POEM: The dog days

Lazy as a dog in the heat
I lie beneath my air conditioner,
panting, unable to address the gods
on my own two feet like a proper mortal.
The dog days are upon us; the old
name persists although few people
know why, but I hear the Dog Star
scrabbling at the horizon, flame in his
eyes, his jowls dribbling humidity.
O Hermanubis, son of Serapis,
friend of mortals, trustworthy guide,
your canine kindred seek the shade now
and so do their human masters.
Only a tolerant few can rise like
Antinous Kynegetikos and seek
their leisure out of doors, coursing
the hounds in the shady wood
after the elusive deer. Blood
may be spilled in the hunt, but still
the leaves wither like the gardens
of Adonis, while the bees hum
relentlessly over the fading flowers.
Antinous Kynegetikos, call off your
hounds and let them rest!
Antinous Aristaios, with honey
and cheese refresh us!


Serapis, Flora, Antinous, and Me

The calendar year kicks off with the observance of the Kalends of Janus on January 1st. The Antinoan year, in my practice, begins with his death and deification just before Samhain, the start of the Neopagan calendar. The Chinese lunar new year always feels like a fresh start to me, perhaps because it occurs in the first house of my natal horoscope. It’s often accompanied by a rush of creativity and the starting of new stories.

But April, Eliot’s cruellest month, is also an Antinoan new year for me. It was in April two years ago that I made the definitive shift from a wayward Anglican to a happy polytheist and from looking at my religion as a system of beliefs, symbols, and ideas to looking at it as network of relationships.

Who do I worship? Who to I pray to? What god do I trust? It turned out that the primary answer to those questions was not Jesus, but Antinous. I made a small offering to Antinous and asked him to guide me to what I loved. He answered that prayer, and the answer to it was himself.

The Serapeia on April 25th and the Floralia, which is held from April 28th to May 3rd, were the first holy days I observed that weren’t strictly for Antinous. In my first year of devotional practice, I made it my rule to observe holy days as they came up, doing background reading, making offerings, reciting and if possible composing prayers and hymns to the gods, without trying to make the acquaintance of all the gods, everywhere, all at once. Antinous’ cult is syncretistic and involves Egyptian, Greek, and Roman elements; I found myself gravitating toward the Roman deities, and not just the Olympians who overlap with the Greek pantheon, but also the lesser-known gods, goddesses, and spirits who are peculiarly Roman.

This will be the third year I’ve celebrated Flora’s festival. I’ve been greeting her for weeks as I walk to work, watching crocus, hyacinth, daffodil, tulip, and rose emerge in turn, watching all the trees flower and then shed their petals like confetti. Ironically, as her jolly, Beltane-like holy days arrive, local temperatures have dropped into the low fifties, and except for the roses, many of the downtown flowers have died off. I still want to write some hymns and make some offerings for her. I am very fond of Dea Flora.

l_pl1_23120_fnt_tr_t05iiiI owe Serapis, too, a belated offering. Of all the gods who have a fatherly, patriarchal, mature male authority figure aspect, Serapis, husband of Isis and father of Hermanubis and Harpocrates, is my favorite. I feel a sense of trust in him that neither Zeus nor Jupiter inspires. Perhaps it’s because he’s really an Underworld god, not a celestial one, a syncretism of Osiris with many other gods both Egyptian and not. Whenever I visit the Walters Art Museum, I pay my respects to Serapis at the fragmentary but still numinous image housed there.

I have a theory, or better, call it a hunch, an intuition, that it was once possible to communicate with Jesus as freely and easily as I do with Antinous and with other gods. (Not that they are always talking to me, but that when I talk to them, I feel some kind of response.) I have a theory that sometime, somewhere, a bunch of would-be authority figures, probably bishops, took the keys, changed the locks, changed the passwords, and made simple, direct communication with Jesus and his Father difficult to impossible. The few who could still get past their firewalls they called “mystics” and described as dangerous, unstable, hysterical, probably demon-possessed. I have never been a mystic, in those terms, and since mysticism became cool in Church circles, I’ve distrusted anyone who identifies as such. But I am an average devotee who does nothing special but write my own devotions to the gods, and I have no trouble connecting with them, even with deities for whom I have respect but little else in the way of feeling. 

Last night I offered water and cream to the Muses and prayed to sing well as a substitute alto in my church choir, and that I might be offered a paid position in the choir for the fall. The first part of that prayer was granted. We’ll see if the nine sisters can swing the full-time gig. Polytheism: It works.


“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.

Hymn XX: To Antinous and Serapis

Great Serapis, Osiris-Apis, Wesar-Hapi-Ankh,
whose Son is Anubis who is also Hermes,
bless your grandson, beautiful Antinous,
he who is one with Osiris, enthroned with the gods
of Egypt, and bless his worshippers, we who honor
the Greek ephebe who died in Egypt, him to whom
Bes and Djehuty gave a city, whom Hathor suckled,
to whom Harpocrates whispered the secret.
Hail, Osirantinous, the one who is made perfect,
who perfects his worshippers, triumphant in the West,
radiant on high, bringing red blossoms out of the black mud,
and hail to you, Serapis, grandfather of Antinous,
both of you the meeting-place of many gods.

Hot guys, cute birds, and beautiful gods

It’s no secret that I have a Tumblr. The link is right there in my sidebar, along with links to my Antinous-focused Tumblr (which I rather neglect) and my Twitter (ditto). I even have a link to my fanfic at An Archive of Our Own, popularly known as AO3. I have often said that my secret vice is not fanfic but true crime books; I’ve never tried to hide reading and writing fanfic and participating in fannish culture, but I rarely tell people that I sometimes binge on true crime accounts, especially concerning serial killers.

(Now you know my deepest, darkest secret, gentle readers. I have read books by Ann Rule.)

Titling one’s Tumblr, like titling any blog, is something of an art form. It’s one at which I don’t particularly excel. I sometimes hate how WordPress uses the title of one’s entry for the URL; I feel obliged to provide a title for a post first thing, when it’d be much better if I made the title my last effort, the finishing touch. The title of this blog was a bit of throwing up my hands and going with the first idea I had. After experimenting with several headers for my Tumblr, I went with a title that expresses, clearly and succinctly, what I focus on there: “Hot Guys and Cute Birds.”

I follow blogs about history, science, feminism, animals, astronomy, plants, mushrooms (yes, a whole Tumblr devoted to photographs of mushrooms), classics, magic, various kinds of paganism. The fact remains that I got involved with Tumblr when I was active in the Merlin fandom, devoted to the BBC show that ran from 2008-2012. Tumblr is at its best as a way to share images, and I spent a lot of time in my early days there looking at photographs of the young actors of Merlin, Colin Morgan in the title role, and Bradley James as Arthur. While the show’s storytelling never really satisfied me, it was a very beautiful show to look at, not only for its cast, but for its cinematography; it looked very good on Tumblr, and still does.

I stayed on Tumblr during my discovery of Sherlock and my subsequent Benedict Cumberbatch obsession. If Benedict Cumberbatch had a role in a movie or tv show, you can find screencaps and gifs on Tumblr. I’d be a rich woman if I had a dollar or a euro for every time I’ve seen that gif of Sherlock whipping off his scarf and exposing his glorious collarbones and throat from “A Scandal in Belgravia”. Then came my fall (you see what I did there?) into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Captain America fandom.

I have reblogged 9766 posts on Tumblr and liked a total of 81,089 posts. Many of those posts have featured Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Eoin Macken (also on Merlin, and now on The Night Shift on NBC), Benedict Cumberbatch, and now Chris Evans and/or Sebastian Stan, who play Steve Rogers and his best friend Bucky Barnes respectively. There’s also been a lot of Gillian Anderson (making women bisexual since 1993), some Sigourney Weaver, and a whole lot of birds, in particular cockatiels. I’m sure anybody who has a pet understands that even though you have X critter at home, you have an inexhaustible thirst for Internet pictures of cute X.

I know there are a lot of pagans and occultists out there who think popular culture is a waste of time that serious pagans/polytheists/sorcerers/whatever never indulge in. Well, I indulge and I don’t plan to stop. The reason I’m talking about it here, however, is the difference between the way I talk about my Tumblr passions and the way I talk about the gods.

A couple of days ago I posted a video of singer-songwriter-minor Irish godling Hozier performing a cover of “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison. I think Hozier is a brilliant songwriter, a gifted singer and guitarist, and a beautiful young man, all of which I expressed by the simple caption, “I just had to share this because UNF”. This expressed not only my admiration for Hozier’s musical abilities but my sexual response to his talent.

I have been active in online fandom long enough that I basically have no problem with saying things like, “When I see a picture of X bare-chested like that, it makes me want to lick his nipples. For starters.” Online fandom freaks people out because it’s a culture of women being unabashedly sexual and sharing openly who and what they find appealing and arousing, what their kinks are and aren’t, and explaining in detail why they fantasize about actors X and Y having sex with one another rather than about having sex with X or Y themselves.

The thing is, I don’t talk about the gods like that. I don’t talk, or write, about my feelings about the gods.

I could, you know. My primary devotion is to Antinous, after all, and Antinous makes 99% of the celebrities rated hot on the Internet look shabby. He has probably the best ass of any god ever, a better butt than Chris Evans or Benedict Cumberbatch (who have given me plenty of opportunities to make the comparison, thank you, gentlemen). He has been referred to on Tumblr as ridiculously good-looking, which is high praise in that milieu. He is a deified boy in the prime of his youth, someone who has been referred to as beautiful both in mortality and immortality. He *is* beautiful, and his being is beautiful, not just his embodiment. To approach him even a little is to be exposed to a well of kindness and beauty and grace and welcome and vitality, a light that illuminates everything beautiful in the world.

Galina Krasskova often writes eloquently and passionately about her devotion to deities, especially but not exclusively to Odin. I find myself envying her. I think I have a little fear that to praise Antinous’ glorious ass the way I might praise Chris Evans’ attributes may be impious. I also think I have a lot of what I call Anglican reticence. Episcopalians and Anglicans generally do not talk about their devotion to Jesus. They don’t speak of their faith and how it has helped them in the way that I’ve heard Lutherans speak, for example. They don’t spontaneously interject praise of God into a conversation like Baptists I’ve worked with. If you press them to talk about their religion, they’ll probably quote a poem, mention a hymn or anthem, or tell you about a significant book. They point to music, poetry, and fiction to express their feelings about their god–rather like the Bible does.

I feel kind of hopelessly infatuated with Antinous at times, I really do. I feel rather the same way about Chris Evans, Hozier, and a number of other talented and good-looking performers. I feel drawn to Serapis as to an older man, old enough to be my father, who has the wisdom and kindness and good counsel that one hopes for in a father. Dionysus is that bad-boy character I don’t want to admit I find attractive and want to get to know better. I researched a bit about Juno in order to write a poem for the agon in her honor that Galina is holding, and I found myself more drawn to her than I expected, as a powerful female deity to whom I could relate in many ways.

It may sound impious to compare my relationships with deities to my obsessions with celebrities. The difference, I think, is this: Captain America is fictional. I can only relate to him through the medium of story, in film or fanfic. Chris Evans is a real person; it’s not impossible that I might meet him and express how much I appreciate his work as an actor, but it’s also not terribly likely. It’s very unlikely that I will meet Chris Evans and we will fall in love and have the kind of relationship that bad Mary Sue fanfics are made of. Antinous, on the other hand, is real, not merely historical, not fictional, and is someone I do have a relationship with, intimately and personally. It’s much harder for me to share that with others than it is to share my love for cockatiels and their kooky ways, or my appreciation for Chris Evans’ many nude and semi-nude scenes, or even my very visceral response to the rich baritone singing of Hozier. But I wouldn’t have this blog if I didn’t think a relationship with Antinous, and with other deities, is well worth having, and worth writing about.