Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 23, 2014

The Communal Hymn, Part II: Less Formal…

As I explained in my last entry, this one is likewise going to be a communal hymn, but instead of being highly metered, tightly rhymed, and heavily structured, this one is going to be more free-form, and specifically free-verse.

[That having been said, "free-verse" doesn't mean "free-for-all," necessarily!]

The rules here are that you must write at least two lines, but you should write no more than eight before giving someone else a chance.

And, as inspiration here, let’s use this image of Antinous, which we haven’t seen for a while:

As with the last one, I’ll get this one started…and, we’ll also give it a title later on, once we find out what it’s about.

Dancing bands of worshippers gather,
surrounding the tables well laid with foods
pleasing to the gods and to the senses of mortals,
for what the god has poured out for them exceeds
what they give him here, though joyously given,
and more than enough to show their thanks
to Antinous, the lovely god, beloved
of so many gods and heroes, divinities and rulers

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 23, 2014

The Communal Hymn, Part I: More Formal…

As many of you might know, or could have guessed, I’m rather disappointed with the lack of participation that we’ve had over the last few years where the Megala Antinoeia is concerned. While the poem that Finnchuill did was (and still is!) lovely, and would have been a very strong contender for a prize even if there had been other entries, the “win by default” due to a lack of other entries is never a good situation to be in, and is most certainly not in the spirit of a good ol’ Greek agon, of which the Megala Antinoeia’s games in the modern period are supposed to be, just as they were in the world of late antiquity.

[I'll also just say that Finnchuill's poem and mine seem to be tapping into something that is afoot presently, as I think each of them is equally reflective of a different, and perhaps more mature, sensibility regarding this god and the many other divine beings associated with him, as well as his cultic history and modern practices, which has in this case manifested itself as a light-heartedness and a familiarity and a bit of humor, which is not based on irony or jadedness, nor on sentimentality. With devotional work, the latter might tend to be a favored default all too often, or something so piercingly poignant that it can then seem stilted or artificial to those who don't know the subject and the context. It's true, sometimes you want to feel pierced through the eyes into the heart by a gigantic barbed spear when you read a poem like this; but sometimes, too, it's more appropriate and enjoyable to notice the suggestively-shaped fruits in the bowl on the table, and to laugh at them instead. I don't think that metaphor applies 100% to either of our poems this year, but nonetheless, I hope you understand what I mean...!?!]

Sometimes, though, it may just be a matter of “too much to do” or “poor planning” that prevents someone from having the time to write something, and then the fear that if one throws something together in five minutes, it might not be worthy. Don’t discount the sincerity of efforts that are not hours-long in duration, though: often, the Muses are kindest to those who enjoy their presence in concentrated moments rather than leisurely hours. The most important thing with the Megala Antinoeia, and pretty much everything else involved in the life of a devotional polytheist, is to do it, and to do something. If I let the fact that we don’t yet have a temple, that I don’t yet have all of the original texts translated, that I haven’t yet read all of the books, or that I am not in any way perfectly suited to be doing some of the work that I am stop me from actually attempting any of the work, then I’d literally have nothing to show for all of the years I’ve put into this. If I can do this, there are people who are far more intelligent, creative, skilled, and spiritually-inclined than I am that can do at least something, surely…

So, perhaps it’s just a matter of time and its lack of availability. Very well, then…

It seems that one possible solution is to lighten the burden by sharing the effort, and in that regard, the present post (and the one which will follow it) is being made in order to elicit a communal response for devotional purposes. In each of these posts, I’d like to ask those who wish to participate to add to a set of communal hymns for Antinous. In this, I have to say I’m taking no small amount of inspiration from Sannion, who has been successful with such efforts with the Thiasos of the Starry Bull as well as at other times in the past few years.

There are two options for getting involved with this, and I suspect the present one will be the less-popular one; however, over the last few days I’ve also had experiences that suggest it is best to take into account that some people thrive equally well, if not better, in situations where they have a definite framework and rules and guidelines as they might in situations where things are more open-ended. So, to the former first…

The present blog post’s comments should be used to add to a communal hymn for Antinous that is more formal, and the form that we’ll be using is one of the most challenging poetic meters: terza rima. This involves lines that are usually around ten syllables in length (though eleven or twelve can work, too–we’ll go with that in this case), and which are in units of three lines. The first and the third lines have perfect end-rhymes. The end-word of the second line, however, then gives the end-rhyme of the next three-line unit, so that the result is the first three-line unit has only two rhyming lines, but then every other end-word has three lines that rhyme which alternate, etc.

So, as an example, you might have the following in the first six lines of a terza rima poem:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ light,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ mark,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ night,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ dark,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ black,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ stark…

…and then the next set of lines would rhyme with “black,” etc. You get the idea, I think…This is the verse form that Dante used for The Divine Comedy, incidentally.

For our poem, I’d like to also set the following rules: you can write up to nine lines at a time, but also no less than three; and also, no end-rhymes of “orange” for the second line, folks! (Or “mountain,” because the only perfect rhyme for that is “fountain,” so unless it’s your opening lines, that won’t work!)

So, to connect a bit with our friend Dante, here’s an Antinous bust from Florence:

And, to make it fair, I’ll also start the thing out to get you going. BE CREATIVE! Don’t feel too limited by what is known of Antinous’ mythology and biography already–if Antinous lives among us and is still a divine reality (which, if you’re reading this, you probably agree on that, at very least!), then he’s a dynamic one that can take all sorts of forms and appearances and do all kinds of activities that we never would have expected. Give it a go, then: you know you want to!

We’ll come up with a title later…

Sing, O Muses from every spring fountain
of the beautiful Bithynian boy,
the joy of the nymphs on each sloped mountain,
and of the sharp hunting darts he’d deploy
against the panoply of four-legged beasts
and his courage which drowning can’t destroy.

With the arrival and successful completion of the Megala Antinoeia yesterday, we are now in the season governed by Antinous the Lover, that aspect of him which reigns for the majority of the year (just barely over half of it, in fact), and as ever, he’s needed just as much (and even more so) now than he is at any other time of the year.

Antinous, and very especially Antinous the Lover, is–as what it says on the tin would seem to indicate–a love deity; but, he’s not quite the “love god” that many might wish him to be. He isn’t, first of all, just for gay people, so if you think that’s all of what he does, this is not the Antinous group for you. He’s also not a kind of endlessly compassionate deity for all humanity; if you are looking for that, that’s fine, but you might want to consult a bodhisattva for that because they’ve been doing it longer and better than him. If you’re into agape, great, but that’s much more a Jesus thing than an Antinous thing (or, at least, one form of Jesus), and he does it pretty well. (And, I would note, all of the above is not in any way to Antinous’ detriment: this is polytheism, remember, and each individual deity, including within certain classes or “archetypes” of deities, has a particular specialty and spin on what they do which makes them unique, which is why so many different deities exist, and why even Venus and Aphrodite are slightly different from one another, much less Eros and the other Erotes, Hathor, Inanna, and all of the rest.) I differ strongly from any of the queer spirituality proponents who say that, ultimately, anything queer is “all about love,” as I’ve said on other occasions; to be honest, love is one of the last things talked about in many queer contexts, so I find that statement disingenuous and often rather deceitful.

Antinous’ love is a very particular kind, and while there are erotic elements to it, that’s not the forefront of it. There is a strong element of devotion involved in it, I think, which makes him much more like Hanuman, say, than like Kama or Krishna.

But, what his love most certainly isn’t is the kind of “self-love” that is so beloved (!?!) of a great many pagans, alternative spirituality practitioners, self-help gurus, and New Agers. The notion that “you must love yourself before you can love others truly” is the kind of claptrap that Antinous, Hadrian, and friends would have not only scoffed at, but would have found utterly against the philosophical and heroic ethos that they followed and strove to embody at all times.

Over the weekend, I was speaking with a friend, colleague, and co-religionist via e-mail on these matters, and how the “spirituality as self-love/light therapy” crowd is really doing something quite different from many of us who are engaged in devotional polytheism. Here’s an excerpt from that discussion, which eventually hit on a rather succinct but unexpected definition of what kind of love it is that Antinous has and exemplifies, at least in my understanding at present.

If [religion as psychology] does good for them and helps them, great; but, that’s not what my religion is for or means for me, or for several other folks who are involved in it. I suppose being a critic of “coming out theology” is one of the reasons that I have come to this position: our worship of Antinous has to be about more than making oneself feel good about being gay. Yes, religions have done often severe and even irreparable damage to queer people of all sorts, but the antidote to that isn’t to have a religion that says “You’re great and the gods love you if you’re gay,” it’s to say “all of that [anti-gay messaging in different religions] is bullshit,” to have a good life, and then if you’re interested in meeting the gods as gods and having a role for religion in your life, then go and do that. I’m sorry, but Antinous isn’t about teaching people to love themselves first, he’s about loving Hadrian and his friends (divine, heroic, and as-yet-still-human), fighting for justice for everyone, and bringing the divine waters of his death to anyone who would care to drink them or swim in them.

Yes, Antinous is compassionate and loving, for those he knows–but he doesn’t know everyone because he isn’t omniscient, and he doesn’t automatically know someone who is gay because being gay doesn’t make you a child or a sibling or any other relation to Antinous. In the same way that Catholics maintain that homoeroticism is “inclined toward evil,” so too is Antinous inclined toward loving most people who approach him and who want to get to know him and who respect him; but, that doesn’t relieve any individual from the burden of actually having to get to know him and to introduce themselves to him.

Much more could be said on all of this, but I think I’ll leave this to sit for a while, as I think it’s important to take a look at.

Hail to Antinous the Lover, on this day and every day!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 21, 2014

A Late Megala Antinoeia Poem…And A Great One!

Each year, as mentioned a short while back, we have a Megala Antinoeia artistic agon. I’ve been rather disappointed at the lack of participation in this for the past few years, and likewise, I’m sad that not more enthusiasm was exhibited for it this year…

[I have a possible antidote, or answer, to that lack of enthusiasm and participation, which I'll share in the coming days...]

However, what was done is wonderful, and I’d like to share that with you now.

Not surprisingly, it’s a lovely poem by Finnchuill, which can be found here, called “The Banquet.”

Here’s a little “appetizer,” if you will (!?!):

Let’s reach for the holy bough, let’s invite Frazier
To this party, (atheist that he was notwithstanding)
And Winckelman of course, he would surely like to attend, and
Wilde and Yourcenar, quipping and quaffing,
And there will be P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, naturally enough.
There will be miner’s lettuce for starters to clear the palate,
This will be a many course banquet I can assure you.

I don’t just like it because he name-checks me (though Sannion did likewise in a poem about Antinous two years back, too!), I do think it’s a wonderful look at how very sumptuous and varied the written traditions having to do with Antinous, in the ancient world and more recently, and the general feel of deep and rooted polytheism can be. So, go and read the whole thing here, right now! You’ll be glad you did!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 21, 2014

The Second EVAR Megala Antinoeia Athletic Agon’s Winner!

This is the eleventh time the modern cultus of Antinous has celebrated the Megala Antinoeia on April 21st. The first time was in 2004, and that was the only other time, thus far, that a true athletic agon was held.

That time, it was myself and an Irish friend of mine. We went to the pool. I was learning to swim at the time. My friend had not been to a pool in around a decade. I suggested we swim about ten yards, and whoever got there first would win. I won; but, I also almost drowned. Thus, doing anything in the water of that sort on any major Antinoan holy day has since become highly inadvisable: when your deity of devotion is someone who drowned, it’s sort of tempting fate rather heavily to be in that position, especially if imitatio Antinoi is at all in one’s tendencies. ;)

Since then, I’ve tried to get people to do various athletic competition things with me, and have not ever been able to convince anyone to join me. A leisurely walk? Sure. A bit of time in the gym by myself? Why not. But anything that actually involves winners and losers? Nope, not since that first time that I won, and nearly drowned. I have even tried very hard to perhaps get someone to go miniature golfing with me, as that would satisfy the requirements…but, nope.

That is, UNTIL NOW!

We had talked last week with some of my local associates about perhaps going bowling tonight–that “sport” that actually does take some skill, and has shown me how truly out-of-shape I am, and yet that people who may look out-of-shape can still do and be quite good at. Various things seemed to undermine the possibility of this occurring, but in the end, we made it work, and had a lovely dinner followed by the game. Dinner included discussion of various topics, including divination.

There were three contestants: myself, Zack, and Jamie (both of whom were at the hero-feast of Cú Chulainn and the Apotheosis of Sabina earlier this year, too–and, they’re not even “pagan” officially!). We did one game, and Zack was the overall winner, with a score of 136 (with two strikes and three spares); I came second with a score of 102 (better than my usual!–with one strike and two spares); and Jamie came in third, with 94 (one strike and one spare). At various points, we were each leading, but after about the fifth frame, Zack was unbeatable.

Earlier in the day, I had done more ritual-y things: I made my food offerings at my home shrine this morning after my daily practice; this morning at my office, I prayed when I arrived and throughout the day, and also wrote (and then subsequently revised/added to at least once!) my poem for the occasion this year. The communal portion in the form of this agon was a nice way to complete the observances for the day, and crowning the first victor of the Sacred Athletic Games of Antinous was a distinct pleasure and honor…

Though I wish I could give him a garland of red Nile lotus flowers for his victory, it seems that Zack kind of has a “permanent” one, so to speak…

NCM_0112

A fierce competitor, to be sure, and someone to be reckoned with in the years to come–perhaps at bowling, perhaps at miniature golf…who knows?

So, how did all of you celebrate the Megala Antinoeia this year? I’m eager to hear! :)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 21, 2014

Megala Antinoeia 2014

The Great Games of Antinous

Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
but his victory was fixed, still they’ll celebrate him all over town.

“Victory of Antinous” is the meaning of his name;
“Victory of Antinous” is the meaning of his name;
but if bribery is victory, then he shouldn’t win this game.

And in Medinet Madi
they’re dancing up a storm
for a goddess they call Isis–
but in serpentine form!

That’s just Renenutet, but “Isis” is easier to say…
or, if you’re feelin’ lucky, then call her Agatha Tyche.

Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
if they knew he had cheated, they’d say “For this, did Antinous drown?”

Romulus and Remus herded some goats through a fire;
Romulus and Remus herded some goats through a fire;
but Hadrian decided a Temple of Venus and Roma would be higher.

Way back in Thespiae
Hadrian hunted a bear
and to Aphrodite Ourania
he made a little prayer…

He said, “Breathe kharis on me, give me a lover of my own!”
And he didn’t just get breathed on, he got his whole life with kharis blown!

Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
yeah, cheaters’ll do anything just to get that red lotus crown!

Memnon’s statue’s singin’, poets write their songs;
Memnon’s statue’s singin’, poets write their songs;
and Sabina sings hymns while Hadrian just pines and longs…

On that red horizon, Montu watches in the East,
and at the Parilia, goat meat is the feast;
and back in Rome, it’s the city’s birthday–
and in Antinoöpolis the sacred games they play…

Antinous the Lover arrives any minute now…
In a Boat of Millions of Years, and he’s waving from the prow!

Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
Nicantinous wrestles, throws Demetrius down;
but if the winner’s a loser, why would you want to frown?

Antinous the Lover’s comin’ to take my sorrows away;
Antinous the Lover’s comin’ to take my sorrows away;
and if I can only see his face, then I’ll be lucky every day!

Hail to Antinous the Lover!
Hail to Renenutet!
Hail to Isis and Agatha Tyche!
Hail to Aphrodite and Eros!
Hail to Montu!
Hail to Romulus and Remus
Hail to Hadrian!
Hail to Venus and Roma!
Hail, Hail, Hail Antinous!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 20, 2014

To Memnon

Today, the Paphlagoneion mourns you, as the gods have ordained,
in accordance with the wailing of your holy mother Eos–
she for whom Helios lends a half of his brilliance daily
so that the start of each day is joy rather than toil,
the sun that shone on your skin in Ethiopia gently
as the gods walked there with you to take their offerings–
and on this morning, clouds obscure her brightness
as she wears the mantle of sadness for your passing.

The river wells up and becomes murky with the color of blood,
the smell of your sweet flesh turned to putrescence now
as the fair springs of Mt. Ida remember the far-traveler
who came with his armies to save the city of strong walls;
the birds who honored you, sprung from the smoke of your pyre
and the tears of your attendants mingled together,
make their yearly pilgrimage to sweep the dust from your tomb
and bring the grace of their songs to your many temples.

Zeus weighed your merits, O brother’s son of Priam,
child of Tithonos who waned ageless but in decrepitude,
and found the son of Thetis with a later arrival of his Ker,
and thus Achilleus enjoyed a few more moments of life and glory
when your rib-cage was the sheath for his flashing blade;
but Apollon himself was your avenger, O King of Ethiopia,
the long-lived people who knew you a youth departed too soon,
and his arrow found its mark in his heel, bringing him death.

And what of your children and lovers, dear hero?
They gather in your name in the presence of Apedemak,
the thrice-headed lion of Meroë, and his queenly wife
Amesemi of crescent moon and falcon headdress,
and they pour out tears for the protection they did not give,
the champion of the unknown reaches of the Nile;
but your children’s valor stretches far to the north
where the gods of other peoples are your descendants.

The Nile sings your dirge in the blossoming of reeds
and a statue of colossal size sounds out its lament
when the first rays of your mother’s rosy fingers daily touch
the leg, like a pillar, a stele of protection
for all those who have honored your name and memory.
Rivers weep for the heroes who walked their lands,
those who were nourished on their milk and flourished
and bring virtuous honey to the seas of the wide world.

Let us sing yearly for Memnon, the handsome one of his people,
who was favored of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu at their holy city,
who was loved in Susa and all of the cities of Asia,
whose spirit dwells still in the halls of Meroë,
and who enjoys an eternal feast at the table of Zeus
with his aged father and his radiant mother,
and with the champion son of Thetis, all enmity gone,
as offerings burn to them in their heroes’ shrines.

*****

Hail to the son of Eos and Tithonos!
Hail to the last hero slain by Achilleus!
Hail to Memnon of the Blameless Ethiopians!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 20, 2014

Memnon son of Eos and Tithonos’ Hero-Feast

So, I’m sure you’ve all been wondering endlessly about what I wrote earlier this month here, and have been losing sleep, worrying on the subway, and thinking of little to nothing else.

But first, a poem–and, not one of mine!

Balbilla to Sabina at Memnon

The cool softness of your hand is
moist and smooth as Parian marble,
as we wait in the coolest hour of dawn,
saffron stained, expectantly, speechless;
the colossus mute. But on the morrow
as the fecund waters lap the sere shore,
the giant Ethiope shattered son
of Eos and once champion of Troy,
sings, and our hearts rise in his susurrations
like the flight of doves released in Aphrodite’s temple.

Michael Routery (a.k.a. Finnchuill), From the Prow of Myth, p. 73

*swoon*

[You can read my review of From the Prow of Myth here! Go buy this book RIGHT NOW!!!]

It was me, looking for this book the other night, in a process I will now refer to as “bibliothekomancy” (or what some others might call “the library angel” or “Harahel”) that lead me to an important realization about the subject of this festival and the present essay–Memnon the son of Eos and Tithonos–the other night when I was writing an essay having to do with both that Memnon and another one, and which was the answer to a question I had written down to ask in divination earlier in the week: on what day should a festival strictly for this hero Memnon be celebrated?

But before I get to the specific answer on that question, I’ll have to give you some further background on the hero and demi-god Memnon, the son of Eos and Tithonos. Even though he’s been implicitly a part of the Ekklesía Antínoou’s practices from his dates in November when Hadrian, Sabina, and Julia Balbilla visited the colossoi that were identified with him in Egypt a few weeks after Antinous’ death, we have really not paid him as much attention, or as much cultus, as we probably should have been doing all this time.

Memnon the son of Eos and Tithonos is mentioned briefly toward the end of Hesiod’s Theogony, and also very briefly in Homer’s Odyssey, and the love of Eos and Tithonos is also mentioned in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite; he also gets mentioned in Herodotus. There was a part of the epic cycle known as the Aithiopis which was mostly about Memnon (though the death of Achilleus also featured in it), which no longer exists, but which was attributed to Arctinus of Miletus from the 7th c. BCE, and a summary of which survives. In this work, Memnon comes to Troy’s aid after Hector’s death, and is hailed as their savior, but a prophecy by Thetis suggests that if Achilleus fights him, he will slay him, but then will be slain soon after. Antilochus, the son of Nestor, ends up saving his father, but is in turn slain by Memnon; because there is an implied Patroklos-like relationship between Achilleus and Antilochus, Achilleus then battles Memnon, and defeats the Ethiopian king-hero, who is then lamented by his mother Eos and immortalized.

Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses also mention him, as does Pausanias. There are further minor mentions of him in other works, including Sappho, Pindar, Aeschylus, Pseudo-Apollodorus, Aelian, Philostratus, Callistratus, Seneca, and Tryphidorus.

The longest surviving treatment of Memnon’s deeds and death is in Quintus of Smyrna’s The Fall of Troy, also sometimes known as the “Posthomerica.” The story of Memnon mostly occurs in Book II, but the details of his death and what occurs after it are the most interesting for me, and thus I will focus on those in the excerpts below, from lines – of that book of the epic.

Still mid the corpses and the blood fought on those glorious sons of Gods, nor ever ceased from wrath of fight. But Eris now inclined the fatal scales of battle, which no more were equal-poised. Beneath the breast-bone then of godlike Memnon plunged Achilles’ sword; clear through his body all the dark-blue blade leapt: suddenly snapped the silver cord of life. Down in a pool of blood he fell, and clashed his massy armour, and earth rang again. Then turned to flight his comrades panic-struck, and of his arms the Myrmidons stripped the dead, while fled the Trojans, and Achilles chased, as whirlwind swift and mighty to destroy.

Then groaned the Dawn, and palled herself in clouds, and earth was darkened. At their mother’s hest all the light Breathings of the Dawn took hands, and slid down one long stream of sighing wind to Priam’s plain, and floated round the dead, and softly, swiftly caught they up, and bare through silver mists the Dawn-queen’s son, with hearts sore aching for their brother’s fall, while moaned round them all the air. As on they passed, fell many blood-gouts from those pierced limbs down to the earth, and these were made a sign to generations yet to be. The Gods gathered them up from many lands, and made thereof a far-resounding river, named of all that dwell beneath long Ida’s flanks Paphlagoneion. As its waters flow ‘twixt fertile acres, once a year they turn to blood, when comes the woeful day whereon died Memnon. Thence a sick and choking reek steams: thou wouldst say that from a wound unhealed corrupting humours breathed an evil stench. Ay, so the Gods ordained: but now flew on bearing Dawn’s mighty son the rushing winds skimming earth’s face and palled about with night.

Nor were his Aethiopian comrades left to wander of their King forlorn: a God suddenly winged those eager souls with speed such as should soon be theirs for ever, changed to flying fowl, the children of the air. Wailing their King in the winds’ track they sped. As when a hunter mid the forest-brakes is by a boar or grim-jawed lion slain, and now his sorrowing friends take up the corse, and bear it heavy-hearted; and the hounds follow low-whimpering, pining for their lord in that disastrous hunting lost; so they left far behind that stricken field of blood, and fast they followed after those swift winds with multitudinous moaning, veiled in mist unearthly. Trojans over all the plain and Danaans marvelled, seeing that great host vanishing with their King. All hearts stood still in dumb amazement. But the tireless winds sighing set hero Memnon’s giant corpse down by the deep flow of Aesopus’ stream, where is a fair grove of the bright-haired Nymphs, the which round his long barrow afterward Aesopus’ daughters planted, screening it with many and manifold trees: and long and loud wailed those Immortals, chanting his renown, the son of the Dawn-goddess splendour-throned.

Now sank the sun: the Lady of the Morn wailing her dear child from the heavens came down. Twelve maidens shining-tressed attended her, the warders of the high paths of the sun for ever circling, warders of the night and dawn, and each world-ordinance framed of Zeus, around whose mansion’s everlasting doors from east to west they dance, from west to east, whirling the wheels of harvest-laden years, while rolls the endless round of winter’s cold, and flowery spring, and lovely summer-tide, and heavy-clustered autumn. These came down from heaven, for Memnon wailing wild and high; and mourned with these the Pleiads. Echoed round far-stretching mountains, and Aesopus’ stream. Ceaseless uprose the keen, and in their midst, fallen on her son and clasping, wailed the Dawn; “Dead art thou, dear, dear child, and thou hast clad thy mother with a pall of grief. Oh, I, now thou art slain, will not endure to light the Immortal Heavenly Ones! No, I will plunge down to the dread depths of the underworld, where thy lone spirit flitteth to and fro, and will to blind night leave earth, sky, and sea, till Chaos and formless darkness brood o’er all, that Cronos’ Son may also learn what means anguish of heart. For not less worship-worthy than Nereus’ Child, by Zeus’s ordinance, am I, who look on all things, I, who bring all to their consummation. Recklessly my light Zeus now despiseth! Therefore I will pass into the darkness. Let him bring up to Olympus Thetis from the sea to hold for him light forth to Gods and men! My sad soul loveth darkness more than day, lest I pour light upon thy slayer’s head!”

Thus as she cried, the tears ran down her face immortal, like a river brimming aye: drenched was the dark earth round the corse. The Night grieved in her daughter’s anguish, and the heaven drew over all his stars a veil of mist and cloud, of love unto the Lady of Light.

Meanwhile within their walls the Trojan folk for Memnon sorrowed sore, with vain regret yearning for that lost king and all his host. Nor greatly joyed the Argives, where they lay camped in the open plain amidst the dead. There, mingled with Achilles’ praise, uprose wails for Antilochus: joy clasped hands with grief.

All night in groans and sighs most pitiful the Dawn-queen lay: a sea of darkness moaned around her. Of the dayspring nought she recked: she loathed Olympus’ spaces. At her side fretted and whinnied still her fleetfoot steeds, trampling the strange earth, gazing at their Queen grief-stricken, yearning for the fiery course. Suddenly crashed the thunder of the wrath of Zeus; rocked round her all the shuddering earth, and on immortal Eos trembling came.

Swiftly the dark-skinned Aethiops from her sight buried their lord lamenting. As they wailed unceasingly, the Dawn-queen lovely-eyed changed them to birds sweeping through air around the barrow of the mighty dead. And these still do the tribes of men “The Memnons” call; and still with wailing cries they dart and wheel above their king’s tomb, and they scatter dust down on his grave, still shrill the battle-cry, in memory of Memnon, each to each. But he in Hades’ mansions, or perchance amid the Blessed on the Elysian Plain, laugheth. Divine Dawn comforteth her heart beholding them: but theirs is toil of strife unending, till the weary victors strike the vanquished dead, or one and all fill up the measure of their doom around his grave.

So by command of Eos, Lady of Light, the swift birds dree their weird. But Dawn divine now heavenward soared with the all-fostering Hours, who drew her to Zeus’ threshold, sorely loth, yet conquered by their gentle pleadings, such as salve the bitterest grief of broken hearts. Nor the Dawn-queen forgat her daily course, but quailed before the unbending threat of Zeus, of whom are all things, even all comprised within the encircling sweep of Ocean’s stream, earth and the palace-dome of burning stars. Before her went her Pleiad-harbingers, then she herself flung wide the ethereal gates, and, scattering spray of splendour, flashed there-through.

There are all sorts of things which are fascinating about this. The birds who tend Memnon’s tomb are similar to the birds that are said by Arrian to have attended Achilleus’ temple on the isle of Leuke (wherein he makes a comparison/allusion to Antinous); these birds are also mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses as well as elsewhere.

But perhaps one of the most surprising appearances of Memnon is a certain post-classical text that is one of the most important sources of “lore” for a certain modern polytheist group: namely Heathens, who hold Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda in very high regard. In the Prologue, part III, Snorri’s text reads:

One king among them was called Múnón or Mennón; and he was wedded to the daughter of the High King Priam, her who was called Tróán; they had a child named Trór, whom we call Thor. He was fostered in Thrace by a certain war-duke called Lóríkus; but when he was ten winters old he took unto him the weapons of his father. He was as goodly to look upon, when he came among other men, as the ivory that is inlaid in oak; his hair was fairer than gold.

Yes, you read that right: Memnon (the nephew of Priam since Tithonos was said to have been his brother) is here reported to have been the father of the Thracian-fostered Norse god Thor! Take that, racialist Heathens: one of your main gods is half-Ethiopian, according to your most highly-regarded work of lore! ;)

I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention the series of books that Gregory L. Walker/Brother G has written about Memnon: Shades of Memnon, Book I, Shades of Memnon, Book II: Ra Force Rising, and Shades of Memnon, Book III: African Atlantis Unbound, which will be followed up by a fourth book at some point in the future as well. I have not read these yet, but look forward to doing so at some point in the not-too-distant future!

While Memnon is said to have had a tomb near Troy, and other shrines and temples in Egypt, Asia Minor, and in Ethiopia/Nubia, it is only certain Egyptian statues that still survive which are linked to him (even though they most certainly weren’t built to commemorate him). Ovid’s Fasti book 4, lines 713-720, on April 20!

When next day Memnon’s saffron-robed mother on her rosy steeds shall come to view the far-spread lands, the sun departs from the sign of the leader of the woolly flock, the ram which betrayed Helle; and when he has passed out of that sign, a larger victim meets him. Whether that victim is a cow or a bull, it is not easy to know; the fore part is visible, the hinder part is hid. But whether the sign be a bull or a cow, it enjoys this reward of love against the will of Juno.

This may not seem like much, since Memnon is only mentioned extremely briefly at the beginning; but, it’s better than nothing, and is just as good a reason as any to select the present date for the commemoration of Memnon as a divine hero henceforth. And, divination did also confirm this was something fully and enthusiastically supported by the gods, and especially Antinous. (It’s a total coincidence that it just happened to be the day it is this year–a day on which the sun as well as the son rises, only today, it’s an entirely different son who is remembered at the rising of Eos!) So, in our calendar, this date shall remain for Memnon from now on!

While there are a number of Ethiopian and/or Nubian deities that were taken into the Egyptian pantheon (including Bes, who is extremely important to the Antinoan cultus), there are others as well that I’ve been feeling a pull from over the last few years in relation to the Serpent Path and to Memnon the trophimos of Herodes Attikos. These include Apedemak, his wife Amesemi, and Mandoulis. I hope that my cultus to Memnon will open up further doors to these deities in the future.

I shall be writing my own poem for Memnon in the coming hours, so watch for that when it comes up!

Hail to the son of Eos and Tithonos, the King of the Blameless Ethiopians, Memnon!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 19, 2014

“Do any of you keep the Old Gods?”

Toward the beginning of this month, when there was a free On Demand week, I took advantage of what little of it was left to mainline all three seasons of Game of Thrones (time which could probably have been better spent on something else, granted!), and have also managed to see the two newest episodes. I have to say, even though I find a lot of problems with the series on a variety of levels, it’s also enjoyable entertainment. (No, I have not read the books, and probably won’t have time to do so either.) I have a few thoughts on the matter meanwhile, though.

Games-of-Thrones-1.03-6

It was Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (shown on the left here), if I’m not mistaken, who said the line which is my subject line in this entry, when the various recruits of the Night’s Watch are being briefed on their final assignments within the Watch when their training was complete and before they take their final vows. “Do any of you keep the Old Gods?” is a really beautiful phrase, and I have found that this aspect of Game of Thrones is the part of it religion-wise that is the most pleasing and often intriguing. The theologies of that fantasy world I find less and less interesting and appealing the more I find out about them, alas. The phrases which abound on “the Old Gods and the New Gods” are also rather nice, but when I’ve looked further into what the Old Gods are (a kind of nameless and numberless “spirit” represented by trees and tied to the land, particularly in “The North,” and thus similar to a kind of primitive conception of animism), as well as the New Gods (seven of them to be exact, which are the Maiden, the Mother, the Crone–Wicca, anyone?–as well as their male counterparts the Warrior, the Father, and the Smith, plus the Stranger, who seems to be “death,” but may also be rather gender-undefined…and yet, they’re also presented as seven aspects of a singular godhead, meaning it’s ultimately monistic, just like Wicca!), and then various other gods that are often worshipped by people in other lands or on the various islands, none of it really speaks of polytheism as I’ve understood it and as it is practiced by my co-religionists. The other gods that are mentioned are often mentioned as if they are the “only real gods,” so it seems, and I don’t know whether this is due to the writers, directors, and actors choices as far as the films go, or if this is true to the books as well. I suspect, though, that the theological implications of these things have not been fully explored by anyone involved in the books or the shows, to be honest, which would make it not that different from the presuppositions about religion (and the “logic” of religion being a logic that follows and privileges monotheistic interpretations and its symptoms in other regards, e.g. the relation of one religion to another, etc.) that our wider culture has at present.

Of course, due to various things, I rather like the Old Gods better, from what I’ve seen, than the New Gods, including in the line where someone swore “By the Seven New Gods, and the Old Gods beyond counting!”

And, do I need to point out that in the overall similarities of Westeros to Britain (with King’s Landing being in a similar position and importance to London), that The Wall is about where Hadrian’s Wall would have been correspondingly…of course, if Hadrian’s Wall had been built during the Ice Age. ;)

drowned god

Then, there’s the thing which some people have asked me about before: what about the Drowned God of the Iron Islands, and any possible relation to Antinous? On the one hand, there are some superficial similarities: “What is dead may never die” is a rather nice slogan for the religion of the Drowned God, and could actually fit somewhat well with an Antinoan situation. (I’m also reminded of the song from T. Thorn Coyle and Sharon Knight, “Osiris Lives,” yet another drowned deity: “Osiris lives, Osiris returns–what is true will never die!”) There are other aspects of the Drowned God and his religion, and the culture in which that religion is entrenched, which sound very close to certain concepts and structures within Irish culture, including a fénnidi-like system of piracy, and the importance of the colors grey, green, and blue, which are all equally translations of the Old Irish color-term glas that is most commonly associated with the sea. But, I think the similarities end there: the Drowned God is a bit of a bastard (though that term gets used in a more literal sense throughout the show, so pardon me for using it here more metaphorically!), and doesn’t thus seem to have any similarities at all with the personality or the associations which Antinous has. I’m also a little bit disappointed in the kind of “baptism” ritual that this religion has, which I expected to be somewhat like the Inundation Ritual that we observe, but it isn’t, it just involves a bit of spritzing with salt water from a waterskin, rather than full immersion. (Apparently, for priests, it involves an actual drowning and resuscitation.) The lines from it are interesting, though:

Priest: “Let your servant be born again from the sea, as you were. Bless him with salt, bless him with stone, bless him with steel.”

Response: “What is dead may never die.”

Priest: “What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.”

So, that’s interesting.

Renly and Loras

And, what about queer matters? Well, there are a number of queer characters, and their reception on the part of other characters is variable, so it seems. There is the secret love between Renly Baratheon, one of the aspiring kings, and Ser Loras Tyrrell, which of course ends when Renly is killed, unfortunately. But, we don’t really see much mourning or sadness on Loras’ part as a result of this–though that may be, for amongst other reasons, because there’s so damn much else going on!–so it isn’t quite like the situation we find in other popular treatments that end up having a queer slain lover situation (e.g. True Blood). Oh well…another opportunity lost, I suppose.

It’s an enjoyable show, most certainly. It’s interesting to contemplate through it what a medieval world in our own universe would have been like if there had been a preservation of polytheism on a much wider scale.

What do you all think? (And by that, I mean for this not to become a place to just tell me how much you like or dislike the show, or any particular characters in it–as, indeed, that would get out of hand very quickly!–but instead what aspects of it seem relevant or interesting to you religiously or culturally for polytheism, etc.)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 18, 2014

Over at The Wild Hunt: Pagan Leadership Revisited

Earlier this week, Crystal Blanton contacted me with a few questions for a piece she was writing (and which has now been published) at The Wild Hunt Blog on pagan leadership. You can read the article here. It has comments on this topic by me and several other folks, including our tribal ally by Communalia, Lady Yeshe Rabbit of CAYA Coven.

Of the various people interviewed, I seem to be the one least in favor of universalizing standards on these matters…and I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. There were parts of Lady Yeshe Rabbit’s comments that sounded almost word-for-word in line with my own ideals, on further reflection, but other parts that I either wouldn’t have thought of, said, considered, or with which I might disagree. In any case, it’s an interesting article.

Feel free to comment there or here, but I’ll likely only be able to respond to comments or questions directly here rather than there.

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