Antinous for Everybody

I worship a dead gay teenager and you can too

Archive for the tag “venus”

Further experiments in devotion

Back in January I wrote about connecting deities with astrology and practicing devotion to deities whose influence might be in my natal chart. While I did write some interesting prayers as part of that experiment, I eventually lost interest in it, mainly because it didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Writing the prayers was illuminating, insofar as it highlighted issues in my own life, my own psyche, but the use of the prayers did not, as far as I can tell, open up any new channels of communication with the deities I was addressing.

I continue to observe festivals, though, and sometime last month, it occurred to me that there is precedent for linking certain deities of the Roman pantheon to the months. Janus and Juno gave their names to January and June; May is named after Maia, the mother of Mercury/Hermes; Venus is associated with April. In the middle of the month, I began a project of cultivating a better relationship with one or two deities per month, starting with Venus.

Opinions differ, I know, on whether the Greek and Roman deities are the same under different names, or wholly different from each other, or some other option. Certainly there are many minor deities exclusive to Greek tradition and others to Roman, but the Romans themselves seemed to think they and the Greeks worshipped the same gods. In the case of Venus, however, I did not feel that I could simply equate her with Aphrodite and approach her on that basis. I get a different vibe from Venus than from Aphrodite, a feeling that is quieter and more contained.

I named Venus in my daily devotions and wrote a number of poems to her, few of which I felt were worth sharing. Much of my attention in April was taken up by a goddess with whom I already had a good relationship, Flora. Everything that blooms in my neighborhood was blooming last month and it was glorious; it wasn’t possible to walk through the park without hailing and praising the Lady of the Flowers. I came out of April with one solid clue to the goddess’ nature and the resolve to seek her favor more thoroughly the next time around.

The clue I received was to identify someone who reminded me of the goddess. It happens to be a fictional character: Sophie Devereaux of Leverage, played by Gina Bellman.


Gina Bellman as Sophie Devereaux

Without going too deeply into the amazing and brilliant television show that is Leverage (and you should all watch it, it’s on Netflix), Sophie is a grifter whose specialty is art theft. Now, I’m not saying that the goddess is a grifter! Sophie is, like all the regular characters of Leverage, extremely good at what she does; she speaks multiple languages, can convincingly fake multiple accents of English, class markers, and ethnic origins, and is highly knowledgeable about art. But her superpower, so to speak, has to do with desire. She is able to become desirable to every man she meets, so desirable he’ll do anything to please her. She is also able to discern what it is that people truly desire; promising it to them is the art of her grift.

It seems to me that desire is of the essence of Venus, not just sexual desire, but all desire. Venus’s power is in the things we want rather than need, which include beauty, pleasure, art, and sex–although getting what one wants is itself a deep human need. It is also important to me that actress Gina Bellman, a beautiful but not pretty woman, was in her forties when she played Sophie Devereaux. I see Venus not as a pretty girl, or even an ageless goddess who looks like a pretty girl, but as a mature woman basking in her own desirability.

For May I turned to Maia and her quicksilver son, Hermes/Mercury. I’m not sure that I feel as much of a gap between the Greek and Latin gods as between Venus and Aphrodite. What I’ve learned so far this month, mentioning the god in my daily devotions, writing poetry for him, and reading Guardian of the Road, an anthology in his honor published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina, is that I already have a relationship with him. It would be impossible for me not to–as a writer, someone who creates with words, as a non-driver who relies on my feet and public transportation to get what I want to go, as someone whose natal Mercury lies close to my natal Sun. Mercury, I think, is one of those gods who is present everywhere, whether or not he is invited, honored, or even acknowledged. That’s what those winged feet are about.


Statuettes of Venus and Mercury from the Walters Art Museum

Mercury’s month is not yet over, but I plan to honor Juno in June and then Apollo and perhaps the Muses also in July. Meanwhile, other deities have brought themselves to my attention. The blooming roses made me realize that if Flora is a goddess, surely Rosa is one of her spirits, a nymph or a lar or something, a flower so important in European religious symbolism. The greening of the vacant lots and wooded areas near my workplace, and the entrance of a snake into our warehouse, have alerted me to the presence of Silvanus, guarding the wilderness that underlies and intrudes on my urban environment. I’m also very much aware of working very near to the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and thus near a river deity.

(The snake that snuck into our warehouse got its head stuck on a glue trap for mice. We successfully removed the sticky trap and set the snake loose outside.)

I am finding that actually, to paraphrase Hugh Grant at the end of Love Actually, the gods are everywhere, all around us. We don’t so much have to invoke or invite them as be polite, say hello, and offer them a bite to eat.


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: To Venus (Ave formosissima)

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Venus_VerticordiaO fairest flower, opening now, O precious gem,
buried in the moist dark earth, O knowledge
purer than any innocence, flaming virgin,
your breasts are the sun and moon
lighting up the world, your female flower
is the rosa mundi, sacred center, O white
blossom, O shining flame, O sole and only
golden, generous Venus, I adore you.

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.

An experiment in devotional astrology

A few years ago I bought a book called MythAstrology by Raven Kaldera of Northern Tradition fame. In it Kaldera explores an intriguing idea. Astrology has always connected the planets with certain gods and the signs with certain myths from the Greek and Roman pantheons. Kaldera combines the two by portraying each planet in each sign as a different deity. For example, the Sun as an astrological planet is associated with Apollo and Helios; in Kaldera’s book, the Sun in Aries is Amon-Ra, the Sun in Taurus is Gaea, the Sun in Gemini is the Dioscuri, and so on. He draws primarily but not exclusively from European pantheons, assigning the Moon in Cancer to Kuan Yin and Mars in Sagittarius to Shango, for example.

Toward the end of last year, I began to consider giving cultus to the deities of my natal chart as per Kaldera’s work. For example, my Sun in Capricorn is Hephaistos, my Moon in Libra Isis, my Mercury in Capricorn in Ptah. I allotted the deities to days of the week according to the planetary system: Sun on Sunday, Moon on Monday, Mars and Pluto on Tuesday, Mercury and Uranus on Wednesday, Jupiter on Thursday, Venus and Neptune on Friday, and Saturn on Saturday.

The outer planets that were unknown before the 19th century have more or less settled into astrology as “higher octaves” of the inner planets. Mars and Pluto both rule processes of disturbance, revelation, destruction; Venus and Neptune both rule values, ideals, experiences of beauty, pleasure, and love. Uranus along with Mercury affects communication, technology, and innovation. I might call them “lower octaves” rather than higher. Where Mercury, Mars, and Venus affect the individual, the slow-going outer planets sound long low notes that set the tone for whole generations in a society. My placement of Neptune in Scorpio, for example, is common to people born between 1957 and 1970, approximately. Kaldera assigns this planet and sign combination to Dionysus. What was Dionysian about that era? Pretty much everything: The civil rights movement that fought social oppression, the experimentation with drugs and altered states, the rise and flourishing of sex drugs and rock’n’roll.

There’s another element that Kaldera didn’t consider (and perhaps he will in a future book or a revised edition): The asteroids. In the latter half of the 20th century, a few of the thousands of asteroids that have been sighted and named in our solar system have worked their way into astrology. Chief among these are the first four asteroids discovered, named after four prominent goddesses: Ceres, Juno, Vesta, and Pallas, along with a fifth asteroid close to the planet Saturn, Chiron. Traditional astrology features only two goddesses, Diana as the Moon and Venus. The Moon is associated with the role of one’s mother in one’s life and Venus with the love object or lust object. The asteroids expanded the symbolic roles of women to include nurturer, partner, priestess, and creator.

Since I’ve been tracking those asteroids in my chart for years, I decided to incorporate them into my devotions and assigned goddesses based on my own sense of their functions. To my Vesta in Cancer, I assigned Sulis Minerva, the goddess worshipped at Bath in England, a deity of fire and water, healing and inspiration. To Ceres in Pisces, I assigned Epona, the Continental Celtic horse goddess who was also worshipped in Rome thanks to her popularity with its legions. To Pallas in Aquarius, which sits smack dab on my Ascendant, I assigned Pallas Athene herself. To Juno in Pisces, I assigned Leukothea, the apotheosized name of Ino, who fostered baby Dionysus and paid for it by losing her own son to Hera’s anger. And to Chiron, known as the wounded healer, I assigned Bran the Blessed, the high king in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi who became an oracular singing head upon his death.

With the exception of Ino/Leukothea, these are all deities with whom I had some prior connection. Sulis, Epona, and Bran I honored in my druidic periods, and Athena was my favorite goddess when I was a child, the high-achieving daddy’s girl with whom I instinctively identified. Leukothea is honored within the Ekklesia Antinoou, so I have some basis for a connection with her.

I still haven’t written prayers to all the deities represented in my natal chart. Seven planets and five asteroids gave me a wealth of material to work with. Some of those deities were personally challenging to me. Kaldera assigns Pluto in Virgo, the placement for people born between 1956 and 1972, to the goddess Hel. I suspect that seeking to learn something about her and compose an appropriate prayer to her led to my writing “A distinguished visitor from the north”, in which she plays an important role.

My Uranus in Virgo is assigned to Lilith, who certainly rose to prominence in the 1960s. Is she goddess or spirit, demon or heroine? Whatever she may be, she has been important in the feminist movement, which my prayer to her reflects. And my Saturn in Pisces is embodied in the complex character of Odin, dominating my first house. In composing my weekly prayer to him, I focused on a point of similarity between the god and myself: We have a tendency to insist on learning things for ourselves, and often on learning it the hard way. There have been times in my life that were the equivalent of hanging from the World Tree, suffering from exposure, waiting for the answer to appear, even if what I needed to learn was nowhere near as significant as the runes.

Finally, there is the planetary assignment that really inspired me to this project: Venus in Aquarius. The usual descriptions of Venus in this sign emphasize its close relationship between romantic love and friendship, its need for an intellectual connection with a lover, and its desire for a bit of rebellion or experimentation, or at least independence. One might say that the biggest turn-on of the Aquarian Venus is equality in a relationship.

Kaldera assigns this Venus to Ganymede, the Trojan boy who was deified because Zeus fell in love with him. He became cup-bearer to the Olympians, in some accounts replacing Hebe in this role. The boy with the cup is directly related to “aquarius”, a masculine Latin noun meaning “water-carrier”. As I read Kaldera’s description of the nature of Aquarian Venus, however, I became convinced that he should have assigned that placement to–of course–Antinous, who is syncretized with Ganymede in some sources, who is associated with the sign and age of Aquarius, and who very much supports egalitarian romance and eros in which friendship plays a major role.

I’ll conclude this entry, then (at last!), by sharing the prayer I wrote for Antinous-Ganymede as patron of Venus in Aquarius:

O Antinous Ganymede,

you bear the cup of friendship

around the halls of the gods,

giving drink to each one equally

as they need: May I give

the drink of love and friendship

to each friend as they need it

and receive the same in return.

Sacred Nights: Panthea 2015

Today I sing and celebrate
the vision which the Taliban fear;
today I invoke and praise
the assembly that makes Daesh
boil with rage;
today I proclaim the truth
that makes woman-hating politicians
tremble and clutch at their genitals
and take money away from Planned Parenthood.
Today is Panthea, and today I hymn
the goddesses: All the goddesses, united
in fierce feminine friendship,
in divine power and might,
in divine knowledge and wisdom,
in divine anger, laughter, and love.
Isis, Hathor, Nephthys, Mut,
Qadesh, Erekshkigal, Inanna, Ishtar,
Juno, Minerva, Venus, Flora,
Pomona, Diana, Ceres, Libera,
Demeter and Persephone,
Hera and Hebe,
Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Ananke,
Tara, Sarasvati, Parvati, Shakti,
Rosmerta, Rhiannon, Epona, Brigantia,
Morrigan, Aine, Dana, Coventina,
Freya and Frigga and Iduna and Hel,
Sif, Sigyn, Skadi, and Scathach,
the Norns, the Fates, the Parcae, the Furies,
all the goddesses, everywhere, known
and unknown, remembered and forgotten,
kind or unkind, lovely or vile: I sing your praise,
and my god Antinous sings with me:
Dua! Khairete! Avete! Laudo!
The goddesses are alive,
and they are everywhere.

To Venus on the Veneralia

Venus Verticordia by Dante Gabriel RossettiAve, Venus Verticordia!
Hail to the Turner of Hearts!
Hail to the lady of love and desire, fulfillment and prosperity!
Hail to the companion of Fortuna and Roma, guardians of Rome!
Hail to the mother of Cupid and of Aeneas,
the swift-winged god of desire’s arrows
and the hero of Troy, the father of Rome!
Beautiful in face and form,
beautiful in breast and buttock,
with curling hair, with modest hands,
winning and gracious, glorious and terrible,
Ave, ave, Verticordia!
O Venus, men call you the turner of hearts!
I beseech you, turn the hearts of men toward us women.
Turn their hearts to love and honor us rightly.
Turn their hearts to see us as human, not just female.
Turn their hearts to respect our needs, our bodies, our desires.
Let them not worship you as Rose of the World
but call women stinking fish.
Let them not praise you as the goddess of their desires
but call women bitches, cows, and whores.
Let them not honor you as mother
and discard their own mothers when they reach manhood.
Let them not dwell upon you as lover
but call their own lovers sluts.
Let them not acknowledge you as the protector of prostitutes
but despise the sex workers they patronise.
Let them not glorify you as ideal woman
but brutalize women who were not assigned female at birth.
O great goddess, beautiful one, rose and golden,
Venus, Turner of Hearts, turn the hearts of men
to justice as well as desire and protect the women of the earth!
Ave, Venus!

Sacred Nights: The Panthea

Hail, Artemis, Diana, Athena, Bendis, Bona Dea, Cybele, Demeter, Ceres, Hathor, Hera, Juno, Hekate, Hestia, Vesta, Isis, Maia, Nemesis, Persephone, Selene, Thetis, Tyche, Fortuna, Venus, Aphrodite, hail!

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