About the Kabiroi

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Posted by Achilles on May 21, 2002 at 23:47:10:

About the Kabiroi

by Nikodemos

Greetings Brothers and Sisters, I'm writing this Paper on the Kabiroi because I think there is a lot of knowledge about them that needs to be told. This knowledge is not of a practical occult use, it may just give an impression of the nature of the Kabiroi.

The term or name "Kabiroi" is found at two different places in ancient Greece. The first place is at Thebes on the Peleponnes of the Greek mainland where the sanctuary of Kabeiros, Pais and Hephaistos is situated. The God Kabeiros is in its appearance and its iconography similar to the God Dionysos and so were the rites of his cult similar to those of the Dionysian mysteries. The Members of the ancient mysteries, that were held at the Kabeiros sanctuary in Thebes as well as the three Gods, Kabeiros Pais and Hephaistos, were called "Kabireoi" by the members themselves.

Secondly there were the Kabiroi of which the mysteries were celebrated at the Island of Samothrake. Asking the question if they were similar to the Kabiroi at Thebes, the answer is: NO. The members or initiates of the mysteries at Samothrake did not call their Gods or themselves Kabiroi, and had nothing to do with the mysteries at Thebes. So the question remains, why are the Gods of Samothrake called Kabiroi?

And the answer is the following: because the ancient historian Herodot made a mistake. Back in antiquity he travelled the Greek world and reported on any religious Group he encountered, to gain an image of ancient Greeks' religious beliefs. When he visited Samothrake, he recognized that there were different stages of initiation as in Eleusis, a trinity of Deities as in Eleusis and Thebes. And because he wanted to see similarities to Eleusis and Thebes, he called the Gods of Samothrake Kabiroi.

This leads to the question, how the Initiates called their Gods?

In the early stages of the mysteries, the Gods of Samothrake were simply called "Theoi" or "Theoi megaloi", which means "the great Gods". They had no individual names and as what they were imagined is too uncertain. Some believe they were imagined as Giants, others think they looked like dwarves or Gnomes and a third belief is that they were more something like cosmical principals. Later in the classical period the initiates gave them names. They were called Axieros, Axiokersos and Axiokersa followed by a fourth figure that was added later in times of the Roman Empire called Kadmillos.

It is quite certain that the origins of this cult can be found in the near or mid-east. Some postulate Babylonic, some Egyptian and some a Hebraic-Semitic origin. If we stay with the semitic theory for a moment and search for a term, that corresponds with the Greek "Theoi megaloi" we find the word "kabirim". So maybe it isn't so wrong to call the Gods of Samothrake Kabiroi after all. But again, the reason why they are called like this by Herodot and later historians is quite surely wrong because there is no evidence, that the members of the cult called their Gods other than "Theoi megaloi".

If we try now to analyze the nature of the great Gods of Samothrake, we face a big problem. This problem is the origin of the cult. As we can see, Axiokersa is female and Axieros and Axiokersos are male, so the question that has to be answered is: Who is above whom?

According to the fact, that in the most areas of the world, at the dawn of human culture, the first religious belief was in a great mother goddess, the theory, that Axiokersa was such a great mother, and Axieros and Axiokersos were her first sons, of which she took Axiokersos as a husband, is a possible answer to the asked question. But to me it is too easy to answer this question with analogies to other early cults, as modern archaeology does oftentimes. The big problem I was referring to is the fact, that possible Origins of the Cult are Egypt and the geographic site called Israel today. Those two cultures were of the rare exceptions, because their first Gods were either male (Egypt) or of no gender at all (Hebraic-Semitic). Archaeological research and historic knowledge do let us make a final conclusion. So it remains personal choice, if the great gods of Samothrake are viewed as a trinity with a great mother in the leading role or as the male principle (Axiokersos) and the female principle (Axiokers) uniting as Sol and Luna, to give birth to Axieros as Mercury.

But as a student of the Qabalah there is besides the classic view with a great mother, and the alchemical view with the male and female principle uniting and giving birth to a third principle, there another point of view. Analyzing the names we see, that Axiokersa and Axiokersos are the same name, one is male and one is female. So in a way, they must be on the same level. On the other side we have Axieros, which can be seen as a conjunction of "axios" (worthy) and "hieros" (holy).

As the name Axieros can be seen as the older one, because it is shorter, and because it actually has no gender, it may refer to the first principle. Keeping in mind that the great gods of Samothrake may originate in the Hebraic-Semitic culture, we can see them as the three Qabalistic supernals with Axieros as Kether or Arik Anpin, Axiokersos as Chockmah or Abba and Axiokersa as Binah or Aima.

Funny enough, for the fourth being, Kadmilos, who was added later as we know, we find the Etruscian-Latin word "cadmillus" which means "bearer of the sacrifice". So it is possible to connect Kadmillos to Tiphereth, the Christ center of the tree of life or to Zauir Anpin.

Personally I prefer this last version, but as stated earlier, there are different ways to look the great gods of Samothrake, and whatever you choose is personal choice.

collected by: Achilles

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