The story of Attis (pronounced /ˈætɪs/; Greek: Ἄττις, also Ἄτυς, Ἄττυς, Ἄττης), god of vegetation, began in Phrygia. His repeated cycle of consuming himself, dying and resurrecting represents the agricultural cycle.
The daemon Agdistis is linked to both the birth and death of Attis. Agdistis had both female and male reproductive organs. The gods feared this and plotted his death. Tricked into swallowing a sleeping potion, the gods tied his male genitalia to his foot. He castrated himself when he woke and stood. His blood fell to earth fertilizing the ground. An almond tree grew where it fell. The daughter of the river god Sangarius, Nana, picked almonds from the tree and carried them at her bosom. The almonds disappeared and Nana became pregnant with Attis.
Nana abandoned her baby. A he-goat found him and cared for him. Eventually, a couple became his foster parents.
Attis grew into a handsome man with long hair and god-like features. He got engaged to the daughter of King Midas of Pessinos. However, Agdistis in the guise of the earth mother goddess Cybele fell in love with him on sight.
During Attis’ wedding, as the vocalist performed the wedding song, a jealous Agdistis/Cybele attacked, driving the bride, groom and the father of the bride mad. Attis and his father-in-law castrated themselves in front of the wedding guests. The bride cut off her own breasts.
Attis died as a result of his self-inflicted wounds. The heartbroken Agdistis begged Zeus, the Father God, to preserve Attis so his body would never decay or decompose.
Attis – Memory Preservation & Worship
Although a mortal, Attis was venerated and worshipped. Originally a part of the pantheon of Phrygia, the Greeks added him to their pantheon, also elevating him to an agriculture god. A statue of him stands at the Shrine of Attis on the Campus of the Magna Mater in Ostia Antica, Italy. Another statue which was at the mouth of Rome’s river, now resides in the Vatican museum. It depicts Attis reclining post-castration holding a shepherd’s crook in his left hand and a pomegranate in his right. He wears a pine garland with fruits interwoven and a Phrygian cap featuring a crescent moon. Attisian priests were eunuchs, following in the footsteps of their god. Artifacts found in Herculaneum, such as a wood throne that featured a relief of Attis beneath a sacred pine gathering pine cones, indicate the Attis cult was popular in 79 AD, when Mount Vesuvius erupted.
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