Antinous for Everybody

Archive for the tag “jesus”

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.

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The purple umbrella

I made it to church this morning for the first time in a few weeks. The opening hymn was Our Great Denominational Fight Song: “The Church’s One Foundation”. (That’s the Episcopalian fight song. If you’re Lutheran, it is, of course, “Ein’ Feste Burg”; if you’re Roman Catholic, I believe it is “Tantum Ergo”.) The closing hymn was its close cousin, “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation,” sung to the great tune by Henry Purcell known as “Westminster Abbey”.

In between, the interim rector preached well on the readings, touching on the shooting at the Pulse nightclub and the responses to it that she saw online. The Old Testament reading, which struck me most, was the mystical and almost spooky story of Elijah being taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by horses and chariots made of flame. Elisha picks up his mentor’s fallen mantle and lashes the water of the Jordan, saying, “Where is the God of Elijah?” The water parts for him and he crosses the river dry-shod.

However, when the rector, who happens to be a woman, began talking about living in such a way that we put others first instead of ourselves, I stopped thinking about the mysticism of the Chariot or the determination of Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, “setting his face toward Jerusalem” and letting nothing stop on his journey to confront the powers that be and started thinking, “No.” Because honestly, calls to put others before myself are *not* what I need. Calls to prioritize God, our neighbor, our family, our spouses, our children, the telemarketer, the boss–everyone and anyone before ourselves are not what many women need. As far as I can see, putting others first is something men in our culture may need to practice, but not women.

After communion, we sang a hymn of unknown provenance that had a tune somewhat like a Broadway ballad and a text that was, shall we say, a little too on the nose. ” Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name?” Will you do all these self-sacrificing things for other people, in my name, if I call on you to do so? The truth is that my answer is No. I honor Jesus as a wisdom teacher, a healer, a deified mortal, and a savior who provides a place in the afterlife for those who follow him, but I realized at some point that I could not be his disciple. I could not live by the values he proposed, nor did I want to. If I use up my energies putting others first by service or volunteering or political action or whatever, in Christ’s name, by all the good works the Church has proposed over the centuries, I won’t have any energy left to do what I have always believed to be my actual work, my calling: Writing, singing, creating liturgy.

That said, I will continue to attend this Episcopal church, because I feel a real sense of community with the people there. I am probably going to train as a chalicist once again, authorized to administer the cup of wine at the Eucharist, and I’d like very much to have a full-time position with the choir come fall. I’m a good singer; the repertoire that I sing best happens to be church music, go figure. I also had a strong sense this morning that Antinous had come to church with me; that it was not inappropriate for a god, especially one who is also a hero and a daimon, to worship another god. I don’t have to leave Antinous behind in order to participate in this community.

On my way out of church, I snagged a couple of cookies and looked over the bins that had been set out with items from the church’s lost and found. To my amazement, I spotted a purple folding umbrella that I recognized. It’s been missing for two or three years. Now I have my purple umbrella again.

POEM: On giving roses as offerings

O Dea Rosa, you are the sacrificial daughter,
your bodies cut down and offered up
on the altars of Venus, of Jesus,
of Mother Mary. Your petals were torn
and scattered like the spread limbs
of the crucified Jesus by the dying
Little Flower, roses in her arms
and blood on her hands where
your thorns had pricked her, blood
on her handkerchief where she coughed
out her suffering. You beautify the coffins
of our dead and atone for the sins
of rich husbands, together with
the brilliant tears of Tellus Mater,
diamonds hard as an adulterer’s heart,
and the sparkling blood of grapes
gathered in champlains of Gaul.
I place on my shrine, lascivious virgin,
your body of red petals green leaves
and pricked stem and think of defiled
daughters and broken women
and holy mysteries.

POEM: Resurrection part two

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
and his name is Jesus, sprouting up as wheat
to be baked into bread and grapes to be crushed
into wine under the feet of the Magdalene harlot.
Now the green blade riseth, and it is Adonis,
a salad shared equally between Proserpina
and Venus, seasoned with olive oil and
the vinegar of women’s tears. It is a tall
strange hatchet-faced man named Lincoln
whose death bred lilacs out of the dead land,
an uncrowned sacred king, his mad wife
trailing petals in his wake. How can I be happy
when all these gay flowers are dead men
rising up, testimony to those dead too soon?
But they are so beautiful, Flora whispers,
and hands me a bouquet of roses thick with thorns.

Poem: Resurrection

I am thinking about dead boys this time of year,
how the earth softens and little pieces of them rise up,
fingers and toes, hairs and phalluses,
the curl of the hyacinth petal, the thrust of the crocus,
the daffodil nodding to itself, the rampant white lilies.
Hyacinth and Narcissus, Attis and Crocus,
Jesus, too, though he was a man grown,
bits and pieces of bread and wine,
the monstrous white lilies brought from the hothouse
to choke church choirs with their pollen.
The fathers beat their breasts and the women keen,
wailing and moaning, tearing their hair,
walking up and down and watering the greedy earth
with tears, saying those names: Attis, Adonis,
Hyacinth, Crocus, Jesus, Trayvon, Michael, Tamir,
Narcissus, Eric, all those boys ploughed under.
But they come up again, they come shooting up,
as the sun rises higher and the women hoe the rows,
and Antinous, that beautiful boy, who killed the boar
that hunted him, comes with his spear and holds out
a hand, rise up, Attis, brother, rise up, Adonis, come on,
Hyacinth and Crocus, Trayvon and Tamir, take my hand,
get up, here’s Jesus, here we are, get up, boys,
it’s time to rise up, they’re waiting for us.

A few words of wisdom, not my own

For me being a polytheist doesn’t just mean that I affirm and worship many gods. It also means that I allow and affirm many different paths and traditions; other people don’t have to do things My Way. And it means that there’s no one source of wisdom; I don’t have Scripture or a body of Lore. All literature might be scripture for me, sacred text; so might movies, songs, a television show.

So tonight I feel moved to paraphrase one of the teachings of a deified radical Palestinian preacher and healer who was executed for terrorism:

“Love your gods with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength–but don’t forget to love yourself and your fellow mortals, too.”

“Poly” means “many”

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 pagan’s prayer to Jesus on Easter

Lord Jesus, Risen One, who willingly suffered an unjust death and arose justified and glorified: By the power of your resurrection, liberate and inspire your people to live fully and freely by your teachings, for you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

An Antinoan in Lent

Last Saturday I was barely aware that Lent was about to start on Wednesday the 18th. I was quite prepared to ignore the whole season as simply irrelevant to a pagan polytheist devoted to Antinous. Then I was nudged gently into awareness of the observance and into looking again at Jesus.

First of all, Lent makes more sense when I look at it from a pagan perspective. Many cultures, European and other, observed and still observe rites of cleansing and purification around this time of year. The beginning days of Lent frequently overlap with the lunar New Year celebrated in Asian cultures and with the ancient Roman Lupercalia and honoring of Juno Februa the purifier. Years ago, when I worked at a Catholic-owned bookstore in my twenties, I read an essay in an annual sourcebook for Roman Catholic liturgy that explained both Catholic folk customs and liturgies *and* the neopagan Wheel of the Year. In November you bring home your cattle and slaughter all the livestock you cannot afford to feed through the winter. In November and December and into early January, you eat well on the harvest of the preceding summer and fall. By February, however, those food supplies are running out, but you have milk, butter, and cheese because the ewes have given birth. Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Carnevale are a last hurrah that uses up the old food stores, and then you fast in Lent because you are waiting for new food supplies: Lamb, salads from early greens, seafood from thawing waters, eggs now that the increased light has caused the chickens to lay again. All of those foods are ready to consume by Easter, which is linked to the spring equinox.

Industrial agriculture has rendered that cycle unnecessary, but Catholic and Orthodox Christian customs still hew close to the old agrarian patterns, unlike Protestantism. The old customs make sense if you look at them from a pagan point of view.

I’m not planning on fasting, though….

Not only does Lent make more sense to me as a pagan and polytheist, but so does Jesus. Once I stepped outside the boxes of the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian definitions, and all those other official fourth-century pronouncements, I found I could look directly at Jesus as an itinerant wisdom teacher, charismatic healer, prophet-as-social-critic, and inspired holy man who could be as disruptive yet auspicious as Dionysus. Once I dropped the official, institutional teachings about Jesus, I was free to look afresh at what Jesus actually taught, and to look at unofficial sources like Gnostic literature (the Gospels of Thomas and of Philip, for example). The unofficial Jesus, the Dionysian sage who becomes a god through his willingly accepted execution as an enemy of the state, is far more interesting than the official Jesus, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made–sorry, I learned the Nicene Creed in the Tudor English version.

Christ of the Desert by Robert Lentz, OFM

Perpetua & Felicity by Robert Lentz, OFM

So in an observance (sort of) of Lent, I have added the icons of Christ of the Desert and early Christian martyrs Perpetua and Felicity to the ancestor side of my altar. Perpetua and Felicity are honored as Sanctae in the Ekklesia Antinoou, anyway, and I have honored them during Lent for a good many years; their feast day is March 7th. Christ of the Desert is an icon that depicts Jesus as a Semitic-looking man, dressed in the white wool robes often worn by holy men in Middle Eastern cultures; for me it focuses attention on Jesus’ life rather than his death or apotheosis, on his teachings, and on his cultural and historical context.

I’ve also begun re-reading some of the key Jesus texts, starting with the Gospel of Thomas, the most famous of the so-called “Gnostic Gospels”. (I am going to leave out all the scholarly arguments over what “Gnostic” really means, whether Thomas is really Gnostic, how old the text is, etc., etc., etc.) At the same time, however, I was nudged to pick up The Lunar Tao by Deng Ming-Dao, a book of daily readings that comes out of traditional Chinese culture. In concert with that, I’m reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s rendition of the Tao Te Ching. It’s worth remembering that LeGuin, who has made such a huge contribution to science fiction, fantasy, women’s writing, and American literature generally, has been a Taoist for most or all of her adult life. I know from her own writings that she has a regular practice of t’ai chi, that she regards the Tao Te Ching as her primary spiritual wisdom text, and that her values have been shaped by her study of Chinese and Taoist traditions.

May this time of cleansing and purification be easy and fruitful for all who observe it, and may all my readers in the frozen parts of the United States stay safe and warm!

Sun gods and pious polytheism

Yesterday I went with my ex-husband and his wife to the Episcopal church where he is presently the organist. They have a Christmas morning service in which the sermon is replaced by a carol-sing (a thing which ought to happen more often, if you ask me). The church is a fairly typical Episcopal parish of the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast: Contemporary language in liturgy, progressive theology and politics, a decent balance between good ritual and social outreach. I enjoyed singing the familiar carols, even though my voice is woefully rusty and I stumble over the changes made to texts for the sake of current theology (“pleased as man with man to dwell”, please, not “pleased as man with us to dwell”).

PSVL said to me a while back, before I had made the decision to go polytheist, or realized I already was, that Jesus and Antinous have been friends for a long time. Lately, after more than six months away from any Christian liturgy or devotion, I have been looking at my relationships to Jesus and to the Anglican tradition and coming to see that while I have respect but no devotion for Jesus, I have an aesthetic love for the tradition and genuine devotion to my ancestors within it–a lineage of saints, poets, preachers, musicians, and mystics mostly congregated within the British isles. And so I put an icon of the Virgin and Child on my shrine, went to church with my family, said the prayers, sang the hymns, and received Communion, with a clear conscience.

One thing I did not do, however, was to recite the Creed. That is where I draw the line. From a Christian perspective, I do not believe the propositions of the Nicene Creed, and I will no longer recite it and commit myself to it. On the other hand, from a polytheist perspective, it doesn’t matter what I believe. I was in the sanctuary of a god, one whom I used to worship exclusively, and therefore I did the things one does in the presence of that god, as I was taught to do as a child, and without offending the customs of that congregation. Then, like a good Episcopalian, I went to brunch after the service, to which I was treated as a Christmas gift.

This evening my shrine is alight with candles, fragrant with incense, and laden with offerings of drink and sweets. The icons of Mother and Child and of Julian of Norwich remain enshrined; the former will probably stay out for the twelve days, while Julian is always with me. I feel at peace and a little bit hungry. I wish a joyous celebration of the feasts of midwinter to all.

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