Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition on Eleusinian Mysteries

MYSTERY (Gr. ,uvcnliptov, from µucrns, an initiate, µuELV, to shut the mouth), a
general English term for what is secret And excites wonder, derived from the
religious sense (see below). It is not to be confounded with the other old word "
mystery," or more properly " mistery," meaning a trade or handicraft (Lat.
ministerium, Fr. métier). For the medieval plays, called mysteries, see Drama;
they were so called (Skeat) because acted by craftsmen.


Greek Mysteries

It is important to obtain a clear conception of the exact significance of the Greek
term µvoniptov, which is often associated And at times appears synonymous
with the words TEXETi, Spyta. We may interpret " mystery " in its original Greek
meaning as a " secret " worship, to which only certain specially prepared people
- of J.w 0 'TEs - were admitted after a special period of purification or other
preliminary probation, And of which the ritual was so important And perilous that
the " catechumen " needed a hierophant or expounder to guide him aright. In the
ordinary public worship of the state or the private worship of the household the
sacrifice with the prayer was the chief act of the ceremony; in the " mysterion "
something other than a sacrifice was of the essence of the rite; something was
shown to the eyes of the initiated, the mystery was a Spapa µvo-rudw, And bpav
And Spncµocuvn are verbal terms expressive of the mystic act. We have an
interesting account given us by Theo Smyrnaeus' of the various elements And
moments of the normal mystic ceremony: first is the Ka9apµ5s or preliminary
purification; secondly, the TEAET1]s rapaboces, the mystic communication
which probably included some kind of X yos, a sacred exegesis or exhortation;
thirdly, the i roirr€ia or the revelation to sight of certain holy things, which is the
central point of the whole; fourthly, the crowning with the garland, which is
henceforth the badge of the privileged; And finally, that which is the end And
object of all this, the happiness that arises from the friendship or communion with
the deity. This exposition is probably applicable to the Greek mysteries in
general, though it may well have been derived from his knowledge of the
Eleusinian. We may supplement it by a statement of Lucian's that " no mystery
was ever celebrated without dancing " (De saltat. 15), which means that it was in
some sense a religious drama, ancient Greek dancing being generally mimetic,
And represented some iepos Aoyos or sacred story as the theme of a mystery-

Before we approach the problem as to the content of the mysteries, we may
naturally raise the question why certain 1 De util. math., Herscher, p. 15.

Ancient cults in Greece were mystic, others open And public. An explanation
often offered is that the mystic cults are the Pelasgic or pre-Hellenic And that the
conquered populations desired to shroud their religious ceremonies from the
profane eyes of the invaders.' But we should then expect to find them
administered chiefly by slaves And the lower population; on the contrary they are
generally in the hands of the noblest families, And the evidence that slaves
possessed in any of them the right of initiation is only slight. Nor does the
explanation in other respects fit the facts at all. The deities who are worshipped
with mystic rites have in most cases Hellenic names And do not all belong to the
earliest stratum of Hellenic religion. Besides those of Demeter, by far the most
numerous in the Hellenic world, we have record of the mysteries of Ge at Phlye in
Attica, of Aglauros And the Charities at Athens, of Hecate at Aegina; a shrine of
Artemis Mvo (a on the road between Sparta And Arcadia points to a mystic cult
of this goddess, And we can infer the existence of a similar worship of Themis.
Now these are either various forms of the earth-goddess, or are related closely
to her, being powers that we call " chthonian," associated with the world below,
the realm of the dead. We may surmise then that the mystic setting of a cult
arose in many cases from the dread of the religious miasma which emanated
from the nether world And which suggested a prior ritual of purification as
necessary to safeguard the person before approaching the holy presence or
handling certain holy objects. This would explain the necessity of mysteries in the
worship of Dionysus also, the Cretan Zagreus, Trophonius at Lebadeia,
Palaemon-Melicertes on the Isthmus of Corinth. They might also be necessary
for those who desired communion with the deified ancestor or hero, And thus we
hear of the mysteries of Dryops at Asine, of Antinotis the favourite of Hadrian at
Mantineia. Again, where There was hope or promise that the mortal should by
communion be able to attain temporarily to divinity, so hazardous an experiment
would be safeguarded by special preparation, secrecy And mystic ritual; And this
may have been the prime motive of the institution of the Attis-Cybele mystery.
(See Great Mother Of The Gods.) For the student of Hellenism, the Eleusinian
And Orphic ceremonies are of paramount importance; the Samothracian, which
vied with these in attractiveness for the later Hellenic world, were not Hellenic in
origin, nor wholly hellenized in character, And cannot be considered in an article
of this compass.

As regards the Eleusinia, we are in a better position for the investigation of them
than our predecessors were; for the modern methods of comparative religion
And anthropology have at least taught us to ask the right questions And to apply
relevant hypotheses; archaeology, the study of vases, excavations on the site,
yielding an ever-increasing hoard of inscriptions, have taught us much
concerning the external organization of the mysteries, And have shown us the
beautiful figures of the deities as they appeared to the eye or to the mental vision
of the initiated.

As regards the inner content, the secret of the mystic celebration, it is in the
highest degree unlikely that Greek inscriptions or art would ever reveal it; the
Eleusinian scenes that appear on Attic vases of about the 5th century cannot be
supposed to show us the heart of the mystery, for such sacrilegious rashness
would be dangerous for the vase-painter. If we are to discover it, we must turn to
the ancient literary records. These must be handled with extreme caution And a
more careful scrutiny than is often applied. We must not expect full enlightenment
from the Pagan writers, who convey to us indeed the poetry And the glow of this
fascinating ritual, And who attest the deep And purifying influence that it
exercised upon the religious temperament, but who are not likely to tell us more.
It is to the Christian Fathers we must turn for more esoteric knowledge, for they
would be withheld by no scruple from revealing what they knew. But we cannot
always believe that they knew much, for only those who, like Clement And
Arnobius, had been Pagans in their youth, could ever have been initiated. Many
of them uncritically confuse in the same context And in one sweeping verdict of
condemnation Orphic, Phrygian-Sabazian And Attis-Mysteries with the
Eleusinian; And we ought not too lightly to infer that these were actually confused
And blended at Eleusis. We must also be on our guard against supposing that
when Pagan or Christian writers refer vaguely to " mysteria," they always have
the Eleusinian in their mind.

The questions that the critical analysis of all the evidence may hope to solve are
mainly these: (a) What do we know or what can we infer concerning the
personality of the deities to whom the Eleusinian mysteries were originally
consecrated,. And were new figures admitted at a later period ? (b) When was.
the mystery taken over by Athens And opened to all Hellas, And what was the
state-organization provided ? (c) What was the inner significance, essential
content or purport of the Eleusinia,. And what was the source of their great
influence on Hellas ? (d) Can we attribute any ethical value to them, And did they
strongly impress the popular belief in immortality? Limits of space allow us only
to adumbrate the results that research on the lines of these questions has
hitherto yielded.

The paramount divine personalities of the mystery were in the earliest period of
which we have literary record, the mother And the daughter, Demeter And Kore,
the latter being never styled Persephone in the official language of Eleusis; while
the third figure, the god of the lower world known by the euphemistic names of
accessory personage, comparatively in the background. This is the conclusion
naturally drawn from the Homeric hymn to Demeter, a composition of great
ritualistic value, probably of the 7th century B.C., which describes the abduction
of the daughter, the sorrow And search of the mother, her sitting by the sacred
well, the drinking of the KUKEWv or sacred cup And the legend of the
pomegranate. An ancient hymn of Pamphos, from which Pausanias freely quotes
And which he regards as genuine,' appears to have told much the same story in
much the same way. As far as we can say, then, the mother And daughter were
There in possession at the very beginning. The other pair of divinities known as 6
0E6r r) 0E6, that appear in a 5th-century inscription And on two dedicatory reliefs
found at Eleusis, have been supposed to descend from an aboriginal period of
Eleusinian religion when deities were nameless, And when a peaceful pair of
earth-divinities, male And female, were worshipped by the rustic community,
before the earth-goddess had pluralized herself as Demeter And Kore, And
before the story of the madre dolorosa And the lost daughter had arisen. 2 But
for various reasons the contrary view is more probable, that 6 0€6s And 0e are
later cult-titles of the married pair Pluto-Cora (Plouton-Kore), the personal names
being omitted from that feeling of reverential shyness which was specially timid in
regard to the sacred names of the deities of the underworld. And it is a fairly
familiar phenomenon in Greek religion that two separate titles of the same
divinity engender two distinct cults.

The question as to the part played by Dionysus in the Eleusinia is important.
Some scholars, like M. Foucart, have supposed that he belonged from the
beginning to the inner circle of the mystery; others that he forced his way in at a
somewhat later period owing to the great influence of the Orphic. sects who
captured the stronghold of Attic religion And engrafted the Orphic-Sabazian
lepos A&'yos, the story of the incestuous union of Dionysus-Sabazius with
Demeter-Kore, And of the death And rendering of Zagreus, upon the primitive
Eleusinian faith. A saner And more careful criticism rejects this view. There is no
genuine trace discovered as yet in the inner circle of the mysteries of any
characteristically Orphic doctrine; the: names of Zagreus And Phanes are
nowhere heard, the legend of Zagreus And the death of Dionysus are not known
to have been mentioned There. Nor is There any print within or in the precincts of
the reXEo17Ptov: the hall of the Mu6Tat, of the footsteps of the Phrygian deities,
Cybele, Attis, Sabazius.


2 See Dittenberger, Sylloge, 13; Corp. inscr. att. 2, 1620 c, 3, 1109;. Ephem.
archaiol. (1886), 7rty. 3; Heberdey in Festschrift far Benndorf,. p. 3, Taf. 4; Von
Prott in Athen. Mittheil. (1899), p. 262.

The exact relation of Dionysus to the mysteries involves the question as to the
divine personage called Iacchus; who And what was Iacchus? Strabo (p. 468),
who is a poor authority on such matters, describes him as " the daemon of
Demeter, the founder of the leader of the mysteries." More important is it to note
that " Iacchus " is unknown to the author of the Homeric hymn, And that the first
literary notice of him occurs in the well-known passage of Herodotus (viii. 65),
who describes the procession of the mystae as moving along the sacred way
from Athens to Eleusis And as raising the cry "Iarcxe. We find Iacchus the theme
of a glowing invocation in an Aristophanic Ode (Frogs, 324-398), And described
as a beautiful " young god "; but he is first explicitly identified with Dionysus in the
beautiful ode of Sophocles' Antigone (ii19); And that this was in accord with the
popular ritualistic lore is proved by the statement of the Scholiast on
Aristophanes (Frogs, 482) that the people at the Lenaea, the winter-festival of
Dionysus, responded to the command of " Invoke the god! " with the invocation "
Hail, Iacchus, son of Semele, thou giver of wealth!" We are sure, then, that in the
high tide of the Attic religious history Iacchus was the youthful Dionysus, a name
of the great god peculiar to Attic cult; And this is all that here concerns us to know.

We can now answer the question raised above. This youthful Attic Dionysus has
his home at Athens; he accompanies his votaries along the sacred way, filling
their souls with the exaltation And ecstasy of the Dionysiac spirit; but at Eleusis
he had no temple, altar or abiding home; he comes as a visitor And departs. His
image may have been carried into the Hall of the Mysteries, But whether it played
any part There in a passion-play we do not know. That he was a primary figure of
the essential mystery is hard to believe, for we find no traces of his name in the
other Greek communities that at an early period had instituted mysteries on the
Eleusinian model. Apart from Iacchus, Dionysus in his own name was powerful
enough at Eleusis as in most other localities. And the votaries carried with them
no doubt into the hall the Bacchic exaltation of the Iacchus procession And the
nightly revel with the god that preceded the full initiation; many of them also may
have belonged to the private Dionysiac sects And might be tempted to read a
Dionysiac significance into much that was presented to them. But all this is
conjecture. The interpretation of what was shown would naturally change
somewhat with the changing sentiment of the ages; but the mother And the
daughter, the stately And beautiful figures presented to us by the author of the
homeric hymn, who says no word of Dionysus, are still found reigning paramount
And supreme at Eleusis just before the Gothic invasion in the latter days of
Paganism. Triptolemus the apostle of cornculture, Eubouleus - originally a
euphemistic name of the god of the under-world, " the giver of good counsel,"
conveying a hint of his oracular functions - these are accessory figures of
Eleusinian cult And mythology that may have played some part in the great
mystic drama that was enacted in the hall.

The development And organization of the Eleusinia may now be briefly sketched.
The legends concerning the initiation of Heracles And the Dioscuri preserve the
record of the time when the mysteries were closed against all strangers, And
were the privilege of the Eleusinians alone. Now the Homeric hymn in its obvious
appeal to the whole of the Greek world to avail themselves of these mysteries
gives us to suppose that they had already been thrown open to Hellas; And this
momentous change, abolishing the old gentile barriers, may have naturally
coincided with, or have resulted from, the fusion of Eleusis And Athens, an event
of equal importance for politics And religion which we may place in the
prehistoric period. The reign of Peisistratus was an era of architectural activity at
Eleusis; but the construction of the yvcrnKos Qrtrcos was one of the
achievements of the Periclean administration. Two inscriptions, containing
decrees passed during the supremacy of Pericles, the one proclaiming a holy
truce of three months for the votaries that came from any Greek community,' the
other bidding the subject allies And inviting the independent states to send 1
Corp. inscr. att. i. i. Curapxai or tithe-offerings of corn to Eleusis, 2 record the
farsighted policy of Periclean Athens, her determination to find a religious
support for her hegemony.

At least from the 5th century onwards, the external control And all questions of the
organization of the mysteries were in the hands of the Athenian state, the rule
holding in Attica as elsewhere in Hellas that the state was supreme over the
Church. The head of the general management was the king-archon (archon-
basileus) who with his paredros And the four " epimeletai " formed a general
committee of supervision, And matters of importance connected with the ritual
were decided by the Boule or Ecclesia. But the claim of Eleusis as the religious
metropolis was not ignored. The chief of the two priestly families, in whose hands
lay the mystic celebration itself And the formal right of admission, was the
Eleusinian " gens " of the Eumolpidae; it was to their ancestor that Demeter had
entrusted her 6pyca, And the recognition of their claims maintained the principle
of apostolic succession. To them belonged the hierophant (iEpoc5avrns), the
high priest of the Eleusinia, whose function alone it was to " reveal the orgies," to
show the sacred things, And who alone or perhaps with his consort-priestess -
could penetrate into the innermost shrine in the hall; an impressive figure, so
sacred in person that no one could address him by his personal name, And
bound, at one period at least, by a rule of celibacy. We hear also of two "
hierophantides," female attendants on the older And younger goddesses. In fact,
while the male priest predominates in this ritual, the women play a prominent
part: as we should expect, considering that the sister-festival of the
Thesmophoria was wholly in their hands.

The other old priestly family was that of the " Kerykes," to whom the batouxos
belonged, " the holder of the torch," the official second in rank to the iEp04avrns.
It is uncertain whether this family was of Eleusinian origin; And in the 4th century it
seems to have died out, And the office of the babouxos passed into the hands of
the Lycomidae, a priestly family of Phlye, suspected of being devotees of

Turning now to the celebration itself, we can only sketch the more salient features
here. On the 13th of Boedromion, the Attic month corresponding roughly to our
September, the Ephebi marched out to Eleusis, And returned to Athens the next
day bringing with them the " holy things " (teat) to the " Eleusinion " in the city;
these lEp i probably included small images of the goddesses. The 16th was the
day of the a-yvpµos, the gathering of the catechumens, when they met to hear the
address of the hierophant, called the 7rpopp'qves. This was no sermon, but a
proclamation bidding those who were disqualified or for some reason unworthy
of initiation to depart. The legally qualified were all Hellenes And subsequently all
Romans above a certain - very youthful - limit of age, women, And as it appears
even slaves; barbarians, And those uncleansed of some notorious guilt, such as
homicide, were disqualified. We are sure that There was no dogmatic test, nor
would time allow of any searching moral scrutiny, And only the Samothracian
rites, in this respect unique in the world of classical religion, possessed a system
of confessional. The hierophant appealed to the conscience of the multitude; but
we are not altogether sure of the terms of his proclamation, which can only be
approximately restored from late Pagan And early Christian writers. We know
that he demanded of each candidate that he should be " of intelligible speech (i.
e. an Hellene) And pure of hand "; And he catechized him as to his condition of
ritualistic purity - the food he had eaten or abstained from. It appears also from
Libanius that in the later period at least he solemnly proclaimed that the
catechumen should be " pure of soul," 3 And this spiritual conception of holiness
had arisen already in the earlier periods of Greek religious thought. On the other
hand we must bear in mind the criticism that D19genes is said to have passed
upon the Eleusinia, that many bad characters were admitted to communion,
thereby securing a promise of higher happiness than an uninitiated
Epaminondas could aspire to.

An essential preliminary was purification And lustration, And z Dittenberger,
Sylloge, 13. a Or. Corinth, iv. 356. after the assembly the " mystae " went to the
sea-shore (i.X(1.5E A ix-ac) And purified themselves with sea-water, And
probably with sprinkling of pigs' blood, a common cathartic medium. After their
return from the sea, a sacrifice of some kind was offered as an essential
condition of µin7vcs, but whether as a sacrament or a gift-offering to the
goddesses it is impossible to determine. On the 10th of Boedromion the great
procession started along the sacred way bearing the " fair young god " Iacchus;
And as they visited many shrines by the way the march must have continued long
after sunset, so that the 10th is sometimes spoken of as the day of the exodus of
Iacchus. On the way each wore a saffron band as an amulet; And the
ceremonious reviling to which the " mystai " were subjected as they crossed the
bridge of the Cephissus answered the same purpose of averting the evil eye.
Upon the arrival at Eleusis, on the same night or on the following, they celebrated
a midnight revel under the stars with Iacchus, which Aristophanes glowingly

The question of supreme interest now arises: What was the mystic ceremony in
the hall? What was said And what was done? We can distinguish two grades in
the celebration; the greater was the TEX ct And E7r07r7-CKa, the full And
satisfying celebration, to which only those were admitted who had passed the
lesser stage at least a year before. As regards the actual ritual in the hall of the
mystae, much remains uncertain in spite of the unwearying efforts of many
generations of scholars to construct a reasonable statement out of fragments of
often doubtful evidence. We are certain at least that something was acted There
in a religious drama or passion-play, the revelation was partly a pageant of holy
figures; the accusations against Aeschylus And Alcibiades would suffice to prove
this; And Porphyry speaks of the hierophant And the S auoi os acting divine
parts. What the subject of this drama was may be gathered partly from the words
of Clement - " Deo (Demeter) And Kore became the personages of a mystic
drama, And Eleusis with its SaBovXos celebrates the wandering, the abduction
And the sorrow " (Protrept., p. 1 2 Potter), partly from Psyche's appeal to
Demeter in Apuleius (Metamorph. 6) - " by the unspoken secrets of the mystic
chests, the winged chariots of thy dragon-ministers, the bridal descent of
Proserpine [Persephone], the torch-lit wanderings to find thy daughter And all the
other mysteries that the shrine of Attic Eleusis shrouds in secret." We may
believe then that the great myth of the mother's sorrow, the loss And the partial
recovery of her beloved was part of the Eleusinian passion-play. Did it also
include a i€pos yaaos? We should naturally expect that the sacred story acted in
the mystic pageant would close with the scene of reconciliation, such as a holy
marriage of the god And the goddess. But the evidence that this was so is mainly
indirect, apart from a doubtful passage in Asterius, a writer of questionable
authority in the 4th century A.D. (Econom. martyr. p. 194, Combe). At any rate, if
a holy marriage formed part of the passion-play, it may well have been acted with
solemnity And delicacy. We have no reason to believe that even to a modern
taste any part of the ritual would appear coarse or obscene; even Clement, who
brings a vague charge of obscenity against all mysteries in general, does not try
to substantiate it in regard to the Eleusinia, And we hear from another Christian
writer of the scrupulous purity of the hierophant.

It would be interesting to know if the birth of a holy child, a babe Iacchus, for
example, was a motive of the mystic drama. The question seems at first sight to
be decided by a definite statement of Hippolytus (Philosoph. 5, 8), that at a
certain moment in the mysteries the hierophant cried aloud: " The ladygoddess
Brimo has borne Brimos the holy child." But a careful consideration of the context
almost destroys the value of his authority. For he does not pretend to be a first-
hand witness, but admits that he is drawing from Gnostic sources, And he goes
on at once to speak of Attis And his self-mutilation. The formula may then refer to
the Sabazian-Phrygian mystery, which the Gnostics with their usual spirit of
religious syncretism would have no scruple in identifying with the Eleusinian. And
the archaeological evidence that has been supposed to support the statement of
Hippolytus is deceptive.

Finally, we must not suppose that There could be any very elaborate scenic
arrangements in the hall for the representation of Paradise And the Inferno,
whereby the rewards of the faithful And the punishments of the damned might be
impressively brought home to the mystae. The excavations on the site have
proved that the building was without substructures or underground passages. A
large number of inscriptions present us with elaborate accounts of Eleusinian
expenditure; but There is no item for scenic expenses or painting. We are led to
suppose that the pageant-play produced its effect by means of gorgeous
raiment, torches And stately figures.

But the mystic action included more than the pageant-play. The hierophant
revealed certain holy objects to the eyes of the assembly. There is reason to
suppose that these included certain primitive idols of the goddesses of
immemorial sanctity; And, if we accept a statement of Hippolytus (loc. cit.) we
must believe that the epoptae were also shown " that great And marvellous
mystery of perfect revelation, a cut corn-stalk." The value of this definite
assertion, which appears to be an explicit revelation of the secret, would be very
great, if we could trust it; but unfortunately it occurs in the same suspicious
context as the Brimo-Brimos formula, And we again suspect the same uncritical
confusion of Eleusinian with Phrygian ritual, for we know that Attis himself was
identified in his mysteries with the " reaped corn," the almost the very phrase
used by Hippolytus. Only, it is in the highest degree probable, whether Hippolytus
knew anything or not, that a corn-token was shown among the sacred things of a
mystery which possessed an original agrarian significance And was intended
partly to consecrate And to foster the agricultural life. But to say this is by no
means the same as to admit the view of Lenormant 1 And Dr Jevons 2 that the
Eleusinians worshipped the actual corn, or revered it as a clan-totem. For of
direct corn-worship or of corn-totemism There is no trace either at Eleusis or
elsewhere in Greece.

Among the 6pWµeva or " things done " may we also include a solemn
sacrament, the celebration of a holy communion, in which the votary was united
to the divinity by partaking of some holy food or drink? We owe to Clement of
Alexandria (Protrept. p. 18, Potter) an exact transcription of the pass-word of the
Eleusinian mystae; it ran as follows (if we accept Lobeck's emendation of
Eyyevaaµevos for Epyaaa,uevos): " I have fasted, I have drunk the barley-drink, I
have taken [the things] from the sacred chest, having tasted thereof I have placed
them into the basket And again from the basket into the chest." We gather from
this that some kind of sacrament was at least a preliminary condition of initiation;
the mystae drank of the same cup as the goddess drank in her sorrow, partly - as
we say - " in memory of her," partly to unite themselves more closely with her. We
know also from an inscription that the priest of the Samothracian mysteries broke
sacred bread And poured out drink for the mystae (Arch. epigr. Mitth. 1882, p. 8,
No. 14). But neither in these nor in the Eleusinian is There any trace of the more
mystic sacramental conception, any indication that the votaries believed
themselves to be partaking of the actual body of their divinity; 3 for There is no
evidence that Demeter was. identified with the corn, still less with the barley-meal
of which the was compounded. Nor is it likely that the sacrament was the pivot of
the whole mystery or was part of the essential act of the itself. In the first place we
havean almost certain representation of the Eleusinian sacrament on. an archaic
vase in Naples, 4 probably of Attic provenance, And the artistic reproduction of a
holy act would have been impious And dangerous, if this had belonged to the
inner circle of the mystery. Again, There is no mention of sacrament or sacrifice
among the five essential parts of µin i ats given by Theo 1 Daremberg et Saglio,
Dictionnaire, 1, p. 1066.

Introduction to the Study of Religion. This is Dr Jevons's supposition - op. cit - on
which he bases an important theory of the whole Eleusinian mysteries And their
intrinsic attraction.

4 Farnell, Cults. vol. iii. pl. xvb.

Smyrnaeus, nor in the imaginary narrative of the late rhetorician Sopatros, 1 who
supposes the strange case of a man being initiated by the goddesses in a
dream: they admit him to their full communion merely by telling him something
And showing him something.

Besides the Speq.ava, then, There were also certain things said in the hall, or in
the earlier stages of initiation, which we would gladly discover. Part of these were
mystic formulae, one of which has been discussed already, the pass-word of the
votaries. We gather also from Proclus And Hippolytus that in the Eleusinian rites
they gazed up to heaven And cried aloud " rain " - i€ - And gazed down upon the
earth And cried " conceive "-KUE. This ritual charm - we cannot call it prayer -
descends from the old agrarian magic which underlay the primitive mystery.
What else the votaries may have uttered, whether by way of thanksgiving or
solemn litany, we do not know.' But There was also a certain iEpos Xl yos, some
exposition accompanying the unfolding of the mysteries; for it was part of the
prestige of the hierophant that he was chief spokesman, " who poured forth
winning utterance And whose voice the catechumen ardently desired to hear " (A
nth. Pal., app. 246); And Galen speaks of the rapt attention paid by the initiated "
to the things done And said in the Eleusinian And Samothracian mysteries " (De
usu part. 7. 14). But we have no trustworthy evidence as to the real content of the
X6'yos of the hierophant. We need not believe that the whole of his discourse
was taken up with corn-symbolism, as Varro seems to imply (Aug. De civit. Dei.
20), or that he taught natural philosophy rather than theology, or again, the
special doctrine of Euhemerus, as two passages in Cicero (De natur. deor. i. 42;
Tusc. i. 13) might prompt us to suppose. His chief theme was probably an
exposition of the meaning And value of the iepb., as in an Australian initiation rite
it is the privilege of the elders to explain the nature of the " churinga " to the
youths. And his discourse on these may have been coloured to some extent by
the theories current in the philosophic speculation of the day. But though in the
time of Julian he appears to have been a philosopher of Neo-platonic
tendencies, we ought not to suppose that the hierophant as a rule would be able
or inclined to rise above the anthropomorphic religion of the times. Whatever
symbolism attached to the iepa, the sacred objects shown, was probably simple
And natural; for instance, in the Eleusinian, as in Egyptian eschatology, the token
of the growing corn may have served as an emblem - though not a proof - of
man's resurrection. The doctrine of the continuance of the soul after death was
already accepted by the popular belief, And the hierophant had no need to
preach it as a dogma; the votaries came to Eleusis to ensure themselves a
happy immortality. And in our earliest record, the Homeric hymn, we find that the
mysteries already hold out this higher promise. How, we may ask, were the
votaries assured ? M. Foucart in Les grands mysteres d'Eleusis has maintained
that the object of the mysteries was much the same as that of the Egyptian Book
of the Dead; to provide the mystae with elaborate rules for avoiding the dangers
that beset the road to the other world, And for attaining at last to the happy
regions; that for this purpose the hierophant recited magic formulae whereby the
soul could repel the demons that it might encounter on the path; And that it was to
seek this deliverance from the terrors of hell that all Greece flocked to Eleusis.
This is in accord with his whole " egy ptizing " theory concerning the Eleusinia, a
theory which, though Egyptian influence cannot a priori be ruled out, is not found
in harmony with the facts of the two religious systems. And the particular
hypothesis just stated is altogether wanting in direct evidence, or - we may say -
in vraisemblance. There is no hint or allusion to 1 Rhet. graec. viii. 121.

2 In Tim. 293 c; Ref. Omn. Haer. 5, 7, p. 146.

3 The other formula which the Scholiast on Plato (Gong. 497 c.) assigns to the
Eleusinian rite: " I have eaten from the timbrel, I have drunk from the cymbal, I
have carried the sacred vessel, I have crept under the bridal-chamber," belongs,
not to Eleusis, but, as Clement And Firmicus Maternus themselves attest, to
Phrygia And to Attis.

be found in the ancient sources suggesting that the recital of magic formulae was
part of the ceremony. The Xiyos, whatever it was, was comparatively
unimportant. And the Greek public in general, in its vigorous period when the
Eleusinian religion reached its zenith, was not tormented, as modern Europe has
at times been, by ghostly terrors of judgment.

The assurance of the hope of the Eleusinian votary was obtained by the feeling of
friendship And mystic sympathy, established by mystic contact, with the mother
And the daughter, the powers of life after death. Those who won their friendship
by initiation in this life would by the simple logic of faith regard themselves as
certain to win blessing at their hands in the next.

It is obvious that the mysteries made no direct appeal to the intellect, nor on the
other hand revolted it by any oppressive dogmatism. As regards their psychic
effect, we have Aristotle's invaluable judgment: " The initiated do not learn
anything so much as feel certain emotions And are put into a certain frame of
mind " (Synes. Dion. p. 48a). The appeal was to the eye And to the imagination
through a form of religious mesmerism working by means that were solemn,
stately And beautiful. To understand the quality And the intensity of the
impression produced, we should borrow something from the modern
experiences of Christian communion-service, mass, And passion-play, And bear
in mind also the extraordinary susceptibility of the Greek mind to an artistically
impressive pageant.

That the Eleusinia preached a higher morality than that of the current standard is
not proved. That they exercised a direct And elevating influence on the individual
character is nowhere explicitly maintained, as Diodorus (v. 49) maintains
concerning the Samothracian. But on general grounds it is reasonable to believe
that such powerful religious experience as they afforded would produce moral
fruit in many minds. The genial Aristophanes (Frogs, 455) intimates as much,
And Andocides (De myster. p. 3 6, § 31; p. 44, § 125) assumes that those who
had been initiated would take a juster And sterner view of moral innocence And
guilt, And that foul conduct was a greater sin when committed by a man who was
in the official service of the mother And the daughter.

Besides the greater mysteries at Eleusis, we hear of the lesser mysteries of
Agrae on the banks of the Ilissos. Established, perhaps, originally by Athens
herself at a time when Eleusis was independent And closed her rites to
strangers, they became wholly subordinated to the greater, And were put under
the same management And served merely as a necessary preliminary to the
higher initiation into them. Sacrifice was offered to the same great goddesses at
both; but we have the authority of Duris (Athenae, 253d), the Samian historian,
And the evidence of an Attic painting, called the pinax of Nannion,4 that the
predominant goddess in the mysteries at Agrae was Kore. And this agrees with
the time of their celebration, in the middle of Anthesterion, when Kore was
supposed to return in the young corn. Stephanus (s.v. "Arypa), drawing from an
unknown source, declares that the Dionysiac story was the theme of their mystic
drama. Hence theorists have supposed that their content was wholly Orphic or
that their central motive was the marriage of Dionysus And Kore. The theory has
no archaeological or literary support except the passage in Stephanus, nor have
we reason for believing that the marriage of these two divinities was recognized
in Attic state ritual.

The influence of Eleusis in early times must have been great, for we find
offshoots of its cult, whether mystic or not, in other parts of Greece. In Boeotia,
Laconia, Arcadia, Crete And Thera, Demeter brought with her the title of
"Eleusinia"; And no other explanation is so probable as the obvious one that this
name designates " the goddess of Eleusis," And though There may have been
other places called " Eleusis," the only famous religious centre was the Attic. The
initiation rites of Demeter at Celeae near Phlius, at Lerna in Argolis, And at
Naples, were organized after the pattern of the Eleusinian. But of these And the
other Demeter mysteries in the Greek world, 4 Farnell, Cults of the Greek States,
vol. iii. p. 242, pl. xvi.

There is little to record that is certain And at the same time of primary importance
for the history of religion. The Arcadian city of Pheneus possessed a mystery that
boasted an Eleusinian character And origin, yet in the record of it There is no
mention of Kore, And we may suspect that, like other Demeter-worships in the
Peloponnese, it belonged to a period when the earthgoddess was revered as a
single personality And Kore had not Yet emanated from her. We know much
more of the details of the great Andanian mysteries in Messenia, owing to the
discovery of the important And much-discussed Andanian inscription of 91 B.e. l
But what we know are facts of secondary importance only. We gather from
Pausanias (4.33.4; cf. 4.1. 5. And 4.26.8; 4.27.6) that the rites, which he regards
as second in solemnity And prestige to the Eleusinian alone, were consecrated
to the MeyeAac Nat, ... the great goddesses,. .. And that Kore enjoyed the mystic
title of Hagne, " the holy one." The inscription has been supposed to correct And
to refute Pausanias, but it does not really controvert his statements, which are
attested by other evidence; proves only that other divinities came at a later time
to have a share in the mysteries, such as the MeyciXoc 6eoi who were probably
the Cabeiri. It is clear that the Andanian mysteries included a sacred drama, in
which women personated the goddesses. The priestesses were married
women, And were required to take an oath that they had lived " in relation to their
husbands a just And holy life." We hear also of grades of initiation, purification-
ceremonies, but of no sacrament or eschatologic promise; yet it is probable that
these mysteries, like the Eleusinian, maintained And secured the hope of future

The Eleusinian faith is not wholly unattested by the graveinscriptions of Hellas,
though it speaks but rarely on these. The most interesting example is the epitaph
of a hierophant who proclaims that he has found that " death was not an evil, but
a blessing." 2 Of equal importance for the private religion of Greece were the
Orphic mystic societies, bearing a Thraco-Phrygian tradition into Greece, And
associated originally with the name of Dionysus, And afterwards with Sabazius
also And the later cult-ideas of Phrygia. 3 The full account of the Dionysiac
mysteries would demand a critical study of the Dionysiac religion as a whole, as
well as of the private sects that sprang up under its shadow. It is only possible
here to indicate the salient characteristics of those which are of primary value for
the history of religion.

Originally a great nature-god of the Thraco-Phrygian stock, powerful over all
vegetation And especially revealing his power in the vine, Dionysus was forcing
his way into Greece at least as early as the Homeric period, And by the 6th
century was received into the public cults of most of the Greek communities. We
can gather with some certainty or probability his aboriginal characteristics And
the form of his worship. Being a god of the life of the earth, he was also a nether
divinity, the lord of the world of souls, with whom the dead votary entered into
privileged communion; his rites were mystic, And nightly celebrations were
frequent, marked by wild ecstasy And orgiastic self-abandonment, in which the
votary became at one with the divinity And temporarily possessed his powers;
women played a prominent part in the ritual; a savage form of sacramental
communion was in vogue, And the animal victim of whose flesh And blood the
votaries partook was at times regarded as the incarnation of the divinity, so that
the god himself might be supposed to die And to rise again; finally we may
regard certain cathartic ideas as part of the primeval tradition 1 See Sauppe,
Mysterieninschrift von Andania; cf. Foucart's commentary in Le Bas, Voyage
archeol. 2, No. 326°; H. Collitz, Dialect-inschriften, 4689.

2 Eph. arch. (1883), p. 81.

The best account of the origin And development of the Dionysiac religion is in
Rohde's Psyche, vol. i.; for Orphic ritual And doctrine see article on " Orpheus "
in Roscher's Ausfi hrliches Lexikon der griechischen And romischen Mythologie;
Miss Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, pp. 455-659, with
critical appendix by G. Murray on the Orphic tablets discovered in Crete, near
Rome, And in south Italy.

of this religion. Admitted among the soberer cults of the. Greek communities, it
lost most of its wildness And savagery, while still retaining a more emotional
ecstatic character than the rest. But this cooling process was arrested by a new
wave of Dionysiac fervour that spread over Greece from the 7th century onwards,
bringing with it the name of Orpheus,4 And engendering at some later date the
Orphic brotherhoods. (thiasi). This religious movement may have started like the
earlier one from the lands north of Greece; but Crete And even Egypt are
supposed to have contributed much to the Orphic doctrine And ritual. Our earliest
authority for the proceedings of the mystery-practitioner who used the name of
Orpheus is the well-known passage in Plato's Republic (p. 364a), in which he
speaks contemptuously of the itinerant ritualists who knock at the doors of the
rich, the vendors of magic incantations, who promise absolution from sins And
happiness in the next world to be attained by a ritual of purification And mystic
initiation. This record brings to our notice a phenomenon unknown elsewhere in
Greek religion; the missionary spirit, the impulse to preach to all who would hear,
which foreshadows the breaking down of the gentile religious barriers of the
ancient world. And it is probable that some kind of " Orphic " propagandism,
whether through books or itinerant mystery-priests, or both, had been in vogue
some time before Plato. We may fairly conjecture that it has to some extent
inspired the glowing eschatology of Pindar, who describes the next world as a
place of penance And purgation from ancestral or personal taint And of final
reward for the purified soul, And who unites this belief with a doctrine of
reincarnation. In the Hippolytus of Euripides, Theseus taunts his son with
cloaking his immorality under hypocritical " Orphic " pretensions to purity, the
pharisaic affectation, for instance, of a vegetarian diet (952-954). Still more
important is the fragment of the Cretans of Euripides, attesting the strength of the
antiquity of these mystic Dionysiac associations in Crete. The initiated votary
proclaims himself as sanctified to Zeus of Ida, to Zagreus - the Orphic name of
the nether-world Dionysus - And to the mountain-goddess Rhea-Cybele; he has
fulfilled " the solemn rite of the banquet of raw flesh," And henceforth he " robes
himself in pure white And avoids the taint of childbirth And funerals And abstains
from meat." And - what is most significant - he calls himself by the very name of
his god - he is himself B6,KXos. In spirit And in most of its details the passage
accords well with the Bacchae of Euripides, which reflects not so much the public
worship of Greece, but rather the mystic Dionysiac brotherhoods. Throughout this
inspired drama the votary rejoices to be one with his divinity And to call himself
by his name, And this mystic union is brought about partly, though Euripides may
not have known it, through " the meal of raw flesh " or the drinking of the blood of
the goat or the kid or the bull. The sacramental intention of this is confirmed by
abundant proof; even in the state-cult of Tenedos they dressed up a bull-calf as
Dionysus And reverentially sacrificed it (Ael. Nat. an. 12.34); those who partook
of the flesh were partaking -of what was temporarily the body of their god. The
Christian fathers at once express their abhorrence of this savage Wµoc&ayia
And reveal its true significance (Arnob. Adv. nat. 5. 119); And Firmicus Maternus
(De error., p. 84) attests that the Cretans of his own day celebrated a funeral
festival in honour of Dionysus in which they enacted the life And the death of the
god in a passion-play And " rent a living bull with their teeth." But the most
speaking record of the aspirations And ideas of the Orphic mystic is preserved
in the famous gold tablets found in tombs near Sybaris, one near Rome, And one
in Crete. These have been frequently published And discussed; And here it is
only possible to allude to the salient features that concern. the general history of
religion. They contain fragments of a sacred hymn that must have been in vogue
at least as early as the 3rd century B.C., And which was inscribed in order to 4
The name 'Opc1.e1's first occurs in Ibycus, Frag. 10: ovoµaKAvrdv, 'O pq v. be
buried with the defunct, as an amulet that might protect him from the dangers of
his journey through the under-world And open to him the gates of Paradise. The
verses have the power of an incantation. The initiated soul proclaims its divine
descent: " I am the son of Earth And Heaven ": " I am perishing with thirst, give
me to drink of the waters of memory ": " I come from the pure ": " I have paid the
penalty of unrighteousness ": " I have flown out of the weary, sorrowful circle of
life." His reward is assured him: " O blessed And happy one, thou hast put off thy
mortality And shalt become divine." The strange formula g pccbos Es 'yaX'
E7rcrov, " I a kid fell into the milk," has been interpreted by Dieterich (Eine
Mithras - Liturgie, p. 174) with great probability as alluding to a conception of
Dionysus himself as E pccbcos, the divine kid, And to a ritual of milk-baptism in
which the initiated was born again.

We discern, then, in these mystic brotherhoods the germs of a high religion And
the prevalence of conceptions that have played a great part in the religious
history of Europe. And as late as the days of Plutarch they retained their power of
consoling the afflicted (Consol. ad uxor., c. 10).

The Phrygian-Sabazian mysteries, associated with Attis, Cybele And Sabazius,
which invaded later Greece And early imperial Rome, were originally akin to
these And contained many concepts in common with them. But their orgiastic
ecstasy was more violent, And the psychical aberrations to which the votaries
were prone through their passionate desire for divine communion were more
dangerous. Emasculation was practised by the devotees, probably in order to
assimilate themselves as far as possible to their goddess by abolishing the
distinction of sex, And the high-priest himself bore the god's name. Or
communion with the deity might be attained by the priest through the bath of
blood in the taurobolion (q.v.), or by the gashing of the arm over the altar. A more
questionable method which lent itself to obvious abuses, or at least to the
imputation of indecency, was the simulation of a sacred marriage, in which the
catechumen was corporeally united with the great goddess in her bridal chamber
(Dieterich, op. cit. pp. 121 -134). Prominent also in these Phrygian mysteries
were the conception of rebirth And the belief, vividly impressed by solemn
pageant And religious drama, in the death And resurrection of the beloved Attis.
The Hilaria in which these were represented fell about the time of our Easter;
And Firmicus Maternus reluctantly confesses its resemblance to the Christian
celebration.' The Eleusinian mysteries are far more characteristic of the older
Hellenic mind. These later rites breathe an Oriental spirit, And though their forms
appear strange And distorted they have more in common with the subsequent
religious phenomena of Christendom. And the Orphic doctrine may have even
contributed something to the later European ideals of private And personal
morality .2 LITERATURE. - For citation of passages in classical literature
bearing on Greek mysteries in general see Lobeck's Aglaophamus (1829); And
the collection of material for Demeter mysteries in L. R. Farnell, Cults of the
Greek States (1906), iii. 343-367. For general theory And discussion see Dr
Jevons, Introduction to the Study of Religion; Farnell, Cults of the Greek States,
iii. 127-213; Dyer's The Gods of Greece (1891), ch. v.; M. P. Foucart, Les
Grands mysteres d'Eleusis (1900); Andrew Lang, Myth. Ritual And Religion
(1887), pp. 264-276; Goblet d'Alviella, Eleusinia (1903). See further articles