December 1, 2017 at 11:40 pm #21065
Cabyle is an ancient sacred site located close to the modern city Yambol in South-East Bulgaria. The site is situated on the Eastern rocky part of the hill ‘Zaichi Vruh’, which is the highest elevation in the region. It is estimated to have been used from 2000 BC up to 3rd – 1st centuries BC. It has solar alignments with the equinoxes and the summer solstice. The summer solstice is still being celebrated on the site in our times.
An overview of the ancient site and settlement can be seen in the video below:
Below the site is an ancient Thracian settlement which also functioned in Hellenic and Roman times, however the sacred site was created in much earlier times.
Excavated ruins of the settlement can be seen in the valley below. Photo taken from the sacred site by Laura Boeva.
Based on pottery finds, the settlement has been dated to the end of the 2nd millenium BC. It was an influential Thracian city of its time as it is located on an ancient main route between nowadays Turkey and Europe. Later during the Hellenic era it was an important economic and trading centre, with connections to Asia Minor and coastal cities. During Roman times a military presence was established there.
The settlement was Christianized in the 4th century AD, destroyed by barbarian tribes in the 6th century AD, and by 7th – 8th centuries AD it had become an insignificant village. The village situated close to ancient Cabyle is still called Kabile today.
Ancient Sacred Site
Origin of the Name
There exist two theories as to the origin of the name ‘Cabyle’ (‘Кабиле’ in Bulgarian). It could originate
1) from a name for the Mother Goddess – Kybela, according to archaeologist V. Velkov.
2) from ‘Sabazius’, an important Thracian god. According to Velkov, the Thracian settlement was called Dampolis/Diampolis (a variation of Diospolis from Greek, meaning ‘City of Zeus’, according to him). According to Thracologist V. Fol, Diospolis could be a translation of ‘Kabile’, where ‘Kabile’ could signify ‘Sabo’s sacred grove’.
The Bulgarian word ‘дъбрава’ for this particular type of grove means an open forest of short oak trees interspersed with sunny meadows. It is a typical landscape for this region, and other sacred sites with solar symbols in South-East Bulgaria can be found situated in just such groves, such as Paleokastro and the solar observatory with rock-hewn solar disks near Melnitsa village.
Image of the Mother Goddess
In the 1980’s, Velkov identified a bas-relief image of the Great Mother of Gods, Cybela, who later became Artemis riding a lion, hewn on one of the principal rocks that make up the cross that aligns to the equinoxes (see below for more details of the cross and alignments). Another rock-hewn image of Artemis Phosphorus (Artemis the torch-bearer, ie. bringer of light) was identified nearby, which is similar to the images of Artemis that can be found on ancient coins minted in the settlement.
The rather weathered image of goddess Cybela, which unfortunately is indistinguishable to a layperson’s eyes today. The image is on the South-Western quarter of the cross. Photo by Laura Boeva.
Based on scriptures found in Seuthopolis, an ancient Thracian capital of the Odrysian tribe, it was found that during the Hellenic era in the 4th century BC, a temple of Artemis Phosphorus and a sacred site dedicated to Apollo functioned at Cabyle.
Later during the 1980’s, astronomer D. Sasselov identified a possible astronomical function of the site.
On the highest part of the hill, a part of the rocks has been hewn to create two perpendicular trenches that virtually form the shape of a cross between rocks of varying height.
The trenches, or ‘arms’ of the ‘cross’, are oriented towards the main cardinal directions. The East-West arm is 12 m long, while the North-South arm is 15 m long. From the central point of the cross, the view of the horizon from the North-East to the South-West is particularly flat, which allows clear observation of the sun, as this is generally its trajectory throughout the year.
Centre of the cross, seen from above. Photo by Laura Boeva.
The East-West arm, facing East. Photo by Laura Boeva.
The North-South arm from above. Photo by Laura Boeva.
The effect of the difference in the height of the rocks surrounding the cross is that as the rocks on the sides of the arm pointing South are relatively high, an observer standing in the Southern trench feels surrounded by high cliffs as it were, while the other three arms of the ‘cross’ leave the sky and horizon open and visible for observation.
On the Western part of the sacred site, by the East-West arm, there are traces of a square building.
In the South, in the distance, two mounds are visible, one behind the other. Archaeologists have estimated that since they are directly aligned to the North-South arm, they are connected to the observation practices that were carried out in ancient times. Moreover, during excavations large quantities of wood ash were found in the upper part of the mounds. Therefore it is apparent that fires had been regularly lit on the mounds.
The East-West arm is aligned to the sunrises of the spring and autumn equinoxes.
The image of the Goddess Cybela faces North-East. A rock whose surface has been leveled by human hand is situated diagonally across the image. This allows the first rays of the sunrise between spring and autumn equinoxes (Mar 21 – Sept 21) to touch the image of the Goddess.
Interestingly, during the period between the autumn and spring equinoxes (Sept 21 – Mar 21), when darkness is greater than light, and when the Mother Goddes in some ancient myths goes into the underworld, the relief image on the sacred site is obstructed during sunrise and does not receive the sun’s first rays.
From the book The Path of the Spiritual Sun by Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard:
After the sun’s descent following the summer solstice, the next stage in the sun’s journey is the autumn equinox, when darkness becomes greater than light. (p. 52)
The descent at the autumn equinox into the underworld is found not only in sacred sites, but also in ancient myths. (p. 63)
In ancient Sumer, the goddess Inanna descends into the underworld at the time of the autumn equinox. (p. 73)
In many ancient teachings, the Mother is symbolized as descending at the autumn equinox because she plays a vital role in the descent into the underworld through the knowledge she provides, and her ability to destroy our egos. (p. 79)
The image of Cybela is aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice, where the first rays of the sun illuminate the relief.
Similar to some other Bulgarian sacred sites (such as Tatul and Belintash), biomagnetic anomalies have been found at Cabyle. According to archaeologists, it is unlikely that the presence of anomalies is a coincidence but could even have been a determining factor of establishing the site at this particular location. The anomalies are said to be beneficial to human health, and perhaps were even made use of by participants in rituals in order to reach a heightened psychic state.
Summer Solstice Ceremony 2017
A sunrise ceremony for the summer solstice was held at the sacred site this year (June 21st 2017). Approximately 500 people attended. The ceremony was created by prof. Valeria Fol based on 2000-year-old ancient Greek historical sources. A musical piece was composed for the ritual by Alexandra Fol. Milk and bread (preprared by students from a local school) were used as offerings in the ceremony. Below is a bTV news report of the ceremony, which is in Bulgarian, but you can see footage of the ceremony and the site.
On the video you can see how some participants have eyes painted on their palms; one of them explains that the eye symbolizes the sun and the fingers its rays.
Image gallery with more photos of the site by Laura Boeva.
The Path of the Spiritual Sun by Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard
Pavlin Boev helped to translate from Bulgarian.December 2, 2017 at 8:15 am #21071
It’s wonderful to see that ceremony taking place at the summer solstice sunrise! The professor and the group have done a really beautiful job, and it’s good to hear it’s based on ancient texts. Thanks for sharing!December 5, 2017 at 2:01 pm #21092
Yes it’s striking how many people attended that ceremony (and it seems last year they had quite a big event as well). It made me wonder why because there are many sites around Bulgaria with alignments but they aren’t being used for such big public ceremonies. Possible reasons could be that it’s well known, being part of an outdoor museum with a lot of study and research having been done on it at least since the 1980’s, and it’s accessible – a bit of a walk up the hill but just off the highway and close to a big town. It’s also quite exposed, being situated on a hill top with a valley all around, so no hiking through difficult terrain or driving up mountain paths etc. I agree that it’s very nice to see this and that it even made it to big news (bTV is one of the main channels in Bulgaria).December 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm #21104
Agreed, it’s really lovely to see those celebrations taking place and all those people interested being there! It’s great those researchers involve the community in such a project to make the history, and current meaning, of that place come alive like that.
The hill sticking out from the landscape seems to make a good spot for a sacred site to observe celestial events.
Thanks Laura.December 7, 2017 at 3:08 pm #21114
Very nice, thank you Laura for sharing yet another one of the hidden Bulgarian gems!
As I was looking at your images, I was wondering if you could maybe make an image with an outlined image of the goddess Cybela on that rock, so we could see where it is?
I also liked the idea of an eye drawn on a palm and then spreading your fingers like the rays. Maybe we should try it this solstice. 🙂December 7, 2017 at 5:25 pm #21116
Unfortunately, that relief is hardly (if at all) recognizable now. It was registered in the 80s but it seems like it has suffered much of destruction over time. We went looking for it and couldn’t recognise it at all! Only by the alignments’ explanation and a photo of someone explaining about it before the rock did we figure out where it is situated.
It’s also a good idea for any visitors to go there prepared by reading about the site and its alignments or get someone from the museum to guide them to be able to have a better understanding of the site. Otherwise they may miss a lot.
That being said, it’s also nice to have the time to spend around quietly. I personally found it uplifting to be there. I don’t know if it could be because of the geomagnetic anomalies that were mentioned in the article or something else.
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