Moving Inland
Changing Perceptions of Sex
Hierogamy: The Great Rite
Sacrificial Gods
Of Boys, Bulls and Kings
     Cultural Significance

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  The Sacred Marriage

Sacrificial Gods

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"Found in Rome in the 1500s, this large statue of a seated woman portrays Cybele, the mother goddess, with many of her attributes, each signifying a different role. She wears a crown in the form of a towered wall, a symbol of her role as protectress of cities. Her right hand holds a bunch of wheat and poppy heads, a symbol of her role as a goddess of agriculture. Her most famous attribute, the lion, sits at her feet, symbolizing her power over wild animals. Under her left arm she holds additional symbols: the rudder and the cornucopia.
This statue's most unusual feature is its face, which belongs to an older Roman matron, not an idealized goddess. Wealthy Roman women would frequently commission portraits of themselves depicted as if they were goddesses. Cybele is an unusual choice, however, which may indicate that this woman was a priestess in the goddess's service.
Cybele's cult was introduced to Rome in 204 B.C. from its home in the Near East. Worship in the cult included ritual flagellation and castration; it was initially discouraged for Roman citizens. By the time this portrait was created, however, many of the cult's wilder aspects had been tamed or eliminated." ~ from the J. Paul Getty Museum description.

"Great Mother of the Gods, also called Cybele, Cybebe, or Agdistis, ancient Oriental and Greco-Roman deity, known by a variety of local names; the name Cybele or Cybebe predominates in Greek and Roman literature from about the 5th century bc onward. Her full official Roman name was Mater Deum Magna Idaea (Great Idaean Mother of the Gods)...

Her priests, the Galli, castrated themselves on entering her service. The self-mutilation was justified by the myth that her lover, the fertility god Attis, had emasculated himself under a pine tree, where he bled to death. At Cybele’s annual festival (March 15–27), a pine tree was cut and brought to her shrine, where it was honoured as a god and adorned with violets considered to have sprung from the blood of Attis. On March 24, the “Day of Blood,” her chief priest, the archigallus, drew blood from his arms and offered it to her to the music of cymbals, drums, and flutes, while the lower clergy whirled madly and slashed themselves to bespatter the altar and the sacred pine with their blood. On March 27 the silver statue of the goddess, with the sacred stone set in its head, was borne in procession and bathed in the Almo, a tributary of the Tiber River.

Cybele’s ecstatic rites were at home and fully comprehensible in Asia, but they were too frenzied for Europeans farther west. Roman citizens were at first forbidden to take part in the ceremonies—a ban that was not removed until the time of the empire..." ~ from Great Mother of the Gods, Encyclopaedia Britannica.

"History records many dying-and-rising saviors. Examples from the Ancient Near East that preceded the Jesus story include Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, and Baal."
~Jesus: Just One More Dying and Rising Savior
by Bob Seidensticker, April 2012, on the Patheos web site. Read more...