There’s nothing like blogging for “productive procrastination purposes,” eh?
So, I’ve discussed a variety of things from PantheaCon thus far that went well, or were important; there’s still some others that are in those categories that I have yet to discuss. But, there was one event that didn’t quite go to plan, for a variety of reasons, and yet it still also was okay in the end, and did what it set out to do. That was Lupercalia on Saturday afternoon.
It really began on Saturday morning, as I debated about what to do with my logistical situation. On the one hand, I was over in the Fairfield Inn and Suites, which is a nice hotel to stay in for a variety of reasons; on the other, because I was that far away, that meant that planning what I’d be carrying with me at any given time was a major concern and involved more planning than I would have preferred. (In fact, this has been a problem for several years now, and one that I think the PantheaCon staff–for all the wonderful and difficult work they do–should take into account in the future: it would be far easier on their presenters if they had a space in the Double Tree hotel guaranteed if they are presenting, especially if they have multiple rituals, and some of those rituals are at 9 AM.)
This is also one of the reasons that Inundation didn’t happen at all last year, and only once this year: it’s a lot harder to get that in order, especially for me (as I have some physical limitations that mean I can’t just go from a dip in the pool or hot tub to “ready for action!” afterwards with the mere intervention of a towel and a change of clothes), if I am not in the Double Tree and have ready access to a (non-outdoor) shower and other facilities afterwards. So, this year, we did Inundation once, on Saturday morning. I got ready at my hotel, then came over for this. Only Tristissima showed up for it, though as we were about to “do the dunking,” so to speak, our Anomalous Thracian colleague happened to come by and sat by the poolside for a moment. It was good to do it again, and I hope it can be a part of things next year and in future years as well once again and in a more reliable fashion than in the last few years.
So, after that, I made my way around the vendor’s room quickly, and decided to forego the 11 AM workshop slot (as much as I wanted to attend a certain session) in order to then go back to the room, change clothes, re-consolidate some of my items, and then be ready for the rest of the day. If I had not made that trip back, I would have had to carry two changes of clothes with me, in addition to all of the ritual items for Lupercalia later, which would have involved me carrying as many bags and suitcases as I had arrived with the day before…so, I’m glad this all worked out.
I had a quick lunch at Starbuck’s near my hotel. It just so happened that two of our Mystai were in there, and didn’t see me. I decided to be sneaky, and phoned them to perhaps surprise them with being in the same building when they answered, and neither of them took my calls. So, I then went over to them, and they sort of snarked at me for not coming over to say hello, and I said “Well, I did call.” As they had never been to a PantheaCon before, and thus not to a Lupercalia ritual, I was hoping they’d come for it, so they could meet some of the other Mystai of Antinous that they’ve never been able to meet previously. They said “We’re considering it.”
They didn’t come.
This doesn’t please me.
But, that’s a matter for another occasion, perhaps. Maybe some people find it odd that I expect Mystai of Antinous to hold our events and devotional opportunities for him in rather high regard, and that I’d think they would prioritize taking part in our events. Apparently, I’m insane to think that.
I was in the room for Lupercalia an hour before it was meant to start, and began setting up the space. Others didn’t end up joining me until about 1 PM, and as is often the case, some of them kept going “Can I help? How can I help?” in ways that weren’t as helpful as they could have been. Certain things, in a devotional ritual, can only be done by the lead ritualist, while others (which I had taken care of before) could have been done by anyone. It’s never quite as easy as I hope it will be to set things up at PantheaCon, but we were doing all right, generally…
For whatever reason, almost all of our requests as far as tables and such didn’t go through as expected. We asked for a microphone and a stand (which we didn’t end up using), but the stand wouldn’t hold the microphone. The table I used for our main altar was one that was already in the room, and I moved it into position myself and set things up on it. However, I was waiting for four small circular tables for shrines to set up around the room, and they didn’t arrive…until about five minutes after our session officially started…and, they were the wrong-sized tables…and, the hotel personnel who came in with them sort of charged in in a way that would have entirely disrupted the ritual had it been going the way it was supposed to be going at that stage. While this didn’t entirely “ruin” the ritual, by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly put limits on how things could proceed after that.
As a result, I had to cut out a number of things: the procession, and the Obelisk of Antinous in particular. Though we finished the ritual with a few minutes to spare, these would have made things run over, so I’m glad I decided to cut them. As the Lupercalia has to do with liminality in various ways, it seemed appropriate to remove the Obelisk of Antinous under the circumstances, as he would be amply represented in other ways in most of the rest of the ritual.
We did the opening prayers to Wepwawet, Hekate, and Ianus (with the help of Finnchuill), and then a few Antinoan hymns, followed by the Prayer Against Persecution. In the latter, which I and many others pray frequently, I actually forgot it entirely in the middle of it, and had to stop and look it up, but then remembered it; I took this as a bit of a hint that what was being prayed should not just be gone through in a rote fashion, and that every word of it was a kind of vow to be upheld in what would follow at the con’ (and I’m glad of that reminder). We did the Antinoan Petition, and then the total of five Antinoan shrines set up around the room received prayers from individuals as we sang Dona Nobis Pacem. We then did an observance of Parentalia in which people could offer water to the ancestors and the Sancta/e/i at the shrines around the room as well while we sang Ignis Corporis Infirmat; Ignis sed Animae Perstat. Some quick divination, because I felt something was “not quite right,” revealed that the Sancta/e/i needed more offerings, and so once the main part of that was over, I went around with the alcohol to all of their temporary shrines and libated some of “the good stuff” for them in addition to the water which they received.
The canvas banners that I had made for PantheaCon this year kept falling down at various points (of which three were used in this ritual: Antinous, Hadrian, and Polydeukion), and at last I asked Duffi simply to hold one of them up for the rest of the ritual, from which she got the title “Antinopher.” That shall be solemnized amongst her other titles soon!
We had the initial part of the Lupercalia rite at this point, and our Luperci this year were Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir as Lupercum Primum, Signy Ragnvaldsdottir as Luperca Prima, and Jeff Cullen as Lupercus Tertius. More on this in a moment…
During the ritual laughter, I decided we should honor Hadrian, who always loved a good laugh. So, for that, I did the song “Hadriane,” which you may remember from here. People eventually joined in, which was great, and some who did it in the original 2011 performance (e.g. Xochiquetzal Duti) remembered it very quickly, too!
It came time to send Xochi around to do the flogging, and then for Jeff and Signy to do the race. This they did, and just like the first time we did Lupercalia at PantheaCon in 2007 (in this exact same room, I think), Signy tripped on the second lap. This meant that Jeff ended up winning the race. Almost every year we’ve had it, the cisgender male running the race wins it…and this kind of upsets and disturbs me for a variety of reasons (none of which involve “Come on, you should be able to win this race, non-cisgender males who are running it!”). As much as I think that the Ekklesía Antínoou’s choice to have women as Lupercae every year is now a requirement is a good thing for the modern world, at the same time, we’ve got centuries of tradition (though interrupted) when the Lupercalia was a “boys’ club.” Signy is an Army veteran, and thus is as worthy as anyone to be running in this as a returning warrior…and yet, something tells me that Trajan or someone like that who is honored amongst us is not happy with this turn of events. That isn’t to say that we *should* then change our policies, because Antinous (under whose auspices we are doing this ritual) wants to include everyone, and he’s a god whereas they are Divi, but at the same time, it’s noteworthy and it’s something to consider in the future. Perhaps, we should have all women as Lupercae one year…that may give them a run for their money, so to speak!
After the race, the white team went around and gave the blessings of the victory to everyone, and the red team then went around and took defeat from the ritual attendees in whatever way they might have experienced it. This was a good and cleansing and purifying ritual, and it’s ultimately the reason that we present this at PantheaCon whenever we can, because it does benefit the community and the people present who attend it (as do the prayers and the opportunity to honor one’s ancestors as well).
We did the final blessings, and then sent everyone on their way. In the aftermath, I spoke with a few people, including a fellow from Ireland originally who said that some of the Latin and Catholic-like elements (e.g. a prayer litany) put him off slightly, but that because his son had committed suicide a few years ago, he really felt it was good that such was being acknowledged and honored in our ritual. And, that reassures me that what we are doing, even if it only deeply touches one or two people out of all those who attend, is very worthwhile and important.
I’ve been thinking about Lupercalia in various ways over the last week, and over the last few hours, and am debating some revisions to it in the future; but, I’m also inclined at present to keep it how it is, because it seems to be going pretty well and doing what it is meant to do each year for those who attend it. Perhaps another entirely different ritual will be offered in the future, not in place of Lupercalia, but in addition to it…we shall see.
In any case, I hope the blessings of Mars and Venus, Ianus and Quirinus, Faunus, Silvanus, Vesta, the Lupa, and Antinous Lupercus are with all of you for the remainder of this month and for the year to come!