Endings, beginnings, celebrations

Heigh-ho, your humble blogger here! It’s October and not nearly cool enough for my taste. I don’t do the Pumpkin Spice thing; however, I am enjoying a chai latte at my favorite coffee shop as I write these words.

It’s been a long summer, mostly barren of words. After loudly announcing (and insisting) that I would no longer be posting here, I decided to say fuckit and keep this blog going for specifically religious/devotional/magical topics, with my devotion to Antinous at the forefront. So expect to see more ritual and devotional poetry here in the coming days.

My new blog has gotten a new look and a new name: A Nest Made of Words. If it please you, follow that blog for, well, general blogging and links to stuff I’ve written at various locations on the web.

Speaking of which, a piece of fiction that debuted here became a Thing You Can Buy over the summer: A Distinguished Visitor from the North, distvisitorwithtitlehow Hel visited Hades while Persephone was away and what came of that. It features splendid cover art by Li Oesterberg, commissioned for the story. How amazing is this book cover? (And thanks to my friend Sarah Loch for her editing.)

So please buy my back at Amazon and read it and review and keep following this blog and follow A Nest Made of Words, too.

In other news, the end of October brings the Sacred Nights of Antinous, an ending of one year in sacred time and the beginning of another. In early November, I’ll be taking the longest airline flight of my life to meet some of my fellow Magistrates and Mystagogues of the Naos Antinoou in Washington. I am looking forward to this a lot, although I’m also a bit anxious about flying. (Just because the number of times I’ve been on an airplane can be counted on the fingers of one hand.)

I continue to work slowly but doggedly on the sequel to “A distinguished visitor” and will be posting chapters, as I complete them, on my Patreon, which gives you a reason to subscribe. (When I think of more reasons, I’ll let you know.) Lately it feels that my entire life is slow and dogged, with many delays and setbacks, increasing obstacles to doing the writing that I feel is my Work in this world, and increasing necessity for me to do that Work, in the face of fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, queer phobia, white supremacy, climate change, and everything else, including my own depression and anxiety. I have never had any real doubt that writing is my Work, and it is with that conviction that I continue to blog, dear readers. May my Work be of benefit to you and of service to my gods.

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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.

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.