The Goddess Cybele – Matron of the Transgender and Intersexed in the Greco-Roman World (part I of V)

There is much in my life which does not fit the factual rationalism of modern society. Don’t misread my words, I feel blessed beyond words to be living in 21st century America. Science and medicine have empowered me with great knowledge of the natural world and have enabled my safe transformation from male to female. My family and church community are supportive of my faith-convictions, in all my unabashed heterodoxy. Safe at home in the U.S., I need not fear the hate-filled religion wielded by such enemies as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

For over ten years now, I’ve been in a state of constant spiritual longing for an Unnamed Goddess. Over recent months, however, I’ve discovered a named Goddess who inspires in me some powerful emotions not unlike falling in love. Mythology and history of the Greeks and Romans reveals the Mother of the Gods, Cybele, (pronounced “KIB-i-lah”), who speaks directly to my condition. Through reading about Her, I feel as if I’ve somehow become matched with a lover though a dating site. Hence, what follows are eight reasons why Cybele, Mother of the Gods, is such an uncanny spiritual match to my life:

I. Cybele, the Great Mother, is the Middle-Eastern-Greco-Roman Goddess associated with mountains and alpine forests. Though She seems to be understood as distinct from Mother Earth or Mother Nature, Cybele is nonetheless characterized by a love for wild animals. She has a special love for lions and diurnal birds of prey such as hawks. Since childhood, I’ve had an intense love for my home at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. Prior to my enrollment in graduate school at Georgia Tech, I volunteered in census studies of migrating hawks and eagles for HawkWatch International in the Bridger Mountains of Montana. To this day, my preferred recreation is scaling a high hill or mountain to be amid the trees and other plants, which seem as close friends.

II. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, Cybele was ministered to by a priesthood of cross-gender eunuchs (i.e., male-to-female transgender-like individuals). Three cities were renowned in the ancient world for their eunuch priesthoods dedicated to the Great Mother: Pessinus in central Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), Ephesus on the coast of the Aegean Sea (also in Turkey), and Rome. Given the Roman propensity for writing things down, most of the historical records concerning the priesthood and worship of Cybele come from Rome. In the modern world, I too often feel alienated by the femme-phobia and patriarchy of established religion. Through Her transgender and/or female priesthood, Cybele inspires my yearnings for a physical and spiritual home for myself and like-hearted persons.

In summary, the Great Mother Cybele mirrors many of my own personality traits. In the posts which follow, I discuss the other six reasons why Cybele is likely the spiritual love of my life.

Detail of Cybele, Great Mother, seated on Her Chariot throne. Roman Bronze, 2nd half 2nd century BCE. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Detail of Cybele, Great Mother, seated on Her Chariot throne. Roman Bronze, 2nd half 2nd century BCE. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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