Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 24, 2013

Death of Attis; and, Behold the Leviathan!

[Yet again, WordPress is being weird…I posted this entry yesterday, but apparently it didn’t go through, and got saved as a draft instead. So, for “today” below, understand “Saturday the 23rd.” There may be another entry later…I don’t know…]

Today was the date on which the Roman cult of Cybele reckoned the death of Attis; tomorrow, in his honor, the Day of Blood follows; and then on Monday the 25th, the Hilaria will celebrate his resurrection.

While I knew that today was in some fashion connected with death when I set out this morning, I couldn’t remember what great god or hero’s death was marked on this day. (More on the activities I’ve done thus far today in a moment.) Those the Magna Mater loves most of all often suffer the most–not unlike some of the reflections I made on the latest “Queer I Stand” column. I’m also reminded of the Circle of Dionysos’ “Cybele and the Angry Inch” performance ritual at the most recent PantheaCon last month…

But, I’m also reminded of another “titanic” great mother goddess, Tethys, one of the great goddesses of the sea who gave birth to most of the river gods of the ancient Greeks, and who was the nurse-maid and foster-mother to Hera. It was upon her realm that I was earlier today, and even though I take ferries on a relatively frequent basis, I don’t usually go out on boats just for fun for extended periods of time (the ferry routes I take are usually about fifteen minutes long, but no more than an hour generally on the longest ones). I went with a group of students from college today on a whale-watching trip, and we left from the place where I spent so much time as a very young child, the Oak Harbor Marina. It was wonderful to see many sights (including Mt. Erie!) from a much different angle upon the sea, and it was both sunny and almost windless today, which made the trip extremely pleasant.

At one point, as the sea seemed to roll out in front of us in a profusion of lines like a plowed field, I thought of the following words of Manannán mac Lir from Immraim Brain:

Bran deems it a marvellous beauty
In his coracle across the clear sea:
While to me in my chariot from afar
It is a flowery plain on which he rides about.

What is a clear sea
For the prowed skiff in which Bran is,
That is a happy plain with profusion of flowers
To me from the chariot of two wheels.

Bran sees
The number of waves beating across the clear sea:
I myself see in Mag Mon
Red-headed flowers without fault.


And, yes, we also saw a whale! (This isn’t a photo of the one we saw…but, as soon as I get photos from the occasion, perhaps I’ll post one.) We were able to see a male California gray whale feeding for a long time, and then he came toward our boat in order to wash out his baleen, and as he did so, we had a dead-on view of him as he spouted at one point, and then he showed almost his entire spine length out of the water about 10 yards off our stern. It was pretty amazing! The thought of the Leviathan and the Behemoth–two monsters that Iao Sabaoth defeated before creation (though we do not have the actual narrative of it)–came to mind immediately as the whale passed and then dove deep, resurfacing hundreds of yards away several minutes later, as the gray whale is one of the oldest and in certain respects “most primitive” of the mysticetes.

I also learned something I didn’t know at all: a sea-borne mirage is known as a Fata Morgana. This is interesting, because that’s the Italian name for Morgan le Fay, though it has definite influence from the Fatae (or Fates) of Graeco-Roman mythology, in addition to the murky and questionable (and yet quite certain) various Insular Celtic contributions of the figure of “Morgan.” However, the Fatae, Fatuae, or Parcae of Roman myth may also have indirect influence from some triplicity of Celtic goddesses, like the Matronae. So, even upon this sea so far from Ireland and Wales, and from Italy, the names of goddesses were being invoked by people who probably didn’t even know they were invoking goddesses!

And, of course, Antinous was never far from my mind in this process, not only because I carry so many of his symbols with me on my person at almost all times, and because he drowned, but because I suspect he was out on the high seas, both with and without Hadrian, many times in his life…

It’s been more than twenty (and probably even twenty-five) years since I’ve been on the water from Oak Harbor’s marina, and I thought about many things I have not thought about for many years, including many of the times I was on the water in boats of various sizes with my dad and other family members and friends over the years.

May we give thanks, both for the Great Mother of the Sea who gives birth to so much life and sustains the waters of the world, and never drowns her children; and to the Great Mother of Phrygia, who drove her lover to madness and death, but brought him to rebirth as well!

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