I’ve been a spiritual seeker my whole adult life. For most of that time I’ve struggled with labels. To many, I’m sure it looks like I’m all over the place. Am I a Christian? Pagan? Something else? Some people look at me and get the impression that I jump from religion to religion to religion, never really settling on one path or another. I can certainly understand why others might get this impression, and for years I struggled with how to define myself. While I still don’t have a good answer on having a singular label that defines my path, there are a few different labels that one could stick on me: Gnostic, Witch, Devotee, Sister.
When I look at my own spirituality, I see four unique elements that I can discern. Each of the four aspects are equally important, yet there seems to be a natural ebb and flow as to where my focus is at any given time. Sometimes the focus is on one or two elements. Sometimes it is on others. All four of the elements are always present, but they may not always be at the forefront.
The four aspects of my spiritual path are:
Gnostic – I am a modern Gnostic and the Gnostic worldview provides my essential philosophy and ideology. Father Jordan Stratford’s Gnosticism 101 post on his blog is still my favorite place to send people when they ask me, “What is Gnosticism?” (This is right after they say, “Oh, you’re a Gnostic? I’m agnostic too.”) Some of his definition:
Gnosis means “knowledge”; a specific kind of intimate knowledge, the way lovers know one another… At the core of Gnosticism is gnosis, and the idea that enlightenment is a necessary and natural step of human experience. Early Gnostic texts are identified by [these] principal characteristics:
- that it is gnosis, not faith, that saves us from deception…
- that the universe “flows out of” God, the way ripples emanate from a stone dropped in water…
- that the “Spark” of Divinity is immediately present in the world and constantly available to us, even if it is obscured by illusion and ignorance…
Contemporary Gnostics would add a further point; that the system or daily world of our experience – one of deadlines, “spun” media, spilled coffee, parking tickets, and traffic jams – is an artificial construct, and we have a responsibility to wake up from this illusion into a real, spiritual world outside of “the powers that be”.
I still have a great fondness for liberal, progressive Christianity, especially the United Church of Christ, but even when moving in Christian circles, I tend to experience Christianity through a Gnostic lens.
Witch – I am an initiated member of Coven Thalia Kyraphia, an Alexandrian Wiccan coven in Portland Oregon. Alexandrian Witchcraft is a Wiccan tradition that is part of British Traditional Witchcraft (BTW). There are probably as many definitions of Wicca as there are people who claim to follow it, but I actually think the standard dictionary definition provided by Merriam-Webster provides a decent, generalized definition: “A religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles.” BTW is the high church, Episcopagan version of that definition focusing on the Craft as an initiatory, mystery tradition that preserves core orthopraxy. Alexandrian Wicca also tends to include more ceremonial magic and Qabalistic practices.
Gnosticism and Wicca together form the core of my basic personal theology and philosophy, but the Craft tends to be the primary way I experience spiritual community and ritual practice. Solitary Wicca is big in the United States, but for me, my coven family is my congregation. It’s where I experience group ceremonies and rituals, and where we come together to nurture and support each other in our individual growth. Alexandrian practice also gives me my “in ye usual way”, or my basic outline of how I normally structure and do devotional and magic ritual.
Devotee of Antinous – I am a Mystes Antínoou, and was initiated into the Antinoan Mysteries this past Spring. I experience interaction with the Divine primarily through my devotion to the god Antinous. There are other gods and godforms I also interact with and have an important relationship with (Aphrodite, Jesus, Sophia, the Wiccan Goddess and God), but my relationship with Antinous is the main way that I personally interaction with Deity.
Antinous is a god of love, beauty, harmony, gentleness. He’s a god of hunting and artistry, and scholarship. He’s a god of profound mysteries who helps the soul in its transition from this world to the next He’s a god of ecstacy and freedom.
Antinous was a member of the entourage of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, to whom he was beloved. In October 130 he drowned in the Nile. It is not known for certain whether his death was the result of accident, suicide, murder, or (voluntary) religious sacrifice. After Antinous’s death the emperor decreed his deification, and he was proclaimed a god. Temples were built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens, festivals celebrated in his honour and oracles delivered in his name. The city of Antinopolis was founded on the site near where he died. After deification, Antinous was syncretized with and depicted as the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris, the Greek Dionysos, as well as others.
The Ekklesia Antinoou (“Citizenry of Antinous”) is a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist form of mystical religion. The community is mostly online right now, but there is a Yahoo Group for anyone interested in Antinous to gather and discuss, and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is providing some great commentary and resources over on his blog, Aedicula Antinoi. Antinoan practices have also become part of my regular routine: personal devotions done to the the god, using the Obelisk of Antinous to set sacred space, and saying the Antinoan Prayer Against Persecution. In addition, devotion to Antinous provides an avenue for me to experience queer spirituality.
Sister of Perpetual Indulgence – Yep, that’s me. I’m Sister Krissy Fiction, the nun that got nailed, a Fully Professed Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. Being a Sister is not technically a spiritual path. It certainly has no religious component. The Sisters have no religious affiliation, and for some Sisters being a part of the organization is a way to serve the queer community, but it’s not spiritual for them. Other Sisters have a strong background in Christianity, with the Radical Faeries, some other form of Paganism, or just consider themselves spiritual in general. The description on the page for the San Francisco Sisters states:
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® is a leading-edge Order of queer nuns. Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves tocommunity service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we usehumor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.
When they elevate to the status of Fully Professed Sister, almost every Sister takes a vow to “promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.” Those are big words that I boil down to: You are not defined by the labels (stigma) that others place on you. Rather, you are loved and worth loving just the way you are, no exceptions. Period. Exclamation point. And throw another exclamation point in there just for good measure. I list being a Sister as part of my personal spiritual path because I believe the vows I just shared are spiritual principles and for me, being a Sister provides the most direct way to put my personal theology into action in the wider community. It’s how I put my faith into action, for lack of a better expression.
As I review this, there really does seem to be a flow from one aspect of my spiritual path to another. My theology and philosophy is primarily (but not exclusively) found in Gnosticism and Wicca. My ritual and ceremonial practices are mostly (but not exclusively) found in Wicca and in my devotion to Antinous and other gods. My focus on queer spirituality is found mostly (but not exclusively) in my devotion to Antinous and my work as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. And it all flows out into the community through my work as a Sister, which also connects back up to Gnosticism and Wicca to frame some of my core ideology.
I guess my path is a big square:
Gnosticism ### theology #### Wicca
Sisters ### queer spirituality ### Antinous
A square, huh? I know… kind of boring. Who wants to be a square? I need to flip up on an angle and at least turn it into a diamond. At least diamonds sparkle. Squares just kind of sit there. I suppose I could also say I follow a fourfold spiritual path, but I think the Buddhists have cornered the market on that terminology. Whatever I choose to call it, my point is that my spirituality is multifaceted. It may appear to be all over the place to some, but for me it represents a very natural and comfortable ebb and flow.
What shape is your spiritual path?