39. Κορύβαντος

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Korývas, the Korývandæs, and the Orphic Hymn to the God

Korývas (Corybas, Κορύβας) is one of the Korývandæs (Corybantes, Κορύβαντες). In line three of this hymn he is also called Kourítis (Κούρητα), a member of the Kourítæs (Curetes, Κουρῆτες). Who are the Korývandæs and the Kourítæs? There is some confusion concerning them. Amongst several opinions, the historian/geographer Strávohn (Strabo, Στράβων) outlines a simple way to understand them: they are of one stock, armed divine youths given to Rǽa (Rhea, Ῥέα) by the Titánæs (elsewhere they are said to have been her children or those of the Earth). Those which we call the Kourítæs were sent by the Goddess to Zefs (Ζεὺς) in Kríti (Crete, Κρήτη); those who are with her are the Korývandæs. [1]

According to the historian Diódohros (Diodorus of Sicily, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), Kyvǽli (Cybele, Κυβέλη) married Iasíöhn (Iasion, Ἰασίων) and begot Korývas. He gave his name to the Korývandæs, young men, who in practicing his Mother's Mysteries, act as if possessed. Korývas married Thívi (Thebe, Θήβη), the daughter of Kílix (Cilix, Κίλιξ). [2]

There is an unknown myth about Korývas referred to in line six of the hymn. The Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς) tells a story, that two Korývandæs killed their brother (Korývas?). His sexual organs were placed in a casket and were the object of Mysteries. Because of this, Clement says they called him Áttis (Ἄττις, refer to his story) and equated him with Diónysos (Διόνυσος). [3] Clement does not mention Korývas by name.

There are other potential interpretations of this hymn. Encouraged by the Earth-Mother (Δηώ), Korývas transforms himself into a dragon; he is a God with two natures (θεὸν διφυῆ), both God and beast. Two brothers [4] bloody (αἱμαχθέντα) Korývas. The hymn does not state that they are his brothers. They cannot kill him, for he is a God. Korývas is connected with panic and fear. The two brothers kill fear, and Korývas, the God and dragon, becomes our protector.

In truth, Korývas is a cryptic deity, along with the dancing Kourítæs and Korývandæs, both groups of divinities which play prominent roles in the Orphic theogony. But one thing is clear from reading his hymn, Korývas is a great boon to mankind, for he frees us from fear.

The ancient Greek text:

39. Κορύβαντος, θυμίαμα, λίβανον.

Κικλήσκω χθονὸς ἀενάου βασιλῆα μέγιστον,   
Κύρβαντ’ ὀλβιόμοιρον, Ἀρήιον, ἀπροσόρατον,
νυκτερινὸν Κούρητα, φόβων ἀποπαύστορα δεινῶν,
φαντασιῶν ἐπαρωγόν, ἐρημοπλάνον Κορύβαντα,
αἰολόμορφον ἄνακτα, θεὸν διφυῆ, πολύμορφον,   5
φοίνιον, αἱμαχθέντα κασιγνήτων ὑπὸ δισσῶν·
Δηοῦς ὃς γνώμῃσιν ἐνήλλαξας δέμας ἁγνόν,
θηρότυπον θέμενος μορφὴν δνοφεροῖο δράκοντος·
κλῦθι, μάκαρ, φωνῶν, χαλεπὴν δ’ ἀποπέμπεο μῆνιν,
παύων φαντασίας ψυχῆς ἐκπλήκτου ἀνάγκης.   10


Reuchlinian transliteration of the ancient Greek text:

39. Korývandos, thymíama, lívanon.

Kiklískoh khthonós aænáou vasilía mǽyiston,   
Kýrvand’ olviómiron, Aríion, aprosóraton,
nyktærinón Kourita, phóvohn apopáfstora deinóhn,
phantasióhn æparohgón, ærimoplánon Korývanda,
aiolómorphon ánakta, thæón diphyí, polýmorphon,   
phínion, aimakhthǽnda kasignítohn ypó dissóhn;
Dious os gnóhmisin æníllaxas dǽmas agnón,
thirótypon thǽmænos morphín dnophærío drákondos;
klýthi, mákar, phohnóhn, khalæpín d’ apopǽmbæo mínin,
pávohn phantasías psykhís ækplíktou anángis.   


Breakdown of the hymn:

39. Κορύβαντος (gen. sing. of Κορύβας), θυμίαμα (incense), λίβανον (frankincense).

Κικλήσκω (I call) χθονὸς (earth, gen. noun) ἀενάου (everlasting) βασιλῆα (king) μέγιστον, (sovereign) 
I call the sovereign king of the everlasting earth,

Κύρβαντ’ (Κύρβαντας, Κορύβας) ὀλβιόμοιρον, (blessed) Ἀρήιον, (like Áris) ἀπροσόρατον, (frightful one) blessed Korývas, one like Áris, who none can face,

νυκτερινὸν (of the night) Κούρητα, (Κουρῆτα, acc. sing. of Κουρῆτες, nom. sing. is Κουρήτης) φόβων (panic flight) ἀποπαύστορα (stopping) δεινῶν, (terrible) the Kourítis of the night, freeing us from terrible panic,

φαντασιῶν (fantasies, ghosts) ἐπαρωγόν, (helper) ἐρημοπλάνον (wander alone) Κορύβαντα, (Korývas) danger’s helper, lone-wandering Korývas

αἰολόμορφον (various formed) ἄνακτα, (king) θεὸν (deity) διφυῆ, (twofold) πολύμορφον, (multi-formed) many-formed king, God with two natures, multi-formed,

φοίνιον, (blood-stained, murderous) αἱμαχθέντα (pass. so to be slain and stained with blood) κασιγνήτων (brothers) ὑπὸ (by) δισσῶν· (two, divided) murderous, slain and bloodied by quarreling brothers,

Δηοῦς (Δημήτηρ, gen.) ὃς (her, this) γνώμῃσιν (judgement) ἐνήλλαξας (invert) δέμας (form) ἁγνόν, (holy) by the judgment of Dióh you transformed your pure body,

θηρότυπον (in the form of a beast) θέμενος (to set) μορφὴν (form) δνοφεροῖο (murky) δράκοντος· (serpent) and put in its place a black dragon;

κλῦθι, (hear) μάκαρ, (happy one) φωνῶν, (voices) χαλεπὴν (painful) δ’ ἀποπέμπεο (dismiss) μῆνιν, (anger) hear, happy one, our voices, drive away grievous anger,

παύων (cease) φαντασίας (appearances) ψυχῆς (soul) ἐκπλήκτου (terror-stricken) ἀνάγκης. (necessity) cease the phantoms of the soul which were created by terrifying necessity.


Literal translation of the hymn:

39. Korývas (Corybas; Gr. Κορύβας, plural is Κορύβαντες), incense, frankincense.

I call the sovereign king of the everlasting earth,   1 
Blessed Korývas, one like Áris, who none can face,
The Kourítis of the night, freeing us from terrible panic,
Danger’s helper, lone-wandering Korývas,
Many-formed king, God with two natures, multi-formed,   
Murderous, slain and bloodied by quarreling brothers,
By the judgment of Dióh you transformed your pure body,
And put in its place a black dragon;
Hear, happy one, our voices, drive away grievous anger,
Cease the phantoms of the soul which were created by terrifying necessity.   


[1] From Strávohn:

"...others say that the Corybantes, who came from Bactriana (some say from among the Colchians), were given as armed ministers to Rhea by the Titans. But in the Cretan accounts the Curetes are called "rearers of Zeus," and "protectors of Zeus," having been summoned for Phrygia to Crete by Rhea." (Γεωγραφικά Στράβωνος 10.3.19, trans. H. L. Jones, Public Domain.)

"But the Scepsian again states, in opposition to the words of Euripides, that the rites of Rhea were not sanctioned or in vogue in Crete, but only in Phrygia and the Troad...(Γεωγραφικά Στράβωνος 10.3.20, trans. H. L. Jones, Public Domain.)

"The Scepsian says that it is probable that the Curetes and the Corybantes were the same, being those who had been accepted as young men, or 'youths,' for the war‑dance in connection with the holy rites of the Mother of the Gods, and also as "Corybantes" from the fact that they  'walked with a butting of their heads' in a dancing way..." (Γεωγραφικά Στράβωνος 10.3.21, trans. H. L. Jones, Public Domain.)

[2] "This wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia was the first, we are told, for which the Gods provided the marriage-feast, and Demeter, becoming enamoured of Iasion, presented him with the fruit of the corn, Hermes gave a lyre, Athena the renowned necklace and a robe and a flute, and Electra the sacred rites of the Great Mother of the Gods, as she is called, together with cymbals and kettledrums and the instruments of her ritual; and Apollo played upon the lyre and the Muses upon their flutes, and the rest of the Gods spoke them fair and gave the pair their aid in the celebration of the wedding. After this Cadmus, they say, in accordance with the oracle he had received, founded Thebes in Boeotia, while Iasion married Cybele and beget Corybas. And after Iasion had been removed into the circle of the Gods, Dardanus and Cybelê and Corybas conveyed to Asia the sacred rites of the Mother of the Gods and removed with them to Phrygia. Thereupon Cybelê, joining herself to the first Olympus, begat Alcê and called the Goddess Cybelê after herself; and Corybas gave the name of Corybantes to all who, in celebrating the rites of his mother, acted like men possessed, and married Thebe, the daughter of Cilix. In like manner he also transferred the flute from Samothrace to Phrygia and to Lyrnessus the lyre which Hermes gave and which at a later time Achilles took for himself when he sacked that city." (Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική 5. 49, trans, C. H. Oldfather, Public Domain.)

[3] "If you would like a vision of the Corybantic orgies also, this is the story. Two of the Corybantes slew a third one, who was their brother, covered the head of the corpse with a purple cloak, and then wreathed and buried it, bearing it upon a brazen shield to the skirts of Mount Olympus. Here we see what the mysteries are, in one word, murders and burials! The priests of these Mysteries, whom such as are interested in them call 'Presidents of the Princes’ rites,' add a portent to the dismal tale. They forbid wild celery, root and all, to be placed on the table, for they actually believe that wild celery grows out of the blood that flowed from the murdered brother. It is a similar custom, of course, that is observed by the women who celebrate the Thesmophoria. They are careful not to eat any pomegranate seeds which fall to the ground, being of opinion that the pomegranates spring from the drops of Dionysus’ blood. The Corybantes are called by the name Cabeiri, which proclaims the rite of the Cabeiri. For this very pair of fratricides got possession of the chest in which the virilia (ed. sexual organs) of Dionysus were deposited, and brought it to Tuscany, traders in glorious wares! There they sojourned, being exiles, and communicated their precious teaching of piety, the virilia and the chest, to Tuscans for purposes of worship. For this reason not unnaturally some wish to call Dionysus Attis, because he was mutilated." (Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς Προτρεπτικὸς πρὸς Ἕλληνας Book 2, trans. G. W. Butterworth, 1919.)

[4] Are these two brothers the Διόσκουροι, Kástohr (Κάστωρ) and Polydéfkis (Πολυδεύκης)? The word used in the hymn is κασιγνήτων which can mean either “brothers” or “sisters,” or it could mean simply “siblings.” Thus, this word may possibly be indicating Apóllohn (Ἀπόλλων), who slew a dragon, and his sister Ártæmis (Ἄρτεμις), twin siblings who share characteristics.

The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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