Category Archives: Paganism

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…

pbp4

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Christianity, Paganism

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Druidry, Imbolc, Paganism, Poetry

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!

pbp4

1 Comment

Filed under Antinous, Christianity, Gnosticism, Paganism, Theology

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!

2 Comments

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

One Gay Man’s Response to Gender Essentialism in Paganism

A couple days ago, Teo Bishop started a conversation about gender essentialism in Wicca over on his blog, Bishop in the Grove.  Inspired by a comment on a Huffington Post article he had posted about his transgender child, he posed the following question on his Facebook page:

“I wonder how my Wiccan friends might respond to the idea that the Lord and Lady gave us our form, or that a trans person transitioning is the greatest insult to them.”

There were many great responses to this question, including this blog post from my friend Spanish Moss who points out that polarity, sex and gender “are not the same as taught within Traditional Wicca. Yes, our praxis expresses the duality of two Deities along the lines of the sexes; however, the core of the matter is the mystery of the creation of life derives from sex.”  I also appreciated Rev. Kirk Thomaas’ comment on Teo’s post that the gods “didn’t make us look like Them, They make Themselves look like us, for us.”

As a gay man, a man who loves men, and someone interested in trans equality issues, this is something I have thought about quite a bit in how it plays out in my own personal spirituality.  This post isn’t going to be a fully fleshed out theology of gender and the Craft, but these are some of the thoughts I’ve had mulling around in my head for several years now.

Is Wicca Heterosexist?

I know that some Queer Pagans have been turned off to Wicca and gone in search of other Pagan paths that they feel better reflect their experiences as LGBT people because they feel that the God and Goddess of Wicca express a heterosexist experience.  In all fairness, there might be some validity to this opinion.  After all, there is a real history of homophobia within Traditionalist Wicca.  I’m currently reading Michael LLoyd’s Bull of Heaven, a biography of Minoan Brotherhood founder Eddie Buczynski.  In the late 60’s and early 70’s when Eddie was first becoming interested in Wicca, he had a tough time finding a coven to train him because there simply was a bias toward heterosexuality.  In my experience, homophobia within Wiccan communities seems to be a thing of the past.  I’ve never personally experienced any kind of homophobia in the Wiccan communities I have been a a part of in the last 10 years, and I know many LGBT people who are practicing Wiccans and feel welcome in their communities.  But past homophobia is a reality whether we like or not, and apart from any actual homophobia, some just don’t like the Male/Female pairing of the gods.  A central theme to the myth cycle of the Wiccan year is all about the very heterosexual courtship/pairing/coupling of the God and Goddess, and let’s face it, the insertion of a penis into a vagina (whether symbolic or not) is an essential part of almost every Wiccan ritual I’ve experienced.  There are lots of reasons why a Queer Pagan might not feel an affinity with Traditionalist Wicca.

Reconciling Wicca to the Queer Experience

So why are there still lots of LGBT folks who practice Traditionalist Wicca and find it a fulfilling spiritual path?  I can’t speak for everyone, but here are a few of   the ways that I reconcile my experience as a man who loves men with the apparent heterosexism of Wicca.

First, as my friend Spanish Moss has said in his post, polarity, sex and gender in Traditionalist Wicca are not all the same thing.  It’s not necessarily about the gods being male and female and literally having sex and procreating and this is what it’s all about.   A male god and a female goddess are metaphors for polarities that are expressed as masculine and feminine and the creation that takes place when those two things are united.  It’s not so much about male and female as it is about light and dark, expansion and reception, and a myriad of other polarities.  Also, these are polarities that exist within myself.  We all embody both the masculine and feminine within ourselves.  The courtship of the Lord and the Lady is something that also happens internally, and that’s true for me as a gay men, as it’s true for someone who is heterosexual.  Focusing on just the outward expression of gender and the physical sex act misses the point, in my opinion.

But let’s look at just the outward expression of gender and the physical sex act for a moment.  Wicca celebrates the cycle of the natural world, and the reality is that much of the natural world exists and continues to exist because a male and a female come together in sexual union and bring forth life.  It’s a completely natural process and I don’t have any issues acknowledging this process or celebrating it as divine.  It’s the process that brought me into manifestation, after all.  And it’s the process that most of the world experiences and resonates with.  And so yeah, as a man who loves men, I celebrate heterosexuality.  Men and women having sex is still something beautiful and magical.

It’s just not the entirety of my experience.  So in addition to (not in replacement of) celebrating the union of Lord and Lady, I look to other expressions of the Divine that match up more with my personal experience as a gay man.  One of the first ways that I did this as I was exploring Paganism was to play with the Oak King/Holly King mythology.  What if we played with that myth and reimagined the Kings as lovers?  Creating new myths or reinterpreting old myths through our own windows of understanding is a valid way to bring in queer experiences.  Even apart from reimagining myths, there are plenty of gods and goddesses who already have queer aspects to their mythology.  Our Lord is a horned god after all, and the horned gods of history were not picky about who they got lusty with.  Who’s to say the Lord wasn’t out having some fun with some hot guys on the side?

Wanting to experience the Divine in a way that resonates with my experience as a gay man is also one of the things that drew me to the Ekklesia Antinoou and devotion to Antinous.  Antinous and Hadrian had a homoerotic, loving relationship.  While I would never put Antinous in a box and shrink him down to just being a “gay god,” certainly the homoerotic nature of his relationship with Hadrian is something I can relate to.  My desire to experience the Divine in a way that resonates with my experience as a gay man is also one of the things I find appealing about the Unnamed Path.  While I’m not an initiate of that path, I do appreciate that the their gods are men who love men.  Their gods are just like me.

Also, as I pointed out in my previous post, it’s not like we have to limit ourselves in regards to the gods we interact with.  One of “perks” of being a Pagan or polytheist is that we have many gods and goddesses to form a relationship with.  There are the Lord and Lady of Wicca, Antinous and Hadrian, The Dark God and Light God of the Unnamed Path, and many other gods from many other pantheons who can all be a part of my spiritual path and my spiritual life.

So here’s to worshiping the Divine in the many forms that the Divine takes in the world: God, Goddess, Male/Female pairs, Male/Male pairs, and everything in between and in addition to this.  Let’s celebrate all of it as holy!

4 Comments

Filed under Antinous, Paganism, Polytheism, Queer Spirituality, Transgender Issues, Wicca

Why Not Ganymede?

I had an interesting conversation last night.  For the first time in my experience, someone confronted me on my devotion to Antinous.  The basis of the argument was this: “Why Antinous?  There was nothing really special about Antinous in life.  He’s only a god now because he was the Emperor’s boy toy.  Why not just worship Ganymede or some other god that has homoerotic elements?  Worshipping Antinous is like worshipping a pop idol.”

Never mind that I answered this question with a couple reasons why I personally resonate with devotion to Antinous and what it means to me.  Also, never mind that the person posing this challenge had incorrect information on the history of Antinous and his historical cultic practice, and had no idea what my own spiritual practice looks like.  He wasn’t really looking for answers anyway.  He was asking me questions so that he could provide his own answers and let me know why he thinks devotion to Antinous is ridiculous.

Setting aside whether or not this person’s attitude and challenge to me was rude or not, what really struck me as odd about his questions was that he seemed to be very black or white in his thinking and made a couple assumptions about my personal spirituality.  They’re assumptions based on the type of exclusive spirituality that many people in the United States might practice, but I don’t think are valid when talking about the spiritual experiences of those in the Ekklesia Antinoou, as well as other modern Pagan paths that I participate in.  It’s those assumptions that I want to look at.

The first assumption is that my devotion to Antinous is coming from a “better than” paradigm.  This person was working under the assumption that I am devoted to Antinous because I somehow think that  being devoted to Antinous is superior to worshiping Ganymede, or Dionysos, or Pan, or whichever other god might be available for me to devote myself to.  He kept asking me, “Well, why Antinous?  Why not Ganymede? Why not this other god?”  As if I should justify my devotion as being better than worshiping other deities.  I think this assumption comes from the way that some of the monotheistic faiths push their belief system on others and insist that theirs is the best religion of all.  Jesus is better than any other god!  Christianity is the only true religion!   This is the right way and that’s the wrong way!  The person who was challenging me wasn’t happy with my answers because I wasn’t giving him reasons that Antinous is better than any other god.  The reality is that I don’t think that Antinous is better.  Devotion to Antinous is not more right than being devoted to some other god or following some other spiritual path.  This isn’t a celestial wrestling match where “My god can beat your god!”  There are many valid spiritual paths out there and many wonderful gods someone could potentially be devoted to.  None of them are better.  They’re just all different.  I’m devoted to Antinous because I resonate with him, and through regular practice I have developed a personal relationship with him.  So if you’re looking for me to justify my faith to you, that’s not going to happen.  It doesn’t need to resonate with you.  It resonates with me, and that’s just fine.

The other assumption that my friend was making is that it either has to be Antinous or nothing.  “Why not Ganymede or Dionysos?”  Well, yes, why not?  Why not Antinous AND Ganymede AND Dionysos AND Osiris AND Thor AND Lugh AND a myriad of other gods and goddesses.  While my core theology is not polytheistic (I’m a nondualist and panentheistic at heart), I would say that in practice, I’m a polytheist.  One of the great things about polytheism is that it gets to be “yes/and” not “either/or”.  It’s not like I have to choose Antinous over these other deities.  On the contrary.  It’s a god party!  So asking me, “Why not Ganymede?” ends up seeming a little silly because he’s at the party too, as are many others.

I’ve often said that religion is like language.  It gives us a vocabulary to speak about something which ultimately can’t be described.  I like to say that I am fluent in few different languages.  The language I learned growing up was Christianity and I still speak it well.  I’m also fluent in Neopaganism and some of it’s sub-dialects.  I can ask where the bathroom is in Buddhism.  But to ask, “Why Antinous?” is kind of like asking, “Why Russian?”  Well, why not Russian?  Why not some other language? The reality is that Russian isn’t better or worse than other languages.  You might choose to learn it for a variety of different reasons, some practical and some personal.  You could also choose to learn several different languages.  Why limit yourself in a diverse world?  I am doing the same in my devotion to Antinous.  Antinous is simply one “language” I speak to communicate with that which is Divine.  But I know a few different languages, and they all resonate with me on one level or another.

So, indeed.  Why not Ganymede?  Invite him to the party too!

1 Comment

Filed under Antinous, Christianity, Paganism, Polytheism

Z Budapest, Antinous, and a Gnostic walk into a bar…

No clue what the punchline to the subject of this post might be, but it seemed fitting since I have a little bit to share on each of those topics.

 Z Budapest and Pantheacon

A final few words (at least from me) on the discussion surrounding transgender inclusiveness at Pantheacon:

I did mention this in my last post when I spoke about keeping perspective, but I’d like to reiterate the point and join P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and in saying that “PantheaCon 2012 was great from start to finish, and a ton of really wonderful stuff came out of it. And when I say ‘great,’ that doesn’t mean that it was without some pain, discomfort, or annoyance at various points, but the positive aspects far outweigh and overshadow anything negative.  Z Budapest’s “genetic women only” ritual and the action organized in response to it by T. Thorn Coyle was held on Sunday night.  The rest of the convention was filled with many fantastic workshops, rituals, parties, gatherings, and connections with new and old friends.  Truth be told, I even found my participation in the action for trans inclusiveness to be very meaningful and worthwhile, but when seen in the context of Pantheacon as a whole, it was only one part of my experience.

The issue of transgender inclusiveness is an important issue, however, and I understand why this discussion has come to dominate the blogs and Facebook comments after the convention.  I’m not sure that I have much more to say than what I have already said.  Therefore, I’ll let others do the talking for me!  There are a couple other posts that are worth reading/hearing.

  • I highly recommend the latest podcast from Hyperion of The Unnamed Path.  In it, he sums up the events that have taken place and gives us his take on things.  I have to say, I agree with 100% of what he says in this podcast.  He’s managed to boil the issues down to their core elements and has managed to do so while showing compassion to all involved and without demonizing one side or the other.  Thank you, Hyperion, for being a voice for inclusion and for a reasoned response!

 Antinous

As an initiate into the Antinoan Mysteries and a devotee of Antinous, I found this news that P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has shared over on the Aedicula Antinoi blog to be pretty damn exciting: Polydeukion now has a dedicated oracular medium!

(More on my devotion to Antinous, as well as other aspects of my personal spirituality, can be found in my blog post Spirituality Squared.)

Polydeukion may not be familiar to many people.   Lupus says quite a bit about him in this post.  I think of him as one of the figures involved with, and surrounding Antinous, part of an “Antinoan pantheon,” so to speak.  A dedicated oracle for Polydeukion is fantastic news.

According to Lupus:

A certain gentleman I know rather well has come forward and will be acting as the Oracle of Polydeukion until further notice. The gentleman is called Stephanopotamos, and will be doing an oracular session with Polydeukion for semi-public consumption every three months, starting this year on Polydeukion’s festival of March 9th, and then on the 9th of June, September, and December ad infinitum (!?!). I fully support, endorse, and recommend this oracle, and he will be my “go-to” oracle for Antinous-related and Ekklesía Antínoou-related matters from here on out. In addition to the regular three-months-apart sessions, the oracle will also be available for private consultations with those who wish to seek them.

Khaire Polydeukion!

Gnosticism and Leap Year

The Rose Cross Community of the Apostolic Johannite Church is one of the gnostic/esoteric communities that I frequently take part in.  They are hosting a Special Leap Year Eucharist tomorrow evening.  In the description for the event it says, “This will be a celebration of the Johannite Congregational Eucharist, to celebrate a day which only exists every 4 years. Align your spirit and will with the energies of the next four through this uplifting ritual.

This sounds very cool, and I plan to attend, but it also got me thinking about Leap Year and the day of February 29th itself:

  • Does February 29th have any special energy that is different than all the other days?
  • If so, what kind of energy is it?
  • What kind of magic and intentions would be appropriate for this day?
  • Are you planning to do or observe anything differently tomorrow?
  • Or is this just another day and my musing are mental masturbation?

I’d love to hear some thoughts and ideas on this.  Feel free to comment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Antinous, Gnosticism, Paganism, Pantheacon, Transgender Issues