I’m rather under-the-weather today, and thus my post on this last day of 2013 is later than I would have preferred. We soldier on, nonetheless…
Perhaps it’s entirely appropriate that, at least as far as the Ekklesía Antínoou is concerned, this last day of the secular calendrical year is one that is taken up with some important deaths and one important birth. It is the death of the previous year tonight and the birth of the new one, so it may be no coincidence…
Firstly, today is the death-date of Lucius Ceionius Commodus, better known to history as Aelius Caesar, the first adopted heir of Hadrian. I wrote a poem for this festival last year, which you can find here. You can find further information on him here as well.
Today was also the death-date of two Sancti: Brandon Teena and Harold Vaughn. While many know Brandon Teena’s story, not as many have heard of Harold Vaughn, and so with some quoted information from my Anomalous Thracian colleague, I’d like to present some of that here.
Harold’s story is one that is filled with mystery. There are various versions of his early life depending on who you ask, and Harold himself would say very, very little. He was born sometime between the late 1930s and early 1940s, variously in Cincinnati or New Orleans. (Cincinnati is the more likely of the two by my estimation.) He grew up, to my understanding, in very poor predominantly African-American neighborhoods. His very early years are not spoken of, and he was known by several names (due to different father figures moving in an our of his life). It is unclear where “Vaughn” comes from, but this was not, I think, the name on his original birth certificate; it is the name that he chose, though, presumably from a favored father-figure out of several.
Harold was a beautiful man from his earliest days, and this was the thing that moved him through the country. In his late teens he was in Harlem, NY, where he eventually danced under one or more female personas, always with mythic undertones, including popularly several “Queen of Egypt” set-ups. The club that he danced at at one point was owned by the Italian mob, who were never going to let homophobia ruin their ability to make money in the night-life of the city-that-never-sleeps; Harold was famous at this time for having an illegal panther from South America as a part of his dance routine, which was imported for his act through mob channels. He also danced with large constrictor snakes.
At some point he moved on from New York and spent time throughout the country, generally in the worst neighborhoods to be found, and was a sacred sex worker, a trans-dancer, and always a priest and magician. He came to San Francisco in the 1960s or early 1970s by way of Los Angeles, and settled into the Tenderloin (famous as a refuge for gay and trans communities in that era). He lived at 765 O’Farrel St. by the 1980s. He was well known in the gay and trans “scenes” of San Francisco, under various aliases; as Harold, however, he was known in “the T.L.” as a priest, a magician, and a miracle-worker: he took care of his community, even from a place of poverty, even as a sex-worker turning tricks to make ends meet, and his community respected him for this. It is said that in those days, on those streets, they bowed at his feet when he walked the blocks of his dominion.
In those days in the T.L. he was known to enjoy walking down the San Francisco Bay, just south of the baseball field, where he spent time with the water. The spirit of the city, especially the spirits of the Tenderloin, loved Harold; he is remembered by those streets even today. (I learned this during a memorial prayer walk I did for him on his first birthday after his death.)
Harold was an imposing man in height, well over six feet, and broad-shouldered. He was thin of form, however, angular and almost elven; in his later years he wore a beard and was very much a “senior male elder”, but in his younger days he was a beautiful youth who could flow between genders as circumstance needed. He was fond of shining, glittering things: jewels, jewelry, from solid gold to coated plastic (depending on his economic circumstances!), and he wore these things often. When he danced, he was decked out in costume jewelry, fake-gold coins and chains of all sorts, with gold-threaded rope trim connecting his homemade costumes together. Blue and green plastic beads were frequently used as well. Always his costumes evoked images of ancient Egypt, which is where most of his devotional relationships lay at their foundation.
Harold was a mentor, and my friend, and he was never really in this world at all. Everyone agreed: he was not from this world, barely existed within it as a human (he was always something Other) and didn’t expend too much energy trying to pass himself off as human. He saw the Other in others very easily, as well, and was also not afraid to face the shadows and travel into darker realms.
He spent at least the last decade of his life sleeping upright in his leopard-print sofa-chair, beside a red-glass light, in his temple. to the Egyptian powers, beside an upright full-sized gold-leafed sarcophagus used in ritual. Until his last years he did regular ritual on the land, loving to connect to the powerful places in nature where portals opened and the will of the gods poured into our world. He was a stern man, in his old age, hardened by a difficult life: he wore scars on his arms, and likely other places, of his time on the streets. He was as much a soldier as any armed serviceman, but abhorred violence and advocated peace, and transcending love: but he was no coward, and certainly no fluffy-bunny. He found dark and grim power in resolute forgiveness, rather than dreams of flowers and sunshine: he was a fearsome presence for many who cannot stand in their own darkness, for the powers he worked with were mighty indeed, and dwelt ever in shadow.
The stories about his family origins (including his own telling, though this version changed from time to time, depending on how present he was, mentally) include a relationship to the family of Marie Laveau of Voodoo fame, who he called “his aunt”, though this undoubtedly meant his great-great aunt or some other relation. That this was a real relation I have no reason to doubt; Harold did not share it for fame or fortune nor to gain points, and was not a Vodounist himself, so he did not make these claims for “lineage credibility”. In my own works with him after his death, especially ancestor work with his lineage, I can attest to the accuracy of this relation, though I cannot specify it any further than I already have. He kept a printed painting of her on hand, but not on display.
Harold was a diviner, a numerologist, and a serpent-priest.
So, on this day, we remember these great ones, both Divus and Sancti.
Ignis Corporis Infirmat; Ignis sed Animae Perstat!
However, today is a day that was not properly marked last year, because I only found out about the birth of this deity later that day…
I’m speaking, of course, of Paneris of the Tetrad++ Group, who was discovered late on this day last year. I got to know Paneris better over the coming months, and eventually “The Marriage of Paneros” was written to commemorate his/her birth and further the transmythological cycle of the Tetrad++ Group. I hope to have that poem, as well as a few other things, published in the near future in a book that will be called From All-Strife to All-Acceptance: Further TransMythologies, so look for further updates on that in the not-too-distant future!
I offer the following poem, meanwhile, on Paneris’ birth.
For Love of Strife
A world of many gods hates nothing more
than that all things remain in stasis,
self-satisfied, self-contained, self-sufficient,
self-indulgent, complacent, still and quiet.
Where there are two, there is relation,
and where there is relation, there is interaction,
there is change, there is a shifting back and forth,
there is comingling and there is separation.
I am not you, and I love you for it;
you are like me, and because of that I hate you;
I am like you, and for this I kiss you;
you are not me, and for this I curse you.
Loving and loathing, fighting and frolicking,
these are all the dances of interaction,
of relation between divinities and diversities,
divergence and dissolution, synthesis and synergy.
Just because there is conflict does not mean
there is not love in the background, love that makes demands
on each person to do and be better, and to ask more
of others who are loved too much to simply leave them be.
Even in our individual selves, we are not one
in desire, in thought, in action, in intention,
in love or in hate, in joy or in sorrow,
and the universe revels in this dance.
Paneris, ever-liquid, ever-fluid, ever-fluent,
you who are always you no matter the form,
no matter the gender, no matter the feeling,
may you be blessed and thanked for your being today.
Hail, thanks, and praise to Paneris of the Tetrad++!
And, to everyone celebrating tonight across the world, have a happy and safe New Year, a loving close to 2013 and a blessed start to 2014, with the presence and service to and boons from all of your gods at every step of the way!