Tag Archive: magna mater


When God Was a Girl

Take an hour out and treat yourself – reclaim your herstory, reclaim your divinity! Wonderful and informational.  “Historian Bettany Hughes visits a world where Goddesses ruled the heavens and earth, and reveals why our ancestors thought of the divine as female. Travelling across the Mediterranean and the Near East, Bettany goes to remote places, where she encounters fearsome Goddesses who controlled life and death, and she ends up in modern-day India, where the Goddess is still a powerful force for thousands of Hindus. Immersing herself in the excitement of the Durga Puja festival, Bettany experiences Goddess worship first-hand, and finds out what the Goddess means to Her devotees.”

 

Goddess Ops

“Demeter” by Shanina Conway

“Ops’ themes are opportunity, wealth, fertility and growth. Her symbols are bread, seeds and soil.  This Italic Goddess of fertile earth provides us with numerous ‘op-portunities’ to make every day more productive. In stories, Ops motivates fruit bearing, not just in plants but also in our spirits. She also controls the wealth of the gods, making her a Goddess of opulence! Works of art depict Ops with a loaf of bread in one hand and the other outstretched, offering aid.

On August 25, Ops was evoked by sitting on the earth itself, where She lives in body and spirit. So, weather permitting, take yourself a picnic lunch today. Sit with Ops and enjoy any sesame or poppy breadstuffs (bagel, roll, etc) – both types of seeds are magically aligned with Ops’s money-bringing power. If possible, keep a few of the seeds from the bread in your pocket or shoe so that after lunch, Op’s opportunities for financial improvements or personal growth can be with you no matter where you go. And don’t forget to leave a few crumbs for the birds so they can take you magical wishes to the four corners of creation!

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, invoke Ops by getting as close to the earth as you can (sit on your floor, go into the cellar). Alternatively, eat earthy foods like potatoes, root crops, or any fruit that comes from Ops’s abundant storehouse.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Rhea” by Ian Ian Marke

Patricia Monaghan tells us that Ops’ “name survives in our word opulent, and in Rome She represented the opulence of the earth’s fruiting.  Worshiped at harvest festivals on August 25 [Opiconsivia] and December 19 [Opalia], She was associated with the god Consus, ruler of the ‘conservation’ of the grain that Ops brought Her people.  Newborn children were put in Her care, so that She would care for them as tenderly as She cared for the shoots of springtime plants.  She was called by several titles: Consivia, the sower; Patella, stimulator of the wheat crop; and Rucina, promoter of the harvest. She was a very ancient Roman Goddess, identified in later days with the Greek Rhea” (p. 240).

According to E.M. Berens, “In Rome the Greek Rhea was identified with Ops, the Goddess of plenty, the wife of Saturn, who had a variety of appellations. She was called Magna-Mater, Mater-Deorum, Berecynthia-Idea, and also Dindymene. This latter title She acquired from three high mountains in Phrygia, whence She was brought to Rome as Cybele during the second Punic war, BCE 205, in obedience to an injunction contained in the Sybilline books. She was represented as a matron crowned with towers, seated in a chariot drawn by lions.” [1]

Demeter in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson & Brian Clark

Micha F. Lindemans on Encyclopedia Mythica tells us that “The Roman (Sabine) Goddess of the earth as a source of fertility, and a Goddess of abundance and wealth in general (Her name means ‘plenty’). As Goddess of harvest She is closely associated with the god Consus. She is the sister and wife of Saturn. One of Her temples was located near Saturn’s temple, and on August 10 a festival took place there. Another festival was the Opalia, which was observed on December 9. On the Forum Romanum She shared a sanctuary with the Goddess Ceres as the protectors of the harvest. The major temple was of Ops Capitolina, on the Capitoline Hill, where Caesar had located the Treasury. Another sanctuary was located in the Regia on the Forum Romanun, where also the Opiconsivia was observed on August 25. Only the official priests and the Vestal Virgins had access to this altar.” [2]

 

Sources:

Aworldofmyths.com, “Ops“.

Lindemans, Micha F. Encyclopedia Mythica, “Ops“.

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Ops”.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Gypsymagicspells.blogspot.com, “Ops – Goddess of Opulence“.

Her Cyclopedia, “The Goddess Ops“.

Took, Thalia. The Obscure Goddess Online Directory, “Opigena“.

Wikipedia, “Ops“.

Goddess Tanat

“Tanit, Ibicenco Godess” by Dominique Sanson

“Tanat’s themes are unity, joy and luck.  Her symbols are flowers and triangles.  In Cornwall, Tanat is the mother Goddess of fertility who has given all Her attention to nursing spring into its fullness. She also staunchly protects Her children (nature and people) so that our spirits can come to know similar fulfillment.

The Furry Dance is an ancient festival that rejoices in Tanat’s fine work manifested in spring’s warmth and beauty. To bring this Goddess’s lucky energy into your life, it’s customary to dance with a partner. In fact, the more people you can get dancing, the more fortunate the energy! Usually this is done on the streets throughout a town as a show of regional unity, but when propriety won’t allow such a display, just dance around a room together instead. Don’t worry about the steps – just do what feels right.

Wearing something with floral or triangular motifs (guys, wear a necktie, and gals, pull out a square scarf and fold it in half crosswise) activates Tanat’s happiness in your life and in any region where you have the token on today. As you don the item, say:

‘Liberate happiness in and around
by Tanat’s blossoming power
joy will be found!’

Or, if you want to use the same thing to generate unity and harmony, use this incantation:

 ‘Harmony and unity
Tanat’s blessings come to me!’

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Temple of Tanit” by hold-steady

According to Edain McCoy, the Goddess “Tanit (Cornish) [was] a Phoenician moon and fertility Goddess.  Many scholars and mythologists believe She came into the Celtic pantheon as Dana or Dôn, both mother Goddesses.  Tanit was worshiped as Tanat in Cornwall on Beltaine.” [1]  As I couldn’t find any other information on the Celtic Tanat, I will continue this entry on the Phoenician-Carthaginian Goddess Tanit.

“Tanit” by suburbanbeatnik

“Tanit, or Tanith, is the Great Goddess of Carthage, worshipped there as its chief Deity as ‘the Lady of Carthage’. She is a Sky Goddess who ruled over the Sun, Stars, and Moon; and as a Mother Goddess She was invoked for fertility. The palm tree is Hers, as the desert version of the Tree of Life; and as symbolic of the life-force of the Earth the serpent is Hers as well—in fact Her name means ‘Serpent Lady’. She is identified with both Ashtart (Astarte) and Athirat, and Her other symbols include the dove, grapes and the pomegranate (both symbolic of fruitfulness and fertility), the crescent moon, and, like Ashtart, the lion.

Carthage was a city of the Phoenician colony in northern Africa, not far from the modern city of Tunis in Tunisia. Carthage, the Roman rendition of the Phoenician name Karthadasht, which means ‘New Town’, was founded in around the 9th century BCE, by Dido (‘Giver’ or ‘Grantor [of prayers]’, or alternately ‘Wanderer’) or Elissa (from the Phoenician Elishat), the daughter of the King of Tyre in Roman legend. Dido, however, being also used as an epithet of the Phoenician Moon-Goddess, is probably to be considered an aspect of or alternate name for Tanit, the patron Goddess of Carthage. Worship of Tanit dates to the 5th century BCE, and it is unsure whether Tanit was a local deity adapted by the Phoenician colonists or a version of Ashtart/Athirat they had brought with them from Phoenicia.

With Her consort Ba’al-Hammon, the God of the Sky, She watched over and protected Carthage. As a protective Deity She had some martial aspects, and like Ashtart could be depicted riding a lion holding a spear or long sceptre. In Carthage She was said to have an Oracle; perhaps this is connected to Her role as Star-Goddess.

The Sign of the Goddess Tanit. Carthage. c. 5th century BCE to 2nd century CE

Tanit has Her own abstract symbol, peculiarly Hers (and accordingly called the ‘symbol of Tanit’): a triangle with a circle at the top, with a horizontal line between the two; sometimes two additional vertical bars come from the ends of the horizontal. This has been interpreted as either a stylization of an altar, or a woman or Goddess in a long dress, Her arms upraised in an attitude of worship or blessing.

From Carthage (modern Tunisia), north Africa 1st century CE

Some stelae do show a more realistic depiction of the Goddess in this attitude, so my money is on it as an abstract depiction of a woman. This symbol is found all over Carthage, though there is only one example of it in Phoenicia itself.

Carthage was at once time the great enemy of Rome, and three bitter wars were fought between the two powers over the course of more than a hundred years in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The Romans eventually were the victors, and in their hatred utterly destroyed the city; according to tradition the city was razed and the site plowed with salt so that nothing would ever grow there again.

The utter destruction of the city notwithstanding, remains of a sanctuary to Tanit and Ba’al-Hammon have been found, with a children’s cemetery adjacent. The Carthaginians and Phoenicians had a reputation for the sacrifice of children, though many of the accounts of it come from peoples who were not unbiased, such as the Hebrews or the Romans. In Phoenicia, the Hebrews claimed that the Phoenicians burned children to their God ‘Moloch‘ (of whom there is little to no other evidence) by burning them alive.

            

In Carthage, the great children’s cemetery has been taken as indication of child sacrifice to both Ba’al-Hammon and Tanit, for many of the stelae above the remains are inscribed to those Deities. The cemetery was named in modern times the Tophet, from a Biblical word for ‘Hell’, referring to the place in Jerusalem where the children were allegedly given to Moloch. Much of the evidence for infanticide among the Phoenicians is questionable at best; the accounts from the Bible and Rabbinical tradition especially are subject to mistranslations and biases. Among other ancient writers the idea of child sacrifice among the Phoenicians is not mentioned, even though some of them were avowed enemies of Phoenicia. This issue is still being debated on both sides; my take on it (which is of course subject to my own bias) is to seriously doubt that children were sacrificed, and to attribute most of the stories to propaganda, repeated by different enemy cultures (especially the Romans). Why would people sacrifice children to an otherwise benevolent Mother Goddess? And given the number of remains that have been found—20,000 urns dating from 400-200 BCE—what civilization is going to kill that many of its own children? I suspect that the graves found in the so-called ‘Tophet’ of Carthage are simply the remains of children who died naturally in a time when infant mortality was much higher than in modern times, and during which several wars were fought—tough times when it might be expected less children would survive. That the stelae are inscribed to Tanit and Ba’al-Hammon is not surprising; it does not mean that they were sacrificed to those Deities, rather that they were committed to the safekeeping of the Goddess and God after death.

“Lucina” by Sandra M. Stanton

The Romans, despite their hatred for the Carthaginians, identified Tanit with their Juno Lucina, an aspect of their Great Goddess as Mother and Patroness of Childbirth, a Light-Goddess who brings forth children into the day. As Tanit was also a Goddess of the Sky, the Romans named Her Dea Caelestis, ‘the Heavenly Goddess’, or Virgo Caelestis, ‘the Heavenly Virgin’.

In Roman legend, Hannibal, the great general of Carthage, raided a temple of Juno Lucina, near Crotona, a city in southern Italy originally founded by the Greeks (therefore technically the temple is to Hera Lacinia). This temple was famous for having a column of solid gold; Hannibal, to test the story, drilled into the column. Finding that it was indeed solid, he decided he would take it as plunder. That night, however, he dreamt that the Goddess warned him not to despoil Her temple, telling him that She’d destroy his remaining eye if he did. In Juno Lacinia Hannibal recognized his own hometown Goddess, Tanit, so left the column unmolested in the temple. From the filings of the column he had a golden cow cast, which was then placed on the top of the column.

4th century BCE Carthaginian coin featuring the Goddess Tanit.

On coins of the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE She is occasionally depicted riding a lion and holding a lance; generally She is shown in portrait form wearing a diadem or crown, with wheat sheaves bound in Her hair as a wreath, the crescent moon behind.

Tanit’s worship was spread from Carthage to SpainMalta and Sardinia, especially by soldiers. The temple on the acropolis of Selinus in Sicily may be Hers, for examples of Her symbol have been found there. Under Her name Virgo Caelestis, Tanit/Juno had a shrine in Rome on the north side of the Capitoline Hill.

“Tanit” by Monica Sjöö

Tanit’s statue was brought to Rome by the young Emperor Elagabalus, who reigned 218-222 CE, and who was notoriously reviled as a depraved pervert (he was quite obviously gay, though who knows how much of his legend is true and how much is exaggerated). He was murdered at age 18 in a latrine, his body dragged through the streets before being thrown into the Tiber like a common criminal. He was, however, also a big fan of the eastern Deities, and gets his name from his worship of the Sun-God Elagabal. He had a great temple to Elagabal built in Rome, and installed the statue of Tanit there, calling Her Caelestis.Also called: Tanith, Tent, Thinit, Tinnit, Rat-tanit; Tanis is the Greek version of Her name. She was called ‘Lady of Carthage’, ‘Lady of the Sanctuary’, and ‘the Face of Ba’al’. The Romans called Her Dea Caelestis, ‘the Heavenly Goddess’, Virgo Caelestis ‘the Heavenly Virgin’, and Caelestis Afrorum Dea, ‘the African/Carthaginian Heavenly Goddess’, as well as the assimilated name Juno Caelestis.

She was identified with Aphrodite, Demeter, and Artemis by the Greeks and with Juno by the Romans, especially their Juno Lucina, Goddess of Light and Childbirth. The Romans also associated Her with the Magna Mater, the Great Mother, Rhea or Kybele. [2]

Sources:

McCoy, Edain. Celtic Women’s Spirituality: Accessing the Cauldron of Life, “Tanit“.

Took, Thalia. The Obscure Goddess Online Directory, “Tanit“.

Suggested Links:

Sheldon, Natasha. Archeology@Suite 101, “The Trophet of Carthage: Site of Human Sacrifice to Baal and Tanit or a Children’s Graveyard?

Sjöö, Monica. Goddess Alive!The Mysteries of Tanit – 1: The Phoenicians in Spain“.

Sjöö, Monica. Goddess Alive! The Mysteries of Tanit – 2: Tanit of Ibiza“.

Wikipedia, “Tanit“.

Goddess Maia

“Spring Enchantress” by Karl Bang

“Maia’s themes are sexual prowess, playfulness, and wishes.  Her symbols are braided and knotted items.  This Roman Goddess, whose name means ‘mother’, offers all who seek it fulfilment and renewed zest. Maia gave Her name to the month of May. She is the queen of the flowers, and today was one of Her festival days, celebrated suitably with an abundance of blossoms. In later times, Maia became strongly associated with Bona Dea, whose name literally translates as ‘good Goddess’.

As a child, on this day I left bundles of wildflowers anonymously at neighbors’ homes.  As a random act of beauty and kindness, this still holds merit today and certainly honors Maia.

In magical circles people customarily braid wishes into the ribbons of the Maypole and leave them there to germinate and grow until fall. To do this yourself, find three strands of blue ribbon and braid them together so they meet five times, saying:

‘This the month of May, for ______ [health, love, money or whatever]
I wish today Ribbons of blue, help my wish come true.
Braided within, the spell begins.
Bound to and fro, the magic grows.
When in Fall untied, this wish is mine!

 Wear a flowery shirt, skirt, or tie today to welcome Maia and brighten your day.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“In Greek mythology, Maia (pronounced May-ah) is one of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes. The Goddess known as Maia among the Romans may have originated independently, but attracted the myths of Greek Maia because the two figures shared the same name.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Maia embodied the concept of growth, as Her name was thought to be related to the comparative adjective maius, maior, ‘larger, greater’. Originally, She may have been a homonym independent of the Greek Maia, whose myths She absorbed through the Hellenization of Latin literature and culture.

“Green Goddess of Beltane” by ArwensGrace

In an archaic Roman prayer, She appears as an attribute of Vulcan, in an invocational list of male deities paired with female abstractions representing some aspect of their functionality. She was explicitly identified with Earth (Terra, the Roman counterpart of Gaia) and the Good Goddess (Bona Dea) in at least one tradition.  Her identity became theologically intertwined also with the Goddesses FaunaMagna Mater (‘Great Goddess’, referring to the Roman form of Cybele but also a cult title for Maia), OpsJuno, and Carna, as discussed at some length by the late antiquarian writer Macrobius, probably under the influence of the 1st-century BCE scholar Varro, who tended to resolve a great number of Goddesses into one original ‘Terra.’  The association with Juno, whose Etruscan counterpart was Uni, is suggested again by the inscription Uni Mae on the Piacenza Liver. The month of May (Latin Maius) was supposedly named for Maia, though ancient etymologists also connected it to the maiores, ‘ancestors,’ again from the adjective maius, maior, meaning those who are ‘greater’ in terms of generational precedence. On the first day of May, the Lares Praestites were honored as protectors of the city, and the flamen of Vulcan sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia, a customary offering to an earth Goddess that reiterates the link between Vulcan and Maia in the archaic prayer formula. In Roman myth, Mercury (Hermes), the son of Maia, was the father of the twin Lares, a genealogy that sheds light on the collocation of ceremonies on the May Kalends. On May 15, the Ides, Mercury was honored as a patron of merchants and increaser of profit (through an etymological connection with merx, merces, ‘goods, merchandise’), another possible connection with Maia his mother as a Goddess who promoted growth.” [1]

“Goddess of Spring” by Wonderdyke

According to Thalia Took, “Maia is the Oscan Earth-Goddess, and an ancient Roman Goddess of springtime, warmth, and increase. She causes the plants to grow through Her gentle heat, and the month of May is probably named for Her. Her name means ‘She Who is Great’, and is related to Oscan mais and Latin majus, both of which mean “more”. She is also called Maia Maiestas, “Maia the Majestic”, which is essentially a doubling of Her name to indicate Her power, as both ‘Maia’ and ‘Maiestas’ have their roots in latin magnus, “great or powerful”. She was honored by the Romans on the 1st and 15th of May, and at the Volcanalia of August 23rd, the holiday of Her sometimes husband, the Fire-God Vulcan.

“Vulcan and Maia” by Bartholomaeus Spranger

She seems to have been paired with Vulcan because they were both considered Deities of heat: through the increasing warmth of Maia’s spring season flowers and plants sprouted and grew; while Vulcan’s stronger summer heat brought the fruits to ripeness. The flamen Volcanalis, the priest who officially oversaw the rites of Vulcan, sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia on the first day of May. The offering of a pregnant sow was traditionally given to Earth-Goddesses such as Tellus or Ceres and signified both the remarkable fecundity of the Earth (as there are usually between 6 and 12 piglings in a litter) as well as the darker side of the Earth Mother, as sows have been known to eat their young. Rites to Maia were also performed at the August Volcanalia, a festival to ward off the destructive fires that could be caused by the dry weather and burning sun of summertime.

Portrait of Josephine Crane Bradley by Alfons Maria Mucha

In a later period, Maia was confused with a Greek Goddess of the same name. This Maia (whose name in Greek can take such various meanings as ‘midwife’, ‘female doctor’, ‘good mother’, ‘foster mother’, or ‘aunty’) was a nymph and the mother of Hermes, the trickster God of merchants, travellers, and liars; She was also said to have been the eldest and most beautiful of the seven sisters who formed the constellation of the Pleiades, whose heliacal rising (meaning when the constellation is just visible in the east before the sun rises) signalled the beginning of summer. Through this association the Roman Maia became the mother of Mercury, and Her festival on the Ides of May (the 15th) coincided with the festival commemorating the date of the dedication of His temple on the Aventine.

Ovid gives several possibilities as to how the month May got its name, and though he admits confusion, one of the possibilities he gives is that it is named after the personification of Majesty, whom he describes as seated in a place of high honor on Mt. Olympos, clothed in gold and purple. At face value it would seem he simply made this up; but as an alternate name (not just an epithet) of Maia is Maiesta, “Majesty”, he may have been closer than he thought.

Though a Goddess of the merry flowering springtime may seem kinda fluffy-bunny, the roots of Her name point to a powerful and ancient great Goddess of the Earth, growth, fertility and heat. It is rumoured that Maia was the ancient and original name of the Bona Dea (“the Good Goddess”), whose name was so sacred it was forbidden to be spoken aloud; and through this connection Maia was associated with the Goddesses Fauna and Fatua. She was also associated with Ops, the Earth-Goddess who symbolizes the wealth of the Earth, and the eastern Great Mother Cybele.

Alternate names: Maiesta, Maja, Majestas, Majesty.” [2]

Sources:

Took, Thalia. The Obscure Goddess Online Directory, “Maia“.

Wikipedia, “Maia (mythology)“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Carnaval.com, “May Day“.

A Chapel of Our Mother God, “The Day of Maia“.

Ladd, Stephanie Anderson. Owl & Crow, “The Goddess Maia – Queen of May“.

MXTODIS123. An Inner Journey: The Moon, Mythology, and You, “Maia“.

Revel, Anita. Reconnect with Your Inner Goddess, “Maia“.

Visuddhi, Sr. Dea. Order of Our Lady of Salt, “The Goddess and the Wheel: Maia, the Goddess of May“.

Goddess Cybele

“Cybele” by Pamela Matthews

“Cybele’s themes are love, health, humor, victory, strength and relationships.  Her symbols are pine, meteorite stones and keys.  A black stone that personified this Roman earth Goddess is credited with a successful battle against Hannibal. It is this strength, especially in difficult relationships, that Cybele augments in us as this month draws to a close.

Legend tells us that Cybele loved a shepherd named Attis, who went mad and killed himself. Cybelle, in distress, asked Jupiter to restore him. Jupiter responded by making Attis into a pine tree. Symbolically, this allowed him to eternally embrace Cybele, with his roots in the earth.

Following the story of Cybelle and Attis, Hilaria begins in sorrow over Attis’s death and ends in joy. Today, laughter and fun activities are considered healthy. So, rent a good comedy flick, go out to a comedy club, or do something that really uplifts your spirit. Your laughter invokes Cybele’s attention and blessings.

To create stability in a relationship, make this Cybele charm:

Take an iron key (or a piece of iron and any old key bound together). Hold them in your strong hand, visualizing the key being filled with radiant red light (love’s color). Say:

‘Cybele, let this key to our hearts be filled
Love and devotion her instilled.’

 Wear the key on a long chain so it rests over your heart chakra.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

The famous leopard-enthroned Goddess from the granary at Çatal Hüyuk, close to 6000 BCE.

Cybele was an originally Anatolian form of Earth Mother or Great Mother. Little is known of Her oldest Anatolian cults, other than Her association with mountains, hawks and lions. She was Phrygia‘s State deity; Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Anatolian Asia Minor, and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE.

“Also known as Kybele and Magna Mater and the Mother of the Gods, the worship of this Goddess spread throughout the Roman Empire. As a Phrygian deity, She was a Goddess of caverns, of the Earth in its primitive state; worshipped on mountain tops. She ruled over wild beasts, and was also a bee Goddess.  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.

Her Greek mythology counterpart was Rhea.” [1]

“Cybele” by Picot

In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partly assimilated to aspects of Gaia (the “Earth”), Her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Corn-Mother Goddess Demeter. Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked Her as a protector but Her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show Her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-Goddess, who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following. Uniquely in Greek religion, She had a transgendered or eunuch mendicant priesthood. Many of Her Greek cults included rites to Her divine “Phrygian” castrate shepherd-consort Attis, whose rites and myths appear to have been Greek inventions. In Greece, Cybele is associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions.

In Rome, Cybele was known as Magna Mater (“Great Mother”). The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of Her cult, and claimed Her conscription as a key religious component in their success against Carthage during the Punic Wars. They also reinvented Her as a Trojan Goddess, and thus as an ancestral Goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas, in Rome’s foundation myth. With Rome’s eventual hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanised forms of Cybele’s cults spread throughout the Roman Empire. The meaning and morality of Her cults and priesthoods were topics of debate and dispute in Greek and Roman literature, and remain so in modern scholarship.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus records that specific laws were passed when some of the undesirable aspects of the Cybele cult became apparent. Cybele’s religion was a bloody cult that required its priests and priestesses as well as followers to cut themselves during some rituals. The priests castrated themselves at their initiation; there was wild music, chanting, and frenzied dancing.  “As part of their worship, priests also performed mysterious rites in Her honor. Of particular note was the sacrifice of a bull performed as part of an initiation into Cybele’s cult. This ritual was known as the taurobolium, and during the rite a candidate for initiation stood in a pit under a floor with a wooden grate. The bull was sacrificed above the grate, and the blood ran through holes in the wood, showering the initiate. This was a form of ritual purification and rebirth.” [2]

Atia undergoing the taurobolium from HBO/BBC’s series “Rome”

Along with Her consort, the vegetation god Attis, Cybele was worshipped in wild, emotional, bloody, orgiastic, cathartic ceremonies.  Her annual spring festival celebrated the death and resurrection of Her beloved Attis.  During the Republic and early Empire, festival days were celebrated with eunuchs priests, called Corybantes,  preceding the Goddess through the streets, banging cymbals and drums, wearing bright attire and heavy jewelry, their hair long and ‘greased’.  Priests and priestesses were segregated, their activities confined to their temples, and Roman citizens were not allowed to walk in procession with them. Neither Roman citizens nor their slaves were allowed to become priests or priestess in the cult. No native-born Roman citizen was to be allowed to dress in bright colors, beg for alms, walk the streets with flute players or worship the Goddess in ‘wild Phrygian ceremonies’. Those Romans who wanted to continue to worship the Goddess set up secret societies known as sodalitates so they could dine together in the Goddess’ honor. [3] [4]

“The Cult of Cybele has frequently been looked upon as a mystery religion, similar to the Cults of Isis and Demeter. Cybele, however, was completely unlike those two positive and loving Mother Goddesses. Indeed, Cybele appears to have come out of a completely different mold. In fact, Cybele was so completely opposite from Isis, that it is impossible to imagine her even being in the presence of children, much less breast-feeding one. It is extremely doubtful, as well, whether anyone could ever picture Cybele wandering through and nurturing the green fields and peaceful forests of Earth.” [5]

 

Please click here for a very comprehensive article on Cybele, the Great Phrygian Mother Goddess.

Sources:

A Journal of a Poet – The Goddess As My Muse, “Cybele, the Great Phrygian Mother Goddess“.

KET Distance Learing, “The Cult of Cybele“.

Smart, Anthony E. Encyclopedia Mythica, “Cybele“.

Wigington, Patti. About.com: Paganism/Wicca, “Cybele, Mother Goddess of Rome“.

Wikipedia, “Cybele“.

Suggested Links:

Kybele: Gourmet Food Production, “Goddess Kybele”.

The Linen Press, “Cybele“.

MaatRaAh. The Church of the Most High Goddess, “Pagan Goddess of the Sibyl and Cybele Oracle“.

Roman Empire & Colosseum, “Myths about the Roman Goddess Cybele“.

Source Memory, “Cultural Continuities: Goddess of the Feline Throne“.

Theoi Greek Mythology, “Kybele“.

Welcome to the Temple of Cybele.

Women in Greek Myths, “Cybele, Agdistis, and Attis“.

Goddess Bona Dea

“Greek Goddess: Demeter” by *Gypsy-Love

“Bona Dea’s themes are femininity, blessing, fertility, divination and abundance.  Her symbols are vines and wine.  Bona Dea’s name literally means ‘good Goddess’. Her energies come into our lives at the outset of this month, offering all good things, especially fertility and a greater appreciation of the Goddess within each of us.  Traditionally, Bona Dea is a women’s Goddess who received offerings of wine in exchange for prophetic insights during Her observances.

On March 1, February was escorted out of Rome with a flourish of adaptable activities. Exchange sweet gifts as the Romans did to ensure yourself of a sweeter future. Greet a friend with Bona Dea’s name to invoke Her blessings on them. Put up a grapevine wreath fashioned like a heart (or other symbol of something you need), and leave a glass of wine on your altar to honor Bona Dea’s presence in your home and your life.

In Rome, female slaves would get this day off, and the head of the house would wait on them. In modern times this equates to switching roles for a day at home. Whoever normally gets up and fixes breakfast gets to sleep in, Whoever normally does chores gets to go out and socialize, and so forth. Bona Dea appreciates the considerate gesture as much as you do and will rain Her goodness upon your home.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”) was a Goddess in ancient Roman religion. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. According to Roman literary sources, She was brought from Magna Graecia at some time during the early or middle Republic, and was given Her own state cult on the Aventine Hill.

“Fauna” by Bizenghast

The Goddess had two annual festivals. One state sponsored festival was held at Her Aventine temple; the other in early December was hosted by the wife of Rome’s senior annual magistrate, for an invited group of elite matrons and female attendants. “The festival on the first of May (the or the kalends) commemorated the date Her temple was founded; at the ceremony prayers were made to Her to avert earthquakes. She had a secret festival, attended only by women, whether patrician, free or slave, that took place over the night of the 3rd and 4th of May (and/or December).  It was held during the Faunalia, and was referred to as the sacra opertum, (“the secret or hidden sacrifice”): at this ritual sacrifices were made for the benefit of all the people of Rome, something proper to the realm of a Mother or Earth Goddess who is concerned with the well-being of all of Her children.” [1] Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them by Roman tradition.  “During the May Bona Dea celebration a pregnant sow was sacrificed to Mother Earth and Ceres.” [2]

“Goddess” by helushia

Men were barred from Her mysteries and the possession of Her true name.  “There were other taboos concerning the worship of the Bona Dea: neither wine nor myrtle were to be mentioned by name during Her secret festival, likely because they were both sacred to Her and therefore very powerful. According to a late legend seeking to explain these prohibitions, Her husband, Faunus, the God of the Wild (later equated with the Greek Pan), came home once to find She had drunk an entire jar of wine. For being drunk He beat Her to death with a myrtle scourge, and this was why myrtle was forbidden, and wine had to be referred to by another name, ‘milk’ and the jar itself was called a mellarium, or ‘honey jar’.” [3]

Given that male authors had limited knowledge of Her rites and attributes, ancient speculations about Her identity abound. Among them that She was an aspect of TerraOps, the Magna Mater, or Ceres, or a Latin form of Damia. Most often, She was identified as the wife, sister or daughter of the god Faunus, thus an equivalent or aspect of the nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women.

Bona Dea’s cults in the city of Rome were led by the Vestal Virgins, and Her provincial cults by virgin or matron priestesses. Surviving statuary shows Her as a sedate Roman matron with a cornucopia and a snake. Personal dedications to Her are attested among all classes, especially plebeiansfreedmen and women, and slaves. Approximately one third of Her dedications are from men, some of whom may have been lawfully involved in Her cult.” [4]

 

 

 

Sources:

Gill, N.S. About.com, “Ancient/Classic History Glossary“.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. About.com, “Bona Dea – The Good Goddess“.

Took, Thalia. A-Musing-Grace Gallery, “The Bona Dea.”

Wikipedia, “Bona Dea

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