I belong to a larger group that does Spiritual work nationally around a ceremony called the Naraya. I spoke briefly regarding that work during the retreat. This Naraya Community has people from throughout the country that participates. It touches hundreds of lives each year and has a mailing list of 800 or more people. Often we share personal stories of transformation or seek community prayers for issues, it is how community/family work, mindful of each one. I was so moved by what I seen this weekend duriung our retreat that I called a friend to share my joy of the weekend when he encourage that I share the power of the journey with the prayer list. I felt the need to share this with the Naraya group which is comprised of many traditions, cultures, sexual orientations, people from all nations and walks in life, etc. I know this is lengthy but wanted you to know how important our work together this weekend was to me. I share this with you but encourage you to read BEYOND my entry. Within hours a chapter unfolded that I never knew existed. A man whom I only met briefly responded on his own journey in Utah in the 80's. I thought you would find this interesting. Its interesting how this man, who I know little about, was able to share our OWN history in Utah in deepening our persoanl queer storires. I find this profound. So read my letter and the keep reading Connell's respond. Maybe some of you know of what he speaks or know the people involved?
Again, thank you for how you moved my life this weekend.
Begin forwarded message:
(An introduction by the prayer list moderator to the reader)
As the Montana Naraya approaches this weekend, I am reminded that we often hear that the Dance is only the beginning, and how important it is to remember that we are continuing the Dance for the other 362 days of the year, holidays included! It is the dance where we come to clarify our vision, send our cry to the ancestors for guidance and support, and get the rocket fuel we need to make it happen. Once the dance has concluded, the ancestors sent home, the elders thanked for their good work, we go back to our homes, forever changed. Yet it is up to us to sustain the vision, walk our talk, and manifest our dreams every day, every day. Every day!
For many years I've watch my brother Jerry Buie in Salt Lake City nurture his dreams and visions, not only for himself and his community, but also a far-reaching vision of what it means to be a Two-Spirit, a Walks-Between, in modern culture. Jerry writes:
I am not one to use the prayer line often but this last weekend was such a powerful weekend for me that I felt to share it with you, as you have supported and danced with me in such a wonderful manner. Although I have not spoken outright about my prayers I have known that collectively the caldron we stir at Naraya is a collective process and that many of you have stirred the pot of my own vision.
For many years Spirit has shown to me a work that I had the opportunity to engage: a vision of moving gay men in a powerful manner in understanding ourselves in a sacred manner. With all the domestication and repression of society on our queer people many gay men get lost in the sense of who they are and in honoring the sacred in our lives. Utah in particular is a challenging place as Mormonism and politics push the agenda of "being less than", "unworthy" and "freaks" more overtly, many gay men assume the worse of themselves and live very abbreviated lives. My vision has been to influence these lives in a good way and to encourage queer men to step into their lives abundantly and deliberately, with sacred intent. Several years ago as a mental health therapist I started Pride Counseling http://www.pridecounseling.tv and watched a part of this dream unfold. Many people said coming out as a therapist should not be done or that I should worry about my reputation, and yet 7 years later we are thriving as an agency and frequently consulted in working with gay, lesbian and transgender clients. Clearly this was one good step in the right direction.
But this vision grew. I briefly met Harry Hay at my first Wolf Creek Naraya and he firmly told me of my own vision and challenged me to go for it. My time with the fairies required me to look at myself in unique and different ways and has always been a profound time for me. Sitting with Clyde, Charles, Laine, Carolyn and other elders have encouraged me to look deeper and more carefully at who I am and what I stand for, with my medicine, the tools entrusted with me, and how might these things work in serving others. My personal work with Spirit, My Guides and the rituals have led me to interesting and profound places around the world and within myself. I have always struggled in how to bring this vision together of bringing queer men together to explore and dialogue in this meaningful and spiritual manner. In Utah in particular there is a strong need for this work.
A friend of mine, John, heard me discuss this dream for Utah Queer Men to find themselves in this sacred way and challenged me to bring this vision into the real world. In connection with his talents we began the journey of dreaming the miracle. We held our first retreat and 4 men showed up and it was good, small, but good! Then 6 months later, literally from the most incredible and unsuspecting places 13 men showed up and continue to show up. Then this past weekend we had 17 men show up. Each brought something to release, each entered the sacred sweat lodge, tested old stories and left with some new creation and idea of themselves. Each bringing an abundant heart and hungry desire to learn and grow in this way with Spirit and with themselves. Robert Sink donated his energy in creating a beautiful website that is showing up everywhere and being seen by everyone in the Salt Lake City area. Did not really have to ask for his help, he was there, saw the need, touched the vision and offered his services. See it here: http://www.queerspirit.org
There have been three incredible newspaper articles written on our retreats and men calling and emailing wanting more information. Again, not because we asked but because it was needed. Folks have donated time, money and resources to support this New Story. We were able to sponsor 4 guys in recovery or on disability who might not otherwise participate in this journey. They are coming to the retreat, doing their work, going into the world and affecting change in their lives and the lives of people around them. The money shows up effortlessly, we are able to sponsor folks through meager fundraising efforts and somehow all are served who are called to be there.
See a recent article on the Retreat that took place in April: http://qsaltlake.com/ (Click on the left to download the September issue; see pages 24-25.)
This vision has morphed into a REVOLUTION in how we as queer men see ourselves, how we relate to each other and loved ones. When I contemplate the journey I am in awe of how beautifully this has all come together and honor the willingness of the ancestors to support and feed this process. It amazes me about how complicated we can make our lives, if Spirit gives you a vision, don't ask HOW or determine it to be impossible. Just do it! If this is right it will be effortless and will bring joy to lives around you. I am always complicating my own journey and find that when I just turn it over to Spirit it all works out perfectly.
SO, I honor you for your thoughts and prayers in the direction of this work and also write to honor the power of prayer, faith and the ability to deliberately shift reality to work in the behalf of our dreams and visions.
CONNELL"S respond. This group has over 1000 people involved. This Naraya event is a huge community. One man, who I really do not know was able to provide an interesting piece for us all.
I was very excited to read your account of the beautiful good work you are doing with Queer men in Utah! I think it's really awesome and wish you the very best in this. I tried to download the PDF of Q-Salt Lake but I keep getting a file error message so I have been unsuccessful. In any case, it reminded me of the work that Ben W., Liza S., Erick M., and I started in Utah in the late 80s and early 90s. We rented out the large and beautiful YMCA camp up in the mountains and invited the whole Queer community to join us for a weekend of spiritual exploration and fun, which we titled "Beyond Stonewall" (BS). Our first year we had about 80 people sign up! The next year it almost doubled!
That first year, at BS, we also started the Salt Lake Radical Faerie circle there. We announced the first morning at BS that later that night, at midnight, any who wanted to join us in a healing ritual celebrating Queer Spirit, please show up outside the lodge before midnight. A couple of us had prepared the fire circle earlier, tidied it up, cast some good spells around, and then dug a mud pit next to the fire pit. At midnight, while I remained sitting naked by the fire playing a haunting flute, the rest who showed up (about 15 men and 8 intrepid women) processed from the Lodge out to the fire circle. And thus began one of the richest, most vibrant, intense, beautiful, courageous, healing experiences of my life. I invited all to disrobe, casting off the "old ways" and to enter the circle naked with but a prayer, and a kiss. Spirit was so strong with us that night! We drummed, danced, chanted, covered each other in mud, laughed, hugged, cried, screamed, howled until about four in the morning. Lucy M. (she was the Executive Director of the Western States Division of NOW and still lives in SLC) was there with us, and she totally shape-shifted into the Goddess. At one point she led us all in a guided meditation in which we envisioned the Queer Spirit we were deeply experiencing as a beautiful pink bubble in the middle of the fire. She had it grow larger and larger and larger until it filled the whole galaxy - then she POPPED the bubble and sent our lovely pink energy spewing through the whole cosmos! It may sound kind of cheesy now, but for all of us there, it was an incandescent and pristine moment of such transcendent grace and love, we all wept like children, and just held onto each other for many minutes as we cried and cried together. Truly a highlight in my already amazing life.
Out of that first ritual together, the Faeries in Salt Lake rapidly grew - from about 23 that night to over 120, pretty evenly split between men and women, within about three months. On full moons, we would meet in gender-separate spaces and for the new moons, solstices, equinoxes, and May Day, Imbolc, Samhain, and Lammas, we would all meet together. Unfortunately division and dissension set in after a year or so. Many were so terrified of sexuality and sex-magic that they refused to participate in that. Then came the issue of the name - of course I wanted us to be Radical Faeries, but because sex and sex magick are such a part of that, the ex-Mormons (pretty much all of us) really struggled with that and instead insisted we be the "Sacred Faerie Circle", to emphasize the non-sexual "sacred" in ourselves. The thing I found most difficult for us to get past was our own woundedness. The scars were still pussy. oozing, sometimes even bleeding, from our years in the LDS church. But instead of allowing us to come together to heal, too many of us just wanted to pick at our own wounds and especially those of others. A part of it was the vicious cycle of the "wounded healer", instead of the "wounded and healed healer". Although it ended up being a rather unpleasant experience (I was literally excommunicated - and they used that word - from the Sacred Faeries for trying to incorporate sex magick into a solstice ritual out on the Great Salt Lake), the beginnings of our circle, especially that elegant, soulful opening ritual at the YMCA camp, are a precious part of my identity, and strongly connect me to Queer Spirit in ways I still haven't fully understood.
I honor you for doing this marvelous work among our tribe, and hold you and your vision in the Light, that Great Mystery surrounds you with wisdom and understanding, for you to call that circle and dance together in a good way that honors our selves as the powerful, magical Queer men that we are!
As you know, I love to write about my experiences in Mormonism, to bear witness of how I have been treated. Sometimes I feel I get a little whiny about it, and I am a wee bit tired of harping on the negative. For my next writing project for Affirmation, I want to turn the tables and instead of complaining about what's wrong with Mormon homophobia, I have started to write a piece called, "What We Bring the Feast," to honor and explain to the LDS Church just what deep gifts I think we Queer folks bring to the journey of life; what are the good things we offer to society. Since you seem to be working along similar lines, while still living in Utah, I was really hoping to get some good feedback from you about what gifts you feel we bring to the world. Without giving away too much of what I have already come up with, a few of the gifts I see are an ability to spawn innovation, a near obsession with aesthetics, and an ability to bridge gaps (especially between the genders). Perhaps you could even use my question (what do we bring to the feast?) as an exercise with your group to explore??? In any case, any feedback you might have would be MOST appreciated!
Be well my sweet brother,