Cybele Cybele, officially known as Mater Deum Magna Idea (Great Idean Mother of the Gods). The Great Mother was especially prominent in the art of the empire. She usually appears with a mural crown and veil, seated on a throne or in a chariot, and accompanied by two lions. Cybele was the Phrygian form of the nature deity of all Asia Minor, she was a universal mother, parent not only of the gods but also human beings and beasts. She was called the Mountain Mother, and special emphasis was placed on her maternity over wild nature; this was manifested by the orgiastic character of her worship.

Her mythical attendants, the Corybantes were wild, half-demonic beings. Her priests, the galli, castrated themselves on entering her service. The self-mutilation was justified by the myth that her lover, the fertility god Attis, had emasculated himself under a pine tree, where he bled to death. At Cybeles annual festival (March 15-27), a pine tree was cut and brought to her shrine, where it was honoured as a god and adorned with violets considered to have sprung from the blood of Attis. On March 24, the “Day of Blood,” her chief priest, the archigallus, drew blood from his arms and offered it to her to the music of cymbals, drums, and flutes, while the lower clergy whirled madly and slashed themselves to bespatter the alter and the sacred pine with their blood.

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