ON JUNE 11th, the Religion of Antinous celebrates the Rise of the Star of Antinous. This is the date in our Liturgical Calendar when the Constellation of Antinous begins to rise over the horizon at sunset. It is visible on the eastern horizon along the banks of the Milky Way.
Wherever you live on Earth, you can see the Constellation of Antinous on starry nights from mid-June through late October when, in synchronicity with the Death of Antinous in late October, the Star of Antinous descends below the western horizon in the glare of the setting sun.
The Constellation of Antinous is no longer recognized by astronomers (just as Pluto has been demoted to the rank of "dwarf planet"). But it is still visible from any point on Earth nestled between Sagittarius and Capricorn and in the talons of Aquila (the Eagle Constellation) representing the Imperial Eagle which carried Antinous to lofty heights.
The most visible identifiers are the three bright stars of Aquila — Altair at the crown of his head, Tarazad, and Alshain. Alshain is derived from Arabic for "Two Friends" which astrologers have cited as a hint as to how to interpret the Sign of Antinous.
The Star of Antinous is however difficult to see. Most people cannot see it at all. You won't find it on any star chart. Like the Star of Bethlehem, it is a mystery and a conundrum about which many theories have been written.
And even if you could see it, the light which reaches your eyes would have left the star thousands of years ago — perhaps about the time that Emperor Hadrian discovered the star.
The simple truth of the matter — and the most beautiful facet of all — is the fact that Hadrian discovered the Star of Antinous with his own tear-filled eyes as he looked skyward in grief after the death of his beloved Antinous. Distraught and weeping, the emperor stood under the canopy of the star-studded heavens and looked up the River Nile towards the spot where his Beloved Boy had died. And he saw a new star which he recognized as a celestial sign that the gods had taken Antinous to be one of them.
You have to realize that Hadrian was a keen astronomer/astrologer himself. He knew the heavens like the back of his hand and he was so adept at casting horoscopes that it was said he had determined the exact hour of his death. He built an observatory at his sumptious villa outside Rome. And the tour of Egypt had brought him into contact with the finest Egyptian magician/priests, one of whom taught him how to cast a binding spell which could give him dream-visions and could also cause someone to fall hopelessly in love with him or — depending on how it was cast — even cause that person to die in agony.
Hadrian was that sort of control freak. Despite the fact that he was the mightiest man on Earth who could send a man to death on a whim (and did so, on occasion), he also wanted control over the future. And he wanted to be able to force someone to love him and never, never leave him.
Much has been theorized about those fateful final days leading up to the death and deification of Antinous and Hadrian's discovery of the STAR OF ANTINOUS.
Yes, much has been written about these events and about Hadrian's obsession with magic and astrology and soothsayers. One of the more fanciful versions was published in a novel in the mid-1950s by the German author Ernst Sommer. Entitled simply Antinous, the novel suggests Antinous sacrificed his own life to save his beloved emperor during the imperial tour of Egypt in the year 130 AD.
The dramatic climax of the plot has Hadrian lying in a villa in Hermopolis, feverish and at death's door after having been bitten by a mosquito. The emperor writhes in bed, calling out Antinous's name. The Empress Sabina and heir-apparent Lucius, jealous but also fearful that the presence of Antinous might further agitate the emperor, issue orders that the boy be kept away from the emperor.
After several daring attempts to sneak into the villa, Antinous is finally put under house arrest aboard an imperial vessel anchored a few miles upstream near the fallen-down Temple of Bes (the future site of the Sacred City of Antinoopolis). Lucius has ordered that he be put in irons to prevent him from sneaking off to visit Hadrian. But the guards cannot bring themselves to place the beauteous boy in irons, in defiance of Lucius's orders. Instead, they merely confine him to his quarters below deck with a single porthole overlooking the nighttime waters of the Nile.
Sensing that the emperor is dying, Antinous realizes his love for Hadrian is boundless and that nothing can keep them apart. Thinking back to his discussions about life and death with Jewish Rabbis, Christian clerics and Egyptian priests of Osiris, he realizes that the day has come. The hour has arrived. It is time to surrender everything he has — in a pure act of love that will transform everything.
He opens the porthole hatch and sees an unusually bright star which seems to beckon. He steps out of his clothes and leaves them (his last earthly possessions) lying in a heap on the floor. He climbs deftly out the porthole and slips quietly into the water.
At the same moment, Hadrian breathes his last breath, to the horror of Sabina and Lucius and the others who are gathered at his bedside. In a state now beyond physical life, Hadrian opens his eyes to see Anubis standing before him with outstretched hands, lifting him out of bed and guiding him away down many dark corridors. At last, Hadrian is taken through a massive portal and into a chamber where Thoth is waiting beside scales placed before Osiris.
Thoth begins the Weighing of the Heart ceremony as Osiris asks who this person is who seeks admittance to his realm. In the midst of the solemn proceedings there is a loud banging at the portal and Anubis announces that someone has arrived to offer his own heart in exchange for the emperor's heart, so that Hadrian might live and walk the earth again. That person is standing unseen just outside the portal. After brief discussion, the Egyptian deities acknowledge that the Law of Maat specifically envisions such an exchange and that, indeed, it is the most sacred and powerful of covenants — surrendering one's own heart on the Scales of Truth for that of a loved one. Such love cannot be denied. The offer cannot be denied.
Genesthoi — So Be It Done!
Back at the death bed in the Hermopolis villa, Hadrian gasps suddenly and his eyelids fly open, to the amazement of everyone who thought he had just expired. Sensing what has happened, he speaks hoarsely of a vivid dream involving deities. He looks around and demands to know where Antinous is.
"Where is he? What have you done with him? I know he would be here at my side if he were physically able. Bring him to me at once!"
Hadrian suffers a relapse, but the Egyptian magic is well done. So he cannot die this time. As the search for Antinous continues, with hope waning each day, Hadrian retreats to the rooftop observatory of the villa in Hermopolis which has been placed at his disposal by a wealthy Hermopolite. The emperor stares into the heavens night after night, refusing to give up hope that Antinous might yet be alive, perhaps dazed and confused and lost somewhere along the river.
Then one night he looks into the heavens and sees the proof that he has been looking for since the disappearance of Antinous. He summons the empress and Lucius and the entire court and also calls for the chief astrologer of the Temple of Thoth in Hermopolis to come quickly.
He informs them that a new star has appeared in the heavens and that it is a celestial sign that Antinous has left this earthly existence to ascend to the pantheon of the gods. He has surrendered everything on behalf of his beloved emperor, just as he had always said he would. Everyone thinks Hadrian has suffered another relapse and is delusional with fever. But the astronomer arrives and swiftly confirms that the sharp-eyed emperor has indeed discovered an uncharted star.
As Hadrian leaves to issue orders for the deification of Antinous, construction of the city at the spot where he drowned and erection of temples throughout the world, the astronomer remains behind in the rooftop observatory with the wealthy owner of the house. Where precisely is this new star, the owner asks. "I know quite a bit about the stars for an amateur, but I can't for the life of me see anything at the spot in the heavens where Caesar was pointing just a while ago."
The astronomer says that the new star is definitely there and that astronomers throughout the world will confirm its existence and it will be recorded duly in all the star charts.
"Yes, but can't you point it out to me?" the wealthy man pleas. "I'm straining my eys looking, but I just can't see anything."
The astronomer answers, "And that is why you will never be a good astronomer. You scan the heavens with your eyes, but not with your heart."
So Hadrian looked into the nighttime skies and discovered a new star to point the way to that new religion. As a scholar and man of science he was able to see it with his own two eyes. Perhaps it was a super-nova which flared and then went out — who knows? He saw it and his court astronomers confirmed it and the Constellation of Antinous was recorded in the star charts for 19 centuries to come.
But more importantly, Hadrian discovered the Star of Antinous shining in his heart. The Death of Antinous showed him a way to make his vision of the perfect religion a reality on Earth. It was the Light he was seeking. It was the Light of Antinous.
So when you look up into the nighttime skies tonight in search of the Star of Antinous, don't be surprised if you can't find it with your physical eyes. You can't find it in physical space, which is why Flamen Antinoalis Antonius Subia calls it the Dark Star of Antinous. Look inside your heart and you will find it shining there with all the beauty of a dream of perfection ....