Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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My Dinner with Charlie Murphy, or: a Little Night Bitchery

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 Charlie Murphy | Discography | Discogs

Charlie Murphy



What is the least that we have a right to expect from our fellow human beings?

Acknowledgment of shared humanity, yes? Surely that's the least that we have a right to expect?


With its faux herstory, shallow outrage over the Nine Million, and mindless eclecticism, Charlie Murphy's 198X song The Burning Times (“In the cool of the evening, they used to gather...”) just hasn't withstood the test of time. (“Isis, Astarte, Dee-AH-na, Hecate, Demeter, KAH-li...Inan-NA!”) Still, for a while in the 80s, it gave a voice to our collective longing, and became something of a marching song for the New Old Religion.

I met Charlie Murphy a couple of times back in those days. The memory still rankles.


We met first at a Gay Pride block party one evening here in Minneapolis. A mutual acquaintance introduced us as we stood in the middle of Hennepin Avenue, surrounded by a crowd of hundreds, in all our milling, bare-chested glory.

There's a cruel and deeply broken thing that gay men regularly do to one another. (Oh, not all gay men, and not all the time, but enough...gods help us, enough.) We disappear one another.

Here's how it works. When we meet, you have five seconds to exist: long enough for me to decide whether or not I want you.

If I don't, then poof! I disappear you. After that, we may be standing mere inches from one another but, baby, you no longer exist. I don't see you, I don't hear you. You're simply not there.

That's what Charlie Murphy did to me. He sized me up and, poof! I was gone.


We met for the second time at a local festival. The organizers had brought him in for a fly-by concert one evening. I offered to cook him dinner beforehand.

Just as we were sitting down to our dahl, rice, and vegetables, young N sauntered into camp. N was the heart-throb of the festival, whom everyone wanted. Clearly, Charlie did, too.

Through dinner, he and N flirted nonstop, then went off for the singing. Charlie may even have broken eye contact long enough to thank me for dinner.

I can't actually remember.


Well, hail and farewell, Charlie Murphy. I rather doubt that anyone still sings Burning Times any more, except maybe at old Daughters of Bilitis reunions; as I say, the song hasn't aged well. Still, for a while back in the 80s, it gave a voice to our community, and for that I thank you.

We do still sing your Light Is Returning every Yule, though: one of the earliest (and best) of the new pagan carols. So thanks for the music.

Gotta say, though: from where I stand, Charlie, as a human being, you sure were a disappointment.









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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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