Antinous for Everybody

Archive for the category “Current Events”

In the world but not of it

I don’t talk about politics much. It’s not interesting to me as a topic, unlike religion, or space exploration, or birds. That doesn’t meant it’s not important to me, however. After yesterday’s election here in the United States, I am dismayed, I am angry, and I am afraid, not so much for myself as for friends who are more obviously not the white cis hetero norm than I am.

What has dominated my thoughts this morning, oddly enough, is a phrase from my Christian background, the phrase I chose for my title: In the world but not of it. By “the world” Christian theology properly means not nature, the created world, the cosmos, but the human-created world, society and its distorted values. Early Christians lived in a society that cherished very different values from their own, so much so that they were identified as atheists, dissidents, terrorists. A good deal of the ethical teaching in Paul’s letters is his reminding his audience of that, mixed with a certain amount of respectability politics.

The first two or three generations of Christians refused to identify themselves as Jews or Gentiles, slaves or masters, citizens or subjects of Rome. They called themselves citizens of that kingdom of heaven that Jesus had said was within each person; they imagined a new Jerusalem, a perfect city, an ideal community where their values were the norm.

That’s how I’m feeling this morning. I am in this nation, but not of it. I do not belong here. My black friends, my gay and lesbian friends, my queer and trans friends, my Jewish and polytheist and pagan friends don’t belong here. That’s what the election results say to me. Never mind that the very real problems of our country were caused not by any of them, not by Mexicans or Muslims, but by rich and still greedy white men like the one who was just elected, men who have nothing but contempt for women, for people of color, for people without wealth. We are in this nation, but not of it; our true citizenship is somewhere else, someplace we imagined was implied in the founding documents of the United States, however little the Founding Fathers may have realized it. Perhaps someday we can build our city here; I have not entirely given up hope.

In the meantime, I see my job as a writer as imagining alternatives. Other people can write the dystopias that now look like prophecies; my work will continue to celebrate possibilities. I’m calling my new Jerusalem, my kingdom of heaven, my true citizenship, Antinoopolis, the city that Hadrian built at the place where Antinous’ body was found. I am no longer pledging my allegiance to a divided nation where liberty and justice are available only to those who have the right gender, the right color of skin, and the requisite bank balance. I pledge my allegiance to Antinous and to the city where he is worshipped, a city open to all races, colors, creeds, genders, and sexualities where love, friendship, wisdom, and creative endeavor are cherished.

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I’m gonna be honest with y’all

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a difficult year for all of us. The deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman introduced a year where we have lost many brilliantly creative people, most recently Gene Wilder. The U.S. Presidential election campaign has descended to new lows of absurdity and mendacity. Police officers continue to shoot down black citizens as if they were rabid animals visibly frothing at the mouth, and rapists walk free while athletes are condemned for using their First Amendment right to criticize our nation. Meanwhile, extreme heat waves linger in some parts of the U.S., unseasonably cool temperatures reign elsewhere, and Louisiana is flooding catastrophically without even the benefit of a hurricane as the cause. I haven’t heard anything strikingly positive coming out of other nations, either.

In the midst of all that, it seems petty to complain about my own problems, but they are problems and they’re mine, so here goes. I live in a part of the U.S. that’s heatwave territory right now, and I loathe summer. Simply loathe it. Summer is not picnics and parties and pools and vacation; it’s waiting five days a week at a bus stop that has not the slightest scrap of shelter from the sun, in a neighborhood which stinks of garbage most days, to get home and hide in my air-conditioned apartment until necessity forces me to leave it again.

I turn to the internet for distraction or consolation, and I’m bombarded with the news, racism sexism misogyny war climate disaster Trump Crooked Hillary outrage. A black actress is attacked in social media for doing a good job in a film or perhaps for just existing as black and female. An actor I follow on Twitter explodes with rage when he condemns Colin Kaepernick and his fans call him out. Another entertainer, creator, giver dies and their unique light is extinguished. Popular media gives with one hand and takes away with the other when it comes to representation of people who aren’t white, cisgender, and heterosexual.

So I turn to my religion, to fellow polytheists, to those who believe in and honor and cultivate relationships with the gods. Only to find racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia proudly proclaimed as core principles of some groups. To see people obsessing about “purity” and anxiously narrowing the circle of beliefs and practices and *people* that are acceptably pure to the gods. To find people being stridently certain that they know what The Gods want, even those with whom they have no relationship, and that one thing The Gods want is for their self-appointed representatives to tell everyone else what to do. To find politics defined as religion, religion defined as politics, lefties and rightists both proclaiming that the other side wants them silenced and possibly shot, and the whole thing looking weirdly like fandom on a bad day.

Dear readers, I have never come closer in my life to simply giving up on religion and walking away. No more of this. No more theological arguments. No more daily devotions that might or might not be appropriate. No more winding myself up reading angry blog posts when I could be looking at bird pictures, playing tablet games, or watching videos. No more trying to process through my rage and disappointment so that I can write something suitably devotional, because some people are brilliantly inspired to create by anger, but I am not one of them. Anger makes me silent and withdrawn, and I have been hurt and angry for months now.

All of these things are my issues and not yours, gentle reader. I just want to give you a glimpse of what is happening here, the effect that the online polytheist community or aggregation is having on one individual. I came close to giving up religion the way an addict gives up a drug, as something that can only make my life worse. The reason I didn’t, I haven’t, is not any one person, not any blogger, not even my fellow devotees of Antinous, though I am deeply grateful for their existence and their friendship.

It is simply the gods themselves. I can’t dismiss them. I can’t not believe in them. I can’t ignore them, because they are so simply, uncomplicatedly present. And they are more compassionate, more forebearing, more tolerant, more patient than most mortals. Perhaps, to paraphrase the Hebrew Psalmist, the gods know that we are only human, only mortal, that our best efforts as well as our worst mistakes are only temporary because our lives do not last very long.

And yet, the gods remain interested in and engaged with us. Why? As I’ve said before, my core belief is that it’s because, fragile and fallible though we are, we can be the raw material for more gods. For the promise of that, and for the rewards right here and now of association with the gods, I’m sticking around. I’m not sure if that means putting the gods first or putting myself first, but it’s where I stand.

#prayfororlando

I am not good at saying wise and helpful things when tragedy strikes. Even when I identified as heterosexual, even as a child, I had no comprehension of hatred for gay and lesbian people. Now I can only sit dumbly and think, “My people have been harmed, again. I am bisexual, and in the right circumstances, I could lose my life for that fact.”

All I have to share is an idea for a fanfic that I don’t think I have the energy to write: Steve Rogers, Captain America, goes to Orlando to donate blood in the current crisis. He has type O blood, the universal donor, and thanks to his superpowers, he can donate two or three times the amount of blood a normal person can give without any harm to himself.

The hospital is immensely grateful to see him, of course. The hospital administrators are eager to spin his visit for PR. Then Steve points out that the long-haired, scruffy guy lurking over there with his jacket still on and his hands in his pockets is Bucky Barnes, his lifelong friend and current lover.

“I’m bisexual,” Steve says, with that set of his jaw that says nothing will move him. “You gonna turn down Captain America’s type O blood because he’s queer? ‘Cos I am!”

A disturbance in the Force

I have never been a fan of David Bowie, although I have long had a great respect for him as an artist. But his death feels like a body blow nevertheless.

I think he can probably gain access to any afterlife he pleases, purely on his own recognizance. But I will remember him as a spiritual ancestor, someone who belonged to the people of the Tetrad++ even before they were born.

Antinoan archaeology

From archaeologicalnews on Tumblr, I bring you this interesting article about discoveries in the Graeco-Egyptian city Naukratis, an important site  for Antinoan studies.

“Naukratis: Ancient Egypt’s version of Hong Kong unearthed by British team”

Not exactly a voice in the wilderness

I don’t really like December. Long-time readers of my blogging, not just here but at Confessions of an Urban Druid and elsewhere, may recall how often I complain about premature Christmas decorations, forced jollity, and the general orgy of consumerism which has never lessened though A Charlie Brown Christmas is dutifully aired every year. Another reason I don’t like December is that it’s usually a poor season for me as far as writing goes. Inspiration and energy tend to dry up and don’t quicken again until January or sometimes February. I find that the dark moon in Aquarius, the time of the Chinese lunar new year, is often when my writing begins to flow again; at that time, sun and moon conjoin in my first house and inaugurate a personal new year.

On top of the usual doldrums, I’ve had my ex-husband’s shocking cancer diagnosis, then the confirmation that I myself have Type 2 diabetes. It’s fairly mild, manageable with careful carb counting, but it was something of a sucker punch, coming as it did right after the cancer news. Just this morning, at work, a co-worker had a mild seizure and was taken to the hospital; the most concerning aspect of that is that it has happened before, just this past summer.

All that I’ve been able to produce are a few prayers for my private use and a lot of complaining. Hence my relative absence from the blogosphere.

Today, however, I come as a messenger with tidings of good news. The Ekklesia Antinoou, having duly voted to change its administration from a single Magistrate to a council of three, voted for me as one of the first three Council Magistrates. Readers of the Aedicula Antinoi will probably recognize the names of Sr. Krissy Fiction of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence and Duffi McDermott, who are my co-magistrates. The election results were confirmed by divination, and I am both honored and humbled to go forth with the blessing of Antinous, Hadrian, and their associated deities.

I am proud to announce that the new Council has already accomplished its first task: Creating a website to serve as a portal to the theory and practice of the Ekklesia Antinoou and its approach to Antinoan devotion. I invite you to visit Naos Antinoou: An Online Temple of Antinous. PSVL has already cross-posted eir excellent essay on the history and nature of the Ekklesia, and we plan to feature more of eir work as Doctor and Mystagogue of the Ekklesia along with contributions from several other writers. Our intention is to offer rituals, prayers, an easily accessible sacred calendar, and other resources to make both getting started and keeping going in our tradition easier. Watch that space!

And watch this space! Regarding my new short story, “A leisurely cruise through the stars,” I’ve decided to return to my original inspiration and write the story during the season of Antinous the Navigator, which begins with the appearance of his star on January 29th. If the gods grant me the words, I will post each segment as it is written, as I did with “A distinguished visitor from the north”.

In conclusion, I wish my readers a joyous Saturnalia, a good Yule, a blessed Alban Arthan, a merry Christmas, and all other possible felicitations of the winter solstice season.

Riane Eisler was right

So the last time I checked, the myth of matriarchal prehistory was a myth, right? There wasn’t a time when people lived in harmony, when sex was revered and mothers respected, when we didn’t divide the world into Us and Them and try to kill or rape or rob or enslave Them because they’re obviously inferior to Us. Nope. Homo sapiens has been a killer and a rapist since we figured out how to walk with our hands free, free to make tools and then weapons and bash skulls, flense bones, break limbs.

If that’s the case, none of us should be surprised by the events of the past week, by multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, by suicide bombings in Baghdad and Beirut. No one should be surprised that Boko Haram kidnaps girls like herds of cattle, that there are bombings in Kenya no one in the U.K. or the U.S. ever hears about on the news, that Daesh proudly proclaims its responsibility for rape and murder and the destruction of ancient beauties. Why should we care? That’s just the way human beings are, right?

Yet we do care. We are surprised, shocked, appalled. We grieve for dead bodies in foreign countries, dress our social media with symbols of support, and send money to relief efforts. Not only that, but we look at the people around us as people, not just as Us and Them. Yes, there are probably thousands of Americans who would vote for Donald the Dump and believe sincerely that if he just threw out all the Mexicans who are taking both our welfare and our jobs, this country would be great (i.e., white) again. But there are also lots of people who are no longer letting their family or friends, their spiritual teachers, their Facebook friends, that celebrity on Twitter, get away with saying racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic things. There are lots of people who are challenging that reactionary uncle, that pagan elder who’s just spat out a sentiment worthy of Trump, that clueless celebrity who’s forgotten how far their lives are from ordinary people’s.

That’s a good thing.

I was once in an elevator with my husband and two black men. We were in the central library, before I worked there, and the two men were probably among the many homeless people for whom our venerable building is a reliable shelter during the day. If memory serves, they smelled of alcohol. They were complaining freely to one another, in crude language, about how all the homosexuals were taking over.
Without planning to, I turned on them and snapped, “I wish the homosexuals *were* taking over! The world would be a better place for it!”

I got some rude language in return, but we all got off the elevator and that was that. “I can’t believe I did that,” I said, shaken.

“I can’t believe you did that, either,” said my then husband.

That might have been the first time I talked back to an -ism. It was me against two victims of another -ism, and possibly victims of addiction or PTSD or I know not what. It is harder to talk back to the -isms when they come out of the mouth of someone you love, or respect, or fear, but people are doing it, in so many ways, from posting on Facebook and dealing with the comments to marching in the streets and facing down armed police. And that tells me people believe we can do better.

We can do better than destroy works of art, things of beauty. We can do better than fear and hate people based on what is or isn’t in their pants. We can do better than treat girls and women like cattle to be bred and trans women like monsters ready to invade a cloister. We can do better than divide the world into Us and Them based on genitalia, or skin color, or choice of religion.

We can do better. We are doing better. Because we create beauty. We make art, and we make love, as well as making war. We follow our pleasure, our bliss, our joy, at least some of the time. Why don’t we do it all the time? Why do we distrust pleasure but affirm pain? Why is optimism considered unrealistic, while pessimism is realistic (and here, here’s a pill to help you deal with the depression of being relentlessly realistic all the time)?

There is a knot at the center of our culture, like a knot of pain in the gut, a knot of muscles in the back, restricting movement, a hopeless tangle of the threads that precludes weaving the tapestry anew. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, they are all threads trailing out of the knot; pull one, and it will show itself to be connected to the others. Racism identifies black people with the emotional, instinctual, physical side of human nature, with animals, with the earth, with dirt. Sexism identifies women with animals to be bred, with emotion and instinct, with jars and cars and ships and boxes, with the land, the earth. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and other queers are feared and hated because they refuse to observe the distinctions between black and white, male and female, pleasure and necessity. Gay men have sex for pleasure, no possibility of reproduction. Lesbians deny the use of their bodies to men. Trans people violate the absolute rule that a thing, a person, a body, must be one thing or the other, not both: One drop of “black blood” and you’re black; a man should act like a man, not a woman; biology is destiny.

I pull on the threads and try to disentangle them, and I can’t; I see the knot, black and bloody and terrible like a clot expelled from the womb, and it is the fear and rejection of women by the cisgender, heterosexual men who are born from them, nursed by them, desire them, and are so utterly terrified of the person who gave them life and nurture and pleasure that anything that remotely resembles her has to be cut off, shunned, destroyed, at the very least controlled, completely. Here are these dark-skinned people whose cultures celebrate women, sex, pleasure–enslave them, take away their mother tongues, destroy their arts and their cities and say they had no civilization. Here are men who sometimes act like women, and women who sometimes act like men, and they have sex not to bear children to inherit the father’s accumulated wealth, but just for fun. Just for fun. Obviously that is a sin!

And don’t let yourself experience pleasure, real pleasure. Don’t enjoy your food and eat just a little too much occasionally. Don’t drink wine and laugh loudly. Don’t read a novel, see a movie with too many women in it, or listen to music until you feel something. Don’t feel your emotions, except for anger, that’s okay, and maybe lust. In place of real pleasure, sense pleasure, there’s making money, or dominating people, controlling other minds and other bodies as you control your own. Make money, keep the wrong sort of people out of your church, and vote for Trump, he’s honest and realistic.

We can do better. We have done better. We are doing better. If the neopagan movement has any lasting good to offer, in my opinion it is the affirmation of the body, of pleasure, of sex, of women, of life in this world, of those things as spiritual values, however much individual pagans fail of the ideal.

I think Riane Eisler was right. In the best-selling The Chalice and the Blade and subsequent books, she argued that human beings were capable of living as partners in cultures based on pleasure, not just in hierarchies and kyriarchies based on fear of pain. Her archaeology and history may be disputed or disproven now, but I don’t think her thesis has been; human beings continue to imagine a world different from and better than the conditions we have. I don’t think we’re capable of living entirely without strife, without conflict–I don’t think we ought to be–but I have hope that we can untie the knot behind our destructive ideologies and learn to trust our bodies, our pleasure, our desires, and our mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, and selves, as women.

May it be so.

Wise and helpful words from a druid friend

The world is hard and it’s getting harder. You might as well be who and what you’re called to be. Practice your devotion to your Gods and ancestors. Practice your magic. Practice your love of Nature. Go deeper. Get stronger. Learn and refine the skills you will need to do your Great Work in these challenging times.

… The world is hard and it’s getting harder. We cannot allow it to make us hard people. That will serve neither ourselves nor our values. Instead, may we grow stronger and wiser, and may we care for ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

–John Beckett, Under the Ancient Oaks

For Paris, Baghdad, Beirut

I don’t have anything wise or true or helpful to say about yesterday’s terrorist attacks, which took place not only in Paris but in Baghdad and Beirut. I can’t do anything except light candles and pour water for the dead, and pray. And so I offer you, my readers, what has helped and comforted me.

First, an iconic film moment, for the City of Light:

Second, because I have no pagan or Antinoan equivalent to offer, a quintessentially Anglican burial service, one which I myself have sung at funerals:

Ignis corporis infirmat, ignis sed animae perstat!

I am sorely tempted to give up this meme

After what happened in Charleston, South Carolina, after a young white man sat for an hour with a dozen black people at prayer before shooting at them and killing nine of the twelve, I hardly see the point to telling you about my spiritual practices and nascent theological ideas. Yet my writing is my offering to my gods and to my community, to the common good; it is that which I have to give. So after this I will write my essay for the meme and post it.

I pray that the light of Christ will shine in mercy forever on his faithful disciples who were killed last night. And I pray that the gods of justice will see their killer tried, convicted, and imprisoned in this life, and that they will harry him without mercy in the next.

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