Antinous for Everybody

POEM: For Eros and Psyche















He hides her face now from the profane
as once he hid himself from her, but for
a different reason: No one but himself
may see what it is he loves in her, he
who is love itself, and that is his grace,
that each lover sees what no other can.


POEM: The marriage of opposites?

Let me not to the marriage of true minds–
“Oh, not that old thing again!” Paneris
snatches the book out of my hands
and throws it away. “And what’s this?
A cup? A ritual dagger?” They pick up
knife, cup, plate, wand, book, a stray kitten
and juggle the lot like Crowley’s Magician.
“The blade is to the serpent as the cup is
to the fox?” “–Paneris, stop being an asshole.”
Paneros folds eir arms. “You love my asshole,”
and Paneris fires the book, wand, plate, cup,
and knife at their lover, who catches them one
by one and puts them back on the altar, or
table, or a coffin where someone is about
to get sawn in two, possibly your humble
poet. The kitten stays with Paneris,
draped about their neck. “Do genitals matter?”
Paneros hands me a pen, a knife. “Where
does sex take place?” And a smartphone,
and a pillow. “Who gets to define gender?”
A cup of tea and a cookie.”What does it mean
to live happily ever after?” “Oh, don’t be pedantic,”
says Paneris, winding their arms and legs around
their lover. “It’s the eighteenth. Give me a kiss.”
“I’ll give you more than that–” The kitten lands
on its feet and I come out of the coffin in one piece.

POEM: For Panpsyche and Panhyle, their union

965287ebd106e0557b8fbc7efdf389c2The soul in the body and the body in the soul
The masculine within the feminine but
the feminine within the masculine
Transcending gender, transcending unity or disunity
The butterfly and the bull, the axe and the bow,
the sister and brother whose erotic union
is not transgression but consummation, All-Love:
Hail Panpsyche! Hail Panhyle! Hail Panpsyche and Panhyle!


“I aten’t dead”

I haven’t read a lot of Discworld, but I’ve read enough to use that reference. No, I’m not dead, even though I haven’t really posted here in a month. A whole month. Well.

Since the first of October, I’ve been posting entries for the 31 Days of Devotion meme at the Naos Antinoou. And between September 10th and today, I’ve been deeply involved in plotting a future for the Ekklesia Antinoou, examining and evaluating my personal spiritual practice, and just getting out of bed on increasingly dark mornings and putting one foot in front of the other until I wind up at my desk at work, then coming home to watch Person of Interest (a show I highly recommend, by the way).

Writing for the meme every day has been a challenge. However, after firing off today’s entry early thanks to the national holiday, I realized something good: Doing the 31 Days of Devotion meme is, in fact, rekindling my devotion for the god. It’s reminding me just how much I love the Bithynian Boy and how lovable he is.

9e847b085dc8494226401cc0a20b9226I am shy of talking about this. It’s funny, because I’m not shy of hanging out on Tumblr and expressing my non-religious devotion to Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, or Michael Emerson (from Person of Interest). I have frequently praised Captain America’s booty, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that my god has the finest booty ever. It deserves to be praised as lavishly as any actor’s, and more so.

It comes, I think, of being an Episcopalian. Episcopalians don’t talk about their faith, as Lutherans do. They don’t gush about how much they love Jesus, like Evangelicals. They might admit to loving Julian of Norwich or some other saint, but mostly they gush about the choir’s offertory anthem. They bitch about tacky vestments. We are aesthetes who like our strong emotions buttoned up in cassocks, sonnets, counterpoint. If we wanted to let our feelings hang out, we’d become Methodists. (To any Methodists who might be reading this: No offense. Love Wesley’s hymns. Thank you for being you.)

So I’ll gush online about my favorite actors, but not about my gods. I see pictures of those actors every day on Tumblr, along with pictures of cockatiels and all sorts of other things I like, but I don’t make an effort to look at pictures of Antinous, and there are plenty of images of him to look at. I recite hymns I have written for the god, but until I started the devotional meme, I was making little effort to write new ones. And my devotion was languishing as a result.

What is devotion? The polytheist blogosphere discusses this a lot. I think devotion is primarily just attention. You pay attention to someone or something because you care about it. The more attention you pay to it, the more you care, the more you appreciate that person, place, thing, topic for its essential nature. It’s true for affectionate devotion to a pet, or romantic devotion to a partner, intellectual devotion to a field of study, or religious devotion to a deity. I am resolving to pay more attention to Antinous, and to my gods in general, by writing new prayers and poems, looking for and at images of them, and making the small offerings I’ve been neglecting. I feel confident that such devotion will bear good fruit in my life. Which, I guess, is having faith.

A month for Antinous

I’m going to be posting daily at the Naos Antinoou this month for 31 Days of Devotion.

Naos Antinoou: A Temple of Antinous

All my online feeds right now are full of the proclamation of fall: Pumpkins, skeletons, scarves and sweaters, hot flavored beverages, Tim Burton films. Here at the Naos, however, our thoughts turn to the Bithynian Boy (not that we despise seasonal beverages). October is the last month of the sacred calendar for us, and as it ends, a new year begins with the Sacred Nights, the festival of Antinous’ death and deification.

In celebration of this holy time, and in the interests of providing more content, we’ve decided to undertake a meme: 31 Days of Devotion. Each day of this month, at least one of the bloggers here will post a devotional writing prompt and their response to it. I invite our readers to post their own reflections in comments.

I’m going to start off the month with the first prompt: Write a basic introduction to the deity.

The bare…

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Many gods, no masters–and that includes you

It’s time for me to be brutally honest again, gentle readers. Today’s uncomfortable truth: Every spiritual authority I have relied upon has let me down.

Every. Single. One. Whether Christian or Pagan or Buddhist. Whether I have known them personally or only at a distance. Whether they called themselves priests or teachers or some other title. Every time I gave my power away to someone in the name of religion, it was to my loss. My power was used for someone else’s self-aggrandizement.

On the other hand, I have had brilliant, empowering teachers who did not try to usurp their students’ personal power and authority. I have seen people who shared their knowledge with joy and enthusiasm, in the hope that others would catch fire. I have known teachers who possessed the teacher’s greatest virtue: The goal that their students would someday equal and even excel them. A Catholic nun with a Ph.D. teaching theology. An Irish Catholic woman teaching English literature. A Hermetic magician and a sorcerer sharing their magical learning. Music teachers who showed their students how to enjoy music and how to create their own.

French anarchists coined the phrase, “No gods, no masters!” Pagan anarchists at Gods & Radicals came up with the variation, “Many gods, no masters”. I am here to tell you that if you want to share your knowledge, if you want to teach me, if you genuinely know more than I do, and if you wish the best for your students, I will listen to you, learn from you, respect you, and be grateful for you. But if you try to claim authority over me, if what you have to tell me is that safe spaces are ridiculous and there is one right way of doing things which just happens to be the way you do them, if you are trying to take my personal power and use it to shore up your own ego, then my response is: FUCK OFF. Because “no masters” includes you, self-appointed spiritual authority, polytheist blogger, thousand-dollar weekend teacher, integral this, spiritual that, no matter how many books you’ve read or what the oracle told you to tell the rest of us.

You know who hasn’t let me down? Who doesn’t seem to be interested in having power over me? Who is tolerant of my weaknesses and forebearing with my learning process, which involves a good deal of Doing It Myself and Discovering Things The Hard Way? My gods. Who seem to think I’m Doing Okay, every time I check in with them because some shit-flinger on the Internet has pushed my anxiety buttons and I’m afraid I’m Doing It Wrong.

I’m leaving comments open on this post. But if I don’t like your comment, my response just might be, “Fuck off.” I’m feeling a bit Dr. Banner today, and I’m not sorry if you don’t like me when I’m angry.

Space ships, hobbits, and church

I’ve always said that I didn’t want to write memoir. “Write what you know” is a common bit of advice tossed at new writers, but I prefer the adage, “Write what you love,” and from an early age, what I loved was space ships, robots, dinosaurs, elves and fairies (and dwarves and hobbits), and church. So my fiction has revolved around the things I love, which haven’t changed a great deal since I first learned to write the alphabet, and so has my poetry. I am not planning on writing any novels about, say, tortured mother-daughter relationships, or child prodigies growing up in white blue-collar families in the 1970s and ’80s, or any poetry about my father’s work-roughened hands and the big symbolic trucks he drove while my mother sat on the couch and watched soap operas. Other writers are tending those acres, I’m sure.

But I turned fifty this year, and turning fifty tends to inspire a certain amount of looking back as well as looking forward (and seeing what, if anything, one has to look forward to). What does interest me as I look back, what seems worth sharing, is the meandering path of my involvement with religion. From the first time I was let loose in the neighborhood library, say, around eight years old, to the present day, religion has been one of the things I find most interesting. Not just my own religion, but all religion, all religions. So this is the first of an occasional, unscheduled post looking back at me and religion.

My mother sent me to church when I was about six years old. What one can deduce from this is that she did not go to church herself, and take her daughters with her; she sent me, in the company of my older sister, already a teenager and chafing to get out of the Sunday church requirement. She thought that a religious education was in some way important, but she did not herself have any religious practice. Over the years my mother supported the church I went to in many ways, including financially, but one thing she never did was go to a service. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why that was the case.

My sister, eleven years my senior, had gone to a Lutheran church and been confirmed there. I went with her for a year or two, until she rebelled and stopped going. In that time, I spent most of my time in the Sunday school and very little of it in the actual Sunday service, but the important thing is that I wanted to join the choir and was permitted to do so. I was actually at least a year younger than the minimum age; I think they must have accepted me because I could not only carry a tune, but read the words of the hymns proficiently. I was a very precocious reader, years ahead of grade level.

When my sister stopped going to church (and concentrated on dating, and then got married), I think there was a year or two when I didn’t attend. Then my mother made the acquaintance of a neighbor, an elderly single woman named Miss Johnson, who went to the nearby Episcopal church. When I say “nearby”, I mean half a block away, across our street, up to the corner, across that street, and there you go, but my mother insisted that someone walk me there. So for I don’t know how many years, I met Miss Johnson at our front door every Sunday and walked that short distance in her company.

Miss Johnson’s church, the Church of the Advent, was the little high-church parish that was going to form my notions of religion, of Christianity, of what Episcopalians are and do, pretty much permanently. Unlike a lot of pagans, my childhood exposure to religion didn’t leave me with baggage I was eager to drop. I had my share of emotional drama at church over the years, but 99% of it had to do with being an oddball who found it hard to fit in socially and was often unsure that people liked me. Looking back, I’m pretty sure they did like me, even if they didn’t necessarily understand me. They were my peeps, though, and they cared.

It was not a church where I heard a lot of messages about women, or sexuality, or homosexuality being evil. Our rector rarely preached, and I’m quite certain that he was himself homosexual, in a quiet and reclusive sort of way. It was not a church where the pastor told you who to vote for, or shamed women for how they dressed. Except for the actual Sunday liturgy, which we called Mass as Catholics do, everything in the parish was done or organized by women. Father and some men and boys as acolytes celebrated Mass; women and girls sang in the choir, ran the Sunday school, organized bazaars and suppers as fundraisers, typed up and copied the weekly service leaflet, not to mention maintaining the cleanliness and order of the altar and its furnishings and all the vestments. It was an environment in which women had real power and the men mostly showed up and did what their wives told them to do. We had a rule that boys could not sing in the choir and girls could not be acolytes–a strange rule for an Episcopal church, but as a child, I was not unhappy with this division of labor. I joined the choir as soon as I could prevail on my mother to let me and remained active in it for over ten years.

It was a church in which singing was deeply important, choir was deeply important, and I was exposed to a hymnal which was a compendium of Western musical tradition from plainsong up to the early 20th century. It was a church in which the language of the prayers and the Bible was sixteenth-century English, the language of Shakespeare, of King James I, of intimacy through extreme formality. It was a church with silk vestments, with clouds of incense, with stained-glass windows, with chanting. It was a church where I learned that music, poetry, and stories are important parts of religion, and so are theatre and dressing up. It went hand in hand with the actual theatre in my life, as amateur theatre was my mother’s hobby. I was singing and dancing in musical reviews at the same age that I was singing the Great Litany in procession at church, high on clouds of frankincense.

Deep down, my criterion for religion has always been, can you do it better than my childhood church? Can you do it better than the Book of Common Prayer and C.S. Lewis, better than frankincense and plainsong, better than damask chasubles and cassocks and surplices? Can you do better than a tradition that gave us Donne and Herbert, Tallis and Byrd, Charles Williams and Dorothy L. Sayers? It hasn’t been easy to find a religious identity where the answer to that was yes, but I’ll keep you apprised.

POEM: Nine bows and an offering of honey


Panprosdexia by Cierra Williams

Panprosdexia, darkness in fire and fire in darkness,
pours honey into darkness for the suffering, for the trapped,
walking the worlds without gender, without partner,
without sexuality, until all are brought home to the light.
Sometimes they cross ways with Jizo Bosatsu,
Ksitigarbha, the Earth Treasure, bodhisattva known
by his jingling staff and wish-fulfilling jewels,
visiting the hell realms and taking care of sentient beings
until Maitreya takes over from Shakyamuni.


From the Barque of Millions of Years Lucius Marius Vitalis
looks down and sees the deaths of young people, boys
and girls and others, the suicides of despair because
their genders were denied, their sexuality condemned.
Sometimes he brings honey to Panprosdexia and
they work together, visiting the dark bars or reaching out
through the internet to those who hide in their bedrooms,
unreached by light or by the faces of companionship
except through the glowing screen. He would like to do more.


In a pure land full of beautiful gay men and strong proud lesbians
who followed the Dharma, Issan Dorsey Roshi stands up
from his meditation and thinks of those still dying of AIDS;
thinks of those trapped in prison, trying to practice Dharma
or blot Thor or celebrate Samhain; thinks of the drag queens
and the leather butches and the nonbinary kids, and goes
looking for Ksitigarbha. Sometimes he crosses paths
with Lucius Marius Vitalis, a good-looking Roman kid,
and if they weren’t so busy trying to save the world
maybe they’d sit down and have a drink, but there’s time
to make time later, when everybody is home in a pure land.

Nine bows and an offering of honey to Panprosdexia,
to Ksitigarbha,
to Lucius Marius Vitalis,
to Issan Dorsey Roshi.

Who is my tribe?

A certain heathen organization recently made a public pronouncement that made it clear–if there had been any doubt–that their organization is confined to gender-conforming, heterosexual white people with the right sort of surnames. This pronouncement was widely denounced as racist, homophobic, and transphobic, but also defended on the grounds that any organization has the right to determine its own membership, and that this issue was not about excluding anybody but simply about defining the tribe.

Not being a heathen, I’m not going to discuss the textual and historical reasons why racist, homophobic, and transphobic attitudes seem to be inappropriate to worshippers of the Aesir and the Vanir (and possibly some of the Jotnar): Not my pantheon, not my sources. What I am going to discuss is the nature of tribe and where that figures in my religious practice.

For a long time I was interested in druidry and other forms of Celtic paganism. This had as much to do with childhood exposure to the legends of King Arthur, the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and the Mabinogion retellings of Evangeline Walton as anything else, but the idea that I was, in some fashion, practicing the Ways of My Ancestors was appealing to me. I took ancestor devotion seriously because I took devotion to the saints seriously: Same thing, different religions. And I had some visionary experiences and contacts that strongly suggested I had ancestral and perhaps past life connections in the north of England and Scotland.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and I’m worshipping a Greek youth deified by Egyptian religion, the Roman pantheon, and a family of new gods that have only manifested in the last five years or so. My surname is Scottish; my father’s mother was Portuguese, and I’ve been told that her surname was one of those often used by conversos, Jews who became Christian. My mother’s father was German and I actually never think of myself as “German” at all, but I resemble him and his sister, my Aunt Margaret. I’m pretty sure there’s not a drop of Italian blood in me anywhere (at least, I’d be surprised if a DNA test turned it up). Does that matter in my religious practice? Not a whit.

The Greeks and Romans both got around, in Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor, trading, settling, conquering (and then settling and trading). Everywhere they went, they looked for similarities between their own gods and the gods of the land and people who were already there. They paid respect to those gods, even if, in the case of the Romans, that sometimes meant seducing or suborning those gods to help the Romans conquer their people. Their mingled culture and their literature, accompanied eventually by Christianity as a new state religion, got handed down to former barbarians and became part of their culture. As recently as the early twentieth century, learning Latin was a normal part of university education. For centuries, to be educated at all meant that you learnt Latin, and sometimes Greek.

Greco-Roman culture became European culture, which became Euro-American culture. If American kids learn mythology in public school, it’s not usually Native American stories, or Germanic or Egyptian, and certainly not Christian stories; it’s Greek mythology, Zeus and Hera, Athena and Apollo and Hermes. Public buildings look like Greek temples or Roman ones, or sometimes Renaissance palaces (like our Walters Art Museum), but not like Gothic cathedrals. Downtown Baltimore is dotted with classical-style sculptures that look like Roman deities although they’re actually allegorical abstractions.

My culture is Euro-American, heavily influenced by Greece and Rome as well as by Protestant Christianity. My religion is a melange of Mediterranean polytheisms with Christian and Buddhist influences and magical influences. My tribe? My tribe is made up of people who share my culture but not necessarily my religion. My tribe is queer people, gay, lesbian, or bisexual; my tribe is transgender and nonbinary folks; my tribe is writers, musicians, actors, artists, including people who write fan fiction and make fan art. My ancestors in spirit are poets like Dante or Efrem of Edessa, musicians like the great castrato Farinelli and the composers Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, and queer people like Issan Dorsey Roshi, a gay man and drag queen who became a Zen Buddhist and spent his last years running a hospice for men with AIDS. My tribe is a network of people who don’t care to define the tribe by whom they exclude, but by whom they welcome. These are the people of Antinous, the people of the Tetrad, and you are welcome in that tribe if you welcome everyone else.

Speaking your truth

I think Nimue’s words are true for all of us, not just druids. We have a duty to speak our truth.

Druid Life

We have a duty to speak our truth. It’s a thought I’ve run into from a number of sources – fabulous Kris Hughes has been talking about it, and it’s a key part of Cat Treadwell’s work.  Throw into the mix the Quaker virtue of speaking truth to power, and good old Iolo Morganwg with The Truth Against the World and it’s clear that truth, personal truth, has to matter to a Druid.

One of the things about personal truth is the implication that other people’s personal truths will be different, and just as valid. If our truth suddenly looks bigger and more important than other personal truths, we’re on the road to dogma, one true way and generally feeling a lot more important than is good for a person!

But what is personal truth? It might be a number of things – it could be the truth we experience…

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