The Gay Witch's Pride
Modern Gay witchcraft takes inspiration from a variety of historical sources. Arthur Evans probably said it best in his book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, "There is no such thing as the authoritative Gay history, but as many Gay histories can exist as there are Gay visions" (Evans, 3). We, in Gala, do not seek to create the authoritative Gay history. Instead, we just want to present one possible version that can heal and empower the Gay Community.
For us, in Gala Witchcraft, our own inspiration to turn to history started with our spiritual ancestor Sybil Leek and her book The Complete Art of Witchcraft. Like many witches of her era, Sybil never gave much thought to Gay men in witchcraft. It was just so far outside of her experience at the time. However, the sexual revolution of the late 1960's brought questions regarding the place of Gay men in witchcraft to her attention, and, as she said, it "almost defeated my reputation for being equal to rising to any occasion" (Leek, 161). Between a lecture in Chicago and the publication of The Complete Art, Sybil ran into similar questions regarding the place of Gay men "many, many times."
As Sybil delved into the realms of ancient history, she found no shortage of sources documenting the place of Gay men in religion. The more she researched, the more she came to the "interesting conclusion that there is a connection between the Uranian, or homosexual, temperaments and religion–especially the gift of prophecy and divination" (163). Her discoveries made her very sad at the "shadowy life" that so many Gay men had to endure, and she became a sort of "mother confessor" for many Gay men whom she encountered. She may even have been one of the first public figures to draw a parallel between the witches coming out of the broom closet and Gay men coming out of the closet (Leek, 162).
Garbed In Green & The New Millennium
While writing Garbed In Green, I came to some of the same conclusions as Sybil about the spiritual gifts of Gay men. Like her, I saw time and time again how Gay men were not just accepted but actually revered in various different historical religions around the world. I attempted to pick up where Sybil left off. Not content to just reproduce her work, I wanted to expound upon it, and hopefully I achieved that goal.
When Sybil said that there was no lack of evidence supporting the place of Gay men in religion, she wasn't kidding. My own book had a 5 page bibliography, which was filled with books on the subject that were unavailable in Sybil's time. (A great many of those resources were published after her death.)
There were two books in particular that helped me break through what Sybil referred to as society's inclination to sit in personal judgment of Gay men (Leek, 161) and what Arthur Evans called "a conspiracy of silence" (Evans, 1). The first was Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Lore, which I used as a starting point for further research and a check against misinformation. For example, Cassell's Encyclopedia was extremely useful in recognizing the academic desire to misrepresent mythic characters like Gilgamesh and Hercules as straight men. Without that book, figuring out what was really going on in those myths would have been a much more laborious effort. The second book was James Neill's The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Society. I highly recommend that Gay male witches get their hands on both books if they can afford them.
That said, if you can only afford to buy one of them, I suggest you start with Neill's book. It will give you the most information, and it costs less. Neill's book covers a great deal of human history, and he makes a pretty compelling case for the fact that homosexuality played a significant role in the formation of society as we understand it today. Covering cultures as diverse as the Zapotec tribe of southern Mexico, Mesopotamia, and even the Islamic world, Neill leaves no stone unturned. Let's look at the way we were viewed in some of the world's most ancient cultures to see what I mean.
Our Birthright & Legacy
"In other societies, specialized roles existed for exclusively homosexual individuals who were credited with special gifts in spirituality, healing, art and music." This quote from James Neill's introduction (Neill, 9) started me down a rabbit hole of research that I'm still fascinated by. Gay men weren't just associated with prophecy and divination; we had many spiritual gifts in the ancient world. Some of those gifts have even survived into the modern era as careers that are stereotypically populated by Gay men. Teachers, caregivers, counselors, religious leaders–the list of our contributions to society could go on forever.
Unfortunately, we are forced to second guess ourselves all the time today. Despite the many advances made by the Rainbow communities over the last 50 or so years, How many Gay men still have to question whether it is safe to hold a loved one's hand or show some other innocuous form of affection in public? For many Gay men who live outside of the most liberal cities, we still have to question our right to exist. We are shamed by religious zealots, and we are still victims of hate crimes. In some cases, we even buy into the "bad press" spouted against us and have to confront our own internal homophobia socially as well as personally.
However, as Chief Elder of Gala, I saw a chance to heal the Gay community by reintroducing these ancient perspectives. It was important to me that we, as a tradition, not just focus on one cultural perspective. I didn't want to build our tradition off of just the historic Celtic perspective surrounding Gay men or exclusively off of the role that Gay men played among the Germanic tribes. Rather, I wanted to show Gay men living today that we were appreciated universally by our ancestors. I wanted them to know that no matter what culture they come from or what their heritage happens to be, there is something uplifting and empowering about the way each of our individual ancestors perceived us and our role within their societies. Stay tuned as we explore some of the wonderful cultures that inspired us.