A prayer to Salus on her feast day

Salus, giver of health, guardian of the people,
on this the Nones of August we hail you once again.
Feed your holy serpent, Salus, that giver of
health and wisdom, predator of pests,
deity of surging energy. O Salus, bless us
with all things that are salutary, with medicines
of prevention and medicines of cure, with
cleanliness and carefulness, with concern
for our neighbors, whose health affects our own.
O Salus, may our offerings to you be
accepted, for our well-being, O guardian
of the people, giver of good health.

(Originally posted to Antinous for Everybody, 8/5/2015)

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POEM: The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

molossian_hound2c_british_museumIt is always a curious incident when the dog does nothing,
when the dog that should waken sleeps,
when the hound that should bark lies silent,
when the watch-dog fails of its watch.
In the toilsome heat of August, the Romans punished the dogs
that failed to do anything in the night-time,
or the day-time, whichever it was,
when the Gauls came to scale the city walls
and carry away all that made Rome superior.
Piteous dog crucifixions baking in the heat alongside the road!
Juno’s geese strutting and honking nearby,
pleased with their own superiority: *They* gave the warning
when the dogs failed! Pathetic. Geese are large, loud,
aggressive, and not known to be trusting.

O Hermanubis, temper the ferocity of Sirius!
Hounds of the Dog Star, chase away the roaring Lion
burning up our skies! Gracious gods, protect the harvest,
send us rain and sun in due measure: The dog days
are over, the descent into autumn has begun.

(With thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

(Originally posted to Antinous for Everybody, 8/3/2016)

POEM: Beer and Bread

August. The fields outside of town
(where I haven’t driven, for I don’t drive)
are ready for harvest, wheat and corn
(and I eat barley, rice, and oats).
Lugus with his long arm, his clever hand
is ready to sweep the fields,
bring in the harvest. Time
to make beer and bread.

I feel my skin prickle.
I see a red leaf on a green tree,
a brown feather from a sparrow’s wing
on the grey sidewalk. Autumn.
The days are hotter, one by one,
but the sun rises later, lower,
day by day; one by one
the trees slow down, the birds,
the bugs, the flowers, slow down
toward their rest. A stop. I stop.
August. Lughnasad. Autumn.
Across the months, across the equator,
Lugus holds out to Brigantia his hand.
She hands him the knife that she forged
throughout the long summer,
quenched in the sun’s blood.
It’s time to bring it all home.

 

A legend for the Eve of Lughnasad

holy_grailJoseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus, but he was also a kinsman of Jesus, a wealthy man due to the tin trade as well as a devout Jew. When Jesus was a youth, he went with his uncle several times to the island of Britain on trading expeditions. There he met the druids, who were like the priests and rabbis of his own people, except that there were women among their numbers, and learned much from them, for he was the sort of child who asks too many questions.

After Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea had him buried in the fine tomb which he had had built for himself. He kept with him the cup which he had provided for his nephew’s last Passover feast, in which Mary of Magdala had caught some of the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’s side when it was pierced with a Roman lance.

After the resurrection, Joseph retired from his business and set off for Britain again, taking with him the holy cup sanctified by Jesus’ death and a number of followers of Jesus, mostly older men like himself. In Britain he wandered through the isle, telling the good news of Jesus, until he came to the place called Avalon, a haven for the druids and a college of learning. There, when he planted his staff in the earth, it took root and began to grow into a tree, which he took as a sign that he should remain. The druids welcomed him and his people as fellow students of the Mysteries and gave permission for Joseph to build a small church in Avalon and housing for his people. The druids honored the miracle of the staff that became a tree, and there were friendly relations between them and Jesus’ followers. People went to the druid groves to hear their music and their colloquies, and the druids and their people came to partake of the sacred meal in memory of the Lord Jesus.

But times change, and new Christians came to the isle accompanied by soldiers, proud men who called themselves bishops and insisted on a separation between druid and Christian. They condemned the druids and their wisdom, drove them away from the love-feast, and even offered violence to them. Joseph, now miraculously old, knew that he should depart this life soon, so on the night of a full moon, he went out and met the chief druidess, the guardian of the sacred well, and with her help, he concealed the holy cup and the two vessels of blood and water which had come from the body of the crucified Lord. The chief druidess placed the cup and the vessels with the other sacred things, the sword made with metal that fell from heaven, the immovable stone, the ancient wand which had belonged to the first of the chief druids, and told the novices that it was the sacred cup of a goddess, the lady of the springs. But Joseph had told her that someday, the druids of Avalon might be asked to render back the cup that was now sacred to both the older mysteries and the new.

Joseph died, and the chief druidess died, and though the secret was kept, people have been looking ever since for the missing cup that held blood and water from the body of the Lord, the wine of the Eucharist, the pure water from the springs of Avalon. People have been looking for that wellspring of compassion, knowledge, mercy, joy, and peace. They have not yet found it, and the land is becoming very arid, without the cup, the world is growing very old. Yet still people seek the Grail, and they look to Avalon, remembering when the druids welcomed Joseph, who welcomed them in turn to the sacred banquet, and a staff cut in Palestine grew and flowered in the isle of Britain.

(Originally posted on Antinous for Everybody, 7/31/2015)

Throwing the First Apostle under the bus

 Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.

Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.
And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me, Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure. I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit? The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is.

Thanks to Jason Miller for this quote from the Gospel of Mary. Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, who in Orthodox Christian tradition is called the Apostle to the Apostles because she was the first to encounter the risen Jesus and testify to the Resurrection. My own take on her is a bit more heterodox, as I think the Gnostic texts point to a sexual relationship between Mary and Jesus which was an essential part of his work.

One of my deepest problems with Christianity has been the Church’s treatment of sexuality. Its attitude to sex shapes its equally problematic treatment of women, of same-sex erotic relationships and those who have them, and of sexual ethics. The Church at its best affirms embodied life and the material world, created by God, experienced by God through the Incarnation; the doctrines of Creation and Incarnation are reflected in Pope Francis’ liberating statements on politics, economics, and the environment. Yet while he’s not hammering on sexuality like some of his predecessors, neither is he saying anything different from them, if pressed to it; he’s willing to accept what science has to say about global warming and climate change, but not what science has learned about human sexuality since Aristotle.

At the same time, sexuality and eroticism are always creeping around the edges of Christian experience, Christian theology. The Church inherited from Jewish tradition a text that unabashedly celebrates erotic love without ever mentioning the name of God; it proceeded to write hundreds of texts on how the Song of Songs is a metaphor for the relationship of God and the soul. Bernard of Clairvaux, a celibate monk who had a habit of trying to persuade his friends and relations to leave their spouses and enter monastic life, wrote no less than eighty-six sermons on the Song of Songs, and that without covering more than two of its eight short chapters. Women writers, too, resorted to erotic metaphors for spiritual experience; nuns were still frequently called “brides of Christ” into the 20th century, and the clothing ceremony in which an aspiring nun puts on the habit for the first time became essentially a wedding, complete with white dress, where the groom was present only by proxy. I remain baffled and confused by a theological tradition that uses sexuality as a metaphor for the most exalted, most fulfilling relationship possible to a human being, while at the same time denigrating the ordinary, everyday expressions of sexuality, even those that it sanctioned, such as marriage.

Other world religions haven’t done a significantly better job of dealing with women, women’s sexuality, or sexuality in general. Judaism is more sex-positive, but still privileges men over women. Women seem to be at least as well off in some Islamic cultures as in European or American society, but in others they are treated horrifically. Hinduism has suttee, dowry killings, public gang rapes. Buddhism, which has a pretty good image here in the U.S., also has a frighteningly high proportion of teachers, both Asian and American, who have been embroiled in sexual scandals and have perpetrated decades of exploitation on women students.

Why is it, I wonder, that it’s always women who are thrown under the bus? Sometimes I have to conclude that it’s just that men who desire women are profoundly terrified of that desire and of the people who provoke it, to the point where they will do anything to control women in order to deny their own desires for love, erotic love, and deep intimacy. Seminary training and vows of celibacy, decades of meditative practice (and vows of celibacy), worship of a Goddess and Wiccan training–none of these seems able to de-condition men from their fear and hatred of what they most desire. Mary Magdalene got thrown under the bus, written out as Jesus’ partner, his foremost disciple, the primary witness to his resurrection, relegated to a repentant whore, a chaste camp-follower, her very name mutated into the word “maudlin”.

I think this is one of the most important reasons why I have finally wound up as a pagan, and not only that, but as an Antinoan. That may sound counter-intuitive, since devotion to Antinous puts his relationship to another man front and center, but Antinoan cultus affirms pretty much everything about sex that other religions deny and inhibit. Antinous is not merely a god of gay sex; he is pro sexual relationships of consent and mutuality, whatever combination of genders is involved. He is pro multiple genders rather than just the m/f binary. He is pro erotic relationships between women as well as between men, and pro friendship between men and women. He is pro happy marriages between men and women and happy families, even. And he is not interested in imposing the sexual ethics or the gender roles of the past on his people today.

I did not realize until I had it, perhaps, how much I wanted a religion that made the erotic a central concern instead of leaving it to lurk around the borders, beyond the light of the candles on the altar, a religion that wasn’t angry at women for somehow being the cause of everything bad because we’re just so tempting. It goes deeper than wanting to worship goddesses or honor female ancestors, though those desires, those needs, are also deeply important. Hail, Saint Mary Magdalene, consort of the Savior, Apostle to the Apostles: Pray for your sisters who are still stuck under the bus.

(Originally posted at Antinous for Everybody, 22 July 2015)

POEM: The apple (for Alan Turing)

The apple lies in your hand, round and sweet. It is all

the forbidden fruit that you have ever tasted: The loves,

the pleasures, the stolen joys. There is no hiding from

the one who walks in the garden in the cool of the evening.

There is no offering you can make to your god, your

country, to atone for what you are.

 

The apple lies in your hand, the bitter apple of

self-knowledge. In another time, another place,

it might be the apple of Iduna, whose fruit gives

life to the gods. It might be an apple from

the Hesperides, the gift of Hera to Zeus, or

that apple which Eris tossed, designated for

the fairest. You have known your fairest and

lost him. You have lost all the immortality

in your veins. It might be the apple that was

given to True Thomas, or was that bread

and wine? He lay with the Faerie Queen and

gained the gift of prophecy. You have taken

the fruit unbidden and it will give you only death.

 

The apple lies in your hand, heavy as all your

memories. With a last gesture of defiance,

you put it to your teeth and bite.

 

(For Alan Turing, computer scientist, homosexual, who died on this day in 1954, possibly of suicide. His codebreaking skills helped the Allies win World War II; after the war, he was arrested and chemically castrated for being a homosexual. Written in 2015.)

 

POEM: For Juno, on the Calends of her month

juno-sospita
Juno Sospites by Lykeia

I approach you, Dea Juno, Juno Regina: I see you

standing over me with queenly mien. Queen of heaven,

queen of gods, sovereign lady, you preside in state

on the Capitoline Hill with Jupiter and Minerva,

your husband and his daughter. Like Hera in Hellas,

you own the peacock as your bird; the stars are your eyes,

the rainbow your handmaid, the clouds your veil.

 

I come closer, and you are Juno Moneta, Juno Curitis.

Wrapped in the aegis, you advise the sacred king

and wield your spear in defense of the people.

Under your protection auguries are issued, coins

are minted, and you become the giver and preserver

of wealth. Records, too, are in your storehouse,

for it is memory that advises and counsels us at need.

 

I come closer to find Juno Sospita, Juno at Lanuvium,

mistress of fauns, she who purifies with whips.

Under your direction the Luperci hound but do not harm;

pain and laughter drive out the winter’s filth.

Juno Seispes Mater Regina, Savior, Mother, Queen,

your temple is a grove, and as Juno Caprotinae

you bring together slave women and free in revels

and accept the sacrifice of the lusty goat.

 

If I approach closer still, I see you as Juno Lucina,

she who brings to light, the midwife who helps

the birthing mother, who opens the doors of the womb

that the child may journey from dark to light.

You are our helper in the deepest pain, in the hardest

labour, in the most daring task: Bringing life to light,

bringing children from our bodies. Protectress

of marriage, of children, of matrons, you still

remind us that our sovereignty is our own.

 

At last I come face to face with you, great goddess,

and find your face to be a mirror of my own.

For my own inner deity, guardian spirit, better self

is also called juno. Or should I say that my face

is the mirror to yours, and if I look at you, Savior,

Mother, Queen, Wife, Adviser, Purifier, Defender,

I may become all this as well? Therefore I look to you,

Juno Dea, Juno Regina; I bow to you, great goddess,

divine matron, heavenly sovereign; I praise you,

glorious Juno, of peacock, spear, and cloud.

 

(Originally written 1/30/2015, for an agon in the goddess’ honor sponsored by Galina Krasskova)