Commentary on Hymn VII: To Antinous-Hermes


Swiftly you come and swiftly you go, Antinous Neos Hermes,
the new Hermes under Hadrian, messenger, interpreter, emissary.
With winged feet and sacred staff you weave paths
between gods and humans, between god and god,
between soul and soul. You have been entrusted with the caduceus
and its secrets; Thoth, Hermes, and Mercury
have whispered in your ear. Far-wandering Odin
and spear-throwing Lugus, too, are not unknown to you,
and perhaps you have wandered even in eastern lands
with rings on your staff and bowl in your hand, a mendicant.
Come swiftly, Neos Hermes, and whisper in my ear:
Entrust to me, if I am trustworthy, the secrets of language and its magic,
and likewise also the secrets of magic and its language.

The infant Hermes as drawn by the D’Aulaires

Antinous as Neos Hermes, “the new Hermes under Hadrian”, is the third major syncretism, attested in coins, inscriptions, and poems. Hermes is, of course, the herald or messenger of Olympos, a god of communication, language, travel, commerce, and luck, and his staff with two serpents, the cadeuceus, was an elaboration of the beribboned staff which mortal heralds bore as a sign of their sacred status (not killing the messenger was actually A Thing). Later the caduceus also became a symbol of the kind of magic to which Hermes lent his name once he had been thoroughly syncretised with Thoth, or Djehuty to use his Egyptian name, that is, Hermetic magic, a tradition of magic carried out by mind, symbol, word, and speech.

I have mentioned before that we often call Antinous a “gateway god”, one who introduces people to other gods who want a place in their lives. He is also something of a party god; his public rituals (so I am told) tend to become “god parties” where many deities are invoked and make themselves manifest in a harmonious atmosphere. That intermediary quality, I think, is the essence of his syncretism with Hermes. He is not merely a messenger, but a master of ceremonies, a host, even a headhunter in the employment/business sense. He connects gods to mortals and mortals to gods. He also connects gods to gods through his syncretisms and mortals to mortals by gathering people as his devotees. In 2017 I traveled from the east coast of the United States to the Pacific Northwest to meet fellow Antinoans I knew only through the internet and received initiation into his mysteries at their hands–among other things, that was a powerful display of the god’s Hermetic side!

I decided to expand the syncretism a little with this hymn by mentioning, along with Thoth, Hermes, and the Roman Mercury, the Germanic Odin and the Celtic Lugus, both of whom are associated with language, magic, and travel or wandering in various ways. There is at least one known minor syncretism of Antinous with a northern European deity, the Gaulish Belenos, and I think there is a potential for future syncretisms in that direction and in an eastward direction, with some of the buddhas or bodhisattvas. I hope to explore these directions in future.

At the end of this hymn, I prayed for “the secrets of language and its magic,/and likewise also the secrets of magic and its language”. The answer to my prayer, I think, is the body of devotional and ritual poetry I have produced since Antinous came into my life. I am grateful for his continued inspiration and pray that it never departs.

A world full of gods

casa_dei_vettii_-_larario

Vesta’s fire burns on my stove and in the candles on my shrine. She consumes the incense I kindle and crackles through wires as electricity to power lamps, laptops, and everything else.

Apollo gives music, healing, poetry, prophecy, all of which I need. He and Diana shed light by day and by night. Venus and her court bless me with birds and flowers as well as love and desire. Mercury, who blesses writers as well as merchants and thieves, sends the bus to get me to work on time, protects me when I cross a busy intersection, notices when I help a homeless person.

Who better than Minerva to help a single woman further her career, especially in an intellectual field? To whom shall I appeal for just government if not Jupiter, king of the gods? Mars is a protector of boundaries and of the fields we cultivate, not merely a god of war. Juno’s image burns within me, my sacred personal sovereignty.

The blessings of Ceres put food on my table. Bacchus entertains me not merely in every glass of wine but in every movie and television show, transforming reality and slipping me meaning and wisdom along with pleasure and diversion. Neptune and Portunus are needed to bless our rivers and our harbor, a center of tourism and of trade. Without Vulcan, would I have a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone? I’m not an artificer, but I need the products of craft and manufacture. With Janus at the door, I sleep safely at night.

Antinous, my beloved boy, god of my heart, carries the gifts of Apollo, Dionysus, and Hermes, as well as of Osiris, and opens the door to all the gods. He is the center around which my sense of the numinous is organized, the heart of the mandala.

There is no god that is not part of my life. They are everywhere. I may not go into the wilderness, but I know that Diana and Faunus are there, just as Mercury and Apollo, Minerva and Venus are not far away in the city. Even a vacant lot overgrown with weeds can be a glimpse of Faunus; Diana’s deer are hiding in patches of woods just off the light rail’s route. Flora blesses the carefully tended yards and gardens no matter how run-down a neighborhood may be.

Other gods are no less real for my not worshipping them. They, too, are present even if I don’t notice them.  It doesn’t seem like mysticism, or magic, or anything but reality. The gods and my relationships with them are woven through my life, my ordinary life. I pay attention to them, and they pay attention to me. Their reality affirms my reality; their sacredness affirms my sacredness. After all, some gods become humans, and a good many humans have become gods….

(Image from Wikimedia)

A prayer for people I care about

In the Name of Antinous, the Beautiful Boy, the beloved of Hadrian and lover of all queers, Star of the Eagle and heavenly Navigator, victor over the archons:
I call on Antinous, the Liberator, the protector, to bless, guide, and protect transgender people, nonbinary people, gender nonconforming people.
I call on Dionysus, cross-dresser, sexual transgressor, gender outlaw, to bless, guide, and protect these beloved people.
I call on Hermes, lover of males and females, guide of the dead, father of Hermaphroditus, to bless, guide, and protect my friends.
I call on Melinoe, the bright dark lady, half black and half white, daughter of Hades and Persephone, foster daughter of Hel and Loki, to bless, guide, and protect the people betwixt and between.
I call on Loki, the shapeshifter, mother of monsters, father of giants, who lies to the mighty and befriends the powerless, to bless, guide, and protect the shapeshifting people.
I call on Cybele, Attis, Agdistis, and the honored spirits of the galloi to bless, guide, and protect transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people.
I call on the spirits of the trans, intersex, two spirit people of North America; humbly I call on them although my ancestors wronged them, to bless, guide, and protect the trans and intersex and two spirit people who live on their land today.
I call on Jesus, who defended women, foreigners, and eunuchs, and on his disciple Philip the deacon, who baptized and taught the Ethiopian eunuch, to bless, guide and protect those whom they would have called eunuchs.
May the blessings and protection of all the gods, along with my own love and good will, stand between transgender people, nonbinary people, gender nonconforming people and all malice, hatred, bigotry, violence, and tyranny, until all such evils wither away. In Antinous’ name, may it be so.

POEM: Hekate and Hermes

Neither virgin nor crone but a mature woman
firm breasts that have not suckled
strong arms and strong legs
she runs through the night to meet him
at the crossroads, this place which they share:
Hekate Trioditis, Hekate Enodia,
Hermes Psykhopompos, Hermes Trikephalos

And there they lie down, when the moon is dark,
when the moon is full, Hermes laughing,
eternally youthful, his winged sandals kicked off,
his hat tossed aside, his wand planted in the earth
as he makes the lascivious joke about his other wand
rising up, ready to plant between his lover’s moist thighs

and Hekate eager, biting her lip, raising her skirts
with no fucking patience, no waiting whatsoever
as she rolls him beneath her, her torches to right
and to left, her wet cunt his heaven, his sweet seed
the fountain jetting up, splashing down

and the witches dance and the dogs howl
and the hounds bay and Hekate groans
and Hermes laughs and he rolls her over
and they do it again, and again, and again,
until the sun comes up and Hekate,
laughing under her breath, walks home
with the first rays of sun drying her gown

and Hermes flies away like an arrow
from the string, Zeus’ messenger boy,
and the dogs and the hounds roll over
and go back to sleep, and snore.