Tag Archives: First gathering

Walking the Labyrinth by Cunty.

I see the path I am on, the behaviour I exhibit, the words I offer and receive. I feel the rush of elation with one step, the heavy burden of shame with the next.

This is achingly familiar, from the instinct to pull away to the vulnerability of being open-hearted and loving. The twists and turns of emotions at a Faerie gathering are dizzying and mercurial. I stumble on, trusting that the path will lead me to the centre as much as I trust in the process of the heart circle.

It feels as if I’m passing back a way I’ve already come and yet it is different, leading deeper into the Mystery. In between the stumbling I also feel myself about to leap in flight. It is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

I have offered my id as a sacrifice to Dionysus/Aphrodite and I am Maenad, a raving one, destroying all in my path, invulnerable and prophesying as my bleeding soles take one more step, just one more, always one more. Every touch, kiss, embrace fuels me still, pushing me further on, although I have long forgotten the question I held as I began the journey.

This bone-shearing, raucous, playful, chaotic, whimsical pilgrimage of queerness, connection, vulnerability and resilience is all I can remember, all I can taste, and all I want or need.

The gnarled dance of one who doesn’t dance, equal parts Salome, Kate Bush and Baba Yaga, cannot stop of be undone. It is the search for sustenance like the root of a tree, a tendril burrowing deeper and further down into the earth, reaching out, reaching down, and reaching inward.

Were I to see from above, if I remembered such a place, I would see the shape of the labyrinth, leading me home to myself. With such perspective I might find comfort in correspondences;

Seven coils, laid out around the centre

Seven paths, inward and outward

Seven days, seven nights of the gathering

Seven chakras, from root to crown

Seven planetary bodies, seen with the human eye

Seven gates, as Inanna passed through to the Underworld

Seven seasons, as Buffy lived (and died twice) through

But thought and reason elude me, for I am lost in the movement, ever onwards, to the centre. One path to tread, unicursally leading me to the point where there is an ending of sorts. Almost as soon as the awareness of an ending creeps in, I find myself there. I stand in the heart of the labyrinth.

The diary that I have kept for this gathering is a mirror standing tall, implacable in its cold reflection. As my breathing stills and thought once again permeates my emotional being, I am presented with the manifestation of myself, my selves, my other.

It is the Minotaur, the bull-headed beast of raging need and mistrust. The creature imprisoned, fed on the sacrifice of youths’ bodies. Asterion, the shamed one. It takes everything I have to hold still, to look him in the eye, to not back down, to not turn and run.

With each word I read from my journal I note another detail of the monster. How he is “too intense” (how many times I have been told that!). How clumsy and unseemly he is. How territorial he has become, even in his solitude and how his insatiable desire and longing are too much for any mortal being to gaze upon.

Every confession of vulnerability I have recorded is another strike of Theseus’ cock-like club, each declaration of connection and love another stab of his phallic sword until the beast lies fallen. Broken and bleeding, sides heaving and sweat slicking his hair, his breathing ragged. How can I not love him now, as I love broken things or broken people I can heal and thus prove my worth to? I pull him to me and lament all the hurt, the misunderstanding, the senseless anger, the years lost now.

When this passes, as all things do, I look around and register the change in light, the transience of time and also the acceptance of what has been. The crumpled body has evaporated like a heavy dream, though streaks of blood and filth remain.

As I return to my other life, the life between gatherings, I find myself back in the coils of the labyrinth, this time moving outwards. I apply reason and consideration to the experiences I have undergone, to the changes that are wrought in me.

As my feet retread the pathway back out, I assimilate the loves and lessons into myself, into my rational and irrational mind. I make a point of being kind with myself, of allowing myself the chance to do a little better every time I make this journey. I return with messages to and from myself, from Spirit and from the Gods.

I wrap concepts into words, the way I would package fragile ornaments for a move. Placing each one with care where I can retrieve it later and still find it whole. I recall and honour those whom I shared the journey with, shared moments with and shared a bed with.

Soon enough I find myself stepping out from the labyrinth, back again into the other-realm. I do not look back over my shoulder. I honour the path, the coils, the centre and the lessons learned as I take a breath and take another step.

 

Glastonbury Summer Solstice 2015 depicted in art.

Click image for bigger version…

summer solstice art
‘I struggle to put words down after gatherings and am always in awe reading other peoples amazing prose, but somehow I hope this image gives some insight into the emerging energies I felt around the fire and in the trees on solstice night.’ – Snail.

A LONG overdue realisation – The story of Wolf and his first Albion gathering.

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.

I love you all.

WOLF

Our Glorious Bodies: Strategies for resisting mainstream prescriptions of allure and beauty.

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’.

Courtesy of Luke Beachey
Courtesy of Luke Beachey

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.

Courtesy of Luke Beachey
Courtesy of Luke Beachey

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.

Courtesy of Luke Beachey
Courtesy of Luke Beachey

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.

Courtesy of Luke Beachey
Courtesy of Luke Beachey

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.

Rad Fae Summer Solstice @ Paddington Farm, Glastonbury.

Facebook event here.

Booking form here.

Last year, we were blessed with some awesome weather, as our community descended on Paddington Farm to have one of the most revelatory, nourishing and joyful gatherings seen there – the whispers and energy from which propelled the community into some hungry and ecstatic energy that saw a real spike in community events, happenings and appearances throughout the rest of the year.

We WERQED out our shame and cast it off last summer. We danced naked and painted in the sunshine, in awe of each other and the world. We spoke and we listened, we cooked and we munched, meditated and stretched in the bounty of the Somerset landscape. We played a tribal intensity around the fire throughout the night; beating our drums hot handed and wildly, lost in each other and spirit. We were enchanted.

And now it’s time to gather again, to continue the story and officially break out our tribe into the bosom of summer.

This faerie-qweens, is our summer gathering! Let’s put it all aside for one week to weave some camp-chaos and sissy-serenity in our pop up headquarters, nestled in the ancient hills of Olde-Glasto.

Yes! Let our summer-sport be faerie-loving, and Paddington Farm our pitch. Breathe deep dears and open your hearts: raid your closets, set your intentions and spread the word.

Bring fabulous outfits, smiles, loving-appetites, raw passion, creative inclinations and soulful offerings – let’s co-create and supercharge our radical network the world over, by making this one go off in the brightest, most spectacular and conscious way possible.

It begins with you and ends with us all.

See you there.

If you have any other suggestions around encouraging a more inclusive, safe space that you would like us to consider, or would like to comment on any of these – please, get in touch.

A first gathering for faerie, Wood Pigeon.

Novice Faerie, Wood Pigeon, returns to Brighton after a weekend Faerie Gathering retreat camping in the middle of the Glastonbury countryside. He is a young man in his early thirties. He’s a little tired, but excited and also a bit emotional with that happy/sad feeling of someone recently parted from a found experience, which had long been sought.

Wood Pigeon

So how long have you been involved with the Faeries?

About 4 days!

How did you first hear about the Faeries and what was it that drew you towards the Faerie Movement?

My boyfriend’s ex boyfriend (Bonobo) went away with the faeries some time before Christmas last year.  My boyfriend passed on stories of all the adventures Bonobo had been having with the Faeries and he was keen to go himself.  We had both planned to travel up to the February 2013 Featherstone Castle gathering in Northumberland but I needed to save up the holiday to go on tour with my band so I didn’t go.  My boyfriend came back as Faerie Magnoose and he was like a different person. The way the experience shone through him and filled him with love, confidence, happiness and joy was incredible.  I had to go on the next faerie gathering and so organised to travel to Glastonbury Tor for the 2013 Summer Solstice weekend.

Can you describe what took place?

Well I was a little bit nervous about what was going to unfold as I’d never attended an event of this kind before.  But I had been told that there would be an opening and closing ceremony and everything that took place in between would be co-created, a result of what the faeries present wanted to do.  So we were greeted by a very lovely set of people who had organised the event and made me feel very welcome from the outset.  There was an opening circle and a practical circle where we were given a quick intro to the layout of the accommodation, camping areas, timings for food etc and then we all affirmed our names as a group in a triumphant chorus of faerie voices.  One of the lovely faeries present had taken on the role of Kitchen Mum and had already prepared a sumptuous feast for everyone (about 50 of us) which was wholesome, vegetarian and very welcome.  As the evening unfolded I felt a little unsure about where to place myself.  Magnoose already knew a lot of the faeries from the last gathering but I was new so I slipped into a an easier role of doing some dishes to keep myself busy.  However the banging of drums and lighting of a fire led us all around into another circle.- this time to open the four directions of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water.  I guess this was a Pagan element to the gathering, which I really liked; deepening our connection to nature and to each other.  Some of the faeries danced round the fire, dressed in various costumes, drag, outdoor gear (there was a tendency to rain) and others sat supping cider and chatting amongst each other.   The first night was a lovely long night of making new connections, hearing other people’s stories, understanding their journeys, who they were and appreciating their unique faerie spirits.  One of the faeries performed a beautiful healing for me, which allowed something to move deep inside and present itself. It felt great to be able to drop life, let go, and immerse myself in a totally new and wonderful experience of human harmony.

The next morning after a long night I climbed up to the Tor to get some air and perspective on what was unfurling below me.  Walking alone to the top of this sacred, spiritual monument I already began to miss the energy of the gathering.  Sat atop in the rain with dark clouds swirling I understand what I had to learn this weekend was not a solo journey but one spent with this new family of queer spirited brothers and sisters. I descended and rejoined the group for breakfast.  Slightly fuzzy from the night before but excited about what the day would hold.

I spent time in the morning snuggled up in bed with two faeries that I was just beginning to get to know.  It wasn’t a sexual encounter but one of intimacy, warmth, friendliness, openness.  This was totally new to me as the only time I’d known guys to hop into bed together usually ended in sex.  But this was different.   It was nurturing, patient, fun.

The time soon came around for one of the most important events at a faerie gathering, a heart circle.  This is an opportunity for every faerie to introduce themselves to the group and share whatever they feel they want to.  Space is given for one person to talk at a time, without interruption and everyone listens and allows this person to reveal the thoughts closest to the heart.  I guess in a way it could be seen as some kind of group therapy session but it didn’t feel like it.  It was just an amazing opportunity to feel loved and supported by a group of people who barely know each other but who were totally there for each other.  It felt wonderful and sad, happiness intermingled with tears, as one by one the group spoke or passed on the opportunity and each took their turn.

Following this experience there was a closeness in the group that hadn’t been there before.  A new level of understanding, of being present, on a level which is sadly absent from today’s day to day reality.  I wanted to reach out and hold these men and women. To hug them and be there for them.  I also wanted them to be there for me, to hold me and support me. They were.  And it was an incredible feeling.  The power of loving a stranger, but knowing them so deeply at the same time is an ancient feeling.  It defies modernity.  It doesn’t make sense when placed into out culture of throwaway consumerism and rampant capitalism. This isn’t every man for himself, shallow and fleeting.  It’s almost tribal, magical, shamanic, healing.  It feels like the true spirit of human nature. Interconnected, loving, centred, intimate.  I said to one faerie that I came away feeling that there is some hope for humanity if this is an example of the kind of love that people are capable of expressing and receiving for each other.  It’s amazing that it stems from a community of queer people, from all over the world, who have suffered so much at the hands of others and continue to do so yet defy all the unhappiness, suffering and hatred with such love and openness.

So during the day there was an opportunity to attend some workshops put on by faeries.  This was wonderful as it gave people a chance to bring their, skills, talent and energy and share it with the group. I went to three of them.  The first was called “how to bring your faerie life into your ordinary life” .  It was a group of about 8 of us, led by a wonderful Australian who talked us through his experiences of wearing unusual clothes back home and how people responded to it.  It became clear that some faeries were not comfortable wearing drag, jewellery etc in normal day to day environments and we looked at the reasons for this and what affect that had on others.  I left the workshop feeling liberated.  I’ve never been into wearing drag really and must confess to having a rather dull wardrobe.  I had to question why I never looked upon women’s clothes, bags, jewellery, hats etc.  What drives me to the men’s section of a charity shop, to look across the racks of browns, blues and greys? Why steer clear of all the fun, brightly coloured adornments that celebrate a female body?  There is a stifling of the female spirit in men that I can now see is manufactured by the society we live in.  Other cultures have incredibly elaborate costumes for men and women but we are forced one way or the other.

The second workshop I went to was Kundalini Yoga.  It was another moment that brought the group together as so many of us attended and nurtured, explored, stretched and strengthened the energy within.  It was a delicious 90 minutes with everyone, a great way to create a group sense of closeness.  I think that’s why these gatherings work because they nurture the group spirit so beautifully through ritual, ceremony, dance, dress, fun, food and laughter.

The final evening workshop caught my eye as it was put on by a fellow masseuse.  It was essentially a tantric massage workshop, with faeries naked and massaging each other. There was an option for us to all be clothed but it seemed like an unnecessary obstacle to intimacy.   I felt totally relaxed, at home, safe and comfortable being unclothed within the group.   It was beautiful to be given instructions from an experienced masseuse on new positions for massage techniques, and exploration, whilst really connecting with the man or woman you were with.   I have a little experience working professionally in this field and it really helped me to make a connection with each person and to understand their bodies. It was lovely being massaged too.  The one thing that struck me as the workshop was unfolding was for me was that it wasn’t a carnal, sexual experience. It was tantric.  I’d never attended a tantric space before and absolutely loved it.  The session went on into personal exploration with different people, evolving into hugging and kissing, reassuring and cradling.  It was deeply moving, powerful, exciting, comforting, loving.  By then end of the night I was in a whole new space. A place I’d never been before.  Too often encounters with others are based on quick, furtive, sexual explosions that leave you with less than you came with.  This gave me more.  Filled me with warmth and energy and a longing for more.

The final day of the gathering was a time to hug, kiss, laugh, eat and rest before the journey home.  It was deeply touching to hear in a closing ceremonial circle everyone’s final words on the few days and feel all the positive loving energy that had been created together.  I felt close to so many members of the group even though we hadn’t had time to get to know everyone.

This whole experience gave me an insight into what it is like to live together with people, where you really care for and nurture each other, not just pay lip service to it.  I feel I’ve spent many years wanting to be a better person and now I’ve finally found a group of faeries that will allow me to be who I want to be.

 So what are your plans for your FaerieFuture?

Magnoose and I are planning on visiting the Faerie Sancturay in Folleterre, France this August for their summer gathering.  I can’t imagine how we’ll feel after 10 days of faerie love.  I think it’s going to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I can’t wait!

So do you think this gathering has changed you?

It’s funny but I’ve always wanted to wear a ring and for years have never been able to do it. I’d never found one to suit me but I suppose I’d never felt that comfortable with the idea of it.  But now I have one!  And a necklace!  I spent £2.80 and put them on and felt this incredible lightness across my heart.  It almost sang out when I laid some bright orange beads across my chest.  As if to say YES!  Thank you!  I am free!  To be a faerie!  To love others without the burden of a life not of my making, or of my wishing.  I wanted to sing and dance but London Road isn’t ideal so I carried on with my other errands.  I felt so nervous leaving the shop, with a ring on.  RIDICULOUS!  It’s just a butterfly ring, come on Wood Pigeon you can do it!  And do you know what? I now know I certainly can!

2012-12-16 23.06.27