Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Cult of Attis

From Archaeology Magazine online

Images: An Augustan-era fresco, left, in Rome depicts a chair with details similar to one recently found in Herculaneum, below. (Courtesy Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei)

Cult Chair
Volume 61 Number 2, March/April 2008
by Jarrett A. Lobell

Archaeologists have unearthed a wealth of information on the ancient villas of the Bay of Naples, but they know almost nothing about the furniture that filled the sumptuously decorated homes. Most pieces were destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Now excavators working in Herculaneum, near the famous Villa of the Papyri, have uncovered parts of a remarkable chair.

Made of wood and ivory, the chair is the first of its type ever found. Although fragmentary, its decorations depict scenes of the cult of Attis, a Near Eastern deity who was driven mad by the goddess Cybele and castrated himself, only to be reborn as a pine tree. On the chair are scenes of a pine tree with offerings at its base, Dionysos leaning on a pine, and a satyr with a pine, as well as cupids playing cymbals. The images allude to the celebration of the death and rebirth of Attis, who was introduced to the Romans under the reign of the emperor Claudius (r. A.D. 41-54).

© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of Americawww.archaeology.org/0803/trenches/chair.html
What are the odds these chairs are related to the much earlier chairs/goddess thrones that I posted about:



And then, there is the connection to the goddess Cybele, with the Attis/Cyble redux of the earlier Osiris/Isis and Damuzi/Inanna legends. There is also the connection of the goddess to the tree (sacred tree, sacred poles, sacred groves, for instance) in the forms of Hathor, Asherah and Inanna - iconography that dates back (working from memory, don't have my notes or prior posts in front of me!) about 5,500 years. What is the symbol of the pine tree, except the "delta" of the goddess depicted upside down? Take a look at the goat/ibex leaping to eat the leaves of the "trees" on the earlier post tonight. Aren't those nothing but "upside down" pine trees?

Attis being "reborn" in the form of a pine tree is, I think, a metaphor for the eternal union of the male and female goddesses who, through their union, create something greater than either.

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