Marion Weinstein 1939 – 2009

Sadly learnt a few days ago that Marion Weinstein had died. Marion was a Witch who wrote a number of books, some of which influenced me greatly, and gave me a lot of help and support over the years. I liked Marion’s work, and still think it’s very helpful to someone working out magic as an ethical and spiritual practice, and she was a delightful character. She was kooky and funny and flip, and light heartedly entirely serious about her religion and practice. And there was plenty of perceptive subtlety in her work for anyone that wanted to take the time to follow her thought.

Margot Adler (author of “Drawing Down the Moon”) writes:

“Marion Weinstein, a New York comedienne, witch, author and a totally unique individual died in July 2009. In the 1960’s she originated a very funny radio show, Marion’s Cauldron. Even in her elder years, she continued to combine politics, witchcraft and comedy in a unique way. Many of her rituals can be found on YouTube, and some of them are wildly funny and poignant. Her odd and somewhat squeaky voice, as well as the way she presented herself, made many people think she was simple and not smart. But Positive Magic is beautifully written and quite brilliant. She was always much deeper and more savvy than many in the world gave her credit for… ”

I couldn’t agree more, she was a gem, and a really unique and valuable character on the Pagan and Witchcraft scene. She was honest, funny, and she just did her thing. I loved her, and I’ll sure miss her.

Marion laid out her beliefs simply, and had a real belief in Witchcraft as a positive way of serving our local and global communities. She’ll be remembered by a lot of people for her book “Positive Magic”, and was a great advocate of ethical, inner directed spirituality. She’ll sure be missed, but her legacy will I think be as sane, helpful and benevolent as ever.

Blessed be Marion. Keep on cracking the jokes :0)

Marion – about a year ago

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A long time ago now, as I was reborn into my new life

Still remember it so well, and the memory pulls like a dream, images of pure feeling, as if it was that which lit them up. And it was pure feeling, beyond myself, which lit up the world before me.

It was 4th July 2005, and I had just landed in the USA a short time before, in Atlanta Georgia, for the first time. I was elated to be there, I felt freer than I had at any time in my life I think, and was heading west to meet my love face to face for the first time. We had been heading for this since the previous February when our friendship stepped, with perfect mutual timing, into a torrential flow of all out romantic union. And as soon as it happened, I knew I was just going to have to do whatever I needed to, to make my life with this man.

The whole intention I carried with me, for myself, was to leave my old life behind, and find my new life with my love. I had no idea how I was going to do it, and that was also part of this leap. But I knew my love was with me, 100% leap for leap. Our hands would grasp, life for life, future for future, dream for dream, even as they had been grasped constantly across 5000 miles. I knew I was taking a plane to my new life, and my old life had gone.

I understood, saw it in front of me like some blessed vision on the flight from Atlanta to Reno. I had a window seat and I looked out on that immense land below me as we travelled west. And as the sun got lower in the sky, towering clouds I’ll just never forget were lit up gold and cream against flawless blue, clouds that were landscapes in themselves. The vision was so free, and I knew I was true to this, and engulfed in a gratitude and joy that was just immense. Hope against hope, it was true, it had happened just as I had prayed, was happening, beyond me yet all about me, flying west.

We came into Reno in the dark, lights dancing and flashing on the ground, little Reno it looked from up there, little Reno in the dark, getting bigger and faster, and then we touched down. I made my way through that little airport feeling so light and welcome and free. And I got on the escalator down and there was Phil waiting, and I smiled, and he was just like I knew he would be. And we went to the car park and he kissed me in the car park, and we drove out in the warm night to Carson City, and the feel of his hand was so warm. And at our duplex on Corbett Street we made our first home in that unbelievable freedom. And I remember standing outside with Phil on that warm July night, looking up at stars that had never looked so good and so beautiful, breathing an air that had never been as dry and fragrant and subtly drenched with space and goodness. With the man who was to be my husband. “Yes” my whole new life said with every breath, and “yes” the good Nevadan night whispered back.

two husbands - somewhere between the Golden and Silver States
two husbands – somewhere between the Golden and Silver States
new home

Our Beautiful Vacation

This was the most wonderful time, and our first return to Brighton since our honeymoon three years ago, when we were there for our birthdays before. It was great, and very special.

We stayed at the Royal Albion Hotel, and room 212 was our home for five days. We loved it with our four poster bed, a jacuzzi big enough to share, and a balcony overlooking the pier and the sea, that we could sit and look out at from the open french doors. There we sat, talked, communed, smoked, drank, watched TV and gazed out at the life ebbing and flowing around the pier, and at the sea, beach and sky.

view from our little haven

We were going down for Brighton Pride also, as this always seems to fall close to our birthdays in early August. We got the train down pretty early on Saturday 1st August and after we’d checked in we went and had coffee in a small park opposite the hotel that has a large ornate fountain in the shape of three fishes. The pride attendees were around, either at the café (including a family of two dads and children near us), sitting on the grass or wandering farther away. Occasionally a drag queen would teeter off down one of the streets.

As the sound of the Pride march got closer we went looking for a place to watch the parade from, and found a spot about a quarter of a mile down the route from the café. There was a very nice lady in front of us with a really sweet dog called “Wolfie”, who was as tiny as he was enthusiastically affectionate. Wolfie got a lot of attention from the Pride Parade as it passed! The Parade itself was not too long but very enjoyable, a lot of fun and very good natured. My favourite sight was a small float playing the Stones’ “Satisfaction” that literally bounced to the music as it went by. The sight was heart warming and comical, and the music was good (which is a rarity at gay events!).

After the end of the parade went on its way to Preston Park and people dispersed, we headed back to our hotel room for a leisurely rest, and then headed out for Preston Park to meet a friend. The event at Preston Park has lots of stalls, several dance tents and different enclosures, food stalls and a fair ground, and it’s free to get in. I’ve enjoyed it a good few years past when going there with friends before I met Phil, and we had a nice but brief visit three years ago. On Saturday we got the bus straight there and walked down towards the celebrations. Pretty soon it really felt like the energy was not so good though. I mean, not good at all. Already there was the odd youngsters near collapsed from one kind of excess or another. As we downed our burgers and coke a guy walked past with a collection bucket and a black eye. He seemed to be taking it in his stride, but I have no idea what might have happened.

DD and John

We wended our way through people sitting on the grass towards the bear enclosure where we were meeting our friend, and practically had to fight our way in while people just pushed and shoved as some kind of oblivious sport. Meanwhile it started to rain. We found our friend, together with two other old friends of mine, and it was good to see them, but the energy just wasn’t getting any better, and neither was the weather. It took us about ten minutes to say “let’s just get back”.

So off we went as the heavens opened, and after about 15 minutes of sheltering under trees we headed for the “special bus service”. After about half an hour in the pouring rain with masses of other people a bus arrived. We managed to get on the third bus that eventually arrived, by the skin of our teeth, Phil’s tenacity and the unconventional use of his walking stick, in the face of really appalling behaviour by young adults that should have known better if they’d even been eight years old. Loud, selfish, uncaring – if this was “pride” and “community”, then please, something just isn’t happening here. But back to town we got, sodden and mightily unimpressed, got ourselves a bottle of Jack and some nibbles and retired to our room for an evening of warming back up and relaxing, hot jacuzzis and stretching out.

First lesson of the holiday, and the only one that was unpleasant. We hadn’t really wanted to go to Preston Park but thought we should do it to meet up with people. Wrong! Follow your feelings. We put that right pretty quick, with the help of our friend Jack , and our magical nest at room 212.

As the week progressed Pride evaporated from Brighton, and I have to say, it was a bit of a relief. It’s great to see LGBT people about, especially different kinds of couples and families, but I can only take so much of a certain kind of attitude, and some gay folks in large concentrations really broadcast it. I mean, give me that over a football crowd any day, but all the same. Though as Phil said, it was also like the people who stayed after Pride adapted to the energy of the place, or maybe it’s just that the people with attitude don’t stick around after the “main event”. In any case, seaside Brighton is my preference, much as I’m glad that Pride happens there.

Sunday came with mixed weather, and we had an easy going day wandering around the Lanes, buying presents for a friend at Lush (mad bathroom products), and various exotic stuff that would drive any creature with an acute sense of smell crazy. Bizarre critters that we are, we loved it, and it’s certainly remedied the sometime dankness of our bathroom in London! While getting our daily coffee outside we watched a girl called Carly Bryant perform with an acoustic guitar on the pavement, quite a few songs from the sixties, and really very good.

When we first got into Brighton and were sitting waiting for Pride to assemble, Phil said that he’d felt the presence of a Norse sea god, I reckoned he must be picking up on Njord, the god of coastal waters and the shore, father of Frey and Freya. At Summer Solstice Njord had come through our meditation and energy raising work, and now we were at Lammas here we were by the sea, his domain, and yes, I could feel his salty freewheeling presence. I was being taught to open up and let go as my 51st birthday approached.

Monday was beautiful, blue skies and sunny weather, and we went in search of a magical shop we’d found online called Dragon’s Gate. This turned out to be in the gay quarter, and the gay quarter turned out to be a really pretty part of town. Off we headed up St James Street and found a place to have coffee outside a little café opposite the Bull Dog pub, which was decorated in rainbow flags that looked pretty wonderful in the sunshine with the blue sky above. A Chinese lady walked past several times with her pug and was very friendly. Another lady stopped and asked “hey guys, where’s the pet shop?” – we had no idea, but she found it and told us about it on the way back, kitty’s pleasure apparently assured! After coffee and a smoke we made our way on up the street, but still couldn’t find Dragon’s Gate. So then it was back down the other side of the street, where a card shop owner assured us it was to be found. And right down near the first part of the road freshly lit incense hit us and there it was, a shop without a sign, some choice books and paraphernalia in the windows but quite shadowy and sheltered looking.

The Bulldog, opposite where we had coffee

Dragon’s Gate was great, a pretty old fashioned occult shop, not a big stock but I think quite carefully chosen by the people who run it, and some relatively rare books too. It became clear pretty quickly that the girl in there had a considerable commitment to Aleister Crowley, which made me smile and took me back a few years to my youth. We looked around here for things, and Phil was looking for things for my birthday present, and the first thing was runes! They had runes in bone, obsidian and quartz, and I had to choose. So I tried for the feel of them all. The bone runes were an immediate miss for me. The obsidian runes my mind was thinking I would like as I do like obsidian, but nothing was clearing for me. The quartz runes when I picked them up had a lighter energy and yes, my mind was clearing and a peaceful energy was flowing. I tried between the obsidian and the quartz runes a few times, and it was definitely the quartz. So I chose one of the quartz rune sets, made from quite smokey quartz. A purple velvet bag completed that. We also got some star anise to put in tea, and some incense granules, stick incense and an incense tray to burn them on, and a small candle (Pagans in hotel rooms, what can ya do?!). But Phil wanted to get something else for me, and I had to leave the shop for that as it was a surprise.

Dragon’s Gate was interesting, because you don’t see so many shops like that anymore. It was pretty dimly lit, not overtly advertised, and geared strongly towards the “serious” end of occultism rather than the “new age”, and I happen to like both. The energy was quite intense, cool (almost “musty”) but good. And the Crowley association took me back. I used to be very into Thelema when I was younger, and it reminded me of the good that could be found in Thelema, and in old fashioned occultism. It reminded me of the necessity of individual truth, and being true to the person that you are. It’s a great thing to be who you are regardless, and there has to be a part of you that just stands your ground and doesn’t give a damn. Phil joined me outside the shop  in the sunshine, under a blue sky, and we headed back to our hotel room with our bag of Pagan goodies.

On Monday we also found a great 50’s style American Diner on the sea front called JB’s American Diner. Wonderful interior, really authentic looking, great food and shakes like they used to do them in the States (according to Phil), giving you the metal mixing cup along with the shake so you can pour yourself all the extras into the shake glass! Marshmallow was my favourite.

the pier at night

Tuesday, my birthday. 51 and now on to a new part of my life. Letting go, moving on to the new. We’d worked hard to get where we are – legally married, with rights, in the UK, staying put! Now life really begins.

What Phil got me from Dragon’s Gate was a beautiful Cernunnos pendant. Cernunnos is a Celtic God with the antlers of a stag, and he is a wonderful deity, which Phil has brought increasingly back into my life. The pendant was of a bearded and antlered male face with a circle at the brow, which could have been a chakra, a Sun or a Moon, depending on how you saw it. I love it and I wore it for all the rest of the vacation, and am wearing it now. We went on our usual leisurely walks through the lanes of Brighton, and found another magical shop, this time more at the “new age” end of the spectrum, lighter, prettier, more crystals and wind chimes and fairies, tarot cards and scarves etc. We liked this shop a lot and had a good chat with the young woman there. More incense granules! A rune book for me to go with my runes, a present for one of our daughters, a little swinging incense burner that we’ve needed for a while, and a fibrous-crystaline white rock for Phil as part of his present.

me wearing my birthday present :0)

Now I was pretty tired on my birthday but happy, and when the choice of what to do came up a movie was a definite, and it had to be Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. We got the 12.30pm performance and that was great! I enjoyed this film, though could have done with Helena Bonham Carter hamming it up a little less, and I think I’d have tweaked that ending (if I could even make films!) but it was a very enjoyable movie and got my thumbs up.

In the evening we went to Old Orleans restaurant for my birthday dinner, and it was good food and really nice Long Island Iced Tea, but man was I tired that day, and so we didn’t stay out, but headed back to our room. And our room was lovely. That’s all I needed, just time back at home with my husband. So we opened up the windows and sat there gazing out at the now visible, nearly full Moon, much to my delight. It was a partly cloudy sky, but there was the Moon over the sea and the pier.

I got out my runes and pulled a rune from the purple bag for the question about why I was so tired. “Laguz”. I got out my little rune book and this really spoke to me:

“The L-rune represents fluidity, and is associated with the power of the ocean tides and the force of rivers and waterfalls. It’s energy is one of going with the flow, because to struggle with it is to drown in its depths”.

That, and the full Moon in front of us gave the answer. Let go, go with the flow. My tiredness evaporated. We looked out across the sea, and below the Moon there was a luminous strip of light reflected in the water near the horizon. As we watched, that strip of light grew deeper, then ever so gradually changed to an undulating triangle of light and dark, lengthening to patches of luminous light and sparkling darkness, and then to a road of light hanging across the sea, some hazy and phosphorescent near the horizon, undulating waves nearer, interspersed with spangled darkness, mesmerising, pulling and drawing, all the way down to the shore and under the pier. Timelessly we watched and let ourselves drift, and above the sounds of the pier we could hear the sound of the tide crash gently and then drag back pebbles in slides of water and rock, clearer than they had seemed before, and crash gently and draw back, crash gently and draw back …

Gently as the clouds shifted above, and the Moon rose higher, the road of light drew back, glittering and luminescent, drawing back, until the glow was back beneath the Moon near the horizon, and we were timelessly back in time again.

Blessed be.

the Moon over the sea

Wednesday, Phil’s birthday, and not 50 yet! I gave Phil his main present of a clear quartz pendant in a gold coloured setting that wrapped itself round the crystal in the shape of an oriental dragon. It seemed really right for Phil, and he looked great wearing it! We spent a good part of the day at Sea Life, the big aquarium in Brighton. This was lovely, we spent a lot of time looking at one tank after another, so many different forms of fish and sea creatures, and some beautiful aquarium settings. I just felt overflowing with affection for these varied sea animals of all shapes and sizes, each bright with life and individuality – I felt like we were communing with these creatures and it was such a privilege.

fish in the aquarium

My favourite was probably the rays who would swim up to the top of the tank and put their faces through the surface of the water having a look at us! We tried giving some of the animals Reiki through the glass as well, and some did seem to respond, though as ever, the Reiki drawn and the response was very individual. In Sea Life we also got to see Lulu the 70 year old Green Turtle who has the same birthday as Phil! We must have spent a few hours in Sea Life and then went and got a slurpie to drink on the edge of the beach before heading back to our room for a lazy time.

In the evening we went to Café Rouge for Phil’s birthday dinner, which was lovely. We always have a good time at Café Rouge in Brighton and the waiters and waitresses are usually very good. After our meal and a coffee Phil took us off to the beach for an ice cream, and there was the full Moon, but really full and in a clear sky! We got our ice cream cones and went down to the darkened beach to sit together and watch the Moon over the sea, with the surf crashing and flowing and ebbing. And off to the left of the Moon was Jupiter shining brightly. We sat there a long while, together, under the Moon by the sea, with the odd sea gull wheeling overhead in the Moon light, those that felt the pull of that palely drenched twilight of night, mewling and wheeling, some quite low, some silently high, high up in the sky.

We headed back to our room for the last night in our nest in Njord’s domain, flung open the French doors and looked out on the waters, now returned to dark, quiet sea, while the Moon had moved off south. On the beach a bonfire burned, and the whole sky above had a luminescence more like the time before dawn than midnight. Such is the magic of the Moon, bewitching gulls and teenagers, husbands and lovers alike, and such is the magic of the sea and shore.

Next day, with the Sun risen in humid heat, we gathered our things and spent a last morning in Brighton, graced by a close up visit from a gull outside Starbucks, who with enormous dignity, pride and comic sense, determinedly consumed a muffin wrapper, tossed away a coffee cup with derision, and took off powerfully.

A vacation full of blessings.

Phil on our last day in Brighton

And that rune I drew? It also said this:

“God/Goddess: Njord – Father of Frey and Freya. Njord was the god of the sea and winds, of summer, and calm, friendly weather”.


the sea

Njord was with us in just about everything I felt, and opened us to the flow of things. And he gave me hope. When I looked out on the sea I saw this is our last wilderness, and there is hope. We can save this, and if we can save this, we can maybe save the rest. If we can save and care for the seas, and for the waters of our world, what miracle can we not be part of? And Njord washed my heart with his easy going ways. Open up, let go. For if we can open up and allow the flow of our inner oceans, our deepest feelings, dreams and wishes, what miracle, and what magic is not running and flowing through us? Beyond necessity, in freedom, what other to do than love?

Salty and easeful, compassionate as the open hand, handsome as the weathered smile, natural as quiet laughter.

A more wonderful holiday with my loving and wise husband I could not have asked for. I could say “I want to take this back with me”, but you can only lose “letting go” if you grasp for it, and then not really. Just let go. But if the time is right and you feel the call, take a walk by the shore and learn from the sea and sand, the sea weed and pools of life, the gulls and the wheeling sky, the spirits and gods of this blessed place.

Farewell, dear Yak

The other day I learnt of some very sad news. We go to some Pagan community festivals in London called the Beltane Bash, and the Halloween Bash. These are wonderful festivals run by a Witch called Jeanette Ellis. Amongst the things you can find are a number of readers of cards, runes etc, and one of the best of these was a man called variously Richard, Sigve and Yak. On Saturday I learnt that Sigve has died, having been found in his crashed car in Cornwall. That really took the wind out of my sails.

Sigve (Richard Ellender) was a big man with a bushy white beard and long hair, always wearing his light coloured robes. You’d find him at the Bashes with people queuing up to get readings, or talking amiably to people outside, having a smoke. I went to him many times for readings, and he was always kind and generous in his guidance and help. He was also a wonderful story teller, and could hold a room in a spell that turned a coldly lit space into the circle of a camp fire at night.

When I introduced my husband to him at one of the Bashes he was completely welcoming, and told us that if we wanted a handfasting we just had to ask him. We never did as it happens, but it’s another thing I won’t forget about Sigve.

His readings helped me on my path and gave the kind of support that only a good heart and an open awareness can. Richard could see you, and he always saw with compassion, kindness and strength. Through his readings he was an understanding and wise friend, and he had the greatness of heart to be that to many of us who knew him this way, and loved him for what we knew of the man that he was.

Farewell dear Yak. May you have many blessings.

Sigve
Sigve

The “W” word and that New Time Religion

Witchcraft is a beautiful word to me – it sums up my spiritual path, a path which I share with my husband. I first came upon it as a spiritual and religious term back in 1974, and again when I read a book by Stewart Farrar called “What Witches Do” in 1976. Other authors have influenced or inspired me since, and so have various people I’ve met and shared with. Nothing I’ve read is “gospel”, and some things needed a good deal of sifting and winnowing. Some people say you really can’t get “it” from books, and in a sense that is true, but I’d say it depends on who’s writing them, who’s reading them, how receptive a person is, and if the time is right. Everyone is different, and it depends on what happens to you. What I would agree with is that you don’t get it from one book, however good, and not without a meaningful search. There is no recipe book, or “how to” book for Witchcraft, not really, not the way I see it anyway. Neither is there a sacred text of Witchcraft, it’s not a “religion of scripture”. Witchcraft is a religion of Nature and of the spiritual ecology of which we are a part. None of this makes Witchcraft unattainable, far from it. The way to Witchcraft just can’t be summed up in so many words.

I’m a great believer in personal religion, and that’s what Witchcraft is to our family, even if it is not an amorphous “anything you like at all”. And I’m pretty old school when it comes to the Age of Aquarius. Yep, sign me up! I believe in inner directed spirituality, in equality, peace, love and healing. Sometimes you need to clear away a lot of old crap, but basically you reweave according to your hearts true wishes. Resolve the past, heal the present, reweave the future. Let your life flow. If that sounds very New Age, well it is. I also think of it as a perennial spirituality.

Of course to some “witchcraft” is a scary term, involving perceived associations with “Satanism” and various kinds of social hysteria and scape goating. But as Pagans we’re not about to devote ourselves to a Christian concept we don’t even believe in, and we have strongly held convictions about the necessity of ethical practice in things like magic, as in other things in life. I don’t believe people should use electricity, cooking or cars to hurt people either. I don’t believe people should give up electricity, cooking or cars (though we could do with less cars, and less dependence on hydrocarbon fuels, it’s true). For others “witchcraft” is just a technical term for folk magic practices with no inherent religion or spirituality. That’s why we capitalise “Witchcraft”, to make it clear what we mean.

That “New Time Religion” says it’s ok for you to be yourself and do your own thing, but you have to learn, be ethical, be aware. Witchcraft is only one form of this stuff, because basically it’s personal spirituality, and that’s where our power comes from; power in the sense of “ability”, because any other kind of power is a mirage masking a problem. So we dispel the mirage, work out the problem where it actually is, heal it, and get to be able to do an awful lot more with our lives, together, in this same global boat we’re in. And “global” is the word, because Earth is home, and taking care of home is the obvious thing to do.

In a lot of ways this is a time of dissolution of clans and traditions, old ways, old authorities, old prejudices. Many of us breathe a sigh of relief at that. But people also feel lost and try to kick it back into the same old thing, usually with language that seems almost Orwellian given what they advocate. So we get “family values” that focus on stopping the “wrong people” getting married, and try to take away people’s children (or stop them having them in the first place) because we don’t approve of other peoples’ love. We get fundamentalisms.

We also get a search for the new (and that’s going to keep on happening) but through old habits and perceptions. You get “enlightenment workshops” for a pretty penny, and you get cults looking for spiritual freedom through following a leader. You get “new” puritanisms and moralisms based on health, politics and a slew of new “buzz-values”. A lot of the goals are good, but the mental habits are the same old same old.

My point is that new kinds of spirituality have been emerging for quite some time (from before the twentieth century for certain), and will continue to, and in essence this is a good thing. We need new kinds of spirituality, with more genuine inner direction and freedom for the human spirit, with love for our home planet, and for ourselves in all our varieties.

Our answers are pretty simple, but don’t feed the old habit of needing essential validation from outside yourself. Our answer is heal, love, and walk your talk. Clear up your own backyard. Be free and take responsibility. Have fun, and let it be harmless. Work out what you value and truly long for. Work out what your heart ethics are and live them. See if it doesn’t work and give freedom and gratification. Celebrate interdependence and diversity, because if we’re part of Nature, that’s just how it is.

Whatever your spirituality may be, me and my husband wish you peace and many blessings.

“The Star” tarot card – artwork by David Palladini http://www.davidpalladini.com/

What’s in a bear – what’s in a nature?

Bears are my part of the gay community, and they describe the kind of gay man I am, and they also reflect a very old sense I’ve always had of what gay maleness is for me. But that takes a little backtracking and explanation. You see, as bears have become more known, and the bear community has become more mainstream, it’s a bit like a tide that has moved off and filled different pools on the beach, and I’m just doing what I’ve always done really, still a bear, but also a bit of a fish out of water. Not a big deal, but a pause for thought.

More people seem to know about bears than did 10 – 15 years ago, both inside and outside the mainstream gay community, and we’ve gradually seeped into odd bits of popular culture; even Homer got taken for one in an episode of The Simpsons!

Bears are gay and bisexual men, both part of the gay community and part of a previously unacknowledged reality of gay men in the population at large. I had my epiphany with bears about 1992, as a thirty something refugee from the 1970s, shy and half closeted, hopelessly romantic (still guilty as charged!). I found a copy of a book called “The Bear Cult”, a photo book with an essay on bears in the States, and two things happened: 1 – everything fell into place, I wasn’t alone! 2 – the whole body-spirit hope of gay liberation came alive for me again, for the first time since I was a naïve teenager intoxicated by the sheer natural power and sacredness of sexuality amidst all the social upheaval after the 1960s. The sense of recognition and home coming was very powerful for someone who’d always looked up to Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman as gay role models.

As you might tell from my intro above, my take on bears is pretty old fashioned. On the other hand it’s pretty open minded, but I’m not so happy with everything that’s happened to bear “scenes” in the UK with commercialisation and mainstreaming since. I can’t speak for what the bear scene may have become in the UK. But for those who don’t know about bears, or only know the “clubbed and disco’d” hook up version, here’s my experience of what being a bear is about.

Gay people are just about everywhere, every place, every town, village and country – every family, somewhere. We’re part of the fabric of nature before we are part of the fabric of culture. Gay “culture” really has nothing fundamentally to do with being gay when it comes down to it. Being a gay man is being a man who loves other men sexually, erotically, emotionally and spiritually. And most of us are out there, unacknowledged, and often unidentified until we identify ourselves. Anybody, any man and “everyman”, from the most eccentric to the average Joe. This was one of the understandings of gay liberation that distinguished it from the pre-liberation homosexual cultures that grew up where they could in such forced and oppressive circumstances. We still have a hang over from these pre-liberation subcultures in many “gay scenes”, but these very scenes leave out in the cold a lot of gay men, many many gay men who are very much gay, but only ambivalently a part of “gay culture”. These men form a great unacknowledged base to male gay nature. These guys, these simply gay guys are the ones who tended to identify as bears to my understanding. But one of my favourite quotes on what bears are came from a book called “The Bear Handbook”, where it humorously sums up bears as “real men, masquerading as real men”. Now tell me, apart from that we know we’re doing it and enjoying it immensely, where’s the difference with any other man?

An old definition of bears ran along the lines of “bears are gay men who are as at ease with their manhood as they are with their gayness, and who have good heart”, and that still holds pretty good for me. And the “good heart” bit is very important to me.

Physically bears have been identified with a body type which is predominantly heavier, hairy, bearded, mature and unreconditioned. The reasons are pretty simple when you think about it – a healthy man left to his own devices grows up and fills out. Most men get hairy to a greater or lesser extent if they don’t try to cover up the fact, and unless you scrape it off your face, a man grows a beard just like nature intended. But that doesn’t make this a “necessary” body type, or the basis for a new body fascism, and neither is it another flavour of gay fetish. Because it’s what comes naturally, bears come in all shapes and sizes, from the thin to the extra large, the relatively smooth to the really furry. It seems natural to most bears though that natural masculinity would be loved by a gay man, and so male secondary sexual characteristics are usually treasured and valued, beards, bellies and all.

Emotionally bears have been associated with strongly affectionate, nurturing and cuddly qualities, tactile, sociable and inclusive, accepting rather than exclusive. In outlook bears have tended to aspire to being open and tolerant rather than judgemental, being laid back and low on attitude. Sure some bears are queeny and some bears are aggressive, but most bears are just pretty regular. Bears also have a strong streak of don’t give a damn individualism, which is pretty much a necessity for any man’s life to be free.

At the same time, qualities which mainstream society often takes to be stereotypically feminine, such as nurturing and openness to emotional vulnerability, sensuality and empathy, a lot of bears take to be naturally masculine for them, and part of themselves. Bears don’t follow the rules – we just eat the whole menu.

But with a moving social tide, with marketing and fetishising, with the “shallowing out” that the gay mainstream often seems so good at, is this all in the past? Nope, I don’t reckon so. A bear will just go his own way anyway. And if we hit the road again, or if we settle and raise chickens and goats, a man who’s gay is going to be just that, and he’ll always have to do it his own way. And that’s a bear in my book.

Nature is good, that’s why we know we’re good. But sometimes Mother Nature is a Daddy, and sometimes he’s abundantly queer.

Welcome to my bear world.

It’s only natural.

a real bear masquerading as a real bear

Hello world!

Well hello world indeed.

This is a personal blog, but I hope reflective and of some value to other people. I’ve always liked looking through other people’s home pages seeing what they’re about and where they’re coming from – it’s a form of sharing which I appreciate. I certainly believe in the internet as a form of community, because it’s played a great part in me finding some of my communities. I’ll say a little about myself for starters, and no doubt some other ramblings will follow on in time.

My name’s Mo and I’m a 50 year old gay man living in London UK with my husband Phil. We don’t have “gay marriage” in this country, but we have civil partnerships with comprehensive legislation that makes CPs very parallel to civil marriage. My husband is from the USA and we have three children in the USA from Phil’s previous marriage.

We’re both “bears” (in terms of the gay community) and we’re both Pagan spiritually, Witchcraft being our religion, and our eldest daughter is also Pagan.  We’re both interested in healing, Phil having trained in hypnotherapy while I do Reiki energy work.

Me and Phil met each other online 4 1/2 years ago, and handfasted ourselves to each other in Nevada the following July. We’ve been legally “married” for almost 3 years. My life has been transformed by finding my husband and gaining family, and I’m very happy about that to say the least!

Best wishes

Mo.

mestarbucks