The Festival of the Lion Hunt (August 21st)
The Festival of the Red Lotus (August 22nd)
The Festival of the Lion Hunt (Venatio Leonis) and the Festival of the Red Lotus are two festivals that take place over two days, and together, are considered to be one the Greater Festivals in the festival calendar of the Ekklesia Antinoou. Like Antinous’ death and deification in the Nile, these festivals recall an event that has both a historical foundation and a spiritual/mythical element. The Festival of the Lion Hunt observes an historical event that occurred west of Alexandria during the final year of Antinous’ life. It’s not known exactly when the hunt took place, but since August 21st marks the end of the astrological sign of Leo, many modern devotees of Antinous observe the “end” of this historical lion by means of the lion hunt on this day. The event, as recorded in a poem by Pancrates, recalls a hunt conducted by Hadrian and Antinous of a lion that had been terrorizing the countryside in Libya. However, during the hunt, the lion wounded Antinous, before being killed by Hadrian. For the Romans and Greeks, the lion hunt represented the conquest of death. But because of Antinous’ failure to kill the lion, and his own brush with death because of the animal, many modern Antinoans observe this festival as a reminder of the human weakness of Antinous, and as an occasion to contemplate our own defeats and failures.
The story of the lion hunt doesn’t simply end with the death of the lion. The Festival of the Red Lotus, celebrated on August 22nd, one day after the Festival of the Lion Hunt, celebrates the miracle of the flower that was said to bloom from the blood of the defeated lion. This red lotus flower represents the strength of the lion that has become the power of Antinous, and the potential for failures to transform and blossom into something more beautiful and more powerful. The red lotus has also become one of the main symbols used by Antinoans to represent devotion to our God.