Beyond the Nile, Antinous: Part One

Getty Villa

“Welcome to the Getty Villa”

This weekend, your friendly neighborhood pagan librarian had the pleasure and privilege of journeying down to the City of Angels to visit the “Beyond the Nile: Egypt & the Classical World” exhibit held at the Getty Center. I heard about this upcoming exhibit back in February, and I found it to be an opportunity too good to miss. Not only was it going to be exploring Egyptian art and the way it shaped and was shaped by other Mediterranean cultures (including Minoan Crete, Mycenae, Greece, and Rome), but it had an Antinous – an honest-to-gods Antinous, from the ancient world. If that wasn’t draw enough, not only was the exhibit going to be on my continent, it was going to be on my coast. How could I not?


Getty Villa - Bacchae Program

My program for Bacchae by Eurpides

But before we get to the raison d’etre for this little adventure, I have a story to share about some unexpected pleasures and opportunities that I encountered along the way. The evening of my arrival into Los Angeles, I booked a ticket for a preview showing (i.e. a fancy dress rehearsal) of Euripdes’ The Bacchae, which was showing at the Getty Villa. A sister to the more conventional museum that is the Getty Center, the Villa is a reconstructed Roman villa, the country home of the wealthy elite. It has gardens, statues, murals, and for my purposes, an outdoor amphitheater where the play would be performed. I was prepared to have the most pagan art-filled weekend ever, but when I arrived that evening to the Villa I was just…blown away.

Not being familiar with the city, and having a few hours since my flight into town that would otherwise be spent twiddling my thumbs, I arrived a bit early for the show. I’m so glad that I did. I was invited to explore their ongoing exhibits and walk the grounds, and I was so utterly distracted by the grounds that I nearly ran out of time to explore the exhibit! The amount of detail they had in their reconstruction was exquisite. At first I was just besotted by the landscaping. It became a game of Spot the Sacred Tree. Rosemary draped elegantly from the arching stairwells, urging visitors onward into ancient and sacred memory. Olive and laurel trees lined the labyrinthine walkway up from the entrance to the Villa, to the amphitheater and gardens above. To each side of the central pool was a line of fragrant bay laurel (twelve trees on each side, by my count…).  Two arbors holding winding grapevines and hanging ripe grape clusters. And in the corners of the gardens were two pomegranate trees – the first I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. I had to do several double-takes to be sure that my eyes did not deceive me, that they were in fact bearing witness to the ripening fruit of that most blessed of goddesses, Persephone. And those were just the trees and plants that was able to identify – those more skilled and knowledgeable in the gardening arts would have seen so much more. And yet it was all still so, so beautiful.

Since the Villa was only open at that time in anticipation for that evening’s entertainment, an added bonus was the relatively empty paths and exhibits to walk and enjoy at my leisure.

The exhibits themselves seem almost a blur of rapt enjoyment. Art depicting the stylized female form from the Cyclades, goddesses of the prehistoric age. Frightening masks of the Gorgon. Etruscan bronze chandeliers. A crouching goddess of love. And an immense statue of Hercules that nearly brought me to my knees in reverence. Not only was it an incredible specimen of well-preserved classical sculpture, it was displayed in such a way to highlight its divine and sacred nature. Housed in a rotunda beneath a pointed arch, under a vaulted ceiling, the statue stood upon a pedestal before an vibrant tile array, that grew and radiated energy throughout the whole room. It was beautifully designed. And it didn’t hurt that this particular statue of Hercules once resided in Hadrian’s Villa…..

And now we can get to the ostensible reason I came to the villa in the first place – on with The Bacchae!

The stage is set by the playing of a familiar tune: the musical stylings of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You”. The jaunty yet haunting tune seems quite appropriate, knowing what I know of this play, and the cast of characters who would soon join the stage. The star of our production, the young god Dionysos, who was seeking honor and recognition of his divine heritage from his mortal family in Thebes, enters, embodied by a woman, Ellen Lauren (the SITI Company co-artistic director). As he tells his tale of struggle and woe,  and sets the stage for the drama to behold, the martial bacchants begin marching, wielding staffs of fig and dressed in skirt and suit jacket rather than the traditional leopard skin. Continuing the gender fuckery, the Chorus of Bacchant Women is embodied by women and men both, and everything seems as it should be – save that the divinity of their mad god of wine and ecstasy is denied and not celebrated!

While certainly adding a modern touch to this ancient play, through music and dress, it all came together for me quite beautifully. The rhyme and meter of the Chorus did much to stir a Bacchic frenzy within me. When they cried out for the city to join them in their sacred and joyous rites, it was all I could do to stay in my seat! I doubt that they would have welcomed that level of audience participation…. Now, I’ve been to and participated in sacred theater before, at such religious festivals as Spring Mysteries and Orpheus Descending, and this production did much to evoke that atmosphere, that quality of spirit. It felt like a true offering to Dionysos, and brought more religious…zeal than the rest of my weekend, as it would turn out. But, more on that later…..

All in all, it was an amazing night, and a wonderful and auspicious beginning for the days ahead.

Getty Villa - Pool3

Sunset view of the Getty Villa, a recreation of a Roman country house, re-imagining in particular the Villa dei Papiri, a luxurious house in Herculaneum.


The Sacred Games at Orpheus Descending

The heron stands
Like a bent old man
With his hands in his pockets
And his feet in the sand

This past weekend, a few of us local to the Pacific Northwest had an incredible opportunity:  to host an artistic agon for the Sacred Games of Antinous, in real life with our fellow coreligionists, and have enough participants to have it be a real competition too. While we’ve certainly held agons in the past for the Megala Antinoeia, they’ve typically been online and have been lightly attended. Not this time. This time they were held in the context of a religious festival, and it was simply marvelous.


The festival in question was Orpheus Descending, an interactive ritual drama presented over the course of a weekend retreat in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It’s a nascent festival, only in its fourth year, but it holds a lot of promise. It presents the tragic story of Orpheus and Eurydike and invites attendees to become purified and initiated into the Orphic Mysteries. This year was the culmination of a four year cycle introducing people to the Orphics, a mystery school that has a cosmology and body of symbolism quite distinctive from its sister school in Eleusis, which was and is more popular and widely known. This year was also special because the way the schedule played out, the festival happened to coincide with a major festival on our calendar, the Megala Antinoeia. Having known the organizers for the past several years, and knowing that a number of our local Naos chapter would already be in attendance, I propositioned them with the notion of including the Sacred Games in their event (me being Jay). As it turns out, a number of them were also contemplating holding a space for artistic and musical expression (this is the festival of Orpheus, after all, the world’s most famed and talented musician!), but weren’t sure how to fit it in amongst all their other responsibilities. So, when I made my proposal, it came as something of a relief. There would be a place to showcase artistic talent, and they wouldn’t even have to organize it!

So, we did a thing! And it was lovely, and beautiful. I estimate there was something like twenty to thirty people in attendance, and over a dozen competitors. And because this festival invokes the Muses, the leaders of the Muses (i.e. Dionysos and Apollo), and our Beautiful Boy has a passing familiarity with all of the above, it should come as no surprise that there was a bit of a…theme that developed. Inspiration and synchronicities were flying everywhere! And nowhere was that more apparent than in the poem which inaugurated the Games. It spoke of rivers, the life of a river, the essence of what it means to be a river. We were all simply floored, and then our poet had to scurry off to start his shift in the dining hall to help prepare dinner (he asked to perform first for this reason, but who knew that it would prove so auspicious?).


“River Walker” by Katharine Squires

And these themes relating to Antinous carried on throughout. Rivers came up again in song, poem, and art. Songs about children and caring for and guiding our youth were sung. As were pieces devoted to empowering the marginalized in society. A DJ who hadn’t performed publicly in thirty years was inspired to spin techno music live for us, and we had a mini Antinous Dance Party. And then there was the guitarist who was moved by spirit to perform Spanish flamenco music, particularly the kind men would perform to show off (you may recall that a certain imperial lover of Antinous was born in the Roman province of Hispania…). The funny thing is, most of the people who came and competed were pretty new to Antinous, if not brand new to him. And still he managed to bring us all together. There was hardly a time during the ritual that I wasn’t moved, or teary-eyed, or laughing with joy. It was so simple, and so beautiful.

Now, you might be curious as to who won our little competition, who got to be adorned with the coveted garland of bay laurel and red blossoms of the Sacred Games of Antinous. It was a difficult decision, as there were so many outstanding performances (as I’ve described). But Ceinan (my Antinous co-conspirator in Kitsap) and I both agreed that the poet who inaugurated the  Games was the best choice. It was simple, profound, and created with real devotion. He related to me later that the first four lines of the poem had been written eight years prior, the rest of the poem stumping him. And then, prior to the Games, earlier that day in fact, the words just flowed out in about 15 minutes. Truly, he was touched by the Muses! Our decision made, the entire: body of ritualists present agreed to keep mum until we could surprise him at dinner and crown him before the entire festival, with much gusto and fanfare. And so it was!

Without further ado, may I present the winner of the Sacred Games of Antinous, at the 2018 Orpheus Descending festival, James Hopkins! May the blessings of Antinous, the Beautiful Boy of Bithynia, rain down upon you!
Ave Ave Antinoe! Haec est unde vita venit!


James Hopkins, poet, Crowned Victor of the Sacred Games, 2018

The heron stands
Like a bent old man
With his hands in his pockets
And his feet in the sand
Share with us your wisdom
What is a river?
A river is not a noun
A river is a verb, a process
A state, not an address
A river is theory
That cannot be replicated, duplicated, repeated
A river is liquid moments rolling forward
Impossible to experience twice
To the newly hatched fry
Glass clear, red heart, black bones
A river is the cradle
Rock-a-bye tumbling down to the sea
To the struggling salmon
Cloudy eyed, rotting flesh under blood red skin
A river is the grave
Where the future, eternal life, is cast upon the waters
A river is home, state, flow, verb
A river is a verb

Hymn for Janus

An offering for the Noumenia.

Janus Bifrons

Janus Bifrons by NatasaIlincic

Hail to you, Father Janus, O two-faced god:

You who ever gaze upon the torrent of the past, the current of history’ making,

even as the present moment gives way to the possibilities of the future.

Hail to you Janus, Gatekeeper:

Who stood at the threshold of life when a young boy from Bithynia fell into the Nile,

who closed the door to the land of life,

and guided the boy’s ka through the threshold of death.

Hail to you Janus, God of Gods, Father of gods and men:

Who, before Saturnus landed by ship upon your verdant shores, was Time –

The Lord of Time; the ever moving ebb and flow of Time;

the pinpoint where all currents of Time meet and join…. and are still.

It was in that Moment that you encountered Antinous, beloved of Hadrian.

Saw that beautiful face which would soon enamor the Moon herself,

that gave you pause.

Here was a young spirit that embodied many of your own qualities, Father Janus.

Not a boy, but not yet a man – a flower plucked in the fullness of his youth.

A humble mortal, but touched with the seed of divinity – a man become a god.

A native, a citizen, a stranger – a god of many lands, but none to call his true home.

Beloved of an emperor of war-loving Rome, but one who sought to finally close the

gates of your two-faced temple passage – an augur of peace instead of war.

Antinous was the confluence of many lands and many traditions,

but was and ever shall be himself alone.

Not one thing, nor yet another, but always and forever both and none.

And among all the threads of possibility emerging from this young spirit, you saw the

queerest thing – the opportunity for Saturnus’ true liberation.

Not just for a season, or a festival, but real, abiding liberation,

a true return to the Golden Age.

And like that stranger god who came to Latium’s shores so long ago,

here was a god that would tear away all the fetters that bind and constrict the populace.

Here was a god that would guide his people to the realms of wisdom.

Here was a god that would defeat all the archons, all the masters;

Defeat every enemy of love.

So in that Moment, pregnant with possibility, you smiled down at the young spirit

before you and offered him a jar of fresh honey,

knowing that a taste of honey at journey’s beginning

would ensure that sweetness follows in its wake.

Hail to you, Father Janus,

God of omens and auspicious beginnings!

Bless your coming and your going, oh god,

on this day and all days.

©Jay Logan, 2018

Coming Face to Face with Gods and Friends

“When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?
― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

This past weekend, for the first time we nearly had a full conclave of the Magistrates and Mystagogues of the Naos Antinoou. Since the establishment of this leadership model two years ago, our leadership has always been split between the East and West Coasts of the United States. Three of us find our homes in the Seattle and Portland areas of the Pacific Northwest, while the other two are in Baltimore and D.C. So, this near-conclave would have been cause enough for celebration, finally being able to break bread and share libation with friends and fellow devotees. But there was another occasion for this gathering, the initiation of our Magistrate Merri-Todd Webster into the Mysteries of Antinous, our first Mystai since we reformed and rededicated this group as the Naos Antinoou. Merri-Todd has been an ardent devotee for numerous years at this point, and has written many of the poems, hymns, and prayers that comprise our liturgy, so really it was only a matter of time (and lots and lots of planning!) before she was welcomed formally into the cult and mystery of our Beautiful and Beloved Boy, Antinous. And what a pleasure we had in doing so!

She flew to Seattle on Thursday, and was in Otter and I’s care for the next couple of days, showing her the sights and sounds of our beloved city and region, including Pike’s Place Market,  our local witchcraft and occult shoppes, and the ever glamorous watering holes on Capitol Hill. She even got to experience some of the extremes this region is famous for cold rains followed by bright and shining days. On Satyrday, with the help of some friends from my coven in Kitsap, Otter, Sister Krissy Fiction, and I transformed a local community meeting hall into a beautiful temple, with dark and frightening tunnels leading deep down to the underworld. And it was there she journeyed, to come face to face with our God in the most intimate way we yet know how to create in this world. It was beautiful to witness and truly an honor to weave and welcome our new Sister into the fold of these Mysteries.

So, without further ado, please join us in welcoming our newest initiate into the Mysteries of Antinous. Welcome to our oracular queer death cult of sex and beauty, Merri-Todd – Hope you survive the experience!

Merri-Todd's Mystificatioin - Jay, MT, Kurt, and Michael, November 2017

Jay, Merri-Todd, Sister Krissy Fiction, and Otter after the day’s Mystification

Hunting Lions & Slaying Serpents

In a few short days, the Festival of the Lion Hunt will be upon us. This is the time when we observe the historical hunt that Hadrian and Antinous took part in the months leading up to Antinous’ drowning in the Nile. Our Beautiful Boy nearly died himself that day as Hadrian tried his mettle, but he managed to wound the beast, whose blood fed the rich earth and became the lovely red lotus which is now a primary symbol of Antinous. Traditionally in the modern cultus, this would be a time that we meditate upon our failures, how we had not accomplished that we have set out to do, or have not lived up to our ideals and been the type of people we want to see in the world. It’s important to take stock, and to allow those failures to act as fertilizer for the growth of the red lotus in our own spirits and lives. However, this year we would like to propose an additional focus for our rites, to coincide with a remarkable astronomical event.

For those living in the continental United States, the morning of August 21st will hold a solar eclipse, only the second to grace these shores in nearly a century. This synchronisity provides a unique opportunity for those in this tradition. A number of us have been deepening our relationship to Antinous’ Egyptian/Kemetic roots, as Egypt was the land that first recognized Antinous’ divinity and still remains one of the greatest sources of information regarding his historical cultus. As many may know, the sun played a particularly important role in Kemetic religious traditions, as Ra on his solar barque represented the life and potency of the cosmos. Each day his return from his nocturnal journey in the netherworld, or Duat, would be celebrated, and each evening during that journey heka, or magic, would be wielded on his behalf against his enemy, the serpent Apep, a primordial, anti-cosmic being who seeks to swallow the sun and destroy the cosmos. In myth, Ra’s boat would be protected by a number of divine beings, including Set, Isis, and Bast, each wielding a spear or knife to slay the serpent each and every day, maintaining the balance of Ma’at.

Set & Apep

It was not only the gods, however, that took part in the slaying of Apep. There were numerous spells that humans could perform to aid the gods in restoring balance to Ma’at, including from The Book of Overthrowing Apep. These spells were performed daily in many temples and were accompanied by the smashing of red clay pots. These were performed every day (sometimes multiple times a day), because it was known that the forces of chaos represented by Apep were always resurgent. The continuation of life and creation was never certain, and the forces that would swallow the world in darkness had to be constantly kept at bay. In modern terms, this is known as an execration rite. These rituals were utilized to protect the pharaoh, the kingdom, and the greater created world in unity with the gods. This can also be practiced as a Kemetic way of cleansing one’s life of unwanted influences, a cathartic experience to bring our lives back into balance so that the life-giving blessings of the gods can flow more readily to us. I recommend both, which brings us back to the solar eclipse.

I haven’t been able to find much information on ancient Egyptian views of solar eclipses, but I can’t imagine they were good. When day turns into night, as the stars appear in the sky as the sun darkens, I can only imagine it was seen as a bad omen, of the serpent Apep nearly succeeding in his goal of swallowing the source of life and uncreating existence. What greater opportunity to fight back and slay that serpent? To smash its image, to spit upon it, burn it, and stab it, to take away its power and bring back the light. With Antinous-Osiris the Justified by our sides, who perfected the art of hunting when he became a god, what lions could we not hunt, what serpents could we not slay?

Antinous Execration Pot 2 Antinous Execration Pot

There are many forces that need slaying, many forces that have disrupted the balance of Ma’at. In Charlottsville, VA this past weekend we have witnessed an escalation of white nationalism, fascism, and Nazi forces, whose clashes with counterprotesters and anti-fascists in the community resulted in a death. And this is just the culmination of months and years of fascism, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and many other forces that are tearing this country and world apart. Many pagans and polytheists, witches and magicians, that I know will be taking part in religio-magical acts in the lead-up to and during the eclipse to push back against these forces and protect those in our disparate communities that are most vulnerable. We of the Naos Antinoou invite you to join us in this work,  our contribution to this movement.

The folks at The Twisted Rope wrote up a very nice description of the process for creating and performing an execration rite that they did for Wep Ronpet (Egyptian New Year) a few years ago. What we would add is that you may want to add an image like the one above of the Apep serpent being slain (by Antinous, perhaps, or other deities known for protecting Ra’s solar barge). Then, inscribe the names of individuals and forces you wish whose power and influence you wish to see lessened and destroyed, those individuals and powers that would swallow us whole. Once your tablet or pot is filled, speak your intention, recite some hymns and pray. The Litany for Antinous the Liberator is quite appropriate for this rite, as is Merri-Todd Webster’s Panthea offering, which calls upon all the goddesses for justice. There is also this spell, adapted somewhat from The Book of Overthrowing Apep for just this occasion.

Antinous, mighty hunter, slayer of lions, favored companion of Diana – Attend!

Antinous-Osiris the Justified, red lotus, glorious jewel of the Nile – Attend!

Antinous, beloved son of Ra-Horakhty, guardian of the solar barque – Attend!

Attend! Attend! Attend!

Day turns into night, the stars shine in the heavens, as the moon occludes the sun – Attend!

Forces of darkness gather, the prowling lion in the desert, the writhing coils of Apep – Attend!

Torches are raised, weapons are drawn, chants of hatred and bigotry cry loud in the city square – Attend!

Attend! Attend! Attend!

Antinous Liberator, breaker of bonds and chains – Attend to us!

Antinous Navigator, guide who shows us the path to freedom and liberation – Attend to us!

Antinous Lover, through whose love we become beautiful and good – Attend to us!

Turn your spear tipped with adamant to the approaching foe, Antinous, and free us from this blight upon the land and the community!

[addressing the clay pot or tablet]

Taste you death, O Apep, get you back!

Retreat, O enemy of Ra!

Fall down, be repulsed, get back and retreat!

I have driven you back, and I have smashed you into pieces.

Ra triumphs over Apep at dawn – Taste you death, Apep!

Ra triumphs over Apep at noon – Taste you death, Apep!

Ra triumphs over Apep at eventide – Taste you death, Apep!

Ra triumphs over Apep at midnight – Taste you death, Apep!

Back, Fiend, an end to you!

Therefore have I inscribed your many names and broken you into rubble.

I break your will, Apep!

I break your power, Apep!

I break your hatred, Apep!

I break your strife, Apep!

You are tiny, Apep. I can see the whole of time and space, every single atom of your existence, and I break them.


In the name of Ra!

In the name of Horus!

In the name of Set!

In the name of Isis!

In the name of Bast!

In the name of he at whose name the gates of the underworld tremble!


[Destroy clay pot and tablet as you see fit. When complete, say:]

You shall never rise again.

Ave Antinoe!

River Gods West Redux

River Gods West Redux 2017 - 5

Last week, before the wildfires in British Columbia brought such a haze to the Cascadian region to affect the air quality and redden the sun in the heavens, a small group of us returned to the Deschutes River, where the story of Antinous and the Kingfisher began. The following week would see the coming of the local polytheist conference, Many Gods West, and after the wildly successful ritual we performed last year, we wanted to continue this tradition of honoring our local river spirits and further the growth of this nascent syncretism.

Otter and I (Jay), along with two relatively new devotees of the Beautiful Boy from the Kitsap Peninsula, journeyed down to Olympia and Tumwater to picnic with Antinous. It was a beautiful day, but thank goodness we were sojourning along the river, where there was plenty of fresh water and cedar and maple to provide shade and coolness. The at-the-time nearly 40 day streak of heat with no rain has been gods-awful. There along the Deshutes, though, it was quite nice, the company even better. When we eventually came down to the numinous location where our story with the Kingfisher began, we set up a simple altar along the riverbank, made offerings to the spirits of the land and the river, as well as Antinous, of course, and then retold the story as I had written it last year. The story has really held up (if I do say so myself), and the simple ceremony concluded with the bathing of our Antinous bust in the river, along with whatever images of Antinous, or rosaries dedicated to him, that others brought with them to cleanse and renew for the coming year.

It is my ardent hope that we can continue this tradition into the future as part of building our local cultus to Antinous in this region.









Invocation to Antinous Bakkheios

Antinous Braschi3

O Antinous Dionysus!

Your votaries call out to you, for we are tired.

We are weary. We are thirsty. Our limbs are heavy.

Our hearts are heavier. Our spirits sink.

We labor and we struggle, we sleep

and wake unrefreshed to labor and struggle more.

O Antinous Dionysus, Antinous Epiphanes,

Come to us now! Come to us, Antinous Bakkheios!

We are parched and in need of refreshment.

Come and bring us the wine of your joy,

The joy of living, the zest for life!

Come and loosen our limbs for the dance,

Straighten our backs that have been bent in our labors,

Widen our shoulders that have hunched over computers,

Free our hips and our asses that our minds may follow.

Come and dance with us, bring us the blessing

Of fellowship, the mood of the party,

The lubrication of intoxication. Join hands with us

That we may join hands with one another

And celebrate all that is good, all beauty

And pleasure, tastes and scents, the body

And the earth, that which grows and dies

And lives again, the tenacious vine and

The sleek, ravenous animal in ourselves

And in the world, all of your blessings,

Antinous, Antinous Dionysus, Antinous Bakkheios!



©Merri-Todd Webster, 2017