Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 31, 2015

DO Read The Comments! ;)

There’s a lot going on right now…and not as much time to write here (or elsewhere) as I’d prefer at present. But, the next few weeks should rectify that considerably…

But, I’ve read some blog posts today that have been good, and then ended up commenting in a rather comprehensive fashion on several of them as well, and the comments I posted could potentially spawn posts of their own. I don’t have time to do such posts at the moment, but I’ll just re-post my comments here in the meantime, and may perhaps expand on them later.

First, one by Yvonne Aburrow on “Why Do Some People Experience Deities, But Others Don’t?” It’s a good post, and I had this to say in response:

To me, this question is one of the reasons why our various religious groupings and practices are best understood as experiential and are not remotely creedal. And, I think the question–both as you’ve posed it and as I’ve heard others pose it (and problematize it) demonstrates the gulf between a creedal understanding of it and an experiential one.
Understand that the two similes I’m going to employ here are negative, and while that may put some people off, nonetheless they might convey the point powerfully enough to make it more cogent.

Experiencing Deities as a phenomenon is like getting high on pot or being in a car accident.

The “high on pot” version works because it is something that most people have to seek out and actively exert some effort into doing if they want to do it; very few people get dosed with pot in those delicious brownies they ate but didn’t know what was in them, etc. It’s a fine experience as far as it goes, but some people (analogous to atheists, etc.) are just not interested in pursuing it, and barring an occasion where they inadvertently ingest it, it won’t impede their life any that they don’t have that specialized experience, and thus isn’t an issue if they don’t want to do it.

The “car accident” version is one emphasizing uncertainty and the often accidental nature of such experiences. Many people may not have any interest in pursuing such an experience, but it suddenly happens to them, and they no longer have the choice, they simply have a choice on how to cope with what occurred.

In phrasing this entire issue as one from a creedal viewpoint, then the big question becomes “So what’s wrong with the people who don’t have experiences of Deities?” and then questions about the necessity of beliefs, of particular mindsets, and so forth then naturally arises, as well as the possibilities of “being chosen” or some people being better or more favored than others, etc., are naturally suggested. And that’s just going down a very bad pathway, in my view.

If it is simply a question of experiences–both deliberate and sought, as well as unexpected and even accidental–then whether or not one has an experience with a Deity is as simple as any other matter in which experiences are involved: some are chosen, some aren’t, and neither’s absence or presence is “better” or “worse” than another, despite some insecure people trying to insist that one or the other of these absences or presences may be.

Phrasing it in this way would make a lot of the atheist arguments kind of dissipate, I think, in terms of “Okay, so you don’t have these experiences and don’t want to have them–no big deal!” The problem seems to arise when then our entire class of experiences is discounted by atheists, and we’re told we are crazy or deluded or stupid, etc. Only the most callous person would tell a car accident survivor that the car accident never happened and they’re just too dumb to understand what happened; and only the most prudish and closed-minded person would suggest that getting high is entirely in one’s head and a poor interpretive choice.

Then, there was this one by Karl Benson on Local Cultus, mostly from a Heathen viewpoint (recommended by Dver), to which I responded:

I think these are very important points, and I largely agree.

My one major niggle is your statement that “You don’t have a local cultus for a very particular set of events in the past.” Actually, many ancient cultures did. Most of the athletic competitions of the past were in honor of some event–often a death as a foundation of a hero cultus, and the games are an extension of the funeral games of said individual–which has an exclusively local significance. You can’t celebrate the Olympic Games (or the Isthmian, or the Nemean) from Rome or Carthage or Gallia Narbonensis, you have to go there to the sites involved. Battles like Marathon became pretty important, and that was a very particular set of events in the past that became historically significant not only on the occasion itself, but from the wider view of later history.

Local cultus–and all cultus, for that matter–is not *only* an emphasis on specifics of place and landscape, but also on the intersection of place and landscape with time and history. Ten years before a place is considered sacred, the place may be sacred, but until someone realizes it at a specific moment and acts accordingly, and the community there then continues to do so, then the “very particular set of events in the past” that leads to the foundation of a local cultus is lacking, and no such cultus then exists or results.

So, in a sense, EVERY cultus, and especially every local cultus, is the result of a very particular set of events in the past. This Deity had a theophany to the community there and has been acknowledged ever since, and it could have just happened to the lone mystic who was charismatic enough to attract followers or rich enough to support a shrine; or, it could have come about in the context of a plague’s aftermath, a battle’s outcome, the arrival of a visiting dignitary, an uprising of the people, or really practically anything.

I certainly agree that the notion of “Hekate of the Salem Witch Trials” is beyond ill-advised; but, that doesn’t mean that events both glorious and calamitous may not result in a local cultus if given the right circumstances and the informed perceptions of a functioning polytheist community of some sort. Indeed, the latter is the only thing which has ever brought about any and all cultic activities.

As a final note at present–with these comments that between them are around a thousand words!–I’d just say that contrary to the common usage of comments on blogs and other websites being used as places to trash others, to troll, and to do other terrible things, they can be very interesting and useful places for important discussions. Those who say “don’t read the comments” as general rules may have a great point when it comes to YouTube, but in good theological discussions (though, not all discussions that occur on polytheist and other blogs in comments are either good or theological, granted!), they can be really important, at least in my view.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 29, 2015

Augustalization of Diva Marciana, 2015

Antinous to Diva Marciana: Hail I say, and Praises I give
to you, O Diva Marciana, august sister of the Divine Trajan,
for the gifts you give to mortals and to the Divi and Divae,
and the blessings which you have given to me.

Because of you, I have had only one recognized partnership
with the husband of your granddaughter Sabina.
Because of you, I have been part of the imperial household,
in the train and company of your grandson Hadrian.
Because of you, I have traveled the provinces
as you did with your divine daughter Matidia.
Because of you, I have been honored on archways
as you were with Trajan and the Divine Plotina.
Because of you, I am indebted in my holiness,
and therefore you shall have a share in the demoi of Antinoöpolis.

Hail I say, and Praises I give, and Thanks I express and proclaim
to you, Diva Marciana, the unassailable sister, steadfast in divinity!

Diva Marciana: And praise to you, Antinous!
I give you the divine car of my consecration
that you may ascend to august holiness yourself!

Antinous (and all): Hail, Praise, and Thanks to you, Diva Marciana!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 24, 2015

The Problem With Pathbuilding…

There are points when one can hear the loud *K’-CHUNK* signifying one of the teeth in the cogs behind the great wheel of the seasons advancing forward another notch, and over the last two nights, that loud sound has been in the form of winds that whip up after the sun has gone down. It’s still been very hot during the days lately, but the nights are getting colder.

I was just out in that night, and when I set out, it was still fairly light, but once I arrived at my first destination, it was already dark. I had a second destination, and then walked onwards from there home again, and noticed what I’ve always noticed on any walk anywhere in this part of the world: the streets are not made for pedestrians. Suddenly, as one walks, the sidewalk will suddenly end (thanks a lot, Shel Silverstein–this is all your doing!), and will either toss one into a ditch, onto the paved street, or there may be a fence or hedge or some other obstruction in one’s way. There are not adequate street lights for someone like me, who despite being light-sensitive, still does need some illumination to make out the hidden depths of the roads, the heights of the sidewalks, and so forth. It is not particularly safe for people to be out walking in this town at night, not because someone might mug them or anything, but because you might fall down. As a result, I was one of only two people I saw out on the street this evening. Everyone else was either in cars if they were out, or indoors. (And whether or not there is a deliberate lack of sidewalks, streetlights, and so forth in order to deter people from walking the relatively short distances that I traversed tonight so that auto makers and oil companies can eat that much more of the world’s income and resources, I’ll leave aside for the moment…but, needless to say, I suspect that may be the case pretty damned strongly.)

However, last week, I was also thinking about roads, paths, and road safety when I was walking somewhere during the day. My destination was about another half mile to a mile further than where I went tonight, and I walked the whole way there (but not the way back–luckily, there were buses to be had at that hour of the day). It was slightly uphill the whole way, and extremely hot, and the destination itself was just past what most people would call “the edge of town.” As a result, no sidewalks. I could have taken one route, which has a sidewalk for about 1/4 of the distance, but the overall distance was greater, so in the hot sun and with waning energies, I took the more direct route, along the main highway in and out of town, which has no sidewalks, and only a small bit of a shoulder. As I was walking along it, I noticed that not only was the non-paved part of the road rough, but it pretty much lead down a steep embankment. I skirted the shoulder as closely as I could, still allowing plenty of room should a huge semi go barreling through, and yet if I were to veer another two feet to my left, I’d have probably tripped on the sideways ground and gone tumbling down into the brambles.

Luckily, I didn’t, but anyway…

All of this, though, got me thinking about roads and paths, in the literal sense initially. Even outside of the excesses of the modern automobile and petroleum industries, roads have been an important piece of technology that has been around for thousands of years. All of the big empires decided roads were a good idea so that they could more easily travel long distances, not only as messengers and for transportation of goods, but also to move armies quickly and efficiently.

romans_road

Certainly, the Romans are very well-known for having been road builders in Europe. Hadrian did not build the principal roads of Roman Britain, but he used them in eventually getting up north and building Hadrian’s Wall. Likewise, he build a major road to connect the Red Sea to the rest of Egypt that had as its starting-point Antinoöpolis, Antinous’ holy city. He was part of a long legacy of creating infrastructure that can be used for all sorts of things. The interstate highway system of the United States is also a part of this long tradition, and it wasn’t built so that it is easier to take road trips to Disneyland for the whole family, it was built toward the beginning of the Cold War so that the Army could be mobilized anywhere easily in the event of nuclear (and other) attacks on U.S. soil. No matter the technologies of warfare, some things never change. It’s hard to forget this, at least for me, because when I was younger, we’d travel to Eastern Washington to see my grandparents and other relatives in Spokane. And, about seven out of ten times making those trips, as we’d be going over Snoqualmie Pass, we’d see a military convoy, either on its way to or from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (a.k.a. JBLM), an Army-Air Force base south of Tacoma, WA. That, and not family vacations, or trucks carrying tomatoes from Mexico to Canada on I-5, is what got Eisenhower to convince Congress that an interstate highway system was a good idea. But since not a lot of people see military convoys these days, or have any contact with such things, this fact has entirely slipped by most people.

However, an indictment of the military-industrial complex is also not what I’m intent upon doing here (though, you can cover the appropriate spots on your Bingo sheets if you are playing the home game along with us!), so we’ll leave that aside for the moment.

On a more metaphorical level, the images of “ways,” of “paths,” of “bridges” (which are needed for roads to function properly in most cases), and less frequently, of “roads” specifically, are all used to describe religious practices and ways of life. Taoism is, itself, a practice that is known as “The Way,” and the first verse of the Tao Te Ching says “The Tao that can be trodden is not the eternal and unchanging Tao” (and various variations in translation). Zen practice as well partakes of these notions directly from Taoism, and in fact short-circuits some of those by suggesting that Zen isn’t “The Way,” but is only “the way to The Way.” And even Christianity called itself “The Way” before it was known as Christianity. Jainism’s tirthankaras are “ford-builders/finders,” which is to say, people who make a difficult part of one’s path to cross that much easier and safer. So, ways and paths are pretty endemic to how we think about religious practices generally speaking. One doesn’t go very far in paganism, either, without hearing people talk about “my path” and so forth. Also, think about how often people refer to the phrase of “walking one’s talk,” which is to say, walking the path, and walking in a particular style on that path, that one discusses all the time. Needless to say, it’s very difficult to separate the notion of a spiritual practice from thinking in terms of paths, ways, and ultimately of roads.

People in paganism do like the term “path,” though…and I wonder why that is. Often, a kind of “forest path” is what is envisioned, a path up a mountain, something that is rough, that perhaps a few people have traveled before, but something which isn’t paved or signposted very well, perhaps. It seems that much more “natural” to think of it in these terms than it does to think about what the reality of it is where some pagan paths are concerned. Wicca is a path only insofar as a superhighway with lots of exits and on-ramps lined with fast food joints and Wal-Marts on them is also “a path,” and comparatively speaking, when put next to a number of other forms of modern paganism, that is what Wicca looks like when some other paths practiced by individuals or very small groups still resemble a barely-discernible way through the underbrush of a forest.

And polytheism is another story altogether…

But, the thing about “paths,” no matter how small they are or how few people follow them, is that one is only a pathfinder once. After that, one isn’t a pathfinder unless one is still looking for other destinations or avenues, so to speak, of getting from one place to another; after that, one is a path-follower, or perhaps even a leader of others down a particular path, but not a pathfinder.

Religiously speaking, once a pathfinder has found the path in question, and has cleared parts of it and trodden bits of it, and hence has “founded” a religious practice in addition to finding the path, then they may find that others want amenities along the path. A little cleared-out spot for resting, a wayside area where a shrine can be built next to an impressive tree stump, perhaps a bench here and there or a lamppost, or maybe line this part of the path here with stones so that it looks nicer. All of those things that result from people traveling a path and having their own input on it helps to improve the path, make it more accessible and aesthetically appealing to others, and hopefully facilitates people using it and getting to their intended destinations. I think you can see where I’m going with that…

However, there will eventually come a time when someone might say, “Yes, I know that our ancestors and the pathfinders went this particular way, and it kind of meanders back and forth through this gully and over that small hill, but why not just make a more direct path through here? It will be shorter that way.” Then one gets road-builders. There are often a variety of good reasons for wanting to get to a destination much more directly, efficiently, and quickly. But in doing so, what ends up happening is that two processes have to occur: 1) the lower bits of the terrain have to be raised; 2) the higher bits of the terrain have to be flattened. Yes, it is always possible to build a road so that it doesn’t flatten or raise the terrain, or that it at least follows it, but try telling that to the people who say “Pavement costs this much per mile for a two-lane road, and routing the traffic around an extra ten miles when we could just cut through two miles makes better business sense,” and what you end up with is a motorway through the vicinity of the Hill of Tara in Ireland. (Cut back to the discussion above about industrial capitalism and so forth…)

And yet, even if one is not a road-builder, and just remains a humble and simple pathfinder, let’s be honest: you’re not going to lead the path down into a swampy pond where people can get stuck and drown, nor are you going to lead it up to a sheer rock face and expect people to climb to get to the next part, especially if you haven’t told them to bring special safety equipment, or to have left every bit of baggage they’re carrying with them behind before embarking on the path. Take that both metaphorically and literally if you like, it works either way…

There are choices to be made in pathfinding as much as there is in road-building, and ultimately one is a species of the other.

What really becomes interesting, though, is that one is the pathfinder only once. When one is the pathfinder and travels that path again and again, one might remember all of the things that happened when that path was found the first time–the birds singing in that glade over there, the deer who were followed for some distance along those particular stretches of the path, the turtle who turned up on this rock that the path goes right by, and so on; and, in later travels on the path, other things might happen as well: this tree blew over since the last time we came down this way, a particularly beautiful sunset was visible through these trees on this occasion, someone left a paisley tie on this low-hanging branch, we met these other people who were taking a different path and going elsewhere but we shared part of the path with them, and so forth. THat is the experience of the pathfinder on their own, every time they travel that path.

If another person or group of people who are closely involved with the pathfinder then travel the path soon after, their experience of the path is going to be very different indeed. They’re not going to know about the deer or the birds or the turtle, but if the pathfinder tells them about them, then they might put a little informational plaque there about it, or perhaps even commission an artist from among them to make a little turtle statue to put there, or write a song about the birds in that glade, and so on. The path is always going to look a lot more path-like to those who come on it later than the pathfinder themselves the first time they find it. It may still appear to be a dirt path to the pathfinder after traveling it twenty or thirty times, but the first time someone else comes along it, it’s going to look paved and better sign-posted.

After those further path walkers have been doing it for a while, and another one joins them, they’re not going to see a forest path at all, they’re going to see a proper paved road, which will get much more directly to its intended locations without going up or down in elevation, nor taking any longer scenic routes to pass by certain places (when instead a straight line will just get them wherever, and exits will be conveniently sign-posted), and their road might course in both directions to accommodate traffic coming and going, while also having intersections with other paths, and it will even have amenities sited along it at various places. The turtle sculpture installation is not going to be an interesting wayside art piece to them, it’s going to be Turtle-Land, a place where a festival occurs once a year, with songs and people dressed as turtles and special games that take place only there and only then. And so on and so forth. They will not have to go down and get dirty on the rocks near where the turtle originally walked, they’ll just have to join the queue, and perhaps pay the admission fee, to go visit Turtle-Land.

If the original pathfinder is around to hear all of this, they might be very surprised that someone just goes to Turtle-Land and think they know all about it, when they may in fact have no idea why Turtle-Land is in the place it is or when it is, or what really happened all those years ago with the turtle. They may be upset that the particular features of their original path have become flattened out and raised up in certain places, and that what perhaps took them days to travel the first time now only takes others a few hours at most.

Do you see what I mean with all of this?

One of the things we talk about in modern polytheism is that we hate to see things flattened out, not only in our literal landscapes, but also in our approaches to walking a path with our Deities, Ancestors, and other Divine Beings in mind–whether in pursuit of them, or in company with them, or sometimes both, or sometimes neither. What is difficult and unusual shouldn’t be flattened out, we tend to think, because there is something useful in negotiating those high places, and going over or around them as needs be, and having the choice about doing so when such places are approached. Not having the choice about it due to flattening it out seems a great disgrace to the place itself, or to the experience itself in many of our eyes. And, most of us have not had too many problems thus far (though I certainly have) of things being raised up instead of flattened out. In my extended conceit here, if the flattening out actions that we fear are the streamlining and decontextualizing of important divine experiences (the “peaks,” if you like) that have nothing to do with us, then what the raising up of the low areas might in fact be are the things that we experience that may be more of our own human experiences and dimensions that occur in this process, that have lead us into “low” places and valleys of shadow and uncertainty, and perhaps even on occasion stagnation as much as fertility, but they’re much more on the human side of the equation than the specifically divine side. When those parts become raised in road-building, the very real human experiences that lead to and through them are often forgotten; the long conversations, the difficult situations, the strange negotiations and experiments–successful as well as disastrous–that lead to arriving at a particular solution or position or insight are forgotten or downplayed, are made just as equal to those things that come from direct divine contacts (the “peaks,” remember!), and since those parts are raised just as the peaks are flattened out, the entirety becomes one rather similar path of a roughly congruent overall elevation, and what is human and what is divine in origins all becomes a median between them which those in the future follow in order to get to their destinations.

Now, you may be asking: “But PSVL, isn’t the most important thing that people get to their destinations?” Perhaps, yes. But, likewise, there is a great deal to be said for the journey itself. And that being the case, those peaks and valleys are important. If all of those peaks and valleys simply begin to look like “just the highway” to those who come later, then has something very important been lost, rather than the path leading through the valleys and up to the peaks?

It would be very easy to read the above and think, “Okay, so the answer is obviously to just throw out all the books, close down this (and all other) blogs, never read someone else’s devotional poetry or rituals or anything again, and get out there building one’s own path!” is what I’m suggesting. Let me be clear: I’m not. And, in saying so, I’m not saying either that some people are born or made pathfinders, and some people are constitutionally path-followers or road-travelers instead, and that one is better or worse than the others. Sometimes, it is better to get where one is going quickly than it is to hack through the underbrush to find the path; and very often, it is fucking crazy to hack through that underbrush, too, when one doesn’t know whether this part of the forest has the potential to become a path, or what–if anything–might occur there on the way…one never knows if instead of a nice deer or birds or turtles are going to cross the path, that instead there will be a rattlesnake there, and after one bite and being too far out in the woods, our intrepid pathfinder is never heard from again.

I’m taken back to my early college class on Asian mysticism–mostly Zen–by N. Robert Glass. We talked about “ways” as being good methods established by religious practices to do things, which covers the entire range of religious phenomena, from meditation techniques and ethics to theology and so forth. We also talked about “traces,” which in certain forms of Zen are thought of as patterns of thought (!?!) that leave their marks in memory or emotions, and which may in fact obscure the pure experience of whatever-it-is that might be in front of one at a given time, and thus may be impediments to an experience of satori at any given moment. At a certain point I asked Dr. Glass if there was any difference, therefore, between “a way” and “a trace,” and he said, after a moment’s pause, “I don’t think there probably is.” Or, to put it a different way, via Lin Chi, “if you see the Buddha on the side of the road, kill him.”

As someone who has been in the position–for good or ill–of having been a pathfinder in many different contexts, I’m very aware that this is the case, and that peaks get flattened and valleys get elevated; but, since most of the people who have been around and have trodden those paths with me have done so soon after they were originally trodden, or in some cases they came with me in finding the new parts of the path, we’re not quite to the place where those who also decide to tread these paths see a road rather than a path, and yet the flattening and the elevating can and does happen in small ways here and there. I try to make it known when I think someone is going too far in the direction of flattening or elevating, and I have done my very best to do neither of those myself…and yet, it is unavoidable to a degree.

I wasn’t sure that I’d be writing this tonight, or at all, but I did talk some of this over with Sarenth last week after the not-at-night walking incident occurred, and so I think it’s about time to just throw this out there as a potential thought piece. It has gone much longer than I had expected it to (big surprise–this is me, isn’t it?!?), and has taken some turns that I was also not anticipating, but I think it is all fair enough to look at and think about. As long as those of us who are in the position of being pathfinders keep some of these things in mind, we can hopefully avoid some of the worst excesses that can result from the flattening or the raising; but, we can only do so much.

I’ll be very interested in hearing your own thoughts on these matters, folks. :)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 24, 2015

Some Interesting Things, Old and New…

Now that the festival of the Lion Hunt and the Red Lotus are over, and the major Antinoan festivals for the month are complete (though there is one more for Diva Marciana; and also a ritual next Friday that I’ll detail more later), we can do a little post mentioning a whole pile of things that have caught my eye recently, even though a few of the stories are from several months back–I can’t keep up with everything, alas.

First, here is a piece by Heathen Chinese on Many Gods West for The Wild Hunt, which speaks a lot about the Opening Ritual and its particularities. On his own blog, he’s also gathered a list of all the blog posts about MGW thus far. Excellent work on all points there, H.C.! :)

And, one of the posts mentioned there is the full audio recording of a presentation that I missed: that by Heimlich A. Laguz on Norse cosmology in relation to death, dreaming, and memory. I highly recommend giving this a listen! (And some aspects of it have direct connections to Irish matters, e.g. sleeping on tombs/mounds to gain poetic inspiration or information from those buried therein in a quasi-incubatory practice, which itself echoes some things in Greek practice as well mentioned by Nicander of Colophon…)

Speaking of poets and matters Celtic: there is some new archaeological evidence to show that floos myths in Wales having connections to the birth of Taliesin may, in fact, be true: have a look here and here. (And thanks to Lorna Smithers for those!)

And as far as mounds and Irish things are concerned: the Irish were the first to record an eclipse in the ancient world, if indeed some inscribed stones on prehistoric monuments signify what these investigators suspect.

But getting back specifically to the historically heathen cultures: a remote valley in Sweden still has speakers of a very archaic dialect, and they used runes in their writing until the early 20th century!! Fascinating!

In more Greek news, the Serpent Column at Delphi is going to be re-installed in replica form.

An interesting piece on Lady Geek Girl and Friends discusses the theory that the Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro is about death. I’ve only seen it once, but this might make a great deal of sense based on what is written there.

In gender-variance-related news: Margaret (a.k.a. Magpie) Killjoy has come out as genderqueer. Everyone sing: Oh sweet oblivion!

There’s other things I could mention, including about what some non-polytheists think of the future of polytheism and how they don’t like it (or, rather, they don’t like their understandings of it, which are severely flawed), but do we really need to go into all of that now, here? I don’t think so.

And, I think that shall do it for now! ;)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 23, 2015

The Lion and The Lotus 2015

In the entirety of his short life, Antinous felt certain in that moment that he had never been so dejected, so helpless, and so embarrassed before.

The servants were looking after horses and supplies, the masters of the hounds were gathering and congratulating the dogs that deserved it, and someone would soon be skinning the lion and dividing up the rest of its fallen body for varied uses. A portion of its meat might even be something consumed at a feast later in the day–who could say? Antinous was suddenly not keen on the thought of what lion might taste like.

Hadrian, at last, approached him and asked after his safety.

Antinous could not even look at him, and turned away, silently.

Hadrian, not to be refused, kept getting in front of him, and Antinous kept turning away. At last, the Emperor stood before the boy, grabbed him by both shoulders, and turned him to face him, raising his head to force the youth to meet his indomitable gaze.

Antinous’ eyes welled up with tears, and he began to shake slightly, silently.

Hadrian sat him down next to himself, placed an arm around his shoulder, and his other hand on his thigh.

“First, to your body. Are you hurt? Do you need anything?”

Antinous shook his head.

“Water, then?”

There was a pause, but then Antinous nodded. Hadrian handed him a waterskin, and Antinous drank a few sips. Hadrian then poured a small amount of it into his hand, and let it trickle onto Antinous’ head and face, and wiped some of the dust and dirt from him. At this, Antinous could not hold his composure any longer, and collapsed wailing across Hadrian’s lap. Hadrian caressed his head and back as he did so for several minutes, as long as it took. Servants and hunters kept coming near to see if any assistance was needed, and Hadrian would flash them a look that told them to leave in no uncertain terms, but after the fourth or fifth one came up unbidden, he finally shouted, “NO ONE IS TO APPROACH ME UNTIL I SAY SO!”

Hadrian sighed loudly after having to yell, and at last Antinous seemed to be passing from his overwhelming emotions.

“The next person to come up will share a portion of the lion’s tail for the feast tonight,” Hadrian said.

Antinous laughed slightly, but he was still laying face down across Hadrian’s lap.

“But not for you, Antinous. What part of the lion would you like?”

“I don’t want any of it…I don’t deserve it.”

“Only two hunters today struck that beast, which had killed scores of people: you and me. You deserve a portion of the lion more than anyone besides myself.”

“No! I was stupid, I wasn’t thinking!”

“And I was careless in my intentions. I should not have been silent with what occurred, and should have told you that I’d be backing you up, but that I wanted you to try and strike the beast on your own. Had your confidence not wavered, I think you’d have killed the beast with a second blow.”

“But, I did waver, and the beast killed my horse, and nearly killed me!”

“Yet you hardly bleed. Has it torn off one of your limbs, or left you gasping for breath on the point of death?”

A pause.

“No.”

“Has it wounded you so grievously that your tunic is now so stained with blood it will never become cleansed of its stains?”

“No.”

“Will you need more than a small bandage to cover the rather nasty scratch on your leg?”

“No.”

“And after this, will you limp for the rest of your days, a wound well earned in slaying the beast?”

“No.”

“No, of course not. At most you’ll have a scar on your otherwise beautiful thigh–a thigh that would be the envy of Ganymede, who never slew a lion in his life–to remind you only when you look at it that you narrowly escaped death on this day.”

“But…”

“No, Antinous, there’s no caveats or excuses or reservations about any of this in anyone’s mind but yours. Yes, the pain of disappointment, of failure, of feeling that you should have been better or faster, or thought more clearly, might seem horrific to you at present, but it will pass. Youth is a time for strong emotions, and I hope that you never ignore your emotions with the advances of age and become jaded and complacent with them. There will always be truth in them which should never be ignored.”

Antinous’ brow furrowed slightly, but he rose up, brushed the tears from the corner of his eyes, and looked at Hadrian silently.

“Remember, though, that they are like the sea. The sea will never run dry, but on some occasions, it is disturbed by strong winds and waves, making it difficult if not deadly to cross. You cannot risk drowning when the sea is in such a state.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Emotions can be a tranquil sea accompanying your daily tasks. If you go to the market, speak with a tutor, hunt, read, bathe, or even sport with a lover, the sea may be peaceful and without difficulties. If any of those things take place when the sea is troubled, though, they become more arduous than one expects, and often simply moving from one room to another can become as difficult as rowing up the Nile when it is in its flood.”

“But what is best on days such as that, when the sea is impossible to cross?”

“Do nothing at all. If any task you turn your hand to becomes more cumbersome and difficult because of the state of your emotional sea, then it is better not to cross it. A piece of papyrus will still be there the next day to compose your verses upon it.”

“Is that what you do when you have such days?”

“I certainly endeavor to when possible. I am truly fortunate, for I have so many administrators to assist me in what needs to be done to make sure an Empire does not fall. For all the rest…well, you’ve seen my villa, and how many different rooms are in it. Plenty to keep the mind occupied when the seas are rocky and cannot be crossed.”

“All of those rooms, all of the work to make them…all simply to distract you from your emotional turmoils?”

“Yes.” Now Hadrian was feeling embarrassingly vulnerable, but he knew it was the right time to admit such things with Antinous. “Some have called me a dabbler, or have said that I live a life of bored detachment because of my shallowness. I admit, I become bored easily when people and things become tiresome, when a task becomes pointless and tedious, when no progress can occur on things of importance. But ‘shallow’? There are depths to my shallowness most would fear to consider. You and I are of a kind in this, I suspect, and yet most people can never know of it.”

“So how do you manage?”

“Take one’s joys in the small things: a new scroll from the library, an engaging drama in the theatre admirably performed by skilled actors, the running of fine horses, intriguing conversations with affable people about ordinary and extraordinary things…even beautiful youths from Bithynia who are more interesting at their worst than most men are to me at their very best.”

Now Antinous was at last smiling.

“If you are ready, perhaps we can rejoin the others, and return for a feast well-earned.”

“What part of the beast do you think I should have?”

“I would award you the heart of it.”

“Heart is kind of disgusting, though.”

“And yet, how many can say they’ve eaten a lion’s heart? I never have, and I probably never will, thus if you hold that honor solely, I am content.”

“It will be as you’ve said.”

“Very well!” Hadrian poured some more water into his hand, and then splashed it on Antinous’ bloodied thigh, rubbing his wound until most of the dried blood had washed away.

“Oh, behold this!” Hadrian said with wonder in his tone.

Hadrian reached down into the brush beneath Antinous’ thigh, and pulled up a small red flower.

“The blood from your wounds has made flowers already, and yet your death is far from you! The Goddess Flora has done a miracle in your honor today, Antinous!”

“Or perhaps it was Pakhet, who oversees this part of the desert and has memorialized her fallen child.”

“‘Pakhet’?!? Who is ‘Pakhet’?”

“A lioness Goddess of the Egyptians.”

“Don’t you mean Sekhmet?”

“No–there is more than one lioness Goddess in Egypt.”

“From whom did you hear this?”

“Pancrates, of course.”

“Of course. Teaching you Egyptian tales, has he?”

“Yes, they’re delightful.”

“Be careful, Antinous. One day, when your life comes to an end, you might find yourself not amongst the heroes or the blessed dead with Persephone, but instead in some Egyptian Elysium with an animal’s head upon you!”

“And if that is the case, what would I care? The roaring seas themselves at their stormiest would pale before my own roar if I had the head of a lion!”

Antinous and Hadrian laughed.

“Be content with its heart, Antinous; I would have you with your own head instead.”

“If I did have a lion’s head, Hadrian, it would be the most beautiful lion that ever lived.”

Hadrian giggled at the thought. “I suspect you’re correct.”

lion

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 23, 2015

May Death Rain From The Earth And The Air…

May a shower of spit from the sky rain down
with drops hitting harder than bullets
on Daesh–and may they die shrieking.

May death rain from the earth and the air
in the form of avenging fires of destruction
on Daesh–and may they die shrieking.

May the Deities and Powers of Palmyra
rouse the birds, the beasts, and fire and smoke
on Daesh–and may they die shrieking.

And, may memory return to the sites of Palmyra
where the Deities will once again be praised
and may the wrongdoers be forgotten.

May what is bright and beautiful in the peoples endure
amidst terror, madness, and the horrors of war,
and may the wrongdoers be forgotten.

May the Ancestors of Palmyra in peaceful proximity
guide the peoples to better things amongst the Deities,
and may the wrongdoers be forgotten.

*****

(If you wonder what this is about, read this.)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 22, 2015

Flower Heroes and Antinous 2015

Flower Heroes to Antinous: We give to you green stems and leaves, and colorful petals, that you may spring from the darkness of mud and soil with the flashing flourish of life’s vital blood.

Antinous: Hail and thanks to you, Flower Heroes, the enliveners of vision, the fragrances of virtue, and the fruitful children of the Goddess Flora!

Because of you, I shall become a beacon of hope, a palm of victory, and a token of love for those upon the Earth!

Hyakinthos, I will be the hero of Sparta, the beloved of Apollon.
I will be an expert at the discus to the jealousy of Zephyros.

Hylas, I will be the water-bearer of Thrace, the beloved of Herakles.
I will be the envy of nymphs and the drinker of the waters of drowning.

Krokus, I will be the delight of Hermes in games of sport.
I will be the anger of the Gods for the love of Smilax.

Ampelos, I will be the twining vine around Dionysos’ thyrsus.
I will fall from a branch, gored by a bull, from Selene’s spite.

Kyparissos, I will be the love of Silvanus, of Apollon, and even of Zephyros.
I will be the slayer of my own pet stag, the cause of my sorrow and death.

Daphne, I will be the pursuit of Leukippos and Apollon.
I will be the laurel tree on Ladon’s banks in Arcadia.

Lotos, I will be the arouser of Priapus and his evader.
I will be the lotus tree and the sorrow of Dryope.

Narcissus, I will be the one cursed with self-knowledge and self-love.
I will be the longing of both Aminias and Echo.

Hail and thanks to you, Flower Heroes all!

Hail and thanks to you, Antinous!

NarcissusPompeii

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 21, 2015

A Litany of Failures…

To close out the day–on which I have done the expected rituals, but was not able to get anyone to join me on lion golf (and thus didn’t do it), and have already reported on other failures (alas!), but–on the good side–have completed a pretty good installment of the syncretistic aretalogy of Antinous involving Herakles, and also done some key discussions in my role as a fili and an ersatz knowledgeable expert on Irish traditions, nonetheless the theme of today is not “small successes” but instead failures. Thus, in line with last year (and even stealing its rubrics!) and previous years, I’m making this honest accounting of some of my major failures this year, many of which are similar to last year, though not intentionally. (It’s good to recognize patterns, though…)

1) In this past year, in relation to my public roles, this blog, and so forth, my biggest failure happened earlier this month, not even two weeks ago. Probably little more needs to be said on that…but the implications of that failure, as well as the very real and valid realizations and acting further based on those realizations will be changing my approach to things from here on out very much indeed.

2) I deeply regret my failures at PantheaCon to be as successful in reaching out on behalf of the Ekklesía Antínoou, particularly to younger people–yes, we had more of them at our event this year than on previous attempts, but still, none appear to have stepped forward for further pursuit of these matters meanwhile.

3) Now that I have had to move all of my belongings, I acknowledge that my own severe case of bibliophilia has resulted in a very impressive library, but one that is extremely difficult to administrate and properly curate. I suspect there will be stacks here in the apartment for a lot longer than I had anticipated until shelves can give these volumes–honorable as well as laughable though some of them may be–proper homes for the foreseeable future.

4) I have had a number of failures in terms of working on (and preferably completing!) devotional projects, some of which will be mentioned below. The things I’m thinking of specifically are: further verses on a song for Bendis which would include the other major Thracian Deities Sabazios and Kotys; the dance for Quinquatrus and other occasions for Mars, Minerva, and Hercules; the votive stele depicting Pancrates/Pachrates of Heliopolis; the proper dedication of my medical I.D. bracelet to the Deities; the completion of some further Tetrad++ work; finishing all of the poems I owe to people for their sponsorship of my travel over the last year; and, trying in general to do “more doing” and making of things rather than having all of my creative and artistic energies being devoted to writing.

5) That having been said, I have also failed to complete (or, in some cases, start) a huge number of devotional writing projects or editing projects. These include: Studium Antinoi: The Doctor’s Notes, Volume Two, a short piece on Scáthach, the completion of For the Queens of Heaven, some translations from Latin that I’ve wanted to do for–on a few occasions–more than a decade, and the editing projects on the cynocephali devotional and the queer magic anthology. This list is VERY far from exhaustive.

6) While I already devoted a post to this earlier today, that I have not yet finished building and consecrating my shrine room is a deep regret of mine. I have waited for years (almost 10, in fact) to have my own place again, and to have my own separate shrine room within it, and no priority in my moving was greater than getting that established. While a month is not yet gone, and I may very well have it established by as soon as Sunday, nonetheless, this is a major failure on my part.

7) Speaking of shrines, I have wanted to create some virtual shrines here on the blog for the entire Antinoan pantheon (and perhaps some other friends/guests, too), but have not yet done so. I hope that may change by Foundation Day, if not sooner.

8) I continue in the very bad habit of not taking as good of care with my health as I (still) could, now that I have (some) insurance and can more easily defray the costs involved. I hope to be doing more regular exercise this coming quarter of college teaching.

9) I have made some progress on Ancestor cultus, and regard my accomplishments in that area in terms of the rituals at Many Gods West quite well (in most respects); however, my own personal cultus to them is still not up to par with what it should be, or perhaps more accurate what it could be. When I went looking for and consulting trusted Elders on how this might be accomplished most effectively given my own lines of descent and genetic and cultural heritages, I didn’t get further insight into my Ancestors, I found out I’m a child of the Goddess Qadesh, who is now a part of my daily practices. Still, getting ANOTHER DEITY when I had hoped to find Ancestors is still a failure to connect properly with my Ancestors, and one that I am trying to
work further on very deliberately.

So, there we have it. Certainly, compared to last year, some things have been completed that were not; but others either continue to be difficult, or have changed in such ways that they will remain difficult for the foreseeable future. Let us hope that at this time next year, at least a few more items from #4-5 will no longer be on the “To Do” list. ;)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 21, 2015

Herakles and Antinous 2015

Herakles to Antinous: I give you the skin of the Nemean Lion, that you may be invulnerable to arrows, blades, and the points of spears.

Antinous: Hail and thanks to you, Herakles, son of Alcmene and Zeus!

Because of you, I will be suckled at the breasts of Hera!

I will be called both Hero and God by poets in the places of my veneration.
I will be the one who completes twelve labors in expiation of my faults.
I will be the advisor of Dionysos on how to enter Hades, and will lose in a contest of drinking with him.
I will be the servant of Omphale of the Amazons.
I will be the lover of Iolaus, Sostratus, Elakatas, Iphitus, Corythus, Nireus, Admetus, Nestor, Adonis, Philoctetes, Diomus, Perithoas, Phrix, and others beyond number.
I will be the husband of Hebe, Iole, Deianeira, and Megara, and many will be my children with them and others.
I will be the freer of Prometheus and the destroyer of Acheloös.
I will be the slayer of the Gigantes Alkyoneus, Porphyrion, and Antaeus.
I will be the shipmate of the Argonauts in their adventures.
I will be the lamenter of Hylas when he is lost to the nymphs.
I will be the founder of Thracian Abderus in memory of my lover.
I will be the one who leads Cerberus from the gates of Hades to the nekuomanteion at Herakleia Pontica.
I will be the one who says “I have been initiated into Mysteries far greater, and I have seen the Kore.”

Hail and thanks to you, Herakles!

Hail and thanks to you, Antinous!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 21, 2015

Failure Begins At Home! :(

Today is the Lion Hunt festival, on which we do a variety of ritual activities, and in which we confront the universal human (and divine!) experience of failure.

There have been many failures this year–in my practices, in my community engagements, and certainly in my wider non-spiritual life–and it looks like the festival’s observance is starting earlier than I had planned.

I will be getting together with friends and co-religionists later today to do some of the specifically ritual aspects of the festival, but in the meantime, there was a potential failure that I was hoping to confront and turn into a “non-failure” before the turning of midnight earlier.

And, perhaps not surprisingly: I failed! :(

That major failure is the fact that it has been almost a month since I moved into my apartment, and set up the first parts of my shrine room. That process is still not complete, but I had hoped to perhaps get some of it done on Wednesday and/or Thursday, and complete it, with the consecration of the full shrine following shortly after, and then the full and proper operation of it for the festival proper tomorrow (which is now later today) and for the Festival of the Red Lotus on the following day. No such luck…

My observances for yesterday did not get completed until quite late, and I found myself not even having had anything resembling dinner before close to midnight. So, after I ate my rather modest (and somewhat bland and poorly-prepared–my own fault, too!) meal, I then decided to go into the shrine room to see what can be done about getting it in order for the rituals later. I was able to put up a few wall-hangings for Memnon and Amesemi, and then was going to proceed to put further ones on the walls behind and flanking Antinous. I was doing divination with the Ephesia Grammata to see if he might prefer different configurations of these, and kept consistently getting KATASKION and ENDASION (and a few other non-AISIA noncommittal responses), none of which were making me very confident in proceeding. Finally, I asked if this is to be decided at some later time, and got TETRAX, which pretty much is a “yes” under that circumstance. (This happened a week or two ago, too, when I was asking about what should go up behind Antinous.)

I then put a few things away, and thought I’d ask one more thing of this divinatory line of questions about how to go about doing the task of shrine-building. I had planned to switch out my insulin pump (which had run out while I was preparing to eat) and take a very long and thorough shower when doing so, in order that I might come to this final (for now!) shrine-building task as pure as possible in many different ways, and then wear some of my sacred clothing in order to do the final part of the shrine-building as well, and to take a few hours with it tonight before I sleep. So, I asked if that was a plan that Antinous approved of, and the answer came back, once again, TETRAX–“Not now/some other time.”

I pretty much took that as a “no,” and that I’ll know what needs to be done when I do finally build the rest of the shrine.

But, like I said, it seems to not only continue with the theme of failure, but also to confirm it, and in its own way to confront and acknowledge it and its implications: building the remainder of my shrine while in a state and on an occasion where failure is not only acknowledged but is the prominent and focused-upon theme would essentially be setting this entire shrine up for failure! And, no one wants that, do they?

So, I will resume the task of final shrine-building on Sunday, after the festival of the Red Lotus has also occurred, so these past failures can be cleansed and transformed, and I can enter the remainder of this year until the next festival of the Lion Hunt with a clean slate, so to speak.

As I’ve been saying since 2003 with this festival: sometimes, you slay the lion, but sometimes, the lion slays you.

In addition to my ritual later, you can expect parts of the syncretistic aretalogy of Antinous to follow as well; and with any luck, those will actually be decent, and not complete and utter failures. ;)

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