Today is the Serapeia, reckoned on several Roman calendars from late antiquity on this particular date yearly. No doubt, Hadrian’s Serapeum in Rome would have had a major festival on this date, if not many others throughout the year.
I am carrying one of the oldest objects that I own today: the terra cotta figure of Serapis’ head that I obtained a few years ago (shown above). Serapis is, in many respects, one of the most important deities in my practice, and has had a way of shaping my practice for much longer than I realized. (I wrote about this in my essay for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthology Waters of Life.) Serapis’ status as a super-syncretistic deity, and understanding what exactly this means, has been very useful, illustrative, and illuminating for my own practices with Antinous. (And, it has also helped me to understand a few other such deities, like Sabazios, as well.)
Today, I wanted to write Serapis a poem, but one that does not (unlike my earlier poem for him, “Triad for Serapis,” which is both in The Phillupic Hymns and Waters of Life) rely upon simply identifying his syncretisms. When I did the “Super-Syncretism” presentation at PantheaCon this year, and there was a moment at the beginning where I named the various syper-syncretistic deities we’d be touching on later during which people could praise the deity and name specific aspects or epithets of them, no one but myself said anything for Serapis. This sort of disturbed and upset me (though, please understand, I was not disturbed by nor upset with anyone present!), because Serapis is a deity who is fairly well-known, though quite often apparently misunderstood, and often demeaned as a “made-up” deity. (I’m reminded of the lines from the Hedwig and the Angry Inch song “Exquisite Corpse”: “A collage / I’m all sewn up / A montage / I’m all sewn up…”) So, my attempt today was to make a poem for Serapis that praises him, but not in direct relation to his syncretisms; instead, moving back a step from the syncretistic elements he inherited from others to what his role might be. It’s a kind of experiment, granted, but one that I’m relatively happy with at this stage. The format I used was similar to the “adorations” practice that Sannion started and which has become a major phenomenon of its own these days amongst particular modern polytheists.
Praise for Serapis
Hail to the Balance of the Two Lands–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Father of the Waters of Egypt–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Shaper of the Firmament–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Heraldic Bull of His Mother–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Sovereign of the Underworld–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the King from Argos and Sinope–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Hidden Protector of Alexander–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Deified Artificer of Healing–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the One Who Brings Back Life–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Ecstatic Lord in His Wanderings–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Presiding God of Pharaoh’s Dreams–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the God Resident at Delos and at Rome–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Husband of Isis, Strong in Magic–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Father of Harpokrates, Silent Child Lotus-Borne–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to the Father of Hermanubis, Uniter of Natures–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Was Restored from Dismemberment–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Whose Terror Shakes Land and Sea–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Whose Power Arcs Across the Sky–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who is Unconquered Against Monsters–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Measures the Grain Ration Justly–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Holds a Three-Headed Hound on his Leash–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is Ram-Horned, Giver of Oracles–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Shepherds Beasts in the Fields–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is the Light-Giver of the Cosmos–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is the Sovereign Over Time–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Whose Form is a Segmented Serpent–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is Bull and Bull’s Slayer–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is Lord of Hosts–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is the Guide of Souls Above and Below–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is the Grandfather of Antinous–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to He Who Is Mighty-Bearded–Rejoice! You are praised!
Hail to Serapis, Great God of Egypt, Greece, and Rome–Rejoice! You are praised!
A much older Roman holiday that falls on April 25th is the Robigalia. (In a Google image-search for Robigalia, the above is what I found–and in absence of anything more certain, why the heck not use that?) Robigalia was a festival in which the sacrifice of a rust-colored dog and several sheep at the sacred grove of Robigo and/or Robigus (the former female, the latter male) in order to bring the plants to full flower and fruit, and to drive away mildew rust from infesting the crops. It’s an agricultural holiday, therefore, and one that doesn’t have an awful lot to do with folks like me–insofar, that is, as I’m not an agriculturalist or someone involved directly in such matters. However, the fact of Robigalia falling on this day was in my mind earlier, and during the last period of sleep I had, I had a dream that sort of re-oriented the holiday for me in a strange sort of way that I’m still trying to parse. The following poem is what I have written to work toward that…
Robigo and Robigus
For you I will fashion a rust-colored hound
out of the hardest of mahogany hardwoods;
For you I will train this crafted canine
to protect the house of books with ferocity;
For you I will set the dog to guard
the sacred grove and the storehouse of riches;
For you I will entice this dog to chase
every spirit of blight and destruction from the land.
And, finally, today is a syncretism festival for Antinous and Apis. The above statue of Antinous as the Apis Bull, now in the Vatican, came from Hadrian’s Villa–no doubt, it would have been somewhere in the Serapeum/”scenic triclinium” area of the villa, if not from the Antinoeion itself. It’s one of the statues that (relatively speaking) I have learned about the most recently, and it continues to intrigue me to contemplate it. The following was written, therefore, with this in mind.
Apis and Antinous
There is a bull that loves the land,
whose bellows speak from its heart,
whose steps foretell fate and fortune,
whose tears denote doom to the unwary.
There is a boy that loves the land,
whose voice is oracular and portentous,
whose dances fill the dreams of devotees,
whose cries precede liberation for the oppressed.
The bull’s horns are in his form’s shadow;
his beautiful face is in the reflection of the bull’s eyes.
O sacred animal, herald of the gods,
O holy human, exemplar of deification–
Release your flood-waters upon me.
I hope everyone is able to observe one (or more!) of these occasions today in whatever way they feel is most appropriate, beneficial, and beautiful!
Ave Serapis! Ave Apis! Ave Robigo et Robige! Ave Ave Antinoe!