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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!

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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.

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Earth under my feet,

Water under the earth,

Fire under the water:

Such is Neptune.

 

Neptune, Poseidon, Nephew of the Waters,

Keep the earth steady beneath my feet.

Neptune, Poseidon, Nephew of the Waters,

Keep the waters flowing in the dry times.

Neptune, Poseidon, Nephew of the Waters,

Keep the secret fire alight, share with me its divine power.

 

Ave, ave, Neptune, khaire Poseidon,

god of the oceans, god of the waters.

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Image

Antinous the Lover

 

You do not have to wait to be chosen.

It is not necessary to be chosen by a god to worship a god. It is not necessary to be a priest, witch, druid, clergy, oracle, diviner, or any kind of specialist in order to worship a god.

Paying cultus to gods, spirits, and ancestors is normal. It may have been forbidden fifteen hundred years ago, it may be unfashionable and strange, but really, like walking and running, it is quite natural. Like breathing, it works if you do it.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you,” says Jesus in the gospels. He is speaking to his disciples, his special students. Put that out of your mind. It doesn’t apply here.

Antinous is my god and my gateway to acquaintance with other gods, spirits, and ancestors. He did not choose me; I chose him. But what is important is that Antinous welcomed me.

I am welcome in his presence, among his worshippers. I am welcome to his help and blessings. I feel at home with him. It seems kind of odd at times to be an ostensibly heterosexual middle-aged woman devoted to Antinous, yet I do feel I fit in.

There have been so many times and places in my life when I did not fit in, when I did not feel welcome, when I tried to cultivate someone’s friendship and good will and was ultimately rejected. To feel welcome with Antinous touches me deeply; it is a source of comfort, strength, joy.

If you are attracted to a god, a pantheon, don’t wait to be chosen. Do some research and find or compose some respectful prayers. Bring food, water or wine, pleasant incense and candles to burn out before an image. Pray and present offerings. Be consistent, be patient. You may well find that the door is opened for you and the gods welcome you in. And that can feel very good.

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Has anyone else had this experience: Become involved in devotional polytheism, start cooking and cleaning more regularly?

I have an ambivalent relationship with housekeeping, though probably no more so than most women of my generation. My grandmother, born in 1899, held a factory job for over forty years, keeping it through the Depression while my grandfather took whatever short-term jobs he could get. My mother made a conscious (and resentful) decision to be a stay-at-home mom, but most of the actual mothering I got came from my grandmother, who retired when I was about four years old. I used to wish my mother would get a job and go out and do the things she loved; even in retirement, my grandmother remained active. (Yes, I have ancestor work to do.)

So I’m an indifferent housekeeper and a lazy cook. But I feel lately this constant nudging–I think of it as nudging, a tactile experience–to cook better meals and to clean up the apartment. To do the dishes and wash my hands before I make offerings for the evening. To cook something so that I can share a small portion of it with the numinous ones. Part of it is an expectation that if I’m going to invite the gods to visit me, by prayer and offering, then I ought to provide a pleasant place for them to visit, as I would for any guest. And part of it, which seems to be coming from the goddess Vesta, is a sense that “I’m worth it”; I deserve a clean, pleasant environment for my own enjoyment, and my home deserves my attention. There is not some higher value for which I can rightfully ignore dirty dishes or a backed-up toilet. No one else is going to do it for me.

And now that my backed-up toilet is fixed and my bathroom is finally clean, I am going to take a thorough shower and then make some offerings. Ave Vesta!

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I’ve quoted this poem many times on this blog. I think I am finally beginning to understand what it means.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to be special. You do not have to have a god-phone, or a shamanic crisis, or a great epiphany.

You do not have to be a witch, a psychic, a sorcerer, a mystic, a shaman, a spirit-worker, or anything in particular, to approach the gods. You only have to be human, and willing, and courteous.

Bring an offering. It can be a cup of pure water, a tea light, a stick of incense, a portion of your meal. Pray aloud, using respectful words.

“Do ut des,” the Romans famously said: I give so that you may give. It might also be said: “I give because you have given.” The powers give blessings. Humans give offerings. It’s an exchange, a cycle, like the water cycle, or the conservation of energy and matter.

While I was writing this post, my pet cockatiel came to sit on my shoulder. He gave me a long serenade of clucking and whistling, pressing his face to mine and lifting his wings in a heart shape. This was nothing but a demonstration of his affection for me. We have been flockmates for fourteen years. I hope it does not seem blasphemous to say that if we can bond with animals through giving them food and drink, satisfying their needs for touch and companionship, and appreciating the ways they show us affection, we can bond with the gods in much the same way, sharing our food and drink with them, showing our reverence and devotion as best we can, learning from one another.

I don’t see visions of the gods. I don’t have voices talking in my head. I do feel things. Very subtly. A feeling of presence and of approval. A feeling like being nudged, or steered, or perhaps led in a dance. I never learned to follow as a dancer, but I think I am learning to be led in the dance by the gods. I am learning to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

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