We are, at present, at the beginning of the period of the year presided over by Antinous the Navigator. This aspect of Antinous will tarry with us for two more months and two more weeks after that, to give way to the next aspect. Most often, we think of Antinous the Navigator as that more apophatic, transcendent, and not-quite-as-present aspect of Antinous that watches and guides from a distance, occasionally “checking in” with us in atypical forms like signs in nature, dreams, and other uncanny events. Antinous the Navigator provides moments of opportunity for minor course-corrections in our journey of life. In other words, Antinous the Navigator is the aid to human souls in this life, and their guide within it: a psychopomp for those still alive as much, if not more than, a psychopomp for those who have already died.
And yet, I don’t think that’s all there is to him, and to his role as Navigator, as my subject line here conveys in fewer words than I’m able to provide in English to indicate the same thought.
I didn’t have anything in particular today I wanted to write about, but I had a feeling that reading about a little bit would remedy that, and I wasn’t disappointed. As a result of this post by my friend Soli, on various different boundary gods (e.g. Hermes, Hekate, Wepwawet) and their presences in her life, I was making a comment and ended up saying the following:
Antinous is such a deity as well, to various extents–although, in some ways, being he’s as super-syncretistic as he is, he’s also not just a psychopomp for humans and human souls, he’s also a theopomp, as it were…!?!
It’s one of those situations where I didn’t really know what it was I was saying until I got into the middle and end of the sentence…and that got me thinking.
Antinous has a great deal to do with syncretism, not only in the lived and attested realities of his cultus, but also in terms of the phenomenon itself. He’s one of the most recent and most youthful examples of the “god of syncretism” or the super-syncretistic deity, which is shared with Serapis, Sabazios, and a small handful of other gods (and those two are ones which he has multiple lineal connections with in a variety of ways, and with whom he shares a whole pile of syncretistic common deity-nominators!). This makes him a good connection between humans and a wide variety of deities, and I’ve often described this as him being the host of a god-party, where he says “It’s great to meet you! Have you met these other deities yet?” We all know the drill there…
And yet, in a process theology model, he doesn’t just function as a human-become-god who then helps other humans to connect with the gods. I think we can also say that his super-syncretism, especially because of his former mortal status, has become a way for the gods to connect with humans as much as a way for the humans to connect with the gods. He is not only a psychopomp for humans, but in essence a theopomp for the gods to be able to contact humans more easily.
A gate separates two places from one another, and the gate-keeper can allow people on one side in or out, and likewise on the other side. We all too often think of these things from only the human viewpoint, as if the only ones who want to get into contact with divine matters are we humans. And yet, as the experience of many of us has proven over the years, the gods very often actually desire to have contact with humans, and may wish to seek out such contact. Those contacts don’t just “happen”: even for the superlatively powerful gods, there are channels via which they occur. Some attempt to contact humans directly, and that can certainly work. But, using a “touchstone” like Antinous as a super-syncretistic deity can perhaps help them get into the contact with the humans they’re seeking just as much as Antinous can help humans get into contact with the gods they wish to engage with in relationships. Antinous, as a former human, understands humans better than most gods do; and, Antinous being a god understands divinity better than most humans are able to at present.
In other words, it works both ways.
Some might object to such a thought: if the gods are so powerful, why do they need someone like Antinous to get into contact with humans better? Many of the same people who will argue along those lines, though, might also maintain that the gods are radically different than humans, and any of our attempts to understand the gods are not only limited and fallible, but also utterly feeble and not up to the task. If the latter is the case, then how in the world can the gods get in touch with us at all without some sort of intermediary or moderating force to translate their immense numinousness into information that will not overwhelm the human mind and senses? They can’t without some sort of intermediate force.
There are far too many people having mystical experiences that are “indescribable” and that don’t really lead anywhere, now and throughout history, which is the easiest thing to fake in the world–and, to whose benefit? The gods who inspired those experiences, who don’t often get much more devotional attention as a result of them? The humans who go “Oh, that must have been XYZ deity, but other than that, I can’t describe it” and as a result can’t say much more about it other than “well, that happened”? The spiritual communities who hear such experiences and go, “Yeah…so, this indescribable feeling is just like those of every other mystic in every other tradition,” and think thus that monism and apophatic experience is the only sign of “true” mysticism? Yes, an awful lot of that has gone on, and still goes on, but what good does it ultimately do outside of promoting monism and apophatic experience as a sole good unto itself? These things may be fine for Zen practitioners, but as polytheists, that’s never going to be as useful, workable, or appealing for us as for those who are interested in Zen. Many of us have lost the traditions (or, more accurately, have not had access to such traditions because they have been suppressed or destroyed) of discernment and attention training that would allow these experiences to be translated into something more useful to polytheistic peoples. Let’s try to get some of that back…
And, for those who are interested, I think Antinous is one way in which such things can come about again.
I don’t always know what I’ll get with my experiences of Antinous; but, I often know that “at least something” will come, and while it is often entirely by surprise and without notice, it’s nice to have a day when one suspects “Something will happen today,” and to just be ready for it when it does happen. Today was one such day for me, and for that, I am very grateful, not only to Antinous, but to Soli (and Wepwawet, Hekate, Hermes, and other boundary gods) for taking me past that boundary to the other side of it, to see how it might actually be working in many respects from a viewpoint we rarely take seriously or venture to imagine.
Khaire Hermes! Khaire Hekate!
Ave Ave Antinoe!