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The Founding of the NYC Radical Faeries

(Originally posted on experimental community blog July 18, 2012 by Murray)

When JoMo invited me to kick off this new site with the first post, I saw this as an opportunity to push through my writer’s block and tell my story of the founding of the NYC Radical Faeries.

The first meeting of the NYC Radical Faeries was called by Martin Worman and myself in late 1979 soon after I had returned from the first Radical Faerie gathering in August of that year

Martin and I had been active members of the vibrant gay community in San Francisco in the 70’s.  Martin was a principle and lyricist in the Cockettes, the legendary “psychedelic drag queen troupe” and was the director of Crimes Against Nature, a theatre piece that evolved out of our community and toured nationally.

I was a co-founder of the Faerie Circle that started in October, 1975 inspired by Arthur Evans and his research for Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture.   The group had many gatherings/ceremonies throughout the Bay Area, in the spirit of make it up as you go along, including  a couple of gatherings at a local bathhouse. I fondly remember being part of 25 or so naked faeries packed in an outdoor jacuzzi  chanting together.  (And some wonderful sex afterwards- a perfect blend of the intimacy from ritual with the excitement of playing with someone new.)

The group disbanded in 1976 from internal contradictions but left a legacy.  It inspired me to lead events in a SF bathhouse in the next couple of years, called “A Different Kind of Night at the Baths.”   Harry Hay had learned of this work, tracked me down in New York City, and personally invited me to first Radical Faerie gathering in Arizona in August of 1979 where I led a version of that ritual next to a swimming pool.

It is unclear just how much our early Faerie Circle inspired Harry Hay and Don Kilhefner as the co-founders of the Radical Faeries, but they certainly knew of us.  Don wrote recently in Gay and Lesbian Review that they added “radical” to the name to distinguish themselves from our earlier venture.  But that’s another posting.

Martin and I were not close in San Francisco, but when we discovered each other after both moving to New York, we bonded as though we were immigrants from the “old country.”  I described the Arizona gathering in detail to Martin.  In one sense, it was the same as what we did in San Francisco: talking circles (now called “heart circles,” spontaneous ceremonies, and my leading of an erotic ritual.  But in another sense, it was a breakthrough because people came from all over and there was a deep level of commitment.   We decided that we wanted to ride this wave and hopefully regain some of the community that we missed from San Francisco.  (and, of course, get laid.)

New groups rose quickly and fell in the 70’s as we were discovering just what gay liberation meant.   So this was not a big deal for either Martin or myself.    We put some notices up in the Village on lampposts and walls –(really, there was no Internet then.)  For our first meeting, we combined the first few who responded along with some of our friends to have the first meeting.    We met regularly after that, and faces changed as new people discovered us while others left.

There were talking circles  and some ceremonies as people shared what they knew.  The most memorable for me was a Wiccan ceremony where we built a cone of energy and then directed it to the person in the center who directed to the person needing healing.  I remember it well because I was the person in the center; that energy was really strong and I didn’t sleep that night.  Another event was a weekend of old Celtic type dancing led by Carl Whitman, one of the very early gay liberationists and my tent mate and crush from the gathering.

One ritual was the basis of a book called My First Saturnalia.  The focus was an erotic ritual that I led.  I learned of the book a couple years after it was written and I was surprised to discover that the author had made up a pseudonym for me. He later told me that he assumed that I wouldn’t want to be known.  Perhaps that was a sign of the times. Maybe I’m returning the favor, but I just can’t think of his name right now.

After a couple of years, I left the Faeries.  While openness is a one of the strengths of the Faeries, there can be a lack of depth, especially when new people come and go regularly.  So I put my time and energy into an intensive meditation practice and then later into the Naraya.

Arthur Finn joined during my time and I know that he held the Faeries together for many years after that.  Perhaps one function of this blog might be to pull together the different periods of Faerie history in New York City. (Did you hear that Frank? Agnes?, Dickie?, Daisy?….)

One of the rewards of being active in politics and in our community for a long period of time is to see the impact of my actions.  Some have continued in unpredictable ways, whereas so many other groups and ideas have not.    At the time, I really had no idea where my actions would lead.  I just did what made sense and felt right in my heart.

We don’t know the impact of this new blog. Perhaps it will continue for 33 years as have the NYC Faeries?    We can only act from our heart, articulate our own visions, and trust in spirit.   And decades later, we can look back and marvel at what we are all leaving behind.