Queer I Stand
The Ekklesia Antinoou in Fifty Years
And, perhaps the strangest of all: with a bit of dried saliva from various people spitting on it over the years (and more recently) when they saw it, there's the photo of me and, shall we say, a certain pastor of a breakaway Baptist church from Topeka, Kansas when he and his group showed up to protest the opening of our Temple. No, he still carried on with his antics for several more years, and I never saw nor spoke with him again, but when we brought them food and drinks and they set their "Fag Temples = Faggots Damned To Hell!" signs down for ten minutes, and he ate quietly and spat "Have a nice day!" to me when he was finished, it felt like something had happened. Oh well... he's been dead for nearly forty years, and their numbers have dwindled since then. "May I rejoice in the successes of both friend and foe," I've been praying for over fifty years, and there was no occasion of my life where that line echoed in my head louder than in those few moments.
This is a good place that has been built, I think, and so much wonderful work has been done here over the past four decades. The Temple itself is a grand structure, and is the heart of my spiritual and material existence at present, and has been since before it was completed. But, the Mystery House next to it, which only a small handful of our thousands of members have seen the insides of, is a marvel unto itself. In thousands of years, if our religion no longer exists, will there be as many "mysteries" about the Antinoan Mysteries as there have been about so many other lost mystery traditions? Who knows...but this will make a very interesting archaeological site, if it is not still in use, or hasn't been appropriated by some other religion, just as Hadrian's Pantheon—the inspiration for the general structure of the Temple of Antinous—was in its own time.
When the United States collapsed, and the various regions fragmented into their current status, there were some very strained and difficult days, but it ended up only being days, thankfully, as regional governments emerged quickly and often with little change from the previous state governments. It wasn't ideal, by any means, but it was much smoother than many had feared. However, for three weeks, our Temple compound was a small place of sanctuary for people from the surrounding area, of many different religions. Everyone was accommodated, fed, and sheltered as long as they needed (and some of them ended up sticking around and becoming a part of our community, even though they brought their religions with them). There was that one unforgettable night, when we were all gathered in the Temple itself, and the small detachment of the Revolutionary Army rolled through town after they had landed one of their air transport crafts to the south. There were around ten fatalities from shootings in Coupeville that day, but they dared not come into the Temple compound. We heard their armored car arrive outside our gates, and the only sound from inside they could hear was the chanting of our hymns. I don't think that was an occasion where the gods protected us—I think we were lucky and they were just scared, and in the position they were in at the time, who could blame them? Their cause was losing momentum, and they had seen untold bloodshed in the previous weeks. Had they killed anyone in the Temple compound, they might have had a rash of new martyr cults to deal with afterward, and that's always where things get ugly with religion and politics. The martyr cults amongst other religions that did actually emerge are still thriving several decades after, even though the names of the Revolutionaries have been nearly forgotten.
This morning, I told the nurse who is one of my former lovers and a Mystes of Antinous, "Thank you, but with all due respect, feck off!" when I said I wanted to go to do Inundation in the main Temple fountain but he objected because I've been too weak. It was difficult, and I needed two people to help me stand and be with me as I submerged myself in the pool, but I'm glad I did it, as it will be the last time I will do such a ritual. We had morning prayers in the Temple, and I spoke along with the Obelisk, the Prayer Against Persecution, and the Antinoan Petition as I have for so many years, this time not leading the prayers but instead only saying them along with the leaders whose voices are much nicer than mine has been for the last five years. I thank all the gods I am dying at home, in my community, with the people I love and in the Temple to the god that I have loved the most for my devotional life.
I have no doubt, however, that my own life's length has been because Antinous has saved me, in the original sense of the terms: he has made my life in every respect better and happier, and has made me healthy despite all of the problems I have had. Asthma, type I diabetes, cancer (twice!), and even my partial blindness—the only thing they couldn't seem to cure eventually—made things difficult for more years of my life than I prefer to remember, but they couldn't keep me from doing the work I wanted to do. The thirty books I've written, the hundreds of public rituals and lectures, the founding and accreditation of the Academia Antinoi as a graduate seminary, and the opening of the Temple of Antinous here, with other Shrines in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the Republics of Texas, the Mississippi, New York, and Florigeorgia...it's all been worth it and successful. No, we're still a tiny religion and a minority amongst minorities amongst the estimated one million polytheists worldwide, but the people who are involved with this religion are serious and dedicated and want it to continue.
It is 1:35pm, and I can see my last breath on the horizon. As planned, everyone leaves the room, with only the nurse and my House Thyrsatrae colleague still in here, but I am not looking at them after I thanked them as everyone else left. My eyes are fixed on the image of Antinous I've had for more than fifty years, which will be the last thing I see in this world as I close my eyes.
But, ever the one who finds prolonged concentration difficult, my eyes flicker over to the clock, which reads 1:38pm as I glance from it one last time to Antinous before closing my eyes.
Three days later, after cremation, my ashes will be gathered, taken in a boat past the ninth wave on the west of Whidbey Island, set ablaze with oils again and the smell of storax resin, and dropped into the sea. In the cenotaph to Antinous in the Temple will be built a small chapel with my name on the inscription plaque, and the titles I accrued over the years. If people want to honor me, they can look at the beautiful Puget Sound to the west of the island where I was born, or they can come to this place at the Temple. Vel in limine mundi, Ecce! Ego semper sum coram te!: Even at the edge of the world, behold! I am in your presence!
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.