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

Commentary on Hymn XI: To Antinous-Dionysus, Lover

Who but you is the Lover of all things, Antinous Dionysus?
Who but you has loved so many so intimately?
In mortal life you were the lover of Hadrian,
beloved of an emperor, and lover to your friends.
You have loved women, you who took Ariadne to be your bride;
you have loved men, you who boldly kept your promise to Prosymnus.
You have loved mortals, you who loved an emperor, a princess, a shepherd boy;
you have loved immortals, you who coupled with Aphrodite and Persephone.
Do you love any less the grape vine and the ivy
which you took for your own, or the leopard and the panther?
Did you not love even Pentheus and hope he would yield to your charms?
Shamelessly and without fear you have given and received the gift of Eros;
hopefully and without shame I praise you and pray you will share that gift with me.

Antinous is most famously the beloved of Hadrian; Dionysus is famously the lover of everyone. While he wedded Ariadne, there are numerous myths of his coupling with other mortals and with deities, as well. While Apollo has myths of passionate, emotional attachments to both men and women, Dionysus might fairly be described in the vernacular as Down to Fuck, although he also is reputed to be completely faithful to Ariadne.

The story of his encounter with Prosymnus is one of my favorite myths, for its combination of humor and pathos. While seeking a way into the Underworld in order to rescue his mother, and perhaps his bride as well, Dionysus encountered a young shepherd named Prosymnus who claimed to be able to show him an entrance. He offered the god this information in exchange for sexual favors. Dionysus promised to fulfill the bargain but pled haste; he would return to Prosymnus once he had carried out his rescue mission. Prosymnus accepted the terms and Dionysus went on his way.

Later, he did indeed seek out Prosymnus, only to find that the shepherd had died. (Was it an illness or an accident? Or had so much time passed in mortal reckoning that the young man had died of old age?) Dionysus, regretting the lost opportunity, went to Prosymnus’ grave and fulfilled his promise by inventing, and using, the first dildo. In my opinion, it is notable that a god would, even symbolically, bottom for a mortal.

Antinous Dionysus is a god without shame when it comes to Eros. I wished to celebrate that shamelessness and my feeling that he embodies the diversity and multiplicity of erotic experience, that it need not be limited to sexual experience or even attraction. Dionysus loves pleasure and the intensity of all the senses; he also lures both devotees and enemies with his erotic attractiveness. In The Bacchae he gives Pentheus a chance to respond as a devotee, a lover, a chance that Pentheus vehemently rejects. The young king’s downfall is his settled belief that what the maenads do must be shameful and his prurient desire to witness it without being involved. Dionysus always demands involvement and intimacy; it can be accepted as a blessing, or be resisted as an unwelcome fate, like the resistant Pentheus dying while dressed for the god’s rites.

Commentary on Hymn X: To Antinous-Dionysus, Navigator

As you guided Theseus into the labyrinth and out
by the hand of Ariadne, guide me, Antinous Dionysus.
As you guided Ariadne to Naxos by the will
of Theseus, guide me also, Antinous Dionysus.
As you guided Ariadne into Olympus
and placed her crown in the north as proof,
so guide me, Antinous Dionysus.
As you went safely into Persephone’s realm
and guided out your mother, Semele,
so guide me, Antinous Dionysus.
Guide me out of the labyrinths in which I lose myself.
Guide me out of the underworlds in which I forget myself.
Guide me into the heavens I can barely imagine for myself.
May I also be your mother and your bride, a goddess
whose crown shines beyond the north wind, O Antinous Dionysus.

Dionysus finds Ariadne on Naxos

Looking at the imagery of this poem, what I see is that Antinous Dionysus is a walker between worlds. Here I have taken three major myths pertaining to Dionysus and handed them over to Antinous. First, that after Theseus abandoned Ariadne on Naxos, Dionysus found her there and decided to make her his bride. Second, the lesser-known myth that he descended to Hades and successfully negotiated for the release of his mother Semele from the realm of shades, so that she could be enthroned on Olympos as a goddess. And third, the underlying subtext of the Minotaur myth, that the bull-horned god of wine was the same as the bull-headed man within the labyrinth, the proper mate of Ariadne all along.

Antinous Dionysus is a god who guides his devotees from mortality to immortality. He is able to be a guide in the process of apotheosis, of ascension from humanity to godhood, because he has undergone the same process. And he does not allow us to forget that, as I emphasise in a later hymn, the one precondition of becoming a deity is to cease being a mortal–that is, to die. Dionysus’ mother Semele was consumed in a moment when Zeus revealed to her the fullness of his divinity, but her divine son was able to bring her out of the underworld and set her in the heavens. Ariadne emerges from the labyrinth for the last time empty-handed, betraying her former life entirely in order to go with Theseus, who then trades her in for her sister Phaedra and leaves her while she is sleeping. Some versions of the myth say that Dionysus appeared to Theseus and ordered him to sail away without Ariadne, since the god had already chosen her for himself. Other versions say that Ariadne was killed by Artemis, perhaps at Dionysus’ request.

Following the thread through the labyrinth, we see that the Romans equated Dionysus or Bacchus with their own god Liber and Ariadne with his sister Libera together with Proserpina, the Roman form of Persephone. Dionysus and Ariadne thus become brother and sister, king and queen of the underworld, and deities of the heavens as well, as the Corona Borealis or “northern crown” is the crown of Ariadne, worn at her wedding to the god. Following the thread through the labyrinth, we find the god waiting for us at the center, ready to descend with us into the mystery of death and lead us through it to the mystery of divine life.

Commentary on Hymn IX: To Antinous-Dionysus, Liberator

As long as there’s music to dance to, he will come.
As long as there’s a bottle of wine or something else to share, he will come.
As long as lovers slip off and couple even when there’s no place or time for it,
he will come, Antinous Dionysus, Dionysus Lusios, Liberator.
As long as there’s sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, he will come.
As long as people march in peace and break windows in fury, he will come.
As long as people sit home in the darkness, afraid to get up and step out
into the light, he will come, Antinous Dionysus, the breaker, the loosener.
He will come and break the bonds of tyranny and oppression.
He will come and loosen the knots we tie ourselves up in, inside.
He will throw open the windows and doors, turn stairs into ramps,
water into wine, sorrow into joy, depression into weeping,
tears into laughter, He will come, Antinous Dionysus, Lusios,
Liberator, deliverer, he will come, he will come, if we call:
Evohe! Evohe! Evohe!

Dionysus and Maenad by NicholasAx

The next group of nine hymns crosses three of the syncretisms of Antinous with his three cult titles of Liberator, Navigator, and Lover. The first three of these are devoted to Antinous Dionysus.

Dionysus is pre-eminently a liberator. He is Lusios or Lysius, who delivers, and Luaios or Lyaeus, who frees from care. He is the rescuer, loosener, unbinder. His gift of wine undid negative emotional states, if properly used; his cult rituals undid rigid social conditioning. He is the god of such liberating acts as drink, sex, dancing, wild music, parties–in short, the god of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, the original rock idol. He is also the god of theatre, which in our time includes cinema and television as well as live performance, the art which transforms its audience through emotional catharsis.

The secret of the liberation offered by Antinous-Dionysus is emotion, the movement of energy. Let it move through. Grief, sorrow, rage, desire, all of these can become restrictions when they are held in the body, and we know explicitly now that it is the body which holds unresolved emotion. What we shove out of our minds or try to banish from our hearts simply gets stored elsewhere, in the shoulders, the spine, the hips, the feet. The gods knew before we learned on our own that movement and sound can unbind stored emotions and let them move once again, cleansing the psyche while the soma (the body) is at work.

That same emotional release can be put to work for justice when groups of people move together. I have no doubt that Antinous and Dionysus both have been present at protest marches, allies in the fight against injustice, and that they would agree with the axiom, “No one is free while others are oppressed”. If the emotions are oppressed, so is the whole person; if a class of persons is oppressed, so is the whole society. Antinous Dionysus comes to offer freedom for the whole person and for all.

Prayers to Antinous in a time of crisis

A Litany for Antinous the Liberator

In the name of Antinous, the Liberator, the Savior, the Human-God, Victorious One, Emperor of Peace.

From all that oppresses us, Antinous, liberate us.

From all that inhibits us, Antinous, liberate us.

From all that constrains us, whether without or within, Antinous, liberate us.

From racism and all racial prejudice, Antinous, liberate us.

From sexism and all misogyny, Antinous, liberate us.

From disrespect for our elders, Antinous, liberate us.

From disrespect for our youth, Antinous, liberate us.

From homophobia and all hatred of sexual minorities, Antinous, liberate us.

From transphobia and all hatred of gender minorities, Antinous, liberate us.

From all contempt for women and girls and for effeminate men, Antinous, liberate us.

From all injustice, Antinous, liberate us.

From sexual violence, Antinous, liberate us.

From bullying and harassment, Antinous, liberate us.

From depression and melancholy, Antinous, liberate us.

From loneliness and despair, Antinous, liberate us.

From doubt of our own gifts, Antinous, liberate us.

From doubt of our ability to act, Antinous, liberate us.

From the wounds of the past, Antinous, liberate us.

From fear of the future, Antinous, liberate us.

From all our addictions and from contempt for the addicted, Antinous, liberate us.

From poverty and the shaming of the poor, Antinous, liberate us.

From hunger and from greed and grasping, Antinous, liberate us.

From all illness of body, mind, or soul, Antinous, liberate us.

From ignorance, especially willful ignorance, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the wealthy and their greed, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the bigoted and their fear, Antinous, liberate us.

From the tyranny of the lustful and their self-loathing, Antinous, liberate us.

From every kind of hatred and violence, Antinous, liberate us.

[Additional petitions may be inserted here. ]

Guard and defend us, Antinous, as we struggle to free ourselves; guard and defend us, Antinous, as we strive to liberate others; guard and defend us, Antinous, as we await the rising of your star.

Ave, ave, Antinoe!

Haec est unde vita venit!

 

antinous_pio-clementino_inv256_n2

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.

2af62d6900000578-3184551-image-a-46_1438648885578

Hymn IX: To Antinous-Dionysus, Liberator

As long as there’s music to dance to, he will come.

As long as there’s a bottle of wine or something else to share, he will come.

As long as lovers slip off and couple even when there’s no place or time for it,

he will come, Antinous Dionysus, Dionysus Lusios, Liberator.

As long as there’s sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, he will come.

As long as people march in peace and break windows in fury, he will come.

As long as people sit home in the darkness, afraid to get up and step out

into the light, he will come, Antinous Dionysus, the breaker, the loosener.

He will come and break the bonds of tyranny and oppression.

He will come and loosen the knots we tie ourselves up in, inside.

He will throw open the windows and doors, turn stairs into ramps,

water into wine, sorrow into joy, depression into weeping,

tears into laughter, He will come, Antinous Dionysus, Lusios,

Liberator, deliverer, he will come, he will come, if we call:

Evohe! Evohe! Evohe!

 

antinous_osiris_louvre_2

A prayer to Antinous in this time of crisis

O Antinous, Beautiful Boy, Osirantinous, Justified One,
I cry out to you in a time of many struggles.
My nation is an empire falling to its knees and falling apart.
There is no good emperor. There is no just rule.
I cry out to you as Liberator
on behalf of the immigrants imprisoned in camps:
Set them free.
I cry out to you as Liberator
on behalf of the protestors in our streets:
March with them. Protect them.
I cry out to you as Antinous Hermes:
May the images of resistance and brutality
be spread far and wide.
May wickedness be exposed.
May police and governments be held accountable.
I cry to you as Antinous Asklepios:
We still suffer from the plague of coronavirus.
Send us healing. Protect the healers.
I cry out to you as Lover:
May these armies of lovers not fail
who love one another more than their privilege,
who love justice more than order,
who love equality more than hierarchy.
And I cry out to you as Navigator:
Show us the way forward.
Turn the wheel of the ages.
Show us how to untie the knots
of hatred, hierarchy, bigotry, privilege,
how to pull on the threads that will
unravel the whole tapestry of
-isms that covers the world
so that we may unveil the true beauty
of the world, of one another, of ourselves.