Our Queer Ancestors

I’ve been thinking more about my last post and my burgeoning desire to bring the Mighty Dead more fully into my life. I’ll come clean and honestly admit that I don’t much honor my genetic Ancestors. I give them due respect of course, but thus far I haven’t found any connection with them. I’m grateful for the blood the courses in my veins, but when I think of what my immediate Christian ancestors would have thought about me, a Pagan, genderqueer lesbian who’s voting for Obama twice… well, let’s just say that family reunion is likely to be an awkward one.

So instead I turn to ancestors of mind and hearth, those who once worshipped as I did or who experienced life in a similar way to mine. And you know what? There were a lot of people who were like me. Who fell in love with people sharing their genitalia. Who experienced life both as a man and a woman, and some days didn’t know which was which. Who were the victims of oppression, homo- and trans*phobia, and religiously-motivated persecution. Who had to live their lives in the closet or face dire, often life-threatening, consequences.

The experience of us LGBT folks has been erased, invalidated, and denied throughout history. Quite literally, there is not a place for us right now in history books. Queer people just don’t exist. We’re a modern fabrication by an immoral, godless political left, confused, sick, and doomed to rot in Hell. (How we manage to be both nonexistent and a threat to modern society, godless and caught up in another faith’s eschatology, is beyond me. I guess we’re just that good.)

I think it’s high time I started helping to reclaim our history.

 

The purple handprint has been a symbol of gay liberation since Halloween 1969.

I started by looking through this month’s LGBT birthdays listed on Wikipedia.  There’s a skew toward cis white males – when isn’t there? – but I started combing through this list for those who have passed away and become our community’s collective Ancestors. Some of the names won’t seem surprising at all. (For example, the fact that Freddie Mercury (September 5, 1946 – November 24, 1991) of Queen was bisexual probably isn’t news to anyone but me.) These individuals were writers, poets, politicians, scientists; sons, daughters, lovers, and oftentimes parents. Queer people existed all over the world, at all points in history, in all strata of society, from Philippe I, Duke of Orléans (September 21, 1640 – June 9, 1701) to silent film star Greta Garbo (September 18, 1905 – April 15, 1990).

Some of these stories end in tragedy, whether through the murder of Harvey Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) and Matthew Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998),  or the suicide of Alan Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) and Tyler Clementi (December 19, 1991 – September 22, 2010). Our queer Ancestors faced shame, humiliation, violence, and oftentimes death just for who they were – because the world wasn’t ready to trade in hate for compassion.

How can we best remember our Ancestors?

We can not forget them. We can remember their names, their stories, their faces. We can make them part of our own history, even if they don’t show up in the history books. We queer folks, we can come out of the closet and be our own advocates, when we aren’t faced with violence or threats to our person. You straight folks, you can be allies and help us fight homo- and trans*phobia wherever it breeds and help us build safe spaces for people of all orientations and identities. We can best honor our Ancestors by finishing the work they started and trying to fix a world that gave them so much hatred and violence.

Ancestors, the Mighty Dead

In ADF Druidry, we strive to live in right relationship with each of the Three Kindreds: our gods and goddesses, the Shining Ones; the nature spirits, the Noble Ones; and our Ancestors, the Mighty Ones. Out of these three equally important groups, I have the hardest time connecting to my Ancestors, whether they be my two late grandfathers on either side of the family, or the first trueborn member of the species H. sapiens. Perhaps some of it is a holdover from my Baptist days which taught me to balk at the idea of ever elevating a human to the status of God. There was a clear dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, the divine and the human, and the only one who was really allowed to bridge that gap was Jesus. (Really though, Jesus’ humanity always seemed a technicality more than a reality in the church I grew up in – but I digress.) I just got the hang of believing in and worshiping gods again, and now I have to talk to a bunch of dead guys in ritual?

I believe the Three Kindreds operate as equals and peers, each of them necessary to the maintenance of a healthy spiritual ecosystem. There’s no hierarchy of groups, no demand to sacrifice more of one’s time or energies to one Kindred than the other. Ultimately, one would hope, you’re spending your time equally with all Three. I also believe that if we imagine the Kindreds forming a triplicate Venn Diagram of sorts – which hey, ends up forming a triquetra in the middle, isn’t that cool! – humans are planted squarely in the middle. We are animals and of the earth, and therefore we are among the nature spirits; we all return to the earth one day, and therefore will be among our Ancestors; and I don’t actually have anything for how we’re like the Shining Ones yet, except possibly being made in Their image, but give it time.

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The Two Powers

Today’s post is short – and, if it’s a bit rambly, I apologize. I started playing Skyrim this week. I think that’s all I need to say about that.

Part of my Dedicant Path homework this week has been studying and meditating upon the twin energies known as the Two Powers. A Two Powers meditation can look awfully similar to the ubiquitous generi-Pagan tree meditation – you know, the one where you visualize yourself as a tree, with roots curling deep into the dark earth and branches stretching high above toward the bright sky? The eponymous Powers are dual streams of natural energy and magic which help practitioners bring themselves into alignment with their place in the universe. The first is the Earth Power, the darkness, growth, and mystery of the earth (and waters) beneath our feet. The second is the Sky Power, the shining and just light of the Heavens above us.

In ADF, our rituals center us along two axes. The vertical axis places us in the Midrealm, with the Upperworld above us and the Underworld below. The Midrealm is where humanity resides with nature spirits and deities of the earth and land; the Upperworld, the home of the gods and goddesses; the Underworld, the home of our Ancestors and deities of death. Along a horizontal axis, the Midrealm is divided into Land (surrounding you), Sea (below you) and Sky (above you) with yourself firmly in the Center. Knowing my place is very important in my ADF worship, not just to properly serve the Three Kindreds but also to understand just how vital my presence is to the entire spiritual ecosystem. We humans are in a unique position to interact with a variety of spirits and affect the world around us, both magical and mundane. Without our continued attention and service, I believe (and I don’t think this is ADF doctrine, so it’s all on me) that said spiritual ecosystem would collapse, radically alter itself, or at least go dormant until the next sapient species comes along.

But that’s just me. And as me, I like using the Two Powers meditation to remind myself of just how important I am in my corner of the world. Every change and every being is important; every entity has the ability to access the Sky and the Earth Energy, and thus be connected to the greater web of existence. So everything is important, because everything – if added, or subtracted – changed the mosaic. A tiny change, maybe, but every facet counts. This is an incredible truth to wake up to, and with it comes an equally incredible responsibility. In my own way, small as it may be, I am just as important for the maintenance of the web/wheel/mosaic/[insert appropriate metaphor here] of life as the greatest god, oldest Ancestor, or wildest spirit. All of us, together, call this reality home.