Sunday, May 29, 2016


ON MAY 29th the Religion of Antinous celebrates the life of Saint James Whale (22 July 1889 — 29 May 1957), the openly gay British-born director of such films as Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man.

His movies were modern parables about the cruelty of "normal" people towards "monsters" in their midst. 

All of those 1930s films are recognized as classics of the genre. Whale directed over a dozen films in other genres, including what is considered the definitive 1936 film version of the musical Show Boat.

He became increasingly disenchanted with his association with horror, but many of his non-horror films have fallen into obscurity. Whale was openly gay throughout his career, something that was very unusual in the 1920s and 1930s.

He tended to use gay actors who were friends of his, including Colin Clive, Ernest Thesiger, Charles Laughton and Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester, who played the "Bride". Thesiger has tea (below) in mad-scientist garb. 

Bride of Frankenstein, in particular, is widely interpreted as having a gay subtext and it has been claimed that Whale's refusal to remain in the closet led to the end of his career.

James Whale's true genius was in making movies which made the audience sympathize with the "monster" instead of the "normal" people, who invariably were portrayed as ridiculous, comic fools.

James Whale's soaring career was dashed by homophobic studio bosses who objected to having a "pansy" directing major movies. He spent the last decade of his life as an outcast in Hollywood.
He "accidentally" drowned in his own swimming pool in the mid-1950s after having become a chronic depressive following a stroke.

His life was brought to the screen in the award-winning movie Gods and Monsters, which is a masterful adaptation of a very wonderfully written gay novel entitled Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram.

The book and the movie are about his final weeks of life with flashbacks to his childhood in poverty in northern England and his traumatic experiences during World War I and to his heyday as the toast of Tinseltown, and his plunge into obscurity — and his final plunge into the watery arms of Antinous.

It is a great irony that the only out-and-proud Hollywood director of the 1930s is remembered as a man whose name is equated with monsters.

Sir Ian McKellen, who is also from conservative Northern England and is an openly gay star of stage and screen, was nominated for a Golden Globe and for an Academy Award for his role as James Whale in the 1998 movie Gods and Monsters.

Brendan Fraser also won critical acclaim in that film as Whale's yard boy who identifies with the Frankenstein monster. His compelling portrayal suggests to the audience that all of us are gods and monsters, to some degree. But then, even Antinous was a god to pagans — yet a monster to early Christians.

And Lynn Redgrave won a Golden Globe and got an Oscar nod for her scene-stealing performance as James Whale's disapproving Swedish housekeeper — a tongue-in-cheek characterization drawn from the real-life eccentrics who performed supporting roles in Whale's wonderfully campy old movies.


THE STAR OF ANTINOUS is well known. And many people are aware that there is also an ANTINOUS ASTEROID ... but few people have heard of the ANTINOUS CRATER.

It is located on one of the moons of Saturn, the moon named for the Titan sea goddess Tethys, daughter of Uranus and Tellus/Gaea. The Antinous Crater is located at the bottom of this photo taken by the Cassini probe in a flyby. The bigger crater is Penelope.

This crater was named in 1982 after the "OTHER" Antinous — the infamous Antinous of Homer's Odyssey and the Iliad. That is obvious from the association with Penelope. It is highly possible that our God Antinous was in fact named for Homer's Antinous.

For the Ancients, names were not a matter of coincidence. A person's name MEANT something. Nomen est omen 
— a name is a sign. So why was Antinous given the name of someone who is generally considered to be a scoundrel?

Homer's Antinous was one of the "Suitors of Penelope," the group of moochers who showed up at her doorstep while her husband Odysseus was off fighting the Trojan wars and attempted to woo her and abscond with as much of Odysseus's fortune as they could before he returned 
— if he EVER returned. 

After all, he had been gone for years. Their argument was that he was a "dead beat" spouse and that he had abandoned Penelope and, at any rate, was most probably dead.

 Antinous was the craftiest of the suitors and plied Penelope with costly gifts. 

Then at last — at long last — Odysseus returned in the disguise of a beggar. 

Only his faithful dog recognized him. Penelope did not! 

Antinous did not recognize him either and, thinking he was just a homeless street schizo, attacked him with a chair to drive him off.

Later on, during an archery tournament, Odysseus "accidentally" shot Antinous and killed him.

As with much of the Odyssey and the Iliad, it is hard to tell who the "good guys" are and who the "bad guys" are. Homer's Antinous is not exactly a saint, but he in't really guilty of any crime either.

Penelope is the guilty one. As so often in Greek mythology, the women are treacherous and untrustworthy (just think of Pandora). One small detail which you probably did not learn in school was that Penelope had sex with Homer's Antinous and with ALL the other suitors. 

"And the resulting child from that pan-sexual tryst was born a little monstar with horns and hooves. He was called Pan because he was the son of Antinous and ALL the suitors. Penelope couldn't look at him, so she abandoned him, and he was taken in by Mercury, who absolutely adored the little monster.

"Ah yes, Penelope gave birth to Pan in Mantinea!"

Mantinea/Bithynia is the ancestral homeland of our own Antinous. So the name was of regional origin.

But that is not all because, in actual fact, Homer's Antinous was associated with magic. He was something of a wizard. 

According to legend, Homer's Antinous possessed the fabled Mirror of Vulcan/Hephaestus, which enabled him to peer into the past and the future.

So the name Antinous was always associated with myth and magic, even in ancient times. Hadrian, who was fascinated with all things Greek, would have recognized the association between young Antinous and the ancient Greek myth and magic.

As for the fabled Mirror of Vulcan/Hephaestus — that is the stuff of Antinoian myth and magic for a future blog entry ....

Saturday, May 28, 2016


IF you look hard you can see Antinous ... or rather with Antinous the near-Earth asteroid, which could one day pay us a visit ... with a bang.

The Antinous Asteroid … officially called "1863 Antinous," was discovered in 1948 by an American astronomer named Carl. A. Wirtanen. 

Astronomers had known for some time that asteroids were plentiful between Mars and Jupiter. But no one had expected to find any in the Inner Solar System ... certainly not near Earth.

But Wirtanen turned his Lick Observatory telescope inward and discovered eight asteroids in our own vicinity. 

These Inner Solar System bodies are called "Apollo Asteroids" all named for Classical deities, including of course Antinous.

Apollo Asteroids are collectively named after the first one to be discovered. The asteroid "1862 Apollo" was sighted in 1932 and then lost until 1973. 

Apollo asteroids are so small and faint that they are difficult to see except when close to the Earth.

Astronomers fear 1862 Apollo may one day strike Earth, however, they currently do not expect 1863 Antinous to hit Earth … assuming it does not stray from its current admittedly erratic orbit.

Antinous is about 2 km (1.2 miles) in length and spins on its axis one revolution every seven hours. It takes more than three years to orbit the sun.

Antinous Asteroid is a "Mars Crosser" and also an "Earth Crosser" or even "Earth Grazer" planetoid ... meaning it crosses the orbit of Mars and also the orbit of Earth ... and comes very close to Earth.

Antinous came close to the Earth in 1992 and 1999 ... 18 million miles (30 million km) and it is supposed to come past Earth again in the 21st Century ... but hopefully won't hit us! 

A collision with an "Apollo Group" asteroid 65 million years ago may have been one of the causes of the extinction of the dinosaurs. A closely related group, the "Amor Group" of asteroids, come close to Earth but do not cross its orbit.

The art of Asteroid Astrology is very arcane ... only a minority of astrologers employ "Astrals," as astrologers call these planetoids ... and then usually only a couple of major ones such as Chiron and Lilith. 

Quite honestly, they are so new that astrologers haven't quite agreed on what they mean.

The whole focus on asteroids got a boost when astronomers officially down-graded Pluto from a "planet" to a "minor planet" or "dwarf planet" ... the same category to which Chiron belongs.

So astronomers and astrologers alike are having to take another look at their definitions as humankind's knowledge of the cosmos grows by quantum leaps.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


AFTER more than a century of speculation and mystery, two halves of a marble face of Antinous have been brought together ... from both sides of the Atlantic ... to be joined as one for the first time in centuries in a stunning new exhibition.

Computer forensic imaging and cutting-edge investigative museum restoration skills have brought together the famous Chicago Antinous face fragment with the equally famous Ludovisi Bust of Antinous.

A FASCINATING EXHIBITION now through 28 August 2016  at the Art Institute of Chicago tells the story of how the museum managed to reunite the truncated face of a Roman marble portrait, long held in its collection, with its original sculptural bust housed at the Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Altemps.

Next stop after Chicago? In September the exhibition will travel to Rome where it will be on display at the Museo Nazionale Romano at Palazzo Altemps. It opens 15 September 2016.

Here is the basic story. 

At some point in its history, perhaps even before it entered the Ludovisi collection, the Antinous bust lost its ancient face. 

A new one was added by the mid 18th century at the latest. For it has emerged from the Art Institute’s investigation that the pioneering gay German art historian (saint of Antinous) JOHANN JOACHIM WINCKELMANN had noted that feature in the notes of his visit to the Villa Ludovisi in the year 1756.

The bust was in fragments and clearly came from a statue of Antinous. 

No one knows where the fragments of the torso and limbs are.

Someone combined the existing fragments into a bust and added bits to fill out the face … but no one knows who. 

And who reassembled the bust (which itself was in fragments) and carved the early modern face that Winckelmann already noted?

And where was the missing fragment of the face all this time?

Meanwhile,  the Art Institute of Chicago's first president, Charles L. Hutchinson (1854-1924) bought the missing Antinous face-fragment in Rome in April 1898 for his personal collection.

It was part of a bas-relief plaque. 

But as early as 1913, art history experts realized the face had once been part of a statue or bust. It was cut away from the plaque and mounted as an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 2005, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, W. Raymond Johnson, suggested to the Art Institute that the museum’s fragment was originally part of the bust of Antinous that is housed at the Palazzo Altemps in Rome.

Enter Karen Manchester, Chair and Curator of Ancient and Byzantine Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

In short (to borrow from the AIC's press release announcing this curatorial triumph), Manchester "led a decade-long quest to explore Johnson’s hypothesis through a first-of-its kind international partnership and collaborative endeavor between the Palazzo Altemps and the Art Institute. 

"Archival research of published and unpublished documents in Chicago and Rome provided new details about the history of the two works, and the two museums brought into play the tools of contemporary technology … laser scans, 3-D printers … to create a reproduction of the sculpture as it originally appeared."

"In the end," Manchester told this weblog, "we concluded that the two pieces were indeed once one, and we used 3D measurements and modeling techniques to create a plaster cast that approximates the sculpture's original appearance."

The eureka moment?

"In April 2013, I took [the] cast of our head to Rome to compare the two, and then again in June, when digital measurements were taken of both pieces, the 'modern' head [was] 'removed,' and our head put in its place." 

What is more, isotopic and petrographic analysis of samples extracted from the Chicago portrait and the Altemps bust reveals that both pieces were carved from Carrara marble, and very probably from the same block of stone.

We need not tell the whole complicated and engrossing tale here: the video (below) and especially Karen Manchester's entry in the online scholarly catalogue, Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (cat. #9) do that especially well.

As for the Chicago exhibition itself, the AIC press release rightly notes that it "is focused and rich in detail, exploring the modern methods used to rebuild the ancient past and featuring related portraits of Hadrian and Antinous, including one depicting Antinous in the guise of the Egyptian god Osiris which was re-discovered in 2010 and makes its first museum appearance here."

That Antinous-Osiris is said to be from Hadrian’s Villa, and was formerly in the collection of Thomas Hope (1769-1831). (When found, it was exhibited outdoors at Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire.) Support for this exhibition is provided by Fred Eychaner and the Jaharis Family Foundation, Inc.

See for yourself how this face of Antinous came together across the Atlantic:


ON MAY 26th the Religion of Antinous celebrates the life of Reg "Regina Fong" Bundy, a blessed saint of Antinous, who was born on this day in 1941 and died on April 15, 2003. A brazenly gay cabaret artiste — she disliked being called a drag queen — she was a well-known AIDS charity host who influenced a generation of post-Stonewall gays in Britain with acerbic send-ups of politics and popular culture.

Regina Fong was not just a "queen", she was an "empress" — the last of the Russian Imperial Dynasty of the Romanoffs. Forget Anastasia (and Ingrid Bergman in a '50s film), Regina Fong was the REAL heir to Russian nobility. Like so many Russian aristocrats, she sought asylum in monarchical Britain after the Russian Revolution. There were indeed members of the Russian Imperial family who lived (albeit rather modestly) on the grounds of Windsor Castle during the 20th Century. Empress Regina lived (albeit rather immodestly) in London's West End.

Her Imperial Highness (HIH) Regina Fong did in fact become an Iconic cult figure on the European Cabaret stage. Known to friends as Reg (pronounced "Redge"), she lost her battle to cancer April 15, 2003.

But Reg, by creating Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong, a flame-red-wigged champion of gay rights, was insistently committed to being the knight in shining red armour who carried the banner of charities involved in transforming the AIDS epidemic from mortal tragedy into spiritual triumph. She reminded us all that gay cabaret, especially in London at that time, was (and continues to be) a central part of gay life.

After the "Gay Liberation" in the late '60s and '70s, drag queens and cabaret artistes were pushed to the back of the room, to more mainstream, homogenized images of gay life.

Regina Fong, and other Gay pioneers like Lily Savage, changed this forever and brought Gay Cabaret back to its rightful spot in the London Gay Scene. The Cabaret Tent at London Gay Pride events as the epicenter of Gay culture in good times and bad is the direct legacy of this valiant drag queen — er, ahm — cabaret artiste!

Our own Knight Stephanos personally knew Empress Regina Fong and conferred with her often in the legendary Black Cap gay bar in the heart of the Camden Town District of London. And so it is fitting that KNIGHT STEPHANOS (pictured right with Her Imperial Highness) explains her Sacred Significance to us:

"Happy Birthday Regina Fong even though you and the Black Cap are now gone.

"What can one say in this current day except to pay a tribute to the one and only Reg...Regina Fong, Queen if them all….

"Regina Fong the Empress of Camp. Queen of the Black Cap.

"You Reigned supreme. Sage of the rejected, muse to all that were affected.

"Daily she held court at the corner of the front bar, vodka and tonic, laughter, dialogue quite chronic. Nightly you drew the crowds: shaking us from the  melancholy of the expected life, denial waking strife.

"Cabaret Artiste beacon of hope, torch carrier of all who could but strive to such heights.

"Black cap memories to be had everyday at the end of the front bar at 11:00 am. Sitting to Michael Jeffries swapping war stories giving comes Steffens and Camp David...last of the Polari...Vada, Vada, Naff, Convo...Laughter, drinks, and scams galore.

"Always aching for the next adventure of days gone by…. If you could smell and hear the wonder of the front bar of the black cap...nicotine stains and morning shakes...characters and creatures of a world gone by...but not forgotten...bastions of an age of defiance, survival, and overwhelming urge to be fabulous.

"Happy Birthday H.I.H. Regina Fong...the likes of you could never be wrong."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


THE ancient world had something in common with the modern one: a penchant for recycling. Plenty of historical treasures were melted down and turned into something else ... although some escaped this fate, Reuters has reported.

Some 1,600 years ago, a ship sailed from the Mediterranean seaport of Caeserea in Israel stuffed with Ancient Roman equipment and artefacts which had been slated for recycling.

However, the merchant vessel sailed into a storm at the entrance to the port and sank.

Recently, divers discovered the remains of the ship and its contents on the sea bed. 

In the end, they brought to the surface the largest stash of marine artefacts found in Israel in three decades, including iron anchors, coins and bronze statues ... all of which had been protected by the sand.

The treasures also featured a bronze lamp featuring the sun god Sol.

There was also a figurine of the moon goddess Luna as well as a lamp shaped like the head of an African slave, the remnants of three life-size bronze statues, and various objects shaped like animals.

"A marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past 30 years," according to Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer of the Israel Antiquities Authority's Marine Archaeology Unit. 

They stress that such metal statues represent rare finds in the world of archaeology because these were nearly always "melted down and recycled in antiquity."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


NEWS that construction crews in Rome recently stumbled upon archaeological ruins during the expansion of a subway line isn't really surprising.

What makes this latest discovery fascinating is that they may have uncovered the barracks of the elite Ancient Roman Praetorian Guard dating back to the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

The find has the potential to uncover as-yet unknown details about this legendary force of soldiers.

The discovery was made as crews attempted to continue a long-delayed construction project to expand Metro C near an interchange at the Colosseum, the Atlantic reported.

Construction at this spot in the city's metro system has been delayed constantly for a decade as crews unearth archaeological treasures and run out of money.

Not much has been revealed about the find, but photos of the site have been released. 

They reveal a sprawling barracks that date to the 2nd Century AD, which is about the time Hadrian ruled the Empire, Forbes explained.

The site is located 10 meters (30 feet) below street level and stretches over 1,000 square meters (10,000 square feet), with 39 rooms and a 100-meter-long (328-foot-long) hallway, BBC News reported.

As subway construction continues around them, archaeologists have found a bronze coin, bronze bracelets, black-and-white mosaics, and frescoed walls, the Associated Press reported.

They've also found the skeletons of 13 adults in a collective grave.

Culture Ministry spokesperson Rossella Rea called the find “exceptional.”

The Praetorian Guard have played a significant, and frequently bloody, role in Roman history. They were created by Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and acted as his bodyguards and private military force.

According to bio-archaeologist Kristina Killgrove, who wrote about the find for Forbes, the men who enlisted in the force served to protect Roman generals during the Republic and then the Emperor during the Imperial period.

Thousands of men served on this elite force. At first, when August created them, they were spread among nine legions of 500 men each; eventually, he increased that number to 1,000.

Their primary role was to protect the Emperor, but they also patrolled Rome on foot and horseback. 

They also dabbled in politics, usually violently, assassinating Caligula in 41 AD and installing Claudius as his successor. 

The guard also deserted Nero, helped overthrow Galba, and declared Domitian emperor after Titus' death.

While the Praetorians hailed from Italy during the 1st and 2nd centuries, by the time of Septimius Severus in the 3rd century, their composition became much more worldly, reflecting the geographic breadth of the Roman empire.

Thus, the guard’s demographics changed, and the new recruits potentially introduced diseases and other genetic markers from their far-flung homelands.

The 13 skeletons found during the subway construction could show where they came from and how diverse this elite force actually was in the 2nd Century. 

Certainly, Killgrove speculated, examination of the remains will offer a fascinating insight into the lives of these Roman soldiers.

Although few details have been leaked about the subway construction find, the photos released of the remains raise a few questions. 

Notably, the skeletons appear to have been found in a mass grave, which is odd in Rome. The Roman people were more often buried individually.

Photos reveal the bones piled together as if the location were a secondary burial site (meaning the remains were reinterred there after the body decomposed). However, context is needed to better understand the nature of their burial.