Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 16, 2014

Megala Antinoeia Approaches…

So, the Megala Antinoeia is coming up next Monday. I hope you’re all working on devotional art projects of various kinds–and the more “non-poetry” things that are done, the better! ;)

In the meantime (and thank you, Merri-Todd, for telling me about this!), some news from late antiquity relating to this very same event (though when in the year they celebrated it is not known to me at present): bribery and wrestling with Nicantinous at the Megala Antinoeia in Antinoöpolis according to an Oxyrhynchus Papyrus fragment!

greek-combat-sports

More from the article linked to above:

In the contract, the father of a wrestler named Nicantinous agrees to pay a bribe to the guarantors (likely the trainers) of another wrestler named Demetrius. Both wrestlers were set to compete in the final wrestling match of the 138th Great Antinoeia, an important series of regional games held along with a religious festival in Antinopolis, in Egypt. They were in the boys’ division, which was generally reserved for teenagers.

Fascinating, no?

Now, let this not be license to decide that cheating to win honors in the name of Antinous is good, by any means! ;)

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 14, 2014

Blood Red Moon Is Risin’…

First, a little music…

[I have not heard that song in years, and while I've thought of the great Dave Van Ronk a few times over the last few days, that song hadn't occurred to me until tonight...!]

So, there’s a lunar eclipse tonight, and it is going to start within the hour. I probably won’t be able to see it from here, as the cloud cover is near total across the region tonight–we’ll probably have rain tomorrow. (This is sounding more and more like the blues song above…!)

Today is also the beginning of Passover for those who have any connection to Judaism, including those who are worshippers of Iao in Neos Alexandria. (Thank all of the gods I’m not a firstborn, or else I might be toast tonight…!) And, then tomorrow, likewise in Neos Alexandria, is the feast of Khonsu. Both of these festivals are linked to the moon…

But perhaps the most interestingly, at least for our purposes here, is that this is the first of four lunar eclipses that will be occurring over this year and next, which is known as a “Tetrad,” and which will not occur again until 2032/2033. Being that this is the Aedicula Antinoi, and the Tetrad++ is of great significance for us, perhaps these further dates should be considered in honor of our own Tetrad++ to some extent or another–or, perhaps, two pairs of them and then two singles can get the dates concerned.

And, Antinous himself has various lunar connections, too. Is this some leftover blood from the lion hunt, taken up by Selene? It could be…

What do you reckon?

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 12, 2014

And Speaking of Mt. Ida: The Rape of Ganymede…

By “speaking of Mt. Ida,” I mean to say that Mt. Ida is Phrygian, and thus has a distant connection to Cybele, whose festival just ended two days ago. But, of course, it is more famously connected with Troy, and in particular with an event that preceded the Trojan War by a generation or two: the rape of Ganymede.

Note how I referred to this event: not as an “abduction,” but as a “rape.” There was no point at which Ganymede consented to this union before it happened, nor did his father; but, after compensation was paid to him, things don’t seem to have been an issue any longer.

When did they ask the boy’s thoughts on the matter?

This set of reflections comes as a result of thinking about a comment I left on a blog post of Sannion’s the other day…and that likewise the Thiasos of the Starry Bull is currently celebrating the Anthesphoria which commemorates the rape of Persephone (which I wrote an essay about in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina devotional volumeQueen of the Sacred Way)…and, of course, the Wyrd Ways Radio show earlier this month…and, I’ve certainly written about Ganymede previously as well…

All of this makes me think of two things:

1) The account of Strabo regarding the Cretans, who had a pederastic initiation ritual that involved a kind of mock abduction, and which was connected to the story of Ganymede for many of them. However, note a particular matter in Strabo’s account: the family and friends of the “target” of this ritual consent to it beforehand, and after it occurs, the “target” also gets to tell if the abductor violated his consent at any stage. Thus, consensuality is a very major factor in this situation, which differentiates it from the mythic situation of Ganymede in most accounts.

2) Not surprisingly, the story of Ganymede has a great deal of currency amongst modern gay men (and thus so for many centuries, actually), including in queer theological circles. It almost becomes a blueprint for older men preying upon younger ones, in certain respects, in the ways it has been romanticized and over-idealized, and for violations of consent amongst younger “targets” in a variety of ways.

I am also reminded about what currency Ganymede had within Christianity, in terms of how the Ganymede/Zeus relationship was often an artistic inspiration behind some depictions of Jesus and the apostle John, as portrayed and initially inspired by their portrayal in the Gospel of John. Further, I’m reminded about how the syncretism of Antinous to Ganymede was not something which seems to have arisen within the cultus itself, but instead it arose as a result of the various critics of Antinous’ cult, both Christian and polytheistic: Christians said that Antinous was the Ganymede to Hadrian’s Zeus, and likewise so did Lukian of Samosata in some of his satires that portrayed Antinous as Ganymede in a rather dim fashion. It is impossible to say for certain what the actual nature of the relationship of Hadrian to Antinous would have been, but we should perhaps be wary of simply assuming that the comparison of them to Zeus and Ganymede would be “natural” or “expectable” given that there is a profound element of non-consent present with the mythic couple, to a much larger extent (even in the discussions and framing of that episode) than it is with Persephone and Hades, or Zeus and Europa, or any other such coupling.

Thus, is this comparison in itself, this acknowledgement of the syncretism of Antinous to Ganymede, a kind of rape of Antinous? The mind shudders at this notion…and I personally think that nothing like that would have happened between Hadrian and Antinous, which then makes it all the more problematic that we look at the situation of Antinous in relation to Hadrian, see Ganymede in the former and Zeus in the latter (even though Hadrian and Zeus did get syncretized), and just go “Oh, yeah, that makes sense” relatively easily and without further thought.

These aren’t pleasant thoughts, by any means…but, they need to be thought in order to be honest, and to highlight the problems inherent in some ways that certain members of the gay community have acted and thought, and the ways in which these things get unthinkingly and uncritically accepted into the mythos and ideals of queer theological contexts as well.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 11, 2014

Various Varieties of Fasting…

This is going to be short, as I don’t have much time…but, also, it’s not something that needs to be elaborated on too much, either.

Having just completed the Megalensia, I feel at ease enough to speak about something else I did in my practice/observances for that week-long period: I refrained from all sexual activity.

Now, a lot of people would say, “So what? You’re single, and you don’t do one-night stands, so what does that leave?”

[Anyone who says that, incidentally, is very uncreative.]

Why did I do this? Well, at least from many perspectives, Attis being “as he was” post-madness-and-castration couldn[‘t exactly do what most people would class as sexual activity any longer (other than passively, so to speak)…and, while this festival is not for him, exactly, he’s part of the mix of it in my view. Is it right to continue enjoying something that a deity doesn’t or can’t?

Plus, I do go through these periods of autoerotic celibacy from time to time, often just to “see what happens.” Given these matters as well, I was finding that doing anything erotic (auto- or otherwise, including just thinking about things) was bringing up far too many unpleasant memories that could not be easily dispelled.

So, what is the effect? Well, the stray and upsetting memories and thoughts (and the spirals of self-hatred that often result from these when I reflect on how I “should have” handled this or that situation, etc.) have subsided, largely (other than when I think about them or talk about them with people)…

And yet, during this time, I’ve also had very substandard sleep, my general memory is not as good as it normally is, and my energy level is at a very low ebb.

Are these two things related, or are the latter matters just a function of some of the other stresses I’m undergoing at present (beginning of the quarter, new medications, etc.), or might they also be connected to my own re-processing of all the feelings and associations dredged up by recent events?

I don’t know for sure…isolating variables of this sort is often difficult, even in the best of circumstances. In any case…

I’m still interested in hearing how other people celebrated or observed Megalensia, so please do write in with your thoughts, experiences, or even ideas for how you might do so in the future.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 10, 2014

Songs and Speeches…

More of a light-hearted post here…there may be more substantial things over the weekend, but I’m not sure yet, as I’ll be doing a variety of things tomorrow and the following day.

This has been making the rounds: the coolest Irish priest ever!

And, the following one I can’t embed (or if I could, I don’t currently know how): a TED Talk by Geena Rocero, a beautiful trans* model on her own coming out.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 10, 2014

Megalensia 2014: The Poem in Full!

So, in case you couldn’t tell, over the last seven days, I’ve been writing one part of an acrostic poem for Megalensia, each day with the honorand of the date (as established a few years ago) as the beginning letters of the lines written; however, it is a double acrostic, so that the last letters of each line, in reverse order, also spell what the first letters do in forward/regular order. This means that there aren’t end-rhymes, and the whole thing is more loose free verse than anything, but it also forced interesting word choices a lot of the time–it’s hard to find English words that end in “u,” for example! ;)

Anyway, to get the full effect, here it is…

Megalensia, the date on which the city of great Roma
Accepts into its sacred precincts the holy Galli,
Goddess-sworn priests of a Great Mother Goddesss
New to the side of Tiber, but in origins Phrygian
Asia Minor’s black heavenly stone, its very pride:
Magna Mater’s emblem brought thence with travail
Across the wide expanse of the wine-dark Mediterranean Sea
To make a new life, to bring victory and a new beginning
Enshrined on a hill in a temple in the eternal city, Rome:
Rejoice, O children, at what Aeneas’ seed did reclaim!
Agdistis, the powerful parent, themeslves monstrous,
Gods may thus have said–as if Ananke is impromptu!–
Deeming it necessary that they be changed, a genital
Inconsistency something to fear, needing to cull
Snipping humans in two did not meet the divine quota,
Therefore what was one whole was victim of cutting
In the scheme of making divine diversity more dim:
Such decisions do not prefer the trouser, but the tutu.
At this time, we also honor the first of the castrati,
The unfortunate Attis–but none of pity should we feel:
That which was “lost” was not for quid pro quo,
Instead his votaries–and this is not a fib
Stone-cold sober, slicing, into another existence, go.
Cry out! Clash the cymbals and make the tympanon a rumbler,
Yelling out “Euoi!” to the sacred stone in situ
By the Tiber or on Pessinus’ city with Midas of Phrygia
Euoi!” when the Galli whirl and dance and are cut,
Letting out cries of ecstasy and inebriated madness divine;
Euoi!” again at dawn’s first light and when night’s dark will fall.
The bull’s blood flows like melting snows from Ida, blade
Acting as the sacred spring bringing flows not to tub
Underneath, like the baths in Rome, but instead the steady
Rain falls upon the priests and votaries who come, caustic
Orations of critics aside, the vain detractors
Believing that one must slice oneself like the Galli
Or be bereft of the Goddess’ favor, or those who yet
Lecture that proper Romans and balanced Greeks should not
In Asian and Phrygian Mysteries dabble…but the coda
Unknown to such fools is that the Great Mother Goddess
May yet hear the prayers of these, whether Galli or non-Galli.
Give alms to this one, the whirling begging priest
At the service owed by them and the Archigallus
Love poured in blood by the sodality of the Galli,
Love for the Great Mother Goddess and her slain God
Until your pockets are empty because of your giving:
Such does not begin to equal their debt, not one iota.
Magna Mater, the savior of Rome from the terrors of the Carthaginian’s war,
Every soul that gathers to honor you in the Circus at the public game
Gallus and Archigallus, Thracians and Phrygians, mad maenad and ship’s pilot,
Astute philosophers and Roman plebs, and fierce gladiators from the arena
Long to praise you and receive your blessings on this day and each day, and from
Eastern reaches of the Empire to the West, the passing pilgrims scent the aroma,
Noses of the gods and mortals thrill to the sweet smells of sacrifices slain,
Signs of human gratefulness at what you have given, what you are giving
In your heaveny abode, city-crowned, mountain-adorned, lion-flanked, Domina,
Agdistis, Attis, and Cybele, the Magna Mater: on Megalensia, the Galli give a Taurobolium.

*****

I was making daily offerings during this entire time, and I’m now contemplating (though I have done this in previous years as well) getting an image of Cybele to enshrine in my home in the near future, since she does get a seven-day festival, as well as other honors, during each year from me now…

But, in terms of getting to observe other aspects of the series of holy days? I was not quite so fortunate to be able to do so. The quarter started this week for college. Today, I did walk down to the bus stop (about 1.75 miles), so even though it’s not the Circus Maximus, I did kind of have some physical exertion to get to my (public) “chariot,” so to speak. ;)

I had hoped to have some appropriate lunch with a few students and colleagues, but the colleague cancelled out (again!), so it was down to me and one student. Oh well–we went anyway, and I had a rather crazy notion on the bus on the way in as far as something possibly food-appropriate that could be done for the occasion. This was the result:

Megalensia Food

The following actually did occur as far as a consultation/conversation as we were in the line at the Asian buffet: “Which do you think looks more testicular: these crab cheese wontons, or these sesame balls?” We went with the sesame to accompany the egg rolls, and topped it with blood sweet ‘n’ sour sauce, and then also had some beef (for the Taurobolium), and the broccoli like it was little trees, since people bore tree-branches for Attis as well. (Some Naval aviators who were nearby at the time didn’t seem to appreciate parts of our conversation, but then again, they shouldn’t have been listening to us so intently either.)

So, what did you do for Megalensia? I’d be really interested in knowing!

Ave Magna Mater! Ave Cybele! Ave Agdistis! Ave Attis!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 10, 2014

Megalensia 2014, Part Seven

"Megalensia" by Laura Seabrook

“Megalensia” by Laura Seabrook

Magna Mater, the savior of Rome from the terrors of the Carthaginian’s war,
Every soul that gathers to honor you in the Circus at the public game
Gallus and Archigallus, Thracians and Phrygians, mad maenad and ship’s pilot,
Astute philosophers and Roman plebs, and fierce gladiators from the arena
Long to praise you and receive your blessings on this day and each day, and from
Eastern reaches of the Empire to the West, the passing pilgrims scent the aroma,
Noses of the gods and mortals thrill to the sweet smells of sacrifices slain,
Signs of human gratefulness at what you have given, what you are giving
In your heaveny abode, city-crowned, mountain-adorned, lion-flanked, Domina,
Agdistis, Attis, and Cybele, the Magna Mater: on Megalensia, the Galli give a Taurobolium.

*****

Ave Magna Mater! Ave Cybele! Ave Agdistis! Ave Attis!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 9, 2014

A Bonus from Rome for Megalensia

Only about the first half of it is relevant, despite being quite anachronistic for a variety of reasons…

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 9, 2014

Megalensia 2014, Part Six

Give alms to this one, the whirling begging priest
At the service owed by them and the Archigallus
Love poured in blood by the sodality of the Galli,
Love for the Great Mother Goddess and her slain God
Until your pockets are empty because of your giving:
Such does not begin to equal their debt, not one iota.

*****

Ave Mater Magna! Ave Cybele! Ave Attis!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 8, 2014

Love Spells, Antinous, and Some Recent Issues…

So, as I mentioned in this post earlier today, a line of questioning that two of my students had with me inspired the blog post which follows here.

Many of you may recognize the figure above as the terra cotta “voodoo doll” found with a certain love spell, likely (but not certainly) near Antinoöpolis in Egypt, which seems to invoke Antinous as a daimon. Now, there is conjecture over whether this spell actually does invoke Antinous the god/hero/the Bithynian lover of Hadrian, or whether it’s just some other person named Antinous who happened to have died or have been buried in the vicinity of Antinoöpolis; this quandary is akin to wondering if a dead person named Tony might be St. Anthony if they happened to be buried near San Antonio, Texas–and while that may seem a bit silly as a comparison, it’s a fair enough point to make.

But, let’s assume that it does refer to Antinous in this odd fashion, and Antinous of Bithynia is the particular corpse daimon that is being invoked. (Although the likelihood that Antinous’ corpse was not in Antinoöpolis is another complicating factor with that matter…!?!) What, then does this spell tell us about Antinous, apart from this novel theology?

Let’s look at parts of the spell first:

I conjure you, Antinous spirit of the dead, in the name of the Terrible and the Fearsome, the name at whose sound the earth opens up, the name at whose sound the demons tremble in fear, the name at whose sound rivers and rocks burst asunder. I conjure you, Antinous spirit of the dead, by Barbaratham Cheloumbra Barouch Adonai and by Abrasax and by Iao Pakeptoth Pakebraoth Sabarbaphaei and by Marmaraouoth and by Marmarachtha Mamazagar. Do not disregard me, Antinous spirit of the dead, but rouse yourself for me and go to each place, to each neighbourhood, to each house and bring me Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes; prevent her from eating, from drinking, until she comes to me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to accept the advances of any man other than me alone Sarapammon. Drag her by the hair, the guts, until she does not reject me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and I have her, Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, subject to me for the entire extent of my life, loving me, desiring me, telling me what she thinks. If you do this, I will release you.

First of all, it tells us that this spell is very similar to a PGM IV spell, and the figure that was found with it matches exactly the recipe given in that spell. Why is that important? Because other parts of PGM include the spell that Pachrates/Pancrates of Heliopolis gave to Hadrian, and thus it is possible that the PGM IV document as-a-whole (which has some theological and structural similarities observed in the different spells throughout it) might have been something that could have circulated in Antinoan-related circles, and perhaps even in Antinoöpolis itself. It also uses Iao and Abrasax as voces magicae, which is very interesting theologically. Because of how this version is phrased, though, the first sentence quoted above almost reads in a way–at least to some people–as an echo of the Obelisk of Antinous, in which it says that the doorkeepers of the underworld open their doors to Antinous and praise him. Though it clearly means some other deity, whose name is being used to command and compel whichever “Antinous” it is here, the phrase “the name at whose sound the earth opens up, the name at whose sound the demons tremble in fear, the name at whose sound rivers and rocks burst asunder” has always struck a number of modern Antinoans as being something that they might say about Antinous himself in his more fearsome aspects (e.g. Antinous the Liberator).

Further, the spell is one in which a male is trying to elicit the attentions of a female, which is an interesting counter to the claims by some people that Antinous was a “gays-only” deity–the only love spell we have invoking him at all is not, and thus that is noteworthy, at least from a queer (rather than gay) theological perspective.

Whether this is our Antinous or not, though, this spell is important for another reason: it shows that there are “not-very-nice” aspects to the ancient cultus of Antinous as well as aspects that are much nicer, like calling him Deus Amabilis (“the Lovely God”) and other more tender-hearted and affable things. Ancient love spells were not “love spells” in the way we often think of them, they were “binding spells” that were intended to inflict pain and suffering on someone until they “came to their senses” and submitted to a would-be lover’s desires toward them. They were coercive, and blatantly and deliberately so; as such, they violated every concept of consent in erotic matters that we are aware of in modern society.

But, we don’t do this anymore.

It’s important not to whitewash the ancient cultus of Antinous–or any other deity in any culture–but it’s also not necessary, desirable, or remotely applicable to our modern situation to emulate or replicate, or even in many cases simply adapt, this kind of magical operation simply because it has a quasi-Antinoan stamp of approval and authenticity on it from the ancient world.

Given everything that has been happening in the wider pagan community recently, and the sexual ethics statements that are resulting from it (amongst other things), it feels necessary and very responsible to make this clarification, and thus I’ve made this entry.

What importance does this love spell have, then? If indeed it is our Antinous (and I, like most modern classicists, am going to assume that it is), it is part of the heritage–whether good or bad, positive or negative–of the wider cultus of Antinous; it presents a novel and unique theological perspective on Antinous not as a god or a hero but instead as a daimon; it has interesting further implications for what sorts of magical corpora were in vogue in Antinoöpolis in late antiquity; it has theological connections that are also intriguing.

It is not a model to be emulated, however, and thus is in the same category as slavery, pederasty, and imperialism (amongst many other things that we’ve abandoned, grown past, or in various other ways critiqued or abolished–for the very-definitely-better, too!) that occurred in the ancient world, which we can note and be honest about and discuss historically, but should not set out to idealize or imitate or practice.

Does that seem relatively clear? I hope so…

As the beginning of the season of Antinous the Lover approaches in less than two weeks, if one is in the mind of invoking Antinous in relation to love and love magic in particular, my suggestion would be to use high magic rather than low magic, so to speak: don’t create a spell to grab the attentions of a lover, but instead make a prayer to Antinous to make you open to love, and to attract a lover that is appropriate for you at your given place in life at the moment. It’s always better to ask nicely than it is to demand with threats, and this love spell not only compels the lover with severe discomfort, but it also compels Antinous. The name at whose sound the demons tremble, the earth opens up, and the rivers and rocks burst asunder–for our purposes here, Antinous–should, if anything, scare out and uncover the parts of ourselves that we have buried, have left empty to be inhabited by daimones of despair and fear, and un-dam the rivers within us that have been blocked.

If Antinous wills it, may it be so for each of us; and if Antinous does not will it, may we have peace with that fact.

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