By Internet Archive Book Images book page:, No restrictions, Link

Today we are talking about Cybele, or Rhea, or Magna Mater… and who knows what else she was called.

Her creation goes back a long way into mythical history and all kinds of attempts have already been made to clarify the goddess and the cult around her, because many things, as so often, cannot be fully grasped in our modern times.

It seems quite certain that Kybele is a kind of manifested femininity, because in her mythical context almost always a male counterpart appears. The story is about Kybele and a young man named Attis. But, there are also some other man-woman myths, which are even older(?) and show parallels to the myth of Kybele-Attis.

Inanna and Tammuz (In German he is called Dumuzi, for Dumuzi and Tammuz may be two different deitys.)

Gemeinfrei, Link

Isis and Osiris

By Internet Archive Book Images book page:, No restrictions, Link

Venus and Adonis.

By after Guercino – Quelle: SLUB Dresden, Public Domain, Link

Anyone who likes can read the details in the corresponding Wikipedia articles. In short, all myths are about the men Dumuzi, Osiris and Adonis dying. How this happens is very different, sometimes there are other variations of the story, but what all stories have in common is that the women bring their dead men back to life.

Historically these myths(?) founded so-called mystery religions ((i. e. Roman-Greco mysteries, secret societies) that shared different religious practices.

This was also the case with Kybele, whose cult lies parallel to the cults of the above-mentioned variants and even more (Orpheus, Mysteries of Eleusis, the Samothraki Mysteries, the Dionysus cult, the cult of the Liber Father in Rome and in southern Italy, the Mithras cult, the cult of Isis and Osiris).

Some of these mystery cults do not refer to the variant “dead man”, but contain, for example, like the mysteries of Eleusis, the tale of Pluto and Proserpina (in which the God of Death robs a living woman from the earth). I assume that these are of a younger date, as the relationship and content is reversed.

Pluto and Proserpina. By reganiOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Tempel/Altar of Kybele, around 700BC. City of Midas/Turkey. By Zeynel CebeciOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Tempel/Altar of Kybele, around 700BC. City of Midas/Turkey. Von MEH BergmannEigenes Werk, CC-BY-SA 4.0, Link

We remember that Kybele/Rhea was also equated with the wife of Saturn. So it is not surprising that her myth and cult comes across quite bloody and once again there will be castration.

The Myth (basic features)

According to legend, Jupiter/Zeus once fell asleep on Mount Agdos (Phrygia) and lost his seed during his sleep. From this originated the hideous creature Agdistis, a kind of dwarf twitter thing, which the gods found so ugly that they castrated it.
The good-looking Attis was born from the severed limb, and the emasculated body became the goddess Kybele. In some variations there is also an intermediate narrative in which an almond tree plays a role and in which Attis is carried out by a nymph.
Still, Kybele and Attis were originally the same person in all variations. For this reason, of course, they were particularly interested in each other and in reuniting. After they have found each other, they lived very happily with each other for a while, but then Attis wants to become more independent and intends to marry another woman.
Of course, Kybele felt totally kicked and curses Attis and the whole wedding party with madness.

Attis – totally crazy in the head – runs into the forest and castrates himself under a pine tree, where he bleeds to death.

Kybele regrets her actions and then there are different variations of how the story ends.
Attis turns into a pine tree.
Kybele buries Attis, whose body is never putrefied due to the help of Zeus/Jupiter, in a mountain and lets him cry from priests.
Kybele awakens Attis from the dead and both are worshipped as gods

There are, as already mentioned above, further variants of the myth and it would probably require a doctoral thesis (or at least a very detailed thesis) to compare the different sources and contents.
In any case, even a superficial examination reveals that essential elements (love couple, death, resurrection) of other ancient myths come up here again.

But there are also other myths about the origin of Kybele.

There, for example, is the interesting story, in which the father of Kybele was Meon (or Protogonus), king in Phrygia and Lydia, and her mother Dindyma. Meon did not want a daughter and had the girl abandoned on Mount Kybelus after her birth. There she was raised by wild animals. Panthers and other predators gave the child milk until some shepherds found the baby and fed it.
Kybele grew up to be a beautiful maiden, who preferred to invent pipes, drums and cymbals, which later became important in the cult of the goddess, and she also dealt with medicine, especially for the benefit of the cattle and the children, which she healed with her words. Because of this special role, she was called “Mountain Mother”. A close friend of hers was Marsyas, her love was the beautiful male Attis.

In any case, it is remarkable that a typical storyline, as it is otherwise known only from male descendants (especially Romulus and Remus, Moses, perhaps even Jesus) is applied to a woman.
In fact, there are other myths in history where a woman is nourished by animals and then found by shepherds and/or wise men.
A well-known example of this is Queen Semiramis.

By Ernest Wallcousins (1883–1976) – From Myths of Babylonia and Assyria by D. MacKenzie (1915-now in the public domain).Originally uploaded to en.wikipedia; description page was here., Public Domain, Link

Where does the myth come from?

Many elements of the myth are of phrygian origin, as you can see in the numerous Attis depictions (phrygian clothes and especially: the cap!).

CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Phrygians were a kingdom that was in the territory of today’s Turkey around the 8th century BC. A few centuries earlier, the Hittites lived there – and then there is a time around the year 1000 B. C., where one does not know exactly what happened.
Among the Phrygians, the goddess Kybele was a kind of main goddess. Apart from Midas City, she was also revered in other cities, such as Pessinus, where the legendary palace of King Midas is said to have been built.

King Midas was probably a “true” historical person, a (first?) king of the Phrygians. There are also various legends surrounding him. Thus he is said to have been a son of Kybele and Gordios, to whom, according to legend, the Gordian knot can be traced back, which Alexander the Great “loosened” in the 3rd century B. C. with a crude sword stroke.

Midas was also the one who allegedly had the foolish wish that everything he touched would turn into gold.

By Walter Crane (1845-1915) – page, Public Domain, Link

The gift proved to be extremely useless because it turned what he wanted to eat and drink into gold – and even his own daughter – but after a bath in the river Pactolos he was fortunately freed again.

Midas is also said to have acted as referee in the musical competition between Apollo and Pan. In some versions, he is also a referee in the dispute between Apoll and Marsyas. .
As punishment for his wrong decision (he did not choose the god Apollo in all variations, but decided that Marsyas was the better musician) Apollo bewitched him with donkey ears, which Midas then hid under the lovely Phrygian cap.

By Michelangelo Cerquozzi, Public Domain, Link

By Anonymous, Public Domain, Link

By Andrea Vaccaro –, Public Domain,

The Roman poet Ovid (around the year 0) writes that Midas hides his donkey ears, but his hairdresser once got to see them and couldn’t keep the secret. Instead of just telling everyone, he digs a hole in the ground and whispers it into it.
Here reed grows, which told the peasants the secret.

All in all, it remains to be said that the Phrygians, and in particular the first great ruler of Midas, have experienced a certain ridiculousness throughout history.
It will not be too far-fetched to claim that this could also have had an impact on the cult of Kybele. The different variations of their myth and further details mentioned below let us assume that this is the case.
The fact that the historical losers of history are being denigrated is also something that can almost always be observed because history is known to be written by the victors, who have no interest in honoring the defeated.
Livius already pointed this out (as a Roman historian) when he had the Gallic king Brennus say:”Vae victis”, meaning “You poor defeated”.

Also in Rome’s victory over Carthage (Aeneas and Dido) one can presume such behavior, although Kybele plays an important part in this defeat.

But first, a few words about the cult around Kybele are to be mentioned.

The Korybantes. By Roscher, Wilhelm Heinrich, 1845-1923 –, Public Domain, Link

So-called Korybantes danced at the celebrations in honor of the goddess Kybele. The myth says that the celebrations were held mainly in memory of her deceased beloved Attis, but we can also read about a very orgiastic celebration (developed from this funeral service?), which shows significant similarities to the party time of the Bacchantes.
By the way, the male priests of the Kybele are said to have castrated themselves during such orgiastic celebrations. To talk about castration again.

In the Roman Empire, Kybele is revered mainly after the battle of Zama. Carthaginian Hannibal had frightened Rome for decades, and Cornelius Scipio – as befits a good Roman – consulted the oracle in Delphi with the Senate before entering the battle against Hannibal.
There they were told that Rome could destroy Carthago if they imported the “Great Mother” (Magna Mater) from Phrygia.
So Kybele was identified as Magna Mater, shipped to Rome and the rest is history. I think that this is also the most likely answer to identify her with the Titaness Rhea.

By Globetrotter19Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link



Today it’s all about the god Saturn and a great Roman festival bearing his name, the “Saturnalia” – and it’s a fiery affair.

Here we can see Saturn/Cronos and Zeus/Jupiter. By Anonymous, Public Domain,“>Link

That must have hurt. By Anonymous, Public Domain, Link

Saturn as God had different functions. In Greek antiquity, he is known as “Cronos”, the son of the earth (Gaia) and heaven (Uranos).

By T2000 from pt, CC BY-SA 3.0,“>Link

The picture also shows Pontos and Tartaros, i. e. the ocean and the underworld, which in the broadest sense can be seen as siblings of Saturn/Cronos. He is commonly associated with time, but he also had tasks such as prosperity, agriculture, renewal, freedom…

Over time, these characteristics have become his. It is difficult to reconstruct what its original function was. Perhaps it is right to assume that he – in the broadest sense – was one of the fertility deities, a mixture between Mutunus Tutunus and the weather gods. But that’s speculative.

His relationship with his parents (Gaia and Uranos) and his own children is definitely interesting: Jupiter/Zeus and a large part of the Roman-Greek pantheon.

Gaia and Uranos were the parents of the Titans. Either Gaia has born (and married) Uranos out of herself or Uranos had a father, namely the Aether, who was the son of darkness (Erebus) and night (Nyx). However, the more precisely one deals with them, the more closely one deals with something that is described as a “cosmic egg”, namely the idea (probably of Egyptian origin) that the universe was created from this very object – and then, of course, all these personalized abstractions, such as time, darkness, night, day, etc., are evolving.

Here we can see „Geb“. By Anonymous (Egypt) – Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain,

However, the question of the origin of hen and egg remains unanswered. Geb is both the name of this goose, which allegedly laid the cosmic egg from which everything originated and its own child (or something that originated from the egg), which was a male Egyptian earth god called Geb. Nut, his heavenly counterpart, was female. (Note the reversal of Gaia (earth) and Uranos (sky) in ancient Greece.)

The idea of a cosmic egg exists in many cultures. Even in the Baltic-Finnish region.

Saturn, as the last son of Gaia and Uranos, made sure that he and his siblings (partly “normal” gods, but partly also gruesome monsters) were able to escape from the Tartaros, where they had been locked by Uranos, fearing that his children would steal his power.

Saturn did this by emasculating his father at the behest of his mother Gaia, as can be seen in the pictures above.

Nevertheless, Saturn experienced almost the same thing, as he – during his reign – also made some mistakes. For example, he did not free his imprisoned brothers and sisters, but let them stew in the earth, what his mother Gaia (the earth itself) did not like so much. She was then also the one who said that Saturn would have problems with his own children.

So, Saturn decided to simply eat his children, as you can see in the following picture.

Von Peter Paul Rubens[1], Gemeinfrei,“>Link

Saturn’s wife Rhea could no longer see this and decided to hide their last child – Zeus/Jupiter – from the voracious father. Zeus thus reached the earth and was suckled by a goat or nurse, who is said to have something to do with the cornucopia.

When Zeus/Jupiter was old enough, he demands his father reigns over heaven and earth and two violent battles, known as Titanomachy and Gigantomachy, erupted, which have been recorded in many pictures.

By Cornelis van and, Public Domain, Link

By GryffindorOwn work, Public Domain, Link

By Guido ReniOwn worksailko, Public Domain, Link

By Ethiop Painter – Jastrow (2006), Public Domain, Link

After these wars, the brothers and sisters Zeus/Jupiter, Poseidon/Neptune and Hades/Pluto divide the earth among themselves. Jupiter gets the sky, Neptune the sea and Pluto the underworld.

There are, by the way, stories of god battles, as well as those of the primeval egg, in many European and southeastern cultures. The Scandinavian Æsir fight with the Vanir, Babylonian Marduk fights Tiamat, Hurrian Kumarbi fights Anu, the Hindu-God Indra fights the Asuras.

For the European Roman-Greek region, the godfighting stories were handed down by Hesiod.

By Gustave Moreau – Gustave Moreau, 1826-1898 : catalogue de l’exposition à Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 29 septembre 1998-4 janvier 1999, à Chicago, the Art institute, 13 février-25 avril 1999, à New York, the Metropolitan museum of art, 24 mai-22 août 1999. Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1996. ISBN 2711835774, Public Domain,“>Link

We know little about Hesiod, probably he lived in Boiotia in the 7th century B. C., a landscape which got its name from the Greek word for cattle. His most famous works are “Works and Days” and the abovementioned tales of the gods come from “Theogony”.

In “Works and Days”, Hesiod praises the value of work and describes the sequence of human history as a succession of eroding ages.

Saturn is said to have ruled over the golden age of mankind. And from then on everything just got worse. (Silver, bronze, iron…)

This thought was already widespread in antiquity, according to a Babylonian saying from 3000 BC.

“Young people no longer pay attention to age, consciously showing an unkempt appearance, thinking of overthrow, showing no willingness to learn and rejecting adopted values”.

Which may explain some of the current situation. 😉

An is this maybe the reason why, from a mythical point of view at least, the children emasculated and emaciated their parents?

The golden age. Von Lucas Cranach der Ältere – 1. Unbekannt2. Nasjonalgalleriet, Presse, aktuelle Utstillinger i Oslo, Gemeinfrei, Link

In the golden age, when Saturn ruled, according to legend, the celebration of Saturnalia was born. Justin, a historian from the approx. 3rd century AD, writes::

“The first inhabitants of Italy were the Aborigines [ab origine], whose king Saturnus is said to have been a man of such extraordinary righteousness that no one was a slave in his reign or possessed any private property, but that all things were common and undivided, as a property for the use of each one; in remembrance of this way of life, it was decreed that slaves and their masters went to the table at Saturnalia”.

Saturnalia was thus, according to its origins, a feast that was directly attributed to the golden age, in which people lived in paradise with no need to work, as the earth willingly gave them its fruits. Of course, all people were equal at that time and there was no property and therefore no disputes.

In the Roman Empire, there were four great feasts:

The Saturnalia

The Bacchanalia

The Lupercalia

and the festivities around the Goddess Bona Dea.

There will be a blog article of all festivals in the future.

Saturnalia took place from December 17th to December 23rd and therefore overlap to a large extent with our Advent and Christmas season, interestingly enough a time which is also said to be about giving rather than taking.

By Guido Reni – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain,“>Link

Saturn may have had a historical forerunner, an Etruscan God, which is called Satre, almost like a modern philosopher. The Etruscans lived before and at the same time as the Romans, introducing the first kings of Rome., The god Satre was a rather dark, unpredictable deity whose direction was the northwest. He was also important for the visceral examination, a kind of fortune telling method adopted by the Romans from the Etruscans. The Etruscans even had their own interpretation tool.

By LokilechOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0,“>Link

However, this form of divination is much older than the Etruscans, because the Sumerians already made use of it.

By UnknownJastrow (2005), Public Domain,“>Link

Around the year 2000 BC there was a real cult around the viscera, in which the liver, in particular, was of special interest. Several cuneiform tablets were described, which contained precise information about which part of the liver was to be interpreted depending on how it was shaped. At every palace that claimed to be something, there was a “Haruspex” or Barutu (Babylonian). The Aztecs also had similar ceremonies.

If necessary, however, it could also be less bloody, for example in the case of oracle methods with home-grown flour, smoke or oil.

Also the egg is a very popular and widely used oracle, both then and nowadays. (We remember the “cosmic egg” from which everything is supposed to have originated, and his Father-Mother “Geb”.)

I can recommend this wonderful German Wikipedia article about egg oracle to anyone who is interested.

Apparently, this type of oracle method is best suited for the dark season and of course, at Easter.

By Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0,“>Link

Ostara. By Unknown – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons. original upload date 2004-01-30. Original uploader was Rumpenisse at de.wikipedia, Public Domain,“>Link

Geb and Nut. Von E. A. Wallis Budge (1857-1937) – The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. II, colour plate facing page 96, Gemeinfrei,“>Link

The woman of Saturn is in most sources called “Ops”, a Sabine goddess for prosperity, harvest, and work. In her honor, there were two days of celebration, a Thanksgiving and a feast held during Saturnalia. There are many parallels to the later Roman cereal goddess Ceres, for example, the cornucopia is a common attribute of both goddesses.

Some sources also mention Lua as Saturn’s wife, who is probably of Etruscan origin. Captured weapons of the enemies were sacrificed to her.

Eventually, Lua and Ops were the same goddesses.

In the ancient Greek variant Saturn = Chronos, Ops/Lua = Rhea. As a mother goddess, there are many parallels to Gaia, Magna Mater, and Cybele.

This is also noticeable in their cult. Rhea was originally worshipped on Crete and she seems to have had some very noisy and sonorous festivals.

By Jacques BlanchardUnknown, Public Domain,“>Link

It is also interesting to note that the name is identical to Rhea Silvia, the woman who was visited by God Mars to create an empire with her. …. Now, Rhea and especially Kybele will be the focus of attention next week.


Todays article is about the sun god Apollo.

First of all, a little warning advertising in advance: Apollo plays a leading role in my upcoming book “Cupid and Psyche”. He is the best friend of Cupid/Amor, but of course much cooler and more capable than the little god of love, who is the protagonist in my book, but has just been entrusted with his area of responsibility.
Just today I reworked an exciting scene in which Apollo and Amor compete in a match. However, I don’t write more about it than that, because I want to make you curious, for the book will probably be published in English in summer 2018.
So, is it a rather difficult contribution today (How do you explain something that you don’t really want to explain in detail?), but still: it’s time for Apollo!

That is pretty close to what I imagined him to look like. 😉  By Jacob Matham (Holland, Haarlem, 1571-1631) – Image:, Public Domain, Link

By Stanisław Wyspiański, Public Domain, Link

Isn´t that Cupid next to him?
By, CC BY 4.0, Link

On the last picture you can see Apollo with a dragon being (and Cupid). If you want to know more about it, you have to be patient, because also this story was “woven in” on the first 30 pages of Cupid and Psyche. It is also the reason why Amor thinks Apollo is really great and starts to practice archery himself – or at least to carve arrows, because both Apollo and Amor were gifted and enthusiastic archers. And so was Diana, Apollo’s twin sister, by the way.

The “Quiz” was not written by me, but what did Apollo do here? Keyword “Marsyas”, remember. 😉 By Melchior Meier (Swiss, active in Italy between 1572 and 1582) –,_Marsias,_Midas_e_Pan,_1581.jpg, Public Domain, Link

I can tell the story behind this picture, although it is not a “nice” story. In terms of cruelty, Apollo is equal to his twin sister Diana (a moon goddess). Her escapades are named – at least indirectly – in Cupid and Psyche, because Diana is in my variant a, let’s say, somewhat cooler lady, who can also be quite brute whilst certain phases of the moon, but with her brother Apollo I was a bit cautious, because I didn’t want to write a horror novel. Before the story from the picture is unravelled, there has to be told a mythical story in which Apollo and Diana rage together.

Niobe.By Jan Boeckhorst, Public Domain, Link

Apollo and Diana are the children of Leto/Latona and Jupiter/Zeus. I don’t want to say too much about the birth process, because my book… ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT 😉
In any case, Leto/Latona had only these two and no other children. This was unusual for antiquity and so it happened that one day a queen boasted of having more children than Leto/Latona.
Queen Niobe had 7 sons and 7 daughters.
As soon as Apollo and Diana heard that their mother had been insulted, so to speak, they flew to earth and killed the sons of Niobe. For some inexplicable reason – maybe because she was so desperate and angry?- Niobe poured fuel into the fire and said that she still had more children than Leto/Latona (namely 7 instead of 2) – and the twin children shot also six of Niobes daughters with their arrows.
Apparently, Niobe realized what was happening and begged them to at least leave her the youngest daughter.

What they did not. Von Ruchhöft-PlauEigenes Werk, Gemeinfrei, Link

Marsyas. By Elihu VedderSothebys, New York, 11 April 2013, lot 63, Public Domain, Link

The “Quiz” picture above refers to Marsya’s cruel end.
Marsyas reminds optically of these ones here, therefore conclusions could possibly be drawn, if one deals with the history of the origin of sun gods.
Marsyas was a satyr, a demi-divine being and probably the companion of Kybele (there will also be a blog article about her in time). He loved the music and especially the playing on the double flute. Legend says that the double flute was invented of Athene/Minerva, but she threw it away after some time because it had become boring. Marsyas found it and started to play.
Eventually he was so enthusiastic about this that he asked Apollo to compete. The Muses, who had been appointed as arbitrators (and should have been very partisan, because Apollo had love relationships to almost every Muse!), decided that Marsyas could play better. But then Apollo really went to great lengths and convinced with the kithara (a kind of harp guitar) and vocals.

The competition. By Cornelius van PoelenburghJens Mohr –  LSH 86741 (hm_dig4505_3713), Public Domain, Link

Marsyas had lost and, as if they had nothing better to do at that time, he was then hung up on a spruce (the sacred tree of Kybele) and skinned by Apollo….
As I said before, I am really wondering how and if this incident could be interpreted mythologically in the evolutionary history of sun gods.

Molting, in general, is done for example by snakes and this happens completely without pain. – But not for Marsyas.

Von Tizian – 1./2. Scanned from the book The Complete World of Greek Mythology, ISBN 0500251215 (orginal uploaded by en:User:BorgQueen as en:Image:The Flaying of Marsyas.jpg)3. The Bridgeman Art Library, Objekt 388734, Gemeinfrei, Link

There are different interpretations in the Wikipedia about why Marsyas had to suffer such a cruel fate. The main explanation is the punishment of his “hybris”, the “overestimation of himself”. (Hybris was also a nymph, by the way.)
Hybris comes from the verb hybrízein, which means as much as an unrestrained sprouting (e. g. by plants or swelling rivers), which also contains a certain violence.
This phenomenon is found in many ancient stories, e. g. also in the above-mentioned story of Niobe. Hybris is followed by Nemesis, a divine punishment.
Nevertheless, it is questionable why Marsyas was punished for such a simple thing as playing the flute. The answer may be that playing music with the flute is an allegorical tool, that “the flute” is, therefore, a representation of God’s own creative realm (e. g. the music), as indicated by the Muses attending, who represent other areas of cultural creation than just music.

The flute itself is, in any case, a very old musical instrument, perhaps even the oldest one of all. The following specimen is 40,000 years old and consists of griffon vulture bones.

Von MuseopediaEigenes Werk, CC-BY-SA 4.0, Link

And Mozart has dedicated an entire opera to a “flute”, whose interpretation (by Erich Neumann) shows many mythical references (German). Among other things, Neumann writes:”the music of the Magic Flute becomes the supreme revelation of the union of the masculine and the feminine in the sign of wisdom of the heart, which hints at the myth of Isis and Osiris”.

No wonder then that Apollo was not amused when Marsyas boasted of these abilities.

By Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography15031-Magic Flute Production-0465, CC BY 2.0, Link

In this photo, you can see a new performance of the Magic Flute, more precisely a scene with Sarastro, which in the piece also represents a kind of “sun god” or rather a good “sun king”. He is opposed by the “Queen of the Night”, who can become very angry.


When you look at the origin of sun gods, you´ll soon discover, that they existed in abundance. I, therefore, will only refer to the oldest variant.

The oldest known sun god was the Sumerian god Utu. He represented the sun and justice.

Here in a somewhat younger version called “Shamash”. By PriorymanOwn work, GFDL, Link

He had a twin sister like Apollo, but also other siblings.
Inanna, his twin sister, was in charge of love, sex and war.
Ereshkigal, his older sister, was a goddess of the underworld.
Iskur, his brother, was a kind of weather god, also known as Hadad/Adad

His parents were the moon gods Nanna and Ningal, which was worshipped mainly by cowherds.

As I have often mentioned, there are some overlaps and similarities among the many ancient gods (antiquity = almost 2000 years later than the Sumerians and the gods just mentioned). I just noticed that the genealogy (i. e. the family history) of the gods seems to have turned completely around in the two thousand years up to antiquity. Children become parents and vice versa.

This can be clearly seen in Nanna and Ningal (moon gods), whose properties are represented in the ancient world by Diana. Diana is the child of Jupiter, a kind of weather god, who is in the Sumerian variant still the child (Iskur) of the moon deities.

… Someday they’re gonna grow up, the little ones. 😉

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1984-0807-017 / Grubitzsch (geb. Raphael), Waltraud / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Link

Maybe this shift has something to do with the change of the time calculation away from the moon calendar to the solar calendar or maybe this shift even caused the “new” solar calendar?

About Utu (or Shamash) there is a mythical story that looks like this in the original:

By Timo RollerOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

It is the so-called “Epic of Gilgamesh”, one of the oldest stories of mankind, a heroic journey which influenced more famous versions such as the Odyssey, Illias, Aeneis, and others. The rough structure of the hero’s journey can still be found in many modern novels.

What’s the myth about?

Dated back to the 3rd millennium B. C., this story is about a possible king (or a literary fictional figure) named Gilgamesh, his friend Enkidu, who dies in the context of the story, and Gilgamesh’s following quest for immortality, which he does not find.

Utu/Shamash appears in some crucial parts. He seems to be a kind of protégé for Gilgamesh, who has been arguing with Inanna. After Enkidu and Gilgamesh have killed the celestial bull that Inanna wanted to get, they take out his heart “and lay it down in front of Shamash”.
Enkidu then falls ill and dies, and Gilgames gives Shamash various objects to be passed on to the other Gods of the underworld. Among other things, a bottle of lapislazuli (for Ereshkigal), a carnelian flute (for Dumuzi), a throne and a scepter of lapislazuli (for Namtar), etc.[see Maul, Stefan, Das Gilgamesch-Epos, Beck 2012, p. 140f.]

By Veldkamp, Gabriele and Maurer, Markus – Veldkamp, Gabriele. Zukunftsorientierte Gestaltung informationstechnologischer Netzwerke im Hinblick auf die Handlungsfähigkeit des Menschen. Aachener Reihe Mensch und Technik, Band 15, Verlag der Augustinus Buchhandlung, Aachen 1996, Germany, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Another concluding reference to a philosophical examination of the topic “sun”.

The above picture shows a section of Plato’s allegory of the cave. We see the sun at the top of the picture and the tied up people who stare at the wall in front of them perceiving the shadows to be “real” – instead of deriving from things running behind them.
The parable can be interpreted in quite different ways, but Plato calls the sun the only “true and good” point of knowledge.
So: if someone from the prisoners would come out and recognize the world – and especially the sun, he would have found “the truth”.

So it does not surprise that Apollo – in addition to his function as a “Lightbringer” – was also the God of Knowledge.

By, CC BY 4.0, Link


Bona Dea

The goddess Bona Dea has been worshipped in Rome since about the 3rd century BC. One of the goddesses merged with her was probably the Greek goddess Hygieia, who was responsible for the health of women – and thus also for fertility.
An animal that is directly or indirectly connected to all these goddesses is the snake. Bona Dea statues and pictures show not only a snake but also (usually) a “cornucopia”, an object that is actually attributed to the goddess Fortuna. This goddess also has a Greek origin (Tyche) and possible overlaps with Bona Dea.
There are further references and connections to Fauna, Ceres, Terra, Ops, Kybele… a blog entry would be worthwhile, but given the extent of this, I will limit myself today to the two first mentioned goddesses: Hygieia and Fortuna and their main attributes, snake, and cornucopia.

On the internet you will find – besides Wikipedia – a lot of information about the goddess and what “de facto” was handed down.

Here are some examples of quite extensive compilations (primarily in German):

One can even find the beginning of a dissertation on Bona Dea and her cult online.

It is remarkable that this goddess is still receiving such a great response – or again (in the age of the Internet) today. This is probably due to the fact that you have relatively much and secure information about her. The Bona Dea temple in Rome was located from the 3rd century B. C. to the 4th century A. D., covering a period of 700 years.

Bona Dea (or Ceres). By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany – Marble statue of Demeter-Ceres or Bona Dea (The Good Goddess), Nîmes Archaeology Museum, France, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Because the cult was secret, many legends entwine around Bona Dea. Sometimes she is considered the wife of the Faunus, sometimes as his daughter. She was said to be so shy that she never left the house, but got drunk with wine at home because she was so bored. Faunus was furious and beat her to death with myrtle branches. Later he repented of his deed and deified his wife.
As the daughter of Faunus, Bona Dea had it even harder for her own father followed her, and she was only safe from him when she turned into a serpent.
There is also the variant in which Bona Dea is the sister of Faunus.

Aesculapius and Hygieia. By, CC BY 4.0, Link

Hygieia was the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of healing art, and is invoked in the Hippocratic oath. This oath is used in Germany only as a moral-ethical yardstick, but since antiquity and also today in the USA it is also a solemn “oath” in the classical sense, which is read aloud when graduating from medical courses of study.
There are no dramatic stories about Hygieia, but this goddess also has several “own” connections to e. g. Salus, Sirona, or to all these here. 😉

Both Hygieia and Aeskulap (Aeskulap Staff) were associated with snakes as symbolic animals.
In the temple of Bona Dea there are said to have been even tame snakes.

Aesculapian-Stick. By CFCFOwn work, CC0, Link

The snake is a very interesting symbolic animal, its mythical existence even dates back to pre-worldly – paradisiacal – times.
It was the snake who allegedly encouraged Eve to bite into the apple of knowledge and then pass it on to poor, innocent Adam. 😉

Hercules (an ancient hero who will be mentioned below) is said to have strangled with his bare hands two snakes sent by his stepmother Hera/Juno to kill him.

Hercules as a baby.
By Internet Archive Book Images book page:, No restrictions, Link

The fall of man. By KopiersperreOwn work, Public Domain, Link

The Old Testament or the story in the first book of Moses was written in Hebrew, a language in which “the serpent” is masculine. It is called נחשׁ = nâchâsh, which sometimes serves as an explanation for the fact that the snake according to the translation of Seebass turns to the woman and not to Adam.

Adam’s first wife, Lilith, is also often associated with snakes.

Lilith. By John CollierOwn work, Public Domain, Link

That Adam had a first wife is told in the Talmud (a kind of commentary on the Tanach/Old Testament). The story – as absurd as it is true – goes as follows: Since there are two reports of creation in the Bible (once man/woman are created at the same time 1 Genesis 1:27, once Eve emerges from the rib of Adam 1 Genesis 2:26), an explanation was needed. The explanation was: Adam had a first wife, Lilith, with whom he had argued. It was supposedly about which of the two was allowed to have the upper hand (in sex). Lilith wanted to be on top, Adam too, but that didn’t work out, so Lilith decided to abandon paradise and leave Adam to himself. So the story was about who rules over whom or who is in charge.

Adam, Eve and Lilith (the snake). By Hugo van der Goes – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, Link

The core of this biblical story, if you like, can also be found in the goddess Bona Dea. Because their festivities were only open to women – and there is also the peculiarity that the celebrating women refused to give the hero Hercules something to drink (maybe because he killed two snakes as a baby?). Hercules then ordered women to be excluded from the festivities at his altar (ara maxima).
The offerings were also for the first time (?) only addressed to Hercules himself, since no other gods were allowed to be worshipped. In the course of time, rich patrician families at the ara maxima made sacrifices mainly for financial affairs, up to 10% of the profit of the trade was donated. There was a huge banquet, of which Crassus (a very rich Roman who was also an ally of Pompeius and Caesar) in particular, was remembered for hosting the Roman citizens for three months.

Hercules. By SailkoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Hercules drinking. By Massimo Pallottino, The Etruscans, Indiana University Press, 1975 (1st edition: Etruscologia, Milan: Hoepli, 1942).References:Online commentary;Jean Bayet, Herclé, op. cit. p. 150 et pl. IV;A. J. Pfiffig, Herakles in der Bilderwelt der etruskischen Spiegel, 1980, p. 19., Public Domain, Link

The birth of the milky way. By Peter Paul Rubens[1], Public Domain, Link

So the question that arises right now: what did Hercules want to drink at the feast of Bona Dea? ):):):)

Although it seems certain that “Bona Dea” was the goddess for a pure cult of women, Brouwer points out in his above mentioned dissertation that emperor Augustus was possibly also involved as a priest (Introduction, p. XXIII.) It is also noticeable that many men gave or dedicated something to the goddess, e. g. an altar, their desires/prayers, or statues.

At her main celebration, however, only women really celebrated. In three weeks’ time, there will be more information about this.

A goddess with whom Bona Dea is also associated is the goddess Fortuna, in addition to the Hygieia mentioned above.

Here Fortuna in a medieval depiction to the left of the wheel of fortune. By Universidade Federal do Espírito SantoVitória [1], Public Domain, Link

Fortuna (greek Tyche) ancient. By DaderotOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Cornucopia. By bukkOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The cornucopia is also an interesting ancient symbol that stands for wealth, overflow and abundance. The cornucopia is also very often associated with Ceres (Goddess of grain and growth) and Plutos (God of wealth).

It goes back to the nymph (or goat) Amalthea, who fed the little Zeus with the horn of a goat or even was a goat herself. She is also the mother (or wife) of Pan, the god of shepherds and goats.

Zeus/Jupiter immortalized the goat (?) Amalthea in gratitude for his salvation (she had nourished him with her milk/filling horn) in the night sky as a constellation.

Capricornus constellation. CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The cornucopia is also connected with Hercules, because the ancient authors also report that Hercules had broken a horn in his struggle with the river god Acheloos, which then became a cornucopia.

Why Hercules did this is another interesting story.
Acheloos was just as interested in the beautiful Deianeira as Hercules. He fights with Hercules for the hand of the beautiful Deianeira (whose name means “male hater” by the way), turns into a snake and a bull (LINK), but all this did not help him, Hercules killed him.

Thomas Hart Benton (1947) put this fight into the limelight.

By Thomas Hart BentonThis file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of a cooperation project., Public Domain, Link

But also the old Etruscans had a very frenzied look at the problems. By, Gemeinfrei, Link

It even continues. For the history of “Struggle with rivers/beings” repeats itself in the history of Hercules.
When he and Deianeira have to cross a river, the Kentaur Nessos offers to carry Deianeira over. Of course, he does not do this without ulterior motives, for he wants Deianeira for himself.

The beautiful Deianeira and Nessos. – What was Arnold Böcklin thinking of? 🙂 By Arnold Böcklin – 1. pfalzgalerie.de2., Gemeinfrei, Link

Hercules intervenes and wins by killing Nessos. But Nessos had previously planted a ruse in Deianeira’s ear. He advised her, if Hercules should ever become unfaithful to her, to give him a cloak of Nessos, which would guarantee her eternal fidelity.
Many years later, Hercules actually looks around for other women.
What does Deianeira do?
She gives Hercules the mantle, who then (not) dies in wretched torment.

However, she herself thinks that Hercules died (or left) and then kills herself. The parallels to Dido are obvious.

Deianeira in despair. By Evelyn De Morgan[1], Public Domain, Link

Hercules isn´t really dead. By Francisco de Zurbarán – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, Link

As the only son of Jupiter/Zeus Hercules is admitted to the Olympus by the gods. There he reconciles himself with his stepmother Juno/Hera and marries another woman: Hebe, the goddess of the rosy cheeks = the youth. (So no more male haters.)

In fact and with historical certainty, Hercules as God even made it into Buddhism:

He stands with his club on the right behind Buddha.
CC BY-SA 3.0, Link</

Bona Dea – and the goddesses belonging to it – lived and live (?) especially in some female saints.

Saints with the attribute “snake” are among others: Goar, Phillipus the Apostle, Wilburgis, Amandus of Maastricht, Hilarius of Poitiers, Jakobos of the Mark.
These saints have the serpent “only” as a symbol animal, some of them have other symbols, but they have no narrative connection to the animal.

For some saints with the attribute snake there are longer or shorter stories in which the animal appears in a positive or negative light.

Notburga von Hochhausen receives healing herbs from a snake after she loses an arm due to her violent father.

Patrick of Ireland is said to have left the island when he arrived in Ireland. But the last snake in Ireland was lured into a crate by him, promising to release it “tomorrow”. The next day, when the serpent asked for her release, he said,”Tomorrow.”

Thekla of Ikonium refused to marry a “heathen” because she had become a Christian. Since she lived in pagan Rome and was very disadvantaged as a Christian, she was taken to a dungeon full of poisonous snakes, but a ray of lightning killed the reptiles. Thekla experiences some other nasty things, but she is protected by God and does not suffer.

Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Benedictine order, to whom the beautiful saying ora et labora is attributed, should have been poisoned by his own monks. But the poison escaped as a serpent from the cup in which it was found when Benedict made a sign of the cross above it.

The cornucopia does not seem to have made it into the Christian world of thought. However, the prophet Joel (Old Testament) and the Holy Kajetan of Tiene seem to have a cornucopia of filling as an attribute (but without any plot behind it).

Finally, I would like to mention the martyrdom of Christina von Bolsena, who is cared for by snakes after suffering endless pain.
Even today there are festivities in Italy that reenact the fate of Christina. A great article with lots of photos can be found at Bizzarrobazar.  I really do recommend to read it.