Originally posted on my LiveJournal, I felt this essay dealt with enough CR material and was important enough to my view of my life as a CR that it warranted posting here. In this post, I talk quite a bit about some of the other practices I follow in my life and deal with questions I've been asked about how I can be CR while also following other paths. I know others in the community sometimes struggle with these issues as well. Please take this as my own personal approach -- nothing here implies that anyone has to do as I do or think as I think. If you're also struggling with multiple paths and self-definition, please take this as encouragement along your way and perhaps as cause for further meditation.
Over the next week or so I'll probably be doing a short series of posts about some of the things I did at PCon this year. I wanted to start with the Ekklesía Antínoou Lupercalia ritual. There were vasty numbers of people in attendance -- 60 or so, in contrast to the smaller numbers last time, and the tiny rituals we do here in Seattle with usually 10 or fewer people.
Part of the ritual had been a Communalia, a drawing of formal alliances between the Ekklesía and other Pagan and polytheist traditions, most especially between our group and AMHA the polytheist tribal Hebrew group represented by Elisheva Nesher. Eli is a wonderful older woman, wise and forthright and delightfully funny. She's one of the people who regularly attends the con and who hangs with Diana Paxson's group when she's in town whom I find both priceless and irreplaceable. I adore her beyond all measure and bless the day when Diana and Lorrie Wood introduced us.
Phillipus has described his feelings of accomplishment and happiness for this alliance in light of the Roman emperor Hadrian's role in the Bar Kochba war and the repression of the Israelites during his otherwise reasonably enlightened reign. He is of Jewish extraction himself and so felt that it was extremely important for the Ekklesía to make strides toward building bridges between our group and those that one of our exemplary figures and deities had wronged. The other groups represented were a Dianic group led by Rabbit and a local Heathen community represented by Ember.
The ritual itself was, as is usually EA's nature, heavily liturgical with much singing and recitation. I do think that some of this could use a little more group involvement as it currently is primarily the lead ritualist and a few assistants doing most of the work. There's nothing particularly wrong with this, though I know that PCon attendees tend to expect more personal involvement in big public rituals rather than sitting on the sidelines as spectators for big chunks of it. I read the Hymn for Hecate and the Prayer Against Persecution as well as carrying two of the lotus lights as one of the Mystai in the processional.
This year Lupa ran as one of the Luperci as I did a couple of years ago, carrying on the fine EA tradition of including women as wolf-warriors in the ceremony. The race was exciting and fun, though Eli stepped out during this portion, as it involved some symbolic flogging and she has some combat-related issues with people raising a hand against others in even symbolic violence. All the ritualists did a lovely job, I think.
Some time after the ritual, Ember approached me and talked about some cultural dissonances she felt as a Heathen at a Roman-based ritual. She wondered aloud if I had been there representing for CR or was there just as myself, as one of Phillipus's friends. At the time I said I had been there just as myself but, being so tired after everything I had been doing, I hadn't thought to give her a more in-depth answer so I'm going to explore that here. It has great resonance for my practices in other non-CR religions and may help to explain some of my views on how and why I am still primarily CR in my life and self-identification despite my other allegiances. I'll also talk a little about the syncretic nature of my life, as this is an unavoidable adjunct to the discussion.
My attendance at Lupercalia was not merely as an individual or as Phillipus's friend, though my interest in Antinous started as the curiosity of a friend who wished to explore another's spirituality. I attended in my ritual function as both Mystes and Luperca. I am, if you will, what passes for an initiate into the cult of Antinous and, hopefully, only the first of many women (or people in women's bodies) to hold these titles within the group -- so Ave Lupa, Luperca Secunda!
While some people wonder if the cult of a "Gay God" has any place for women within it, I see myself as living testament of that inclusivity. Antinous to me does not represent just "gayness" but affirms all forms of queerness, however that might be defined. That queerness is not strictly about gender and sexuality, although it includes it. Antinous is a liberator not just in terms of one who liberates from death but as one who liberates from all negative forms of constraint. In this he works to free us from our preconceived notions of ourselves. He liberates us from the chains of dualistic, binary thought. He liberates us from unwanted roles into which we have been pressed in the service of conformity. He liberates us from illusion and self-deception. He liberates us from fear.
When I stand before the obelisk, a citizen of Antinoopolis, I do not enter the gates specifically as a Celtic Reconstructionist. I enter as myself -- with all that means -- as Mystes and Luperca of the Cult of Antinous who also, first and foremost, honors Celtic deities. I bring my allegiances to my Celtic deities with me, but in that space and for that time, they are part of the work being done within those sacred precincts. When the Pantheon is opened in Antinoan ritual, I install my own deities to be honored as equal to all the others within that temple according to Roman tradition, just as all others present do if they so choose. In our sacred city, there are no foreign Gods, no holy strangers; all who come are given reverence and acknowledgment.
As the old saying goes, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." Therefore, when I am within the precincts of Antinoopolis I act as one should act within the Ekklesía's unavoidably and deliberately syncretic Greco-Roman-Egyptian framework. When I stand before my Brigid altar and light my flame, I am acting as a CR within a CR context, interacting with a specifically Celtic deity and following a specifically Celtic tradition. One does not invalidate nor compete with the other. When I go to the Shinto shrine, I am there to honor the Kami and ask for their blessings. I make the expected offerings and go through the expected motions of purification, bell-ringing, bowing, clapping, and sipping sake at the appropriate times. In this I am in no wise different from any other Shrine member, nor should I be. And in the time-honored cultural and spiritual tradition of Shinto, I follow multiple paths without feeling any particular conflict within Shinto space. I don't keep a Kamidana in my home primarily because the purity/house-cleaning requirements are rather above my current physical ability to fulfill. It is not because I would in any way feel uncomfortable with a Kamidana in my space. I also understand and respect Raven's lack of resonance with Shinto due to her own spiritual commitments and do not feel this is in any way a contradiction for either of us -- the Celtic deities she works with as her primary devotion are not the same as mine and they deal in different territories and energies. It is natural we would have different reactions based on these differences.
My life is larger than any one tradition, no matter how much I love and identify with that tradition. There are places that, by its inherent limitations, that tradition cannot take me. This doesn't make it a bad or inadequate tradition. It does not make me love that tradition or my deities any less. It doesn't make me any less dedicated to that tradition. My practice of multiple traditions doesn't somehow magically rob me of my knowledge, my experience, or my ability within any of those I do practice. It does not negate my history with other traditions that I no longer practice. It does not close a gate to future practice of further traditions, or worship of and work with other deities and spirits. I am a polyamorous polytheist -- I love and give my adoration to many Gods and Goddesses, to many spirits and ancestors.
And so I am a CR fili. I am a bangeilt. I am a priestess of Brigid and a flamekeeper. I am an Ekklesía Antínoou mystes and luperca. I am an initiate of Alexandrian Wicca and NECTW Witchcraft. I am a Shintoist. I am an animist. I am an astrologer and a tarot reader. I am a student of Ulchi shamanism. I am an informal devotee of Sarasvati and Hanuman and Ganesha. I am a disabled veteran. I am queer. I am a feminist. I am a peace activist. I am more than all of this.
I am human.
As Whitman said:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)