Contrary to my usual practice on this day, I’ve made my first post of the day not the Ekklesía Antínoou-specific holy day, but International Trans* Day of Remembrance–for whatever reason, this year it seemed to burn a bit more fiercely in my soul as of waking up today. If you do nothing else ritually or spiritually today, do this, please.
But, to continue on with our series of holy days which began yesterday, we come to the second day of our festival, the day of consolation.
For the purposes of this year, I don’t think that the previous day’s desolation can really come to a complete close until we have included in it our marking and mourning for all of the trans* individuals who were killed over the last year. It is only after doing this that we can move on to a feeling of having been consoled, in line with what occurred for the Emperor Hadrian, the Empress Sabina, and Julia Balbilla almost nineteen centuries ago.
Given that we celebrated yesterday with some excerpts from the original Sappho’s poetry, let us today celebrate Julia Balbilla, the “second Sappho,” with all of the poems of hers which survive from inscriptions on the Colossos of Memnon.
The first day we did not hear Memnon.
Yesterday Memnon received the spouse
in silence so that the fair Sabina might come back again,
for the lovely form of the Queen delights you.
But if the sound had come,
a growing divine cry of fright,
the king might not have grown angry against you:
with your audacity, you were overly cautious
a long while with the Emperor and his lawful wife.
Likewise Memnon, you feared the power of the great Hadrian,
yourself pronouncing an unexpected cry that was heard, not without joy.
By Julia Balbilla, when Hadrian Augustus heard Memnon: I had been told that Memnon the Egyptian, warmed by the ray of the sun, spoke from his Theban stone. And when he saw Hadrian, king of all, before the rays of the sun, he greeted him as best he could. But when Titan, driving through the sky with his white horses, held the second measure of the hours in shadow, Memnon again uttered a sharp-toned cry as of bronze being struck: in greeting he also uttered a third call. Then the lord Hadrian himself also offered ample greetings to Memnon and on the monument left for posterity verses marking all that he had seen and all he had heard. And it was made clear to all that the gods loved him.
When I was staying near Memnon, in the company of Sabina Augusta: Memnon, son of Dawn and of renowned Tithonus, sitting before the Theban city of Zeus, or Amenoth, Egyptian king, as the priests who know the ancient tales relate, hail! And may you be keen to welcome by your cry the august wife too of the lord Hadrian. Your tongue and ears were cut by a barbarian, the godless Cambyses; hence by his wretched death he paid the penalty, smitten by the same sword with which in his heedlessness he slew the divine Apis. But I do not judge that this statue of yours could perish, and I perceive within me that your soul shall be immortal. For pious were my parents and grandparents, Balbillus the wise and Antiochus the king, Balbillus the parent of my royal mother, and Antiochus the king, father of my father. From their line do I too draw my noble blood, and these are the writings of Balbilla the pious.
I, Balbilla, when the rock spoke, heard the voice of the divine Memnon or Phamenoth. I came here with the lovely Empress Sabina. The course of the sun was in its first hour, in the fifteenth year of Hadrian’s reign, on the twenty-fourth day of the month Hathor. I wrote this on the twenty-fifth day of the month Hathor.
This is also the day on which the Empress Sabina’s only poetry–sadly fragmentary and largely obliterated (and who knows what it might have said…one can only guess!)–was also preserved:
Sabina Augusta, wife of the Emperor Caesar Hadrian, in the course of the first hour, having heard Memnon twice…
Perhaps, one day, I will put the poems above that are not in lines at present into lines: poetry deserves to be read in translation as poetry, not as prose simply because it is easier for the translator. Maybe, as well, Diva Sabina’s poem can be “restored,” as it were (which is to say: expanded under inspiration). One day, one day…
I would also note two other things on this occasion that are in the theme of consolation, I think:
1) My contribution to Patheos.com’s Pagan Channel “thanksgiving” posts just went up today in my “Queer I Stand” column, and can be found here. Amongst other things, I discuss the Antinoan Mysteries–both in relation to Mystai and “Assistai,” the Communalia ritual, and my Anomalous Thracian colleague…and, more importantly, I thank them!
2) Also, tonight on Wyrd Ways Radio, the show will be dedicated to Lady Olivia Durdin-Robertson. While I may not get to call in, I do plan on listening as much as I can/am able to, as I’ll be arriving home from work just about then.
Even if your own devotional statues do not cry out and sing for you on this day, may Antinous and Memnon provide you consolation and comfort for all that has troubled you in your life for the past year!