August devotions for IOMD

This post is in response to a lovely suggestion that Galina Krasskova has modified, with great success, into a program of 31 days of devotion for the deity or deities of one’s choice (or their choice!). I have been chipping away at this project for some time over the past month. This is a great way of presenting a deity—in this case Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus—from a variety of angles and approaches. I hope you enjoy! And may the blessings of IOMD be on all who read this.

1. Write a basic introduction of the deity.

Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus was the focal deity of an ‘Oriental’ mystery cult that spread widely in the Roman world, particularly in the military, in the 2nd century CE. The Dolichene cult prefigured and in many ways cleared the way for the cult of Mithras, which followed in its wake.

Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus—conventionally abbreviated IOMD—is a storm-god of the northern Syrian and southern Anatolian tradition. As such, he is a syncretic god in whom storm-gods known to many cultural strands and traditions converge. These include Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the Roman god enshrined upon the Capitol; Greek and Hellenistic Syrian hypostases of Zeus; possibly the Armenian god Aramazd; the Semitic god Ba‘al Hadad; the late Hittite/Luwian Tarhunzas, particularly Tarhunzas of the Army and Tarhunzas of Heaven; and the Hurrian Teshub.

That awareness of, and devotion to, IOMD should survive, mutatis mutandis, down the millennia—from the Great Kingdom of Carchemish to the Roman Empire—is an eloquent testimony to this god’s resiliency and his ongoing care for humankind. Worshippers of IOMD hailed him as ‘eternal’ and ‘preserver of all the firmament’ (conseruator totius poli), among other titles.

2. How did you become first aware of this deity?

IOMD was popular among Roman legionaries in Mogontiacum (modern Mainz), which is in my area of focus in terms of my religious devotions. He also gained a major following among the Equites Singulares Augusti (or ‘Emperor’s Own Horse-Guard’), a unit of the Roman army whose religious practices I find particularly intriguing and rich.

3. What are some symbols and icons of this deity?

IOMD is often depicted in the armour of an emperor, though sometimes he is in ‘oriental’ (i.e. Syrian) garb. He is usually bearded. He carries the double-headed axe in his right hand and the thunderbolt in his left: these are his two main identifying attributes. He is typically depicted standing upon the back of a bull, normally with his left foot nearer the bull’s neck and his right nearer its rump.

This same iconography (bearded imperial figure, axe, thunderbolt, bull) is found in north Syrian religious depictions starting at the latest around 900 BCE with the dedication of the Ahmar/Qubbah stele by King Hamiyatas of Masuwari (see Bunnens 2006). Variations on these motifs go back much farther. The double-headed axe, for example, appears to have evolved from a mace found in earlier storm-god depictions.

4. Share a favorite myth or myths of this deity.

The mythology proper to IOMD, specifically, has been lost. It is a reasonable guess, however, that it would have followed similar themes to the earlier mythology of Ba‘al Hadad and of Teshub, which does survive in significant fragments. My favourite such myth might be the Song of Release, a Hurrian tale that highlights Teshub’s qualities of justice and mercy.

5. Who are members of the family/genealogical connections of this deity?

IOMD often appears side by side with Juno Regina—presumably called Juno Regina Dolichena to distinguish her from the goddess of the Capitol, although this precise formulation is not extant in the surviving inscriptions. Among the children of Jupiter who figure in IOMD’s entourage, Apollo and Diana enjoy a high profile, as do the Castores (Syrian deities syncretically identified with Castor and Pollux).

Other deities occasionally invoked together with IOMD include Mercury, Hercules, Hygieia, Æsculapius, Dea Suria, and even Cælestis Brigantia.

6. What are some other related deities and entities associated with this deity?

Sol and Luna appear frequently in Dolichene depictions, often in conjunction with the Jovian eagle: the sun-god, moon-goddess, and thunderbolt-bearing eagle regularly form a trio in Dolichene art. Silvanus is often found in a Dolichene context, particularly in the Danubian provinces.

Isis and Serapis were, at times, worshipped alongside IOMD and Juno Regina. There is some evidence for syncretism between the two pairs of deities, although more often they remained distinct.

Finally, worship of Mithras is intertwined with that of IOMD; for example, in Roman camps, mithræa were often found in close proximity to dolichena. There is some reason to conceive of Mithras as IOMD’s son, although the mythology of Mithras’ birth is more complex than this would strictly imply. The cult of Mithras, in some respects, took over in the Roman Empire when and where that of IOMD began to fade in the 3rd century.

7. Discuss this deity’s names and epithets.

IOMD is Jupiter (storm-god and king of heaven), Optimus Maximus (best and greatest—the title of Jupiter of the Capitol, Rome’s holiest shrine), Dolichenus (of Doliche, a Syrian city belonging to the erstwhile kingdom of Commagene within what are now the city limits of Gaziantep in Turkey).

The very name of IOMD therefore tells a story of syncretism of classical Jupiter, like Zeus before him, at Doliche, with the storm-god(s) long strongly associated with that region. The storm-god of Doliche had deep roots in the region; iconographically he is all but identical to the Storm-God of the Army worshipped by Hamiyatas around 900 BCE (see question 3). His Syriac-speaking worshippers will presumably have called him Ba‘al (of Doliche?) or Ba‘al Hadad. Through Syria’s cultural engagement with the Romans, and vice versa, he came to be styled Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus.

The historical event by which this convergence was effected appears to be commemorated on an official seal from Doliche, in which IOMD is shown clasping the hand of a Roman general. As Speidel (1978) observes: “The gesture of clasping hands (δεξιόσις) over an altar proclaims either an alliance between the god and the Roman High Command, or the acceptance of the imperator into the worship of the god” (p. 3). Actually it was probably both—the worship being necessary to the alliance. The date of this seal is not certain, but in my view, the likeliest political context for it is the alliance between Pompey Magnus and Antiochus Theos of Commagene in the former’s Syrian campaign of 64 BCE.

Incidentally, Pompey’s wish to securely ratify his settlement of affairs in the East became the foundation for his informal alliance with Julius Cæsar and Crassus. That settlement—implicitly including, as Speidel has it, the “alliance between [IOMD] and the Roman High Command”—was finally ratified during the consulship of Cæsar in 59 BCE. Both of those rivals were therefore essential in its coming to pass.

IOMD is known by certain other titles, of which aeternus (‘eternal’) and conseruator totius poli (‘preserver of all the firmament’) appear together in the same inscription (CIL VI: 406), which also speaks of (the god’s) numen praestantiss(im)us (‘most present numen’) that is an exhibitor inuictus (‘unvanquished giver or revealer’). He is occasionally called exsuperantissimus (‘most overpowering’).

There is also a Deus Paternus Comagenus ‘native Commagenian god’ (CCID 208) and a Deus Commagenorum ‘god of the Commagenians’ (CCID 148) invoked after IOMD; the two are conjoined by the word et, which may be used to separate the names of two different deities. In this case, however, it may be used to mean ‘and also’, i.e. ‘Jupiter Best and Greatest of Doliche who is also native god of the Commagenians’.

At Carnuntum, Aquileia, and elsewhere, there is evidence for syncretism between IOMD and IOMH—the latter being Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus, i.e. from Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley of modern Lebanon (ancient Heliopolis in Phœnicia). IOMH is more plainly Semitic in origin; his depiction is also different: beardless, with a Serapis-like calathos on his head, he is flanked by two bulls, rather than standing on one, and carries a whip rather than a double axe. One inscription in Rome mentions a priest Solis Inuicti dei et Iouis Ederanisue Dolchen ‘of the Unvanquished Sun-God and Jupiter Ederanis or Dolichenus’. I don’t know anything about Jupiter Ederanis, although I gather that Haack (1952) identified him as a Syrian storm-god otherwise named Hadaranes.

A final devotional formula, ubi ferrum nascitur ‘where iron was born’ (e.g. CCID 427), requires a certain amount of exegesis. The conclusion of Merlat’s treatise on the subject is, as I gather, that IOMD ‘born where iron was born’ indicates his origins as a Syro-Anatolian mountain-god, no less than a sky-god.

8. Discuss variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.).

There are two ways of approaching this question: variation across the Roman Empire in the Dolichene cult as it radiated outward, and variation within Syria among the various strands that came together in IOMD. I believe I’ll address the second approach sufficiently in my answers to other questions.

9. What are some common mistakes about this deity?

I see two: The first is to confound IOMD with Jupiter generally, or with Jupiter Optimus Maximus, so as to overlook his unique characteristics. If IOMD was known by a native name (Tisupas? Adados?), this was not epigraphically recorded by his worshippers. As a result, IOMD somehow stands less apart from other deities than, for example, Mithras does.

The second mistake is too hastily to conflate, as Bunnens (2006) does, many of the storm-gods of northern Syria in IOMD’s precursor. Bunnens seems to show conclusively that the iconography of IOMD became fixed around the year 900 BCE with the dedication of the Ahmar/Qubbah and related stelæ by King Hamiyatas of Masuwari and his circle. If that is so, it is a matter of some significance that the deity depicted on the Ahmar/Qubbah stele was the Storm-God of the Army (whose hieroglyphic name is probably to be read as Ku(wa)lanasis Tarhunzas). But Bunnens goes on to argue that there was basically no difference between the Storm-God of the Army, the Storm-God of Heaven, and even the Storm-God of Aleppo, even though initially, at any rate, each was worshipped separately and in parallel. For example, in Hattusas, the capital of the Bronze Age Hittite Empire, the Storm-God of Aleppo had had his own temple apart from that of the Storm-God of Hatti.

My view is rather that, in IOMD, the Storm-God of the Army was elevated to the position of the Storm-God of Heaven (I might even say that Teshub as Storm-God of the Army was elevated to the position of Storm-God of Heaven…). In other words, this deity assumed a higher and distinct vocation: while retaining his patronage of the military, he was also cloaked in a higher cosmic significance. This does not mean that the offices, as it were, of Storm-God of the Army and Storm-God of Heaven were merged, but I believe that both came to be held in personal union by the same deity, who, in the course of time, assumed the mantle of many another storm-god of Anatolia and Syria as the latter quit the scene. I do not mean that the deities themselves ceased to be; I mean that many of them resigned their offices to IOMD so that the latter, by the 1st century BCE, was cloaked in the highest authority of the ancient Hittite storm-gods. For example, the Storm-God of Tarhuntassa may have found little glory in exercising that office after the city of Tarhuntassa had ceased to be and even its location was utterly forgotten; turning his mind to other affairs, he deeded, as I believe, his sovereignty to IOMD. This is, of course, UPG, but it is an alternative way of accounting for the historical facts that does not falsely confound the Storm-God of the Army with the Storm-God of Heaven, or with other storm-gods, whose offices remain distinct (as, rightly, do the cult honours due to them) just as the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway have always been distinct countries, even though, historically, they were often ruled by the same king.

IOMD took on—at least among his Latin-speaking worshippers—a final accession to his dignity when he came to be known as Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus (see question 7 above). As Jupiter Optimus Maximus was upon the Capitol, so too IOMD was in Doliche.

10. What are common offerings—historical and UPG?

There are several types of unusual votive gifts to IOMD that are historically attested. The most common, perhaps, are the silver triangles that would have capped staffs borne in religious processions in the god’s honour. Stylized silver palm fronds might have had a similar usage, or else simply been displayed in dolichena to commemorate vows fulfilled. A sacred banquet shared with the god was undoubtedly a key Dolichene rite.

Other gifts included votive hands and plaques with the letters of the alphabet. The hands (I have seen one or two in bronze, though other materials may have been used as well) will presumably have symbolized IOMD’s role as an active, giving god. The letters are sometimes thought to have had a divinatory function.

In my own UPG, I draw on IOMD’s Hittite roots, where beer and bread were offered to the Storm-God of Heaven, the Storm-God of Hatti, the Storm-God of the Army, and others. These are both acceptable offerings; I once made a loaf of beer, cheese, onion, and mustard bread for IOMD. The drink offering that I believe was the best received was a libation of Jameson’s Caskmates—Irish whiskey finished in beer barrels.

11. Talk about festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what the historical Dolichene high days were. We do know the dates on which certain altars were dedicated, and the anniversaries of such dedications will have been locally observed, at least in some cases, for some time afterwards.

Thursday (dies Iovis) is sacred to Jupiter, and this can certainly include IOMD.

Two constellations relevant to IOMD are Aquila and Taurus—the first as the Eagle of Jupiter, the second as the Bull whose identification might vary, but who might be understood as Jupiter’s bull in a Dolichene context. When Jupiter is in Taurus, a celebration of IOMD would certainly appear to be in order. A conjunction of the sun and/or moon near Aquila (presumably in Capricorn) would also be of great Dolichene significance, in light of the Sun–Moon–Eagle triad.

One might consider as relevant—or not—the dates set down for the worship of the Commagenian gods by Antiochus Theos. This king of Commagene (a region of northern Syria) instituted the veneration of Zeus-Oromasdes, Apollo-Mithras-Helios-Hermes, Artagnes-Heracles-Ares, Commagene, and Antiochus Theos himself, with the 16th of Audnæos and the 10th of Loös as its most holy days. The king certainly spread this cult as far Doliche, although it is unclear whether these religious rites had much to do with the later cults of IOMD and Mithras, and if so how much.

12. What are some places associated with this deity and their worship?

Three are probably the most important: Doliche, Rome, and Carnuntum. The first of these is where the cult of IOMD originated and from where it spread into Roman military as well as civilian milieux. The god himself is, of course, identified as Dolichene. Doliche today is within the limits of the city of Gaziantep in southern Turkey near the Syrian border.

Rome was home to more than one Dolichene sanctuary: there was a civilian dolichenum on the Aventine and military ones on the Esquiline and Cælian hills. In Rome, Dolichene religion appears at its most complex and highly developed. It is a fair assumption that Rome was the effective administrative centre of the cult—to the extent that there was any such centre—while Doliche served as the mother sanctuary for the whole religion.

Carnuntum was probably the most active of the provincial centres of Dolichene worship. It was the headquarters of the XIV Legio Gemina Martia Victrix, which participated in Lucius Verus’ war against Parthia. (I have a theory that during that war, some particular epiphany manifested the might of IOMD to a significant number of soldiers, thereby catalyzing the spread of his cult as those soldiers returned to their home barracks.) Today Carnuntum is an archæological park located near the village of Petronell in Lower Austria, about halfway between Vienna and Bratislava.

13. What sort of charitable or volunteer work could be considered a way to honour the deity?

IOMD is hailed as ‘conserver of all heaven’, so it seems to me that action to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could be an acceptable service to him. Conservation work, whether of the natural or the built environment, might also be acceptable if understood as preserving divine order overseen by IOMD. As king of heaven, he has obvious links to the political arena, so efforts at promoting justice, state-building, and strengthening civil society would seem appropriate. Jupiter in general protects strangers, and IOMD in particular was a god much favoured by expatriated Syrians in the West, so action to protect refugees—perhaps especially those from Syria and/or along the Turkish-Syrian border—seems as fitting as it is urgent. Furthermore, he has obvious tie-ins with the military. Veterans’ charities would be an obvious place to look.

14. Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?

Not as far as I am aware.

15. Are there any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?

I’ll assume this question refers to things like weaving Brigit’s crosses or erecting May poles or the like (?). I’m not aware of any, although I don’t know much about the folk customs of that part of Turkey. One custom that could perhaps be adapted to Dolichene practice is to write down a wish and tie it onto a tree (an oak, presumably, in IOMD’s case) on a holy day. Turks do this at Hıdrellez (May 5) in honour of Hızır (Khidr), an Islamic saint who is often syncretized with St George—whose cult in Anatolia and the Caucasus might just possibly owe something to the dragon-slaying storm-god of old…?

16. How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?

IOMD is syncretic in origin, so the cultural origin we’re talking about is primarily Romans sympathetically engaged with the religion of Hellenistic Syria (with its own mixed Greek, Armenian, Assyrian, Phœnician, Hittite, Hurrian, and other antecedents), as well as Syrian expatriates in the Roman West. IOMD reflects this mixed origin not only in his own composite cultural identity, but also in the mixed origins of the divine company he keeps (e.g. Isis, Mithras, the Castores, Silvanus, and Apollo and Diana). Dolichene values common to those milieux include strength—perhaps especially military strength—and stability—perhaps especially cosmic stability. The cult of IOMD is characterized as a ‘mystery cult’; whatever one thinks of that category, worshippers of IOMD would have enjoyed a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood among themselves, as well as a certain distinctness from those who had not found IOMD. I don’t see much evidence for a conception that IOMD was the way to personal salvation (in contrast, perhaps, to the Eleusinian Mysteries, Orphism, or the cults of Mithras or Jesus Christ). He was, however—and is—an active, beneficent deity who communicates with his adherents by means of oracles, particularly dream oracles. He is frequently appealed to for the salus (general well-being and health) not only of individuals, but also of states, including their leaders.

17. How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?

Broadly speaking, I think I’ve answered this question elsewhere. It may be interesting however to spend a paragraph or two speculating about what the distinction really is between the various hypostases of Jupiter, Zeus, Ba‘al, and/or Tarhunzas who sometimes seem to converge and sometimes to remain apart.

There are two easy explanations for what’s going on, conventionally called the ‘hard’ and the ‘soft’ polytheist positions. I’ll present each as antitheses before offering a synthesis that I find more satisfactory in this (and other) cases.

In the ‘hard’ polytheist viewpoint, all storm-gods are entirely distinct, and all resemblance between them is strictly coincidental. The Storm-God of Tarhuntassa is different from the Storm-God of Lightning, both of whom are different from the Storm-God of Aleppo, who is different from the Storm-God of the Army. In terms of cult, there is something to this. In one of Muwatalli’s prayers (CTH 381), for example, gifts are presented separately to the Storm-God of Lightning, the Storm-God of Heaven, the Storm-God of Hatti, and the Storm-God of Ziplanda, each of whom might have separate altars, temples, and feasts. The same city might have multiple temples to typologically the ‘same’ god, as Hattusas had different temples for the Storm-God of Hatti and the Storm-God of Aleppo, Palmyra had different temples for Bêl and Ba‘alshamîn, and Rome had different temples for Jupiter Tonans, Jupiter Optimus Maximus—and of course, Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus.

However, the ‘hard’ polytheist approach does not explain why these storm-gods resemble each other so closely in iconography and mythos or why they syncretize so readily with one another. Across cultural lines, Assyrians recognized their own Ba‘als in the Hittite storm-gods, as did the Greeks with respect to Zeus, and so on. The ‘soft’ polytheist response would be that this is because they are, after all, one and the same, the differences being merely apparent but not substantial. So Our Lady of Fátima is supposed to represent the same ‘person’ as Our Lady of Lourdes, who is also Our Lady of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Guadalupe and so on.*

This ‘soft’ approach is also unsatisfactory, as it requires too much nuance, too many distinctions, to be erased. The fact is that people do not go to Częstochowa to worship Our Lady of Lourdes; that the Black Madonna of one sanctuary is functionally and visibly distinct from the healing Madonna of another or the prophetic Madonna of a third. It is therefore a fair question whether Our Lady of Lourdes should not, in fact, be regarded as a different ‘person’ from Our Lady of Fátima—whether one might appear in a dream to a pontiff to complain that the other was getting too much attention from worshippers at her own expense. (I’m referring here to a dream of Augustus involving Jupiter Tonans and IOM.)

The best approach to take instead is what Morpheus Ravenna has called ‘deep’ polytheism. In this perspective, we recognize that context matters. Place matters. Origin matters. It is essential to recognize and abide by the distinctions between the manifestation of a deity in one place and set of circumstances, and that in another. Hence the Storm-God of Aleppo appears in a different context and in a different guise from the Storm-God of Hatti, and it is important to observe that distinction, as the people of Hattusas did. At the same time, we ought not to be dogmatic in pronouncing limits on the ultimate identity or nature of deities—to say absolutely that because the Storm-God of Aleppo is not identical to the Storm-God of Hatti, they are not on some deep (possibly inaccessible) level one. Even humans appear in a variety of roles, fulfilling a variety of functions. It may well be—and in the case of our Tarhunzas/Ba‘al/Zeus/Jupiter figures it does appear to be—that these deities diverge from a single source like rays of light from a single sun. As distinct rays, IOMD is certainly not identical with the ‘purely’ Roman Jupiter nor with the ‘simply’ Semitic IOMH. Yet they can also, at times, flow together, like light refracted back into a single beam, as the invocations “to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Dolichenus and Heliopolitanus”, would imply.
*The more extreme ‘soft’ polytheisms shade by degrees into monism: not only are all Jupiter/Zeus/Thor/Ba‘al–type deities the same, but all are the same as the Sun-God, or else with the indistinct divine essence permeating all nature, etc. Here, however, I focus on a ‘soft’ polytheism that can still confidently be recognized as polytheistic.

18. How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality (historical and/or UPG)?

In Roman depictions, IOMD is masculine; while he is paired with Juno Regina, his iconography does not especially highlight his sexuality. Various deities with whom Syro-Anatolian storm-gods were identified—such as Seth and Zeus—were what we would today call bisexual. I am not aware of any Dolichene depictions of Ganymede—Jupiter’s main male lover—although it’s not inconceivable that the high importance of Apollo within Dolichene religion may have owed something to the contention (and sexual tension) between Horus and Seth. I say not inconceivable, although I’d be unable to find any evidence for this within Dolichene iconography.

19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire?

As a devotee of Mercury, I of course find it appealing how IOMD transcends geographical and cultural boundaries, shifts and adapts to changing circumstances, and makes his home in new contexts in new lands. More properly Dolichene qualities are IOMD’s strength, resolution, preservation of what is good in the cosmos (and beyond), fearlessness, justice, and mercy.

20. What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?

IOMD wields an axe, and is prepared to strike those who earn his ire. He is also deeply bound up with the notion of power. There is therefore a side of IOMD that is, or could be, inclined to support established order, even to use coercion on behalf of privilege. This is not, obviously, the aspect of IOMD that I cultivate, and I think his sense of justice will guard against these qualities being wrongly deployed—still, it’s a possibility I feel aware of.

21. Share any art that reminds you of this deity.

Bronze and Iron Age Hittite depictions of storm-gods always invite comparisons in my mind with IOMD, even though I know not all storm-gods are the same! The motif of Seth harpooning Typhon also irresistibly makes me think of IOMD, as do Seth animals and Seth-headed sphinxes.

Mountain landscapes—particularly those depicting ‘lonely mountains’ along the lines of Mount Shasta or Mount Cook—are also evocative of IOMD to me.

22. Share any music that makes you think of this deity.

Funny, I can’t think of a single piece in particular, but I think I would look for it in the Turkish genres of sanat müziği and arabesk. Looking at things from the other side of the world, some of the more energetic, bombastic passages of Entführing aus dem Serail might strike the right tone?

23. Share a quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with.

I think IOMD would get a kick out of The Return of the King (along with the rest of LOTR and perhaps especially The Hobbit).

24. Share your own composition: a piece of writing about or for this deity.

Great god in Doliche enthroned,
transcendent king beyond the clouds,
from mountains thund’ring mighty blows,
of justice stern eternal fount,
the weak protecting, wand’rers’ friend,
revealing secrets in dreams’ disguise,
assisting suppliants worn with cares.
Astride the Bullock’s muscled back,
you wield the axe and fiery bolt,
of thunder author, lightning’s sire,
in regal splendour peerless, armed.
The Eagle speaks at your command,
and Sun and Moon obey your nod,
together making common cause
around your own majestic throne.
From fear or want of will or means,
your hand has never shrunk to strike,
though dreaded Typhon be your foe,
victorious you emerge withal,
undaunted both by venomous fang
and by the monster’s clamorous arms.
Triumphant now and ever, Jove,
you reign sublimely good and great;
at Doliche made manifest,
where rugged iron takes its birth,
your lordship universal stands,
and all the firmament through you
maintains its rightly ordered place.

25. Share a time when this deity has helped you.

I pray daily to IOMD asking him, among other things, to watch over the people of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia during the current crisis. I can’t quite aver that it is because of this that the Kurds have had such successes lately in combatting Daesh in both Syria and Iraq—but I’d like to think it cannot hurt.

On a more personal level, IOMD has helped me deal with the bouts of depression I’m occasionally subject to.

26. Share a time when this deity has refused to help you.

I can’t recall any. I’ve gotten some push-back while negotiating the terms of this or that, but that’s about it.

27. How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?

So I started out merely observing that IOMD was present in the religious practices of people in my area of focus in Gaul. I asked some follow-up questions, explored, was curious, explored, felt satisfied. Took a closer look and began really engaging with IOMD as a cultor. Then I received from IOMD certain charges which, as they were eventually fulfilled, led me to being initiated one level farther into the cult of IOMD than simple cultor. I am authorized to call myself a frater in IOMD.

As my relationship with IOMD has deepened, I’ve also written more about him, largely recapitulating the scholarly literature I’ve absorbed, but with the goal of reaching, perhaps, a larger audience via the interwebs. This has consisted of the IOMD pages on my website (in French and English) as well as this blog.

28. What are the worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered?

See question 9. Neither of them are that terrible, just conceptually inapt.

Perhaps some of the baggage or misconceptions that come with the category of ‘mystery religion’ are more misleading.

29. What is something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently?

There are many things. I wish I knew more exactly how IOMD relates to Antiochus Theos and the cult of the gods of Commagene; what exact event catalyzed the propagation of the cult of IOMD in the Roman army, if I’m right in thinking that there was such an event; what IOMD wants from his contemporary worshippers (I’m assuming that we’re probably in the plural!) in terms of organization, cult practice, service work, or whatever; why IOMD kept such a low profile after the second half of the 3rd century (and whether the theory is right that the destruction of Doliche by Shapur dealt a death-blow to the religion); and what the precise relationship between IOMD and Mithras is.

30. Do you have any interesting or unusual UPG to share?

Not really, except that I associate IOMD more closely with the Hurrian Teshub that is strictly authorized by our sources from the Roman era…. The indications from IOMD himself, however, have never discouraged this.

31. Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?

Send me a message and let’s compare notes! There’s quite a wide-ranging scholarly literature on the god, which is something, but so much of it is buried away in obscure publications, and I find myself stumbling accidentally across important resources that I wished I would have known about sooner. And of course there is much to explore beyond the scholarly resources…


Author: DeoMercurio

I’m a Gaulish polytheist, now back living in lands ceded by the Council of Three Fires after several years’ sojourn in Anatolia and in the land of the Senecas, with frequent travels to Gaul along the way. My grandfather’s family came from the area around Trier, and I identify closely with the Treveri in my religious practice.

7 thoughts on “August devotions for IOMD”

  1. I have read some about IOMD, but not as much as you…and I’m surprised that I had not previously noticed His connection to Carnuntum. That’s an important site for Antinous (He had a temple there that was probably founded by Aelius Caesar!), and for one of my own connections to where I’m most familiar with IOMD, i.e. Roman Britain, because Virius Lupus, the governor of Roman Britain, was at the accession of Divus Septimius Severus in Carnuntum and was then probably sent by him to Britannia. That IOMD is also a super-syncretistic Deity connects him to Serapis, Antinous, Mithras, and Sabazios (the latter of Whom shares many characteristics you’ve outlined above with IOMD, it appears!).

    I think I have the basis for a poem here, though it may take a few more days to congeal, so to speak…!?! 😉


    1. Excellent! 🙂 No hurry. I didn’t realize Carnuntum was such an important site for Antinoüs as well, or about the Virius Lupus and Ælius Cæsar connections. I knew it also held Mithraic significance, for what it’s worth… Super-syncretistic certainly describes IOMD, particularly looking back over the broad sweep of the history of his cultus, though the process has doubtless never actually stopped!


    1. This is absolutely brilliant! I’m preparing a post to showcase it, but I think this is fantastic. I have a tendency of doing a larger than normal ceremony for IOMD on the Kalends and Ides of November, and I read this hymn out to IOMD. The reaction seemed, as you would expect, very favourable. 🙂


      1. Wonderful! I’m so pleased that you and He were both pleased! 🙂

        Strangely, this is one of my favorite sorts of hymns to do–narrative poetry that isn’t strictly speaking “totally made up,” but instead goes on what we know about particular things, uses those pieces like a puzzle, and then builds something new out of them. We know from experience and repeated research that individual small variations in common myths from place to place were, well, “common” (!?!), so applying that same thing to myths we don’t know or aren’t certain about just seems to make sense to me. But anyway, I loved doing this one, and again, thanks for your support as well as the opportunity you presented to make this devotional writing for Him!


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