I have eaten from the drum,
I have drunk from the cymbal;
I have carried the sacred dish;
I have stolen into the inner shrine.
trans. by M.W.Meyer.
A god of growth and fertility in Asia Minor, also venerated in Greece. His service remained more Asian than Greek, however, and was connected to that of Cybele. Because of his manifestations of intense sadness and ecstatic joy, his service resembles that of Adonis. Attis was thought to be beloved by Cybele and when he refused her love, in her rage she unmanned him. His followers sometimes did the same. Attis is portrayed on coins from the Roman era and on tombstones. He is represented as a young man in tight-fitting clothes and a Phrygian headdress and shepherds staff. Attis
Attis was a vegetation deity of the type commonly worshipped in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans into those areas. His annual birth, death, and resurrection not only symbolized, but actually realized, for ancient man the recurrent cycle of the seasons and the annual renewal of the crops that constituted the food supply. As a vegetation deity the fertility of the earth was in his care. Thus, like the Syrian Adonis (the consort of Astarte/Aphrodite) and the Babylonian-Assyrian Tammuz (beloved of Ishtar), Attis was the consort of Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods, who was worshipped in central and western Anatolia (i.e. the inland districts of central and western Turkey). And like his parallel gods, Attis was the lesser deity in the divine partnership.
In ancient Rome, cults were certain elements of eastern religions were combined with elements of Greek and Roman religions. Well-known examples are the mystery cults of Isis, Cybele, and Attis (Phrygia) and of the old-Iranian Mithra. All these cult forms offer their adepts secret knowledge and rebirth through initiation. This initiation consists of cleansing rites, fasting, and the consecration itself. Sometimes it is accompanied by orgiastic rites, such as wild dances, self-mutilation, or castration like the priests in the cult of Cybele. The sacral meal is often also a part of the initiation.
"Copyright (c) 2000 Encyclopedia Mythica. All rights reserved."
Thomas J. Sienkewicz
The boy, Attis, wasn't aware of Cybele's love, but what would it have mattered? In time, he saw the king of Pessinus' beautiful daughter, fell in love, and wished to marry her. The goddess who grew insanely jealous and angry, drove Attis mad for revenge. Running crazy through the mountains, he stopped at the foot of a pine-tree. There, while he rested, he castrated and killed himself. From his blood sprang violets while the tree took care of his spirit. Body and spirit might have been safe, but still his flesh would have decayed had not Zeus stepped in to aid Cybele in Attis' resurrection.
The God of the Pine(An Excerpt from "The Winter Solstace")
"Another youthfull god,born in a cave at around the turning of the Winter Solstace, was the Phrygian Attis,sometimes said to be the son of the Goddis Isis, sometimes the son of Cybele,who may be one and the same. As the Great Mother Goddess of Anatolia(Modern Syria),Cybele was known throughout the classical world for a considerable time before the third century B.C.,at which time she became part of the Roman Pantheon. Formally welcomed into Rome in the year 204,B.C., she virtually became the national goddess, and after the Emperor Claudius adopted her as a personal deity in the first century A.D.,she was widely honored under the title Magna Mata(Great Mother).
Rites celebrating the story of her son,Attis, took place throughout the agricultural year,reaching a climax at the Vernal Equinox. The central story of religion concearned Cyble's passionate and forbidden love for her own son,who was said to have been driven mad by his mothers desire for him. As a result, Attis castrated himself under a pine tree,which consequently became a symbol of his sacrafice.
Attis's followers called him "Father" and Cybele "Mother" and worshiped him in an anual festival at the Vernal Equinox in which a pine tree was first decorated and then cut down.(A tradition that may well have been a distant echo in the decoration of pine tree's during the Solstacea)in memory of the gods act of self mutilation. His priests were called Galoi and were themselves eunuchs. they would often slash thier own arms or whip themselves into a frenzy of adulation.
As one of the "vegetation" gods(others include the Mesopotamian Tammutz and the Greek Adonis),Attis is percieved as growing to full strength with the sun,then drying of being cut down,to return again each year. In this way he shares the attributes of many of the youthful wonder gods,who bring with them the promise of the returning Midwinter sun and the blessings of the new year."
The Winter Solstace:The sacred traditions of christmas
by John Matthews:
Quest books 1998
by Dr Anthony E. Smith
Cybele was the goddess of nature and fertility. Because Cybele presided over mountains and fortresses, her crown was in the form of a city wall. The cult of Cybele was directed by eunuch priests called Corybantes, who led the faithful in orgiastic rites accompanied by wild cries and the frenzied music of flutes, drums, and cymbals. Her annual spring festival celebrated the death and resurrection of her beloved Attis.
Her Greek mythology counterpart was Rhea
"Copyright (c) 1999 Encyclopedia Mythica. All rights reserved."
Catulli Carmina LXIII
Catullus,84 B.C. to 54 B.C
Carried in a fast ship over profound seas
Attis, eager and hurried, reached the Phrygian grove,
The goddess's dark places, crowned with woodland.
And there, exalted by amorous rage, his mind gone,
He cut off his testicles with a sharp flint.
While the ground was still spotted with fresh blood
Quickly took in her snowy hands a tambourine
Such as serves your initiates, Cybele, instead of a trumpet,
And shaking the hollow calf-hide with delicate fingers,
Quivering, she began to sing to the troop this:
"Go together, votaresses, to the high groves of Cybele.
Go together, wandering herd of the lady of Dindymus.
Quick into exile, you looked for foreign places
And, following me and the rule I had adopted,
You bore with the salt tide and the violence of the high sea
And emasculated your bodies from too much hatred of Venus:
Delight the lady's mind with your errant haste.
Overcome your reluctance: together
Go to the Phrygian shrine of Cybele, to her groves
Where the voice of cymbals sounds, the tambourines rattle,
Where the Phrygian piper sings with the deep curved pipe,
Where Maenads wearing ivy throw back their heads,
Where they practice the sacred rites with sharp yells.
Where they flutter around the goddess's cohort:
It is there we must go with our rapid dances."
As Attis, the counterfeit woman, sang this to her companions,
The choir howled suddenly with tumultuous tongues.
The tambourine bellows, the cymbals clash again;
The swift troop moves off to Ida with hurrying feet.
Crazy, panting, drifting, at her last gasp,
Attis with her tambourine leads them through the opaque groves
Like an unbroken heifer refusing the yoke:
The swift votaresses follow their swift-footed leader.
When they reach Cybele's shrine, feeble and worn,
From too much toil they take their rest without bread (Ceres).
Sleep covers their eyes with a heavy blanket;
Their rabid madness subsides to a girlish quiet.
But when the golden sun with his streaming eyes
Purified the white sky, hard land, wild sea,
And drove away the shadows of night with his thundering horses,
Attis was aroused and Sleep went quickly from her
Back to the trembling arms of the goddess Pasithea.
Then from her girlish quiet, with no hurrying madness,
Attis remembered what she had done
And saw in her lucid mind what was missing and where she was.
Tempestuously she turned back to the shore.
There, looking at the open sea with tearful eyes,
With grief in her voice she addressed her native land:
"Land which begot me, land which brought me forth,
I am abject to abandon you like a runaway slave.
My feet have carried me to the groves of Ida
To be among snow in the cold lairs of wild beasts;
I shall visit their violent haunts.
Where, O my land, can I imagine you are?
My eye desires you and narrows as it turns toward you
In this short interval when my mind is unfrenzied.
Shall I be carried to the forests, from my far-off home?
Away from country, goods, friends, family?
From the Forum, palaestra, racecourse, and gymnasium?
There is nothing for me but misery.
What shape is there that I have not had?
A woman now, I have been man, youth, and boy;
I was athlete, the wrestler.
There were crowds round my door, my fans slept on the doorstep;
There were flowers all over the house
When I left my bed at sunrise.
Shall I be a waiting maid to the gods, the slave of Cybele?
I a Maenad, I a part of myself, I impotent?
Shall I live above the snow line on green Ida?
Shall I pass my life under the rocky peaks of Phrygia
Where the doe runs in the woods, where the boar mooches in the glade?
I regret now, now, what I have done, I repent of it, now!"
As these words hurried away from her pink lips,
Bringing a new message to the ears of the gods,
Cybele, letting her lions off the leash
And urging forward the beast on the left hand,
Said,"Get on, be fierce, see that he's driven mad;
Make him insane enough to return to the forest
He has had the impertinence to want to be out of my power.
Come on, lash around with your tail till you hurt yourself:
Make the whole neighborhood ring with your bellowing roar.
Be fierce, shake the red mane on your muscular neck."
Thus the threatening Cybele, and she wound the leash round her hand.
The beast stirs up his courage and rouses himself to fury.
He is off, he roars, he breaks up the undergrowth.
When he came to the wet sand on the whitening shore
And saw tender Attis by the waters of the sea,
He charged: Attis, mad, flew into the wild woods:
There, for the rest of her life, she lived as a slave.
Great Goddess, Goddess Cybele, Goddess lady of Dindymus,
May all your fury be far from my house.
Incite the others, go. Drive other men mad.