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Faeries at the Rainbow Gathering

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Over the 4th of July, 1992, several members of the Sacred Faeries decided to join the gathering of the Rainbow Family that was being held in the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. The Rainbow Family is a counter-culture, hippie group, which since the 1970s has put on yearly primitive camping events on public land. Known as Rainbow Gatherings, they are held all over the United States.

The Sacred Faeries of Salt Lake was a pagan group of gay men and lesbians
loosely based on the principles of the Radical Faeries. Since the Rainbow Gathering was to be held in Delta, Colo., in relatively close proximity to Utah, the faeries decided to caravan to the camp. The faeries used aliases such as Gayflower, Gillian, Morningstar, Popcorn, Asparagus, Moonfire, and Red Coyote whenever they attended ceremonial gatherings and those are the names I will refer to in this account.   

As Morningstar and I wearily arrived at the long-sought-out destination, we were held up by hundreds of other cars waiting to park. Popcorn, who had arrived before us, spotted us. Harried and frantic, he ran over to us saying, “This is your worst nightmare!” And so it would seem.

Then this refugee from 1969 says to us “Welcome to Woodstock.” He said we had to park and unload our pickup in a meadow, where as far as you could see, were all types of vehicles; from jalopies to BMWs; from Jeeps to converted school buses, all parked in a makeshift parking lot. We then were dismayed to learn that the Rainbow Gathering was still another seven miles up the mountain where cars were not allowed.

We joined other colorful people, waiting in line, to take this converted old school bus up the steep mountain road. Outside in psychedelic bubble letters, the name of the bus, “Heaven”, was painted. We climbed aboard Heaven. All the seats had been removed and we sat on pillows, cushions, and blankets. The windows were draped and covered with decorative scarves. It seemed to me that the bus was a hippie harem, as there must have been 50 of us in various stages of undress, squeezed inside of Heaven.

The shirtless, long-haired driver took us up the steep and narrow winding dirt road that had some turnouts but mostly the one side was a sheer drop off. The bus jerked and rolled back some whenever the hippie driver shifted into lower gears. I thought for sure I’d be going to heaven in Heaven. 

At 10,000 feet we arrived at the top of the mountain plateau and there we disembarked. Every imaginable granola head, New Age practitioner, Wiccan, EST follower, old and young hippie, and counter culture devotee were in multitudes. Once off the bus, we learned that it was another three-mile hike to a tribe of Radical Faeries’ kitchen station.

We finally made it to the Faerie camp where large pots of lentils, rice, beans, potatoes, and kettles of soup were being distributed. We were also told that a huge communal latrine had been dug about a half mile from the campsite for both men and women to use. No thanks. As much as I would have liked to used the facilities, I was not about to do my business hanging over a log with ten other guys and gals.

Besides the aroma of food, the air at the Radical Faerie camp was perfumed with scents of pine, sage, patchouli, and pot. After eating and introducing ourselves as the Sacred Faeries of Salt Lake, Morningstar and I wanted to go back down to our tent by the truck to spend the night. So we located “Heaven” which, luckily, was going back down to the parking meadow. When we arrived, we learned – to our great distress – that there were two designated parking meadows and we were on the wrong side of the mountain.

Although I was with Morningstar, Gillian, Popcorn, and Moonfire, the prospect of being hungry, tired, and lost was not appealing. We found a cute granola guy driving a Jeep, who said he was going back up the mountain and over to the other side. He said we could hitch a ride with him if we didn’t mind hanging on. His Jeep probably was meant to hold five people at the most, but at least ten people were riding in it and hanging onto the side of it. Of course the guy was loaded and it was dusk out.

It was one of the most harrowing rides of my life as the dude maneuvered around other vehicles coming up as we were going down. Talk about it being a “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” as we were zooming down the dark mountain side with a million stars above us.

I dared not close my eyes as he careened around the edges of the road.  It was apparent to me, if not to the madcap motorist, that the single lane road was far too steep and winding to be cruising at a high speed. Only by the grace of  Providence did we make it back to the meadow where we pitched our tent by the gleam of the pickup’s head lights.

The next morning we roused ourselves from a miserable night sleep. The morning dew was dripping on us through the tent. We woke stiff and not feeling rested. We slept in our Faerie garments so we didn’t have to change as we went to find transportation back up the mountain for the Great Peace ceremony.

Climbing out of the tent we found ourselves in a sea of vehicles. This one guy in charge said there were over 3,000 cars parked in the meadow. We also found that there were hundreds of folks waiting to head up the mountain.

People climbed or were pulled into several large Ryder packing trucks, cramming 50 people or probably more into standing-room-only spaces. The trucks had no ventilation once the doors were shut. I told Gillian I would walk up before I’d climb into one of those vehicles. I am adventurous but not that adventurous because I’m extremely claustrophobic.

Other shuttle drivers also carried folks hanging onto hoods, roofs, sides, and tailgates of packed pickups. We found the same pothead Jeep driver who said we could ride again with him. In the daylight, the trip up to the top of the Overland Mountain was not as harrowing.

Once on the plateau, we hiked over to the Radical Faerie kitchen and joined the rest of our tribe for breakfast. After, I heard that the actual drumming and sacred “om-ing” ceremony was to be held in the Great Meadow about another four miles away. I was exhausted and, at 41 years old, I felt too old for this crap until I saw several old hippie women in their 60s using hiking sticks to make the trek.

It was a continual pilgrimage of thousands of old and young, male and female, straight and gay, long haired and dreadlocks, some totally nude and some fully clothed, all in an array of tie-dye.

At the Great Meadow, thousands of people formed a huge circle to “om” for peace, love, and respect for Mother Earth and all her creatures within her bosom. I must say it was one of the most powerful rituals I have ever experienced. Over 20,000 Rainbow folks were drumming, shaking rattles, dancing, singing, and chanting. It was magical. When the circle dispersed, after about two hours, we trekked back to the Radical Faerie kitchen to regroup.

Morningstar and I caught a ride down the mountain to our pickup, packed up the tent and gear and headed on home. We were both miserable from the number of mosquito bites we endured. We had no campfire to cover us with smoke, so we were juicy USDA prime-grade for them bloodsuckers. I told Morningstar that, with the 20,000 up there, the Overlook Mosquitoes will be talking about the great blood fest of 1992 for years to come. 

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