Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 21, 2014

PantheaCon 2014: Any Beardie-Weirdies Here?

“Anyone here artsy-fartsy?”

A few people, including Tristissima, raise their hands.

“Is anyone here airy-fairy?”

A few people, including Tristissima, raise their hands.

“Now, is anyone here a beardie-weirdie?”

Nearly everyone, including Tristissima, raises their hands.

[Thank you, Tristissima, for doing door-duty at this event, and for being such an enthused participant in every bit of it!]

So began the Beard Blessing Ritual at PantheaCon on Monday morning at 9 AM. It was the best-attended session we did at this year’s PantheaCon, and the best-attended 9 AM (or anytime!) session I’ve yet done at a PantheaCon on Monday–and, I’ve done more than my fair share of Monday sessions over the eight years I’ve presented there.

The description for the session was as follows:

“These are the prohibitions of a beard…” So goes a medieval Irish text that tells the expectations of a mature adult. Hadrian was the first Roman Emperor to have a beard, and every Emperor after him followed suit. This ritual will involve the blessings and the injunctions of the bearded and the non-bearded as well. To be part of the beard blessing, one must have a beard (whether real or fake), otherwise one will be part of the non-bearded blessing. For absolutely anyone who has a beard, may have one in the future, or who doesn’t have one, regardless of gender or age!

In addition to being well-attended, this session was probably the one that we’ve offered over the last eight years that had the most cisgendered and heterosexual attendees–though of course, there were also several queer folks and trans* and otherwise gener-variant folks (including myself!) present, for which I am very grateful. However, I think it helped to establish the point that just because the Ekklesía Antínoou has “queer” as its first identifier, it isn’t just for queer people…and, that perhaps makes it more queer than anything! ;)

But, one point of this ritual was not just to bless the bearded, but to show that beardedness does not have to be a singular gender identifier: women can have beards, and some people who don’t have beards are just as male or manly as any other. It was a queering of the beard as much as an honoring of it. Most of the attendees were bearded: I’d estimate that of around 50 attendees, about 4/5 were bearded to some degree or another.

If you’d like to read a few brief accounts of the ritual by other folks who were present, may I suggest having a look at John Beckett’s entry and John Halstead’s entry (and the latter had his wife, Ruth, with him as well). It was wonderful to have all of them at the ritual, and to speak with them (very briefly in some cases) afterwards!

This ritual started out as an amusing idea a few years ago–2011 or 2012, perhaps–one morning when we had done the Inundation ritual at the hot tub, and then I was speaking with Mystes and Aedificator Ogam while in the hot tub, along with another blessed and beloved elder gentleman who was amply bearded. I tried to sat that it would be good to have more “face-time” with both of them at future occasions, but it ended up coming out “beard-time,” and that was rather amusing…but then I got to thinking, and realized that there is a lot of lore and proverbs and the like around beards. There is an Irish text called Gessi Ulchai that tells the “injunctions of the bearded,” and I have the text (but was unable to locate it and get it translated before the ritual this year–it sucks to have most of your life and possessions in a storage unit, and not enough time to get out there to find things while you’re working…trust me!). The idea for the ritual solidified not long after this, and Ogam was especially excited about it. I proposed the ritual the following year, and it wasn’t taken; I proposed it again this last year, and it was accepted. Unfortunately, Ogam was not able to attend PantheaCon this year, so I hope that this ritual did him honor, and that everyone remembers and recognizes him when they think of it.

After the above introduction, I did the usual prayers to Wepwawet, Hekate, and Ianus to begin the ritual, followed by the Greek “Frankensteinian” hymn to Antinous. We then invoked the Obelisk of Antinous, did the “Prayer Against Persecution,” and also made offerings of food (a chocolate orange!) and whiskey to Antinous, Serapis, Hadrian, and to the ancestors since it was still Parentalia when this ritual was done. I then asked everyone to get comfy, because I read the following texts; in absence of the actual texts concerned, I figured that the base text could be the one I wrote for Serapeia last year, and then the rest was based on my own knowledge, poetic composition skills, and the inspiration of the gods and divine beings concerned. (And, the relic pictured here, which I own, was present at this ritual and every other that I attended or presented throughout the weekend!)

serapis-terracotta

Serapis’ Beard

Hail to Serapis, mighty-bearded,
whose beard-hairs entwine the entire world
of gods and men, of cities and planets.

His wisps of hair curl around Osiris,
the false-bearded, and whorl around Sabazios,
whose beard is equally dense and drifting.

His chin-mane swirls around Zeus’ thunderbolt,
the bident of subterranean Hades,
and around Herakles’ mighty club and lion-skin.

Around the cadeuceus and the thyrsus alike,
around hammer and anvil in forge,
around the thighs of his favorite lovers.

His beard a bridge across continents and cultures,
entwining Sucellos and Odin, Endovellicus and the Dagda,
and old Math vab Mathonwy and his virgin footholder.

The young and the old, bearded and unbearded alike,
young Antinous and the Apis Bull and Anubis,
and today even Robigus, Robigo, and white-faced Khonsu.

Brahma’s four heads and faces entangle with his beard,
and Sarutahiko-no-Okami’s undefeated spear
clears a way to mingle their facial hairs together.

In the faces of Walt Whitman and old uncles and grandfathers,
in the faces of aloof twenty-something hipsters who can’t be bothered,
in the chins of goats and unicorns alike.

In the gessi of Ulchai and of Olc Aiche,
the hounds of every fíanna
and the wolf-head of every cáinte.

His beard encompasses sun, moon, and stars,
the planets and the Milky Way,
and the vast depths of unknowable space…

In the upper beard and the lower beard,
in the beardless and the shaven and the shorn,
on this day, Serapis, mighty-bearded, hail to you! 

Hadrian’s Beard

Hail to you, Hadrian the Greekling, the philosopher and king,
who made wearing a beard the standard of the Disciplina Augusta.

He kept it trimmed and tended, and his friends followed him in this:
Herodes Attikos of Marathon made his beard wet with his tears of mourning.

Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus were students of Herodes,
and adopted children of Hadrian’s second heir, Antoninus Pius.

The beard of Aelius Caesar, Lucius Ceionius Commodus Verus,
a hedge that flowered too short a time before dying.

The beard of wisdom did not grow on the emperor Commodus,
but the beard of good example grew prominently on Septimius Severus’ face.

Every emperor of any standing after Hadrian
had a beard, down to Julian the Philosopher, the tragedy of Persia.

But one Emperor did not, broke with the tradition,
and his beardless face heralded a more sinister cutting down and trimming:

the Emperor Constantine, who on Britannia’s frontier,
at the temple of Serapis at Eboracum, broke with his ancestors’ traditions.

Those shorn roots grew again with his grandson Julian,
but as soon as they flowered once more, they were cruelly cut down.

If one wears the beard, long or short, in error or in triumph,
one must know what it means to be steeped in the roots of the ancestors.

The Stanzas of the Beardless Heroes

Not all who wanted beards had them yet,
and some who deserved them could not have them at all.

Victory and blessings to Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster,
the bitch of the Holly-Wood Smith, the son of Súaltaim mac Roích and Lug of the Síd-mounds.

The hairs on his body were brilliant upon his scalp, falling to his shoulders,
and flashing above his seven-pupilled eyes, but on his body otherwise were not to be found.

When the women among the armies of Ireland under Medb and Ailill derided him,
he took grass and herbs from the fields, and berries from the bramble hedges,

and with a spell, he made himself a beard to be considered a brave warrior,
a youth who fought and defeated Lóch mac Emonis and beloved Fer Diad mac Dé Domnainn.

When the Nile took his last breath and gave him his first breath as a god,
Antinous of Bithynia did not have the beard of adulthood, for he was still an ephebe.

And when Vibullius Polydeukion learned all the wisdom of his foster-father, Herodes Attikos,
he lacked the beard of a philosopher, though his wisdom was greater than a foot-long-bearded one.

It is possible to have wisdom, to have divine grace, to have the deeds of heroes,
and to have the maturity of the most responsible adult citizen

when Natura has not yet made her garden sprout on the face or the body,
and even when the razor of social convention or of aesthetics cuts the garden daily—

like Silvanus, who was portrayed as bearded in every instance,
except when he appeared as the beautiful Antinous at Lanuvium.

The Bearded Ladies

Do not laugh, O beardless women,
nor bearded and beardless men,
and those who are neither men nor woman
who have beards or who lack them—
for many who have not been bearded
become bearded in time and with age.

The Féni of Ireland, the legal citizens under its laws,
reckoned a girl was a woman when she had built her “castle”—
when the hairs of maturity appeared upon her
in a “lower beard.” If she was shaved, she became infertile,
a girl in status no matter what age,
and her honor price and body price times two was the penalty.

There was a woman in Ireland
who knew what it was to wear the beard,
even though the men found it uncomfortable to look upon;
but if they looked upon it, and saw the face beneath,
and were virtuous and bold enough to kiss her,
they knew her as the Sovereignty of Ireland, and became kings.

Therefore, do not disdain the bearded ladies,
who are as respectable and as powerful and as beautiful
as the ladies whose faces are as hairless as the shells of eggs.
Every hair upon the face is a hair of virtue and of boldness,
of power and of honor and of the flowering of victory and maturity,
whether on the face of woman, man, or those who are neither.

*****

After reading these out, and hailing each group and the individuals in it, I asked for all of the bearded ones to go to the middle of the room, where they had the following read to them:

The Gessi of Úlchai

Hear now, O People of PantheaCon, and take every word to heart:
for these are the Injunctions of the Bearded Ones.

You are always to be simple amongst simpletons, though never too simple,
and grand amongst the great, but not greater than you actually are.

You are everywhere to be hospitable, whether guest or host;
and you are to be respectful to and respectable before all, be they gods, humans, or others.

You are always to have the wisdom of the philosopher, but not the attitude of a pedant;
and you are always to have the vigor and courage of a warrior, but not the attitude of a bully.

You are forever to be trying, even if sometimes you fail;
and you are forever to be doing, because not doing is itself a failure.

Yours is the guardianship of the weak, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed:
you are to be their champion, or else you are never a champion.

Yours is to never prey upon the weak, the disadvantaged, or the oppressed:
if you do, your bearded head is the forfeit for your deeds.

Yours is to be respectful and to honor every woman,
be she young or old, soft-faced or bearded;

yours is to be respectful and to honor every man,
in fair friendship or in the clash and challenges of interactions;

yours is to recognize and respect those who are neither men nor women,
and to be guided by them in how to be respectful of them;

yours is to be encouraging and educating of every youth,
for an elder of two or of twenty years is only an elder if their example is true.

You are to be people of your own words, people known by your virtues,
people as unique as the beard each of you wears when you wear it.

By the deities of Ireland and of Greece, of Rome and of Egypt and of all the nations,
and by the ancestors and elders of each tradition:

may you never forget nor neglect the Injunctions of the Bearded, lest you not be worthy of your beards!

*****

I then used the Ephesia Grammata to bless and protect them. Then the non-bearded (or somewhat-bearded) went to the middle of the room–a much smaller number of them!–and I read the following to them:

The Gessi of The Potentially Bearded

Hear now, O People of PantheaCon, and take every word to heart:
for these are the Injunctions of those who are not now Bearded, whether they are in the future or not.

You are always to be children amongst children, though never childish,
and to be adults amongst adults, but not stilted nor stodgy.

You are everywhere to be a good and gracious guest, and to honor your hosts and be honorable hosts;
and you are to be respectful to and respectable before all, be they gods, humans, or others.

You are always to have the wisdom of the wise youth, but not the attitude of the wise-ass;
and you are always to have the vigor and courage of a teenager, but not the carelessness of one.

You are forever to be trying, even if sometimes you fail;
and you are forever to be doing, because not doing is itself a failure.

Yours is the task of solidarity the weak, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed:
you are to be their friends and companions, or else you are a coward.

Yours is to never prey upon the weak, the disadvantaged, or the oppressed:
if you do, your beardless head is the forfeit for your deeds.

Yours is to be respectful and to honor every woman,
be she young or old, soft-faced or bearded;

yours is to be respectful and to honor every man,
in fair friendship or in the clash and challenges of interactions;

yours is to recognize and respect those who are neither men nor women,
and to be guided by them in how to be respectful of them;

yours is to be pious and dutiful toward every elder,
for you will one day be an elder, be you bearded or beardless.

You are to be people of your own words, people known by your virtues,
people as unique as the face each of you wears while alive.

By Cú Chulainn of Ireland, Antinous of Bithynia, and Nefertem of Egypt,
and the beardless deities of all the nations,
and by the ancestors and elders of each tradition:
may you never forget nor neglect the Injunctions of the Beardless, lest you not be worthy of your own faces.

*****

Likewise, I did the Ephesia Grammata on them for blessing and protection.

You’ll note that several bits of each Gessi text is identical, and some bits are very close to one another. There is a lesson in this…!

After that, we had a great deal of time left, and so people asked questions about where the sources for this came, and some people asked about Antinous generally, and about the Ephesia Grammata. Don Frew (who was an enthused participant) and Margot Adler also brought up the Emperor Julian’s satirical text Misopogon, “The Beard-Hater,” which I had certainly heard of, but did not remember to consult before preparing this ritual–I’ll have to do that in the near future, but thank you to both of them for reminding me!

And, because we had time, I did one verse of “Hadriane,” and hints at a few other Eleventh Muse/Lady GaGa devotional filks, and commented (after Margot sang a small bit of the musical Iliad she co-wrote as a teenager!) that I aspire to be the Weird Al of polytheist devotional music. ;)

After this, we de-voked the Obelisk, did the final benediction (which draws on some words from Cicero), and–as in the ritual two days before (on which more in a future post!)–I had everyone help me with the V.S.L.M. at the end by doing it in the air with me rather than on an actual stone.

All in all, it was a fun and enjoyable session, I think, but also serious and hopefully a good introduction to some aspects of our practice for those who had not been to one of our rituals before! So, I hope that those who were present and who would like to comment further, or say more about particular aspects that they thought were interesting or useful or that I neglected to mention above, will feel free to do so!

More on further PantheaCon matters later, with any luck! ;)


Responses

  1. […] coverage, in addition to some general comments on it, I’ve been able to review in-depth the two rituals the Ekklesía Antínoou did on Monday, and the Wiccanate Privilege discussion on Sunday. […]

  2. Sounds like fun =) And quite different from what else was on the programming.

  3. […] latest post on PantheaCon, here is a photo taken of us on Monday morning by Duffi, after my two rituals were complete, but before […]

  4. […] Pagan Beverage and/or Breakfast Time! Sunday (Socializing) The Wiccanate Privilege Discussion The Beard Blessing Ritual The Youth Blessing […]

  5. […] at four points: in the healing ritual for her, during the Wiccanate Privilege discussion, at the beard-blessing ritual, and at lunch at the very end of the […]


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