The opening paragraph of his latest essay is a fascinating intro involving religiously sanctioned transvestitism, emasculation and beautiful words.
Atargatis, the “Syrian Goddess,” was a demanding mistress. For one thing, her priests (the galli) could win their way into her affections only by emasculating themselves. According to the De Dea Syria, attributed to Lucian of Samosata, any young man disposed to dedicate himself to her service in Hierapolis had to make this first and most extravagant oblation on one of her high holy days, in a fit of divine ecstasy, with a single economic slash of a sacred sword kept at her temple. After that, he would run naked and bleeding through the city streets until he found a home into which he felt inspired to fling the freshly severed jetsam. Any household thus “honored” was then required by religious decency to supply the new initiate with female attire and adornments.
To which Hart, one of the finest essayists active in any field today comments:
Now, admittedly, we all do our best to lay up treasure in heaven, and I suppose one ought not to cast around too many peremptory judgments regarding other people’s pieties; but I think most of us can agree that this was a fairly exorbitant sum to place in escrow on an uncertain bargain.
The rest of the article is a brilliant thought piece on Classical pagan religion, excess, passion, zeal, piety, the role of public devotion and why anyone would ever chop off bits of their penis. And it will make you laugh.
Your Correspondent, Constantly harassing honest citizens with that most annoying expression of happy piety; singing in public