Queer I Stand
The Elder in the Mirror
Though the work has been difficult, time-consuming, and often thankless, the part of it that was the most difficult was the part that started it all: having the strength and courage to stand up, say "I want no part of this any longer," and walking out from the other group (thus fomenting the schism that followed). It was not done simply to stir drama or to draw attention to myself; it was done because the things that were most important to me could not have been done under the auspices or the umbrella of the other group. The pay-off for having to put up with so much that I didn't agree with or thought was not useful was far too low for the amount of stress and energy that was involved in doing so. Any successes or failures that have followed from that time have been due to my own efforts or lack thereof, and having such a huge level of personal responsibility is both tremendously daunting but also superlatively rewarding, even in failure.
The initial fears I had to contend with were ones that I still struggle with a great deal. Who am I to be doing any of this? What do I really have to contribute to such an important and large task as re-building the foundations of the cultus of Antinous and his various divine associates? Why would anyone consider what I have to say on these matters at all important or useful? Can I really be a "leader"? I had been running from leadership roles for several years while under the umbrella of the previous group, and preferred to be an advisor and an information-provider rather than having a position of true leadership. By supporting someone who wasn't actually a fit leader and hoping I could lead from the back rather than from the front, I was very much a part of the problem. When I was able to admit that, and to realize that the only way forward for me was to step out of the shelter of what I had helped to create before, things became better.
Not unlike Zen master Lin Chi/Rinzai, whose words were given at the beginning of this particular column, I had to eventually realize that the authorities outside of myself were not the ones who knew what was best, and I had to (symbolically) kill them in order to achieve my own liberation. I've since realized, perhaps even more importantly, that such an act of ritual murder is not a singular activity. It has to happen over and over again.
Within modern Paganism and polytheism, there has been a lot of discussion about how schisms in groups are often needless. In certain outlets, there has been some suggestion that perhaps schisms shouldn't have to happen at all if we are really as open and accepting of differences in thought as we often claim or aspire to be. While perhaps some schisms are needless, some have proven to be very productive for those involved, and I would argue that such is the case for the version of Antinous' cultus that I have founded. Sometimes, there are irreconcilable theological differences on certain matters, and where these exist, they cannot be denied or excused or explained away, especially when harm can result from them. In such situations, a schism is really the best thing that can occur. I'm sure many people who have been put in such positions over the last few years with regards to issues like trans inclusiveness know how true this can be, despite the difficulties and pain involved.
It is strange to think that I am thirty-six years old, and yet already the "elder" of a particular tradition and group. It is a role that I am still not entirely comfortable with, and thus I'm very much more likely to provide prospective students not only with teachings and information and guidance, but also the knives to eventually kill me as well. And, many of them do a very good job of that on a regular basis—and I mean that in an entirely positive fashion!
As much as I am thankful for the older generation of polytheists who have made doing any of this at all possible, my direct contact with them has been slim to none for much of the time. I am thankful for the many teachers I've had in my life, both in primary and secondary schools and at all levels of college, as well as teachers I've had for as long as a few years, or for as short as a few hours: for lectures and workshops on a huge number of topics and techniques on everything from spiritual direction, to plant spirits, to making amulets, to drama, to singing and dancing, to appreciating the ancient gods through art in museums, and much, much more. All of them have contributed in some fashion to making me the person that I am today.
And yet, the teacher whose lessons I have trusted the least, whose authority I have feared the most, whose teachings I have all too often ignored, is the one from whom I've learned the most of all. That teacher is the one who stares back at me in the mirror when I have sense and courage enough to look, face-to-face and eye-to-eye.
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.