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Leather and Magic
(From Usenet, January 17, 1990)
By Harry Ugol

This article is partly in response to Clay's story *The Sacrifice*, and partly an attempt at a long-standing commitment to myself to talk more about a topic near and dear to my heart, which I variously call Leather Fairies, Sex Magic, etc. (and has proven difficult to talk about; I've been meaning to write something about the Leather Fairy gathering since it occurred last July, and this article spent a full week in the oven). I finally took the time to read Clay's story, and enjoyed it very much (not least because it was written by someone who knew what he was talking about); it spoke of a number of the elements of SM I hold most dear, notably magic and transformation. But something I personally find essential was missing in the relationship between the two characters; I'm not going to try and define it in words, but I want to tell a contrasting story of my own.

First, a bit of background. About 5 years ago I attended my first gathering of a group of gay men called the Radical Fairies (or Faeries, or fairies, or... dogmatism is not one of our strong points :-). Although it's very difficult to rigorously define or describe the fairies in words - we tend to enjoy being the gleeful exceptions to rulesets - most of us tend to be gay, male, anarchist pagans who are Seekers of the Light and practice loving and healing as important parts of that Seeking. The Radical Fairies have been very important in my life; for example, Rivendell is an attempt (a successful one, I think, and in ways I did *not* imagine beforehand) to make a permanent fairy gathering in the city, so the love and magic the fairies create in our gatherings don't inevitably fade away when we return into a world where there are more of *them* than there are of us.

As I said in a recent posting, leather fairies are fairies who wear black leather wings (which term, btw, apparently appears in the coming-next-month section of *Drummer* magazine that Clay asked me about; I had no idea that was so when I told my story of the term's origin in my posting). "Black leather wings" is the fanciful definition; another one might be that leather fairies are fairies (not necessarily self-identified as members of the Radical Fairies, but at least travelers along the same road) who are into SexMagic and digging into the depths of their own selves and those of others in order to further their spiritual growth. It's reasonably true, IMO, that leather fairies are to ordinary SM people as Radical Fairies are to ordinary gay people, i.e. we tend to be more concerned with spirituality and healing, and are more inclined to be outrageous, flamboyant, and to defy normal standards (I remember the 1987 Gay Rights March on Washington; my lover Daffodil wore full leather and a skirt made of camoflage material. The contingent of regular leathermen ahead of us were constantly trying to sneak peeks without being caught doing so). We are also more concerned with practicing SM as magic, by which term I mean the conscious attempt to use spiritual power and ritual events as instruments of transformation.

At the core of the San Francisco leather fairies is what I call Our Little Group, which came into existence the night of my first SM experience; the group of us that played that night found that mixing fairy spirituality, leather sexuality, and certain instruments of ritual made for *intensely* powerful magic. It was my first time out; I knew that for me it had been wonderful and loving and magical and *real*, and totally unlike anything I had previously experienced. I was slightly surprised, however, to hear the same reactions from my partners, some of whom had been in the SM scene for decades; there was the sense we had come to a turning point, and had discovered something that would affect all our lives and those of a considerable number of other people too. Since then Our Little Group has played together every month or two (and has become not so little, either; over 30 people participated in the Rite we held last New Year's Eve, and I expect the next one to have over 40); OLG to me has become a mixture of coven and therapy group (come to think of it, is there any real difference between those two terms?).

[The following story is intensely personal and more than a little judgemental. Please take this as what *I* perceive; it could be that others, including the gentleman in question, would have an entirely different view of things]

The first time Our Little Group got together in San Francisco, the man I call my Master invited an old and dear friend of his to join us. This man had never been involved with the Radical Fairies (or at least he never had any formal -More-involvement - now that I think of it, my housemate Eggplant had been a lover of his years earlier, when Eggplant was not yet 20 (by which time he had been in the SM scene for 4 years. I *said* Eggplant is a pig ;-)), but he had a long and deep involvement with both SM and spirituality. He was, and is, an accomplished SM master, one of the more famous tops in San Francisco and the world beyond. He also was and is a disciple of the Horned God, the pagan consort of the Goddess, the personification of male power and sexuality in the pagan pantheon. He also was a man who, it seemed to those around him, was bearing a peculiar burden; he seemed to constantly live in a pit of deep unhappiness, and more than one person in the SM community thought he was evil and a Satanist.

The truth was more unusual, and was best described by my friend-and-brother Ganymede when telling of his first meeting with this man. Ganymede is quite sensitive to the spiritual side of the Universe, that part of reality which can be perceived but not measured; when he was first introduced to this man, he was quite disturbed at the intense blackness he felt coming from him. At first Ganymede thought this blackness was evil, but he stayed with this man and opened his perceptions as wide as he could, and realized that it was not intense evil he was perceiving but intense unconsciousness. This man has a much stronger connection to his unconscious soul than do most of us, to that dark place where our instincts and much of our strength and creativity comes from. He lives very much in his subconscious self; it's like he's alive and sleepwalking at the same time. This has its good points and its bad points; on the one hand, it's one of the things that makes him such a good top - he doesn't have to ask what his bottom is feeling or what to do next; he just *knows*, and *does*. On the other hand, it has also been the source of much unhappiness in his life, I think, because he has been much less able to chart a conscious course to his life - for example, to find the level of social and emotional interaction that was right for him - and he is instead dependent upon people around him to set the tone of his social life. And unfortunately he had not been totally lucky in that department; the main circle he ran with when I met him was a group of SM masters who were IMNSHO basically heart-blind. He was in a position many of us have sometimes found ourselves in, alone and hurting, and trapped in a cage whose outlines he could only dimly see and whose exit he could not find.

This man was the first person to show me what whipping was all about; that night was the first time I was turned into an animal, my higher mind stripped away and my own black subconscious let loose from its den to roam and find love and strength and healing. In return, I and the other members of Our Little Group have, I think, shown him how to tap into the deep core of love which is and always was within him, but which he did not know how to express. He occupies a very special place in my heart; we've played together many times now, and each time the color is deepest black, and the tune is love and magic. Of course, I've done a decent amount of growing and flowering myself during this time, and I can never be sure whether the changes I've seen in this man are coming from changes in his actions or in my perceptions. But, whatever the cause, the change I've seen has been IMO nothing short of magic. His heart feels strong and wise; his aura of a lost soul has disappeared. He has found nourishment for his heart and his spirit, and he has also found, as he says, "my brothers".

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