The Mother of all Cult’s: Cybele & Her Sibs

Joseph Campbell, Oriental Mythology, 1962    (extracts)

Zeus had ejaculated somewhere around Mount Dindymus, where an offspring sprung out of the ground with both male and female sex organs.  The gods fearing this creature’s reaching adulthood had the hermaphrodite castrated, thereby causing it to become a female.  The creature became the mother goddess, named Cybele.  The gods threw away the severed phallus, and instantly an almond tree grew on that spot.  Cybele is known by several epithets, such as Magna Mater and Mater Deum.  Her home was said to be Mount Ida, near the city of Troy.  Her priests were castrated men with long hair [the Merovingian Mark].  Ovid tells us that Cybele took Attis as a lover, demanding perpetual fidelity.  When Cybele discovered Attis making love with a river nymph, Attis was shamed and castrated himself with a stone and was transformed into a tree.  [similar to the X-mas tree of Semiramus & Tammuz] [1]

Attis’ passion was celebrated on the 25th of March, exactly nine months before the solstice festival of his birth, the 25th of December.  The time of his death was also the time of his conception, or re-conception.  To mark the event when Attis entered his mother to beget his reincarnation, his tree-phallus was carried into her sacred cavern.  Thus the virgin mother Nana was actually the Goddess herself: she who was called Inanna by the Sumerians, Mari-Anna by the Canaanites, Anna Perennea by the Sabines, and Nanna, mother of the dying god Balder, in northern Europe.  Attis was depicted in his death throes as follows:

  1. drenched in blood,
  2. serene after his resurrection,
  3. androgynous, having being released from his worldly sins and surrounded by solar rays.
  4. Or shown as a child, naked and dancing for joy.
  5. The god died and was buried.
  6. He descended into the underworld (Hell).
  7. On the third day he rose again from the dead.
  8. His worshippers were told: “The god is saved; you also will come to salvation from your trials.”

(Krishna (r) and Dionysus were similarly rendered)

Transgendered males known as the Gallae were an important part of the retinue supporting the worship of Cybele.  The joining retinue included many priestesses, including Amazonian, transgendered female priest/ess(es) as well as traditional masculine functionaries such as the dendrophori (tree-bearer) and cannophori (reed-bearer).  Gallae is a derivative of Latin for rooster [COCK] and these eunuchs were known for their perfumed hair dressed with oils.  Frenzied fans (a word derived from the Latin fanatici, specifically for maddened worshippers of Cybele) had already been generated by grand opera in the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when castrati sang female roles and were the dizzy object of coterie speculation and intrigue.  The Gallae originated from Phrygia (part of Asia Minor), a territory that included Mount Ida, Troy, Pessinus and Pergamum.  The worship of Cybele spread to the Greek mainland through trade, and by metragytes, who were roaming gallae [Troubadours,[2] today’s Gypsies and Buskers].  They would wander the countryside, begging for alms and telling fortunes.   On the whole however, the gallae were shunned by the Greeks.  The Romans later added the position of archigallus (now Archbishop) as high priest of the Mother-worship cult of Cybele after its removal to Rome.  This position was reserved for a Roman citizen, an official duty incompatible with castration.  Romans were not allowed to serve as priests of Cybele until the time of the Emperor Claudius [10 BC –54 AD; who was her priest from 41 AD till death].

Other Asiatic goddesses of fertility were served in like manner by eunuch priests.  These feminine deities required to receive from their male ministers, who personated the divine lovers (gods), the means of discharging their beneficent functions: they had themselves to be impregnated by the life-giving energy before they could transmit it to the world.  Goddesses thus ministered to by eunuch priests were the great Artemis of Ephesus and the great Syrian Astarte of Hierapolis.  The unsexed priests of this Syrian goddess resembled those of Cybele so closely that some people took them to be the same.

The greatest festival of the year at Hierapolis[3] fell at the beginning of spring, when multitudes thronged to the sanctuary from Syria and the regions round about:

While flutes played, drums beat and eunuch priests slashed themselves with knives [like good Shi’ites], the religious excitement gradually spread like a wave among the crowd of onlookers, and many a one did that which he little thought to do when he came as a holiday spectator to the festival.  For man after man, his veins throbbing with the music [possessed], his eyes fascinated by the sight of the streaming blood, flung his garments from him, leaped forth with a shout, and seizing one of the swords which stood ready for the purpose, castrated himself on the spot. Then he ran through the city holding the bloody pieces in his hand, till he threw them into one of the houses which he passed in his mad career.  The household thus honored had to furnish him with a suit of female attire and female ornaments which he wore for the rest of his life.  When the tumult of emotion had subsided, and the man had come to himself, the irrevocable sacrifice must often have been followed by passionate sorrow and lifelong regret.



Author’s Note:  For Mystery Religion Novices this should serve as an introduction to the phantom most scholars consider the Mother of all goddesses.  Nevertheless, before proceeding with Cybele’s metamorphosis to Mary – the alleged “Mother of God” – we must visit Cybele’s grand-dame and pay our disrespects in the next post.

[1] Alexander Hislop believed Semiramis’ child to be the Akkadian deity Tammuz, a god of vegetation as well as a life-death-rebirth deity [later worshipped also by the Jews along with the Queen of Heaven].  He maintained that all divine pairings in world myths and religions depicted in art e.g. Isis/Osiris, Aphrodite/Cupid, Asherah/Orion Mary/Jesus and others are retellings of the tale of Semiramis and Tammuz.  Semiramis goes on to become the Blessed Virgin Mary according to Hislop in an attempt to support his claim that Roman Catholicism is in fact paganism.

[2] Ezra Pound, in addition to his other achievements and infamies, was one of the leading scholars in the area of early French poetry, and in the revised 1916 edition of The Spirit of Romance included a chapter presenting evidence that a tantric cult existed in Provence at the time of the Troubadours and is referred to guardedly in much of their poetry. In addition to the data presented by Pound, I have noted that the characteristic verse-form of the Troubadours, seven stanzas, may refer to the seven “chakras” involved in tantric yoga.

Sexual Alchemy by Robert Anton Wilson

[3] Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the second century BC and given by the Romans to Eumenes II, king of Pergamon in 190 BC.  The city was named after the name of the existing temple, or possibly to honor Hiera, wife of Telethos – son of Heracles by a Mysian princess Auge – the mythical founder of the Attalid Dynasty. The city was expanded with proceeds from the booty from the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, where Antiochus the Great was defeated by Eumenes II who had sided with the Romans. Thus Hierapolis became part of the Pergamon kingdom.  Information about Hierapolis is limited. It is known that the king of Pergamum, Eumenes II, founded the city in 190 BC. It was named Hierapolis after the Amazon’s Queen Hiera, the wife of Telephos, the founder of Pergamum. (Pergamum is also called Pergamo.  In 133 BC, the city was bequeathed, along with the entire Pergamene kingdom, to the Romans by King Attalos III.

Kevin M. Miller (July 1985). “Apollo Lairbenos,” Numen 32 (1): 46–70