Radical faeries (also faeries and faes) are a loosely affiliated worldwide network of queer people seeking to ‘reject hetero-imitation’ and redefine gay identity; many are also pagans or members of counterculture movements. The Faeries trace the origin of their movement’s name to a ‘Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries’ called in 1979 by Harry Hay, John Burnside, Don Kilhefner, and Mitch Walker in Benson, Arizona.
Originally consisting of gay men, the movement has spread throughout the world over the past decades since, in tandem with the larger gay rights movement, challenging the commercialization and patriarchal aspects of modern gay life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals, and adapting rural living and environmentally sustainable concepts to modern technologies as part of human creative expression.
Faeries tend to be fiercely independent, anti-establishment and community-focused. Some embody a feminized ideal, while others embody a fluid spectrum of gender expression – feminine to masculine and all points between – as a path towards transcending the limits of human social conditioning.
Faerie gatherings are a space ‘between the worlds.’ Generally, Radical Faeries celebrate the 8 pagan holidays of the year: Samhain (Halloween), Yule (winter solstice), Imbolc (Candlemas), Ostara (vernal equinox), Beltane (May Day), Litha (summer solstice), Lughnasadh (Lammas), Mabon (autumnal equinox). Gatherings are frequently held in connection with these holidays. A ritual at gathering may include candles, fires, prayers, chanting, dancing, streamers, bedizened drag queens, ritual music, mud pits, sweat lodges, fire dances, drumming, running through the woods naked, Sufi twirling, and spiral dancing. Nudity at ritual is common.
Faerie gatherings are a place to share thoughts and feelings, to heal, to make decisions, and to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a queer person. It can also be a place of confrontation, of unflinching examination of one’s deepest beliefs, understandings, and faults. Disagreement – rooted in the ‘contrarian’ tradition of some Plains Indian Tribes – is a Radical Faerie first principle.