ON September 28th the Ancient Egyptians celebrated the Feast of the Creation of the Nile Inundation as represented by the transgender deity HAPI.
It was through HAPI that Antinous worked his first miracle ... bringing about a bountiful Nile inundation which ended a long famine ... only a few months after he died and was deified.
Hapi is special to us especially because Hapi is transgender. With many other such deities, the gender division is down the middle of the body (like some Hindu deities) or the top half is one gender and the bottom half is the other.
But Hapi is very complex and the genders are mixed throughout his/her body. Male deities invariably have reddish-orange skin in Egyptian Art and female deities have yellowish skin.
However, Hapi has bluish-green skin. Hapi has long hair like a female deity but has a square jaw and a beard. Hapi has broad shoulders yet has pendulous breasts like a nursing mother.
Hapi has narrow hips and masculine thighs, but has a pregnant belly. Nobody knows what sort of genitals Hapi has, since they are covered by a strange garment reminiscent of a sumo wrestler's belt.
Hapi is both father and mother to the Egyptians. Hapi provides them with everything necessary for life. As Herodotus wrote, "Egypt is the gift of the Nile".
Hapi wears a fabulous headdress of towering water plants and she/he carries enormous offering trays laden with foodstuffs.
The Ancient Egyptians had no problem worshipping a mixed-gender deity.
It is very important to draw the connection between Hapi and Antinous, especially since the First Miracle that Antinous performed as a god involved Hapi. The Egyptians accepted Antinous into their own belief system immediately and were among the most ardent followers of Antinous.
They had no problem worshipping a gay deity who had united himself with a transgender deity.
It must have seemed very logical and credible to them.
It made sense to them and enriched their belief system, made it more personal since they could identify more easily with a handsome young man than with a hermaphrodite wearing a sumo belt (Hapi forgive me!).
Herodotus also said he once asked a very learned religious man in Egypt what the true source of the Nile was.
The learned man (speaking through an interpreter, since most Greeks never bothered to learn Egyptian) paused and finally told him the true source of the Nile is the thigh of Osiris.
We think of it as a strange answer. We think of the Nile as an "it" and the source as a "geographical location".
But the Egyptians thought of the Nile as "us" and its true source as "heka" — the magical semen of the creator.
So, a learned Egyptian would have assumed that a learned Greek would understand what was meant: That Hapi is the equivalent of Dionysus, who was "incubated" in the inner thigh of Zeus after his pregnant mortal mother Semele perished when she could not bear the searing sight of her lover Zeus in all his divine panoply.
It's a very poetic way (a very Egyptian way) of saying that the "true source" of the Nile, which is to say Egypt itself, is the magical heka/semen from the loins of the original creator.
The grandest depiction of HAPI is a colossal statue found in the submerged ruins of HERACLEION at the mouth of the Nile ... this statue once flanked the portals of the Great Temple in that city before earthquakes and tsunamis sent it to the bottom of the sea.
It was rediscovered by marine archaeologist Marck Goddio and is the highlight of a British Museum EXHIBITION ... as seen in the photo at left.
We will never know what happened during that journey up the Nile along the drought-parched fields with anxious Egyptian farmers looking to Hadrian for a miracle ... in September and October of the year 130 AD.
All we know is that Antinous "plunged into the Nile" and into the arms of Hapi in late October of the year 130.
And then the following summer, Hapi the Inundation Deity provided a bountiful Nile flood which replenished the food stocks of Egypt — and the Roman Empire.
The First Miracle of Antinous the Gay God is enshrined in the hieroglyphic inscription on the OBELISK OF ANTINOUS which stands in Rome.
The East Face of the Obelisk, which is aligned to the rising sun Ra-Herakhte, speaks of the joy that fills the heart of Antinous since having been summoned to meet his heavenly father Ra-Herakhte and to become a god himself.
Then the inscription tells how Antinous intercedes with Ra-Herakhte to shower blessings upon Hadrian and the Empress Sabina Augusta.
And Antinous immediately calls upon Hapi ...
Hapi, progenitor of the gods,We joyfully celebrate this, the First Miracle of Antinous!
On behalf of Hadrian and Sabina,
Arrange the inundation in fortuitous time
To make fertile and bountiful, the fields
Of Both Upper and Lower Egypt!