The priestesses of The Great Pagan Goddess Cybele (Kybele - cave dweller) would, through a transformation by the Greeks, be confused with and eventually known as the Sibyls. The Great Goddess of Asia Minor is the oldest true Goddess known, predating the Goddesses of the Sumerian and Egyptians by at least 5,000 years. While there have been Goddess figurines found which date to 30,000 years ago, they come to us without knowledge of their origin or character of the Goddess they represent. A figurine found at Çatal Hüyük, dating to 8,000 year ago, depicts the Mother Goddess squatting in the process of giving birth while flanked by two leopards. In later centuries, the leopards would be changed to lions--the metamorphosed Atalanta and Hippomenes, though leopards were considered to be female lions by the ancients. Her worship was originally combined with that of the Bull of Heaven, which is also prominently displayed at Çatal Hüyük.
A transformation of sounds, which may well have been Sybele that early in history, appears two thousand years later in Sumer as Siburi, the Divine Barmaid who held the keys to descent into the underworld. She was in fact the earthly Priestess of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna, holding the keys "Me" of the Holy Tavern and Cult Harlotry--though a Harlot was actually a priestess of the Egyptian Goddess Hathor. Inanna arose at the time of the death of Gugalanna, The Bull of Heaven, and husband to Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Sumerian underworld. This Bull of Heaven was not Taurus, as the some imagine, but rather the Bull of the Northern Pole, (replaced by the Bear) and Gugalanna was moved out of his place, and died, about 6,000 years ago which is when the constellation now know as Taurus was created.
Before the Akkadian conquest of Sumer by Sargon the Great, (c. 4200 years ago) Siburi had already been relegated to the near underworld, whose gates were at Eridu, [Eridanus of the Greeks], but her Priestesses continued as Siburu [belonging or pertaining to Siburi] and spread their Holy Tavern Harlotry to the north and west in the Akkadian Empire. When Hammurabi conquered Sumer-Akkad, (c. 3700 years ago) the name of Inanna was changed to Ishtar. The cuneiform characters, for Inanna and Ishtar are the same but are pronounced differently. In the new language Siburu became known as Si-bel-u (bel being lord) in the new language, while Her heavenly aspect became Subulutu, the "celestial virgin", which is a priestess who never married but was sexually promiscuous.
The Hittites, who had first arrived in northwest Asia-Minor (modern Turkey) about 3900 years ago, began their rise to power about the time of Hammurabi, but were held in check for the next one hundred and fifty years, when Babylonia become a weakened nation. Six generations later, the Egyptians under Tuthmosis III, conquered much of the former Babylonian territory. It was during this period that the Holy Taverns and the Sibelu spread north to the place of its origin in Asia Minor and as far as the Caucasus Mountains. By the time Assyria rose to power, [300 years after Hammurabi--c. 1400 BCE] the Sibelu had spread throughout Asia Minor, beyond the Black Sea and into Europe. In Thrace their Holy Taverns were established as temples of Sibyl, as the Sumerian "u" was dropped from the name.
Under Pharaoh Seti (c. 1300 BCE) the Egyptians established the colony of Colchis on the eastern tip of the Black Sea. Colchis was bordered by the Black Sea on the west, the Caucasus Mountains on the north and east, and the Hittites on the south - that portion of the Hittite Empire would later become Armenia. The center for Cybele worship was in the area that would later become Phrygia. Phrygia was located in the mountains of what is now western Turkey (in Asia Minor). Troy and the plains of Ilium were to the west. And though Troy was considered to be the capital of Phrygia by the Greeks, the true capitol was in the mountains to the east. But there had been a drastic change in worship prior to the return of the Sibelu, and sometime after Troy, Cybele became the Phrygian name for the Titan earth Goddess, Rhea, daughter of Gaea and Cronus.
Medea, the Colchis princess whom the Greeks say was the first wife of Jason, was a Sibyllae; but as stated, the Colchis were Egyptians (though the Greeks attempted to make them Arcadians) as was the Falcon Goddess, Circe, [Kurce--Medea's Aunt] who gave Odysseus instruction on how to descend and return from the underworld. Likewise the Greeks would made Aeetes, the father of Medea and brother of Circe and Pasiphae, an Arcadian king who had migrated north, but there is no doubt that he was Egyptian. Ignorant Christians have assumed that because Medea and Circe made concoctions, decoctions and mixtures of herbs and beers, that they were witches, but witches are a purely christian creation, and the word witch does not exist in the Greek language.
As the worship of Dionysus spread the wine cult throughout the world, the Bacchae of the Goat-like Bacchus (from Buccus - buck--male goat) joined the Sibyls of Thrace who were known as Sabazius. Sabazius was a Cretan demigod from which the Greeks got the name Zeus. Prior to the Greeks, however, Sabazius appears to have been a title for priestesses, and not the god it was later said to be. These were the first to replace beer with wine and incorporate the Bacchic rituals in their Holy Taverns. Flavius Claudius Julianus, the last Pagan Emperor of Rome, put beer in its proper perspective:
"Can this be Dionysus? How the deuce!
Now, by the very Bacchus, in this guise
We do not recognize
The son of Zeus.
How came this goat-reek? Wine is nectar-scented.
The Celt from barley-tops, so We suppose,
For want of grapes and nose,
This brew invented.
Beer is no scion of the God ethereal,
No son of Semele to the lightning born,
But plain John Barley-corn.
In fact, a Cereal."
The cult of Dionysus was probably the first missionary religion in history. Semele [the daughter of Cadmus - founder of Thebes] was the mother of Dionysus. His father was Zeus, thus, "to the lightning born". It was from Thrace [in Europe] that the Phrygian priestesses brought their cult back across the Hellesport and the Bosphorus into Asia Minor where it combined with the Mother Goddess as Cybele, about 150 years before Troy. However, the function of the Sibyl was always the same as Siburi, [and much like that of the Shaman] to give comfort to the Spirit of the dead as they made their journey to the underworld; and to instruct the living on how to prepare for the journey into darkness. Siburi did this for Gilgamesh, and Medea led Jason and the Argonauts to the realm of the living and the dead; Circe instructed Odysseus on the way to the house of the dead; and, it is said that Deiphobe, the Sibyl at Cumae went even further by personally leading Aeneas [the son of the Trojan Prince Anchises] to the underworld and back. Deiphobe was the daughter of the sea-demigod, Glaucus, in the Aeneid.
Cybele thus became the Goddess of Asia Minor while, Sibyl or Sybil, which means "Cavern-dweller" became the title for the Priestesses who would be distantly related and known as the Sibyllae in Greece. There are some who believe that Cybele was derived from the mountains, Kybela, but it is more likely that the mountains were named after Cybele. In Classical times the Sibyllae of Italy were purely Etruscan, [being barely distinguishable from their Great Mother in Phrygia near Troy] and although the Sibyls were later associated with Apollo, that was more a case of the Greeks adopting the name as a title, as the Sibyls were never truly Apollonian.
The Pythoness at Delphi was known as a Sibyl, but not until classical times, when the name become a generic term for all oracles. Prior to the founding of Rome (AUC) the Priestesses had been chosen for service when they were 10-12 years old, and like the priestesses of Hathor in Egypt, they performed sexual rituals as part of their oracular duties. This did not fit into Apollonian theology of "moderation in all things" and divine homosexuality and about 200 AUC (c. 550 BCE) the priests of Apollo at Delphi changed the Order of the Pythoness. Under this new Order, the Pythoness was chosen only after she had become too old for marrying [age 50] and too old to be sexually attractive, "thus insuring that oracle would be inspired by Apollo and not by a woman's love." But there was more to this change than the age of the Priestess. It had to do with sex itself and the authority of the male priest over the priestesses.
Justification for the supremacy of male the priests of Apollo had begun in the earliest days of the Hellas, when the poet Thamyris fell in love with Hyacinthus. Thamyris was the first "man to love another man" for Hyacinthus was a beautiful young boy. In what was to become the Greek way, Apollo vied for the same love. Thamyris, however, made the mistake of challenging the Nine Muses to a contest of their skills. Thamyris proposed a wager, if he should win, he would have sex with each of the Muses. The Muses agreed, but put the condition that if he lost he would be made blind and lose his memory of harp playing. Thamyris lost and Apollo was left to enjoy the fruits of divine homosexuality, until Zephyr, the West Wind, also took a liking to Hyacinthus.
One day while Apollo and Hyacinthus were hurling a discus, Zephyr caught the discus and in a jealous rage hurled it against Hyacinthus's skull. Apollo's cradled his dying lover in his arms and from the boy's death's blood which fell to the ground, sprang the hyacinth flower. This is somewhere between legend and myth, as it has little to do with the cosmos, but rather it is used as historical justification for homosexuality among the Greeks. There is no question that homosexuality (or rather male bi-sexuality) was very much a part of the early religious practices. But those were sacred homosexual rituals. By making the sex of Hyacinthus and Apollo, "love" between a mortal and a god, Greek men were justified in emulating their god.
When the Priestesses of Daphoene were taken over by the male priests of Apollo, the priests vied for both oracle and the sexual rituals of the Priestesses, as Apollo sanctioned both fellatio and anal sex. However, the people rejected any change from Priestesses as oracles, when the oracular priests failed - which was immediate. So to take control from the young sexually promiscuous Pythonesses, the priestesses were deprived of their sexual rituals and replaced with older women. It was through these older women that Apollo gave His oracle. This led to the legend of the Sibyl.
To promote the male priest [legend and myth merge here] Apollo fell in love with Daphne [the daughter of the Theban prophet, Teiresias], and when Daphne was taken to Delphi she became, Sibyl. Because of his love for her, Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy. This gift of prophesy had been given by Inanna and Isis more than 2,000 years before Apollo was born; and Daphne already possessed the gift of prophesy from her father, who had received his gift from the Egyptian Order of blind harp players - just as the blind Homer would receive his vision of the past from a similar Order. And where Teiresias had been granted long life, said to have been seven generations, Apollo granted Daphne her wish for a life of as many years as she had grains of dust in her hand (said to have been 1,000). Daphne spurned Apollo's love and because she had failed to ask for perpetual youth, Apollo refused to grant her that additional gift. Daphne grew old, rather than love Apollo, and as the Sybil of Cumae, [in Italy] she withered away more each year until there was little left of her. She was finally hung upside down in a bottle, saying only that she wished to die. Hence all the Sibyls of Greece were old women.
Deiphobe, if she were in fact Daphne-Sibyl, was the most famous of the Sibyl, and was said to be 700 years old when Aeneas came to her at Cumae, to ask her to lead him to the underworld. Cumae is just west of Puzzuoli (NW of Napoli) and was the first Greek colony in Italy; hence the Italian birth place of the Etruscans. This age is of course impossible, for even though Daphne was born to Teiresias during the seven year period in which he had been a woman, she nevertheless was quite young when Thebes fell, which was no more than two generations before the Trojan war. Aeneas was supposed to have come to Italy within a few years of Troy. Rome was founded 430 years after the fall of Troy, and tradition has it that Thebes fell 500 years before the founding of Rome. This would make her less than one hundred years old.
Marcus Terentius Varro, the Roman scholar and director of Caesar's library said there were eleven Sibyls, one each residing in the great centers of the world.
In Persia she was Sibylla Persica, and was depicted as carrying a lantern and had a serpent under her feet;
in Libya, Sibylla Libyea held a lighted torch;
at Delphi, the Sibylla Delphica wore a crown of thorns;
at Cumae, Sibylla Cumana had an stone manger;
at Samos, Sibylla Cania bore a reed and a candle;
the Sibylla Cimmeria carried a cross;
Sibylla Erythreia held a white rose;
on the Tibur, Sibylla Tibertina was dressed in animal skins and carried the fascista bundle of rods;
at Marpessa, Sibylla Europa carried sword;
on the Hellesport, Sibylla Hellespontina carried a flowering branch;
Sibylla Phrygia carried a banner and prophesied resurrection.
But it would appear that only the Sibyls of Cumae, Marpessa and Phrygia where true Cybelea. Though the Phrygian Sibyl was in fact a Priestess of Dionysus, and it was the resurrection he offered which she prophesied.
It was the Great Mother, Cybele, as the Greeks and Roman's knew Her, who was originally worshiped in the mountains of Phrygia where she was called the Mountain Mother. It appears, however, that her original seat of power was in Colchis to the north, which was the home of the Medea [the Eponymous Mother of the Medes]. Her temples and shrines were always in mountains or caves and her guardians were lions (or leopards) as Her priestesses had a close affinity with nature. These were actual lions, not mythical creatures. Lions make excellent (though dirty) pets. Sabrina and I kept a pride of 5 lions for many years. They lived in a specially built room in our house and romped in our living room [our furniture only lasted about 3-5 months before having to be replaced]. All of the Cybela rituals had an orgiastic nature. It is in Phrygia that we again find the dispute between Apollo's male Priests and the Priestesses of The Goddess.
Midas, king of Phrygia, was at the music contest between Pan, the pipe playing God [who resembled Dionysus] and the harp playing Apollo. The judge of the contest, Timolus, awarded the contest to Apollo, but Midas said that Pan was superior. For this Apollo changed Midas' ears into to those of a donkey. This is more than a cute story, as it shows the rivalry between the Greeks and Phrygians.
Apollo was a God of restraint, sexual moderation and homosexuality [or bisexuality]. Pan was a God of wine, open sexuality, and enjoyment, as were the women of Phrygia and Lydia, a nation which sprang up after the Trojan war. By the time of Herodotus, the cultures of Greece and Lydia were indistinguishable, except that the Lydian woman all prostituted themselves to earn dowries, and Lydian men judged their potential wives, not by how much money they had earned, but by how man different men with whom they had sex.
Originally only priestesses officiated before Cybele. However, when Crete was overthrown, the Cretan priests of Zeus, the Curates, migrated to Phrygia. There they joined the Corybantes and became the Galli, or priests of the Great Mother. The Corybantes were the half human sons of Cronus who danced wildly and banged their shields and weapons together to prevent Cronus from hearing the cries of the infant Zeus, whom Cronus would have killed. The priests, like the Galla before them, were complete eunuchs. They had long hair, perfumed with fragrances and ointments and wore women's garb--as did Dionysus. These complete eunuchs were not just castrated as most eunuch, but also had their entire penis removed, leaving an opening which was used as a vagina for sex. The Galli were introduced at the same time as the cult of Attis came into existence. The Galla of Sumer and later Akkad and Babylon may well be the priests from which the later Aryans derived the name Gall or Gaul, who settled in France and Germany. The cult of Attis can only be mentioning as it relates to the Great Goddess worship and Apollo, as Attis never existed independent of the Great Goddess. In Sumerian-Akkadian myth the Galla were daemons of the underworld, who disposed of the corpse of the dead. Literally they were the servants of Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Underworld. When Inanna's father, Enki, heard that Inanna had descended to the underworld and did not return, He took dirt from under his fingernail and from this made Kurgarra and Galatur [that which repels Galla] and sent them to the underworld where Inanna's corpse was given to them.
"The Kurgarra sprinkled the food of life on the corpse.
The Galatur sprinkled the water of life on the corpse.
"Inanna was about to ascend from the underworldInanna agrees and the large Galla and the small Galla follow her to the world above where she sends her unfaithful husband, Dumuzi, to take her place.
When the Annaua, the judges of the underworld
seized her. They said:
`No one ascends from the underworld unmarked.
If Inanna wishes to return from the underworld,
She must provide someone in her place.'"
"The Galla were demons who know no food who know no drink,
Who eat no offerings, who drink no libations,
Who accept no gifts.
They enjoy no lovemaking.
They have no sweet children to kiss.
They tear the wife from the husband's arms,
They tear the child from the father's knees,
They steal the bride from her marriage home."
In other words, they were the daemons of death, and it appears that the castrated Galli-priests of Attis performed much the same ritual of sending the castrated Adonis-Attis-Dumuzi to the underworld. But the term daemons is not to be taken as devils, and there is far more to the Galla's roll of psychopomp who guided Inanna's return from the dead.
There are several versions of Attis. And though he was obviously associated with the late coming, Adonis of Palestine, there were some slight difference. Attis was mythically born of the hermaphrodite creature, Nana [a virgin] who conceived by a ripe pomegranate [some say an almond] which had grown from the severed penis and testicles of a man-monster, Agdistis. Some say that Agdistis was both male and female and impregnated herself-himself and that Agdistis was Attis' mother. The pomegranate, of course, is associated with Dionysus, as it was from his blood that the plant sprang, making him older than Kore who ate 9 pomegranate seeds while being held by Hades in the underworld. Attis died either after emasculating himself [cut off his penis and testicles] under a pine tree [violets grew from his blood], or he was emasculated by a boar. ((The former version is, of course, In keeping with the myth of the psychopomp who castrated himself as Galla in order to deceive Ereshkigal and obtain the soul of Inanna so he could return her to the world of the living.) Nana or Agdistis, or both, prevailed upon Zeus to grant that the body of Attis would never decay [thus assuring the immortality of the body], and then his body, symbolized by a pine tree [which would later be adopted by Christians as the christmas tree] was taken to Her cave where the two lamented his death.
Attis is a very new addition to the Inanna-Ishtar theme, and occurred at the era of the Calydonian Boar hunt [though not at the hunt] when the Greeks, killed the Heaven sent Boar, which had been a constellation in the heavens. Which tells us that Attis died when the constellation of the Heavenly Boar was killed and cast down from the sky. That is when the constellation of the Boar was replaced by one of the labors of Heracles. This was the same time that the Greeks attempted to impose the worship of Apollo on Cybele. The Phrygian goddess, like those of Greece, spurned Apollo's love [and his worship] and the male attendants of Cybele showed their disgust for Apollo by castrating themselves. This rejection of Apollo is further evidenced when Nana-Agdistis and the Great Mother asked Zeus--and not Apollo, the god of medicine--to keep Attis' body from decay.
The castration, which is the autumn equinox, when the boar rose in the heavens, would have dated back to the time of the overthrow of the Akkadian (Agagian) Empire by the Babylonians. It was then that Siburi was forced to migrate from Summer-Akkad to the west, where the priestesses of Akkad (Agag) became Agdistis, a god-created monster which was not originally a part of the religion. In order for the Akkadian male priests to be part of the religion of The Great Mother, they had to become like women, which meant the complete removal of sex organs. This was at least 500 years before Troy.
It is quite likely that the Etruscans brought the worship of Cybele with them when they invaded Italy. Her shrine at Cumae was one of the oldest in the land, and we find her castrated priest, Chloreus, dressed as a woman, fighting at the side of Camilla against Aeneas:
"Chloreus, as it chanced,
Sacred to Cybele, and erewhile her priest,
In Phrygian arms shone glorious from afar,
Urging his foamy steed, its saddle-cloth
A fell with brass scales feathered, clasp with gold.
In foreign purple darkly dight he rode,
Launching Gortynian shafts from Lycian bow;
Gold hung the bow from shoulder, gold the casque
On the diviner's head; a saffron scarf
Rustling with gauzy waves he had bound up
Into a knot with tawny gold, and wore
Needle-wrought tunic and barbaric hose.
Him how the maid, or fain to fix on shrine
Arms Trojan, or on flaunt in captive gold,
From all the melee, singling, huntress-like,
Chased blindly, and through the ranks all reckless burned
With women's love of booty and of spoil." Aeneid XI, 767-93.
The Romans also called Cybele, Ops from which we get the modern expression, oops. When you upset something by mistake, oops. Although the Sibyls could give their oracle in frenzied speech, the practice at Cumae was to write her prophetic words (characters and names) on leaves which she place on the floor of her cave. When the door of the cave was opened by the inquirant, the wind would stir the leaves and rearrange the letters and words. Oops. Once the winds had scattered the leaves they could not be restored to "their places, or fit line to line" and were of no value.
Virgil The Aeneid III, 441-452 states:
"Here landed, when to Cumae's town thou comest,
The holy lakes, Avernus' echoing groves,
Thou shalt the frenzied prophetess behold,
Who in a rock's deep hollow chants the Fates,
To leaves committing characters and names.
All prophecies upon the leaves impressed
The maid in order ranges, left to lie
Shut up within the cavern: they remain
Unmoved in place, nor from their order stir,
But none the less, when with the turning hinge
A draught of air strikes, and the open door
Unsettles the light leaves, ner'er heeds she then
To catch them, as they flutter round the cave,
Restor their places, or fit line to line:
Men go their ways uncounselled,
and detest the Sibyl's seat."
Avernus (also Averno) was the lake in which a cave was the entrance to the underworld. The Sibyl will not help anyone catch the leaves, nor will she replace them in order. If there is no wind the inquirers can read the prophesy which Destiny or the Gods had intended for the inquirers.
Legend has it that some time after the founding of Rome, the Sibyl at Cumae offered nine of her prophetic books for sale to Tarquinius Superbus, the Seventh (and last) legendary King of Rome. Tarquinius refused to pay what was demanded, so the Sibyl burned three of the books. When he still refused to pay the price, the Sibyl burned another three, and Tarquinius finally paid as much for the three as she had demanded for the original nine. The books were kept in three Temples, those of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva on the Capitoline Hill. Thereafter, the Sibylline Books could only be consulted by an act of the Senate.
When Hannibal threatened Rome in 543 AUC (210 BCE), the Senate ordered consultation of the Sibylline books and found the promise that whenever an enemy from abroad should make war on Italy they would be expelled and conquered if the Idaean Mother were to be brought to Rome. Rome immediately began building a temple for the Great Mother of the Gods [Mater Deum Magna] on the Palatine. The Palatine was one of the Seven Hills on Rome's left bank, the others being Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian and Aventine. There are actually 10 hills, the 3 on the right bank being, Vatican, Monte Mario, Monte Gianicolo (Janiculum), but in pre-christian times, those three were inhabited only by riff-raft and mosquitos. But it was six years (549 AUC) before Her silver statue and her sacred symbol [a small black stone which fell from the heavens] was able to be brought to Rome. The Goddess was quickly accepted as the Great Mother [Magna Mater], even though the Romans were appalled by the rituals of the Galla Priests. Within 200 years of its official acceptance by the Romans, worship of The Great Mother had become one of the three important cults of Rome, though it had few priests. The other two cults were those of Isis and Mithra.
The festival of the Great Mother was originally held in Rome on April 4, followed on April 5 by the Megalesia Games, which were instituted when Her cult was introduced by command of the Roman Senate. Under the Etruscan Emperor, Claudius, the Megalesia was extended from April 4 to 10. Even later the festivals were changed to run from March 15 to 27 so as to coincide with the Spring Equinox.
When the Capitoline was burned in 670 AUC (83 BCE), a new collection of Sibylline Books was compiled and were last ordered consulted by Julian [called the Apostate by Christians] in 1116 AUC. The books were destroyed in 1156 AUC (403 C.E.) by Flavious Stilicho, the Vandal chieftain who served as commander in chief of the Roman Army under the christian Emperor Theodosius.
Both the Jews and christians created, forged, Sibylline books of their own to give credence to their own claims of prophesy. These Jewish and christian Sibylline Books are often referred to as the originals by Christians and Jews, but they originated after the destruction of the first Sibylline Books in 670 AUC (53 BCE). For the most part they are pure garbage, and like the Book of Daniel, were written as prophesy after the events had occurred. However, because of the symbolism of the eleven Sibyls (supra), carrying a lantern with serpent under her feet, the crown of thorns, the stone manger, the cross, and the banner, which prophesied resurrection, Christians believed the Sibyls foretold the coming of Jesus. In a way they did. They foretold that a man would be born whose followers would destroy knowledge, an oracle that was all too true.