A world full of gods

20180308_101622Vesta’s fire burns on my stove and in the candles on my shrine. She consumes the incense I kindle and crackles through wires as electricity to power lamps, laptops, and everything else.

Apollo gives music, healing, poetry, prophecy, all of which I need. He and Diana shed light by day and by night. Venus and her court bless me with birds and flowers as well as love and desire. Mercury blesses writers as well as merchants and thieves, protects me when I catch public transit or walk across the freight train tracks.

Who better than Minerva to help a single woman further her career, especially in an intellectual field? To whom shall I appeal for just government if not Jupiter, king of the gods? Mars is a protector of boundaries and of the fields we cultivate, not merely a god of war. Juno’s image burns within me, my sacred female sovereignty.

The blessings of Ceres put food on my table. Bacchus entertains me not merely in every glass of wine but in every movie and television show, transforming reality and slipping me meaning and wisdom along with pleasure and diversion. Neptune and Portunus are needed to bless our rivers and our harbor, a center of tourism and of trade. Without Vulcan, would I have a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone? I’m not an artificer, but I need the products of craft and manufacture. With Janus at the door, I sleep safely at night.

Antinous, my beloved boy, god of my heart, carries the gifts of Apollo, Dionysus, and Hermes, as well as of Osiris, and opens the door to all the gods. He is the center around which my sense of the numinous is organized, the heart of the mandala.

There is no god that is not part of my life. They are everywhere. I may not go into the wilderness, but I know that Diana and Faunus are there, just as Mercury and Apollo, Minerva and Venus are not far away in the city. Even a vacant lot overgrown with weeds can be a glimpse of Faunus; Diana’s deer are hiding in patches of woods just off the light rail’s route. Flora blesses the carefully tended yards and gardens no matter how run-down a neighborhood may be.

Other gods are no less real for my not worshipping them. They, too, are present even if I don’t notice them.  It doesn’t seem like mysticism, or magic, or anything but reality. The gods and my relationships with them are woven through my life, my ordinary life. I pay attention to them, and they pay attention to me. Their reality affirms my reality; their sacredness affirms my sacredness. After all, some gods become humans, and a good many humans have become gods….

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Saturnalia (belatedly)

On the first day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

A golden acorn for the golden age.

 

On the second day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

A bale of hay in honor of Epona

And a golden acorn for the golden age.

 

On the third day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

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.

 

On the fourth day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

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.

 

On the fifth day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

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.

 

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.

 

On the seventh day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

Sweet beeswax candles for the Sigillaria,

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.

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Antinous Epiphanes

On the fifth day of Saturnalia I gave to all my friends

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.

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To Antinous Dionysus

Come, Antinous Dionysus! Antinous Epiphanes, come!

Come crowned with ivy and bring surcease of sorrow.

Come shaking and stamping your thyrsus and bring the joy of dance.

Come with amphorai of wine, with sweet grapes sprouting

from your wild curls, and bring laughter, intoxication, and release into sleep.

Come let us see you, let us hear you, be near you,

let us get close enough to touch you, embrace you and kiss you,

taste the wine of your mouth and smell the perfume of your hair.

O Antinous Dionysus, you may be kindly, you may be cruel,

you may be severe, you may be mirthful, but what you never are

is distant, and in your intimate closeness is my ecstasy.

POEM: A hymn for the winter solstice

The longest night, the shortest day
Each year it comes and goes its way
The bleak midwinter blest with feasts
To joy the greatest and the least

The newborn light becomes a boy
His mother’s pride, the whole world’s joy
The gods immortal come to earth
In mortal flesh for mortal mirth

Here Jesus sleeps with ox and ass
As one by one the shepherds pass
To worship him the angels sang
On whom the coming centuries hang

Antinous puts on the crown
That Dionysus handed down
Of ivy, grape, and fragrant pine
And bids us to the feast with wine

While Hercules, the victor strong,
Cries, “Io, Io!” with the throng
And Angerona has the right
To keep us silent for a night

So let us keep our flames alight
Through shortest day and longest night
And hold each other, heart and hand,
Till spring spreads forth throughout the land.

Hymn to Dionysus VI: Mirror

I am afraid of you, Dionysus, for I am afraid of myself.
I am afraid of your anger, for I myself am deeply angry.
I am afraid of your lust, for my own lust seems boundless.
I am afraid of your masks, for I hide my own truth constantly.
I am afraid of your wine, for it blurs my anxious mind.
I am afraid of your chains, for when you break them, you destroy,
and I have wanted to destroy and clutched my chains instead.
I am afraid of your freedom, for what will I do if I am free?
I am afraid of your love, for you loved both Pentheus and Ariadne.
Yet if I love a god, how can I empty that vessel?
Can my thirst be too great for you, Dionysus?
You only smile and offer me the cup.

Hymn to Dionysus V: Not a tame lion

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Ben Whishaw as Dionysus in the Almeida production of The Bakkhai, 2015

He comes from somewhere else, at a time when he is unlooked-for.
He doesn’t wear the right clothes; his hair is too long or too short,
his walk is too butch or too femme. Women love him, but men
know better than to trust him; women crowd around him, but
right-thinking men back away. He smells of women’s perfume
and new leather and animal fur. He takes drugs and sings
lewd songs and women are always at his feet. He has no
permanent address, no stable job, no steady girlfriend.
He carries a club, or is that a parasol, or is it a stage prop,
or is it a weapon? He smiles too much; he doesn’t smile enough;
he doesn’t make sense, isn’t predictable, why won’t he follow
the rules? Rules keep us safe, and you are whatever makes us
feel unsafe, God of Nysa, stranger from far away. You are
sex to the prude, violence to the upright, drugs to the sober,
dance to the rigid, theatre to the boss man, religion to the atheist.
Yet you are also chastity, gentleness, mindfulness, stillness,
silence, and the closed mouth that has tasted the Mysteries.
Bull-horned, bull-footed, complicated god, no one is safe from you.

Hymn to Dionysus IV: Thyrsos

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Take a stalk of fennel, tall enough to bear with pride.
Wind it about in one direction with ivy, ever green.
Wind it about in the other direction with grapevines,
which stiffen as they dry.
Crown it with a pine cone, bristling with hidden seeds.
Adorn it with ribbons, splash it with wine,
honor it with kisses, water it with tears or blood or come.
Carry it, wave it, shake it for attention,
lean on it when weary, pray to it when alone.
Sleep with it beside the bed, near to hand.
Watch it grow in your dreams; see it cast its shadow
over your life, spread its roots into every place.
Find the god waiting there, by his sacred tree,
the thyrsos: Dionysus, Bakkhos, Liber, euoi, euoi!