EPISTLE ON THE SACRED LION HUNT
BY ANTONYUS SUBIA
FLAMEN SACERDOS ANTINOALIS
GREAT Triumphant Blessings Upon all of you, Ecclesia Antinoi,
On this Occasion of the Sacred Lion Hunt.
Every Year we commemorate one of the few known events
That are certain to have taken place in the short life of Antinous,
The day Hadrian, Antinous, and the inner circle of the Imperial court,
rode out into the western desert in search of a ferocious man-eating lion
That was ravaging the countryside, gaining a high level of fame and notoriety,
enough to call the attention of the visiting Emperor.
Who knows how many people the lion killed,
very likely a great number...and he evaded all hunters.
Hadrian must have been delighted by the news,
and Antinous, standing within the very pinnacle of godlike strength and virility,
must have felt the rush of fear and daring that he had come to love so much.
Antinous was at that beautiful age where boys feel that they are completely indestructible.
Hadrian was at the opposite end o the male spectrum, the age when death is all too real,
and the only way to feel ALIVE is to put your strength and fear to the total test.
...after so much time spent in the company of Antinous...Hadrian wanted to feel like he was 19 years old again.
Thats what was going on when the news came that there was a ferocious man-eating lion
Killing Egyptian peasants somewhere off at the edge o the desert.
They probably only rode out only a few dozen miles, maybe a day or two journey.
Bringing a huge retinue of local Egyptians to surround the lion and drive him towards the Emperor.
...hundreds of dogs...among them Hadrian's super fine, well trained hunting hounds,
a pack of beautiful animals who traveled everywhere the Imperial court went,
Antinous was friend and master to all of them...some he had raised himself from puppies.
They say that the ventured into Libya, and the lion is called the Lion of Mauretania,
but very likely, they didn't even go 50 mile from Alexandria,
But for dramatics sake, the poet said that they had left Egypt and gone hunting in Mauretania!
The lion was cornered, and Hadrian first wounded the lion with his spear but then,
"Wishing to test to the full the sureness of aim
Of his beauteous Antinous"
He let Antinous charge against it...and Antinous...all full of teenage bravado
Charged at it on his horse with his spear...but he failed to kill the lion and only made it more ferocious
So that it attacked him and would have killed him had not Hadrian intervened
and dealt the death blow.
It was a triumph for Hadrian...and although he failed to kill the lion,
It was a triumph for Antinous too...because he showed no fear.
From the blood of the lion...pink lotus flowers sprang forth...or so said the poet.
The new blossoms were collected and offered to Antinous as a crown of victory.
It was the pinnacle of Antinous's life...and it was the changing point.
Something changed in Antinous at that moment,
Perhaps at the moment when the skin of the young lion was presented to him as a trophy.
The meaning of the lion has always disturbed me,
because it is a moment filled with symbolism.
Foremost of these as the emblem of the Demiurge of the Gnostics,
The god of the world...which the Gnostics said was symbolized by Egypt,
with its many gods and deeply religious mystical, magical antiquity.
The refutation of this false being known popularly as GOD
was the deepest creed of the Gnostics,
And Antinous's attempt to destroy the Lion
was symbolic of this same aspiration in me.
But only Hadrian could destroy the Lion,
....Antinous however, held no fear of it.
The Lion also came to represent Eternal Time,
as symbolized by the Mysteries of Mithras,
and perhaps also by the mystic followers of Orpheus.
Antinous was soon to triumph over time through the miracle of deification,
But again, it was Hadrian who destroyed Eternal Time
When he made Antinous forever immortal.
Now I have begun to investigate a new meaning for the Mystery of the Lion,
which is that the Lion represents Spiritual Falsehood...Delusions.
The Lion represents the millions of Spiritual non-sensible things
that we are taught to believe about the nature of the gods,
and spirituality in general...superstitions...obvious non-realities,
wishes, prayers-come-true, make-believe, hopes & dreams, legends, myths, rumors,
personal experiences, matters of faith, second-sight, magical abilities,
Unexplainable miracles, signs in the sky, waking-dreams, past-lives,
ancient accounts, lore, scriptures and all the collected beliefs of the ancients,
augmented by modern-day madness…and self-inflicted delusions.
We are told that there are a number of things we should understand (if we are even able to understand)
And experience in relation to the gods and spirituality.
For so many years, I just simply went along with it as best I could,
Clinging to little fragments of “personal experiences” as proof to carry on with.
But then one day…my eyes were thrown open,
And a long process of emotional turmoil began
Filled with deep-rooted resistance to the truth, within myself
But what more than anything overcame my hesitation to cast everything
I had known and loved to the wind as if it were utterly meaningless,
Was the same as what had opened my eyes to the truth in the first place,
The Beautifully divine, and utterly human form of Antinous…my one and only god,
And how even from the first day...what astonished me so much about him
Was that his humanity was more important than his godliness.
It was undeniable that he had been Made into a God by Hadrian,
All the Miracles, like the Pink Lotus Flowers that sprang from the Blood of the Lion,
It's all just poetry and legend as beautiful and as meaningful
As the wreaths of grape leaves that adorn his statues.
Antinous was very different from the other gods...no matter how synchretic he may seem,
I could never ignore this difference, and now...it has risen up to whole new levels of grandeur.
In Plato’s cave…it is said that there are certain characters who hold up figures
Before a fire so that the figures cast shadows on the wall of the cave,
And to the chained people who have known no other world than the cave
The shadows cast upon the wall…are the only reality that they know.
But then when one of them breaks free…it is said that he sees
That the shadows are cast by mysterious figures,
And that neither the shadows nor the figures are reality,
And so he wanders up out of the cave and stumbles into the light of day
For the very first time and sees reality as it truly is.
I have begun to believe that the allegory of the cave is a description
Of spirituality and the nature of the gods.
The mysterious figures are the ancients and those who speak for them,
Holding up artistically created images of gods and spiritual concepts,
Holding up ancient books, scriptures, lore, myths, superstitions, art
Proof of miracles, personal experiences, accounts of dreams,
And all the other things that we…chained below as children
Are taught to believe as if they were fact.
The problem for me comes with the realization that,
Most of us do not break free and run off into the light of day.
Most of us…like myself…when we realize that the shadows are cast by figures
Held up before a light…do not reject them as false…but rather,
When we become adults…we take up the figures and hold them up
Before the fire ourselves…casting new shadows of our own interpretation.
This is what has disturbed me for so many years,
That even though I myself have seen the light beyond the cave,
I cannot bring myself to cast down the figures or the play of shadows,
Because I find them to be immensely and profoundly beautiful.
This is the Lion for me,
And just like Antinous
…it may be that I am not strong enough to kill it.
The Lion is the Fire that burns within the cave of our imagination.
The Lotus Flower is the fire that burns within my soul.
(sprung from the blood of the Lion)
My heart will never be settled
I will never be free,
I will never be at peace
I will never leave the cave.
Just like the Hero…I have seen the light of Sol Invictus,
(It’s just the sun in the sky)
And like the hero, rather than run off to dance in the fields of flowers,
I’ve crawled back into the darkness and dankness of the cavern
tried to break my brothers chains and drag them into the light.
But they have almost all told me to please just fuck off.
And so I stay...(because it wouldn't be madness to just leave)
…I need to see if I can figure out what it is
About the fire and the forms and the shadows on the wall
That is so extraordinarily beautiful…all I see is silhouettes of Antinous,
…It was his body, his face, his eyes, his legend and his curls of perfect hair
That broke the spell and opened my eyes to the truth…the reality,
And now that I am awakened…I will never be at peace again,
I would never want to be at peace again.
Very soon I am going to make a great pilgrimage to see if I can find
Meaning in all of this…some sort of explanation
To take away some of the insanity and frustration,
And perhaps present me with sign in the sky (like an Etruscan augur)
Or some other kind of inconsistency to confuse myself even more.
I’m going to Rome!
Flamen Sacerdos Antinoalis