In Neos Alexandria, Friday the 13th of May this year was the Kriophoria, a festival dedicated to Hermes‘ role as protector of flocks; and on May 7 was the Boukoklepteia, another Hermes-connected-to-animals festival (of sorts!). Much of this month in NA encompasses what the ancient Athenians thought of as the month of Thargelia, which had as one of its major festivals the births of Artemis and Apollon. Starting the month of May with a festival that honored Belenus, there does seem to be an Apollonian cast to the month; and yet, with the Greek festivals of the births of Artemis and Apollon, we are into the territory of “divine twins,” and in that regard the zodiac period of Gemini begins later this month. Gemini is ruled by the planet Mercury, and thus having further Hermetic connections this month as well seems eminently reasonable…
Thus, on this day (and the timing for it will be explained shortly), we celebrate all of the Hermetic and Mercurial connections of Antinous, and the god Hermes/Mercury himself, as well as his mother, the nymph Maia. And what better way to do so than to display the photo above once again?
Mercury was worshipped in Rome, but not from the earliest recorded stages of Roman religion (as he had no flamen), and he was honored on this day, May 15 (the Ides of May), in particular on a yearly basis. Furthermore, his mother Maia was also honored with a festival on this day, thus the birth of Hermes/Mercury by the nymph Maia may be the significance of what is celebrated on this occasion (though my own sources, scant though they are, do not indicate that with any certainty).
Commerce is particularly important in the Roman conception of Mercury, and in fact the entire linguistic idea of “merchants,” “mercantilism,” and even “mercenary” originates in the Latin name of this god! But something that also comes to the fore in examining ancient evidence of Roman religion is that, particularly in Gaul, Mercury was syncretized to a huge variety of deities; indeed, Julius Caesar says that the Gauls honored him more highly than any other god. Deities or epithets from Gaul, Germania, Britannia, and Iberia that are attested for Mercurial syncretisms include Andescociuoucus, Artaios (connected to bears and bear hunting!), Arvernus, Cissonius, Esibraeus, Begrinius, Moccus (connected, appropriately enough for this month, to boar hunting!), Propitius, and Visucius. He was also often given the consort Rosmerta in many places in Gaul. It has been assumed that perhaps the god Lugus lies behind many of these “Gaulish Mercury” syncretisms.
The epithets of Hermes that Antinous shares (about which there is a Triad) emphasize his role as guardian (Propylaios) and as warrior and slayer of monsters (Argeiphontes), and yet the third one, Neos Hermes, suggests perhaps a larger totality to the connections between the two gods. I would suggest, in fact, that Antinous as Neos Hermes, or as “the God Hermes under Hadrian” (as he appears in the acrostic attributed to Dionysius of Alexandria in his poem Periegete), puts forth the possibility that many other aspects of Hermes–like Hermes Logios, the god of words, but also the entire project of hermeneusis, i.e. interpretation–can then come into the fold of Antinous’ overall associations and understandings. Indeed, it is primarily through words that a great deal of Antinous’ ancient cultic remains can be accessed; even though his statuary is abundant and beautiful, there is always the possibility (at least in the minds of many academics) that it may not be cultic statuary, but “merely decorative”…and many modern people seem to think that is more the norm as well. Thus, the entire edifice of the cultus of Antinous being a subject for interpretation, and indeed an interpreting subject in itself, I think belongs in the realm of Hermes and the Hermetic connections of Antinous.
Therefore, Khaire Antinoë, Ave Mercurie, and Ave Maia on this day!