A polytheist and the Wheel of the Year

imbolcflowersImbolc has seized my attention. It always does. It’s particularly easy for me to feel the shift from the energy of the winter solstice to the energy of this cross-quarter point. It comes to me as renewed creativity, ideas for stories and poems, energy to carry them out. It manifests as lessened depression, greater physical energy, a desire to open the windows even if it’s cold, to get out of the house while the sun is shining.

I say “Imbolc”, but I don’t follow a Celtic path. (I should have known Celtic options weren’t for me when I failed to make any kind of connection with Brigid.) It’s just that most people know the February cross-quarter day by that name. I could also call it the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as older Christian calendars did, or the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, as it’s generally known now. Both of those titles derive from the story in the Gospel of Luke that Mary and Joseph fulfilled the Law of Moses by presenting the infant Jesus in the Temple and sacrificing two pigeons or doves to restore his mother to ritual purity for religious and social functions.

Colloquially, it was known as Candlemas from the Middle Ages onward. Churches blessed the candles that would be used in the liturgy and in people’s homes during the coming year, associating their light with the hymn from the story of the Presentation: “To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel”. If your parish is sufficiently high church, it’s one of those lovely occasions when everyone present gets a lighted candle and the whole church is illuminated with their glow.

When I finally figured out that I was a polytheist committed to a particular set of gods, I tried to ignore the neopagan Wheel of the Year. There were plenty of Greek, Egyptian, and Roman holy days associated with Antinous, along with days specific to his life and cultus. But however much I tried to ignore it, the Wheel is just… there. As I’ve said before, while the Wheel of the Year is a syncretic, 20th-century invention, it corresponds to real events in astronomy, astrology, weather patterns, and local seasons, and to a plethora of historical festivals. While no culture anywhere ever celebrated the Wheel, a lot of different cultures celebrated a lot of different feasts that happened to coincide with those eight dates.

In Antinoan cultus, we observe the Stella Antinoi on January 29th. The god’s defeat of the restrictive archons of the underworld culminates in his ascent to the heavens as Navigator of the celestial Boat of Millions of Years. We commemorate the appearance of a new star in the constellation of the Eagle shortly after his death, a confirmation of his divinity. Antinoan devotees frequently observe Lupercalia, the Roman festival of purification and fertility in the middle of February.

fireandiceFor me this season is about fire and ice: Bright sun shining on patches of ice on the sidewalk. Shoots of grass and crocus flower pushing up from the dirt on bitterly cold days. Biting winds and the mourning doves begin to call again, the house sparrows beginning to do their absurd little mating dances. Something changes in the sky, and something in the earth shifts to meet it; the serpent in the earth rises up to meet the bird descending from on high.

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POEM: The Eagle’s Star

Antinous rises tonight
Tonight he bestrides the constellations,
bridging Aquarius and Aquila
Heralded by Muses and poets,
he ascends the heavens
to claim the Boat of Millions of Years
The archons of the underworld are defeated
Their perversions no match for his terrible beauty
Fear and hatred, greed and lust
flee from the light of his countenance
Hail, Antinous! Star of beauty in the night sky!
Hail, Antinous! Navigator of the celestial Barque!
Hail, Antinous! You are the journey, you are the guide,
you yourself are the destination!
Hail, Antinous! The beautiful boy rises in the east!

A Litany for Antinous the Navigator

In the Name of Antinous, the Navigator, the Starry Guide, the Glory of the Eagle, the Crowned and Conquering Child.
Guide us, Antinous, in the darkness of the night.
Guide us, Antinous, in the darkness of our fears.
Guide us, Antinous, in the darkness of our ignorance.
Guide us, Antinous, in the darkness of our mortality.
Guide us, Antinous, in the darkness of our depression.
Guide us, Antinous, in the darkness of our oppression.
Guide us, Antinous, by the light of your star.
Guide us, Antinous, by the light of your beauty.
Guide us, Antinous, by the light of your humanity.
Guide us, Antinous, by the light of your divinity.
Guide us, Antinous, by the light of your prophecy.
Guide us, Antinous, by the light of your love.
Guide us, Antinous, when we are lost and confused.
Guide us, Antinous, when we struggle to find a path.
Guide us, Antinous, when the road seems endless and without destination.
Guide us, Antinous, when our chains have fallen,
when we are free at last, but know not what to do with our freedom,
where we ought to go, or how to help others.
Guide us and teach us, Navigator of the heavens.
Guide us and teach us, Victor over the archons.
Guide us and teach us, Lover of souls.
Guide us to shine in the heavens in our divinity
as you do, O Emperor of Peace.
Ave, vive Antinoe!