Foundation Day 2016: Let the Naos Be Established

On this day, October 30th, at a bend in the Nile river called Hir-Wer, a new city was founded and a new cultus was established. Antinous had plunged beneath the waves of the Sacred Nile as a boy, but had emerged as a god. At that spot, the Emperor Hadrian founded a new city, Antinoopolis, and a new cultus was established to honor the human who had become a god. We, the devotees of the Beautiful Boy from Bithynia, the Beautiful, the Just, the Benevolent, who is our Liberator, our Navigator, and Lover, celebrate this triumph over death and transmutation from the mundane to the divine. On this Foundation Day in 2016, 1886 years after the founding of the original Antinoopolis, we re-found the city of Antinous in our hearts and in the midst of our community as we practice devotion to the god together. We re-establish his cultus as we stand before his altars, each a priest or priestess at their own shrines and in their own home temples.

 
Just as the sacred waters of the Nile worked their transmutation on Antinous, so too, do those waters have their way with the devotees of Antinous and communities that have come together to honor him. We look around and find that everything has changed. The past has died. The waters of the Nile have worked their transmutation. Like Antinous, we emerge from the waves triumphant and move forward as a new body, a new community, establishing a new temple. We move forward with hope and optimism as Naos Antinoou. May we always honor Antinous, the Beautiful, the Just, and the Benevolent. May we always fight for social and political justice for those who are oppressed. May we always look to Antinous to navigate us on a path of integrity, beauty, and compassion. May we always find blessings in our devotion to the Beautiful Boy from Bithynia and joy in our participation in his sacred mysteries.

Let Naos Antinoou be established!

Ave ave Antinoe!

Ave vive Antinoe!

Haec est unde vita venit.

31 Days of Devotion, day 30

Do you have any interesting or unusual UPG to share?

“UPG”, in case you were wondering, is not a defunct television network, but rather a shorthand in polytheist circles for “unverified personal gnosis”. “Gnosis” means, in this context, knowledge gained by direct contact with spiritual reality rather than by rational means; “personal” means peculiar to one individual; and “unverified” means that it has not been corroborated by textual or artifactual evidence. There is always the possibility, however, that such evidence may come to light and verify the individual’s experience, and/or that other individuals may come to share this gnosis based on their own experience and thus confirm it.

I myself came by a particular piece of UPG in a curious way. I write not only poetry and essays but fiction, and since 1998 I have been an active reader and writer of fanfiction. I’ve written stories based in The X-Files, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Leverage, among others. So it was no great leap for me to begin one day to write a fanfic about the gods. I began with a simple idea: What if, while Persephone was with her mother, lonely husband Hades was visited by another deity of the dead–specifically, Hel, goddess of the northern dead. A simple scenario of an unexpected visit leading to friendship between two underworld deities became a story about the conception of Melinoe, who according to Orphic traditions was fathered on Persephone by Zeus in disguise as Hades. At the end of my story, little Melinoe was sent by her parents to live as a foster daughter with Hel.

I wrote this story over the course of several weeks and posted it to my blog scene by scene as it was constructed. I had no plan; I simply followed what I knew of Greek mythology and what the emotional logic of the story dictated. Soon after finishing it, I wanted to write more about Melinoe, so that I could know more about her. I soon conceived the idea that when Melinoe was to return home to her parents, she would be escorted by Antinous in his Boat of Millions of Years.

This story has proven to be far more difficult to write; what I have produced so far probably amounts to no more than a prologue and first chapter. But it didn’t take me long to realize that the endgame of the story, the pairing, as we say in fandom, was that Melinoe would wed Antinous.

I spent a little while blinking about this. Because my sense was that this was a true thing which I had been vouchsafed, which no one else knew as yet. I talked it over extensively with PSVL, who also divined for me concerning it, and my UPG became a Shared Personal Gnosis or Peer-Corroborated Personal Gnosis, confirmed by eir divination.

I am a poor diviner, especially since I find that systems of divination, such as Tarot, seem actually to interfere with my own intuition; they get in the way rather than opening things up. What I have concluded, tentatively, is that for me, writing itself can be a form of divination or oracular work. The imagination is a door that swings in both directions; it can create things to go out into the world, but it can also receive things coming in from a different world.

31 Days of Devotion, Day 29

What is something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t yet?

Unfortunately, one of the things that many of us in devotion to Antinous wish we knew about him is something that we’ll likely never know, not with any certainty at least, namely, what were the circumstances of his death? There has been speculation about this since his death and deification, but nothing we can say for certain to be true. There were only a couple of references even then, and they swiftly became outrageous with each telling.

“During a journey on the Nile he lost Antinous, his favourite, and for this youth he wept like a woman. Concerning this incident there are varying rumours; for some claim that he had devoted himself to death for Hadrian, and others — what both his beauty and Hadrian’s sensuality suggest.” Augusta Historia Hadrian (14.5-6):

“Antinous was from Bithynium, a city of Bithynia, which we also call Claudiopolis; he had been a favourite of the emperor and had died in Egypt, either by falling into the Nile, as Hadrian writes, or, as the truth is, by being offered in sacrifice. For Hadrian, as I have stated, was always very curious and employed divinations and incantations of all kinds. Accordingly, he honoured. Antinous, either because of his love for him or because the youth had voluntarily undertaken to die (it being necessary that a life should be surrendered freely for the accomplishment of the ends Hadrian had in view), by building a city on the spot where he had suffered this fate and naming it after him; and he also set up statues, or rather sacred images, of him, practically all over the world.” Dio Cassius (69.11)

He either fell into the Nile and drowned, as Hadrian was said to believe, or he had devoted himself to death and was offered in sacrifice for the sake of Hadrian’s health or the health of the empire (i.e. so that the inundation of the Nile could come and bring fertility to the land). Or, as was insinuated in the Augusta Historia (‘what both his beauty and Hadrian’s sensuality suggest’), Antinous killed himself because his station in life as the emperor’s favorite was due to end, as his youth and beauty faded.

Now, there are some things that I would prefer to believe about his death, that it was simply a tragic accident, and not some grisly sacrifice or despairing suicide. Would knowing the true circumstances change my devotion to him? That’s hard to say. So much of what I know and love about Antinous is from what occurred after his death, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. But, it would be nice to know regardless, for every bit of knowledge increases our understanding and appreciation of our god. In this matter, though, the world may never know.

We shall never know.  His death, as his life, was his own, and all that we can know is that darkness took him, and that he ceased.

31 Days of Devotion, day 28

What is the worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered?

As today is the observance of Antinous’ death, I will keep my remarks brief, especially since my answer involves topics that have already been covered in other posts. The worst misconception about Antinous is that he was deified by the will of Hadrian, and thus, by extension, is not really a god. Today we commemorate the encounter with the Nile waters that meant the end of his mortal life and the beginning of his godhood.

Tied with this notion, which appears in supposedly authoritative sources about the ancient world, is the misperception that he is a god of gayness, as if most of the male gods of Greece (and many other cultures) were not queer or bisexual in 21st-century terms. Antinous is a god, truly; he was and is the lover of Hadrian, but Hadrian is not his only beloved, nor are they all male.

Death of Antinous

When Necessity comes, it is best to simply bring out the fresh linen and welcome her as best you can.

I had hoped, however, to make one last prayer at his altar,

Just one last exultation in praise of his beauty and benevolence

Yet she comes, and it seems too soon;

Always too soon.

The inexorable rush of the River current.

And so my altar remains barren –

The brazier is empty, no sweet incense rising, carrying my prayers and praises, bathing the temple with their fragrance

The candles are unlit, no light to keep the darkness of death at bay

His image is veiled, covered in a black shroud, all opportunities lost to catch glimpses of that enigmatic smile on that beautiful face

And so we lament – My god is dead!

And so we cry out – My god is dead!

And so we rend our hair and beat our breast – My god is dead!

My god is dead

My god is dead

MY GOD IS DEAD

Even the land cries out, the heavens rent as the rain falls down

And though these tears bring healing and life to the earth, they are no less painful in the shedding

There will be a new dawning, a new day of celebration

But it is not this day.

On this day we mourn.

— Jay Logan (2015) ©

drowning2

 

31 Days of Devotion, Day 27

How has your relationship with Antinous changed over time?

I’ve been practicing devotion to Antinous for some time now.  I think I first became aware of him as a god and became interested in him in 2004 or 2005.  I’ve shared before how one of the things that initially appealed to me was his homoerotic relationship with Hadrian.   I think that is initially what my relationship with him was.  I was a gay man practicing devotion to a queer god.  At the time, my theology was definitely more neopagan/wiccan in nature.  “All gods are one god.  All goddesses are one goddess”  I even saw gods a something as embodiments of cosmic forces and of nature.  So I related to Antinous as a god who embodied homosexuality.  I even saw the relationship between Antinous and Hadrian as something of a metaphor of how gay men progress through life.  We all experience the youth and beauty and desirableness that is Antinous and eventually become the Hadrian, who is older, mature, accomplished.

My relationship with Antinous, as well as my theology, have evolved quite a bit over the years.  Just like any person you might spend quite a bit of time with, over the years you are going to come to understand them better and even discover things about them that you had never known before.  As a devotional polytheist who believes that the gods are real, I believe a relationship with a god is similar to one that you might have with a human being.  I’ve spent time with Antinous and I’ve come to see him as more than just a stereotype of a gay god.  There is more to him than just the fact that he had a homoerotic relationship with Hadrian.  He’s not just a god of homosexuality, he’s a god who has a variety of characteristics.  Some of them are quite chthonic and relate to movement through the Underworld.  Some characteristics relate to fertility.  Some characteristics relate to fighting against oppression.  Some relate to beauty.  To justice.  To compassion.  And I’ve found over and over this relationship is built on my willingness to come to him in simple devotion.

31 Days of Devotion, day 26

Share a time when this deity has refused to help you.

My first reaction is to say that Antinous has never refused to help me. My second reaction is that my first reaction is too simplistic.

I have never asked the god for anything and been outright refused. I have never gotten a response to prayer that felt like or could be interpreted as, “No, you may not,” or, “I won’t.” That doesn’t mean Antinous just hands me goodies, however. There are nuances.

I’m not sure that even an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-benevolent god could or would adjust the city’s public transportation system so that the bus I take home from work is regular and reliable. (I regularly ask Hermes, Mercury, and lately also Hermanubis for help with that, however.) I have sometimes asked in prayer or through divination what was the situation with another person and been told, politely, that it was not my business, rather like Aslan in the Narnia books, “I tell no one any story but their own.” I have asked for counsel, gotten it, and then ignored it, sometimes repeatedly; I think Antinous has come to understand that sometimes I have to learn things the hard way, by beating my head against the wall of poor outcomes to poor choices for a while. I have asked for big changes in a general way, like, “I could really use a new job,” but not followed up on my request with real action, and I still have the same job.

I’ve never asked for anything from Antinous and felt that it was denied me on a whim, nor have I felt that the god just did not care, as if he were above the petty concerns of mortals. Not that gods who were born gods are not compassionate and caring, but Antinous does have the experience of being mortal; he understands our petty and our not so petty concerns. “Ask and ye shall receive,” a certain rabbi recommended; I think Antinous would mostly agree.