Today is the first day of the Sacred Nights of Antinous, which commemorates the Festival of Osiris at approximately the time it would have been celebrated in Egypt just before the death and deification of Antinous. The prototype of Osiris’s death and deification is what set the stage for Antinous undergoing a similar process, and Osiris was also the first of the many deities to whom Antinous was syncretized.
While it is well known and understood that the above is the case, it’s worth dwelling on a bit further. There were no end of drowned-and-deified heroes and/or gods from Greek and Roman cultures–including but not limited to Helle, Palaimon/Melikertes, Ino/Leukothea, Virbius, Tiberinus, and others. (Most of the former list, as well as Antinous and Osiris, are discussed in an article by me, “Deification By Drowning: The Dangerous Splendors of the Element of Water,” in Witches & Pagans 27 (October 2013), pp. 29-32, that is now available in both printed and digital formats, and which I have not yet seen–though I did see a pre-publication proof, and it looks quite good to me!–so perhaps those who are interested can obtain that in the near future.) However, it was not these upon whom the heroization/deification/apotheosis of Antinous was most directly based, or upon whom his cultus relied for its initial inspiration and outline: it was the Egyptian Osiris, first and foremost, and the several-thousand-year heritage of Egyptian religious cultus and practice in which it was contextualized.
In this regard, I’d like to draw your attention to an article that I read recently, which–on the one hand–does not mention Antinous’ name a single time, and yet–on the other–it has taught me more about things related to Antinous and his cultus from a practical theological viewpoint than have almost all books or articles by professional academic scholars writing directly about Antinous, who tend to treat his cultus not as a religious reality, but instead as an historical curiosity. The article in question is Dr. Aaron Cheak’s “Waters Animating and Annihilating: Apotheosis by Drowning in the Greek Magical Papyri,” in Damon Zacharias Lycourinos’ edited volume Occult Traditions (Melbourne: Numen Books, 2012), pp. 48-78. I have to say certain aspects of the overall book itself are rather disappointing, considering that it aims to be at the higher end of professional, academic-quality occult/magical/pagan/polytheist writing (the specific details and critiques of which I may address at some other time in the future), but Cheak’s article itself is superb.
You might recognize Dr. Aaron Cheak’s name from my article on the 2013 Esoteric Book Conference published at The Wild Hunt blog. On the second day of the conference, after he had presented on the first day, I spoke briefly with him about a few slides that came up in his PowerPoint presentation (specifically regarding Egyptian paintings of lotuses emerging from other lotuses–a compelling image which I have no idea why it would be at all of interest to me…!?!), and he made some recommendations on where to find further information about them. We got to talking, and he mentioned this article he had written, which has a title remarkably close to that of my Witches & Pagans article; and after musing on that fact for a few moments, he said that he certainly came across Antinous’ name in his research, but hadn’t written anything of him and didn’t know a great deal about him. No matter, really (and remember, this is ME saying those words!), as what he does cover in his article is quite extraordinary, and if anything adds further levels of meaning to the overall story and situation with Antinous, as you’ll see further in the days to come.
But, needless to say, perhaps, the fact of Osiris’ holy death in the Nile being an essential element of understanding apotheosis/deification by drowning is covered amply and admirably by Cheak in his treatment of the matter.
I believe I’ll leave things there for the moment…you’ll see the first installment of “Nine Days Along the Nile” in the next post!