22) Cybele originated as an Earth Mother goddess in Phrygia (the Turkey-Syria region) called Kybele and had been venerated for many centuries before both Inanna and Ishtar, fertility goddesses I mentioned in a recent article. With the spread of Greek colonisation, and later Roman expansion, a select number of myths about Kybele found their way into the Greek and Roman pantheons and she became known as Cybele, and Magna Mater, the Great Mother, and in this aspect she was impersonated by 20) Alfred Schuler in his neo-pagan rituals.
The cult of Cybele became the state religion of the Roman Empire at the end of the 3rd century BC. Natural disasters effecting the empire at that time were seen as omens of bad luck and the Senate sought advice from oracles. The advice given was to adopt the cult of Cybele and she will protect them.
In an event reminiscent of one I recounted in “The Meteorite Who Became A God” a black stone that personified Cybele, also likely to have been a meteorite, was brought to Rome from its home in Pessinos, Phrygia, and placed in a newly constructed temple. Cybele’s arrival in Rome was celebrated with an annual festival called Megalesia on 4th April, the date of her arrival.
With the cult of Cybele came her accompanying rites, priests and associated deities. Primary among these were the galli, her third gender and eunuch priests, and an associated deity called 23) Agdistis.
The Phrygians originally regarded Kybele and Agdistis to be the same deity. Agdistis was also introduced into Greek and Roman mythology as the intersex offspring of the Sky Father and the Earth Mother. The intersex nature of Agdistis disturbed the Greek and Roman gods and they removed Agdisits’s male sexual organs. The deity was then known as Kybele. I go into more detail about the origin of Agdistis in an article I wrote in 2013 called “The Gallae: Ancient and Modern – Part 1: Ancient”. Rather than repeat it all here I suggest you pop over to that article and come back to continue here.
The Greek interpretation of Agdistis gave rise to the myth of the creation of the almond tree. The almond is native to the region where Kybele, Agdistis and Attis were venerated, which would explain why the Greeks didn’t have their own native legends about its origin. Almond was a highly regarded plant with semi-mystical qualities which influenced even Hebrew belief. There is even a theory that the halo around saints heads often depicted in Christian art originated as an almond shape.
This dual nature of almonds, on the one hand a sign of favour and on the other a sign of displeasure, brings us on to one of the most well-known clichés in modern whodunit murder mysteries – the bitter almond smell associated with cyanide poisoning. How strange is it that a plant whose mythical origins come from severed sexual organs, the origin of life itself, can also be a means of death.
Cyanide poisoning is a frequent method of suicide. It is also the main component of the gas used by the Nazis in their horrific gas chambers. It is assumed that the gay computer scientist Alan Turing (number 1 in my original “80 Gays” series in 2015) took his own life by cyanide.
A less well-known suicide by cyanide poisoning occurred three and a half years later when a British climber, 24) John Menlove Edwards (1910-1958) took his own life.
Next time of “80 More Gays”: We climb new heights and go to the top of the world to fight sexual abuse.