Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 24, 2016

Well, Isn’t That Interesting? ;)

Since I’ve been in Finland, I’ve already eaten reindeer (it was delicious!), and something for desert last night that in Finnish means “rich knight”–so, a werewolf’s dinner, most certainly! ūüėČ

Tonight, I shall be doing a short ritual for both expiation (a minor devotional infraction occurred this morning‚Ķyes, I was tired and sleep-deprived, but that’s not a valid excuse, and taking such things seriously is important for me, even if it may not rate too terribly highly with the Deities, which divination indicated it didn’t‚Ķbut it was noticed all the same), and for thanksgiving, for the following Deities and Their attached reasons:

1. For Antinous. ‘Nuff said. With Him, I wouldn’t be here, literally and figuratively and in every sense. Haec set unde vita venit!

2. For Hermes: for safe travel, and even the bumpy bits of it and the uncertainty turned out fine; and for the sleep that I finally got last night–I slept better, longer, for a short period of last night than I have in weeks at my own home in my own bed.

3. For C√ļ Chulainn: my paper went very well (and was well-attended, generated great questions and discussion, and has been met thus far with all who expressed an opinion on the matter to me with enthusiastic approval and praise!), and he featured highly in it‚Ķincluding a bit as the butt of a joke, but one that I don’t think he’d much object to because it is true. (Maybe I’ll tell it to y’all, if you’re interested!)

4. For Dionysos: I asked what would ordinarily be a disreputable drunk for directions when I got here, not knowing such until I was done asking him for directions. He took me to where I needed to go‚Ķthere’s more to the story than that, but I’ll leave it there for now, but will add that it says much about a place when the disreputable drunks are nice and helpful people!

5. For Lugus: He was leading me in the right direction on my own, but I didn’t trust myself, or Him, enough‚Ķbut, still, I’m always grateful for his assistance in situations like this.

6. For Aphrodite: because, in a few minutes (I need to stop this now because of it), I kind of have ***a date*** with a guy I just met, whose paper I was planning on attending tomorrow (though he’s not done with it yet, so it won’t be an all-night event tonight), who is stunningly gorgeous, and also extremely smart and extremely nice, and was enthusiastic about meeting me earlier after my paper. I won’t put too many eggs in the basket on this, but he is American and lives in the U.S. currently (but on the other side of it), so who knows? I’ll have to find out more about him at dinner and see what his situation is‚Ķ Sadly, it turns out he’s straight (or at least he hasn’t said otherwise), has a girlfriend back in the U.S. with whom he’s deeply in love, and he’s also Christian‚Ķand there’s more to say here, too, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, it was a nice dinner, and I’m still attending his paper tomorrow, and will likely be in contact with him in the future as well, and I’m very interested in his work. But, Aphrodite is still being thanked‚Ķ!

Anyway, I have to freshen up real quick and then head over to meet him, so I hope that I might have good news soon!

But, at this point, I can say that my life is happier today for having come all this way than it was in the last few months. Travel tends to be great once I arrive, but anyway, I’m very happy it is going as it is, and I hope to update y’all on it more soon! ūüėČ

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 22, 2016

Highway to HEL…

I am in Sea-Tac airport, about to board a flight for Reykjavik, and then onwards from there to Helsinki, Finland–which, amusingly, has the airport code HEL. No offense to Hel, or to Helheim, but I’m not going there (just yet!).

I am not going to Finland to meet Tom, either‚Ķbut if I do, I won’t complain (after getting over the fact that he has come back to life)!

More on the trip when I arrive, perhaps, but I hope everyone has a great festival of the Red Nile Lotus today–I have been! ūüėČ

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 21, 2016

The Lion Hunt 2016

[The first “part” of this story, in a certain sense, can be read from last year’s entry here; while this one can function separately from the previous year’s story, nonetheless reading the first before this one provides a bit more context and continuity.]

lion

The feast was over, and Antinous–despite feeling much better than he had been earlier–was still not entirely back to his usual affable self. Hadrian, as ever, was holding forth over obscure points of grammar and poetry with Mesomedes, Julia Balbilla and Numenios, and Sabina was quietly discussing something apparently amusing with Damo. He moved from his couch and backed away slowly, hoping that no one would notice him slipping out of the symposium.

A figure emerged from the shadows in the doorway, obstructing Antinous’ escape.

Pachrates of Heliopolis, his hairless head unmistakable, his kohl-blackened eyes staring widely, and the strong smell of incense that seemed to cling to him beginning to overpower Antinous’ nostrils.

“Antnus, we must speak. Come.”

As suddenly as he had appeared, the Egyptian priest turned and walked out the door, and Antinous followed, thinking that it was impossible for any human to move as far as the priest had as quickly as he did once he was out the door. While it was not difficult for him to keep up with the Egyptian, nonetheless there was a way about Pachrates–or Pancrates, as Antinous and Hadrian preferred to call him, to Pachrates’ clear amusement–that seemed no-longer-human, even beyond his repute as a great magician and holy initiate.

“Do you see the great river, Antnus?”

Antinous could see the slight shimmer of the water beyond a swampy patch of papyrus, as well as a number of lotus flowers of blue, white, and red. It was as if the priest knew what Antinous was thinking.

“There are more red this year than usual, Antnus. Very strange, but not unknown.”

In that moment, Antinous longed to be like the men of Odysseus’ crew, eating lotuses and simply fading into sloth and sleep. It would be good to forget his pained actions earlier in such a manner, and he wished that the learned priest would either prescribe him such a regimen, or simply leave him alone so that he could sulk quietly before drifting off to sleep. It was clear, however, that the priest wanted to convey something else, even though there was not a hint of discomfort or uncertainty in his bearing, nor reticence to speak. Nonetheless, he seemed to be waiting for Antinous’ mind to clear a bit more before he continued, so as to have his full attention–or so Antinous thought, as he tried to chase such thoughts from his mind so that the priest might relieve him of his spiral of self-consciousness.

“I am happy,” the priest at last spoke as the two walked, the priest slightly ahead of Antinous, “that His Divine Majesty and yourself were able to slay the lion in the desert today. It is a great victory.”

“But was it? I almost got myself killed–I can’t call that a great victory.”

“And yet, you are still here, Antnus. What little wounds you have will heal soon, by the favor of the Gods, and a great plague has been lifted from the land. Did Herakles complain that the Hydra’s poison burned his forearm slightly in the battle with it, when it was slain in his efforts?”

“But it was the Lernean Hydra’s blood that brought about his death eventually!”

“What is that? He did not die then, he had many good years ahead of him, in which he accomplished every heroic deed imaginable.”

“Are you trying to console me?”

“I am succeeding in consoling you!”

“You haven’t succeeded yet, Pancrates.”

If the Egyptian priest had actual eyebrows, he would have been raising them as he glanced back at Antinous.

“I have no doubt that my words will persuade you, Antnus.”

“Then you have much more confidence than I ever will, Pancrates!”

The priest tutted a “Ha!” but his facial expression did not change. Antinous mused aloud.

“Do you know, Herakles was also called ‘Pancrates’ at one time.”

“It is right, for he was all-powerful.”

“Yet he could not avert his own death. That seems rather powerless to me.”

“It is easy to think such when you have never been clothed in the skin of the Nemean Lion. Had he been wearing that when he put on Nessus’ shirt, he would not have suffered such.”

“And yet, had he not worn that shirt, he would not have come to his apotheosis.”

“Now you are beginning to see, Antnus. And, your own Nemean Lion is only a fresh kill today.”

Antinous’ brow furrowed, and he shot Pachrates a glance that was both quizzical and somewhat angry. The Egyptian priest continued.

“You may not regard today’s hunt as a victory, Antnus, but you cannot regard it as a defeat. A minor failure, perhaps; a momentary lapse, certainly; but not a defeat.”

“I know what happened! I know what I was thinking, I know what I ended up doing, and I know how inadequate it was under the circumstances! I know how narrow it was that I escaped death, and I know my life is indebted even more to Hadrian now than it ever has been before, which is beyond all measures in every possible fashion! How can I be more wretched than that?”

“How can you be more blessed than that? His Divine Majesty has poured out his favor on you like no other, as abundant as the inundation of the Nile.”

“The inundation of the Nile has been paltry for the past few years.”

“And yet, the Nile in its poorest flood is still more abundant than any river of your Asia or His Divine Majesty’s Europa. Many are the mortals who became divine who had less than what you do now, Antinous, and it is not exceeding generosity or charity on the part of His Divine Majesty that you have what you deserve.”

“Is it not hubris to think such thoughts?”

“Is it not hubris to be called ‘Pancrates,’ and yet I answer to the name, because there is no denying it.”

Antinous flushed slightly, and it was not just the night air which caused him to do so.

“I have been initiated in Eleusis, and feel assured of my contentment in the presence of Persephone. Even so, I would never say that my blessedness is so superlative‚Ķ”

“Which is why all of you Greeks fail to understand the true magika hiera which is the religion of Egypt. Two Greeks did not make such a mistake: Alexander and his Ptolemy–and all that came after the latter were no longer Greek, they were Egyptian because they had become Egyptian.”

Antinous was still somewhat shocked, but the hints of a smile began to shape his lips.

“Such over-confidence can so easily become hubris, though‚Ķ”

“It is only hubris if it is not true. If in the presence of the Gods I have declared myself a God, and the Gods grant that my heart is in accord with Ma’at, then who among the Gods of any nation can contravene Their just judgement?”

“So, it’s just that simple?”

“No–twenty years in an underground chamber were needed to reach such a state.”

“The Minotaur spent less time in his labyrinth!”

“Only because Daedalus took so long to fashion it.”

Antinous could not contain himself any longer, and began to laugh, initially with discomfort, but eventually with acceptance. The stone-faced Egyptian’s eyes did not move, but gradually a single “Ha!” surfaced from his chest, and then others followed, only with their advancing host turning the battle-line of his mouth into an amused smile.

“Tell me, then, what must I do to become as you have said?”

“First, you must not see what happened today as a failure. Even if others knew every detail of it and could scrutinize your every error, what is it to you that their opinions are such? What might look to others as failure may be, in truth, a great triumph in the eyes of the Gods and in your own eyes in time.”

“No, Pancrates–what must I do to become a God?”

“There are many ways, but to live as best you can with justice and piety is the simplest, and the most difficult.”

“And I’d only have to spend twenty years in some labyrinth in order to become all-powerful?”

“For you, perhaps only fifteen.”

Today is the great holy day of the Order of Chaeronea, from which they took their entire reckoning of time: namely, the Battle of Chaeronea at which the forces of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great conquered Greece and annihilated the Sacred Band of Thebes. While I wish I had more to say on those great heroes for the day, I don’t for the moment (but, we’ll see how this post goes!)‚Ķbut I have a few other things to share.

First, the matter indicated in my subject line, which was going to be its own post sometime in the near future, but let’s have it be the “headline” of this rather diffuse miscellany/newsletter/tabloid/whatever-this-is today, eh?

[However, an ostensible connection to the above can be conjectured via the person of Philip–a different “Philip,” but one called “Philip” all the same!

Many of you are familiar with my interest in and cultus to Amesemi, a Nubian/Meroitic Goddess. The most common ancient image of Her (though She seems to be making inroads to the independent artistic communities, and even appears in what will be an interactive video game called Black Sands along with Apedemak, Gilgamesh, and others!) shows her blessing and protecting Queen Amanishaketo, who existed right around the turn of the era. Well, it turns out the queen’s daughter (and the Ethiopian/Nubian queens were referred to as Kandake, which eventually gives the name/title familiar to many of us as the given name “Candace”!) was a woman called Amanitore, and she appears–of all places–in a passage from Luke/Acts 8:26-40, specifically the following‚Ķand note who the main apostle is, and to whom he is speaking:

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‚ÄúGet up and go toward the south[g] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.‚ÄĚ (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‚ÄúGo over to this chariot and join it.‚ÄĚ 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‚ÄúDo you understand what you are reading?‚ÄĚ 31 He replied, ‚ÄúHow can I, unless someone guides me?‚ÄĚ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.‚ÄĚ

34 The eunuch asked Philip, ‚ÄúAbout whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?‚ÄĚ 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‚ÄúLook, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?‚ÄĚ 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Now, I have to admit–for reasons many of you might understand (!?!)–that I have great interest in St. Philip, both canonically (especially in John) and non-canonically. But, what I find really interesting about this is that he’s talking to an “Ethiopian eunuch,” which makes me wonder if there was not just a “court eunuch” thing going on there, but instead some sort of sacerdotal role for eunuchs or alternately-gendered people within Ethiopia and their form of polytheism. Ultimately, could Amesemi be a Goddess who has a priesthood of such individuals? Pretty wild speculation for just this little passage, but nonetheless, it is an interesting matter, I think!

Next, some sad news: Mark Thompson has died. Go have a look at his website, and the many books he’s written or edited over the years‚Ķthe two with which I’m most familiar are Gay Soul and Leatherfolk, but he’s got several others (including ones about the Radical Faeries) that I will probably have to see about obtaining now as well‚ĶHe is a definite candidate for becoming a Sanctus, I think, and joining several others whom he worked with or interviewed over the years.

Ignis Corporis Infirmat; Ignis sed Animae Perstat.

Speaking of death, I saw this video earlier, and thought I’d share it–I do watch videos on physics and such from time to time (even though I am not hugely learned in that matter, I am interested and try to keep abreast of things, especially if the ideas are suitably weird!), and this one came up in suggestions on YouTube, so I had a look‚Ķand was not displeased! It is by a guy called Rob Bryanton who is primarily a composer/musician, but has some interesting ideas about the ten dimensions postulated by certain corners of physics at present, which make some sense to me‚Ķand, I wonder if he has studied any Charles Mus√®s‚Ķ?!? Part of what he does in it, visually, is to talk about the long snake-like shape starting with birth and ending with death that a fourth-dimensional view of any person (or thing) would create, which is known as a “spime,” and is something Alan Moore also loves to use as an image when he talks along these lines. But, the overall idea he plays with here is one that I have had for a long time, and just wasn’t sure how to suggest: namely, what if the infinite quantum possibilities of our lives are ultimately the “best average,” so to speak, of all the possible times that we might have died, but skewed not only toward our living as long as possible, but likewise allowing those around us to do likewise, which is what creates the consensus reality we experience, even though infinite possibilities are actually occurring at any given moment? Anyway, it’s interesting to see that idea done here in ways that might actually be possible in theoretical physics‚Ķand likewise with some humor, amusing visuals, and songs! (Yes, Bryanton has written 26 songs for his Imagining the 10th Dimension project! And, they’re not bad, either‚Ķa bit silly, perhaps, but nonetheless, enjoyable!)

And, to round out this miscellany, here’s a piece by Paul Cartledge on democracy and sortilege. While “sortilege” is something that in the present context would mostly be associated with divination, here Cartledge points out how it was used in ancient legal practices as a tool of democracy, and what doing so means for radical equality amongst citizens (as defined in the ancient world–sorry, anyone not Greek or male!) but also what its reasonable limitations were.

What follows below is highly speculative, perhaps even to the point of irrelevance and silliness in some folks’ minds‚Ķno matter. Given that the etymological tradition best represented by Isidore of Seville, and echoed in Irish medieval literature, was something long established in ancient Greek and Roman folk as well as academic practice, exercising a bit of it here isn’t entirely out-of-place. (Or, at least that’s what I’m telling myself!)

I’ve been interested for many years now in the idea of “fire-in-water,” which occurs in a wide variety of contexts in mythologies and religious imagery. It is often associated with concepts linked to “Sovereignty” in many Indo-European cultures, and has direct links in various ways to the Deities Poseidon and Neptune in Greek and Roman cultures, and to Necht√°n in Irish. In Irish culture as well, it has connections–both via Necht√°n as well as through other wells (gosh–that’s a lot of “wells” in that last clause!)–to the concept of imbas forosnai found in filidecht, and likely as well to B√≥ann, S√≠nann, and a variety of other figures who are linked to wells of wisdom, the flooding of these which causes rivers to form, and drowning. (Can you see where this is all going yet?–speaking of which, Portunalia and our festival of Palaimon was yesterday, and I didn’t have time to celebrate it properly, outside of my daily devotions to Palaimon‚Ķdrat!)

So, many years ago (probably around ’03 or ’04), I found something that was interesting in relation to Antinous, which I’ll give you in the following statement from my old website, slightly edited (and despite some not-entirely-verified info in it related to Dionysos).

an elegiac text of the second century commemorates many famous loves between gods male mortals, P. Oxy. 3723 (Vol. 54), referring to Apollon and Hyakinthos, Dionysos and “the Indian” (perhaps Ampelos, Hymenaios, or Staphylos, but also possibly one of Dionysos’ other loves, which include Achilleus, Adonis, Hermaphroditos, and Prosymnos), and Herakles and Hylas, in which a suggested restoration would include Antinous, in terms of references to “fire and foam,” possibly meaning the fire of love drowned in water.

That–as well as a few other fragments from the P. Oxy. corpus, have yet to be translated, though I do have photocopies of the relevant texts‚Ķit’s just my Greek isn’t up to the task at this point, and since they are very fragmentary, it’s even more difficult. So, in any case, the “fire-in-water” image does have at least some precedent to being directly connected to Antinous‚Ķpossibly, if the conjectured restoration did indeed include Him. Even though the wide web of symbolic associations, and even His syncretism to Poseidon, all suggest such imagery as well, the more direct imagery also might exist.

But, despite all of that, the specific instance I’d like to discuss today has nothing to do with Antinous, but instead to someone who probably doesn’t immediately conjure the image of “child” when he is mentioned.

I’m talking, of course, about Hadrian.

Hadrian as child

Let me try to explain.

The name “Hadrian” has a very obvious root in Latin, but it can be traced back through Etruscan to Illyrian via those roots, interestingly enough. For Latin speakers of Hadrian’s time, his name (which would not have been uncommon) would indicate someone is from Hadria, a town in northern Italy on the–you guessed it!–Adriatic Sea, which in fact then gave its name to the entire sea for the Romans as well. The city of Hadria, now known as Adria, was an Etruscan foundation, but its name may come from the Illyrian word adur, which means “water” (or “sea”). So, there we’ve got the “water” part of the equation.

But, what about the “fire”?

For that, we go not to the east of Italy with its waters, but to the west with its fires…and then very far back east again via those roots. (And I must thank Sannion who, several months ago, sent me down the path toward these thoughts!)

There is a Deity from Sicily, of rather unknown origin, who is called Adranos, and there is a town named after Him on the island as well. Aelian’s On the Nature of Animals 11.20 has this to say about Him:

Adranos is a town in Sicily, according to Nymphodoros, and in this town there is a temple of Adranos , a local divinity. They say that he is there in distinct visible form. And everything that Nymphodoros reports about him besides, and how readily he shows himself and how kindly and favorable he is to his suppliants, we shall learn some other time. But now I shall give the following facts. There are sacred hounds and they are his guardians and servants; they surpass Molossian dogs in beauty and in size as well, and there are not less than a thousand of them. In the daytime they welcome and fawn upon visitors to the shrine and the grove, whether they are strangers of natives. But at night they act as escorts and leaders, and very kindly conduct those who are already drunk and staggering along the road, guiding each one to his house, while those who act like drunken men they punish as they deserve, for they leap upon them and rip their clothes to pieces and chasten them to that extent. But those who intend highway robbery they tear most savagely.

And, a coin from the town shows Him as follows:

adranos coin

The image of the Deity here is striking for several reasons: he looks somewhat like Ares/Mars, or perhaps even Hades; and the close connection with hounds (as described in Aelian) is also very intriguing from a number of perspectives, even apart from my enthusiasm for canids of all kinds (!?!). Adranos is thought to have been the father of twin Deities called the Palici who were associated with several pools of water not far from Adranos, via the nymph Thalia (not to be confused with many other divine women of that name!). But what is also interesting is that Adranos was syncretized by the Romans to both Hephaistos/Vulcan, and to Zeus/Jupiter, and was thought to have been the god beneath Mt. Etna before He was displaced by Vulcan. So, we’ve got some of the “fire” there‚Ķ

But, interestingly enough, it has also been suggested that perhaps Adranos has a similarity to, or even origin with, the Phoenician God Adramelech (the latter part of whose name is cognate with the biblical Moloch, and means “king”), to whom sacrifices were made into fire; or with Adar/Atar, who was Persian and was the Zoroastrian God of fire, as well as the entire concept in Avestan of “holy fire,” itself a symbol and the living presence of divinity, and also into which various offerings would be made.

So, adur in direction leads to “water,” and adar in another leads to “fire.” Thus, Hadrian–whose name obviously comes from Hadria and thus the Adriatic Sea, and who also resembles phonologically as well as physically Adranos, might thus be imagined as the mingling of these two elements, the “child of fire and water,” in many respects‚Ķand since that imagery is associated with sovereignty as well as poetry, and Hadrian certainly had strong associations and involvements with both, it seems even more relevant!

Interesting, eh? Well, I thought so anyway. ūüėČ

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 14, 2016

Devotion, Divination, and Discernment

I still have several other posts that have been waiting around for months to be written‚Ķhopefully, they’ll be done before the end of September. However, I think the following (new one!) would be a useful one to do now, and to discuss a bit further, because there seems to be an awful lot of misunderstanding over some of these issues at present. (And, I suspect, a number of people who might even want to know some of this or hear/read about it aren’t going to read it because I’m saying it‚Ķoh well. I would never force someone to read something by me, and actually never have, so anyway‚Ķ)

Something that Kenaz Filan recently said about polytheism is that it can be summed up in three phrases: “the Gods are real, the Gods are many, the Gods are here.” All of these are superlatively important for a polytheist understanding, I think, but the fuller implications of the last one are often lost on many people, including those who consider themselves polytheists and would never question the first two phrases as being essential to the polytheist viewpoint. Our Deities, for the most part, are not transcendent, even though They’re not entirely immanent either–however, as I also wrote recently, They are (at least practically) omnipresent, though Their attention must be caught through prayer and other things since They may not be paying attention to everything and everyone all at once.

The Deities, thus, are accessible quite easily (though not always simply!) under a variety of circumstances. If one is in a devoted relationship with a Deity, therefore, it behooves one to constantly check in with one’s Deities, especially on spiritual and religious matters, but perhaps on other things as well depending on what negotiations, vows, and agreements exist between one and one’s Deities.

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission”? I’ve always found that to be a horrific statement, an entitled bit of nonsense, and something that can cover a great many sins (yes, I used the word “sins”!), up to and including rape and all sorts of violations of consent. Ultimately, what it emphasizes is that some people don’t want to entertain the possibility of hearing “no” in relation to a given action they want to undertake, and thus they’d prefer to feign ignorance that such might be objected to on someone else’s part, and then instead say “I’m sorry” (even if they’re not) and expect that all will be forgiven‚Ķbecause that’s just the “Good Christian Way,” innit? I’ve heard that statement many times from people in the Navy (the community where I live now, which is where I grew up, is a Navy town, and as a result almost everyone I meet on a daily basis, and almost all of my students, are connected with the Navy in some fashion or other), and while I can understand where it comes from in some cases where the over-bureaucratization of the military and other institutions might be concerned, at the same time, using that phrase as a proverbial statement that becomes a guide for one’s life is not at all positive.

Thus, where Deities are concerned, and especially if one is in an ongoing devotional relationship with those Deities, one can never ask enough if what one is doing is the right thing, and is what the Deities in question want us to be doing for Them. Some people whose opinions I respect greatly have said such things as “Deities don’t care what kind of underwear you wear,” in terms of how some areas of life are probably not of interest for Them; and while that may be true for some Deities, for others, where certain people are concerned, They might, and there’s no reason They can’t or won’t, nor shouldn’t‚Ķthey are Deities, after all, right? (Thankfully, I’ve not had any hard-and-fast rules given to me by Deities about underwear‚Ķbut who knows?)

Now, here’s something I have to tell you that I’ve learned the hard way‚Ķand by “the hard way,” I mean through repeated failures, which are becoming fewer and fewer only over the last four years or so. We are so used to operating in a religious paradigm (monotheism) in which the divine powers are utterly transcendent, and other than the specific laws they’ve left in revealed scriptures, and sometimes what gets extrapolated from those, or what becomes the preferred traditions of their various forms of religious practice, that we don’t think we can or should ask for specific divine guidance or answers about some of the most important issues in our lives–“What makes you so special that God should speak directly to you?” If that is not the paradigm many of us grew up with, then the other most common one goes like this: the universe is vast and expansive and beyond our full abilities to comprehend at present, and we are just tiny specks of life on a tiny rock in a tiny solar system on the outer edge of a very mediocre galaxy that is one of trillions in a universe that is even larger than all of that, possibly even nested in a multiversal situation‚Ķand there isn’t much meaning in any of it, and certainly no higher powers to give one any guidance–so, your three options are: 1) realize it’s all meaningless and just try to be nice and get along as best you can; 2) be an existentialist and try to make your own meaning, realizing it is completely arbitrary and not binding on anyone else, including yourself; 3) understand and accept (but only in a limited fashion with many caveats) a particular religion’s understandings of things, only if they don’t conflict with science, don’t claim to have ultimate universal “Truth,” and it is realized that they are also arbitrary and ultimately a shoddy bulwark against the true tide of meaninglessness that the actual universe consists in and in which it is utterly submerged. Pretty fuckin’ bleak, huh?

Not surprisngly, I find problems with both of these viewpoints, but we don’t need to get into why for the moment. However, what both views highlight is that one shouldn’t ask, either because it is rude and tries to circumvent one’s free will to learn of divine preference (which is why monotheists hate divination, astrology, etc.), or because there is nothing and no one to answer any questions, and so it’s either human institutions with their political hegemonic agendas, or insane voices in one’s own head doing the answering. Again, the “whys” there are not applicable to polytheism.

What I’m suggesting here is that, as polytheists, we need to ask, and ask more often.

[Now, if you’re of the “Many Gods, No Masters” viewpoint, or you don’t have devotional relationships with Deities that are close and that have requirements for behavior and prohibitions on various actions or associations that are consequent with them, that’s fine–this post is not for you‚Ķand, I’d add if you’re in the former category and have thoughts about objecting to any of these arguments that aren’t applicable to you, I’d point out that it isn’t your role to decide what people might want to do with their freedoms, and if you value freedom and sovereignty and consent as much as you say you do, then it might be best to respect those things where they are being exercised, especially if they aren’t impinging on your ability to do the same, which in the present case, and in many others as well, they’re not!]

At some point in our lives, I suspect we’ve all had the experience of someone giving us some gift or other that we really didn’t want, didn’t need, and could do nothing with–whether it’s the Beta videotapes of the ’80s when we had a VHS player, or My Little Pony when we would have preferred Strawberry Shortcake, or it’s a light blue rayon t-shirt when we’d never wear that color/fabric/style/cut/etc., or the gift certificate to the gourmet vegetarian restaurant when we’d rather have a slab of meat‚Ķyou get the idea. “But it’s the thought that counts!” is the frequent refrain in these situations, and yet I’ve always said that if there was really thought involved, the person in question probably wouldn’t have given a person what they did! It doesn’t take very much inquiry into someone to figure out what sorts of foods they like, what kinds of media they are able to consume based on their available equipment, what sorts of books or clothes or toys they like (though, I’ve always stuck to the rule that “If you don’t live with someone 100% of the time, don’t know their size, and aren’t doing their laundry, DON’T BUY THEM CLOTHES!” since you can’t be assured, even then, that you’ll be getting things right‚Ķsubtle differences in the cut of particular garments can make all the difference between something working well on someone and them liking it versus hating it), and if one can’t gather these bits of information by observing the person’s behavior, then one can always do that thing that people hate to do and ASK! It saves a great deal of difficulty, uncertainty, and potential resentment to just do that, rather than making guesses in the dark.

If that is true of humans, and Deities receive things from us in devotional contexts–particular offerings, rituals or festivals on certain dates, particular prayers, and other such acts and gifts–and likewise can be contacted in various ways in order to find out Their preferences, why shouldn’t we do that more often beforehand? I’ve been to many rituals, including those that are standard in some traditions, in which offerings are given, and then divination is done to see if they’ve been accepted by the Deities and other divine beings. What about determining if the offerings are appropriate beforehand, and then doing divination afterwards to see if anything additional is needed, rather than going “We’re throwing this feast for you, now eat‚Ķoh, but do you like this food?”

This does get to issues of consent, ultimately, and active, positive, and enthusiastic ongoing consent (an ideal of sex-positive consent culture activists that I think is a good way to live one’s life!) can be sought and received from Deities when anything and everything involved them is concerned. I have expressed concern in certain cases in the past where human consent might be overridden by some Deities or other divine beings, and I am still concerned when that occurs; but if the humans in the relationships involved accept that these things are the case–and not because they “have to” or simply because the Deities are bigger and more powerful than they are (because that wouldn’t be consent, it would be coercion); however, I’m also very biased in that stance, because the Deities I have dealt with all hold consent very highly, and are not in the habit of “forcing” people to do things. It is a requirement for all of my divine relationships that there be total respect for consent on all parties’ parts–and that has even been a requirement that has been observed and enforced by certain Deities with Whom I am in devotional relationships! But, the issue at stake here is not Deities overriding human consent, it’s humans ignoring that Deities’ consent needs to be obtained and confirmed and observed as well, even when someone assumes that a particular Deity will agree with their viewpoint, their action, or something else. Getting too complacent that one’s Deities are on one’s side no matter what is what leads to real difficulties in the world where religions are concerned, in my view.

For me, ever since I’ve been working with the Ephesia Grammata (since 2012, and with the Antinous-specific set I was instructed to create since 2014), I’ve been encouraged to use them more and more, but always and especially when any religious matter comes up. Going to do a presentation at a conference? First, ask if the Deities want me to go, and want me to propose the specific sessions I am going to (and then also get guidance on content, etc.!). Something unusual comes up, and perhaps a ritual is necessary? Ask the Deities involved first. A beautiful image of a Deity goes on sale and I have enough money to buy it? Lovely, but the Deity in question might not want me to have it now, so I’d better ask and find out for sure. Research turns up a new syncretism, a new direction to take something, a new Deity that was not known to me previously but has existed for a while, or something else that seems really appealing and important? Doesn’t matter, divination should still be done to make sure everything is kosher (so to speak!) with the Deities I’m already serving. For me, this is how I try and do all of my religious activities these days (and I sometimes fail, but less and less these days), and this “checking in via divination” matter is most especially the case with the Tetrad++, who are Deities that the world-at-large (and myself as well!) are still getting to know and thus patterns in Their preferences are not as well-known or well-defined as is the case for other Deities who have been known for longer. But, it is also extremely true and important where Antinous is concerned for me. At present, I’m working to become more in-tune with Antinous the Navigator, one of Whose main keywords is that He “guides.” How does He guide? Sometimes subtly, but not always; however, He is always willing to answer questions, especially via the means I’ve been given to converse with Him via divination, i.e. the specially-constructed and consecrated set of Ephesia Grammata that I made in ’14 for Him.

[This is why, as part of my daily devotional assemblage that I carry with me whenever I leave the house, I have two Ephesia Grammata sets, so I can ask any Deity or divine being anything that may come up, and I have absolutely no excuse not to! That, and the Ephesia Grammata are also fantastic for protection purposes.]

To give an example: yes, we know that Antinous has a pretty big interest in queer matters; and, I’ve been honoring various queer people who have been killed because of their queerness for many years now in the tradition of recognizing and remembering various Sancta/e/i. Then, in June of this year, the Pulse massacre happened in Orlando. I don’t think it would have been a problem for me to sign a petition, or to attend a candlelight vigil, or to donate to a relief effort for the families, or to sign a book of condolences, or anything else like that in relation to that event without first asking Antinous if it was okay to do so‚Ķand I wasn’t able to do as many of those things as I’d have preferred given my own issues with finances, transportation, and location. But, could I do something else? Could I host my own vigil event? Yes, by all means‚Ķbut, did Antinous want me to do so, since honoring the queer dead is a major part of His cultus for me? Well, there was only one way to find out: divination. And, as you can probably guess, since the event did happen, He said yes. Sure, it was something that seemed to fit with what I know of Antinous in His modern cultic interactions, but I had to be sure that it was not only what He wanted me to do, but then as a result that I was doing it for the correct reasons, i.e. because He wanted me to do it, not because I wanted to and could use it as some occasion to score political points with the wider community for the value of my religion, to look good in others’ eyes, to brag or self-aggrandize as something that fits with the general picture of Antinoan devotion and that looks good on paper, even if it might not have been what He wanted me to do in that situation, and so forth. Even if all of the latter might be possible in a given situation (and even not forbidden!), the underlying reason that anything with Antinous’ name on it should be done is for devotional reasons, and those reasons really should be in-line with what He actually wants and expressed as being desirable or necessary‚Ķand there is no excuse not to ask, either.

This is the part that I’m most confused about in terms of recent events: if I am told by my Deities (as I’ve heard others say on several occasions, and as I’ve said myself) that X, Y, or Z political action, civil rights demonstration, justice advocacy cause, or other such thing is something that I should do, and thus I’m divinely sanctioned in doing so, then that gets some respect and recognition (though only if it fits issues on one side of the political spectrum‚Ķa side I happen to agree with and support, but nonetheless, let’s take note of the fact that this is how it occurs, and those who have used race in particular [but also other issues, e.g. trans acceptance, etc.] as a religiously-divisive issue have usually done so outside of direct contact with or consultation from Deities, at least as far as I’ve been told‚Ķthey instead rely on “lore” and “cultural custom” and “folk practice” and so on, as if the will of Deities is encased in amber from centuries past), and people generally don’t comment much on it‚Ķto the point that many people don’t say they have or sought such divine sanction any longer, and (I suspect) likely don’t inquire with their Deities whether or not this is something they should be doing, or should continue to do, etc. Their reasons for not doing so may be complex, but if they’re writing about or discussing these things in religious contexts, and especially in polytheist contexts, then my big question is “why?” YET, if I am told by my Deities that I should do a particular religious thing, say making some particular religious statement, being involved with or not being involved with some event, or what-have-you, then no, that’s automatically me just being petty, having personal problems, going crazy, or trying to tell everyone what to do, even when the latter is explicitly not the case and I have made it clear that such is my understanding. It seems that it’s fine to say “the Gods made me do it” where political issues are concerned, but it appears to be viewed as gauche to say “the Deities have asked me to do this” where religious matters are concerned‚Ķwhich seems quite bass-ackwards to me. Shouldn’t the realm in which the Deities’ direct opinions, wishes, and views be taken into the utmost account and with the greatest seriousness be in specifically religious matters? I would have thought so‚Ķ!

[I do understand, entirely, that we don’t have very good models for some religious positions being what they are within hegemonic monotheist religions. The assertion that “this is what God wants!” has been used to justify everything from slavery to the oppression of women to death sentences for queer people to “reparative therapy” that amounts to torture to the legal-and-approved-of slaying of apostates and those of other religions, and much else. As most of those sorts of religions don’t have direct relationships with their Deities because their Deities are transcendent, I do question the validity of those positions on grounds greater than the inherent injustice of such positions. But, is there a difference where certain polytheist positions are concerned? I have yet to read any modern polytheist who has advocated for genocide, for slavery, or for any of the other atrocities mentioned above. Even if some polytheists might suggest that everyone follow what they advise–which most don’t, and I certainly haven’t–the polytheists concerned have no ability to enforce any of this in any realistic fashion, nor to force others to do or think as they do. Thus, no matter how strongly their opinions on certain matters are expressed, one is free to ignore them if one wishes to do so. That person might not let you into their ritual, or invite you in to see their shrine, but beyond that, what harm is it causing you for them to express such an opinion? And, if you automatically assume that what they’ve expressed is a result of something petty, political, and personal, and isn’t a result of them manifesting their devotion and carrying out their devotional commitments to their Deities, then I think two things: 1) your reading of them is misplaced, and has no trust that their opinion, perhaps contrary to your own, might be what their Deities–even if you share some of them–want them to do in this situation, which is a diverse and pluralistic reality that should be appreciated and celebrated rather than condemned and excoriated, particularly if you’re one who says that you value such diversity and pluralism; 2) I wonder if you know that good old feminist phrase, “the personal is political,” which is stated as something that is supposed to be A GOOD THING, and if likewise “religion is always political”–abut which I don’t necessarily agree, but let’s assume for the moment that such is the case–then shouldn’t someone’s religious viewpoints take into account the personal and political dimensions of their lives? You can’t dismiss the personal or the political or (and in) the religious only when it disagrees with what you happen to feel on a particular issue without being a hypocrite, and hypocrisy tends to get called out pretty vehemently by certain people in those same crowds and with those same positions, so that’s something to really take note of in yourselves when it does occur, I think.]

And, news flash, folks: Antinous does say “no” on some things. (He is a Deity, with individuality, personhood, volition, and agency, which means He can choose things, and doesn’t have to say “yes” to everything, up to and including everything we might wish Him to say “yes” on!) This is all the more important and significant when it does happen, dear friends, because in the Ephesia Grammata system, of the seven possible outcomes, only one is a strong “No,” another is a “that’s very difficult” (which I take as “inadvisable, but not impossible if you’re willing to take the risks and are ready for the trouble and its potential results,” which I have tended to respond to with “Then no, I’ll avoid it for now”!), another is “sort of/maybe,” and a fourth is “later.” (The other, remaining three are different sorts of “yes”!) When the absolute “no” response does come up, thus, it is really significant, and really (from a scientific viewpoint!) statistically unlikely, so all the more important to take seriously. Explanations are not always forthcoming, but I assume–or, have faith, if you like–that in these matters, Antinous does know best, not only for what He wants Himself, but also what He would like me to do and what He’d prefer I be in position to do for Him as a result of whatever it is that is being asked. I’ve asked Him about a number of things–on several different occasions, in some cases–on if I am allowed to do a certain thing or take a certain action, and I’ve been told “No” every time on some of them (one in particular i’m thinking of!). It is something I’d love to do, which involves creating a devotional piece of writing that it would please me to no end to be able to write, which is why I keep asking (after a respectful amount of time has passed since last asking, and some other signs emerge that suggest it may be appropriate to ask again)–and though it would bring me joy to do it, the answer I keep getting from Antinous is “No,” and not “not now/later,” nor “it’ll be difficult,” or even “maybe, maybe not,” it’s the out-and-out “No.” End of story. If my devotional service to Him is to mean anything, then I have to take that “No” seriously and honor it, and depending on a variety of things, I may not ever ask again, and may simply abandon the idea altogether since it seems to be something that He doesn’t want (no pink bunny pajamas and slippers for Him!), though I have also not been given any signs that I should absolutely never ask again, as I have on some other matters on which I’ve repeatedly asked‚Ķ!?! So, the trial-and-error here that is part of learning the hard way involves a lot of error, which is hard–often my skull is too hard, but I learn eventually‚Ķusually. ūüėČ

When using a mechanical form of divination like the Ephesia Grammata, one of the great advantages is that it is not very open to interpretation–yes, systems of divination involving sortilege always seems to have a bit of that, but since the fundamental answers can’t be changed here (“Yes” is always “yes,” and “no” is always “no”–there’s no “Well, it’s the Death card, but it might just mean a new beginning!” since it is always an answer in response to a specific question), and thus is pretty immune to being influenced negatively by what one’s emotional state happens to be when asking a question. The question is asked, the answer comes, and it’s that simple.

When using a binary system of divination like the Ephesia Grammata, though, the real art is in the asking of the question, and the specific wording of it, which it sometimes takes me a while to get the hang of. I might start to ask the question one way, and then stop myself, and re-ask the question with a better wording to make sure I’m inquiring about the most appropriate thing. Look at the difference that I found I was making by accident when asking Antinous certain questions with His set of Ephesia Grammata: “Should I buy this book?” or “Does Antinous want me to buy this book?” Sometimes, I’ve asked both questions–whether on purpose or on accident after realizing the first question is not the right one to be asking–and the difference in answers is very telling (and sometimes it isn’t, because the answers are the same!). If I were to ask the above, and let’s say the answer to the first was “no,” but the answer to the second was “Fuck yeah!” Then, it might be because I’m in financial difficulties at that moment, and by all accounts I should probably not be spending the money involved; however, because it will be important for something Antinous wants me to do, He’d prefer that I do buy it right then, despite the difficulties. So, you can guess what my response and resulting actions would be (bibliophile that I am!). What about the same two questions with the answers “Yes” and “No,” instead–what then? Perhaps it’s a book I’d like for my library, which is part of some set or series, and thus I should get it at some point, but Antinous has no interest in me buying it at that particular time‚Ķand why this is might be for any number of reasons: it would be a distraction to some other piece of work I need to be doing for Him, or it’s something He doesn’t really feel strongly about and thus doesn’t “want” me to do it in the sense of it being a priority for Him in His overall plan for me, or it could mean He actually doesn’t want me to buy it because of some further reason that isn’t apparent to me then. I might ask further questions after this to clarify why something is the case, but it would be to figure out what I’m missing, not to try and get around the answer given or to attempt to reverse it. (I’ve learned that the hard way, too, when I try to ask the same question again after a few others to clarify the situation, and I still get the same “No” answer later!) Much depends, then, on how the question is asked, and if I say “Does Antinous want me to ___” as opposed to “Does Antinous not want me to ___” and the answers are what they are, then they have to be dealt with. (And on the latter, it’s kind of ambiguous‚Ķdoes “No” mean He doesn’t want me to do something, or that He doesn’t “not want” me to? So, I’ve found if I’m asking a question of that sort, it’s better to say “Does Antinous forbid me to ___” and then it’s either “Yes,” He forbids me, or “No,” He does not forbid me.)

Even with rather straight-forward answers, though, discernment must still be exercised. Is it rude to further question why some particular answer has come about–does one really need to know what is being asked? If an answer is what one had hoped for, do we need to beware of feeling that we cannot do wrong as a result of the “divine sanction” we’ve received to do a particular activity? (This is another thing I know all too well–there is no guarantee what occurs will be easy or will be liked!) If an answer disappoints us, rather than going “divination shopping” (which is totally immoral and unethical, not to mention disrespectful, except outside of a situation in which one is asking for divinations from several different oracles/diviners/etc. all-at-once to see what emerges, which is different than getting one answer from one, not liking it, and then seeking a second opinion in the hopes that it will be different and more in-line with what one had hoped in the first place), what might that disappointment or even hurt have to teach us under the circumstances? And, no matter what, whatever we do with the divination results afterwards is ultimately our responsibility–whether we comply with them, or decide purposefully to transgress them, the responsibilities for doing so are our own. We cannot say “we’re just following orders,” so to speak, but if our devotional relationships are important to us, and we do act in accordance with the information we’ve been given, then those are preserved, and whatever the other consequences might be, or what justifications or explanations others might be seeking from one in a given situation, the latter are inconsequential as long as one has fulfilled one’s own devotional obligations.

I’ve said much more than I expected to on this topic thus far, but I’ll say one further thing before I close. Deities all know that we humans have an expiration date, and thus our time is limited in terms of what we can and can’t do, and what our time might be better spent on under particular circumstances, like devoted spiritual relationships with Them. When we are acting in a capacity as a lineage holder, as a group leader, a tradition founder, or in some other manner in which we are also responsible for others who are engaged in devotional relationships with particular Deities, there are further circumstances of obligation to take into our considerations. Deities invest time and energy into developing relationships with individuals, and with particular groups as well, and as a result They have a vested interest in seeing those groups survive and thrive. If the purposes of those groups is to serve the Deities in question in a devoted fashion, and for some reason it no longer becomes possible for that to occur in Their view and in Their preferences, then groups might have to be disbanded, lineages be erased or revised or in other ways altered, and sometimes particular devotees might have to leave or no longer associate with the groups or traditions in question for whatever reasons that the Deities might have in the case of the different individuals involved. It can be painful and upsetting and even entirely off-putting for things like this to occur, especially after a great deal of hard work and effort has gone into some particular matter‚Ķbut, if it happens, a Deity’s wishes on some matter are revealed, it’s not something we particularly like, and we consider the devotional relationship important enough to take Their wishes seriously and go ahead with what has been suggested, then no one can say we have not done what we should have in light of the wishes of our Deities as they have been expressed to us (unless they have selfish reasons for saying so–and if these aren’t in line with the wishes of the Deities involved, which they might also be devoted to, then there’s a bit question there that is probably uncomfortable for them to be asking themselves and their Deities, and one they’re probably not asking, either).

If you want to go down the road of questioning the validity of other people’s religious experiences, that’s fine, but it begins to sound an awful lot like a certain thing that took place that also involved questions on the Iberian peninsula several centuries back by men in funny red hats‚Ķ

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 13, 2016

Nemoralia 2016

Procession

I have seen it for many years now,
the procession of thousands of lights
held in the hands of those who come
to the lakeside to worship the Goddess.

The line of worshippers stretches
farther than my eyes can see–
eyes that have seen so much
that tongues cannot ever speak–

just as a chain of names unknown
stretches behind me, back to the first…
Was it Virbius, or Hippolytus,
or Orestes? It is not known…

I have always thought it might be Orion,
but this is only wishful thinking,
for my hound is a loyal one,
as loyal as his own Sirius shining bright.

Ask any of these myopic pilgrims
and they’ll say it was Augustus,
or perhaps Julius Caesar, but what
do they know? No difference for them

between rex and pontifex,
no knowledge of the difference between
Diana Nemorensis and Diana Trivia
whom the Greeks know under another name.

They think one moon above has light
pure enough for all, the same brightness
reflected in their torches upon the lake,
and think no further than a century or two.

Hadrian is the Emperor now, but he
is not rex nemorensis, has not come
for the golden bough to claim the kingship.
Two fools came recently to call,

said they would hold the kingship together
and would share it out with their friends,
and like Castor and Pollux–though these
were no heroes–they shared one death.

I have lived only a few years, but I
have died a hundred deaths, sight unseen,
in dreams and in visions and in service
to Diana of this Sacred Grove.

She has taught me how to die, how to bring
death to others, to prune like Silvanus
with the falx those who are ripe
and those who have withered and rot.

They say a new name has been added
to those of Virbius and Hippolytus:
Antinous He was called, and in Lanuvium
they honor Him with Diana in feasts.

The line of the procession comes
from Aricia and from far-off Rome,
one light much like the next in line,
like those who serve in this grove.

When the one who is right comes
I will not lay down my life for him,
but instead for Her, my last act for Her…
and that day is not today.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 11, 2016

The Academic Antinous…?!?

No, I don’t mean that Antinous was an academic‚Ķor an Academic (i.e. into Platonic philosophy), though he probably was more the latter than the former‚Ķ!?! ūüėČ

It’s strange to be saying that there is an academic interest in Antinous and to be making light of such at present, because it is an obvious thing–in fact, a problem that occurs in the modern world is that it is often thought Antinous is “merely academic” in nature and interest. Antinous is not treated as a religious phenomenon for the ancient world, but instead as an historical curiosity, a case study in sexuality, or something else. Sure, acknowledgement is made that the ancients saw Antinous in religious terms, but that’s rarely taken seriously (outside of, perhaps, Trevor W. Thompson’s article on Origen and Antinous). There have been small references–particularly in the work of Caroline Vout–to the modern cultus of Antinous, but beyond that, not a lot.

Well, now there is acknowledgement of the modern cultus of Antinous–small and disparate though it is, even in all of its various organized and individual forms–in the form of an entire article by Ethan Doyle White!

The article by Ethan Doyle White is called “The New Cultus of Antinous: Hadrian’s Deified Lover and Contemporary Queer Paganism,” and it is found in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions Volume 20.1 (2016), pp. 32‚Äď59. So, if you have ILL access, or can obtain the article in other ways, by all means go out and do so!

Today is Hadrian’s Accession Date in 117 CE, when he was in the city of Nikomedia in Bithynia and was declared Emperor of Rome after the death of Trajan. It’s a good day, thus, to be making this announcement!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 9, 2016

Just a quick note…

For anyone who might be interested in getting A Serpent Path Primer in the immediate future, you won’t be able to (other than secondhand), as I have taken it down to make some much-needed corrections and revisions in advance of something that will be happening later this year. So, if in the meantime, you go to try and buy it, or attempt to access the links to it at various places here on the blog, you won’t be able to. When it goes up again, I’ll let everyone know. (But, as it’s not a big seller anyway, this probably won’t be a problem for most people‚Ķ)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 7, 2016

“Crazy Idea” August Devotions for August 7th: Hermes

At last, we come to the final installment in this series that has given meaning to my life once again taken a lot more of my waking time for the past week than I had ever expected it would‚Ķboth for good and for ill, I think, but there we are. It’s been worthwhile to think about some of these things for me, even if many of my answers have been idiosyncratic or entirely inadequate, and in some cases incomplete or lacking‚Ķbut, that’s what makes it interesting that I did this, rather than someone else, who would have entirely different answers about a huge number of the questions, including those ones with relatively “objective” answers based on their own interests and preferences, etc.

Fun stuff, eh?

So, now we bring the whole thing to a close with a Deity very close to my own heart.

HERMES

1. Write a basic introduction for the Deity.

Oh, Hermes…where do we begin?

Hermes is a very complex and interesting Deity of the Greek pantheon, who is most familiar as a God associated with messengers, communication, and travel, but also with such diverse activities as herding, language, thievery, magic, trade and merchants, athleticism (especially wrestling), and He is also one of the main psychopomp Deities of the Greek pantheon. All of these things, in one way or another, all involve transition and the transfer of one thing to something else, an active process of translation (and thus also interpretation, which in Greek is expressed by hermeneusis, and likewise of guidance in some fashion or other.

If one thinks in the broad dualistic (but nonetheless useful) terms suggested by Nietzsche of the Apollonian and Dionysian forces or elements in culture and religion, and attributes the actual Deities Apollon and Dionysos to those forces of logic and rationality versus ecstasy and instinct, respectively, then there is a third position available, suggested by Ker√©nyi, which is the Hermetic, the force (and the Deity behind it) which mediates between the two and allows the transformation, transfer, and translation of one into the other. In fact, Herems’ role in relation to Dionysos and Apollon often follows a pattern that can be discerned in exactly that fashion‚Ķat least in some readings!

To say any more would be to do an entire dissertation on Heremes, and that’s not the intention here; but, I think this does give a relatively strong flavor for His characteristics with which to begin.

2. How did you become first aware of this Deity?

I had heard of “Mercury” as early as the second grade, when we were studying the planets (and Hermes does have some astrological knowledge/teaching associations as well, so that’s appropriate, in a way!). In the fourth grade, when we were studying Halley’s Comet (this was 1986, so the year it was visible again‚Ķthough I never saw it), I learned of a French satellite that was going to be sent to study the comet, which was called Hermes, which I learned was the Greek messenger God. In the fifth grade, when we did a fuller and more properly direct study of mythology, I found out more about Him; and in the seventh grade, we got deeper into mythology, and were shown a filmstrip that was narrated by the Three Fates, and I remember the Hermes bit especially well, because They commented on how fun and enjoyable He was! ūüėČ

When I was finally allowed to come into my own as a polytheist, though I was certainly familiar with Hermes, I didn’t think to get involved with Him, and it actually took going through a whole Celtic thing and then eventually becoming an Antinoan in order to really get properly acquainted with Him in a cultic context. As Hermes was a more major syncretism of Antinous than many had emphasized, He’s been looming rather large for me in that area of my spiritual life ever since, and has colored a great deal of my experiences with Antinous, as well as having several that were Hermes-specific, too.

3. What are some symbols and icons of this Deity?

The most frequent ones are the winged sandals and winged helmet, as well as the caduceus, which I’ve seen in two different forms: the serpent-entwined staff (with or without wings on the top of it), and a staff with a circular piece on top that has horns on it, which looks somewhat like the astrological symbol for Mercury.

Also, herms–whether a small pile of stones, or an upright pillar with a phallic carving on it and often a sculptured head on top–are also symbols of the Deity.

Animal associations include the turtle, the ram, the hawk, the cock, and the rabbit.

This list is not exhaustive.

4. Share a favorite myth or myths of this Deity.

The Homeric Hymn to Hermes has one of my favorite bits in it, which is the following (in H.G. Evelyn-White’s translation):

Then, after the Son of Leto had searched out the recesses of the great house, he spake to glorious Hermes: “Child, lying in the cradle, make haste and tell me of my cattle, or we two will soon fall out angrily. For I will take and cast you into dusty Tartarus and awful hopeless darkness, and neither your mother nor your father shall free you or bring you up again to the light, but you will wander under the earth and be the leader amongst little folk.”

Then Hermes answered him with crafty words: “Son of Leto, what harsh words are these you have spoken? And is it cattle of the field you are come here to seek? I have not seen them: I have not heard of them: no one has told me of them. I cannot give news of them, nor win the reward for news. Am I like a cattle-liter, a stalwart person? This is no task for me: rather I care for other things: I care for sleep, and milk of my mother’s breast, and wrappings round my shoulders, and warm baths. Let no one hear the cause of this dispute; for this would be a great marvel indeed among the deathless gods, that a child newly born should pass in through the forepart of the house with cattle of the field: herein you speak extravagantly. I was born yesterday, and my feet are soft and the ground beneath is rough; nevertheless, if you will have it so, I will swear a great oath by my father’s head and vow that neither am I guilty myself, neither have I seen any other who stole your cows — whatever cows may be; for I know them only by hearsay.”

So, then, said Hermes, shooting quick glances from his eyes: and he kept raising his brows and looking this way and that, whistling long and listening to Apollo’s story as to an idle tale. But far-working Apollo laughed softly and said to him: “O rogue, deceiver, crafty in heart, you talk so innocently that I most surely believe that you have broken into many a well- built house and stripped more than one poor wretch bare this night,22 gathering his goods together all over the house without noise. You will plague many a lonely herdsman in mountain glades, when you come on herds and thick-fleeced sheep, and have a hankering after flesh. But come now, if you would not sleep your last and latest sleep, get out of your cradle, you comrade of dark night. Surely hereafter this shall be your title amongst the deathless gods, to be called the prince of robbers continually.”

So said Phoebus Apollo, and took the child and began to carry him. But at that moment the strong Slayer of Argus had his plan, and, while Apollo held him in his hands, sent forth an omen, a hard-worked belly-serf, a rude messenger, and sneezed directly after. And when Apollo heard it, he dropped glorious Hermes out of his hands on the ground: then sitting down before him, though he was eager to go on his way, he spoke mockingly to Hermes: “Fear not, little swaddling baby, son of Zeus and Maia. I shall find the strong cattle presently by these omens, and you shall lead the way.”

Thus, dear friends, the first fart joke in literature of which I’m aware, attributed to Hermes! (You can see why the Fates thought Him funny, eh?)

5. Who are members of the family/genealogical connections of this Deity?

Hermes’ mother is a nymph called Maia, and as a result of His doings with Apollon, He is able to get Her admitted to Olympus as a Deity (in this, He has something in common with Dionysos!). His father is Zeus. He was the paternal grandson of Kronos and Rhea, and the maternal grandson of Pleione and Atlas–and the latter comes up in a number of cases in reference to Hermes. For the various Olympian Deities, this is a fairly simple and commonly-accepted family tree; the Orphic Hymns have Him as a son of Dionysos and Aphrodite, however, at one point, to which we’ll be returning momentarily.

Children of Hermes include Pan by Penelope (in a tradition given by Pausanias in relation to the Arcadian city of Mantineia; a number of other sources give Him as the father of Pan as well. Priapus is the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, or else the son of Aphrodite and Dionysos (thus making Priapus either the son or the possible brother of Hermes!). Always with Aphdrodite, though, Hermes was said to have been the father of Hermaphroditos. With Iphthime, He was the father of three Satyrs associated with Dionysos, according to Nonnos: Pherespondos, Lykos, and Pronomos. He was also said to have been the father of Eleusis with Daeira (Who might be Hekate), and is likewise said to have had a tryst with Brimo, Who may also be Hekate and thus the incident is the same as or similar to the one with Daeira.

In (at least) one text, He is said to have been the father of Antinous.

He has a huge roster of mortal offspring as well.

6. What are some other related Deities and entities associated with this Deity?

In addition to all of those listed above, He has a special relationship with Dionysos, and likewise comes into close contact on a regular basis with Zeus as His messenger, and also Hekate and Persephone in His chthonic functions.

Amongst His various loves, one mortal male stands out above the rest: Krokus, who eventually became a flower, and died in a manner very similar to Hyakinthos in relation to Apollon (i.e. by a discus accident‚Ķyou’d think They’d have learned to wear helmets when practicing that sport after one disaster!). Ptolemy Chennos also attributes Him with a romance with Polydeukes, the immortal brother of the Dioskouroi. Interestingly, perhaps, in relation to the latter name, Hermes is also credited with a special relationship with Herodes Attikos’ trophimos Achilles.

7. Discuss this Deity’s Names and epithets.

Hermes has a HUGE number of epithets, and I will only give a few of them here.

One of his major epithets is Argeiphontes, “Argus-slayer,” since He slew the many-eyed monster Argus that had been set up by Hera to guard Io, thus clearing the way for Zeus to have his way with Io. Kyllenios refers to His and Maia’s origins on Mt. Kyllene. Pompaios and Diaktoros refer to His role as a guide. Logios reflects Hermes’ connection to language. Thievery and trickery-connected epithets include Pheletes, Dolios, Klepsiphron, Mechaniotes (is that why car mechanics are such crooks?), Poikilometes, and Polytropos. Herding epithets include Nomios, Epimelios, Kriophoros, and Oiopolos, and Buhphonos is “slayer of oxen” (in reference to His early deed in relation to Apollon’s cattle). He is both Propylaios and Pronaos, “before the gates” and “before the temple.” Hermes is also Eriounes (“luck-bringing”), Charmophron (“heart-gladdening”), Euskopos (“good/far-sighted”), and Masterios (“of searchers”). Agonios and Enagonios refer to His role in sacred games and athletic contests, Promachos to His being a champion, and Agoraios refers to his role in the marketplace.

A newly-attested epithet, but one fully in line with His traditional associations, is one that is in a processional song I received in a dream several years back, which we used in part of the Roving Hero/ine Cultus ritual at PantheaCon in 2015. This epithet is Hegemon, which essentially means “leader,” but also “discoverer,” or “leader-into-discovery,” as it were.

8. Discuss variations on this Deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.).

I’m going to use this section to talk about some syncretisms of Hermes, not because I think They are aspects or regional forms of Him, but because in the ancient world, many would have seen Them as such‚Ķbut in a way, it highlights how effectively Hermes can (and has and does!) work with other pantheons‚Ķas a God of translation and interpretation, it makes a great deal of sense, and I’ve written on Him as a God of syncretism before as well. So‚Ķ

In addition to Antinous, Hermes is syncretized to Mercury in Roman culture, and through Mercury, further syncretisms develop. The “Gaulish Mercury” is likely to be Lugus; and the “Germanic Mercury” and the wide variety of Mercury epithets given in Germanic contexts probably refer to the Deity we eventually known as Odin. There has also been a possibility floated that Hermodr in Norse myth might either share a common cultural/linguistic ancestry with Hermes, or may be some sort of adapted form of Him.

In Egypt, as a result of syncretism, Hermes is linked with Thoth (via his epithet Hermes Logios) and becomes Hermes Trismegistus, and He also gets linked with Anubis (as his epithets Hermes Chthonios and Hermes Psychopompos) to become Hermanubis. Both of these combined forms then function as separate Deities, which have Their own interesting careers. A further combined form in Egyptian contexts is the PGM‘s Hermekate, and yet another is Hermantinous, which is attested as a personal name and possibly as a syncretized Deity.

9. What are some common mistakes people make about this Deity?

I think one major mistake that is made relates to the previous section, i.e. syncretistic identities being taken as equative rather than translational. This has a long and esteemed history, however, and includes such modern individuals as Alan Moore, and not-quite-as-modern-but-still-recent ones like Aleister Crowley as well (as occurred in a trance session with Victor Neuburg). While I do think there is a good deal of evidence–in contrast to Diana, Minerva, Mars, and a few others–for a direct relationship between and even identity of Mercury and Hermes together (even if They began separately), the same is not and never has been true for Thoth and Hermes (even outside of Hermes Trismegistus), which seems to be the most common such equative syncretism assumption, even amongst some ostensible modern (“hard”) polytheists.

10. What are common offerings for this Deity (both historically and via your own experience)?

In my experience, Hermes seems to “like it all”: any kind of food, money, art, incenses, oils, flowers, hymns and poetry‚Ķyou name it, Hermes can probably appreciate it. I have not yet been able to offer Him any of the more traditional offerings of particular animals, as was done in the ancient world, but I’m not opposed to the idea.

11. Talk about festivals, days, and times sacred to this Deity.

This one is kind of tough for me, because I don’t follow the Hellenic calendar, and thus I don’t know what many of the traditional dates would have been (outside of the 4th of the lunar month being for Him). In my Antinoan practice, May the 15th is a date for honoring Him (as well as His mother, Maia); this was also the date of Mercury’s Roman festival, and on which a temple to Him in Rome was founded in 495 BCE.

12. What are some places associated with this Deity and their worship?

The number of local cults to Hermes in the Greek world were huge. He was also honored in every gymnasium and palaestra, and likewise all of the hermai were places to honor Him, at crossroads and boundaries and so forth.

13. What modern cultural issues (if any) are closest to this Deity’s heart?

In many ways, all of the modern problems we’ve been facing for the last decade and more have some relevance to Hermes: economic disaster, the refugee crisis, difficulties in international travel, the spread of the internet and all of the problems it has caused, corruption and duplicity on corporate institutional and governmental levels, and a general lack of hospitality towards others (something He is very concerned with in ancient Greek culture) are all matters over which to worry, and in which I suspect Hermes as well has a keen interest.

14. Has worship of this Deity changed in modern times?

Undoubtedly‚Ķand, I think that Hermes would have it no other way. Perhaps more than any other Deity from the ancient world, I’d suspect Hermes would be good at adapting to innovation‚Ķif not being at the roots of some of it Himself. Khaire Herma Hegemon!

15. Are there any mundane practices that are associated with this Deity?

Buying and selling; using money; speaking and writing; travel; stealing library books‚Ķyou get the idea. ūüėČ

16. How do you think this Deity represents the values of Their pantheon and cultural origins?

As a Deity associated with travel, and the need for hospitality that travelers experience, there is no one better than Hermes to represent those values and ideals. All of the innovation and the success of the Greeks, and the Romans after them, as far-reaching cultural forces are, I think, due in large part to the influence of Hermes, and the upholding of what we might call “Hermetic values,” ultimately.

17. How does this Deity relate to other Deities and other pantheons?

Extremely well! (See above, #8.)

18. How does this Deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality?

With Hermekate as a form and Hermaphroditos as a child, I think Hermes is quite fine with gender diversity, though He is Himself male. It’s also pretty obvious that He, like practically everyone else in His pantheon and culture, would have been descriptively bisexual.

19. What quality or qualities of this Deity do you most admire?

While there’s a ton about Hermes that I like, for the moment I’m going to go with His speed; one of his epithets, Poneomenos, means “busy one,” and His ability to get things done quickly is something I admire hugely. I have been praised on occasion for being able to write a large amount of text quickly, but I am still not as fast as I’d like to be‚Ķif I were as fast as Hermes, I’d have less of a time management problem!

20. What quality or qualities of Them do you find the most troubling?

Even though Hermes is said to be very favorable toward and friendly with humans, nonetheless He is a Deity known for his wiles and His falsehoods. Thus, even with types of divination that are relatively mechanical and to a certain extent “foolproof” in terms of their outcomes and interpretations (as were often associated with him, e.g. astragalomancy), nonetheless it always makes me wonder whether He’s having one over on us on occasion‚Ķand if a particular matter ends up not going as predicted, is it a good “get-out-of-jail-free” card that it is known He’s tricky in that fashion? Hmm‚Ķ

21. Share any art that reminds you of this Deity.

I’m going to have to go back to iconography for Him on this occasion‚Ķbecause why not?

This is an especially lovely image of Hermes by Wayne McMillan that was done relatively recently, and I have to say I love it, down to the color chosen for His cloak. Lovely job, Wayne! Check out more of his stuff, along with art by Markos Gage, at Pan Fine Art.

22. Share any Music that makes you think of this Deity.

I’m going to do eight‚Ķbecause why not?‚Ķand, Hermes!

This last one is a nice one to end with‚Ķnot only for Hermes, but for this whole series, in a way! ūüėČ

23. Share a quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this Deity resonates strongly with (outside of their own myths or scholarship about them).

That old cliché, which I once had a banner of in my dorm room (that my dad gave me):

Knowledge is power.

24. Share your own composition which is a piece of writing about or for this Deity.

Here’s an old one from The Phillupic Hymns:

Hermes Propylaios

watching them going crossing
over and back out again
i stand silent witness
guardian and support
lintel of every doorway

“one who is not an initiate”
outside of the mysteries
because for me there is no
beginning or introduction
or going in and seeing

no phallus on this herm
as sign of protection
priapic apotropaic
for it is a root a seed
a start but i have none

“know thyself” i say
advising by word and form
for those who know how
to interpret these things
for this is what i am

the interpreter mediator
translator metaphor
the most basic medium
of thought mind word
symbol sign sense

there is no me apart from
these things nor is there
a you outside or inside
of these things identity
is but a whisper on wind

of moving vibratory particles
in a vast space empty
only known because it moves
carrying point to point
the message of movement

a dance only seen
from a distance that sees
what sign symbol sense
can create what means
meaning again is “a way

or manner by which events
happen” thus not a thing
with independent essence
but again a dance
a way of moving

and what am i but
the movement the moment
static or dynamic
the particle the pattern
the ripples outward

from first forms of chaos
so all coming and going
is me and even you
have been in the chain
of being since before being

and knowing yourself
consists in nothing more
than seeing the moment
but not mistaking it
for the spaces in between

25. Share a time when this Deity has helped you.

Every time I’ve sat down to write, or have gone anywhere (especially air travel and international travel, and anything long-distance), for the last 14 years or so‚Ķ

26. Share a time when this Deity has refused or has been unable to help you.

For all that Hermes is connected to sleep and dreams, I have been a horrible insomniac for almost my entire life. I suppose it’s a trade-off: I get loads of ideas (in the form of words!), and so those keep me awake more often than not, or end up waking me up. (I do wish I could remember some of my dream songs better‚ĶI just had an awesome folk song in a dream a little over a week ago, and when I woke up I sang it once‚Ķand then had to go do my blood sugar or something, and promptly forgot it. Damn‚Ķwell, at least I remembered the Herma Hegemon one from years ago!)

27. How has your relationship with this Deity changed over time?

I’d say I’m more involved with Him now, and over the last 10 years, than I had been ever previously, and I find I lean on Him more and think of Him more frequently and want to do more for Him as time goes on. I suspect this will continue.

28. What are the worst misconceptions about this Deity that you have encountered?

I think one of the worst is that Hermes is little more than a “trickster”‚ĶHe’s so much more complex than that, and I think just lumping Him in with that theorized group/archetype of Deities is a huge mistake (even beyond the mistake of archetypalism generally), because if that is seen as His primary attribute, then almost everything else is called into question.

For example, sit with this: what if Hermes doesn’t actually lead us to our afterlives, but instead just shows us a complex illusion as we fade into nothingness? Yeah‚Ķthat would be something a trickster would do. Is that what Hermes does? It’s perhaps an open question, but nonetheless if one takes the whole “trickster” thing as Hermes’ essential characteristic, then pretty much all else that is said about Him or attributed to Him has to be taken with a large salt mine. (Perhaps He’s lied the whole time, and He’s still stuck in a cave with His mother in obscurity, for that matter‚Ķyou see what this does?)

29. What is something you wish you knew about this Deity but don’t currently?

Among a million other questions, I’d love to have good enough Greek skills to be able to do something with the “Encomium for Hermes and Antinous” that was partially preserved in an Oxyrhynchus Papyri text‚ĶI tried this a few years ago, but had no luck. What we have of the text is only partial anyway, but it would be great to know what else there was‚Ķ

30. Do you have any interesting or unusual UPG to share?

The original version of the Herma Hegemon song occurred in a dream, and was sung as I was going down an escalator in what I think might have been the Geneva airport! I then had to use it to invoke Hermes in order to power my way through security, in a not-very-peaceful manner…!?!

31. Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this Deity?

In modern polytheism, we talk about a number of different Deities being “Gateway Gods.” By this, what is meant is any Deity that often appears toward the beginning of someone’s practice or inquiry into polytheism, Who then introduces them to other Deities, and then perhaps does not have a long-term relationship with the person, though sometimes They do. One such Deity that is commonly spoken of as a Gateway God for those who become involved in Greek polytheism is Dionysos. But, I think another common one is Hermes, and Hermes is kind of literally a “Gateway God,” as reflected in his epithet Propylaios (which is one I quite like!).

So, I’d say that there is almost no bad way to start learning about Hermes–do it through reading, do it through practice, do it by traveling around or going among people in a crowd or a mall or a farmer’s market and listening for kledones, and so forth. Hermes is one of the most accessible Deities there is, and one of the most approachable, and thus there almost isn’t a bad or non-effective way to get in touch with Him‚Ķit may not be effective for you initially, but unless He is entirely ill-disposed toward someone (which I’m sure has happened at some point, but I am not aware of it in anything I’ve ever heard), I don’t think it will be a permanent situation.

__________

And, that wraps up this series! I hope you’ve enjoyed this! Thank you to all those who have been reading and commenting on these posts! If it is your will, keep doing so! ūüėČ

(Now back to writing some things privately…and shorter pieces on the blog!)

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