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My Involvement in the Ekklesia Antinoou

April 11, 2011

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

I’m not always very good at recognizing this in the midst of it happening to me, but when I do remember, it takes a bit of the sting from the clarity of hindsight. ;)

I have a friend who a few years ago wanted some help putting on a ritual, of a sort that I think is valuable and done too rarely.  I said I’d pitch in if it would be useful. It was a fairly positive experience, but I expected to be a one-time deal. Then the ritual was going to be performed a second time that year at PantheaCon, and since I was going to the convention anyhow, I agreed to help again. Then there was a different ritual the group was doing at the same convention, and I figured it would be reasonable to attend, just to be supportive.

Some three years later I’m still around. . . and still trying to figure out how a straight female hard polytheist with Old Kingdom Egyptian ties, a strong resistance to blending pantheons/cultures, and a deep resentment against the Romans is involved in a queer Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretic cult honoring the deified male lover of the Emperor Hadrian.

If I had been looking for a group to join, I doubt it would have ever occurred to me to consider this one; even if it had, I’d likely have quickly dismissed it. If by some chance I did wind up somehow attending a ritual, I would have been paying intense attention to analyze the proceedings and to assess how it compared to my ideas of how things should be said and done. Afterward, I might have mentally weighed pros and cons, and evaluated how much the effort to be involved would cost me in comparison to what I would get out of it.

My continuing attendance isn’t due to logical reasoning, so to expect it to be rational is pointless.

I went to that first ritual with no firm expectations, and I experienced it for what it was, without critical judgment being engaged. I went to another, and another, and absorbed what happened on those occasions, apparently found value to it on some level, and was motivated to continue.

It’s essentially an emotional connection – I find the core story appealing, I enjoy the liturgy and symbolism, I like doing ritual with my friends, and I stand behind the intents and messages the organization supports. I don’t personally have a rapport with Antinous, but people that I care about do, and I willingly honor Him for the meaning and enrichment He brings to their lives.

It’s a small enough community at the moment that the choice of each individual to participate truly helps to sustain its existence. That something so simple has such an impact is amazing, and I am pleased to be able to contribute something meaningful through my presence.

It’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to what’s presumed to be one of the “standard” American experiences of religion – being content as simply a part of the community, enjoying it for its social value, without being deeply self-reflective or attached to the theology.

In many ways this experience is very refreshing to me. I’ve historically been very spiritually driven – ardently pursuing research, wrestling tough philosophical problems, and struggling to lead the creation of a sustainable organization (large and small, more than once). As passionate, idealistic and noble as that all may be, it’s the highway to spiritual burnout. I’ve been there, and I’ve come back, and I’m happy to find a group in whose company I am unlikely to return.

Participating in the Ekklesia has also opened my mind on a few spiritual issues where I’d previously had very strong ideological stances – in particular, the value of syncretic practice, and respect for the traditions of Rome. I’m not sure where else or in what manner I would have come to reassess my attitudes regarding these topics. It’s recently become clear that my path forward requires not only these changes, but also a greater willingness to engage with ambiguity, and the ability to absorb information in a neutral manner rather than judging it in the course of receiving it. My experiences in the Ekklesia so far have helped me establish a pattern for facing these issues in a positive manner, and I hope will continue to provide the means to grow and mature spiritually. In turn, I hope that my involvement helps the Ekklesia to develop and expand.

(For anyone interested to learn more, there is a Yahoo! Group for the Ekklesia Antinoou, and the blog of one of the leading founders is Aedicula Antinoi.)


10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2011 5:35 PM

    Thank you for doing this post!

    I value your participation and attendance, on every level, a great deal–and, indeed, the participation and commitment of all the Assistai amazes and pleases me every time we hold the mystification ritual. There is something so supremely powerful, and yet also so supremely communal and compassionate and generous, about setting a boundary and saying one won’t partake in a particular mystery, and yet being there to support those who do, and by doing so to make it all possible…

    So, to be a bit mushy about it, if there weren’t enough other things about you to love, this particular role you’ve played (and not just “played,” but fulfilled) puts you in my “own personal Jesus” category, to mix metaphors a bit! ;)

    • April 12, 2011 10:44 AM

      I’ve been working on a draft of this since coming back from PantheaCon. This year’s event really felt like a turning point in my personal commitment to the Ekklesia; to be recognized as an Aedificatrix shortly thereafter was an amazing affirmation of that connection.

      So, another lesson of the Ekklesia for me: in some places you can never do enough hard work to prove yourself, and in others you can make a difference just by being who you are and doing what comes naturally. My upbringing disposed me to seeking out the first situation in the hopes of someday finally “breaking through”, but the lesson of experience may be to gracefully accept the second situation and let go of the fruitless striving. :)

      • April 12, 2011 4:55 PM

        You know, it’s interesting that you put it that way…

        I know that I couldn’t do what I’m doing now in any other group that currently exists. It’s not just because it’s a subject-specific or deity-specific matter, it’s because there’s no other group that has a role like the one I’m fulfilling for the Ekklesía Antínoou at present. And, this was even true of the other Antinous group–I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now (and, by extension, you wouldn’t have been able to do what you’ve done with us either) if I were still in the other group.

        I don’t think this by any means indicates that you *must* or even “should” just settle, in this or any other situation; and yet, there is a great deal to be said for doing something and being in a group that does appreciate people for what they are, rather than trying to turn them into what they “ought to be” (by whatever standards or ideas that notion is measured).

        • April 13, 2011 10:41 AM

          Do I really seem like the sort of person to settle? *grin*

          It’s not so much a problem that groups try to turn me into whatever their ideal member may happen to be. They may try, but that would ultimately be inconsequential given that I tend to immediately try to assess the group ideal and push myself towards manifesting it much more intensely than anyone else ever could.

          In the Ekklesia, there are aspects of what could be construed as the ideal that I just can’t manifest; despite my inability to take my usual approach, I find myself welcomed and appreciated anyway.

          That paradox, that arose out of coincidence rather than planning, has made me aware of how much I’ve relied on that one technique, that there are other options, and that maybe the one I’ve been choosing isn’t the best for me.

          A mystery indeed; different from the planned one, but maybe there’s more than one variety inherent in the group?

      • Mam Adar permalink
        November 5, 2012 12:10 PM

        Hi there! Friend of Phillupus, friend of Antinous here–I was just browsing through your blog and hit these words:

        So, another lesson of the Ekklesia for me: in some places you can never do enough hard work to prove yourself, and in others you can make a difference just by being who you are and doing what comes naturally. My upbringing disposed me to seeking out the first situation in the hopes of someday finally “breaking through”, but the lesson of experience may be to gracefully accept the second situation and let go of the fruitless striving. :)


        That’s the little “Pay attention, this is important!” bell going off in my head. Been there, done that, wrote the fanfic, ought to have a t-shirt. Adding you to my feed reader and thanking Antinous for this clue-drop. Gratias, Antinoe!

  2. April 14, 2011 12:21 AM

    There’s much that I resonate with in what you’ve written here. I’ve always had a fascination/repulsion regarding ancient Rome. I mean a city that developed a strange funerary sacrifice into a mass spectacle of killing and torturing people (as well as huge numbers of wild animals) for entertainment makes something deep within me shudder. Yet even as a kid I liked reading about Roman history, and in high school I chose Latin for my language. I longed to visit Pompeii and the Colosseum (and did). But I compared them unfavorably to the Greeks.

    I hated what they did to the Gauls and Britons, and other peoples they conquered. I understand the “Burn Rome” attitude. I’m still angry as a Celtophile and Druidist. I think an enormously valuable world was lost.

    But there Rome always sits in the western imagination, the archetypal western city. Sometimes ambiguity is easy for me, other times less so. But the Ekklesia sure does bring me to deal with it, historically. I do think Hadrian represents the best of the imperium (and it was the story of him and Antinous that I found so compelling and brought me into proximity of Antinous). However, I approach him as a Philhellene, and do my Antinous devotion in a more Hellenic context than the usual Ekklesia practice. I don’t feel drawn to the imperial cultus. I think there’s a great deal of room in this tradition to do things as feel comfortable and fitting in one’s devotional life. So Rome, so extraordinarily complicated; thanks for making me consider these ambiguous relations again.

    • April 14, 2011 9:13 AM

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! It seems to me that the problematic nature of the Roman Empire for modern reconstructionists has only come up as a subject for dialogue rather recently. Group A would have its pro stance, and Group B would have its con stance, and part of joining the group in question would be to absorb that stance and find out how to defend it, rather than questioning the underlying assumptions.

      It’s very helpful to hear acknowledgement of the ambiguity, and to see others’ perspectives and tactics for working with the issue.

      The Philhellenic stance makes a great deal of sense. . .


  1. A Few Quick Links… « Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous
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