Commentary on Hymn V: To Antinous-Osiris

Son of Bithynia, the Nile has made you a god.
Son of Mantinoe, your death has made you one with Osiris.
Osiris has given you the crook and flail and the crowns of the Two Lands.
You are adorned like Pharaoh; your skin is green like the new growth.
Isis has given you new life; you will live for ever and ever.
You are enthroned with the gods of Egypt;
you are a prince in the Am Duat.
You have been justified by the forty-two judges;
your heart is as light as Maat’s feather.
The limbs of your body are the fourteen nights of light;
the beats of your heart are the fourteen nights of darkness.
May your heart live for ever, Osirantinous, Wesar-Antnus!
May you look favorably upon us who pray to you
when we come to join you in the West.

The next group of four hymns covers the four principal syncretisms of Antinous. By “syncretisms” I mean pairings in which Antinous is identified with another god and vice versa. One might use the analogy of one god or goddess adopting another’s uniform and tools and doing their job. The Ptolemies and other Greek settlers in Egypt looked at the plethora of Egyptian gods and the existing syncretisms among them, and over time renamed “Wesir-Hapi-Ankh” as “Osiris-Apis” or Serapis. The Romans boldly syncretized their pantheon with the gods of the Germanic and Celtic tribes they subjugated and built temples and left offerings to Sulis Minerva, Apollo Grannos, Mars Thingsus.

The first and most important syncretism of Antinous is with Osiris, the beloved god of the earth’s fertility and growth and of the afterlife and the dead. By dying in the Nile as Osiris had, Antinous (like however many souls before him) became identified and united with the god. In writing this particular hymn, I did my best to imitate the style of ancient Egyptian prayer and to include references to the myths of Isis and Osiris I had read as a child. I was fascinated not just with Greco-Roman mythology but with Egyptian, Norse, and Celtic, and beyond the mythology, I loved ancient Egyptian culture and its aesthetic. For many years my drawings resembled those on the walls of Egypt’s temples and tombs, with figures in profile making precise gestures, their eyes drawn in full.

The Egyptian land of the dead was the home of multiple deities and of terrifying spirits, many of whom threatened incoming souls. It is fairly well known that the heart of the deceased was weighed against a feather of the goddess Ma’at, the goddess of righteousness and truth, and if the heart was too heavy, it would be tossed away like offal for the goddess Ammut or Ammit to devour. Yet the general picture of Osiris himself is a benevolent one. While his body is eternally wrapped in the bindings of mummification, his face and hands are green like plant life, which grows up from beneath the soil. He might be called the original “Green Man”, as I said in a poem I wrote in 2017:

The Green Man

I am Osiris. I am the Green Man.

I was the first Green Man, Asar, Au Sar, Wesir.

Green like the papyrus growing by the Nile.

Green like the barley growing in the fields.

Green like the leaves that support the sweet lotus.

Sometimes I am black like the soil,

The rich fertile flooded soil of Kemet, eponymous soil.

I am the Green Man of the Black Land.

The first to die becomes the god of the dead.

That is I. First to know death, first to go west,

Killed by my brother, sought by my sisters,

Resurrected by my wife. She fashioned the part

That was missing. I am moonlight and moondark,

Black earth and green plant, a missing phallus

And an upright wand. Come to me, Antinous,

Child of Bithynia, beloved of Pharaoh,

And I will teach you how to be a god.


It is from Antinous-Osiris that we, too, may learn how to become gods.

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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!

 

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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.

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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!

 

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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.