Here’s the story… of a lovely family…
It’s coming up on a year since I committed myself to Antinoan devotion and the practices of the Ekklesia Antinoou. I’m certain I observed the Serapeia in early April 2014, and in looking at my journal, it appears I paid some attention to the Megala Antinoeia in late March while somewhat half-heartedly observing Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum with the Episcopal Church. I’d like to remark that I haven’t been so consistent with a religious practice since I studied the New Hermetics with Jason Augustus Newcomb in 2005-2006 and worked my way through the whole six-month course (which took me nine months, but it turned out that was about average).
When I started regular cultus to Antinous, I decided I would observe the calendar of the Ekklesia and celebrate its festivals the best that I could. In particular, I resolved not to go chasing after deities, but to honor Antinous daily and other deities on their feasts and see what kind of relationships came up. This method has worked well for me; it’s been sane and stable in a way that I needed. The same principles apply to non-deities as well, to spirits and ancestors of various kinds.
Hence I didn’t pay much attention to the Tetrad++ until the Trans* Ancestor Elevation last November. Saying the prayers to them which PSVL composed not only brought them onto my radar, but put me on their radar, too. People often speaking of deities tapping them; while Antinous has welcomed me, the Tetrad++ are the first who have really tapped me, who for whatever reason have identified me as one of their own.
Something similar has been happening in the past week with the family of Herodes Attikos. We are in the midst of a string of commemorations of Herodes, his wife, his children, and his many foster-children. My initial reaction was, as I put it poetically, there are an awful lot of teenaged boys in my religion, what is up with that? But the more I look at Herodes and his family, the more interesting they become to me. Because they are very far from being, say, a typical Roman household, a second-century C.E. version of Father Knows Best where everyone obeys the stern but wise paterfamilias who is never ever wrong. In fact, the household of Herodes Attikos and his wife Appia Annia Regilla was more of a cross between the Brady Bunch and Brangelina, but as a drama rather than a sitcom–kids by birth, kids by adoption, and far too many early deaths that caused the household to dwindle. Herodes is known to have grieved deeply over his wife and children, perhaps more than was considered seemly for a man (even as Hadrian’s mourning for Antinous was considered excessive), and he carried out that grief by honoring them in their deaths as in life.
What I’m thinking about, however, is less Herodes’ tragic losses of those dear to him, and more the vision of a household that includes boys and girls, children by birth and children by adoption, children of several different cultural backgrounds and (we would say) races, with a father who was an educator and a philosopher, and incidentally about as rich as Bill Gates and at least as philanthropic. It sounds chaotic and creative and glorious, frankly. It’s a reminder that families have never been and need never be the suburban American model of two parents, two jobs, two cars, and two point five children (plus cats or dogs or other pets, plus or minus the people who get paid for house-keeping and child care but aren’t considered family). Herodes and his family can be a challenge to think differently about what family means and what it might look like in pagan and polytheist communities and an inspiration to live creatively in diverse households that worship Antinous and all the gods.