribe to this belief, you could equally well believe, like the common people, that, at night, the sun hides himself in a hole in the moon.
“Those who, in their own interests, have believed it convenient to forbid this form of love, know very well that their proscription is, to those of wisdom, contrary to all reason, so they have sought to attribute their pathetic law to the dictates of God. In the same way do deceitful men use the Oath to cover their lies and to introduce their false dogmas, mingling the sacred and the profane.
“Nothing is more capable of perverting our reasoning than the threat of dreadful torments awaiting us. All men have a natural respect of God at the bottom of their heart, because the eternal soul, a man’s very essence, communicating through all aspects of Creation, penetrating his spirit and his substance, awakens in them the deepest sentiments of awe and reverence. This is why, everywhere, God is more or less the object of worship – and of fear – among men. It is on this basis, then, that our rulers frame their delightful laws. In attributing to the will of God what is nothing more than their own self-serving whims, they give them credence and ensure that they are promptly observed. This causes us to reject with horror any act which would violate them. And they have made us take in their beliefs with our milk, our souls have been imbued with them in our cradle, they are part of us.”
Alcibiades asks why passive sexual partners are held in low esteem by the populace and called ‘bum-boys’. The master says:
“The name of bum-boy,” replied the master, “Should neither be given to nor taken by boys who, out of pure affection and courtesy, give themselves graciously to good and honest men who have merited their favour. One does not inflict such epithets upon Love, who comes so kindly to heal suffering hearts. Thus, it right that persons of wisdom have replaced these odious terms with the names of gods and goddesses, for such is the true rank of those who heal human miseries, the comforters of souls that are feeble and afflicted. In other times, many great princes have raised altars and temples to these deities, consecrated by priests, and have offered to them sacrifices and incense; the histories of Greece and Rome are full of the records of such devotions. By contrast, ‘bum-boy’ refers to a mercenary lad who wants nothing but money, who does not give himself but sells himself, who makes love into something base and commercial.
“Between a loving and courteous boy and a ‘bum-boy’ there is the same difference as exists between a venerable priest and a low Simonite. They are both attired as priests, they both administer the same sacraments, but we see in the ministry of one the sterling worth of his character, his joy in ministering to the spiritual needs of his flock, in his fulfilling of the divine laws; the other does only what is useful to him, what is in his interest, what brings him profit.”
The master makes a plea for moderation and respect for a boy’s innocence and purity. He attacks men who abuse younger guys, but he also makes clear how holy he considers the sexual connection between men can be:
“When you play with a boy, one is deprived neither of the sweetness of a kiss, nor the pleasure of breathing the breath that fills the amorous mouths. With a boy, too, union is complete and the intoxication of love is shared, so long as the beloved takes up a position which allows him to turn his face easily towards that of his lover, while the gherkin is either planted in his garden or quivering gently between his hands, according to the caprice of the delightful imp. And even if that position is in any degree uncomfortable – far from harming pleasure, it sharpens it, the wrigglings – like those of a young eel – stimulate it, sharpen and spice the sensual appetite. To feel this pixie twist, rise, gasp, twitch and quiver in your hands, frolic against you in a thousand ways – does not this delight beckon you, urge you to further attack, multiply the blows born of your burning ardour?”
“Listen well,” replied Philotimes, “The human brain, which is both the abode of the human spirit and the place from which intelligence derives, is, by its nature, excessively damp and cold; if nothing warms it, it will remain sluggish and obtuse, incapable of comprehension, full of foul humours. So one can understand how fluids that are sweet, warm and temperate will serve powerfully to purify it. And nothing fulfils this purpose better than the sperm of a man who is wise and spiritual; this substance has miraculous virtues in this regard. Infused through the little gate of the garden, thanks to its natural warmth, it carries living and subtle spirits to all the farthest regions of the brain – spirits which carry with them the qualities of the giver. A boy who wishes to be the equal of his master has no other way than this. I admit that to be fucked by any man, given that his fluid is warm and temperate, can make the brain of a boy develop wonderfully, but to bear the true fruits, let him be fucked by a man who is noble and distinguished.”
The magic cast, the argument won….
“the loving boy smiled delightedly and, wishing to show his great willingness, he disposed himself to satisfy his master, who was by now panting with desire.
“I give myself to your wishes,” said Alcibiades, “It is your desire to instruct me, more than other reason, that decides me. See, I prepare myself for you.”
“So saying, he lifted his robe and modestly adopted the posture appropriate to the circumstances. The master, assisting him, soon saw revealed such glorious treasures of love as made heaven and all the stars blush with shame; even the sun, vanquished by more celestial splendours, could only hide his face. Who could ever detail the incredible marvels spread out in profusion in this little Paradise; the two rounded hemispheres like celestial globes, coloured with warm blood, a garden planted with lilies and narcissi. At the slightest touch of the hand there trembled therein a thousand rubies, exploding on a background of milk and amber. All was flowering gardens, white radiance, and twinkling stars. The regular, amorous movements, such as could be expected from this glorious child, would have given an erection to a marble statue…
“Very soon, overflowing with immense joy and getting ready for a higher enterprise, the master broke into a hymn of joy:
“If wise men name as Paradise the place where we enjoy celestial happiness, you would be the Paradise of Athens, you in whom living men find their happiness, and, since man is a creation more complete than the soul alone, you would be a paradise far more glorious because in one only the soul is happy, while in you the body is also happy. Since you are the seat of happiness where the true god of love resides, and gives true happiness, I consecrate myself to you with total devotion, and, if there are any other paradises, I renounce them all for yours. What is the glory of heaven in comparison to such a prize?
“While thus speaking, the passionate master, multiplying his sweet caresses, continued to play with the adorable child. Which he did with such skill that, from then onwards, Alcibiades knew no greater pleasure than to have his master’s prick in his asshole, nor did he believe it possible to attain perfection by any other path. Happy preceptor who knew how, by making himself the slave of such beauty, to satisfy his desires to their uttermost limit!”
FULL MOON is a time of culmination and emotional release, each month creating a tension, and opportunity for growth, in a certain area of our lives. At full moon there is always a polarity at play within us, one that can reveal to us more about who we are.
The Virgo-Pisces axis combines earth and water elements and is one of the more inward, gentle full moons of the year, but also the most sensitive of the six polarities of our lives as revealed through the noble and ancient art of astrology. Virgo is focussed on structure, manifestation, analysis – while its opposite sign Pisces is all about dissolution, about accepting what is and merging with it. Virgo wants to make things better, Pisces accepts things can’t always be as we want them, and meets that fact with compassion. Virgo is material reality, Pisces is heavenly spirit – working in harmony together these two polarities can give us much power and joy, and give us the ability to bring the light vibrations of spirit to earth. This polarity is here to teach us how to ground our spirituality in practical ways, and to remind us to make sure we are not over absorbed in either the material or immaterial realities, to find balance between them.
“Pisces represents the sum total of everything while Virgo represents that part you areaware of and are actively working on. Virgo keeps accurate track of which karma, how much and when to be repaid. Pisces feels his way through. In this axis, when Pisces acts, he feels the joy of liberation as Virgo guides where to act. Pisces is abstract while Virgo is his rational pragmatic mate. A Virgo acts with precision, Pisces goes with the flow. Together they work beautifully, the iron fist in a velvet glove, completing karma, experiencing the understanding and joy of completion.”https://psychologicallyastrology.com/2019/05/06/virgo-and-pisces-the-most-sensitive-axis-part-3/
Virgo is the sixth sign of the zodiac, ending the first half of the astrological year where the energetic focus is on the self. At Virgo we get to see clearly what kind of reality we have created for ourselves since the start of the cycle in Spring, and the problems or issues that have arisen to be addressed as we enter the second half of the year, where the focus is about self and others from Libra through to Pisces, before the cycle starts again with individuated Aries.
“This Virgo-Pisces axis represents karmic balance, completion, realisation of the Ultimate Experience and dissolution of the self-ego.”
No wonder it’s the most supremely sensitive of all the full moon polarities! If we can balance the needs and wishes of our individuated self with the awareness (and the feeling, because Pisces reveals through the emotional and spiritual bodies) of our place in and oneness with the Whole, we can seize the opportunity for healing, to release old patterns and problems while opening to the wonders and mysteries the cosmos longs to bring us when we are able and open to receive.
The first week of each moon month is the best time for setting intentions and goals. When the first quarter moon arrives it is time to take action, get things moving. As the moon waxes to fullness the energy supports refining and adapting whatever we are developing, and there can be a gradual increase in tension, or emotional pressure as the challenge and opportunity of the incoming polarity kicks in. Then at the full moon we reach an energetic peak, a time of release and start to receive the rewards for the efforts put in.
In 2021 the full moon is followed immediately by the Autumn Equinox – a time of balance and reflection as the Sun moves into Venus-ruled Libra and summer gives way to autumn. The spirit will calm and we will harvest the results of the efforts we have put into our own growth during the year as spirit takes us deeper into the journey of relationship with others for the second half of the zodiac wheel – our lovers, our community and our connection to the cosmos: the stars and planets will invite and guide our human consciousness to explore, travel and discover during the autumn and winter.
At Pisces Full Moon and the Equinox the cosmos offers us the chance to see more clearly who we are, what we are creating in our lives and how to move forwards confidently.
Modern society seems to have got itself into a place of utter confusion about gender identity – and this will likely not clear until the fundamental flaw in the culturally dominant scientific material paradigm is corrected. This flaw, from which so many failures of understanding stem, is that we live in a physical universe, in which our inner experience is regarded as secondary, a product of the outer. The inner self is not given equality with the outer being, science has not given anything like as much energy to exploring subjective experience as it has objective. Luckily, for thousands of years, pioneering mystics and spiritual seekers have, so there are other ways of understanding our lives, if we choose to engage them.
In a materialist paradigm, we are each given a gender label at birth, and are expected to experience life as that gender, completely overlooking profound wisdom about human nature gained over millennia: this wisdom teaches us that on the inside, in our hearts, minds and spirits, we are all a combination of male AND female.
Science is gradually finding its own way to this truth, however reluctantly…
On the BIGTHINK website Paul Ratner reports on scientists using Virtual Reality to give people an experience of being in the body of another gender. He asks:
“Is associating with a certain gender more of a flexible sense than hardwired biological fact? A new study shows that people who were put under the illusion of having an opposite-sex body developed a more equal understanding, with fewer stereotypes, of both male and female aspects.
“In their paper, the scientists defined gender identity as “a collection of thoughts and feelings about one’s own gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.” To probe this, they designed three experiments using virtual reality that allowed people to experience what it’s like to have a body they weren’t born with.”
The results led the scientists to conclude: “The fluidity of gender identity that we report here extends previous knowledge by demonstrating that the link between own body perception and the sense of own gender is dynamic, robust, and direct.”
“Current gender theories, as outlined in the study, have moved away from positioning gender identity as a strict “male-female dichotomy.” Instead, the scientists say, the prevailing view is that gender is derived individually from a variety of associations with both genders, as well as from personal genetics, hormones, patterns of behavior and social life. There is also the understanding that the sense of your own gender is determined by your beliefs about males and females overall.”
This is at least a positive development, but note that the inner experience is still not given the level of respect it really deserves. Spiritual teachers have long pointed out that reality starts in the mind, that our beliefs create our life experiences. By ignoring this, modern science, either by design or default, is keeping us all dumbed down – left ignorant, being told what is what by our clever masters, which has led society into the nightmare phenomenon known as ‘Gender Wars’, where outspoken Trans activists and Radical Trans Exclusionary Feminists fight it out, generating headlines and media debate that fuel more division and confusion.
The dictates about how things are and should be from materialist viewpoints is no different to the religious dominance that science is supposed to have liberated us from. By default, and we presume not by design, science is actually using the metaphysical principle that Mind creates to convince everyone to believe we are just atoms randomly colliding in a meaningless, disconnected universe – if that is what you believe, it is how you will experience your life – the result is an increasingly divided, soulless world in which we are simply workers and consumers. Mystics know that there is much more to our presence here on the Earth, and they have long been trying to tell us to wake up and see through the lies imposed on society by people in power.
In mystical circles it has also long been taught that the soul is both male and female. For many centuries this knowledge had to be kept hidden, taught in secret in mystery schools only to initiates, because the Church would not tolerate such a view. The Holy Bible is actually a set of books written and chosen to firmly underpin the patriarchal system that developed to dominate the planet in the past few thousand years, following millennia when the feminine was at the centre of life in matrifocal cultures where God was worshipped in female forms, predominantly by female or gay/transgender priests.
In the Bible the prohibition on cross-dressing is clear –
“A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’ s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)
Note the abomination word which also gets applied in the Old Testament to same sex relations – the original Aramaic word that is so translated was in fact a reference toritual practices of non-Hebrew peoples. Indeed, cross-dressing and same sex-loving priests/priestesses serving the Goddess in ways that united the sensual and the spiritual, the erotic and the ecstatic, were the norm in ancient times among the tribal peoples in Europe and the Middle East through to India and beyond, and that is really why the Hebrews, and later the Christians, took so against trans and gay people. The Church wished to control people’s minds and sex lives (making reproduction the only reason for having sex was in order to give birth to more Christians, as well as to control leisure activities so that people would be more available for work, and wars).
Much of the mystical knowledge taught in the mystery schools of the ancient world and in the secret societies of medieval and early modern Europe had its source in Egyptian magical teachings. The Emerald Tablet of Thoth is believed by some to be thousands of years old – from it were derived the 7 Hermetic Principles, number 7 of which is the Principle of Gender. This teaches that everything contains both masculine and feminine energy, everything has in it both yin and yang:
The Hermetic Principle teaches that on the physical plane each person has a male or female physical body, however on the spirit and mind planes each person is androgynous with male and female qualities.
It is from this principle that our discussions around gender should begin.
Mythological images imply that holiness is hermaphroditic, for it holiness is wholeness the complete human being is at once male and female – the man who has developed his feminine aspect, and the woman her masculine. In Buddhist icongraphy, therefore, the Bodhisvatta is very frequently a hermaphrodite… the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who, though masculine in name, is always feminine or near-feminine in form, especially in the Far East, where he appears as Kwan-yin, or Kannon – the ‘goddess’ of mercy…. it is not uncommon to find ardhanari or ‘half-woman’ images of Shiva, in which the body is female on the left and male on the right.
Alan Watts, The Two Hands of God
In Buddhism, anatta is the teaching of no self: it states that nothing conditional can be pointed to as being who or what you are. It accepts that no aspect of being can be identified with in any kind of continuous, independent sense, so gender itself is a veil through which our deeper nature manifests.
Hindu sages have long taught that the soul is genderless, but everything in creation results from the interplay of masculine and feminine energies, and everything is in fact birthed by shakti, the feminine power of the universe, including gender itself. Hinduism views the mind and body as the energy of Prakriti, the female spirit, and the soul as Purusha, the male aspect. Deep inside, we are all seen to be the same indivisible, indistinguishable, imperishable and eternal Brahman, who is extolled in the Vedas as the One without a second. Hindu teachings recognise that gender is not permanent, that we all incarnate over time as male, female or transgender due to karmic and cosmic reasons.
Institutional Christianity has been the most effective totalitarian mind control system ever invented. It has poisoned human minds, setting barriers on sexual and gender expression, turning the body into something evil, along with women and queers, the people most attuned to the sacredness of the flesh and of sensual connection. It did not have to be this way. From the 1st century through to the late Middle Ages there were rival Christian movements that considered personal spiritual revelation more than important than orthodox dogmas. They tended to accepted forms of sexuality, gave power to women as well as men and resisted the authoritarianism of the established Church. Some of these became so powerful – such as the Cathars – that the Church, in league with the political state, sent armies to crush them and their free spirited beliefs.
One way to ensure their faithful followers approved of the actions against the heretics was to focus on their approval of homosexual acts. So associated were gay sex and heresy that slang words for queer derive from their names – Ketzer in German after the Cathars and Bugger in English from the Bulgarian Bogomil sect that spread across Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries. In fact the first use of buggery in English in 1330 was a reference to ‘abominable heresy’ and it was only from the 16th century references to it start to relate simply to sexual activity.
In fact the very basis of Christian prejudice is blown away by a correct reading of the line in the first book of the Old Testament that tells us that God created humans ‘male and female in his image’ – this is generally taken to mean two separate sexes, whereas it is actually a reference of the Principle of Gender, that all things contain both male and female energy, that is how creation works. If this is grasped, the idea on which Christian discrimination against trans people is based is immediately washed away. In the ancient pre-Christian world trans people were considered to be closer to god and therefore often served in temples.
Science has tried to make Creation fit into neat, tidy, boundaried boxes. But life is more fluid and flexible than that. Science seeks understanding by examination of the material. Spirituality, which is way, way older than science, teaches us how to examine the immaterial, for that is where life begins. Resulting from the mix of religious and scientific prejudice over such a long time, there is now a ‘war’ underway over gender definition, but this war is a false war, keeping firmly in place the paradigm of separation and division, whereas the explosion in trans exposure, confidence and awareness happening in the world is really a sign that we as a species are ready to move on, to grow in understanding, as well as in acceptance and celebration of the magnificent diversity of the human race.
Things will change when we each grasp and the world accepts the Hermetic Principle – that on the physical plane each person has a male or female physical body, however on the spirit and mind planes each person is androgynous with male and female qualities.
It is from this principle that our discussions around gender should begin.
Many people on planet Earth are waking up to the realisation that human consciousness is undergoing a vast and profound shift. The roots of this change happening to us go way back into our history and have long been predicted, but in the last 50 years humanity has not just had a rapid evolution in science and technology, it has also been changing in other ways. The outer change mirrors the rapid growth also going within us, individually and collectively.
Now in the 2020s more of us than ever before are getting the picture that humans are spirit having a material experience, not material beings that have developed mind and spirit through a physical evolution. Spirit and Mind come first. More people than ever before are grasping the idea of Oneness, that life is a unity. Our bodies give us an individual experience of something that is actually collective. While in these bodies we can enjoy separation but we also crave reconnection, which we can find through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual acts.
Having got the idea that we are spirits in material form, the next step towards manifesting a joyful experience of that is to grasp that spirit manifests through the elements. The five pointed star, the pentagram, symbolises this with points for fire, earth, air, water and spirit/consciousness.
As beings of fire we possess potent creative energy. The fire element in us manifests in our passions and joys, in our sexuality and in our search for identity, our urge to shine our individual, personal light in the world. This powerful inner fire can ignite when we are ready to reach for higher truths about who we are, connecting us to spirit, to the higher self, to the divine. Fire tended well takes us into ecstatic states of being. It can also get out of control, can burn and destroy, but a well kept inner fire has the power to nurture, warm, protect – us and those around us.
As beings of earth we experience ourselves in bodies, we share ourselves through touching the world around us. Our bodies are created by a physical act that brings together the fire of sexuality with the earth of the flesh. The body is our vehicle while on earth for pleasure, love and joy. It is designed for labour, but also to play, to feel and channel the bliss of the divine, for, contrary to what religion or science might tell you, the body is holy, created by love making. To start worshipping our own (and others’) bodies as sacred in themselves is to hasten the journey to the realisation of our soul’s true divine nature.
As beings of air we share in the universal Mind, our portion largely veiled so that we can’t see the full picture. We can lift the veils and let in the light of consciousness, in order to grow in awareness and attain wisdom, but we are not generally encouraged to. Sometimes our veils are leaky and unwanted mental energies can enter us, though sometimes we can control the leaks and speak to beings in the universal state of being. Our thoughts direct energy, energy creates emotion – to enjoy good feelings in the body we need to generate them first with thought. Mind is the creative driver, telling the fire where and how hot to burn.
As beings of water we share in the universal love of the divine creation. The water element gives and sustains life, and also exists in us as our feeling bodies, which shift in shape and quality constantly, connecting and disconnecting us from each other and the world around us, and reaching to the depths and the heavens. When we pass emotions between us the spiritual quality of the water element is at play. Water holds presence, including divine presence, something that is usually at first felt rather than seen or heard. Beings in spirit dimensions can connect to us in the physical through feelings, through love.
As conscious beings we are individuals having an experience on planet Earth in which our innate andeternal relationship with the Source of all existence is cut off from our awareness. We may seek to reconnect to the Source, or we may be quite happy enjoying being separate for a lifetime. The universe doesn’t mind which we choose.
But Gaia, the Earth herself, needs us to choose to remember Source, and honour it by honouring her and all other living beings. She does not need us to bow down to gods in the sky, nor to obey the man made restrictions on our freedom set in place by religions, but she does need, and want, us to know that we are always part of everything, always held, always loved and always, ultimately, safe. We need not fear, that is simply the shadow of love.
We are in world of shadows that is becoming a world of love.
We each get to play a part, we each get to make this happen.
In the mid 90s I underwent a dramatic awakening to the subtle realms of reality, to the sacred dimension of life, to the great mystery of our existence – and to the fact that for thousands of years these aspects of creation had been at the centre of human research and enquiry, while in the 20th century the external search for answers to life’s questions through science had largely become the focus of our seeking, pursued by professionals, while the mass population was persuaded to not question things, to simply work, marry, breed, consume and die.
It was hard to find people on my new found wavelength at the time, but I was in London and able to visit esoteric bookshops like Watkins and Mysteries, and libraries such as at the College of Psychic Studies. In those places I at least did not feel so alone in my quest. But in general to talk to people about the unity and evolution of consciousness, about astrology, chakras or witchcraft, was to be considered very weird.
And how right they were… for weird comes from Anglo-Saxon WYRD, and relates to much more than strangeness. It relates to our involvement and interdependence with the invisible energies of creation, the practices and practitioners of which were eventually viewed as strange and dangerous due to Christian propaganda.
In 2021 I simply have to sit home and browse the internet to find thousands – millions????- of voices declaring the realities of UNITY, LOVE, COMPASSION that I felt so alone waking up to just two and a half decades ago. In the 90s I sought connections in the physical world, and found some – discovering the somewhat hidden, underground networks of groups, festivals, new age teachers and intentional communities that had been developing since the 1960s. I saw my generation as a bridge between the 60s awakeners and those to come in the new millennium.
The new generation is now waking up. Many more people in their 20s now are questioning the underlying assumptions on which society, law and government is based than did in the 1980s/90s. But where do they, or people of any age opening their minds to the bigger picture, find clear answers and direction in an age where esoteric information and spiritual teachings are suddenly available everywhere. From hard to find just 2 decades ago to overkill and overwhelm. You won’t hear about it in the mainstream media, but check YouTube and spiritual/consciousness related material is everywhere. This is what humanity is ready for. The 2020s is going to bring the massive shift in understanding, in human consciousness, that many of us have been preparing for since decades.
CAN SEEM DAUNTING AND CONFUSING
IF IT’S A CONCEPT NEW TO YOU
BUT THAT’S BECAUSE THE MEDIA AND THE MUDDLED
PRESENT IT THAT WAY:
SPIRITUALITY IS ABOUT SIMPLICITY
ABOUT COMING TO THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE –
SPIRIT BEINGS IN MATTER AROUND THIS STAR…
CONSCIOUSNESS IS A UNITY
BODIES CREATE THE ILLUSION
OF A SEPARATE YOU AND ME…
WE EXPERIENCE THROUGH THE BODY (EARTH)
THROUGH THE MIND (AIR) EMOTIONS (WATER).
INSIDE US IS AN INNER FIRE, OUR SPIRIT
POWERFUL, DIVINE AND OURS TO FEED:
THIS FIRE IS OUR OWN GODSEED.
“Let he who would be free from the bonds of darkness first divine the material from the immaterial, the fire from the earth. For know ye that as earth descends to earth so also fire ascends to fire and becomes one with fire. He who knows the fire within himself shall ascend into the eternal fire and dwell in it eternally. Fire, the inner fire, is the most potent of all force, for it overcometh all things and penetrates into all things of the earth….
“Man is a fire burning bright through the night, never is quenched through the veil of darkness, never is quenched by the veil of night. ….. Man is a star bound to a body, until he is freed through his strife…only by struggling and toiling to the utmost shall the star within thee bloom out in new life. He who knows the commencement of all things shall free his star from the realms of night.”
FOR THOUSANDS OF YEAR HUMANITY HAS STRUGGLED AND TOILED
BUT THE TIME OF LIGHT AND UNDERSTANDING HAS ARRIVED.
THE STRUGGLES DO NOT END, THE WORK GOES ON
BUT WITH NEW LIGHT IN OUR EYES WE WILL SING A NEW SONG.
The Emerald Tablet from ancient Egypt is a foundation stone of the collective path humanity is on. Studied throughout the Ages in philosophical and mystery schools in a collection of teachings known as the Kybalian, its principles are easily available to all today. Grasping these can accelerate your evolution, and make the process easier.
The principles of truth are seven; He who knows these, understandingly, possesses the magic key before whose touch all the doors of the temple fly open.
The Principle of Mentalism
The all is mind; the universe is mental. – The Kybalion
The Principle of Mentalism embodies the idea that “All is Mind.” Everything that happens has to be a result of a mental state which precedes it. For anything to exist, thoughts had to form first, which then form physical reality or manifestation. “Your thoughts are seeds, plant positive seeds in your mind garden.”
The Principle of Correspondence
As above so below: as below, so above. – The Kybalion
The Principle of Correspondence expresses the idea that there is always a correspondence between the laws of phenomena of the various “planes” of being and life. As above, so below; as below, so above. This principle states that there is a harmony which can be made, agreement and correspondence between these planes:
The Great Physical Plane
The Great Mental Plane
The Great Spiritual Plane
The outer world is a mirror of our inner world
The thoughts and images we hold in our mind will attract their physical likeness to us in our external circumstance. This law works unceasingly for the good or the bad. By understanding this law, we can use it for our benefit instead of our detriment.
Earth is a school for practising these laws of mind and spiritual control.
The Principle of Vibration
Nothing rests; Everything moves; Everything vibrates. – The Kybalion
Motion is manifest in everything in the Universe, nothing rests, and everything moves, vibrates and circles. This principle explains that the distinction between manifestations of Matter, Energy, Mind, and even Spirit, are the result of only different “vibrations”.
Mental Transmutation is described as the practical application of this principle. To change one’s mental state is to change vibration.
The Principle of Polarity
Everything is dual; Everything has poles; Everything has its pair of opposites; Like and unlike are the same; Opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; Extremes meet; All truths, are but half-truths; All paradoxes may be reconciled. – The Kybalion
Take, for example, hot and cold. Though they are opposites they are really the same thing. It is merely a matter of degree. The same could be said of spirit and matter. They are really the same thing.
The same principle also applies on the mental plane of reality. Take, for example, love and hate. They are the same thing but different degrees. The importance of this law comes in the understanding of one’s ability to transmute and change the vibrations from one extreme to another. This in reality is the study of alchemy.
Hate can be transformed by the power of your mind into love (gold). Your lower self can be transformed into your higher self. Your physical body can be transformed into your light body (ascension). Separation can be turned into oneness. Guidance by your negative ego can be turned into guidance by your soul, using the art of polarization.
The Principle of Rhythm
Everything flows, out and in; Everything has its tides; All things rise and fall; The pendulum swing manifests in everything; The measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; Rhythm compensates. – The Kybalion
The Principle of Rhythm expresses the idea that in everything there is manifested a measured motion, a to and from, a flow and inflow, a swing backward and forward, a pendulum-like movement. There is rhythm between every pair of opposites, or poles, and is closely related to the Principle of Polarity. It can be seen that this Principle enables transition from one pole to the other, and not necessarily poles of extreme opposites.
The Principle of Cause and Effect
Every cause has its effect; Every effect has its cause; Everything happens according to law’ Chance is but a name for law not recognized’ There are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the law. – The Kybalion
This explains that there is no such thing as chance, there are no accidents in the universe. Everything in the universe is governed by laws. There are physical laws, emotional laws, mental laws, and spiritual laws. By understanding these laws, we can learn to operate in grace instead of karma. Many times, we don’t know the cause for the reason things happen to us. This is because there are seven dimensions of reality in which causation can occur.
The basic cause of your life are the thoughts and images you hold in your conscious and subconscious mind. By learning to be absolutely vigilant and only allowing into your mind thoughts of God, love, perfection, perfect health, prosperity, joy, oneness, and equanimity, then this is all you will create both inwardly and outwardly. For your thoughts cause your reality.
The Principle of Gender
Gender is in everything; Everything has its masculine and feminine principles; Gender manifests on all planes.” – The Kybalion
This does not relate to the commonly understood notion of sex, but rather “… to procreate, to generate, to create, or to produce…” in general.
Mental Gender is described as a Hermetic concept which relates to the feminine and masculine principles. It does not refer to someone’s physical sex, nor does it suggest that someone of a certain sex necessarily has a matching mental gender. Ideally, one wants to have a balanced mental gender.
The Kybalion states that gender exists on all planes of existence (Physical, Mental and Spiritual), and represents different aspects on different planes. Everything and everyone contains these two elements or principles.
Everything has a yin and yang. On the physical plane each person has a male or female physical body, however psychologically each person is androgynous with male and female qualities. Each person has a left brain and right brain.
The spiritual path is the path of balance and integration. Buddha called this the middle way.
It is the path of balancing the male and female aspects within self and also balancing the heavenly and earthly aspects within self.
“YOU ARE NOT JUST L G B T or Q: YOU ARE EVERYTHING”
The introductory video of the online global celebration of PRIDE 2021 on YouTube features this awesome, magical message – that as a queer person you are not simply the label attached to you in our ever expanding alphabet of definitions, that within you exists ALL IDENTITIES, ALL POTENTIAL, PLUS LIMITLESS SOUL POWER, LOVE AND THE MAGIC OF OUR QUEER SPIRIT.
Queer people can reproduce sexually just as well as Straights, but we do it by choice, rarely by accident. So Queer also contains the potentiality of Straight, we ARE INDEED EVERYTHING.
Homosexuality as an identity did not arise in the 19th century as social scientists like to say – heterosexuality did. Prior to these scientific minded definitions being applied to human nature, sex was generally seen as just sex. It was common for lesbians and gay men to also have spouses. People who crossed or combined the gender lines have always existed. There have been many societies in history where people we today call queer were accepted and even given respect because of the roles they played in society. Church and State in Europe put so much effort over so many centuries trying to suppress queerness because there was just so much of it about!
The assumption in modern times that Straight is normal and Queer a deviance is an utter fabrication. What is normal is Physical Attraction, Sexual Desire and Love. All forms of love are sacred and sexual connection CAN be holy. Until humanity wakes up to this we are a species stuck in an age of darkness, conflict and pain.
Queer people can lead this revolution, this awakening to the true powers of
LOVE, COMPASSION AND CONSCIOUSNESS,
and it starts from the point of realising for ourselves that
From Smalltown Boy to Queer Spirit Warrior, from gay bars to Radical Faerie gatherings, here is a tale of awakening to a multi-dimensional reality and of discovering the hidden spiritual powers of gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer people and how they are manifesting in the world today. AIDS took me to the twilight world between life and death, a place where realities merged and spirit entered. HIV opened my mind to the fact that humanity needs to awaken and realise that we are cut off from our true source and nature, to understand that: Healing Is Vital: healing of our belief in separation.
AIDS became my Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self.
PART ONE 1. My Aquarian Story 2. The Shift of the Ages 3. Magical Roots 4. Childhood and Coming Out 5. Positive 6. Start of the Awakening 7. Meeting the Mother 8. At the Edge with AIDS 9. Awakening Accelerated 10. Landing PART TWO 11. Emergence 12. Passion 13. Queer Spirit 14. Back to the Roots 15. Into Eternity
The generally accepted belief that any kind of self-aware homosexual identity did not exist until the late 19th century was invented by heterosexuals who sought to ensure their dominance over society. This belief stands on shaky ground and deserves to be blown away and replaced by awareness of the many centuries in which gay love was able to blossom and thrive around the world.
The Middle Ages in Europe saw a flowering of gay love that was arguably a cultural peak with roots going back into pre-history, but which underwent the most severe repression possible for most of the last millennium. Historian John Boswell writes that in the 13th century “the voice of Europe’s gay minority was stilled, not to be heard again for centuries”.
That voice was finding its expression in poetry, art and love letters since the earliest recorded writings. The oldest story in the world, Gilgamesh from the Sumerian civilisation of the 2nd millennium BCE, is a passionate story of love between two men, of heartbreak, loss and the search for the meaning of life.
The mythology of ancient Greece is abundant in same sex love, both among Gods and heroes. Zeus falls in love with the beautiful young Ganymede, Apollo with Hyacinth, Hymen (god of marriage) and, according to Pseudo-Apollodorus was with Thracian singer Thamyris in the first man-on-man relationship in history. Virgin Goddess Artemis was known for her affairs with female nymphs. Greek historian Plutarch said the male lovers of the hero Hercules were beyond numbering, meanwhile Achilles was lover with his sidekick Patroclus.
In Plato’s Symposium Aristophanes proclaims:
“Those who love men and rejoice to lie with, be embraced by men, are also the finest bys and young men, being naturally the most manly. The people who accuse them of shamelessness lie; they do this not from shamelessness but from courage, manliness and virility, embracing what is like them.”
Plato argued that pairs of lovers would make the best soldiers, and this was put into practise by the Sacred Band of Thebes in the 4th century BCE. Note the emphasis on the virility and strength of the male same sex lovers, both mythological heroes and among living men. Also in the 4th century BCE Alexander the Great, known for his great love of his companion Hephaestion, led the Greek Empire to its greatest victories, and in the 1st Julius Caesar, great warrior and empire builder of the Romans, was bisexual, and commonly called “every Man’s husband, every man’s wife”.
Of the first 14 emperors who led Rome after Caesar, 13 of them were bisexual or exclusively homosexual, including famously Hadrian, whose young lover Antinous died tragically while in Egypt and was raised to the status of a God – within a decade statues and temples dedicated to him spread across the Empire, presenting an attempt to revive the very sex-positive and gay-positive ancient pagan religion, making Antinous a serious competitor with the new young God on the scene, Jesus Christ.
Polybius recorded in the 3rd century CE that back at the height of the Republic, pre Empire, moderation in sexual matters was almost impossible for young men, who engaged in love affairs with both courtesans and other young men. John Boswell argues that in Roman society it was almost unanimously assumed that adult males were capable of having sexual relations with both sexes. We know from the poet Marshall that same sex marriages took place in first century Rome, that early Christian writers considered same sex love to be “held in high esteem by the Romans” (Tatian the Syrian, C2), even“the Roman religion” (Marcus Minucius Felix writing in a dialogue called Octavian in the 3rd century). Male prostitution was taxed under the Empire, and continued to be under the Christian emperors for two centuries.
A dialogue called “Affairs of the Heart” from the early 4th century, like others at the time, debated the pleasures of gay versus straight love affairs, starting from a equanimous place that viewed “women at their fairest and young men in the flower of manhood” as two sides of the same coin, but concluding that the love of boys is preferable! This work heralds same sex love as having “a hallowed and lawful heritage”. It argues that:
“Marriages are devised as a means of ensuring succession, which was necessary, but only the love of men is a noble undertaking of the philosopher’s soul” and that “Human wisdom coupled with knowledge has after frequent experiments chosen what is best, and has formed the opinion that male-male love is the most stable of loves”.
However, times were already changing – the author of Affairs of the Heart describes lovers of the same gender as“strangers cut off in a foreign land”, but declares:
“We shall not, all the same, be overcome by fear and betray the truth”.
From the fourth century same sex love was under attack from Christians who were opposed to all sexual activities except those necessary to maintain the species. Writers such as Jerome and Origen hated all the hedonistic sexuality of the pagan past. Augustine, who recorded the suffering he underwent after lust had entered his friendship with another male, also proclaimed “There is nothing which degrades the manly spirit more than the attractiveness of females and contact with their bodies”. But not all Christians were on the same page – John Chrysostom recorded that gay sex was rampant in the Christian society of 4th century Antioch (in modern Turkey):
“There is some danger that womenkind will become unnecessary in the future with young men instead fulfilling all the needs women used to… No-one is ashamed, no one blushes, but rather they take pride in their little game”.
Unlike Augustine, the 4th century Bishop of Nola, St Paulinus, was not troubled by his same sex attraction. He wrote passionate letters to the poet Ausonius:
“Through all that life may allot
Or assign to mortals,
As long as I am held within this prison body,
In whatever world I am found,
I shall hold you fast,
Grafted onto my being,
Not divided by distant shores or suns.
Everywhere you shall be with me,
I will see with my heart
And embrace you with my loving spirit.”
It took until the 13th century for Augustine’s pleasure-denying outlook to finally gain the upper hand in the Christian Church and for homosexuality to become viewed as such a terrible sin. The ongoing struggles of the religion against Christian heresies and traditional religions, in both of which sex was viewed much more liberally, plus the reports coming back from the Crusades of the relaxed sexuality in the Muslim lands, served to strengthen the Church’s anti-sex stance.
However, although known as the Dark Ages, from the minimal records we do have we can tell that the European early Middle Ages had been a very gay time indeed, as it seems likely Europe had been for thousands of years already….
When writers from the Roman Empire visited the northern European Celtic and Germanic peoples they recorded their surprise that, as common as same sex relationships were in the Empire (within certain bounds), in the pre-literate cultures to the north they were accepted as completely normal. Aristotle had coined a word for the Celtic love between males much earlier in the 4th century BCE – synousia, meaning passionate friendship, with sexual overtones, and there was plenty of it about in the first millennium, to the shock of some writers. The early modern Europeans were in for the same shock as they took to their ships and explored the world over a millennium later.
Greek philosopher Posidonius, 1ST century BC, traveled into Gaul to investigate the truth of the stories told about the Celtic tribes, and put it very simply: “The Gaulish men prefer to have sex with each other.”
Diodorus Sicilus wrote in the 1st century CE, –
“Although they have good-looking women, they pay very little attention to them, but are really crazy about having sex with men. They are accustomed to sleeping on the ground on animal skins and roll around naked with male bed-mates on both sides. Heedless of their own dignity, they abandon without qualm the bloom of their bodies to others. And the most incredible thing is that they do not find this shameful. When they proposition someone, they consider it dishonourable if he doesn’t accept the offer!”
Bardaisan of Edessa wrote (2nd century CE) that “In the countries of the north — in the lands of the Germans and those of their neighbors, handsome [noble] young men assume the role of wives [women] towards other men, and they celebrate marriage feasts.”
Eusebius of Caesarea, wrote that “Among the Gauls, the young men marry each other (gamountai) with complete freedom. In doing this, they do not incur any reproach or blame, since this is done according to custom amongst them.” (4th century CE)
Jumping forwards to the next millennium:
Jesuit leader Francis Xavier, in the mid 16th century complained that the Buddhist bonzes of Japan: “.. are inclined to sins, abhorred by nature. They even confess it and don’t deny it. It is visible and public to all, including men and women, young and old, none of whom think much of it nor despise it as it seems to be a common habit indeed.”
Father Pero Correia 1551 letter from Sao Vicente, Brazil related that female homosexuality:
“as in Africa, is most common”… the women “carry weapons like men and marry other women. Being called ‘women’ was perceived as a major insult.”
Bernal Diaz del Castillo 1605, one of many authors commenting on sodomy in the New World:
“Most of them moreover were sodomites, especially those who lived in the coastal and warm areas. Boys walked about dressed like women and engaging in this diabolic and abominable activity.”
Portuguese Jesuit Joao dos Santos wrote in 1625 that the chibados of southwestern Africa were: “attyred like women, and behave themselves womanly, ashamed to be called men; are also married to men, and esteeme that unnaturale damnation an honor.
Antonio Cardonega, C17, mentioned that sodomy was:
“rampant among the people of Angola. They pursue their impudent and filthy practices dressed as women.”
He also stated that the sodomites often served as powerful shamans, were highly esteemed among most Angolan tribes and commonly called “quimbanda.”
As recently as the early 20th century among the Ila people of Zambia there are records of the mwammi, translated as prophets:
“dressed always as women,did women’s work such as plaiting baskets, and lived and slept among, but not with, the women”.
The repression of same sex love that continues to be such an issue in Christian circles today, has its roots in the late Roman Empire, but did not take hold until the 13th century. The first Roman legislation directly outlawing homosexual behaviour came in 533, two centuries after Christianity had become the state religion of the Empire. Emperor Justinian, who may have been the first person in history to blame natural disasters on gay people (“because of such crimes there are famines ,earthquakes and pestilence”) gave gay sex the same punishment as for adultery – death. This law seems however to have only been used against bishops, suggesting the emperor found it a useful tool against his enemies, and that the general population had little interest in it – a parallel with the Sodomy Law of Henry VIII of England in the 16th century, which was at first only used against the monastic community.
When the Visigothic kingdom in Spain adopted Catholicism in 589 CE there was a drive to establish conformity that included legislation against gays and jewish people, but when Arabs invaded the peninsular in the 8th century laws against gay sex disappeared, it being regarded as entirely normal. John Boswell says that gays flourished in Spain in the 9th-10th centuries, and most of the Islamic poetry from Hispano-Arab Iberia, written by all ranks of society, has gay imagery, which was also standard in the writings of Islamic mystics for hundreds of years. The 11th century King of Seville, al-Mutamid, wrote of his page-boy:
“I made him my slave, but the coyness of his glance has made me his prisoner, so that we are both at once slave and master to each other”.
Some Muslim sources of the time criticise Christian clergy for their addiction to sodomy, and indeed there may have been a lot of same sex action going on, both in the Church and in society at large. Boswell’s study of punishments set by the Catholic Church against sexual activities among the clergy “suggests that despite considerable local variation, attitudes towards homosexuality grew steadily more tolerant throughout the early Middle Ages”. Homosex was regarded as one of many forms of illicit fornication, often seen as less serious than having ‘unnatural’ sex with women.
In 1051 in ‘The Book of Gomorrah’ Saint Peter Damian railed against the evils of sex between males, especially clergy, which he said were extemely common. However, Pope Leo declined his demand that all clergy guilty of homosexual relations should be removed from office. In 1102 the Council of London proposed to make sure the public knew how serious a sin sodomy is by having it condemned from every pulpit on every Sunday. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm wrote in a letter prohibiting the publication of the Council’s decree:
“This sin has hitherto been so public that hardly anyone is embarrassed by it, and many have therefore fallen into it because they were unaware of its seriousness”.
Love and sex between people of the same gender probably enjoyed a relatively tolerant atmosphere in the 12th century. Satirical literature of that time includes references to priests who were more likely “to love gods than goddesses” (Walther of Chatillon).
An anonymous manuscript from Zurich writes of the local Bishop:
“The man who holds this seat is Ganymedier than Ganymede,
Consider why he excludes the married from the clergy:
He does not care for the pleasures of a wife”.
In medieval monasteries there was a flowering of (celibate of not) love between the monks, as evidenced by their letters and the literature they created, such as ‘On Spiritual Friendship’ by Yorkshire abbot Aelred of Rievaulx. Benedictine monk Bernard of Cluny in France wrote that same sex lovers “are as numerous as grains of barley, as many as the shells of the sea, or the sand of the shore”, complaining that cities were “awash” with gay sexuality – the terms he used were Sodomes and Ganymedes.
John Boswell called the High Middle Ages the time of the ‘Triumph of Ganymede’ and finds evidence for a “reappearance for the first time since the decline of Rome of … what might be called a gay subculture” between 1050-1150 which completely disappears by 1300. Baudri of Bourgeuil, an abbot then later archbishop, wrote many affectionate verses, such as to Ralph the Monk whom he called his “Other self, or myself, if two spirits may be one, And if two bodies may actually become one”. But he was aware of the dangers:
“What we are is a crime, if it is a crime to love,
For the God who made me live made me love”.
Marbod of Rennes, a master of the Church at Chartres, wrote many gay love poems that were copied in manuscripts across Europe, and even used as teaching material. Hilary the Englishman wrote verses praising the beauty of English young men, while complaining of their aloofness (“Oh how I wish you wanted money!”) The Carmina Burana contains a poem that is a debate between two male lovers, who are clerics – one is sick and offers to God that he will join a monastery if God makes him well. On eventually working out this would mean not seeing his lover again, he decides against the monastic life.
Ganymede became a prominent character in medieval literature, sometimes appearing in debates about gay vs hetero love that revived a subject and style once common in Greek literature. Ganymede was used to replace the term sodomite, which was widely used before and after this period. One of the most popular poems of the time was the ‘Debate between Ganymede and Helen‘, which survives in manuscripts from England to Italy. Unlike with the older Greek debates, the fertility of heterosexuality wins out over the gay “waste of seed”, but we learn from the poem that gayness was very common amongst important, influential people, that the very people who call it a sin also are involved in it. “Some are drawn by Helen, others by Ganymede” says the poem, revealing an open minded medieval mind-set.
A similar debate between Ganymede and Hebe claims that the boy’s beauty eclipses Hebe “as the sun outshines the moon”. Ganymede’s lines in the poem strongly suggest that gay people of the time saw their sexual and romantic preferences as innate and natural. A copy of this debate from Leiden has these words written into it:
“The indiscriminate Venus grasps at any remedy,
But the wise one rejoices with the tender Ganymede.
I have heard it said that he plays Venus more than she,
But Venus is happy, since he stuffs only boys…
Venus kindles all fires, but the greatest heat
Is in sex with males, whoever has tried it knows it”.
The same manuscript has verses added attacking gay love and sex, and names Chartres, Sens, Orleans and Paris as preeminent centres of gay subculture and prositution:
“Let Chartres and Sens perish, where Adonis sells himself
According to the law of the brothel, where males are prostituted.
A noble city, a unique city infected with these evils,
Paris rejoices to wed a young master.
You are more depraved than all of these, Orleans;
You perish holding the title for this crime…
The men of Orleans are preeminent – if you think well
Of the manners of this type – at sleeping with boys.”
A very similar debate to Ganymede and Helen appears in the collection of stories from the Islamic world of the 12-13th centuries known as the Arabian Nights. Richard Burton translated the 419th Night, ‘The Dispute between the Man and the Learned Woman from Baghdad concerning the Relative Excellence of Girls and Boys’, in which the female disputant is presented as the intellectual equal of the male. In another tale a young woman dresses as a man to convince her husband that same sex activity is the only fashionable form of love.
In his 1980 work, ‘Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality’ John Boswell details the evidence for what he considers an “extraordinary efflorescence of gay subculture, with a highly developed literature, its own argot and artistic conventions, its own low life, its elaborate responses to critics”. But this subculture disappears entirely early in the 13th century, and by the start of the 14th the death penalty had been put in place for sodomitcal acts in most of Europe. Persecution of homosexuals was added to the remit of the Inquisition in the 15th century. England caught up with mainland Europe in the 16th, with Henry VIII’s Buggery Act, and although punishments under this act were at first directed against the monastic community, over the following centuries many men fell foul to its terms, with the last being executed in 1835. In contrast, in 1830s Africa, King Mwanga II of Buganda was openly gay, and actively opposing Christianity and colonialism.
Why did Europe become so obsessed with an anti-gay outlook? Fostered in religious circles, from the 14th to the 20th centuries the political state has considered itself the arbiter of society’s morals, imposing strict punishments on same sex lovers. It is striking that heterosexual love, so long applauded for its ‘normality’ requires such stringent rules in order to maintain its cultural hegemony.
Seeking reasons, Boswell idenfiies that the 13-14th century in Europe saw a rise of absolutist governments; there was a quest for intellectual and institutional conformity; a strengthening of ecclesiastical and civil adminstrative machinery and power to exert their authority (there was an astronomical increase in legislation in the C13); theology was forced into systematic formulas and the Inquisition was formed to eliminate theological loose ends and differences of opinion. Pope Gregory IX sent Dominican friars to root out homosexuality in Germany which he considered “so ridden with the unnatural vice”. The Black Death spread through Europe, in the 14th, decimating the population, who sought scapegoats to blame for the suffering, and minorities came in for attack. Jewish people were expelled from England and France, lepers were accused of poisoning wells in France, gays and wtiches all came under suspicicion. The openly gay monarch of England, Edward II, was deposed and murdered, and the Knights Templar orders were accused of sorcery and deviant sexuality, and dissolved.
Law codes of the time start to pinpoint sodomy for severe punishments, often quoting the fashionable accusation of gay love being ‘contrary to nature’ which became sealed as a Christian belief thanks to the work of St Thomas Aquinas (died 1274) who “promoted (homo acts) to a position of unique enormity” and argued that semen was intended only for producing children.
In the 15-16th centuries a gay subculture would begin to re-emerge, especially in Renaissance Florence and Elizabethan England, but would be constantly in conflict with the legal and religious authorities. London of the 18th century had its molly houses and gay brothels, and while these are often seen as the precursors of the modern gay movement and gay identity they might be viewed differently once the long ancient history of queer people is better known. (Mollis was a Latin word for a ‘soft man’, one of many queer-related words in the language). The illegality of gay sex was overthrown by the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, but after centuries of effort to poison the minds of the population against gay people, being queer in France retained risks, but made the country a safer haven for persecuted queers such as Oscar Wilde in the late 19th.
In the 20th century we were told to believe that gay identity was a modern thing, though of course In Europe and north America it continued to be regarded as a sickness, a problem, a crime, for much of the century. Some Churches, and non-Christian faiths, continue to virulently believe that gay sex is a sin into the 21st. In fact it would likely be fair to say that for most of human history men have been regarded as sexual beings who were naturally inclined to have sex with each other as well as with women. Only imposed societal taboos makes affection between men difficult, and these include 20th century statistical bias from surveys such as the Kinsey Report: most people know that his famous American report suggested the number of 1 in 10 for homosexuals – more recent studies have suggested it is much less – but do you know that the report also showed that ONE THIRD of men had had some kind of homosexual experience. Taboos on love and sexual activity between men are entirely man-made, based on fear and on efforts to control others and society in general.
GAY LOVE IS AS OLD AS HUMANITY
AS NATURAL AS NATURE HERSELF
far from being a crime, a sin, a sickness
same-sex love is a powerful source of personal and collective well-being and health.
BELTANE is an ancient fire festival marking the point in Spring when Winter is finally defeated and the journey into Summer truly underway. The last vestiges of the dark half of the year were burned away in the Beltane fires, and Maypole dances whisked up a spirit of revelry and celebration. Of all the pagan festivals “May was the popular festive occasion that … best resisted Christianisation” (Historian Robert Muchembled). With origins in Greco-Roman, Celtic and Germanic pagan cultures, the celebrations around the coming of May, and the rituals of May Eve, are deeply embedded in the soul of European peoples, and have never fully disappeared.
The Romans celebrated the Goddess Flora or Maia, considered by many a form of the Earth Mother, synonymous with the Magna Mater, Cybele. The Germanic tribes seem to have honoured the coupling of Woden and Freya at this time. The Celts worshipped a male Sun God, Bel/Belenus, and associated Beltane in Ireland with the arrival of the ancient magical race the Tuatha De Danaan. This festival is considered a time when the veils between the worlds are thin, as at Samhain on the opposite side of the Wheel of the Year, but now especially to the realm of the nature spirits, the faeries.
Named Beltane in the Celtic lands, the May Day feast’s long history is hinted at by the earliest written record of it from ‘Sanas Cormiac’, a 10th century work attributed to Irish churchman Cormac of Cashel, who wrote about the ‘lucky fire’ made by Druids: the cattle were driven between two fires to protect them against summer diseases. Later works record people passing between the fires too. The same ritual, minus the Druids, was recorded nearly 1000 years later at Beltane 1838 by a farmer, Humphrey O’Sullivan in Leinster, who noted in his diary that he had driven his cattle between the fires. In 1852 in ‘Irish Popular Superstitions’ Sir William Wilde wrote that:
“With some, particularly the younger portion, this was a mere diversion, to which they attached no particular meaning, yet others performed it with a deeper intention, and evidently as a religious rite. Thus, many of the old people might be circumambulating the fire, and repeating to themselves certain prayers. If a man was about to perform a long journey, he leaped backwards and forwards three times through the fire, to give him success in his undertaking. If about to wed he did it to purify himself for the marriage state. It going to undertake some hazardous enterprise, he passed through the fire to render himself invulnerable. As the fire sank low, the girls leaped across it to procure good husbands: women great with child might be seen stepping through it to ensure a happy delivery, and children were also carried across the smouldering ashes. At the end the embers were thrown among the sprouting crops to protect them, while each household carried some back to kindle a new fire in its hearth.”
The mention of Druids in the first written record of Beltane, from Ireland where there were still active Druids around 900 CE, unlike Britain where the wisdom keepers of the ancient Celtic faith were wiped out during the Roman occupation, hints that this Spring festival may have very ancient roots in both lands. Certainly the folk memory, and practice, of Beltane ceremonies remained strong in the psyche of the British as well as Irish people for most of the last millennium, and remains with some of us today.
In the Scottish lowlands in 1571 the records show that the corporation doubled the watch “on Beltane eve, Beltane at eve and the morn after Beltane day”. The court at the 1597 trial of alleged witch Margaret Aitken, known as ‘the great witch of Balwery’, heard of a great ‘convention‘ of over 2000 witches held in the Highlands at Beltane. In Sir John Sinclair’s surveys of the country in the 1790s we read of Beltane fires made in Perthshire by young cowherds. The last fires in Scotland slowly faded away in the 19th century, surviving the longest, until the 1870s, in the Shetlands.
There are some records of Beltane fires in Wales and the west of England, but in the main the May Day was more associated across England’s pastoral lands with processions, dances and the Maypole. The origins of Maypole ceremonies are unknown, but note that worship involving tall poles is a common trait around the world in many traditional cultures, from the Native American totem poles to the Asherah poles built by the Hebrews to worship their ancient Goddess, much to the displeasure of the writers of the Old Testament. Historian Jennifer Russ suggests the Maypole originated from a birch tree decorated for Goddess Freya.
The earliest mention of a British Maypole comes from Wales in the mid 14th century in a poem by Gryffydd ap Adda ap Dafydd which describes the festivities around a birch tree that had been chosen for the pole, and by this time the ceremony was for certain well established across southern Britain, in towns and villages. Chaucer refers to the permanent Maypole standing in London at Cornhill in his poem Chaunce of the Dice. Although poles were rare in Scotland and not found Ireland, they were also common from the Pyrenees to Scandinavia and Russia, suggesting a history back to Celtic and Norse times.
May rituals included ceremonial animal dressing, cross-dressing and lots of dancing. The Morris Dance was “typically danced to ‘pagan gods’ by males wearing bells or dressed as women or animals, the morris celebrated ‘the return of vegetation’ and was thought to ‘bring luck’ to participants.” (Randy P. Connor). From 19th century records we know that May rites still featured cross-dressing, eg some London chimney sweeps would dress in feminine attire for this day, and in Hertfordshire there were male couples going to the rites as “Mad Moll and her husband”.
This was a time of celebrating fertility, and therefore also human love and flirtation. English evangelical pamphleteer Philip Stubbes angrily railed against the May fun, saying that one third of the women who participated in them were deflowered during the night. After celebrating all day people “would go to the woods, and groves, some to the hills and mountains… where they would spend all the night in pleasant pastimes… The May games celebrated the growth of the fruits of the earth and the fruits of love.” (Robert Muchembled)
18th century historian Henry Bourne wrote a pioneering study of English folkore called Antiquitates Vulgares (Antiquities of the Common People) in which he recorded the May celebration:
“On the calends or first of May, commonly called May Day, the juvenile part of both sexes were wont to rise a little after midnight and walk to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with music and blowing of horns, where they break down branches from the trees and adorn themselves with nosegays and crowns of flowers… The after part of the day is chiefly spend in dancing round the Maypole; and being placed in a convenient part of the village, the Maypole stands there, as it were, consecrated to the Goddess of Flowers, without the least violation being offered to it in the whole circle of the year.”
Maypoles were a prominent feature of English life until the Puritan revolution of the 1640s. A description of one was given in 1580 by pamphleteer Philip Stubbes:
“They have 20 or 40 yoke of oxen, every ox having a sweet nose-gay of flowers placed on the tip of his horns, and these oxen draw home this Maypole… which is covered all over with flowers and herbs, bound about with strings, from the top to the bottom, and sometimes painted with variable colours, with two or three hundred men, women and children following it with great devotion. And thus being reared up, with handkerchiefs and flags hovering on the top, they strew the ground around about, bind green boughs about it, set up summer halls, bowers and arbours hard by it. And then they fall to dance about it”.
Maypoles could also become a focus for communal misbehaviour, such as at the May Day riots in London in 1517, after which the Cornhill pole was no longer erected. Rivalry between villages led to the theft of Maypoles, which could lead to violent behaviour.
During the reign of Edward VI (1547-53) the Cornhill pole, which had been kept in storage, was cut up and burnt after being denounced as an idol by a Protestant preacher. Along with the Catholic religion, vestiges of the pagan past including the Maypole (the Church had largely tolerated such collective festivities in the late medieval period of ‘Merrie Olde England’) revived under Queen Mary I and were accepted, and appreciated, by open minded Elizabeth. During her reign however the pressure built from Protestant thinkers against all activities that involved mixed gender dancing, intoxication and making merry on a Sunday and from 1570 until 1630 Maypoles were banned in many cities from Canterbury to Bristol to Doncaster.
In London the May Day focal point in the 17th century was a great fixed pole on the Strand, which stood 100 feet tall at a site long regarded as a pagan centre of worship. One of the first thing Londoners did at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 after 18 years of strict Puritan rule under Oliver Cromwell was to erect a 134 feet tall Cedar Maypole at this spot, with the King in attendance. A pamphlet entitled “The Cities Loyalty Displayed” celebrated the return of the Maypole to London. Historian Catherine Arnold writes in ‘City of Sin’ that as Charles II took the throne “the city erupted into one giant party which was to last for the rest of his life.” Diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was delighted when the May rites returned, recording in 1661 that he and his wife and friends went to Woolwich to spend the night in the countryside in preparation to ‘gather May-dew’ in the morning.
It was not only in central London that the downfall of fundamentalist religious control was met with an upsurge of pagan sentiment, as evidenced by the reappearance of maypoles around the country. Philosopher and amateur archaeologist (he discovered the Avebury stone circle!) John Aubrey (1626-97) wrote that poles “were set up at every crossway”. Jonathon Swift celebrated the return of the Maypole under Charles II in poetry written from the pole’s point of view:
“And once a Weaver in our Town,
A damn’d Cromwellian, knock’d me down.
I lay a prisoner twenty Years;
And then the Jovial Cavaliers
To their old Posts restor’d all Three
I mean the Church, the King, and Me.”
The huge Strand Maypole was severely damaged by strong winds in 1672, and only a stump remained until 1713, when it was rebuilt again – this time it only survived until 1717. The Maypole site was taken over to build the Church of St Mary le Strand, which still stands, and the pole itself was bought by Isaac Newton, who used it in the building of an aerial telescope. So the last London pagan ritual pole, representative of our ancient search for spiritual answers, became part of the search for a new scientific explanation of our existence here on Earth.
The Maypole is one of the most powerful symbols of paganism– it represents the union of earth and heaven. It is decorated and danced around to invoke that experience of cosmic connection in the revellers, or simply to have a good rocking time. To the Puritans of the 17th century, who were determined to complete the Protestant conversion of the country begun a century earlier under Henry VIII, the Maypole was a “stynkynge idoll” because it was associated with drunken and sexualised goings on. In 1644 Maypoles were outlawed, and poles around the country torn down, including London’s central pole on the Strand. Sociologist Max Weber in 1905 described Protestantism as descending “like a frost on the life of ‘Merrie Olde England’.”
It wasn’t only Puritans getting worried about the goings on at these festive celebrations. The ecclesiastical and secular authorities disliked the lawlessness that these occasions brought out., however their attempts to ban the poles probably served to make them become more powerful focal points of defiance and political action. Historian EP Thompson wrote that well into the 18th century the political aspirations of the English people were expressed in “a language of ribbons, of bonfires, of oaths and the refusal of oaths, of toasts, of seditious riddles and ancient prophecies, of oak leaves and maypoles, of ballads with a political double-entendre”.
For the mass population, Maypoles retained their popularity for a long time. In 1708 the British Apollo reported that it was now commonly accepted that the Maypole rite came from the ancient Britons, before conversion to Christianity, in worship of the Roman Goddess Flora. Historian Ronald Hutton writes that “During the 18th century Maypoles seem to have been both very common and taken for granted in the English and Welsh countryside.” This continued, but from the end of the 18th, reports speak of the neglect and rotting away of the permanent poles – the last Maypole in London was taken down in 1795.
May rites carried on: John Brady recorded in ‘Clavis Calendria: Or, a compendious analysis of the calendar’ in 1814:
“…no only common people, but those of every rank in the vicinity of the place, joined in the tumultuous dissipations of the day… [the crowd] gave a free indulgence to riotous and disorderly practice, dancing through the streets in wanton attitudes… Even the priests, joining with the people, went in procession to some adjoining wood on the May morning.”
In France Maypoles became a symbol of defiance among the peasant people in the 18th century, becoming known as ‘liberty trees‘, upsetting the Catholic establishment because of political demands attached to the pagan symbol. The pole remained a focus of collective ecstatic joy, with an edge of spontaneous revolution from below. A report written by the local revolutionary society in Perigord, records how peasants in July 1791 attacked weathercocks and church pews (symbolising feudal and religious authorities) “both with some violence and their effusion of joy… they set up Maypoles in the public squares, surrounding them with all the destructive signs of the feudal monarchy”. French Revolutionary Abbe Henri Gregoire stressed in a 1794 treatise the connection of trees, revolutionary fervour and pagan traditions, reminding his audience that trees and plants were dedicated to divinities, such as the Oak to Ceres and the vine to Bacchus. He also recorded that American Revolutionaries were erecting Maypoles on the banks of Delaware river as a “citizen’s rallying signal in every community.”
Fear of the Maypole’s pagan and anarchic associations declined and concern in the Victorian era about the breaking down of social bonds led writers such as Sir Walter Scott to romanticise medieval culture and its festivals which he saw as bringing all layers of society together in celebration, offering a “happy holiday to the monotony of a life of labour” which he felt could help “resolve the difficulties and distractions” of his time. Similar sentiments came from Wordsworth, Tennyson, Coleridge. A romantic drama, ‘Richard Plantagenet’ by JT Haines, staged in 1836 at the Victoria Theatre in London featured the first known example of an English Maypole dance with ribbons attached to the top of the pole. This struck a chord, was featured yearly thereafter and the practice spread to May Day festivities around the land, replacing older dances by 1880. Lord John Manners of the ‘Young England’ Conservatives in Parliament, a group which included Benjamin Disraeli, called the Maypole a symbol of social unity and harmony as he called for a revival of traditional festivals to restore health and loyalty among the common people.
The 20th century saw its own periods of decline and revival of interest in May celebrations. Large public events developed such as the Beltane festivities in Edinburgh and Jack in the Green in Hastings and are going strong. At my primary school in the 1970s in Suffolk we were introduced to the Maypole dance, but not to its history. May Day had become largely associated with worker’s rights, with the Labour government introducing a national May Day Bank Holiday in 1975, but the role of the Maypole as a symbol of collective defiance was forgotten, as was the healing and bonding of the experience of collective joy raised in ecstatic Maypole ceremonies, which once went hand in hand with political demands.
In the early 21st century I found a place that the spirit of Beltane had made a new home – with the Radical Faeries, a global manifestation of creative, expressive, queer community that celebrates nature and our defiant, queer place in it as sacred physical and spiritual beings (I might add, with no need of religions to connect us to the spirit). Radical Faeries celebrate Beltane with erotic, ecstatic passion, erecting Maypoles in out-of-the-way nature places where the festivities are not overseen by the over-prying eyes of the authorities or the judgmental general public. One day Maypoles may return to our towns and villages again, but I doubt they will have the passion and power of these wild, free, bliss soaked ceremonies out in the woods. Beltane Spirit is alive and well,and known about across the world more widely than ever before thanks to the Internet and the massive, but little acknowledged by the mainstream establishment, return and spread of nature based wisdom among all the peoples of the world.
At Beltane we finally release the last dregs of Winter, and raise our spirits into the sunshine to empower the goals and intentions we have for the summer ahead. We remember the ancestors and the spirits of nature, call upon the magic of the May Queen and the Green Man to bless us in all our endeavours and remember that we are part of a cosmic dance that has been going for a very long time. Taking the time to mark and celebrate the seasonal festivals of the solar calendar brings us into alignment with the natural energy flows of nature, and bring our souls and bodies into states of harmony, opening our minds to understanding and wisdom and our hearts to the universal, divine love flowing through all life.
That’s why we dance. Because life dances. At Beltane we drop the worries and woes, and learn to trust in the universe, our Mother, to look after us. We dance and She dances with and within us. We share Joy and the Worlds are Blessed.
In the years 1995-2000 I underwent a transformation of my being – due to sickness I was motivated to explore the metaphysical layers of existence and quickly worked out that:
THERE ARE TWO LAYERS TO OUR HUMAN REALITY
THE MATERIAL (PHYSICAL BODY) AND THE NON-MATERIAL (MIND, SPIRIT)
The Western culture lost this understanding at some point in its history, and began to see the mind as a feature or function of the physical brain, but in the Eastern world the exploration of Mind (which in the East includes thought, imagination, memory, emotion and spirit) took central place in the philosophical and religious sectors.
In the West all our incredible scientific and medical advances in understanding are missing awareness of this fundamental nature of reality, and will ultimately all one day be revised, when the nature of consciousness is better understood. For example I have learnt through my studies and experience that how we think, what we believe and imagine are always creating frequencies that generate well-being or dis-ease in our bodies.
Regarding GENDER, both body and mind/spirit express through gender and the gender of each part of us may be differently aligned. The rise in TRANS VISIBILITY, especially since 2014, is happening in the West where this basic metaphysical reality is not understood. The inner gender may well not align with the body gender, and this is normal, as traditional cultures once understood. We may feel we are both genders on the inner planes, or that we are a medley of frequencies that need no gender label at all.
“Among the Dagara people, gender has very little to do with anatomy. It is purely energetic. In that context, a male who is physically male can vibrate female energy, and vice versa. That is where the real gender is.” Malidoma Some of the Dagara people of West Africa, http://www.menweb.org/somegay.htm
(This was once widely accepted in the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic pagan cultures of Europe and the Middle East where TRANS PEOPLE FULFILLED SACRED ROLES, a vestige of which is still present in the Hijra people of India).
This accepted, we can then see how it is possible to transform one’s gender in two ways. It might be that a person feels motivated to embrace and expand their inner gender, but not necessarily wish to change the body. Every single personality is formed through an interplay of gender, awareness and belief, and we can all expand our life experience in each area.
This was my path. In the mid 90s, as I faced living and dying with AIDS, my inner feminine took over and led me on a path of soul transformation. I love my male body and have no wish to change it, but I had never felt fully at home in all male company, often even in gay male venues. In the Radical Faerie tribe I have met men who naturally and joyfully embrace and express their inner feminine. These are the kind of men I can be around, assuming they also get that female and trans-identified faeries are also part of this mix of gender fluidity that has within it the potential to transform not only individuals but the understanding, behaviour and attitude of the whole human race.
Rock icon Debbie Harry said in an interview a few years ago, in her nonchalant manner – like ‘why doesn’t everyone get it?’ – that she has always just felt the point was to embrace both male and female within ourselves, I’m sure that’s her secret to still rocking on in her 70s.
The flow of feminine and masculine in the body and the mind makes me whole.
The modern emergence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people has happened in a western world somewhat lost in a spiritual void, but if voices of the traditional cultures are listened to, and our own western history revisited, we could find out much more about who we are why we are here.
The age of Pisces: we swim around like fish in water, unaware that we are totally immersed in the element that gives us life. We fall for the illusions that rulers, religions, society want us to buy. We believe that we are limited and born to merely die.
The age of Aquarius: the soul of life has had enough of our misunderstanding of the play, and is constantly trying to reveal to us the Way, known as the Tao in the Far East and as the Wyrd in the Germanic West, but forgotten in a world driven by other creeds that conceal the truth of our existence here, reserving it for an elect few, or that deny the existence of the Way all together.
Gradually the skies brighten, higher visions open minds and hearts. Crisis creates compassion, limitation comes before growth, contraction before expansion.
In this shift of the ages, queer people play a crucial part. We are awakeners, healers, witches, shamans: genderbending is a transcendental portal, through our bodies we connect the worlds. We reveal the multidimensional nature of love, we restore balance to a humanity obsessed with polarity and power.
The mythology of Aquarius speaks of the role we play in bringing the love of the gods to the people of earth. Ganymede becomes the cup-bearer to the Gods, honoured and adored in Heaven. Our role here is to help this planet achieve its ascension, its multidimensional rebirth. To reconnect and resurrect the Goddess, the ancestors, the nature spirits and humanity’s soul to help life on earth enter the conscious awareness of Oneness, to become whole.
Queer sexuality has historically been associated with magic, priestcraft, ritual and power. The suppression of gay and trans people was a power grab by the patriarchal male, part of their subjugation of the mysterious and mystical powers of the feminine. The most powerful shamans of the pre-religious cultures from Siberia to Africa, America to Australasia and East Asia, served the tribe (in some places into modern times, accessing their powers through their gender-variant, two-spirited, sexual natures. The Great Goddess was served by queer priest/esses in the temples of the ancient Empires and in the street festivals that celebrated deities such as Dionysus and Cybele.
400 BCE – 300 AD has been called by historian Will Roscoe a ‘renaissance’ of queer-led religions:
“At the time of the birth of Christ, cults of men devoted to a Goddess flourished throughout the broad region extending from the Mediterranean to south Asia.” (Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion,1996).
The philosophers of ancient Greece considered same sex love to be spiritually charged with heavenly potential, while heterosexual relationships were seen as much more earth-bound and mundane. The Renaissance philosophers realised the same thing, as Michelangelo recorded when he wrote in a sonnet to his male lover,
And if the vulgar and malignant crowd
misunderstand the love with which we’re blessed
its worth is not affected in the least
our faith and honest love can still be blessed.
Some 19th century gay men were thinking along the same lines when they adopted the word ‘Uranian’ to describe queer people. They were invoking the spirit of Aphrodite Urania, the Greek patron of same sex love – and Uranus means ‘heaven’. Oscar Wilde said,
“To have altered my life would have been to have admitted that Uranian love is ignoble. I hold it to be noble—more noble than other forms.”
This poetic term was competing with others such as ‘invert’ to become the general label, but of course ‘homosexual’, the preferred word used by the new science psychology, won out.
Yet while homosexuality was the term adopted by the 20th century scientific mind, there had always been words for both queer sexual acts and those who perform them, such as catamite, sodomite and molly. One of the most enduring of those words was Ganymede. The Glossographia Anglicana Nova of 1719 defined a Ganymede as,
“…the Name of a Trojan Boy; now it commonly signifies any Boy loved for Carnal Abuse, or hired to be used contrary to Nature, to commit the Sin of Sodomy”
However, in the High Middle Ages Ganymede had stood for much more than a young bottom. Historian John Boswell has called the period 1050-1150 ‘The Triumph of Ganymede’, because there was a “reappearance for the first time since the decline of Rome of evidence for what might be called a gay subculture” ( Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, 1980). Debates about the merits of gay vs straight love appear, which had been common in Greek literature until the 4th century. The earliest and longest of these is the “Debate between Ganymede and Helen” which was once recited aloud and known by heart by many educated people. An absolute acceptance of the normality of same sex love is reflected in the line about the Gods which says that “some are drawn by Helen, others by Ganymede“. Gay people were sufficiently important in society at this time to feel able to take a defiant tone in this text and others, such as “Ganymede and Hebe” which describes the boy as eclipsing the former cup-bearer “as the sun outshines the moon”.
One medieval manuscript reads,
“The indiscriminate Venus grasps at any remedy,
But the wise one rejoices with the tender Ganymede…
Venus kindles all fires, but the greatest heat
Is in sex with males, whoever has tried it knows it”.
Arabian Islamic culture was also at that time embracing of gay love. Sufi poetry used homoerotic language and the collection of stories in the medieval Arabian Nights includes one similar to that of Ganymede and Helen, “The Dispute between the Man and the Learned Woman from Baghdad concerning the Relative Excellence of Girls and Boys”
Islamic countries are notorious today for their homophobic laws and attitudes, but these are a relatively recent arrival, brought on by exposure from the 19th century to the ‘civilising’ efforts of the Christian west. Gay subcultures existed and thrived in islamic lands until modern times, but In Europe the medieval gay surge was over by the start of the 13th century, to be replaced by centuries of virulent homophobic treatises, laws and punishments. These were fuelled in part by the Crusaders discovering just how queer things were in the Middle East and by the association of both Christian heresies and Pagan magical practices with same sex ritual. The Cathars and Bogomil heretics in Europe bequeathed their names to modern queers – Ketzer in German and Buggers/Bougres in English/French. The actual meaning of Cathar is Pure One, and of Bogomil is Beloved of God.
This twisting of meanings has been going on for a long time, all to serve the goals of a fem-phobic patriarchy. An example are the Qedesha of the Old Testament – their name also means ‘Holy’ or ‘Anointed Ones’ but, because of the sacred sexual practices carried out in their Goddess temples, Qedesha became ‘sodomites’ in the King James English Bible and ‘male shrine prostitutes’ in modern translations. Feminist historian Merlin Stone wrote in When God Was A Woman, 1976, that the,
“…anti-sexual stance of the Hebrews, and subsequently the Christian religions.. was not the result of a more inherent purity or lesser sex drive… it was probably developed and propagated for purely political motives”.
The noble spirit of transgender people and same sex love has been denigrated for so long by religion, made illegal by governments, analysed and pathologised by psychiatry and science, that queer people today have very little notion of the true picture of the history of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people – of just how widespread and normal bi + homosexuality and gender variant expression has often been, nor the special holy roles that people like us were once associated with.
Modern queers tend to look only to the 20th century for our history – but that is the century that gave birth to a gay liberation movement that tried to reassure the dominant hetero culture that we pose no threat, that claimed we are no different to them except for whom we love. This view of us as minority simply locks us into being a sub-class, assimilated into the whole, adopting their goals and ceremonies.
However, an essentialist view of our nature proposes that we have our own ways of being and our own destiny, that the sexual and gender subcultures bring something unique, powerful and necessary to the human whole: especially those gifts of vision, love and spirit that have been denied and repressed for so long – such long centuries in fact that we often have to some deep digging within before we even see them within ourselves.
The long lost spiritual history of same sex love and gender-fluidity can reveal to us what we might be in the world today as the Age of Aquarius begins, how our global liberation is actually a quest for the spiritual liberation of all humanity. When false notions of natural and unnatural sexual orientations and gender expression are dropped completely we have a new playing ground in which to explore the mysteries and discover the gifts of our human and queer nature. We get to redefine ourselves, in ways that supersede the limiting notions of sexuality imposed on us by homophobes.
“When Salome inquired when the things concerning which she asked should be known, the Lord said: When ye have trampled on the garment of shame, and when the two become one and the male with the female is neither male nor female”. Clement of Alexandria, quoting Gospel of Thomas in his Second Epistle, 2nd century.
In the ancient pagan world the arrival of Spring was time for ceremonies celebrating rebirth and renewal. Christianity followed this pattern with its Easter festival.
Will Roscoe writes in Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love (published 2004):
In late antiquity, the worship of Cybele and Attis was one of Christianity’s chief sources of competition. It is not surprising, therefore, that Christian authors were venomous in denouncing the goddess and her priests.
Around 340 c.e., Firmicus Maternus wrote: ‘In their very temples can be seen deplorable mockery before a moaning crowd, men taking the part of women, revealing with boastful ostentation this ignominy of impure and unchaste bodies. They broadcast their crimes and confess with superlative delight the stain of their polluted bodies’. (De errore profanarum religionum 4.2)
The cult of Attis had begun competing directly with Christianity with the introduction of a rite called the hilaria in the mid-third century. This annual, springtime festival celebrated Attis’s rebirth and incorporated themes of death, salvation, and resurrection quite similar to those of Christianity. In fact, the hilaria was often held at the same time that Christians observed Easter, leading to street battles between the two groups in some cities.
The relationship between the religion of Jesus and that of Cybele resulted in more than just antagonism, however. Evidence suggests that the two religions influenced each other, as well. In the mid-second century, for example, Montanism, the so-called Phrygian heresy, arose in the traditional homeland of Cybele. Its leaders included two female prophets, Maximilla and Priscilla, one of whom had visions of Christ as a woman. According to Epiphanius, the sect ordained women as priests. Both Montanism and the cult of Attis featured sacramental meals, blood offerings, and baptisms.
The Roman bishop Hippolytus, writing in the first half of the third century, described at length the cult of the Naasenes in which Christianity and Attis worship appear to have been thoroughly merged. According to Hippolytus, the Naassenes: … ‘constantly attend the mysteries called those of the “Great Mother,” supposing especially that they behold by means of the ceremonies performed there the entire mystery. For these having nothing more than the ceremonies that are performed there, except that they are not emasculated: they merely complete the work of the emasculated. For with the utmost severity and vigilance they enjoin (on their votaries) to abstain, as if they were emasculated, from intercourse with a woman. The rest, however, of the proceeding (observed in these mysteries), as we have declared at some length, (they follow) just as (if they were) emasculated persons.’ (5.9.74-81)
This revealing passage provides evidence not only of contact between the cult of Attis and Christianity, but precisely how this contact occurred.
In many respects, Attis worship was the pagan cult most like Christianity. The key difference was that in Christian mythology Jesus is sacrificed and then revived through the agency of a father god, while Attis’ transubstantiation is effected by a mother goddess. Even so, the ascetic practices of the galli, which included not only emasculation but blood-letting and self-flagellation, were not unrelated to the forms of self-abnegation practiced by some Christians. Indeed, for men of a certain disposition, both religions may have had equal and similar appeal.
Consider the statement attributed to Jesus in Matthew: “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can” (19:12). The phrase “kingdom of heaven” links this passage to mystical ascents and the Secret Gospel. Indeed, self-castration would be a practical if crude way of achieving what the Gospel of Thomas recommends as a means for entering heaven: making “the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female” (22).
Hetero-androgyny, asceticism, and sexual transformation all lead to similar ends—becoming spiritual by shedding gender and sexual desire and thereby entering the kingdom of heaven. Basilides, a Gnostic Christian in Alexandria sometime between 125 and 150, gave Matthew 19:12 a suggestive interpretation. Jesus, he argued, was referring to three types of male celibates: those with a natural revulsion to women; those who practice asceticism out of a desire for glory from their peers; and those who remain unmarried to better do the work of the kingdom (quoted in Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 3.1.1-4). Basilides’ first category would include individuals who are not necessarily castrated but are classified as eunuchs because they lack heterosexual desire—or preferred same-sex relations.
Long after pagan temples throughout the Mediterranean stood in ruins (the last observance of the rites of Cybele and Attis in Rome occurred in 394), Church authorities found it necessary to pass canon laws against the practice of self-castration. This appears to have been a particular problem in the very areas where eunuch priesthoods originated—ancient Turkey and Syria.
The Moon phase and sign placement gives us insight into the ever changing collective emotional field. Pisces New Moon brought a collective release of Winter’s emotional journey ready for Spring renewal. Since Saturday (13th March) night in Aries, the Moon is transiting the most individuated energy in the zodiac. It’s a fire energy, a doing energy and its about fresh starts and self love, self definition. Taurus moon on Tuesday brings friendships, nourishment into the picture we’ve just formed of ourselves during the 2 Aries days 💙 Gemini moon later in the week brings a social spirit in which to greet the arriving Spring then Cancer Moon will give us the chance to experience this equinox shift as a homecoming.
When I awoke from the materialist atheistic delusion that dominated my adolescent and early adult outlook on life at the age of 30, awoke to the sacred flow of Creation and humanity’s integral part in it, I searched for explanations of the Great Mystery of our existence in all the world’s major religions. Ultimately I found truth in all of them, but from Hindu spiritual philosophy I gained insights and language that deeply resonated within me. Unlike under most lands conquered by the monotheistic Abrahamic religions, the Indian subcontinent retained its links to original ancient wisdom tradition – it continued to honour both the female and male aspects of the Divine, and it tells us straight up that we are the manifestation of divine love and consciousness, not ever separate from it, and certainly not suffering from the after shocks of original sin, destined forever to suffer shame and guilt about the natural habits and desires of our own flesh.
The Divine in Hinduism is known both as an impersonal Absolute and as personified deities. As the absolute it is known as SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, which is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, and the teaching is THOU ART THAT.
When personified, the Divine is equally feminine and masculine – so fundamentally so that the most powerful and beloved of the Hindu deities, SHIVA, is often depicted as half female, half male. Shiva, known as the Destroyer, is also the perfect embodiment of love. What he destroys are our illusions of suffering and separation, and all the fantasy stories we tell ourselves.
The last dark moon of the winter season, during the astrological month of Pisces, is the great annual festival of Shiva, Maha Shivaratri. This is one of the quieter, more contemplative Hindu holy occasions which honours the unmanifest reality of Pure Consciousness underlying all creation, and people might keep vigil all night simply with the intention of self-reflection aimed at growth and release of all things that hold them back.
AMMA, the Mother of Immortal Bliss, on Shivaratri:
“May my children see themselves in everything and everything in themselves, this is the real message of Shivaratri.”
“Shivaratri is a celebration of sacrifice, dispassion and renunciation. Shivaratri teaches us to abandon all other thoughts in contemplation of God and to realize the ultimate purpose of human life…
“May Divine Grace take us beyond all sense of duality and make us one with the Supreme.The real consecration of God should take place in our heart. It is not enough if it is done outside. Our mind should become pure. It should become filled with love and devotion. It should become one-pointed and filled with awareness. Our mind should become a fertile soil in which all virtues can grow. If this happens, God will automatically shine within. May the light of knowledge dispel the darkness of ignorance in everyone. May all my children gain awareness of unity and become beneficial to the world. Instead of thinking what we have gained, let us think what we can give. Only when we give to society, do we really gain. The one who removes thorns from others path spreads flowers in his own path. Let the flowers of selflessness bloom in my children. May Grace protect us all.”
The Hindustani Times says: “In Hindu culture, this is a solemn festival that marks the remembrance of ‘overcoming darkness and ignorance in life’. Different legends, throughout history, describe the significance of Maha Shivratri and according to one of them, it is on this night that Lord Shiva performs his cosmic dance of ‘creation, preservation and destruction’. Another legend dictates that on this night, offerings of Lord Shiva’s icons can help one overcome and let go of their sins and start on the path of righteousness, allowing the individual to reach Mount Kailash and achieve ‘moksha’. “Unlike a lot of Hindu festivals, Maha Shivratri is not an overtly joyous festival. This is a night reserved for self-reflection and introspection for the purpose of growing and leaving behind all things that hinder our success.”
moksha – is translated as ‘liberation’. It is the liberation that results from giving up on the drama of the ego, from completely putting oneself in the loving arms of the divine in complete trust, freeing oneself of any attachment or giving any meaning to life’s trials and temptations. It is also recognised as a childlike state, in which the liberated individual is likely at times to behave in unusual and risky ways, for in order to ground the intense excitement of that liberation further work will follow, built on deep compassion for the world.
Shivratri celebrates the convergence of Shiva and Shakti, the masculine and feminine energies to bring balance to the world, just as European cultures celebrate balance at the upcoming Spring Equinox. The spirit of Pisces at this dark-new moon takes us into the dreamtime. American Trans Shaman Raven Kaldera calls this new moon the Dreamer’s Moon:
“On the Dreamer’s Moon, we dream. It’s a good time for reading and writing fantasy or for utopian politics. Spend all the time you can afford daydreaming. It’s not a time for practical planning. Instead, write down what you wish was in the world without regard to pessimism or practicality. Picture the outcome in your head and mediate on it. Then wish hard, or clap your hands, or click your heels together three times, or whatever else comes to mind. Don’t let the rational side of your mind get in the way. Whatever you do have faith; the Pisces strength is believing.”
Modern western world has elevated the external – the objective, scientific, material – universe over the subjective, internal experience. The common goals in our culture are physical beauty, fame and fortune, not wisdom, compassion and spiritual awareness. Gay subculture buys into this big time, with the help of apps such as Grindr we are making sex the ultimate commodity, we are programming our minds to always objectify each other. As a German Radical Faerie recently wrote: in this cruising culture,
“People who are not perfectly attractive get put aside and hurt, and those who are, just as much, because they always feel in the need to set borders and protect themselves…. this quick-sex culture neither creates good sex nor healthy souls, it’s like a human throw-away-culture, and it creates a lot of loneliness and disorientation.”
He wishes gay men to
“realize, we are beings beyond sex, and that the deepest joy of sexuality also comes from openness + heart contact.”
This is what Radical Faeries experience in gatherings and sanctuaries around the world. Faerie space exists to help us “shake off the ugly frogskin of heteroconformity” as Harry Hay put it back in the 70s, when communities of queers were already seeing the drift towards commercialism and consumerism in gay life, and starting to create spaces where we might recreate life on our own terms, where healing from growing up gay in a straight world might happen and the faerie prince emerge. Here we are able to fully relax and be ourselves, and soon discover that an open mind and loving heart makes for great sex!
Shamanism provides straightforward tools for us to employ on the path of self-knowledge. Shamanism does not provide answers, it provides means to find our own answers. It starts from core basic truths of our existence and enables us to explore them for ourselves and within ourselves. These core facts of our existence underpin everything – every religion, every science… yet it seems nearly the whole world has been brainwashed to not believe them.
1. we are matter and consciousness, or spirit, as it has often been called. Physical matter and consciousness/spirit exist independently. The crucial point is we merge the two.
2. we are male and female. All of us, whatever our body type. The Bible even says this in Genesis, but it’s meaning long misinterpreted to uphold the patriarchal hegemony.
3. we are made of earth, air, fire, water. These are the elemental bases of all existence, in us they manifest through body, mind, spirit and emotion. By honouring all four parts of ourselves we can generate balance in our lives and world.
I hardly need to point out that modern medicine works on a body-mind-emotion paradigm, leaving care of the soul to others. A lot of resources are basically wasted, because we cannot have health without seeing all as part of the wholeness of who we are.
The reality of our nature as consciousness/spirit – and what that is – is for us to find out for ourselves. Experience teaches louder than words. We live at a time when ecstatic states are considered ‘recreational’, when realities of the soul are little addressed and the external, material world is held up as the most worthy of our attention, yet vast numbers of people are drawn every week, or in some parts of town, every day, to use substances that draw us into our inner world, that open up the rich feelings, desires and dreams that exist in there. We are encouraged by the general culture to belittle the spiritual, ridicule and criticise the religious, but we are all in this dance of consciousness together – on some level or other we are all seeking the goal of transcendence, awakening, self-knowledge and divine realisation. Drug users are arguably seeking this more fervently than many religious or spiritual groups, but generally doing it UNCONCSIOUSLY, not understanding this impulse within themselves, this urge to get high is an urge to know God.
The shamanic worldview says EXPLORE, EXPAND, BECOME WHO YOU ARE. Know yourself as pure consciousness, as earth, air, fire, water, as the dance of life, as the animals, as ecstasy and light. Then make your own mind up about Gods and religions. Maybe it’s all a lot simpler than we’ve been led to believe.
The rise of secular, atheistic, humanistic thinking has liberated us from the controlling morality of the patriarchal religions, which had worked hard for centuries to stifle the feminine impulse in life, subjugating women, persecuting same sex lovers, and demonising pleasure. The release from that stranglehold is only a few decades old, and a serious point is being missed:
“Some call the Creator of this Universe God, but our earliest ancestors, when they looked in awe at the world around them and tried to understand where it came from, saw the ultimate creative force as Goddess, as Mother. The Father of our culture created the world by speaking it into existence. The Mother of our ancestors birthed the universe from her body. There was no separation between Creator and creation. And as we shift our thinking and come back to this ancient wisdom, we will find balance and healing for ourselves. Ultimately the Creator is neither male nor female, but Oneness. It is the Prime Vibration. It is Absolute Information. In Seeing It as Mother we honour own own capacity for connection, compassion, clarity and communion of the soul. In knowing It as Mother we cycle back to the beginning of this era so that we can step into the next in wholeness.
“The liturgies of the Father are spoken, as revelation comes the from the Father in words, for with words he created the universe. The universe itself is the revelation of the Mother, and her liturgies are of the body. As we open to seeing her and her creation, as we learn to feel our place in it and know that we are never separate from it, and cannot ever be separate from it, then everything we becomes a prayer. Anchored in love, our bodies filled with joy, reaching out in ecstasy to express our gratitude, we ground the Mother’s bliss in the world.
“In our Mother’s world we do not have to struggle for enlightenment, Her light is always with us. We do not have to be reborn, for each moment of our lives is a new creation in her infinite, eternal body, and we are always a part of it.”
Andrew Ramer, Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men.
Gay people do not like to be told how to behave, nor what to believe. The part of us that makes us question who we are and Come Out does more than dictate our sexuality. It wants us to think for ourselves, to find our own answers and own ways of living. Using Ramer’s words we can see ourselves as the children of the mother goddess, we don’t need holy books and cathedrals to celebrate life – we rejoice in the body, we love to dance, to get high, to make love, to fill the world with joy. There is so much more to us than sex.
“Anchored in love, our bodies filled with joy, reaching out in ecstasy to express our gratitude, we ground the Mother’s bliss in the world.”
But currently a lot of gay men in particular are close to drowning, not anchored in anything, their bodies filled with longing and loneliness, not joy. We chase bliss through sex and drugs because it gives us a fix, it takes us to the place where everything is alright. If we get our bodies and souls aligned with the energies of creation, and get that bliss is the vibration of the divine in life, instead of buying into the – literally – ‘blinded by science’ attitude of the modern age, we can start to live in that place.
Shamanism offers ways to connect the body, open the heart, clear the mind and raise the spirit. It offers healing and discovery – through the very things gay boys love to do so much: dancing, dressing up, undressing, taking substances, sex. All our chasing after bliss, after extremes of experience, or just the next fuck, would be seen as part of bringing joyful, light vibrations to the planet (to replace the centuries of darkness and fear around sex) if we let in some understanding of the Source consciousness, perhaps even coming to see ourselves as the priests of the Mother, banished for centuries in a world where straight men ruled by force. Gay liberation has achieved masses on the social and political levels in a few decades, but spiritually we are a very confused people. Shamanism could provide the tools and understanding for a rapid spiritual awakening, happening like a wave of light illuminating the increasingly dark shadows lurking in parts of our queer utopia, sending out the message to gay people and to all people everywhere that SEX and LOVE and AWARENESS are three sexy, BEAUTIFUL things that all belong together.
The Aquarian spirit is building… Sun Mercury Venus Jupiter Saturn all in Ganymede’s sign, with Pluto just behind and the other planets all in the same quarter of the zodiac – Neptune in Pisces, Chiron in Aries, Mars and Uranus in Taurus – apart from the Moon, who is coming up fast from the rear, currently in deep feeling, purposeful, transformational Scorpio at last quarter phase. We enter the healing period of the waning moon.
The Moon will reach Aquarius on February 10th, with New Moon Thursday 11th, bringing this epic Aquarian moment to its peak. I believe this is delivering higher mind connection that we will each feel in our personal lives. Best way to engage this time is to be literally ‘open minded’, to let in fresh perspectives, to be flexible and in the moment. (Lockdowns been going so long we might have got used to not spending our time looking forward, planning the future – this could let the higher self get through to more of us.)
We might be able to feel how those archetypal parts within us are all directing their attention to this ‘higher collective purpose’ spirit of Aquarius. How Venus desires love that truly enlightens us, Mercury likes to hear and speak of things that matter, that connect us. Jupiter could be said to represent the part of us that wants social interaction, while Saturn is the part is accepting and comfortable with restriction for the greater good, and able to focus on the connections that are most important.
Its hard to predict how this Aquarian peak will appear collectively. Jupiter and Saturn are the planets of society’s collective spirit, but while Jupiter expands and blesses what it touches, Saturn constrains and teaches lessons. When the 2 giants met in Capricorn in early 2020 we went into lockdown. As Jupiter pulled ahead by summer the rules loosened. By the Winter Solstice they were together again – the Great Conjunction of the two gods at zero degree Aquarius: restrictions on our social lives were in place once more and have tightened since. Currently Jupiter is 5 degrees ahead of Saturn and he will continue to stretch the gap between them, liberty will gradually return. However, Saturn’s ride in Aquarius until 2023 suggests some challenges or limitations to collective behaviour. Hopefully it means we don’t all rush back to the over polluting, over heated life as before, but use Saturn’s wisdom to focus on what matters most.
Jupiter expands, but Saturn constrains. The combined effect I feel is an effort to bring humans to appreciate the meaningful connections in our lives, and to see the value of putting effort into nurturing them (including the one with ourself). As we go through the transformational and quite possibly turbulent 2020s, real connections and community will be very important.
This February Aquarian peak will release strong new energies into the collective field. They will manifest over time, but they are also likely to be quite apparent right away. The square to Mars and Uranus in Taurus does suggest possible physical conflicts, riots etc, such as we seeing in Russia. The Aquarian desire for freedom can be seen there in the spirit of the demonstrators, and the old guard energy of stubborn Taurus, holding onto security and power, in the state. Aquarius is about higher ideals, personal freedom and collective responsibility. The gods are trying to help us out. But we each can empower and help ourSelves too with Aquarian knowledge and perspective.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Aquarian New Moon is also the start of the Chinese calendar year. 2020 saw the start of a new traversal of the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rat, and it certainly has been a entirely different kind of year to anything we have ever known before. A new cycle began, but where will it take us over the next 12 years? 2021 we move into the year of the OX, which is said to bring strength and determination. Both Rat and Ox years have been in the sphere of the Metal element: metal is associated with rigidity, focus, getting things done, and again with determination.
At this new Moon the Aquarian energy that we celebrated at Winter Solstice steps up to the next level. It’s still winter, so this is time of working things out, learning more and making plans, the action comes later. The Higher Mind is online during this Aquarian peak, we can keep our sights high, our hearts and minds open, and let it’s enlightening light in.
At the root of human woe Is the belief that we’re not whole. In this both monotheistic religion and science Play their terrible roles.
Original Sin is the Original Lie, Materialism says there’s nothing when we die, But there’s a deeper truth our souls know well Beyond the duality of heaven and hell In addition to the light of scientific reason.
The core belief is what has to change If the one we hold leaves us estranged From the miracle of creation that we truly are, From the feeling of belonging to this planet and this star .
Our minds have been manipulated for so very long, The grip of the nightmare delusion is strong, But this is the 21st century, when humanity Finally finds a new song.
We each get to make this happen, Every one of us a sparkling angel In the divine dream, Every one of us a perfect portion Of a totally magnificent scheme To manifest divinity in human form A new dimension is being born.
This is to be understood by the heart, there is no separateness at all.’ Upanishads
Sages have always appeared on this earth, to tell us we are more than a physical birth.
The kingdom of consciousness lies within, when we know this an age of love will begin.
Quantum physics tells us matter is an illusion, inside the atom there is mainly space;
we desperately need to break out of confusion and move forwards the story of the human race.
Religions scream at and fight each other, while others deny spirit all together.
When will we see all as sister and brother and embrace the fact that we exist FOREVER.
You are not that personality, you are not that body or mind;
get over the effects of gravity and open to what’s there to find.
The body is the temple of the soul and the brain the receiver that lets consciousness in,
if we open to spirit we have the chance to be whole and a new age on earth can begin.
I am You, You are I: we are one being on the way.
No more separation, this is the day that the mystery of enlightenment, the promise of salvation, deep secrets
The second half of Winter has begun. Imbolc on Feb 1st is the turning point, the magical moment where the Goddess drops her Grandmother Crone aspect and becomes again the Maiden, symbolising the potent energy growing in the land as Nature prepares to spring back into life from her dormant period..
Winter is the Earth season. It is when we are asked by nature to slow down, to turn within, to reflect and to recharge. During the Winter we probably need to take some time off from other people, from duties and work, and allow our own inner processes some time to move. If we don’t do this willingly, colds and flu come along to push us into this state of inner focus. Then Imbolc arrives and gives us a magical moment to stick our heads out of our caves, connect with other people and review our intentions for the coming year.
IMBOLC is the festival that attunes us to the coming spring – it is the time of promise, potential and transformation of what no longer serves us. It is the moment to poke our noses out from our winter slumber and allow the powers of our imagination and intuition to bubble up, revealing to us new visions of what we can manifest in our lives and for the world.
At winter solstice we lit candles to assure ourselves that, although currently at the darkest point of the annual cycle, the light would return. Now at Imbolc it is time to look inside to see what that light is bringing to us and burn more candles to illuminate the way out of darkness, to prepare ourselves inwardly for the changes coming our way, for the more outward focus of Spring and Summer.
Imbolc is about emerging from the inner realms, invoking our vitality, potency and creativity. It is about reclaiming what has been forgotten and calling upon the life force to make us strong, to empower us and our visions for the year ahead.
Perhaps we have old outdated beliefs, habits, fears that will not serve us during this time of planetary transformation and growth. At Imbolc these can be ritually released, burnt away in the candle flames, or in a ritual fire. This is a time to cleanse, purify and renew. Visiting wells and springs can help this process enormously, for this is the festival of the Maiden Goddess, often known as Brigit (ancient Celtic deity associated with intuition, inspiration, divination; the preserver of tradition through poetry and song), to whom they are sacred. This is time to share the visions rising from our subconscious in music and verse, to bring out the tarot cards and other forms of divination, and allow the rising feminine energy to lead us, allowing the forceful rational mind to take a back seat so that our intuition and imagination can blossom, as the trees and spring bulbs are starting to do.
Here we can see why it was worthwhile to surrender to winter, to accept the dark journey of the past weeks, for we are already at the time of promise, when spring comes into sight and we can emerge with new energy, new ideas, new strengths from our inner time. The deeper we can go into our ‘darkness’, our ‘stuff’ during winter, the higher we will fly when the warm seasons return. Having accepted winter there is now much to gain from looking forward to spring.
This is a time of initiation and healing – to go within to meditate and bring out our inspirations, go outside and feel the emerging life force, commune with the nature spirits, feel the spark of promise in the air.
Taking time to retreat and give attention to the inner self, listening, feeling and if necessary healing what we find there, we can offer all we find into the earth, to the goddess, following the course of nature’s flow. All our darkness, depression, fears and hurts we can offer to her, she wants them, she devours them: clearing our energy field for us as we prepare ourselves to receive the rising fire spirit of the Maiden, Brigit, at Imbolc, Festival of Awakening.
Sickness is often the way that nature gets us to stop and take some winter down time as modern life tends to demand that we continue to operate at full capacity despite the season.
But in 2021 life is not running as it normally does – the mass of the population are being forced by a virus, by Mother Nature, to take a long winter retreat from the usual pace of life.
Mercury is retrograde in Aquarius, which many people will blame for all kinds of mishaps, and if we believe the hype we might expect to have a hard time understanding each other right through to February 21st . But retrogrades are more interesting affairs than that. Mercury is quite happy in Aquarius and is forcing us to reflect on how far our beliefs and attitudes to life have evolved in recent years, to ask – do those beliefs serve us?
The spread of fear, paranoia, conspiratorial visions during the Covid-19 pandemic is like nothing before, and it is driving some to the edge of breakdown. But whether we go over the edge or not the lesson to be ultimately grasped here is that our thoughts and beliefs don’t ever fully, accurately, describe reality – but they do create our experience of it. This is why it matters what we think, and why meditation is such a vital tool to help us build mental muscle. To be free of stress is actually to have the strength of mind to choose one thought over another.
Mercury retrograde is taking us into the expanded mind space, the broadened perspectives that Aquarius offers and helps us to find new points of acceptance and understanding about our lives, to open up to a better understanding of how our mental energies feed into the spirit and trigger feelings in our emotional bodies, which ultimately manifest in physical form.
Imbolc is the stepping stone, it’s when we see what we have achieved on our winter inner journey and take a look at the long road ahead of us.
Imbolc is also a time of stillness, when winter still grips the land and nature is dormant, waiting to burst into life when the temperature rises. If we step outside the relentless pace of civllisation for a while, or even just for a moment, and be like nature – in stillness, in potential, full of promise waiting to burst into flowers – we come into alignment with the natural flow of life, recharge our souls and invoke well-being. We awaken the light of Brigit within, ready to grow through the seasons ahead.
This is time to dream of our potential. There has been a change of frequency since the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the 2020 winter solstice, the energies of the fifth dimension are open and present, though we may not be tuning into them. When life starts to open up, offering opportunities and ecstasies, new and inspired, we are touching the fifth dimension. The links between spirit and matter are becoming stronger, clearer, brighter – and we are getting ready, as a species, to manifest the true transformatory vibration of supernatural love on planet Earth.
Humanity’s obsessions with religion, money, politics, conflicts are all illusions keeping us asleep to the miracle of Creation. We are in fact the manifestation of Infinitely Compassionate Universal Love Consciousness – a reality that takes a little getting used to sometimes. Tuning into the sacred cycles of life reminds us who we are.
If we are working on ourselves, embracing the soul within and the unity of life, the planet’s seasonal turning points become moments to relax and breathe, get perspective and reaffirm our place in the whole. For people resistant to the reality and flow of Spirit in their lives, who insist on clinging to the materialist paradigm of separation, lack and fear, life on earth will not get easier. We exist in a magical universe where the beliefs in our minds attract experiences that confirm those beliefs.
To really break free of the cycle of collective and individual suffering and confusion we need to make a simple magical act – affirm our unity with all creation, then continue to affirm it at every seasonal festival, every dark moon and full moon, and indeed, every moment we are awake and aware, until it is a natural state of being within us. It’s not that all issues and challenges will then fade away, but their power over us will wane as we become conscious co-creators with the powers of the universe open and flowing within us.
These human bodies are miracles of creation. Within these frail forms exists the infinite strength and light of the divine source, compacted into bodies and here to have fun, to know love, to make mistakes, burn, dive and rise again – until we are one day transfigured by life’s thrills and spills and know ourselves as divine souls on an eternal quest. In the game of life, there is everything to play for.
Our lives intertwine, the divine dance of Creation happens through our individual and collective experiences. We can let go of the fear and fall back into the soft downy feathers of the swan spirit, Brigit’s totem, coming to us at Imbolc, insisting gently but firmly that we bring more gentleness into the world, more compassion, and more hope.
“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 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.”
The mythologies of the ancient Middle East and the Greek and Roman empires reveal that the land of the dead was viewed with some trepidation, in sharp contrast to the deeply ancient rooted Celtic culture of northern and central Europe. The ancient Sumerians believed in the Dark House of Death, and the mythology around their great Goddess Inanna involves her fateful visit to it. Greeks saw the Underworld as a fearsome place of darkness and silence, gloom and desolation, the Romans feared it was even worse. However, underpinning these visions was a deep faith in the soul that was inherited from the Egyptian civilisation, from which we have the Papyrus Anana, from around 1320 BCE: “Between each life is a Veil of Darkness. The doors will open at last and show us all the chambers through which our feet have wandered from the beginning…”
Classical writer Posidonius recorded that the Celts held that “the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite numbers of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body”. Strabo wrote that the Druids believed that “men’s souls and the universe are indestructible, although at times fire and water may prevail.” (Yes the Druids knew about climate change). Julius Caesar tells us of their belief that “souls do not suffer death, but after death pass from the one to the other”, which underpinned the Celtic warriors absolute lack of fear in battle.
Considering the bleak view of the afterlife that the Romans adopted, Christianity, with its promise of salvation and heaven, must have shone like a beacon of hope. But by removing reincarnation from its teachings, the religion made entry into heaven reliant on obeying the rules set down by its Church, condemning those it regarded as sinners to a nightmare hell.
The modern ‘faith’, science, removes the spirit world all together from the picture, and instead of judgement after death sending us to heaven or hell, we are told nothing awaits us but an obliteration of our very essence of being. In the ‘rational’ scientific age, we are still being mind-controlled, discouraged from seeking our own answers and manipulated into serving and upholding the status quo of the current politico-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. This is more than a one-lifetime experience we are involved in. The Kingdom of Heaven is within, said Jesus, that’s where the answers to our questions lie, 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
“Uranus is the awakener, whose job is to keep us faithful to what keeps us unique, fascinating and weird.” Montufar
In the ancient wisdom tradition astrology, Saturn was long considered to be the ruling planet of Aquarius, but the discovery of Uranus in 1781 led to this unusual planet being assigned the role.
Uranus is unique as the only planet in our solar system that rotates on its horizontal axis. He literally rolls through the universe, and at an amazing speed – for while the planet is 47 times the size of the earth, a day lasts only 10 earth hours. Mythologically, Uranus was the original male principle, the Sky God, who was castrated by his son Chronos (Saturn), after which his sexual energies were channelled into the creation of art and beauty. The first Uranian moons that were discovered were named after the faeries of Midsummer Nights Dream – Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Miranda, and Puck.
Ganymede was the loveliest born of the race of mortals, and therefore the gods caught him away to themselves, to be Zeus’ wine-pourer, for the sake of his beauty, so he might be among the immortals.— Homer, Iliad, Book XX, lines 233–235
The mythology of Aquarius is the story of Zeus, king of the gods, falling for the beautiful Ganymede, son of Tros, the founder of Troy – the God transforming himself into an eagle to swoop down and whisk the young man to the heavens from the fields where he was tending sheep, a humble pursuit often characteristic of a hero’s boyhood before his privileged status is revealed. In Heaven Ganymede replaced Zeus’ daughter as cup bearer to the Gods, when she went to marry Herakles. In some versions she stays around and Ganymede is the personal cupbearer to Zeus. The God compensates his father with some fine horses and the reassurance that Ganymede will hold the fine distinction of being his cup-bearer and will become immortal, which the King was happy with. When the goddess Hera became jealous however, Ganymede was forced to move on, and Zeus placed him in the sky forever as the water bearer constellation Aquarius.
Planet Earth is currently on the zodiacal cusp transitioning from the AGE OF PISCES to the AGE OF AQUARIUS, from a age of WATER (characterised by FAITH) to one of AIR (the element of KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING). The rise in the late 20th century of the great causes of human rights, racial and gender equality, gay liberation, plus the advances in communication through digital technology are all signs of this shift occurring.
GAY RIGHTS AND URANUS
Uranus is regarded in astrology as the REVOLUTIONARY, the AWAKENER. This fits well with the role as ruler of Aquarius in bringing human equality to the fore and taking queerness to its rightful place in the human story. Same sex love and non-binary gender variance have been the most repressed of humanity’s many diverse traits.
By tracing the passage of Uranus, the ruling planet of Aquarius, through the zodiac over the last century it is possible to detect how the r-evolutionary Uranian energy is influencing the progress of lgbtq+ rights.
When the first group campaigning for gay rights in the USA, the Mattachine Society, was formed in the USA in 1950. Uranus had just begun its journey through the sign of the Divine Mother energy, Cancer. This was the moment, I suggest, when some significant number of the gay people of the world started to listen to her call to us to come home to ourselves, to believe strongly that we could claim our place in and enjoy the respect of society after so many centuries of it being denied us. (The very first gay rights group in the world was in fact in Germany, formed in 1897 the Wissenschaftlich-humanitares Komitee (WhK or “Scientific-humanitarian Committee”) sent petitions to parliament signed by 200 professional men. Uranus was in Scorpio at the time, a water element sign just like Cancer, and the sign of rebirth and transformation),
The practical work of legislation relating to gay rights happened in the UK in the 1960s, leading to the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, while Uranus was in Virgo, a sign that works to improve the world.
The spark moment for gay rights, however, came with the Stonewall Riots, June 28- July 1st, 1969. Uranus had just completed its journey through Virgo four days earlier and was settling into its long stay in Libra, the sign that most believes in justice. The rise of gay rights is part of the evolutionary drive towards balancing the overbearing patriarchal energies,still dominant in the modern world. The revolutionary Uranian energy burst forth, anger manifesting. The conciliatory, assimilationist, approach of the Mattachine Society was not producing results, but from 1969 onwards gay visibility, activism and pride spread through the western world.
During the incubation years of the HIV virus spreading quietly among gay men, the late 70s, Uranus was in the mysterious darkness of Scorpio, with the first case later recognised as AIDS coming in 1980. While Uranus was in Sagittarius (1981-88) the search for ways to treat HIV was underway, as was the rise of a politicised and self-conscious queer community, and the early growth of the now global pagan, essentialist group the Radical Faeries, that embraces and explores spiritual and communal depth of connection as core traits of queerness. Those of us coming out in the 1980s entered a gay scene in which a sense of community, of the need to work together for our very survival, was strong. This community sense was catalysed through adversity – AIDS deaths and political apathy or outright hostility. The UK Conservative government’s introduction of Clause 28 in 1988, outlawing the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in education, galvanised us in the UK further. Gay Pride events swelled in numbers and determination.
While Uranus was traversing Capricorn (1988-1996) many efforts were made to raise our game, the fight for equality and a treatment for AIDS were our top priority, then once our queer planet settled for the long haul through its home sign Aquarius in 1996, things really began to speed up for lgbtq visibility, rights and acceptance. This was the turning point in the AIDS struggle as effective treatments became available and the Uranus in Aquarius years saw an outpouring of spiritually themed writings by gay authors, including Andrew Ramer (Two Flutes Playing), Toby Johnson (Gay Spirituality, Gay Perspective), Christian de la Huerta (Coming Out Spiritually), David Nimmons (Soul Beneath the Skin), John Stowe (Gay Spirit Warrior), Winston Leyland (Queer Dharma), Will Roscoe (Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love), Christopher Penczak (Gay Witchcraft), Michael Thomas Ford (The Path of the Green Man).
In the UK, an equal age of consent for gay men was finally enacted in 2000, while Uranus was in its home sign Aquarius. During this transit (1996 – 2003), in the post AIDS, millennial world, it might be said that acceptance of gay people finally arrived. Wikipedia reports that in the USA, “In four landmark rulings between the years 1996 and 2015, the Supreme Court invalidated a state law banning protected class recognition based upon homosexuality, struck down sodomy laws nationwide, struck down Section of the Defense of Marriage Act, and made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.” The moves to recognise same sex relationships, through civil partnerships and marriage, spread around the world while Uranus was in the emotional, universal, compassionate energy of Pisces 2003-2010.
Neptune joined Uranus in Aquarius in 1998 and stayed in the sign until 2011. The mystical God of the Oceans brought a powerful escapist energy into the picture, reflected in a vast expansion of drug use on the gay scene at that time. In fact for gay men, during that period sex became widely associated with heavy drug use, and with associated casualties lost to addiction or overdose. Neptune moved into its home sign Pisces in 2011, which energy is related to both intoxication and spirituality, and is traversing there until 2025. Drug use among gay men is not abating, despite the horror stories of dependency, delirium and death we’ve been hearing for some years now, but there has been a huge rise in spiritual or community gay groups, seeking more variety and depth of connection than the commercially driven gay scene generally offers, and many men are finding the path to self-healing and spirituality through the process of recovery. The message of Neptune in Pisces for gay men is that spirituality is the solution to addiction, and that in fact spirituality can lead us to all the heights and blissful experiences we seek through drug use. Spirituality is about opening the doors to bliss, and keeping them open – while drugs just give us a temporary, ultimately destructive, experience.
During the period of Uranus in Aries 2010 – 2018 we saw r-evolutionary developments in the form of the Arab Spring, Occupy movement, a reinvigorated women’s movement and the birth of Black Lives Matter, and also the huge disparity in rights and conditions for LGBTQ people around the world came very much into focus, leading more queers to think more deeply about who we really are. This period saw the rapid rise of genderqueer terminology, transgender people came much more into society’s awareness, identity itself was undergoing the radical revolutionary effect of Uranus in the sign of the Ram, the sign of the ‘I Am’, as the planet commences a new traversal of the zodiac from the first sign.
Uranus in Aries also saw the birth of QUEER SPIRIT FESTIVAL in the UK, a 5 day event bringing together a few hundred spiritually inclined queers from the whole LGBTQ spectrum, in a space where we dared to declare not only our love for each other but also our deep love for the planet, for nature, for humanity, to declare and demonstrate that queer people are in fact a Healing Tribe within the human race. We have always had a purpose – all beings have a purpose, there are no mistakes – but our role has been denied for so long that life itself is seriously out of balance. All forms of love, all forms of consensual adult sexuality, must be honoured to bring healing to the human race and thereby to the whole planet.
As Uranus moves through Taurus (2018-2026), the second sign of this new traversal of the zodiac, the energy is coming to bring the mystical awareness of who we are home to our bodies, to bring us into a deeper awareness that we belong here on this planet and that in our bodies sit the many fantastic energies we bring to the human show. Think Queers as Planetary Healers, Soul Doctors, Ecstatic Celebrants, Spirit Channels, and also Midwives to the Dying. When Uranus reaches communicative Gemini in 2026 it is more likely that the world will be ready to talk about this aspect of homo and transsexuality a lot more. Until then, Uranus in Taurus is about us queers embracing this reality in our own community, while also he is contributing to the rapid, unexpected changes the world is experiencing.
Astrologer Sarah Varcas points out that Uranus’ arrival in the first earth sign of the zodiac will remind us that the earth is a living goddess, our Great Mother, who is likely to push back like never before as humans continue to abuse and destroy her. To attempt to fix our mistakes is not enough, it is the very way that we think as a species that needs to evolve. She says that “By honoring an enduring commitment to caring for Our Mother and all her children of every form we dismantle, piece by piece, the patriarchal mind-set that equates aggression and domination with power, and love, compassion and generosity with weakness.”
19th century queer pioneers Karl Ulrichs of Germany and Edward Carpenter of the UK used the word Uranian to describe queer people, in the days before the psychological terms homosexual and heterosexual had been thought of. These terms, invented in the late 19th century, but only spreading widely in the 20th, limit gay people to being little more than our sexual expression. Ulrichs and Carpenter had a much grander vision of our nature, and chose Uranian as a suitable name because of the Goddess Aphrodite Urania, known in ancient Greece as the patron of same sex love.
These early pioneers saw great possibilities in the emancipation of the homosexual and transsexual spirit. Carpenter’s works include 1908’s ‘The Intermediate Sex’ in which he says,“The Uranian people may be destined to form the advance guard of that great movement which will one day transform the common life by substituting the bond of personal affection and compassion for the monetary, legal and other external ties which now control and confine society”.
In ‘Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk’, 1911, he identifies roles that many cultures reserve for homo- or transsexual people: “the priest, medicine-man or shaman, the prophet and the diviner, the artist and craftsperson and the true scientist, successor to the tribal observer of the stars and seasons, medicine and the herbs”.
Part of the Uranian revelation waiting to hit the world is that the religious hatred of homo- and trans-sexuality has its roots in the time when first Judaism, then later Christianity, were putting their efforts into eradicating the sex-positive, ecstatic earth-loving, goddess honouring religions of the ancient world. For example, the Old Testament tells of the presence, and attacks on, the Qedesha – the male sacred sex workers, labelled later ‘prostitutes’ by Christians, who worked in the goddess temples: the name means ‘The Anointed’ or ‘The Holy Ones’ but was translated in the St James Bible into English simply as ‘sodomites’ and is usually ‘male shrine prostitutes’ in modern versions. A principal rival to Christianity in its first centuries was the worship of Cybele, known in Rome as the Magna Mater (Great Mother), but whose worship went back more than 1000 years in Anatolia, in modern Turkey. She was served by trans priests, who were known as the Gallae. They travelled the land conducting ecstatic rituals, spreading their worship wherever the Romans spread their influence and were a prime target of Christian vitriol, who hated their flamboyant, loud, queer and sexual behaviour. A thousand years after the fall of the Empire and eradication of Cybele worship, when Europeans went out to conquer the world they found that indigenous cultures everywhere embraced people who embodied the traits of both genders. often they were highly regarded for their spiritual power, as they had been in ancient Europe also.
To the ancient peoples, homosexuality was just a fact of life – the myths of many cultures reveal this. The story of Zeus and Ganymede was not shocking in those times. The first attempts to control people’s sexuality came from the 6th century, once Christianity was well established as the official religion in Rome. After the Empire collapsed it would be several hundred years before aggressive religious and state sponsored homophobia directed at the general population took hold in Europe. The Christians developed during this time a belief that had previously only existed among the Jewish people – that sex was only for procreation. For pagans sex was a glorious gift and even a ritual practice. To impose this belief, non-productive sex had to be suppressed, though this was not enforced on the general population until the second millennium, when laws were introduced on continental Europe and the persecution of queers came under the remit of the Inquisition due to the general association at this time of same sex relations with both paganism and heresy. (Heretical groups tended to take a sex-positive attitude, in contrast to the Church). Henry VIII brought in the Buggery Act in England in 1533, though he mainly used it to target the Roman Catholic monasteries. Only in later centuries did it become used much more to persecute gay men. The death penalty for homosexuality stayed in place in England until 1861, only to be replaced by the Labouchere amendment, keeping gay sex illegal, and arrests common, until its partial decriminalisation in 1967. Only in 2000 was the age of consent for males in the UK set at 16, the same age as for heterosexuals.
In medieval law codes, sodomy is listed alongside other taboo practices such as divination and astrology because same sex activity was associated with magical practices of the goddess religions that the domineering energies of patriarchy sought to suppress. Those practices included communal danced rituals where people ‘lost their minds’, became filled with the ecstatic spirit of the gods and so had direct experience of themselves as part of an interconnected multiverse of many layers. The suppression of the feminine impulse, of the homo-erotic impulse and of ecstatic, communal celebration all went hand in hand. A glance at the deities most associated with ecstatic rituals (eg genderqueer Dionysus, virgin Diana), and the role that cross-dressing played in them, reveal that it was very much the queers who led the collective revelry and magic, who kept the people in touch with the spirit.
The control of the religious lives of the general population required the suppression of the rebellious, queer, ecstatic energies of sexuality. But Uranus is the awakener of what has been forgotten, and the link between sexuality, and particularly homo and trans sexuality, and the invisible spirit worlds is one of those crucial, central, vital, sacred things.
Uranus in Taurus brings this earth shattering, mind opening, spirit nurturing message: THE BODY IS HOLY. SEX IS SACRED. HOMOSEX IS HOLY. GENDER IS FLUID. HEAVEN IS FOUND WITHIN.
In the year 2000 I was emerging from five years in a transformational cocoon called AIDS, wondering how to integrate the cosmic experiences I had been having with being part of the world and joining the living again. The series of Conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsch were a vital source of insight for me and here are some quotations from Book 1 which I recorded in my notes at the time to refer back to. Two decades later I can happily confirm that I have found all these claims and statements to be utterly true, and the affirmations very powerful..
“THERE IS ONLY ONE PURPOSE FOR ALL OF LIFE AND THAT IS FOR YOU AND ALL THAT LIVES TO EXPERIENCE FULLEST GLORY.”
“If you knew Who You Are – that you are the most remarkable, the most splendid being God ever created – you would never fear.”
“My purpose in creating you, My spiritual offspring, was for Me to know Myself as God. Thus it can be said that My purpose for you is that you should know yourself as Me.”
“Your job on Earth… is not to learn (because you already know) but to remember Who You Are. And to remember who everyone else is. That is why a big part of your job is to remind others, so that they can remember also.”
“You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore not to find out Who You Are, seek to determine Who You Want To Be.”
Life is not a school: “School is a place you go if there is something you do not know that you want to know. It is not a place you go if you already know a thing and simply want to experiences your knowingness.”
“It is is not God’s function to create, or uncreate, the circumstances or conditions of your life. God created YOU, in the image and likeness of God. YOU have created the rest, through the power God has given you… In this sense, your will for you is God’s will for you.”
“You will not have that for which you ask, nor can you have anything your want. This is because your very request is a statement of lack, and your saying your want a thing only works to produce that precise experience – wanting – in your reality. The correct prayer is never a prayer of supplication, but a prayer of gratitude. When you thank God in advance for that which you choose to experience in your reality, you, in effect, acknowledge that it is there… in effect. Therefore, never supplicate. Appreciate.”
“Listen to Me in the truth of your soul. Listen to Me in the feelings of your heart. Listen to Me in the quiet of your mind. Hear Me, everywhere. Whenever you have a question, know that I have answered it already. Then open your eyes to the world.”
“YOU ARE MY BODY.
“As your body is to your mind and soul, so, too, are you to My mind and soul. Everything I experience I experience through you.
“I AM THAT I AM
AND YOU ARE THAT YOU ARE. You cannot not be.
You can change form all you with, but you cannot fail to be.”
“Be a light unto the darkness and curse it not, and forget not Who You Are in the moment of your encirclement by that which you are not. But do you praise to the creation, even as you seek to change it. And know that what you do in the time of your greatest trial can be your greatest triumph, for the experience you create is a statement of Who You Are- and Who You Want To Be.”
“THERE IS ONLY ONE REASON TO DO ANYTHING: AS A STATEMENT TO THE UNIVERSE OF WHO YOU ARE.”
“Events, occurrences, happenings, conditions, circumstances – all are created out of consciousness. Individual consciousness is powerful enough. You can imagine what kind of creative energy is unleashed whenever two or more are gathered in My name. And mass consciousness? Why, that is so powerful it can create events and circumstances of worldwide import and planetary consequences.”
“Pain is a result of wrong thought. It is an error in thinking. Pain results from judgment.”
“Original sin is when your first thought about something is in error. That error is compounded many times [by more thoughts]. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to inspire you to new understandings, which can free you from your mistakes.”
“You are your own rule-maker. You set the guidelines. And you decided how well you have done; how well you are doing.”
“You may do was you wish without fear of retribution. It may serve you, however, to be aware of the consequences.”
“I do not want your worship, I do not need your obedience, and it is not necessary for you to serve Me….
“I desire first to know and experience Myself, in all my glory – to know Who I am.
“Second, I desire that ou shall know and experience WhoYou Really Are, through the power I have given you to create and express yourself- in whatever way you choose.
“Third, I desire for the whole life process to be an experience of constant joy, continuous creation, never-ending expansion and total fulfilment in each moment of now.”
The Soul seeks “the highest feeling of love you can imagine…
“The highest feeling is the experience of unity with All That Is. This is the great return to Truth… This is the feeling of perfect love.”
Religions tend to make us feel bad in order that we will strive to be better, but the faster route to the same destination is
“ACCEPTANCE OF WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE RIGHT NOW – AND DEMONSTRATION OF THAT.”
“Celebrate and enjoy all that you create, have created… Whatever is now presenting itself as part of your creation, own it, claim it, bless it, be thankful for it… for to condemn it is to condemn yourself…
“If there is some aspect of creation you find you do not enjoy bless it and simply change it. Choose again. Call forth a new reality. Think a new thought. Say a new word. Do a new thing.”
“The word “I” is the key that starts the engine of creation. The words ‘I AM’ are extremely powerful. They are statements to the Universe. They are commands.”
“WORRY is just about the worst form of mental activity – next to hate, which is deeply self-destructive. Worry is wasted mental energy. It also creates bio-chemical reactions which harm the body… Worry is the activity of a body that does not understand its connection with Me.”
“The soul conceives, the mind creates, the body experiences… The soul then knows itself in its own experience.
“What you conceive you create, what you create you experience, what your experience you conceive.”
SEX: “The energy that underscores sex is the energy which underscores life; which is life! The feeling of attraction and the intense and often urgent desire to move toward each other, to become one, is the essential dynamic of all that lives.”
“Play with sex.. it’s just about the most fun you can have with your body… But, for goodness sake, don’t destroy sexual innocence and pleasure and the purity of the fun, the joy, by misusing sex. Don’t use it for power, or hidden purpose; for ego gratification or domination; for any other purpose than the purest joy and the highest ecstasy, given and shared.”
DEATH: “You are a tri-part being, made of body, mind and spirit… upon death, the body and the mind are not dropped. The body changes form, leaving its most dense part behind, but retaining its outer shell. The mind goes with you too, joining with the spirit and the body as one energy mass of three dimensions, or facets.”
“The greatest gift you can give the dying is to let them die in peace – not thinking that must ‘hang on’, or continue to suffer, or worry about you at this most crucial passage in their life.”
“You are goodness and mercy and compassion and understanding.
“You are peace and joy and light.
“You are forgiveness and patience, strength and courage, a helper in time of need, a comforter in times of sorrow, a healer in time of injury, a teacher in times of confusion.
“You are the deepest wisdom and the highest truth, the greatest peace and the grandest love.
Returning to spend time in the town of my childhood, Stowmarket in mid-Suffolk, after 3 decades away, I am discovering an ancient connection in the land here that is transforming my relationship with my roots. Growing up here in the 1970s-early 80s I formed an impression of Suffolk as a sleepy backwater county, which was historically important but now more the target of mockery (eg Slow-Stowmarket was a butt of Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 jokes): ‘Silly Suffolk’ was a common term, but we didn’t know that the phrase originated in medieval times as ‘Selie Suffolk’, meaning ‘Holy Suffolk’ due to the large number of religious institutions in the county and also due to the reverence felt for St Edmund, the Saxon king killed by the Danes (and for a long time the patron saint of England), centred at his shrine in Bury. In fact Suffolk had been a hot spot of pagan religion too, going back thousands of years: Wikipedia’s History of Suffolk page starts its story with the 5th century Angle kingdom, which was divided into ‘Suthfolc’ and ‘Norfolc’, but I am finding that in order to get a feel of the true spirit of Suffolk there are deeper, older layers to explore.
Certainly the original indigenous culture of this region was lost through a thousand years of invasions and cultural mingling with Roman armies, Anglo-Saxon then Viking tribes. But that culture had deep roots – it had been developing over several thousand years prior to the Roman invasion, and during that long period through the Stone and Bronze Ages the people here had already known contact via the sea with the European mainland, though it seems not so much during the Iron Age (from c600 BCE), when it seems ‘Pretannike’ – the land of the painted people, as Britain was called by Greek explorer Pytheas in the late 4th century BC – became a place feared by continental peoples a mysterious land of fierce tattooed warriors and abode of the dead. Fishermen on the Brittany shores told tales of being guided at night to ferry boat loads of dead souls across the Channel.
It is now thought by archaeologists that the mingling of proto-British and Celtic populations from the mainland over many centuries from the mid 5th millennium BCE was largely peaceful, though DNA studies suggest the original inhabitants of the British Isles, those talented beings who built so many funeral tombs and stone circle monuments from the Orkney Islands to Stonehenge during the Neolithic era (the Late Stone Age), were replaced entirely by the new Europeans. Legends of the Stone Circles being built by giants, our great, powerful ancestors were all that remained – and some of their bones.
During the late Neolithic, at the same time as Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill were being built in the west country, extensive flint mines were opened up at Grimes Graves near Thetford and the region went on to develop into a major centre of metalworking during the Bronze Age, 2000-700 BCE. Stone and Bronze Age settlements in Suffolk have been unearthed at Woodbridge, Barham, Felixstowe, Saxmundham.
Bronze Age Britain was an age of increasing wealth and abundance in which the Druids rose to the fore as powerful spiritual leaders. The Druids of Gaul even told the Romans that their craft originated in Britain and that it was to Britain that men and women went for intensive training in the magical arts. Roman writers reported that the Druids taught that the soul reincarnates, which belief made the Celts fearless warriors in battle, even fighting naked to show their lack of fear (and to intimidate the metal clad Romans) . Gradually the British land became home to several well-established tribes, which we know about through Roman records. These tribes built hill forts and developed fighting talents as resources became more scarce in the Iron Age.
East Anglia was a busy region in the centuries leading up to the Roman invasion, as evidenced by the Bronze Age remains found at Flag Fen (where sacrificial offerings of swords, spearheads and gold jewellery were given to the water over 1200 years) and Snettisham (a hoard of over 70 complete and many broken precious metal torcs from 1st century BCE found here). The Iceni tribe in the north of the region were a rich and well established tribe when the Romans arrived in the 1st century CE, the Trinovantes lived to the south, centred on Essex. The dividing line between the two tribes lay in Mid Suffolk, in the Stowmarket area, the River Rat was a a border.
Baker and historian of the adjacent village of Haughley, Kieron Palmer, in a booklet about Haughley Church records that evidence of Druidic worship has been found at the western side of the village and that the west wall of the Church was discovered to be “underpinned by gruesome alleged Druidical sacrificial burials when restored in the 1950s”. Recent archaeological digs at a building site in Haughley have turned up evidence of human activity here ever since the late Paleolithic period (11,0000-10,000 BCE), with the majority of the finds dating to the early Neolithic (4000-3000 BCE). Beaker pottery also turned up in early Bronze Age pits (2500-1500 BCE) and a later field system in use late Bronze into the Iron Age (1500-400 BCE).
Stowe was an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘meeting place’ or ‘special place’, and it seems that this point in mid-Suffolk was once an oak-filled centre of Druid activity, occupied for many centuries (evidence of settlement from the Neolithic era has also been found in Needham Market on the other side of the town to Haughley) prior to the arrival of the Romans, who situated their army camps at sites where the Druids held their power. Making a suitable stop point on the Roman road leading up into the Norfolk lands, Haughley was the site of a Roman settlement (a Roman well and and Roman tiles have been found in the area), possibly the place chosen for their army to set up a base from which they could easily suppress Druid activity.
It seems that once the Romans left around 410 CE people in the east enjoyed a fairly peaceful century until the arrival of Angles, Saxon and Jutes from northern Germany. Although many tales of their fierce invasions were told, they soon settled down to administer wealthy kingdoms (as evidenced by the archaeological finds at Sutton Hoo, near to Rendlesham which was their royal capital in Suffolk) For the locals perhaps the Anglo-Saxons brought something of a return to the old gods and rituals of their ancestral past. The Romans had brought their own deities and practices with them, and, unlike in most lands taken under the umbrella of the massive empire, they were not willing to accommodate the practises and presence of the ancient British Druidic tradition. Eventually Christianity arrived also along the Empire’s trading routes and was widespread by the time of the Roman withdrawal. The Angles and Saxons destroyed the Churches and brought polytheism back – for a time, just until the 7th century mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great, which succeeded over half a century in securing most of southern Britain for Christianity. Where the Druids had once operated and the Romans had settled their army the Angles set up their stowe thornea – a place to meet to worship Thor.
Reverend Hollingsworth in his 1844 History of Stowmarket recorded that the name Stow Thorney, as the town is called in the 1086 Domesday Book, was a reference to the area being the special meeting place of the god Thor. Hollingsworth records that relics of offerings to Thor had been found in the churchyard. (He also refers to very large bones found there which he says “are supposed vulgarly to be the bones of our gigantic fore-fathers, who are thought from such evidences to have been men of vast length and strength of limb” – the Stone Age Circle builders?). The hill between Stowe and Haughley/Old Newton was, the Rev says, known as Thor’s Hill. The extensive green in Stowupland (once much more extensive, as the Rev was already saying back in the 19th century) is called Thorney Green, for the same reason. Used as a rallying point and meeting place during medieval and early modern times, it seems that the Saxons were there on the Green also holding their ceremonial celebrations, reigniting the spirit left by the Druids in the previous millennium/millennia.
The Viking invasions in the 9th century involved several battles in the land of the East Angles, Hollingsworth records that in 870 a “ large marauding army marched from Lincolnshire into Suffolk, burning every church, and murdering every religious person in their progress. King Edmund met them near Hoxne, as was there defeated, taken prisoner, bound to a tree, as he would not become a idolater, and shot to death with arrows. In after years, his body was carried to Bederickeworth, a small village, and a sumptuous church erected to his honour, which gave the name of St Edmund’s tun, to that before insignificant place.” Bury St Edmunds was born.
The Reverend goes on to tell us,- “In Old Newton, on the boundary of Stowupland, at the foot of Columbine-hall wood, which winds peacefully up to Gipping-hall, and through whose green meadows the stream forming the head of the river creeps along, there exists a spot of ground, marked as a battle-field, between the Saxon and Dane, and called Stone Bridge. Bones of men and horses in great abundance have been found for many years in that place…The relicts of this ancient period of warfare lie in heaps four or five feet below the surface, and are circumscribed, as if collected together in shallow pits. Bones of horses and men broken and entire are intermingled with spurs without rowels; bits of sword blades two or three inches broad; pieces of the heads of spears; scraps of armour; horses’ shoes of great breadth… Some of the human jaw bones are of vast size.” He records that in contrast to the Saxon invaders, the Danes continue to cause destruction and chaos even after they have subdued the land.
During the medieval era Suffolk held a famous reputation as a centre of spiritual power – hence ‘Selie Suffolk’, which in age of waning belief has become ‘Silly Suffolk‘. By the 13th century large areas of land were controlled and farmed by monastic houses and religious orders of lay brothers – there were 76 monasteries in the county. Stow Thorney was under the patronage of St Osyth’s monastery in Essex, which is why we have the Abbots Hall in the centre of town here. Hollingsworth recorded that the St Osyth abbey was the oldest in England and that it had began as a convent established by St Ositha daughter of king Frithwald, married to Sighere king of the East Saxons. She lived a religious life there but was martyred by the Danes in 653 during a raid. In the early 12th century the Bishop of London set up an Augustinian monastery at the site, naming it after Ositha. Henry I granted the parish lands of the Church of St Peter and St Mary in Stowe to the abbey. The Reverend says the monks “were considered the living memorials of her piety and wisdom”. And regarding Stowmarket, he says “the fortunes of this parish and its hamlets, as a royal manor and borough, is closely bound up with the monastery for several hundred years.”
Nearby Bury, the burial place of St Edmund, the Christian Saxon king defeated in battle by the invading Danes in 869, grew to become one of the biggest pilgrimage sites in Christendom. The Benedictine abbey there was one of the richest in England until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. This act of Henry VIII must have brought big changes to the lives of people in Suffolk, whose whole existence had been so engaged with the Roman Catholic holy orders. Perhaps the void left here in the spirit of the county made it a prime location for the paranoia and cruelty of the witch craze of the mid 17th century. Wise women and wizardly men who had been accepted during the Merry England of the Middle Ages were suddenly under suspicion. In 1645, when Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General set to work in the county, over 100 women and 17 men of Suffolk were sent to trial.
By the late Middle Ages Suffolk was the most populous county in England, from 14 – 17th centuries it was the centre of the cloth industry, and after that the land’s agricultural potential was increasingly engaged to feed the ever growing population of London.
Its sacred sites desecrated by the Protestant Reformation, and its pagan roots under attack, Holy Suffolk fell asleep, gave its spirit instead through produce from its prime farmland, serving the needs of the ever growing nation, whose centre of power had shifted elsewhere.
My reason for sharing this splash of East Anglian history is because the English are in the throes of a massive identity crisis, which might open the way to some new ‘angles’ on our national soul, and its many parts. England is named after the Angles of northern Germany, because they became the dominant force in the post Roman centuries, but the people of this country have for many thousands of years been formed from diverse gene pools coming from the Celtic, Iberian, Germanic and Norse cultures. Perhaps there is a parallel with the USA here, this island was the original destination for those who felt the drive to GO WEST, and we continue to be an ever evolving nation formed of multi-racial mix of beauty and originality, as genes from people conquered by the British Empire are absorbed into the British soul.
So perhaps to be English in the 21st century might even become an aspiration to live beyond attachment to national identity, to become instead a citizen of the world (since being a citizen of the European Union no longer applies). The English lost their original native cultures (those of the Stone Age circle builders and of the Bronze Age Druidic times) under the yoke of invaders beginning two thousand years ago. That spirit of empire building that the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Danes bred into us became stronger than ever in the English people: Scotland, Wales, Ireland were brought under English control and then we built the largest empire in world history.
The decline of Empire happened very quickly in the mid 20th century, and Britain has been struggling for some decades to find peace with a new identity and role in the world. Celtic nationalism has grown in Wales and Scotland but the face generally shown by English nationalism is confused and sometimes brutal. I don’t think this face reflects the English majority at all, I know that at our best we are one of the most liberal, creative and ‘good time’ people on the planet.Most of the free thinking English people I know had already allowed any sense of Englishness to merge into a much broader European reality before Brexit came along. Note that Scotland, Northern Ireland and cosmopolitan London all voted to remain in the European project, it was the English regions leading the Brexit charge, the areas where a sense of nationhood feels under threat.
Spending time back in the English countryside in Suffolk, I sense how identity is bound up deeply with the land we walk on, the history in it and the memories it holds. Far from being totally convinced by Christianity, the English people long kept their awareness of our own pagan ways alive in various ways, for example Maypoles were still commonly erected everywhere in the 17th century, and a raucous pagan party would ensue. (Actually we were dancing round the maypole at my primary school, Kingsmead in the centre of Stowmarket in the 1970s, perhaps triggering soul memories in us kids!) The persecution of the witches took hold because the old ways were still around, and increasingly feared. Pagan ritual went underground, but witches continued to be known in Suffolk, popping up in newspaper reports and indeed inquests in the 19th century. Faeries too were much spoken of in the county, Stowmarket had a reputation for sightings, some of which the Reverend Hollingsworth recorded in his History, and the River Gipping was associated with mermaids.
In the 1950s the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, which had first become law under Henry VIII, released the pagan British spirit and led to the formation of Wicca, which has become one of the fastest growing ‘religions’ in the world, and which plays a crucial role in the reclaiming of the native, pre Christian, shamanic spirituality of old Europe. The returning ‘Celtic’ paganism speaks the same fundamental language as the nature based spiritualities of all the other people of the world, and helps open the way to deeper understanding of our human relationship with nature and the spirit realms. For me the difference between monotheistic religion and paganism is the former tells u what to believe and how to behave via hierarchy of male priests, the latter empowers us to make our own relationship with spirit, to find our own answers, and anyone can be a priest. Religion is exercise of power over others (and the earth), pagan spirituality teaches the practice of power with, of co-creation and cooperation.
So as well as our rich history, I think we English, in order to have any hope of grasping a healthy national identity for the 21st century, could gain much from reconnecting to and celebrating once more our true native spirituality, and make that identity one that transcends rather than reinforces the warlike and xenophobic history of nationalisms. For the ancient Druids and before them the builders of ancestral tombs and stone circles were in touch with a deep spiritual reality. Being back in Suffolk I am discovering a land of witches, faeries, druids and gods, of magic, mystery, history and holiness. Bring it on! Bring it back! Let’s dance round maypoles and rave like Saxons, let’s weave spells like Druids and cast circles like witches! Let’s engage the secrets held in the land, for in the 21st century we badly need some new ANGLES on being English.