“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.
In this book I offer my story of awakening to spiritual light and discovery of the magic inherent in queer sexualities. I hope to offer perspectives on life, and our queer part in it, that I hope will assist in the evolution of a more compassionate world of enhanced understanding, well-being and joy. I hope it will help queer people especially to overcome negative attitudes around spirit and faith as we realise we can find our own answers through direct experience. Answers that will help all of humanity to overcome the fear of death, the ultimate illusion, and live a more fully divine life. The emergence of gay people into society, accepted and embraced as never before, is changing the world, and the Queer Age of Aquarius is only just beginning.
From the Foreword by Toby Johnson (author of Gay Spirituality, Gay Perspective, Find Your Own Myth. tobyjohnson.com):
‘Early in his exploration of gay life and love in mid-80s London, Mark Whiting is going to tell us in this autobiographical portrayal of his gay spiritual hero journey AIDS to Eternity, he was faced with an HIV diagnosis and prediction of imminent death. As he prepared himself for the end, he dove into the mysteries of religion, occult magic, mysticism and new age teachings, seeking answers to why he had been born in the first place.
‘AIDS, he says, took him into the twilight world between life and death, a place where realities merged and spirit entered, where spirit pointed to a way to change and healing, where—by transforming acronyms—HIV could reveal that Healing Is Vital and AIDS could act as an Accelerated Individual Discovery of Self. He describes his journey with AIDS—the symptoms, the sufferings, the despair, the hope when new successful treatments arrived—as a rite of passage into the multidimensional nature of life. It forced him to grow out of the blinkered, limited ego-mind and discover himself as a ‘divine child’ with a rightful place in the great scheme of the universe. And after he opened his inner eyes, he found the motivation within to bring light, love and joy into life and to the planet. And subsequently his health returned and his life utterly transformed.
‘The healing crisis of nearly dying with AIDS allowed him to get in touch with his soul, his true self, and to see just how deeply we human beings— including we gay/ queer men—are involved in a spiritual, not simply physical, experience here on planet Earth, and how blind humanity— and so much of the gay/queer world—has been to that. But things were changing… It was as he prepared to die, he says, in the mid ’90s, just a decade after coming out, that he learnt, not least from reading the 19th C. British philosopher and precocious sexologist, Edward Carpenter, that what we call ‘queer’ people were often the shamans and healers of traditional tribal societies across the globe. Gender-diversity and healing go together…
‘Learning the lessons from the AIDS years, in the early 2000s Mark became involved with Queer Pagan Camp, the Edward Carpenter Community which holds retreats for gay men, and the global Radical Faerie community, thus becoming Shokti. He was part of the team that established Folleterre Sanctuary in France and the Albion Faerie gatherings in the UK, LoveSpirit in London, and the Queer Spirit Festival dedicated to celebration of the creative, loving spirit—and innate spirituality—of LGBTQ+ people.
‘This book too is such a celebration of creative, loving spirit. It is the story of how Mark became Shokti and recovered his true life. It is an account of a not uncommon spiritual journey of men who lived through the era of AIDS. And it is a kind of treatise on the Gay Spirituality Movement. One of the remarkable aspects of Shokti’s wisdom is that he tells us about the books he’s read, the teachers he’s learned from, the names of the other gay men and women who have contributed to this field. He demonstrates its breadth. Shokti Lovestar seems to speak for a deep and broad current of spiritual wisdom that runs—karmically—through our queer lives.’
I have been running a Queer Spirit Full Moon Drum Circle in south London since 2005, a rich occasion of vibrant trance rhythms and ecstatic dance, often attended by 70+ people.
I am one of the core team organising Queer Spirit Festival, which brought together 500 questing queers at its third manifestation in 2019 to celebrate our queer creative spirit and healing gifts. Another festival is in planning. http://queerspirit.net/
I’ve experienced the many shifts on the London gay scene since I arrived here aged 21 in 1986. HIV pushed me early on that road into a spiritual search for meaning, which has flowered into community activism amongst the global Radical Faerie community and the founding of Queer Spirit Festival:
Queer people have long been associated with magic and mystery – but modern queers may not even know this… Our sacred roles were suppressed in Europe but survived longer in the rest of the world. As we decolonise gay history, it is in our power to reclaim our spiritual magic, but only if we can get over the lies about us forced on the world by religion, and over the centuries of virulent homophobia that lies deep seated in our collective memory.
AIDS threatened to end my life at an early age – but gave me the motivation to seek the path to inner liberation, and in FROM AIDS TO ETERNITY I offer insights gained on that journey, hoping to shine some light for others.
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”. It is generally believed today that there was no self-identified gay minority at that time, but the frequent appearance of the word ‘sodomites’, and not just ‘sodomy’ in medieval literature suggests that some men were indeed known to be attracted only to other men.
The gay voice has found 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, where for 1000 years gay love was interwoven with society at every level, 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.
Alexandrian poet Theocritus (300-260 BCE) wrote:
“Divine were they among those who lived in earlier times,
The one the inspirer,” as a man of Amyclae (Sparta) might say.
“The other a mirror,” as a Thessalian might say,
“And under an equal yoke did they love one another,
Then there were golden men, when the beloved reflected the love of the lover.”
During Greek’s Classical Age, 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”.
Around 200 CE, six centuries after the Classical Age, Greek rhetorician Athenaeus reported that “Altogether many person prefer liaisons with males to females.”
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.
According to academic A.E. Harvey (2013), in the Matthew 19:12 verse, Jesus was shocking for effect, making an obvious reference to the Gallae, and suggesting that if pagans would go so far in their devotion, Christians should be equally devoted.
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.
When I came out in 1986 the few books that had been written about the spirituality of gay-lesbian-bi-trans, ‘queer”, people were far from my radar. Nor was I looking for, or open to, any spiritual meaning in my sexuality, I just wanted to have fun, to free my repressed nature, which of course was a completely spiritual goal, I simply didn’t know it.
In the three and a half decades since I found the courage to be true to myself in a world that I knew would judge, even hate, me, many books have been published on the theme of our queer spirit that seek to expand the understanding of what being attracted to people of the same gender is all about. The first I came across was Gay Soul, Mark Thompson’s 1994 compilation of interviews with gay pioneers, bringing names such as Harry Hay, Will Roscoe, Ram Dass and Joseph Kramer into my awareness. This opened up the doors for me to start exploring the possibility that, far from being unnatural and abominable, my gay sexuality might be a holy gift. I soon discovered Mark’s other works Gay Spirit and Gay Body and the mystical writings of Andrew Harvey, whose work Gay Mystics draws out the hidden heritage of queer spiritual voices throughout time and in every corner of the world.
The turn of the millennium brought forth many new works on gay spirit, of course largely unnoticed by the commercially driven mainstream gay world. It’s clear to me that this flowering from mainly gay male writers was part of our response to the devastating challenge of the AIDS years. These books were truly ground breaking and covered all bases – such as offerings from
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).
These works, all published 1997-2005, were signs of the gradual opening up of the story around the spirituality of LGBTQ+ people the world over, which was also happening in increasing numbers of gay spiritual retreats, queer pagan and radical faerie gatherings at this time, a turning away from the tame and humble words of some gay people defending us within religious institutions and instead proclaiming the innate and ancient power in our sexuality, as well a manifestation of the longing for deeper meaning in their lives and love relationships than the often shallow immediacy of the mainstream gay scene.
These works built on the inspired writings of the earlier pioneers of this path –
Arthur Evans (Witchcraft and the Gay Counter Culture, 1978),
Larry Mitchell (The Faggots and their Friends Between Revolutions, 1977),
Judy Grahn (Another Mother Tongue, 1984),
Randy P. Connor (Blossom of Bone 1993).
Since 2005 more books have appeared as more authors share their own liberating insights, such as Salvatore Sapienza (Gay is a Gift, 2009) and Caffyn Jesse (Orientation, 2015). Some focus on de-colonising the notion of sexuality from the binary, western, psychological model developed in the late 19th century – when we look at diverse cultures around the globe it certainly becomes very apparent that homo and trans sexualities have a deep association with spirituality, long ago denied in the monotheistic religions. Thomas Prower takes a world tour on this theme in Queer Magic (2018).Raven Kaldera highlights the sacred history and power of gender-variance in Hermaphrodeities, while books such as Arcane Perfection (2017), a second Queer Magic (subtitled Power Beyond Boundaries, 2018), and most recently The Book of Queer Prophets (2020) are compilations of writings by queer individuals each telling something of their personal tale and sharing their unique eye on the world.
My personal journey into magic and consciousness began in 1995, as this wave of queer spiritual energy was building. I explored esoteric schools, eastern spiritual teachings, celtic paganism and shamanism, as I underwent a complete realignment in my own soul. My journey with AIDS was a modern version of a very ancient experience of ego destruction and shamanic rebirth, one that would have been recognised as such in a traditional tribal setting, but which the modern medical world does not comprehend. I survived this annihilation and rebirth through finding a determination I had not known before, a complete devotion to the path of awakening and service, offered to the gay community that we might reclaim our holy queer spirit, discovering and proclaiming who we are, no longer allowing ourselves to be defined as ‘other’ by others; and I offer my work to the whole of humanity as a missing piece of the puzzle that, when put back into its place, will suddenly make the whole picture much clearer to see.
My contribution to the gradual remembrance of humanity’s cosmic nature is not simply intellectual and book bound, it is an engaged practice, a way of life since 25 years, the first five of those in my aids cocoon guided by the loving presence of the goddess and spirit friends, since then in lively, spirited, colourful, exploratory community with other questing queers who seek to release our creativity, passion, power and holiness, and be of service to the world.
My aids shaman books are not intended to explain everything that I want to share (that will come in a prose work later), they are intended to inspire your own thoughts, your own remembrances, your own soul to come forth and guide you. With quotations to make you think and a poetic stroll through past, present and future realities and potentialities. My words are here to help re-align the subconscious mind towards an outlook of compassionate interconnection with all of life, towards holistic creativity and simple acceptance and enjoyment of who we are, and why we are alive at this time. And perhaps move you to explore some of the fantastic written works on the theme of queer spirit and mysticism in general that have emerged in the past decades.
“Many shamans were homosexual; many of the worshippers of the Goddess under her various names and in her various cults all over the world … openly avowed their homosexuality and were accepted and even specially revered as priests, oracles, healers and diviners. Homosexuals, far from being rejected, were seen as sacred – people who, by virtue of a mysterious fusion of feminine and masculine traits, participated with particular intensity in the life of the Source. The Source of Godhead is, after all, both masculine and feminine, and exists in a unity that transcends both…
“Allowing the wisdom of the third and fourth sexes to be fully vocal in our culture would dissolve the false, rigid categorization of “male” and “female”, and the male-centred, male-dominated, competitive, war-and-power obsessed mentality that it keeps alive.”Andrew Harvey, Gay Mystics
“We look forward to creating a genuine Gay culture, one that is free from exploitation by bars, baths, and gay business owners. We look forward to re-establishing women’s mysteries and men’s mysteries as the highest expression of collective Gay culture and sexuality. We look forward to regaining our ancient historical roles as medicine people, healers, prophets, shamans and sorcerers. We look forward to an endless and fathomless process of coming out – as gay people, as animals, as humans, as mysterious and powerful spirits that move through the life cycle of the cosmos….. Like butterflies we are emerging from the shells of our past restricted existence. We are re-discovering the ancient magic that was once the birth right of all human beings. We are re-learning how to talk to the worms and the stars. We are taking flight on the wings of self-determination. Come, blessed Lady of the Flowers, Queen of Heaven, creator and destroyer, Kali – we are dancing the dance of your coming.”Arthur Evans, Witchcraft and the Gay Counter-Culture
“The position that gay people take in society, the function we so often choose, is that of mediator between worlds….. In a tribal environment, this means shape shifting into wolves, birds, stones, wind and translating their wisdoms for the benefit of the people of the tribe… in the long patriarchal history that has gradually enveloped the world’s people, the gay function has been to make crossover journeys between gender-worlds, translating, identifying and bringing back the information ……..gay culture is always on the cusp of each intersecting world or way of life, on the path between one world and another.”
“The tribal attitude said, and continues to say, that Gay people are especially empowered because we are able to identify with both sexes and can see into more than one world at once, having the capacity to see from more than one point of view at a time.”Judith Grahn, Another Mother Tongue
and finally, here’s an excerpt from
AIDS SHAMAN 3: DIMENSIONAL SHIFT –
Spirituality is the Aquarian way of Self-discovery, of liberation, understanding and loving community.
There is nothing but human minds holding back the progress to unity…. What we conceive we create, we need a new global story that recognises our Oneness and the many routes to Glory.
Earth centred traditions once derided, are now respected For their wisdom and knowledge Of the body, of the stars, of other worlds, of the soul. The Union of all paths is the goal. We’ve tried living without God – God knows we’ve tried – But faith is something that we have deeply invested inside. Until the separate self unites with its deep core,
the divine place in us that knows we are a part of so much more…. Humanity continues to create more and more Drama, discord and disease…
In our struggles we’ve raped and pillaged the earth. 2020s is the decade where we become ready to give birth To an enlightened humanity and change our world.
The elemental structure of Nature Shows us the way to heal, to wholeness, balance, peace. Nature will find a new harmony When the madness in humanity has ceased.
Diana was the name given to the people’s beloved Goddess, worshipped in Europe for over two millennia and still honoured by pagans today. The devotional love that she once inspired in the wider population reappeared in a very modern form as the almost cult-like reverence of Diana, Princess of Wales, who is back in the news recently, 23 years after her tragic death, and back in people’s thoughts due to the popular TV series The Crown. 23 is considered a very powerful prime number in witchcraft and magical practice suggesting the modern relationship with Diana isn’t over yet, so let’s dive into her deep, ancient roots.
In the ancient world Diana was the Goddess of the Hunt, was associated with the Moon and with the goddess of magic Hecate. Being seen as a nature based deity, she was also known as the Mistress of the Animals. While Roman Gods brought order and discipline, she was the deity of all that was wild, free and untameable. Along with the Greek Artemis, with whom she became identified once the Romans absorbed the Greek civilisation, she had very deep pre-historical roots as the patron of hunters and queen of the wilderness.
At the time of the ancient Roman Empire, as growing urban centres became home to organised, mainly male God-focussed, religious cults, the Goddess Diana became known as the Goddess of the Pagans, meaning the country dwellers. Christians were still calling her that in the late Middle and Early Modern Ages, though for the Church pagan had taken on a much darker meaning. For several centuries after the establishment of the new faith Goddess worship continued in the countryside quietly without drawing too much attention, but from the publication of the Canon Episcopi in the early 10th century it drew more criticism and the Christian authorities became increasingly determined to eradicate all remaining pagan worship. This would culminate in the witch hunts of the mid 17th century.
The Canon Episcopi, published around 905 CE said, –
“Some wicked women… believe and profess that, in the hours of night, they ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of the pagans, and in the silence of the night traverse great spaces of earth, and obey her commands as of their lady, and are summoned to her service on certain nights… an innumerable multitude believe this to be true … and return to the error of the pagans.”
The Canon also mentions some men being involved. Note that no witchcraft or evil intent is mentioned, it was Goddess worship that was being attacked. This text was widely known by the mid 12th century, and alleged incidences of the night-flight ritual rose in number until the 14th.
English priest John of Salisbury condemned belief in the cult of Diana in the mid 12th, and later that century the Anglo-Norman penitential of Bartholomew Iscanus dictated that, –
“They who… believe and profess that they go or ride in the service of her whom the stupid crowd call Herodias or Diana with a countless multitude and obey her commands shall do penance for one year.”
In late 13th century France Dominican friar (and Saint-to-be) James of Bevagna rebuked women “who go the chase with Diana”. Auger de Montfaucon, a bishop in the Pyrenees denounced Diana’s rites:
“Let no woman profess that she rides by night with Diana, goddess of the pagans …. and raise a route of women to the rank of deities, for this is a diabolical illusion.”
Pope John XXII in early 14th century set up an investigation into a group of male magicians who were said to be making sex rituals with Diana. In Exeter, 1351, the bishop objected to the earthy, sexual imagery of the statues installed in a chapel, which “reminded one more of the proud and disobedient Eve, or the shameless Diana, than of the humble and most submissive Blessed Virgin Mary.” Gradually the distinction that some were able to make between Goddess reverence and what some writers at the time considered the ‘new’ cult of witchcraft gave way to a general suspicion and intolerance. Some felt the Goddess worship deserved the greater punishment, because at least witches, who were seen as being in league with God’s opponent Satan, believed in the male God, while the Diana followers regarded her as all-powerful.
In the late Middle Ages Diana even became associated with Mohammed, as Crusaders in the Holy Land connected the crescent moon on the Islamic flags with her. She was called at times the ‘Queen of the Jews’ and the ‘Wife of Mohammed’. By late 14th century Christians were forbidden to even accept that tales of goddess worship were true. Historian Randy P. Connor, from whose masterpiece of research ‘The Pagan Heart of the West’ these examples come from, writes that “Christians were duty-bound to believe and argue that those who claimed to revere Diana were in fact worshipping the devil.” The Council of Amiens in 1410 forbade women from professing that they rode at night to meet Diana, calling that “a demonic illusion.” Gradually, Diana worship was becoming fully associated with dark witchcraft. Amiens set out that if a priest should “find a man or woman follower of this wicked sect… eject them, foully disgraced, from their parishes.” The infamous Malleus Maleficarum of 1487 (‘The Hammer of Witches’), that would be such an evil tool in the witch hunts of the 17th century, gave instruction to reject claims of riding with Diana as “in truth they are riding with the Devil, who calls himself by some such heathen names and throws a glamour before their eyes.”
This kind of condemnation continued through the next century with a notable exception from Dominican priest Johannes Cagnazzo de Tabia, who in his Summa of 1515 put the case that while both witchcraft and Goddess sects promoted “voluptuous pleasure“, the witches “work much evil“, including causing sickness and death, while Diana’s followers do “none of these things”.
By the fifteenth century the tactic used by the Inquisition was to simply deny the reality of the Goddess Diana, and the night flights that women (and some men) were said to take with her, seeing all such claims as diabolical delusions, and torturing its victims until they affirmed that to be the case. Yet there were some who distinguished between witchcraft practised with evil intent and the ages – old, and not at all malevolent, reverence of the Goddess of the Pagans. And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, while not organised as a formal cult, the worship of Diana continued, and she retained a special place in people’s hearts, throughout the Christian centuries.
Historian Oliver Madox Hueffer (1877-1931), in The Book of Witches, 1908, traced the connections between witchcraft and ancient reverence of the Goddess, especially Diana and concluded that “the worship of Diana which for 600 years persisted side by side with Christianity… is far from being altogether extinct in Italy even today.”
Temples dedicated to Diana had also once existed, probably the oldest and most well known in the world being the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. This Greek Goddess also had agrarian roots and was famously served by virgin priestesses and eunuch priests. This temple was destroyed by Christians by the year 401 but it was at this site that a meeting of Church leaders just 30 years later gave the Virgin Mother Mary be the divine title, Theotokos, Mother of God. This gave the Church what it needed to re-direct the centuries-old deep devotional love for the Goddess towards the new cult of Mary.
In London the cathedral of St Paul was built in year 604 at a site of Diana worship. Yet a thousand years later Diana rites were still sometimes happening here! Antiquarian William Camden (1551-1623) witnessed a Diana ceremony there and Dutch humanist and priest Desideraius Erasmus (1466-1536) wrote of Londoners making a procession to St Paul’s carrying a deer’s head on a spear, accompanied by men blowing horns. As late as the 19th century writer W. Greetheed recorded seeing a stag’s head atop a spear being carried about in the church, “with great solemnity and sounds of horns… Certain it is this ceremony savours more of the worship of Diana and of Gentile errors than of the Christian religions”.
At Cheapside, north of London Bridge, a large Christian cross was frequently defaced (probably by Protestants) and rebuilt in the 16th century. In his Survey of London John Stowe recorded that there was “set up a curiously wrought tabernacle of grey marble, and in the same, an image alabaster of Diana, and water conveyed from the Thames, prilling (ie flowing) from her breast.” Art was made in the Renaissance that depicted Mary standing on a crescent Moon, merging her the with the symbolism of Diana.
The Witchcraft Acts in England, the extreme blood-thirstiness of the Inquisition on mainland Europe and the witch craze of the second half of the 17th century, all served to drive pagan worship even further underground, yet the spirit of Diana has not left us. She was the beloved Goddess of the People for at least 1500-2000 years, she is the Queen of Hearts as her modern avatar Princess Diana became known.
When Lady Di became Princess Di she captured the hearts of the nation, if not the world. Some cultures, especially in the Far East know Britain through magical faerie tales and royal dramas, they see us as the land of myth and mystery, as indeed did the ancient Celtic, Germanic, Roman and Greek worlds. Diana’s story fed this dream of Britain as the New Jerusalem, the home of the Holy Grail, and the dream of the return of the Divine Feminine to her rightful place alongside the male God, a dream that sits as a longing, often unnamed, in the hearts of all souls across the world.
When Princess Diana died in the Paris tunnel (underworld symbol! so many Goddess myths involve her experiencing a journey to the land of death), I was myself hovering between the worlds, sick to the max with full blown AIDS. In July 1997 I had been hospitalised with PCP and had been lucky to survive. My return to health would begin early in 1998, and the second half of ’97 was the lowest physical point of the journey. But spiritually it was one of the most amazing and revelatory. At the start of 1995 I had dropped my atheistic mindset and dived into a spiritual journey of self discovery, inspired and fed by western pagan magic, eastern religion and from mystics of all the world’s magical and religious traditions. My overwhelming impression was that the missing element in all the religious debates and in the modern scientific culture was the Goddess. Spiritual practice and good healing marijuana herb brought me into direct communion with her. My soul came to life as my body faded away.
I learnt that in my soul I am, and have been since many centuries (millennia?), a priest of the Moon. It took me some years to grow in understanding of what this might mean in the world today. Since 2005 I have been hosting FULL MOON DRUM CIRCLES in south London, where several dozen people meet for an evening of rhythm, ritual and dance. From stillness to ecstasy we unite bodies, minds hearts and spirits for a moment of healing, release, rebalancing and community that connects the earth, the skies and us. We go home charged up and nourished.
In this practice I regard the drum circle rites as a chance to explore the ecstatic, communal roots that were the core of the nature based spirituality that stretches back on the British Isles for at least 5000 years (and of such practices the world over, the suppression of which our Christian European forebears were responsible for). This land of magnificent neolithic burial tombs, ritual landscapes and stone circles, was once a bronze age paradise that people across the European mainland feared as the land of the dead, guarded by ferocious tattooed tribes. The name Britannia evolved from Pretanikkai – meaning the painted people, as told to 4th century BCE Greek merchant Pytheas by the Gauls across the Channel, the people of Britain called themselves ‘Pretani’. The name given by the Romans to the unconquerable northern tribe – the Picts – also referred to this body art, as did the Welsh name for the people to the east – Prydyn.
Druids led the religious life of the painted peoples of Britain, a group so powerful and ancient that the first Greek philosophers regarded them as their forebears and the Romans, unlike in most other lands, made no attempt to bring their religion into the umbrella of the Empire’s divine pantheon, they had to be crushed. The ancient practices of the British Isles were lost, but the Romans brought their own deities with them, and Diana worship would have likely synchronised well with the native cult practices. After the Romans came Angles, Saxons and Jutes from northern Germany, bringing the Norse Gods into the mix, and leaving such a mark that we name most of the days of the week after them.
During the Christian hegemony Britain has never entirely lost its connection to its pagan past – during the centuries that the Witchcraft Act was in force there were still plenty of active magical groups, from the Rosicrucians to the Golden Dawn, and in the 20th century the UK gave birth to the now global spiritual path Wicca. But we have lost touch with our history. Yet, as I discovered when hovering between the worlds while living with AIDS, that long journey is still alive inside us. When we let the obsessive grip of the outer world drama drop and turn heart, body and mind to the soul inside, for which there is no better outer symbol than the Moon going through her phases, we can access the light and love of the Mother Goddess to guide us in life.
Diana wants us to know.
Want more? Try this excellent YouTube presentation on the cult of Diana, Goddess of the Pagans
“Diana was the goddess of the hunt and of all newborn creatures. Women prayed to her for happiness in marriage and childbirth, but her strength was so great that even the warlike Amazons worshipped her. No man was worthy of her love, until powerful Orion won her affection. She was about to marry him, but her twin brother, Apollo, was angered that she had fallen in love. One day, Apollo saw Orion in the sea with only his head above the water. Apollo tricked Diana by challenging her to hit the mark bobbing in the distant sea. Diana shot her arrow with deadly aim. Later, the waves rolled dead Orion to shore. Lamenting her fatal blunder, Diana placed Orion in the starry sky. Every night, she would lift her torch in the dark to see her beloved. Her light gave comfort to all, and soon she became known as a goddess of the moon. It was whispered that if a girl-child was born in the wilderness, delivered by the great goddess Diana, she would be known for her fierce protection of the innocent.”
Diagnosed HIV+ in 1990 when aged 25, and Long Term Survivor of AIDS, I have lived most of my life with a deadly virus in my body. I have thought long and hard about what a virus is on a metaphysical level, why it affects some people and not others, why it has different effects on people. Inspired by the likelihood of death looming over me in the 1990s I dived into spiritual study and practice in order to get a better, deeper understanding of life and soon came to respect the HIV virus as being a profound catalyst for my personal evolution.
There are many voices in the world today telling their tales of awakening, healing and growth through health crises. I am one of those people with such a tale to tell. HIV pushed me to drop my materialistic, atheistic beliefs about existence and explore mystical teachings. As I came closer to death (with a CD4 count of 3 at the lowest point in ’97) I surrendered my thoughts, my beliefs, my pain to the conscious universe and began a conversation with it that has never stopped since. I believe a combination of human and spiritual love alongside a positive mindset kept me alive until effective medication arrived to help, and I emerged from AIDS as a healer, a man with a sense of purpose and a trust in the divine plan at work in the universe.
HIV affected certain groups in society more than others, and of course not everybody who lived with AIDS experienced the apotheosis I am speaking of. Those of us who did find a state of transcendence over the darkness of our condition achieved it because we came to understand that we are all always creating our own experience of life in every moment, through our beliefs, thoughts and desires. We accepted we had brought ourselves to this point of challenge and transformation, not blaming others for it and dropping any sense of being the ‘victim’.
COVID-19 is a virus that affects every sector of society, nobody is excluded this time. Despite the upheavals and inconveniences we are all experiencing now the mystic in me is excited to see the opportunity being offered to the whole world to break through the veils of illusion that keep us believing we are separate beings in a principally material universe.
I dropped the belief in separation and allowed my own soul to reveal to me the unity and interdependence of all existence. It is only the human mind that keeps us firmly locked into the experience, the illusion, of individuality. It is designed to do that, so that consciousness – spirit – can explore itself through each of us. Humans love to use alcohol, drugs and sacred medicines because they all alter this sense of separation, they give us a taste of the deeper connected state, but only shifting the way we think can enable us to always be aware of and in tune with it
When we cease to identify with the stories and fears that our ego develops in order to maintain its apparent integrity, and shift instead to seeing the world with the eyes of the soul, life becomes a sacred dance, in which the fear of death changes into celebration of eternal life lived in the here and now, and disease becomes a teacher, a message from the soul, that we are in some way out of balance.
If we come to see existence as a unity, then we can no longer regard a virus as something separate to us. If all Creation is a dance of and within the Divine Mind then the virus, which exists somewhere in the liminal state between life and death (for it has no independent reality at all, it depends on living entities for its own existence), is a parcel of divine consciousness with its own part to the play in the bigger picture of the evolution of life on this planet. A virus brings different life lessons to different people, it can be seen as a messenger with both personal and collective insights to share. HIV brought some deep lessons to the LGBT community and to the other groups deeply affected. COVID-19 has come at a time when climate change threatens our entire global civilisation, and has important lessons to teach.
There are plenty of articles and lots of speculation online about the collective material and spiritual lessons humanity might gain from this pandemic, but I have found very little commentary about the metaphysical level of the nature of the virus itself or about why it has widely different effects on those it infects. This from Misa Hopkins resonates with my insights into why HIV hit me, and hit the gay male population, so hard. On a smaller scale, this is what I see happening every time somebody has the flu or a cold.
“Viruses grab hold when we abandon the self. In other words, they come in and hang out when we are not attending to our bodies’ health or our emotional and mental well-being. We check-out, so-to-speak, by not attending to ourselves, and the viruses check in.
“Viruses are able to gain entry when you are depleting yourself through stress, poor diet, and not enough oxygenation of your cells. You could think of it as creating an internal environment better suited to the viruses than to your health.
“The question you might want to ask yourself to access the metaphysical meaning behind a viral illness is, “What causes you to abandon yourself?”
“Now consider that abandonment occurs when you feel defeated in some way or are pushing yourself because you don’t feel worthy. You’ve abandoned your ability to create a balanced, happy life, because somewhere deep inside, you don’t believe that is possible.”
As well as underlying spiritual causes of this viral pandemic, this is an opportunity to address the spiritual effects of it and the way we each spiritually respond:
“There are three levels of response to theCOVID-19 outbreak: how it affects us physically, mentally and spiritually. The physical response came first, and by now everyone knows about self-isolation, social distancing and testing. The second effect, on our psyches, is being experienced personally but with only fitful answers and advice. The best advice in the mental area is meditation and yoga, relaxation techniques and paying attention every day to finding not just relaxation but joy and comfort in your life.
“But it is the third area, the spiritual effect of the outbreak, that is being neglected, even though the presence of death, whether we want it to or not, evokes concern about the state of our souls. Spiritual well-being is alien to many people’s daily lives, and with the decline of organized religion, millions of people experience a sick soul, however you want to define it — weariness of heart, existential dread, a sinking feeling that nothing really matters — without finding a way out.
“Don’t spend more than a few minutes diagnosing these feelings; everyone is experiencing them.”
Having a sense of meaning and purpose.
Loving and being loved.
Self-esteem, a sense of your own worth.
Tapping into inner peace and joy.
Being of service to others.
Generosity of spirit. “We don’t need to apply the words “religious” or “spiritual” to these modes of healing. They are based on long traditions, both East and West, that have examined and understood the human condition. More to the point, they are practical. They give you a sense of control over your life. By bringing you closer to your soul, spirit, higher awareness or deeper self (choose any term you prefer), these things reverse the most damaging spiritual trend in modern society: the desperate urge to flee from ourselves. “Your soul is the most intimate part of you, and it isn’t found by running away. Write down how you can perform an act of kindness today, show appreciation to someone, offer help to those in need, or bring comfort to someone feeling lonely and anxious — the simple human gestures we tend to overlook. In a time of crisis, the impulse is to go into emergency mode, fear, concern and panic. Giving in to those impulses will engender an epidemic of soul sickness. “I particularly want to underscore the issue of finding inner peace and joy, which can seem like a remote possibility just now and in the coming months. In the world’s wisdom traditions, it has been taught in every culture that inner peace and joy are available only through looking inward. The Old Testament says, “Be still and know that I am God.” The New Testament says that the Kingdom of Heaven is within. The Indian Vedic tradition says that Ananda, or bliss, lies at the heart of creation.”
My journey with HIV/AIDS brought me visions of the enlightenment, healing and spiritual evolution of the human species. It felt to me at the time that the personal spiritual transformation I was undergoing would soon be coming to many more people around the world. A quarter of a century later this process is underway. This is a time of making choices – to seek for deeper understanding, love and healing over succumbing to fear or denial. This is a time of opportunity to spend more time with ourselves, while social activities are curtailed, a time for spiritual practice and for self-healing. For those already on that path this becomes a time of holding steady, of being the presence of love, faith and stability while most of the world reels around us, of continuing with our own path of self-realisation and sharing the light we have in our souls.
I wrote some years ago…..
HIV IS A CALLING TO KNOW OUR SOULS
TO FACE MORTALITY
AND BREAK THROUGH THE ILLUSIONS, CONFUSION AND LIES OF OUR TIME.
HIV IS A CALL TO TURN INWARDS
TO FACE THE SELF
FIND ITS MOTIVATIONS, BLISS, DEEPEST DESIRES AND BRING THEM FORTH.
HIV IS A WAKE UP CALL
TO SEE WE NEED NOURISHING IN SOUL
AS WELL AS BODY.
OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY THAT THERE IS NO DEATH
ONLY A SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE
OVERCOME FEAR AND FACE THE SHADOW
EMBRACE THE LIGHT AND GROW
HEALING IS VITAL
This applies as much to COVID-19 as it does to HIV, Cancer or any healing crisis.
Historically, plagues have often been turning points in human development and also catalysts for spiritual and mystical exploration. Here are a few examples from the last millennium:
Mystics who were alive during the Black Death of the mid 14th century included:
John Ruusbroec (1293-1381), Flemish priest believed in embodied union with God and wrote radical, influential works. To him,
“the development of the soul has three stages: Active, Interior, Superessential. The Active life is that which men are most accustomed to: the life of the material world. The Interior life is the life of the spirit that is touched by religious contemplation. And the superessential life is that which lies beyond description and is man’s existence in enlightenment” (quoted from goodreads.com)
Julian of Norwich (1342-c1416), anchoress and wise woman, whose mystical work followed from visions she had aged 30 when a mystery illness seriously threatened her life. In ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ she wrote of the maternal nature of God,
“You would know our Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was His meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did He show you? Love. Why did He show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more”.
Famously she found an optimism and confidence that was unshakeable:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
“Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our souls is God, who is uncreated. It is a great understanding to see and know inwardly that God, who is our Creator, dwells in our soul, and it is a far greater understanding to see and know inwardly that our soul, which is created, dwells in God in substance, of which substance, though God, we are what we are.”
“As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother.”
The Cloud of Unknowing, written c 1375, author unknown, is hailed as one of the most important medieval works on contemplative practice. The book proposes the way to know God is not by analysing his activities and attributes, but by surrendering the mind, the ego, to the state of ‘unknowing’, so that the true nature of God might reveal itself.
” We can not think our way to God. He can be loved but not thought.”
1665-6 saw England hit by a major outbreak of plague.
George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement lived at this time. He believed in equality, non-violence and that it was possible to have a direct relationship with Christ, without the intercession of the Church’s priests, as had the heretical and ‘Free Spirit’ movements that had been destroyed by the Catholic Church. Quakerism looked threatened with the same fate, with Parliament enacting laws against dissent, but in 1689 persecution was ended by the Act of Toleration. The ‘Society of Friends’ spread widely in England and Wales and was soon active in north America, where William Penn established the state of Pennsylvania, running it on Quaker principles.
Thomas Traherne (1636-1674), poet, clergyman and author of ‘Centuries of Meditation” celebrated the glory of his own personal relationship with God, and divine presence in the form of Nature. He called the bliss of knowing God’ will and love ‘felicity’
“You are as prone to love, as the sun is to shine.”
“You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.”
“To think the world therefore a general Bedlam, or place of madmen, and oneself a physician, is the most necessary point of present wisdom: an important imagination, and the way to Happiness.”
“Therefore of necessity they must at first believe that Felicity is a glorious though an unknown thing. And certainly it was the infinite wisdom of God that did implant by instinct so strong a desire of Felicity in the Soul, that we might be excited to labour after it, though we know it not, the very force wherewith we covet it supplying the place of understanding.”
“It is a good thing to be happy alone. It is better to be happy in company, but good to be happy alone. Men owe me the advantage of their society, but if they deny me that just debt, I will not be unjust to myself, and side with them in bereaving me. I will not be discouraged, lest I be miserable for company. More company increases happiness, but does not lighten or diminish misery.”
Among prominent 20th century mystics who lived through the Flu pandemic of 1918-20 were
Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), author of ‘Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness’ believed mysticism was for everybody, not just monastics, she saw it as the inevitable future of the human race:
“…speak no more of Father, Son and Holy Spirit nor of any creature; but only of one Being, which is the very substance of the Divine Persons. There were we all one before our creation; for this is our superessence… . There the Godhead is, in simple essence, without activity; Eternal Rest, Unconditioned Dark, the Nameless Being, the Superessence of all created things.”
“When love has carried us above all things into the Divine Dark, there we are transformed by the Eternal Word Who is the image of the Father; and as the air is penetrated by the sun, thus we receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, enfolding us, and penetrating us.”
“We are all the kindred of the mystics. ..Strange and far away from us though they seem, they are not cut off from us by some impassable abyss. They belong to us; the giants, the heroes of our race. As the achievement of genius belongs not to itself only but also to the society that brought it forth;…the supernal accomplishment of the mystics is ours also. ..our guarantee of the end to which immanent love, the hidden steersman. ..is moving. ..us on the path toward the Real. They come back to us from an encounter with life’s most august secret. ..filled with amazing tidings which they can hardly tell… According to their strength and passion, these lovers of the Absolute. ..have not shrunk from the suffering. ..Beauty and agony have called. ..have awakened a heroic response. For them the winter is over. ..Life new, unquenchable and lovely comes to meet them with the dawn.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), scientist, philosopher and Jesuit priest, served in the First World War and later wrote that
“…the war was a meeting … with the Absolute.”
He has been called the first scientist to realise the universe and the human are inseparable and “perhaps the man most responsible for the spiritualization of evolution in a global and cosmic context” (1996 Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs.)
He wrote, –
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time.”
“We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.”
“In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.”
A virus is defined on medicine.net as
“A microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and to replicate itself.”
Philosopher Matthieu Donner writes in ‘Thinking like a Virus: Contagion, Postmodernist Epistemology, and the Ethics of Belief’:
“…like beliefs, viruses also prey, and ultimately rely for their existence, on the host cell(s) they come to parasitize, and only conceptually exist outside of it.
“If the virus exists within the liminal space between life and death, in an in-between which is neither/nor yet always already both, contagion similarly operates as a dissolving force, a process which defies fantasies of control, corrodes internal integrity, and ignores the borders that define and defend identity… As the virus problematizes the possibility of distinction between host and non-host, between life and non-life, contagion more largely exposes the inadequacy of our cultural desire for boundaries. Residing between, in the fluid indistinction characteristic of the point of contact where terms blur into each other, contagion uncovers the operations of culture and reveals the illusionary dimension of any and all distinctions. It loudly exposes the fact that, outside man and the boundaries man has erected for himself in order to make sense of the world, the division between organisms, between life and death, but also between concepts such as truth, knowledge, and belief is one whose ontological foundations is inherently void.”
One way or another the Cosmic Intelligence will eventually uplift the whole of humanity into a sense of connection with its true nature. For many this will be an almighty shock. For those of us on the path to self-knowledge already it will be a much anticipated and welcome moment. For all of us the pandemic of 2020 is an opportunity to up our game, retrain our minds and prepare ourselves for the many shifts coming our way in the years ahead.
Since way back in prehistorical times humans have left behind evidence of a deep emotional, psychological and spiritual relationship with a feminine mother spirit which is noticeably lacking in the mainstream cultures and among the mass of the population around the planet today. For the majority of people in the confused and conflicted, frightened world, the Mother Goddess is Missing: from our relationships, our thoughts and our sacred practice, if we have even have one. The Mother is absent from the world’s collective story and most people’s inner worlds – and this matters, because it is through the feminine that we feel, experience and know our connection to the planet, to wholeness and interdependent unity, to what some call God. The Divine Mother is not just a concept in philosophy, she is a lived experience that most people no longer know about.
Life began in the Oceans. The waters are the womb of life, it was only once life was adapting to living on the land that the penis evolved.The first creatures that emerged from the ocean bore their offspring in eggs – they recreated the ocean inside themselves. The womb evolved on the same principle. The Mother gave birth to life, and ancient archaeology, mythology and religion all affirm that this is how the people once understood it, and that they made great efforts to maintain an active, vibrant, passionate relationship with her.
The earliest art made by humans, both cave paintings and statuettes, come from the Upper Paleolithic period, 25000 – 10000 BCE, and it almost exclusively features images of women. Some caves appear to have been used as sanctuaries, and the style seems to represent abundant fertility, the famous Venus of Willendorf is one of many examples of items found. The Venus of Laussel, from the Dordogne in France, holds a bison horn at head’s height pointing upwards – an ancient precursor perhaps to the Greek Artemis and Roman Diana, Goddesses of the Moon and the hunt. It is possible that way before the Paleolithic early humans also felt this mother aspect of creation: Neanderthals buried their dead curled in fetal position, likely to represent re-entering the earth (the tomb as the womb) to be reborn again.
From 5000 BCE we have a sudden surge in evidence of a structured and evolved spiritual culture emerging across Europe. Humans shifted from nomadic to a more settled lifestyle, building megalithic stone monuments, elaborate tombs and stone circles, especially along the Atlantic edge of Europe and part of the Mediterranean. The Goddess is represented in the art and architecture of these sacred places, some of which were also aligned to the solar seasonal shifts.
In time the Goddess came out of the caves and into the light via mythology and creation stories. Many Indo-European cultures considered the Sun to be the life-giving Goddess, from the Celts and Germans of northern Europe (in German the Sun is still feminine, die Sonne, and the moon masculine, der Mond, and English still remembers the ‘man in the moon’), to the ancient Scythians, whose formidable Sun Goddess Artemis of Tauris had a big influence on the Greeks. Greek civilisation was developing at the same time as the Hebrew culture in the Middle East, and in both we can observe the transition to male-dominated religion during the first millennium BCE. Artemis became associated with the Moon, though she remained a supremely powerful and respected being, and Apollo took over the Sun crown. The Old Testament records the efforts, over centuries, put in by Hebrew kings (though not all of them) to eradicate worship of Goddess Asherah among their people.
Around the world the Mother appears in Creation stories and myths: In Japan it was a Goddess presiding over the course of the Sun; the Navajo of north America see the universe as spun into being by Great Spider Woman; the three Norns of Scandinavia also sat spinning the web of life, destiny and fate at the roots of the cosmic world tree, Ygg-drasill; In Egypt the Sky goddess Nut nourished the earth with her rain. The world now names the highest mountain in the world after a British explorer, but to the Tibetans it has always been Chomo-Lungma, Mother Mountain of the Universe. In South America veneration of the Goddess as Pachamama (Mother of Space and Time) has survived centuries of Christianity.
The oldest known recorded story in the world is that of Gilgamesh, from the 3rd millennium BCE, a story of a passionate love between two men and a quest for immortality, in which the Goddess plays a major role. As Ishtar then Inanna in Mesopotamia she was a Goddess of both Love and War, and also gender-transformation, with tales of transgendered people being created to serve her. There are also legends that point to her being usurped by her male son/lover, and her queer priests being outcasts in the world until her eventual triumphant return. The Genesis story of the Old Testament, if regarded in the context of the many creation stories from those times, can be seen as a consciously designed attempt to put women in second place. In this story woman is made from man, the opposite to the biological reality, and told from the start she is there to serve. The Bible compilers chose not to include the other Jewish myth, that of Adam’s first wife Lilith, who considered herself his equal and was exiled by Father God into the wilderness as a result.
Cybele, the Mother Goddess of Anatolia, the Asian part of Turkey, was regarded by the Greeks and Romans as so ancient and venerable that the Greeks identified her with their Goddess Rhea, older than all other deities and called the Mother of the Gods, while the Romans brought a meteorite stone from her homeland, along with her loud, queer, gender-bending priests, the Gallae, to Rome in 200 BCE and installed her with great ceremony in a temple as the Magna Mater, the Great Mother patron of the empire guiding and protecting the advance of civilisation. For the next 600 years the Goddess reigned supreme across the Mediterranean, not only as Cybele, but in her forms as Isis, Diana, Venus, Minerva and more. Her rituals were often lively, ecstatic, erotic and liberating, and her worship was led by women, transsexuals and feminine ‘gay’ men.
Myths represented the male God as the Son and/or Lover of the Goddess, such as Attis, the lover of Cybele whom she drove to an insane frenzy while jealous because he was to marry a human princess – he castrated himself to avoid the wedding, the bride cut off her breasts in the mania that hit the wedding. Then the Goddess had remorse, took her lover’s testicles and buried them, violets then grew from them. By the second century CE this myth, and the Cybeline Spring ceremonies, were increasingly focussed on the resurrection of Attis, with a ‘holy week’ of ecstatic and also bloody ceremonies, during which new priests would self-castrate in a heightened, ecstatic euphoria, followed by a month of joyful Goddess celebrations, known as the Hilaria.
Led by a queer and very sexual priesthood, the Cybele cult was hated by the rising Christian church more than any other. Many of the Church Fathers tirades against sex come from their efforts to stop people going on to Cybelline orgies after Christian mass. Once Christianity became the official religion of Rome it was not long before all other practices were banned, and the last records of Cybele worship are from 5th century France. In 411 a Council of Church leaders at Ephesus declared that Mary was to be known as Theotokos, the Mother of God, which led to the Roman Catholic veneration of the Virgin, the divine title given to her in the city where Artemis had been venerated for thousands of years, where her chaste priestesses were powerful, respected Virgins. The Theotokos gave the Bishops a way to channel the intense devotion that people everywhere felt for the Mother away from the old goddess and into the Church.
From Mother of the Gods to Mother of God, from Virgin priestess to the Virgin Mother. The feminine aspect of the Divine remained with the people, it was she who moved their hearts and souls. The Church would have preferred this devotion to be directed at Jesus and the Father, and over time, this is what it worked to achieve. During the Middle Ages those who resisted the authority of the Church, or who remained more committed to pagan ways, continued to venerate the Goddess in ways of their own choosing. Diana was particularly present in people’s awareness, as Goddess of the Moon, and tales abounded of women flying off on journeys in the night with her. The persecution of witches in the late Middle Ages and early Modern times often included the use of torture to extract confessions in which the accused women (and also sometimes men) would deny the reality of the Goddess and state that their deity was actually the Devil.
Note the similarity of Devil and Devi – the Sanskrit word for the Goddess. The Hindu culture did not send its goddesses into oblivion, they have always been celebrated and still inspire devotional worship in people today. But in the west the monotheistic religions poured all that was not suitable for their schemes into the concept of the Devil. When Protestantism arrived in the early 16th century the new form of Christianity considered the Catholic love of the Virgin to be almost pagan, along with the cult of saints. The icons of spirit that inspired people to feelings and acts of devotion and compassion were pushed out of the picture and just as early Catholics went round destroying the statues and temples of the pagan Goddesses, the Protestants set out destroying the cult of the Virgin. For the last few centuries we have been encouraged to put our natural devotional emotions into work, into patriotism, war, into sport, marriage, and of course escapist entertainment.
Yet some people also put them into the Goddess. Since the Renaissance of the 15-16th century the holistic pagan sensibility has tried to push its way back into our lives, hit each time by an authoritarian backlash. The Romantic poets of the 18-19th century dreamed of an Arcadian return of a simpler life in tune with nature and the gods. Oscar Wilde invoked the same thing. Since the repeal of the Witchcraft and similar acts in the UK in the 1950s, European paganism has launched itself into the world and, despite familiar, conservative backswings, continues to grow in western cultures, especially north America. This is in part a movement of white people who were colonised by Christianity over a thousand years ago, rediscovering our own native practices that were denied and debased. The return of European paganism is reflected also by the rapid growth of interest in spiritual and shamanic cultures from around the world, as we recognise that the traditional nature-based cultures were in touch with something deep that the modern world has mostly lost.
What is missing is the presence of the Mother. Zulu Sangoma and High Sanusi Credo Mutwa explains the African wisdom that we each have inside us a warrior mind (which is the male god, the rational individualised sense of self), and the mother mind (which we all share as the portal to collective consciousness, which reveals our oneness with all life). He expresses in this video the simplicity of how we can know the Mother, saying “We must awaken the mother mind within us. We must feel what is going on in the world. We mustn’t just listen to newspapers. We must ourselves, feel.”
Historians and archaeologists, alongside feminists, pagans and modern mystics in the West have gradually prepared the groundwork during the 20th century for a mass revival of the divine feminine that is now underway, but has yet to have impact on the awareness of people glued into the mainstream belief systems. Robert Briffault‘s work ‘The Mothers’ (1927) presented evidence that a matrifocal society had preceded patriarchy, in 1921 Margaret Murray’s‘The Witch-cult in Western Europe’, described the late medieval/early modern witches as remnants of an ancient pagan religion, which set off fierce controversies. Psychologist Erich Neumann published ‘The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype’ in the 1950s, Welsh poet Robert Graves explored the evolution of the Mother in Europe in ‘The White Goddess’ and demonstrated the major theme of Greek mythology is the gradual reduction of women from sacred beings to slaves (in ‘The Greek Myths’ published 1955).
In the 1970s American-Lithuanian archaeologist Maria Gimbutas presented controversial ideas about ancient Europe, saying that until the Bronze Age and the arrival of Indo-European invaders from the east, cultures were matriarchal and peaceful. Feminist writers in the 1980s such as Merlin Stone ‘When God was A Woman’ and Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor ‘The Great Cosmic Mother’continued the work of bringing to a wider audience knowledge of the centrality of the Goddess, and women, in the traditional cultures of the past. More recently Randy P. Connor‘s 5 volume masterpiece ‘The Pagan Heart of the West’ has given us a thorough study of the ancient and ongoing appreciation of the divine feminine through the medieval and modern periods, despite the determined and bloody efforts of Christianity.
During the past few decades a new Goddess movement has been emerging in the world. The Great Mother is returning to her place in human hearts and minds, gradually. Modern mystics such as Andrew Harvey spread teachings about her return. His book ‘The Return of the Mother’ (1995) traces how the divine feminine was hidden in the world’s male-led religions, and he presents the case for how a radical embrace of her all-encompassing transformative love will change humanity. Harvey says, “Coming to know the hidden and forgotten Mother and the marvellous wisdom of the sacred feminine as revealed from every side and angle by the different mystical traditions is not luxury; it is, I believe, a necessity for our survival as a species.”
Modern pagans in the West chant
“We all come from the Goddessand to Her we shall return…”
African, and also Hindu and other traditional wisdom, can remind us left-brained westerners that the Mother is accessed through the feeling body. She is speaking to us through – as – our body all the time, and through the land, weather, the plants and the animals. Hinduism says that the Father Shiva is outside creation but the Mother Shakti is right here present and incarnate in everything, we meet her spiritually and emotionally – we can train all our senses to perceive her. Mother worshipping peoples have always respected the human body as well as the Earth and its animals, recognising the divine presence in the flesh, in sexuality, and in ecstatic/intoxicated states of being. The Mother religions were sex-positive, which is why, in the eyes of the patriarchal Christians, seeking to control people’s lives, lusts and ecstatic behaviours they had to go.
And yet the Christian holy book contains the Saviour Jesus giving prophecies of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help the world in the end times. In the original texts the Holy Spirit is presented as feminine, but from Greek translations onwards it became male. Jesus is referring to the Mother Goddess, but could not say too much in the patriarchal Jewish environment he was born into. It is in the concept of the Holy Spirit that Christianity has hidden most of the powers of the Divine Feminine for the past 2000 years. Note that Jesus calls her the Comforter, because the presence of the Holy Spirit is experienced through the senses, which is in line with the Indian description of the immanence of Shakti. And pagans get it too – the Mother is not just a psychological or mythological concept, She is a lived experience, a loving presence and a source of strength, support and comfort. For most of human history most people would have just taken this for granted. Even the atomists of ancient Greece, who first proposed that matter is made up of atomic particles and everything else is just our projection, still went to the temple to sacrifice to the Goddess.
Monica Sjoo in the Great Cosmic Mother says “True religion is the original umbilical cord that binds our individual selves back to our larger, universal source. That source… is the Great Mother, who is the great cosmic weaver, the divine potter, the carrier of the heavenly water jar; we participate in her substance, her nature, her processes, her play and her work….
“The reality implicit in the Universe – in each one of us, in the self at the heart of being – is her way. It is very ancient, and has no time. …. Ecstasy is the only way through which the soul can lose itself in union with her…. Some male mystics have also understood this…
“Ecstasy is the dance of the individual with the All.”
Louis Lagana of the University of Malta wrote in ‘The Re-Emergence of the Great Mother Goddess‘: “In Jungian parlance the Mother Archetype resides in every human psyche and is a symbol of protection and fertility and regeneration. This concept also belongs to the field of comparative religion and embraces widely varying types of the mother-goddess. The discussion of ‘Feminist Archetypal Psychology’ shows that the Great Mother Goddess archetype is activated and is returning to consciousness. The Great Mother Goddess archetype was very important in the Western world from the dawn of prehistory throughout the pre-Indo-European time periods, as it still is in many traditional cultures today.”
Elinor Gadin wrote these words back in 1989, they badly need to be heard and understood across the world: “there is a growing awareness that we are doomed as a species and planet unless we have a radical change of consciousness. The reemergence of the Goddess is becoming the symbol and metaphor for this transformation of culture. With the return of the Goddess, the new power of the feminine is being expressed in all areas of life. There is a re-evaluation of the female principle in religion, in psychology, in the arts, and in the quality and relationship of humanity to the planet we live on. We are in the midst of a social evolution that will ultimately change how we see everything, as radically transformative as the smashing of the atom.”
Goddess worship does not involve sitting quietly in rows listening to preachers telling you what is right and what is wrong. To worship the Goddess, to know her inside ourselves and see her in others, we might embrace altered states of perception through, passing gates opened by love, music, dance, ecstasy, sexuality, the body, sacred medicine plants. All these things can connect us to the oneness of life, make us feel safe and at home in the universe, but without these things, without the Mother, humanity is a frightened child being used and abused, told to what to do, and punished for not obeying the rules by a cruel patriarchy that tried to run the world without her presence.The planet is in transformation, Nature itself is now in crisis and so are we. But missing from psyches and our spirituality is a sense of the unifying love of the very tangible presence of the the Mother. Her return can unite and bring healing to our world.
ONCE UPON A TIME all Love and Play and Sex between humans on planet earth was natural, normal and not-restricted-by-laws. We lived in the garden of Eden in the sense that we had not made some things right and some things wrong. We experienced the innocence of being a child of creation.. Every day we saw miracles, the wonder of life impressed us. We explored our urges and accepted death as natural, we died without fear, for we saw the dance of eternity in all things, we saw that everything runs in cycles – day/night, summer/winter – and we accepted the death between lives.
Our most ancient original ancestry calls to the modern world’s incarnate queer spirits: the transgendered and the gay and lesbian communities, to the hippy rainbow children, to the disabled communities and to all the outsiders – to all who are born to question the authority of the status quo and participate in the shift of human consciousness to higher levels of unity and understanding in all areas of life, from the sexual to the social and political, to the spiritual.
Our most ancient original ancestry calls to us all to remember that we are born souls, free and pure made from the divine template – in god’s image (each of both male and female, in his/her image Genesis 1:27), the Atman is Brahman say the Hindus (the individual soul IS the oversoul), the I AM is THAT and the nature of THAT is LOVE/ANANDA/LIGHT. They call us to realise that our bodies are temples, and that sexuality is sacred: sexual energy is the divine life force, able to open the channels of spirit within and between us. The time has come to overcome and unravel the fears and taboos around sexuality, and instead honour it for its potential to take us on the fast track to self-knowledge and enlightenment and celebrate the simple sweet fun of Soul Energy eXchange.
Our most ancient original ancestry calls the queer peoples to embrace our nature as twin souls/ two-spirits. The Native Americans, and earth-centred cultures the world over, were aware that those born with a combination of masculine and feminine energies had certain propensities that made them best suited to certain, particularly spiritual, roles in the tribe, and today in America the Two Spirits are reclaiming their history and roles. There is a history of queer/non-binary people taking roles as spiritual functionaries, shamans and healers on every continent.
Our most ancient original ancestry reminds the queer people of the world that we are born today as spirits following the call of the soul to grow into who we really are and to become what we can be – healers and mediums, artists and poets, creators of harmony and balance within the human race.
Many on the planet still fear and hate us. We challenge them to face their own fears. Our existence challenges them to live up to their ideals of love and religion’ and freedom. We are the sign that humanity is ready for a more heart-centred era where we learn to live as one spirit, one species, beyond ignorance and prejudice, putting love at the centre of human life, and giving room for all to follow their hearts.
Our most ancient original ancestry lived at a time before ‘Thou Shalt Not’ had been thought of. In some parts of the world this original state was never forgotten, in some it was only recently lost. The call goes out to invoke this knowledge, this remembrance on behalf of all queer souls, for the good of all people, on the planet today.
Queer Spirituality is the movement of lgbt+ people taking matters of faith into our own hands, making way for the discovery of the innate, magical flow of the divine gifts of the Soul. It is queer people finding our own ways to commune with and celebrate the Mystery behind all Creation, however we perceive that.
It is queers opening the doors to freedom of self-expression, learning how we mould our own reality and chart our own path in life through our beliefs and attitudes, opening the heart to unconditional love and compassion, celebrating the ecstatic in the erotic and the divinity to be found in nature, each other and all existence.
I believe that Queer Spirituality is about the lgbt+ people of the planet becoming conscious of the Unity of all life: it’s not that we have ONE LIFE, it’s that there is ONE LIFE and we are it. We can use religious terms and imagery to describe this, but we can also find our own forms of expression. By being outside the mainstream norms of society queers are perfectly placed to work our own answers, this applies to spirituality as much as to our sexual expression, the relationships and cultures that we create. Everyone on earth is an incarnation of the oneness, and deserving of the right to self-expression, to be who they truly are and to love whom they wish to love. This is the message Queer Spirit brings to the world, the same message that the Gay Liberation Front was voicing from the early 1970s, and which is the point of Gay Prides the world over, but now we need to take that liberation into the spiritual realms.
Spiritual liberation is the missing element in the modern journey of lgbt+ people around the world. Coming out about our sexuality or gender identity results from our need to be true to ourselves, we listen to our souls and from the soul comes the courage to be who we are. The same principle applies to spirituality – it comes from inside us. External forms of spirituality, i.e. religions, are cultural manifestations of collective spirituality, but they are also controlling, often repressive forces, set up to bring order and cohesion to society. The fact that certain religions have got so caught up in their dark fascination with hatred of our kind should tell us something – perhaps that we have some power, some magic, in our souls that they are very afraid of.
Most coverage of lgbt+ spiritual matters in the media focusses on the religious debates about us, and the efforts some valiant queers are making to improve matters within faith groups. But there is another story – that of questing queers pursuing their own personal growth/evolution/enlightenment – and of them occasionally gathering together to explore what queer community could become with a major dose of spiritual awareness injected into it. Queer Spirit Festival in the UK is such a gathering.
Mainstream lgbt+ culture occasionally debates religious issues but gives so little attention to the individual journey to self-awareness that so many of us are on. It also usually completely ignores its own prophets …. it is to these queer pioneers that we could be looking for a greater understanding of who we are and what we bring to the world.
Prophets such as
Walt Whitman:”If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.“
Edward Carpenter: “When the individual self, reaching union with the universal, becomes consciously and willingly the creator and inspirer of the body – that is indeed a Transfiguration. The individual is no longer under the domination of the body and its heredity, but rising out of this tomb becomes lord and master of the body’s powers, and identified with the immortal Self of the world.”
Harry Hay: “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.”
Allen Ginsberg: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy! Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel! The bum’s as holy as the seraphim! the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!”
Elsa Gidlow: “What if we smashed the mirrors And saw our true face? What if we left the Sacred Books to the worms And found our True Mind? What if we burned the wooden Buddhas? Gave the stone Buddhas back to the mountains? Dispersed the gurus with a great laugh And discovered the path we had always been on?“
Audre Lorde: “The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.”
Judith Grahn: “The tribal attitude said, and continues to say, that Gay people are especially empowered because we are able to identify with both sexes and can see into more than one world at once, having the capacity to see from more than one point of view at a time.”
Arthur Evans: “The new socialism is not just political, it is magical and sexual.”
Larry Mitchell: “Romantic love, the last illusion, keeps us alive until the revolutions come.”
Ram Dass: “If I go into the place in myself that is love, and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love. Then you and I are truly in love, the state of being love. That’s the entrance to Oneness.”
James Broughton: “If you don’t fill your days with love, you are wasting your life.”
Andrew Ramer: “We enter a new era in our history. We enter an era when love and not pain will be our teacher, when joy and not sorrow will colour our lives. Never before on this planet have people lived this way. But after thousands and thousands of years of struggle and growth, we have come to the point in time when all of us fill be fully incarnate in our bodies, fully present as spirits manifesting in physical form. Without our wisdom and our power, humanity cannot make it to the next cycle. With our power and wisdom, shared freely with the tribe of all tribes, everything is possible.”
Raven Kaldera: “Transgendered people have long been robbed of their own spiritual history, not knowing that there were once times and places where ours was considered a spiritual path in and of itself… We are all sacred and it is time that the world knew it.”
Andrew Harvey: “It’s important to realize that you have the divine on your side, that the divine is not against love, or the body or sexuality, the divine wants the complete flowering of body, heart, mind and soul together to produce a completely different kind of human being.”
Queer Spirituality is not about religion. It is the story of lgbt+ people finding out who we are, uncovering our hidden spiritual history as shamans, healers, monks, artists around the planet, discovering what that inheritance means for us today and becoming a force for the growth of love, understanding and compassion in the world. Queers of all faiths and none reveal that beyond the divisions of the old religious paradigms awaits a rainbow land of light, colour, creativity and consciousness.
In his incredible book Gay Mystics, Andrew Harvey shares this with us:
“Many shamans were are are homosexual; many of the worshippers of the Goddess under her various names and in her various cults all over the world … openly avowed their homosexuality and were acceptred and even specially revered as priests, oracles, healers and diviners. Homosexuals, far from being rejected, were seen as sacred – people who, by virtue of a mysterious fusion of feminine and masculine traits, participated with particular intensity in the life of the Source. The Source of Godhead is, after all, both masculine and feminine, and exists in a unity that transcends both…
“Allowing the wisdom of the third and fourth sexes to be fully vocal in our culture would dissolve the false, rigid categorization of “male” and “female”, and the male-centred, male-dominated, competitive, war-and-power obsessed mentality that it keeps alive. The return of the Sacred Feminine that is everywhere trying to occur is, in part, a return of the uncanny, of those insights and aspects of ourselves that have been banished from our awareness for too long, repressed or demonised. The Mother is preparing a revolution of consciousness for the whole human race, but this revolution will be possible only when we invite the wisdom of the feminine, with its instinctual understanding of the sacredness of all life and of all true love, back into our hearts and minds in its full radical splendour.”
As another queer spiritual ancestor put it:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”Rumi
Harry Hay (1912-2002) Here are some quotations and photos to assist communion with the spirit of Harry, gay activist and founder of the 1950s Mattachine Society and one of the three founding motherfathers of the Radical Faeries…. Harry was born in Worthing, UK, and lived his life in the USA.
Give yourself permission to enjoy being gay. You do have to give yourself permission. You have been told you may not. Give yourself permission to be free.
Throw off the ugly green frogskin of hetero-imitation to find the shining Faerie prince beneath
When we begin to love and respect Great Mother Nature’s gift to us of gayness, we’ll discover that the bondage of our childhood and adolescence in the trials and tribulations of neitherness was actually an apprenticeship for teaching her children new cutting edges of consciousness and social change. In stunning paradox, our neitherness is our talisman, our fairie wand, our gift we bring to the hetero world to….transform their pain into healings; …transform their tears to laughter: …transform their hand-me-downs to visions of loveliness.
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.
The term ‘spiritual’ represents the accumulation of all experiential consciousness from the division of the first cells in the primeval slime, down through all evolution, to your latest insights of subject-subject consciousness just a minute ago. What else can we call this overwhelmingly magnificent inheritance—other than spiritual?
I was an older brother. So I had to do a lot of things first. My father was a self-made man, and he would beat me senseless. But he was a Scotsman, and stubborn. I’m his son, and I’m stubborn, too. I go on being stubborn.
We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you’re going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you.
Confronted with the loving-sharing Consensus of subject-SUBJECT relationships all Authoritarianism must vanish. The Fairy Family Circle, co-joined in the shared vision of non-possessive love – which is the granting to any other and all others that total space wherein each may grow and soar to his own freely-selected, full potential – reaching out to one another subject-to-SUBJECT, becomes for the first time in history the true working model of a Sharing Consensus!
Subject–SUBJECT consciousness, a concept proposed by Harry Hay, believed by Hay to be gay people’s unique perspective on the world. Hay saw heterosexual society existing in a subject–object dynamic; where men, who had the culturally acceptable power, saw only themselves as subject and therefore higher than women, who were treated as objects and property. Hay extrapolated this interpersonal-sexual dynamic (male-power:female-subordinate) into a broader social context, believing that the subject-object relationship was the driving force behind most all of societies ills. Objectificiation served as a barrier, emotionally separating an individual (subject) from another individual by dehumanizing them, making them object.
When Hay looked at same-sex relationships, however, he saw a different dynamic at work. He believed that homosexual relationships were based on mutual respect and empathy for the other: a longing for a companion who was as equally valuable as the self. Hay termed this interpersonal—sexual dynamic “subject—SUBJECT” (which Hay capitalized for emphasis in all of his writings). He believed that this subject–SUBJECT way of viewing the world was gay people’s most valuable contribution to the greater society. By empathizing with all people, relating to each other as equal-to-equal, society would change drastically and social injustices would be eradicated. (Wikipedia)
From Sri Aurobindo’s masterpiece Savitri, published in 1940, described on wikipedia as being about “the transcendence of man as the consummation of terrestrial evolution and the emergence of an immortal supramental gnostic race upon earth”
A giant dance of Shiva tore the past; There was a thunder as of worlds that fall; Earth was o’errun with fire and the roar of Death Clamouring to slay a world his hunger had made; There was a clangour of Destruction’s wings: The Titan’s battle-cry was in my ears, Alarm and rumour shook the armoured Night…..
I saw the Omnipotent’s flaming pioneers Over the heavenly verge which turns towards life Come crowding down the amber stairs of birth; Forerunners of a divine multitude, Out of the paths of the morning star they came Into the little room of mortal life. I saw them cross the twilight of an age,
The sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn, The great creators with wide brows of calm, The massive barrier-breakers of the world And wrestlers with destiny in her lists of will, The labourers in the quarries of the gods, The messengers of the Incommunicable, The architects of immortality. Into the fallen human sphere they came, Faces that wore the Immortal’s glory still, Voices that communed still with the thoughts of God, Bodies made beautiful by the spirit’s light, Carrying the magic word, the mystic fire,
Carrying the Dionysian cup of joy, Approaching eyes of a diviner man, Lips chanting an unknown anthem of the soul, Feet echoing in the corridors of Time. High priests of wisdom, sweetness, might and bliss, Discoverers of beauty’s sunlit ways And swimmers of Love’s laughing fiery floods And dancers within rapture’s golden doors, Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth And justify the light on Nature’s face.