The term "Faerie", developed popular usage in US subcultures over forty years ago in California, have spread throughout over the world as an association with the global gay rights movement. Such offspring groups, such as the Radical Fairies’, challenge the commercialization and patriarchal aspects of modern gay life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals and adapting rural living and environmentally sustainable concepts to modern technologies as part of their creative expression.
By the time of the sexual revolution in America in the 1970s, many of them had had enough. In 1979, a gay man named Harry Hay, along with his partner and a couple of other men issued flyers inviting gay men to a "Spiritual Conference of Radical Faeries," a call to incorporate spirituality into the gay community as a means of healing and self-discovery. The Radical Faerie movement was born. The basic idea was to explore gay soul and gay identity, springing off the work of creative gay men such as Walt Whitman and Edward Carpenter. Following the traditions of the Rainbow families in 1979, the Radical Fairies decided to personalize the experience of the Rainbow Gathering, their vision included the familiar fantasies of the "Back to Nature" movement: to work the land and live and love in peace among others who share a deep and expansive reverence for the Earth. This dream is an eight year old reality sitting on 100 acres of Wolf Creek, Oregon. Wolf Creek is part commune and part retreat for the Radical Fairies who have grown from a small circle of friends to 600 San Francisco Bay Area "members," 100 of whom live in the “Haight” of San Francisco.
The movement has evolved over time, and is difficult to define, as members will immediately point out that there is no one definition of a Radical Faerie. In keeping with the emerging movements of the ‘70s such as paganism, earth-consciousness, and the end of the hippie counterculture movement, Radical Faeries identify with the earth and with many pagan rituals, such as celebrating the seasons and marking the significant dates of solstices and equinoxes. The word "faerie" reflected these earth-conscious values as well as a determined attempt to reclaim the derogatory term "fairy" used to describe gay men. The "radical" definition was added to accentuate a focus on alternative, "radical" politics, usually left-leaning, or a conscious wish to not assimilate into the existing culture but to transform it. Along with the pagan influence was a tendency to identify with Native American practices, and one ritual that has endured is the "faerie circle," in which participants at gatherings form a circle each day. The faerie circle derives from an opposition to hierarchy (which is linear, not circular), and involves passing a "talking stick" around the circle so that each participant may speak his truth, share feelings, confront issues or other people, and be a part of a process known as consensus practice.
There are many "faerie tribes" that comprise the over-arching Faery Circle, and just as many variants of its spiritual practice. Some groups are largely based in spirituality and self-healing; others are primarily designed for social or sexual interaction; still others focus more on pageantry and feature events with drag queens and fantasy. Some groups accept women, others do not.
Faeries are male-female-both-neither. Radical Faeries don't accept the cultural paradigms of boys play this way & girls play this way. Faeries are perfectly comfortable walking between the worlds of male/female identity, because they refuse to recognize the cultural stereotypes and artificial roles.
Radical Faeries strive toward non-hierarchical relationships, because Faeries view others in this world as co-equals. By coming together holding hands in circles since conceptually, circles have no sides; no one Faerie is higher or lower than another. Radical Faeries come together in Heart Circles with the intent to know one another deeply by speaking the truth from our heart. Radical Faeries, come from a variety of faith traditions including, but not limited to: Asatru, Atheism, Buddhism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, New Age Mysticism, Protestantism, Regla de Ocha, Roman Catholicism, Shamanism, Wicca, and other Eclectic Paths. Part of our mission is to minister to the needs of people outside of mainstream LGBT and religious organizations. Either way all Faeries believe in a non-hierarchical way of living Faeries feel they break cultural and institutional taboos.
When Faeries gather in a Faerie space or on Faerie lands known as sanctuaries; a "safe" space where we can live in a community of those who love, respect, and share with each other. In smaller circles this may be someone's home, larger circles may rent or purchase a building, and the largest circles purchase entire areas of land to create a permanent sacred Faerie space. "Short Mountain Sanctuary" in Tennessee and "Faerie Camp Destiny" in Vermont are two examples. On Faerie lands, Faeries can be everything they want to be and live with intent. At different points throughout the year, Radical Faerie circles from all over the country will host large gatherings where Faeries come together to live in a Faerie space, partake of sacred rituals, celebrate living and live as community, if only for a while. The Faerie Circle has become an international movement.
Native American traditions have been generally accepted by many Faeries. These include: the creation of sacred space by way of "casting a circle"; the passing of a talisman from one speaker to another in the circle to encourage the direction of others' attention toward that person; ecstatic dance rituals, including the "Kali Fire," which often focuses on the banishing of that which is no longer needed or desired; and communal feasts (typically vegetarian). Over the years two strands of thought have developed about what the Faerie Movement was and should be -- and some significant animosity between them. These strands can be identified by two charismatic characters in recent gay cultural history: Arthur Evans and Harry Hay.
Arthur Evans was a homosexual graduate student in philosophy at Columbia University who was politicized by the student uprisings that rocked Columbia during the spring of 1968. After the Stonewall Riots the next year he became involved with Manhattan's fledgling Gay Liberation Front, and he helped establish the Gay Activist Alliance to supersede GLF. Then in the early 70s, Evans moved to San Francisco and, still the scholar, in 1973 began publishing articles on his own researched, philosophized and radicalized vision of gay history. In 1975 he and some friends formed a small pagan-inspired ritual group called "the Faery Circle" to act out the ecstatic pansexual revels he believed he had uncovered in the hidden past of Western Europe. In 1976 Evans gave a series of public lectures on his research, and in 1978 published his influential book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture.
According to Evans, a pagan-influenced counterculture had long survived in Europe after the triumph of Christianity, featuring ecstatic sexual worship of nature, the Great Mother and a horned consort god typified by figures like Dionysos, Pan and Cernunnos, and a salient feature of this pagan counterculture was that its leaders were often women and gay men. It was this non-conforming counterculture that the Christian Church persecuted as "witches." Famous from this argument is the notion that the epithet "faggot" derives from the use of homosexuals as tinder for the bonfires that burned witches and heretics.
The following statement is by Joey Cain. A longtime resident of 501 Ashbury in SF, Joey has lived at Short Mtn. He currently edits Raddish, the monthly newsletter of the Nomenus Wolf Creek Radical Faerie Sanctuary.
“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, politics 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.”
Grouped together by photographer Kim Badawi as a series of environmental portraits, "Fairie Life", serves as a contemporary documentation of North America’s ever-changing diverse gender landscape. For me, photographing illusionists and contemporary performance artist serves as a form of self expression while also documenting the very intimate struggle at the pursuit of one’s' personal happiness. In some cases these live action statements can range from medieval re-enactment to fantasy or sexual role-play. Through this complex parallel, they use the actions of "putting face" or wearing face paint as a means to living as a physical avatar in North American society today. A famous Faerie Proverb is "Every face is a mask until made permanent in painting"
There are 162 images available upon request.