The Vatican is one of the holiest places in the world—the center of Catholic Christianity. Not only is it home to the Pope and cardinals, it is believed that riches of secret books, secret charts, and valuable objects are preserved inside the Vatican walls. The greatest secret, however, might be that the Vatican was once an important center of pagan worship, specifically goddess worship. Goddess worship has been marginalized by most religions, but the goddess survives in Rome’s Vatican City, Washington D.C., New York, and even many places in Asia.
The place that was first known as the Mons Vaticanus was founded as a necropolis sometime before 600 BC. It became a temple to the goddess Cybele in 204 B.C., during the Punic War. The Carthaginian Hannibal was plundering the Roman countryside. Rome itself was desperate and apparently their own gods were failing them. Strange omens caused fear in the city. It is reported that one morning, two suns rose in the sky. It is also reported that stones rained for nine days. In the middle of one night, daylight appeared. The city’s gate was struck by lightning. All of these events were bad signs for the superstitious Romans.
Rome sent a delegation to Delphi in Greece for an interpretation of the prophecy in the Sibylline books. This prophecy stated that if a foreign invader attacks Rome, then that invader could only be driven away if the Mother of Mount Ida (Cybele) is brought to Rome. Although the father gods like Zeus and Jehovah had become more popular during the Iron Age that began circa 1250 BC, the goddess and her mysteries survived in Greece, Egypt, Anatolia, Palestine, and Syria. Now she was being recognized by Rome. The Great Goddess and Mother Goddess went by different names in different locales but Cybele was unique.
The personification of this goddess was the largest iron meteorite known in the ancient world. It was a 16-feet-tall conical object worshiped as the “Simulacrum of Cybele” and weighed several hundred tons. Worship of the goddess and her stone that dropped from the heavens included believing her priestess had the gift of prophecy. They could see into the future. What would become Vatican hill was selected as the place to house it. A 200-foot-long temple was planned. It would be built over the catacombs that existed for centuries. It took 13 years to build her temple, and it was dedicated on April 11, 191 BC.
Cybele and her meteorite had already proven her power even before the temple was complete, although skeptics might give more credit to the Roman General Scipio Africanus and his successes against the Carthaginians on their own soil forcing Hannibal to be recalled from Italy. The ability of Cybele to see the future gave birth to the word Vatican.
The Holy See
The word itself varies in its interpretations. Most believe it is derived from the Latin vates, meaning seer or soothsayer. In turn the word ‘Vaticanus’ was from the Etruscan language, meaning serpent or dragon. An even older word vatica is Hindi for a cultural or religious center. It is often used for Hindu monasteries. The Hindi suffix tika is the name of the red circle or dot that Hindu women place in the center of their forehead. It indicates a “third eye” or an ability to see beyond the three dimensions. How the word was brought from India to pre-Roman Italy is unknown. Vatis can also mean snake in the Etruscan language, and it was claimed by Pliny the Roman historian that snakes grew so large in the Vatican area that one ate a child. The serpent/dragon was given an unusual power of sight as well.
In Sun Cults versus Thunder Cults the author declares the Vatican was a sacred grove of the seer-serpent long before Roman peoples moved to the area. Pliny’s version may have been a misunderstanding of both the word and the pagan practices that would take place underground. The historian Varro claimed the word ‘Vatican’ was from a Roman deity Vagitanus who endowed children with the power of speech. In any case the word has something to do with prophecy and special sight. Today the Vatican is also referred to as the Holy See.
The belief that those priests and priestesses could tell the future was widespread. Among the Celts there were the Druids, the bards, and the vates. Pliny wrote that it was the vates who taught the immortality of the soul as well as the science of observing the skies. To the church, viewing the heavens was important for placing certain dates of worship, most importantly Easter.
Rome would actually later have an observatory, but as the modern city grew, pollution made it more difficult to view the skies. The Vatican Observatory Research Group would move its headquarters to Castel Gandolfo an hour outside the city.
A Common Thread
Centuries before the birth of Jesus the worship of Cybele had as a central theme of the son and mother. Unlike Christianity the mother was the dominant one and Cybele’s son was also her lover. And again unlike Christianity, the orgiastic rites of the goddess included self-flagellation and even self-castration. They also involved initiations where those admitted to the secret worship would be drenched in blood. A highlight of worship was the Taurobolium, baptism in the blood of a sacred bull.
The priests were not Romans but were from Asia Minor where the Cybele stone originated. Romans despised the effeminate behavior of the long-haired, strangely costumed priests parading in their streets, although their own religion had much in common.
The worship of Roman men, particularly in the military, had their own son-lover pair of Mithra and Atagartis. The rites shared the bloody initiation, but the male Mithra was a warrior god who slew a bull at birth. Like the worship of Cybele, a highlight of worship also included the Taurobolium, baptism in the blood of a sacred bull. Such Roman sites still exist, generally beneath churches.
While Christianity revered the concept of Mother and Son, the practices of the newer religion were very different.
The practices of the mother-goddess religion were soon forced underground—literally underground, as they would conduct their ecstatic ceremonies in the catacombs under the Vatican. The layers of catacombs that supported the structure above were used to conduct human sacrifice rituals and initiations. It wasn’t until Domitian AD 81–96 made human sacrifice a capital crime, that these tunnels were closed. Secret tunnels, however, allowed the forbidden ceremonies of Cybele, including child sacrifice, to continue. In the second century the tunnels were closed and Roman families that still engaged in such practices were banished to Libya.
One family that was forced to abandon Rome for Libya was that of Gaius Fulvius Victor. His father fled Rome when the Gnostic Antonius Pius sought to execute any nobles belonging to the Cybele sect. Through political in-fighting Victor somehow became Pope and while he is guilty of numerous crimes, including murder, his worst offense was in re-instituting child sacrifice to the Vatican. It had been practiced on certain occasions, but Victor wanted a sacrifice at every Mass.
The temple of Cybele stood on the Vatican until the Christians took over in the fourth century. Then the site evolved into the Basilica of St. Peter, which stands today. While the Catholic place would impose its own brand of mother and son images, the Vatican’s massive collection of pre-Christian goddesses populates the city. Statues and images of Artemis, Fortuna, Venus, Diana, and the Egyptian Sekmet are present, as is a huge obelisk.
The obelisk in the center of the Vatican represents the center point of the Axis Mundi of the Catholic faith. It is surrounded by 16 windrose markers, a directional system created by the Etruscan people long before Rome. Author Cort Lindahl in Axis Mundi points out that the markers refer to key places in the Christian faith, including: the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, to Axum in Ethiopia (which Graham Hancock believes holds the Ark of the Covenant) and to the Schloss Schonbrunn Palace of the Habsburgs.
Worship of the goddess Cybele survived long after Rome. In The Cult of the Black Virgin, author Ian Begg says the Frankish Merovinginians worshiped her as Diana, and there were huge idols and monuments to her in France. He connects the modern survival of her to Mary Magdalene. Lyons in France was a center of her worship, and she survived in Paris (as Isis) until St. Genevieve took over her role.
The Goddess in America
As Rome was the capital of one of the world’s greatest empires, the modern-day empire that is the United States has as it’s capital, Washington DC.
In 1663, the owner of the tract of land that became the District of Columbia was Francis Pope. He called the hill his home and it was built on “Rome” and the inlet of the Potomac that bordered his property, the Tiber. Local tradition said he envisioned his property as being the center of a capital mightier than Rome. While this story might be taken for legend instead of fact, a deed drawn up in Maryland survives in Annapolis. The deed is dated June 6, 1663, and states that Francis Pope has 400 acres on a strip of land called Rome, bounded by an inlet called the Tiber. A tenuous link has representatives of the Pope in Rome offering to contribute a block of marble from Rome’s Temple of Concord to be part of the Washington Monument. In 1630 a certain Englishman by the name of John Pope came to Massachusetts. He would be a direct ancestor to John Russell Pope who built the Jefferson Memorial.
As Roman astrologers linked the foundation of their city with a fixed star in Leo, called Regulus, the same star was adopted by the Founding Fathers as one of the three prime marking stars. American Freemasons played the primary role in planning, designing, constructing, and dedicating the city of Washington. What is best described by Dr. Bob Hieronimus (author of The United Symbolism of America) as the “annual solar mystery” is best experienced on August 10 and 12 from the steps of the West Front of the Capitol Building. The sun sets directly over the horizon, then the three primary stars glow above the White House. They are Spica, Arcturus, and Regulus forming a triangle that reflects exactly in the shape of the federal triangle. The three points are the White House, the Capitol and the obelisk that is the Washington monument.
Like the Vatican, Washington also had its own place to view the heavens. The place where a statue of Einstein now stands was once called Observatory Hill. In 1843 this sight was taken over as the U.S. Naval Observatory.
The importance of the stars in the design of cities as ancient as Rome and as modern as Washington is matched by the importance of the goddess in both places. In Rome, Christianity hid the importance of the more ancient goddesses by giving the mother of Jesus that role. George Washington, while certainly not Catholic, had by design placed half of the capital district in Maryland and half in Virginia. Mary of course is the Blessed Virgin. Her titles show her to be more than the mother of Jesus. She is the Queen of Heaven, the Queen of the Seas, and possibly the Mother Goddess of the ancients.
The Goddess Survives
While every religion has marginalized the goddess, apparently she survives in several cities, most importantly the great cities, including Rome, Paris, Washington and New York.
In America the goddess was given different names than the Old World goddesses. The district was name Columbia. It is assumed that her name is derived from Christopher Columbus, but at the same time, the symbol of the goddess from Minoan times was the dove. Both the Roman goddess Venus and the Greek goddess Aphrodite shared the dove as their symbol.
Possibly the most important aspect of the new United States was Freedom. Above the Capitol building is a fifteen-thousand-pound statue of a goddess standing nearly 20 feet tall. While she appears to represent the goddess Minerva or the Roman Bellona, the architect that designed the statue simply named her “Freedom.” Her crested helmet and sword suggest she stands ready to protect her country. The full-scale model was completed in Rome. Freemason and Rosicrucian, was the inspiration for the founding of Virginia, and his favored aspect of the goddess complete with helmet and spear is on the Virginia state flag. She is Athena, and Bacon had started a secret society dedicated to her while still a student.
Possibly the most important goddess in the United States is Liberty. She was known as Libertas in Rome and by other names. Her most ancient name was Ishtar. The sculptor who created New York’s Statue of Liberty, Frederic Bartholdi, referred to her as Libertas, but she was an early adoption by the Romans of Ishtar. Bartholdi was backed by Freemason Edward Laboulaye, who took the project from a notion to completion. Today she stands guard over that other important city, New York.
Libertas or Liberty is represented on many denominations of coins. The Seated Liberty dollar is one. She is on state flags and state seals. She is standing tall on not only Washington’s capitol dome but on the domes of Georgia and Texas and courthouses around the country.
Far from Western nations, the goddess even made her appearance in China. A statue to this goddess was built thirty-three-feet tall. It was to be the vanguard of the protest in Tiananmen Square. She was named the Goddess of Democracy but often referred to as the Goddess of Freedom and Liberty. Soldiers tore her statue down, but it has since been recreated in Hong Kong, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.