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 4

Share a favorite myth or myths of this deity.

The ancient cultus of Antinous did not leave behind a lot of myths. It left many physical artifacts, some texts, and a few historical facts. Antinous was syncretized with many deities, principally Osiris, Dionysus, Apollon, and Hermes, so to some extent, their myths are also his.

But the contemporary cultus of Antinous is generating new mythology, organically. To demonstrate this, I have to abandon discretion and point to my own writing.

A year ago today, as it happens, I wrote the opening scene of a story about the gods. It started, as many stories have, with a simple “What if?”–“What if Hel, goddess of the dead, visited Hades, god of the dead, in his kingdom, while Persephone was with her mother?” It began with an unexpected visit from the northern goddess, distracting Hades from missing his wife, and ended with the birth of Melinoe, the child whom Orphic tradition says that Zeus fathered on Persephone by disguising himself as Hades, and the decision arrived at by Persephone, Hades, and Demeter to foster Melinoe with Hel, away from the eyes of Zeus.

I posted the story in sections as I wrote it, through October and into November. After it was done, I was seized almost at once with the idea of a sequel: That a day would come when Antinous would be called upon to fetch Melinoe out of Hel and bring her home to her parents. Antinous as the Navigator pilots the Boat of Millions of Years, which has the property of being able to visit any and every form of the afterlife. (That idea is itself a new myth, or as many people would call it, UPG–unverified personal gnosis.) It would be simple for him to visit the northern realm of the dead, then return to the Greek or Mediterranean realm.

Thinking further about this, I remembered that the time of Antinous as Navigator begins when a particular star becomes visible in the Northern Hemisphere, at the end of January. Therefore the river on which his Boat sails is the river of the stars, the Milky Way, or the constellations. I began to lay out a plan for the story in which Antinous and Melinoe visit each sign of the Zodiac and encounter different deities and spirits there.

I had not written very much of the story when I realized that I was, essentially, writing a romance, a story in which the male and female protagonists were going to pair up. Some divination confirmed that, yes, this is what the gods were trying to tell me, that I should ship Antinous/Melinoe, as we say in fannish circles, and that there was a particular direction the story was headed that was of revelatory importance.

The writing of this work has moved very slowly, and I don’t want to say much more about it for fear of spoilers. I don’t write about this to claim any special importance for myself. It’s just that I am a devotee of Antinous and a writer, and writing is how I arrive at the truth. I think of my stories as fanfiction about the gods, and call them mythfic; there is really no reason except humility, or just a fear of reprisal, for me not to call them myths. I am creating new myths, which the gods give me through my gifts as a storyteller. There is no reason why people should not dream new myths of Antinous by night, or tease them out by divination, or discover them through painting or sculpting the god, or in other ways of making art or entering altered states. If the gods are truly alive and active, then their myths are not a closed canon like the Bible, a finished body of work, but rather an open-source text that can be added to, edited, revised, rebooted, and continued, indefinitely. It is a privilege and a joy to do so.