Antinous for Everybody

I worship a dead gay teenager and you can too

A polytheist and the Wheel of the Year

imbolcflowersImbolc has seized my attention. It always does. It’s particularly easy for me to feel the shift from the energy of the winter solstice to the energy of this cross-quarter point. It comes to me as renewed creativity, ideas for stories and poems, energy to carry them out. It manifests as lessened depression, greater physical energy, a desire to open the windows even if it’s cold, to get out of the house while the sun is shining.

I say “Imbolc”, but I don’t follow a Celtic path. (I should have known Celtic options weren’t for me when I failed to make any kind of connection with Brigid.) It’s just that most people know the February cross-quarter day by that name. I could also call it the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as older Christian calendars did, or the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, as it’s generally known now. Both of those titles derive from the story in the Gospel of Luke that Mary and Joseph fulfilled the Law of Moses by presenting the infant Jesus in the Temple and sacrificing two pigeons or doves to restore his mother to ritual purity for religious and social functions.

Colloquially, it was known as Candlemas from the Middle Ages onward. Churches blessed the candles that would be used in the liturgy and in people’s homes during the coming year, associating their light with the hymn from the story of the Presentation: “To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel”. If your parish is sufficiently high church, it’s one of those lovely occasions when everyone present gets a lighted candle and the whole church is illuminated with their glow.

When I finally figured out that I was a polytheist committed to a particular set of gods, I tried to ignore the neopagan Wheel of the Year. There were plenty of Greek, Egyptian, and Roman holy days associated with Antinous, along with days specific to his life and cultus. But however much I tried to ignore it, the Wheel is just… there. As I’ve said before, while the Wheel of the Year is a syncretic, 20th-century invention, it corresponds to real events in astronomy, astrology, weather patterns, and local seasons, and to a plethora of historical festivals. While no culture anywhere ever celebrated the Wheel, a lot of different cultures celebrated a lot of different feasts that happened to coincide with those eight dates.

In Antinoan cultus, we observe the Stella Antinoi on January 29th. The god’s defeat of the restrictive archons of the underworld culminates in his ascent to the heavens as Navigator of the celestial Boat of Millions of Years. We commemorate the appearance of a new star in the constellation of the Eagle shortly after his death, a confirmation of his divinity. Antinoan devotees frequently observe Lupercalia, the Roman festival of purification and fertility in the middle of February.

fireandiceFor me this season is about fire and ice: Bright sun shining on patches of ice on the sidewalk. Shoots of grass and crocus flower pushing up from the dirt on bitterly cold days. Biting winds and the mourning doves begin to call again, the house sparrows beginning to do their absurd little mating dances. Something changes in the sky, and something in the earth shifts to meet it; the serpent in the earth rises up to meet the bird descending from on high.


Chop wood, carry water, take your meds

What do you do after you have a major initiation, a life-changing mystical magical religious experience, a direct encounter with the gods?What do you do after you have a major initiation, a life-changing mystical magical religious experience, a direct encounter with the gods? If you’ve read this post’s title, well, you already know. That’s the received wisdom, isn’t it? You experience enlightenment and then go back to everyday life, and then everyday life is wonderful, looked at through the lens of enlightenment.

Well, not so much. “Chop wood, carry water” is a simplification, maybe even a bowdlerization of Zen, which is a form of Buddhism, which is… actually not my religion. Although I did take refuge and bodhicitta vows in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition and do not regret it. But one of the things I believe as a polytheist is that there’s more than one spiritual goal, as well as more than one deity and more than one afterlife. Not everybody is pursuing enlightenment, nirvana, buddhahood.

What I wanted to do after my initiation into the Mysteries of Antinous the Liberator was leave my job, move to Seattle, and devote a considerable amount of time to doing ritual and magical work with my fellow mystai Jay and Otter in the service of Antinous. What I actually did was get threatened with the loss of my apartment, celebrate Saturnalia and Christmas, become even more bored with my job than previously, and spend the first two weeks of the new year nursing a sinus infection during some of the coldest weather of the winter.

In the middle of January I turned fifty-two and took a good hard look around my life. I thought about famous people we had lost in the early months of past years–David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Nimoy. Seeing the new Star Wars movie, Carrie Fisher’s last, made me miss her all over again. Now we’ve lost Ursula Le Guin, and I have no fitting words with which to mourn her. I saw a post on Tumblr where someone said it was like we were all mourning our grandmother, and that resonated with me. For Ursula Le Guin to be gone is like losing your grandmother, like waking up one morning and seeing that a tree or a mountain that dominated the landscape all your life is now gone, extracted, with no explanation, no replacement. Her fiction and essays are part of the landscape of my mind and will remain so; for me and for many, she is a spiritual ancestor now.

I still want to move to Seattle, find a sustainable day job, and do ritual and magical work with my friends in the service of Antinous and Melinoe. I’m still pretty sure my gods want me to do this. But the conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m not ready to make that jump. My physical and mental health are not up to the task; I need more therapy and better pills, more exercise and better diet. It might be necessary for me to make some smaller jumps first, into a better job, a better apartment or other living situation, before I can relocate all the way across the country.

It’s not going to be an easy year, I think–for any of us. As Billie Holliday famously sang, “Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose.” But I’m not without hope–The Last Jedi reminded me of that–and I haven’t given up on my goals. I’ve seen the Mysteries and I know that my gods are on my side. In the meantime, chop wood, carry water, take my meds, do my devotions, and make ruthless self-care my keynote for 2018. May we all carry on and carry through.

FIC: Dalliance

“Excuse me, I thought you were a girl.”

The pretty boy blinked at the eagle. “You are mistaken: I am definitely a boy.” He pointed to his genitals in proof.

The eagle shed its pinions and assumed a human form: Mature, manly, clear-eyed, with a flicker of lightnings playing about his beard.

“Excuse me, I thought you were an eagle.”

“In fact, I am a god. I am Zeus.” The god gestured and a rumble of thunder punctuated his announcement.

“Ah! Pardon me, great lord, I was deceived by your cunning disguise.” The pretty boy knelt.

Zeus chucked him under the chin. “So what’s your name, pretty boy who’s pretty enough to make Zeus think he’s a girl.”

The pretty boy stood up but kept his eyes lowered. “I am Ganymede, Thunderer, son of Tros, chieftain of Dardania.”

“Oh, yes, Tros, the one who founded Troy and then there’s going to be a war and then Schliemann… er, never mind, divine foreknowledge and all that. In any case, I was planning to dally with you for a while and beget heroes upon your loins, you know, the sort of thing I generally do with pretty, er, girls. And women. But since you’re a boy, perhaps you’d like me to drop you nearer home on my way off?”

Ganymede shyly raised his eyes to smile at the god. “Well, king of gods, it’s true I can’t bear heroes for you, but I *can* provide dalliance.”


Ganymede smiled more widely and stepped closer. “If I might be permitted, son of Kronos–” He knelt.

“Oh… oh! OH!”

Thunder rolled, lightning struck, and a brief but powerful rainshower soaked the region.

“Have you never dallied with a boy, Raingiver?”

“Not before this, no.”

“I could show you other possibilities, gracious lord, if we might adjourn to someplace drier and more comfortable.”

“How about this, pretty boy?”

Ganymede boldly threw his arms about the god’s waist. “I don’t like caves! Once when I was a child, I was trapped in a cave by an angry bear. I was terribly frightened.”

“Really? I’ve had some of my best dalliances in caves. But perhaps you would prefer this–”

At once they were in a secluded grove on the slopes of Mt. Ida, where great oak trees encircled a patch of sweet-smelling flowers. Ganymede sneezed violently.

“I beg your pardon, father of gods and men, but an abundance of flowers always makes me ill. And then I sn–” He sneezed once again.

“Very well, then.” In the space of a heartbeat, they were in a bedchamber in a small disused palace on Mt. Olympos.

“Now this is more like it,” Ganymede said, and tugged the god toward the bed.

Quite a lot of dalliance ensued, until Ganymede had to plead exhaustion on the grounds that he was only human. Zeus allowed him to sleep, watching over him lest anyone discover their tryst.

When Ganymede awoke, the god stroked his hair. “How would you like to stay here on Olympos, my boy? You could spell my daughter Hebe as cupbearer; she might even marry you, if you like. And we could dally further from time to time, you and I.”

“I’d like that, great lawgiver.” Ganymede glanced at Zeus from under his lashes. “You didn’t really mistake me for a girl, did you, all-seeing lord?”

Zeus laughed. “No, of course not. But you did teach me a few tricks, lad. And you *are* awfully pretty.”

(In honor of the syncretism of Antinous and Ganymede.)

POEM: Epiphany

img_phanesFirst, they say, was Phanes: Out of the egg he appeared.
The male and the female, the serpent and the eagle, in one conjoined.
The Appearer, who made all else appear. A light shining,
and his daughter was darkness, Night herself.

Mortals walking on the earth looked up.
Brightness blessed them by day, when all things
appear aright, but the heavenly wheel turned
in the night, the figures on its rim
drawn by Phanes’ prophetic hand.
The Zodiac is a dancing band.

Where a new star rises, an old world sets.
Kings, wise men, magicians, three or many,
they came to an old king’s court. They pointed
to the new star in the east, to the house of
the Fishes illuminated. “Where,” they asked,
“is the new king, the one who will replace you,
he who will rule over the whole world?”

“What time did this star appear?” So Herod
asked and calculated an hour of birth, dictated
an hour of death. But the king’s men with
their swords looked down at the earth, not up
at the stars. They did not find him who had
not appeared, who awaited the Magi
in his poverty and accepted gold, frankincense, myrrh.

A century and a decade later, another child was born,
another star began a journey, and after another death
of one who was young and fair and beloved by many,
a new star in the Eagle told a grieving Emperor
that the tale was true, and his beloved was a god.
Consoled in his grief, he scattered the name of
Antinous like flower petals all over the Empire,
in temples and in statues, in contests with rich prizes,
the garland of red lotus to the finest. Already
in private places others burned frankincense and myrrh
in thuribles of gold and called on the name
of Jesus, feeding on his body and blood.

Phanes, most ancient deity, you who were first
to appear, come and open our hearts, come and
enlighten our minds, shine upon our ways,
illuminate our paths, help us comprehend
our darkness. Phanes, by your light may we see
the gods among us, ever living and dying for
our good, ever coming to us and appearing
where we least expect them, in the dark, in
the daylight, in our minds and hearts.

Subversive carols: “In his name all oppression shall cease”

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.


POEM: A voice is heard in Ramah

leelah_alcornWholly innocent she stands before us
her selfie an apotheosis: A white-robed martyr
emerging from the prison of assigned gender.
The Holy Innocents were dragged out
into the streets to shed their blood
in centuries of paintings; like the virgin
martyrs, refusing hearth and husband,
Leelah was dragged back into the house,
dragged into a boy’s clothes, dragged
into an old name, dragged off to be
“converted”, dragged into a prison of
drag. She was a girl of seventeen,
and her name was Leelah Alcorn.
On Holy Innocents’ Day she set her face
and walked into traffic that ran
like the river Jordan. She could not cross
over to her true gender, so she crossed over
from death to life. Her soul is escaped
like a bird from the net of the fowler,
but her body was crushed
as beneath the soldier’s boot,
and a voice was heard in Ramah,
Rachel misgendering her daughter,
refusing to give comfort
even though she was no more.

Subversive carols: “All young children to slay”

Herod the king

In his raging

Charged he hath this day

His men of might,

In his own sight,

All young children to slay.

Subversive carols: “O that birth forever blessed”

O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

Subversive carols: “Ye who now will bless the poor”

“Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know now how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page;6
Tread thou in them boldly;
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.

Subversive carols: “O hush the noise, ye men of strife”

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

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