To our days comes the name of Cybele, the goddess mother of all men, goddess of the earth and fertility, giver of life and sustenance, a goddess who makes the synthesis of previous various religious realities. She is the goddess of all and this figure was created according to the cults of the earth goddess that comes since time immemorial, Cybele was created in the central area of the Turkish peninsula, the zone where Phrygia was. Since she was also a goddess of rebirth, her cult was around the 4th of April during Spring time. There is even the myth of Attis the shepherd, when the goddess Cybele fell in love with him and made him her priest with the condition that he would always be faithful to her, but one day he fell in love with a nymph, breaking the vow of chastity and the goddess killed him, not with her own hands or any power, not in a way that she could lets say ” get her hands dirty ” but by driving him mad in such a way that he was forced to mutilate himself. But after his death he turns into a three or revives in human forme, either way, he comes back in one form or another at spring, showing the powers of rebirth of this goddess, the symbolism of Spring.
This worship of the mother goddess had a great importance in Roman society, and as such, it has reached us spreading throughout Europe. So important was her cult that we see in history several Mother Goddess’ cults all over Europe until the present day. Portugal was one of many European countries to be invaded by the Romans and the Roman cults were placed in the country, and as the Romans adopted various deities even Portuguese ones (Lusitanian) the Lusitanian people also adopted this goddess, Cybele, and in many archaeological excavations we met traces of the worship of this goddess, figurines and such. In Portugal the cult to this goddess was great in the Central, southern and coastal regions of the country. In the Northern regions of Portugal the Roman cults weren’t that much, in many places didn’t even existed, because those regions are more mountainous and much cooler and to create pathways for these regions was difficult and even the transportation of soldiers and goods was dangerous and the romans lost more than they won, so the Northern parts of Portugal the cults remained Celtic and Germanic.
After the christianization of Europe and most Lusitanians got killed, or adopted Roman cults and later Christian ones, and the old deities were almost forgotten, a cult around the virgin Mary replaced the Roman cult to Cybele, the goddess of fertility, nature and of humankind and of gods, became virgin Mary which is symbolicaly very similar in the way that she is the mother of the son of the divine powers. As such, the cult of the virgin Mary became so important to the Portuguese people, which in fact comes from a Roman pagan past.
In Ancient Rome the celebrations to Cybele were very violent, it started with the sacrifice of a bull ( Taurobolium ) and a sheep ( Riobolium ) and the priest bathed in the blood of these animals, symbolizing the birth, in blood leaving the womb, and also by the symbolism of these animals that are generators of life by consumption. The importance of the bull as a symbol of strength in classical antiquity, was so marked in the festivities to Cybele while the Romans remained in the Iberian peninsula, that still somehow remained as a cult and we can still see it in the bloody Bullfighting in Portugal and Spain (a tradition of which I am totally against).
The blood bath of the priest in these celebreations is still visible in christianity, when the wine was poured onto the head of the faithful, literally bathed in wine as in antiquity bathd in blood, of course with the passing of ages it is now drunk, the symbolism is implicit.
Note: The artwork to illustrate this post is a drawing of Bragi made by me. If you have any questions for me or if you want to see my artistic works, check out my Facebook page and make a Like if you can by following this link –> http://www.facebook.com/ArithHarger