i did this other thing

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The Muse Whispers to Hesiod

I’m thinking of punching a few small, unobtrusive holes along the bottom and selling it with a printed calendar. I’d include four sets of Command strips to post it to the wall without damaging it. After the calendar is over, the painting itself would be suitable for framing.

ETA: You can’t tell from the photo (I’m going to wait until it’s completely dry to scan it), but the Muse’s colours are all mixed with an iridescent/sparkly medium, so She shimmers. I hope it shows up better in the scan, tomorrow.


If you love my art and want to see me be able to continue, please consider becoming a Patreon donor.

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.

It’s almost the new year in Thespiae….

You should get a calendar!

While you’re at it, I have just posted the lot of celestial deities paintings and a vintage copper offering bowl (or at least I’m guessing it’s vintage, it was a dumpster-dive find, so I’m not sure, but judging by my inability to keep it clean and the dings it had when I found it, I’m assuming it’s at least fifteen to twenty years old).

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.

Smooth Motions: Giving and Community

We need people. Even the most introverted personality types still, at least on occasion, want the companionship of others (if not, you’re not exactly an introvert, you’re a misanthrope, but that’s another story for another time). There are loads of psychological explanations for how a sense of community benefits and shapes us, and how lacking it also shapes us but in a manner harmful to our psyches.

The modern Pagan community (note “large P”) has been shaped, in no small part, by science fiction fandom via Tim “Oberon” and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Of course, clearly preferring R.A. Heinlein over Gene Roddenberry, this created a massive sense that “individualism” and the pursuit of doing for oneself before all else that has lousied up Paganism every moment since.

Hedonism is often misunderstood as inherently selfish, and some ancient characterisations certainly don’t help much on the matter, but Hedonism is about creating pleasure over pain: smooth motions over rough. In a certain light, this *is* argueably self-centred, because Aristippus argued that the self and specifically the individual’s experiences are the only reference points one has for relating to the world and making decisions.

That said, Aristippus was also known for binging on money-raising efforts to throw lavish parties. When his critics accused him of being in a love-affair with money, he pointed out, factually, that the money was now gone, and he’d be begging or teaching tomorrow, because the experience of the party meant more than having the money, and his guests certainly seemed to be in agreement. When you have experiences of pleasure, which Aristippus compared to a “smooth motion” on a water’s surface, all the money in the world cannot replace that; it is also worth noting that Aristippus’ experience of that party depended upon, at least the appearances of, pleasure in others (after all, he was on no place to judge what they were truly feeling, and admitted that).

Hedonism thus offers a philosophy that shows the Individual and the Community as symbiotes: When we create pleasurable experiences for others, we can create pleasurable experiences for ourselves, and we cannot create experiences for ourselves without affecting those around us, so it is to our benefit to maximise the potential for smooth motions. Pain is characterised as “rough motion” on the water; sometimes it’s necessary, but when at all possible, we need to be mindful to minimise this –in ourselves, first and foremost (as we’re our own most-reliable reference points), but secondarily in others.

The recent “debate” over whether or not it is wise to give to people’s crowd-funding efforts for things —whether it be a trip to Newgrange or a ding-danged funeral (and ask Aine Llewellyn, who watches me on FB, I don’t pull out the double-d-word over just anything)— is ultimately a rough motion, and ultimately frivolous nonsense: Not only are these people creating, for themselves, unnecessary discomfort by being offended at crowd-sourcing funds, a rough motion, but that careless thrashing in the pool ripples back against everyone else. What strikes me the most about this backlash is that it’s wholly unnecessary.

While I still disagree with her decision, for her (in)famous Kickstarter tour with a different local band in every city, to only compensate the particpating musicians with “beer and conversation” as something that sets a potentially dangerous precedent in a world where musicians are too-often talked into playing “for experience and beer” when they’re trying to make the rent, or at least afford toast to go with their rice and beans, I also can’t argue with Amanda Palmer’s claims that, to those who participated in that tour with her, that the exchange was fair (see “The Art of Asking”); who am I to judge the pleasureable exchange, and thus perception of fairness, that another feels in an act, when I myself would find the same circumstances unfair? As my only reference point is my own experiences and sense of smooth versus rough motions, I simply cannot make that judgement for another. What’s fair to me might seem excessive or even unconscionable to another —I’ve certainly found myself in rough positions in a conversation while trying to raise money for The Tomb when people cannot see how my refusal to budge on either venue to how much to pay the band and DJs isn’t at all unreasonable.

While I can understand the Pagan community ideal that “life shouldn’t be about money”, at the same time, there are points where the need for money are going to rear their ugly heads, and there are points where, yes, money may be a rough necessity for an ultimately smooth motion, like Aristipppus’ parties, or a pilgramage to Newgrange, or a loved one’s funeral expenses. Only a handful of us, relatively speaking, are in a position where either we ourselves can, or we have families where “everyone” can afford to pitch in to pay for a thing that will bring smooth motion to ourselves and our communities. The rest of us have to turn to the community.

Turning to the community for everything from a religious pilgrimage, to funeral expenses, to basic daily needs like food and shelter, has a long history, especially in religious communities, and it’s a traditon that *so* far pre-dates Christianity that it pre-dates the implementation of the money system. Those who have less have turned to those who have, and who have more –they have turned to the community– to get. This has often (until very recently in human history) created or at least fostered a sense of duty in those who have less to foster community and give back in ways that we can. For millennea, we, the have-lesses and have-nots have been the artists, musicians, performers, and holy persons of communities –the notion that the Arts and spiritual pursuits are merely a hobby for trust-fund brats has only really existed since 20th Century America reared its ugly head, and even then, it’s only ever been true for a rather tiny percentage of those of us in the arts and pursuing spiritual endeavours; for every Mozart who enjoyed a period of wealthy patronage (regardless of how deeply impoverished and indebted he died), there have been hundreds of folk musicians playing in public houses while their assistant, friend, or lover passes the hat, and there have been thousands of buskers on the corners of every street, relying on the assessment of the passers-by that their music is worth a few small coins. Not only is playing music and other arts hard, physical work, it’s also thankless and traditionally amongst the lowest-paid, especially relative to the pleasure it gives back.

This is not necessarily a defense of crowd-funding efforts, after all, it’s the same basic principle that buskers and street artists have employed for centuries, just optimised for the Internet and thus potentially reaching a wider audience. No-one needs to defend it any more than they need to defend buskers and independent artists who, traditionally, for millennea, have relied on gift-money given freely by members of the community who not only see the value in the art, but who can and want to support those who make it.

I do, though, feel that those who put down the practise in their words are incredibly short-sighted and, at least temporarily, unwilling to see the bigger picture: The experiences we enjoy and, too-often, take for granted in this world, experiences of music, reading the freely-distributed writings of bloggers, and so on…, these are thankless jobs taken on by people who not only can, but want to, and do it well-enough that others enjoy. And clearly those who do it well-enough have a higher potential to become well-enough connected to hold successful crowdfunding for things they need or want to do, things that will make their continued services to their art(s) all the more pleasurable to the community, and all the more easier for the artists, writers, and musicians to accomplish.

This isn’t even considering the fact that there are dozens of charities (at the very least) built around funding religious pilgrimages for young Jews and Muslims, and hundreds of charities designed around funding young artists –and where most people bringing those up fail is to mention that a lot of hose charities and scholarships ultimately have to turn a lot of people, many of them worthy, due to being unable to fund everyone, and most of those scholarships only partially cover costs, so money for these things still has to come from somewhere. This is where crowdfunding, especially for the arts and relatively tiny religious communities, and especially for people over the age of 25-30 (which, last I checked, was still well over half the population in the developed world), is actually ideal; it’s unfortunate that, to make crowdfunding work, at all, one has to be well-known or at least well-connected, but truth be told, “success” has always been about who one knows more than how skilled one is –and that’s not just what I tell myself to explain why people still read Star Foster’s blog, it’s the truth (though, unfortunately, I can’t find the Cracked artile about this).

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.

Polytheism and Retrofuturism

Retrofuturism is, in essence, a philosophy that has been highly influential in late 20th and early 21st Century art, music, design, and (typically underground) fashion. I’d says its beginnings can be traced to the 1960s, when the first conscious revival of a once-popular movement —Art Deco— took place, though the movement really started to take off in the 1970s. While Isadora Duncan was certainly a prototypical and extreme retrofuturist, her influence, during her time, was limited to dance, so clearly while she can be argued to have scattered some seeds for retrofuturism, the movement did not take root with her. Streamline Moderne design, popular in the 1940s, is sometimes erroneously described as an Art Deco revival, but it is, in actuality, merely a continuation of the movement; where Art Nouveau of the 1890s and 1900s can be described as “organic”, Art Deco can be described as “mineral” in its look and feel, especially its penchant for symmetric geometry — Streamline, on the other hand, is organic lines with an Art Deco sensibility, thus it is not a true revival. But I digress.

In simplest terms, Retrofuturism is taking the best of the past and the best of the present and moulding it with a progressive-mindedness that looks toward the future. Steampunk is retrofuturist. By extension, Diesel- and decopunk are retrofuturist, and Atompunk is retrofuturist. While the Mod subculture was initially a very modern-minded subculture, its deep connections to the Phil Spector/Tamla-Motown sound and a 1960s-influenced aesthetic have assured its evolution into a retrofuturist subculture, albeit not the most conscious retrofuturist subculture, when compared to most others. Roxy Music is a retrofuturist group. As is DEVO. As is Joe Jackson. Jim Henson’s life-long love of puppetry and apparent knowledge of its history, and not to mention showing off that knowledge in his abilities to create quality entertainment intended for an adult audience (yet silly enough that children didn’t need to understand The Muppet Show, for example, in order to enjoy it) is inherently retrofuturist. Guy Maddin is retrofuturist, though he prefers “ultra-conformist”, which, to be honest, is actually best at describing his techniques, which are seldom more evolved than the industry standard of 1933. The work of McDermott & McGough is absolutely retrofuturist with an emphasis on the retro. Electroswing is retrofuturist with an emphasis on the future. Neofolk is a genre that is, at its heart, retrofuturist but in practise, some bands identify more closely with certain flavours of Fascism, which is, at its heart, Traditionalist —but in all honesty (and more knowledge of music than most other people who can wear the “Goth DJ” hat), Leonard Cohen and Nico were among the first musicians to be described as “neofolk” or even “dark folk”, and Johnny Indovina of Human Drama considers much of his music to be some form of “neo-folk”, and it would be hard (at the absolute least) to consider any of those musos to be Fascists or Traditionalists.

The modern pagan and polytheist movements are, too, typically retrofuturist with a few exceptions. Chaos magic seems decidedly modernist with some hints of straight-up futurism. There is also a segment of reconstructionist polytheists that are more concerned with an anti-progressive notion of “the ancients” to the point that it’s easy to call them Traditionalist or even Anti-modernist; retrofuturists, by their nature, tend to avoid such types as we find their non-interest in a living society in favour of an arbitrary point in the ancient past (often long pre-dating even a century or two prior Christianity’s birth, much less its rise to prominence) to be rather silly.

If there’s anything that a vast majority of pagans and polytheists have in common, it’s an interest in re-shaping the present and future with knowledge about the past influencing this form. This is a variant on the two major themes of retrofuturist creativity: The first is the “retrofuture purist” form, which is celebrating the past’s idea of the future. The second is to re-imagine the past as seen with eyes of the present that are, at the very least, mindful of the future (though retrofuturist art tends to emphasise the future). The tendencies of pagans and polytheists to take what is known of the ancient past polytheistic religions and adapt them to not only modern life but a future-mindedness makes this the ultimate retrofuturist religious movement; Gnostics probably come in at a close second place.

While an degree of tradition is important in most pagan and polytheist religions, they are not typically defined by their traditions, but by the cultures they sprang from and the communities they are shared by, which essentially creates a vision of the future.

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.

Painter David Ligare

I get a lot of odd searches leading people here. Since my Adonis post, I’ve gotten more people finding this site on an Adonis search than an Eros search, which makes me feel like a failure as Eros’ devoted, at least if I think about it too much.

My site stats fascinate me —not necessarily out of ego (I hope), but because I like to see what kinds of things get people interested in this blog —not necessarily with the goal of changing my posting habits to gain hits, oh no (if that were the case, I’d simply post more often) but because of just human curiosity. What is it about one post that seems to attract people here more than posts I consider so much better, more worthy? Since so few people leave me comments, I have stats to go by.

To those of you unfamiliar with WordPress, basically WordPress automatically does your stat-counts, search queries, etc…, and if you have a privately-hosted WP-based blog (like this one), you can download the JetPack for WordPress.com account connectivity and benefits —this includes stats.

So, I noticed a search today that confused me. It’s my top search keywords for today, and I have no idea why:

“david ligare”

I searched Wikipedia, hoping for some insight, and I’ve discovered that he’s a painter of the Neoclassical school, who cites as influences on his art Polykleitos and Pythagoras. He also has a website.

I have no idea what pointed people here with that search (I know a lot of people get here via Adonis on a Google image search —I decided to test that for science, once), as I don’t recall ever having heard of him, and an image search tells me I don’t have any of his work on here (nor even my home computer). I did find these paintings though, and figured I’d share, in hopes of directing more people to his site:

Landscape with Eros and Endymion, David Ligare, year uncertain

Archer, David Ligare, 1991

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.

Correcting Aphrodite’s Navel

Aphrodite
According to Hesiod’s Theogony, she was born when Cronus cut off genitals of Uranus and threw them into the sea, and from the sea foam (aphros) arose Aphrodite.

Venus
In myth, Venus-Aphrodite was born of sea-foam. Roman theology presents Venus as the yielding, watery female principle, essential to the generation and balance of life.

If the goddess was born from sea foam, why has she belly button?

…………………………………………………………..

Αφροδίτη
Σύμφωνα με τη Θεογονία του Ησίοδου, ​​που γεννήθηκε όταν ο Κρόνος κόψει τα γεννητικά όργανα του Ουρανού και τα πέταξε στη θάλασσα, και από τον αφρό της θάλασσας (aphros) γεννήθηκε η Αφροδίτη.

Αφροδίτη
Στο μύθο, την Αφροδίτη γεννήθηκε από τη θάλασσα-αφρού. Ρωμαϊκή θεολογία παρουσιάζει την Αφροδίτη, όπως το αποδίδει, υδαρής θηλυκής αρχής, που είναι απαραίτητες για την παραγωγή και την ισορροπία της ζωής.

Αν η θεά γεννήθηκε από αφρό της θάλασσας, Γιατί είναι ο ομφαλός?

Cute video (and the description posted with it) that was sent to me in a comment by “laura noname”. Love it! Personally, I’ve always kind of wondered this, myself, as while this certainly isn’t the only mythology of Aphrodite’s birth, it’s certainly the most prevailing and popular version.

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.

Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane and polytheism as a metaphor for homosexuality

This is possibly one of my favourite films, and not just as an extension of my weakness for ridiculous films about Christian mythos (if you want ridiculous in your Christianity, The Apple is the best yet). While carrying the airs of serious art film, Sebastiane has a ridiculousness to it, don’t get me wrong (from the liberties taken with the saint’s mythos to Jarman’s response to questions about the film’s profuse nudity [“we couldn’t afford costumes after the first scene”] to the fact that it inspired an episode of Father Ted, Sebastiane‘s ridiculousness is hard to ignore), my love for this film has more to do with the fact that the more I watch it, the more I see something that I didn’t before realise was there.

This film is a sometimes shallow, but sometimes incredibly deep metaphor for a closet case (and in case you can’t see it, Jarman has explained this in many interviews and in his memoirs, which span seven volumes). Sometimes the metaphor is so deep, you have to view the film repeatedly to get it.

Ceci n'est pas une pénis.

From pretty early on in the film, its established plot focus is the relationship between Sebastiane, the Christian and one of only two characters who isn’t shown to even surrender to sex with men for lack of women (the other being Maximus, who, on repeated viewing, represents society and the Middle Class that Jarman grew up in, in specific — Maximus is not only disdainful of homosexual preferences [to excuse his own presumed, but unseen, occasional dalliances with boys for “a quick one”], and xenophobic in comparing the openly gay characters to “Greeks”, but he is devoid of genuine spirituality, giving it little more than lip-service and making the rare allegory; his most notable references to the Gods of Rome is to mock the Captain in front of the other men), and the Roman army Captain, Severus, ostensibly a polytheist, and the character with an obsessive and unrequited love and lust for the title character. Severus uses his position of power to force Sebastiane into a debatably S&M relationship (which, interestingly, appears initiated by Sebastiane) in which Sebastiane is the tortured one, and which is periodically interrupted with outbursts of pleading from Severus, because this isn’t what he wants — he wants to love, be loved, make love.

This is all pretty obvious to people who can watch the film and think a millimetre or two deeper than the most literal interpretations of what’s on the screen — which would be a bunch of naked guys running around, mostly shouting at each-other in Vulgar Latin (as opposed to the Classical Latin learned by most people today), and occasionally tying each-other up and throwing hot lamp oil on each-other, and a soundtrack by Brian Eno, because why the hell not? [Aside: All who argue the genius of Eno will be beaten with cement-filled milk jugs, with the exception of Eno himself, as that would be counter-productive to my Eno-veneration.]

One of the fuzzier metaphors is Jarman’s use of polytheistic imagery juxtaposed with apparent homosexual longing and used to contrast Sebastiane’s refusal to give in to this longing and his Christianity. Scene Two opens with Sebastiane showering himself from a well with a large water jug one morning as Severus watches on, and Sebastiane’s voice narrates imagery of an unnamed “young god” conquering Nox before standing in his chariot, “his body glittering” being “like the gold in lapis” as the camera focuses on large areas with Sebastiane’s body covered in sun-sparkling droplets of water. To the untrained eye and ear, as Sebastiane’s voice was heard briefly in the previous scene, this may seem a morning prayer with the unnamed “young god” perhaps being Jesus standing high above all other gods (and I know this, because I’ve had to explain to people, yes, even other GBLTs, that this scene wasn’t what they thought it was); but if you do think just a tiny ways further, it’s apparent that this is either Severus imagining Sebastiane’s voice and such imagery as a manifestation of his own longing, or Sebastiane knowingly indulging Severus this pleasure and thus is reciting it himself, and thus giving himself a measure of disconnect from the scene so that even though he was knowingly teasing the other man, the pantheonic imagery allows him to assure himself that his heart wasn’t in it, absolving himself of Christian Sin.

In one of the soon following scenes, Sebastiane leaves the six other men to be by himself in a secluded pool, and in voice-over from Sebastiane is an odd homoerotic prayer all too careful to eschew not only the mention of a single,transcendental deity, but any of the more obvious Christian imagery (to a largely Christian United Kingdom), in favour of something probably more reflective of Jarman’s degrees in art than anything else:

Hail god of the golden sun
The heavens and Earth are united in gold
Comb your hair in the golden rays of light
In your hands the roses of ecstasy burn
The wheel turns full circle [5]
Cooled by breezes from the four quarters
The swallow has risen in the East
The doors are open
Your body, your naked body
Initiated into the mysteries, step forth [10]
That beauty that made all colours different
Comes forth into the world
Hail god of the golden fire
Your beauty holds my heart captive

I’ve watched this film so many times, this prayer no longer has a concrete meaning. I have reason to believe Jarman wanted it this way. The first line is obviously in lock-step with Jesus allusions, at least according to the fine kooks over at JesusNeverExisted.com(1), but the rest is so steeped in homoeroticism, ostensibly pagan imagery (lines 4, 5, 10?, 13), and the only reliable imagery I can muster up from around that period (~300CE) and that region for swallows would be as a symbol of the household Gods and Aphrodite/Venus. I’d accuse Jarman of intentionally making this pagan if it wasn’t for the fact that I know he was a Christian of extremely liberal philosophies (of course, it’s very clear that Sebastiane is not portrayed heroically in this film, but instead as a creature of pity).

The following scene reveals Sebastiane’s “initiation” of the “S&M relationship” between himself and Severus, by refusing to fight. Following the beatings, Justin, Sebastiane’s sole friend and sympathiser in the film, offers comfort and a vague warning that this could go too far.

In a following scene, Severus watches Anthony and Adrian make love in the sun (and despite 1976’s X-rating, this is tamer than the sex in some episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He turns to Sebastiane and asks “Are you still a Christian?”
“Yes.”
“Then remove my armour.”

No, seriously, somebody tell me what that branch is from.Severous touches Sebastiane’s shoulder seductively, which Sebastiane refuses. As punishment for this, Severus cock-blocks Anthony and Adrian to come over, after which we see the three of them tying Sebastiane up and out in the scorching sun. Following this, we see the other men playing with a time-travelling Frisbee™ (I can’t really excuse that one, either), and this scene is cut short when we see what is presumed a heat-induced hallucination of Sebastiane’s: Standing over and looking down on him is a youth wearing a leopard skin with head, and carrying a large branch I have yet to identify. Identified as “Leopard Boy” in the credits, he says nothing and apparently fades in and out from Sebastiane’s consciousness. (Feel free to click that image to get the full size; I really want to know what that branch is from — I also apologise for the quality of the image, the film wasn’t shot with the best film, and it’s an inexpensive Kino release, this is honestly the best screen-cap I could catch.)

We then see the other men on a “pig hunt” (because no UK-produced film about anything seems truly complete without allusions to Lord of the Flies, wouldn’t you agree?) During this hunt, Justin throws down his spear and goes to Sebastiane, who is still out in the sun hallucinating Leopard Boy; this is also the scene where it’s made obvious that this is Sebastiane’s hallucination. Justin asks “Why are you doing this?”
“His eyes are so beautiful. He has sky blue eyes.” As does the actor playing Severus.
“What are you talking about?”
“His hair is like the sun’s rays. His body is golden like molten gold. This hand of his will smooth away these wounds….”
Justin looks to the blond Severus, who just then stabs the pig.
“Justin… He is as beautiful as the sun, this sun which caresses me… is his burning desire. He is Phoebus Apollo[n].” Delirious cut to Leopard Boy stepping away. “The sun… is his… burning kiss.”
“This is madness,” notes Justin. “Why don’t you run?”
“His beauty is enhanced by his anger. It is his anger which is divine. His punishments are like Christ’s promise. He takes me in his arm and caresses my bleeding body. I want to be with him. I love him. Justin, you don’t understand. Take it away.” Cut to a pool of blood in the sand surrounded by spears.

Later, there is a scene of S&M-like torture for Sebastiane from Severus, which is conclusively ended when Justin takes some food to Sebastiane and pleads, “You must eat. Why are you doing this?”
“I love him. He is beautiful. More beautiful than Adonis.”

First off, after taking notes from this film last night (including lengthy transcriptions of dialogue by hand because all I have is a desktop computer), and especially after writing this all down for my blog, I’m really confused as to why I’ve ever had to explain this to people — it’s very painfully obvious what’s happening in the desert scene — but for those of you who want to hear it from me, yes, it’s Severus who is being referred to as “Phoebus Apollo” in this delirious speech of Sebastiane’s unattainable desire. The Leopard Boy is most assuredly drawing on Dionysian imagery, implying this may be either a manifestation of Sebastiane’s true nature and desires that he’s cut himself off from, or potentially even divine communique, beckoning Sebastiane to release himself from this pain by allowing himself to love, be loved, make love. The ostensibly polytheist Adrian and Anthony contrast Sebastiane and Severus by being both open and unashamed about their love; the only nay-saying they face is from Maximus, who the other characters seem to barely tolerate. This juxtaposition especially stands out because Jarman’s own Christian beliefs make the positive portrayal of homosexual love between Anthony and Adrian, and the arguable “morality lesson” against closeted and denied homosexual desires of Sebastiane a truly unique specimen.

The comparison to Adonis is also apparently intentionally vague: Is Sebastiane referring to “this” as allowing himself to be tortured as a means to keep himself from giving in to desire, thus he is saying it is Christ who is “more beautiful than Adonis”, or is “this” allowing himself to be tortured just to have Severus touch him, and thus it is Severus who is more beautiful? Perhaps it’s both; actually, considering Jarman’s body of work, it’s almost definitely both. The imageries of both Dionysos and Adonis, it probably could go without noting, are not casual references — these are imageries of life-death-rebirth deities known in Hellenic mythology for bisexuality and (at least occasional forays into) effeminacy. Furthermore, I really can’t help but notice that imagery of Adonis and that of St. Sebastian are often eerily similar.

Hey, look. Goats.

Sebastiane’s execution is preceded first with another S&M scene, one that ends with Sebastiane denouncing Severus as an impotent drunk and defiantly asking “[Do] you think your drunken lust compares to the love of God?” This would be basically a portrayal of “suicide by cop” — lacking the ability to make these desires go away, Sebastiane chooses martyrdom as an easy out. The next scene starts with a virtual ocean of goats on the move, and sitting among them is Sebastiane, in a crown of grapes. This, I had to screen-cap on general principle, it was just so blatantly referencing Dionysos, and really, it has to be seen to be believed. The only conceivable explanations I can imagine for this is perhaps Severus laying one final claim — or possibly Jarman attempting to trick the audience into thinking they’ve seen a Christ-figure in a crown of thorns surrounded by “devils” of goats. Thinking about it for a few seconds, and knowing Jarman’s films the way I do, it’s probably both. But what the hell do I know?

It is instead Justin who is crowned in vines, alluding to Justin as the true Christ-figure in this film, and laying down an implication of Jarman’s own brand of Christianity as all-loving when one considers some earlier scenes in the film (none of which had much, if anything, to do with this piece’s perceptions, so I’ve left them alone for a later time) Severus announces Sebastiane’s execution and immediately falls to tears. At Sebastiane’s execution, Maximus also forces a bow and arrow in the thorn-and-robe-clad Justin’s hands, and makes him pull back and release a final shot — one positioned to seemingly aim for another actor’s buttocks — I believe this imagery was also as intentional as it was to put these characters in that specific scene.

When you re-think Justin as the true Christ-like figure in the film, it’s apparent that the film has Christian sympathies despite Sebastiane himself being very definitely a non-hero and debatably both protagonist and antagonist, as was Severus, but looking at and examining the well-placed polytheist imagery (because the Apollonian and Adonian allusions of St. Sebastian alone simply aren’t enough) reveal that Jarman and his film had other sympathies.

As I’d said at the beginning of this post, the film takes great liberties with traditional St. Sebastian mythos — which tends to portray him as a 3rd Century CE Rasputin (id est, he was hard to kill) — to instead create an Anterotic fable about “the gay closet” and its effective cowardice.

It’s also not lost on me that St. Sebastian is probably one of the Christian saints steeped deepest in polytheistic imagery: His patronage includes not only arrows, but also plague, and even Wikipedia’s writers and editors have noticed the correspondences with Apollon. Being also one of the religion’s earliest saints, it can effectively be said that he’s probably one of the easiest examples of early Christianity syncretising martyrs with the old Gods. At least in my own mind, this makes the Dionysian imagery somehow all the more appropriate, and brings to mind an epithet shared by Dionysos and Eros, “Eleutherios – The Liberator”. Which in turn brings to mind Severus’ relationship with Sebastiane as both “Abros – Tender” and “Algesidoros – Pain Inducer”, both engaged alternated in a futile attempt to release Sebastiane from his self-induced prison of repression.


(1) Like all the best kookery, the Jesus Never Existed people have a bit of truth on there, and a fair amount of internally consistent evidence for their purposes; I also generally agree with them that, at best, the dominating and most consistent “evidence” for the existence of “Jesus Christ” is no more “consistent” than it would need to be to support the hypothesis of “Christ” as a composite of a few rebellious, vaguely Platonic Jews from around 20-35CE of the Roman Empire. I’m outing their “truths” instead as kookery cos the crux of a fair amount of their arguments seem to make their “evidence” into something more than what it is, or outright something that it is not. Don’t take my word for it, though; dig around on their site and judge for yourself.

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.

Eros Exhibition in Athens

http://eros.cycladic.gr/

Now through 5 April 2010, at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens is a seemingly huge Eros exhibit. Moments like this make me want a visit from the money fairy.

The site for the exhibition has plenty of information on Eros, including epithets and lots of art (though, I’m sure, a pretty far cry from all in the exhibit).

I still have other things to read that I’ll be posting before the new year.

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.