There are many things which the date of May 22 happens to be. Thirteen years ago, this was the date on which I graduated from my undergraduate college, Sarah Lawrence College. Among the truly historical events of this day is that Alexander the Great’s army defeated the Persians under Darius III in 334 BCE; it is also the death-date of the emperor Constantine–and to this day, he’s still dead. More to be mourned is that this was also the death-date of the Anglo-Irish writer, Lady Augusta Isabella Gregory, who wrote about Cú Chulainn, amongst other figures in Irish mythology.
It is also the death-date of the Ekklesía Antínoou’s Sanctus Langston Hughes. But it is also the birth date of a number of famous people (including Richard Wagner, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Graham Linehan, and Apolo Anton Ohno), among them several of our other Sancti.
Perhaps most importantly, it is the dies natalis of Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay politician elected to public office in California, who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk was born on this day in 1930, and died on November 27, 1978 (which is the dies natalis of Antinous himself!). His importance to the modern gay rights and gay political action movements is almost inexpressible. (Unfortunately, as the result of his assassination, the infamous “Twinkie defense” came into being, alas…) In California, he is honored on this day, which has been declared Harvey Milk Day by the state legislature.
Also, in 1907, this was the dies natalis of one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the twentieth century, Lord Laurence Olivier, who died on July 11, 1989. He was the first British actor to earn not only a knighthood, but a life peerage, and he preferred to be called “Larry” rather than Sir Laurence or Lord Olivier, to which he would have been entitled. He was married three times, but it is widely thought (though disputed by some) that he was bisexual, being involved–so it is rumored–with another Ekklesía Antínoou Sanctus, Danny Kaye, at some point, as well as suggestions of other lovers. One of his wives has disputed his connection to Kaye, but did not dispute that he was in fact bisexual.
In Ekklesía Antínoou reckoning, this is also remembered as the day which Ovid’s Fasti, very unusually, regards what many have read as the date of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, even though this is known to have occurred in Ovid’s time in late July. Sirius is connected with the rising of the Nile, and with deities like Isis, Anubis, Herakles, and Hermanubis. Ovid’s narrative, however, brings in another character altogether:
In the night that follows the day the dog of Erigone rises:
I have given the explanation of this constellation in another place.
Real helpful, Ovid–thanks. (He hasn’t! Though he mentions the constellation on April 25, before his explanation of the Robigalia.)
The constellation Canis Minor, which is sometimes thought to have been the one in question, is said to have set in the West at dusk on this date. Erigone was the daughter of Ikarios, the man who first made wine in Greece under the direction of Dionysos; but when he served it unmixed and it caused those who drank it to pass out, their friends thought they were dead, and killed Ikarios in retribution. They hid their crime by burying his body, but Ikarios and Erigone had a loyal hound called Maira, and she lead Erigone to her father’s burial site. For this, she was honored by the gods by being made into a constellation.
And, perhaps in some year in the (hopefully very distant!) future, this day might also be remembered by some in the Ekklesía Antínoou, if it indeed still exists, as the dies natalis of myself, your host in this virtual shrine and your guide on this virtual journey, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (1900 years and almost four months after the dies natalis of Divus Hadrianus!). But, there is even precedent within the ancient cultus of Antinous for celebrating the birthdates of founders of particular temples or groups while they were still alive–indeed, the founder of the Lanuvium collegium of Diana and Antinous not only had his dies natalis in their temple constitution as one of the feast-dates of the society alongside those of Antinous and Diana, but also the dies natalis of several members of his family, both male and female!
I tend to begin my celebrations of my natal day before the actual time I was born (1:38 AM), and continue them through the day itself. I’ll be having brunch with part of my family in the morning, and then will have dinner with several people associated with the Ekklesía Antínoou: Erynn Rowan Laurie and Disirdottir, at very least…and possibly others, who knows? And, if all goes well, I’ll get a bit of reading done, and maybe write some poetry as well…I try to do at least a little bit of writing on this day every year, and I’ve had a poem/song percolating in my head for the last week, so perhaps it’s time to put pen to paper finally on it.
If you want to celebrate this date with me virtually, and wish to do something for me that is equally enjoyable for you, why not buy one of my books or (if you don’t want to put money into my pocket, but wish to help out charitable causes or other worthy authors and artists…which is also a perfectly fine thing to do!) one in which my work has been published? (Yes, shameless self-promotion…but those of us who have no steady income streams must get money where we can…!?!) And, you know, all of these books make great birthday presents for other people as well, so if you buy them on this date for that purpose in the future, then everyone wins! Okay, enough of that…
There is a very good reason, it seems to me, to celebrate one’s birthday as a holy-day, though. It’s something that was looked down upon by Christians for much of their history, with the death-dates of their saints being the ones celebrated, because ultimately this life on earth had no value. (And we all know how much this has been in the news recently, what with the stuff that was supposed to have happened yesterday but didn’t…) But, for the Romans, it was a big deal to celebrate someone’s birth-date, because–like most pagans throughout history–this life is wonderful and worthwhile and a beauty and a joy, and a privilege to have. Every year that goes by in which one continues to have access to such a brilliantly varied and exciting opportunity to experience the phenomenon of life is a good thing, and something to celebrate and be thankful for in every manner possible. Unfortunately, to be “pro-life” in this manner is not what those who proudly claim that label today represent–they look to the time before independent life is actually viable, and the last moments of life, as things which need to be preserved, and they do so in the name of their religions, rather than proclaiming the everyday sanctity and beauty to be found in actually living, with all of its difficulties and triumphs, all of its sex and its struggles, all of its messiness and its ecstasies, all of its learning and its growing and its continuously unfolding revelation of divine and physical beauty and wonder. So, if you happen to be pagan, and you don’t have an approach to the anniversary of your birth that is like this, it’s not too late to start!
So, on this day, sing Ignis Corporis Infirmat, Ignis sed Animae Perstat for our Sancti, Langston Hughes, Harvey Milk, and Laurence Olivier; honor Dionysos, Ikarios, Erigone, and Maira; and, enjoy a feast of your own in my honor, wherever you are, Lanuvium-style!