Saturday, October 21, 2017

ARCHAEOLOGISTS AT ANTINOOPOLIS
SET TO DIG OUT MYSTERY STRUCTURE



After a spectacular 2016-17 dig season, archaeologists have returned to ANTINOOPOLIS in Egypt for the 2017-18 season, during which they will dig for an "intentionally buried stone structure" in the heart of the city founded by Hadrian at the spot where Antinous died in the Nile.

Arriving at the site this past week, the experts said they will use the first two weeks of the new dig season to survey the foundations of what they believe to be a Temple of Antinous-Osiris.

Writing in his first 2017-18 report, James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation, says: "We are very excited to be back at the site for a shortened two-week excavation this autumn." More work will follow a short break.

"In the first week of work we have focused on removing layers above what we believe to be the other half of the rectangular temple we were uncovering last season (in February)," he wrote.

"This is necessary to determine if it is a free-standing rectangular temple in the middle of the much larger court, or if it is connected in some way architecturally with the surrounding peristyle," he added. See the peristyle court illustration below.

"This is the temple we now are able to say with some certainly is part of the complex dedicated to Osiris-Antinous, the titular deity of Antinoupolis, due to an inscribed cornice block (pictured above left) we discovered in February," he pointed out.

The highlight of the 2016-17 season came when archaeologists detected a "deliberately buried" structure with ground-penetrating radar in February and suggested it could be an OSIREION ... symbolic Tomb of Osiris ... raising hopes that this could be the Lost Tomb of Antinous.

But initial excavation failed to yield results ... results which the archaeologists hope to find during the 2017-18 season.


Other spectacular discoveries include column capitals and a cornice stone with the name of Antinous inscribed in hieroglyphs.

The stones apparently come from a shrine to the Egyptian goddess Hathor ... not however the Great Temple of Antinous, as had been suggested initially.

The stones from the shrine are a mixture of Egyptian and Classical styles which enable the archaeologists to come up with an architectural rendering showing what the shrine and its adjacent peristyle colonnade might have looked like.

Work now resumes on these dig sites in October.

The great fear, however, is that local villagers might build houses on top of the site when archaeologists are away ... since law-enforcement is lax in the region.

It is within what possibly was the Great Temple of Antinous and is a rectangular chamber which is subdivided into three sub-chambers ... apparently an antechamber, a middle chamber and an inner sanctum.

Writing in his first 2017 report, James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation, says: "The clearest part of the results show a large stone structure which is about 12 x 22 meters in the form of a tripartite shrine."

He adds: "This simply means three rooms of the same size lined up at the end of an axis, and it is a common feature of Egyptian temples for thousands of years."

The ground-penetrating radar shows that the structure is covered by soil which was placed on top of it all at one time, not in layers which accumulated over time.

"This indicates that the structure was intentionally buried.  This is intriguing," the report continues, "because in ancient Egypt buildings known as Osireons were sometimes constructed (the most famous of which is the Osireion constructed by Seti I as part of his temple at Abydos) and were seen as model tombs of the god Osiris.  As model tombs these structures seem to have been intentionally buried," the archaeologists add.

"Since Antinoupolis is the cult city of the new Osiris, Osir-Antinous,  an Osireion would make sense as part of the urban ensemble," the archaeologists state. The structure, whatever it may be, is still covered by two meters of intentional fill.

As a final exciting detail, the stone tripartite structure and the arrangement of the surrounding walls indicate an axis which would not only correspond to the grid of the Ramses II temple, but an axis which would enter that temple in the middle of the side of the "hypostyle hall," which is the hall of columns between the back shrines of the temple and the court at the temple's entry.

"This axis is a normal place for the main side entrance into an Egyptian temple precinct," the report goes on. 

"And it appears that this structure, if built by Hadrian, was intended by his designers to be an extension of the Ramses II temple complex."

The team also found what appears to be a grand stairway in the center of a large temple dedicated to Antinous-Osiris and a large harborside peristyle court ... waterfront structures which were found in the previous season.
Finding the exact location of the ancient waterfront is important since it may indicate the site at which Antinous died.


We know that Emperor Hadrian commanded that a sacred city be founded at the location where Antinous drowned in the Nile.

We also know from an ancient papyrus that an impressive quayside port facility was constructed at or near that site.

Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), archaeologists found a large  square compound of paving stones bordered by columns ... which could mark the site where Antinous drowned.

Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation, says the discoveries in the past two years at the site have exceeded all expectations.

Finds include ornate capitals which once adorned colossal columns.

Heidel also says LOOTING has abated somewhat following a return to a semblance of stability in Egypt.

Since the revolution in Egypt, which resulted in runaway lawlessness, the site has been subject t"SYSTEMATIC LOOTING" for three years. 


The scope of looting diminished in recent months, although local villagers still search for "trinkets" to sell on the black market, he writes.

Heidel says his archaeologists working at Antinoopolis (also known as Antinoe) say local villagers continue to encroach on the dig site ... ostensibly to create new space for housing and graves.

However, it is an ages-old practice in Egypt for villagers to build houses over places where they can "accidentally" unearth ancient treasures by digging tunnels under their homes. And excavation of new graves can "accidentally" reveal more ancient treasures.

DOCUMENTARY FILM HIGHLIGHTS PALMYRA
SEEN BY ANTINOUS AND HADRIAN



Antinous visited the fabled city of Palmyra with Hadrian the ruins of which were destroyed in recent months by DAESH Islamic State barbarians.

Now a stunning French documentary film recreates the once-fabulous "Garden City of the Sands" and its destruction ... and efforts to rebuilt the ruins.

The documentary is being shown today on the Franco-German cultural television channel ARTE and can be streamed for viewing.

Only a few months ago DAESH barbarians blasted the Palmyra amphitheater and had destroyed the tetrapylon, a cubic-shaped ancient Roman monument. 

These satellite images by the Boston-based ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative and taken by satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe displayed the destruction.

Meanwhile, DAESH goons also summarily executed civilians in the embattled city. Since sweeping to power across Iraq and Syria, Isil systematically erased signs of their pluralistic histories. Palmyra has been a particularly egregious target of their hatred.

Palmyra was called the "Garden City of the Sands" and scientists say it was TERRA-FARMED to create a lush green oasis of life and civilization in the midst of the desert.

Islamic State fighters destroyed two ancient temples at the site, described by Unesco as one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

In 2015, DAESH destroyed the PALMYRA TRIUMPHAL ARCH through which Hadrian and Antinous strode.

DAESH meanwhile blew up the BAALSHAMIN Temple in Palmyra. The photo at right shows how impressive even its ruins were prior to its being blown to bits by DAESH.

The photo at left shows all that is left of the Triumphal Arch now. 

The ruins are a testament to the barbaric nature of DAESH renegades.

We know Antinous & Hadrian saw it because Hadrian decreed a vast expansion of the temple.

During the DAESH occupation of Palmyra, KHALED ASSAD, an 81-year-old antiquities scholar who devoted his life to understanding Palmyra, was beheaded by DAESH militants, his bloodied body hung on a pole. He had even named his daughter after Zenobia, the queen that ruled from the city 1,700 years ago.

DAESH claims ancient relics promote idolatry and say they are destroying them as part of their purge of paganism. However, they are also believed to sell off looted antiquities, bringing in significant sums of cash.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has been told that DAESH militants have killed 30 suspected gay men for "sodomy" in recent months.

DAESH released a video showing CHILDREN STONING two gay men to death after they had been thrown off a building in Homs Syria. It is one of a grisly series of such gay execution videos. 

A year ago, DAESH released a video showing two other men accused of being gay THROWN OFF A BUILDING and then stoned by a crowd in Palmyra.

Only a few weeks earlier, more than 25 men were EXECUTED BY CHILDREN at the famous theater in Palmyra.

Friday, October 20, 2017

WAS ANTINOUS HERE?
AT JERUSALEM'S HADRIAN THEATER



ISRAELI archaeologists on Monday announced the discovery of the first known Roman-era theater in Jerusalem's Old City, a unique structure around 1,800 years old that abuts the Western Wall and may have been built during Roman Emperor Hadrian's reign.

The edifice's elegant masonry was found during excavations carried out in the past two years below the Western Wall tunnels, a warren of ancient subterranean passageways running alongside a contested Jerusalem holy site built by King Herod in the first century B.C.

The excavations plunged over 6 meters (20 feet) below ground, exposing eight previously uncovered courses of the Temple Mount's western retaining wall.

Jews consider the Temple Mount the holiest site on earth, while Muslims refer to the walled compound as the Noble Sanctuary and consider it the third holiest after Mecca and Medina.

It was the site of two Jewish temples in antiquity ... the second renovated and expanded by Herod ... and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

Joe Uziel, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist heading the dig, said that  the theater-like structure is believed to date to the second or third centuries ... the period after Rome razed the city in 70 and the Emperor Hadrian rebuilt it in the mid-second century as a Roman colony, Aelia Capitolina.

Ancient historical accounts mentioned the presence of theaters in Roman-era Jerusalem, but until now archaeologists had not found any of the structures.

Uziel speculates that the unfinished semi-circular theater may have been intended to serve as a small odeon, a venue for musical or theatric performances, or a bouleuterion, a place of assembly for the colony's municipal officials.

It was relatively small, and might have been designed to seat around 200 people. The excavations have exposed the first row of seats, orchestra area, and part of the stage. Wilson's Arch, part of a monumental causeway leading into the temple that soars above the theater, may have been employed for its acoustic properties.

"One of the amazing things is that because we're beneath an arch, they would have had the arch to use as their roof," Uziel said.

What remains unanswered is why the building wasn't finished.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

SAINT DIVINE
HARRIS GLENN MILSTEAD


ON October 19th we honor Saint Divine (October 19, 1945 — March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead. 

Divine was an openly gay American actor, singer and drag queen.

Described by People magazine as the "Drag Queen of the Century," Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women's wear in musical performances.

Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films.

He was most often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters's films, usually in a leading role.

Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as  a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as "the  most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world."

Divine, the seventh-of-a-ton transvestite star of Mr. Waters's early movies, helped set a new standard for drag that endured long after Divine's death of heart failure in 1988, Mr. Waters said.

"When we started in those days, drag queens were square," Mr. Waters explained. "They hated Divine: they wanted to be Bess Myerson. And Divine would show up in a see-through miniskirt with a chainsaw instead of a pocketbook."

The Divine look, which stylist Van Smith first created in 1972 for Pink Flamingos, had three components. First was the hair, shaved back to the crown to allow more room for eye makeup.

Second was the makeup, acres of eye shadow topped by McDonald's-arch eyebrows; lashes so long they preceded the wearer; and a huge scarlet mouth. Third were the clothes: shimmering, skintight numbers that gave Divine a larger-than-life female sensuality.

The net effect, as Mr. Smith ordained it, was a cross between Jayne Mansfield and Clarabell the Clown.

"If you look at anything that Divine wore, you sure couldn't find that off the rack," Mr. Waters said.

All of Divine's costumes were constructed by a Baltimore woman who made outfits for strippers. Subtle they were not. There was the red fishtail dress from Pink Flamingos, in which Divine looks equal parts mermaid, Valkyrie and firetruck. And there was the sheer wedding gown she wears in Female Trouble (1974), underwear not included.

Divine once famously said that if anybody was shocked by a 300-pound drag queen in a slinky cocktail dress "then maybe they need to be shocked." He himself would describe his stage performances as "just good, dirty fun, and if you find it offensive, honey, don't join in."

As a part of his performance, he would constantly swear at the audience, often using his signature line of "fuck you very much", and at times would get audience members to come onstage, where he would fondle their buttocks, groins and breasts.

He became increasingly known for outlandish stunts onstage, each time trying to outdo what he had done before. At one performance, held in the Hippodrome in London, that coincided with American Independence Day, Divine rose up from the floor on a hydraulic lift, draped in the American flag, and declared that "I'm here representing Freedom, Liberty, Family Values and the fucking American Way of Life."

When he performed at London Gay Pride parade, he sang on the roof of a hired pleasure boat that floated down the Thames passed Jubilee Gardens, whilst at a performance he gave at the Hippodrome in the last year of his life, he appeared onstage riding an infant elephant, known as Bully the Elephant, who had been hired for the occasion.

Divine and his stage act proved particularly popular amongst gay audiences, and he appeared at some of the world's biggest gay clubs, such as Heaven in London. According to Divine's manager, Bernard Jay, this was "not because Divine happened to be a gay person himself... but because it was the gay community that openly and proudly identified with the determination of the female character Divine."

He was also described as "one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century ... who was an audacious symbol of man's quest for liberty and freedom."

On the evening of March 7, 1988, a week after his starring role in "Hairspray" was released, Divine was staying at the Regency Hotel in Los Angeles. The next day, he auditioned for a part in the Fox network's television series "Married ... With Children". After dining with friends and returning to the hotel, he died in his sleep of an enlarged heart at age 42.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

THE FESTIVAL OF CERNUNNOS



THE 18th of October is the Festival of The Horned God, known to us as Herne or Cernunnos. 

He is the protector of wild places and the spirits and creatures that inhabit them. He is the Lord of the Hunt, the mightiest of hunters and yet also he personifies the power of the stag, the subject of the hunt. 

He leads himself and us on a merry dance over hills and through the woods.

In his oldest guises he is Pan, and the dancing shaman wearing the skin and antlers of the stag. We honor Antinous-Cernunnos as a form of Pan.

EL SANTO NIÑO FIDENCIO


ON October 18th  we honor a gay man who is adored as a saint by millions of people in Mexico.

El Niño Fidencio, Saint of Antinous, was a Mexican "curandero" (male witch healer or shaman) in the 1920s and '30s who is regarded as a saint by his modern-day followers (although he is not recognized by the Catholic Church) and who depicted himself in drag as the Virgin Mary.

His millions of believers point to the fact that he has been credited with innumerable healings and other miracles. He is credited with saving countless lives and with curing incrable ailments.

His millions of believers also point to the numerological phenomenon that he was born on October 18, 1898, and he died on October 19, 1938.

The story of El Niño Fidencio also has many parallels to the story of the Magnificent Religion of Antinous.

Like ANTINOUS THE GAY GOD after deification on the banks of the Nile, El Niño Fidencio was a winsome young man beloved by all who worked miracles along the banks of a great river (Rio Grande) flowing through the barren wasteland of a desert between two lands, the US and Mexico.

The Nile divided the Land of the Living from the Land of the Dead,  the Rio Grande divides (or joins) two culturally merging societies.

The Ancients believed Antinous worked miracles in the lives of his faithful followers. Antinous healed the sick, he granted people love and prosperity, he shielded them from peril.

Historian Royston Lambert's book Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous devotes a full chapter to the Religion of Antinous and mentions the miracles he was able to bring forth.

The oracle priests of Antinous could intercede with the God, or followers could appeal directly to Antinous:

"There is evidence of oracles at Tarsos and perhaps at Rome itself," Lambert writes. "No doubt it was through these pronouncements and visitations that he wrought miracles and healing for which he evidently became famous in the east."

In many areas, people named their children Antinous in the fervent belief that he would watch over and protect their offspring all their lives.

There is the well-documented case of a man named Serapamon who lived in Antinoopolis in the 3rd Century and who called on the priests of Antinous for a love spell to attract a certain woman named Ptolemais. Clearly, his followers truly believed he could work miracles for those who believed in him.

Lambert points out: "The frequent use of his medals as talismans or amulets demonstrates demonstrates a widespread faith in his powers in Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt."

Lambert makes it clear that, for early followers of Antinous, there was no doubt in their hearts or minds that he could work miracles — and did so on an everyday basis.

"Indeed," Lambert goes on to state, "the popular vigour and genuine conviction of the 'belief' in Antinous were widespread and persistent enough to provoke the scorn of some sophisticated pagans and the anxious and unremitting indignation of most Christian apologists for two and a half centuries to come."

We should remember the heart-felt faith of the early followers of Antinous, who knew Him to be their salvation. We should remember their undying faith when we honor El Niño Fidencio in the face of the "anxious and unremitting indignation" of Catholic clerics to this day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ANCIENT ROMAN SPORTS FANS
USED MAGIC TO HELP THEIR TEAMS



IN the ancient world, sports fans and athletes turned to magic to empower them against their foes … and this was particularly true in the ancient athletic world of charioteering.

Hundreds of curse tablets, amulets and magical recipes survive today.

They reveal that magic in the ancient Mediterranean was often tied to the world of sports.

In the late Roman Mediterranean, factions of charioteers existed instead of football teams.

Each faction was named after the colors draped onto their horses and worn by the charioteers. There were the Blues, the Greens, the Reds and the Whites. 

They drove four horse chariots called quadrigae both in the hippodrome at Rome’s Circus Maximus and the one at Constantinople. 

There were many other chariot racing venues throughout the Roman empire and fans of these factions became quite attached to their color and the star charioteers on them.

Love for their faction and a desire to help their team to victory frequently led athletes, faction managers, and fans to seek out magical methods in order to snatch victory from the other faction.

A curse tablet from 3rd Century AD Carthage notes: "Bind the horses whose names and images on this implement I entrust to you; of the Red [team]: Silvanus, Servator, Lues…bind their hands, take away their victory…Now, quickly."

Another, found on the Via Appia outside Rome, even mentions a charioteer's mother: 

"I invoke you… so that you may help me and restrain and hold in check Cardelus and bring him to a bed of punishment, to be punished with an evil death, to come to an evil condition, him who his mother Fulgentina bore." 

Many within the Greco-Roman world may have written out a curse themselves, but most likely hired a magician to help them with the process I have sketched below:

A. Know Your Curse Types: There were generally five types of curse tablets in antiquity:

1. litigation or judicial curses (e.g. those used against someone prosecuting you in court)

2. business or trade curses (e.g. those curses used to bring down, say, a rival amphora supplier)

3. erotic curses (e.g. the ever-popular love spells)

4. restitution and punishment curses (e.g. those waged against a thief)

5. defixiones agonisticae (agonistic "binding" curses concerning competitions. These are also called κατάδεσμοι).

Frequently, defixiones were used to bind an athletic enemy … their hands, their feet, their mouths … and keep them from movement. 

Often, they wished for a charioteer to fall off their chariot and be dragged by the horses behind it before they could take their knife and cut themselves out of the reins they tied to their bodies.

B. Pick Your Material Wisely: In the ancient world, most curse tablets were made out of lead. It was easy and relatively cheap to procure the material (particularly in Athens, where the silver mines that produced the bi-product were nearby).

Lead was often used in antiquity for magical purposes: oracles, votives, incantations and curse tablets. 

Many curse tablets are written on thin pieces of lead, then had nails used to pierce them.

Sometimes, locks of hair or other identifying features of an enemy were also wrapped into the curse before being buried.

C. Curses Have Power But Need To Be Activated: It is notable that many of the curses from these ancient tablets seem to have an oral component attached to them. Performance carried empowerment. Names had an innate power that was activated by speaking them aloud and by inscribing them. 

A number of magical papyri, called the Papyri Graecae Magicae, reveal that curses were often activated through the oral performance of incantations and perhaps a sacrifice. 

The visual presentation of the written curse was also important; many have triangular shapes and accompanying depictions of the person being cursed or the magical deities being invoked.

Frequently, there is also the use of somethng which is called a palindrome παλίνδρομος … which is Greek for "running back again" and carried power in its symmetry. These words retained potency whether read from right to left or left to write. 

The use of the magical palindrome Ablanathanalba was popular particularly on curses and amulets, and medical evidence from the early 3rd Century AD suggests that the word Abracadabra was used as an "activating word" in antiquity, before becoming highly popular in the medieval period. 

D. Geography Is Key To Curse Potency: If there is one thing archaeologists know, it is that geography matters in the context of ancient magic. Boundary zones and "liminal" areas are the most magical spaces where one can access the chthonic gods that live underground and who are being spoken to. 

That is why we find many curse tablets buried near doorways, in graves, in wells and baths, and on the boundary lines outside sports venues such as the hippodrome. 

Some curse tablets, such as the famous one from around 400 BC found buried in a grave at the Kerameikos Sanctuary, also had leaden representations of the people they wished to curse before being buried. 

Collectively, the curse tablets addressing charioteering and other sports events in the ancient world, such as wrestling, reveal that all sports fans wanted what they couldn't and can't have: the power to sway the outcome of a competition.

Magic was a way to give agency to those that felt powerless to control the future: powerless to retain the love of another, powerless to control the outcome of a court case, or perhaps powerless to effect the outcome of a key race of the Greens against the Blues.