So, I had a few things to say about the “befores and afters” of PantheaCon in a previous entry; but as far as the “actual” stuff is concerned, I want to try and get at least “Days 1 and 2″ detailed here today…
While I did a variety of things on that first day, and saw many wonderful people (both old friends and acquaintances and new ones), I won’t get into the specific details on all of that, as many of them are rather marginal to the purposes of the present blog. Know that I value each of those experiences, however, and if you want to mention any of them in the comments, feel free to do so.
I’ve already dealt with the “Walking It Out: Gay Paganism’s Second Wave” panel in the first part of this entry on my blog the other day. So, have a look at that if you’re interested…
At 7 PM, I went to Ivo Dominguez, Jr.’s “Empowering the Magical Voice” workshop, which was packed. I like Ivo and what I’ve seen of his work (which is, admittedly, not much) a lot, and got to speak with him briefly on a few other occasions during PantheaCon, so it was good to finally see him in action in person.
I took a break for the next slot, if I recall correctly…I think I may have had some food or something, but I can’t now remember with whom that took place. Then, at 11 PM, I did the “Discordian.com‘s Ultimate Postmodern Metaritualistic Metaritual,” which I had an awfully difficult time actually pronouncing. How can I sum it up? Well the number 67 came up a lot, due to me, I think. And also
So, yeah. I think that’s pretty straight-forward.
After the ritual and hanging out a bit, my evening ended around 1:30ish or so, when I went back to the room to sleep. It then began again at 6:30 AM, when I rose to get ready for Inundation…
On the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings of PantheaCon, myself and between one and four other people gathered each morning to do the Antinoan Inundation ritual at the pool. While the weather wasn’t fantastic while we were there, the sun was always up when we did this at 7 AM, and it wasn’t raining at the time. The final morning (Monday), it was rather colder than it had been, so instead of doing the actual Inundation in the pool and then going to the hot tub afterwards for a few moments, we went directly to the hot tub. We will be doing this in the years to come as well, and will see what we can do about getting it on the program/schedule for the con’. The Inundation ritual takes part in three phases: preliminary prayers, exercises, and then inundation. The preliminary prayer is, facing east, the Prayer Against Persecution. (I have it memorized at this point–not everyone does, though, but that’s okay…) The exercises take place in three parts.
1) Antinous the Lover roots the Red Lotus in the Nile. This is a breathing and touch exercise that is designed to get some of the energy moving before the rest of the exercises. One takes the flat of one’s hand and as one inhales and exhales deeply, moves the hand up and down along the center line of the body, starting from as low on one’s torso as one can go (to the top of the genitals) and then up to just above the navel initially. Once the energy is circulating in this area, then one takes longer and deeper breaths and moves the hand from the lowest part of the torso to the level of the heart. Once this is done sufficiently, one moves the hand from the lowest part of the torso to the neck/bottom of the head. This is done at one’s own pace. Participants this year reported “interesting” effects when it was done! This is to come to alignment and “rootedness” in one’s own self.
2) Antinous the Navigator rows the Boat of Millions of Years. This is a physical exercise, in which one stands, with the left foot forward and slightly crouched first. One puts one’s arms in a position as if one is rowing a boat, and as one pulls back, one inhales on the syllable/vowel “AAAAAH,” then exhales with “IIIII” while pushing forward, then inhales with “OOOOOH” as one pulls back and exhales with “EEEEE” as one pushes forward. That four-part movement is considered one repetition, and one does twenty of them. Each of the vowels represents the Greek and Latin vocatives of the vowels in the name of Antinous, and so they should be pronounced according to those values rather than what they may appear as in English (so, phonetically, it’s “AW,” “EE,” “OH,” “AY”). After doing twenty repetitions of that, one puts the right foot forward, and while using the same motions in coordination with inhalation and exhalation, instead one exhales on “AAAAAH,” inhales on “IIIII,” exhales on “OOOOOH,” and inhales on “EEEEE.” One does that twenty times as well. One rows and tones in concert with all of the Holy Sailors who have ever been on the Boat of Millions of Years, thus connecting with the others doing the exercise as well as the wider community.
3) Antinous the Liberator slays the Lion. From a standing position, one breathes in and out deeply three times, and then inhales one more time, and forcefully exhales with a “HA!” or some other such syllable or sound and makes a stabbing motion as with a spear held in both hands while lunging outward. One does this three times, first to the left, then to the right, then to the center, thus symbolically slaying the lion from all directions and in all dimensions of time (past, present, future). This exercise is to use the aligned self (rooting the Red Lotus in the Nile) and the connections with one’s community (rowing the Boat of Millions of Years) in measured and limited manners to clear all obstacles in the exterior world that may interfere with our spiritual work, personally or communally.
[No, he wasn't there...but I'm glad for the presence of those who were!]
And finally, the Inundation itself. One gets into the water, and says the line “Into the _____ he hurried for purification of the blood of the _____” three times, and then one submerges oneself under the water as completely as possible, then does it again. The blanks are filled in with appropriate river-names and animals to the season of the year. For February through March, it is “Tiber” and “dog,” in reference to Lupercalia; for April, it is “Alpheios” and “bear,” in reference to the bear hunt; in May, it is “Rhebas” and “boar,” in relation to the boar hunt; and from June through January, it is “Nile” and “lion,” in relation to the lion hunt. (Though, other rivers and animals are possible, depending on one’s own intuitions and understandings and where one is located–if one is doing this in a natural river or lake, and one is aware of the primary prey animal of the area, that would also work as a way to connect one’s Antinoan practices with one’s actual landscape: “Skagit” and “salmon” would be a possibility, for example.)
It was a very useful way to start out the day with honoring the gods, getting in touch with one’s own body, and just being invigorated for the events to come, no matter how much or how little one was able to sleep beforehand. And, having a nice big breakfast afterwards each day was also a joy!
I had hoped to do quite a bit more on the second day of PantheaCon this year then I ended up doing. I had a nice long chat over breakfast with one of the individuals who was going to be in our sacred drama on Sunday night. I had hoped to attend a session called “Dancing the Inner Serpent” considering my recent work with the Serpent Path, but I didn’t…and, I also had hoped to attend T. Thorn Coyle’s “Battle Goddess: Self Defense and General Kick-Assery” session, but I was only able to drop by and pay my respects to her beforehand. The rest of the morning, and the early afternoon, was taken up with getting ready for the “Yes They Are!” ritual, in which I was portraying Set. I’ve mentioned this several times over the last few days, and will likely be discussing it again in the future, as this was a very big departure for me in terms of how “Yes They Are!” has gone in previous years.
In the first “Yes They Are!” in 2009, I was Gwydion. (There is no photo that I’m aware of from that event.) In the 2010 one, I was Hanuman. (The photo above is from that.) On both of those occasions, the gods that I portrayed were familiar to me, and in many respects I can be said to have “fully digested” a lot of what they do or what they teach. For Gwydion, he is a storyteller, and not only did I tell Gwydion’s story in that first ritual, but I drew particular meanings out of it that related to boars and pigs, but also coming out, since Gwydion assists the “coming out” of Lleu from his own somewhat literal closet (though it’s a trunk at the end of Gwydion’s bed, which would have been the equivalent of a “closet” at the time). For Hanuman, his primary exemplary action is devotion, and not only have I learned nearly all of what I know of devotion from Hanuman, but his boundless love became a message for everyone in terms of polyamory.
But what was Set going to speak about? Exclusion. And yet, a very particular type of it. A lot of the “Yes They Are!” speeches end up being about the persecution that queer people face, and how to draw strength and resolve from history as well as from the gods and from our communities in the face of such challenges. This is very important stuff. However, there is a great deal of cliquishness and factionalism within the queer community (if, indeed, it can even be called a “community” properly), and there is a great deal of politics around who is “too queer” in the eyes of some, and “not queer enough” in the eyes of others. Among the Egyptian gods, Set isn’t always in great favor, but he is accepted as contributing an essential service and role to the universe in defeating Apophis on a nightly basis. However, outside of strictly Egyptian contexts, Set’s reception isn’t always as nice. As he was equated with Typhon by the Greeks, he is sometimes banished or derided in those contexts; and while there are many who do Sethian or Typhonian magic these days, he is often equally regarded as “the Devil” as far as Egyptian mythology is concerned.
[Slight tangent: when I was younger and not yet a pagan, I was involved in a role-playing game in which the major choices for religion amongst characters were Egyptian gods. In that particular system, Set is definitely portrayed as a devil and wholly evil. I was playing with my younger brother, who was under the age of ten at the time and didn't really understand that there were other religions, so I was struggling with how to explain Set to him, particularly since he thought the pictures of him were cool and he wanted to have his characters be of that religion. Some of the conversations were interesting to be having with an eight-year-old, certainly...but I finally described Set as the "Egyptian devil" to him, and so my brother started calling him the "Egypt devil." I was treading on very thin ice, because I didn't want my parents to think, as so many do, that role-playing leads to Satanism and the like, and yet I didn't know how else to explain this. There was a very funny moment, then, when my brother learned a song at school that went "There's a little wheel a-turnin' in my heart," and decided to change the lyrics to "There's a little Egypt devil in my heart," and then sing it while my parents were around. Luckily, they didn't pay much attention to what he was actually saying, and I was both mortified and totally struck with hilarity at the same time about it. Indeed, getting in touch with the little Egypt devil in my heart was, and I think still is, a part of what some of this Set work is about at present...!?!]
I got myself into my costume for Set, and was sitting in it, really trying to get into character, and smelling some storax quite frequently in order to do so. I had a nice chat with Joi Wolfwomyn beforehand about some of these issues, as Joi has been in the “Yes They Are!” ritual every year, and does a fantastic job of it (the first year as Hapi, and this year as Dionysos!). There was a lot of resentment at being mistreated coming through in Set, both in my preparations and on the occasion itself…and I think some of that had to do with various things that were occurring (and had yet to occur) at the con’ itself in terms of gender inclusiveness and the like, as well as some of my own resentments at being excluded in various contexts previously. When I was not in the space and ready for action, I tried to be as nice and as equitable to people as possible, and I think I mainly succeeded…but the Set energy was building up a great deal…
When the ritual occurred, it all went pretty well. I was most especially affected by Hadrian’s appearance in the ritual, portrayed by Ogam, a Mystes Antínoou and a very good friend of mine. He was partially trancing Hadrian, and literally not one word was out of place, and he never stumbled in his delivery at all (which even the best prepared of us did slightly here and there)–I knew Hadrian was an excellent orator, but damn! Not only that, however, he also brought the entire place to tears when he talked of Antinous and his death, and how he was powerless to do anything about it, even as one of the most powerful men on earth at the time. It was a deeply human and moving moment, and one I’ll never forget. I had to do everything possible not to break out of the Set mindframe and just collapse in a heap…and even Set was going “Oh, that’s very sad…” throughout. So, I just wanted to recognize that particular portrayal, out of the many that were excellent during the ritual, for especial attention here given our context.
As Set, I was continuously left out of the proceedings of the ritual (this was scripted/planned), and stood rather stern-looking and upset on the sidelines for a great deal of it. The entire ritual was designed as a kind of competition between the various gods to see who is the queerest. When there was a “shallow visual competition” in the form of a fashion-model catwalk sequence, Set attempted to be included, and was opposed. Then, my speech began…
“Well, we can do this the easy way, and you can let me speak with these beautiful people for a few moments, or we can do it the hard way and end this little competition right now with a little game of Russian Roulette, and I get to be the gun!”
At that point, Poseidon opposed me rather loudly, and I went right up to him and said
“How’d you like it if I drowned you, Poseidon, in your own ocean? You know, I can do that! Or what about Zeus? What if I chopped him into a million little pieces…god-spam anyone? I hope you all brought your toothpicks!”
At this point, the audience was laughing, and clearly on my side, so I got to speak for the allotted time. And, I did–a lot more briefly than I expected to. Set was doing a rather good but fast editing job of the speech in my head as I was giving it, but the gist was this: some of the gods don’t like me, don’t like how I want to fuck with Horus in every respect, think I’m foreign when I’m a brother of Isis and Osiris, and think I’m not manly just because I gave birth to a child of Horus through my mouth; some of the gods would prefer to have me bound or even to go away permanently. But, if that happened, guess what? The sun doesn’t come up tomorrow, because I’m the only one who can fight off Apophis every night, and the rest of them aren’t even brave enough to try. But still they treat me like shit, and it fucking sucks. Any of you who have been told you’re “too queer” or “not queer enough,” come on…the drag queens that get told they’re too queer by the straight-acting ones; the women who are said to be too butch or too femme; the poly people; the trans people; the bisexuals…We’ve all got a job to do, that only we can do, so get out there and do it, and make the sun come up tomorrow.
There was applause and even gasps at various points in the speech…and I know that the word “fuck” got thrown around quite a bit more than it usually does in my vocabulary. In my planned speech, there was a part about being queerer than any of the other gods there, while still knowing I’d never win the “competition” in relation to that, and that got thrown out, because Set said “fuck that ‘queerer than thou’ bullshit!” And, the part about everyone doing their job and making the sun come up the next day was never in the original speech, it just came out on the occasion. And, to good effect, because there was quite a bit of applause and cheering after that. And, this surprised the hell out of Set, who I think was really enjoying the limelight for those few moments.
The only detraction in all of this was that, as I came off of “center stage” after the speech was done, and everyone was applauding, one of the other ritualists who was portraying a deity came up, got in front of me, and said (though I don’t think anyone else heard), “You’re still a dick!” As I was still being overshadowed by Set, the immediate response was “Cut her throat,” and I was holding a scythe at the time that could have been used for exactly that. But, I didn’t give in to that Setian impulse, and instead just looked at her, scowled, and said “Hmph!” The ritualist in that case (I will not say the goddess, because I don’t believe the goddess in question would be that foolish) really didn’t get what was going on, I think, or what the point of the entirety was. Unfortunately, there was more of that going around at the rest of the con’ in the days to come, and there still is in various debates about inclusion…
Oh, and in case you want to see what the outfit looked like (partially), here I am afterwards with a (very sexy!) gentleman who was one of the satyrs for the ritual, who was speaking with me a bit about Setian/Typhonian magic afterwards. Keep in mind, in the ritual itself, I was looking a lot less “friendly,” I wasn’t wearing the PantheaCon name badge with all the ribbons, and I was carrying a serrated scythe and a ball-chain flogger.
(Amusingly, the size this photo came up as when I uploaded it was 500 x 666…take that, Typhonian magic people! There’s a little Egypt devil in my blog now!)
After the ritual, many people came up to me and said “We love you, Set!” and one woman came up, in tears, saying that she’s been told far too many times that she’s too femme to be a real lesbian, and (as Set said) “it fucking sucks.” I didn’t take my costume nor make-up off immediately afterwards, and I went to another event. People were telling me for the rest of the time that I appeared this way in public that they liked the outfit, or the ears, or the makeup, or if they saw the performance they said they enjoyed it; and one person thought I was a World of Warcraft character…?!? Hmm.
The event I went to afterwards was the showing of American Mystic. I didn’t stay for the entire thing, but I did think it was interesting.
I went and took the outfit off, had a shower (and got the bathtub very red as a result…as well as many towels), and got ready for the later events, which included the “Living a Celtic Reconstructionist Path” presentation by Erynn Rowan Laurie (which was quite good!), and then…food, and conversations…and BED!
I shall resume this narrative with the remainder of PantheaCon later. In the meantime, I invite any questions, comments, or discussion around any of the issues mentioned above, and their possible relations to other things I’ve written here recently as well.