In addition to today being a day when we got a new (old) president in the U.S., and likewise we are celebrating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and some of us get the day off as a result), it is one of the syncretism festivals in the Ekklesía Antínoou. These don’t always get a huge amount of attention here (nor, I suspect, in the personal practices of many people), but over the last few days I’ve had a sort of insight into the way this occasion fits into a potential wider pattern.
No matter how historical or non-cultic the identification of Antinous with Ganymede happened to be in the ancient world, the story of a beautiful young prince transformed into the immortal cupbearer of Zeus is one that has resonated with people across the ages. While it is fairly common knowledge that we, as humans, are literally made of stars (i.e. material that was engineered in the furnaces of great celestial objects billions of years ago), such myths of immortalization see the exact opposite taking place: a fallible, passing, temporary human life becomes so large and brilliant that it assumes a place in the heavens for all to see for ages to come (even though the stars, too, pass away after a time). Of course, had it not been for Zeus, none of this ever would have happened for Ganymede.
Fast forward three days from now, and we will be celebrating the dies natalis of Divus Hadrianus Augustus, the Zeus of his world (quite literally through syncretism in some cases!), who brought Antinous from what would have otherwise been obscurity into the light of public notice, and eventual eternal fame and adoration, and who was himself a keen student of astrology and who watched the stars devotedly. (And, being an Aquarius, that also echoes Ganymede and Antinous…)
And, five days from then, we’ll be celebrating the first appearance of the star of Antinous in the night’s sky over Alexandria in 131 CE, about ninety days after Antinous’ death. It was a star that appeared below Aquila, the eagle which commemorated Ganymede’s ascent into the heavens that was sent by Zeus (or, perhaps, was Zeus in aquiline form), and that connoted the Roman Empire and the Emperor himself. The constellation was redrawn to be Ganymede/Antinous as a result of this new celestial appearance…And, for us, it is the day when Antinous the Liberator gives way to Antinous the Navigator.
And in between, there are other festivals that originate from Roman and Egyptian contexts which, in various ways, could be seen as further developments or nuances to this entire sequence (though some less than others).
Often, when one observes holy days from so many different cultural origins, and has a number of others that are rooted in these cultures but are novel, an overall sense of order or progression in any holy season can be lacking if it was not present in those original cultures to begin with, or if it wasn’t deliberately created in the modern period to have such a progression. I can state with certainty that there was no deliberation on my part in this overall sequence of festivals in the last ten years–it just happened to come out that way, and to have an overall coherence and set of connections between them to mark the shift from one aspect of Antinous to the next. What luck?!?
Khaire Ganymede! Khaire Khaire Antinoe!