women holding hands in a circular mandala
Queer Spirituality
by Rev. Nano Boye Nagle
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Lammas 2003, Vol 2-4
MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Magazine for Goddess Women Near & Far

Kissing the Beloved

Oh my Beloved
If I close my eyes
I can bring your lips to mine
In a kiss so sweet and deep
My clit and my toes
Experience the sensate equivalent
Of an optical illusion.

But this singularly divine creation
Is no where near as complete
As the blessed angel caress
Of your mouth on my neck
Or your lips brushing mine
In that way of passing
That only lovers lips can achieve.

In the presence of this iridescent passion
I am left with an eternal longing for completion
Which in your absence
Can only be met by the
Kiss of death.

Boye, 2000

It's Easier to be a Priest than a Priestess

Poetry, art and music are the sacraments of Queer Spirituality. They erode the defenses around our hearts. They reach in and pull us, through our longing, to stand side-by-side with truth. My passions for art, music and poetry find voice in my Queer Ministry. Ministry is the ideal job -- I get to write, teach, sing, make music, study, counsel, pray, do ritual -- everything I love to do. Where else would I have permission, or be expected to do all the things I do best?

I am a Minister. A Minister! Minister -- from the Latin ministerium: servant. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a Minister. It was not a vision I kept for myself. As a child I had performed mass in my bedroom, but when I found out the catholic God wouldn't hire me because I was a girl I quit any clerical aspirations.

Ashok Bedi, MD , Jungian analyst asks, "What is the last thing you can imagine yourself doing? What is hidden beneath your responsibilities, your 'shoulds', 'cant's' and the external expectations of your life?" He explains that this is the key to finding one's right work.(1) Four years ago, being a Minister was the last thing I could have imagined doing. I had a secret desire to be a rock star, but every passing year took me further from that secret and into the arms of the other. Like art, Ministry is a very seductive and demanding lover.

I have always had a longing to be of service. This longing has blossomed over the last five years into a longing to offer a sacrament, something sacred; offer an opening to the experience of the transcendent in the body of the moment. My longing promises to offer the possibility of holiness -- whol-e-ness, of knowing ourselves as whole, knowing the Goddess in the whole of creation.

It's difficult to be a Minister and deny any relationship to religion.
As an adult I began to have a spiritual life. I was drawn to Buddhism and Taoism, because they didn't require belief in any gender-specific deity, or any deity at all, for that matter. I felt and understood the concept of a force, a greater good running through my life, but couldn't relate to the idea of Goddess or God. This began to change as I healed my relationship with my parents. They are, after all, our first experience of omnipotent beings, of the Divine Mother and the Divine Father.

A couple of years into my spiritual life, when the 'call' to Ministry engulfed me, I was comfortable with the whole Goddess/God thing but still estranged from religion as a path for my relationship with them.

During my Ministerial training I was confronted with the issue of my Irish Catholic lineage. I had dreams with ancestors demanding to know how I could 'go over to the other side'. It was bad enough that I was queer. Now, a woman! I was thinking about ministry -- and didn't I know we Catholics don't have Ministers, we have Priests? Was I turning Protestant too? Should I hide this from my parents? Ironically, in my life, it was being harder to come-out as a Minister, than it had been to come-out as gay. I tried on 'Father Boye' for awhile but decided it could be considered disrespectful. Ultimately, I settled into being an Interfaith Minister, becoming Reverend Boye.

minstrel with staff, making her way through the woods
And She Knew the Language of the Birds
Copyright © 2003, Terry L. H. Brumley

Minister and Minstrel are related words. As the ways of the Goddess were destroyed by the spread of Christianity across Europe, Minstrels continued to travel between towns offering Her sacraments in the form of myths, music and poetry. This was a decidedly queer form of worship. These Minstrels told the old stories and sung songs to a mysterious Lady, whose name was not spoken. Sufi mystics did the same thing, traveling the Middle East, singing passionate poetry and chants to their god, "the Beloved."(2)

While exploring Sufism, my experience of the Beloved consumed me. Passionate poetry and the opening of my heart led me to initiation onto the Sufi path. I focused my ministerial studies on the scriptures of the dominant world religions, looking for the places of unity between them and the universal truths they share.

By embracing Sufism and ministry, suddenly I had an identity beyond my sexuality. Being Queer is a cultural as well as sexualidentity. It had been the first culture to welcome and embrace all of me. As I moved into Ministry, I thought for a while that I would have to "straighten-up," become respectable. After a short-lived, valiant attempt, I accepted that I am very bad at being straight and genetically incapable of maintaining an inauthentic life. To deny our nature is to deny our divinity, so I decided I must be a Queer Minister, searching for the track of Queer Spirituality. Whether I am working in a church in the suburbs, leading non-violence trainings in the city, or working as a Spiritual Director, I am practicing Queer Ministry, because I am a Queer Minister.

Woman is a ray of God; you could say that she is Creator, not created.

These days I find myself called to serve the Goddess. This requires reclaiming the lesbian cultural heritage I abandoned in the 80s, when I was told my queerness made me unacceptable in religious circles. On more than one occasion I became the target of radical, righteous morality.

I came out years ago in a separatist, very PC London culture. I could understand the intellectual and social justice-based politics, but I was not ready at the time to tolerate the passion for the Goddess. Even though I had always been woman-identified, this was, practically speaking, an intellectual exercise. I was separate from the divine feminine and the girl hidden in my heart. We can only notice the faces of divinity we are willing to experience -- I could not experience Her and so denied myself the need for wholeness.

By claiming Queer Spirituality I hold a place for all aspects of myself and have a relationship with all aspects of the Goddess. Once I committed to a life lived from the heart, I began to notice the beauty and the magic around me. In the rapture of falling in love with God my heart had opened to the Goddess, for one could not exist separate from the other. Bissmillah Ma'bud Illah is a Sufi Prayer which means God is Love, Lover and Beloved; each exits separate yet within the other. The Beloved is the Divine, I am the Lover and Love is the connection between the two. For me, the Goddess has become the Beloved and The Lover -- all who come from Her, including the God -- and I am that which connects the two.

At Lughnasa
We shall honor Tailtiu
With oak, fenugreek and sunflower
She gave us life by giving hers
Clearing the land with her last might
Like Lugh, her foster-son
Shining One of Victory and Light

The Lammas celebration was thought to be a celebration of the God Lugh, which is why it is known as Lughnasa. Lugh is the God of met needs and a great warrior. One story about him teaches the lesson that all we need is often right under our nose. He's a pretty good guy, plenty of teaching stories to be told, but this holiday is not really about him, it's a celebration to honor his foster mother, the queen and goddess Tailtiu. In order to save her people, she cleared the land so it could be cultivated and in the process she killed herself. She gave herself in willing sacrifice and asked Lugh, before she died, to hold a celebration and games at harvest time, in her honor. Over time the victory celebration was remembered, but her sacrifice was forgotten.

It took the sacrifice of my anger at God the Father to know the touch of the non-gendered God. It took the sacrifice of my anger at my mother to experience the Goddess. Knowing the Mother, I came to know myself as a woman and to open my heart wide enough to shine light on the maiden within.

Becoming a Minister was, in part, a bid for legitimacy beyond my queerness. Being a Minister comes with a certain amount of male privilege and entitlement, which I use shamelessly in my dance with the day to day.

In my unfolding relationship with Goddess, because I experience the Mother in everything, the maiden within is starting to express herself in my outer world. It has become safe to embody vulnerability and the power of maidenhood. I find myself willing to sacrifice the familiar and release the protection of my masculinity.

I have not been graceful or without resistance to giving up my dyke-boy identity; it gives me a sense of freedom and protects me from the responsibilities of career success. However, ascetic life is not the one for me. I enjoy comfort far too much. To live the life I want, I must start to be self-supporting through my own contributions. Oh Mother! Is there an end to what we are asked to give up in the service of truth and an authentic life?

In this valley, love is represented by fire and reason by smoke. When love comes reason disappears.
To enter it one must be a flaming fire - you must become fire. The face of the lover must be enflamed, burning and impetuous as fire. True love knows no afterthoughts; with love, good and evil cease to exist.
If you possessed inner sight, the atoms of the visible world would be manifested to you. But if you look at things with the eye of ordinary reason you will never understand how necessary it is to love.
She who undertakes this journey should have a thousand hearts
so she can sacrifice one every moment.

The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-din Attar

The more I experience my connection to the divine feminine, the inherited memories that all women share -- of the dangers of being a witch and a priestess -- are beginning to surface. In response to the flickers of fear, I am developing some beautiful righteous passion, Kali-fired passion, carrying me until I am purified of all that separates me from my rightful experience of the Goddess in the world around me. It is a path wrought with internal and external demons. My ministry made me a kind of priest, although being a woman and Interfaith I am considered low caste by dominant traditions. I am discovering that despite my struggles it is still easier to be a priest than a priestess. I now long for the time when I can stand up as a Guardian Priestess Witch and not mumble or drop my eyes when people ask, "So, what do you do?"

I pray for the fire and the passion to stand true. I ask this for myself and for all the girls and queers who need to see a priest and a priestess who looks like me. May the world know Her again, celebrate all Her possibilities and honor all who live in Her service -- may it be so.

(1) "Archetype of the Soul" -- An analytical exploration of the guiding wisdom of our Soul on the path to Health, Healing and Wholeness - September14th 2002.
My favorite definition of a Sufi is that the Sufi regards every thought, feeling, and perception that he or she has (including his or her sense of self) as a manifestation of the Beloved or as a particular view of the Beloved's face ("Wherever you turn there is God's face"--Qur'an).This means that every person and thing she encounters is also a manifestation of the Beloved and should be treated accordingly.

+ And She Knew the Language of the Birds, Copyright © 2003, Terry L. H. Brumley (staff artist).

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