This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the catalytic series of events that galvanized the queer rights movement. In the half century since those now-historic times we have seen a great deal of change, both in the larger society as well as within our own queer families. Because we have taken great strides in the fight for equality, some people feel that the fight is over, and our hard-earned protections now a given. We have seen the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We have seen the striking down of draconian sodomy laws, which then gave way for full marriage equality. But we have also seen a ban on transgender people from serving in the military, and we have seen queer people being legally denied services because of providers’ “religious beliefs.”
Most states still offer no protections for queer people who can be fired or denied housing and other services simply for being gay or trans. Some states bar queer couples from adopting children, furthering the ridiculous (and demonstrably false) association between homosexuality and pedophilia. The list goes on. Even actions that might seem trivial to those outside the queer community – such as the current administration’s decree that the rainbow flag should not be raised at our foreign embassies — carry real and pervasive effects that cause harm to queer people, both at home and abroad. And, as if to add insult to injury, there is now in the works a “Straight Pride Parade” to be held in Boston, bringing to mind the dark time in our history when heterosexuals were put in camps and subjected to torturous conversion “therapy,” solely because of the direction of their sexual or romantic attractions. Dark times indeed. (Insert sarcasm emoji here.)
There is so much that is wrong in the world that it can be overwhelming – which is why I don’t want to talk about all that anymore. I want to get into another aspect of what Pride is about: the celebration.
Yes, it is a celebration born out of pain and fear and anger and oppression, but it is also a reminder that we are worth celebrating. The over-culture has pulled no punches trying to destroy us. (Indeed, they have failed miserably if the ratings of RuPal’s Drag Race have anything to say about it.) In the face of so much evil, it is important to focus on what is good. And if there’s one thing that I know that is good, it is queer people throwing a party. Paris might be burning, but we’re going to look greatin the firelight. (“Yaaas, queen,” as they say.) In a culture that tries to destroy us from within it becomes even more important to focus on what we love. In fact, it becomes an act of revolution.
For those of us who are privileged enough to do so, let us try to focus, for even just one day, on what we find to be beautiful about ourselves and the world we live in. And because we are Pagans (or at the very least, Pagan-adjacent, if you are reading this blog,) I propose we do so by using magic.
One of the things that I have loved most about the Pride celebrations that I have been to is the celebration of one’s sexuality. I know that this makes some people uncomfortable, but even this is part of the point. We have spent so long being told that our particular styles of sexuality are “unnatural,” “immoral,” and a source of shame. In the face of this it becomes increasingly important to champion the very thing about ourselves that others would try to deride.
For Pride Month, let us celebrate love and sex. Let us celebrate our bodies: thin, curvy, fat, smooth, hairy, or anything in-between. Let us celebrate what makes us truly queer: our bodies, our voices, our desires. Let us celebrate with a magical rite of Queer Reflection.
This rite follows others that draw from the traditional symbolism of the rainbow flag, such as that posted recently on Instagram by Justice the Wizard, manager & event coordinator at The Cauldron Black in Salem, MA and Nick Dickinson.
While it is more common to use six colors in accordance with the current incarnation of the flag (the original had eight), in this rite we will be using nine; the colors of the revised version of the flag, as proposed by its’ original creator, the late Gilbert Baker (may he rise in power).
If possible, get nine candles in these colors. Alternatively, print the following image (or recreate it with colored markers) and then arrange tea-lite candles (in appropriate holders!) on each of the bands to represent them. The rite also requires a small mirror, a cup or bowl of water, and a lightly scented oil, appropriate for anointing.Arrange the candles according to the order the colors of the flag, either horizontally or vertically. Place the mirror in front of the candles along with the cup or bowl of water and the oil.
Ground and center. Take hold of the water and breathe out over it, allowing breath to make a spiritual connection to the water. Imagine the water shining as if it is a liquid flame. Take a sip, imagining it cleansing from within. Take another, and imagine this power flowing within. Take a third sip, and imagine the water shining brightly throughout the body. With a finger, dab a bit on the crown, forehead, eyes, mouth, throat, heart, belly, sex, and finally the feet, to cleanse and bless the body.
Now, reverently light each candle in turn, speaking aloud their “names” and taking time to contemplate their meanings.
Lavender: Diversity. Our queer community is one that is practically defined by our diverse members. Cis and trans, female and male. Non-binary. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual. Collectively we are the sexual and gender minorities and we each have our own unique experiences and perspectives.
Pink: Sex. We celebrate the very thing that is used to try and shame us, so let our freak flags fly!
Red: Life. The blood in our veins. We all bleed. We all feel. We all die. Enjoy it while you can.
Orange: Healing. As the recipients of so much injury and pain, let us be the agents of healing in the world.
Yellow: Sunlight. The light from above that nourishes and sustains us all. A reminder that we are of the stars and we share in this light together.
Green: Nature. Despite what the religious right has asserted, we are natural. Homosexuality exists in nature, as does bisexuality, polyamory, and so on. We are an expression of nature herself.
Turquoise: Magic and art. We are creatures that defy convention. Our very lives are works of art, not to be understood, but experienced. We use art as the medium by which we express the divine; the ineffable nature of the universe.
Indigo: Serenity. A prayer for equanimity; for ourselves and our community. We seek balance in the face of great opposition. A reminder to preserve and celebrate whatever inner peace we can find for ourselves and to help provide that to others.
Violet: Spirit. A recognition that we are spiritual beings. The queer spirit is the celebration of our own queer spiritual nature; that which stands outside what is considered “normal”. Queer spirit is the courage to be unabashedly who we really are, and helping others do the same.
As the candles burn brightly, bask in their light, imagining each of their colors and qualities bringing blessings and empowerment. Take the oil and reverently anoint the areas previously anointed with water (taking care not to get oil into the eyes) and then gaze lovingly at the reflection in the mirror.
Imagine yourself as a beautiful, powerful, divine being, and say:
Hidden light within then dark
Rainbow light within my soul
Ignite to flame the holy spark.
With several colors to make me whole.
Do something that brings joy. Listen to music. Make art. Have sex. Eat tasty food. Allow the candles to burn down. Or not. The magic is within you, so act accordingly.