TWH- Many people first became involved with Paganism in the 1960s and 1970s. Now those Pagans have aged into their 60s, 70s, and 80s. The aging process means that many Pagan groups will soon have to work more closely and more frequently with death. One Pagan group has already had a great deal of experience dealing with its member’s deaths:The Radical Faerie tribe. The HIV epidemic has devastated this tradition.
I’m not sure if the stand of poison oak surrounding my campsite these last three days has gotten onto my skin. I’m covered in dirt, sweat (my own and other’s), a few bruises, at least one small cut from rocks along a stream, and it will take me several weeks to shed all the plant matter which clung to what little clothing I wore during Beltaine week. I’ve spent most of this week at a Radical Faerie sanctuary in southern Oregon, surrounded by queer Pagans of every gender imaginable, watching them dance, cry, laugh, eat, urinate, and unabashedly copulate amongst the grasses and trees of the land which hosts an indescribably serene and beautiful sanctuary from the world from which those of us gathered had come and must return. The Radical Faeries are known for many things, but the one thread of their existence which is often most discussed is their embrace of queer sexuality. A sex-positive community of displaced and alienated left-leaning queers, informed by, composed and embracing of spiritualities which align well with other Pagan traditions, but without a specific central tradition, the Radical Faeries were the first pagans whom I encountered, and the first people with whom I truly felt a sense of home. It is interesting, then, to consider their existence and what they represent through the current lens of tensions over sexual ethics and scandals in several Pagan traditions.
Pioneering gay activist and writer Arthur Evans died on Sunday, September 11th, from a massive heart-attack. In addition to being one of the first openly gay men to appear on national television, heavy involvement in the gay liberation movement, and early AIDS-related activism, Evans was also a pioneering figure in the development of gay Pagan spirituality, publishing “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture” in 1978 and “The God of Ecstasy: Sex-Roles and the Madness of Dionysos” in 1988. The latter featured his translation of Euripides’ play “The Bacchae” along with commentary on Dionysus as patron of homosexuality. Diagnosed with aortic aneurysm in 2010, Evans knew he didn’t have long to live and penned his own obituary. Here are excerpts describing his spiritual/religious work.
Top Story: For the third time in recent memory a Canadian citizen has been charged with the obscure ordinance against “pretending to practice witchcraft”. The first concerned Vishwantee Persaud in late 2009 who bilked several people, including a lawyer, out of thousands of dollars, the second, from April of this year, was against Batura Draame of Toronto. Now a third case, involving Brampton resident Yogendra Pathak, has emerged. “Police say Yogendra Pathak, 44 was “putting it out there that he had the ability to practice magic and by doing that he could solve people’s problems… for money.” … Police say they believe Mr. Pathak was operating for over a year and do not yet know how many people have been conned by his alleged scam. They are urging victims and anyone with information to come forward. Mr. Pathak is charged with fraud under $5,000 and pretending to practice witchcraft.” Persaud, Draame, and Pathak were all charged under the fraud statutes so why the witchcraft charge?
If you pay attention to the political blogs, you may have heard about the ongoing controversy concerning Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education. Jennings, who co-founded the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), has been bombarded with accusations from the right-leaning blogosphere. That he (through GLSEN) promotes porn in the classroom (a claim that has been debunked), that he had covered up a statutory rape (proven untrue and retracted), and that he is/was a pedophile (also proven untrue and retracted). Having been unable make any of these accusations stick and create the necessary controversy that would bring about a resignation or dismissal, they are now combing through any statement he has made that could link him to their idea of who Jennings is (a perverted corrupter of youth unfit for a Department of Education job). Enter gay rights pioneer Harry Hay.