We now come to the deified abstraction Spes, “Hope.” Given my remarks earlier today about how “hope isn’t enough,” I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t think hope is useful or even positive and desirable. I thus saw an in-road today on which to honor Spes, the goddess of hope, very specifically (though she was due to come up tomorrow in the schedule I had previously prepared).
Spes Augusta, “the hope of the empire through the imperial family,” was a common coin reverse legend and image, and it is thus that she appears during the reign of Hadrian on coins he issued. She was also called Spes Populi Romani, “Hope of the Roman People,” and in her temple on the Esquiline Hill, she is honored as Spes Vetus, “ancient Hope.” She had a temple in the Forum Holitorium in Rome that was dedicated during the First Punic War. Her festival was on August 1.
Spes is portrayed as a woman holding up a flower that is opening up, and with her other hand holding up her long skirt as if she is about to dash off in some direction or other. As flowers blossom in fragrance and beauty, hope is engendered for the fruitfulness to follow. As one thinks one can hold on to hope, there she goes, dashing off in another direction to inspire someone else.
In the Greek myth of Pandora, “hope” is the final force left in the box of plagues that is unleashed upon humankind. And while hope is often the only thing one has left, I think that some people seem to ignore the fact that it was still one of the things in the box of plagues. Hope is not a bad plague with which to be plagued, certainly–I’m sure we all prefer it to famine and dysentery, for example–it can still be a harsh and fickle mistress, if not an entirely false one. In the Findhorn Community, when the various Angels that they recognize were being brainstormed and added to a list, Hope was one that was eventually rejected, because of the possibility that Hope can be false, whereas many of the other angels they recognized (Play, Strength, Peace, etc.) are “goods in themselves,” and things that tend to be positive. Of course, some may criticize the “new age” emphasis on only good things implied in this schema, and yet, there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. If it is possible for Hope to betray someone, isn’t that a violation of Fides? And yet again, Fortuna and Tyche are goddesses as much as any other, and their favor is not always guaranteed either.
And, given what today is, Spirit Day, and why this occasion has come about, I think not only of the hope that all of us wish and hope impels young people at risk of suicide to not take their lives because “there’s always hope,” nonetheless it is disheartening when all of the hope and promise of youths are cut down in their prime in such horrific ways because hope wasn’t enough for them. As Spes herself holds the blooming flower, so too have the dying youths often been memorialized as flowers. And in such situations, where hope is the last thing in their minds, I think Spes herself weeps, and joins in the words of the Tebtynis Papyrus in relation to the flower-heroes and Antinous as she looks at the dying flower in her own hand, “Someone will gather garlands of lamented names, and will lament more the youth of the dying men.”
Let us keep hope alive, however, and try and engender hope in others whenever possible, but never forget that hope is fleeting and flies before us, fleeing our grasp with swift feet before she can be caught. Hope is never enough on its own, but hope with Fides and the help of the other gods can create real change in the world.
Ave Spes! Ave Ave Antinoe!