Neither virgin nor crone but a mature woman
firm breasts that have not suckled
strong arms and strong legs
she runs through the night to meet him
at the crossroads, this place which they share:
Hekate Trioditis, Hekate Enodia,
Hermes Psykhopompos, Hermes Trikephalos
And there they lie down, when the moon is dark,
when the moon is full, Hermes laughing,
eternally youthful, his winged sandals kicked off,
his hat tossed aside, his wand planted in the earth
as he makes the lascivious joke about his other wand
rising up, ready to plant between his lover’s moist thighs
and Hekate eager, biting her lip, raising her skirts
with no fucking patience, no waiting whatsoever
as she rolls him beneath her, her torches to right
and to left, her wet cunt his heaven, his sweet seed
the fountain jetting up, splashing down
and the witches dance and the dogs howl
and the hounds bay and Hekate groans
and Hermes laughs and he rolls her over
and they do it again, and again, and again,
until the sun comes up and Hekate,
laughing under her breath, walks home
with the first rays of sun drying her gown
and Hermes flies away like an arrow
from the string, Zeus’ messenger boy,
and the dogs and the hounds roll over
and go back to sleep, and snore.
Vesta’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….
I’m not feeling terribly eloquent today, but I still want to note two holy days occurring.
First, the birthday of the god Mercury, or Hermes, divine messenger, communicator, interpreter, and mischief-maker of Olympus. Isn’t this picture of him cute? (I’ve posted it before, but I couldn’t resist posting it again.) I think many pagans ought to thank the D’Aulaires for turning us on to the gods of Greece and the North.
It’s also, however, the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Episcopal Church, he may be commemorated on this day as a martyr instead of or in addition to the national holiday celebrating his birth. Michael Harriot has published a bitter but cogent essay on The Root that reminds us that King was not a national hero in his lifetime, but a thorn in the side of a complacent white majority that was quite contented to see him gone.
What do the god and the martyr for justice have in common? Perhaps just this: They both got in there and stirred shit up.
Back in January I wrote about connecting deities with astrology and practicing devotion to deities whose influence might be in my natal chart. While I did write some interesting prayers as part of that experiment, I eventually lost interest in it, mainly because it didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Writing the prayers was illuminating, insofar as it highlighted issues in my own life, my own psyche, but the use of the prayers did not, as far as I can tell, open up any new channels of communication with the deities I was addressing.
I continue to observe festivals, though, and sometime last month, it occurred to me that there is precedent for linking certain deities of the Roman pantheon to the months. Janus and Juno gave their names to January and June; May is named after Maia, the mother of Mercury/Hermes; Venus is associated with April. In the middle of the month, I began a project of cultivating a better relationship with one or two deities per month, starting with Venus.
Opinions differ, I know, on whether the Greek and Roman deities are the same under different names, or wholly different from each other, or some other option. Certainly there are many minor deities exclusive to Greek tradition and others to Roman, but the Romans themselves seemed to think they and the Greeks worshipped the same gods. In the case of Venus, however, I did not feel that I could simply equate her with Aphrodite and approach her on that basis. I get a different vibe from Venus than from Aphrodite, a feeling that is quieter and more contained.
I named Venus in my daily devotions and wrote a number of poems to her, few of which I felt were worth sharing. Much of my attention in April was taken up by a goddess with whom I already had a good relationship, Flora. Everything that blooms in my neighborhood was blooming last month and it was glorious; it wasn’t possible to walk through the park without hailing and praising the Lady of the Flowers. I came out of April with one solid clue to the goddess’ nature and the resolve to seek her favor more thoroughly the next time around.
The clue I received was to identify someone who reminded me of the goddess. It happens to be a fictional character: Sophie Devereaux of Leverage, played by Gina Bellman.
Without going too deeply into the amazing and brilliant television show that is Leverage (and you should all watch it, it’s on Netflix), Sophie is a grifter whose specialty is art theft. Now, I’m not saying that the goddess is a grifter! Sophie is, like all the regular characters of Leverage, extremely good at what she does; she speaks multiple languages, can convincingly fake multiple accents of English, class markers, and ethnic origins, and is highly knowledgeable about art. But her superpower, so to speak, has to do with desire. She is able to become desirable to every man she meets, so desirable he’ll do anything to please her. She is also able to discern what it is that people truly desire; promising it to them is the art of her grift.
It seems to me that desire is of the essence of Venus, not just sexual desire, but all desire. Venus’s power is in the things we want rather than need, which include beauty, pleasure, art, and sex–although getting what one wants is itself a deep human need. It is also important to me that actress Gina Bellman, a beautiful but not pretty woman, was in her forties when she played Sophie Devereaux. I see Venus not as a pretty girl, or even an ageless goddess who looks like a pretty girl, but as a mature woman basking in her own desirability.
For May I turned to Maia and her quicksilver son, Hermes/Mercury. I’m not sure that I feel as much of a gap between the Greek and Latin gods as between Venus and Aphrodite. What I’ve learned so far this month, mentioning the god in my daily devotions, writing poetry for him, and reading Guardian of the Road, an anthology in his honor published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina, is that I already have a relationship with him. It would be impossible for me not to–as a writer, someone who creates with words, as a non-driver who relies on my feet and public transportation to get what I want to go, as someone whose natal Mercury lies close to my natal Sun. Mercury, I think, is one of those gods who is present everywhere, whether or not he is invited, honored, or even acknowledged. That’s what those winged feet are about.
Mercury’s month is not yet over, but I plan to honor Juno in June and then Apollo and perhaps the Muses also in July. Meanwhile, other deities have brought themselves to my attention. The blooming roses made me realize that if Flora is a goddess, surely Rosa is one of her spirits, a nymph or a lar or something, a flower so important in European religious symbolism. The greening of the vacant lots and wooded areas near my workplace, and the entrance of a snake into our warehouse, have alerted me to the presence of Silvanus, guarding the wilderness that underlies and intrudes on my urban environment. I’m also very much aware of working very near to the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and thus near a river deity.
(The snake that snuck into our warehouse got its head stuck on a glue trap for mice. We successfully removed the sticky trap and set the snake loose outside.)
I am finding that actually, to paraphrase Hugh Grant at the end of Love Actually, the gods are everywhere, all around us. We don’t so much have to invoke or invite them as be polite, say hello, and offer them a bite to eat.
O mercenary, mercurial, commercial god,
guard of the grifter, guide of the hacker,
inventor of music who grew bored
with your creation and rustled cattle instead,
to you on your birthday I offer these words
and a steak dinner, hoping they may
leverage for me your favor.
Khaire Hermes! Ave Mercurie!
When I try to explain to people what my religion is, I usually say that Antinous is my primary deity. He is the god to whom I am most devoted; he is the god with whom I have the closest relationship, so far. If I need help, he’s the first god I think of; if I am grateful, he’s the first god I’ll thank.
But he’s not the only god I worship. Polytheism, after all, means “many gods”, and the calendar of the Ekklesia Antinoou includes days in honor of a very large number of Roman gods, many Greek ones, and some Egyptian ones as well.
In my experience, it’s perfectly all right to feel attracted to a deity and approach them with prayers and offerings. I got Antinous’ attention that way (I think–perhaps he was trying to get mine?)
It’s also perfectly all right to make prayers and offerings to a deity just because it’s their feast day. You might not know anything more about them than what’s in a Wikipedia entry, but making a respectful offering can put you into contact with a deity and initiate a relationship with them.
Since observing the Vestalia last year, I have included Vesta in all my formal prayers. I have much affection and respect for her, not only as the power in my stove and the flames of my candles, but as the giver of the electricity that powers my air conditioner, microwave, fridge, and electronic devices. I discovered the beauty and joy of the goddess Flora in her festival; every flower I saw became a sacrament of her presence. In honoring Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian god who was worshipped as husband of Isis in the Hellenistic era, I found a devotion to a father god that I had never had to God the Father.
I kindled a devotion to the goddess Juno when Galina held an agon for the goddess and I decided to submit a poem. I found her to be far more than a caricature of a jealous wife, as Hera often is in classical narratives. Juno is a powerful goddess of the sky, the weather, female power, and feminine sovereignty. As a man has his inner genius, so a woman has her inner juno to inspire, vitalize, and protect.
Lately I am feeling drawn to some deities of Egypt: Thoth and Ma’at. Thoth, like Mercury and Hermes, is associated with language and communication, but also with the moon, mathematics, and magic. Syncretized with Hermes, he appeared as Hermes Trismegistus, founder of the Hermetic tradition. Ma’at is the goddess of truth, right action, ethics, and cosmic order. She is also associated with a magical current in some Thelemic circles.
As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, there is a saying in Faery/Feri tradition that all gods are Feri gods. All gods are Antinoan gods in that devotion to Antinous excludes no other deity–not even Jesus, with whom I seem to be building a working relationship outside of Christian structures that is more personal and intimate than any relationship we’ve had before. In polytheism worship of and even devotion to one particular deity need never exclude respect for or intimacy with another–unless you know from the get-go that the deities in question just can’t stand one another. But that’s another post, someday.
A star shining in a cave
visited by a bolt of lightning
gave birth to an infant thief
who invented an instrument of music
that the bright god of music and poetry,
prophecy and healing, took for his own
and the infant god in his loose diaper
sat down on the highest mountain
in the worlds, heaven-piercing mountain
where the gods live, well pleased
with himself, for the gods laughed
and his mother shone
and he did not know yet
all the dark places
in which he would walk
wings on his heels
hat on his head
caduceus in hand.
Hail Hermes! Hail Mercury! Hail Maia!