Posted by: aediculaantinoi | December 7, 2012

Rites of Passage; Passage of Rights…

Yesterday, for the first time in history, same-sex marriage was legal in the state of Washington. After a multi-year process that involved failed attempts at constitutionality rulings in the state Supreme Court, a successful state legislative campaign that won both houses and was signed by the governor, and then a failed attempt to quash the legality of the new law by conservative religious groups via an initiative, the forces of progressivism edged out those of discrimination by a wide enough margin (though still not that wide) in order to pass the initiative and make same-sex marriage legal in the state. I wrote about some possible implications of this late last month, but in the meantime, over 600 couples filed the paperwork for same-sex marriage licenses yesterday in the state, which is much higher than the usual daily number of such filings. It’s clear that this is something that many people do want and have wanted for a long time.

As far as the current blog is concerned, and the particular form of the modern cultus of Antinous known as the Ekklesía Antínoou, I’ve somewhat joked for a number of years now that we’ve been “recognizing same-sex marriage since 123 CE.” While that’s a huge exaggeration, and in fact muddies the waters considerably on a number of historicity issues that I’ve otherwise been quite averse to, nonetheless, I look forward to the time when members of our group will seek same-sex marriages, and have rituals within our spiritual tradition to celebrate those occasions in which Antinous and Hadrian might actually bless the couple’s union (along with many other gods as well).

But this brings me to a larger point. Modern forms of paganism are relatively good with seasonal celebrations and the usual “wheel of the year” dates. Some forms of modern polytheism do a pretty good job of celebrating particularly important festivals in honor of certain deities–some get far more attention than others, but at least these things are going on generally. And while there are various “rites of passage” that are marked almost universally in most religious traditions and cultures worldwide, and there have been some deliberate attempts within paganism to standardize or at least recognize the need for these, on the whole it’s an area of relative weakness and absence in many cases.

Birth of children, puberty rites, coming of age/adulthood, marriage, and death are the rituals that pretty much everyone for much of history has at least had some need for in most cases–no, not everyone gets married, nor does everyone properly come of age, but the other three are pretty necessary and inevitable, as long as one lives long enough for them to happen. The rites involved in puberty and coming of age are ones that are, I think, the most sadly lacking in modern paganism and polytheism. I have yet to hear of any pagan friends of mine who have children having such a ritual at any stage, nor do I know anyone who has ever attended or helped at one; I know that they have existed for some people, but I’ve never been to one, nor have I been asked to help put one on. I’ve also never been asked to do child blessings after birth, marriages, or funerals outside of my own family (and in those cases, my performance in those roles has not been one that has been “fully polytheist,” for lack of a more accurate term, due to the attendees or the individuals involved not being of that type of religion, etc.). I look forward to the day when people in the Ekklesía Antínoou might be having children (whether they have them themselves or adopt them, etc.), and having those children be raised in our tradition; and while I hope the first occasion of such is a long way off, I know there will come a time when some of our older (or even younger) members die, some of them will have wanted an Ekklesía Antínoou-specific death ritual. Of the various rituals mentioned here, the only one I can really say I’ve thought about at any great length and could, if pressed in the next hour, come up with a basic rubric for by tomorrow morning would be a funeral. Death is inevitable, but most of the other things listed here are not…

That having been said, I wonder if a “coming out” ritual would be useful either, especially for some younger potential members of the Ekklesía Antínoou, or for those who would like to honor Antinous but are in some other pagan or polytheist tradition, or their parents are pagans or polytheists and they’d like to mark that occasion for the sacred and important matter that it is. I look forward to consulting on that in the future as well, and to performing or facilitating such a ritual on some occasion.

And, I also look forward to a day when a polytheist marriage might involve Antinous, no matter what the gender or sexual orientations of the couple happen to be, and that it will be more than the usual run-of-the-mill “handfasting” that a number of married pagans (but by no means all…for whatever strange reason…?!?) have had.

What are your thoughts on these matters?


Responses

  1. Given that modern polytheism is at an age where it needs to start taking this into consideration, I’m shocked this does not get more discussion.
    Right now I’m reading Joel Salatin’s latest book. Most of it applies to food, but he covers a lot of topics. One of them is the modern construction of teenagedom. He was quick to point out that the majority of riders on the Pony Express were true young men, what we would now call teens. It’s nice on some level that people growing up have more time to enjoy youth, but the overculture seems more and more inclined to want to shield kids from every harm. As well as every opportunity to do for themselves.

    • Indeed…

      One of the major things my Thracian colleague and myself have been talking about at various occasions, both private and public, is the need for the “werewolf warrior” groups as a coming-of-age phenomenon and as a proving ground for youths (of any gender, I might add!). Of course, nothing like that would ever fly today, even with the most outdoors-y and ordeal-affirming pagan parents; and, of course, modern versions of it wouldn’t even have to be as harsh nor as life-or-death as ancient versions, and yet…

      Perhaps it’s something for “Queer I Stand” in the not-too-distant future.

      • Oh I LIKE this idea!

      • The “Queer I Stand” follow-up, or sending teenagers to live in the woods in outlaw werewolf societies as a coming-of-age ritual? ;)

      • Outlaw werewolves of course. ;)

  2. Whilst I support gay marriage rights in today’s society, I also think that the legal institution of marriage as it presently exists is an obsolete relic of the Middle Ages and should be done away with.
    I am in favor of the idea that various pagan groups should create formal pagan priesthoods, but the functions of these priests/priestesses should not mimic Christian ideas. Greek and Roman priests did not preside over births, deaths, marriages, or coming of age. When Hadrian married Sabina, it was a case of Hadrian and Sabina marrying each other. They were not married by a government official or by a priest. I think that modern pagan priesthoods should follow ancient precedent.
    “Coming of age” is particularly problematic in the United States. Most Americans raise their children with the idea that their little babies should be their little babies forever. Which is why most Americans under the age of forty still act as if they were fourteen.

    • Indeed, lots to agree with here…

      Unfortunately, because some of the only rites of passage and quasi-coming-of-age things that occur any longer are specifically religious rituals (e.g. Catholic confirmation, Jewish bar/bat mitzvahs, etc.), I don’t think people have much of an idea on how (nor why) such things could/should still occur, and would be rather lost without some “sacerdotal guidance,” as it were, on the matter. It would be an opportunity, I think, for people to start taking raising their children within polytheist religions seriously, and as something that everyone involved can choose and undergo that is much more decisive and eventful rather than what supposedly passes for a rite of passage now (e.g. getting one’s driver’s license, etc.).

      And, because people just can’t get married these days either, and there has to be someone (even if it isn’t an ordained minister or justice-of-the-peace, as is the case in WA, where anyone can officiate a marriage) to sign the form on the required line, it is a further thing that there is an opportunity to get involved with.

      While I do agree that modern polytheist/pagan priesthoods should not have all the functions that Christian ones have–e.g. “pastoral care,” no matter how desirable by some, is really something that professional marriage counselors and/or psychologists should be doing, not Christian ministers, and most certainly not modern pagan priests–I don’t think that putting some (in Jonathan Z. Smith’s terminology) “Here” sacerdotal roles and occasions into the oversight of some “There” priesthoods in our current context might not be useful and appropriate. As in so many things, if this is left up to individual pagans and polytheists to do, as seems to be the case now, I fear a great many of them will just do what they seem to be doing now, i.e. nothing at all.


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