Also Known as: Cabiri; Cabyri; Kabeiroi
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 Hephaestus, 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 werevenerated 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 the 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.
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 center of devotion to Kybele. Yet another theory suggests that Cabeiri is a Sumerian or Semitic name.
Manifestation: The Cabeiri are described as “dwarfs”.
Rituals: 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 a part of the ritual.
Emblem: Phallic symbols
Animal: Crab (their pincers resemble smith’s tongs)
Offerings: The Cabeiri are allegedly heavy consumers of wine; also first fruits of the season; metal smith’s tools; phallic images