RE/Search: Tell us more about the Radical Faeries–
Jack Davis: I learned about the Radical Faeries when I was still living in Illinois. The first Faerie gathering took place in 1979 in Arizona, and the first gathering I attended was in Oregon in 1983. Radical Faeries tend to be gay men who are not in the gay mainstream, like me. As a kid growing up, I always felt unique. That feeling of isolation continued past childhood. Stonewall happened in 1969 and there was a kind of mainstreaming of gay culture, but again, Radical Faeries tend to be people who don’t fit into any mainstream–gay or otherwise. When I went to my first Radical Faerie gathering, I saw all these other fags who didn’t fit in, either. They were political, they did ritual, and they were funny. It felt like “coming home”–finding all these other weird people who not only did the same crazy things I did–they appreciated that I did them.
Many Radical Faeries do Wiccan ritual, but they’re very anarchistic about how to do it. The distinction between Wiccans and Radical Faeries is that Radical Faeries are really good at raising energy, but they aren’t always good at grounding it. Whereas I like ritual that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. If I’m leading a ritual, at the end I might say, “Okay, the planned part of the ritual is over.” Then people may continue doing what they’re doing–usually it’s drumming, dancing, and singing.
I believe there are eight or ten other Radical Faerie groups who own land in the U.S. Short Mountain in Tennessee owned their land before we owned Wolf Creek.
R/S: Have the Radical Faeries changed as a result of AIDS?
JD: Significantly, I never expected to be an elder at my age, but I am one now because a lot of Faeries my age or older have died. Also, a lot of Faeries who knew our history are just not around anymore. I’ve kept records and over a hundred of my friends have died–most of them Radical Faeries. Fortunately, there are new Faeries with new energy showing up. The younger generation has a bit more of an edge–they’re more street-smart.
I’ve learned to confront death with a certain amount of humor. In San Francisco so many of my friends were dying that we Radical Faeries felt free to deal with death and memorials the way we wanted to. Some Radical Faeries started planning their memorial service before they died, saying, “I don’t want a memorial–I want a party instead!” I led one memorial at a sex club which had a number of huge beds. We put two together, made an altar, stood around it in a circle and talked about the person who had died.
I had the very humbling experience of watching a friend die. About thirty of us were crowded into a hospital room, and we watched him take his last breath. It was amazing to realize that this spirit had just left this body. We could touch him, kiss him and say goodbye, and talk to his lover. This was an intense experience that not many people have.