Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
when snakes, not threads, to looms we cleave!
I’m tempted to leave it just at that for the day…but would that do? No, indeed, and not at all!
Technically, yesterday hasn’t even finished yet for me; but perhaps I’m taking a few too many notes from Virgilius in my life at present, and am considering things now to be the now which is Ophidia, rather than the now which still could be the Panthea. Hmm.
I feel like the world is sometimes a secret tapestry of snakes: we see the threads that link the different things together, and we follow them, and sometimes they lead to dead ends (tails), while other times they lead to dead ends but those dead ends make an interesting noise (rattlesnakes!); and yet other times, they lead to a head, but oftentimes that head has very sharp fangs that are poisonous, and that’s not fun, either. Still, other times, we don’t just follow the threads, we try to re-weave them, which damages the rest of the tapestry; but sometimes, in the re-weaving, we also end up damaging ourselves, because the serpent in question just decides to constrict around us, and the next thing you know, your bones are mush and you can’t breathe and a snake that used to be part of the grand tapestry of the universe is having lunch.
There is a sense, throughout the Sacred Nights of Antinous, that “it all means something”; but, at the same time, I think one useful interpretation of the Ophidia festival is to just admit, perhaps, that none of “it” means anything at all, it simply is and that’s all it has to be. People drown, young boys are deified, new gods emerge, cults begin, and the polytheistic world as we know it moves onward as it always has, the way it was meant to work, when gods come into being and transform and fade into obscurity once more.
As The Serpent Path is a big part of the overall reason for the Ophidia (and the thing which, likewise, gave rise to it), I think it’s important today to not only honor Glykon and Chnoubis and all of our ophidian divine friends, but also Lucius Marius Vitalis and Polydeukion, and the six divinities of the Tetrad++ Group (Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, Pancrates, Paneris, and Panprosdexia), for though some of them may seem less relevant than others to the overall deification of Antinous that is the reason for our series of sacred festivals at this time of year, at the same time, the overall tapestry of serpents has threads that run through the pattern that we cannot always predict in the midst of things as they happen. Who knows if on this day, Antinous himself while alive was not disturbed in his sleep by dreams of the gods he would one day help to be born, of the heroes who would be formed in his image short years after his death, and of the friends he outlived by months or years that, like him, died too soon…and all of these and more.
And, since deification is our subject, we must remember our Sanctus of the day, Pachrates/”Pancrates” of Heliopolis as well, without whom I’m convinced the deification of Antinous in the manner it did take place would not have occurred at all–not because (as Ogden and others have suggested) that he suggested the boy be “sacrificed” for the Emperor Hadrian’s health, but instead because he had already begun to theologically formulate how the Emperor and the boy’s lion hunt could have presaged the events, and could be usefully interpreted as a theophany rather than as a mere tragedy, and a theophany which would prove crucial to the regeneration of Egypt and of the Empire generally.
And now, all these years later, as Antinous’ cultus continues to emerge in the modern world, and as the threads of these serpents continue to coil and uncoil, spiral and shift, may that cultus’ continued emergence presage the same again for the modern world!
Incidentally, for the next two days, for the festivals of the Ananke Antínoou and the Death of Antinous, I shall be letting Poetry speak for itself, so there won’t be posts attempting to explain anything on those days…the story will just unfold in further installments of the poem…
But meanwhile: Take a drink when you see snakes today, dear friends!
Hail to the snake gods of all nations!
Hail to Polydeukion and Lucius Marius Vitalis!
Hail to the Tetrad++ Group!
Hail to Antinous!