My Many Faces

I had an amazing time at Pantheacon 2013, which was held in San Jose over President’s Day weekend approximately 2 weeks ago.  It was 4 days of workshops, connecting with others in the Pagan community, rituals, and for me, something of an identity crisis.

hello-my-name-isIt’s always interesting when I introduce myself to new people.  At work and in some of my social circles, I use the name I was given at birth.  In my coven, and in Pagan circles, I use my chosen name of Lazarus.  That’s the name I have been using to write this blog. And then there’s my persona as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.  Many people in Portland, and in various queer and LGBT communities know me as Sister Krissy Fiction, the nun that got nailed.  So when I meet someone for the first time, I sometimes have a brief second where I pause and quite literally have to ask myself, “Who am I right now?  What name am I using?”

My nametag at Pantheacon said “Lazarus K” on it.  But this is what often happened:

Me, to someone I had met previously: “Hey, good to see you again.  I’m Lazarus.”

Them: *blank stare*

Me: “I’m also Sister Krissy”

Them: “Oh, yeah!  Hey, nice to see you!”

Even if I was meeting someone for the first time, I would often add that I’m also a Sister because that’s a large part of my work in the community and it was relevant to what was being discussed.

That people remember Sister Krissy better than they remember Lazarus isn’t really that surprising.  Krissy did manifest on 2 separate occasions at Pantheacon in 2012.  I went to the 383381_273743546077362_467287327_nPomba Gira on Friday night all decked out as Krissy, and then I also participated in the meditation on Sunday led by T. Thorn Coyle that brought attention to issues of transgender individuals being excluded at public rituals.  So Krissy was more visible in 2012 than Lazarus was.  I mean, really.  A big fabulous drag clown nun covered in glitter is just harder to forget than some stocky bearded dude in jeans and a t-shirt.  That’s just the way it is.

All of this got me to thinking about who I am in which communities I am a part of, what personas I use, and which voice would I like to use in which community.  Part of my set intentions for 2013 is to work on my spiritual writing.  My intention has been to do that through this blog.  But I haven’t really blogged all that much yet.  It’s not like Lazarus K has this huge following.  Since it seems like more people know me as Sister Krissy, should I just take the plunge and blog as Krissy rather than Lazarus?  That’s what I’m considering.

Some questions I’m asking myself:

  • Do I really want to “be” Sister Krissy all the time?  There were a few other Sisters at Pantheacon this year.  A small group from San Francisco came together.  None of them dressed up in their Sister uniforms and outfits, but they used their Sister names on their nametags.  Another Sister mentioned to me that she wouldn’t want to do that.  She’s not a Sister when she’s at Pantheacon.  It’s a different community.  I get that and respect it.  It’s what is right for her.  But is it how I feel?
  • Does Sister Krissy have a unique voice?  Does she have something to say to the Pagan community?  I feel that the answer to those questions is yes.  I do feel that Sister Krissy does have a unique voice and has the ability to speak to the queer and Pagan community.
  • What happens if I retire Sister Krissy or stop being a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence?  This happens.  Sure, I love being a Sister, and I currently see it as a big part of who I am.  Will I ever get to the point where I put the veil and eyelashes back in the closet for good?  Maybe?  What then?  I dunno.  Maybe I start over with a new blog… again.
  • Should I just retool my current blog, or start a whole new one?  I could just keep this blog and my persona as Lazarus K, but emphasize my role as a Sister.  But I am leaning towards launching a new blog.  I have a new title, that I think is a little less serious.  One of my struggles with blogging is that I feel like I always have to post an entry is serious and covers a topic like a short essay.  I’d like to move towards being able to have those kinds of serious entries, but also shorter, more whimsical ones.  Also, Whereto We Speed is taken from a Gnostic text, and so I tend to only post on spiritual topics.  I’d like a new blog to cover more topics, including pop culture, politics, and LGBT news and culture.

This is officially my last post here.  Over the next few days I’m going to launch my new blog, Promulgate This!  (It’s not currently set up, so if you click there you are just going to see bare bones.)  I’m not retiring Lazarus K.  I still go by Lazarus in my coven, and in other Pagan circles, and will continue to do so.  I will still also continue to talk about myself as Lazarus on the blog.  Not every post will be about my experience as a Sister.  But Sister Krissy and my role as a Sister will have a beefier presence over on the new blog.  I hope you’ll join me over there and contribute to the conversation!

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The Serpent is Emerging

Once again I’m behind on the Pagan Blog Project.  While all the other Pagans across the blogosphere (or at least the ones participating in the PBP) have moved on to blog posts about topics that begin with the letter “C,” I’m still working on the second entry for the letter “B.”

I have some valid excuses.  My partner and I just moved into a new home last weekend, and it’s a really great home to be in.  I was in a small studio apartment prior to this move, and there are some really great things about living in this space as compared to the old space.  I now have a washer and dryer right here at home, instead of having to use laundry gold (quarters) in an apartment complex laundry room.  I have a full size fridge instead of the mini-fridge I had in the apartment.  I can buy real food now and I have someplace to put it!  There is plenty of storage here.  And we have one room that is dedicated just for ritual/spiritual/devotional use.  We’ve dubbed the new home “The Priory.”  A priory is another word for a monastery that is headed by a prior or a prioress.  Since I am the current Prioress (President) of the Portland Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and we’d like our home to someplace that spiritual activities take place, naming it the Priory seemed appropriate.

So, back to my excuses.  I just moved.  I’m surrounded by boxes and half-unpacked clothes and books.  Since I have a regular 9-5 day job, I’ve been using the evenings to unpack little by little.  I haven’t had much time for spiritual writing.  The end result is that I’m slightly behind on blog posts.  My plan is to have a post up on a “B” topic on either Sunday or Monday.  I’ve been working on a post about the broom closet.  And then I am hoping to add 2 more posts on “C” topics sometime next week or next weekend, which should get me all caught up.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve all had a blessed Imbolc.  My coven met today for our gathering, which consists of several activities.  In the myth cycle that we follow, Imbolc is the time when the Goddess returns to the world from the underworld, which she entered at Mabon (the Automn Equinox).  It’s a time of continuing expansion of light and the joy of Spring.   Our coven has incorporated many of the elements of Delores Ashcroft-Nowicki‘s Village Tradition into our own practices.  For Imbolc, the men head off into the woods to look for a “tallow maid” a Y shaped tree branch that the women then decorate with flowers, ribbons, candles, and notes containing prayers, messages, and requests to the gods and ancestors.  The tallow maid represents a maiden being sacrificed so that Spring will return and the light will continue to expand. After the ritual, the maid is then “sacrificed” by being “thrown from a cliff.”  In the past this has consisted of being tossed from one of Portland’s bridges into the Willamette River.

serpent

This year, as we arrived at the forest park where we would look for our tallow maid, and we headed off onto the trail, the very first thing we saw was a small snake.  Everyone took this as a positive sign.  Indeed, after doing a short bit of research online, I found that the sighting of a serpent on Bigid’s Day (Imbolc) is a good sign about the coming of Spring similar to the traditions of Groundhog Day (or the Oregon Zoo hedgehog if you live in Portland.)  A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:

Early on Brigids morn
   The serpent shall come from the hole,
I will not molest the serpent,
   Nor will the serpent molest me.
~Alexander Carmichael,
Carmina Gadelica

Another version from the same source says:

The serpent will come from the hole
   On the brown Day of Brigid,
Though there should be three feet of snow
   On the flat surface of the ground.

I definitely see this sighting as a good sign.  Life is beginning to visibly return to the land.  We’re coming out of our burrows and energy is starting to flow and move.  Things are growing! Things are moving!  Spring is on the way!  I see this little snake as a symbolic blessing on the energies we’ve kindled and are just now starting to work with.  Those energies will continue to expand and grow.  Now is the time to let those energies start moving freely!

I hope that however you have celebrated this holiday, whether it be as Imbolc, Candlemas, or even as Groundhog Day, that your day was also filled with good food, good friends, and many smiles.  May the light continue to expand, and may you find joy as you see the resurgence of Spring in the coming weeks!  Blessings to you!

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Books!

I’m in the midst of a big move.  I could cheat a little and make the topic for week 3 (yes, I’m behind) of the Pagan Blog Project be “Big Move!”, but it would be even more accurate to choose “Boxes” as the topic since I am surrounded by them as I type this.  But really, it’s what’s in the boxes that’s more interesting, and what I am going to post a quick blog entry about.

 
decorative-letter-BBooks.  I have lots and lots of books.  I don’t know an exact number, but I know that they fill fourteen 18-gallon tote boxes.  That seems like even more books when you consider that I currently live in what amounts to a studio apartment.  I had some books in a bookcase, some stacked 2 deep in an entertainment center, some stacked on my nightstand, a large storage cupboard completely filled with them, some still in the box from when I moved into this apartment, and some in my oven.  Yep.  Since I don’t cook, I used the oven as storage space.  I had so many books that I was able to make a Christmas tree out of them:

 

booktree

 

Here they are with the flash on:

booktree2

 

As  you can see, I have a fondness for books.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  Pagans, in general, seem to like their books.  I’m not the only Pagan I know with a large library.  Why the seeming correlation between those who follow a nature-based spiritual path and the love of books?

I think one of the reasons that those who are into Paganism, Wicca, Polytheism, or other magickal based paths tend to collect so many books on the topic is that for many of us, books were the first way we started to learn about Pagan spirituality.  If I were just becoming interested in Christianity I could go to a church on Sundays, attend Bible studies, and find lots and lots and lots of real-life people to teach me what Christianity is all about.  Despite that I’m writing this blog post from Portland, Oregon, and there is actually a pretty decent sized Pagan community here, in general, most people are not going to run across a ton of Pagans in the day to day life or be able to just pop in on a Sabbat or go to a ritual to check it out.  Many of us found a book and started reading.  For me, I had just moved to Portland in Fall of 2001 after having left a very conservative Christian denomination.  I was open to hearing about other spiritual paths.  I met a woman at work who told me she was Wiccan, and she recommended a few books to me.  I started reading.  Now, I know that some of this has changed with the rise of the Internet and the dawn of digital books, but for many Pagans books were how we first started learning about this spiritual path and were able to grow in our learning of it.

Ironically, it’s the followers of the mainstream Abrahamic faiths that usually called “people of the Book”.  The term can mean slightly different things depending on if it is being used by a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian, but the general idea is the same.  It refers to the faiths that follow a written down, Divinely revealed holy book such as Islam, Judaism, or Christianity.  I say it’s ironic because I don’t think that the “people of the Book” are quite into books as many Pagans seem to be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I read a lot and liked books when I was a Christian, and I knew other Christians who were the same, but I don’t think it quite permeates their culture in quite the same way as it does with Pagans.  I wonder if part of the reason for that is that for many (but certainly not all!) Christian, Jewish, and Muslim their faith is about having answers.  But for many Pagans, there are no set answers.  Our spirituality is often about questions, and finding answers on our own, apart from just accepting the answer from a priest, rabbi, or pastor.  That desire for our own answers drives us to books to learn what we can about a topic.

Library-BooksAnd let’s be honest, I think many of us are just nerds.  I’m sorry, but Paganism has to have a higher nerd ratio than other spiritual paths.  More than half of my coven are role-playing game geeks.  They’ve all read series like Harry Potter and the Song of Ice and Fire.  Many of us grew up reading fantasy series filled with magic users and pantheons of gods and goddesses.  I think that this exposure to this fantasy magic, even on some small level, at least prepared us to be open to the idea when we came upon the real life equivalent.  Reading about the gods and goddesses in these books at least introduced us to the idea that there are options out there other than monotheism.  And dressing up in ridiculous cloaks and dresses and going to Renaissance fairs or gaming conventions or comic conventions or what have you, at least put the idea in our heads that it is kind of fun to wear silly robes and cloaks and kilts.

But then again, I could just be full of shit. What do you think?  I’d love to hear you thoughts on this.  Why do Pagans like books so much?

Oh, and if anyone happens to be in Portland this Saturday, I have about 14 heavy boxes of books to move…

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Flash Mob Poetry

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I really like what Teo Bishop is doing over at Solitary Druid Fellowship.  From the website: “The Solitary Druid Fellowship (SDF) is an extension of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), an independent tradition of Neo-Pagan Druidism. It is organized to provide solitary Druids, as well as any solitary Pagan in the general public, with an opportunity to engage more deeply with their ritual practice, while at the same time forging spiritual bonds with other solitaries through the adoption of a shared liturgical form.”

I’m not a part of the ADF, and I’m not a druid.  I’m also not really a solitary, since I have a coven that I’m a part of.  I do fit under the “Pagan in the general public” label, though, so I guess I can be in the club.  And even though I’m already a part of a spiritual community, being the spiritual slut that I am, I also do a lot of stuff in my own personal practice.  For my personal practice I draw from lots of different sources and I’m always looking for ideas and bits of liturgies – you know, stuff that works – to fit into my own rituals and magical practice.  So I like what Teo is doing because it’s something that I can mold to my own praxis.  There’s only been one ritual released so far, but it was very well done, and having been following Teo’s blog and writing for a while now, I expect future stuff to be of equal quality.

In preparation for the next High Day (he refers to it as the February Cross Quarter.  Many Pagans call it Imbolc), he’s trying something I think is pretty nifty.  He’s hosting an exercise in crowdsourced poetry.  Think of it as a poetry flash mob.  In this case the poem begins and ends with “I keep vigil to the fire in my heart.”  What goes in between that first verse and last verse is left up to the individual to create.  It’s like a devotional game of telephone, except you can’t fuck it up.

Here’s the contribution I made to the exercise:

I keep vigil
to the fire
in my heart

Is it the same fire
the burns in your heart too?
Do you feel it
spark in sync
with mine?

Is it the same fire
that burns in the hearts
of the gods?

Do they feel
the flicker when
my heart jumps?

I keep vigil
to the fire
in our hearts.

It’s the fire
that burns in unison
when
we smile at each other
we laugh with each other
we dance together
we make love
we reach out in compassion.

And so I
smile
laugh
dance
fuck
and cry…

and in doing so
I keep vigil
to the fire
in my heart.

I encourage you to head on over to Solitary Druid Fellowship and see what’s going on there, and if you feel the tug, take part in the exercise.

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Apotheosis

 

 

letterAApotheosis is one of those big theological words that you don’t hear regular people speaking about that often.  In fact, to many in our society, I think the idea of apotheosis seems ridiculous.  To put it simply, apotheosis is the elevation of a human to divine status.  It’s what Elder Price is singing about in the clip above when he says, “I believe…  that [God's] plan involves me getting my own planet.”    He’s singing about  the Mormon idea that “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”  The Book of Mormon is, of course, a spoof.  It’s an exaggeration of what Mormons believe.  But still, people laugh when Elder Price talks about getting his own planet because on some level, many people think the idea of a human becoming a god is ridiculous at worst, and weird at best.

This disdain for apotheosis was something I was very familiar with when I was a conservative Christian.  In the garden of Eden the serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit  and said  “’You will not certainly die… For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'” (Genesis 3:4-5)  As a conservative Christian I had it drummed into me that the Great Lie that led Adam and Eve into their fall from grace was the desire to be like God.  In the Christianity that I followed, God was wholly other.  Humanity was wholly sinful.  Our basic nature is seen as evil and opposed to God.  It’s only through the death of Jesus on the cross that we are made acceptable to God, and through our life as a Christian we are made more like Jesus.  But even these ideas of justification and sanctification are states of being that come from outside of us.  When I was in college training to be a minister I was taught that God chose to view us a certain way because of Jesus.  The New Testament texts paints it as an adoption, or putting on clothes so that our outward appearance is holy.  However, our basic nature is still very much NOT divine.   The idea that humanity is in any way divine or can become divine is seen as close to blasphemous.

It’s one of the reasons that the Mormons were always portrayed as a cult.  I can remember being shown the “documentary” The God Makers and ridiculing the idea that these people actually believed they would become a god and get their own planet.  How stupid could they be?  But there’s a wide gulf between when I was a conservative Evangelical Christian and the spiritual slut that I am today, and that gulf doesn’t consist of just clown makeup and glitter.  Now that I follow a more progressive spiritual path, apotheosis doesn’t seem so strange to me.

To be fair, I don’t think that portraying Mormons as believing that they will get their own planet is totally accurate.  (I’m not a huge fan of Mormonism, and disagree with them on MANY issues, but I like to represent people’s views fairly and accurately).    Joanna Brooks, a Mormon blogger, responds to this conception in a blog post from January of 2012.  She says that she has never heard anyone seriously discuss the idea that Mormons will one day get their own planet, but she points out on any given Sunday you might hear that “we are the children of Heavenly Parents, that our spirits lived with our Heavenly Parents before our mortal lives, and that we came to earth on the plan that we should gain experience through mortality and prepare to return to our Heavenly Parents… And it is a Mormon teaching that souls continue to grow, progress, and experience throughout the eternities, and that part of that expansive experience is to become like our Heavenly Parents.”    Joseph Smith in his 1844 sermon called the King Follett Discourse says this:

                “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did.”  …  “Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.”

While I have many areas of faith that I strongly disagree with the Mormon church on, as a Gnostic Neopagan, I can accept the way that apotheosis is portrayed here.

Apotheosis wasn’t uncommon in the ancient world.  A quick review using that ancient tome of knowledge, Wikipedia, shows that imperial cults were known in both Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  In Egypt, deceased pharaohs were deified as Osiris.  In the Greek world, the first leader who accorded himself divine honors was Philip II of Macedon, and his son, Alexander the Great, not only claimed descent from the gods of Egypt, but decreed that he should be worshiped in the cities of Greece.  After his death, the custom of apotheosis became very prevalent among the Greeks.  In ancient Rome, apotheosis was a process where a deceased ruler was recognized as having been divine by his successor, usually also by a decree of the Senate and popular consent.  At the height of the imperial cult during the Roman Empire, sometimes the emperor’s deceased loved ones were deified as well.

Apotheosis is a key element in devotion to Antinous.  I talked about Antinous, and my devotion to him, in my last post.  I won’t regurgitate that here, but the basics are this:  Antinous was the young companion and lover to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.  While in Egypt Antinous drowned in the Nile.  Because of the sacred status of the river, anyone who drowned in the Nile was deified and syncretised to Osiris.  Antinous became a god.  And so, one of the gods I am devoted to, was once a human being just like I am.

I’ve spoken a little bit about how, for some people, the idea that Antinous was once a very human boytoy of the Emperor but is now a god is difficult for them.  I believe some of this has to do with what I spoke about above.  Much of traditional Christianity finds the concept of apotheosis distasteful and ridiculous.  Ironically, I don’t think this was always so.  I believe that the story of Jesus is actually a story of apotheosis.  The idea of Jesus as divine is one that evolved in the early Jesus community.  You can see the development in the Gospels themselves.  One of the big questions the Gospel writers wrestled with was when did Jesus become divine?  On the cross?  At his baptism?  At his birth?  By the time we get to when John’s Gospel was written, his answer was that Jesus was always divine.  Jesus had always been God.  In this way, apotheosis was thrown out because Jesus had never been not-God to become God.  That view won out, and other views that Jesus had been human and become God (including views we now label as Gnostic) at some point were painted as heretical, and that view has carried on into much of modern Christianity.  While not everyone identifies as a Christian, I don’t believe that one can fully disassociate the impact of Christianity on the wider culture.  I believe this distaste for apotheosis and view of it as heretical has seeped over into the general culture.

For me, however, the apotheosis of Antinous, and the idea that a human being can become god is one that I resonate with.  It points to my own death and rebirth, whether that death is a crucifixion or a drowning.  The story of a young man that drowned in a river and was risen as a god is not just a story about something that happened.  It’s a story of something that happens.  It’s my story.  Just like the story of a man who died on a cross and came back to life if not just a story of something that happened in the past.  It’s a story about what is happening right now, and will happen.  It’s the story of my divine spark being incarnate in the physical world.  It’s a story about the death, both physical and spiritual, that we all face, as well as the triumph of our Divine soul.  I’ve called that Divine soul the Buddha nature before.  I’ve also referred to it as the Christ nature.  I’ve never called it the Antinous nature, but why not?  In my opinion, the story of Antinous points to our eternal nature as much as these other stories do.

The idea of apotheosis also plays in to the name of this blog.  Whereto We Speed is taken from a line in the Excerpta Ex Theodoto, a collection of notes made by Clement of Alexandria dealing mainly with (and quoting) the teachings of the Theodotus:

“What makes us free is the gnosis

of who we were,

of what we have become;

of where we were,

of wherein we have been cast;

of whereto we speed,

of wherefrom we are redeemed;

of what birth truly is,

and of what rebirth truly is.”

Indeed.  Whereto we speed is the same path that Antinous trod.  May Wepwawet clear the way before me, and Antinous walk alongside me in the path to apotheosis!

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A is for Antinous

*tap* *tap* *tap*

Is this thing on?

I haven’t been very good about keeping up with this blog.  I could go into a long list of excuses about why that is, but really, it is what it is.  But here we are in a new year with new opportunities!  One of my intentions this year is to focus on my spiritual writing, and the primary place I am going to be doing that is here.  My intention is to post here 2-3 times a week.  And one of the ways I am going to be keeping on track with that is to participate in the Pagan Blog Project, which has participants blog on topics as we work our way through the alphabet throughout the year.  As you might be able to guess, we’ll be starting with A.  So get yourself strapped in.  I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

letterAA is for Antinous

Of course I have to start with Antinous.  Back in October of 2011 I wrote a blog post called Spiritualty Squared where I described 4 different aspects of my spirituality.  One of those aspects was my devotion to the god Antinous.  I’m a Mystes Antínoou, who has been initiated into the Antinoan Mysteries and a participating member of the Ekklesia Antinoou (“Citizenry of Antinous”), a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist form of mystical religion devoted to Antinous.  of course, I realize that most of that just sounds like gobbledygook to those who have never heard of Antinous before and have no idea what kind of god he is.

Antinous was a young man born sometime between the years 110 CE to 112 CE in the Roman province of Bythinia, which is now modern day Turkey.  During one of his tours of the Eastern Empire, the Roman Emperor Hadrian took the boy into his company.  Antinous became Hadrian’s companion, lover, and imperial favorite.  In October 130 CE Antinous drowned in the Nile.  The circumstances around his drowning are not known.  Many have speculated that it was an accident, or that it was suicide, possibly murder, or even a voluntary religious sacrifice. Personally, I think the most likely cause was that it was simply an accident.  However it happened, the end result is the same: Antinous died. But the story doesn’t end there. The Nile was considered a sacred river by the Egyptians. By Egyptian custom, anyone who had drowned in the holy waters was considered deified, syncretized to Osiris, and given a minor cult.  Due to his death in the Nile, Antinous was proclaimed a god.  For the Romans the erastes-eremenos relationship ( a socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult male and a younger male) was not unusual, but the intensity with which Hadrian mourned the death of Antinous and promoted his cultus was without precedent.  Hadrian founded a city in Egypt in honor of Antinous, Antinoöpolis, which became the seat of his cult.  Temples were built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens.  Festivals were celebrated in his honor and oracles delivered in his name.   In the year after Antinous‘ death, and after a drought that had lasted several years, the Nile flooded its banks.  This was acknowledged as a miracle and attributed to Antinous.  A new star in the constellation of Aquila was discovered.  it was pointed out to Hadrian and stated to be the soul of Antinous in the heavens.  The cult of Antinous thrived for several centuries, and he was syncretized to many gods in various locations, including Osiris, Dionysus, Apollo, Hermes, Pan, Adonis, Eros and others.

Great.  That’s a history lesson.  I think the more important question is, what does Antinous mean to me?  What is it that drew me to Antinous?  The thing that first drew me to Antinous was his homoerotic relationship with Hadrian.  As a man who loves men, I saw in that relationship between Hadrian and Antinous something I could identify with.  Ironically, I’m not among the camp of those who are devoted to Antinous who identify him as the “gay god” or the “god of gays.”  I find that kind of designation to be shallow and historically inaccurate.  Antinous is no more a gay god than Dionysos or Zues or other deities who have had homoerotic relationships or flings.  We don’t refer to them as gay gods.  Granted, Antinous, before he was deified, was  a real person, and the only known erotic relationship that he had was a homoerotic one.  I can understand why some tend to label him as gay.  However, the relationship he was involved in was part of what was accepted as the cultural norm in that society.  Many, many men were involved in the erastes-eremenos relationship and then went on have heterosexual relationships.  We don’t label all of them as gay.  I don’t see why we should shove that modern label onto Antinous.  However, regardless of whether I like the label or not, the relationship Antinous had with Hadrian was a homoerotic one.

Like many people, my first introduction to modern paganism was through Wicca.  I had been a minister in a conservative Christian church for several years, before I fled Christianity because I had a crisis over who I was as a sexual being.  That crisis led me to throw Christianity completely out the window (at least temporarily).  It was only a few months later that I was introduced to Wicca.  One of the things that I immediately found appealing was this idea of balance.  It wasn’t just the male identified, masculine God, but it was balanced with the feminine side of the Divine in the Goddess.  Here was a view of the Holy that wasn’t one or the other, but a balance of both, both God and Goddess together.  One without the other was imbalanced.  I still appreciate that about the Wiccan tradition that I am a part of.  At the time that I first discovered Antinous, I had been participating in Wicca for a few years.  I had also been an out gay man and living in a relationship for a few years.  While I appreciated the balance of God and Goddess that Wicca presented compared to the unbalanced presentation of a sole masculine God that I had experienced in Christianity, I had also began to wonder if this heterosexual  male/female expression of the Divine was all there was.   In walked Antinous.  Here was a god that I related to.  Like me, he had been in love with a man and experienced an erotic relationship with a man.  In the relationship of Antinous and Hadrian I found a view of the Divine that wasn’t based on a model of heterosexual union and procreation.  It was a new concept of Deity that I felt could have a place in my devotional life.

I still practice Wicca and I still actively work with the God and Goddess in my spiritual life.  That view of balance and polarity is still a view that I find worthwhile.  But one of the cool things about being a practicing polytheist is that we don’t have to limit ourselves to one concept of God.. or even two concepts.  There are a multiplicity of gods and goddesses out there that reveal to us a fuller expression of the Divine.  So in addition to my view of God as a God/Goddess pair, I added a god that I could relate to who  had experience same-sex love and a homoerotic relationship just like I had.

Antinous_Osiris_Louvre_Ma433Another aspect of devotion to Antinous that I immediately found appealing was the way that he has been syncretized with other gods.  For some, these syncretisms make Antinous less appealing.  Why not just worship Ganymede?  Why not just worship Dionysos?  Why not just worship Hermes?  And to that, I say, why not?  If that’s what appeals to you and you want to do that, then do it!  For me, however, I’ve always found the idea of the syncretisms of Antinous to be appealing.  While I wouldn’t describe Antinous as a gateway god, for me, his syncretisms with other gods have certainly acted as a portal or way to access that other god.  Antinous has introduced me to a plethora of other gods that have since become important to me in their own right.  Hermes, Dionysos, Osiris, Eros, and Pan are all gods I initially met through Antinous.  Even my interactions with Aphrodite are heavily colored by my devotion to Antinous/Eros.  In some ways, it’s like I’m at a big cocktail party and Antinous is my host.  he has graciously taken me around the room and said, “Lazarus, I’d like to introduce you to Silvanus.  I think you two might have a few things in common.  Cheers!”

Lastly, I’ve always felt there was something profound about the fact that Antinous was an actual human being who became a god.  Again, this is another point where some have issues with Antinous.  It’s perhaps a little too “Jesus-like” to have been a human being who died and then raised to godhood.  For those in pagandom who have issues with Christianity, this surface level similarity to Jesus puts some people off.  In theology, this idea that a human can achieve divine status is called apotheosis.  I plan to post a more detailed blog post about this soon, but for now, I feel that Antinous’ very real death and deification points to our own Divine nature and ability to become gods ourselves.  That’s a deep mystery, and I will leave it at that for now.

For those interested in devotion to Antinous, there are a few resources I suggest you check out:

Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous: The personal blog of P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, founder of the Ekklesia Antinoou and author of several books on devotion to Antinous.  If you’re at all interested in Antinous, Lupus blogs about Antinous and Antinoan practice several times a week.

Ekklesia Antinoi Yahoo Group : The Ekklesia Antinoou is a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist form of mystical religion. The group is the forum for discussion of issues, whether of worship or theology, myth or meditation, surrounding the worship of Antinous, the Divinized Boy of Bithynia, his historical cult and continuing scholarship about it, and his relevance to queer people in particular.

Via Antinoi – The Way of Antinous on Facebook :  The Facebook page of which I am one of the administrators.  It’s not updated as often as I would like to, but if you’re on facebook, give us a like for occasional Antinous related content on your newsfeed.

The Via Antinoi Liturgical Calndars: A page connected to this blog.  It contains two calendars.  The first is a calendar of festivals and observances, and the second is of many saints in the Ekklesia.  I plan to eventually host these on their own site, but for now, they are here.  If you’re at all interested in following the Antinoan devotional year, this is an easy way to start.

While you’re at it, head over to the Pagan Blog Project and check out what other topics others have been blogging about!

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Filed under Antinous, Christianity, New Year, Paganism, Queer Spirituality, Wicca

Happy Turkey Day!

 

Happy Turkey Day! I’m especially grateful for things from Turkey today, like Antinous! Antinous was from Bithynia, which would be modern-day Turkey. These strapping lads are also from Turkey. Turkish Oil Wrestling. It’s a thing! Google it!

On a more serious note, I have many things in my life for which I am thankful.  The gods have, indeed, been very gracious to me.  Here’s hoping that your Day of Thanks is filled with community, laughter, and blessings!

Also, look for me to return to blogging soon.  My home computer has died and until I get  new one, my computer access is limited to work and my boyfriend’s place.  I had good intentions of starting back with regular blogging a month or so ago, but… eh, such is life.  I should be getting a new computer in the next couple of weeks, however, so look for more from me soon.
Blessings!

Lazarus K

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