I don’t know what to say about my experiences at the solstice. And I don’t know how to voice them.
I don’t want to use language that triggers. I’m lost by language that talks of “men” and “women”. I don’t see “men” and “women”, I see individual souls, layered, complex, experience-specific. That is my truth. I accept others see differently. I seek to connect with people in faerie space from my essential soul to theirs.
I seek to connect with all in some “authentic” way and being an empath I was awash with emotions at the gathering, some as high as the sky, some as deep, as dissident as the ocean.
I went into this gathering wounded. Alongside Orlando’s hate attack came a hate outbreak in our online community and it enfeebled me.
I think it placed fear in our hearts, fear which grew as the gathering unfolded.
I believe that fear creates fear. It sensitizes, focuses, triggers fear. Fear seeds itself.
I have not heard much talk of fear at our gatherings before. I ask was it there and not spoken or was it not there?
Was it our fear or the inrush from Orlando at the solstice?
There was grace and kindness, laughter and caring. There were wonderful workshops. There was delicious food. I felt that flowering of heart that faerie gatherings nurture. Our first heart circle, starting late at night, was profound. Death was a significant theme and the celebration of life.
Faerie space is precious to all who experience it. It embraces light and shadow. We feel shifts in our emotional frequency there. Could it be that a protective urge is emerging for some? A desire to define that preciousness, to keep it safe? How can we do that when we all have light and shadow in us. Would some of us seek to repress the shadow?
After four days the group had grown large. Finding volunteers for things was noticeably a strain. I did not sense that we were operating or connected as a single group. That was surprising. It felt unusual to me. The energy felt scattered, volatile.
Nothing formal was done for the group and nothing formal was done to orient newcomers. Our organisers continued to be very low on energy. I was curious to hear some newcomers say they’d been told faerie gatherings were sex parties. I sensed the possibility of mixed messages.
More time passed and my awareness of fear and fragmentation increased. I pushed both aside, rejoiced as the farm was glittered in preparation for the procession and Well rituals.
I left on Sunday at lunchtime. Many beautiful farewells filled my heart and eyes. I pushed away an increasing dis-ease in the energy field. I did not have any resources to offer and a long drive home.
I don’t know really what happened after I left. Many voices speaking different truths. Many silent. Many emotions. Faeries offering insights, ways to learn and heal. Faeries heavy with questions.
“We will not heal the world’s fear by giving it place in our hearts”. My heart spoke these words. They felt too raw to share on Facebook. Facebook has felt a complicated, raw place, sometimes enlivened with laughter and kindness.
Someone said the enemy of fear is love. I have been seeking to love more and fear less, although it would be a lie to say I don’t fear the energy of fear, for it is very potent.
Now is our time to renew love, starting with ourselves.
Oh how easy and trite that line sounds. And I’ve never in my life been more serious.
Love brings us together, guides us to appreciation of our differences, treasures what we hold in common and makes our particular joy manifest.
This poem came to me shortly after I got home from Glastonbury. Reading it now I hear the Mother’s voice speaking to us so clearly…
The rain met you
frothed the sky
in bloody rivers
And they did nothing
but show their faces
to the rage
kept its distance
Like empty hammocks
you hang about crisscrossed
Weigh the countless years
left to live
with fires and food and drums
but this time cannot raise
the price of redemption
Till you take your own brittle skylark
wings and shatter them
stain the soil
Then the sun re-opens
a path to your faces
Then the sun reclaims its place
and purply spreads
each as a mother’s
song enfolds a child
until it settles again
Solstice was fast approaching and again, I found myself looking forward to Glastonbury, the gathering and our solstice bonfire. That said: arriving at Paddington Farm was bittersweet this time round as someone special wasn’t going to be with us any more.
On April 8th, our Faerie Tribe lost a unique friend who took us to heart and delighted in our magic and sense of community. As many of you already know, I’m talking of Suki Key who passed unexpectedly from an acute kidney infection. She was an all too youthful 65.
I first met Suki in the camping kitchen at last year’s Solstice Gathering. Having both retired and divorced she had sold her house, somewhere in Lincolnshire I think, and begun a quite remarkable odyssey. She was living in a large bell tent on the Farm’s second camping field (complete with sofas and log burner). At some stage, she was planning to ship out to India, fulfilling her own spiritual quest whilst travelling and doing some charity work.
We initially crossed paths when Suki saw me doing a tarot reading but she became doubly fascinated when she realised I’d designed my own cards. This was our first common ground for Suki’s son was an amazing artist with his own successful design studio. I also discovered the best way to make her face light up with pride was to get her onto the subject of her children.
My experience wasn’t unique. Suki had connected with lots of us during the course of the gathering and I think she loved every minute of our mischief and our colourful sense of fun. She was a tiny, willow like woman who reminded me of children blowing bubbles. Bubbles themselves shimmer and sparkle with an astonishing spectrum of colour yet they are delicate and fragile, vanishing in an instant. They encapsulate all the innocent joy of childhood and that’s why they remind me of her. Suki was that rare combination of age earned wisdom and childlike wonder. God knows how she’d done it but she’d managed to retain her youthful sparkle in a way that most of us can only marvel at, even though we were younger.
She re-appeared at our September gathering. Now lodging in Glastonbury for the winter months, she’d checked our dates and made sure she was back up at the Farm to come and visit us. It was a joy to see her and I still smile when I think back to our long conversation in the Farmhouse living room. Better still, I remember her moving around from person to person, watching their faces light up as she sprinkled her own particular brand of faerie dust around the room.
For all of this, my fondest memories will be of our last meeting at January’s Imbolc gathering. Once again she visited but this time she came laden with foil wrapped packages of gluten free chocolate brownies. She’d known we were coming and had set to baking. India was now looming on the horizon and she wondered if any of us had contacts with aid workers or volunteers heading for Calais. Her bell tent had served its purpose and she wanted it to go to the refugee camp where it would give someone in need a good home. She said she’d return to the farm later that evening, to join us around the fire for some drumming.
Sure enough, as dusk was falling she drove back to the Farm and that small red car, cluttered to overflowing with all things useful (rather like Moominmamma’s handbag) pulled onto the car park and a slightly breathless Suki came looking for volunteers to help her empty the boot. To my incredulity, the boot was stacked high with drums, apparently gifted to her some months previously.
“I’ve always wanted to try these!” she told me with a beaming smile.
Suki’s drum collection was temporarily added to the Faerie drum collection and I sat next to her for the rest of the evening while we let the fire and the rhythm hypnotise us. I was aware of the circle, of friends, of music and of the joy of being alive. I think Suki was too.
She came to say goodbye the following morning, giving many of us sticks of her favourite incense as a parting gift. I still have mine, as something inside wouldn’t let me burn it straight away. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would see her and the incense stick remains on my bookshelf. Sometimes I’ll breathe its fragrance to remind me of her. I may even bring it to a gathering and offer it to the fire as an act of remembrance when I’m ready to let go of it. For now it remains as a reminder of a special spirit who flew briefly into my life and left a trail of sparkle behind her for a short while.
The loss of Suki has reminded me just how important our Faerie friends are. There are many of them, Tanya, Michael, Robert, Leila, Tiffany and Holly at Paddington Farm for instance, who think of us as their favourite visitors. There’s also John Clarke at Featherstone who makes us feel that his home is our home whenever we stay there. These are but to name a few. They may not be directly part of the tribe but they enable us, celebrate us and even love us. We also love them and the loss of one friend has reminded me once more to cherish the others.
Fly away joyfully dear Suki; for I know you’ll light up wherever it is you journey on to. For us, we’ll celebrate you but we also missed seeing you at the Farm this summer.
So it’s been just over a week since I heaved my rucksack onto my back, kissed/hugged some new found friends goodbye and tearily made my way back to civilisation. After what was one of the most cathartic and honest experiences of my life.
Due to prior commitments, the last seven days have been wildly different to the previously wonderful 4.5 days spent on that great farm in Glastonbury. The very next day I was surrounded by about 300 other gays at a pool-party for Sitges Pride. For the first time in my life I’m actually enjoying the spectacle of it all and not feeling body shamed or self-conscious. Followed the next day by a BBQ with a bunch of old friends who’ve recently come back into my life, and I realised I have very much missed. Then I easyjetted it over to the beautiful city of Rome – for a week’s crash course on people and crisis management. Strange but true.
It is in that great Italian city, where I am now, in a cute little Air bnb flat, just off the beautiful Plaza Cavour – where about an hour ago, I felt compelled to commit some thoughts to paper. Due to the cancellation of one of my friends’ flights I have found myself alone in Rome this weekend, with only my wits to keep me company. Not such a wise thing sometimes.
Today having spent the afternoon walking around the stunning city, whilst marvelling at the remnants of 3000 years of human endeavour, something fundamental happened for me. Something within me shifted and like the parting of the curtain within the emerald city, I suddenly could see the truth of the old man behind the illusion of the Wizard. Stick with me friends of Dorothy, you will see what I mean.
Since my departure from the land of the Faeries I have been getting these sweet little after-shocks of emotional realization, that can and have hit me out of the blue. One such aftershock hit me today, and it nearly knocked my off my feet. For the truth of it was so strong and clear that I had to steady myself. It was something I have known for many years, but have never, ever been able to give it voice or shape before.
I hate myself or rather, I am racked with self-loathing. It is like a cloak of shadow that I have wound so tightly around my soul that it is always with me. It consumes me. It shapes how I see, feel and perceive the world around me. It provides me with vitriol that I use against myself and against all those whom I can target – in a bid to make my shadow-self feel better.
I am only just realising this, only today have I seen this truth for what it is. There is a part of me that hates myself so much, it would actually happily see me destroyed. This revelation was so strong that I almost had an out-of-body experience. I felt, for a while, as though I was outside myself, looking at a strange being inhabiting my own body, someone/something that I didn’t recognise or like. Or to put it another way, I felt how I imagine the perpetually handsome Dorian Gray would have felt each and every time he lifted the cover from the painting, to see how truly ugly it had become. Somehow separate and distinct from the ugliness – yet still one and the same with it.
Then a second thought hit me.
Why have hated I myself and for how long? Why did this start? Then a third.
When did this start? When did I first look in the mirror and only see my faults? The answer is that I don’t know and I never want to know. A very, very LONG time. Almost for as long as I can remember.
Then I thought about how these thoughts manifested. What I had heard the voice in my head say to me, over and over again:
My eyes are too deeply set! My brow too Neanderthal! My stomach is too big! My nose too wide! My legs too thin! My hairline too low…On and on I went, listing the ways the negative voice could always find fault, when all others saw something completely different.
All were very real thoughts I have entertained, things I have said to myself repeatedly, building up a mental image of myself as some sort of missing link in the chain of human evolution. Somewhere between Neanderthal and homo-sapien, but even less attractive.
And then all at once, a new realisation hit. All of this was total and utter BOLLOCKS. These were untruths, negative opinions of myself. With no basis in reality and no evidence for their existence. Bullshit and rubbish I have been carrying around with me for far too long.
The negative thoughts/voices – whatever you want to call them, have been so loud, for so long that they have shaped me. NO that word isn’t strong enough. RESTRAINED me. Forced me into contorted, twisted shapes that were uncomfortable and unnatural to me.
I stoop, because I feel I am too tall. And thus I now have rounded shoulders and a painful lower back. I breath in because my stomach sticks out – which it would do if I stoop. On and on these thoughts have taken physical and emotional manifestations that have become so overpowering that I nearly lost all sense of self in the vortex of negativity.
Jesus H Christ! This has even destroyed my love life and my relationships. I am too scared to talk to people I am attracted to for fear they will see an ugly wretch, barely worthy of their contempt – when this frankly isn’t true. Then, even with those whom I am not entirely attracted to but want to try to connect with, I become so self-conscious – that they can only see someone who is nervous, agitated and clearly not happy in themselves, so they run for the trees.
Well, enough is enough. This is bullshit and I can now see it for what it is. It genuinely does feel as though the exploitative old man, whispering negative thoughts from behind the curtain has been exposed, and now I know he is there I have vowed to destroy him. No longer will I listen to such crap about myself.
I know I am fairly good-looking. I know this as I have been told it many, many a time, and have always shrugged it off. Well from now on, I shall accept that compliment in the manner that it was intended and not recoil from it, as though someone had poked me in the eye with a hot branding iron. So when I look in the mirror I will see what is there. I may not be perfect, but I am happy and that suits me just fine!
I know I am respected in my job and career. I actually have the awards / accolades and experience to prove that. So old man, nothing you can say can / will take that away from me.
I also know I am strong, for over my 39 years, I have survived many different trials. Not only those that are caused by the chaos that is external life. But battles that have raged within, those created by the thoughts / feelings of self-loathing. For here I stand, at 39 years of age discovering myself, liking myself, and growing into a much stronger, happier me.
Last week I found a new me. A confident me. A me that I can see myself truly becoming. So I am owning that new me. Today I am WOLF. WOLF is a work in progress. But WOLF is happy and there is no self-loathing here.
WOLF is Giles. Giles is WOLF. The two will always be one. But WOLF is the good, positive, strong Giles. The real Giles, not the shadow self – the shadow self is dead!
Thanks Faeries. You don’t know the gift you have given me. The gift of freedom, it was only 4 days, but such an important four days.
This year, as part of the Albion Faeries summer solstice celebrations, a circle of courageous faeries came together to share our experiences of embodiment: to talk about how our body issues; anxieties, fears, comparisons, resentments and projections shape our experience of the world, our intimacies and relationships.
Our circle was well attended by a diversity of bodies vis a vis size, shape and age: slim and skinny, big and wholesome, young and old. Our collective was mostly white, mostly male and cisgender – but also genderqueer.
We recognised the lack of representation by our female, trans, black and brown brothers and sisters and honoured their unique experiences. We hope our thoughts and process help initiate further circles where all bodies; their histories, narratives and futures can be held and welcomed, seen and heard, loved and supported.
We set out our space with love and intention and our facilitator encouraged discussion around a number of talking points. As an introduction, participants were invited to reflect on why they had come to the workshop:
Why are we here? What moved you individually about the workshop title? What particular feelings and / or grievances do you have about you body that you want to share and / or understand?
Each individual was given space for five minutes to talk around this opening point. A variety of experiences / trauma / conflicts and reflections were offered. Some of us had experienced serious accidents and had been left with the pain and insecurities of scars and surgeries. Some of us, perceived as ‘not having body issues’, felt silenced, unheard and isolated in our pain; not ‘taken seriously’ by others about our anxieties and fears. Some of us were confused by our bodies and by others bodies too – feeling like the body and the symbolism around the ‘preferred’ and ‘body beautiful’ were barriers to finding connection and relationships. Most of us felt dismayed at the pervasiveness of such notions, feeling that even ‘spiritual’ and ‘queer’ communities were just as afflicted and affected by such exclusion and reductivism.
Some of us disliked particular areas of our bodies: our bellies, our faces, our stretch marks, acne, teeth, gums, varicose veins, grey hair and general appearance. Some of us felt a little resentful that just as we were embarking on newly discovered queer-trajectories and callings, our bodies betrayed us by ageing and becoming less appealing to those seeking out the youthful body, the adonis or its non-binary equivalent.
How does it feel to inhabit a body that doesn’t conform to mainstream prescriptions of beauty and allure? How does it feel to be disenchanted / depressed or resentful of your own body when it or parts of it feel ‘ugly’ or are sick and weak? How does this affect our lives and relationships?
This section was timed at around 10-15mins and was an open session with people volunteering reflections and insights. Here we uncovered a great sense of awareness and mourning around the painful experience of being in the world with a body that doesn’t ‘match up’ or that ‘plays up’. Some of us spoke of entertaining a love / hate duality with our bodies; recognising and appreciating its potency, capability and inherent beauty but feeling resentful of its ‘shortfalls’ and ‘weaknesses’. Some of us described the act of recoiling from others touch or interest – literally flinching at the approach of another body or intimate encounter. And also of second guessing and being suspicious of the others intentions: the internal narrative of ‘they’re not really interested’, or ‘I’m not enough’.
The common experience here was on of inadequacy, which was referenced continuously. Some of us spoke of an energetic experience of ‘closing inwards’ or ‘closing down’, a ‘shrinking feeling’ and a ‘peeling back’ from the world; a clammy fear of being seen and avoiding the gaze of others.
In times of complete disillusionment with our bodies, some of us spoke of adopting an asexual energy and position as a defensive strategy: ‘no one wants it anyway honey, so put it away’. Our natural impulses toward sexuality and intimacy were denied through fear of rejection or having to expose a body that we felt interminably shameful about. Some of us spoke about wanting to just disappear, to be invisible – in humour (but also, in deadly seriousness), some of us spoke of the magic trick of invisibility accompanying a visit to a gay bar, when the affected gaze of the audience to only detect certain bodies, denied the existence of our own.
We all blamed our bodies at some point for all kinds of events and misfortunes: ‘if only my body would do or be such and such, then such and such would be easier’. As a result, at times when our bodies needed the most compassion, in times of ill health or disease, we confessed to subjecting them to all manner of insults and scolding for their ‘lack of perfection’.
Ultimately, all of these experiences converged to instil in us an unbearable low self-esteem. Some of us were so distraught by our embodiment, that we actively retreated into disembodiment, or of taking notions of the energetic body to extremes by inhabiting them as a defensive alternative to being our bodies as material.
Some of us reflected on how all kinds of sexual practices and fetishes were explored as a way of coping with having a different body: how swim wear, leather and sports gear (not exhaustive) allow us to engage sexually and provocatively but to also hide our skins (well, at least partially). The significance of the dark-room in gay sex spaces was not lost on us.
Finally, we closed our section in realising how, whilst being so neurotic in our fear of rejection from others, we spend most of our waking day rejecting our embodied selves.
Where do our body anxieties stem from? Whose idealistic and normative prescriptions of the body are we trying to live up to? And where do they come from?
This section ran for another 10-15mins and was another open session. The intention here was to grasp some of the social factors that inform and influence the context for our bodies and our experience of them.
An interesting insight was into our similar experience as queers as growing up in a straight (white) man’s world: and how, our bodies would ‘betray’ us from an early age, appearing too effeminate or not masculine enough. This would provide the early context for a deep distrust of our bodies and sow the seeds for our delight or retreat into disembodiment. Or perhaps our love of costume and drag – to hide our skins of shame. Our ‘bodies as betrayal’ extends to the bodies expression of natural sexual interest and expression too – how we psychically punish our bodies as youngsters for exhibiting arousal for our same-sex attractors. Shame was recognised as a common emotion and experience for us all and a primary factor in distorting our own body-image.
Some of us commented on the unrealistic portrayals of the body in the media and in fashion especially. Some of us had worked specifically in this industry and reassured everyone of how much of a hot mess models look before being pampered, preened and photoshopped. All of us recognised the damaging effects of this propaganda. All of us felt beleaguered by the trend of a new style for assessing the validity and worth of bodies on ‘the scene’ by ‘rating them’. How our magnificence and complexity had now been reduced to two, three or four stars if-you-should-be-so-lucky.
Many of us felt this phenomena to be fascinating and relevant in the context of our capitalist and consumer culture: how our bodies have been reduced to commodities and forced to operate by the instrumental and transactional logic of capitalism. Dating apps like Grindr have only confounded this problem: we now ‘shop for cock’ and scroll menus of flesh completely disembodied from their human and spiritual realities. Grindr is commodity-fetishism at its zenith.
Further, categorisations and labeling of our bodies (most predominately on that gay scene) excluded those that aren’t deemed to fit and further inflamed the commodification frenzy of them. Not to mention, the fact that the idea of the solid, smooth, athletic body of prowess that is the now everywhere standard, especially within our LGBTQI communities, leaves no room for the visibility and compassion for bodies affected and depleted by a whole spectrum of social issues that affect us disproportionately (chronic and mental health conditions, drug abuse, domestic violence, homelessness and poverty etc).
Some of us commented on how the lack of representation of bodies that are different from the mainstream accepted and celebrated types only bolsters our collective desensitization to bodies deemed ‘other’ or ‘out of control’. In particular, categorisations and labeling of our bodies (most predominately on the gay scene) excluded those that aren’t deemed fit and / or desirable and further inflame the commodification frenzy of them.
It was agreed that the situation has reached fever pitch: an ever narrowing self-perpetuating cycle of exclusion and shame accompanies the media-orgy and fetishisation of the body beautiful. We all acknowledged that non of us belonged to any such ‘boys club’ – and yet recognized that whilst those bodies weren’t represented amongst us, how their particular body issues were unique, significant and valid in their own right.
Yet, even in a state of some prescribed ‘non-perfection’, sickness or ill-health – what do our bodies allow? What are our bodies really, beyond biased and corrupt notions of beauty, capability and worth?
Another ten minute open session. Here we discussed ideas of what the body signified or represented ‘authentically’ (to us as disruptive, open-minded and spiritual queers). Here we enjoyed the notion that our bodies were vessels / vehicles / platforms from which to enjoy and celebrate the world and each other. Beyond the above reductivism, we smiled at our bodies as conferring gifts and abilities, such as our innate drive for creativity: our small circle for example, boasted dancers, gardeners, writers, artists, healers, actors, singers and songwriters, musicians and poets.
We agreed that our bodies, ultimately, are vehicles for connection, for love and intimacy and for building community – the notion that disability, disease or a failure to achieve or possess a certain body type should disqualify us from such bounty, are abstract and destructive concepts born of an abstract and destructive culture.
Some of us enjoyed the idea, inspired by our own journeying with medicine plants and otherwise, that our bodies are but magnificent containers for our consciousness. That what we perceive as individuality is a confusion and a distraction – that this is a momentary, transient and permeable experience: consciousness is eternal and our embodied lives are an experience. We rested together in the miracle and awesomeness of our bodies, the mystery and mystical nature of them. We found solace in reconnecting with their fundamental interdependence with and interconnection with the world around us – how our lives are a perfect symbiosis from the microbial and beyond.
We encouraged together a sense of gratefulness for this realisation and reflected at how easily these understandings were forgotten in the nexus of bodily-symbolic violence and commodification. We connected with the promise of our bodies for our personal development – our facing of fears, our learning and our embracing of the strange, unknown and of each other. We took refuge in the ability of our bodies to transform and for us to act upon our bodies in the pursuit of our personal transformations. A touching story came to the circle, when in her parting moments, one of our Mother’s declared: ‘I am not my body’. Closing, we all nodded in recognition of this familiar experience and knowledge of similar realisations.
Moving forward, what are our strategies for resisting commodification of our bodies? For celebrating the glory of our bodies and resisting mainstream prescriptions for allure and beauty?
A twenty minute session by accident. We first dealt with some conflict around what these strategies were and should be. We agreed that what they are not is yet more prescriptions for ‘what we should do’ to our bodies, or how we should be in them. We agreed that the cycle of violence must stop by learning to accept and love our bodies how they are in the moment, without change or regime on the route to some notion of perfection.
All of us pledged to investing in future co-created space where we could safely enjoy our bodies as they are, to be heard and seen in our vulnerability and to see and touch other bodies free from constraining bodily-ideals. We agreed to work to create spaces where we can progress in grappling with and ultimately transcending limiting and damaging ideas of what constitutes an acceptable and/or desirable body: to ‘fuck gender’ and do it anyway. Integral to this is to compliment the intellectual with ‘heart space’ – to bring love into our relationship with our own bodies and to approach other bodies with love too. To ‘be the change’ and to impact on culture by limiting our personal indulgence in reductive and exclusive desires.
We suggested that restricting our exposure to portrayals of the body beautiful via mainstream media would be nourishing for us: the TV must be sacrificed for our freedom. At the same time to ‘treat our bodies well’ by doing whatever it is to them that brings us nourishment, happiness, contentment or support: to indulge frequently in self-care and to reward ourselves continuously for the courageousness of just ‘being in the body’ and living out our embodied lives.
We promised to smile more, at our bodies and at others too – as a way of signalling our respect, adoration and acceptance of them. But we also recognised the importance of ‘being okay with not being okay’, to give space for sorrow when our bodies are not performing as we would have them, or when looking a certain way – whilst importantly, remembering our discussions and lessons here to guide us again to a place of ease and contentment.
Finally and in recognition that our time together put a limit on the diversity and infinite number of ways we can celebrate our bodies consistently as a way of being, we also set out to challenge ourselves. To step into vulnerability, safely – to celebrate our bodies from within, to allow them to be seen and celebrated more by others.
This process was undertaken on the day of the solstice and I can say that I saw some courageous celebrations of our bodies that evening – and it was beautiful. We were beautiful x
To: Faunalicious, Queever, Big Sister, Brunelle, Brother Sun, Marlena, Stan, Pink Dalek, Hagbard, Badger, Cunty and Swallow.
From my body to yours, Octopus x
You can read more by Octopus at his personal blog here.
Every now and again things align beautifully and disparate patterns coalesce to form a path. For a precious moment things make sense and we find an empowered sense of peace. We find the balance within; we resonate with the magic around us.
It was a cold February evening in Scotland (is there any other kind?) and I was travelling to St Andrews in Fife with one of my dearest friends. A few weeks earlier I’d learned that Panti Bliss, the famous gender discombobulist and gay rights campaigner was to give a talk at the University there and I eagerly booked a couple of tickets.
There’s something else in the town that bears the name of my country’s patron saint: my little brother, who is a student there. We share the same father as a genetic anchor, though we are both emotionally unattached to him. He is half my age, lives with his girlfriend and only learned of my existence a few years ago. I tracked him down last Summer online and we’d chatted online but never met.
So on the day I was off to see Panti I logged into Facebook and discovered it was my brother’s birthday. Since we had been denied the opportunity of knowing each other, I forgive myself for not knowing such details. Shaking, I messaged his girlfriend and asked if she thought he’d be interested in meeting that night. Just before I finished work for the day she replied with the go-ahead.
On stage that night, Panti exceeded all expectations. A heartfelt plea to the young queer kids to explore and celebrate the gifts that come with their otherness was mixed with humour and a story of how she met Madonna at a funeral. The talk itself augmented and fuelled the things I know as a Faerie – that we are a tribe, there’s a purpose to us being here, that we are blessed with the ability to engage in our own forms of transformative magic.
Before catching the train back to Edinburgh, my friend and I went to meet my brother and his girlfriend. After an initial awkwardness and then 40 minutes of my storytelling mode (whilst my friend did her best smile-and-nod-to-reassure-everyone-I’m-not-going-to-pull-a-knife routine) there was much hugging and general loveliness and barriers were broken down.
The train journey home was a deeply reflective 80 minutes. My friend, the most patient person I have ever known, said I could talk the whole way home if I wanted. So I did. I expressed my excitement and joy, my fears about this important step in building a relationship with a sibling, after us both being separated as only children. I clenched my teeth in anger that our father denied us the option of knowing one another. I delighted in the notion that we had both escaped that solitude imposed upon us, as if we had been prisoners in neighbouring cells, never speaking or seeing each other, yet conspiring through facebook notes to break out of the fortress of his emotional repression we were captive within.
I turned to my uncomplaining companion and told her how blessed I was. How my own otherness had sparked my search for my own vision of spirituality, how being a Faerie gave me the chance to connect with others of my tribe in the most astonishing ways, deeply and honestly. How lucky I was to have the words available to me to express myself and to question familial power structures that are toxic to me. What did my little brother have?
My long-suffering confidant looked at me right in the eye and said “He has you”.
And everything came into alignment. The pattern began to form in my mind. It was the web of Faeries I know and love. It was the gift they offered freely, without the expectation of conformity that my estranged patriarch demands. Love and connection are the gift and they are what I can pass on, what I can teach my brother and learn from him again in turn. This is part of the Work too, taking the magic of Faeries back into the mundane world, sowing the seeds, waiting for wonder to shoot up between the pavement cracks. For one shining moment it all made sense and I was at peace, having passed through the anger at years wasted.
As the train moved us ever on to home, as I sat with my dear friend who was practically manifesting Kwan-Yin herself at that point, I indulged myself in naming some of those Faeries who have taught me of brotherly love, in between whatever ramblings. Even though the names meant little to her, she smiled at the tears in my eyes as I spoke, and the obvious affection name evoked in me.
Beloved, Gandalf, Wood Pigeon, Royal, Woodchild, Ant of the Earth, Lovehandel, Dogwood, Will, Octopus, Aurora, Buzzy Dandelion, Mushroom, Fanny Boy, Pikachu, Fairy Liquid, Minerva, Zeb, Dido, Future Babes, Hawthorn, Shokti, Brother Sun, Chundra, Tumbleweed, Fellina, Barbarella, Jim from Rural France Not Paris, Ladslove, Mixture, Sunflower, Mata Hari, Whatever You Want, Big Puck, White Rose, Theoklymenos, Qweaver, Joost, Topsoil, Doghood, Fagus, Rabbitstar, Presence, Efthimios, Spirit Force, Coco Pierre, Robder, Pink Sapphire, Lone Wolf. The list is not exhaustive and I apologise for out-of-date names, mis-spellings and omissions.
They helped teach me about speaking from my heart, staying connected, returning from conflict, puppy piles, listening to others’ hearts, being playful, wearing a dress, accepting touch, not being fearful of other men and that a new heart-connection is just as significant and impacting as any other. I hope I honour their gifts as I in turn pass them on to brothers of the heart or of the blood (and heart-sisters and non-binary siblings too). Wherever we go, in or out of Faerie space, or each others’ lives, or to other countries or planes of existence, we are connected in a brotherhood. If not a circle, perhaps a spiral of loving companions, throwing one arm out to the cosmos and the other back to itself and each other.