Digression: The Divinity of Nongender and Transgender Love

Gilded silver urn lid showing Cybele and Attis in the Megalesia procession.

Detail from an urn lid found in Parabiago Italy, showing Cybele (left) with her shepherd-eunuch lover, Attis (right), in a lion-drawn chariot surrounded by warrior-dancers in a springtime festival procession. Milan, Civic Archaeological Museum.

The Greek and Roman worlds were male-dominated and violently patriarchal. At the same time their mythology, religion, and art hint at a subtle, glowing ember of awareness of the sexless and genderless nature of Divine Love. The silver urn cover portrays the un-sexed love-affair between the Great Mother, Cybele, and the young, shockingly handsome, but somewhat effeminate shepherd, Attis. Obviously, Cybele is quite the cougar! Unfortunately, in the various re-tellings of the love-story, Attis meets a tragic death. In some versions of the story, he is brought back to life every spring to ride beside his Divine Lover in Her festival chariot. Attis is brought back to life as a eunuch, a person considered female or third-sex by the Romans. Hence, the silver urn cover likely shows the springtime celebration, the Roman Megalesia, performed by the eunuch priestesses and eunuch warrior-dancers in celebration of the happier version of the Cybele and Attis love-story. Interestingly enough, Cybele was believed to have begun Her existence as Agdistis, a person both male and female, before transforming to the unambiguously female Great Mother.

When I gaze at the two figures riding together in the lion-drawn chariot, I see myself beside my partner Monica. Monica characterizes herself as a blending of her previous male self with the gentle and nurturing woman I live with today. The Goddess as the matronly lover beside Her Attis in the city festival chariot contrasts starkly from Her previous life as the bi-gendered Agdistis in the remote mountains of Asia Minor. As I grow in my awareness and love for the Goddess in my daily life, my sense of love and commitment to my partner increases. For Monica is my Cybele.

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One thought on “Digression: The Divinity of Nongender and Transgender Love

  1. Wow, Darlene! This is powerful writing! I’m impressed, amazed, and in awe of your intellect, passion, scholarship, and the beauty of your soul and. You are truly a remarkable woman.

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