From the Visionary – Altar Building Rediscovered

This is the third in a series of articles about altars republished from the Visionary archives. It was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.


Altar Building Rediscovered

By Cami Delgado

Cami Delgado

Cami Delgado

The ancient art of altar building has made a comeback and it’s no wonder. Altars nurture and uplift our souls, support prayer and meditation and remind us of an invisible world we can’t see.

Building an altar can be a creative, energizing, and affirming experience that celebrates you and everyone who has enriched your journey. In your living room, it creates an atmosphere for soulful sharing. In your bedroom, it accentuates the sacredness of lovemaking.

Be bold and juxtapose contrasting power objects. On my altar, Quan Yin, shamanic rattles, Merlin the magician, an Om symbol, ceremonial feathers, sacred bells, a Celtic urn, and Jesus, all live harmoniously and celebrate the diversity of my spiritual sources.

Bring nature into your altar by including stones, minerals, sea shells, and live plants. Call forth the cleansing power of water by having water from a very special ocean, lake, river or spring, in a sacred vessel and let this natural element speak to your soul. Elicit Earth energy by collecting sand or earth from a favorite sacred site and keep it in a sacred container. Personalize your altar by honoring special beings who have inspired you, walked the journey with you or enriched your inner life. Images or quotes from your favorite spiritual mentors, elders, and teachers add inspiration. Particularly honor special gay men whose presence or written word have inspired you along your path.

An altar that celebrates all that you are would include a celebration of your gayness and sexuality. My altar includes rainbow flags and pink triangles. I’m still searching for a self-standing phallus.

Others honor a loved one by placing his pubic hair in a sacred pouch.

Images of the naked male body placed amidst sacred objects speak to the harmonious integration of spirit and body. Others honor a loved one by placing his pubic hair in a sacred pouch.

Enhance the self-expressive character of your altar by creating special objects you have made. Hand painting spiritual symbols onto rock, fabric, candles or wood is a way of creating your own personalized and unique sacred objects.

My altar also includes the goddess Psyche (I’m a psychotherapist), Chinese Foo Dogs, Native American medicine beads, Greek Orthodox icons, Buddhas, yin yang symbols, a spiritual colonial Mexican painting,Tibetan and Hindu mala beads, sacred stones, I Ching coins, two plants, a rain stick, a Kabbala tree of life, an African goddess, a Lalique angel, 14 candles, my country’s coat of arms, and other personally meaningful items. It mirrors, expresses and supports essential aspects of my inner world.

These ideas awaken your intuition and inspiration. Let your altar be a genuine expression and celebration of your soul’s richness. Use the gift of your imagination to create a visual reminder of the potential that lies within you and of the sacredness of being gay!

Do it joyously!


This article was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.  Read the original article in that issue of Visionary.

2015 Fall Conference: Variety Show

Dear Brothers,

Thank you for registering for the upcoming 2015 GSV Fall Conference, positive anticipation is rising daily. Can you hear the drum roll? The rustle of yards of fabric?

We in the entertainment committee certainly can, and are inviting you to sign up for the 2015 talent show. Performance art is a form of healing, of growth, of sharing and bonding with brothers and as the conference theme suggests, this may well be the wildest show ever!

Cami Delgado

Cami Delgado

Some of you are visual artists, not performers. We’re looking for several visual artists to do signs announcing the different acts. Can we count on you? Let us know.

For the performers, the sign-up sheet will be posted on the bulletin board of the Commons Room (behind the dining room). Please sign up ASAP to assure a spot and please keep in mind the following:

  • Acts must be no longer than 6 minutes. After that, a swarm of stage faeries will make you disappear, it won’t be pretty…we promise.
  • Attending rehearsal is mandatory; no act can appear without rehearsal.
  • For piano accompaniment, please send your sheet music to David Berger in advance and schedule one-on-one rehearsal time upon arrival.
  • If you’re using a musical track, please present it to the sound tech at rehearsal.
  • Acts work best when enhanced with costumes, props, music, and movement. Keep this in mind as you prepare your material.
  • Freedom of expression requires that both performers and audience keep an open mind and a sensitive heart; we ask that everyone be mindful of this.

See you at the Mountain!


2015 Fall Conference: Conversations About Discomfort and Safety

In addition to the two sessions by our Keynote Speaker, Buddy Wakefield, we have four conversations that will be moderated by members of our tribe. The topics are derived from conversations at conferences over the past few years and from online postings that generated significant interest. You’ll be able to attend two of the following conversations:

Scott Dillard

Scott Dillard

The Discomfort and Safety of Surviving
with host Scott Dillard

Since the advent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, many of us have lost a good number of friends, family, and partners. Some of us have carried on our lives as we witnessed the passing of those we loved and also worried for our health at the same time. Still others have wondered, “Why them and not me?” It is a sort of survivor’s guilt that makes us wonder about our own mortality, the fairness of life, and how we continue to live with loss.

We will engage in a conversation that seeks to honor those we lost, those we carried for, and our own sense of self in these most trying of times. This is more than a chat. We will do some writing, some sketching, some storytelling that uncovers the emotions we each feel as survivors of the plague. Come prepared to share at our own level of comfort and to contemplate the shared sense of community that living through this has meant.


Joe Kiser

Joe Kiser & Friend

The Discomfort and Safety of Aging
with host Joe Kiser

As I move from one decade to another, I have experienced many changes on many fronts…and backs. How I experience life has evolved. Emotionally, physically and spiritually. From wild to mild and back to wild again. As my body, mind and spirituality evolve, I am presented with opportunities to embrace, deny or adapt. Additionally, questions have arisen for me. What responsibility, if any, do i have for the next generation? What, if anything, can I offer to future generations?

During this session, I will share some of my experiences and the impact of my decisions and reactions. I would also like to hear the experiences and expectations of others.


Greg Hummel

Greg Hummel

The Discomfort and Safety Around the Gender and Sexuality Continuum
with host Greg Hummel

Man, woman, straight, or gay. Do you remember when these were our only options? For some, these identifiers are enough. But for many of us, these labels are limiting and leave us left out of the conversation. At a time in history when women like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox are creating (much needed) ripples in our social fabric, we sometimes find ourselves struggling to keep up. Come join me in confronting our discomfort around gender identity and sexuality. Together we can create an even safer GSV environment and a safer world.


Hunter Flournoy

Hunter Flournoy

The Discomfort and Safety of Victimization and Oppression
with host Hunter Flournoy

Join us for a discussion of our experiences of victimization and oppression, and how we perpetuate these experiences even within our own community by oppressing each other, and projecting the role of oppressor onto each other. Explore how we can step off of the drama triangle and empower ourselves and each other.

From the Visionary—Home Altars: A Daily Practice

This is the second in a series of articles about altars republished from the Visionary archives. It was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.


King Thackston

King Thackston

Home Altars and a Daily Practice

by King Thackston

Ever since I saw Rebecca Wells’ Ebook, Little Altars, Everywhere, that’s how I tend to think of my home. There are literally little altars, everywhere!

I assembled the main altar in my bedroom a decade ago after my first GSV Conference. But I had been a “closet-altar- kind-of-guy” for years. For a long time the centerpiece was a bronze statue of Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy but she has moved to the mantle above my bed. Now the center is an oriental wooden temple with a small statue of a wise man on the porch. There is an ever-changing array of candles, blessed water and oils, stones and talismans. The constants are a drawing of the word “love” as if it were written in water and a picture of “The Green Man.”

Above my drawing board is a photograph of a formal Japanese Garden, some hand-made brushes and pencils, a bas- relief of the Egyptian owl, Horus, and a print of the first Zen patriarch/follower of Buddha, Bodhidharma Daruma. He had his eyelids removed when he was caught sleeping during meditation!

On my living room mantle is a candle I light each morning and extinguish each evening before bed. The flame is a remembrance of the spirits of friends who are no longer with me on this plane and a reminder of the gift of life. It reminds me how precious each second is. There is also a small chime that I ring when I light and put out the candle. I also ring it when I leave the house to remind myself to have a safe journey, to accomplish the task successfully and with ease and to have a safe return home. I began this ritual after seeing the Dalai Lama do this before a journey in the movie, “Kundun.” I also think it alerts my guides and angels that I am leaving and reminds them to protect my home and cat, Oskar. A have a toy dome of the ocean with animated dolphins that swim serenely through the sea when you push a plunger. It reminds me to “swim” through the currents of the world and not fight them. Silly, perhaps, but it really puts me in a better frame of mind when I leave my “world” and face the other one outside. This simple act lets me swim/dance with the world instead of pushing against it.

Home Altars and a Daily PracticeMy daily practice is Yoga, breathing, Chi Gung, meditation and Planetary Acupuncture. Decades ago I studied Yoga with the Pierce Program in Atlanta with Martin Pierce’s first Men’s Class. Then for several years I attended a “Wellness Workout” taught by Jean Dunham that combined breathing, stretching, Skinner Releasing and dancing. Here I was also introduced to the Tao Animal Exercises in which you “become” different animals to energize different body systems.

Around is time at an early GSV Fall Conference, George Miller taught me Chi Gong wake- up exercises. Rocco Patt taught Planetary Acupuncture at another GSV Conference. This is a series of breathing exercises involving breathing the universe down though the top of your head and wrapping it around your heart. You breathe it out, down into the center of the Earth. Then, repeat in reverse, breathing the Earth up into your heart and then out the top of your head into the universe. Finally, you pull the third breath into your heart from both directions, wrapping it around your heart and then breathing it out in all directions. Now I do my own routine, mostly- based on all these sources.

It doesn’t take long for a daily practice to become a habit, especially when the benefits begin to appear and it feels integrated into my life.

During the last year, I have learned and benefitted from the regular GSV Yoga classes taught by Rocky Beeland and Sterling McVay.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.
Read the original article in the Visionary >>

From the Visionary—Altars: A Place to Worship

GSV Altar at the 2014 Spring Retreat

The creation of altars in public spaces, as places to connect with Spirit in the now and reconnect with Spirits past, is a practice common to many belief systems as far back as the Greek and Norse traditions. The tradition of having public altars at all Gay Spirit Visions gatherings came directly from The Radical Faerie and Native American traditions from which GSV emerged.

Individuals who identify with any of these traditions frequently have personal altars in their homes as a way to be with Spirit regularly. The items on these altars, and their meaning to those who placed them there, can be very personal and intimate.

We are blessed that the five men who wrote about their personal altars in Visionaries past were willing to share their stories then. And, again now in the present.

— Gary Kaupman, Visionary Cooordinator


This is the first in a series of articles about altars republished from the Visionary archives. It was originally published in the December 1995 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.




Altars: A Place to Worship

by Dandelion

The first step in spiritual practice is choosing a path, or tradition, to follow. Next one must make a place to worship. For most of us an altar is an appropriate focus for our spiritual rituals. Altars may be temporary or may have a permanent place in your home. They need not be large or elaborate but I think it is important, if possible, to make room for a permanent ritual space. As the saying goes: Out of sight, out of mind; having a permanent altar makes regular spiritual practice easier and more convenient and just the existence and sight of an altar can bring more spiritual mindfulness into your life.

An altar could be as small as part of a shelf in a book case or as large as a small cabinet. Generally a small end table or bedside table is a nice size, especially if it has drawers or a cabinet underneath to hold supplies and ritual tools that are not going to remain on display. My own altar is a small occasional table, I keep a rosewood chest underneath it for storage. This is also convenient for transporting my altar to other places. The size of your altar may be partially dependent on the implements required for your chosen form of worship.

The type of objects on your altar will largely be determined by your spiritual path while their form and design should be determined by your own taste and aesthetic sensibility.

A good place to begin is with a cloth. An altar cloth can be made of any material you choose, though most traditions prefer natural fibers. You might want to have a number of different cloths, in a variety of colors or designs, each appropriate to certain seasons or ritual uses. The main cloth on my altar is a square of Point de Files lace. The hundreds of tiny hand-tied knots remind me of the many interwoven experiences that make up my life; we are each an individual tapestry of experience and, at the same time, threads in a larger tapestry of community.

The hundreds of tiny hand-tied knots remind me of the many interwoven experiences that make up my life; we are each an individual tapestry of experience and, at the same time, threads in a larger tapestry of community.


A pair of candle sticks is also appropriate to most traditions and if you pursue ritual candle magic you will need about half a dozen smaller candle holders in addition to the larger main pair for the altar. A container for burning incense is also good. This may range from a simple joss stick holder to an abalone shell with a turkey feather fan for burning sage in a Native American ritual, or a brass filigree holder for the charcoal briquettes used to burn traditional powdered incense, perhaps with chains attached so that it can be lifted up and swung to disperse the smoke as in Catholic or Anglican worship. You might also include such things a chalice for ritual offerings of wine or water, crystals and stones with personal or ritual significance, a brazier or cauldron for burning, icons or votive figures, a vase for flowers, or a plate for offerings of food, among other things.

As mentioned before, the design of ritual objects and tools should be carefully considered for any symbolic significance they might have and for their ability to aide you in finding a spiritual frame of mind. One person’s altar might be a simple stone slab with plain glass candle holders, an abalone shell and few crystals, while another might be a baroque collection of painted figurines and elaborate metal work. Being an eclectic Faerie spirit my altar varies from an ornate cloisonné enamel brazier from India, to a Zuni fox fetish, to a small well worn plastic toy dog whose personal significance could be the subject of a whole column.

Reserve your ritual objects exclusive for ritual use, and treat them reverently. However, don’t forget that they are only symbolic. Whatever power exists in your spiritual practice comes from your own heart and the Mind of the Divine. The ritual objects you use are merely physical manifestations of your spiritual intent, but carefully chosen and properly used they can be a great help in focusing your mind and inspiring your worship.


This article was originally published in the December 1995 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.
Read the original article in the Visionary >>

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