Commentary on Hymn XV: To Antinous-Apollon, Liberator

Brightest of gods and fairest, purest of gods
and noblest, Antinous Apollon, far-shooter,
lyre-player, Muse-leader, health-giver,
you are the liberator because you are
the purifier, your rays shining through us
like lasers, searching and burning out
ill health, impurity, falsehood–temper
your light with warmth, your power with
compassion, python-killer, sybil-speaker,
lest you wound those who worship you
lest the cure exceed the disease.

The next trio of hymns is dedicated to Antinous Apollon. I have, to be honest, a lot of mixed feelings about Apollon. If you only read his myths, he can sometimes seem like the sort of male who insists he is perfectly rational at all times, especially when he is demanding you do his emotional labor or throwing a tantrum over your desire to act like an independent being. At best, he embodies the kind of high standards that torment perfectionists like myself–we want to live up to those standards or die trying.

But myth is not cult, and Apollon was worshipped as a healer, oracle, and inspirer, all roles which Antinous has played in my life. I know of many polytheists who are deeply, passionately devoted to the Lord of Light, so I don’t think my feelings about him are anything but my feelings. Many pagans and witches talk a lot about the shadow and the underworld and exploring the darkness and their devotion to all the spooky deities. I’ll tell you what scares me far more than the darkness: exposure to the light. Being seen, being known can be a terrifying prospect. Confronting a deity who is prepared to burn all the dross out of one’s soul makes me want to scuttle down to the Underworld and hide under Hades’ desk.

That’s why I pray in this hymn for Antinous Apollon to moderate his light, to make it more bearable for fragile mortal creatures. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition it is said that buddhas and bodhisattvas assume wrathful forms because these seemingly terrifying appearances are easier for humans to relate to in our unenlightened state. The pure and ruthless wisdom and compassion of the liberated ones, if we could experience it directly, would be more terrifying than any wrath they might show. That is the nature of Antinous Apollon as liberator.

Commentary on Hymn XII: To Antinous-Hermes, Liberator

What I cannot say, Antinous Hermes, open my mouth to speak.
What I cannot hear, Antinous Hermes, clear my ears to hear.
What I cannot see, Antinous Hermes, cleanse my eyes to see.
What I cannot think, Antinous Hermes, liberate my mind to know.
From the prison of too much information, not enough knowledge,
from much social media but little friendship,
from debate and denunciation without exchange or compassion,
Antinous Hermes, liberate me.
May I with clear mind and clear sense and pure will
choose deliberately, wisely what to think, what to write,
what to say, what to read, what to see, what to hear.

Re-reading this hymn in August 2020, it seems prophetic, having been written five years ago. Too much information, misinformation, and disinformation, too much debate and denunciation are even more prevalent now than they were then. If memory serves, when I wrote this hymn, I was often feeling isolated rather than connected by social media, a feeling I still have from time to time (although the isolation necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis has made social media a true lifeline). It seemed necessary to ask a god of communication and information exchange to help me discern what to take into my mind, what to keep out.

Hermes is a complex god, though I could as well say that of all the Greek deities. He is an inventor and a trickster, protector of shepherds and their flocks (along with his son Pan), guardian of travelers and guide of the dead, the giver of luck and official messenger of Zeus, patron of commerce and of thieves, of athletic games and other competitions. I see him also as the patron of writers, communication, advertising, electronic communication, the Internet. A traditional form of divination in ancient Greece was the kledon: praying to Hermes for information or advice about a particular issue and then going out into the marketplace to await a random sight or sound that presented itself as the answer. His signs always came to the seeker in public places.

I still need to pray to Antinous Hermes to help me monitor my online activity, choose my sources of information wisely, see through propaganda, move toward connection rather than division in online interactions, and boost my wifi, too. When the official messengers are not trustworthy, Antinous Hermes is the god who can give us a helpful back-alley tip and put us ahead of the game.

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.

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.

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.

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.