I’ve decided to move house blog-wise, gentle readers. I’ve started another WordPress blog and will be posting there from now on. I hope that the hundred or so wonderful people who are following me here will add my new blog to their feeds and bookmarks and continue to read about me, Antinous, and my weird polytheistic life at:
So yesterday I did a thing which I have been thinking about for a while. And I am pretty amazed at myself–and praising the gods, too–because I actually did the thing.
I made a set of prayer beads for Antinous and devotional stuff generally.
I’ve always been really attracted to simple, repetitive prayer. I treasure my rosary of rosewood beads, which I used less for the traditional rosary prayers than for reciting phrases from the Revelations of Julian of Norwich. I meditated over her words on the bus and while working to work for years. And when I became involved with Buddhism, I acquired several malas and enjoyed saying and singing mantras, and still do.
Lately I’ve been sitting down and meditating and actually doing it fairly consistently, really for the first time in my life. At first I was just counting my breaths from one to ten, over and over, which is one of the Zen methods (the easy one). Then one day I began saying “Antinous” over and over, mentally, just as I exhaled. Subsequently it became easier to say the god’s name than to count breaths; I felt more focused. And gradually what had been a purely meditative/contemplative practice became more devotional.
Thus I started thinking about prayer beads for polytheistic devotion. I poked around online and priced some malas of amethyst beads, all of which cost more than I wanted to spend right now. As it happens, though, I live about four blocks from a beading supply store. While my laundry was in the dryer yesterday, I walked down there and came home with about twenty dollars’ worth of stuff and a rough plan for using it.
I have, somewhere, a board for beading. I’d swear I saw it recently. Of course, now that I needed it, I couldn’t find it, anywhere. I want you to know, dear readers, that it is entirely possible to lose something in about 250 square feet of apartment. I could not find my lovely beading board, but I lined those beads up on the table, lit Vesta’s candle and some incense, pulled up an image of Antinous on my laptop, and went to work.
Every so often I get this urge to make something. It must be a divine compulsion, because I failed scissors in kindergarten and have more thumbs than are strictly necessary. I once sewed a Tarot bag by hand out of a scrap of cloth a friend gave me. I’ve never tried to duplicate the feat. Despite my abundant thumbs, despite the crap lighting, I managed to string together what I wanted: Twenty-three sparkly clear Czech glass beads, two silver double-spiral beads, a red bead, a white bead, and a black bead. The red, white, and black beads are for Antinous’ aspects as the Liberator, the Navigator, and the Lover; the two silver spirals are for his association with the moon; the sparkly beads were the prettiest, twenty-three because I hear that’s an Antinoan number.
It’s sitting on his shrine in a little lavender organdy bag. I plan to use it for the first time tonight. I may even try to take a picture on my crap phone and upload it.
Ave Antinoe! In his honor, I did the thing!
A short reflection on the tale of Eros and Psyche
That which we call a god may be a monster
That which we fear to be a monster may be a god
We find ourselves in love with it
It loved us first
That’s all that matters
O Serapis, husband of Isis, I have no husband.
O Serapis, father of Harpocrates, I have no father.
O Serapis, father of Hermanubis, I am travelling alone.
O Serapis, bearded lord, sometimes I am afraid,
travelling alone, and then I am ashamed of my fear.
If you watch over me, Serapis, I would be grateful.
If you would send your son Harpocrates to wait for me
when I am out late at night, if you would send your son
Hermanubis to guide me safely out and home again,
if you would look after me like a father, Serapis, and ask
your holy wife Isis to look after me like a mother,
I would be grateful, and I would sing your praise.
Yesterday I decided to do some decent cooking for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had everything I needed to make a quick ‘n’ dirty version of seafood au gratin with that frozen imitation crab stuff and a proper beef stew.
Putting the faux crab au gratin in the slow cooker was easy, but when I got into the beef stew, everything started to go wrong. One of the two packages of beef I bought had gone bad. I knocked over the bottle of wine–thank goodness, it was well corked. I cut up some red potatoes and raw carrots, once the beef and mushrooms were going strong, and pieces of vegetable were flying off the cutting board. Now, I am the farthest thing from Julia Child with a knife in my hand, but this was ridiculous. Things weren’t just popping off the cutting board onto the table, they were diving for the floor.
As I was bending over to pick up yet another wayward chunk of carrot, I suddenly said aloud, “The gods are hungry. You haven’t fed them in a while.” And it was true. If I cook something that takes a bit more effort than just opening a jar or a can and heating stuff up, I usually offer a portion the first time I eat it. I hadn’t done that for a while. I promised aloud that I would give them some of this stew, but I still had a few more mishaps to get through before my food prep was done.
When I was ready to eat the beef stew last night, I poured wine for the Powers and for myself. I lit candles and incense. I served Them a bowl of stew, then myself. The stew was delicious, one of my best efforts, and I felt a sense of appreciation and blessing flowing from the Powers.
This is how I understand sacrifice. It is not giving something up, or giving it away. As environmentalists say about trash and recycling, there is no “away”. An offering or a sacrifice is given to the gods, and/or ancestors or spirits, who are here in the world with us. But what we offer is made out of things that the gods have given us already, before we asked. The Romans said, “Do ut des,” I give that You may give, but they might also have said, “I give because You have given”.
The Christian theology of the Eucharist actually helps me out here. God gives wheat and grapes. Humans make bread and wine, which is then offered to God. Bread and wine becomes God’s flesh and blood. What gods and mortals give one another is always given back. It’s an exchange, a cycle. It’s animals breathing out carbon dioxide for the plants who breathe out oxygen for animals. It’s flowing water that doesn’t stagnate because there’s always fresh water coming in while old water is going out.
However you may feel about controversial topics like animal sacrifice, the exchange of gifts between gods and mortals, the seen and the unseen, is not optional. It’s just the way things work. Not to make offerings is like taking a deep breath and holding it, and thinking you’ll be okay like that.
I’ve recently realized I am properly a dumbass polytheist. A dumbass polytheist is one who buys a nice bottle of wine, with a cork, as an offering to the gods, and then discovers the corkscrew went to her ex.
(I bought a new one this weekend.)
Now that I have that out of my system…. I did something yesterday which I’ve been meaning to do for weeks, namely, to visit the museum and look at the ancient art with an eye to god-spotting and ancient religious practice.
I’m pretty familiar with the collections at my museum, but it was eye-opening to look specifically for and at religious themes, religious art (with a couple of side tours into ancient jewelry… *sigh*). The Egyptian collection has a lot of representations of deities, all of whom I greeted sotto voce. In one area, two statues of Isis suckling Horus and of Osiris, each twelve to eighteen inches high, face one another, forming a quartet with the busts of a pharaoh and a priest. “Mery”, the museum’s resident mummy, lies in her painted coffin accompanied by four Canopic jars capped with the images of the sons of Horus, a box for the jars that also depicts Isis and Nephthys, and an array of amulets depicting or symbolizing Thoth and other gods. I saw images of Bes, Hathor, Amun, and Taweret in addition to the deities already mentioned, and the entrance to the Egyptian rooms is flanked by two images of Sekhmet as a couching lion.
The Greek and Roman exhibits have covetable jewelry but fewer divine images. I had hoped that I might see Hadrian and/or Antinous, but there seemed to be no representations of them at all. I saw Diana, Venus, Athene, Eros, and some other deities, but the highlight of the Greek and Roman collections was a splendid large head of Serapis. Even missing his basket crown and body, his image was beautiful and moving. I snapped a halfway-decent phone picture of him, thanks to the natural light in his location.
Altogether it was a worthwhile trip and a good way to get out of the house on a lazy Sunday. Hail to the gods and goddesses of Egypt, Greece, and Rome!
Posted in Current Practice, Polytheism | Tagged amun, ancient art, art, athene, bes, diana, egypt, greece, horus, isis, museums, nephthys, osiris, rome, sekhmet, serapis, taweret, thoth, walters art museum | Leave a Comment »