Deity of the Day for September 4 is Cybele, Mother Goddess of Rome

Deity of the Day


Mother Goddess of Rome

Cybele, a mother goddess of Rome was at the center of a rather bloody Phrygian cult, and was sometimes known as Magna Mater, or “great goddess.” As part of their worship, priests 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. For an idea of what this probably looked like, there’s an amazing scene in the HBO series Rome in which the character Atia makes a sacrifice to Cybele to protect her son Octavian, who later becomes the emperor Augustus.

Cybele’s lover was Attis, and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was the source of the first violets, and divine intervention allowed Attis to be resurrected by Cybele, with some help from Zeus. Thanks to this resurrection story, Cybele came to be associated with the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. In some areas, there is still an annual three-day celebration of Attis’ rebirth and Cybele’s power around the time of the spring equinox, called the Hilaria.

Like Attis, it is said that Cybele’s followers would work themselves into orgiastic frenzies and then ritually castrate themselves.

After this, these priests donned women’s clothing, and assumed female identities. They became known as the Gallai. In some regions, female priestesses led Cybele’s dedicants in rituals involving ecstatic music, drumming and dancing. Under the leadership of Augustus Caesar, Cybele became extremely popular. Augustus erected a giant temple in her honor on the Palatine Hill, and the statue of Cybele that is in the temple bears the face of Augustus’ wife, Livia.

As the Roman Empire spread, deities of other cultures found themselves absorbed into Roman religion. In the case of Cybele, she later took on many aspects of the Egyptian goddess Isis.



Author: Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert

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Celebrating Other Spiritual 365 Days A Year – Megalesia Mater

Flower Graphics

April 4th

Megalesia Mater

This day marked the beginning of Ludi Megalenses, the first day of the weeklong Megalesia Mater in honor of the Goddess Cybele–generally described as Magna Mater. Her cult originated in Asia Minor and came to be centered on Mount Dindymus at Pessinus in Phyrgia, where she was know as Agdisis. Her consort was Attis, and there was a great deal of mythology that surrounded their relationship.

It was during the war with Carthage that Cybele’s cult was brought to Rome in 204 B.C., following a prophecy in the Sibylline Books and advice from the Oracle at Delphi. The prophecy stated that the invaders would be driven back if Magna Mater was brought to Rome. Soon after, her sacred black stone was brought to Rome and housed in the temple of Victoria, later to be placed in a temple on the Palatine Hill, which was dedicated to Magna Mater in 191 B.C.

The Megalesia lasted from April 4 to 10 and originally consisted of games in the Circus Maximus. It was a festival of fertility in the most primal of forums. A large pine tree representing the God Attis was adorned with white cloth and placed in the center of the temple of Cybele. The novice priests would then cut their arms and sacrifice their virility to the God. The severed portions of their manhood were dashed against the pine tree and then buried. This brutal and bloody display of adoration was considered instrumental in recalling Attis to life,k and thus the return of summer growth.

Calendar of the Sun for Thursday, March 15th

Calendar of the Sun
15 Hrethemonath

Hilaria – Cybele’s Day

Color: Golden
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon a golden cloth set five gold candles, a chalice of wine, the figure of a lioness, and a crown resembling a turreted city.
Offerings: Lions, herbs, wild game, music.
Daily Meal: Game birds, such as turkey, goose, pheasant, or quail. Moretum, made of feta cheese, olive oil, herbed vinegar, chopped celery, and ground coriander.

Invocation to Cybele

Magna Mater
Great Lady of the City
Protector of Civilization
Inspirer of music in the city streets
And in the high houses,
Queen upon your throne,
Guard the lands of stone and metal
Where the feet of thousands tread.
Magna Mater
Great Lady of the Wilderness
Protector of the Wild Things
Inspirer of music in lonely places
And in the deep metro’ons,
Lioness who hunts your prey,
Guard the beleaguered lands of untouched Nature
Where few feet tread
Save for the children of Earth whose steps belong there.
Magna Mater,
You who understand both worlds,
Do not let us forget
That both are valued in your eyes
That both hold promise and treasure
And that we must learn to live in both
If we are to survive.

(Beat drum and clash cymbals during chanting.)

Chant: Magna Mater Cybele Cybele

Pagan Book of Hours

The Breviary of the Asphodel Tradition