||[14 Jun 2004|06:01am]
(also Kybele, Magna Mater, Great Mother, Mater Deum Magna Idaea (Great Idaean Mother of the Gods)
Cybele is a Greek goddess of nature, fertility, and wild beasts. She was originally a Phrygian goddess of the Earth in its primitive state, and worshipped on mountaintops. She was known throughout Greece from the 6th to 4th century, and was introduced to Rome in 205 BC. She was both a Crone and Mother goddess. According to some legends, she was both the grandmother and lover of Attis, god of growth and fertility. Her festival came first on the Roman calendar, and she was worshipped in wild, emotional, orgiastic, cathartic ceremonies. The cult of Cybele was directed by eunuch priests called Corybantes. They led the faithful in her rites, accompanied by wild cries and the frenzied music of flutes, drums, and cymbals.
Cybele also presided over mountains and fortresses- because of this, her crown is in the form of a city wall. She is often pictured with lions, or a lion and lioness, on either side of her. A figurine found at Çatal Hüyük, dating around 4000 BC, depicts the Mother Goddess squatting in the process of birthing while flanked by two leopards. In later centuries, the leopards would be changed to lions (the metamorphosed Atalanta and Hippomenes).
In one version of the legend of Cybele and Attis, Zeus desired Cybele and made advances toward her. She rejected them. One night, he approached her while she slept and masturbated at her feet. As a result, she gave birth to Agdistis, who was androgynous and immensely strong. Because Agdistis was uncontrollable, Dionysus somehow tricked him into emasculating himself. A great river of blood poured forth from the wound and was absorbed into the Earth, causing all manners of flowers to spring up from the ground. Nana, seeing the flowers and how beautiful they were, plucked one and placed it in her bosom. Cybele changed this flower into a seed, from which Nana became pregnant. Nana’s father, accusing her of being promiscuous, locked her away without food or water, attempting to starve her to death, but Cybele gave her food and drink.
Upon the birth of the child, Nana’s father ordered it taken to the river and left to die. However, a shepherd found the child and took him home, naming him Attis. Attis grew into a remarkable beautiful young man. Cybele, observing that this man was more beautiful than any of the gods, loved Attis above all others and showered him with gifts and favours. Attis returned her love. Agdistis also loved Attis, and seduced him. Midas, the king of Phrygia, arranged for Attis to marry his own daughter. Cybele and Agdistis disrupted the ceremony, though. Cybele told Attis of the agony he caused her when he left with Agdistis. When Attis heard of Cybele’s suffering, he took a knife and emasculated himself beneath a pine tree. As he lay dying, he called out to Cybele and begged for her forgiveness, professing his anguish at causing her grief, and vowing to never hurt her again. Violets sprang up from drops of his blood, weaving themselves into the boughs of the tree, and the spirit of Attis entered into it.
When Cybele heard her grandson’s repentance, and saw that he was emasculated and dead, she carried the pine tree with all its flowers to her cave. For three days, Attis was dead, living in the Underworld. On the third day, Cybele brought him back to life. She provided Attis with her most glorious clothing and proclaimed the reborn one to be her granddaughter and lover, bestowing upon Attis gifts of mystery equal to her own. Cybele declared, “Rejoice, my son is gone and in his place my daughter has arisen. All beauty, strength, power, compassion, honour, mirth, and reverence is at her service. Let all who would do her harm pay grievous penalty, and all who do her tribute accrue fitting reward.”
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