Sweet Muse of Madness
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While still a youth, Attis of the Clutch of the Sun Stones rallied the People of the Plain against the blue-eyed, yellow-haired raiders from the north, thus earning the respect of all the mortals of the flatlands. His reputation was enhanced when he married Cybele of Thessalia, and with her transformed their farmhold into a living symbol of dignity and fairness.

Now, as a father, Attis the Stout has encouraged his first son, Corybas, to celebrate the Goddess in music and dance, and his second son, Educas, to investigate the forces of nature and invent new tools by which the People may work the land. With his blessing, Ilithyia, Attis’ one and only daughter, has become God-Queen of the Sacred Grove, and given him and his beloved Cybele two beautiful grandchildren.

In the novel, Sweet Muse of Madness, Attis Whitebeard, the highly regarded elder, must maintain peace and order in a land of wild passions and bloody rituals, and must do so not through force of arms, but through wisdom and a sense of justice.


In the religion of ancient Phrygia (now modern Turkey), Attis was the male companion of the goddess Cybele. His mythological function essentially was to be sacrificed and then resurrected in the various forms of nature. He was simultaneously the male seed that fertilizes the Earth Mother, and the buried corpse that disintegrates into the earth and reintegrates into new life. Thus the forces of life and death were deemed as one. Cybele was, in a way, the “overseer” of this cyclic process. In this sense, Attis was to Cybele what Tammuz was to Ishtar in Babylonia, what Adonis was to Astarte in Phoenicia, and what Osiris was to Isis in Egypt.

Sometimes the relationship between the “overseer” goddess and the “sacrificial” character was not female and male consort, but rather parent and child. The Virgin Mother Mary and Jesus Christ of ancient Judaea was one example. Another example was in Greece, where the Cybele religion eventually spread. There, the goddess Demeter, in the most common version of the myth, allowed her daughter, Persephone, to descend to the underworld, causing the world to die in winter. Persephone then returned to her mother in spring, with the world reborn.

The presence of a pair of characters in what mythologists call the “vegetative cycle,” may reflect something beyond the obvious dualities of female-male, or parent-child. The pair may represent a compromise myth between the worshippers of two different deities. Another explanation may be that the pair reflects a period of transition in a given culture, in which the worship of a “sacrificial” deity who dwells within the earth and actually causes the seasons to undergo physical change, is gradually giving way to the worship of an “overseer” deity, who dwells outside of nature, and does not require the material world in order to exist. In Sweet Muse of Madness, I explore through fiction the reasons why such a cultural transition might take place, why the “overseer” function is taken over by a patriarchal god, and what the results, for good or ill, of such change might be.

The literary relationship between Attis Whitebeard and Cybele the Compassionate does not exactly mirror that of their mythological counterparts. However, in my novel, the two elders of Thessalia do in their own way exhibit a commitment to their people and to the land that is equal in profundity to the commitment revealed by their mythic namesakes.