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The celebration of the mysteries was connected with Athens in the following manner. The preliminary ceremonies were held in Athens and were somewhat modified. But the second and third stage of the ceremonies, which took place in September Boedromion and could be held only in Eleusis, began with a solemn procession from Athens to Eleusis. The dominant theme of the myth is the mother love of Demeter for her daughter Kore — this generic name being apparently older than the individualized name Persephone. Many who might be indifferent to other features of this myth could still appreciate this beautiful human motif.

Everywhere else the core of the myth is not mother love but sexual love between man and woman, and only in the Egyptian mysteries is this sexual love the love between husband and wife Isis and Osiris. In Egypt a child, the boy Horus, is added to this couple, but that is only a side aspect of the myth and does not affect it in any essential way, as it does in part at Eleusis. Actually, however, as regards the symbolism of the Eleusinian Kore, the dominant feature is her relationship to Pluto, the god of death. Kore, the bride whom he captures, represents the final destiny of all vegetative life, indeed of all earthly life, and thus can portray human death in an allegorical manner.

The other associations with her and her mother, intended and aroused by the mysteries, become more meaningful only when both become mediators of a better life after death.

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The Eleusinian hope is the high point of the so-called Homeric Hymn to Demeter, where in 5. Several verses later, they are called the blessed on whom the pair of exalted and chaste goddesses bestow their loving care. Bergk and Sophocles Turchi, no.

Mystery Religions, Greco-Oriental

But whereas this word, as used by the Evangelists, praises as blessed the way of life made possible by the New Covenant, the sole title to Eleusinian blessedness is initiation. There is no question of atonement. Only the worst criminals were excluded from initiation, a point severely criticized already in antiquity. Opinions differ respecting the performance of the rites in the second and third stages and also respecting the precise arrangement of the interior of the sacred building.

Benches for spectators, cut out of rock and still recognizable today, prove that participants in the cult engaged in liturgic actions that were visible to all. Migne, v. Clement of Alexandria Protrept. It is a formula to be repeated by the candidate for final admission, who had to show thereby that he had passed the intermediate stage. Thus one learns the main actions. Fertility Aspects of the Rites.

In his account, Clement of Alexandria puts the Baubo scene before the cultic action and criticizes it harshly. The dual containers, differentiated by the names "chest" and "basket," seem also to confirm this view. This assumption seems logical and is confirmed by other intimations of the Church Fathers. This explanation of the last act of the synthema, or password ceremony, which is described in such cryptic language, seems sound for intrinsic and extrinsic reasons. These finds suggest directly the use of the female sexual symbols as a means of initiation.

The simultaneous use of the male symbol is the more easily explained, since the latter plays a central role in the Hellenistic mystery rites that exhibit a more or less close dependence on Eleusis. Two acts are mentioned. The first is the "hierogamy," or sacred marriage between the high priest hierophant and priestess cf. Gregory of Nazianzus and Proclus; Turchi, nos. It was probably intended to symbolize the mythical nuptials of Demeter and Iasion on the thriceplowed field Hesiod, Theog. Hippolytus furnishes important additional information. The priest raised a freshly cut ear of wheat — obviously the fruit of this sacred marriage — with the loud cry: "The exalted goddess bore a holy boy, the strong one bore a strong child" Turchi, no.

Religion in Greece

As a confirmation of the prehistoric age of this rite and of the relation of the nucleus of the Eleusinian cult actions to the early farming stage of culture, it is to be noted that the same rite has been found in North Africa and in the period preceding the spread of the Indo-European culture in the West cf. Thus, one sees that at Eleusis hope in a better life to come and improvement of material welfare, which is so dependent on the fruits of the earth, are closely connected.

Paul has pointed out an association of ideas between wheat and the hereafter 1 Cor Eleusinian eschatology, however, did not embrace precisely what for Paul was the symbolism of the sprouting seed, namely, bodily resurrection. The quasi-official formulation of the Eleusinian hope in the Homeric Hymn is remarkably modest.

Oriental Religions in the West

It does not look beyond a life in the lower world, and even for this it dares to promise the initiates, as opposed to noninitiates, only a gradual improvement in their lot. Evaluation and Later History. Yet these rites gave their initiates the consolation that there was at least one form of divine worship that showed some interest in the great question of the beyond.

The official cults of the Greek states ignored this problem. The Olympians enjoyed their own blessedness without caring for the future lot of men. Lagrange has given the noblest interpretation of the Eleusinian Mysteries; one should not speak blindly of magic here, but should regard the whole procedure as an act of trust in the power of the "august goddesses. The comfort could be only as real as the persons of the divinities themselves. Later classic times and especially the Hellenistic age, however, recognized fully the symbolic-mythical values contained in the rites.

Not only in Athenian but in all ancient literature, Eleusis was renowned as an inalienable jewel of the city of Athens, a symbol of its cultural contributions, the first and most basic of which was the raising of cereals. Even after the mysteries had lost all credence in ancient Greece, including Attica itself, they were still celebrated with pomp as old folk customs, with a feeling for history and with a treasuring of the past for its own sake. During the several revivals of Greek culture, beginning with the great efforts of Hadrian, the mysteries' power of attraction was proved again and again, especially in the case of the Romans who took pleasure in becoming initiates.

Alaric destroyed a great part of the sanctuary in a. Within a limited space it is not possible to cover all vegetation or fertility cults that have mystery elements. The cult of the Great Mother, however, deserves formal treatment, being both so representative and so important.

The Golden Bough/Oriental Religions in the West - Wikisource, the free online library

But this Greek Rhea has no partner of such dubious and uncertain status as Cybele's partner Attis. When, therefore, the Phrygian goddess with her companion Attis asked for admission, as was inevitable in a commercial town such as Athens as a result of the influx of immigrants from Asia Minor, the new mother goddess was not identified simply with Rhea but had to be satisfied, like all foreign cults, with a place outside the city walls.

But apparently, already before the Persian wars, some traits of the Asian form of the mother cult had been introduced into the Greek worship of Rhea. This has psychological probability in its favor, since Pindar praises the venerable Asian Mother in one of his Olympic odes on Hiero. This act may represent the mourning over the dead Attis, who previously seems to have been honored by joyous dances around a throne. Eight hundred years after Plato, in the 4th century a.

The Romans knew Adonis at an early time in their history, partly through the Greeks of south Italy, and partly through the Etruscans. In b. The Phrygian cult was given a place on the Palatine, opposite the later house of Livia, but the astute heads of the Roman state allowed only one annual public celebration: the lustration of the image of the Magna Mater in the Almo stream, which had no connection with the fate of Attis. The cult, in the form given it by the emperor Claudius, who was interested in religious antiquities, is known through its incorporation in the Roman religious calendar as well as through archeological representations, e.

Lorenzo fuori le mura. In order to understand the performance of the cult in this later and elaborated form, one must remember the personality of Attis as the representation of the nature cycle and also the basic structure of his myth as outlined earlier in this article. A pine tree, which was intended to represent the hero, profusely decorated as a tree of spring and adorned with an image of Attis, was carried in procession Firmicus Maternus, De errore prof.

Richard Gordon

At the same time, the tree, since it was an evergreen, may have symbolized his ostensibly newly assumed life, though the myth says nothing about this. Then the procession with the image of the Magna Mater was carried out with much greater pomp. Quite apart from these public ceremonies, secret rites were also performed.

As in Eleusis, these were obviously based on ritualistic imitation of events in the myth.

Greek Religion

Firmicus Maternus mentions a ceremony of mourning the dead ibid. Whereas in Firmicus the words "I became a mystes of Attis" follow immediately, Clement mentions Protr. The last statement quoted gives a key at least to the general meaning. Obviously the rite was intended to impress upon the mystai the subjective certainty of having been united in a special way with the goddess, as in a mystic marriage or, on a more modest plane, as Lagrange has proposed, as a personal servant of the Great Mother.

It seems clear that the strong motivation of hope present in this cult, a hope in harmony with the religious interests of the Greco-Roman period, probably served as a foundation for a belief in a higher and better life beyond the grave. It would thus be in the line of the Eleusinian ideology. The rhetorical vehemence with which Firmicus, the chief source, criticizes such rites must be understood in the light of the times. But the Christian polemist is right in reminding the believers in these mysteries that the whole activity has no real value or meaning, since it is based entirely on myth.

In form and content the sacred formulas are essentially an imitation of the Eleusinian "symbol. In content these rites are modeled on the myth, as the containers chosen for food and drink are the drum and the cymbal. These instruments were said to have been used by the goddess on her mythical journey through the mountains of Asia Minor and hence were employed also in the public processions in honor of Cybele.

Something original, something as yet without analogy in any Greek cult, is mentioned by Prudentius Peristeph. In some 80 verses he describes the ceremony of the taurobolium in the cult of the Magna Mater. It deserves notice here because the rebirth mentioned in the pertinent inscriptions as the expected effect has often been compared with the rebirth that is promised as an effect of baptism Ti But the taurobolium aimed at a restoration of physical forces only through the blood of a bull.

The general atmosphere of the rite is not one of spiritual hopes, and it is occasionally taken over as a rite beneficial for the common good pro salute Caesaris. All the Western evidence dates from the 2d century a. Between the Eleusian and the Dionysian mysteries there are several important differences. The cult of Eleusis keeps its external structure unchanged, primarily because it is bound to a definite locality, but the cult of Dionysus varies considerably in place and time.