A prayer for Rhodophoria



Beautiful Aphrodite, hear me.
Gracious Venus, hear me.
Flora and Rosa, kindliest of nymphs, hear me.
Great Isis, who art all goddesses in yourself, hear me.
Today we come carrying roses for those who died of love.
Not those like Tristan and Isolda, pining for each other
after their adulterous affair was interrupted,
nor those sad women who were killed
by men who claimed to love them,
but wanted rather to possess them.
Today the devotees of Antinous come before your altars
carrying roses for those who died because of
whom they chose to love, and because
they wanted to dance.
They wanted to dance in freedom, in joy, in celebration,
in love, in lust, in the fullness of everything that means
life: And they were shot to death.
Victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting,
may you be remembered:
A rose for Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, 27, and
a rose for Stanley Almodovar III, 23, and
a rose for Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32, and
a rose for Luis Daniel Conde, 39, and
a rose for Juan Pablo Rivera Velazquez, 37, and
a rose for Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40, and
a rose for Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33, and
a rose for Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, and
a rose for Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, and
a rose for Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21, and
a rose for Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49, and
a rose for Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24, and
a rose for Franky Jimmy De Jesús Velazquez, 50, and
a rose for Juan Chavez-Martinez, 25, and
a rose for Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, and
a rose for Antonio Davon Brown, 29, and
a rose for Miguel Angel Honorato, 30, and
a rose for Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25, and
a rose for K.J. Morris, 37, and
a rose for Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, and
a rose for Frankie Hernandez, 27, and
a rose for Akyra Monet Murray, 18, and
a rose for Joel Rayon Paniagua, 31, and
a rose for Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24, and
a rose for Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24, and
a rose for Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25, and
a rose for Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25, and
a rose for Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26, and
a rose for Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22, and
a rose for Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33, and
a rose for Paul Terrell Henry, 41, and
a rose for Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35, and
a rose for Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25, and
a rose for Amanda Alvear, 25, and
a rose for Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30, and
a rose for Angel Luis Candelario-Padro, 28, and
a rose for Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31, and
a rose for Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26, and
a rose for Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19, and
a rose for Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25, and
a rose for Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25, and
a rose for Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, and
a rose for Cory James Connell, 21, and
a rose for Martin Benitez Torres, 33, and
a rose for Luis S. Vielma, 22, and
a rose for Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, and
a rose for Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, and
a rose for Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, and
a rose for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32, and
a rose for every dead lover
who just wanted to dance.


Sacred Nights: Panthea


POEM: The Dark Sister

I do not stand in Her shadow: I am Her Shadow.

She is the throne and I am the house.

She is the giver of life and I am the welcomer of the dead

She is the grieving madonna and I am the hysterical whore

She is piteous and I am maudlin

She is white and gold and rose and blue

I am red and black and red and red and red

Behind Isis, Nephthys. Behind Tara, Vajrayogini.

Behind Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Magdala.

I am red and red and red and red and red.

I am black. I am empty. I am ashes.

I am the cast-off mother of the unacknowledged child

Who will never inherit the throne or call the house his own.

He can only come and go, obedient as a hound,

At his brother’s will. She can only throw off her veil

And dance in the broad daylight, beneath a searing sun,

Because no one dares look at her. I am the dark mother

Of the unremembered daughter, Nebt-Het, Melinoe,

Sara la Kali, red and black and bloody and beautiful.

Honor me, or you have not honored all the goddesses.

Honor me, or the Beautiful Boy is without his bride.

Saturnalia: To the Mothers


Mother is a place to rest, a warmth, a tuneless song.
Mother is a voice that cuts.
Mother is a lady in a blue veil, a blue robe.
Mother is a lady with a baby in her arms.
Mother is a grandmother fixing hot tea and cold cereal on a school morning
Mother is a grandmother putting my clothes near the radiator
Mother is a woman who sleeps late while I rise early
Mother is a woman who smokes and drinks coffee
Mother is a May Day procession dressed in white
Mother is an ivory statue of the Virgin and Child with a Gothic sway
Mother is a possibly heretical vierge ouvrante
Mother is the goddess Isis with baby Horus on her lap
Mother is an icon with stars on the Virgin’s brow and shoulders
Mother is a Middle Eastern woman wrapped in layers of veils and shawls
carrying her child away from danger, shielding it with her body
Mother is my mother’s mother’s mother, who died when I was one
Mother is my mother’s father’s mother, was her name Louisa?
Mother is my father’s mother Grace, his adoptive mother,
and his mother Clara, his birth mother, whose last name was Gunsales
Mother is the woman who bore my husband a child
who bore her second husband a child
Mother is my sister, who bore my niece
Mother is my niece, who has borne a son
Mother is a link in a chain, a cell in the umbilical cord
Mother is the land I walk on, the nourishing earth, the turning planet
Mother is the night sky, spangled with stars
the brightness of the stars
and the darkness between
the beginning
and the end

Sacred Nights: The Panthea

POEM: Looking for the boy

All my life I’ve been looking for the boy
You know the one
That boy
The boy everybody’s looking for
He used to stand around on the streetcorner
when I walked to school
Not being a delinquent
He was just waiting for somebody
All my life I’ve been looking for this boy
It’s the story of my life
It’s the story of every woman’s life
Well, there are women who found each other
That’s different
Isis had Nephthys, Ruth found Naomi
Sometimes in the movies you see women like that
But I always felt it was a boy I was looking for, you know?
The special boy, the one who was different
The one who might be waiting for me
He might be cut into so many pieces
that I could never find them all
He might be cursed to the shape of a beast
and have claws that could never caress
He might be hung on a cross like a wet rag
left to drip out his life breath by breath
He might be transformed into a falcon
or locked in a maze or dressed like a girl
I had to keep looking
He might even be drowned in the Nile one day
one fine day when he thought everything was perfect
and then find himself a god
And then I found him
I found the boy I was looking for
With his head in the stars, his feet in the water,
his hands full of flowers, and he said
You are the woman I’ve been waiting for
You are the goddess I was looking for
You are the one that I hoped would find me



Sacred Nights: Osiris and Antinous

If I could stand on the banks of the Nile,
I would be standing there ten thousand years ago,
standing there in the First Time when the gods
walked the earth, the First Time which is
every moment. Ten thousand years, five
thousand, two thousand… it doesn’t matter.
The Nile flows. The land remembers,
in spite of the dam. The people remember,
despite the change in religion. And
I remember: the gods of my childhood,
the figures and the paintings in the museum,
Osiris of the crossed hands, Isis with her spread wings.


Christo-Pagan? Poly-Christian? or just polytheist?

After writing yesterday’s blog post, I found myself thinking further about my relationship with that statue, with Our Lady (to use her traditional Anglican title), and with the Sisters of Mercy. I grew up in an Episcopal church that had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as part of its high-church identity. We had a Lady Chapel decked in blue; a shrine where you could light candles and pray before a reproduction of one of Raphael’s Madonnas; an annual May Procession where we crowned one of the girls Queen of the May and she presented flowers to our Lady. (No, there was no May King to take her out to the field and deflower her. A lot of girls in my neighborhood got deflowered pretty early anyway.)

When I was seventeen or eighteen, my childhood parish got a new rector, who arrived with a pretty young man in tow and settled him into the rectory with the official explanation that he was a family friend who needed housing while he was in college. I developed a raging crush on the rector, not hindered by the knowledge that he was gay; I also had my first exposure to a sort of Marian devotion peculiar to gay men, especially gay men who are in the closet and believe fondly that other people think them celibate. Our Lady is the perfect mother for the kind of man who shudders in revulsion at the thought of sex with women; she didn’t even have sex in order to bear her son. (I’m sure not all homosexual men feel revulsion toward women, but I’m also quite sure some of them do.)

For all that, I never had much devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary myself, though not for lack of trying. I was certainly interested in her as a substitute for all the goddesses Christianity didn’t have; I didn’t have to read Isis in the Graeco-Roman World more than once to realize how much the Hellenistic Isis had influenced the Theotokos. But I didn’t particularly want a divine mother, or aspire to be a mother. The Virgin Mother hovered just out of reach, two-dimensional, a symbol of what men wanted women to be (and I probably wasn’t going to measure up).

But when I was thirteen, and again when I was fourteen, my father had a heart attack, after which he quit smoking and retired. When I was sixteen, my grandmother died abruptly, on my sixteenth birthday, and in March, my mother had the first of a string of heart attacks that progressively weakened her. A bypass and the replacement of a cardiac valve kept her around for a few more years.

All of these events, along with my sister’s delivery of a daughter, took place at Mercy Hospital, and always, I saw the same statue of Our Lady. I have failed to find a picture of it on the hospital website, alas. Our Lady cradles her swaddled son in one arm and extends her free hand to the world. Her child’s head droops against her bosom as he sleeps; her eyes are lowered to look at him and at you as you look up to her. That statue stood in for the grandmother and mother who were sick in the hospital and not taking care of me. It stood for the smart, kind, progressive, and exceedingly well-educated Sisters of Mercy I met at the Catholic college where I went. It stood for Sr. Thecla, who is memorialized on the hospital website. Sr. Thecla, small, grey-haired, clad in a white nursing habit, seemed to be present and available, miraculously, whenever someone needed her. My mother once joked that she didn’t think Sr. Thecla actually slept, that she just leaned against the nearest wall and closed her eyes for a minute until somebody called her name.

In thirty years, I don’t think I’ve ever walked past that statue without speaking to it, to her, at least to say, “Hi, Mom.” I realize yesterday I’ve been a good pagan with a local cultus; I don’t have a devotion to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, I have a devotion to Our Lady of Mercy, and to that representation of her. That statue is as central to my relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus and the adoptive mom of his followers, as images of Antinous are to my worship of him. I prayed to Our Lady through that statue as confidently as I pray to Antinous in front of the triptych I made in his honor.

There’s an occasional kerfuffle in online pagandom about whether a person can be a Christian Wiccan, a Christian witch, a Christopagan, or the like. Vehement yeses and vehement noes get hurled back and forth. While I can’t speak to issues of Wicca or the Craft generally, it seems to me that if you step outside the Church, outside the lines drawn by Christian theology (lines like monotheism, the Trinity, the Incarnation), Jesus easily takes his place among other gods, bodhisattvas, divinized mortals as an itinerant wisdom teacher and healer who was deified by a sacrificial death and passed on a set of mysteries to his students to guide them through the afterlife. And his mother and notable followers take their places as worthy, powerful ancestors. Jesus snuck back onto my shrines during the elevation work I did for my Aunt Margaret, a lifelong if not very religious Methodist. His mother turns out to have been hiding in my heart all along, under the mantle of a particular local title.
Does worshipping Jesus and his Mother alongside Antinous make me a Christopagan? I don’t think so. It might make me a polytheist Christian, or maybe just a polytheist.

Sacred Nights: Ananke Antinoou 2015

Almost, not quite everything but almost everything that I tried to do today went wrong.

And that is all I have to say on this night when we contemplate the fate of Antinous, the goddess Ananke, and the possibility that shit just happens.

Here, listen to some Hozier.