Springing onto the Wheel

Today is the spring equinox here in the northern hemisphere, and my local weather is cooperating with clear skies, warm sun, pleasant temperatures, and the blooming of daffodil and crocus.

It’s a holy day in a number of ways and traditions. Astrologers count this day as their new year and welcome the Sun’s entry in Aries, the fiery Ram. Wiccans call it Ostara and honor the Goddess as Flower Maiden, accompanied by rabbits or hares, birds, and dyed eggs. Druids call it Alban Eilir, said to mean “the Light of the Earth”, and have much the same symbolism as Wiccans do. Some devotees of Antinous observe the apotheosis of the empress Sabina, Hadrian’s wife, on the 21st, when she becomes Diva Sabina, a goddess. And in the Church it’s Lent right now, but Easter must fall near the equinox, and March 25th is the feast of the Annunciation, of the wedding of God and humanity in Mary’s consent to be the Mother of God’s Son.

But what if you’re not Wiccan or Druid or any of those things? Should you still celebrate the Wheel of the Year? If so, why? And how?

I say yes, you should, if you want to. I still do although I also observe holy days for Antinous and many Roman gods. I think it’s worthwhile because the Wheel, while it was first cobbled together out of multiple folkloric traditions by Gerald Gardner, the father of Wicca, and Ross Nichols, the father of modern Druidry, corresponds usefully to real changes in the natural world, and observing it can help us with various sorts of mindfulness.

That said, I have to acknowledge that in a lot of latitudes, there’s not enough seasonal variation to make a cycle of eight seasons relevant. If the Wheel is not really observable in your climate and region, don’t worry about it. Find your own way of relating to your place in time and space.

Because that’s what the Wheel is, for me. It’s not so much a re-enactment of a mythical cycle, though it can be connected with Antinous and with Jesus; it’s a way of anchoring in your land, being open to the skies, relating to what’s around you.

So I’d like to suggest some steps for working with the Wheel of the Year.

Step one, uncouple it from mythology, for now. Don’t worry about what any god or goddess might be doing. Just stop and look around you.

Step two, don’t think of the Wheel as eight isolated festival days. Think of it instead as a way of breaking the year into eight seasons instead of four. In the U.S. today, we identify the solstices and equinoxes as the start of a season, e.g., spring begins today. But old European traditions identify the cross-quarter days as the starting dates, and the quarter days as the seasons’ peaks. Hence the old terms Midwinter and Midsummer; the winter solstice is the middle of winter because winter began on Samhain, at the start of November. I find this more sensible, but your mileage may vary.

Step three, now you have eight seasons. So, look around. Pay attention. What is happening during each season of the year? What’s happening on the earth is going to depend, of course, on where you live. For me Imbolc means longer days but also colder, a greater likelihood of snow than in November or December, the possibility of early flowers, and the first signs of mating season for local birds. The season of the spring equinox means more flowers, especially daffodils, budding trees, increased bird activity, rain instead of snow, and of course, longer days and warmer temperatures.

Look at your local weather patterns, what things are budding, blooming, or dying, what the birds are doing, how the air smells. Tune into the energy behind the activity. For me Imbolc feels like a beginning because I always feel a strong surge of energy in the world and in myself. Spring equinox is stabilizing, but then brings in more energy as the days get longer.

Step four, look up. Look at the sky. Whatever hemisphere you live in, you are sharing that sky with everyone else who lives there. The eight seasons correspond to the turning of the Zodiac and to other solar and stellar events, such as the movement of Orion and the Pleiades, which have been important in myth for farther back than we have written records. It had not occurred to until a friend mentioned it that people in the Southern Hemisphere are not only celebrating the stations of the Wheel in opposite seasons to the North, but under different signs of the Zodiac. For me the Spring Equinox belongs to Aries and the Fall to Libra, but down under, Aries hangs over the Fall Equinox and Libra over the Spring. What effect does that have? Look at your sky and watch the movements of the moon, the sun, and the stars. They’re an important part of the seasonal pattern.

Step five, do something with your observations. Construct a ritual, or don’t. Plant or tend or harvest or eat something. Read or watch or listen to works of art that express the seasonal energy. And write, sing, play, dance something for that expression, too. Add a mythology back in, if you wish. Just go for a walk and breathe.

Or don’t, because your seasonal patterns are totally unlike this. But your land and your sky are still important for you, spiritually, physically, psychologically and I recommend getting in touch with them.

There are of course many books on this topic, Wiccan, Druid, and generically pagan. I’ve just started to read Yoga through the Year by Jilly Shipway, which suggests yoga practices and meditations for each of the seasons. So go forth and spring onto the Wheel, and happy springtime!

The McCoy Disclaimer

In one of the classic episodes of the original Star Trek series, “Devil in the Dark”, Dr McCoy is faced with a wounded Horta, an alien that is basically a sentient rock. Captain Kirk has only just learned that the monster that’s been killing miners is, in fact, a sentient person and a mother trying to protect her eggs, which have been crushed by the mining operation. Faced with trying to patch a phaser wound on a rock, McCoy balks and utters the famous line, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!”

Being a doctor, McCoy improvises and successfully helps the Horta, and Kirk mediates a peace between the alien mom and the miners. McCoy got to make his disclaimer several more times over the course of the series, and while I’m a little behind on some canon, I’m pretty sure every other doctor in a Trek series has gotten to echo McCoy’s line at least once. 

I’ve been looking at witches, pagans, and occultists on various social media platforms lately, and my reaction to what I’m seeing can basically be summed up in a McCoy Disclaimer: I’m a polytheist, not a witch.

I’m a polytheist, not an occultist. I’m a polytheist, not a magician. I’m a polytheist, not a priest, or priestess, or priestx, even. I’m a polytheist, not a spiritworker.

What I am, what I do, as a polytheist, seems to me to be closest to what Christian tradition calls an oblate or a tertiary. An oblate or tertiary is someone associated with a religious order, usually with a specific local community, who is a lay person with a day job and a mundane home life, who also carries out certain religious practices in unity with the monastics. Benedictines and their relatives call them oblates; Franciscans and similar orders call them tertiaries (the “third order”, after monks and nuns). 

Oblates, like their monastic kindred, make promises of dedication, keep a rule, and keep in contact with the monastic community. But they continue to live “in the world”, in secular society, a kind of outreach of the monastic life of prayer.

The oblate analogy is not a useful one for everyone, to be sure. But even if it’s not, I have a little secret to whisper to the internet, in case you haven’t heard it.

Are you ready? Here it is:

You don’t have to be a witch to be a pagan.

No, really. You don’t. You don’t have to be a witch or any kind of magical practitioner. If you are a polytheist and believe there are many gods and want to worship some of them, you can just do that. You don’t have to learn Tarot, follow astrology, or cast spells. (Although Tarot is neat and astrology is useful.) You don’t have to cast a circle and call the quarters, You don’t have to have the witch’s tools (if you’re not a witch). You don’t have to work with crystals. (Unless you like them, which I do. Rocks are friends.) 

If your inclination, like mine, is to be a devotee, a religious person, rather than a magical practitioner, you can simply make, purchase, or even print a picture of a deity, put a tea light and a glass of water in front of it, burn some incense, and say a prayer. Start with “hi how are you I think you’re neat” prayers, perhaps something from historical sources like the Orphic or Homeric hymns (if you’re approaching Greek or Roman gods, for example), rather than “oh hi there please gimme X asap” prayers. Be respectful and a little formal. Asking for help can come later, once you’ve established a relationship.

Because that’s really all we’re talking about: establishing a relationship between a human person and a divine person. You don’t need magical skills to do that. There are magical skills that can help you in refining that relationship, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. You can proceed on the assumption that the Gods are available, that they have good will toward us, and that an offering and prayer respectfully presented will be noticed. 

You don’t have to wait for a sign or a calling. If you are inspired to worship Anubis, you don’t have to sit around hoping you see x number of black dogs as a sign that Anubis! wants! you! Do a little research, make a little offering, make a few more offerings, and–here’s another little secret for polytheists–give it time and see if devotion to Anubis enriches your life. I don’t mean expecting Anubis, or any deity, to hand you a new car, that big promotion, the really expensive Mac computer, or anything strictly material. I mean asking yourself if devotion to Anubis makes your life more meaningful, more coherent. If it gets easier to go with the flow and deal with your average daily level of stress. (Allowing for the fact that right now, especially in the U.S., we are all at above-average levels of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) If maybe you are inspired to make fancier offerings or to create something for the god, like an image, a painting, your own hymns and prayers. 

I have a lot more to say on these topics, I think. But I’m going to say them another night.

Happy Lupercalia, Presidents’ Day, and International Fanworks Day

Good morning, gentle readers! Thanks to the mythologized memory of Washington and Lincoln, I have this cold, overcast late winter/early spring day off, a perfect opportunity to stop in and say hello to all the new visitors I’ve been getting lately.

Hello! Welcome to my digital roost! Here are some things you might want to know about me:
–I write, obviously–fiction, fan fiction, ritual and devotional poetry, essays and musings.
–I am a singer and have been a paid church chorister.
–I am a bisexual, genderqueer, middle-aged person, in a longterm asexual romantic relationship with my cockatiel, Rembrandt van Tiel. He’s been in my life for over twenty years and that’s almost as long as my former marriage.
–I’ve been writing fan fiction since the late 1990s and have no intention of stopping. My fan fiction will always be available for free and archived at the Archive of Our Own.
–As a writer and thinker I’m interested in religion, sex, devotion, the creative life, science fiction, fantasy, and the connections between creativity and sexuality, sexuality and spirituality, spirituality and creativity.
–I’m a devotional polytheist who worships Antinous, the deified lover of the emperor Hadrian; Melinoe, the little-known underworld goddess who is addressed in the Orphic Hymns as the daughter of Hades and Persephone fathered by Zeus in disguise; the Forest God, that guy with the antlers and the deer legs, no, he doesn’t answer to any other name, just the Forest God; and the Roman pantheon, although I’m not religio romana or Roman recon or Roman revivalist, I just worship them.
–I have a Patreon, where for $1 per month you can read my public writing ahead of the general public and see other posts that might not go public at all.
–Capricorn Sun, Libra Moon, Aquarius Rising, INFJ, and lifelong Trekkie.

I intend to begin posting here again pretty soon, so please follow me and stay tuned, and consider dropping by my Patreon and sponsoring me. Also consider the possibility that Romulus and Remus may have been werewolves, because this intrigues me. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturnalia: Solstice Carol

Wreathe his brow with ivy now
Warm the wine with spices fine
Though the sun set low and early
Antinous shall make us merry

Light the night with candles bright
Raise a song and sing it strong
Though the dark come soon and swift
Antinous shall bring us gifts

Fragrant bough and holly now
Red and green and gold are seen
Though the days grow hard and chill
Antinous is with us still

Snow or rain may come again
Parties end, come freezing wind
Tomorrow is a longer day
Antinous has come to stay

Antinous as Dionysus, now in the Hermitage Museum

Veils of darkness and of light

The veil is thin this time of year, they say.

What veil? I wonder.

Between this world and the otherworld. Between the living and the dead.

The wall between this world and the other has been hard and thick for a long time, like the wall some people want between two countries, one “white”, one “brown”. But it is crumbling now, thin in places, broken in others, wholly absent where there is water, just as it has always been. Whether immigrants or Gentry, welcome or unwelcome, strangers are coming over the border more than ever now. That’s what I hear.

Is there a veil between the living and the dead? Have we not just been ignoring them, as we ignore the Other Kind?

People talk of the dead, the ancestors, the thinning veil, at the same time that they decorate with skeletons, bats, and spiders, frighten themselves with horror movies, make lanterns with terrifying faces that slowly rot and crumple just like human flesh. Is that what is on the other side of the veil? Horror and decay? Are people afraid of the dead, or only pretending to be? Do we fear the dark?

When I fear the darkness, I fear the things of this world: the mugger, the rapist, the distracted driver, the bomb dropped by night. The serial killer who looks just like every other harmless, trustworthy man by day. Men are harmless, right? I fear the boys who march by night with torches and chant their right to dominate the rest of us. I don’t fear dreams of my grandmother, my great-aunt, or even my unwelcome ex-husband.

In my mind I nudge aside the curtain, and what I see on the other side is light, tremendous light. A light so powerful I am blinded; a light not affected by the shortening of the days. Whether it is the light at the heart of the earth or a light beyond the stars, or both, or neither, the mystery of this season for me is a transcendent light. It is the light of Christ’s saints in the heavenly Jerusalem; it is the light of love found in the terror of the underworld and the realization that one loves and is loved by the god at his most terrifying; it is the light of the jack o’ lantern and the Christmas decorations that go up too early and the new candles of Candlemas, the light that shines in the darkness and loves the darkness and is loved by it.

Fanfic for cooler weather

The Happy Hedgehog (1272 words) by MToddWebster
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Andrew Hozier-Byrne (Musician)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Andrew Hozier-Byrne/You
Additional Tags: Coffee Shops, Pastries, Autumn, Kissing, Holding Hands, Dating, Warm and Fuzzy Feelings, Genderqueer Character, Ambiguous Gender
Series: Part 6 of Your Shape in the Doorway
Summary:
You and Andrew enjoy a coffee shop date on an autumn day.

A belated Commentary, by request

Readers who followed me all the way through my series of Commentaries on my 31 Hymns to Antinous last month may recall that I said I was omitting one of the original hymns from the sequence and introducing a new hymn written last year. At the time I was quite sure that this was the right course of action and that the deities named in the omitted hymn were Okay with my decision.

Early this month, I felt that someone unfamiliar with nudging me for my attention. So I sat down with a Tarot deck, proposed some rules for yes/no answers, and worked my way through several rounds of three-card throws until I knew who was tapping me. Did you guess it was the deities of the omitted hymn? If so, you get the virtual prize of your choice, because it was, in fact, the Tetrad++.

I was happy to hear that They were willing to work with me once again. I was not surprised to hear that, to make amends for having more or less let our relationship lapse, I owed Them the publication of Their hymn with a commentary.

Hymn XXII: To Antinous and the Tetrad++

Sing, O Muses, of the splendid youth, beautiful and masculine,

the perfection of his gender, who became the first father

of a new generation of gods, gods who are numina, gods who

are deities, gods too great to be contained in the boxes of gender.

Sing of Antinous, beloved of Hadrian, one with Osiris, the Bithynian boy,

who fathered the first two of the Tetrad on Pan, great god of the wild,

worshipped in Arcadia, and led blessed gods and mortals divinized

to contribute to the new births. Sing of Panpsyche, sing of Panhyle,

twins, siblings, rivals, lovers, all-soul and all-body, the offspring

of seventy-eight generous parents. Sing of Paneros, offspring

of Panpsyche together with Panhyle, progenitor with eir parents

of mighty Pancrates. Sing of Paneris, partner of Paneros, and last

but not least of Panprosdexia, engendered by Pancrates.

Praise to Antinous, who led the great gods to birth a new generation

of blessed deities with new experiences of gender! Praise to Paneros,

who unchained Eros that all might equally love and be loved! Praise

to Panpsyche, the soul that contains the body, and to Panhyle, the body

within the soul. Praise, praise to Pancrates, who begins a new cycle

of time, and to Panprosdexia, who gathers all souls home. Praise not

least to Paneris, who preserves all beings from boredom!

O blessed Antinous, may you be loved and blessed by all people

of whatsoever genders for the generosity of your eros, the courage

of your divine youth! O blessed Tetrad++, may you be known and loved,

praised and worshipped, even more widely than all your parents,

All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power, All-Strife, and All-Acceptance!

The Tetrad++ are a group of six deities who are non-cisgendered. Originally They manifested as a quartet: Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, and Pancrates. Later, They added two to Their number: Paneris and Pancrates. They are new deities, recently birthed, engendered by Antinous and a host of deities from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and other pantheons, along with many of the divi and divae associated with Antinous (i.e., Hadrian, Sabina, and other deified imperials). And They are particular patrons of trans, genderqueer, metagender, agender, and non-gender-conforming persons.

The difficulty in this hymn for me is that when I composed it, I believed myself to be, to have always been, a cisgender woman. I believed that since I had a female body, female genitals, female breasts, that is, since I had been assigned female at birth (AFAB), I was a woman. It didn’t matter that I had never felt comfortable in that category, or that there seemed to be many experiences common to women that I did not share, or aspects of femininity that I could not identify with. It wasn’t significant that I rejected typically female roles like wife (I almost never referred to myself as “So-and-so’s wife) and mother (I was a stepparent but did not want children), or that self-help books written specifically for women (I often picked up titles on writing or creativity) tended to seem infuriatingly unhelpful. I had a certain set of physical characteristics, so I was… as gender-essentialist as many people were and still are.

However, a couple of years before I wrote this set of hymns, I was motivated to participate in a novena of spiritual elevation for the trans dead: nine days of prayer concluding on November 20th, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every year, hundreds of trans people die by violence, often isolated from friends and estranged from their birth families. The novena is intended to help them progress spiritually in the afterlife so that they don’t remain trapped in a state like their moment of death.

I distinctly remember sitting on the floor of my cramped apartment, praying over the offerings of candle and cool water that I had laid out, and suddenly sensing the Tetrad++ around me, a hexagram of tall, bright, vibrant, armed beings who said, “This is one of ours.”

At the time I was unable to grasp the plain sense of these words: that I, like Them, was not cisgender and did not fit into the box to which I had been assigned at birth. It took me five or six years to start to understand that, and I’m still working on it. But I was happy to worship and work with the Tetrad++, until events within the Antinoan community disrupted our relationship.

I am happy now to renew my connection with Them, and to deepen my understanding of Their genders and my own. (I capitalize Their pronouns not simply as an honorific, but because They tend to communicate with me as a unified group.) Panpsyche, whose name means “all soul”, is of the first generation of the group, a trans feminine goddess who appears winged and armed with a spear. Panhyle, whose name means “all matter” or “all body”, is her trans masculine twin brother, who bears bull’s horns and a bow and arrow. They are the parents of Paneros, whose name means “All love”, who carries the sword and is metagender, sometimes manifesting a serpent where their genitals would be.

Panpsyche, Panhyle, and Paneros together became the parents of Pancrates,”all power”, the fiery deity who contains all genders. Paneris, “all strife”, manifested as the polar partner and lover of Paneros, a genderfluid being who shifts without stability between male and female presentation (and might appear as a fox as well). And Panprosdexia, “all acceptance,” the offspring of Pancrates, is agender and asexual, usually appearing hooded and cloaked, the one who walks in dark places and leads those who are lost there back to the light.

In my experience of these deities, They are deeply concerned with the survival and well-being of people who don’t fit into the usual boxes of gender or sexuality, to the point in my case of nagging me about self-care. I will not resist if They decide to resume that role in my life, because I could use some divine nagging (even more than I already get, thanks, everyone). They also affirm that gender is a choice and your choice is valid, even if that choice is cis masculine or cis feminine, because those genders, too, are part of the diversity of life. I hope that, if you are moved to use this hymn and find out more about the Tetrad++, They will manifest to you as They did to me and bless your life.

POEM: To Issan Dorsey Roshi, on the occasion of his paranirvana

Tommy Issan Dorsey Roshi

One moment of perfect practice, says Dogen
one moment of perfect enlightenment
One moment of perfect prayer
a Rosary recited with pure attention
loving the Blessed Virgin
wanting to be like her
One moment of perfect obedience
sailor on the deck
performer cheering your comrades at sea
One moment of perfect performance
the wig, the makeup, the bra, the heels
singing on the stage
the boy who looks like the girl next door
One moment of perfect openness
available to the next customer
becoming their need like a bodhisattva
One moment of perfect transcendance
the high the low the trip the ecstasy
One moment of perfect sitting
listening to Suzuki Roshi
a glimpse of the truly real
One moment of perfect maitri
founding a hospice to serve the dying
men like you dying in droves
of a disease without cure,
without compassion
One moment of perfect honor
Issan Dorsey Roshi
Dharma heir
abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center
One moment of perfect humanity
One moment of perfect buddhahood

Commentary on Hymn XXXI: To Antinous, My God

I will wear a garland of red lotus in your honor, Antinous.
I will put my hands to work and write hymns in your honor, O Bithynian.
I will dance because your body is beautiful, most beautiful god,
that my body also may become beautiful.
All my pleasures will be yours, offered on your altar, O most lovable god,
like flowers, like incense, like chocolates, like wine, like kisses.
When I look up at the stars, I will look for your star, Navigator.
When I see the moon, Antinous, I will remember you are beloved of Selene, like Endymion.
The light of the sun is your light to me, Antinous Apollon.
The fragrance of the greening earth after rain is your fragrance, Antinous Dionysus.
The life that wells up again and again in me in spite of all defeats is your life, Antinous Osiris.
I will wear a garland of red lotus in your honor, Deus Frugiferus, Deus Amabilis,
Homo Deus, Hero, Daimon, sweet thing, I will wear a garland of red lotus
in your honor, and I will sing, I will dance, I will sing.

In 2015 when I first wrote these hymns, I had about two years of devotion behind me. I had also been listening to Irish singer-songwriter Hozier for about that long, finding performances on YouTube as well as listening to his debut album and two EPs. (There was a long gap between his first and second albums. Very long.) I think I must have discovered his cover of Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” shortly before I came to write this hymn. It was, frankly, the inspiration for it, metrically and in spirit. I wanted the rhythm, the candor, the intimacy of Hozier’s cover in a hymn that would reiterate the titles of the god and the themes of the preceding hymns as much as possible and make them personal.

I came to Antinous, attracted by his beauty and his goodness, and he accepted me. I didn’t have to be called or chosen or special; I could just show up. In a relationship with the god begun hopefully and tentatively, I found help, support, inspiration, and meaning. I found a door into relationships with other deities through Antinous and a mystery initiation that changed my life. In writing these hymns and now in writing their commentary, I hoped to do honor to the god of my choice and to help those who wish to know him better or who already love him and wish to praise him. May this offering fulfill my intentions, O Antinous, Beautiful, Just, Benevolent!

Commentary on Hymn XXX

This hymn is new to the sequence and is published here for the first time. It was composed in early 2019; the events of 2020 have made my intention in its words even more fervent. First the hymn, and then the commentary:

Hymn XXX: To Antinous and Melinoe at the Apocalypse
Join together, beloved of Hadrian, daughter of Persephone,
join together in holy union, the bride upon the lap
of her groom, upon the rod of his beauty, face to face.
Join together, fairest of gods, brightest and darkest
of goddesses, copulate in love and desire, lip to lip,
breast to breast, phallos in kteis. Let the pleasure
build and swell, let the power rise within.
Let the juices gather and fall, the red and the white,
the semen of a god, the honey of Aphrodite,
let them fall on this age of the world, O purify us.
Let your love and joy and ecstasy dissolve
all hatred, greed, and fear. Let your orgasms
break the towers of the mighty and the chains
of the oppressed. Let your cries of pleasure
drown the speech and deafen the ears of liars.
Let a rain of sexual juices wash away the lust
for power, the thirst for domination, the safety
of those who dominate and punish. Let all
who will not rejoice in your union be dissolved
by your joy as by fire and acid. Fuck now
and bring about the end of this age of the world.

Vajrasattva with Consort

The background of this hymn is complex. Its imagery derives from Tibetan Buddhism and the practice of Vajrasattva, the cosmic buddha who presides over purification. In the most basic form of the practice, one visualizes Vajrasattva above one’s head, beaming down purifying rays of light as one chants his mantra of one hundred syllables. In advanced forms, however, one may visualize him as depicted in the image above, sexually united with his consort (a female buddha of equal wisdom and attributes), and the purifying light that descends is imagined as the fluids of their copulation pouring down into one’s energy body. The light from above, however envisioned, floods through the meditator and pushes all negativities out of the lower orifices of the body. Paradoxically, the impurities that humans purge serve as the purifying light and nectar for lower beings.

In this hymn I thus envision Antinous and his consort coupling, and their sexual fluids purifying not just one individual but the world. The concept of Antinous having a female consort, however, is my personal gnosis, at least partly shared with and verified by a few other people in the Naos.

Several years I wrote and blogged a short story that started with a simple premise: What if Hel, goddess of the dead to the Germanic peoples, came to visit Hades, god of the dead in Greece, while Persephone was away from the underworld visiting her mother? I am not a planner when it comes to writing, so I had no idea where the story would go when I began with that idea, a meeting of two underworld deities. It led to the birth of Melinoe, a goddess known to us only from the Orphic Hymns.

According to the Hymn addressed to her, Melinoe was begotten on Persephone by her father Zeus, only he deceived her by disguising himself as her husband Hades. Melinoe is described in obscure language which describes her as two-natured or two-bodied or half light, half dark and seems to say that she brings nightmares or hallucinations to mortals. At the conclusion of my story, little Melinoe is sent away to foster with Hel in her domain of the underworld, to protect her from any action that Zeus might take against her.

A couple of months later, I found myself thinking about an adult Melinoe being brought home from the North by Antinous in his Boat of Millions of Years. Once again, I started a story with no real plan other than to introduce these deities to one another as fictional characters. I soon realized, as I started to write their interactions, that, to be blunt, they wanted to bone. And that, on some level, if I wrote them a sex scene or a romance with sex, it would happen.

I consulted another Antinoan friend to divine for me. What did the gods in question have to say? Was I allowed to write them a sexual relationship? The answer my friend gave me was, “Yes, you can do that. But if they have sex, it means the end of the world.”

Somewhere in the past four years, I reached a point where the End of the World began to seem like a very desirable thing. Because I don’t mean the end of the cosmos, or the universe, or nature, however you want to call it. I mean the end of the saeculum (in Latin), or the aion (in Greek), or the wer-old, in Old English, the age of man–the end of our culture, our civilization, our paradigm. To quote the song that was used in the opening scenes of Independence Day, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

I am sharing this hymn publicly for the first time after nearly 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. After a string of natural disasters in Puerto Rico, the Midwest, and Louisiana (remember Hurricane Katrina? Laura is forecast to be worse). While fires rage in California and the incarcerated men who had been the principal (barely paid and unhonored) defense against wildfires are dying of the coronavirus. While the virus continues to spread, the federal government continues to withhold guidance or resources, right-voting citizens are protesting the virus (as if that resists it?) and black citizens are still protesting being shot by police, who continue to meet protests with armed force and to shoot unarmed black citizens–

Yes, I’m quite ready for this Age of Man to end. I’ve spent much of my life imagining and writing about alternatives, ways to build a better future, saner and more loving ways to live. The sexual union of a god identified with gayness and an obscure goddess who is the child of an incestuous rape seems like the perfect catalyst.

I have come to know and love Melinoe since her first appearance to me in my own fiction. She accompanied me through my initiation into Antinous’ Mysteries and has helped me through the difficult times that followed. She has not so much given me strength as called forth the strength I didn’t know I had. The agenda she has shown me is, basically, smashing the patriarchy, creating a new world in which no child shall be born under the same conditions as she was–the product of rape and incest, threatened almost from birth by her own family. And she is quite happy to bring nightmares, a bad death, and an afterlife of punishment to sexual predators, while at the same time helping and empowering their victims.

If you’re just plain tired of all this fucking shit–and believe me, I can find no words less vulgar that are adequate–join me in praying to this unlikely pairing of divinities to purify us by their erotic raptures and help us to create the world we want, a world not under the knee of white cis-male predators and exploiters. It’s possible. Love and desire burn hotter and cleaner than hatred.

Commentary on Hymn XXIX: To Antinous Deus Frugiferus

May your presence in my life be fruitful, O Antinous,
Deus Frugiferous. May grapes grow amongst your curls
to make sweet refreshment on my plate. May vines spring
out and wind their way down your arms and legs. May sheaves
of wheat stand up between your thighs and heavy round fruits
hang down for my delight. May flax and cotton pour from
your palms to be woven into my garments. May nuts and
beans appear in your footprints to be gathered and soaked.
May I always have food to cook nourishing meals and offer
my gods due portion. May I always have clothing that I may
appear with decency before your shrine. May money pile up
that I may buy wine and incense, candles and ice cream,
for you and all the gods and spirits. May good food and
sweet sleep, wise books and wise dreams fill my life that
poems and stories may germinate in me like seeds.
May I have an abundance of your blessings that I may
pass them on to all who need them, to feed the hungry,
to console the lonely, to calm the angry (or to arm them
for the fight), to bless always as I have been blessed,
O Deus Frugiferus, Antinous, most fruitful and generous of gods.

“Deus Frugiferus” is another title of Antinous which I love very much. It is usually translated “the fruitful god”, but if I am not mistaken, -iferus in Latin means “one who bears”, e.g., Lucifer, Luciferus, the light-bearer. “Deus Frugiferus” is “the fruit-bearing god”, with grapes in his hair like Dionysus.

Antinous has been a most generous giver of blessings in my life, and I have done my best to give back. There is a cycle of reciprocity between us and the gods; they give us good things, and we use their gifts to create things which we give back to them. Offerings of first fruits, of the best lamb in the flock or the best bull in the herd, of water, oil, and wine are present in all ancient religions and in many living ones. Even the Christian Eucharist conforms to this pattern, if you have a Catholic theology: God gives wheat and grapes, which we transform into bread and wine so that we can offer them back and receive them again transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

My material offerings to the gods over the past six or seven years have been pretty simple: water, wine, incense, candles, sometimes a bit of food if I cook a proper meal or order Chinese. My devotional writings, however, are also offerings to the gods, especially to Antinous. I may not be able to afford expensive wine or mount elaborate rituals on holy days, but I have created a considerable body of devotional and liturgical writing, a significant offering of my time and effort.

These writings are an offering of my heart; they are also the fruit of my relationship with the Beautiful Boy. One of my favorite sayings of our friend Rabbi Jesus is, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” I know I am on the right path spiritually because I see the fruits in my life, in my writing, in emotional healing, in concrete material help. And I have something to share with others, to reciprocate the gift not just by lighting some incense and saying a prayer (though I do those things) but by creating works that will help others to connect with the god, who is fruitful and generous, beautiful and good.

Commentary on Hymn XXVIII: To Antinous Deus Amabilis

O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
you are the lovely god, fairest of mortal boys,
beautiful even amongst the gods.
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
you are the lovable god, most attractive
in your beauty, in your kindness, in your
open-handed welcome to those who seek you.
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
you are the loving god, the passions of your mortal heart
now kindled from red-hot to blue-white, your love
and loyalty a divine ecstasy.
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
accept the offering of my love,
and return it to me, if you will;
love me and in that love,
may all my loves be purified;
may I love like you, be as lovable
as you, become as lovely as you,
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis.

Amabilis…

“Amabilis” is one of my favorite titles for Antinous and perhaps the one that sums up my experience of him. He is Deus Amabilis, the Lovable God. He is not intimidating, scary, spooky, “dark”, or whatever (although he is not without a wrathful side). He is open, approachable, attractive, even likable. While many have looked at his surviving representations and seen a lazy, sulky, or melancholy adolescent boy, in my devotion I have found him to be a good listener, a patient friend, a god of good cheer. His surface beauty is matched by a deep goodness; he wants his devotees to be happy and does what he can to help them.

On the other hand, I don’t want to imply that Antinous is a doormat. Just as he did when mortal, he has definite preferences; he likes some people, loves some people, and rejects some people. He does not welcome homophobes, TERFs, racists, or other bigots into his court. He is on the side of liberation, inclusion, and equality, which means he opposes those who want to oppress, exploit, exclude, or dominate others. While I have been at pains throughout this series to convey that he does not reject straight people just for being straight, neither will he reinforce heteronormativity. He can be wrathful in the protection of his own, and he can be demanding of those who have pledged their service to him. Yet I myself find his demands empowering: If my god expects me to do a thing in his service, he must have good reason to think that I actually can do it, and do it well. (Such as writing this series of blog posts.)

For years I struggled, as a Christian, to have the sort of feelings about Jesus that I read about in the medieval mystics I loved so much. I was baffled by the fact that I had much more devotion to Julian of Norwich than to the god of her devotion. I loved liturgy and theology and saints and the Holy Spirit, and often felt more or less indifferent to Jesus. I didn’t know what I was missing until I encountered Antinous and fell in love with him. You can’t generate devotion to a deity in yourself any more than you can generate romance or sexual desire; I think there has to be a spark of something, perhaps the initiative of the deity and not the mortal. In any case, I am fonder of Jesus as a deified rabbi than I was of him as The Incarnate WORD, and I am deeply devoted to Antinous as the god who, to me, is the most lovable and also the most intelligible.