How to know if your initiation worked

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.


Our oracular queer death cult of sex and beauty

Almost two years ago, I was voted one of three Magistrates of the Ekklesia Antinoou, a queer polytheist Graeco-Roman-Egyptian group. A year ago, the three Magistrates and the two acting Mystagogues of that group resolved to disband the Ekklesia and re-form as the Naos Antinoou, which one might describe by the phrase I heard a friend use this past weekend: “Our oracular queer death cult of sex and beauty”.

This past weekend, I was in Seattle, Washington, having crossed the North American continent for the first time, to meet our two Mystagogues (i.e., mystery cult initiators), aka my Facebook friends Jay and Otter, in the flesh, also for the first time, and to be initiated into the Mysteries of Antinous the Liberator–or fail in the attempt.

I did not fail in making the journey. I did not fail to meet my friends, and Sister Krissy Fiction of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, another of our three Magistrates, and that alone would have been worth the longest trip I’ve ever made: The joy of hugging someone who heretofore has been only a picture on a website, a portrait made by words on your computer screen, and finding them warm and solid, and having them show you their favorite shops and restaurants and bars. Jay and Otter and their friends made me a very warm welcome despite the trademark clouds, chill, and rain of the Pacific Northwest.


And I did not fail in achieving the Mysteries. I could have, I was informed afterwards. It is possible to fail an initiation, in our tradition. And I don’t want to contemplate what might be the consequences of such a failure, in this life and hereafter.

I achieved the Mysteries, and I can say without reservation that it was a profoundly life-changing, transformative event. I am grateful to everyone who made my travel and my initiation possible, from my friends and initiators to the friends who took in my beloved bird Rembrandt and took care of him for the better part of five days. (He has forgiven me for my absence, I am happy to say.) I am grateful especially to the God himself, the Beautiful Boy, Antinous.

I was not sworn to any oath of secrecy. Yet the root meaning of the word “mystery” is “mu-“, which means to close the lips. The mystai, the initiated, are those who keep mum and do not speak of what they have experienced, in part because it would not help and might harm those who are initiated later, in part because words cannot convey such experiences accurately. And so I will not say anything further here on this public platform: I only affirm that I have Seen, and now I know.

A prayer for this moment

O Antinous, beautiful, just, benevolent, look upon our nation.
Hear your people who cry out to you for help.
While the rich and powerful profit, the poor and powerless are killing one another.
Here, police have killed Philando Castile and Alton Sterling like rabid animals.
There, police who protected peaceful protestors have been killed.
Your queer and trans people are threatened everywhere;
in Orlando, forty-nine have been slain.
We sorely need your help.

Liberator, stand with us, help us shake off the chains
of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia
and deliver us from all oppression and tyranny.
Navigator, guide the dead safely to their eternal homes,
and guide the living, the grieving to wise action.
Lover, comfort the mourners, strengthen the protesters,
and bring us all together in equality and love.

O Antinous, may your beauty, your justice, your kindness
be a beacon for us in our anger, our fear, our despair:
Haec est unde vita venit!

Sacred Nights: Antinous the Liberator

(I composed and originally posted this litany on this date last year. Herewith, a slightly revised and expanded version.)

In the name of Antinous, the Liberator, the Savior, the Human-God, Victorious One, Emperor of Peace.

From all that oppresses us, Antinous, liberate us.

From all that inhibits us, Antinous, liberate us.

From all that constrains us, whether without or within, Antinous, liberate us.

From racism and all racial prejudice, Antinous, liberate us.

From sexism and all misogyny, Antinous, liberate us.

From disrespect for our elders, Antinous, liberate us.

From disrespect for our youth, Antinous, liberate us.

From homophobia and all hatred of sexual minorities, Antinous, liberate us.

From transphobia and all hatred of gender minorities, Antinous, liberate us.

From all contempt for women and girls and for effeminate men, Antinous, liberate us.

From all injustice, Antinous, liberate us.

From sexual violence, Antinous, liberate us.

From bullying and harassment, Antinous, liberate us.

From depression and melancholy, Antinous, liberate us.

From loneliness and despair, Antinous, liberate us.

From doubt of our own gifts, Antinous, liberate us.

From doubt of our ability to act, Antinous, liberate us.

From the wounds of the past, Antinous, liberate us.

From fear of the future, Antinous, liberate us.

From all our addictions and from contempt for the addicted, Antinous, liberate us.

From poverty and the shaming of the poor, Antinous, liberate us.

From hunger and from greed and grasping, Antinous, liberate us.

From all illness of body, mind, or soul, Antinous, liberate us.

From ignorance, especially willful ignorance, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the wealthy and their greed, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the bigoted and their fear, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the lustful and their self-loathing, Antinous, liberate us.

From every kind of hatred and violence, Antinous, liberate us.

[Additional petitions may be inserted here. ]

Guard and defend us, Antinous, as we struggle to free ourselves; guard and defend us, Antinous, as we strive to liberate others; guard and defend us, Antinous, as we await the rising of your star.

Ave, ave, Antinoe!

Haec est unde vita venit!

Hymn IX: To Antinous Dionysus, Liberator

As long as there’s music to dance to, he will come.
As long as there’s a bottle of wine or something else to share, he will come.
As long as lovers slip off and couple even when there’s no place or time for it,
he will come, Antinous Dionysus, Dionysus Lusios, Liberator.
As long as there’s sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, he will come.
As long as people march in peace and break windows in fury, he will come.
As long as people sit home in the darkness, afraid to get up and step out
into the light, he will come, Antinous Dionysus, the breaker, the loosener.
He will come and break the bonds of tyranny and oppression.
He will come and loosen the knots we tie ourselves up in, inside.
He will throw open the windows and doors, turn stairs into ramps,
water into wine, sorrow into joy, depression into weeping,
tears into laughter, He will come, Antinous Dionysus, Lusios,
Liberator, deliverer, he will come, he will come, if we call:
Evohe! Evohe! Evohe!

Hymn II: To Antinous the Liberator

Many are the burdens we bear, and high are the walls
that are built around us; many are the voices we answer
to and the eyes of the judges; many are the wounds
that never healed and the old pains that catch at
the spine, and we lower our eyes to the pavement
and feel that nothing will ever change.

But you, Antinous,
have defeated all the archons, and nothing can withstand
your power. You offer your hand to all those who are bound
up in their own knots; you lift your spear in defense of all
who live under tyranny. Where there is a march for justice,
you march with them; where there is a fire for freedom,
you bear the torch. Where truth is spoken to power,
you stand beside; where the truth of a soul is opened,
you listen in witness. You are the Liberator from all
that oppresses or inhibits; you hunt down the tyrant,
strike open the locks, trample down the doors.

O liberate me, Liberator, from all that oppresses
or inhibits, that I may have the freedom of your friendship
now and forever.

Let it be dark

Thanksgiving has passed, here in the U.S.A.; places of commerce are playing “holiday” music, restaurants and residences alike are beginning to put on evergreens and lights and big bright ornamental bows. As I came back from a quick trip to the supermarket, I saw potted firs with red bows outside a newly opened Indian restaurant, a woman coming outside with yards of green garland gathered in her hand to twine around the wrought-iron railing at her front steps.

And I, despite no longer being a Christian, find myself as curmudgeonly as ever. Hanukkah is not an equivalent to Christmas. Christmas doesn’t begin till sundown on December 24th. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and the feast of St. Andrew, apostle, martyr, patron saint of Scotland. I refuse to be merry or jolly. I refuse to spend money except on what I myself, right now, need.

My childhood church was named after this season of Advent, and we always made a big deal of it. My love of Advent’s hymns, Advent’s Scriptural readings, Advent’s themes has never gone away. My life would certainly be poorer without Isaiah’s poetry, Bach’s “Wachet auf”, the plainsong antiphons that call on the Divine Wisdom who mightily and sweetly ordereth all things. I used to think I was such a stickler for putting off Christmas observances until Christmas proper because of that childhood experience in a liturgically  oriented Christian tradition where Advent meant something. Now, though, I wonder if it’s simply that I love Advent because I love this time of year, as it is, without trying to jolly it up.

Part of me is crying out, Let it be cold. Let it be dark. Let the sunset come early and the temperature fall rapidly as I walk home from work. Let the streets be quiet because people are hurrying home to lighted kitchens, bowls of soup, warm armchairs and cozy beds. Let there be silence; let everyone have time to breathe. Winter is only just beginning; let us pay attention to it, let us not deny it too much.

And another part of me is saying, Let it be dark, let it be silent, lest we forget what the bright lights and jolly songs and admonitions to spend money and have fun are trying to cover up. Let it be dark so that we remember Mike Brown of Ferguson and all the other victims of police brutality, of racism, of our culture’s belief in violence as a solution. Let it be silent so that we can hear the voices that are protesting racism, sexism, capitalism. Let us be cold with those who have no heat in their homes or no homes at all. Let us be silent a little while in honor of those whose voices are silenced and give them a chance to speak. The Advent texts I grew up with protested the exploitation of the poor and the land by the rich; the beautiful, mystical Great O Antiphons enwrap the Magnificat, which calls on God to put down the mighty from their thrones and send the rich empty away.

I just want a little space and time to be quiet, to appreciate the darkness and the crisp night air, to think about the things in my life and in the world that I want to change, to dream through long nights of a better life for myself and for everyone. Yet even pagan voices are telling me don’t worry, spend money, you can achieve whatever you want (as long as you can pay for it). It’s almost enough to make me go back to church so I can hear some words that are truly countercultural.

Then I remember that Antinous the Liberator is still making his long journey through the Underworld, doing battle with the archons that seek to limit our freedom. He will appear at the solstice, crowned with the ivy of Dionysus, and his worshippers will celebrate both the light of his appearing (which is his epiphany and his advent) and the darkness of Night, eldest mother of all gods. Nobody is going to come and save us, to make everything better and clean up the mess we’ve made, but I think both Jesus and Antinous are on our side. They’re standing with the protesters in Ferguson. They are standing close to us in the cold and silent dark.