Antinous for Everybody

Archive for the tag “sexism”

POEM: The Blessing of the Tetrad++

This is a variation on my own Lorica of the Tetrad++. I offer this blessing for all people of color, all African-Americans, all Native Americans, all women, all sexual minorities, gay and lesbian and bisexual, queer and genderqueer, transgender and intersex, all people anywhere who are oppressed. You are Antinous’s people. You are the Tetrad’s people. You are my people.

May Panpsyche guard you with the eagle’s wings
and by ASKION bless your soul with freedom.
May Panprosdexia guard you with the raven’s cunning
and by KATASKION guide you through the dark places.
May Panhyle guard you with the bull’s determination
and by LIX bless your body with health and strength.
May Pancrates guard you with the lion’s roar
and by TETRAX burn away your fears.
May Paneros guard you with the serpent’s wisdom
and by DAMNAMENEUS heal your heart’s wounds.
May Paneris guard you with the fox’s swiftness
and by AISIA defend you in conflict and strife.
May Panpsyche and Panhyle protect your souls and bodies.
May Paneros and Paneris protect your hearts and minds
both in love and in strife.
May Pancrates all-powerfully protect you, and
may Panprosdexia bring you home to the light.

ASKION KATASKION LIX TETRAX DAMNAMENEUS AISIA ENDASION

Riane Eisler was right

So the last time I checked, the myth of matriarchal prehistory was a myth, right? There wasn’t a time when people lived in harmony, when sex was revered and mothers respected, when we didn’t divide the world into Us and Them and try to kill or rape or rob or enslave Them because they’re obviously inferior to Us. Nope. Homo sapiens has been a killer and a rapist since we figured out how to walk with our hands free, free to make tools and then weapons and bash skulls, flense bones, break limbs.

If that’s the case, none of us should be surprised by the events of the past week, by multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, by suicide bombings in Baghdad and Beirut. No one should be surprised that Boko Haram kidnaps girls like herds of cattle, that there are bombings in Kenya no one in the U.K. or the U.S. ever hears about on the news, that Daesh proudly proclaims its responsibility for rape and murder and the destruction of ancient beauties. Why should we care? That’s just the way human beings are, right?

Yet we do care. We are surprised, shocked, appalled. We grieve for dead bodies in foreign countries, dress our social media with symbols of support, and send money to relief efforts. Not only that, but we look at the people around us as people, not just as Us and Them. Yes, there are probably thousands of Americans who would vote for Donald the Dump and believe sincerely that if he just threw out all the Mexicans who are taking both our welfare and our jobs, this country would be great (i.e., white) again. But there are also lots of people who are no longer letting their family or friends, their spiritual teachers, their Facebook friends, that celebrity on Twitter, get away with saying racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic things. There are lots of people who are challenging that reactionary uncle, that pagan elder who’s just spat out a sentiment worthy of Trump, that clueless celebrity who’s forgotten how far their lives are from ordinary people’s.

That’s a good thing.

I was once in an elevator with my husband and two black men. We were in the central library, before I worked there, and the two men were probably among the many homeless people for whom our venerable building is a reliable shelter during the day. If memory serves, they smelled of alcohol. They were complaining freely to one another, in crude language, about how all the homosexuals were taking over.
Without planning to, I turned on them and snapped, “I wish the homosexuals *were* taking over! The world would be a better place for it!”

I got some rude language in return, but we all got off the elevator and that was that. “I can’t believe I did that,” I said, shaken.

“I can’t believe you did that, either,” said my then husband.

That might have been the first time I talked back to an -ism. It was me against two victims of another -ism, and possibly victims of addiction or PTSD or I know not what. It is harder to talk back to the -isms when they come out of the mouth of someone you love, or respect, or fear, but people are doing it, in so many ways, from posting on Facebook and dealing with the comments to marching in the streets and facing down armed police. And that tells me people believe we can do better.

We can do better than destroy works of art, things of beauty. We can do better than fear and hate people based on what is or isn’t in their pants. We can do better than treat girls and women like cattle to be bred and trans women like monsters ready to invade a cloister. We can do better than divide the world into Us and Them based on genitalia, or skin color, or choice of religion.

We can do better. We are doing better. Because we create beauty. We make art, and we make love, as well as making war. We follow our pleasure, our bliss, our joy, at least some of the time. Why don’t we do it all the time? Why do we distrust pleasure but affirm pain? Why is optimism considered unrealistic, while pessimism is realistic (and here, here’s a pill to help you deal with the depression of being relentlessly realistic all the time)?

There is a knot at the center of our culture, like a knot of pain in the gut, a knot of muscles in the back, restricting movement, a hopeless tangle of the threads that precludes weaving the tapestry anew. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, they are all threads trailing out of the knot; pull one, and it will show itself to be connected to the others. Racism identifies black people with the emotional, instinctual, physical side of human nature, with animals, with the earth, with dirt. Sexism identifies women with animals to be bred, with emotion and instinct, with jars and cars and ships and boxes, with the land, the earth. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and other queers are feared and hated because they refuse to observe the distinctions between black and white, male and female, pleasure and necessity. Gay men have sex for pleasure, no possibility of reproduction. Lesbians deny the use of their bodies to men. Trans people violate the absolute rule that a thing, a person, a body, must be one thing or the other, not both: One drop of “black blood” and you’re black; a man should act like a man, not a woman; biology is destiny.

I pull on the threads and try to disentangle them, and I can’t; I see the knot, black and bloody and terrible like a clot expelled from the womb, and it is the fear and rejection of women by the cisgender, heterosexual men who are born from them, nursed by them, desire them, and are so utterly terrified of the person who gave them life and nurture and pleasure that anything that remotely resembles her has to be cut off, shunned, destroyed, at the very least controlled, completely. Here are these dark-skinned people whose cultures celebrate women, sex, pleasure–enslave them, take away their mother tongues, destroy their arts and their cities and say they had no civilization. Here are men who sometimes act like women, and women who sometimes act like men, and they have sex not to bear children to inherit the father’s accumulated wealth, but just for fun. Just for fun. Obviously that is a sin!

And don’t let yourself experience pleasure, real pleasure. Don’t enjoy your food and eat just a little too much occasionally. Don’t drink wine and laugh loudly. Don’t read a novel, see a movie with too many women in it, or listen to music until you feel something. Don’t feel your emotions, except for anger, that’s okay, and maybe lust. In place of real pleasure, sense pleasure, there’s making money, or dominating people, controlling other minds and other bodies as you control your own. Make money, keep the wrong sort of people out of your church, and vote for Trump, he’s honest and realistic.

We can do better. We have done better. We are doing better. If the neopagan movement has any lasting good to offer, in my opinion it is the affirmation of the body, of pleasure, of sex, of women, of life in this world, of those things as spiritual values, however much individual pagans fail of the ideal.

I think Riane Eisler was right. In the best-selling The Chalice and the Blade and subsequent books, she argued that human beings were capable of living as partners in cultures based on pleasure, not just in hierarchies and kyriarchies based on fear of pain. Her archaeology and history may be disputed or disproven now, but I don’t think her thesis has been; human beings continue to imagine a world different from and better than the conditions we have. I don’t think we’re capable of living entirely without strife, without conflict–I don’t think we ought to be–but I have hope that we can untie the knot behind our destructive ideologies and learn to trust our bodies, our pleasure, our desires, and our mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, and selves, as women.

May it be so.

Throwing the first Apostle under the bus

 Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.

Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.
And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me, Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure. I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit? The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is.

Thanks to Jason Miller for this quote from the Gospel of Mary. Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, who in Orthodox Christian tradition is called the Apostle to the Apostles because she was the first to encounter the risen Jesus and testify to the Resurrection. My own take on her is a bit more heterodox, as I think the Gnostic texts point to a sexual relationship between Mary and Jesus which was an essential part of his work.

One of my deepest problems with Christianity has been the Church’s treatment of sexuality. Its attitude to sex shapes its equally problematic treatment of women, of same-sex erotic relationships and those who have them, and of sexual ethics. The Church at its best affirms embodied life and the material world, created by God, experienced by God through the Incarnation; the doctrines of Creation and Incarnation are reflected in Pope Francis’ liberating statements on politics, economics, and the environment. Yet while he’s not hammering on sexuality like some of his predecessors, neither is he saying anything different from them, if pressed to it; he’s willing to accept what science has to say about global warming and climate change, but not what science has learned about human sexuality since Aristotle.

At the same time, sexuality and eroticism are always creeping around the edges of Christian experience, Christian theology. The Church inherited from Jewish tradition a text that unabashedly celebrates erotic love without ever mentioning the name of God; it proceeded to write hundreds of texts on how the Song of Songs is a metaphor for the relationship of God and the soul. Bernard of Clairvaux, a celibate monk who had a habit of trying to persuade his friends and relations to leave their spouses and enter monastic life, wrote no less than eighty-six sermons on the Song of Songs, and that without covering more than two of its eight short chapters. Women writers, too, resorted to erotic metaphors for spiritual experience; nuns were still frequently called “brides of Christ” into the 20th century, and the clothing ceremony in which an aspiring nun puts on the habit for the first time became essentially a wedding, complete with white dress, where the groom was present only by proxy. I remain baffled and confused by a theological tradition that uses sexuality as a metaphor for the most exalted, most fulfilling relationship possible to a human being, while at the same time denigrating the ordinary, everyday expressions of sexuality, even those that it sanctioned, such as marriage.

Other world religions haven’t done a significantly better job of dealing with women, women’s sexuality, or sexuality in general. Judaism is more sex-positive, but still privileges men over women. Women seem to be at least as well off in some Islamic cultures as in European or American society, but in others they are treated horrifically. Hinduism has suttee, dowry killings, public gang rapes. Buddhism, which has a pretty good image here in the U.S., also has a frighteningly high proportion of teachers, both Asian and American, who have been embroiled in sexual scandals and have perpetrated decades of exploitation on women students.

Why is it, I wonder, that it’s always women who are thrown under the bus? Sometimes I have to conclude that it’s just that men who desire women are profoundly terrified of that desire and of the people who provoke it, to the point where they will do anything to control women in order to deny their own desires for love, erotic love, and deep intimacy. Seminary training and vows of celibacy, decades of meditative practice (and vows of celibacy), worship of a Goddess and Wiccan training–none of these seems able to de-condition men from their fear and hatred of what they most desire. Mary Magdalene got thrown under the bus, written out as Jesus’ partner, his foremost disciple, the primary witness to his resurrection, relegated to a repentant whore, a chaste camp-follower, her very name mutated into the word “maudlin”.

I think this is one of the most important reasons why I have finally wound up as a pagan, and not only that, but as an Antinoan. That may sound counter-intuitive, since devotion to Antinous puts his relationship to another man front and center, but Antinoan cultus affirms pretty much everything about sex that other religions deny and inhibit. Antinous is not merely a god of gay sex; he is pro sexual relationships of consent and mutuality, whatever combination of genders is involved. He is pro multiple genders rather than just the m/f binary. He is pro erotic relationships between women as well as between men, and pro friendship between men and women. He is pro happy marriages between men and women and happy families, even. And he is not interested in imposing the sexual ethics or the gender roles of the past on his people today.

I did not realize until I had it, perhaps, how much I wanted a religion that made the erotic a central concern instead of leaving it to lurk around the borders, beyond the light of the candles on the altar, a religion that wasn’t angry at women for somehow being the cause of everything bad because we’re just so tempting. It goes deeper than wanting to worship goddesses or honor female ancestors, though those desires, those needs, are also deeply important. Hail, Saint Mary Magdalene, consort of the Savior, Apostle to the Apostles: Pray for your sisters who are still stuck under the bus.

I want to be absolutely clear on this

I oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia. I oppose any institutionalized prejudice against people for their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or any kind of disability. #BlackLivesMatter. Our police forces need to be trained to see black citizens *as* citizens, and as human beings, and to be held accountable with unpaid leave, indictment, and trial when they shoot first and look around afterward. I do believe in the ideals of America, freedom, equality, and justice for all, and I am sad and angry that we are failing those ideals monumentally in citizen deaths, in torture of foreign nationals, in pretty much every way possible.

I am only one person, and not a Big Name Pagan, but I’ve seen so much FAIL lately from people and organizations I used to respect that I feel I have to say this as explicitly as possible.

PSVL has spoken for the Ekklesia Antinoou, of which I am a citizen, and Mystik Nomad has made an eloquent statement as an individual, which inspired this post.

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