Wednesday, July 8, 2020

We are an old people

I've had Randy P. Conner's Blossom of Bone on my bookshelf for a few years now, but up until now, with the pandemic and the libraries only recently reopening, it's been hard to find time to wade through it.

Conner's overall goal is to draw connection between expressions of what now would be listed as homosexual desire and expressions thereof, including androgyny, gynandry, transvestism, and gender variance, and expressions of spirituality from prehistory to modern practices. Which he does an admirable job of, although one can tell which among these various threads resonate the most with him, since a few come very much to life in description, while others seem as dry and as dusty as an archaeological dig.


We start with Paleolithic shamanic practices, tracing different practices across Native American tribes, what became Russian tribes, etc. From there, we follow what the usual historical progression of Western history, through Greece and Rome, with discussion on such things as Gilgamesh and Cybele, which goes deep into the mother figure blessing two male lovers. (I'll be honest here, as someone who's delved deep into Greek mythos, I was not all all familiar with Cybele, even if she is sort of an aspect of Demeter/Isis. There's a much longer discussion to be had here about syncretization of religious worship, and how different "cults" developed in different areas, then get joined into the existing branch, often becoming known as either an existing member of the pantheon or somehow borne from an existing figure. This is often the problem when studying Egypt, as we see compressed into one timeline, not really getting a feel for how the Gods of Upper Egypt were separate from the Gods of Lower Egypt, evolved for centuries in their own area, then merged during the periods when the two Egypts became one Egypt.)

We examine Norse and Celtic practices as well, as we move towards the patriarchal beliefs that came part and parcel of Christianity as it spread across Europe. (Interestingly, we never really examine much in the Middle East prior to Islam; then again, much of that has the same issues in research that pre-Christian belief in certain areas has, as the victors tended to erase or record what was left in ways that reflected their paradigm. While this doesn't stop syncretization, as quite a few Gods became saints. This gets discussed in more detail during the sections on Meso-American and African Diaspora spiritual traditions.)

We discuss more American visions of homosexual/inverted/homophilic spirituality from Whitman and Thoreau to Harry Hay and Arthur Evans, with talk of Crowley and Wilde thrown in across the pond.

We discuss the Middle ages and what little bits of records of gender variance exist from the period. We discuss Carnivale, and the traditions therein. The final section deals with Aztec, Mayan, and African traditions, and how their views were/are over time. (Given African Diasporan traditions are still here, having evolved into Vudou, Santeria, Bardo, Candomblé and Yoruba... although, again, many of the spirits have taken on the faces of more familiar  biblical faces....) which, while I have a basic grasp of, given a friend of mine is very much into Orisha veneration, was mostly newer information to me.

Ultimately, he leaves us with the thought that as gay men (while lesbianism is discussed a few places in here, the major focus is on gay men), we are heirs to a long, convoluted thread of priesthood and shamanism, and our spiritual nature is there if we want to take it or acknowledge it.

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