POEM: To Bona Dea on her feast

O Bona Dea, good goddess,
your name and your secrets have been lost.
Men who were writers speculated,
but women, your worshippers, neither spoke nor wrote.
Were you a chaste virgin goddess
assaulted by reckless Faunus?
Or were you his drunken slut wife,
whipped to death for your vice?
Vestals and matrons, patricians
and slaves and freedwomen, all alike
gathered for your rites, closed the doors,
and said nothing afterward to their men.
Bona Dea, good goddess, I pray you
protect all women, married or unmarried,
rich or poor, lovers of men or women
or both or neither, ignorant or learned,
hale or ill, cis or trans, all women, all of us
alike belonging to you, welcome to you.


To Juturna on the Juturnalia

Ave Juturna!
Kindly and blessed nymph, lady of the fountains,
keep pure for us the sources of our water,
drive away those who would exploit or pollute them,
punish those who have poisoned the wellsprings,
act always in our favor and help us, gracious Juturna.

Lughnasad.. and the livin’ is easy

I celebrated Lughnasad last night with more attention than I’ve paid to a holy day in months. The neglect of holy days wasn’t for theological reasons, but personal ones. I made an effort last night to clear off and wipe clean my table, prepare some food, and make offerings with prayers. I mainly wanted to honor the Gaulish deities Lugus and Rosmerta, but also to make some offerings to all the powers I honor because they’d gotten scant worship from me for a while. I bought some oatmeal stout to stand for the grain harvest, which I split with the deities, and cooked a meal that was seasonally appropriate if not exactly haute cuisine: Oscar Meyer franks with cheese, canned beans, and two ears of fresh corn. At least the corn had to be cooked, and it *is* the chief grain of the Americas.

Every so often I hear that someone has been bashing the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, and I feel my Moon in Libra devil’s advocate impulses rise up to defend it. I think the Wheel works as a basic festival calendar for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with what’s happening in English farming communities or what myths you attach to the festivals.

First of all, the eight holy days correspond to astronomical/astrological events. Half of them are occupied by the solstices and equinoxes, of course, and the other half can be located at the halfway points between those solar events, which is located at fifteen degrees of the fixed signs in classic Western astrology.

Second, they correspond to climatic changes. Imbolc may not look like the beginning of spring in your area, but something happens then. Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, we sometimes have flowers at Imbolc, snowdrop and crocus, but even if we’re knee-deep in snow, the change in light signals the local birds to think about pairing off for the breeding season. (In other words, Chaucer was right: Birds do choose their mates on Valentine’s Day.)

Third, each one is at the center of a cluster of festivals from all across Europe and around the world. In the Ekklesia Antinoou, we observe the spring equinox as the apotheosis of Diva Sabina, the wife of Hadrian. At the summer solstice, we celebrate the syncretism of Antinous with Apollon. The Mysteries at Eleusis, in which both Hadrian and Antinous were initiated, falls near the autumnal equinox, and the Saturnalia at the winter solstice.

Every six weeks or so, the Wheel of the Year gives us a chance to tune in to the world around us and to take a break to celebrate and reflect. Whether or not you have a particular mythic cycle to commemorate, you might find something in your life, your world, that’s worth your attention at those eight times. And you’re not obliged to limit yourself to those occasions, either. As a worshipper of Antinous and (mostly) of the gods of Rome, I have a large number of other festivals I can observe throughout the year, some based on history, some dedicated to particular deities, some celebrations of agricultural life in ancient Italy. I don’t give equal attention to everything, but it makes a nice change from watching tv.

Why would anyone complain about a reason to celebrate?

Days, moons, seasons

Google Docs is my friend and I do a lot of my writing there. Microsoft Office and its variations are something I only use at work, when I must. Blog posts, poems, stories, journal entries all get dumped into Google documents; e-books in PDF get saved there, and Google uploads your photos there now, too.

In my Google Docs I have a file headed “Personal Sacred Calendar”. It consists of a table with three columns. The first column is headed “Seasons”. It lists my associations for the eight holy days of the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, along with their dates. The second column is headed “Moons”. It contains dates and keywords for both Western astrology, the full moon in each sign and the sun in the opposing sign, and for a sort of terrestrial lunar calendar that mixes the Song of Amergin and the Ogham calendar. I first saw the Song of Amergin treated as a calendar, using the original order of the lines and not the Graves recension, in the late Alexei Kondratiev’s excellent book Celtic Rituals, back when it was first published and more poetically titled The Apple Branch.

The third column is headed “Days”. It lists all the individual holy days I observe, and there are a lot of them. There are eight holy seasons and twelve or thirteen moons, but dozens of holy days, at least. Many of them are in honor of saints or sancti, spiritual ancestors and biological ones as well. The Ekklesia Antinoi honors quite a few sancti; I still honor a number of Christian saints–today, in fact, is the feast of Columba of Iona–and then there’s my grandmother, my great-aunt, my father and my father-in-law. I also include some folks like Victor and Cora Anderson; I have no Faery lineage or training, but they trained Starhawk and Thorn Coyle, whose books have been important to me. I have inherited something of value from them, albeit at a remove, and feel that I owe them respect for that.

The Ekklesia Antinoi observes *a lot* of holy days. They include traditional holy days of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian religion, such as the Vestalia today, the Boukoklepteia for Hermes, a festival for Bes of Egypt, and also days specific to the mortal and immortal life of Antinous, along with significant days in the reign of Hadrian and his Imperial connections. It would not be difficult to fill in around the days already covered by something and have at least one commemoration every day of the year. That may not-so-secretly be the goal of our Magistratum and Sacerdos PSVL.

When I started to practice devotion to Antinous, I resolved that I would simply observe the festivals of the calendar, if and when I could, as much as possible. If I didn’t observe something in my first year, maybe I would make a connection with it next year. My celebrations rarely rise to the level of ritual; I reserve that for the really big, Antinous-specific days. Usually I do some combination of the following: Read about the festival, write about the festival, make some offerings or extra offerings, and say some prayers, of my own or others’ composition. Earlier today I reblogged a prayer to Vesta that I wrote for the festival last year and posted at my druid blog. This year I am resolved to thoroughly clean my stove during the festival; fortunately, it lasts until the 15th, so I have a good window of opportunity.

From everything I’ve read, while it may seem to us that our ancestors worked much harder than we do, they had a great many more days off, usually of religious significance. In the midst of lives that lacked many of our benefits of travel, communication, and medicine, they still celebrated a good deal, giving thanks, asking for further help, and taking the gods’ presence as a good excuse to party. And so I say, gimme that old time religion, and pass the wine.

To Flora on the Floralia


Flora, Flora, Flora!
It is your festival because the flowers are blooming!
Flora, Flora, Flora!
Goddess of flowers, of pleasure and joy!
I say your name to every flower I see:
Flora to the tulip, red and white, cream and yellow,
Flora to the dogwood, pink or white,
Flora to the cherry blossoms, to the grape hyacinth,
Flora to the violets sprouting in the cracks of the church steps,
Flora to the daffodil, fading away, to the orchid in my kitchen,
Flora to the roses that are soon to come.
Where the grass is lush, Flora,
Where the flowers bloom, Flora,
Where the birds do their mating dances,
Flora, I see your joy and rejoice and praise you.