The Rites of the Day of Blood (dies sanguinis) in the Graeco-Roman Cult of Cybele and Attis

A Cognitive Historiographical Approach

Authors

  • Panayotis Pachis Aristotle University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jch.39915

Keywords:

Cybele and Attis, extreme rituals, maladaptive beliefs, sex and gender in Antiquity, Cognitive Science of Religion

Abstract

The cult of Cybele and Attis was an ancient cult disseminated throughout the entire Roman Empire. Among the rites held by its followers, there were the so-called Day of Blood (dies sanguinis) which, according to the Calendar (or Chronography) of Philocalus (354 CE), was celebrated on 24 March. On this day the worshipers and priests (galli) of Cybele/Attis flagellated themselves until they bled profusely, and with their blood they sprinkled Cybele’s effigy as well as the altars of the temple, while the initiates castrated themselves and offered their testes to the goddess as a real-life imitation of what happened mythologically to the goddess’ consort Attis. The present contribution offers a preliminary systemization of this glaringly maladaptive and quite puzzling belief-behaviour complex in the anthropological and neurocognitive frame of the so-called extreme rituals, highlighting the specific in-group benefit reaped by worshipers and initiates (e.g., community cohesion through costly signalling and credibilityenhancing displays).

Author Biography

Panayotis Pachis, Aristotle University

Panayotis Pachis is Professor of Religious Studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. He is the editor of Studies in Hellenistic Religions (Cascade Books, 2018), Chasing Down Religion: In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences, co-edited with Donald Wiebe (Equinox, 2014), and author of Religion and Politics in the Graeco-Roman World: Redescribing the Isis-Sarapis Cult (Barbounakis, 2010). The author would like to thank Dimitris Xygalatas, the editors of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography, and the anonymous reviewer for their valuable contributions regarding bibliography, suggestions, and criticisms.

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Published

2020-11-06

How to Cite

Pachis, P. . (2020). The Rites of the Day of Blood (dies sanguinis) in the Graeco-Roman Cult of Cybele and Attis: A Cognitive Historiographical Approach. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 5(1-2), 37–55. https://doi.org/10.1558/jch.39915

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