Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 22, 2014

Antinous the Lover Arrives…But, It May Not Be “That Kind Of Love”…

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!


  1. ‘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.’

    Thank you! The concept that those who don’t love themselves are incapable of love is something I find to be contemptuous and dehumanizing, not to mention borderline ableist.


    • Yes, I completely agree. Unfortunately, we’re in the minority in this, alas…

      While it is good to be able to actually love oneself (because it is hard to do that, especially for the disabled, queer folks, etc.), what most teachings on “loving oneself” involve isn’t really loving oneself at all, I’ve found.

      But, a lot more could be said on this, I’m sure, and I look forward to reading what you’ve written!

  2. […] Aedicula Antinoi | Antinous the Lover Arrives…But, It May Not Be “That Kind Of Love”&#… […]

  3. I never got “coming out theology” but then I was never “in”. I was actually just reading something yesterday about how queer (read: gay) men need to reclaim their rightful places as spiritual specialists in society. The whole, “in tribal societies we were/are the “two-spirits”” thing. Leaving aside all the cultural appropriation in that line of thought, I’ve always found the idea that being gay or queer or what have you makes you somehow “more spiritual” to be just as silly as the extreme, “ultimate spiritual reality is two straight people fucking” that some pop Wiccans go to. BS and more BS, eh?

    On the plus side the inadequacy of queer pagan groups did inspire me to seek out some decent ones, which is actually how we “met” if you remember. And I’d certainly say that that “meeting” was nothing but a good thing!😀

    Personally, I’ve yet to meet Antinous the Lover. I did have that experience with Antinous the Liberator which I believe I told you about (it was a while ago now). I think given what you’ve written here that makes sense now…

    In any case, thanks always for interesting food for thought!

    Blessings and love dear friend!


    • Yes, totally agreed…I’ve been a critic of that viewpoint almost from the beginning, and one of my wisest counsellors on these matters, “Gay Godfather Ash,” was likewise. He said to me when I was speaking about some of these ideas that gay men are no “more spiritual” as-a-whole than any other group, and that the notion of some of these queer (which really does mean “gay”) spiritual groups that they’re the only ones who are “saved” in the end sounds like a version of hell to him. It’s always bugged me how gender-variant sacred roles that have existed in different societies have been claimed by gay men as their “birthright,” without likewise embracing the trans* community and its individual members in modern times, either as-a-whole by the gay community or often on the direct parts of people who support these ideas of all gay people being “two-spirits” and the like. (And the cultural appropriation in all of that, needless to say, is also staggeringly horrific.)

      I’ve always hoped that this thing which we do in these terms sets us apart somehow, and for the better…and, in fact, is in many respects far more queer than many of the gayest gay groups will ever manage to be. (And the fact that while some bigoted hick might not distinguish between “queers” of any sort in their derisive epithets, nonetheless there are very big differences between mainstream gay men and queer people, whether they are gay men or any other gender or sexual orientation of an unusual sort.)

      I owe you a response to your recent e-mail, which if all goes well I’ll get to tomorrow morning. Stand by, and thanks as ever for reading and commenting! Love and many blessings to you, too!

  4. Hey, just popping in to give you a picture of Antinoos! Sannion and I were at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last weekend and when we saw this, we of course thought of you:

    • Wonderful! I’ve been hearing about that Antinous for a while, but never got to see him while I was in NY and at the Met a few times, alas (but I also didn’t really know about him then, in fairness). I’m glad you got to see him! And I hope you enjoyed the rest of the museum, too, including the Temple of Dendur (which is to the two deified brothers, Petesi and Paher, that we also honor because they, too, drowned in the Nile).

      • We didn’t see that, but then again we had to limit ourselves (due to time/energy) to the Greek/Roman section only. Stay tuned for a photo post tomorrow on my blog about everything cool we saw!

      • Wonderful!

        I’m also looking forward to getting your carnie book, and perhaps suggesting that our college library pick it up, too…If I can figure out a way to make it required reading in one of my courses in the future, I will! (We are covering the Great Depression this week, actually…I may make an announcement about it tomorrow in class, come to think of it…!)

  5. Thank you so much!

  6. “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.”

    That’s a very strong statement to make, and without unpacking what exactly you mean when you’re referring to “philosophical and heroic ethos”, it sounds an awful lot like putting words into your gods’ mouths. Could you expand on that a bit more?

    • There was no sense in the Graeco-Roman philosophical or heroic ethos that one had to “love oneself” in order to love someone else–the gods, one’s people or country, or another person. Patroklos died because he loved Achilleus, and Achilleus likewise put his life on the line because of that love; and so on and so forth for every heroic Greek, like the Sacred Band of Thebes, and certainly as Antinous was and as Hadrian was also known to be culturally and philosophically (even though he was an Iberian Roman by birth). The whole phenomenon of devotio, in the classical sense, was to love someone or something else to the point that you’d die on behalf of that person or thing, which kind of implies that self-love is secondary, if it rates at all. (And while I don’t think that Antinous died for Hadrian in this sacrificial or devotio capacity, I think it was an accident, nonetheless that devotio ideal and ethic was read into his death, and has been since the emergence of his cultus by other people, and it is indeed still very popular amongst modern people as well, both scholars and devotees.)

      The statements of Jesus about “love your neighbor as yourself” have been transformed over the years, from being a statement about the ideal equality and recognition of humanity of all people (and in a way far more like Buddhist “compassion,” and which would be known in Hebrew as chesed, “loving-kindness”) to being in some way about every variety of love–brotherly love, romantic love, etc.–and that it therefore requires one to love oneself first and foremost, and if one can’t do that, then one’s love of anything else is automatically “tainted” or “flawed,” etc. Lack of this sort of self-indulgent and selfish self-love doesn’t automatically mean “self-hatred” or anything of the sort.

      I’m not saying that self-love is a bad thing, necessarily; but, to make all sorts of love about love of self (and, indeed, that’s what ends up where most of the flawed notions of modern monists are concerned: to love anything is basically not to love anything, it’s all ultimately self-love and self-interest, since oneself and everything else is ONE) rather than actual love of another for being “other” and for being different than oneself (and not “in spite of” such) is something that Antinous and Hadrian, therefore, would have not found to be worthwhile at all based on the philosophical understandings and principles available to them and upheld by them during their own lifetimes.

  7. I apologize if I’m necro-posting, but I wanted to thank you for the “love oneself” comment. I found this at a time I really needed to hear it, after getting that horrid line delivered to me by a Co-religionist and this helped sort out my head and heart.

    I’m looking forward to learning more of Antinous–lately, it seems that He’s everywhere I look!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I am pleased that you found this useful and meaningful, and if you have any specific questions on Antinous, let me know and I can direct you to resources that may be of further use or interest to you! 😉

      (And, there is no such thing as “necro-posting” [though I find the term intriguing!] here–we deal in 1800+ year-old dead people, so this whole endeavor is necro-posting, to an extent…!?! Comments and questions on older things, as long as they are respectful, which yours certainly is, are always appreciated and welcome here!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s