I had planned on making this a full review–and I still do–but this is probably going to turn into a series of posts of thoughts and ramblings. Mainly because, well, this is such an excellent book, and I just have to talk about it.
The Syncretisms of Antinous is written by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, who runs Aedicula Antinoi. I was very happy to get a copy of this book (and signed!), and be able to read it probably in a time when this sort of what I like to dub “bibliotherapy” (more on that later!) is much needed.
Anyway, I do want to do a full review on it. In short, it is an excellent resource for people who want to learn more about queer history and queer divinity (something that is sorely in need of more attention in various polytheist circles!), and it sets up a skeleton basis for people who want to learn the various different routes for connecting to this deity–or rather even, allowing him to connect with you even. One of the things I do enjoy about Lupus’s work is that he covers both the academic and spiritual aspects of the topic at hand and combines them rather nicely.
Another thing I greatly enjoyed was putting syncretism in its proper place. I’ve seen syncretism all too often conflated with eclecticism–the two are not the same thing and it all too often irritated me the poor scholarship and extreme ignorance by which many recon polytheists will write off or broadbrush its validity. In doing so it also ignores the very dynamic idea that yes–the deities we experience are also people too. They aren’t just figures written down in books, myths or on papyrus. If we are polytheists and if we believe that our gods have ontological status in the universe, and in our own lives, then we cannot say that they are merely static, two-dimensional beings that will remain within set parameters as dictated in a myth, period in history, or holy book.
Lupus in fact, articulates this much more efficiently than I did in the postscript of his book on creative syncretism itself. This particular quote really hits it home for me:
“Gods of the classical world certainly don’t seem to have any difficulty contacting people here, and gods of elsewhere in the world (India, Japan, Africa, etc.) seem to have done likewise. This being the case, the idea that any pantheon of deities is, somehow, existing in closed corridors or in a divine conclave that just hovers above their own devotees and never even has a window open on its divine neighbors is, in my mind at least, ludicrous.
I definitely concur with this statement. I’ll even get out my own UPG flag for a moment and declare that, in my personal experience, I have seen this to be the case. But more on that later. For now, I’m going to log back offline and lay low. I am currently going through a very severe withdrawal from antidepressants. My body is now remembering what serotonin feels like, and it is actually rather unhappy with the feeling right now. I’ve also been experiencing a crazy streak of bad luck with regards to health and sanity in general. I think this is very much in the department of Ordeal(TM) and Divine Wake Up Call, the details of which are probably not going to be related too much here on this public forum, as they are a personal nature. They are, however, par for the course for a critter such as myself, doing the things that I do.
Anyway, more on this book, and more on Antinous I hope, very soon.
First off for the morning, The Red Lotus Library is now live, with its first book, The Syncretisms of Antinous. Go click the link and grab it! I’m going to do so as soon as I am able. I must admit I don’t know enough about this deity as I should, so I am greatly looking forward to cracking it open once I have it in my hands.
There are also some great discussions in the comments regarding Lupus’ follow-up post on Spirit Day. Well worth taking a look, as well as some of the links provided by Phil Hine, such as this one, this one, as well as this, which offers an alternative view. Then there is also mention of “ostentatious caring”–something that really does happen quite often within the Pagan “community”, as was pointed out. I think I may have to pick up this book for further reading.
It is also today that I am introducing my “Sacred Scavenging” category. As some of you readers may know–but many may not–I collect and work with a wide variety of animal remains, old relics and other assorted objects. I also plan to be taking up taxidermy, especially now that I’ve acquired my own separate workroom/ritual space for such things. I will also be taking classes for my hunting license this fall, if all goes well. I understand that such things aren’t for everyone–but I expect that people reading this journal will conduct themselves in a mature manner with regards to expressing their opinions and thoughts. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but inflammatory comments about my practice will not be approved, and you will not be offered the satisfaction of a response.
In any case, I look forward to introducing such things to this blog. I plan on stepping up posting here. I am vastly behind on the writing I told myself I was going to do, and this must change.
Just recently I read something I can only describe as incredibly stupid, written by (surprise, surprise) a Popular Pagan Author(tm).
In this account, the author was describing how it had been suggested to him that he take with him an animal familiar or “spirit animal” on his pathwalking/vision-quest he was preparing for. The next day, a friend shows up at his door with an orphaned baby crow. Now, one would consider the responsible action in this case would be to contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator or rescue group or, failing that, the local Department of Natural Resources who will dispatch an animal control officer to take the animal to a rehab facility. I have done volunteer work in this field before, namely with raptors. They are good, reliable people, at least in my area. But no. Oh no. Instead of putting the orphaned nestling’s best interests in mind…he does a divination to determine it’s gender. According to the divination, it is female. Then, he gives it a special-mystical pagan name, and considers “her” a gift from the Wild God, to be taken on his vision quest.
Honestly, my stomach turned a bit when reading this. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could be so damn boneheaded. The bird, according to what was written, still had to be hand-fed. Imprinting is a tragic thing to have happen to a wild bird. Many wild birds who are taken in by unwitting humans and raised as “pets” and are later released starve to death in the wild because they have no skills to look for food, or are killed by humans, because they are raised not to fear them. One owl I worked with was rescued and lived permanently at the facility I volunteered at because she would spend her time stealing hotdogs from cook-outs to survive. All because some selfish humans thought they wanted some glamorous “pet”, and stole her from her nest when she was young.
What is even more stunning is the fact that this person wrote about this illegal activity in a published book. Keeping a wild native songbird is illegal in the U.S. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act states this, and it should be common sense to anyone who keeps or raises animals within proximity to wildlife. This sort of basic information can easily be obtained by contacting the Department of Natural Resources in one’s local area.
Now, I haven’t finished reading the whole book that this was written in yet. Maybe this person surrendered the bird when he was done…I don’t know. No mention of it has been made since then, and I am still reading. Am I over-reacting? Well, I could be–but shouldn’t it have been common sense to put the needs of a helpless critter first, however lofty or super-special-spiritual the needs of the caretaker may be? Wouldn’t the Wild God find the keeping of his critters of utmost importance, the very act of being able to secure the safety of a helpless baby bird an important message or omen in and of itself?
Actually, this whole topic would feed back nicely into a response I made to my friend Raven’s post here and probably another rant in and of itself. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen people with precious little grasp on reality (and by “reality” I mean the physical one, and not just the others that might be out there!) and with next to no understanding of animal biology and behavior making lofty claims and projections on an unwitting creature who wants only to be itself. The racist “bald eagle and wolf medicine” couple that I witnessed while visiting Wolf Park come firmly to mind here.
There is so much more I could write on this and related topics, but chores need doing, and personal projects need attending to. This sort of thing will likely crop up in later posts, I’m sure.
The Balance of the Two Lands, by H. Jeremiah Lewis
At a whopping 372 pages, this book was packed with information. I was hard-pressed to put it down once I got it into my hands. I think one of many things I so enjoyed about this book is that it is, like it’s title says, a good balance of things. If you are looking for history, you’ll get that. If you’re looking for polytheism and pagan practice, you’ll get that, too. An even dose of both. It presents the history, mythology and mechanics of ancient Greco-Egyptian spiritual practice without being dry. It also presents very well how one can apply these ancient spiritual practices in the modern era. As modern practicing pagans and polytheists, we won’t be able to recreate everything the ancients did (nor should we, really), but it can provide the seeker and even the long-practicing polytheist with new techniques and perspectives on the application of Greco-Egyptian polytheist practice today.
This book is also excellent for the avid researcher. Packed full of references, resources and quotes, it is quite easy for one to put the book down and go off on their own personal search. Overall this book serves as a great resource for the newcomer as well as for one who has been practicing for awhile and seeks a different perspective or other techniques on how to connect on a more meaningful level with their deities, as well as the history and mythology surrounding them. I would easily recommend this book to anyone who is seeking further information, or just starting out on the syncretic path.
Five slobbering, enthusiastic chew marks out of five.
To some people, especially those in the (neo)pagan communities, bringing up the topic of cultural appropriation is either tantamount to beating the proverbial dead horse, or will be stated as a topic not brought up enough.
This book is different, however. It doesn’t present extreme arguments in black-and-white, but rather addresses the many different grey areas that occur, and brings up some important questions and aspects not often discussed, such as cultural appropriation of the occult/pagan communities by academia, and the other many different aspects that this sort of thing can take. For example, the issue of syncretism within a tradition, and the need for growth without fear of being labeled as not being “true” to said path or tradition, or the idea of “authenticity” when seeking teachers, gurus or experiences. I also liked how well some of the authors cited their sources, and offered books for the interested reader to pursue on their own.
If you have strong feelings about cultural appropriation, or want to get a better idea about different sides of the argument without sifting through debates, flame wars and other such crap, then it’s probably worth picking up this book.
Five chew marks out of five.
Yes, I’ve finally gotten around to writing a book review. Go me.
There are many things I could say about this book, mainly because there are many things about this book which make it a very skillful and well-executed work of art done by a very talented individual. Below I will explain why.
What truly makes a poet is one’s ability to bring forth imagery and, above all else, emotions with words. Phillipus does this and more, by utilizing his knowledge of ancient poetry styles coupled with his talent for words. His poetry runs the full gamut from humor to drama and many others in-between, using many different styles. If you want devotional hymns, prayerful contemplation, or oratory presentation, this book satisfies all those and more. Phillipus has a take on syncretic polytheism that is built on much knowledge, authority and divine inspiration.
Not only do you get great poetry throughout this book, you also get some never-before-seen translations of ancient text, as well as some in-depth historical and mythological background. Your brain gets entertained, inspired and fed all in one amazing book.
Five enthusiastic chewmarks* out of five.
*Some people have stars, some have pawprints, I choose chewmarks because, as a Canine-centered person, canids tend to chew the things they most enjoy!
This is a fine book written by a very talented individual. I had been planning on doing a review of my own of this–and still intend on doing so–which I will cross-post here and at Amazon. In the meantime, check out the review yourself, and you can grab your own copy here.