31 Days of Devotion, Day 25

Share a time when this deity has helped you.

A few years ago, I was preparing a trip to visit some friends from college who I hadn’t really seen since graduation. We’ve kept in touch through social media, but that’s so often such a shallow connection which really doesn’t substitute for in-person interaction. The plan was to stay a few days with friends who had moved to Virginia (near where I lived for a short time in my youth), travel to Michigan where I went to school, and then travel around the state visiting people before reuniting with the rest of my family for a family reunion. It was to be my first real vacation since I started working, too, so I wanted to make sure that I was able to make the most of the time that I had with my friends – days at most, and sometimes only hours. I wanted to renew the bonds of frith between us, ensure that the wellspring of friendship flowed easily, not obstructed by awkwardness and small-talk.

To this end, I called upon Antinous, often known in our circles as a god of peaceful connections, as well as Hermes, to help with some social lubrication, as it were. I also called upon some nymphs, spirits of the land, to help me be grounded wherever I traveled, to help me know that I am connected.

And, it worked – beautifully, and in surprising ways. First, there were these little instances that surprised me, for instance, people recognizing the town where I’m from, i.e. Poulsbo. This is broadly in the Seattle area, and I frequently come across people in that city who I have to explain where that is. But then there was the TSA agent who was from Spokane, and the clerk at the service desk of the Montiecello House (you know, Thomas Jefferson’s eccentric home), both who recognized where I was from. And, again while I was in Virginia, we went to this old comic shop I frequented as a child. Talking with the owner, I learned he was originally from Bremerton, not ten miles from my town. Small world, eh? Things like this to help a young traveller know he’s being looked after.

Second, there was this beautiful moment on Buckroe Beach, the first time I’d felt the warm waters of an ocean in over a decade. Just walking there on the shore at dusk with my friends, when one of them asked if I could help them with a headache, since I knew some Reiki. Headaches were already kind of my specialty, but in this instance, the magic proved…. effortless. I placed my hands in the aura above her head, the warm wind from the sea going through our hair, and I tapped, ever so gently, into the power of the land, asking for their aid, and then I lifted that headache right from her head, the energy of it dispersing in the wind. We were both surprised at how quickly the pain had fled, and I felt intimately connected to that place. I can’t wait to go back, actually.

Finally, there were the great connections I rekindled with my friends. When I landed in Michigan, I experienced what under normal travelling circumstances would be incredibly inconvenient and frustrating – my flight was incredibly late and my luggage didn’t arrive with me. As a consequence, I arrived late to the first gathering of the trip. But, my host was generous and invited me to stay for an extra day until my luggage arrived, which gave us an opportunity in disguise to really spend time together. All of my connections with friends during that trip proved very deep, no matter how long the duration. I spent an evening with my ex, a lunch with a couple from my alma mater, an afternoon performing a Wiccaning for my Sister Dearest’s baby, and a couple of days with my artsy friend in Kalamazoo, checking out the farmer’s markets and drinking in the heat and sight of fireflies, something we don’t get in Cascadia.

I left my little sojourn feeling so full, the channels between me and my friends flowing strong and clear. I hadn’t really known before that friendships could be sustained over such long distances and across such a significant span of time, as if no time had passed at all. And this gift, this realization, is something that I have Antinous to thank for. He heard me when I called upon him, and helped me feel and be connected to my friends and the lands I travelled through. Such a gift is irreplacable, and I’m forever grateful to him.

Ave Antinoe!

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Antinous by Lynn Perkins (2016)

31 Days of Devotion, Days 23 & 24

Time to play catch up!  Looks like we missed Days 23 and 24 of 31 Days of Devotion.

Day 23: Share a quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think resonates strongly with Antinous.

“What is dead may never die” is a common saying in the religion of the Drowned God on the Iron Islands in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, which many people know through the popular TV show Game of Thrones.  I’ve always thought that Martin’s depiction of the religion of the Drowned God was very interesting, and there are elements that always remind me of Antinous.  Particularly the way in which priests of the Drowned God are “ordained.”   They are drowned in the waters of the sea, and then brought back to life.  This is considered a type of death and resurrection, although some are never revived. This is also how Martin Depicts Euron being crowned as king of the Iron Islands.  It has always evoked that theme of Antinous drowning in the waters of the Nile, and then defeating death through deification.  However, the similarities with the fictional Drowned God in Song of Ice and Fire may end there.  The response to “What is dead may never die” is “But rises again harder and stronger.”  The nature of the rebirth after drowning in Martin’s series is much more focused on the sea bringing hardness and solemnness.  The inhabitants of the Iron Islands are warriors and conquerors.  They are a harsh people.  Antinous seems to have emerged from the waters of the Nile as a god who is much less warlike.  Indeed, we can see a linking of the idea of fertility to Antinous as he is syncretized with Osiris and given credit for a flood shortly after his death and deification that brought relief from a long drought.  However, regardless of the differences, Martin’s initial depiction of drowning and rebirth of the Drowned God in his novels always evoked the death and deification of Antinous.

 

 

Day 24: Share your own art, music, or writing about or for Antinous.

31 Hymns to Antinous

These 31 Hymns to Antinous were written by Merri-Todd Webster, one of our Magistrates,  as a devotional offering in May 2015. They are a wonderful little resource to prayer on a daily basis as you move through the month, or taken individually for use in personal devotions.  Since we’re a day late and should have shared this yesterday, the 24th, I’ll share HYMN XXIV:

To Antinous and Mantinoe

To Mantinoe, mother of Antinous, together with her son, the god,

let us give praise, for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the womb that bore him, a healthy son,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the breasts that nourished him with the milk of life,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the eyes that watched him with mindful care,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the mouth that kissed him and spoke his name, Antinoos,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the hands that prepared his meals and changed his diapers,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the hips that carried him before he could walk,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor the feet that walked for him and to him and with him,

for his mother’s whole body heals.

Let us honor her beauty, her strength, her wisdom, her care,

for like Semele she has been brought out of darkness and oblivion

by her devoted son to shine forever in the stern of the Boat of Millions of Years,

mother to the people of Antinous. Hail, Mantinoe! Hail, Antinous!

The semen of the gods is truly in his body, and his mother’s whole body heals!

 

The Sacred Nights of Antinous 2016

Last night, October 24th, was the first night of the Sacred Nights of Antinous.  These Sacred Nights mark the days leading up to the death of Antinous and his subsequent deification, and are some of the most important days in our ritual year.

October 24th – Festival of Osiris: The theme of Osiris’ death, and his eventual revivification, remains one of the most deeply symbolic and influential myths to have ever emerged from Egypt. Soon Hadrian and Antinous  would be playing out the roles of this myth and the actions of these mysteries in their very own lives, with Antinous becoming the newest Osiris.

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October 25th – The Panthea: The importance of goddesses in the cultus of Antinous is celebrated. Just as Isis was essential to the story of Osiris, so too were various goddesses either paired with considered essential to Antinous’ deification. No matter how much focus there seems to be in the cultus of Antinous on the male figures of Hadrian, Antinous, there are always female goddesses and other figures alongside them.

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October 26th – The Ophidia: The Serpent Path explores all aspect of potential deification, both light and dark, positive and negative, permitted and forbidden.  In many ways this is a day which seeks to honor the opposite of what the rest of the world and its order seems to be saying is good, proper, and right.

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October 27th – Ananke Antínoou: As we move through the Sacred Nights and get ever closer to the death and deification of Antinous,we turn our focus to the role of fate in our lives, and living as if each day matters.

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October 28th – The Death of Antinous:  This day is marked as a day of great solemnity, mourning and sadness. Many devotees of Antinous observe this day by covering or hiding any images of Antinous they might have in their home shrines or altars and leaving them covered until Foundation Day. While prayers can be offered to other gods associated with Antinous, no prayers are said to him directly.

October 29th – Antinous in the Underworld: Antinous enters the Underworld to be reunited with Persephone.  On this day the scales of Ma’at find Antinous just, and his heart is perfectly balanced with Ma’at’s feather. Thoth greets Antinous’ rising in the East, and places Antinous’ face in his own mirror, the Moon.

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October 30th – Foundation Day: Antinous entered the waters of the Nile as a boy but emerged as a god. On this day a city was founded in his name, and his cultus established. This is the most prominent festival day in our ritual year.  It marks the deification of Antinous, as well as the establishment of his ancient cultus.  It’s a day of celebration and devotion.
October 31st – Antinous Triumphantus: While Antinous has conquered death, there is still the anticipation of his battle with the Archons of the universe, who keep all people in bondage. This coming battle is ushered in tomorrow as Antinous assumes his role as Liberator. This day, then, is a day where we continue our celebration, but also look forward with expectation to what is coming.

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November 1st – Antinous the Liberator: The final day of the Sacred Nights celebrates the role of the aspect of Antinous as Antinous the Liberator. Over the next 90 days we see Antinous ascending through the celestial spheres to battle and ultimately conquer the Archons of the universe who keep us all in bondage. We celebrate the warrior energy in Antinous, in others, and in ourselves, especially as it is used to fight against oppression.

During these Sacred Nights, we’ll be focusing on The Death of Antinous on Friday, October 28th, and Foundation Day on Sunday, October 30th, and we’ll also be continuing the 31 days of Devotion we started at the beginning of the month.  We have some announcements coming, and big things planned, and we’re excited for this coming Foundation Day and the changes and opportunities it will bring.  Stay tuned!!

31 Days of Devotion, Day 21

Share a piece of art that reminds you of this deity.

When your god’s a work of art (I mean this literally; Antinous is not only exquisitely beautiful in face and form, but his likeness has crossed the span of time since his death and deification, making him one of the most recognizable historical figures of the ancient world), it seems like cheating to just paste one of his dozens of images to include here. So, in the spirit of finding works of art that evoke his spirit rather than his likeness, I’ve included these. Enjoy!

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All the Love We Need – Alina Noir

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What works of art remind you of Antinous?

31 Days of Devotion, Day 20

What quality or qualities of Antinous do you find the most troubling?

 

One of the issues that challenges Polytheists who follow a reconstructionist methodology is finding that balance between accurately reconstructing and respecting  ancient practices and putting that devotional practice into use in our modern world and modern culture.  It seems like it’s a natural human tendency to romanticize the past.  Everyone wants to go back to the 1950’s to live in a world like the one depicted in Leave it Beaver, right?  Things were simpler.  People were kinder.  Life was better.  Or was it?  What that rosy nostalgia leaves out is the experience of lots of people who weren’t  straight white men.  Women were the property of men, racism was openly accepted, and gays, lesbians, and trans folk were either closeted or lived in fear of their lives.  Much like that nostalgic view of America in the 1950’s, sometimes Pagans and Polytheists wear those rose colored glasses when looking at ancient religious practices.  We sometimes want to romanticize ancient practices, attitudes, and customs.  However, I believe that society has progressed in some important ways with regards to some things, particularly how we treat women, people of color, children, and the poor.  There are some modern attitudes worth keeping.

Ironically, one of the aspects or qualities that comes into play with Antinous that some might find troubling is connected to one of the aspects I discussed yesterday that first drew me to him: his homoerotic relationship with Hadrian.  While there is much to celebrate in that relationship, by today’s standards, that relationship would be considered illegal, not because the relationship was a romantic or sexual one between two people of the same gender, but rather, because of the age differences between Hadrian and Antinous.  Hadrian would have possibly been around 47 or so when he met Antinous, and was 54 when Antinous died.  It is unclear exactly how old Antinous was, but we know he was in his teens when he became Hadrian’s companion, and possibly  as old as 18 or 19 when he died.  Which means that for most of their relationship Antinous was a teenage boy having a romantic and sexual relationship with a man who was well into adulthood.  To be sure, this erastes/eromenos relationship, which was an erotic relationship between an adult male (the erastes) and a younger male (the eromenos), was not unusual in Classical Greece and Rome, and would not have been considered taboo or inappropriate.   However, it should be pointed out that even within the Greek and Roman cultures where the erastes/eromenos relationship existed, there were complex rules of social and sexual etiquette that defined these relationships.  It simply is not accurate to portray them as the same type of relationships that most modern gay men experience.  If such a relationship existed today,  where a 50 year old man with considerable social and political power were having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old, it would most certainly be universally condemned and labeled as child molestation.  What are we to do with this relationship between Hadrian and Antinous, then?  Are we to denounce it?  Again, within the context of when and where Antinous and Hadrian were living, the erastes/eromenos relationship would not have been considered unusual or unethical.  These two individuals engaged in a relationship that was socially accepted, and even celebrated.  Practices must surely be judged within the time, place, and culture they are a part of.  So we honor their relationship and also celebrate it.  But what about today?  Are we saying that this type of relationship should be perfectly acceptable and practiced today?  Once again, we must look to time, place, and culture.  As I stated earlier, there are some positive ways that society has progressed and changed.  We no longer treat women as property.  We strive to treat people of all races and ethnicities with respect and equality.  And we have come to understand that sexual relationships where there is a power imbalance are often abusive and harmful to those who are in a position of less power.   We also have different ideas of what consent means and even who can give consent.  Can a teenager truly give consent to have a sexual relationship with an adult who stands in a position of power over him?  Most would answer no, and understand that type of sexual relationship to be unethical and improper.  And so, while the Ekklesia Antinoou holds up the historical homoerotic relationship between Hadrian and Antinous and declares it beautiful, we also do not support any type of modern sexual relationships between an adult and a minor child or teenager.

 

31 Days of Devotion, Day 19

What quality or qualities of Antinous do you most admire?

Greetings!  This is Christodelphia Mythistórima, aka Sister Krissy Fiction.  I’m one of the Magistrates of the Ekklesía Antínoou, and I’m excited to be able to finally have the opportunity to contribute to this series of blog posts.  I’ve actually been off gallivanting around on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera for my honeymoon, so I guess I have an excuse, but I’m still happy to be able to be able to contribute here as we move towards the Sacred Nights of Antinous together.

Today’s topic is about the qualities of Antinous that I admire most.  This might be something of an indirect answer, but the best way I can think of answering this is by talking about what it was that drew me to Antinous in the first place.  That initial pull did come from my interest in his homoerotic relationship as companion and lover to the Roman Emperor, Hadrian.  As a gay man who was exploring Paganism, most of the gods I was becoming familiar with were introduced to me though a standard Neopagan or Wiccan format.  That is to say, I was familiar with a Pagan paradigm that was mostly heteronormative, dualistic, and fertility focused.  To be sure, I was always made to feel welcome as a gay man within that paradigm, but there was always an adjustment in how I had to relate to the gods I was encountering.  One common suggestion was to relate to the God and the Goddess as the unity of masculine and feminine within myself.  That works well for lots of people, but as a man who loves men, when I first learned about Antinous I resonated with seeing a similar type of relationship to the kinds of relationships I experience reflected in the relationship between Hadrian and Antinous.  For many people, this might be all they know abut Antinous.  And indeed, this was also what initially drew me in.  However, that homoerotic relationship is not that totality of who Antinous is, and there were other aspects and qualities that soon drew me into deeper devotion to him

A second quality that to this day I still find to be one of the most profound aspects of devotion to Antinous and a great Mystery, is that Antinous was an historical human being who experienced apotheosis and became a god.  Antinous drowned in the Nile River and by nature of the Nile’s status as a holy river, he was divinized.  Ironically, this is sometimes mentioned as a negative by critics.  “Antinous isn’t a real god because he used to be a normal human being.”  However, I think his apotheosis is a profound truth that points to our own divinity and ability to transcend our material world and is definitely one the qualities of Antinous that I have a deep appreciation for.

Truth be told, I could continue to list many different qualities of Antinous and why I find meaning in those qualities.  I find that the longer I practice devotion to the God, the more I learn about him and the more there is to delve into.  However, I’ll finish with one more quality, and that is the nature of Antinous as a syncretic god.  From the moment Antinous became a god, syncretism played an important part of who he is.  After deification, Antinous was syncretized with and depicted as the god Osiris, Dionysos, Hermes, as well as many, many others.  One of my favorite parts of many of the public rituals that have been hosted by the Ekklesía Antínoou over the years is a section that has been called the “Opening of the Pantheon”.  We sometimes have lightheartedly called it the “God Party”.  It’s the part of the ritual where we invite any gods from other pantheons that might be present to be welcome at the ritual.  This points back to the nature of Antinous being syncretized with different gods from different cultural backgrounds, but also to Hadrian and Antinous’ fondness for spiritual pursuits and their openness to gods and goddesses from many different places.  It’s a quality that I feel carries over into the respect that the Ekklesía Antínoou has for polytheism as a whole, and for individual traditions regardless of where their historical origin is.

What calls you to Antinous?