Virgil’s Ecologue and Plato’s Symposium: A Greek View of Gender
In Plato’s Symposium Aristophanes talks about the origins of mankind. There were originally three species – male, female, and androgynous. Because of their pride, the gods punished them by dividing them in half so that they would always walk the earth looking for their other half in their quest to be whole. Those who were of the divided male species were always looking for their other male half – thus male-male homosexual love; those of the divided female species were always looking for their other female half – thus female-female homosexual love; those of the divided androgynous species were always looking for the other sex – male for female and female for male, or heterosexual love.
“Those who dwell in Arcadia seek out that secret Eden because of its isolation from the troubled world and its safety from the arrogant demands of those who would deny freedom, curtail human action, and destroy innocence and love.” – Byrne R.S. Fone
Arcadia as a Uranian Ideal
During the European Renaissance, Arcadia emerged as an ideal of unspoiled, remote, wilderness. It was further idealized by Uranian (their contemporary term for homosexual) men as a homosexual Eden or a utopia of male-male love. To these men, Arcadia was a metaphor for what homosexual life could be without the stigma and constraints of mainstream heterosexual society. They pictured Arcadia as a hidden and isolated leafy grove, a remote pastoral land, or even as an island far from the hustle and bustle and every day cares of the mundane world. For them, Arcadia feeds the homosexual spirit. The love of men for men is natural there. It is even divinely sanctioned as a means to understand all that is good and beautiful. In Arcadia, homosexual love and sexuality is the ideal. It is noble, inspired, virtuous, and spiritually uplifting. Arcadia features untrodden paths, secluded spots, and hidden waters. There are rivers flowing through the land and the element of water purifies and enhances the innocence of the place. Rites of the sea, purification, and transformation by water are central to the rituals of life in Arcadia. Symbolic sexual consummation takes place in or near the water. These rituals celebrate male friendship, our mythologies, the union and consummation of lovers, coming together in a loving and sexual fraternity of men, and washing away any sense of guilt brought on by society at large. These rites often include offering gifts from nature and purification by water. The men of Arcadia are naturally nude, or at least they wear skimpy clothing. The climate is such that this is comfortable.
These Renaissance men idealized Arcadia as a place where homosexual sensibilities, love, and sexuality can be practiced without fear or punishment. In Arcadia, it is safe to come out and to be gay. In this Utopia of male love and sexuality, gay and bi men are free from the stigma and the “outlaw” status that society confers on us.
Look out for part 3 coming soon… To find out more about the Arcadia Gathering, please visit:
What is Arcadia? Arcadia was an ancient Greek city with its own mythology and patron deities, but it was also the ideal of a homosexual utopia in European Renaissance literature. It is also the name adopted for an East Coast / Mid-Atlantic gathering of Queer Pagan Men that is set to take place October 9-12, 2019 in Cumberland, Virginia.
Arcadia: The historic place
Historic Arcadia was a region located in the central highlands on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. The Arcadian tribe that originally settled the area is considered one of the oldest tribes to have settled in Greece. Because it was a remote, mountainous place, Arcadia was a cultural refuge. Its language and culture remained unique. Arcadia had numerous towns in both the mountains and in its fertile valleys. The landscape included mountains, forests pastoral land, and rivers.
Arcadia is mentioned in works by ancient writers such as Herodotus and Homer.
Mount Lykaion is one of the major historical places of the region. Mount Lykaion is the home of the ancient Lycaean Games dedicated to Zeus and Pan. These games were similar to the ancient Olympics and took place very four years. The mountain featured an altar to Zeus which featured two pillars topped with statues of golden eagles.
Mythology related to ancient Arcadia
Arcadia is named after the mythological character Arcas. Arcas was a hunter who was the first king of Arcadia. He was the son of Zeus and Callisto. Besides hunting, Arcas is associated with weaving and baking bread. Arcus and his mother Callisto are also associated with bears. Arcus was later turned into a bear and put into the heavens among the stars as Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. His mother Callisto is Ursa Major, the Big Bear.
Arcadia is the home of the satyr God Pan. Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, rustic music, fields, and groves. With his ever erect endowment, Pan is associated with sexuality and fertility. Pan was said to lust after and chase nymphs and shepherds alike.
Zeus also had a special place in Arcadia, especially at Mount Lykaion. The place is said to have been the birthplace of Zeus (aka Zeus Lykaios or the Wolf Zeus). Zeus and King Lycaon, the first King of the area, also play into one of the world’s first recorded werewolf stories. King Lycaon wanted to test to see if Zeus was really a god. To do so he invited Zeus to a feast and fed him the roasted flesh of the king’s own son. Zeus didn’t fall for it and punished Lycaon by turning him into a wolf. Speaking of wolves, the Lycaean Games mentioned earlier featured a secret rite of passage for young men. In this ritual, the men were said to become wolves for nine years. In some of these rituals, the youth would take off his clothes, swim across a river or marsh, and become a wolf on the other side – again for a period of nine years.
According to mythology, Atalanta, a Greek heroine, was the daughter of King Iasus of Arcadia. Atalanta was a virgin huntress who refused to marry. She was a fierce hunter who swore an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis. She was so fierce that she slew two centaurs who tried to rape her. She also took part in the hunt for the Caledonian Boar and was the one who eventually killed it.
The god Hermes was also honored in Arcadia. One of Hermes oldest temples was on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and Mount Cyllene was said to be his birthplace.
The wilderness of Arcadia was said to be the home of various magickal and mythological creatures including satyrs, centaurs, dryads, nymphs, and other spirits.
Look out for part 2 coming soon… To find out more about the Arcadia Gathering, please visit:
In episode 14: The Update Show, I provide updates on what I’ve been up to including:
- Conferences and gatherings – The Hero’s Adventure, Querent, and Between the Worlds
- Updates on my book and an LGBT werewolf workshop I’m hoping to do at Marscon
- My photography
- My local LGBTQ / Pagan / Alternative website
- Groups including the New Order of Chaeronea and Order of the Stone Circle
- My big project – I’m working toward starting a campground / retreat center
- Personal updates
You can find my show on my website: http://www.melmystery.com, and through iTunes and Podbean.