Commentary on Hymn XVI: To Antinous Apollon, Navigator

With you is the light of day, O Antinous Apollon,
the light of music and poetry, the light of true prophecy,
the light of healing, all the light we need. In your light
we can walk a straight path, we can see our way clear,
we can reach our destination. Guide us, Antinous Apollon,
Navigator, guide us when the day is cloudy, when the rains
are falling, when the sun is setting; guide us, glorious Phoebus,
and do not forget us when the sun sets, when the night
has come, when the lyre is silent, when the lips are closed.
Be our light when there is no light, slayer of Python,
god of Delphi; be the light that shines from within.

One of Apollon’s most frequent titles is “Phoibos”, or “Phoebus” in the Latinised spelling. It simply means bright, or radiant. Apollon is not, strictly speaking, a god of the sun, though he came to be seen as such, displacing Helios and Sol in the popular imagination, but he is undoubtedly a god of light. He is the light of day, the light of knowledge, the light of insight and inspiration, the light of prophecy, and his light is the source of guidance, as Antinous Apollon.

To make a good decision, to choose with discernment, requires internalizing that divine light, being guided by our own principles and by our communion with the god. Over and over again I come back to the understanding that divine guidance, embodied in Antinous the Navigator, means knowing what your values truly are and abiding by them. The problem for most people, I think, is not seeing that our values may not be what we think they are. To use the most obvious possible example, in our work-driven American culture, many people say they value family above everything, but the number of hours spent at the office versus the number of hours spent with their family proves that work is in fact their highest value.

It also is not necessarily easy to make your actions line up with your values. You may genuinely love your family yet be trapped in a work culture that demands frequent overtime and weekend availability. You may love your family yet be constrained to work two jobs in order to provide for them materially. You may want to do more creative work, yet be stuck with health issues and thus (in the United States) be stuck working a full-time job in order to have healthcare.

I believe the gods can and do help us to do the right thing, the ethical thing, the action which aligns with our values, if we ask for their help. And, of course, if we have an ongoing relationship with them, a basis on which to ask. That’s why there’s 31 hymns to a set, one for every day of the month, to begin establishing that relationship with Antinous and to build it and keep it up.

Commentary on Hymn XIII: To Antinous-Hermes, Navigator

No one knows the pathways better than you, O Antinous Hermes:
The broad roads and the hidden trails, the crossroads
and the market places, the inns where a traveler may rest,
the springs that are pure and the springs that are poison.
You guide the living and the dead, the mortal and immortal,
whispering the passwords that open all doors. See me safely
through this life, Antinous Hermes, and see me safely
into the next, the life without ending; guide me on all
the highways and by-ways, in all my perplexities,
and let me not venture forth alone, leave me not unprotected,
but always, always, gracious god, bring me home.

This somewhat short hymn does exactly what it says on the tin, really; it is a prayer for guidance directed to a god known as a guide. Hermes, guide of travellers and of souls, merged with Antinous, the Navigator of the Boat of Millions of Years, is available to guide us in our present life and afterward, in this world and through other worlds. My mention of springs and passwords hints at the famous Orphic tablets that gave instructions to the dead for passing into the underworld without loss of memory and identity.

What prompts me to dig a little deeper is the final request to be brought home. Where, then, is home? For me, as his devotee, to be with Antinous is home. He has had a place in my home, a shrine of some kind, for most of the past seven years. My initiation into his Mysteries promises me a place with him in the afterlife, whether in a part of the underworld ruled by him or on his celestial barque. I don’t believe that there’s one single process for every human in the afterlife or one moral choice or one (or two destinations); I believe that happiness with the god of one’s heart, rebirth, punishment, and even extinction are possibilities, as well as others I haven’t imagined or heard of, no doubt. To come home to Antinous is to be true to my values in this life, because the god and I share many of them, and to be with him in the afterlife as a beloved friend.

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 III: To Antinous the Navigator

Adrift in the darkness on a sea of confusion,
I look up to you, Antinous.
Lost in the woods in the darkness of a ravine,
I look up to you, Antinous.
Struggling up the mountain toward some better place,
I look up to you, Antinous.
O celestial Navigator,
you are the star that shows the way,
shining amidst the lights of the Eagle,
yet you are also the helmsman
of the Boat of Millions of Years,
steering by the brightness of your star.
You are the one who guides souls in life and after life,
bearer of the herald’s staff, yet you are also the one
who guides gods to meet humanity,
for gods desire what is human no less
than humans desire what is divine.
Guide me, celestial Navigator,
through this life on earth, through its darkness,
through its light, in the valleys, on the peaks,
across the waters, through the forests,
then welcome me, I pray you,
into your Boat of Millions of Years.

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Antinous the Navigator by Wayne Macmillan

 

On 29th January, the Naos Antinoou observes the festival of the Stella Antinoi and the incoming of Antinous the Navigator. In the year after the Boy’s death, astrologers observed a new star in or near the constellation of Aquila, the Eagle, associated with Jupiter and the imperial power. Hadrian, a deeply religious man, took this as an omen that his beloved had indeed become a god and was elevated to the heavens.

Antinous as Navigator is a guide, a traveler, and a teacher. In the Naos we believe that Antinous can travel to any afterlife, any otherworld, in his heavenly barque, the Boat of Millions of Years (an ancient Egyptian designation for the barque of Ra). He is thus a psychopomp who can ferry the souls of the dead to their proper destinations, and his barque is itself a desirable afterlife. I personally imagine the Boat of Millions of Years as being like the Doctor’s TARDIS: On the outside it resembles an ancient Egyptian vessel, long and slender, propelled by rowers and steered by a single hand. On the inside, however, it is a luxury cruise ship; my sense of it is a cross between Classical architecture and decoration and the Titanic. *g* On the god’s Boat, however, everyone travels first class, and lifeboats are not needed.

Just as the stars were the principal means of navigation in the ancient world, Antinous as Navigator and Star is a means of personal guidance in daily life. Just about two years ago, I composed the following prayer spontaneously during my morning shower:

With Antinous the Liberator may I stand firm against everything and everyone that would inhibit, oppress, or exploit my fellow human beings.

With Antinous the Navigator may I be guided by my true desires and highest values.

With Antinous the Lover may I seek love, find love, accept love, give love, and walk in love, for love is the path to happiness and beatitude.

Ave, ave, Antinoe! Haec est unde vita venit!

When I turn my mind to the Navigator, I ask myself what are my true desires and highest values? What do I most deeply want? What are my priorities? What is the basis for my choices and actions? I don’t think I am alone among his devotees in saying that freedom, justice, creativity, and the primacy of erotic love and spiritual devotion are among my bedrock values. That includes freedom and justice for all minorities, but especially for queer, trans, bisexual, lesbian, and gay persons, who are always under the god’s protection.

Antinous is also known to his devotees as a “gateway god”, and yes, that’s kind of like a gateway drug. Devotion to him will often put a person into contact with other deities with whom they can have mutually beneficial relationships. He not only guides souls to the afterlife, he guides mortals to gods and gods to mortals. He’s the friend who holds the most marvelous parties where you always meet interesting new people.

Finally, to look at the stars and remember Antinous is to remember that the stars are the pattern of earthly reality: “As above, so below.” For the Boy to be exalted among the stars implies that, like other heroic figures before and since, he has ascended through the spheres assigned to the planets by Ptolemean astronomy and mastered their powers within himself. If there are patterns of oppression, restriction, and exploitation greater than human beings (the archons), there are also patterns of wisdom, power, liberation, and fulfillment–the gods, the planets, daimons, angels, aions. These forces of goodness can be available to us through Antinous when we take him as our Navigator.

 

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.