Sweet Muse of Madness
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In the novel, Sweet Muse of Madness, Corybas is the older son of Cybele and Attis of Thessalia.  Like everyone on the bustling farmhold, Corybas does his fair share of the practical chores, but is better known to his contemporaries for his activities in the healing arts, music and dance.  He sings not only of the Earth Goddess, but of the deity Eros and the World Snake.  Corybas has become a master of ceremonies, of a sort, in regard to the observance of the Solstices and Equinoxes, crucial to the People of the Plain for sowing and harvesting, and also in regard to organizing the Maddening, an annual festival in which the forces of Nature and the tempests of the human spirit converge in an unbounded expression of pain and pleasure, ugliness and beauty.

Above all, Corybas is the Caretaker of the Sacred Grove, where live the God-Queen and God-King.  As Caretaker, he and he alone may speak to but never look upon the divine inhabitants of this inviolate realm.  But this function is complicated by the fact that the most recent God-Queen happens to be his own sister, Ilithyia, who, with her husband and two wild daughters, comprise a family that is less than perfect in the fulfillment of its special status on the Plain.  Thus Corybas’ judgment is regularly challenged in balancing his love and loyalty to his sister and her family on the one hand, and on the other, his devotion to the People of the Plain and to the land itself, which require a God-Queen and God-King who reflect the highest standards of health and wisdom.  This is no small issue for Corybas, for if the divine Queen and King fail to project the life sustaining power of the Goddess into the soil, they must be sacrificed and replaced, and it is for the Caretaker to decide when that dreaded moment must come.

As if these responsibilities are not burdensome enough, Corybas must work with Cybele and Attis in slowing the advance of the merchant-priest In-Shushinak’s Patriarchal God, whose Law of Heavenly Imposition contrasts sharply with the Interactive Character of the Goddess.


Corybas, the mythological child of the Phrygian nature goddess Cybele, is best known for lending his name to the Corybantes, who worshipped their female deity with frenzied celebrations which often resulted in self-mutilations.  These mutilations could be interpreted as an attempt to be transformed, as the seasons themselves transform, or an attempt to shed oneself of one identity, and be reborn into another.  This reflects the death and rebirth of Cybele’s male consort, Attis, and echoes the sacrifice and resurrection of the Phoenician Adonis and the Judean Jesus.

In classical Greece, festivals such as the Thesmophoria and Eleusinia recognized not only the change from winter to spring, but the transformation of  “sacrificed” seed, into “resurrected” crop.  Supposedly, these historical festivals included the sacrifice of animals, and sexually explicit re-enactments of the unions of the gods.

Another mythological aspect relevant to the character of Corybas in the novel, Sweet Muse of Madness, involves the being knows as Eros.  The earliest historical references to Eros described him as an entity rising out of Chaos, the Great Abyss.  As such, Eros was that force which bound the entire material Cosmos together, and further, was present in the attraction human beings had for one another.  In my novel, the People of the Plain think of Eros as an Eternal Weaver, holding the universe as a fabric with the World Snake as thread.

In later Roman times, Eros was demoted to a mischievous god of romantic love called Cupid, with his more profound meaning all but lost.

Nevertheless, if we consider our modern scientific understanding of gravity, and color it with the mutual attraction of human beings, we can approach an appreciation of the ubiquitous and beautiful presence of Eros in the lives of the earliest Greeks.