Antinous for Everybody

I worship a dead gay teenager and you can too

Archive for the tag “personal”

Chop wood, carry water, take your meds

What do you do after you have a major initiation, a life-changing mystical magical religious experience, a direct encounter with the gods?What do you do after you have a major initiation, a life-changing mystical magical religious experience, a direct encounter with the gods? If you’ve read this post’s title, well, you already know. That’s the received wisdom, isn’t it? You experience enlightenment and then go back to everyday life, and then everyday life is wonderful, looked at through the lens of enlightenment.

Well, not so much. “Chop wood, carry water” is a simplification, maybe even a bowdlerization of Zen, which is a form of Buddhism, which is… actually not my religion. Although I did take refuge and bodhicitta vows in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition and do not regret it. But one of the things I believe as a polytheist is that there’s more than one spiritual goal, as well as more than one deity and more than one afterlife. Not everybody is pursuing enlightenment, nirvana, buddhahood.

What I wanted to do after my initiation into the Mysteries of Antinous the Liberator was leave my job, move to Seattle, and devote a considerable amount of time to doing ritual and magical work with my fellow mystai Jay and Otter in the service of Antinous. What I actually did was get threatened with the loss of my apartment, celebrate Saturnalia and Christmas, become even more bored with my job than previously, and spend the first two weeks of the new year nursing a sinus infection during some of the coldest weather of the winter.

In the middle of January I turned fifty-two and took a good hard look around my life. I thought about famous people we had lost in the early months of past years–David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Nimoy. Seeing the new Star Wars movie, Carrie Fisher’s last, made me miss her all over again. Now we’ve lost Ursula Le Guin, and I have no fitting words with which to mourn her. I saw a post on Tumblr where someone said it was like we were all mourning our grandmother, and that resonated with me. For Ursula Le Guin to be gone is like losing your grandmother, like waking up one morning and seeing that a tree or a mountain that dominated the landscape all your life is now gone, extracted, with no explanation, no replacement. Her fiction and essays are part of the landscape of my mind and will remain so; for me and for many, she is a spiritual ancestor now.

I still want to move to Seattle, find a sustainable day job, and do ritual and magical work with my friends in the service of Antinous and Melinoe. I’m still pretty sure my gods want me to do this. But the conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m not ready to make that jump. My physical and mental health are not up to the task; I need more therapy and better pills, more exercise and better diet. It might be necessary for me to make some smaller jumps first, into a better job, a better apartment or other living situation, before I can relocate all the way across the country.

It’s not going to be an easy year, I think–for any of us. As Billie Holliday famously sang, “Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose.” But I’m not without hope–The Last Jedi reminded me of that–and I haven’t given up on my goals. I’ve seen the Mysteries and I know that my gods are on my side. In the meantime, chop wood, carry water, take my meds, do my devotions, and make ruthless self-care my keynote for 2018. May we all carry on and carry through.


In the world but not of it

I don’t talk about politics much. It’s not interesting to me as a topic, unlike religion, or space exploration, or birds. That doesn’t meant it’s not important to me, however. After yesterday’s election here in the United States, I am dismayed, I am angry, and I am afraid, not so much for myself as for friends who are more obviously not the white cis hetero norm than I am.

What has dominated my thoughts this morning, oddly enough, is a phrase from my Christian background, the phrase I chose for my title: In the world but not of it. By “the world” Christian theology properly means not nature, the created world, the cosmos, but the human-created world, society and its distorted values. Early Christians lived in a society that cherished very different values from their own, so much so that they were identified as atheists, dissidents, terrorists. A good deal of the ethical teaching in Paul’s letters is his reminding his audience of that, mixed with a certain amount of respectability politics.

The first two or three generations of Christians refused to identify themselves as Jews or Gentiles, slaves or masters, citizens or subjects of Rome. They called themselves citizens of that kingdom of heaven that Jesus had said was within each person; they imagined a new Jerusalem, a perfect city, an ideal community where their values were the norm.

That’s how I’m feeling this morning. I am in this nation, but not of it. I do not belong here. My black friends, my gay and lesbian friends, my queer and trans friends, my Jewish and polytheist and pagan friends don’t belong here. That’s what the election results say to me. Never mind that the very real problems of our country were caused not by any of them, not by Mexicans or Muslims, but by rich and still greedy white men like the one who was just elected, men who have nothing but contempt for women, for people of color, for people without wealth. We are in this nation, but not of it; our true citizenship is somewhere else, someplace we imagined was implied in the founding documents of the United States, however little the Founding Fathers may have realized it. Perhaps someday we can build our city here; I have not entirely given up hope.

In the meantime, I see my job as a writer as imagining alternatives. Other people can write the dystopias that now look like prophecies; my work will continue to celebrate possibilities. I’m calling my new Jerusalem, my kingdom of heaven, my true citizenship, Antinoopolis, the city that Hadrian built at the place where Antinous’ body was found. I am no longer pledging my allegiance to a divided nation where liberty and justice are available only to those who have the right gender, the right color of skin, and the requisite bank balance. I pledge my allegiance to Antinous and to the city where he is worshipped, a city open to all races, colors, creeds, genders, and sexualities where love, friendship, wisdom, and creative endeavor are cherished.

I’m gonna be honest with y’all

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a difficult year for all of us. The deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman introduced a year where we have lost many brilliantly creative people, most recently Gene Wilder. The U.S. Presidential election campaign has descended to new lows of absurdity and mendacity. Police officers continue to shoot down black citizens as if they were rabid animals visibly frothing at the mouth, and rapists walk free while athletes are condemned for using their First Amendment right to criticize our nation. Meanwhile, extreme heat waves linger in some parts of the U.S., unseasonably cool temperatures reign elsewhere, and Louisiana is flooding catastrophically without even the benefit of a hurricane as the cause. I haven’t heard anything strikingly positive coming out of other nations, either.

In the midst of all that, it seems petty to complain about my own problems, but they are problems and they’re mine, so here goes. I live in a part of the U.S. that’s heatwave territory right now, and I loathe summer. Simply loathe it. Summer is not picnics and parties and pools and vacation; it’s waiting five days a week at a bus stop that has not the slightest scrap of shelter from the sun, in a neighborhood which stinks of garbage most days, to get home and hide in my air-conditioned apartment until necessity forces me to leave it again.

I turn to the internet for distraction or consolation, and I’m bombarded with the news, racism sexism misogyny war climate disaster Trump Crooked Hillary outrage. A black actress is attacked in social media for doing a good job in a film or perhaps for just existing as black and female. An actor I follow on Twitter explodes with rage when he condemns Colin Kaepernick and his fans call him out. Another entertainer, creator, giver dies and their unique light is extinguished. Popular media gives with one hand and takes away with the other when it comes to representation of people who aren’t white, cisgender, and heterosexual.

So I turn to my religion, to fellow polytheists, to those who believe in and honor and cultivate relationships with the gods. Only to find racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia proudly proclaimed as core principles of some groups. To see people obsessing about “purity” and anxiously narrowing the circle of beliefs and practices and *people* that are acceptably pure to the gods. To find people being stridently certain that they know what The Gods want, even those with whom they have no relationship, and that one thing The Gods want is for their self-appointed representatives to tell everyone else what to do. To find politics defined as religion, religion defined as politics, lefties and rightists both proclaiming that the other side wants them silenced and possibly shot, and the whole thing looking weirdly like fandom on a bad day.

Dear readers, I have never come closer in my life to simply giving up on religion and walking away. No more of this. No more theological arguments. No more daily devotions that might or might not be appropriate. No more winding myself up reading angry blog posts when I could be looking at bird pictures, playing tablet games, or watching videos. No more trying to process through my rage and disappointment so that I can write something suitably devotional, because some people are brilliantly inspired to create by anger, but I am not one of them. Anger makes me silent and withdrawn, and I have been hurt and angry for months now.

All of these things are my issues and not yours, gentle reader. I just want to give you a glimpse of what is happening here, the effect that the online polytheist community or aggregation is having on one individual. I came close to giving up religion the way an addict gives up a drug, as something that can only make my life worse. The reason I didn’t, I haven’t, is not any one person, not any blogger, not even my fellow devotees of Antinous, though I am deeply grateful for their existence and their friendship.

It is simply the gods themselves. I can’t dismiss them. I can’t not believe in them. I can’t ignore them, because they are so simply, uncomplicatedly present. And they are more compassionate, more forebearing, more tolerant, more patient than most mortals. Perhaps, to paraphrase the Hebrew Psalmist, the gods know that we are only human, only mortal, that our best efforts as well as our worst mistakes are only temporary because our lives do not last very long.

And yet, the gods remain interested in and engaged with us. Why? As I’ve said before, my core belief is that it’s because, fragile and fallible though we are, we can be the raw material for more gods. For the promise of that, and for the rewards right here and now of association with the gods, I’m sticking around. I’m not sure if that means putting the gods first or putting myself first, but it’s where I stand.

Not exactly a voice in the wilderness

I don’t really like December. Long-time readers of my blogging, not just here but at Confessions of an Urban Druid and elsewhere, may recall how often I complain about premature Christmas decorations, forced jollity, and the general orgy of consumerism which has never lessened though A Charlie Brown Christmas is dutifully aired every year. Another reason I don’t like December is that it’s usually a poor season for me as far as writing goes. Inspiration and energy tend to dry up and don’t quicken again until January or sometimes February. I find that the dark moon in Aquarius, the time of the Chinese lunar new year, is often when my writing begins to flow again; at that time, sun and moon conjoin in my first house and inaugurate a personal new year.

On top of the usual doldrums, I’ve had my ex-husband’s shocking cancer diagnosis, then the confirmation that I myself have Type 2 diabetes. It’s fairly mild, manageable with careful carb counting, but it was something of a sucker punch, coming as it did right after the cancer news. Just this morning, at work, a co-worker had a mild seizure and was taken to the hospital; the most concerning aspect of that is that it has happened before, just this past summer.

All that I’ve been able to produce are a few prayers for my private use and a lot of complaining. Hence my relative absence from the blogosphere.

Today, however, I come as a messenger with tidings of good news. The Ekklesia Antinoou, having duly voted to change its administration from a single Magistrate to a council of three, voted for me as one of the first three Council Magistrates. Readers of the Aedicula Antinoi will probably recognize the names of Sr. Krissy Fiction of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence and Duffi McDermott, who are my co-magistrates. The election results were confirmed by divination, and I am both honored and humbled to go forth with the blessing of Antinous, Hadrian, and their associated deities.

I am proud to announce that the new Council has already accomplished its first task: Creating a website to serve as a portal to the theory and practice of the Ekklesia Antinoou and its approach to Antinoan devotion. I invite you to visit Naos Antinoou: An Online Temple of Antinous. PSVL has already cross-posted eir excellent essay on the history and nature of the Ekklesia, and we plan to feature more of eir work as Doctor and Mystagogue of the Ekklesia along with contributions from several other writers. Our intention is to offer rituals, prayers, an easily accessible sacred calendar, and other resources to make both getting started and keeping going in our tradition easier. Watch that space!

And watch this space! Regarding my new short story, “A leisurely cruise through the stars,” I’ve decided to return to my original inspiration and write the story during the season of Antinous the Navigator, which begins with the appearance of his star on January 29th. If the gods grant me the words, I will post each segment as it is written, as I did with “A distinguished visitor from the north”.

In conclusion, I wish my readers a joyous Saturnalia, a good Yule, a blessed Alban Arthan, a merry Christmas, and all other possible felicitations of the winter solstice season.

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.

Three Hail Marys to Our Lady of Mercy

A couple of days ago, I had my annual physical. Everything we checked in the office looked good–blood pressure, pulse, heart, lungs–and my doctor ordered a slate of bloodwork for me, to be done fasting. So this morning, I got up early-ish and caught the bus down to the Catholic hospital that houses both my doctor’s office and the blood lab and rolled into a very empty lab at nine a.m. I was out again ten minutes later, with the usual cotton ball taped to my arm over the needle puncture.

On my way down to the lab, however, I stopped before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a tall, slim, simple statue of golden-brown unpainted wood, dating from the late twentieth century. It stood in the lobby of this Mercy Hospital in my teens, several renovations ago, when I had family members in and out of cardiac arrest for several years together. I knew that statue and it knew me, and I stopped there today to pray. I noticed on the dedication plaque that it was commissioned to have perpetual flowers before it; it doesn’t any more, alas. Nevertheless, I said three Hail Marys and followed them up with a prayer for my ex-husband. He’s just been diagnosed with stage four cancer.

It’s been a very hard week. My ex and his wife moved out of state this year when he took an exciting new job; his mother, who just turned eighty-nine, followed them in October, not to live with them, but into a new house of her own. Everything had been going extremely well for them; my ex’s Facebook posts were mostly pictures of the house, the garden, the cats. I was especially charmed by a picture of their fireplace lighted for the first time this year; Nadia the tortoise, whom I have fed and petted, had settled by the fire to enjoy the warmth.

Now a man I spent over twenty years with, who is still my friend in spite of everything, is sick unto death, a few hundred miles away, and I can’t do anything for him. In the first rush of concern, I started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to take the train to visit them. I met my goal, but then his condition and prognosis improved, and it makes more sense for me to wait and visit in December, perhaps. Nevertheless, this disease is not curable, not survivable. This is the beginning of the end.

I was participating in the Trans Rite of Ancestor Elevation. I carried on with that, taking for my motto what one of my favorite college instructors used to say: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” I feel like I participated badly, half-heartedly, but participating badly is far superior to not participating at all. I was given to understand that this is part of my job, to pray for the dead, so I did it. I am also understanding that it’s part of my job to pray for the living: For transgender folk who are alive and well; for my ex-husband, my friend, and for his wife; for my friends who suffer from chronic illness and are often in pain, and for my friends who are mentally ill and struggle with depression, anxiety, and other difficulties. Even if I do it badly, I should do it.

I would ask you to pray for me, dear readers, as I shall be praying for you.

A couple inches of dirty water in the bottom of an otherwise empty vase

That’s my emotional state right now, there in the title: An image worthy of haiku, perhaps, or of Rilke, who wrote so movingly of roses in a bowl. That’s depression, gentle readers–a few inches of stagnant, smelly water, with a rotting leaf or two, in the bottom of a vase from which the dead flowers have been removed.

I suffer from depression. And it is a kind of suffering, though much of the time depression means “not feeling much of anything” rather than “feeling bad”. Depression means I sometimes don’t make it to work because taking a shower, or facing a rainy day and public transportation, seems too much to bear. It means some days the only thing that interests me is Township, a mobile game where you plant crops, feed critters, and gradually build a town with houses, factories, and public buildings. (I’ve just reached level 35 and acquired an apiary!) It means writing is difficult or simply seems meaningless, pointless.

Yet I find myself holding on to my daily devotions in spite of everything. And yesterday, in spite of not being able to cope with work, I managed to clear a space and set up a minimal shrine for an ancestor elevation. I am once again participating in the Trans Rite of Ancestor Elevation, for the benefit of the far too many transgender folks who died by violence in the past year. In addition, I am doing my first elevation for a personal ancestor, for my Aunt Margaret, whose birthday is the nineteenth of this month.

Aunt Margaret was actually my great-aunt, my mother’s father’s younger sister. Born in the ‘teens, she was several years old before being diagnosed with a hip out of the socket, probably a result of the difficult birthing. As an adult, she was still wearing a heavy metal brace on one leg and walking slowly, with a limp. Back then we didn’t call people disabled, or handicapped; we called them crippled, lame. Aunt Margaret was crippled, but that didn’t stop her from holding down a job for decades, or living on her own. She rented a room from another lady of her own generation, up the street and around the corner from our house, and had dinner with us every night before walking home around ten o’clock.

Aunt Margaret was a constant presence in my childhood. She gave me money for the collection plate at church and bought me a new winter coat every year. She played cards with me for hours on end. She went on bus trips with my grandmother and me; my mother hated to travel and could not sleep away from home, but Mom and Aunt Margaret and I travelled up and down the east coast from Quebec to Nashville. Did I mention that she stood all of four-foot-six? Outgrowing Aunt Margaret was a benchmark.

My life has turned out more like hers than I could have anticipated. Like me, she was divorced, lived alone, and supported herself. I have her body type, inherited from my maternal grandfather’s family. I fear I have her wonky hips, too. Her picture has been on my shrine all along, but this year I felt the call to honor her more directly and to do something for her benefit. She gave me so much when I was a child, and it took me far too long to appreciate that.

As for the transgender dead, I was informed, more or less, that participating in this year’s elevation rite–and next year’s, for that matter–is just something that I am required to do. It’s my job. I volunteered for it when I did it last year, and the Tetrad deities noticed me; now I have to keep up that responsibility. And last night, in spite of everything, I did.

I have some half-formed thoughts on what my calling is, what work the Tetrad want me to do, but they are not nearly ready for a blog post. In the meantime, think of your ancestors, dear readers, and pray for me in my depression. I’ll write again soon.

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.

Not drowning, just thrashing about a lot

Gentle readers! I promise I have not forgotten you, or this blog, or the tale of Hades and his wife and his unexpected visitor. A number of stressors have come between me and fruitful congress with my laptop keyboard, chiefly a major change at work. The handsome central library building where I work, which is nearly seventy years old, is about to be renovated, and all of the staff that don’t serve the public directly are being moved offsite for the duration, a projected three to five years. That staff includes me, my boss, and our division, which includes serials, cataloguing, acquisitions, and materials selection. Tomorrow is our last day in the old familiar digs, and next Wednesday is our first day to report to the new site.

The move coincides with the loss of our head of cataloguing, who has found another job, and with the Sacred Nights of Antinous, the most important holy days of the year. If my boss weren’t so calm and organized, I might have run screaming like a maenad already, and not in a good way.

Please pray that the movers don’t lose my ergonomic back cushions or anything else we really need, and I’ll be back in regular service here as soon as I can.

A personal moment

Dear readers, please excuse this frivolous personal indulgence. A couple of days ago I submitted pics and text about my beloved cockatiel Rembrandt to Pet of the Day, a venerable website that has provided daily pictures of people’s pets since 1997. (Yes, in internet years, that’s ancient! They also have a Dog of the Day and Cat of the Day.)

On this day, 15 October 2015, my boy was featured as the Pet of the Day. I am so proud. Here is the website, and here’s a permalink to his page.

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