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.