Gather round darlings, Aunt Octopus wants a word.
My experience of being introduced to the faeries was through an ex-lover, now Sister/Brother. You might know them; their affection is expressed through playful gestures of invisible flea picking, nipple play and the deep bass and tone of contentment and connectedness; emulating the playful and healing libido of a small, cuddly and radical tribe of the forest – Bonobo.
It was a brave manoeuvre to invite me into the space that they had found such home in. I have many tentacles and take up space. It changed my life in only ways that the faeries can and in that spirit, I went on to subsequently nag my then current long term partner to attend – they became Wood Pigeon. Through that experience Wood Pigeon came to exude so much grace and confidence in their queerness that it was clear we were all on to something special. Some years later our lair / nest would grow a little more to accommodate another member – who would also find tribe through us. They became Magpie; a cheeky, playful and curious treasure-seeker. Their journey has been similarly expansive and transformative. They too found a home.
These days my lair is my own. The Wood Pigeon has flown and flies in many directions, building temporary nests along the way so as to not make heavy their global adventure of the heart. The Magpie too found a home near water, in an exotic and mischievous floating menagerie of love and constant playtime. They are happy and I’m happy for them. I keep less mirrors on the walls these days. My tentacles bask simultaneously in the light at the mouth of my cave, with some curled and drenched in the shadow. Sometimes I project out to the Jellyfish, undulating upwards all glitter, ruffles and appendages. But for now my heart is safe at home in myself. It’ll be a while until it ventures out again.
But enough of the poetry – real struggle, real words. The past year has been a challenge in both personal life and community – which are increasingly inseparable, and so be it. This last chapter has been a true test of my polyamory, my integrity, family and community. Over the last six months of being in various queer and faerie spaces, from the glorious temple of queer rites, to the fields of queer spirit, the racket of global gathering and the heart of Canaan Tribe, I’ve shared and resonated with many gorgeous and courageous creatures who share similar experiences. Some still caught up in the process; still shining but with characteristic wide eyes and hard jaws. Holding on.
To clarify, this piece is informed by my own process but also from inspiration. When I say ‘our’, I don’t mean to misrepresent anyone else’s voice or experience. I say it in hopeful solidarity. In essence, I’m trying to trace a common experience of breakups in community to understand potential collaborative solutions and more effective healing structures and spaces.
Faerie tribe is a torrent of play and connection of varying intensities – of everything from fleeting gazes and smiles over shared cigarettes, to deep heart connection and intimacy over lengthier periods of time. Sometimes we meet our lovers and partners in situ, sometimes we open the door to tribe for them, sometimes we are the ones invited into tribe through a relationship. It seems to me that the true radicalism of the faeries is how we practice our love and how we navigate our relationships in and out of community. It is not always easy; it is always beautiful but sometimes messy.
Nevertheless, as Tribe we hold space for ourselves and each other – for our individual and collective fire; our intensity, passions, anger, shame, fears, jealousies, attachments, perceived flaws and inadequacies. Objectively, we seem to find our way and do a pretty good job. In fact, we rock. But in our mish-mash of connections and intense faerie affairs there can be casualties too – inevitably, for whatever reason, faeries may need to breathe space into a connection with a significant other(s). Draw it to a close. Recalibrate and re-configure as a means of self-preservation, healing and renewal. Hearts break and there are heart aches. The question is, when love implodes, transitions and transforms in community, how does community hold us? Or does it hold us at all?
I think it’s fair to say that after a parting of faerie-ways a whole mess of feelings follows suit. My experience and those processes I have witnessed seem to speak to how post break up, community can seem a precarious place. A sense of tribe can quickly devolve into a conspiracy of discrete fractions and alliances where we may find ourselves having to survey upcoming gatherings and events to see where and what is safe for us. Particular faeries close to an ex-partner may become ripe for projection, our ‘storyboards’. In this sense, without support, it’s easy to see how one can quickly become a co-conspirator in their own fear and isolation.
Shame may be experienced through the exposure of a breakup in community – externalising self-judgement and blame for a connection gone awry onto the faces of tribe. Self-esteem, already at a low ebb through the often injurious ride of decoupling, remains depleted as we struggle to find footing in our usual store of magick and power – tribe-as-home. Drum circles become clashing symbols of memories and triggers echoing what has been lost. There may be a struggle to find the dance, rhythm and beat that was uniquely ours before our merger. And as the tribe shifts, fluctuates and grows, as it tends to do, the distance needed for healing can feed into a sense of being left behind – of not knowing where the point of re-connection or re-entry is.
How do we find our place again? Our community, being the glorious vanguard of sex-positivity, free-love and polyamory that it is, means that there’s always the potential for some sloppy faerie encounter lurking around the corner, involving your ex-partner and multiple other creatures, to twist into your belly what is lost and where you aren’t. To find solace beyond the smog of faerie breakup, we may even seek Tribe on the other side of the world; to cry in unfamiliar circles and be comforted by an impartial gaze. In worst case scenarios, these experiences can be unbearable and the escape can be very final, meaning complete detachment from community. This isn’t a sensational point, it happens. And for others, the inhibiting consequences of all of this, or perhaps of anticipating the mess that can come through relationship in community, is to rule out deeper intimacy with other faeries – to connect deeply on all other levels but the kind of sacred intimacy and sexuality that risks a bruised heart. But which forms also a vital part of our ritual and celebration together – of our love.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard other stories too. Positive stories. And beyond the challenge, I’m involved here and now in the co-creation of one myself. Many of us live to tell the tale of how beautiful tribe can be post-heartbreak, when a true sense of family arises from the ashes of what was before. Indeed, one morning in a queery field in Wiltshire, a dear former lover bound out of their sleeping space to unexpectedly fall onto two sleeping faeries who had arrived late in the night and took up residence in the porch of their tent. Both of us had shared deep connection with them in the past to go onto forge a chemistry and friendship of our own. In that moment, the love among the three of us was tangible. Later that day, that faerie would counsel me in the rawness of a current breakup to say: the struggle is real but worth it – in what other world do we have the chance to queer our relationships through pure alchemy into the most unexpected but steadfast and persistent arrangements of love and harmony. Real people. Real tribe.
But this story is also a shout out and an invitation. An invitation to consider as a community how we can support this fragile re-birth in a way that flows more gently and that holds people lovingly through the transition. What does real sisterhood around breakups look like in faerie community? How do we create alliances around both parties struggling with heartbreak and separation that are transparent, non-exclusive, reciprocative, communicative and well resourced? Which of us feels able to steward from the heart, to be visible, present and accessible as counsel to those faeries struggling with the fallout of heartbreak in community? What do these systems of support look like, where do they exist and how do they function? If heartache in community is part and parcel of the process – if it is something to learn from, grow from and in the end, to benefit from – how do we gather round to make that medicine easier to swallow? How do we integrate the inevitable ebb and flow of connection in faerie space in a way that allows those intimately involved in a shifting connection, and the whole community witness to it, to mine the gold beyond the pain?
This is call for solidarity, sharing and ideas. Let’s workshop, explore and create.
Thanks for all of those in Tribe for inspiring this piece through their heartache, vulnerability and sharing.
Other stuff by Octopus: