Magna Mater Cybele

Happy Earth Day everyone

I want to introduce to you a great and feared Earth Mother: Cybele (Kybele)

During the first millennium, B.C.E., or possibly even as early as the Paleolithic period, the worship of the Great Mother Goddess, Cybele, began. Cybele was originally worshipped in the form of a black meteorite, by the inhabitants of Phrygia, Lydia and the surrounding mountainous areas, which were located in the western part of the region that is now known as Turkey. This area is one of great historical significance, with the Plains of Illium, and the ancient city of Troy, lying slightly to the west. Cybele was known by several titles, in that mountainous region, including the “Great Mountain Mother,” and the "Lady of Mt. Ida," and she later gained an assortment of other names, which included the "Magna Mater (Great Mother)," “Dindymene,” “Kubaba,” and “Agdistis.” Even though Cybele had originally been worshipped as a classic Earth Mother Goddess, she eventually became identified with fertility, and with unrestrained sexuality. In her role as a fertility or nature Goddess, she was believed to have total control over all the wild things on Earth.
Rhea: Titan Goddess of Fertility
The Greeks, however, looked upon Cybele as just another name for their Goddess, the Titan Rhea, who was the wife of Chronos, and the mother of the mighty God Zeus. The Greeks also believed that Cybele may have been an aspect of their Goddess Demeter, who was a fertility Goddess, or their Goddess Artemis, who was also a Goddess of the wild. To her followers, however, Cybele represented the pure power of nature, and both she and Artemis, were Protectresses of wild animals, while each laid claim to the title the “Great Huntress,” who was the Great Patron Goddess of the ancient Amazons.
Cybele’s crown appears to be the turreted wall of a fortress, which exemplifies her role as a mighty defender and protectress. It is extremely apparent, as well, that she preferred to spend her time in the company of lions, or other wild animals, rather then embrace a child in her arms. These differences from the nature goddesses  of the ancient world only help to make it extremely clear that Cybele was an independent and individual Goddess, and those are only a few of the many reasons why Cybele has been considered to be one of the most unique Goddesses, to ever be worshipped in Rome.
The individual and unique Goddess Cybele, however, was known as a Great Mother Goddess. She was frequently depicted wearing her turreted crown, while she was seated on a throne, with either a lion lying in her lap, or else being flanked by two lions, with one of them lying on each side of her. Cybele has also been pictured, driving a chariot which was drawn by two lions.
Archeologists discovered a figurine at Çatal Hüyük, dating back approximately 8,000 years, which depicts the Mother Goddess flanked by two leopards, squatting, while in the process of giving birth. Many centuries later, lions replaced the leopards. That change occurred, in all likelihood, as a way of correcting the ancient belief that leopards were actually female lions.
Lions have frequently been used to symbolize a wide variety of things, including strength. Since lions were frequently associated with Cybele, they might signify that she was the mistress of wild nature, or that her power was so great, that lions became meek, whenever they happened to be in her presence.
Cybele has frequently been depicted holding a frame drum, which she was known to play. It is considered to be one of her most important symbols, and it is believed to represent the moon. A famous picture exists, showing Cybele holding a frame drum in her left hand, painted red, while in her right hand she holds a lotus bowl, from which a liquid is pouring forth.
The lotus bowl, also known as the patera, is believed to represent the great cosmic vulva, from which the water of life continuously pours forth. Many different liquids have been used to represent the water of life, including honey, wine, milk and even blood. Ishtar, an aspect of Cybele, has also been depicted pouring the water of life, as it flowed endlessly, from a jug.
When the Cult of Cybele was in its early stages, only priestesses were allowed to perform the sacred rites. That practice changed dramatically when Crete was overthrown, and the Cretan priests of Zeus, the Curates, migrated to Phrygia, where they joined with the Corybantes and became Galli. Legend tells us that the Corybantes were the half human sons of Chronos. It was their wild dancing, and the loud noises that resulted from the banging of their shields and weapons together, that prevented Chronos from hearing the cries of his infant son Zeus. If Chronos had, indeed, heard the cries of Zeus, he would have swallowed him whole, just as he had done with all of his other children. Chronos swallowed his own children whole as soon as they were born. He saw it as a way of protecting himself from the possibility, that one of them might castrate him, just as he had previously done to his own father, Uranus.

These priests, like the Galli before them, became complete eunuchs. They grew their hair long, dressed in women’s clothing and perfumed themselves with fragrant oils, in a manner that was quite similar to Dionysus, who had been raised as a girl rather then as a boy. Becoming total, or complete eunuchs, required the initiates to go through more then just a simple castration. They actually had to take their transformation into women one step further, by having their entire penis removed. The amputation of their penis left an opening, where the root of that organ had once been, and they used that opening during sex, in the same manner as they would a woman's vagina. That particular metamorphosis, which changed men into women, actually required more then just the removal of their total genitalia. In order for a priest to truly seem like a woman, who had actually been born a woman, then he also had to cause his body to periodically bleed, as a way of imitating menstruation. The priests achieved this periodic bleeding by committing acts of self-mutilation.

The Galli first became a part of Cybele’s worship, around approximately the same time that the Cult of Cybele and Attis first began. That was, indeed, in extremely ancient times, since that happened more then 500 years before the founding of Troy. Even in the very early days of the Cult, Attis never once appeared as a living and breathing entity, independent and separate from Cybele. Rather, he existed solely as a part of the worship of Cybele.

The Temple of Cybele was devoted to all things that were feminine, and while it may have strongly glorified women, it just as strongly denied men the right to worship in any of its ceremonies or rites. The Cult of Cybele believed that men should worship their own, male Gods, and perform their own ceremonies and rites, with a congregation of worshipers that consisted solely of men. That is why almost no men ever appeared in the worship of Cybele.

A few exceptions were made, however, which allowed three separate and unique groups of men to worship in the Temple of Cybele. The first exception was for a man who had become a woman. Since he had actually become a woman, then there was no problem with her worshiping in the Temple of Cybele. It was not sufficient for a man to simply dress in female clothing and assume a feminine pose. If a man truly wanted to be a part of the Cult of Cybele, then there was only one road for him to follow. He had to either go through the process of castration, or through the severing of his complete genitalia.
Those particular acts of self-mutilation were sometimes referred to as "the Rites of Attis." Many men performed those Rites when they became caught up in the throws of wild and reckless abandon, during the Lupercalia, which was the annual celebration of those Rites. During that celebration, those severed sexual organs were frequently offered up to the Goddess, and while there may have been some of those men who regretted doing what they had done, the majority of them looked upon their actions as being necessary if they seriously wanted to become permanent members of the Temple.
The second type of man was an extremely handsome or sexy man, who was considered to be extremely desirable to women. Everything that the temple could offer him was his, for one full year. Then, when that year finally came to an end, he was offered up to the Goddess as a human sacrifice.
The third and final type of man, who was accepted into the temple, took on the role of a High Poet. His role was to spend every single moment, of every single day of his life dedicated in every way, shape or form to the worship of the Goddess.
The Punic War was also being fought, at that exact same period of time, and Hannibal's presence in Italy posed a clear and present danger to Rome. Needing direction on how to proceed in the war, the Roman Senate ordered that the Sibylline Books be consulted. The Oracle advised the Senate, that if a foreign enemy ever invaded Italy, or declared war upon it, then that threat could be defeated, and driven out, but only if Cybele, the Idaean Mother of the Gods, was brought from Pessinus to Rome. Not everyone was convinced, however, so as a further means of corroboration, the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi was consulted, and she, as well, advised the Romans that success would be imminent, but only if the Magna Mater was brought to Rome.
The Romans followed the Oracles' advice, and began to make the necessary arrangements to acquire Cybele, and then bring her from the Phrygian city of Pessinus, which was the center of her worship at that time, to Rome. To facilitate that endeavor, Rome sent an envoy to Attalus, the King of Pergamum, requesting his assistance in that matter.
Attalus, however, was extremely reluctant to allow Cybele to be taken to Rome, but he soon came to realize that he had no real choice in the matter, after the voice of Cybele spoke to him after an earthquake, and told him: "Rome is worthy of becoming the meeting-place of the Gods." For that reason, the Roman ambassadors were allowed to enter Pessinus, acquire the black cube-shaped stone that was Cybele, and then carry her back with them to Rome.
Cybele's rites were extremely orgiastic in nature. They had served their purpose well when they had been performed in Phrygia, since their purpose there had been to increase human fertility. Ritual prostitution was also a normal way for the Phrygians to worship Cybele, and it was looked upon as a way of giving a gift to the Goddess. The Romans, however, viewed those acts quite differently then the Phrygians and they refused to have anything to do with them.
Two hundred years after Cybele had first landed in Rome, and became a national Goddess; her worship had become so popular that it was one of the three most important cults in Rome, sharing that honor with the Cult of Isis and Serapis (Osiris), and the Cult of Mithra. Amazingly, her worship, and that of Isis and Serapis, continued to exist until the fall of the Roman Empire, when Christianity began to reign supreme as it gained great strength and power in Rome. Then, during the 4th Century, C.E., the Emperor Constantine outlawed all mystery cults, and from that point forward the worship of the Magna Mater in Rome was no more.

Legend of Cybele and Attis

In ancient Phrygia, which is located in modern day Turkey, they venerated another great mother goddess called Cybele who was the consort and also the mother of the god Attis. There are various myths surrounding Cybele and Attis as their worship was adopted by the Greeks and then even later by the Romans. Cybele was also known as Nana, who was the virgin mother of Attis who it was believed gave birth to him on the 25th December.
Cybele had previously given birth to a hermaphrodite demon called Agdistis. The potential power of this demon terrified the other gods so much that they cut off his male member. As his blood spurted onto the ground an almond tree sprouted and grew. Nana came along one day and ate fruit from this almond tree. She became pregnant and when her infant son was born, she abandoned him to be raised by shepherds. He grew into a very attractive young man and this beauty captured the attention of his grandmother/mother Cybele, who fell madly in love with him.
His foster parents sent him away to be married, which incensed the goddess who appeared in all her numinous glory at his wedding. He was sent so mad by this heavenly apparition that he cut off his own phallus, reputedly as he was standing under a pine tree, and bleeds to death from his wounds. The drops of blood falling to the ground cause the very first violets to start growing and he is saved from death and decay by Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods, who helps Cybele to resurrect him.
Other versions of Attis’s death have him being crucified, or hung, on the pine tree or being gored by a wild boar. He was also dead for three days before his resurrection and, as a god of vegetation, would symbolically have to die each year at the end of the long, hard days of winter in order that the land could be reborn into spring. The worship of Cybele was adopted by the Romans and priests called ‘Galli’ would literally re-enact the god’s act of self mutilation or cut other parts themselves as an effigy of Attis was dressed in linen and hung on a pine tree. The deity was then mourned for three days, after which his rebirth was marked by a great celebration that evolved into the Hilaria Festival, which was held every year in March at the time of the vernal equinox.


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