Sacred Nights: Foundation Day

Some years I write and post a lot during the Sacred Nights, when we celebrate Mystery of Antinous’ life, death, and deification. This was not one of those years. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t observing the holy days; I made some small solitary ritual at home, and I start every day with a brief journal entry that includes the phase and sign of the Moon and the holy day on the calendar.

But I was observing other things, too, this year, in the wider sense. I was observing racism and antisemitism at work. I was observing violence against elderly members of a minority religion, carried out in their place of worship on their weekly sacred day. I was observing threats to prominent members of the more liberal political party in my country, pipe bombs delivered by mail. I was observing a President who neither condemned these actions nor took responsibility for his incitement of them through his rhetoric.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so anxious, frightened, and depressed during the Sacred Nights. I took refuge in the most positive, optimistic pop culture I could find–Supergirl and Doctor Who–and when watching those shows didn’t help, I took refuge under the covers of my bed with my stuffed animals.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, a nation which is the home of many devotees of Antinous, a national leader has been elected who is overtly a Christian fascist, eager to force his brand of Catholicism on the country. Brazil’s queer, trans, and pagan citizens are even more scared than those in the U.S., and we’re pretty scared up here.

Today is Foundation Day, when Antinous’ body was found on the banks of the Nile and the local priesthood of Osiris took charge of him, recognizing that he had become a god. It is so called because Hadrian’s response to Antinous’ death, after the first wave of terrible grief, was to declare that he would build a city on the place where his beloved’s body was discovered; the discovery of Antinous’ body was the founding of Antinoopolis. Hadrian, a great builder throughout his reign, carried out his resolution and built a thriving city in memory of the Beautiful Boy; he also promoted his beloved’s cultus throughout the Empire.

History happens. The cult of Antinous was suppressed and all but forgotten like the much older cults of so many gods. The city of Antinoopolis survives only as picturesque ruins. Yet his sacred images survive; his cultus has been revived, and his city forms the shape of our sacred space in his rituals. Every year we devotees of Antinous re-found his sacred city and make it more real in the manifest world, a place where equality and friendship are paramount values and love, beauty, good health, and the arts can flourish. That, to me, is what his cultus is about.

On many holy days, Jewish people around the world make the devout wish, “Next year in Jerusalem!”, hoping to come together one day in their own city in their own land. If I may, I will borrow that sentiment and say, “This year, this place, this is Antinoopolis. This is the city of the Beautiful Boy and we are its citizens, right here, right now.” May all of us dwell in our own holy city and worship our own god in peace and joy. May it be so.

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Current round-up

Reading:

  • Doreen Valiente, Witch by Peter Heselton, a biography of the great foremother of contemporary witchcraft; still in progress
  • Sacred Band, a novel with queer superheroes that I plan to review soon
  • Humans Wanted, an anthology of science fiction short stories inspired by a discussion on Tumblr, which I also plan to review soon

Writing:

  • The Naos Antinoou is in the midst of celebrating the Sacred Nights of Antinous’ death and deification, and I’ve been posting poems for the holy days at Antinous for Everybody.
  • I’m working on a new piece of fanfic, have completed a short original story, and am contemplating a novel related to the short story.
  • Have you read my mythfic about Hades, Hel, and Persephone, “A distinguished visitor from the north”?

Listening:

  • The Sacred Nights have a lot of musical associations for me: To begin with, Hedwig & the Angry Inch
  • the music of Dead Can Dance, particularly their album Spiritchaser
  • I was also listening to the masterful jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery; my father introduced me to his album A Day in the Life, which opens with a cover of the Beatles song, when I was a teenager

Viewing:

I finally got around to watching two movies on my list, Rogue One, the Star Wars prequel, and Ant-Man, part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I enjoyed both of them; Ant-Man, in particular, was a better movie than I expected, which subverted a good many superhero tropes. Rogue One was, in a lot of ways, the Star Wars prequel I wanted and didn’t get when the first prequel movie was released; it gave me characters I could care about and led directly into the events of the first film.