The thing I didn’t know I wanted

Every so often I see ’round the pagan blogosphere that people aren’t using the term “devotional polytheist” any more. Every time I see that statement, I feel a bit sad, because I only just discovered it a few months and it makes a very nice fit to what I do as a devotee of Antinous. However, I do see people in pagan social media continuing to identify themselves that way, and I’ll continue to do so as well. “Devotional polytheist” is a good label; “Mediterranean polytheist” is a good label. Both feel a bit unwieldy after just saying “Anglican” or “Episcopalian” (or “druid” or “Tibetan Buddhist”), but they’ll do for the nonce.

In fannish circles we have a saying: “I didn’t know I wanted that until I saw it.” It refers to something, usually a fan work, that satisfies a need or desire you weren’t aware of having. It might describe an unusual pairing, or a fan video using a particular song, or a what-if scenario in a fanfic that goes far afield of what “really” happened onscreen. A large part of the pleasure of fannish activities, I think, is simply discovering and connecting with your actual pleasures, desires, even kinks. In fandom it’s okay if you want to read a dozen different stories about a character overcoming past trauma by taking care of an abandoned child, however badly that sort of thing would work out in real life. (Not that I would ever read that sort of thing myself, of course….)

There was a moment sometime back in April, if memory serves, when I realized that I wanted to make an offering to Antinous and ask him for help with something specific. At the time I had been going to church regularly for over a year and identifying as an Episcopalian. But despite going to Sunday Eucharist and saying the Daily Office (daily), I had no desire to take this particular problem, whatever it was, to Jesus or his Father. That was when it hit me that I had a relationship with Antinous, a Greek teenager who drowned in the Nile and was deified by Egyptian custom in the year 130 C.E., that I had never had with the god of my childhood religion, a religion I kept coming back to in spite of exploring a lot of alternatives. I had feelings for Antinous that I had never had for Jesus, and it wasn’t that I hadn’t tried to cultivate those feelings for Jesus–I had. I had relationships with some of the saints that had this emotional resonance–Julian of Norwich, in particular–but never with Jesus or his Father. That relationship, those feelings, are devotion.

That was what caused me to give up Christianity and adopt a polytheism focused on Antinous, finally, decisively. Devotion was the thing I didn’t know I wanted, the thing I didn’t quite know was missing, until I had it. In following the calendar of the Ekklesia Antinoou, I discovered devotion for other deities, such as Vesta. I discovered I could worship a deity, *not* feel devotion for them, yet pay them due respect (and I will never offer beer to Mars again). And I discovered I could get a lot of emotional satisfaction out of lighting a candle and some incense, with a formal or informal prayer, to a deity and feeling the affirmation of their response. I could gain the strength to carry on every day.

I’ve been thinking about this post for probably two weeks. That it hasn’t gotten written is the fault of the depression I’ve been struggling with this fall and winter. If you pray, kind reader, light a candle and say a prayer for your humble blogger that she may find healing and be free to write more easily.


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Writer, musician, polytheist, and friend of birds. I like science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes a lot.

4 thoughts on “The thing I didn’t know I wanted”

  1. May you feel better soon.

    I was using the term “devotional polytheist”, and still consider it an accurate description of my practice. To me, it is essentially a translation of the Hindu concept of bhakti. I only stopped using it for political reasons within the community, because some people were construing it in an outlandish, hostile fashion. I have a feeling the term will be back once that has thoroughly blown over.


    1. I had forgotten about that kerfuffle over the word “devotion”. It might be nice if we could just say “bhakti”, but for one thing, it’s not our word, and for another, it might just confuse a lot of people anyway. Thanks for the kind wish.


  2. I don’t who coined the term, and the exact connotations meant by it, but I think more baggage was assumed to go with it due to opinions about specific people (Sannion, Dver, Galina Krasskova, Tess Dawson et al) Some people take it to mean “high level of devotion” “always putting the Gods first” “living a monastic or priestly lifestyle” “I’m better than you” none of which need to be the case! I read the blogs, and some books of the above individuals, and sometimes I find their work useful, sometimes I agree & disagree. Yet another stupid, distracting thing to fight over, IMO. (I’m currently more of a “philosophical polytheist”)


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