Who or What are the Radical fAERIES?
On this page is a compilation of ideas and links on what or who are the Radical Faeries, what they might be, and perhaps, what they should become.
A Brief History Synopsis
Harry's search for gay community burned even stronger
after his break with the Mattachine Society (1951?). For the next ten years, he
threw himself into research always asking his three questions: "Who are we?"
"Where do we come from?" and "Why are we here?" In his readings, he uncovered
brief passages that began to suggest an answer.
fAERIES Today... Perhaps:
"The Faeries are both gay men, and men who prefer to use any
other moniker that might describe them, as well as women who wish to be a
part of the group, and people who choose not to be called men or women and
beings who choose not to be called people. Faeries are organized as a group
attempting to create community out of ritual and cooperation, except for
faeries who are attempting to create community out of subversion of process
and structure, as well as some faeries who wish to create chaos, often
celebrating it, often not admitting it.
Radical Faeries -From
Wikipedia, free encyclopedia
A list of single-liners
"Faerie means Devine Love" by Phoenix
Who or What is a Radical Faerie? by Jerry Berbiar Jerry the Faerie Nov 2003
Think Radical Faggot-Bingo you've got it!
The Radical Faeries was started for faggots by faggots to explore faggot spirituality, consciousness, identity, community, culture, politics, etc.
Most of the early Radical Faeries were white gay men who identified as gay hippies in one way or another.
Many were exploring Earth centered philosophies, Eastern & New Age belief systems etc. They brought these to the faeries.
So now if someone says the Radical Faeries are about worshiping the Great Mother I say, "No, some Radical Faeries relate to the Earth in this way, but the Radical Faeries are about faggot identity as described above.
Those with the mushy rainbow notion that being a Radical Faerie is whatever anyone says it is, or is anyone who says they are a faerie, I say to them, No, Radical Faeries are about Radical Faggots who created the Radical Faerie movement to explore faggots as explained above.
Harry Hay chose the word faeries rather than faggots to describe gay men because, he said, faggots can be burned or broken in half over your knee, but faeries are magical, elusive, frustrating to the "straights" who can't pin them down etc. Once Harry said to me he wished he had legally copyrighted the name Radical Faeries, but he never thought that faerie=faggot would ever be an issue of contention.
Of course Harry, a long time labor organizer & political activist advocated alliances with all like minded progressive peoples. He helped found the Los Angeles chapter of the Lavender Caucus in Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition and taught them to use consensus based decision making, which he had learned from Native Americans. While doing so he strongly advocated that each group within the coalition develop and maintain a strong group identity. In other words instead of a melting pot where everyone's uniqueness is blurred into rainbow mush, we instead have a tossed salad, diverse, yet each ingredient keeping it's own distinct flavor to contribute to the whole. That's my two cents.-Jerry the Faerie
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Who are the Radical Faeries?
by Rawley Grau
August 31, 1979: The Radical Faeries stage their first major gathering at a retreat center in the Arizona desert.
Every year, large groups of gay men gather in remote, rural areas seeking to commune with nature and explore the spiritual significance of being gay. Many of them dress in bizarre, fanciful drag – frilly dresses and flowered bonnets contrasting with beards and hairy chests – while others wear nothing at all, as they dance around a bonfire, invoking ancient gods and goddesses.
They call themselves Radical Faeries, and they have been holding such gatherings for over 20 years.
At first glance, the Faeries seem to be holdovers from the counterculture of the 1960s – though with a light-hearted camp sensibility that is unmistakably queer. But their central concern is serious: they believe gay people are a special tribe with a unique role to play in the evolution of human consciousness.
The roots of the Radical Faerie movement date to the mid-1970s, when a number of gay men became frustrated with the urban gay community. They criticized the banality of a culture based in bars and bathhouses and saw the rise of the "clone" look – mustache, flannel shirt, and tight Levis – as pandering to heterosexual ideas of masculinity.
Hoping to cultivate a community based on "gay values," some men left the cities to establish rural gay farming communes. In 1974, one of these groups launched RFD: A Magazine for Country Faggots, where along with informative articles about farming, readers could find idealistic meditations about bonding with nature.
Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, the gay mystic Arthur Evans was talking about fairies. In a series of lectures in 1976, he theorized that the fairies of folklore were in fact allusions to gay male goddess-worshippers suppressed by the new Christian authorities. "Their greatest 'crime'
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This is what Joey
[Cain, San Francisco] wrote:
WHO ARE THE RADICAL FAERIES?
We are a network of faggot farmers, workers, artists, drag queens, political activists, witches, magickians, rural and urban dwellers who see gays and lesbians as a distinct and separate people, with our own culture, ways of being/becoming, and spirituality. We believe that, as a people, we have unique and necessary contributions to make, ones that we must make to help regain the lost balance of the larger human community here on the planet.
Being radically (at the root) decentralist and anti-authoritarian, we have no leaders. Each Faerie is divine and speaks for himself. We join together with each other in mutual aid and love for play, work, self-discovery and nurturing. To be a Faerie is an act of self-definition.
While we have no dogma, there are common visions which we share and celebrate. Some of these are: a belief in the sacredness of nature and the earth; honoring the interconnectedness of spirit, sex, politic and culture; an understanding that each one of us has our own path (or paths) which leads to the Garden of Who We Are, and that, by uniting with each other in circles, gatherings and sanctuaries, we can increase the joy of weeding and tending our gardens together; a commitment to the process of group consensus; and a belief that we are each other. As Faeries, we share a view of the world in which the dualities of either/or, minority/majority thinking are dissolved in the experience of "both/and," "I am you" ways of thinking and being.
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A central tenet of faerie lore is that there is no single definition of faerie. Faerie is a self-assumed identity-permeable, mutable, contradictory. Unfixed. Individual. So, no strict definitions here. Just an out-line, much transgressed, sketched in my own, very idiosyncratic hand.
Some would place the starting of the faerie movement as a Labor Day weekend gathering in 1979 in Arizona. But I would say this was just one event, a festive blip, in a line going infinitely back, infinitely forward.
Whenever you have a society that constructs distinct gender behaviors -- what it means to be a gal, what it means to be a guy -- there will be a people who don't conform to those behaviors. Society never disregards this nonconformance. However, it can respond to the nonconformists in two ways. Society can vilify them, call them names, see them as corrupting decency, purity, and the glory of the reign of father ruler, father god. Or society can sanctify the nonconformist, call them names, see them as gifted edge walkers between the worlds of male and female, new and old, spirit shadow and spirit light.
I can give you lists of boundary crossers, but why? Their story is integral to your deepest being. Those who have come before you are with you now.
They are present in you.
The radical faeries lay claim to the role of sacred boundary crosser in this place and in this time. To be sure, faeries have their own boundaries, which are continually questioned and crossed. To be blunt, faeries are mostly gay men. The other boundary is geographic: North America. As such, faeries draw from the cultural traditions that come together on that part of the planet: euro-pa, diaspora black, native american, hispanic, asian. The faeries are rife with contradictions and tensions, and can be exasperating. But there is a spirit in the faeries of withholding judgment and going on with the show. The intent is magical -- transforming ourselves and the world through spirit. And that's how we're radical in the root sense of the word .
from the ground, from the earth, at the base
where the matter is the most dense.
You can't make a ballgown from a pattern for a three piece suit. Cultures live within the repetition of patterns. Since I believe that faerie-ness is fundamentally a matter of remaking culture, the best way to understand faeries is to look at the patterns we play with.
Circles: Fundamentally, faeries are a group of people who have agreed to listen to each other. This listening, this talking, occurs in the most elemental of faerie forms-the circle. People sit=8Aaround. A talisman is passed. Whoever holds the talisman is listened to.
Gatherings: A lived experience of communal faerie culture: usually over several days; usually in the country. Faeries conceptualize gatherings in many different ways. Some see them as performance, or a healing rite, or a tribal meeting, or a vacation. Aside from contributing to the pool for running the gathering, money is not used: food, clothing, shelter is freely given and taken: abundance reigns. Time becomes a matter of riding the rhythm of the day. Faeries relax, and smile more. They touch each other a lot.
Sanctuary: Faeries are far from real estate mavens. Land cannot be owned, really. However, land can become a focused repository of faerie culture and energy. As of this writing, there are four faerie sanctuaries: Short Mountain in Tennessee, Kawashaway in Minnesota, Amber =46ox in Ontario and Wolf Creek in Oregon. But then, there are many other faerie sanctuaries: city apartments, small farms, a knoll in the park. It's all in the living.
Ritual: There is no single faerie spirituality. I have been at gatherings with Catholic priests, staunch agnostics, and pagan witches. However, there is a faerie spirtual urge, which is to unite queerness with the sacred.
That is, we are sacred because we are queer.
Most gatherings include at least one group ritual. Not every faerie believes rituals to be central to the gathering experience; many faeries don't even go. It is true that faerie rituals usually follow a neopagan formula: a circle is cast, energy is raised through chanting and dancing, excess energy is "earthed," the circle is reopened. But no matter how many ceremonial magick queens get together, faerie rituals always get gate crashed by the trickster spirits of Anar-she and X-hileration. A chant is spontaneously changed; a dance breaks out; a new goddess is named.
Every faerie communes with the sacred as an ontological fact. We don't need a recognized priesthood or a tradition to guide us.
Drag: You can call "yoo-hoo" and "hey girl" to death, but the surest way to get a group of faeries together is to empty out a big plastic garbage bag of fabulous thrift store finds. Changing drag, changing self presentation, changing self: a faerie putting together a new outfit-paisley scarf, metallic blouse, prized skirt- is not demonstrating conformity, not dressing for the office. She is exploring a new dimension to herself, dancing the edge between male and female, the alleged sacred and supposed profane, the lavendar fantastic and the lavendar present. She is being fabulous.
Hissing: Snakes shed their skin like faeries shed their drag. Snakes crawl on the ground, close to the mother, like faeries value the state of being grounded, close to the mother. Snakes hiss like faeries hiss: to say we're near. Sssssssssss.
The faeries are a coming together within a queer context of other strands of oppositional North American culture. Within the patterns of faerie culture, all these strands get woven, cut, sewn and accessorized. Since I am a witch, and think in terms of spells, I would like to name those strands, and braid them together into a sacred lavendar cord:
Anarchism. For a movement toward decentralism and small communities where the individual is prized. Non-dogmatic, leaderless.
Feminism. For a value of women and womanly qualities and stance against the patriarchy.
Anti-racism. For an appreciation of the value of diversity and the excitement of many cultural traditions.
Gay Liberation. For an exploration of the radical potential of gay identity.
Hippies. For spontaneous mass cultural transformation, communalism, and good drag.
Neopaganism. For new forms of ritual and a realization of the immanent spirit.
Ecology. For a respect for nature
Mens Movement. For men coming together and examining the conditions of their lives.
At the end of this cord I would tie a bead. The bead would be stone bead, ancient, sacred, and heavy. Very heavy. The bead would be the weight of a pendulum swinging across time, connecting me to the sissie priests and shamans of the past and the future. The bead would be my marking amulet, so others may know me. The bead would be a condensation of energy, a source of knowledge and power.
The bead would be a faerie bead.
-- Trixie X (nče Glamourama)
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Bradley Rose Brochure
on Faerie (c. 1984)
WHO ARE WE?
WHERE HAVE WE BEEN?
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
The gay movement has left these central questions unaddressed. In fact, some gay people would have us believe we're just the same as the straights, except for what we do between the sheets. But others of us hold to the gut feeling that we _are_ different-that we gay people are _a people_. As a people we have ways that are peculiar to us and a language that characterizes us. We have our own past and, even more importantly, our own future.
We have searched through our childhoods for roots and clues to our special identity, and we have come up with the word FAERIE. As gay children we delighted in stories of faeries-those playful, magical, pansy-faced beings who assumed human shape. We have even been known as faeries throughout our lives to those around us.
So we are faeries. We spell it variously-as faerie, fairy, faery. No matter how we spell it, our aim is to explore and celebrate our nature. We want to build _real_ community on the fullest possible understanding of who we are. Therefore we feel it necessary to address the question of our identity.
Since 1979, many gatherings of radical faeries have been called to explore this question: Who are we? The gatherings take place in rural, isolated, safe settings. Radical faeries are invited to bring their fantasies, arts, memories, dreams and reflections. The gatherings are a provisional sanctuary in which we take off the masks we wear for the hetero world, suspend judgment and open ourselves to each other.
So, who are we? Answers so far are oversimplified and tentative. But here are some clues:
THE GREAT MOTHER
We feel a special love of nature. Growing up as faerie boys, we talked with trees and stones-as do all children. But unlike the mortal children, we still share our thoughts and feelings with trees and stones-and vice versa. As faeries, we recognize ourselves as part of the balance of nature. Our part in nature is exhilarating, awesome and humbling. We know that when we lose a part of nature's sacred theater to the ravages of Men, we have lost a part of ourselves. Faeries therefore are cautious, caring stewards of country space. We are one with nature, with her variety and timeliness.
We faeries have also explored our magical power. Our ability to communicate, to organize, to heal, and to create exceeds the limitations of mortal reality. We use meditation and group ritual to celebrate ourselves. Magical awareness is the connection to our own immanent power. In mundane society, magic has been mystified, confused and heterosexualized. We faeries are reclaiming the value of magic.
It comes as no surprise that faeries love sex. In sex, as in all things, we enjoy variety. Our sexual relations are characterized by an enjoyment of each other's enjoyment. In this regard, every sharing of energy between faeries is sexual, whether or not it involves genitalia.
As faerie babes we were each born with a penis and (because of this penis) a burden of social expectation. As faeries we are sharply aware of the inappropriateness of society's gender expectations when applied to us.
We faerie boys had queer ways of trying to throw a baseball. The boys (those who would grow up to be Men) told us we threw like the girls. But the girls, when we asked them, said we didn't throw like boys _or_ girls-we threw like a _sissy_. There's the clue to our real gender. We are not-Men. We are other. We are sissies. We are faeries. As adult males we still fail gloriously at being Men. Even in 501s and sport shirts there's no mistaking a faerie for a real Man.
As faeries we are very interested in what our sisters have to say. The feminist movement is a beautiful expansion of consciousness. As faeries we enjoy participating in its growth.
Whenever faeries vote, they can usually count on numbering among the smallest minority. The democratic system tends to bypass us.
Politically, faeries incline toward cooperation. We protest against abuse of power. When we come together, faeries do so as a circle. We link all around, with neither a head nor a foot, neither a leader nor a follower. We prefer to make decisions based on loving, caring, sharing consensus. We find that consensus excellently serves circles of 30 or fewer faeries. But circles of even many hundreds of faeries have not found it necessary to fall back to hierarchical, subject-OBJECT politics.
The play of life and its myriad possible permutations bring ceaseless delight to faeries. As faerie boys we loved pirate and Robin Hood stories as much for the costumes as for anything else. We have all aspired to become actors and actresses.
Colorful and fantastic costuming is one of our gifts to the world, if the world will but accept it.
Mortal society is a dog-eat-dog world-a survival of the fittest, full of give and take, where push comes to shove and the early bird gets all the worms. It pains a faerie's heart that human creatures could feel at home in this economy of rape. The world could just as easily be a dog-love-dog place. We prefer to respect the sanctity of life. Faeries see the universe as wholly alive and sacred. We are subject-SUBJECT with our environment, with all its inhabitants and manifestations. We relate to others as we relate to ourselves-as subjects.
This is queer behavior in the dog-eat-dog world. Subject-SUBJECT consciousness is the essence of faerie vision. It underlies our respect for nature, our magical practice, our sexuality, and our relationship with women. Sadly, today's world is in short supply of this consciousness. The world needs our gifts, and our time as faeries has come. Together we can sprout and nurture our visions That is why we will continue to gather as faeries and share.
Oh, yes. Faeries aren't all light and clarity. We have anger and rage within us too. We have all internalized aspects of the dog-eat-dog world. Faeries come together to examine their projections and their sense of wrong and evil. We work to integrate the ''dark side" of ourselves into our awareness.
[N.B. This pre-dates the faery space at Wolf Creek - artwit]
Where do we go from here? We feel we're really on to something with this exploration of faerie spirit. We want to continue this work. One of our projects in this regard is to acquire a permanent place in the country as a sanctuary for faerie exploration. By acquiring a permanent home (the first of many) we can emphasize our faerie work with continuity.
Currently a group of about 30 faeries, based in California, have organized to make this dream come true. We have been working closely together since January 1984. We can accept tax-deductible contributions. We are looking for land of 40 or more acres in northern or central California. We envision the land as a retreat and study/work center where we can share our arts and research, practice sound land-stewardship, restore our faerie creativity, and commune in faerie spirit with our own kind.
If you are interested in this project, come to a meeting or give us your name. Tell us how we can get in touch with you. Let us know your dreams and visions.
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In 1979, Harry Hay, his partner John Burnside, Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker, veterans of various phases of Gay Liberation, issued the call to a "Spiritual Conference of Radical Faeries." Those who heard the Two-Spirit Call showed up at an ashram in Benson, Arizona. Hay introduced the idea of spirituality into gay liberation, a galvanic shock to the soul of Gay politics. Radical Faeries recognize the isolation and disconnectedness Gay men grow up with, as a spiritual wound needing spiritual healing. Hay's genius, and that of the co-creators of the Radical Faerie movement, was to make this spiritual healing possible, real, and powerfully effective.
Some Radical Faeries ask what kind of society emerges if Queerfolk are together by themselves, set apart in order to investigate the inner voice in a completely Gay culture. Such seeking led to Faerie Gatherings lasting a week or more where new and spontaneous ways of relating could emerge.
No Radical Faerie dogma or doctrine exists per se. The identity of Radical Faerie is never conferred upon a person. The individual claims his Radical Faerie nature in an on-going act of self-discovery and self-actualization. It can be as challenging to define “Radical Faerie” as it is to define “Human Being,” as ultimately those aspects of life that hold meaning are experienced, rarely to be mediated effectively through description.
In keeping with the hippie, neopagan, ecology, and even eco-feminist trends of the time, gatherings were held out-of-doors in natural settings. To this end, distinct Radical Faerie communities have created Sanctuaries in many beautiful rural settings. For an incomplete listing of faerie events, locations see http://www.mensfestival.com. For a large collection of radical faerie related web links, see http://www.radfae.org.
Radical Faeries hold that the Queer soul is linked with the natural world, that Queerfolk are called by the Good Goddess to be gatekeepers to the spirit world. As a sign of this spirit connection, many Radical Faeries take a ritual name, known as a Faerie Name. This tradition is inspired by the Native American “Medicine Name” tradition, where a shaman gives spiritually significant individuals a Medicine name. In the Native American traditions, a shaman always bestowed Medicine Names upon initiates; one does not choose it. The Faerie Name tradition is similar, however, Radical Faeries frequently choose their own Faerie Names.
The concept of Queer people as a nation apart drove Hay's thinking from early on. The African American liberation movement provided models of how to think about society's subgroups. Radical Faeries ask: Who are Queer people? What are we for? Faeries see "Queer space" as a kind of magical spiritual arena of possibility, in which consciousness and events develop in a fundamentally different and authentic fashion.
Faerie gatherings are a space "between the worlds." Generally, Radical Faeries celebrate the 8 pagan holidays of the year [Samhain (Halloween), Yule (Winter Solstice), Imbolc (Candlemas), Ostara (Vernal Equinox), Beltane (May Day), Litha (Summer Solstice), Lughnasadh (Lammas), Mabon (Autumnal Equinox)]. Gatherings are frequently held in connection with these holidays. A ritual at gathering is likely to include candles, fires, prayers, chanting, dancing, streamers, bedizened drag queens, ritual music, mud pits, sweat lodges, fire dances, drumming, running through the woods naked, Sufi twirling, and spiral dancing. Nudity at ritual is common. And as always, Radical Faeries take inspiration from Aboriginal America. As Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe stated: “Your religion was written on tablets of stone by the iron finger of an angry god, lest you might forget it. The red man could never remember or comprehend it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors, the dreams of our old men given by the Great Spirit, and the visions of our sachems; it is written in the hearts of our people."
Heart Circle is a central tool of the Radical Faerie way of life, and arose from the ideal of consensus, as developed in democratic and feminist thinking. Heart Circle is informed by a theoretical opposition to hierarchy, drawn from feminism, from radical politics, and from Hay's idea of "Subject-Subject Consciousness." It includes aspects of various therapy, human-potential, and consciousness-raising groups. Each day at gatherings this group process forms for discussion, emotional processing, and emotional healing. Heart Circle is a place to share thoughts and feelings, to heal, to make decisions, and to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Queer person. It can also be a place of confrontation, of unflinching examination of our deepest beliefs, understandings, and faults. Disagreement – rooted in the “contrarian” tradition of some Plains Indian Tribes - is a Radical Faerie first principle.
Informality, acceptance, and flamboyance of dress (and undress) are the norm at gatherings, which are held across the world. Radical Faerie sanctuaries - rural land or urban buildings where Faeries have come together to live a communal life - now exist in North America, Europe, and Australia.
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