I am beyond being eloquent right now, so here’s the link:
Seven months ago, I was in Seattle, Washington. I flew across the country to meet long-distance friends who were fellow devotees of Antinous. That by itself would have been a good and joyous thing, but I also was initiated into the Mysteries of Antinous the Liberator. My friends staged a powerful ritual for me, and I had a profound experience that felt life-changing. I came back home full of joy and faith, ready to change my life in all sorts of exciting ways.
Seven months later, my sister is dead at the age of 63, my building has been sold and I have to move, I have an unaddressed bedbug infestation in my apartment, and I’ve been suspended from my job until I deal with the bedbugs. I’m losing income because of my suspension and feeling desperate for a new job, a new apartment, a new everything.
As all this has been building, or should I say collapsing, around me, I kept looking for meaning. I began paying more attention to astrological transits as more and more of the outer planets moved in on my natal Sun in Capricorn. I did Tarot readings. And I did various magical workings recommended by friends, none of which seemed to do me much good.
On Tuesday I was thinking about things I needed to do, phone calls I needed to make (and wow, do I hate making phone calls). I had the idea, perhaps a kind inspiration, that I should make an offering to Mars and ask for his help, for the gift of courage. I don’t have many dealings with Mars, but I do observe some of his festivals and mention him in my daily prayers on Tuesday, so I felt okay about approaching him with this request. I kept thinking that I should do it on Tuesday, because it’s the day of Mars, etc., but it just didn’t happen. So I said fuck it, and did it Wednesday morning.
I composed a prayer asking for the god’s help. I compiled the prayer, the magic square of Mars, and an image of a Roman statue of him into a Google doc. I prepared offerings of water, olive oil, incense, and a red candle. Then I lit the candle and incense and made my petition, promising further offerings if the god helped me.
I got shit *done* yesterday. I kicked names and took ass, to quote Marvel heroine Mantis. *g* And not only that, I realized something which, in retrospect, should have been obvious: All of the real-life, mundane shit I’ve been going through has been the unfolding of my initiation.
How do you know when an initiation works? When you find yourself re-enacting the whole thing in “real life”. When it shatters your everyday existence and puts it back together. When the fear and the pain and the challenge become 100% concrete and interfere with your job, your health, your self-care. It sounds terrifying. But now I know I can, I will survive this, because I already did. I just have to remember what I learned in the ritual:
–keep moving forward
–be confident in myself and what I have already learned and accomplished
–the gods both challenge us and travel with us as helpers
–there is a time to surrender, but only to the gods, not to defeat
–my true motivation is love and service, for my gods and my community
–I have already died and come to life again as a god.
May these words help you through your initiations.
Kind readers, I have a sudden need of financial help. I have 90 days to move because my building has been foreclosed on and all of us tenants are being shooed out. I need help with a security deposit and other moving expenses. If you can, please visit my YouCaring fundraiser or buy me a Ko-fi; if you can’t, could you reblog this post, or light a candle for me, or whatever you might do to send good vibes? I appreciate all the help I can get.
Isn’t there a poem by T.S. Eliot that says, at the end of all our running around in circles, we will stop and look around where we started and realize that’s where we’ve always been? No? Well, there should be.
We shall not cease from exploration, but sometimes we would very much like to. Because we have found a place to dwell and would like to stay there. Where the fire and the rose do seem to be, at least occasionally, one. Definitely a place where prayer has been valid, and where the communication of the dead may be tongued with fire.
I have known for decades that I have a strong monastic inclination in my nature, an attraction to an orderly lifestyle, to prayer and contemplation, to liturgy and liturgical music, to intellectual and creative work as an act of devotion. I’ve known since I was a teenager that if I didn’t marry, I might well become a nun. I did marry; we were together for over twenty years, and then we divorced. My religion has changed since then, but my nature hasn’t. On the other side of wifehood, in a kind of widowhood–my ex-husband died last year–there is still the child who read a book about cloistered nuns and loved it, the teenaged girl who read Julian of Norwich and loved Julian and her words and her life.
I’m sitting in a small studio apartment in the middle of a city, looking out my window at a blossoming tree, in the aftermath of a spring storm that brought me a poem. Unlike Julian in her anchorhold, I can go in and out as I please; it’s possible, though, that Julian had a small space in which to go outside while still remaining cloistered. In the world but not of it; living a life dedicated to her god in the middle of the second-largest city in England, a major port, a center for the vital wool trade.
I’ve been a devotee of Antinous now for five years. Five years of fairly consistent devotional practice, making physical offerings (candles, incense, food and drink) and nonphysical (everything on this blog, and more), observing holy days, reading about related topics. When the Beautiful Boy came into my life and opened the door to polytheism, most of the Roman pantheon came in with him, along with some Hellenic and Kemetic deities. (And occasional visitors from the North. It’s hard to Loki-proof one’s cultus.) I found words and ways and means of ritual that weren’t strictly Roman, Hellenic, or Kemetic, but that worked for me and seemed to satisfy the gods and spirits.
In that same five years, I’ve also been madly interested in witchcraft, Wicca, Feri, Neoplatonic theurgy, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Western hermeticism, shamanism, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting, madly interested and briefly convinced that my religious practice needed that thing, that discipline, that magical practice, that extra requirement, that one more thing to do every single day on top of a full-time job and writing and bird care and feeding myself and oh yes, the devotional rites I mentioned….
I told my therapist recently that I was afraid that even if I could do everything I thought I should be doing, and do it perfectly, the critical voice in my head might not think it was Enough. We’re working on that.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and realize we were right all along. In spite of all my running around in circles, I’m right where I’ve always been. I’m not a witch, druid, priestess, priest, magician, yogini, fill it in if I’ve forgot something. I’m, well, an anchorite.
The word anchorite actually came from the Greek verb anachoreo, “I withdraw”, because the anchorite retreated from normal secular life to focus on devotion. The medieval Christian anchorite, like Julian of Norwich, lived as a solitary religious in one small cell, mostly praying and studying, occasionally counseling people who came to visit. But it’s hard as an English speaker not to make the pun that presents itself: An anchorite is someone who is anchored, anchored in one place, anchored to devotion and cultus, anchored to religious practice. An anchor for a community, the people who come and go around them, who go in and out of the church, or temple, or Naos, whether they worship the gods or not.
So as of today, I’m changing the name of my blog–although not the URL–to The Antinoan Anchorite. And to finish this entry as I began, let me quote old Tom Eliot properly:
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
On the sixth day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends
A jar of honey, a dish of salt for the Lares Permarines,
A bottle of wine for Antinous and Bacchus,
Four shining rings in honor of planet Saturn,
A horn of plenty in honor of the fruitful Ops,
A bale of hay in honor of Epona,
And a golden acorn for the golden age.