Antinoan Feast of the Mind

P Sufenas Virius Lupus

I mentioned a while back that in addition to the sensual things which one can do to create Antinoan associations with one’s own subconscious — for that is what we are ultimately doing when we make attributive associations between deities or ideas and particular concrete objects and experiences, on which more in a few moments — I also mentioned that in the near future I’d like to suggest a number of things which one can do as an Antinoan devotional activity involving reading. Let me first make the caveat, though, that simply reading books or doing research about Antinous can be devotional, but is not devotional automatically. To make such an activity devotional, it can be as simple a matter as beginning by saying “I dedicate this work to Antinous” or “As I improve my knowledge, so too does the knowledge of Antinous improve within me,” or what have you, whatever phrase makes the most sense to you and resonates with your intentions the best. When I research and find something particularly wonderful or unknown or ground-breaking, I often stop and thank Antinous for showing himself to me in a new way, through the texts I encounter directly, or through someone’s interpretation of those texts.

At particular periods in the past, it has almost seemed as though Antinous has “wanted” to be known more, and is guiding the research process in subtle ways … I wanted very desperately to be able to consult the old Dietrichson book on Antinous, but was uncertain where to find it (other than perhaps the British Library), but I did a search for a laugh on our library catalogue in Cork, and they had a copy (which I had to order from deep storage, but still …!). On other occasions, I went, for example, in the very early days to the volumes of Athenaeus which were on the shelves at our library, and didn’t know in which one to begin looking, so I just grabbed one and opened to a random page, and there was the exact information I was looking for. This sort of thing happened a lot in the early days of the modern Antinoan practice, and was great encouragement. Things are getting more and more difficult to find, though, because the trail of evidence often runs out, with few further avenues to pursue, or it ends with an untranslated and fragmentary text that I’m currently unable to make any sense of …(And on that note, if anyone here does ancient Greek pretty well, I’ve got a ton of things that need translating! So, speak up if you do!)

As mentioned above, the purpose of all of these devotional activities and associations outside of actual ritual is to strengthen one’s imagination and memory of the presence of Antinous. So, if you start doing the practice of the Feast of the Senses, and use storax or lotus incenses, and then at some future point you walk into a building or someone’s house or something and you smell storax or lotus and you go “Ah, that reminds me of Antinous,” then you are given a moment of possible reflection, and you can consider how Antinous is a part of your life and influences things and is “with you” even when you weren’t thinking about him directly, or weren’t doing things in an Antinoan devotional mode. They’re little prompts and opportunities for you to remember him and to acknowledge him in your daily life, until you are able to actually cultivate an awareness of Antinous’ presence and love at all times. “May I always be in the presence of he who is Beautiful, Just and Benevolent” is the last line in one of our prayers not just because it sounds nice, but because it is a worthy and worthwhile goal, to always remember and be conscious of the fact that we are in the presence of Antinous and many other deities and spirits and non-corporeal beings at all times, and our honoring of them and our memory of them improves our lives and causes them to do what they can for our improvement and blessing. Does that make sense? It might be a rather obvious thing to say, and yet because so many people in the modern world aren’t in the habit of doing ritual on a regular basis, or understanding what ritual is for (in a theological or a psychological sense), it might just help to have this as one possible interpretation of why these things are important and useful. Others are certainly possible, and if any of you would like to share such ideas, please feel free to do so.

I will eventually have an Antinoan bibliography made up of all the things I actually have in my possession, or have seen, divided into subject headings (e.g. Hadrianic biographical info, Antinoan inscriptions, Antinoopolitan information, ancient religion, modern queer spirituality, etc.), so that those who are interested in pursuing these things and finding the information upon which many of the activities and ideas found on this list and in my wider Antinoan-focused activities has derived, and then making your own interpretations and conclusions from them, will be possible. However, in the meantime, I’d like to just give a “thematic” outline for the twelve months of the year, and suggest particular books and such that might be interesting or useful to read for devotional purposes in a general sense. This present list of suggestions is by no means complete or comprehensive, and in fact I encourage all of you to make your own such lists and fill this one out to a greater extent, and feel free to share your ideas about these things as a result.

So, let’s take it month by month, according to the secular calendar.

In January, we celebrate two major holidays: the birthday of Hadrian on the 24th and the first appearance of Antinous’ star on the 29th. I’d suggest two types of things to read for a “mind feast” this month, therefore: imperial biographies of Hadrian (or of other Antonines, Trajan, and so forth), and astrological texts of any sort. While it is quite scholarly, and perhaps a bit too heavy if you want something more light, I would highly recommend Anthony Birley’s Hadrian the Restless Emperor as one possibility. A very enjoyable book, which is a translation and annotation of several ancient astrological texts (with info in the notes on Antinous’ constellation) is Theony Condos’ Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook. You could also combine the Hadrianic and astrological trends of this month by examining and meditating upon Hadrian’s actual horoscopes that survive from the ancient world, which can be found in O. Neugebauer and H. B. Van Hosen’s Greek Horoscopes. If you’re into ancient astrology, though, devote spare reading time this month to boning up on information for that purpose. Use an online program to make your own birthchart, and factoring in either the constellation Aquila/Antinous/Ganymede, or the asteroids Hadrian and Antinous, or the moon of Jupiter called Ganymede, can also be interesting to consider.

In February, the primary celebration is not Antinoan-exclusive, which is the Lupercalia on the 15th. Read up on myths of wolves and humans, werewolves, warriors, and the ancient foundations of the city of Rome. Plutarch’s account of Lykastos and Parrhasios would be good, as well as perhaps T. P. Wiseman’s book Remus: A Roman Myth; and you also might consider something like Daniel Gershenson’s Apollo the Wolf-God or Kris Kershaw’s The One-Eyed God: Odin and the Indo-Germanic Mannerbunde (which has info on the warrior culture from which the Romulus and Remus/Lupercalia myth originated). Anything devoted to the gods Mars or Vesta would also be appropriate.

In March, the major Antinoan celebration is the Apotheosis of Sabina on March 21. This is a month to focus on goddesses, and of the renewal of spring and of life in general. If you’re into agriculture or gardening, reading books on those matters is a good thing, or learn some new recipes by studying your favorite cookbooks! As far as more academic and historical/theological reading might be concerned, The Roman Goddess Ceres by Barbette Stanley Spaeth is a good one — it actually talks about Sabina on a number of occasions, since this was one of her primary syncretisms after her apotheosis.

April, which is taken up by the Megala Antinoeia on the 21st, is a month in which a number of themes can be pursued. Love is certainly a major theme this month, but so is hunting, athleticism, and civic functioning. Turning to the last matter first, one might consider looking at Mary T. Boatright’s Hadrian and the City of Rome, which has chapters on the Pantheon, the temple of Venus and Roma, the Arch of Constantine, and the Obelisk of Antinous (for starters!); one might also consider William MacDonald and John Pinto’s Hadrian’s Villa and Its Legacy. If you’ve been putting off getting to work on some regular workout, exercise or gym regimen since your last New Year’s resolution to that effect, why not give it a go now for the Megala Antinoeia, and if you don’t actually start going to the gym or doing a workout, then finally pick up that self-help book on diet and/or exercise that someone got you (or you got yourself!) on the bargain table at Borders or Barnes & Noble. As far as hunting is concerned, this month commemorates the bear hunts of Hadrian, so one could take that literally and read about hunting, or read about bears (i.e. the Winnie the Pooh and Bernstein variety), or about efforts on conservation of bears–in this regard, I’d recommend a book (and buying this book contributes to a conservational charity) by gay British actor/comedian/writer Stephen Fry called Rescuing the Spectacled Bear; or, one could take the “other” interpretation of “bear,” and go out and read and look at some good gay bear porn and erotica — why not? Which leads into the next category! Love and eroticism are major things to consider in this month, and there are a number of books I could recommend in that regard on specifically-Antinoan topics: Caroline Vout’s Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome is quite good, as is Craig A. Williams’ Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Roman Antiquity. Also related to the Hadrianic circle would be Daryl Hine’s translation Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology, which was compiled by a court poet of Hadrian’s, Strato; and Amy Richlin’s translation/edition Marcus Aurelius in Love: The Letters of Marcus and Fronto, with the Fronto there concerned being Marcus Cornelius Fronto, the second-greatest Roman orator ever to have lived (apart from Cicero), who was a young contemporary of Hadrian’s and a tutor to the future emperor Marcus Aurelius. So, these are just some ideas … I’m sure you can all come up with ones more suited to your own interests in this regard!

The month of May has two foci: the figure of Hermes (whose mother, the nymph Maia, gives her name to the month, and who had a festival therein), and the Boar Hunt on May 1. As far as the Hermes aspects go, I’d suggest as possible titles Hermes the Thief by Norman O. Brown and Karl Kerenyi’s Hermes, Guide of Souls; for a more Graeco-Egyptian version, see Garth Fowden’s The Egyptian Hermes. Again, one can carry over the hunting theme from the previous month, and read things about hunting or boars, or learn some new methods for preparing your favorite pork-based dishes; one might also consider reading various myths devoted to boar hunting, including those of Herakles, and the great Celtic epics on this theme, particularly the Irish Toruigheacht Dhiarmada agus Gráinne (for the Finn fans among us!) or Scéla Mucce Meic Dátho (for the Ulidians!), and the Welsh Culhwch ac Olwen. Also, as the date given on the “tondo of the two lovers” from Antinoopolis is May 10, one might consider reading about them; I first learned of them in Marilyn B. Skinner’s Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture, on that day in London in April of ’05 when lightning flashed and wonders ensued ….

In June, we celebrate a festival of Antinous as Apollo on the 21st, so perhaps read a book that is Apollo-dedicated, or that is devoted to Delphi or the Pythia and ancient oracles. Michael Pettersson’s Cults of Apollo at Sparta: The Hyakinthia, the Gymnopaidiai, and the Karneia is a book that might be of interest due to the homoerotic content of the myths associated with those Apollonian figures. Also, as it is usually a month during which Gay Pride festivals occur, one might consider reading books on queer activism or the history of that movement, or more broad titles on queer spirituality generally (things by Mark Thompson, Will Roscoe, etc.). For those who are interested and are following the track of particular dies Sancti, Marguerite Porete’s day is on June 1, so attempting to read her Mirror of Simple Souls (which is a slog at the best of times!) might also be useful for some people who are so inclined.

July has a number of things associated with it. There is the Silvanus/Antinoan Arbor Day, which occurs on the 16th. I cannot think of any books that are on Silvanus in particular, but one might therefore choose to read on the Etruscans (from whom Silvanus seems to derive), or about Roman Britain generally and Hadrian’s Wall, as well as on trees, forests, and conservation efforts. One might also consider volunteering for some such public effort in this month–planting trees, or cleaning up stretches of highway, etc. The rising of Sirius is a minor holiday at the end of the month, so one might wish to read myths of dogs, or simply any dog or dog-related books, stories, etc. (One such might be Paws and Reflect: Exploring the Bond Between Gay Men and Their Dogs by Neil Placky and Sharon Sakson.) Finally, the death of Hadrian is marked on July 10, and his accession to the principate is also celebrated in this month, so for the first one might consider, in addition to reading his “Animula Vagula Blandula” poem and meditating upon it, looking at Marguerite Yourcenar’s Hadrian’s Memoirs; for the latter, why not S. R. F. Price’s Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor (which does also speak of Antinous a bit here and there).

The month of August has two major devotional events of note: the lion hunt and miracle of the red lotus on the 21st/22nd, and the Dies Natalis Dianae on the 13th. For the former, reading the sections of Athenaeus, Pancrates, the Tebtynis Papyrus, and other such Antinoan texts is a good idea, of course; but also, as we have recently learned, reading on the Egyptian god Nefertem — who was both lion-headed and connected to the (blue) lotus — would also be appropriate. (I’m going to possibly write an academic article on that in the near future, for which I will thank several of you for your assistance in finding out more!) Or, do things like watch The Lion King or other such films, or read books and such that are lion-related, or go to your local zoo if they have lions. And visit your local gardens, parks and so forth, especially if they have water-flowers of any sort. As for Diana, one might consider reading the Lanuvium temple’s constitution (which is found translated in Mary Beard, John North and Simon Price’s Religions of Rome, Vol. 2: A Sourcebook), or about the wider cults of Lanuvium, including Diana Nemorensis (and therefore Frazer’s The Golden Bough!), and the general myths of Diana and Artemis in the ancient world.

September does not have any major important Antinoan festivals that are absolutely required; however, our observance of Antinous and Hadrian’s participation in the Eleusinian Mysteries takes place then. I’d suggest looking at Kerenyi’s Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter as one possibility, therefore. (He mentions, and translates, part of the Tebtynis Papyrus on which the Antinoan lotus information is found, but not for that reason!) Read the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, and any other myths and literature on underworld mysteries and initiations. Consider the wider cultures of ancient Greece particularly, and of Athens and all of its splendors in architecture and philosophy; read up on Plato, or the Epicureans, or what have you. Why not hold a symposium of your own? We also observe Lucius Vitalis’ death during September on the 6th, so one might read the inscription mentioning him, and a great deal of Shawn Postoff’s material on the Sacred Antinous site, in which Vitalis is a major (and wonderfully, and furthermore very plausibly, interpreted) character.

One of our most active months, of course, is October: our general recognition of the sancti takes place on the 11th, for starters, so reading anything of the works of any of our many sancti would be good; also, any of the memorial poetry and literature surrounding Matthew Shepard, who is celebrated on the 12th, could also be read. We celebrate a festival of Osiris on the 24th to kick off the Sacred Nights, so reading anything about Osiris, or about ancient Egyptian mythology and religion, and in particular various version of and works about Coming Forth By Day/the Book of the Dead, would be most appropriate. The general mystery (in the modern novel, rather than ancient religious, sense) of Antinous’ death is a topic dealt with in Ben Pastor’s novel The Water Thief, so that would be some lighter fare/fiction to consider. Also, as one of the effects of Antinous’ death was Hadrian’s foundation of Antinoopolis, Mary Boatright’s Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire, which has a section on Antinoopolis, might also be interesting reading. And, of course, one might simply consider looking at the entire phenomenon of the Antinoan cult by reading (or re-reading) Royston Lambert’s Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous.

In November, a number of minor holidays take place. One of these is the three-day visit of the imperial party to the colossoi of Memnon, and thus an appropriate book to read on this occasion is the lighter, more for a popular audience biography of the Emperor, Elizabeth Speller’s Following Hadrian, which especially focuses on the role of Sabina and Julia Balbilla (and in fact each chapter has a telling of events in the voice of Julia) … while it is debatable as to how “accurate” any of this is, it’s certainly another interesting viewpoint to consider, and can be fun and enjoyable if taken in its proper context.

Finally, we come to the month of December, which in Antinoan terms primarily involves our celebration of Antinous Epiphanes — an epithet of Dionysos — on the 21st. So, any Dionysian literature would be good to consider: Kerenyi’s Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, or Walter Otto’s Dionysus: Myth and Cult, etc. The possibilities here (and elsewhere) are endless, nearly!

So, in the process of having generated this list, I’ve found that a good deal of the books I’d suggest to beginners and those interested in learning a lot about Antinous and Hadrian, who don’t have access to or are not interested in doing a lot of shelf-scanning in libraries, have been enumerated. If there are particular holes in your own knowledge that you’d like to fill by looking at some of these books, I’d strongly encourage you to look at them, at whatever is a convenient time for you to do so, or along the timelines suggested above. The world is your oyster with this, and with all things Antinoan, and I want to emphasize that over and over again — all of you have as many options with bringing Antinous into your devotional lives as you can possibly envision, so this is yet another such option for those who are interested. I would also encourage all of you to write in with your own suggestions and ideas on these matters, especially if there are things which were not mentioned above that you think should be (apart from scholarly articles and such — although if you have those to suggest as well, please do! I may not have them myself, and I’m always looking to expand my knowledge!), so please feel free to do that in response to this post, or elsewhere/under a different subject heading if you so desire (especially if it is something you feel is worthy of its own full-fledged discussion).

I wish everyone the best this month, and look forward to generating some more materials for consideration in a little more than a week, when the Megala Antinoeia competition is upon us and many of you will be offering your arts for the enjoyment of all of us and for Antinous!


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