In a couple of posts a little bit back, I mentioned that I found the Tet/Yud permutation particularly interesting in contemplation. A few days ago, while reading through one of the articles in Anatolian Interfaces, I came across a story about a gallos that informs it.
For convenience, I’ll quote it in full:
“A gallos, taking shelter from the wintry falling of snow, entered a desolate cave. He had just wiped the sleet from his hair, when in his footsteps came a cattle-devouring lion down the hollow path. But the gallos with outspread hand beat the big tympanon that he held and the whole cave echoed with the sound. The forest-dwelling beast could not bear the holy noise of Cybele, but rushed swiftly up the tree-covered hill, in fear of the half-woman servant of the goddess, who dedicated to Rhea these robes and yellow locks.”—qtd. in Patrick Taylor, “The GALA and the Gallos,” in Anatolian Interfaces (174)
The story is a structuralist dream, full of contrasts and sympathies, but I want to focus on the key one here, the gallos and the lion. Through those figures, we can join the story to some of the core architecture of the Sefer Yetzirah.
Tet and Yud represent Leo (the lion) and Virgo (the virgin), but let’s go deeper. According to the Saadia retention of the Sefer Yetzirah
“With Tet He formed these: Leo, Av, right kidney, taste and hunger. With Yud He formed these: Virgo, Elul, left kidney, coition and castration.”—trans. in Aryeh Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah in Theory and Practice (293)
The lion in this story is hungry (the negative state of Tet) and the gallos is, by definition, castrated (the negative condition of Yud). In the gallos’s victory over the lion, we see what is often asserted spatially in figures of the great Mother asserted temporally—namely, her superiority over the beasts, especially the lion.
The story is important for Taylor because he can trace the elements of it back into the Sumerian proverbs and to cultus there. In other words, it provides one end of a transmission that passes through the Anatolian region and into the Near East proper. It’s amusing, too, that in the same volume is a piece tracing Cybele firmly back to Syrian worship of Kubaba through the same trails.
The story is important to me because it helps me think a little more clearly about the magical dimensions of these sorts of folkloric tales. Much like an icon, they are a vivid and concise sketch of a set of forces around which a potent spiritual force manifests. That Tet also has associations with the snake and Yud with the hand is similarly evocative, for we can see the hints of Ialdabaoth in the lion-snake and the hand of Eve that takes the apple.
(Notice, too, that through the Aramaeans, we can join the figure of Kubaba to Hebat, and through that to Eve herself. Hebat who is related to a Illuyanka the serpent. And so on down the line. Appearing again and again on the moving surfaces of these diasporas. Cybele and Eve forming roughly contemporary expressions of the same potency. Mother, mother. That Kubaba is an alewife throws open so many doors, ones that stretch into the northerly diasporas [Lady with the Mead Cup territory] and suggests flashes of sympathy with the contemporary Highland Maya stories of Jesus recounted in Stanzione’s Rituals of Sacrifice. But, as I keep remind myself, one thing at a time.)
What I said regarding Revelation as folkloric operating system applies here, too, except here we see the operating system’s mechanism at work. Set alongside the Kabbalistic practice of permutations, what starts to become apparent is that we are looking at ways to hack the system, to access it and get it to run new operations.
I don’t want to go too far with that metaphor. Folklore, myth, and ritual are at least two-sided, facing both us and the spirits. The medium to which we transmit the scripts aren’t passive but active and conscious. It is also the means through which those spirits are readily able to feed back information to us.
Oh, here, for bonus points, let me quote something else. Look back up to the story about the gallos and notice that the story highlights the forest even through the action takes place in a cave. Mark Munn talks about one key vector for Kubaba becoming Kybele being related to a place name sacred to the figure, a place mentioned in an account by Strabo about
“a place near Mount Mimas in the territory of Erythae, a ‘tall, well-wooded mountain, filled with wild game’ (Strabo, Geog. 14.1.33), exactly the sort of place associated with the Mother of the Gods, and with Κυβέλη, by Greek sources.”—”Kybele as Kubaba in a Lydo-Phrygian Context” in Anatolian Interfaces (161)
Interesting, isn’t it?
I am not mentioning all of this to prove a historical point so much as to point out these underlying, deep forms through which these figures keep manifesting. While I initially mentioned the article about the historical Midas off-handedly, simply as interesting in itself, I thought I should flag that it forms a node in this discussion, too. The Midas Monument is also a shrine to Cybele.