God of the Week: Attis

God of the Week 8/3/09: Attis

AttisThe religion of Attis appears to have originated in Phrygia (in what is now Turkey) around 1400BCE. The religion spread though out Asia Minor and was adopted in Rome around 200 BCE. Attis was a dying and rising savior god and a god of vegetation.

The rites of Attis included a sacred meal and a form of baptism known as the “taurobolium.” In this rite the recipient descended into a pit over which a live bull on a grill was slaughtered, the animal’s blood pouring down over him.
-Earl Doherty, The Mystery Cults and Christianity Part One: Introduction and Survey of the Cults

In the passion myth of Attis, he castrates himself under a pine tree as atonement for his infidelity to the goddess Kybele and bleeds to death. In emulation of their god, the priests of Attis would castrate themselves during ecstatic rituals (you just don’t find priests showing that kind of dedication today).

Our information as to the nature of these mysteries and the date of their celebration is unfortunately very scanty, but they seem to have included a sacramental meal and a baptism of blood. In the sacrament the novice became a partaker of the mysteries by eating out of a drum and drinking out of a cymbal, two instruments of music which figured prominently in the thrilling orchestra of Attis.

-Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough, chapter 34

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