Cabeiri (great, mighty?) In Greek and Roman mythology, ancient deities worshipped with secret rites especially in Boeotia and at Lemnos and Samothrace along the coast of the Aegean Sea and on the Aegean islands. Cabeiri is also the name of the children of Uranus, according to some accounts the first people; or children of Camillus, son of Cabeiro, who had three daughters, called Caberides, and three sons, Cabeiri; or sons of Zeus and Calliope, called the Cabeiri of Samothrace.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
The Cabeiri were subjects of an ancient Mystery tradition. They remain enigmatic and mysterious today. The three Cabeiri brothers, spirits of fertility, smithcraft, magic, and the sea, are venerated alongside Heph aestus, who may be their father or grandfather, and their mother, Cabeiro.
Because little of their mythology survives, the Cabeiri may seem to be minor deities, but they were not. Their Mysteries at Samothrace were second only to those at Eleusis. Endangered sailors invoking their protection called them “great gods.” Allegedly the Cabeiri protect against shipwreck and drowning.
The Cabeiri were venerated on the Greek mainland, at Thrace and in Phrygia in what is now modern Turkey, but the epicenter of their veneration was the Northern Aegean islands of Lemnos and Samothrace, which were not originally ethnically Greek but were conquered and colonized by Athens starting in the sixth century BCE. Devotion to the Cabeiri predated the arrival of the Greeks and was adopted enthusiastically.
Various groups of divine smiths, many possessing very similar myths, were venerated throughout Greece and Anatolia, including the Cabeiri, Curetes, Corybantes, Daktyls, and Telchines. Their names are sometimes used interchangeably, adding to confusion. All are associated with Mystery traditions, fertility, Mother Goddesses, and, in many cases, protection of an endangered Divine Child. Information was always reserved for initiates, and so it’s now very difficult to determine whether they are similar but distinct spirits or different regional names for the same spirits. These names may also refer to clans, secret craft guilds, or ethnic groups.
Their origin is unknown. Cabeiri is not a Greek name but is generally believed to be Lemnian, a now extinct language possibly related to Etruscan. Another theory suggests that they are named after and maybe come from Mount Cabeiros in what is now modern Turkey, once a centre of devotion to Kybele. Yet another theory suggests that Cabeiri is a Sumerian or Semitic name.
Also known as:
Cabiri; Cabyri; Kabeiroi
The Cabeiri are described as “dwarfs.”
Because the Cabeiri were the subject of Mysteries, much information is lost. What survives are descriptions of raucous rituals, involving drinking lots of wine out of special ceremonial cups decorated with images resembling the Egyptian deity Bes with a big, erect phallus. Cups were eventually smashed as part of the ritual.
Crab (their pincers resemble smith’s tongs)
The Cabeiri are allegedly heavy consumers of wine; also first fruits of the season; metal smith’s tools; phallic images
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.