Wishing you a Happy Beltane

If you do not know Harry Hay’s name and you are a homosexual, you are probably what we call a “bad gay”. Harry Hay [1912 –2002), a controversial figure, is considered the founder of gay liberation [Read this 2016 Meet Pioneer of Gay Rights, Harry Hay article by Anne-Marie Cusac] which describes him as a “courageous and visionary man launched the modern gay-rights movement even in the teeth of McCarthyism.” Indeed, in 1950 Hay started the first modern gay-rights organization the underground Mattachine Society around the same time than the first lesbian movement the Daughter of Bilitis was created [Read my post this month on Remembering pioneering lesbian activist Phyllis Lyon].

In 1979, Hay created the Radical Faeries in order to preserve both the homosexual identity and our relationship to nature. It was a response to what he felt was an increasing tendency toward hetero-conformity in the LGBT community. The choice of the word “faerie” reclaims a term used to denigrate gay and transgender men while “radical” infers an emphasis on radical politics (Hay was a Marxist). To this day the Radical Faeries continues to be a vibrant movement with several groups flourishing around the World. Three residential “Faery Sanctuaries” exist in rural areas of the U.S.—Wolf Creek, Ore. (www.nomenus.org), Zuni Mt., Ariz. (www.zms.org), and Short Mt., Tenn. and in France (www.folleterre.org) and Australia (www.ozfaeries.com).

While Radical Faeries dislike being defined, the radfae.org website describes the group as “a queer tribal nation sharing affinity in the spiritual underpinnings of non-mainstream sexuality and heart-centered relationship. We are historically and primarily gay men (many of us proudly seize the name “faggot”). And many who do not fit, or choose not to accept, these stereotypes also identify as radical faeries.”

For this important and historical segment of the LGBT+ community, tomorrow May 1st is the most important celebration of the year: Beltane where they usually make a pilgrimage to one of the above-mentioned sanctuaries.

May 1st is the mid-way point between Spring and Midsummer and is considered the beginning of the season of light and the end of winter. This Celtic pagan holiday symbolizes fertility and therefore youth, flourishing new forces. Beltane eve is spent dancing around a large fire representing purification, healing, the return of light, and fertility while Beltane is spent dancing around the May Pole which symbolizes the growth of spring vegetation.

While Harry Hay, the Radical Faeries, and the Beltane celebration are elusive concepts for most of us. There is an important lesson for LGBT+ people in their history as we face an important crisis: LGBT+ has always been a source of renewal and inspiration in the World. At a time when modernism, patriarchy, and hierarchy are being questioned, it is worth trying to visualize the World you would like to see.

Beltane is a moment to harness new forces in order to create a better future. Take the time tonight to have a small Beltane ritual at home by blowing a candle and thinking of the post-COVID world you would like to live in.