Commentary on Hymn II: To Antinous the Liberator

Many are the burdens we bear, and high are the walls
that are built around us; many are the voices we answer
to and the eyes of the judges; many are the wounds
that never healed and the old pains that catch at
the spine, and we lower our eyes to the pavement
and feel that nothing will ever change.

But you, Antinous,
have defeated all the archons, and nothing can withstand
your power. You offer your hand to all those who are bound
up in their own knots; you lift your spear in defense of all
who live under tyranny. Where there is a march for justice,
you march with them; where there is a fire for freedom,
you bear the torch. Where truth is spoken to power,
you stand beside; where the truth of a soul is opened,
you listen in witness. You are the Liberator from all
that oppresses or inhibits; you hunt down the tyrant,
strike open the locks, trample down the doors.

O liberate me, Liberator, from all that oppresses
or inhibits, that I may have the freedom of your friendship
now and forever.

antinous_pio-clementino_inv256_n2

In the 19th century, men who loved other men began to remember and revive the worship of Antinous, a youth who was loved by an older man and made a god. They were not alone in their attraction to the worship of ancient Greek and Roman deities; for more information, simply Google “the Romantic movement” and start there. It was not until the 20th century, after decades of pagan and magical revivals in the form of the Golden Dawn, Wicca, neopaganism, reconstructionist pagan, that pagans who identified as gay or queer began to focus on Antinous and build religious groups specifically for his worship.

The Naos Antinoou, of which I am a member, co-founder, Mysta, and if I remember correctly, a magistrate? is one of those groups. Founded in 2016, we are “a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian polytheist community dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, related Gods of our tradition, and our divine Queer Ancestors.” It is from the practice of the Naos and its antecedent groups, the Ekklesia Antinoou and the Ecclesia Antinoi, that the Antinoan epithets of Liberator, Navigator, and Lover are derived.

Antinous the Liberator is celebrated from November 1st to January 28th. He is the newly made God who encounters the terrifying forces of the Underworld, conquers them, and becomes Ruler of the dead, as Osiris or as Antinous Bakkheios. He is a chthonic deity, but as I have emphasised in this hymn, he is also the divine ally of those who work for social justice, especially but not exclusively for queer and trans people. His help is available both for public protest and political action and for the difficult inner work of rooting out the archons within the self.

The archons are one name for the guardians of the Underworld gateways, those who seek to test the soul and prevent the unworthy from attaining status in the afterlife. They are also, in Gnostic traditions, the powers and principalities, as St. Paul, who rule the cosmic structures of the universe and society, “the world” that opposes human spiritual flowering. I have come to understand the archons as the ideologies and social structures that are constricting and destroying our societies and our planet right now: sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, antisemitism, capitalism, fascism.

I don’t mean that I think the archons are merely personifications of human social structures; I mean that I think these social structures are the manifestations of the powers that were called the archons. St. Paul was not always wrong; as he said to the Christians in Ephesus, “… our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Antinous the Liberator is our ally in this fight, as much now in the struggles of summer 2020 as in the protests of 2015 when I wrote this hymn.

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