Readings for reflection: the Mountain Mothers

Anonymous, Greek Lyric Fragments 935
Pimplean goddesses,
come here from heaven and sing with me of the Mother of the Gods,
how she went wandering through the mountains and glens
trailing her flowing hair and distraught in her mind.
When lord Zeus saw the Mother of the Gods,
he threw a thunderbolt and smashed the rocks;
and Aphrodite urged her and took the tambourines:
‘Mother, go off to the Gods: father Zeus summons you.
And do not keep on wandering over the mountains;
have fierce lions or grey wolves become your friends?’
She replied, ‘I shall not go off unless I get my portions,
half of heaven and half of the earth and a third portion,
half of the sea: only then shall I go off.’
Greetings, Great Mother, Queen of Olympos!

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 19
In Crete there is said to be a sacred cave full of bees. In it, as storytellers say, Rheia gave birth to Zeus; it is a sacred place and no one is to go near it, whether God or mortal. At the appointed time each year a great blaze is seen to come out of the cave. Their story goes on to say that this happens whenever the blood from the birth of Zeus begins to boil up. The sacred bees that were the nurses of Zeus occupy this cave.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 1.4-5
Rheia, when she was heavy with Zeus, went off to Crete and gave birth to him there in a cave on Mount Dikte. She put him in the care of both the Kouretes and the Nymphai Adrasteia and Ide, daughters of Melisseus. These Nymphai nursed the baby with the milk of Amaltheia, while the armed Kouretes stood guard over him in the cave, banging their spears against their shields to prevent Kronos from hearing the infant’s voice.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 2.29
Dionysos in his youth went to Kybela in Phrygia. There he was purified by Rhea of the madness inflicted upon him by Hera and taught the mystic rites of initiation, after which he received from her his gear and set out eagerly through Thrace.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka E6. 16
After the Trojan War Demophon, the son of Theseus, with a few ships put in to the land of the Thracian Bisaltians, and there Phyllis, the king’s daughter, falling in love with him, was given him in marriage by her father with the kingdom for her dower. Phyllis escorted him as far as the place known as Ennea (the Nine Roads), where she gave him a cave in which she said there was a sacred object of Mother Rheia: he was not to open it unless the time should come when he gave up all hope of returning to her. And Demophon went to Kypros and dwelt there. And when the appointed time was past, Phyllis called down curses on Demophon and killed herself; and Demophon opened the casket, and, being struck with fear, he mounted his horse and galloping wildly met his end; for, the horse stumbling, he was thrown and fell on his sword.

Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 1.1076 – 1152
For twelve days after the landing of the Argonauts in Kyzikos there was foul weather day and night, and the Argonauts were unable to put out. But towards the end of the next night, while Akastos and Mopsos watched over their comrades, who had long been fast asleep, a halcyon hovered over the head of Aison’s son and in its piping voice announced the end of the gales. Mopsos heard it and understood the happy omen. So when the sea-bird, still directed by a god, flew off and perched on the mascot of the ship, he went over to Jason, who lay comfortably wrapped in fleeces, woke him quickly with a touch and said : `My lord, you must climb this holy peak to propitiate Rheia, Mother of all the happy Gods, whose lovely throne is Dindymon itself–and then the gales will cease. I learnt this from a halcyon just now: the sea-bird flew above you as you slept and told me all. Rheia’s dominion covers the winds, the sea, the whole earth, and the gods’ home on snow-capped Olympos. Zeus himself, the son of Kronos, gives place to her when she leaves her mountain haunts and rises into the broad sky. So too do the other blessed ones; all pay the same deference to that dread goddess.’ This was welcome news to Jason, who leaps up from his bed rejoicing. He hastily woke the rest and told them how Mopsos had interpreted the signs. They set to work at once. The younger men took some oxen from the stalls and began to drive them up the steep path to the top of Dindymon . . . Standing in the woods, there was an ancient vine with a massive trunk withered to the roots. They cut this down to make a sacred image of the Mountain Goddess; and when Argos had skilfully shaped it, they set it up on a rocky eminence under the shelter some tall oaks, the highest trees that grow, and made an altar of small stones near by. Then, crowned with oak-leaved, they began the sacrificial rites, invoking the Mother of Mount  Dindymos, most worshipful, who dwells in Phrygia; and with her, Titias and Kyllenos. For these two are singled out as dispensers of doom and assessors to the Mother of Mount Ida from the many Idaian Daktyloi of Crete. They were borne in the Diktaian cave by the Nymph Anchiale as she clutched the earth of Oaxos with both her hands. Jason, pouring libations on the blazing sacrifice, earnestly besought the goddess to send the stormy winds elsewhere. At the same time, by command of Orpheus, the younger men in full armour moved round in a high-stepping dance, beating their shields with their swords to drown the ill-omened cries that came up from the city, where the people were still wailing for their king. This is why the Phrygians to this day propitiate Rheia with the tambourine and drum. The goddess they invoked must have observed the flawless sacrifice with pleasure, for her own appropriate signs appeared. The trees shed abundant fruit; the earth at their feet adorned itself with tender grass; beasts left their lairs and thickets and came to them with wagging tails. And these were no her only miracles. Until that day there had been no running water on Dindymon. But now, with no digging on their part, a stream gushed out for them from the thirsty peak. And it did not cease to flow; the natives of the place still drink from it. They call it Iason’s Spring. As a finish to the rites, they held a feast on Arktonoros (Bear Mountain) in honour of Rhea and sang the praises of the venerable goddess. By dawn the wind had dropped and they rowed off from the peninsular.

Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 4. 1128 ff
For that very night the Phaiakes prepared a bridal bed for Jason and Medea in the sacred cave where Makris had once lived. Makris was the daughter of Aristaios, the honey-loving shepherd who discovered the secret of the bees and the riches that the olive yields in payment for our toil. It was Makris, who in Abantian Euboia, took the infant Dionysos to her bosom and moistened his parched lips with honey, when Hermes had rescued him from the flames and brought him to her. But Hera saw this and in her anger banished her from Euboia. So Makris came to the remote Phaiakian land, where she lived in the sacred cave and brought abundance to the people.

Arnobius of Sicca, Against the Heathen 5.5-6
In him there had been resistless might, and a fierceness of disposition beyond control, a lust made furious, and derived from both sexes. He violently plundered and laid waste; he scattered destruction wherever the ferocity of his disposition had led him; he regarded not gods nor men, nor did he think anything more powerful than himself; he contemned earth, heaven, and the stars. Now, when it had been often considered in the councils of the gods, by what means it might be possible either to weaken or to curb his audacity, Liber, the rest hanging back, takes upon himself this task. With the strongest wine he drugs a spring much resorted to by Acdestis where he had been wont to assuage the heat and burning thirst roused in him by sport and hunting. Hither runs Acdestis to drink when he felt the need; he gulps down the draught too greedily into his gaping veins. Overcome by what he is quite unaccustomed to, he is in consequence sent fast asleep. Liber is near the snare which he had set; over his foot he throws one end of a halter formed of hairs, woven together very skilfully; with the other end he lays hold of his privy members. When the fumes of the wine passed off, Acdestis starts up furiously, and his foot dragging the noose, by his own strength he robs himself of his sex; with the tearing asunder of these parts there is an immense flow of blood; both are carried off and swallowed up by the earth; from them there suddenly springs up, covered with fruit, a pomegranate tree.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 4.13
I ran across the statement very recently in the book of Theophrastus On Inspiration that many men have believed and put their belief on record, that when gouty pains in the hips are most severe, they are relieved if a flute-player plays soothing measures. That snake-bites are cured by the music of the flute, when played skilfully and melodiously, is also stated in a book of Democritus, entitled On Deadly Infections, in which he shows that the music of the flute is medicine for many ills that flesh is heir to. So very close is the connection between the bodies and the minds of men, and therefore between physical and mental ailments and their remedies.

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 3.72.2-6
Dionysos, then, set out with his army, and after passing through a great extent of waterless land, no small portion of which was desert and infested with wild beasts, he encamped beside a city of Libya named Zabirna. Near this city an earth-born monster called Campê, which was destroying many of the natives, was slain by him, whereby he won great fame among the natives for valour. Over the monster which he had killed he also erected an enormous mound, wishing to leave behind him an immortal memorial of his personal bravery, and this mound remained until comparatively recent times. Then Dionysos advanced against the Titans, maintaining strict discipline on his journeyings, treating all the inhabitants kindly, and, in a word, making it clear that his campaign was for the purpose of punishing the impious and of conferring benefits upon the entire human race. The Libyans, admiring his strict discipline and high-mindedness, provided his followers with supplies in abundance and joined in the campaign with the greatest eagerness.

As the army approached the city of the Ammonians, Kronos, who had been defeated in a pitched battle before the walls, set fire to the city in the night, intending to destroy utterly the ancestral palace of Dionysos, and himself taking with him his wife Rheia and some of his friends who had aided him in the struggle, he stole unobserved out of the city. Dionysos, however, showed no such a temper as this; for though he took both Kronos and Rheia captive, not only did he waive the charges against them because of his kinship to them, but he entreated them for the future to maintain both the good-will and the position of parents towards him and to live in a common home with him, held in honour above all others. Rheia, accordingly, loved him like a son for all the rest of her life.

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 5.48.1-6
The wedding of Kadmos and Harmonia was the first, we are told, for which the gods provided the marriage-feast, and Demeter, becoming enamoured of Iasion, presented him with the fruit of the corn […] and Elektra, queen of Samothrake, presented as a wedding gift the sacred rites of the Great Mother of the Gods, as she is called, together with cymbals and kettledrums and the instruments of the ritual. After this Kadmos, they say, in accordance with the oracle he had received, founded Thebes in Boiotia, while Iasion married Kybelê and begat Korybas. And after Iasion had been removed into the circle of the Gods, Dardanos and Kybelê and Korybas conveyed to Asia the sacred rites of the Mother of the Gods and removed with them to Phrygia. Thereupon Kybelê, joining herself to the first Olympos, begat Alkê and called the goddess Kybelê after herself; and Korybas gave the name of Korybantes to all who, in celebrating the rites of his mother, acted like men possessed, and married Thebê, the daughter of Kilix. In like manner he also transferred the flute from Samothrake to Phrygia and to Lyrnessos the lyre which Hermes gave and which at a later time Achilles took for himself when he sacked that city. To Iasion and Demeter, according to the story the myths relate, was born Ploutos or Wealth, but the reference is, as a matter of fact, to the wealth of the corn, which was presented to Iasion because of Demeter’s association with him at the time of the wedding of Harmonia. Now the details of the initiatory rite are guarded among the matters not to be divulged and are communicated to the initiates alone; but the fame has travelled wide of how these gods appear to mankind and bring unexpected aid to those initiates of their who call upon them in the midst of perils. The claim is also made that men who have taken part in the mysteries become both more pious and more just and better in every respect than they were before. And this is the reason, we are told, why the most famous both of the ancient heroes and of the demi-gods were eagerly desirous of taking part in the initiatory rite; and in fact Jason and the Dioskouroi, and Herakles and Orpheus as well, after their initiation attained success in all the campaigns they undertook, because these gods appeared to them.

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 5.65.1
The Titans had their dwelling in the land about Knossos, at the place where even to this day men point out foundations of a house of Rhea and a cypress grove which has been consecrated to her from ancient times.

Dionysios of Halikarnassos, Roman Antiquities 2.19.2
And no festival is observed among them as a day of mourning or by the wearing of black garments and the beating of breasts and the lamentations of women because of the disappearance of deities, such as the Greeks perform in commemorating the rape of Persephone and the adventures of Dionysos and all the other things of like nature. And one will see among them, even though their manners are now corrupted, no ecstatic transports, no Korybantic frenzies, no begging under the color of religion, no bacchanals or secret mysteries, no all-night vigils of men and women together in the temples, nor any other mummery of this kind; but alike in all their words and actions with respect to the gods a reverence is shown such as is seen among neither Greeks nor barbarians.

Herodotus, Histories 4.76.2
When Anacharsis was coming back to the Skythian country after having seen much of the world in his travels and given many examples of his wisdom, he sailed through the Hellespont and put in at Kyzikos; where, finding the Kyzikenes celebrating the feast of the Mother of the Gods with great ceremony, he vowed to this same Mother that if he returned to his own country safe and sound he would sacrifice to her as he saw the Kyzikenes doing, and establish a nightly rite of worship. So when he came to Skythia, he hid himself in the country called Woodland (which is beside the Race of Achilles, and is all overgrown with every kind of timber); hidden there, Anacharsis celebrated the Goddess’ ritual with exactness, carrying a small drum and hanging images about himself.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 9.111-131
Mystis also nursed the god after her mistress’s breast, watching by the side of Lyaios with sleepless eyes. The clever handmaid taught him the art that bears her name, the mystic rites of Dionysos in the night. She prepared the unsleeping worship for Lyaios, she first shook the rattle, and clanged the swinging cymbals with the resounding double bronze; she first kindled the nightdancing torch to a flame, and cried Euion to sleepless Dionysos; she first plucked the curving growth of ivy-clusters, and tied her flowing hair with a wreath of vine; she alone entwined the thyrsos with purple ivy, and wedged on the top of the clusters an iron spike, covered with leaves that it might not scratch Bakchos. She thought of fitting plates of bronze over the naked breast, and fawnskins over the hips. She taught Dionysos to play with the mystical casket teeming with sacred things of worship, and to use them as his childish toys. She first fastened about her body a belt of braided vipers, where a serpent coiling round the belt on both sides with encircling bonds was twisted into a snaky knot.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 9.136 ff
And again Hera would have destroyed the son of Zeus but Hermes caught him up, and carried him to the wooded ridge where Kybele dwelt. Moving fast, Hera ran swift-shoe on quick feet from high heaven; but he was before her, and assumed the eternal shape of first-born Phanes. Hera in respect for the most ancient of the gods, gave him place and bowed before the radiance of the deceiving face, not knowing the borrowed shape for a fraud. So Hermes passed over the mountain tract with quicker step than hers, carrying the horned child folded in his arms, and gave it to Rheia, nurse of lions, mother of Father Zeus, and said these few words to the goddess mother of the greatest: ‘Receive, goddess, a new son of your Zeus! He is to fight with the Indians, and when he has done with earth he will come into the starry sky, to the great joy of resentful Hera! Indeed it is not proper that Ino should be nurse to one whom Zeus brought forth. Let the mother of Zeus be nanny to Dionysos – mother of Zeus and nurse of her grandson!’ This said he put off the higher shape of selfborn Phanes and put on his own form again, leaving Bakchos to grow a second time in the Meter’s nurture.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 9.150 ff
The goddess took care of him; and while he was yet a boy, she set him to drive a car drawn by ravening lions. Within that godwelcoming courtyard, the tripping Korybantes would surround Dionysos with their childcherishing dance, and clash their swords, and strike their shields with rebounding steel in alternate movements, to conceal the growing boyhood of Dionysos; and as the boy listened to the fostering noise of the shields he grew up under the care of the Korybantes like his father. At nine years old the youngster went a-hunting his game to the kill. He would hold lightly aloft stretched on his shoulders a bold fellstriped tiger unshackled, and brought in hand to show Rheia the cubs he had torn newborn from the dam’s milky teats. He dragged horrible lions all alive, and clutching a couple of feet in each hand presented them to the Mother that she might yoke them to her car. Rheia looked on laughing with joy, and admired the manliness and doughty feats of young Dionysos; his father Kronion laughed when he saw with delighted eyes Iobakchos driving the grim lions … Often he stood in the chariot of immortal Rheia, and held the flowing reins in his tenderskin hand, and checked the nimble team of galloping lions. Thus he grew up beside cliffloving Rheia, yet a boy in healthy youth, mountainbred.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 9.206 ff
Semele rebuked Hera, saying: ‘See the baby Dionysos in the arms of your own mother, he lies on that cherishing arm! The Dispenser of the eternal universe, the first sown Beginning of the Gods, the Allmother, became a nurse for Bromios; she offered to infant Bakchos the breast which Zeus High and Mighty has sucked! What Kronides was ever in labour, what Rheia was ever nurse for your boy? But this Kybele who is called your mother brought forth Zeus and suckled Bakchos in the same lap! She dandled them both, the son and the father.’

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 12.380
To Dionysos alone had Rheia given the amethyst, which preserves the winedrinker from the tyranny of madness.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 14.1 ff
Then swiftshoe Rheia haltered the hairy necks of her lions beside their highland manger. She lifted her windfaring foot to run with the breezes, and paddled with her shoes through the airy spaces. So like a wing or a thought she traversed the firmament to south, to north, to west, to the turning-place of dawn, gathering the divine battalions for Lyaios: one all-comprehending summons was sounded for trees and for rivers, one call for Neiades and Hamadryades, the troops of the forest. All the divine generations heard the summons of Kybele, and they came together from all sides. From high heaven to the Lydian land Rheia passed aloft with unerring foot, and returning lifted again the mystic torch in the night, warming the air a second time with Mygdonian fire.

Oppian, Cynegetica 3.7
The Kouretes were the nurses of the infant Zeus, the mighty son of Kronos, what time Rhea concealed his birth and carried away the newly-born child from Kronos, his sire implacable, and placed him in the vales of Crete. And when Kronos, the son of Ouranos, beheld the lusty young child he transformed the first glorious guardians of Zeus and in vengeance made the Kouretes wild beasts. And since by the devising of the god Kronos exchanged their human shape and put upon them the form of lions, thenceforth by the boon of Zeus they greatly lord it over the wild beasts which dwell upon the hills, and under the yoke they draw the terrible swift car of Rheia who lightens the pangs of birth

Ovid, Fasti 6.319
Should I omit or recount your shame, red Priapus? It is a very playful, tiny tale. Coroneted Cybele, with her crown of turrets, invites the eternal gods to her feast. She invites, too, satyrs and nymphs and the spirits of the wild; Silenus is present, uninvited. It’s not allowed and too long to narrate the gods’ banquet: night was consumed with much wine. Some blindly stroll shadowy Ida’s dells, or lie down and rest their bodies in the soft grass. Others play or are clasped by sleep; or link their arms and thump the green earth in triple quick step. Vesta lies down and takes a quiet, carefree nap, just as she was, her head pillowed by turf. But the red saviour of gardens prowls for nymphs and goddesses, and wanders back and forth. He spots Vesta. It’s unclear if he thought she was a nymph or knew it was Vesta. He claims ignorance. He conceives a vile hope and tries to steal upon her, walking on tiptoe, as his heart flutters. By chance old Silenus had left the donkey he came on by a gently burbling stream. The long Hellespont’s god was getting started, when it bellowed an untimely bray. The goddess starts up, frightened by the noise. The whole crowd fly to her; the god flees through hostile hands. Lampsacus slays this beast [the donkey] for Priapus, chanting : `We rightly give flames the informant’s guts.’ You remember, goddess, and necklace it with bread. Work ceases; the idle mills are silent.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.686 ff
And Venus said, Did I not deserve especial thanks and incense in my honour from Hippomenes for my assitance in winning Atalanta for his bride? But he forgot; he gave no thanks and burnt no incense; then to sudden wrath I turned. Stung by his scorn and lest I be despised in days to come, I set my heart against them both, to warn the world by their example. A temple stands hidden in shady woods, which once Echion to fulfil a vow had raised to the Great Mother of the Gods. There they had journeyed and were glad to rest; and there ill-timed importunate desire, roused by my power, possessed Hippomenes. Beside the temple was a dim-lit grotto, a gloomy cavern, roofed with natural rock, an ancient holy shrine, filled by the priest with wooden statues of the gods of old. He entered here and with forbidden sin defiled the sanctuary. The holy statues turned their shocked eyes away and the tower-crowned Mother pondered should she plunge the guilty pair beneath the waves of Stygia. Such punishment seemed light. Therefore their necks, so smooth before, she clothed with tawny manes, their fingers curved to claws; their arms were changed to legs; their chests swelled with new weight; with tails they swept the sandy ground; and in their eyes cruel anger blazed and growls they gave for speech. Their marriage-bed is now a woodland lair, and feared by men, but by the goddess tamed, they champ – two lions – the bits of Cybele.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.23.6
By the chariot of Gelon stands an ancient Zeus holding a scepter which is said to be an offering of the Hyblaeans. There were two cities in Sicily called Hybla, one surnamed Gereatis and the other Greater, it being in fact the greater of the two. They still retain their old names, and are in the district of Catana. Greater Hybla is entirely uninhabited, but Gereatis is a village of Catana, with a sanctuary of the goddess Hyblaea which is held in honor by the Sicilians. The people of Gereatis, I think, brought the image to Olympia. For Philistus, the son of Archomenides, says that they were interpreters of portents and dreams, and more given to devotions than any other foreigners in Sicily.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.36.2
Mount Thaumasios (Wonderful) lies beyond the river Maloitas, and the Methydrians hold that when Rhea was pregnant with Zeus, she came to this mountain and enlisted as her allies, in case Kronos should attack her, Hopladamos and his few Gigantes. They allow that she gave birth to her son on some part of Mount Lykaios, but they claim that here Kronos was deceived, and here took place the substitution of a stone for the child that is spoken of in the Greek legend. On the summit of the mountain is Rhea’s Cave, into which no human beings may enter save only the women who are sacred to the goddess.

Pindar’s Dithyramb Herakles the Bold
Wise are they that know what manner of festival of Bromios
the Ouranidai hold in their halls, hard by the sceptre of Zeus.
In the adorable presence of the mighty Mother of the Gods,
the prelude is the whirling of timbrels; there is also the ringing of rattles,
and the torch that blazeth beneath the glowing pine-trees.
There, too, are the loudly sounding laments of the Naides,
and there the frenzied shouts of dancers are aroused,
with the thong that tosseth the neck on high;
there too hath been brandished
the almighty fire-breathing thunderbolt of Zeus,
and the spear of Enyalios,
while the war-like aegis of Pallas resoundeth
with the hissings of countless serpents.
Meanwhile, lightly cometh the lone huntress Artemis,
who in Bacchic revels hath yoked the brood of savage lions for Bromios,
who is enchanted even by the dancing herds of wild beasts.

Scholiast on Pindar Olympian 1.26
When Klotho took Pelops from the pure cauldron Bacchylides says that it was Rheia who restored Pelops by lowering him again into the cauldron.

Pindar, Pythian Ode 1.15 ff
That enemy of the gods, who lies in fearsome Tartaros, Typhon the hundred-headed, who long since was bred in the far-famed Cilician cave. Today the cliffs that bar the sea o’er Kumai and Sikilia’s  isle, press heavy on his shaggy breast, and that tall pillar rising to the height of heaven, contains him close–Aitna the white-clad summit, nursing through all the year her frozen snows. From the dark depths below she flings aloft fountains of purest fires, that no foot can approach. In the broad light of day rivers of glowing smoke pour forth a lurid stream, and in the dark a red and rolling flood tumbles down the boulders to the deep sea’s plain in riotous clatter. These dread flames that creeping monster sends aloft, a marvel to look on, and a wondrous tale even to hear, from those whose eyes have seen it. Such is the being bound between the peaks of Aitna in her blackened leaves and the flat plain, while all his back is torn and scarred by the rough couch on which he lies outstretched.

Pindar, Pythian Ode 3.4
But now I wish to voice a prayer to the Mother,
the revered Goddess to whom,
and to great Pan young maids
before my door at nightfall often sing their praise.

Plato, Ion 533e-534b
For all good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as the Corybantic revellers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains: but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysos but not when they are in their right mind. And the soul of the lyric poet does the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Muses; they, like the bees, winging their way from flower to flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles.

Plato, Phaedrus 244de
Next, madness can provide relief from the greatest plagues of trouble that beset certain families because of their guilt for ancient crimes: it turns up among those who need a way out; it gives prophecies and takes refuge in prayers to the gods and in worship, discovering mystic rites and purifications that bring the man it touches through to safety for this and all time to come. So it is that the right sort of madness finds relief from present hardships for a man it has possessed.

Plutarch, Life of Themistokles 30.1
While Themistokles was asleep at midday before, it is said that the Mother of the Gods appeared to him in a dream and said : `O Themistokles, shun a head of lions, that thou mayest not encounter a lion. And for this service to thee, I demand of thee Mnesiptolema to be my handmaid.’ Much disturbed, of course, Themistokles, with a prayer of acknowledgment to the goddess, forsook the highway, made a circuit by another route, and passing by that place, at last, as night came on, took up his quarters.  Now, since one of the beasts of burden which carried the equipage of his tent had fallen into the river, the servants of Themistokles hung up the curtains which had got wet, and were drying them out. The Pisidians, at this juncture, sword in hand, made their approach, and since they could not see distinctly by the light of the moon what it was that was being dried, they thought it was the tent of Themistokles, and that they would find him reposing inside. But when they drew near and lifted up the hanging, they were fallen upon by the guards and apprehended. Thus Themistokles escaped the peril, and because he was amazed at the epiphany of the goddess, he built a temple in Magnesia in honor of Dindymene, and made his daughter Mnesiptolema her priestess.

Statius, Thebaid 10.170
The Idaean Mother summons from the terrible shrine the blood-stained Phrygian and makes him unconscious of his knife-hacked arms; he beats the holy pine-brands against his breast, and tosses his gory hair and deadens his wounds by running; all the country-side and the bespattered votary tree feels terror, and the panic-stricken lions rear the chariot high.

Statius, Thebaid 12.224
Upon a night in Phrygian Dindymus resounds with wailing, and the crazy leader of the women’s revel speeds to the waters of pine-rearing Simois–she to whom the goddess herself gave the knife, selecting her for bloodshed, and marked her with wool-bound wreath.

Stesichoros, Fragment 59
An ox-eating lion came to the cave-mouth; with the flat of his hand he struck the great timbrel he was carrying, and the whole cave rang with the din: the forest beast could not abide the holy booming of Kybele and raced quickly up the forested mountain, afraid of the goddess’ half-woman servant–who hung up as a dedication for Rheia these garments and yellow locks.

Strabo, selections from the tenth book of the Geography
The accounts which are more remotely related, however, to the present subject, but are wrongly, on account of the identity of the names, brought into the same connection by the historians — I mean those accounts which, although they are called “Curetan History” and “History of the Curetes,” just as if they were the history of those Curetes who lived in Aetolia and Acarnania, not only are different from that history, but are more like the accounts of the Satyri, Sileni, Bacchae, and Tityri; for the Curetes, like these, are called genii or ministers of gods by those who have handed down to us the Cretan and Phrygian traditions, which are interwoven with certain sacred rites, some mystical, the others connected in part with the rearing of the child Zeus in Crete and in part with the orgies in honour of the mother of the gods which are celebrated in Phrygia and in the region of the Trojan Ida. But the variation in these accounts is so small that, whereas some represent the Corybantes, the Cabeiri, the Idaean Dactyli, and the Telchines as identical with the Curetes, others represent them as all kinsmen of one another and differentiate only certain small matters in which they differ in respect to one another; but, roughly speaking and in general, they represent them, one and all, as a kind of inspired people and as subject to Bacchic frenzy, and, in the guise of ministers, as inspiring terror at the celebration of the sacred rites by means of war dances, accompanied by uproar and noise and cymbals and drums and arms, and also by flute and outcry; and consequently these rites are in a way regarded as having a common relationship, I mean these and those of the Samothracians and those in Lemnos and in several other places, because the divine ministers are called the same. However, every investigation of this kind pertains to theology, and is not foreign to the speculation of the philosopher.

But I must now investigate how it comes about that so many names have been used of one and the same thing, and the theological element contained in their history. Now this is common both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, to perform their sacred rites in connection with the relaxation of a festival, these rites being performed sometimes with religious frenzy, sometimes without it; sometimes with music, sometimes not; and sometimes in secret, sometimes openly. And it is in accordance with the dictates of nature that this should be so, for, in the first place, the relaxation draws the mind away from human occupations and turns the real mind towards that which is divine; and, secondly, the religious frenzy seems to afford a kind of divine inspiration and to be very like that of the soothsayer; and, thirdly, the secrecy with which the sacred rites are concealed induces reverence for the divine, which is to avoid being perceived by our human senses; and, fourthly, music, which includes dancing as well as rhythm and melody, at the same time, by the delight it affords and by its artistic beauty, brings us in touch with the divine, and this for the following reason; for although it has been well said that human beings then act most like the gods when they are doing good to others, yet one might better say, when they are happy; and such happiness consists of rejoicing, celebrating festivals, pursuing philosophy, and engaging in music; for, if music is perverted when musicians turn their arts to sensual delights at symposiums and in orchestric and scenic performances and the like, we should not lay the blame upon music itself, but should rather examine the nature of our system of education, since this is based on music.

And on this account Plato, and even before his time the Pythagoreans, called philosophy music; and they say that the universe is constituted in accordance with harmony, assuming that every form of music is the work of the gods. And in this sense, also, the Muses are goddesses, and Apollo is leader of the Muses, and poetry as a whole is laudatory of the gods. And by the same course of reasoning they also attribute to music the upbuilding of morals, believing that everything which tends to correct the mind is close to the gods. Now most of the Greeks assigned to Dionysos, Apollo, Hecatê, the Muses, and above all to Demeter, everything of an orgiastic or Bacchic or choral nature; and they give the name “Iacchus” not only to Dionysos but also to the leader-in chief of the mysteries, who is the genius of Demeter. And branch-bearing, choral dancing, and initiations are common elements in the worship of these gods. As for the Muses and Apollo, the Muses preside over the choruses, whereas Apollo presides both over these and the rites of divination. But all educated men, and especially the musicians, are ministers of the Muses; and both these and those who have to do with divination are ministers of Apollo; and the initiated and torch-bearers and hierophants, of Demeter; and the Sileni and Satyri and Bacchae, and also the Lenae and Thyiae and Mimallones and Naïdes and Nymphae and the beings called Tityri, of Dionysos.

The poets bear witness to such views as I have suggested. For instance, when Pindar, in the dithyramb which begins with these words, “In earlier times there marched the lay of the dithyrambs long drawn out,” mentions the hymns sung in honour of Dionysos, both the ancient and the later ones, and then, passing on from these, says, “To perform the prelude in thy honour, great Mother, the whirling of cymbals is at hand, and among them, also, the clanging of castanets, and the torch that blazeth beneath the tawny pine-trees,” he bears witness to the common relationship between the rites exhibited in the worship of Dionysos among the Greeks and those in the worship of the Mother of the gods among the Phrygians, for he makes these rites closely akin to one another. And Euripides does likewise, in his Bacchae, citing the Lydian usages at the same time with those of Phrygia, because of their similarity: “But ye who left Mt. Tmolus, fortress of Lydia, revel-band of mine, women whom I brought from the land of barbarians as my assistants and travelling companions, uplift the tambourines native to Phrygian cities, inventions of mine and mother Rhea.” And again, “happy he who, blest man, initiated in the mystic rites, is pure in his life, . . . who, preserving the righteous orgies of the great mother Cybelê, and brandishing the thyrsus on high, and wreathed with ivy, doth worship Dionysos. Come, ye Bacchae, come, ye Bacchae, bringing down Bromius, god the child of god; Dionysos, out of the Phrygian mountains into the broad highways of Greece.” And again, in the following verses he connects the Cretan usages also with the Phrygian: “O thou hiding-bower of the Curetes, and sacred haunts of Crete that gave birth to Zeus, where for me the triple-crested Corybantes in their caverns invented this hide-stretched circlet, and blent its Bacchic revelry with the high-pitched, sweet-sounding breath of Phrygian flutes, and in Rhea’s hands placed its resounding noise, to accompany the shouts of the Bacchae, and from Mother Rhea frenzied Satyrs obtained it and joined it to the choral dances of the Trieterides, in whom Dionysos takes delight.” And in the Palamedes the Chorus says, “Thysa, daughter of Dionysos, who on Ida rejoices with his dear mother in the Iacchic revels of tambourines.”

Also resembling these rites are the Cotytian and the Bendidaean rites practised among the Thracians, among whom the Orphic rites had their beginning. Now the Cotys who is worshipped among the Edonians, and also the instruments used in her rites, are mentioned by Aeschylus; for he says, “O adorable Cotys among the Edonians, and ye who hold mountain-ranging instruments”; and he mentions immediately afterwards the attendants of Dionysos: “one, holding in his hands the bombyces, toilsome work of the turner’s chisel, fills full the fingered melody, the call that brings on frenzy, while another causes to resound the bronze-bound cotylae”; and again, “stringed instruments raise their shill cry, and frightful mimickers from some place unseen bellow like bulls, and the semblance of drums, as of subterranean thunder, rolls along, a terrifying sound”; for these rites resemble the Phrygian rites, and it is at least not unlikely that, just as the Phrygians themselves were colonists from Thrace, so also their sacred rites were borrowed from there. Also when they identify Dionysos and the Edonian Lycurgus, they hint at the homogeneity of their sacred rites.

Just as in all other respects the Athenians continue to be hospitable to things foreign, so also in their worship of the gods; for they welcomed so many of the foreign rites that they were ridiculed therefor by the comic writers; and among these were the Thracian and Phrygian rites. For instance, the Bendideian rites are mentioned by Plato, and the Phrygian by Demosthenes, when he casts the reproach upon Aeschines’ mother and Aeschines himself that he was with her when she conducted initiations, that he joined her in leading the Dionysiac march, and that many a time he cried out êvoe saboe, and hyês attês, attês hyês; for these words are in the ritual of Sabazius and the Mother.

Suidas s.v. Kybele
Kybele : Rheia. So named from the Kybela mountains; for she is a mountain goddess; that is why she rides in a chariot drawn by a team of lions. Effeminates are present in the mysteries of Rheia.

Scholiast on Theokritos 1.65
Aitna is a mountain in Sicily, named after Aitna, daughter of Ouranos and Ge, according to Alkimos in his work on Sicily. Simonides says that Aitna decided between Hephaistos and Demeter when they quarrelled over possession of the land.

Timotheus, Fragment 791
If one could fall at queenly knees,
black-leaf-robed,
of the Mountain Mother
and casting one’s beautiful arms about them might pray,
‘Gold-tressed Mother of the Gods,
save, I beseech you, my life,
yes mine,
for which refuge is hard to find.’

Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 3. 20 ff
Cyzicus upon his swift horse shook Dindymus where votaries revel with bloodstained arms, and wearied the woods, he was betrayed by his too great love of the chase; for with his javelin he slew a lion that was wont to bear its mistress through the cities of Phrygia and was now returning to the bridle. And now (madman!) hath he hung from his doorposts the mane and the head of his victim, a spoil to bring sorrow to himself and shame upon the goddess. But she, nursing her great rage, beholds from the cymbal-clashing mountain the ship [of the Argonauts] with its border of kingly shields, and devises against the hero deaths and horrors unheard of: how in the night to set allied hands at strife in unnatural war, how to enmesh the city in cruel error.

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