The Corybants, originally of Oriental origin though most well known in their Greco-Roman aspect, worshipped Cybele, a Phrygian fertility/mother goddess.

Their rites tended toward wild, usually orgiastic, celebrations wherein they would dance wildly to flute and drum music, two instruments sacred to Cybele. These rituals, rumored to have the ability to cure insanity in those participating, appear reminiscent to those of Bacchus (aka Dionysus in Greek), albeit with less alcohol and more sex. Both Aristophanes and Euripides provide literary supports for the similarity in rites, comparing the Corybants as insane hedonists to the Bacchanale's/Maenids' drunkenness.

Note that the ideas of "sex" and "orgiastic" as used above must take a somewhat loose interpretation - As part of the Corybantic initiation, male petitioners cut off their own genitalia and sacrificed them to Attis, the mortal love of Cybele (the story of which closely parallels that of Venus and Adonis).

To those familiar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the Corybantic rituals form the most direct basis of the followers of Azathoth. Compare the following two passages:
Azathoth gnaws shapelessly and ravenously amidst the muffled, maddening beat of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes
Stirred by the wild barbaric music of clashing cymbals, rumbling drums, droning horns, and screaming flutes, the inferior clergy whirled about in the dance with waggling heads and streaming hair...
The first, by Lovecraft, refers to Azathoth. The second, by Frazer, refers to the rites of Cybele as practiced in Pessinus.

H.P. Lovecraft, "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath"
Sir James George Frazer, "The Golden Bough"

Cor"y*bant (k?r"?-b?nt), n.; pl. E. Corybants (-bnts), oftener L. Corybantes (-bn"tz). [L. Corybas, Gr. .]

One of the priests of Cybele in Phrygia. The rites of the Corybants were accompanied by wild music, dancing, etc.


© Webster 1913.

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