Hex Me

We all come from Narkissos
And to Him we shall return
Like the sound of a tree
Falling in the woods

What is this bullshit, you might ask?

Legally protected.

That unsound old fool, as far as I’m concerned, has issued a personal challenge, and I accept. Hex me now, I’m waiting.

…also, maybe it’s cos it’s WAY past my bedtime, but I think my parody managed to be immensely deep, there. Take a night off from sleep, re-read it, and then really think about it, if you don’t see it right away.

ETA: You can follow my updates on being Hexed here:

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Ares & Narkissos

Perhaps some will find it odd, but in my reading (some tales for the first time, some for the first time in a very long time) for yesterday’s post, I noted some similarity to the nature of Ares’ mythos and my beloved Narkissos. Now, I make no secret of the fact of my reverence of Narkissos as a holy daimon, and feel His mythos alone are sufficient evidence that, even though without any evidence of ancient cult, this was likely His status in His native Thespiai.

…but I digress.

The most famous of Ares’ mythos, His adulterous affair with Aphrodite, is quite naturally suited to a cautionary tale against letting one’s ego run wild, while Narkissos’ is so deeply associated with the idea that one not even be familiar with the myth to have an idea what it must be about, so long as one has even a passing familiarity with what the English word “narcissism” means in casual every-day use.

The differences to each myth are important to consider, as they are clearly two stories with different intended audiences and so different nuances of morality lesson, but both carry an underlying theme of the dangers of letting one’s ego take control of one’s affections, and thus better judgement.

In “The Story of Narkissos”, we have a young man so consumed with the idea that no-one is good enough for His own affections that He’s cursed to stare Himself into a flower by deities closely bound to Eros; in some versions, He is portrayed as literally rejecting the Gods of Love, creating a hubristic bend to His own self-absorption.

Then we have the affair of Ares and Aphrodite.

I’m tempted to regard the story as the odd Roman influence in Hellenic mythology (as the pattern is usually in reverse), as both Venus and Mars are regarded as the patron and matron deities of Rome and a mythological narrative is an easy way to explain this. Unfortunately for my hypothesis, all I really have are my own suspicions, as the most basic elements of the myth pre-date any serious Roman influence by about five-hundred years, as best as we can tell, anyway. Still, interesting idea, and clearly a potential reason for the myth’s lasting popularity, if not at all a reason for the myth’s origin.

Regardless of the underlying origin of the myth, there are elements that clearly serve as a cautionary tale against unbridled ego and lust, and potentially against “class-climbing”.

Aphrodite is a married woman, and while infidelity in men has been accepted for millennia, not so much for women (in spite of all evidence to the contrary that women are just as much predisposed to it, if not actually possessing of a higher biological interest in multiple partners than men have), so their affair is conducted in secret — right from the beginning, this is something that is clearly not designed to be a story giving people the go-ahead to sleep around as a married woman or with married women, since even the theoi are given to a belief that it’s wrong1. At some point, Hephaistos decides to trap the problematic lovers, humiliating them for going behind His back and making Him look a fool.

Now, some of this is negated by the possible divorce of Aphrodite and Hephaistos; this is alluded to in Homer (in later naming Hephaistos’ wife as the Kharis Aglaia, Who bore Him the younger generation of Kharietes), and other poets describe it more explicitly — but then later Ares is the victim of Ahrodite’s infidelity with Adonis, giving Ares an irony of fate. Unfortunately for Adonis, His fate is to be far more tragic than Ares’, as Ares’ boar form gored the youth — but perhaps not-so-unfortunate, as Aphrodite’s love for Adonis renewed Him, finally making it clear to Ares His folly of ego, assuming that He could somehow be “enough” for Aphrodite’s affections.

In both stories, there is a variation of self-absorption that seals each fate: Narkissos staring Himself into a flower, Ares’ repeated humiliation — and each time, at the hands of men who can certainly be characterised as “weaker” (Hephaistos, the cripple, and Adonis, the effete). While certainly there are obvious differences in each story, they each share a common theme of “keep your ego in check”.

1: Of course, that’s not to say that women in Hellenic mythos are never allowed to own their own sexuality; from Athene resisting the advances of Hephaistos and raising His and Gaia’s jizz-spawn as Her own, to Demeter’s single motherhood, to Artemis cursing peeping toms watching her bathe, to Selene enchanting Her favourite twink to eternal youth and sleep so that She could lay with him. The difference for Aphrodite is that She’s married, and so fidelity is expected, as is being open to Her husband’s desires; if, like Demeter and Selene, She was unmarried, She could presumably bed and molest ALL THE MENS to Her liking. Which, yeah, compared to how Zeus’ mythos has him sticking his dick in everything, and as everything, is a total double standard and totally unfair, and Hera’s attempts at retribution hardly seem to get through to Him, but that’s not really the point of the mythos, now is it? No it’s not.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

New Goal for the Garden

I found out about TerraCycle.net cos I love Method brand cleaning products and their refill pouches. The only downside to the pouches is that Lansing doesn’t accept plastic bags of any sort for recycling, so while it’s nice that they provide a significant reduction in waste and resources, before I noticed the url for TerraCycle on a new pouch for dish liquid, my only option was to throw them out.

Trophonius TerraCycle basically collects hard-to-recycle waste items and in exchange for you sending them in (usually at no cost to you, either), they’ll give you at least 2¢ or two “points” to put toward a charity or school of your choice. At 400 points, I can donate bees to an impoverished family through Heifer International.

So, I’ve signed up for several “brigades” (all stuff I use — Method refills, candy wrappers, hair product & make-up packaging and tubes, cheese packaging, old keyboards & mice, old cell phones[50pts], old digital cameras[250pts]) to save up for and send in; I’m also wait-listed for several others. It looks like items can be combined into a single box and sent in together, which is good, cos that makes for less boxes used at any one time.

I have my heart set on bees specifically because of Trophonios, and because bees are pretty essential to gardens. 190709192_60f0806718_o If you’re in the Lansing, Michigan, area, feel free to contact me (ruadhan[at]peacockfairy[dot]com) if you have anything to donate to the TerraCycle box.

Also, since I’m still pretty low on money, I’m going to point everybody to the donations button again, cos it’s absolutely necessary, still.

Now I’m off to put on some work jeans and my Crocs [shudder] and go dig a hole for Future Goldfish Pond™ — my goal for the hole? Not my pole, but a depth of at least thirty inches; considering that full-grown shubunkins can be about sixteen inches long, I’d really rather not have to bring them inside during the winter, so this will allow for hibernation. This is also a sacred garden feature. Plus, it also makes more sense that, if I’m going to have narcissus poeticus surrounding the pond, to dig the pond first, so as nothing gets destroyed later.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 13 ~ Pantheon – Adonis & the Flower Boys

I love Adonis.
AphroditeAdonisLouvreMNB210 Though there’s Peanut Gallery commentary decrying any worship of Him and Kybele in a Hellenic context as “un-Hellenic”, it’s pretty obvious that Their cults had been thoroughly Hellenised by the time of Hesiod (if you haven’t seen people making such ridiculous claims, consider yourself lucky; in fact, I consider myself a lesser person for even mentioning it). I find myself especially fascinated with Ptolemy Hephaestion frequently linking His love as shared with Aphrodite and Apollon, which may seem unusual to those who are only familiar with the versions of Aponis’ mythos that link Him with Aphrodite and Persephone. AdonisLouvre

“Adonis, having become androgynous, behaved as a man for Aphrodite and as a woman for Apollon.” – Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk5 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

There’s a fragment from Hesiod that describes Adonis as the son of Phoenix (son of Amyntor), and most primary sources name His mother as Smyrrhna, who had a metamorphosis into the tree from which myrrh resin is harvested.

In myth and in cult, there are many easy comparisons to Dionysos — from a position in life-death-rebirth cults, his apparent links to sexuality, vegetation, and Khthonic deities (especially Persephone), Adonis-Dream-Print-C10032791 academic and ancient syncretic likening to Osiris, and the public face of His cult was decidedly female (though this is where things begin to differ — male Dionysians existed in ancient times as much, if not more, than in modern — male Adonians, at least in the ancient Hellenic world [I haven’t a clue about the Phonecian or Syrian world where it’s clear His cult originated], seem apparently non-existent and, even in modern times, seem few, at best). adonis_northcote But at least in the Hellenic world, it’s very clear that they are not the same — in some mythology, Aphrodite bore Adonis a daughter, Beroe, who is one beloved of Dionysos.

His cult likely came into the Hellenic mainlaind through Kypris, the birthplace and local name for Aphrodite, and by about the 6th Century BCE, was already well-known in Hellas. This is not insignificant: This not only cements a relationship with Aphrodite’s cult, it also really shows the aforementioned Peanut Gallery where to stick it — MWAHAHAHAHA!!! 😀

adonis Seriously, folks, at this point in time, I think it’s safe to admit that the Adonis cult was thoroughly Hellenised. The academia really tries to “un-Hellenise” Adonis, and indeed, many of these arguments seem to make sense, until you get into several glaringly apparent facts:

1) Adonis is a central part of Aphrodite’s Hellenic mythology — and I word it this way because a significant amount of Her mythology and cult is clearly “imported”, comparative mythologises easily link Aphrodite to nearly every Near Eastern Goddess from the Babylonian Ishtar to the Zoroastrian Anahita. adonis001 If one is going to conclude that Hellenic polytheists should worship only Hellenic deities, then there is an awful lot of archaeology that could easily reason that Aphrodite’s cult is not “indigenous” to Hellas any more than that of Adonis’.

2) It’s absolutely likely that Adonis’ cult was “imported” at the same time as Aphrodite — and even the much-touted Walter Burkert (apparently Greek Religion is a veritable gospel to some people), sure seems to agree with this idea: AdonisNaples

The cult of the dying god Adonis is already found to be fully developed in Sappho’s circle of young girls around 600 [BCE]; indeed, one might ask whether Adonis had not from the very beginning come to Greece along with Aphrodite. For the Greeks it was well-known that he was an immigrant from the Semetic world, and his origins were traced to Byblos and Cyprus. His name is clearly the Semetic title adon, Lord. For all that, there is in Semetic tradition no known cult connected with this title which corresponds exactly to the Greek cult, to say nothing of a counterpart to the Greek Adonis myth. (pp176-177)

Indeed, investigating Near Eastern mythology, the closest deity with a cult matching the Adonis cult is we see named is “Tammuz”, not Adonis. Perhaps “Adonis”, in this instance, is merely a loan-word made name? Death of Adonis

3) The name Adonis, while clearly being the sticking point for identifying His cult as “foreign”, as a language arts major I can clearly see as a mere convention on the same level as “Kytheria” or “Kypris” as a name for Aphrodite — and one clearly accepted as “Greek enough” for many scholars for centuries — indeed, Thomas Taylor takes “Kypris = Aphrodite (= Venus)” for granted in translating the Orphic hymns — and indeed, Cyprus was Hittite land until fairly late Bronze Age; which would be roughly the period estimated for the import of Aphrodite and Adonis cults. return_of_adonis-large Indeed, in most mythological traditions, Cyprus is also the birthplace of Adonis, not merely His cult — so it obviously flabbergasts that somehow this can make Aphrodite “Hellenic enough”, but not Adonis.

One can clearly only begin to imagine the whys and such for the reluctance to accept Adonis cult as “Hellenic enough”, when all evidence clearly shows that it is so. adonis5633 One idea may simply revert to etymology — though clearly acceptable early on in the Hellenisation of Adonis cult practise, later it became a sticking point due to what would now be called racism or nationalism — kinda the same logic “birthers” use to accuse President Barak Obama of being born well-outside U$ soils, in spite of all clear evidence to the contrary. Another idea being that since His cult, in ancient times, was dominated by women to the point of apparently becoming female-only kept the cult well outside the “mainstream” of the civic religion, and so, in a sense, “foreign” to ancient writers, who tended to be men — it could therefore arguably be sexism that kept the Adonis cult regarded as “foreign”; if one considers that many often wrote of the Adonis cult and its symbols with a hint of derision (it’s arguable that the old idea of “green leafy salad = women’s food” is an idea started in ancient Hellas — not only is lettuce sacred to Adonis, but one writer once joked [or perhaps seriously believed] that lettuce causes male sterility), this hypothesis makes a lot of sense on paper. Untitled-1
But perhaps I digress….

I was initially attracted to Adonis as an extension of the “flower boys” — His floral associations include roses (in some versions of the mythos), windflower / anemone poppies, and the “adonis” genus of flowering plant. I make no secret of my veneration of Narkissos as a Daimone and Hyakinthos as hemitheos. Even Krokos, Paeon, and narcisses,_hyacinths_and_nasturtiums-large The “flower boy” myths intrigue me on many levels: For starters, think about what a flower is — not what it represents in this culture, but what it is. It’s a part of certain plants, but which part? The genitals. In a certain light, it can seem kind of perverse how much —severed plant genitals— er… cut flowers play a part in (especially heterosexual) romance, courtship, and marriage. The boy gives the girl a cluster of severed, essentially hermaphroditic genitals to show he likes her. A few centuries ago, especially the middle classes, the boy’s visit would then only really last as long as it took for girl to pluck the protective petals from around the reproductive centre. Near the end of the wedding ritual, where people especially like to be surrounded by these hermaphroditic plant parts, the bride throws another bushel of genitals on her friends, with the hope that the cycle will start anew. JohnWilliamWaterhouse-Narcissus_JW And if that’s not enough for you to handle? In many flowers, it’s the especially phallic-looking bit in the centre that’s the “female” part of this hermaphrodite.

It’s clear that Western culture is seriously obsessed with sex and sex organs — even when it tries to pretend it’s not, it’s filling children, especially girls, with an onslaught of symbols of fertility and virility and Martha Stewart is joyfully arranging severed genitals in various vases, often with the especially phallic lady-bits, right there on daytime telly (that woman seriously seems to love her lilies and callas — which aren’t lilies, they’re arums, and their “male bits” are typically attached to the “female bit” — now THINK ABOUT THAT). narcissus001

I find it hard to get close to Aphrodite. Not for lack of trying, mind, but perhaps she senses something about me (In Real Life™, I tend to be generally more comfortable getting emotionally close with men, while women I tend to befriend more casually — and the few exceptions to this kind of prove the rule, in their own unique ways), and either decides to maintain that distance, or simply appoints any and all contact to be through one of “Her Boys”: Either Eros, Whom I’ve already become especially close to, or Adonis, another Flower Boy for my bouquet.

Narkissos, I consider especially precious. My own views of His mythology apparently differ from the mainstream, and the versions of His mythos I hold most dear Narcissus003 (and indeed, there are dozens of ancient re-tellings and re-imaginings — the Battlestar Galactica franchise has had fewer re-interpretations by a wide margin) seem rather obscure, even if they’re versions that still seem to maintain the dominant trappings of the popular versions. To me, He is a holy daimon: A spirit of self-love, and a protector of those unloved. His namesake flower is sacred to Him, as are mirrors and reflecting pools; the species narcissus poeticus is especially sacred, as this is the exact flower He gave form to. He comes to you in a form reminiscent of you see yourself, perhaps a daimon of the Ego Ideal. He is the son of a nymphe and river god of Thespiae. Narcissus_Mazarini_Louvre_Ma435 His spurned lover, Ameinias, became anise; you can help to heal the tears Narkissos shed for both His own cruelty and for Ameinias with an offering of anise. Also, a bit of anise in a coffee for a reading may shed light on who loves you. Popularly, at least historically, He seems to have an especial link with gay man, and “narcissism” was initially used as a term for the “sexual perversion” of male-male love.

Hyakinthos’ flower, contrary to modern assumptions, is the delphinium larkspur. He is the son of the Moisa Goddess Kleio and Magnes’ son Pieros (Magnes being the first, now legendary, king of Magnesia, and a son of Zeus), and in some mythological traditions, He is either brother or cousin to Daphne — and perhaps the common-enough urge to link their myths is part of the collective consciousness trying to remind people of this (presumably?) once-ancient connection. hyacinth-statue-large By Spartan tradition, Hyakinthos is identified with the Thessalian Hymenaios, the God of marriage and the wedding bed, carrying associations with virginity, True Love, and legitimate partnership — again, I have to voice flabergastion that at the fact that so many modern Hellenic polytheists insist that only heterosexual partnerships have a right to spiritual or ritual legitimacy. Did Apollon not love Hyakinthos in the mythos? Is a god’s love not legitimate? Is the love felt by a mortal somehow unture? (If so, then logically, no marriage with a base of love, which is indeed what the overwhelming majority of Western marriages are, can possibly be ritually legitimate within Hellenismos — and I seriously doubt that very many people would want to get behind a fringe religion with self-proclaimed “authorities” who endorse a return to strictly-arranged het marriages based in social-climbing and dowries.) Delphinium-Larkspur-1 Or would people rather wax philosophical about “symbolism” and “metaphor” in myth rather than accept that the best symbol of a thing is the thing itself — and the mythos she the thing itself as a deep love and bond that was met with a tragic end. Though mortals may be imperfect, even flawed things can be true, legitimate — death is the greatest, most glaring flaw that mortals have, when compared to the Theoi, but our deaths are overwhelmingly true, a truth that is glaringly obvious.

Apollo And Hyacynth Benvenuto Cellini And again, we come back to blues — immortal blues for Love Himself. From “…something borrowed, and something blue,” to “L’amour est Bleu” (perhaps is is not insignificant that this song rose to fame via the Hellenic singer Vicky Leandros? LOL). The first I saw Hyakinthos, I knew the Spartans were onto something with their associations with Hymenaios, for the first time I saw Hyacinth (in a dream, mind), He was at a small pool or spring, sitting on a rock at the centre of a thick round of His flower, peacock feathers tied into His hair (giving allusions to Hera, a Goddess whose domains include marriage), and Apollon identifying this breath-taking youth as His beloved Hyakinthos, who He “fought the West Wind for, and won”. Their love, as I see it, is a wedded one that is renewed annually with Hyakinthos’ death and rebirth. George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008 He is therefore arguably, too, an Erote of Love Renewed, of Tragic Love, and a god of rebirth from tragedy.

Because of my interest in Boeotian traditions, especially of Thespiae and the surrounding area, I often revert back to Hesiod. Hesiod names a beautiful Thessalian boy beloved of Apollon, Hymenaios — or at least this is the Evlyn-White translation of the relevant fragment. The pseudo-Apollodoros notes a Thessalian Hyakinthos was seduced by Apollon away from Philammon, and that this Thessalian youth was accidentally slain by discus. Clearly this mythology is an example of one-in-the-same, simply with different names. At this point, I’m convinced, and urge: Whether you call Him Hyakinthos or Hymenaios, call on Him to bless the bond of love.

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About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Feast of Eros symbolism

I’ve long realised that the “Easter symbols” I grew up with, and encouraged both at my old Catholic school and my Anglican family, have nothing to do with Jesus or even Christianity. These are fertility symbols that have nothing to do with death and apothesis.

But where Wiccans and pagans of ancient Northern European traditions recognise these as symbols of Oestere, I posit that these are symbols of Eros.

First we have daffodils — an English hybrid of Narcissus Poeticus — the species of flora that was once the Thespian youth Narkissos, the boy who spurned Eros for his own reflection. My mother and hers always decorated our baskets with plastic or silk yellow and peach-coloured daffodils, so while this may not seem an “Easter symbol” to some, it’s one that I cannot shake.

Then there are the eggs.

“Firstly, black-winged Nyx laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebos, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest.” (Aristophanes, the Birds)

And so we have glittering, coloured eggs for Eros.

In ancient art, Eros and Erotes were frequently depicted with hares, and those beloved of the Gods (here, Ganymedes and Zeus) with cockerels — making it easy to discern where “bunnies” and “baby chicks” come from; after all, as the image of Eros in art became younger and younger, it’s certainly logical that these symbols of His feast will, as well.

I admit, the lamb is harder to connect, but growing up amongst Polacks, you notice their tradition of the “butter lamb” which, being made from milkfats, reminds us of the fertility of Eros and his cult in Thespiae. The Simnel cake, coated in marzipan, an almond paste, reminds us of Eros, as the force of fertility itself, which formed Attis from the cast-away “boy parts” of Kybele — and the hot cross bun, traditionally filled with currants and raisins, reminds us of Eros’ similarities to Dionysos.

Even the modern custom of “Easter chocolates” brings to mind modern “Valentine’s Day” traditions — and thus the cults of love and fertility.

And so I wish you all a merry Feast of Eros.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

James Bidgood, Homoeroticism, and Gay Spirituality

I don’t remember where or when it was that I had personally first been made aware of Pink Narcissus, the masterpiece of gay erotica that was originally released under “Anonymous”, as the writer and director. The brilliant mind behind this work of art (and o, it is art) is painter and stage costume designer James Bidgood. In the 1950s, Bidgood began working with photography, and by the early 1960s he had already created a distinct and highly recognisable style that caught the attention of financiers for an “art film”. In 1963, filming began on Pink Narcissus, and was abruptly ended in 1970, when the financiers, feeling Bidgood was taking too long to finish, took the completed footage, sent it to an editor, and Bidgood, in possibly his most regretted decision, demanded his name be removed from the film on account of the fact that it didn’t yet match his vision for what it should have been.

Released in 1971, Pink Narcissus became a cult classic in art-house cinemas and gay theatres, the genius behind it somehow a mystery in spite of the highly recognisable style that carries almost every characteristic of Bidgood’s erotic photography. The sets are highly stylised fantasy — the bars of a cage are represented with strings of sequins sewn together, butterflies are crafted from wires and stockings and feathers, the trees and vines in The Wizard of Oz looked far more realistic, bright pink lighting washes nearly every surface — and many surfaces are sprinkled with glitter; hell, many of the same models he was fond of were also used in the film. How it took over thirty years for James Bidgood to finally be connected with Pink Narcissus is something I can only chalk up to that anachronistic shame associated with collecting old magazines like Young Physique.

It has been said by fans of Pink Narcussus of James Bidgood: “If only he’d put aside a little ego, or had a bit of luck, he could have been as famous as Andy Warhol.” Almost irnoic, as for years it was rumoured that Andy Warhol was actually the anonymous director of Pink Narcussis (a rumour that Warhol himself repeatedly denied). Indeed, luck is something Bidgood has needed for quite some time — he still lives in the tiny Manhattan studio where he filmed all but the “street scene” in Pink Narcissus (that scene was filmed at a friend’s loft), he merely “gets by” with his continued design work — he is poor and some of his teeth have gone bad — though, it is said, he and the star of his “μεγάλο έργο” (or “magnum opus”, if Latin is easier for you), Bobby Kendall, are still friends.

The Queer Reveries of James Bidgood

In the year 2000, James Bidgood was offered a deal with Taschen publishing and gay writer Bruce Benderson to release a monograph of Bidgood’s photographic work. A re-print was recently released, which I now own a copy of. One of the most striking things about Bidgood’s photography, after the elaborate sets that almost seem made for a Baroque stage, is the way he can create these breathtaking scenes yet they’re set in such a way as to bring your attention to the model and little else. Where photographers who specialise in nude women can benefit from harsh lighting to “wash out” certain aesthetic undesirables like the fine down on the jawline or belly or stretchmarks around the hips, photographers who specialise in male nudes benefit from shadow to bring out the fine definitions of muscle that too much light would wash out, making the model appear either chubby or frail. Though Bidgood’s published photographs have only rare instances of total nudity (and only one or two instances of full frontal, not counting stills from Pink Narcissus), the models tend to be clothed more often in skin-tight jeans and nothing on top, so the same rules would apply to bring out every line on the abdomen, every swooping shallow crevice of arm musculature. In the set entitled “Sandcastle”, one envisions Bobby Kendall and Jay Garvin as Eros and Himeros frolicking under the shadow of Nyx as lights flicker out, lapping at those perfect lines of legs, arms, backs, buttocks from between glittery branches.

Browsing through these photographs, I’m reminded of the leaner takes of the Hellenic ideal of antiquity. The thick trunks that athletes strode across Olympic fields on are now leaner, but just as well-muscled. Torsos that were much broader at the shoulders then seem much slimmer but just as tight.

The photography of James Bidgood seems divinely inspired at points. As if Eros and Apollon themselves, Theoi of the youthful ideal, whispered the directions for placement and lighting straight into Bidgood’s brain, emblazoned it into his psyche, and let the rest fall into place, as They knew it would. Even Bidgood’s proto-psychedelic interpretation of the Narkissos mythos plays out as if Bidgood had memorised every version of the tale, only to take what he wanted from a handful of fragmented retellings and let Erato guide the rest. Created at a time of homosexual repression and suppression, Pink Narcissus serves not as a cautionary tale against spurning suitors to the point of angering the Theoi, but instead a delicious celebration of the young male physique.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Messenger Bag

I was actually inspired to make this post after reading this post from the LJ community pimp_my_altarPimp My Altar. My messenger bag began life as, well, and ordinary messenger/Israeli paratrooper bag that I purchased at Harry’s Army Surplus before their Ann Arbor location went out-of-business (due largely to gentrification and the sudden raise in rent for businesses on that block):

Mine was purchased for under $10 on a 50% off clearance, and I also got a fishtail parka for just under $20, on a 75% off clearance, and an extra-tall “walking stick”-sized umbrella for about $10 even (the latter is no longer a usable umbrella, due in part to Chicago winds, and in part to living with three cats).

This is how mine looks today:

It wasn’t a huge task to transform the paratrooper symbol into a Caduceus, which has been historically used as a printer’s mark. Regardless, as a symbol of Hermes, it seems an entirely appropriate thing to paint onto a bag that I primarily use for carrying notebooks, my agenda, important papers, my chequebook (which has the simpler Caduceus [sans wings] painted on the front), and a few other things that I’m in the habit of carrying with me, including my lyrics book, sheet music, drawing pencils and sketch diary, mp3 player or Walkman, personal phone book, cigarette tin and lighter, and gum. It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Derek Jarman’s film Caravaggio: “It was through an act of theft that Mercury created the Arts.” I recall that quote not because of theft (though I am frequently reminded of how the push for gentrification has essentially robbed this poor town of its culture before it could truly come into its own, and how the closing of Harry’s and several other down-town stores really solidified Ann Arbor’s gentrification in my mind), but because of Hermes’ long-held associations with the Arts and how I carry in this bag my simplest means of creativity.

All the pin-back buttons on the bag (with the exception of “The Amino Acids – Warning: Tangy Reverb” one) are also one’s that I’ve created. I had a few more on there before I took these two photos just now, but they either fell off or were removed by me at some time or another. [Well, except for a Dionysos button that I’m pretty sure some kid on the Amtrak stole while I was in the on-train restroom; it’s one of those things that I just know, even though I couldn’t prove it. Of course, I didn’t even notice it was gone until I had already reached Chicago. There was just something about the way that kid kept looking at the button when he and his mother boarded the bus, kept looking at me after I came back from the restroom, and the fact that his mother was dead-asleep before and after I went to the restroom.]

Here’s a close-up (albeit, a dark one) of the buttons. I took it without flash to eliminate glare that would have made them unviewable:

left-to-right are: Top – Satyr & Nymphe (from a Roman mosaic), Narkissos (19thC CE illustration)
Bottom – Apollon & Muse, Hyakinthos & Zephyros, Apollon & laurel branch
(gone missing or out-of-commission: Dionysos, Hermes, Adonis, Eros, Caravaggio’s Narcissus, Hermaphroditos, Neokoroi flame, Hellenion flame)

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Caravaggio’s Narcissus

(By the way, you can click all images for a full-size view and/or description.)

As has been established in my practise and on this blog, I will discuss Narkissos here. Not merely because His mythos are of Boeotian origin and this blog is entitled “Of Thespiae”, but because the reverence I pay Him is, as my shrine suggests, closely entwined with my Eros worship.

There are literally dozens of versions of the story of Narkissos from ancient Greece. Literally. There are more fragments elsewhere on theoi.com and elsewhere on the web, this I assure you. And the many versions mean many things to many people, such as this interesting article I found on WitchVox some time ago showcases. Of course, the only traits that all of these versions really share is that Narkissos’ “doom” lies in noticing His refection in the spring, and that He somehow became fated to this “undoing”, in one way or another.

Now, I could go on about what the Narkissos mythos mean to me, but I honestly feel that it should be obvious in my own version of His story. Instead, I’m going to rave about this painting.

I was in love with Caravaggio’s Narcissus (high-resolution version on ArtRenewal.org) before I even knew who did it, much less anything about who did it. It wasn’t just the extreme “photorealism” that Caravaggio is often credited with bringing into favour, or even the striking use of light and shadows that even the best photographers of today mimic. Don’t get me wrong, these are all very important points that add to the appeal of this painting to me, but I’m not one who typically gets caught up in the details (at least not when I’m enjoying something — when I’m creating something, on the other hand, oi theoi…), I prefer to see the whole picture and enjoy it for what it is, what it represents, and, at most, regard the details as these perfectly-fitted pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that one has sealed with Puzzle Saver and lifted before a window to check for cracks — if any piece proves an imperfect fit, light would shine through and amplify that imperfection.

But, since this is Caravaggio, no imperfections are apparent in such a way to prove such an amplified distraction from the picture.

One of the traits of this painting, and the majority of Caravaggio’s others, is that he not only drew from Christian and Graeco-Roman mythology for his subjects, but he gave the subjects modern relevance but having his models use their own clothing, or in cases such as Amor Vincit Omnia (“Love Conquers All”, commonly known as “Amour Victorious”, in English), a nude, surrounded by modern accoutrements. Considered another “radical” element to Caravaggio’s style, at the time, it’s so apparent to me, in in the twilight of the year 2009 (nearly four hundred years after Caravaggio’s death in 1610) why he made this choice. If these are tales to for all times, then what’s the relevance of recreating an image of a time that we are not a part of? In a fitting tribute to the painter, film-maker Derek Jarman treated his biopic, Caravaggio similarly, carefully blending modern and 17th Century elements to sets and props and costuming, even framing shots to be reminiscent of Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro lighting technique.

This piece first piqued my interest, by my memory, when I was maybe eleven or twelve. At first because my hair-colour was similar to the model’s, and a teacher thought that we had similar faces. I was familiar with the Narkissos story that appears in D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (which is based on Ovid’s) from about the age of eight, and later, the version relayed by Edith Hamilton in Mythology (similarly based on Ovid’s). It really stood out to me that Caravaggio placed nothing else recognisable in the painting save for Narkissos Himself, and even took care to see that the reflection was fragmented (with the crown of His head lopped off). No other prominent figures from the Narkissos mythos are present, no Goddesses, no Nymphai, Ekho or otherwise, no spurned youth; the canvas is completely consumed by Narkissos and His reflection. His expression is interpreted by many as one of melancholy and seem as foreshadowing of Narkissos’ tragedy; but I see in Narkissos, a look of peace, and in His reflection a look of foreboding — as if the boy Himself has realised His fate and has come to terms with it. He knows His place in Boeotian myth.

The Moirai, The Fates, are important to my theology and how I understand The Divine and my religion. I’ll write more on that at a later time.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

The Story of Narkissos

Re-told by Ruadhan J McElroy

[note: The following is a revised version of a piece of mine that was originally printed in Issue #13 of He Epistole. The Narkissos mythos are of Boeotian origin, and there are literally dozens of variations of the story, some very wildly different from the rest (such as the one contesting that Narkissos longed for His lost twin), most of which actually don’t even mention the nymphe Ekho, Who is quite prominent in the most popular modern retellings (though for that, we have Ovid to blame). Mine takes from a few of my favourite versions and draws heavily from my cultus to the Erotes.]

Many millennia ago, in the Greek land of Boetoia, there was a handsome youth born to a river god, Kephisos, and a naiad, Liriope. They named him “Narkissos”, an adaptation of the ancient Greek word for “numb” because unlike other infants, his birth did not seem to amaze him in any way – he simply took the sudden shock of all the earth’s glory created by both Gods and mortals in such a calm and collected manner as if he were jaded by it all.

When Narkissos grew into a young man of sixteen, he had already acquired many potential suitors, but turned them all away in a callous manner. One day, Ameinias, a young man whose affections Narkissos had been especially toying with could not stand it any longer, and proclaimed, “Beautiful Narkissos, I would rather die than suffer another breath without you in my arms!”

Narkissos yawned and offered Ameinias his own sword, saying nothing what could not be said with no more than a cruel smirk.

Ameinias took Narkissos’ sword and walked away, trying to hide his pain. He wandered for hours until he finally returned to Narkissos’ door. Whispering a prayer to Anteros and to Nemesis, petitioning the Theoi to see that Narkissos himself feel the pain of unrequited love. Ameinias then fell on Narkissos’ sword and lay there writhing in pain until finally Thanatos took pity on the man, and Ameinias breathed his final breath. When Narkissos discovered Ameinias’ cold body at his stoop, he ordered for a slave to carry the corpse away, claiming he was already bored with looking at it.

Outraged by such an unfeeling rejection of sincere love, the Erotes set a curse on Narkissos, damning him to fall in love with the ugliest young man he should ever cast his glance upon – and sometimes these things don’t necessarily work out in the most literal fashion.

As Narkissos made his way out that day, he passed wretches of young men – dwarves of ill proportions, men with burn scars and horrible red birthmarks covering their faces, men whose limbs had been lost from leporsy, men whose faces were covered in the blisters of herpes, men disfigured by curses placed upon their mothers or themselves. None of these men were determined by the earthly daimones as being ugly enough for Anteros’ curse. That is, until Narkissos came upon a reflecting pool. At first alarmed, Narkissos quickly became so enamoured with his own reflection that time just seemed to stand still. You see, even the love Gods realise that beauty is only part physical and while Narkissos happened upon many men who could be considered monstrous in comparison to just the physical parts of beauty, Narkissos’ behaviour toward Ameinias was determined to be so grotesque that even They, lovers themselves of the well-sculpted and well-preened male form, could not even see his physical beauty any longer. When igniting the wrath of the Gods, it only matters how They define such things.

When Narkissos finally reached out to touch the boy in the water, he realised that it was merely his reflection in a pool of water and became so heartbroken that he felt he had no other choice but to meet the youth’s embrace anyway, even if it meant that he should drown himself. Anything, Narkissos thought, was greater than to live loving a man who he could never touch. And as he began to succumb to death’s embrace, he finally wept for Ameinias as he realised what pain the other young man must have felt, and he begged for the Gods’ forgiveness as the waters filled his lungs.

When his lifeless body floated to the top of the water, some nymphs took pity upon him and retrieved his body for proper burial right by the spring so that he could at least rest beside his beloved. Soon after burial, by the grace of the Gods, from Narkissos’ grave sprang a flower which later became named for him so that those who hear of its origins will see it and remember to at least be kind to those who seek our love, even if we do not seek theirs in return. By grace of the nymphai, Narkissos lives on as a daimon, a lover to those unloved.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.