Subject Index Eleusis Notes:  H - O
Hades (the god.  See underworld.)

Socrates:        And the name AHades@ is not in the least derived from
the invisible (a)eide/s), but far more probably from knowing (ei)de/nai) all
noble things, and for that reason he was called Hades by the lawgiver.   

Plato says that Hades is so named (Cratylus 403-404a) because he is a
beneficent and gentle god towards those who have come to abide with

A philosophical critic of all Mysteries, the severe Herakleitos declared:
AHades is the same as Dionysos.@  The subterranean wine-god was
the ravisher.

The similarity between Ploutos, whose name means wealth, and Hades,
Olympian god of the dead, whose Latinized name is Pluto, is also
interesting, particularly since, in the older view, what was buried
beneath the earth was the great treasure of regeneration.  (Todd, note
the corn doll) According to Ovid, Demeter=s lover was a hunter, which is
also significant since the great hunter in Crete was Zagreus, Lord of the
Underworld, who catches mortals Ain his net,@ and was later identified
with Dionysos.  Demeter=s daughter, Persephone, was also born in
Crete, and the archaic legend of Zeus uniting with his daughter as a
serpent took place in Crete as well, and the child of their union was

To Pluto
O mighty daemon, whose decision dread,
The future fate determines of the dead,
With captive Proserpina, through grassy plains,
Drawn in a four-yoked car with loosened reins,
Rapt o'er the deep, impelled by love, you flew
Till Eleusina's city rose to view:
There, in a wondrous cave obscure and deep,
The sacred maid secure from search you keep,
The cave of Atthis, whose wide gates display
An entrance to the kingdoms void of day.
Of works unseen and seen thy power alone
To be the great dispensing source is known.
All-ruling, holy God, with glory bright,
Thee sacred poets and their hymns delight,
Propitious to thy mystics' works incline,
Rejoicing come, for holy rites are thine.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )


The boy initiated into the Mysteries from the hearth of Athens was from
an aristocratic family in Athens and was elected annually; his initiation
fees being paid by the state, he probably represented them symbolically.
There were many statues of these boys and, later, also girls in the
Sanctuary. (Ibid. p. 236-237) Dio Chrysostom calls one of these a
In Thebes, for example, a certain Alcaeus has a statue which they say is
a Heracles and was formerly so called; and among the Athenians there
is an image of a boy who was an initiate in the mysteries at Eleusis and it
bears no inscription; he, too, they say, is a Heracles.
(Dio Chrysostom XXXI, 92)
Finally there were the mystes, or initiates, who were under the direction
of a sponsor, who was probably the mystagogos who introduced the
initiates or performed some of the preliminary rites. Andocides indicates
that a father could introduce his son.
Calliades opposed his admission; but the Ceryces voted in favor of the
law which they have, whereby a father can introduce his son, if he
swears that it is his own son whom he is introducing.
(On the Mysteries 127)
Althaea had also a son Meleager, by Oeneus, though they say that he
was begotten by Ares.  It is said that, when he was seven days old, the
Fates came and declared the Meleager should die when the brand
burning on the heart was burnt out.  On hearing that, Althea snatched up
the brand and deposited it in a chest.  Meleager grew up to be an
invulnerable and gallant man, but came by his end in the following way.  
In sacrificing the first fruits of the annual crops of the country to all the
gods Oeneus forgot Artemis alone.  But she in her wrath sent a boar of
extraordinary size and strength, which prevent the land from being
sown and destroyed the cattle and the people that fell in with it.

But Meleager in a rage slew the sons of Thestius and gave the skin to
Atalanta.  However, from grief at the slaughter of their brothers Althaea
kindled the brand, and Meleager immediately expired.

In myth, Demeter places the son of the king of Eleusis into the fire on the
hearth, so that the horrified mother is lead to believe that the child is
being burned, whereas the goddess is actually bestowing immortality
on the child.  In ritual, one child, pais, is always initiated from the hearth,
a role which was regarded as a great distinction.  A badly damaged relief
shows Demeter sitting enthroned while beside her two figures hold out
torches toward a cowering child.
Discussing the large Eleusinian relief:  “Ridgeway proposed to identify
the boy as the cult functionary known as the Initiate from the Hearth.  
This would suit the boy’s age, and of all proposals advanced so far, it is
one of the most logical.  But it is hard to think of a reason why, around
the time of the eleusinian relief, an artist would wish to deify a hearth-
initiate...Schwartz points out that the boy’s sandals are inappropriate;
initiates evidently went barefoot.  In addition, the boy has none of the
attributes of an initiate, viz. The myrtle staff or piglet.  And his virtual
nakedness is a serious difficulty.  To my knowledge there is no other
representation of a naked initiate, adult or child, from antiquity, except
for divine initiates such as the Dioscuri and Herakles, and these
examples appear mainly in scenes from fourth century vase painting.   


It is safe to say that it is extemely unlikely that we will ever find a piece of
evidence at Eleusis that will imply that Hekate had a significant role in
the cult of the Mysteries.

Queen faithful to Hades, but has had no children by him
and prefers the company of Hekate, goddess of witches , to his.  Zeus
himself honors Hekate so greatly that he never denies her the ancient
power which she has always enjoyed: of bestowing on mortals, or
withholding from them, any desired gift.  She has three bodies and three
heads - lion, dog, and mare.   (This from Hesiod: Theogony 411-52.)

But, again, the moon is Hekate, the symbol of her varying phases and of
her power dependent of the phases.  Wherefore her power appears in
three forms, having as symbol of the new moon the figure in the white
robe and golden sandals, and torches lighted: the basket, which she
bears when she has mounted high, is the symbol of the cultivation of the
crops, which she makes to grow up according to the increase of her
light: and again the symbol of the full moon is the goddess of the brazen
Or even from the branch of olive one might infer her fiery nature, and
from the poppy her productiveness, and the multitude of souls who find
an abode in her as in a city, for the poppy is an emblem of a city.  She
bears a bow, like Artemis, because of the sharpness of the pangs of

Sleepwalking is referred to in the de morbo sacro (ch.1, VI, 354-7), and is
said to be caused, in the opinion of the magical healers, by Hekate and
the dead (ibid. 362.3); the ghosts take possession of the living body
which the owner leaves unoccupied during sleep.

Hekate is the goddess of pathways, Enodia, especially of cross-roads
and of the offerings laid down there; the triple-form figure of Hekate
arose from the three masks which were hung at the meeting of three
pathways.  The pathways of Hekate are pathways of the night;
accompanied by barking dogs, she leads a ghostly retinue.  Hekate is
also goddess of the moon and of the moon-conjuring witches of

Hekate was identified with the Luna in the sky, Diana on earth and
Proserpine in the Underworld.  

Herakles (see Hearth)

“In an Eleusinian scene (with Triptolemos and Kore) a figure in similar
dress, but with a sword instead of spears may be Theseus.  We know
few details about his connections with eleusis.  According to one
tradition he sat on the Rock before making his descent to Hades, he was
responsible for the initiation of Herakles.”

A twelfth labor was imposed on Hercules was to bring Cerberus from
Hades.  Now this Cerberus had three heads of dogs, the tail of a dragon,
and on his back the heads of all sorts of snakes.  Where Hercules was
about to depart to fetch him, he went to Eumolpus at Eleusis, wishing to
be initiated. However it was not then lawful for foreigners to be initiated:
since he proposed to be initiated as the adoptive son of Payless.  But
not being able to see the mysteries because he had not been cleansed
of the slaughter of the centaurs, he was cleansed by Eumolpus and then
initiated.  And having come to Taenarum in Laconia, where is the mouth
of the descent to Hades, he descended through it.  But when the souls
saw him, they fled, save Meleager and the Gorgon Medusa.  And
Hercules drew his sword against the Gorgon, as if she were alive, but he
learned from  that she was an empty phantom. And being come near to
the gates of Hades he found Theseus and Pirithous, him who wooed
Persephone in wedlock and was therefore bound fast.  And when they
beheld Hercules, they stretched out their hands as if they should be
raised from the dead by his might.  And Theseus, indeed, he took by the
hand and raised up, but when he would have brought up Pirithous, the
earth quaked and let go.  And he rolled away also the stone of
Ascalaphus.  And wishing to provide the souls with blood, he
slaughtered one of the Kine of Hades.  But Menoetes, son of
Ceuthonymus, who tended the kind, challenged Hercules to wrestle,
and being seized round the middle, had his ribs broken; howbeit, he
was let off at the request of Persephone.  When Hercules asked Pluto for
Cerberus, Pluto ordered him to take the animal provided he mastered
him without the use of the weapons which he carried.  Hercules found
him at the gates of Acheron, and, cased in his cuirass and covered by
the lion=s skin, he flung his arms round the head of the brute, and
though the dragon in its tail bit him, he never released his grip and
pressure till it yielded.  So he carried it off and ascended through
Troezen.  But Demeter turned Ascalaphus into a short-eared owl, and
Hercules, after showing Cerberus to Eurystheus, carried him back to


Maia, the eldest, as the fruit of her intercourse with Zeus, gave birth to
Hermes in a cave of Cyllene. He was laid in swaddling-bands on the
winnowing fan, but he slipped out and made his way to Pieri and stole
the kine which Apollo was herding.

In the Mysteries of Eleusis, the hierophant is dressed up to represent the
demiurge, and the torch-bearer the sun, the priest as the altar the moon,
and the sacred herald, Hermes.

The most uncanny of the boundaries which Hermes crosses is the
boundary between the living and the dead.  The locus classicus is the
second nekyia in the Odyssey.  Hermes, staff in hand, summons forth
the souls of the slain suitors from the palace of Odysseus, and,
gibbering like bats, they follow him to the meadow of Asphodelos where
souls have eternal sojourn.  The idea of the river of the underworld with
Charon=s ferry was later combined with this, and so Attic lekythoi show
Hermes leading souls to Charon.  The way back is also known by
Hermes alone: in the Hymn to Demeter it is Hermes who fetches Kore
back from Hades, a scene also depicted on vase paintings.

(At Samothrace) At the doors of the anaktoron two bronze statues of
ithyphallic Hermes were to be seen.  Originally these could have been
just phallic boundary markers, but the mythical explanation was that
Hermes had got into this state of arousal because he beheld
Persephone. This seems to be an allusion to what took place in the
anaktoron - something similar to Kore=s epiphany at Eleusis.  Ram
sacrifice, incidentally, is a specialty of Hermes.
The Demiurge, whom the Egyptians call Cneph, is of human form, but
with a skin of dark blue, holding a girdle and a scepter, and crowned
with a royal wing on his head, because reason is hard to discover and
wrapt up in secret, and not conspicuous, and because it is life-giving,
and because it is a king, and because it has an intelligent motion:
wherefore the characteristic wing is put upon his head.   (See Hermes)


But he (Cronus) again bound and shut them up in Tartarus, and wedded
his sister Rhea and since both Earth and Sky foretold him that he would
be dethroned by his own son, he sued to swallow his offspring at birth.  
His firstborn Hestia he swallowed, then Demeter and Hera, and after
them Pluto and Poseidon.

The ruling principle of the power of earth is called Hestia, of whom a
statue representing her as a virgin is usually set up on the hearth; but
inasmuch as the power is productive, they symbolize her by the form of
a woman with prominent breast.  The name Rhea they gave to the power
of rocky and mountainous land, and Demeter to that of level and
productive land.  Demeter in other respects is the same as Rhea, but
differs in the fact that she gives birth to Kore by Zeus, that is, she
produces the shoot (koros) from the seeds of plants.  And on this
account her statue is crowned with ears of corn, and poppies are set
round her as a symbol of productiveness.

The first victim of a Greek public sacrifice was always offered to Hestia
of the Hearth.  The goddess= white aniconic image, perhaps her most
widespread emblem, which appears at Delphi as the omphalos, or navel-
boss, may originally have represented the raised white mound of tightly-
packed ash, enclosing live charcoal, which is the easiest means of
preserving fire without smoke.  Later, it became pictorially identified with
the lime-whitened mound under which the harvest corn-doll was hidden,
to be removed sprouting in the spring; and with the mound of sea-
shells, or quartz, or white marble, underneath which dead kings were
It is Hestia=s glory that, alone of the great Olympians, she never takes
part in wars or disputes.
She is the Goddess of the Hearth and in every private house and city
hall protects suppliants who flee to her for protection.  Universal
reverence is paid Hestia, not only as the mildest, most upright and most
charitable of all the Olympians, but as having invented the art of building
houses; and her fires is so sacred that, if ever a hearth goes cold, either
by accident or in token of mourning, it is kindled afresh with the aid of a


As you go to the starting point for the chariot-race there is an altar with
an inscription Ato the Bringer of Fate.@  This is plainly a surname of
Zeus, who knows the affairs of men, all that the Fates give them, and all
that is not destined for them . . . opposite the middle of it, there are in the
open altars of Poseidon Horse-god and Hera Horse-goddess.

The Thelpusians call the goddess Fury ... Now Oncius was, according to
tradition, a son of Apollo, and held sway in Thelpusian territory around
the place Oncium; the goddess has the surname Fury for the following
When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was
followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her.  So she turned, the
story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Oncius; realizing
that he was outwitted, Poseidon too changed into a stallion and enjoyed

The image of Fury holds what is called the chest, and in her right hand a
torch. . . Demeter, they say, had by Poseidon a daughter, whose name
they are not wont to divulge to the uninitiated, and a horse called
Areion.  For this reason they say that they were the first Arcadians to call
Poseidon AHorse.@

The second mountain, Mount Elaisu, is some thirty stades away from
Phigalia, and has a cave sacred to Demeter, surnamed Black.  The
Phigalians accept the account of the people of Thelpusa about the
mating of Poseidon and Demeter, but they assert that Demeter gave
birth, not to a horse, but to the Mistress, as the Arcadiaans call her.


The constant reference to torches in these tales adds authenticity to the
torches used in the initiation rituals. Diodorus' account gives much
useful information including the knowledge that the celebrations of
Persephone are in gratitude for plentiful crops, those of Demeter in
propitiation before the sowing.
After the Rape of Kore, the myth goes on to recount, Demeter, being
unable to find her daughter, kindled torches in the craters of Mt. Aetna
and visited many parts of the inhabited world, and upon the men who
received her with the greatest favor she conferred benefactions,
rewarding them with the gift of the fruit of the wheat. And since a more
kindly welcome was extended the goddess by the Athenians than by
any other people, they were the first after the Siceliotae to be given the
fruit of the wheat; and in return for this gift the citizens of that city in
assembly honored the goddess above all others with the establishment
both of most notable sacrifices and of the mysteries of Eleusis, which,
by reason of their very great antiquity and sanctity, have come to be
famous among all mankind. From the Athenians many peoples received
a portion of the gracious gift of the corn, and they in turn, sharing the gift
of the seed with their neighbors, in this way caused all the inhabited
world to abound with it. And the inhabitants of Sicily, since by reason of
the intimate relationship of Demeter and Kore with them they were the
first to share in the corn after its discovery, instituted to each one of the
goddesses sacrifices and festive gatherings, which they name after
them, and by the time chosen for these made acknowledgment of the
gifts which had been conferred upon them. In the case of Kore, for
instance, they established the celebration of her return at about the time
when the fruit of the corn was found to come to maturity, and they
celebrate this sacrifice and festive gathering with such strictness of
observance and such zeal as we should reasonably expect those men
to show who are returning thanks for having been selected before all
mankind for the greatest possible gift; but in the case of Demeter they
preferred that time for the sacrifice when the sowing of the corn is first
begun, and for a period of ten days they hold a festive gathering which
bears the name of this goddess and is most magnificent by reason of
the brilliance of their preparation for it, while in the observance of it they
imitate the ancient manner of life. And it is their custom during these
days to indulge in coarse language as they associate one with another,
the reason being that by such coarseness the goddess, grieved though
she was of the Rape of Kore, burst into laughter.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 4)
Callimachus indicates how these legends may have been incorporated
into rites of initiation:
As the basket comes, greet it, you women, saying "Demeter, greatly hail!
Lady of much bounty, of many measures of corn." As the basket comes,
from the ground you shall see it, you uninitiated, and gaze not from the
roof or from aloft - child nor wife nor maid that has shed her hair - neither
then nor when we spit from parched mouths fasting. Hesperus from the
clouds marks the time of its coming: Hesperus, who alone persuaded
Demeter to drink, that time she pursued the unknown tracks of her
stolen daughter.

Lady, how were your feet able to carry you to the West, to the black men
and where the golden apples are? You did not drink nor did you eat
during that time nor did you wash. Thrice did you cross Achelous with
his silver eddies and as often did you pass over each of the ever-flowing
rivers, and thrice did you seat yourself on the ground beside the
fountain Callichorus, parched and without drinking, and did not eat nor

Nay, nay, let us not speak of that which brought the tear to Deo! Better to
tell how she gave to cities pleasing ordinances; better to tell how she
was the first to cut straw and holy sheaves of corn-ears and put in oxen
to tread them, that time Triptolemus was taught the good craft.
(Callimachus To Demeter 1-24)

But Zeus desired that the other of his two sons might also attain to
honor, and so he instructed him in the initiatory rite of the mysteries,
which had existed on the island since ancient times but was at that time,
so to speak, put in his hands; it is not lawful, however, or any but the
initiated to hear about the mysteries. And Iasion is reputed to have been
the first to initiate strangers into them and by this means to bring the
initiatory rite to high esteem.... And Demeter, becoming enamored of
Iasion, presented him with the fruit of the corn.... To Iasion and Demeter,
according to the story the myths relate, was born Plutus or Wealth, but
the reference is, as a matter of fact, to the wealth of the corn, which was
presented to Iasion because of Demeter's association with him at the
time of the wedding of Harmonia. Now the details of the initiatory rite are
guarded among the matters not to be divulged and are communicated to
the initiates alone; but the fame has traveled wide of how these gods
appear to mankind and bring unexpected aid to those initiates of theirs
who call upon them in the midst of perils. The claim is also made that
men who have taken part in the mysteries become both more pious and
more just and better in every respect than they were before. And this is
the reason, we are told, why the most famous both of the ancient heroes
and of the demi-gods were eagerly desirous of taking part in the
initiatory rite; and in fact Jason and the Dioscuri, and Heracles and
Orpheus as well, after their initiation attained success in all the
campaigns they undertook, because these gods appeared to them.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 48, 49)

The source of the term Amysteria@ as also of Amystes@ and
Amystikos@ - consists in a verb whose ritual significance is Ato initiate,
@ developed from the verb mysein Ato close the eyes or mouth.@  The
monuments - two replicas of a representation of the initiation of Herakles
into the Mysteria - show us that what we should imagine here is not a
silence (closing the mouth) in the presence of the arreton but a
ceremony of closing the eyes.  Herakles is seated with his head totally
covered: the Mysteria begin for the mystes when, as sufferer of the
event, he closes his eyes, fall back as it were into his own darkness,
enters into the darkness.  The Romans use the term Agoing into,@ Ain-
itia@ (in the plural) not only for this initiating action, the act of closing
the eyes, the myesis, which is exactly rendered as initiatio, but for the
Mysteria themselves.  A festival of entering into the darkness, regardless
of what issue and ascent this initiation may lead do: that is what the
Mysteria were, in the original sense of the word.

The distinctive mark of initiation is the temporary seclusion of the
initiands from everyday life to a marginal existence.  The ritual
consequently proceeds through the three stages of separation,
interstitial status, and reintegration.

(Attributed to Plutarch) At first there is wandering, and wearisome
roaming, and fearful traveling through darkness with no end to be
found.  Then, just before the consummation, there is every sort of terror,
shuddering and trembling and perspiring and being alarmed.  But after
this a marvelous light appears, and open places and meadows await,
with voices and dances and the solemnities of sacred utterances and
holy visions.  In that place one walks about at will, not perfect and
initiated and free, and wearing a crown, one celebrates religious rites,
and joins with pure and pious people.
Such a person looks over the uninitiated and unpurified crowd of people
living here, who are packed together and trample each other in deep
mud and murk, but who hold onto their evil things on account of their
fear of death, because they do not believe in the good things that are in
the other world.

A fragment of Aristotle, preserved in Synesius (Dio 10) concludes that
initiates into the mysteries do not learn anything, but rather have an
experience and are put into a certain state of mind.  
Just as persons who are being initiated into the Mysteries throng
together at the outset amid tumult and shouting, and jostle against one
another, but when the holy rites are being performed and disclosed, the
people are immediately attentive in awe and silence, so, too, at the
beginning of philosophy: about its portals also you will see great tumult
and talking and boldness, as some boorishly and violently their way
towards the repute it bestows; but he who has succeeded in getting
inside, and has seen a great light, as though a shrine were opened,
adopts another bearing of silence and amazement, and Ahumble and
orderly attends upon@ reason as upon a god.

In the rites of the classical mystery cults the initiatory symbolic shocks
were experienced in graduated series by neophytes spiritually ready,
who were carried thereby through expanding revelations to whatever
sign or event, displayed within the ultimate sanctum, conferred the
consuming epiphany.  But life too confers initiations, and the most
potent of these are of sex and death.  Life too communicates revelatory
shocks, but they are not pedagogically graded.  These initiations are
administered both to those prepared and to those who are unprepared,
and while the latter either receive from them no instruction or, worse, are
left damaged (insane, a bit exploded, defensively hardened, or inert),
those ready receive initiations that may not only match but even surpass
the revelations of the cults.  For since life is itself the background from
which the prophets of both your great and the little ceremonial systems
derived their initial inspirations, life holds still in store the possibilities of
the same enlightenment anew, and of more and greater besides.   

It is the essence of the mystery-cult, that by such stimulants to the
emotions as Strabo describes, the worshiper felt the god enter into his
own being and could, while the ecstasy lasted, call himself, the follower,
by the name of the god he worshiped.

All evidence leads to the conclusion that the effect was achieved by the
immediate action upon the senses.  The initiate was shown things, and
convinced of his salvation by the evidence of his eyes.
The inner area of the triangle is the common hearth of all, and is called
the Plain of Truth, in which the accounts, the forms, and the patterns of
all things that have come to pass and of all that shall come to pass rest
undisturbed; and round about them lies Eternity, whence Time, like an
ever-flowing stream, is conveyed to the worlds.  Opportunity to see and
to contemplate these things is vouchsafed to human souls once in ten
thousand years if they have lived goodly lives; and the best of the
initiatory rites here are but a dream of that highest rite and initiation;  

Isis - Osiris

Isis, a mother goddess of remarkable magical powers, is closely
identified with the royal throne of the pharaoh.  In hieroglyphic
characters her name (Seat) is the throne, and her role in Egyptian myth
guarantees an orderly succession on the throne of Egypt from one
pharaoh to another.

Isis was, variously, the milk-giving cow goddess; goddess of the
serpents of the primeval waters; the star goddess Sirius, who brought
about the inundation of the Nile; the fertile pig goddess; the bird
goddess; goddess of the underworld who breath gave life to the dead;
goddess of the Tree of Life, offering the food and water of immortality;
goddess of the words of power; the tender, caring mother of Horus, her
son; and goddess of the throne upon whose sovereign lap the king sat
as her infant child in the image of all humanity.

Five miles or so from Asklepios is a precinct with a sanctuary
consecrated to Isis, the holiest sanctuary every built by Greece for the
Egyptian goddess.  The Tithoreans have a sacred tradition that no one
should live here, and no one can go into the holy place except those
chosen by Isis and summoned by visions in their sleep.  The gods of the
underworld do the same in the cities on the Maiander, sending visionary
dreams when they wish a man to enter the holy places...They say an
unsanctified man with no right to go down to the holy place once went
inside out of curiosity and daring, as the fire was just beginning to burn.  
He saw the spirits of the dead thronging everywhere: he went home to
Tithorea, told the story of what he had seen, and breathed his last.  I
have heard something similar from a Phoenician.  The Egyptians
celebrate a festival for Isis when they say she grieves for Osiris; at that
time the Nile begins to rise; and many of the people say it is the tears of
Isis that swell the river and water the ploughed land.  Well, my friend said
that at that time the Roman who was Governor of Egypt bribed a man
and sent him into the holy place of Isis at Koptos. The man he sent in did
return from the holy place, but I find that the same thing happened to
him: he described what he had seen, and immediately died.  Homer=s
verse seems to be true, that it carries no blessing if the gods are seen
plainly by the human race.     

Of the annual rites which Osiris= death and burial were celebrated we
unfortunately know very little. The mourning lasted five days from the
8th to the 12th of the month Athyr.  The ceremonies began with the
Aearth-ploughing@, that is, with the opening of the field labors, when
the waters of the Nile are sinking.  The other rites included the search for
the mangled body of Osiris, the rejoicing at its discovery, and its solemn
burial.  The burial took place on the 11th of November, and was
accompanied by the recitation of lamentations from the liturgical
The erection of the column would be, as Erman interprets it, a
representation of the resurrection of Osiris, which , as we learn from
Plutarch, appears to have been celebrated at his mysteries.  Perhaps the
ceremony Plutarch describes as taking place on the third day of the
festival (the 19th day of the month Athyr) may also have referred to the
resurrection.  He says that on that day the priests carried the sacred ark
down to the sea.  Within the ark was a golden casket, into which
drinking water was poured.  A shout then went up that Osiris was
found.  Then some mold was mixed with water, and out of the paste thus
formed a crescent-shaped image was fashioned, which was then
dressed in robes and adorned.

According to Diodorus (I - 14), whose authority appears to have been the
Egyptian historian Manetho, the discovery of wheat and barley was
attributed to Isis, and at her festivals stalks of these grains were carried
in procession to commemorate the boon she had conferred on men.  
Further, at harvest-time, when the Egyptian reapers had cut the first
stalks, they laid them down and beat their breasts, lamenting, and calling
upon Isis.  Amongst the epithets by which she is designated on the
inscriptions are Acreatoress of the green crop.@ AThe green one,
whose greenness is like the greenness of the earth,@ and Amistress of

Herodotus (ii 49) found the similarity between the rites of Osiris and
Dionysos so great, that he thought it impossible the latter could have
arisen independently; they must, he though, have been recently
borrowed, with slight alterations, by the Greeks from the Egyptians.  
Again, Plutarch (Isis and Osiris, 35), a very intelligent student of
comparative religion, insists upon the detailed resemblance of the rites
of Osiris to those of Dionysus.    


On one side (of the table) are Asclepias and Health, one of his
daughters; Ares too and Contest by his side; on the other are Pluto,
Dionysus, Persephone and nymphs, one of them carrying a ball.  As to
the key (Pluto holds a key) they say that what is called Hades has been
locked up by Pluto, and that nobody will return back again therefrom.

a chorus of Sophocles says that a golden key is laid upon the tongue of
mortals by the Eumolpid priests.

Now Aeacus was the most pious of men.  Therefore, when Greece
suffered from infertility on account of Pelops, because in a war with
Stymphalus, king of the Arcadians, being unable to conquer Arcadia, he
slew the king under a pretense of friendship, and scattered his mangled
limbs, oracles of the gods declared that Greece would be rid of its
present calamities if Aeacus would offer prayers on its behalf.  So
Aeacus did offer prayers, and Greece was delivered from the death.  
Even after his death Aeacus is honored in the abode of Pluto, and keeps
the keys of Hades.

Korybantes / Kabeiroi

I turn to what is remote from my theme, but has been brought into
connection with it by historians owing to the identity of name, being
known as Kuretic or concerned with the Kuretes as if it had to do with
the former inhabitants of Aetolia and Acarnaia.  In fact these Kuretes are
different, and what is known about them suggests rather the Satyrs and
Sileni and Bacchi and Tityri.  For according to writer on Cretan and
Phrygian lore, the Kuretes are similar daemons or attendants upon
gods, and are mixed up with certain sacred rites, both mystic and other,
concerned with the rearing of the child Zeus in Crete and the orgiastic
worship of the Mother of the Gods in Phyrgia and around Mount Ida in
the Troad.  There is much confusion in these accounts.  Some declare
that the Korybantes and Kabiri and Idaen Daktyls and Telchines are the
same as the Kuretes, others pronounce them related and distinguish
certain small differences between them, but agree that in general terms,
and to name their prevailing characteristics, all alike are enthusiastic and
Bacchic types, who in the guise of acolytes, but dances in arms with
tumult, noise, cymbals, tympana and weapons, also with the music of
flutes an shouting, arouse the passions in the course of religious
ceremonies.  Thus the rites also become common property, both those
of the Kuretes and those performed in Samothrace and in Lemnos and
many others, because the attendant daemons were identified.  (In a
footnote on this comment by Strabo, Guthrie says that the orgiastic rites
of the Thracian goddess Bendis (in Lemnos) also called the Great
Goddess, a goddess of the fruits of the earth identified by the Greeks
with Artemis, Persephone and Hekate.)  

Advancing from here twenty-five stades you come to a grove of
Cabeirean Demeter and the Maid. The initiated are permitted to enter it.  
The sanctuary of the Cabeiri is some seven stades distant from the
grove.  I must ask the curious to forgive me if I keep silence as to who
the Cabeiri are, and what is the nature of the ritual performed in honor of
them and of the Mother.
But there is nothing to prevent my declaring to all what the Thebans say
was the origin of the ritual. They say that once there was in this place a
city, with inhabitants called Cabeiri, and that Demeter came to know
Prometheus, once of the Cabeiri, and Aetnaelis his son, and entrusted
something to their keeping.  What was entrusted to them, and what
happened to it, seemed to me a sin to put into writing, but at any rate the
rites are a gift of Demeter to the Cabeiri.  

Thaleia the muse became by Apollon mother of the Korybantes.  
Another account made their parents Zeus and Kalliope, and explained
that the Korybantes were one with the mystic Kabeiroi.  Others declared
that Korybas, eponym of the Korybantes, was a son of Iasion by Kybele,
the Asiatic mountain goddess.  Others again – for the theme had many
variations – spoke of the Korybantes as the first men, who had sprung
from the ground in the shape of trees.  It all comes to the same thing.
The Korybantes were akin to the great mountain-goddess or earth
mother who they served with wild enthusiastic rites.  Their name, if I am
not mistaken, is derived from korybe the Macedonian form of koryphe ‘a
mountain peak’ and means ‘peak-men’  In roman times, if not earlier, the
Korybantes were connected with Mount Olympos.  According to
Clement of Alexandra, they were three brothers, two of whom slew the
third, wrapped his head in a crimson cloak, decked it with a wreath and
buried it, bearing it on a bronze shield to the foot of Olympos.  
Bloodshed and burial were the essential features of their mysteries.  
…Further, these Korybantes – says Clement – were called Kabeiroi; and
the story told of them was that the two fratricides took up the basket
containing the member of Dionysos and brought it to Eturia, where they
lived in exile teaching the Etruscans to worship the basket and its
contents.  Note that the dead Kabeiros is here termed Dionysos and that
a portion of him is kept in a basket to serve as a nucleus of fresh life.

In late times the Dionysiac connection was intensified.  Korybantes and
Kabeiroi came to the fore; and certain shrewd persons recorded their
conviction that the original Kabeiroi had been two in number – Zeus the
elder and Dionysos the younger.  If the Zeus worshipped at Dion was
thus Dionysiac in character, akin to the Phrygian Zeus Sabazios, we can
understand why he has the snake as his attribute:  the slain Korybas
became a snake, and snakes were all important in the mysteries of

Both districts had strange stories to tell of the way in which the divine
child had been nurtured by doves or bees, a goat or a pig, while
Kouretes and Korybantes clashed their weapons to drown his infant


Fasting and Drinking the Kykeon
The sixth day, Boedromion 20, seems to have been spent in resting,
fasting, purification, and sacrificing. A large cake of barley and wheat
from the Rharian plain was offered to the gods by the Eumolpids. Thus
prepared the initiates were ready for the great revelation and wore new
clothes for the ceremony. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 260-261)

Plotinus mentions these practices as analogous to the beginning of the
ascent back to God.
So, to those that approach the Holy Celebrations of the Mysteries, there
are appointed purifications and the laying aside of the garments worn
(First Ennead VI, 7)
Callimachus mentions:
fasting on the sacred days of the Rarian Demeter.
(Aetia 10)
Porphyry in his On Abstinence From Animal Food has more to say, and
gives the spiritual reasons for such practices.
But most theologians say that the name of Persephone is derived from
nourishing a ringdove; for the ringdove is sacred to this Goddess.
Hence, also the priests of Maia dedicate to her a ringdove. And Maia is
the same with Persephone, as being obstetric, and a nurse. For this
Goddess is terrestrial, and so likewise is Demeter. To this Goddess, also
a cock is consecrated; and on this account those that are initiated in her
mysteries abstain from domestic birds. In the Eleusinian mysteries,
likewise, the initiated are ordered to abstain from domestic birds, from
fishes and beans, pomegranates and apples, which fruits are as equally
defiling to the touch, as a woman recently delivered, and a dead body
But whoever is acquainted with the nature of divinely-luminous
appearances knows also on what account it is requisite to abstain from
all birds, and especially for him who hastens to be liberated from
terrestrial concerns, and to be established with the celestial Gods.
(Porphyry On Abstinence From Animal Food IV, 16)
Ovid relates how the initiates pattern their practice after the actions of
the divine Demeter thus achieving ritual in its most meaningful
manifestation as imitation or participation in divine action.
As she was about to pass within the lowly dwelling, she plucked a
smooth, a slumberous poppy that grew on the waste ground; and as
she plucked, 'tis said she tasted it forgetfully, and so unwitting stayed
her long hunger. Hence, because she broke her fast at nightfall, the
initiates time their meal by the appearance of the stars.
(Fasti IV ca. 530)
We remember from the Homeric Hymn how Demeter refused wine but
broke her fast by drinking the kykeon made of barley meal, water, and
tender mint; thus she observed the sacrament. So, too, the initiates after
a fast of perhaps several days drank the same potent sacrament as the
final preparation for the mystic initiation. Kerenyi on the significance of
the kykeon cites the opinion of a pharmacologist: "It is well known that
visionary states can be induced by hunger alone.... The content of the
visions, as experiments on visionary states induced by chemicals, that
is, drugs, have shown, is largely or perhaps entirely determined by
expectations, spiritual preparation, initial psychic situation, and by the
surroundings." (Kerenyi Eleusis p. 179)

The third ingredient after roasted barley and water was the glekon or
blekon, Mentha pulegium. This is a variety of pennyroyal, and the
principal ingredient is poley oil (Oleum pulegii), prepared as an aromatic
in southern Europe by distilling the wild. In large doses it may induce
delirium, loss of consciousness, and spasms. The word blekon implies a
carminative or antispasmodic that may have been a narcotic. Pindar
uses the word in relation to the rivers of the underworld:
the slow rivers of dark night,
and to:
the sluggish gift of sleep
Once the Epheians were in rebellion and asked the philosopher
Heraclitus for advice. He said not a word, took a cup of cold water,
sprinkled barley into it, stirred it with a branch of Mentha pulegium, and
drank it down. (Kerenyi Eleusis p. 179-180)

According to Dr. Hofmann, "The volatile oils contained in poley oil
(Oleum pulegii) might very well, added to the alcoholic content of the
kykeon, have produced hallucinations in persons whose sensibility was
heightened by fasting." (Kerenyi Eleusis p. 180) With this heightened
awareness, the initiates were ready for the spiritual visions which would
briefly lift the veil from death and show them a spiritual reality into which
they would be born after death.

This draught (kykeon) was drunk as a sacrament breaking the fast on
the climactic day of celebrations. Nonnus gives a reason for Demeter's
But Deo refused to drink, being tipsy with Persephone's trouble:
parents of an only child ever tremble for their beloved children.
(Dionysiaca VI, 30-32)
Ovid's version:
Meanwhile all in vain the affrighted mother seeks her daughter in every
land, on every deep. Not Aurora rising with dewy tresses, not Hesperus
sees her pausing in the search. She kindles two pine torches in the fires
of Aetna, and wanders without rest through the frosty shades of night;
again, when the genial day had dimmed the stars, she was still seeking
her daughter from the setting to the rising of the sun. Faint with toil and
athirst, she had moistened her lips in no fountain, when she chanced to
see a hut thatched with straw, and knocked at its lowly door. Then out
came an old woman and beheld the goddess, and when she asked for
water gave her a sweet drink with parched barley floating upon it. While
she drank, a coarse, saucy boy stood watching her, and mocked her
and called her greedy. She was offended, and threw what she had not
yet drunk, with the barley grain, full in his face.
(Metamorphoses V, 438-452)
Pennyroyal apparently retained its quasi-mythical associations with the
functions of birthing and nursing the newborn for many centuries, ass
attested by Soranus’ recommendation of its strong, sweetish odor
(somewhere between peppermint and camphor) in the delivery chamber.

As to the composition of the drink, it is generally agreed that it can have
had no alcoholic content, since the Hymn expressly states that Demeter
did not partake of wine.  Yet is has been suggested that there might have
been an admixture of some other intoxicating ingredients.  Joseph
Campbell, for example, has speculated that the grains of wheat may
have contained small quantities of ergot, a natural hallucinogen often
occurring in cereal products (video: AFrom Darkness to Light.@) This
hypothesis is rendered less plausible, however, by the extremely volatile
character of ergot infections (as in St. Anthony=s fire) which would have
been difficult if not impossible to control safely.  

Carl A. P. Ruck, Albert Hoffman, and I (R. Gordon Wasson) have
advanced a theory that explains the Mystery of Eleusis, a major focus of
the religious life of the ancient Greeks: it was well within the capacity of
the hierophants of Eleusis to prepare a water solution of the Claviceps
purpurea (ergot) growing on their wheat and barley or the water solution
of the powdered ergot of Paspalum ditichum, a grass growing around
the Mediterranean, both of which would give the worshipers an
entheogenic experience with no danger of a deleterious effect.


The word >labyrinth= is not Greek in origin, though we know that the
word labrys meant the double headed axe.  So the labyrinth was both
the AHouse of the Double Axe@ - that is, the temple of the goddess,
where her mysteries were celebrated - and the place of rebirth.  The
goddess was probably the ALady of the Labyrinth,@ to whom a jar of
honey, the divine nectar, was humbly offered.

Another interpretation has the labyrinthine turnings representing the
soul=s wandering before or after death, where the obstacles in the way
of reaching the center symbolize the sacrifices that progressively make
possible the way forward, until at the center the union creates
transformation, and the way out again allows rebirth.

The two boys whom the visitor to Trophonios was given to attend him
on the night of his descent were called Hermai, and must have been the
representatives of Hermes Psychopompos, who conducted souls to the
underworld.  The same thing is probably suggested by the curiously
complicated arrangement of spikes and circular railings (obeloi and
zonai), with gates through them, laid out on the marble floor
surrounding the entrance to the adyton.  It suggests a maze, one use of
which was to keep unwanted and possibly mischievous spirits in their
place; for as all magicians know, even a system of lines raced on the
ground can do this, provided the proper formalities have been carried

For the soul takes with it to the other world nothing but its education
and nurture, and these are said to benefit or injure the departed greatly
from the very beginning of his journey thither.  And so it is said that after
death, the tutelary genius of each person, to whom he had been allotted
in life, leads him to a place where the dead are gathered together; then
they are judged and depart to the other world with the guide whose task
it is to conduct thither those who come from this world; and when they
have there received their due and remained through the time appointed,
another guide brings them back after many long periods of time.  And
the journey is not as Telephus says in the play of Aeschylus; for he says
a simple path leads to the lower world, but I think the path is neither
simple nor single, for if it were, there would be no need of guides, since
no one could miss the way to any place if there were only one road.  But
really there seem to be many forks of the road and many windings; this I
infer from the rites and ceremonies practiced here on earth.  Now the
orderly and wise soul follows its guide and understands its
circumstances, bur the soul that is desirous of the body, as I said before,
flits about it, and in the visible world for a long time.   

(Attributed to Plutarch) At first there is wandering, and wearisome
roaming, and fearful traveling through darkness with no end to be
found.  Then, just before the consummation, there is every sort of terror,
shuddering and trembling and perspiring and being alarmed.  But after
this a marvelous light appears, and open places and meadows await,
with voices and dances and the solemnities of sacred utterances and
holy visions.  In that place one walks about at will, not perfect and
initiated and free, and wearing a crown, one celebrates religious rites,
and joins with pure and pious people. Such a person looks over the
uninitiated and unpurified crowd of people living here, who are packed
together and trample each other in deep mud and murk, but who hold
onto their evil things on account of their fear of death, because they do
not believe in the good things that are in the other world.

For the lesser mysteries, he says, are those of Persephone here below,
and of these mysteries and the road that leads there, which is Abroad
and wide@ and leads those who are perishing to Persephone, the poet
also says: ABut beneath it is an awesome pathway, cavernous and
clayey; but this is the best that leads to the pleasant grove of glorious

There follows a purification ceremony for which the Homeric Hymn has
Demeter herself set the example.  Without speaking a word she sits
down on a stool which is covered by a ram fleece, and she veils her
head.  Thus reliefs show Herakles at his initiation, veiled and sitting on a
ram fleece, while either a winnowing fan is held over him or a torch is
brought up close to him from beneath. In ancient interpretation this
would be purification by air and by fire; for the blindfolded mystes these
must be disquieting, threatening experiences.  On the reliefs there
follows the encounter with Demeter, Kore, and the kiste.  This probably
points to the festival proper: >As long as you have not reached the
Anaktoron, you are not initiated.=

In the sanctuary of Eleusis there was not enough room for such
wanderings, but at most, during the archaic period, for round dances
outside the temple.  These ceased to be essential components of the
Mysteries when, after the Persian invasion, the temple was surrounded
with a protective wall that cut across the dance area.  Regardless of
whether there were labyrinthine dances at Eleusis or whether the picture
of processions in the underworld is based on a still older and not purely
Eleusinian tradition, the end of the dance was good.  The labyrinth
suggested by meanders and spirals was a place of processions and not
of hopelessness, even though it was a place of death.
Diodorus the Sicilian…he describes the labyrinth futher as having
“banquet halls reached by steep ascents, flights of ninety steps leading
down from the porticoes, porphyritic columns, figures of gods and
hideous monsters and statues of kings.  Some of the palaces are so
made that the opening of a door makes a terrifying sound as of thunder.  
Most of the buildings are in total darkness.  Outside the labyrinth there is
another great heap of buildings, called the ‘Pteron’ under which are
passages leading to other subterranean palaces.’

Theseus and his party did “not appear to have been too eager to reach
their destination, however, for the party found time to celebrate their
escape with dance and song on the islands en route.  It is said that on
the island of Delos they performed a peculiar dance called the Geranos,
or “Crane Dance” in which they went through the motions of threading
the labyrinth, and that this dance was perpetuated by the natives of that
island until fairly recent times.   

The Cretan poet Epimenides, who lived in the 6th century b.c., says that
Theseus was aided in his escape from the dark Labyrinth by means of
the light radiated by a crown of blazing gems and gold which Bacchus
gave to Ariadne.
Aristotle, according to Plutarch, stated in a work which has not come
down to us his belief that the Athenian youths were not put to death by
Minos but were retained as slaves.  Plutarch, moreover, deplores the
abuse which Greek tradition had heaped upon the name of Minos,
pointing out that Homer and Hesiod had referred to him in very
honorable terms and laws, like another Moses, direct from God, and after
administering them during his life on earth continued to do so in the
underworld after his death.

At Gortyna, on the south side of Crete, there was a remarkable series of
winding passages, opening on the side of Mount Ida.  Some authors of
antiquity, such as the Roman poets Catullus and Claudian, held the
opinion that this cavern, or one of the many other caves or quarries in
Crete was the real Labyrinth, and this view has been largely entertained
in recent times, right up to the beginning of the present century.

A very interesting account of the Gortnya cavern is that contained in the
journal of C.R. Cockerell. He and his party entered the labyrinth by an
inconspicuous hold in the rock in a steep part of Mount Ida and found
themselves in an intricately winding passage.  They had taken the
precaution to bring with them a great length of string wound upon two
sticks, and it was fortunate that they did so, for “the windings
bewildered us as once, and, my compass being broken, I was quite
ignorant to where I was. The clearly intentional intricacy and apparently
endless number of galleries impressed me with a sense of horror and
fascination I cannot describe.  At every ten steps on was arrested, and
had to turn to right or left, sometimes to choose one of three or four
roads.  What if one should lose the clue?”  

Fig. 23 shows a silver coin of a rather later date, representing on its
obverse a female head which is thought to be that of Demeter or
Persephone, and on the reverse a meander-labyrinth containing a star at
its center.

The head on the coin shown in Fig. 31 may be intended for that of Minos
or Zeus.  On the reverse is a square labyrinth.  
Labyrinthine designs are also found on certain Lydian, Phygian, and
Ionian coins.  
It will be noticed that when once the labyrinth pattern has been definitely
conventionalized it remains very constant in principle, whether its
general conformation be rectangular or circular.  Starting from the
exterior, the “path” runs inwards a short distance, turns so as to run
parallel with the outer wall until nearly a full circuit has been completed,
then doubles back on itself and runs round in the opposite direction,
doubles upon itself again, and so on until it finally comes to a stop in a
blind end, having traversed all of the space within the outer walls
without covering any part twice and without forming any branches or

We cannot, however, ignore the suggestion that has been made that
certain structures discovered in the ruins of Tiryns and Epidaurus, two
cities in that part of ancient Greece known as the Argolid, are
architectural labyrinths used for ritual purposes.  The foundations of the
tholos, or rotunda, of the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Epidaurus, which
was excavated by P. Kabbadias, Director of the Greek Archaeological
Society do certainly suggest something of the kind.
We must take notice of a reference in an ancient manuscript which tends
to show that the symbol figured on the robes of Roman Emperors.  “Let
there be represented on it a labyrinth of gold and pearls, in which is the
Minotaur, made of emerald, holding his finger to his mouth, thus
signifying that, mjst as none may know the secret of the labyrinth, so
none may reveal the monarch’s counsels.”

The fishermen and peasants said that they were used for children’s
games, a girl standing at the center whilst the boys raced for her along
the winding paths; but Dr. Aspelin pointed out that they were in any
case ancient remains, and thought the idea might have originated in the
Bronze Age.

All this appears highly speculative to the ordinary layman, but nobody
who gives a little attention to the subject can avoid the conclusion that
at any rate there must have existed in very early – possibly Neolithic –
times an extremely widespread and important ceremonial, generally of a
sacrificial type, in connection with the spring awakening.  So deeply
seated was this ancient tradition that traces of if have persisted, with
various local modifications, right down to the present day.  

Legomena (the words that were spoken)

But a man may be ignorant of (2) what he is doing, as for instance when
people say Ait slipped out while they were speaking@ or Athey were not
aware that the matter was a secret@ as Aeschylus said of the

Aeschylus was accused before the Areopagus of having divulged the
Mysteries of Demeter in certain of his tragedies, but was acquitted.  A
phrase of his, Ait came to my mouth@ became proverbial and he may
have used it on this occasion.   (Note, this is from a footnote.)

Bacchus is summoned in the words:
Thou that leadest the dance of the fiery stars, watcher over the nocturnal
cry, Zeus-born child, appear, Lord, with thine attendant Thyiads, who all
night long in frenzied ecstasy dance thy dance, Iacchos our Master.   
(Todd look up quote and rewrite.)

Lactantius (Epitome Institutionum Divanarum, 23) because he compares
the Egyptian representations of the lament of Isis for her lost Osiris with
the Mysteries of Demeter, declares explicitly that Persephone was
sought at night with torches and found again at the end amid rejoicing
and a blaze of light.   Todd: how do you find someone who is lost?  By
calling out their name.

Ludwig Deubner believes that a magic formula was uttered: AAnd
behold in this season when no grain grows@ - for it is autumn - Aan ear
of grain has grown.@...The ear of whet growing and maturing with a
supernatural suddenness is just as much a part of the mysteries of
Demeter as the vine growing in a few hours is part of the revels of
Dionysus...The ear of wheat suddenly grown, silently harvested and
displayed to the mystai is then really a revelation and pledge of the
goddess, who first gave this fruit to mankind through the Eleusinians.

But the Phrygians, he says, also call him Athe green ear that is
harvested,@ and the Athenians also, following the Phrygians, when they
make the initiations of Eleusis and display to the beholders that great
and wondrous and most perfect mystery which is to be beheld there is
silence, a harvested ear. Now this ear is for the Athenians too the great
and perfect Illuminator coming from the uncharacterized one; likewise,
the hierophant himself, who is not indeed castrated, like Attis, but is
made a eunuch with hemlock and is separated from all carnal
generation, when he celebrates the great and unutterable mysteries by
night at Eleusis under a brilliant light, calls out and proclaims these
words: AA holy child is born to the Lady Brimo, Brimos@ - that is, to the
Strong One, the Strong Lady, he says, means the spiritual birth, the
heavenly higher (birth); and strong is the man who is born in this
fashion.  And the mystery aforesaid is called Eleusis  

The people of Pheneus have also a sanctuary of Demeter surnamed
Eleusinian, and they perform a ritual to the goddess, saying that the
ceremonies at Eleusis are the same as those established among
themselves.  For Nause, they assert, came to them because of an oracle
from Delphi, being a grandson of Eumolpus.  Beside the sanctuary of
the Eleusinian has been set up Petroma, as it is called, consisting of two
large stones fitted one to the other.
When every other year they celebrate what they call the Greater Rites,
they open these stones. They take from out them writings that refer to
the rites, read them in the hearing of the initiated, and return them on the
same night.  

Come hither, Lord Dithyrambos, Bakchos . . . Bromios now in the
spring=s holy period.
At the latest Dionysos could be invoked with such words in Theoxenios
(March), the Amonth of hospitality to the gods,@ or in Bysios - in
common Greek, APhysios,@ Athe month of growth.@  This was
possible in the year of his awakening or in that of his dismemberment,
whereas Apollo, according to his own myth, did not come to Delphi from
the land of the Hyperboreans until midsummer.

Even without it the connection between Apollo and Dionysos was
known.  It was stated by the tragic poets of Athens, by Aeschylus as well
as by Euripides in whose lifetime the relief my have been cut. In the
Lykourgos tetralogy of Aeschylus, (fragment 86) the cry Ivy-Apollo,
Bakchios, the soothsayer rings out.

In a footnote, Pete Levi (Pausanias II.20.3.) Says that the battle story may
have some connection with Dionysos= war trumpets, which seem to
have been kept at Theses and were really ritual trumpets for summoning
the god from the underworld (Plutarch: On Isis and Osiris, 35.)

Legomena (Things Said)
The legomena were short liturgical statements, explanations, and
perhaps invocations accompanying the dromena. Their importance is
shown by a rhetorical exercise of Sopratos which tells of a young man
who dreamed that he was initiated in the Mysteries and saw the
dromena, but because he could not hear clearly the words of the
Hierophant he could not be considered as initiated. (Mylonas Eleusis p.
272) This incident implies two things: first that knowledge of the sacred
words is needed for initiation, and second that he would have been
considered initiated if he had heard the words even though his entire
experience was in a dream. A knowledge of Greek was necessary for
initiation due to the importance of the legomena.

The legomena may have provided instruction to guide one in the other
world as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Porphyrus gives us a
description of initiation which includes legomena and seems to indicate
also much of the content and feeling of the Epopteia.
Crowned with myrtle, along with the other initiates we enter the entrance
hall of the temple, still blind, but the hierophant who is within will soon
open our eyes. But first, for nothing is to be done in haste, let us wash in
the holy water. We are led before the hierophant. From a book of stone,
he reads to us things which we must not divulge, under penalty of
death. Let us say only that they are in harmony with the place and
circumstance. You would laugh, perhaps, if you heard them outside the
temple, but here you have no desire to laugh as you listen to the words
of the elder (for he is always old) and as you look at the exposed
symbols. And you are far from laughing when, by her special language
and signs, by vivid sparkling of light and clouds piled upon clouds,
Demeter confirms everything that we have seen and heard from her holy
priest. Then, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple; we see
the pure Elysian fields; we hear the chorus of the blessed ones. Now it
is not merely through an external appearance or through a philosophical
interpretation, but in fact and in reality that the hierophant becomes the
creator and the revelator of all things; the sun is but his torchbearer, the
moon, his helper of the altar, and Hermes, his mystical messenger. But
the last word has been uttered: Knox Om Pax.
The ritual has been consummated, and we are seers forever.
(Schuré, Edouard The Great Initiates p. 406)

Lesser Mysteries (See Herakles)

Heracles and the Lesser Mysteries
According to legend the origin of the Lesser Mysteries was for Heracles
who needed purification before he could journey to the underworld.
Diodorus says:
Demeter instituted the Lesser Mysteries in honor of Heracles, that she
might purify him of the guilt he had incurred in the slaughter of the
(IV, 14)

And assuming that it would be to his advantage for the accomplishment
of this labor, he went to Athens and took part in the Eleusinian
Mysteries, Musaeus, the son of Orpheus, being at that time in charge of
the initiatory rite.
(Diodorus Siculus IV, 25)
According to another version he was rebuffed by the Pythia at Delphi
when he asked how he should purify himself, and seeking initiation at
Eleusis was also refused at first. Kerenyi translates the fragments on a
papyrus from an oration of the time of Hadrian, giving a speech of
Herakles whom they did not wish to initiate into the Eleusinian Mysteries:
"I was initiated long ago (or: elsewhere). Lock up Eleusis, (Hierophant,)
and put the fire out, Dadouchos. Deny me the holy night! I have already
been initiated into more authentic mysteries.... (I have beheld) the fire,
whence (...and) I have seen the Kore.
(Kerenyi Eleusis p. 83-84)
Here is more evidence for a mystical vision in the flames. Plutarch tells
how Theseus, who had his own adventure in the underworld, helped
Heracles to these sacred rites.
Yet it is more credible, as others write, that there were, before, frequent
interviews between them, and that it was by the means of Theseus that
Hercules was initiated at Eleusis, and purified before initiation, upon
account of several rash actions of his former life.
(Theseus 30)
Apollodorus records how Eumolpus himself saw to Heracles'
When Hercules was about to depart to fetch him, he went to Eumolpus
at Eleusis, wishing to be initiated. However it was not then lawful for
foreigners to be initiated: since he proposed to be initiated as the
adoptive son of Pylius. But not being able to see the mysteries because
he had not been cleansed of the slaughter of the centaurs, he was
cleansed by Eumolpus and then initiated.
(The Library II, v, 12)
Heracles answers questions in Euripides' Heracles Mad.
Heracles: ... After my return at length from the soulless den of Hades and
the maiden queen of hell, I will not neglect to greet first of all the gods
beneath my roof.
Amphitryon: Why, did you in very deed go to the house of Hades, my

Heracles: Aye, and brought to the light that three-headed monster.
Amphitryon: Did you worst him fight, or receive him from the goddess?

Heracles: In fair fight; for I had been lucky enough to witness the rites of
the initiated.

Amphitryon: Is the monster really lodged in the house of Eurystheus?

Heracles: The grove of Demeter and the city of Hermione are his prison.
Perhaps the best pictorial representation of an initiation ceremony is the
Lovatelli cinerary urn and the Terre Nova sarcophagus. The
identification of the figure with the lion-skin as Heracles could indicate
that it depicts the Lesser Mysteries.. The following interpretation is by J.
N. Casavis: "In the first picture, he is seated upon the low sacred couch,
right arm and breast bare, hoodwinked, and unshod. The seat is
covered with the skin of a lion, His feet are resting on the lion's skin
instead of making use of the ram's skin on which the other candidates
for initiation were standing. In his left hand he holds a torch, emblematic
of purification by fire. He is also represented on the right of this picture
standing by the Hierophant. Demeter is seated on the symbolic Cista
which is covered with the sheepskin. Iacchus, the secret god of the
Mysteries, is standing on her right, In the urn, Herakles is also
hoodwinked, right arm and breast bare. A sieve is shaken over his
covered head, emblematic of purification, symbolic of the separation of
evil from good, of fecundity and resurrection. At the right, Herakles,
attired in the lion's skin is standing barefoot by the Hierophant holding a
sacrificial pig by its hind legs,... The Hierophant is seen sprinkling the
victim from a pitcher, with his right hand. On his left, he carries a flat
earthen vessel on which three poppy heads appear. Demeter is seated
on the Cista holding a torch on which a serpent, the symbol of the
chthonian deities, is twined around it. The snake is licking the hand of
Iacchus who is resting on a mystic rod. Demeter looks at Persephone
holding a torch in her left hand." (The Greek Origin of Freemasonry, p.

It was essential to participate in the Lesser Mysteries before being
allowed into initiation into the Greater Mysteries. Socrates is being ironic
when he says:
I envy you, Callicles, for having been initiated into the great mysteries
before you were initiated into the lesser. I thought that this was not
(Plato Gorgias 497)
The scholiast of Aristophanes says:
The Greater Mysteries were Demeter's and the Lesser Persephone's.
(Mylonas Eleusis p. 240)
A fragment of Douris, the Samian historian, states:
The goddess Demeter is coming to celebrate her daughter's Mysteries.
(Ibid. p. 239-240)
Since the Lesser Mysteries were held annually in the early spring during
Anthesterion, the month of flowers, it is natural that they are associated
with the Daughter, as we saw before, the time when the crops are
coming to maturity. The place of their performance was the Agra on the
east bank of the river Ilissos in Athens.

According to Mylonas, fasting, sacrifices, sprinkling of water or bathing
in the waters of Ilissos, and singing hymns formed part of the
ceremonies. Women carried the sacred vessel (kernos ) and danced in
the Lesser as well as in the Greater Mysteries. (Ibid. p. 240-241)


The Egyptians, as has already been stated, point out tombs of Osiris in
many places, and the people of Delphi believe that the remains of
Dionysus rest with them close behind the oracle; and the Holy Ones
offer a secret sacrifice in the shrine of Apollo whenever the devotees of
Dionysus wake the God of the Mystic Basket.

In Greek mythology we find frequent mention of the object to which they
probably belonged: the liknon, a winnow-shaped basket, in which divine
as well as mortal babies were kept.  According to the Homeric Hymn to
Hermes, the infant Hermes lay in his swaddling clothes in the Kyllenian
grotto. In his Hymn to Zeus, Kallimachos combines several Cretan
traditions: the goddess Adrasteia lays the infant Zeus in a golden liknon,
her goat suckles him, and in lieu of milk he is given honey.  A third
example is that of Dionysos.  As Liknites - Ahe in the liknon@ - he was
Aawakened@ by the Dionysian women in a cave on Mt. Parnassos, high
over Delphi.  The awakening took the form of a mysterious ceremony:
only the designation of the god as Liknites shows that the liknon was
his Acontainer.@  A larger Acontainer,@ the cave that housed the
liknon, was said Ato gleam with a golden radiance at certain times -
evidently the torchlight of the nocturnal rite of Dionysus.

Plutarch speaks of a rite in which his female votaries, the Thyiades,
awaken the Liknites, the child in the liknon, or winnowing basket which
served him as a cradle.

At Delphi the only temporarily defeated god could be Dionysos, since
his tomb was shown in the innermost sanctuary, near the Agolden
Apollo.@  Parts of him allegedly rested here, and his heart probably was
thought to be in the caldron from which the oracle issued.  Holy men, the
Hosioi, performed a secret sacrifice in the temple, while the holy women,
the Thyiades, were awakening Liknites in the cave.
All that has come down to us is a clear characterization of the action (an
awakening), the nature of the small container in which the one to be
awakened lay (a winnow, liknon, hence the name Liknites), and the fact
that it took place simultaneously with another sacred action.  Plutarch
was permitted to say just this much to his friend Klea, who was at that
time both the leader of the Thyiades at Delphi and an initiate in the
mysteries of Osiris.  He tells her in order to draw her attention to the
consonance between the two mysteries: in both cases a reawakening
was preceded by a state of lying in the tomb.  The simultaneous actions
were performed secretly in the temple of Apollo by the Hosioi, the
specially consecrated bearers of the Delphic traditions, and in the exact
place, so it was said, where the remains of the dismembered Dionysos
were kept.

The Delphians believe that the remains of Dionysos rest with them,
within the place of prophecy: and the Holy Ones offer a secret sacrifice
in the temple of Apollon, whenever the Thyiads wake the One in the
Winnowing Fan.

What was carried about - whether in a cista mystica or in a liknon - could
not, however, be kept entirely secret.  It was not a heart but a phallus.  
This is evident from the Orphic books themselves. In a text about which
we shall have more to say later, the object that the goddess Hipta took
from Zeus and carried on her head in a liknon was called the AKradiaios
Dionysos.@  Kradiaios can have two meanings, and this is the key to
the secret.  It can be derived either from Kradia (Aheart=) or from krade
(Afig tree@): in the latter case, it means an object made from a fig branch
or fig wood.  According to one myth, Dionysos himself fashioned a
phallus from fig wood for use in a mystic rite connected with his return
from the underworld.  The soft wood was suitable for the Dionysian
utensil, which was referred to by the euphemism Aheart.@  According to
the sources the object that was preserved by Pallas Athena was the
sacrificed he-goat=s male organ, which was neither boiled nor roasted
nor burned, but set aside and hidden.  The action was symbolic and it is
very likely that in place of the dried members, or along with it, a phallus
of fig wood was used the following year in the ceremony serving to
Aawaken@ Liknites, the god lying in the liknon.


but in reality the greatest of blessings come to us through madness,
when it is sent as a gift of the gods...and it is worth while to adduce also
the fact that those men of old who invented names thought that
madness was neither shameful nor disgraceful; otherwise they would
not have connected the very word mania with the noblest of arts, that
which foretells the future, but calling it the manic art. No, they gave this
name thinking that mania, when it comes by gift of the gods, is a noble
thing, but nowadays people call prophecy the mantic art, tastelessly
inserting a T in the word.

To Akorybant@ meant to be in a state of divine madness in which
hallucinations occurred.  It was known to the medical writers of Greece
as a pathological condition.

Always, or practically always, ate is a state of mind - a temporary
clouding or bewildering of the normal consciousness.  It is, in fact, a
partial and temporary insanity; and, like all insanity, it is ascribed, not to
physiological or psychological causes, but to an external Adaemonic@
agency.  In the Odyssey, it is true, excessive consumption of wine is
said to cause ate; the implication, however, is probably not that ate can
be produced Anaturally,@ but rather that wine has something
supernatural of daemonic about it.  Apart from this special case, the
agents productive of ate, where they are specified, seem always to be
supernatural beings, so we may class all instances of nonalcoholic ate
in Homer under the head of what I propose to call Apsychic intervention.

They say Athena put Erichthonios into a chest and gave him to Aglauros
and her sisters Herse and Pandrosos; she commanded them not to
meddle with the thing she committed to their care.  Pandrosos obeyed,
but the other two opened the chest and saw Erichtonios and went
raving mad; they threw themselves off the very steep side of the


As part of the incorporation rites, the bride eats a quince or an apple,
demonstrating that her livelihood now comes from her husband.  This is
a way of marking her initiation into the new oikos. The fruit and nuts
which the bride and groom are showered with act as agents of fertility
and prosperity.

Death before marriage signifies a marriage with the Underworld.  The
notion that unmarried girls have made a marriage with Hades invokes
the paradigm of Persephone in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.

The sacred marriage in which a god is paired with a goddess, is a
feature not only of myth but of ancient belief and cult among the Greeks,
and some of Zeus= unions are instances of the belief in the union of
Heaven and Earth whereby the Earth is fertilized...The classical
expression of this is found in the fragment of Aeschylus= play the

The Pure Sky longs passionately to pierce the Earth, and passion seizes
the Earth to win her marriage.  Rain falling from the bridegroom sky
makes pregnant the Earth.  Then brings she forth for mortals pasture of
flocks and corn, Demeter=s gift, and the fruitfulness of trees is brought
to completion by the dew of their marriage.  Of this am I part cause.  (The
speaker is Aphrodite.)   

This sacred marriage had some relation to the so-called Lesser
Eleusinian Mystery, a ceremony that was a preliminary to the Greater
Mystery that would be performed in the autumn of the year at the
neighboring village of Eleusis.  Socrates= rite of necromancy, therefore,
in this Swamp with a person like Peisander and at this particular date
would seem somehow involved in the great scandal of the day, the
profanation of the Mysteries.   (See The Dramatic Festivals at Athens,
revised by J. Gould and D. Lewis. (Oxford, 1968.)


(At sanctuary in Pheneus)
On the top is a sphere, with a mask inside of Demeter Cidaria.  This mask
is put on by the priest at the Greater Rites, who for some reason or other
beats with rods the Folk Underground.  The Pheneatians have a story
that even before Naus arrived the wanderings of Demeter brought her to
their city also.  To those Pheneatians who received her with hospitality
into their homes the goddess gave all sorts of pulse save the bean only.  
There is a sacred story to explain why the bean in their eyes is an
impure kind of pulse.  

There is some evidence for god-masks being worn by men in the cult of
the mystery gods Demeter and Dionysos.  The priest in Pheneos in
Arcadia dons the mask of Demeter Kidaria and beats the subterranean
dwellers with a rod, and in a mysterious oath ceremony in Syracuse, the
person swearing the oath is required to clothe himself in Demeter=s
purple robe and take a blazing torch in his hand.

Milky Way

Poetic fancy saw in the Milky Way a road, either the road of the gods, or
the road beside which stood the palaces of the gods, or the road
traveled by the souls of the dead, or the path of the sun.
Theony Condos.  Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans:  A
Sourcebook.  Phanes Press.  Grand Rapids, 1997, p. 110.


Next to the grove is a sanctuary of Demeter, she and her daughter are
standing, but the image of Earth is seated.  Before the sanctuary of
Demeter is a spring.  On the side of this towards the temple stands a wall
of stones, while on the outer side has been made a descent to the
spring.  Here is an infallible oracle, not indeed for everything, but only in
the case of sick folk.  They tie a mirror to a fine cord and let it down,
judging the distance so that it does not sink deep into the spring, but
just far enough to touch the water with its rim.  Then they pray to the
goddess and burn incense, after which they look into the mirror, which
shows them the patient either alive or dead.

This is the story of Anytus told by the Arcadians.  That Artemis was the
daughter, not of Leto, but of Demeter, which is the Egyptian account, the
Greeks learned from Aeschylus, the son of Euphorion.  The story of the
Curetes, who are represented under the images, and that of the
Corybantes ( a different race from the Curetes), carved in relief upon the
base, I know, but pass them by.  The Arcadians bring into the sanctuary
the fruit of all cultivated trees except the pomegranate. On the right as
you go out of the temple there is a mirror fitted into the wall.  If anyone
looks into this mirror, he will see himself very dimly indeed or not at all,
but the actual images of the gods and the throne can be seen quite

The nude boy raises both hands, as though saying delightedly, AHere I
am!@  Beside him two armed Kouretes are seen.  One is performing a
knife dance; the other, drawing his knife, is about to take part.  The child
will be stabbed while looking at himself in the mirror.  Nonnos provides
the text to the pictures.  The mirror, which catches the soul along with
the image, gives promise that the murdered god will not pass away


The lunar month begins on the first day of the new Moon.  In 1997, the
new moon falls on September 1st, the full moon is on September 16th
(Mysteries start on 15th Boedromion), the nine days of the Mysteries
would end on 23rd Boedromion (the last quarter) and on the 22nd of
September, is the first day of Autumn.  

The Egyptians have a legend that the end of Osiris= life came on the
seventeenth of the month, on which day it is quite evident to the eye that
the period of the full moon is over.

Moreover, at the time of the new moon in the month of Phamenoth they
celebrate a festival to which they give the name of AOsiris= coming to
the Moon,@ and this marks the beginning of the spring.  Thus, they
make the power of Osiris to be fixed in the Moon, and say that Isis, since
she is generation, is associated with him.  For this reason, they also call
the Moon the mother of the world, and they think that she has a nature
both male and female, as she is receptive and made pregnant by the
Sun, but she herself in turn emits and disseminates into the air
generative principles.  For, as they believe, the destructive activity of
Typhon does not always prevail, but oftentimes is overpowered by such
generation and put in bonds, and then at a later time is again released
and contends against Horus, who is the terrestrial universe; and this is
never completely exempt either from dissolution or from generation.

Finally, having established his worship throughout the world, Dionysus
ascended to Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of Zeus as one of
the Twelve Great Ones.  The self-effacing goddess Hestia resigned her
seat at the high table in his favor; glad of any excuse to escape the
jealous wrangling of her family, and knowing that she could always
count on a quiet welcome in any Greek city which it might please her to
visit.  Dionysus then descended, by way of Lerna, to Tartarus where he
bribed Persephone with a gift of myrtle to release his dead mother,
Semele.  She ascended with him into Artemis= temple at Troezen; but,
lest other ghosts should be jealous and aggrieved, he changed her
name and introduced her to his fellow Olympians at Thyone.  Zeus
placed an apartment at her disposal, and Hera preserved an angry but
resigned silence.
Semele was, in fact, another name for Persephone...Core, of course, did
not ascend to heaven; she wandered about on earth with Demeter until
the time came for her to return to the Underworld.  But soon after the
award of Olympic status to Dionysus the Assumption of his virgin-
mother became dogmatic and, once a goddess, she was differentiated
from Core, who continued heroine like to ascend and descend.

Hekate was identified with the Luna in the sky, Diana on earth and
Proserpine in the Underworld.  


The early enthusiasts of Christianity often denounced the mysteries, but
Mylonas notes that none of the Fathers appears to have been initiated
into the Mysteries nor does any claim that he is repeating what was told
by initiates converted to Christianity. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 287)

Many of their assertions make strange innuendoes. Take the statement
made by Asterios (c. 390 CE), the bishop of Amaseia in Asia Minor in his
Engomion to the Saintly Martyrs.
The Eleusinian Mysteries, are they not the main part of your religion and
the demos of Athens, yea the whole of Greece gathers to celebrate that
vanity? I not there (in the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis) the
katabasion and the solemn meeting of the Hierophant and the priestess,
each with the other alone; are not the torches then extinguished and the
vast crowd believes that its salvation depends on what those two act in
the darkness?
(Ibid. p. 311-312)
The next is by Epiphanios who was a bishop of Eleutheroupolis of
Palestine and Konstantia of Kypros and lived 367-403 CE. It is important
to note that he is describing the imitation mysteries of Alexandria.
In Alexandria there is the so-called Korion, and it is a very large temple,
that is the temenos of Kore. (The worshippers) having passed the night
in vigilance with songs and flute playing, singing to the idol... After the
call of the roosters they descend with torches in hand to an
underground chamber and from it they bring up on a litter a wooden
xoanon, seated, nude, bearing on its forehead some seal of a cross,
covered with gold ... and they carry this xoanon around seven times,
making a circle around the most central temple with flutes and drums
and hymns, and having sang and danced they take it down again to the
underground place ... and they say that at this hour, today the Kore, that
is the Virgin, gave birth to the Aion. (Ibid. p. 302)
These mysteries were celebrated in a place called Eleusis in Alexandria,
and it seems very likely that Clement of Alexandria's descriptions of the
Eleusinian mysteries were influenced by these very different rites than
the ones they initially tried to copy. Consider Clement's etymology:
Demeter and Persephone have come to be the subject of a mystic
drama, and Eleusis celebrates with torches the rape of the daughter and
the sorrowful wandering of the mother.

Now it seems to me that the terms "orgy" and "mystery" must be
derived, the former from the wrath (orge) of Demeter against Zeus, and
the latter from the pollution (mysos) that took place in connection with
(Exhortation to the Greeks II, 12)
Or consider his history:
It tells how Demeter, wandering through Eleusis, which is a part of
Attica, in search of her daughter the Maiden, becomes exhausted and
sits down at a well in deep distress. This display of grief is forbidden, up
to the present day, to those who are initiated, lest the worshippers
should seem to imitate the goddess in her sorrow. At that time Eleusis
was inhabited by aborigines, whose names were Baubo, Dysaules,
Triptolemus, and also Eumolpus and Eubouleus. Triptolemus was a
herdsman, Eumolpus a shepherd, and Eubouleus a swineherd. These
were progenitors of the Eumolpidae and of the Heralds, who form the
priestly clan at Athens. But to continue; for I will not forbear to tell the
rest of the story. Baubo, having received Demeter as a guest, offers her
a draught of wine and meal. She declines to take it, being unwilling to
drink on account of her mourning. Baubo is deeply hurt, thinking she
has been slighted, and thereupon uncovers her secret parts and
exhibits them to the goddess. Demeter is pleased at the sight, and now
at last receives the draught, - delighted with the spectacle! These are the
secret mysteries of the Athenians! These are also the subjects of
Orpheus' poems. I will quote you the very lines of Orpheus, in order that
you may have the originator of the mysteries as witness of their
This said, she drew aside her robes and showed
A sight of shame; child Iacchus was there,
And laughing, plunged his hand below her breasts.
Then smiled the goddess, in her heart she smiled,
And drank the draught from out the glancing cup.
(Ibid. II, 16-18)
The self-righteous Clement is able to speak the "unspeakable" and
describe the "unutterable."
The mysteries, then, are mere custom and vain opinion, and it is a deceit
of the serpent that men worship when, with spurious piety, they turn
towards these sacred initiations that are really profanities, and solemn
rites that are without sanctity. Consider, too, the contents of the mystic
chests; for I must strip bare their holy things and utter the unspeakable.
Are they not sesame cakes, pyramid and spherical cakes, cakes with
many navels, also balls of salt and a serpent, the mystic sign of
Dionysus Basareus? Are they not also pomegranates, fig branches,
fennel stalks, ivy leaves, round cakes and poppies? These are their holy
things! In addition, there are the unutterable symbols of Ge Themis,
marjoram, a lamp, a sword, and a woman's comb, which is euphemistic
expression used in the mysteries for a woman's secret parts.
(Ibid. II, 19)
Epictetus, in his "Against those who readily come to the profession of
sophists," criticizes those who imitate the superficialities of the
Eleusinian Mysteries but miss the spiritual significance.
But no man sails from a port without having sacrificed to the Gods and
invoked their help; nor do men sow without having called on Demeter;
and shall a man who has undertaken so great a work undertake it safely
without the Gods? and shall they who undertake this work come to it
with success? What else are you doing, man, than divulging the
mysteries? You say, "There is a temple at Eleusis, and one here also.
There is an Hierophant at Eleusis, and I also will make an Hierophant:
there is a herald, and I will establish a herald; there is a torch-bearer at
Eleusis, and I also will establish a torch-bearer; there are torches at
Eleusis, and I will have torches here. The words are the same; how do
the things done here differ from those done there?" Most impious man,
is there no difference? these things are done both in due place and in
due time; and when accompanied with sacrifice and prayers, when a
man is first purified, and when he is disposed in his mind to the thought
that he is going to approach sacred rites and ancient rites. In this way
the mysteries are useful, in this way we come to the notion that all these
things were established by the ancients for the instruction and
correction of life. But you publish and divulge them out of time, out of
place, without sacrifices, without purity; you have not the garments
which the hierophant ought to have, nor the hair, nor the head-dress,
nor the voice nor the age; nor have you purified yourself as he has: but
you have committed to memory the words only, and you say: "Sacred
are the words by themselves."

You ought to approach these matters in another way; the thing is great,
it is mystical, not common thing, nor is it given to every man.
(Epictetus Discourses III, 21)
Tertullian criticizes the secrecy and elaborate preparation, which he
seems to exaggerate, but these could just as easily be seen as virtues
protecting and increasing the sanctity of the rites.
Now, in the case of those Eleusinian mysteries, which are the very
heresy of Athenian superstition, it is their secrecy that is their disgrace.
Accordingly, they previously beset all access to their body with
tormenting conditions; and they require a long initiation before they
enroll (their members), even instruction during five years for their perfect
disciples, in order that they may mold their opinions by this suspension
of full knowledge, and apparently raise the dignity of their mysteries in
proportion to the craving for them which they have previously created.
Then follow the duty of silence. Carefully is that guarded, which is so
long in finding. All the divinity, however, lies in their secret recesses:
there are revealed at last all the aspirations of the fully initiated, the entire
mystery of the sealed tongue, the symbol of virility. But this allegorical
representation, under the pretext of nature's reverend name, obscures a
real sacrilege by help of an arbitrary symbol and by empty images
obviates the reproach of falsehood!
(Tertullian Against the Valentinians I)
Nonnos of the fifth century CE has Demeter consulting the astrologer
Asterion in his Sixth Dionysiaca.
He learned the details of the day when her only child was new born, and
the exact time and veritable course of the season which gave her birth:
then he bent the turning fingers of his hands and measured the moving
circle of the ever-recurring number counting from hand to hand in
double exchange He called to a servant, and Asterion lifted a round
revolving sphere, the shape of the sky, the image of the universe, and
laid it upon the lid of a chest. Here the ancient got to work. He turned it
upon its pivot, and directed his gaze round the circle of the Zodiac,
scanning in this place and that planets and fixed stars. He rolled the pole
about with a push, and the counterfeit sky went rapidly round and round
in mobile course with a perpetual movement, carrying the artificial stars
about the axle set through the middle. Observing the sphere with a
glance all round, the deity found that the Moon at the full was crossing
the curved line of her conjunction, and the Sun was half through his
course opposite the Moon moving at his central point under the earth; a
pointed cone of darkness creeping from the earth into the air opposite to
the Sun hid the whole Moon. Then when he heard the rivals for wedded
love, he looked especially for Ares, and espied the wife-robber over the
sunset house along with the evening star of the Cyprian. He found the
portion called the Portion of the Parents under the Virgin's starry corn-
ear; and round the Ear ran the light-bearing star of Cronides, father of

When he had noticed everything and reckoned the circuit of the stars,
he put away the ever-revolving sphere in its roomy box, the sphere with
its curious surface; and in answer to the goddess he mouthed a triple
oracle of prophetic sound:
Fond mother Demeter, when the rays of the Moon are stolen under a
shady cone and her light is gone, guard against a robber-bridegroom for
Persephoneia, a secret ravisher of your unsmirched girl, if the threads of
the Fates can be persuaded. You will see before marriage a false and
secret bedfellow come unforeseen, a half-monster cunning-minded:
since I perceive by the western point Ares the wife-stealer walking with
the Paphian, and I notice the Dragon rising beside them both. But I
proclaim you most happy: for you will be known for glorious fruits in the
four quarters of the universe, because you shall bestow fruit on the
barren soil; since the Virgin Astraia holds out her hand full of corn for
the destined lot of your girl's parents.
(Nonnus Dionysiaca VI, 58-102)
The spherical device for measuring the revolutions of the sun, moon,
and planets round the zodiac is certainly a product of later times, but the
interpretation of the horoscope is cosmic and the same in all ages. The
eclipse of the moon caused by the earth blocking the sun's light is
portentous for the mother, the feminine principle and domestic life. Its
darkness when it should be full is symbolic of Persephone's prominent
and sudden venture to the underworld and the shadowing over the
mother. The "sunset house" is the twelfth portion of the sky over the
western horizon and is called the seventh house, indicating marriage
and partnership. Naturally Asterion found Mars there, the planet of sex,
boldness, heat, force, and strong action. Its conjunction with Venus, the
planet of love and harmony, can mean a rash, intense, adventurous,
harmonious marriage. Jupiter, the benevolent and expansive planet, in
Virgo in the "Portion of the Parents" (fourth house) means great benefit
to the parents through the products of the earth. Apparently Jupiter was
very close to the star symbolizing the ear of corn, indicating Demeter's
gift of the grain.
The Greater Mysteries:
Announcement and Meeting at Athens
The Greater Mysteries began on the fifteenth day of the month of
Boedromion which corresponds to our September and beginning of
October; this would be around the autumnal equinox. Initiates came to
the Greater Mysteries from the Greek and, later, the Roman world and
included women, children, and slaves. Special messengers from the
Eumolpids and Kerykes proclaimed a holy truce and went to the cities
asking for the tithes of first fruits and official delegations to the Goddess.
The truce for the Greater Mysteries lasted 55 days. The expenses of
these messengers were paid for from the treasury of the sanctuary at
Eleusis. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 243-244) Aeschines by pointing out the
exception assumes the validity of this peace;
And when your heralds carried the proclamation of the sacred truce of
the Mysteries, the Phocians alone in all Hellas refused to recognize the
(Aeschines On the Embassy 133)
On the 14th of Boedromion after preliminary sacrifices the sacred
objects (Hiera ) of Demeter were taken from the sanctuary at Eleusis and
brought to Athens in sacred cists (kistai ) in a procession headed by the
priests and priestesses. Athenian Ephebes met the procession near the
Rhetoi lakes at the shrine of Echo and escorted them into Athens. The
procession would stop for a rest at the Sacred Fig Tree near the city.
Pausanias describes this place and recounts how Demeter was
welcomed there.
There is also an altar of Zephyr, and a sanctuary of Demeter and her
daughter: along with them are worshipped Athena and Poseidon. They
say that in this place Phytalus received Demeter in his house, and that
for so doing the goddess gave him the figtree. This story is attested by
the inscription on the grave of Phytalus: - Here the lordly hero Phytalus
once received the august Demeter, when she first revealed the autumnal
fruit which the race of mortals names the sacred fig; since when the race
of Phytalus hath received honors that wax not old.
(Pausanias I, 37:1-2)
There the procession was met by the people of Athens headed by their
priest and escorted to the sanctuary of the Goddess in Athens, known
as the Eleusinion where the sacred objects were deposited.

Aristotle informs us about the supervision of these rites in The Athenian
The King in the first place superintends the Mysteries, in conjunction
with the Superintendents of Mysteries. The latter are elected in the
assembly by open vote, two from the general body of Athenians, one
from the Eumolpidae, and one from the Ceryces.
This King known as the Archon Basileus called the people to an
assembly at the Painted Stoa in the famous Agora of Athens and
officially invited people to participate in the Mysteries and be initiated
into them (Mylonas Eleusis p. 247) Xenophon indicates the main asset of
a good herald:
And Cleocritus, the herald of the initiated, a man with a very fine voice,
obtained silence and said:
(Hellenica II, iv, 20)

All evil thoughts and profane be still: far hence, far hence from our
choirs depart,
Who knows not well what the Mystics tell, or is not holy and pure of
I charge them once, I charge them twice, charge them thrice, that they
draw not nigh
To the sacred dance of the Mystic choir.
(Aristophanes The Frogs 346-347, 361-362)
Thus sings the chorus in Aristophanes' The Frogs implying the need for
the initiates to want to turn away from evil and purify themselves.
Suetonius relates how Nero's guilt turned him away of his own accord
from these sacred rites.
When he was in Greece, he durst not attend the celebration of the
Eleusinian Mysteries, at the initiation of which, impious and wicked
persons are warned by the voice of the herald from approaching the
(Suetonius Nero XXXIV)
Cleansing and Sacrifices at Athens
On the second day, Boedromion 16, the heralds ordered all participants
to cleanse themselves in the sea. The shout, "To the sea!" filled the city.
Initiates carried a small pig, which was also washed in the sea. Some
apparently rode to the sea in carriages. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 249) The
ocean was a well-known purifying agent as expressed by this phrase
from The Persians of Aeschylus:
Ocean's unpolluted tide
Also in Euripides, Iphigenia uses it as an excuse to King Thoas in order
to plan her escape with Orestes.
Iphigenia: My purpose is to cleanse them first by purification.
Thoas: In fresh spring water or salt sea-spray?
Iphigenia: The sea washes away from man all that is ill.
Thoas: True, they would then be holier victims for the goddess.
(Iphigenia Among the Tauri 1191-1194)
Pigs were supposed to absorb the evil from humans. In Aristophanes'
The Peace, this sacrifice and subsequent initiation are used as repartee
by Trygaeus when he learns he is to die.
Trygaeus: And is it so? And must I die indeed?
Hermes: You must indeed.
Trygaeus: O then, I prithee, lend me half a crown. I'll buy a pig, and get
initiated first.
In Plato's Republic, Socrates is worried about the moral implications of
teaching the young and shallow the iniquitous deeds that Cronos
inflicted on his father and suffered from his son. He feels that perhaps
by revealing them only in a mystery with even greater sacrifices than for
Demeter, fewer might possess the knowledge.
But if there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a chosen few
might hear them in a mystery, and they should sacrifice not a common
(Eleusinian) pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; and then the
number of the hearers will be very few indeed.
(II, 378)
We know very little about the third day; it was probably the day of major
sacrifices on behalf of the city. The fourth day, Boedromion 18, was
called Epidauria or Asklepieia because the god of healing had been late
in coming from Epidauros, arriving after the proclamation, purification in
the sea, and the sacrifices. These rites were repeated so that the god
could be correctly initiated into Demeter's Mysteries. (Mylonas Eleusis p.
251) Pausanias confirms this.
For instance, the Athenians professedly assign to Aesculapius a share
in the mysteries, and give to the day on which they do so the name of
Epidauria; and they date their worship of Aesculapius as a god from the
time when this practice was instituted.
(II, 26:8)
Thus this day was to prepare those who had arrived late, while the
initiates rested. Aristotle concurs that the regular initiates stayed home.
He (Archon) also superintends sacred processions, both that in honor
of Asclepius, when the initiated keep house, and that of the great
(The Athenian Constitution 56:4)
The atmosphere in Athens on this day is described by Philostratus in his
recounting of Apollonius of Tyana's attempt at late initiation. This
sequence is an example of how a man of exceptional spiritual power
may be persecuted by small-minded officials.
Arriving at Pireaus about the season of the Mysteries, when Athens is
more crowded than any place in Greece, he lost no time in going up to
the city from his ship. As he went he met many of the learned making
their way down to Piraeus. Some were basking naked---the autumn is
fine and sunny at Athens---others were deep in discussions upon a text,
some practicing recitations, some disputing. None of them passed him
by, but all guessing that this was Apollonius, turned back with him and
hailed him with enthusiasm. A party of ten youths fell in with him, who
stretched out their hands towards the Acropolis and swore 'by yonder
Athena, they were just setting out for Piraeus to take ship for Ionia and
find him there.' He welcomed them, and said he congratulated them on
their desire for learning.

It was the day of the Epidauria; and at the Epidauria the Athenian usage,
after the Preface and the sacrifice, is to initiate aspirants for a second
sacrifice. This tradition represents Asclepius' experience, because he
came from Epidaurus, late in the Mysteries, and they initiated him.
Heedless of the initiation service, the multitude hung round Apollonius,
more concerned with this than to secure admission to the Elect. He said
he would be with them anon, and encouraged them to attend the service
for the meanwhile, as he himself intended to be initiated. But the
hierophant refused him access to the holy things, saying that he would
never admit a charlatan, nor open Eleusis to a man of impure theology.
Apollonius was equal to himself on this occasion, and said, 'You have
not yet mentioned the greatest charge that might be brought against me,
which is that I know more than you about this rite, although I came to
you as to a man better skilled than myself.' The bystanders applauded
this vigorous and characteristic rebuke; and the hierophant, seeing that
the excommunication was unpopular, changed his tune and said, 'You
shall be admitted, for you seem to be a person of doctrine.' Apollonius
answered, 'I will be admitted at another time; the ceremony will be
performed by So-and-so'---prophetically naming the next occupant of
the hierophancy, who succeeded to his sacred office four years later.
(Philostratus In Honor of Apollonius of Tyana IV, 17-18)
The Procession to Eleusis and Dancing
Boedromion 19 was the fifth day known as Iacchos or pompe and
culminated the festivities at Athens. Clothed in impressive pomp and
crowned with myrtle the initiates were accompanied by the Ephebes in
the procession back to Eleusis, many carrying the mystic bacchos made
of myrtle branches tied with wool. Some carried a staff with a sack of
supplies with clothes and bedding they would use at Eleusis; pack
animals or carriages were also used, for the journey was fourteen miles
from Athens to Eleusis. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 252)

Much can be learned of the celebrations from the chorus's imitation of
them in Aristophanes' comedy, The Frogs.
Chorus: O Iacchus! O Iacchus! O Iacchus!
Xanthias: I have it, master: 'tis those blessed Mystics,...
Chorus: O Iacchus! power excelling, here in stately temples dwelling.
O Iacchus! O Iacchus!
Come to tread this verdant level,
Come to dance in mystic revel,
Come whilst round thy forehead hurtles
Many a wreath of fruitful myrtles,
Come with wild and saucy paces
Mingling in our joyous dance,
Pure and holy, which embraces all the charms of all the Graces,
When the mystic choirs advance.
Xanthias: Holy and sacred queen, Demeter' s daughter,
O, what a jolly whiff of pork breathed o'er me!
Dionysus: Hist! and perchance you'll get some tripe yourself.
Chorus: Come, arise, from sleep waking, come the fiery torches shaking,
O Iacchus! 0 Iacchus!
Morning Star that shinest nightly.
Lo, the mead is blazing brightly,
Age forgets its years and sadness,
Aged knees curvet for gladness,
Lift thy flashing torches o'er us,
Marshall all thy blameless train,
Lead, O lead the way before us; lead the lovely youthful Chorus
To thy marshy flowery plain.
All evil thoughts and profane be still: far hence, far hence from our
choirs depart,
Who knows not well what the Mystics tell, or is not holy and pure of
Who ne'er has the noble revelry learned, or danced the dance of the
Muses high;
Or shared in the Bacchic rites which old bull-eating Cratinus's words
Who vulgar coarse buffoonery loves, though all untimely the jests they
Or lives not easy and kind with all, or kindling faction forbears to slake,
But fan the fire, from a base desire some pitiful gain for himself to reap;
Or takes, in office, his gifts and bribes, while the city is tossed on the
stormy deep;
Who foe or fleet to the foe betrays; or, a vile Thorycion, ships away
Forbidden stores from Aegina's shores, to Epidaurus across the Bay
Transmitting oar-pads and sails and tar, that curst collector of five per
The knave who tries to procure supplies for the enemy's armaments;
The cyclian singer who dares befoul the Lady Hecate's wayside shrine;
The public speaker who once lampooned in our Bacchic feasts would,
with heart malign,
Keep nibbling away the Comedian's pay; - to these I utter my warning
I charge them once, I charge them twice, I charge them thrice, that they
draw not nigh
To the sacred dance of the Mystic choir. But you, my comrades, awake
the song,
The night-long revels of joy and mirth which ever of right to our feast
Advance, true hearts, advance!
On to the gladsome powers,
On to the sward, with flowers
Embosomed bright!
March on with jest, and jeer, and dance,
Full well ye've supped tonight.
March, chanting loud your lays,
Your hearts and voices raising,
The Savior goddess praising
Who vows she'll still
Our city save to endless days,
Whate'er Thorycion's will.
Break off the measure, and change the time; and now with chanting and
hymns adorn
Demeter, goddess mighty and high, the harvest-queen, the giver of corn.
O Lady, over our rites presiding,
Preserve and succor thy coral throng,
And grant us all, in thy help confiding,
To dance and revel the whole day long;
And much in earnest, and much in jest,
Worthy thy feast, may we speak therein.
And when we have bantered and laughed our best,
The victor's wreath be it ours to win.
Call we now the youthful god, call him hither without delay,
Him who travels amongst his chorus, dancing along on the Sacred Way.
O, come with the joy of thy festival song,
O, come to the goddess, O, mix with our throng
Untired, though the journey be never so long.
O Lord of the frolic and dance, :
Iacchus, beside me advance!
For fun, and for cheapness, our dress thou hast rent,
Through thee we may dance to the top of our bent,
Reviling, and jeering, and none will resent.
O Lord of the frolic and dance,
Iacchus, beside me advance!
A sweet pretty girl I observed in the show,
Her robe had been torn in the scuffle, and lo,
There peeped through the tatters a bosom of snow.
O Lord of the frolic and dance,
Iacchus, beside me advance!...
Chorus: Now wheel your sacred dance through the glade with flowers
All ye who are partakers of the holy festal rite;
And I will with the women and the holy maidens go
Where they keep the nightly vigil, an auspicious light to show.
Now haste we to the roses,
And the meadows full of posies,
Now haste we to the meadow
In our own old way,
In choral dances blending,
In dances never ending,
Which only for the holy
The Destinies array.
O, happy mystic chorus,
The blessed sunshine o'er us
On us alone is smiling,
In its soft sweet light:
On us who strove forever
With holy, pure endeavor
Alike by friend and stranger
To guide our steps aright.
(Aristophanes The Frogs 317-318, 323-413, 440-459)
The procession was headed by a wooden statue of Iacchos, bearing a
torch and crowned with a wreathe of myrtle; with this replication of the
young god was his special priest known as Iacchagogos. Winding
around the foothills of Parnes on the Sacred Way, they eventually came
to the Rhiti described by Pausanias.
What are called the Rhiti only resemble rivers in that they flow, for their
water is salt. One might suppose that they flow under ground from the
Chalcidian Euripus, falling into a lower sea. The Rhiti are said to be
sacred to the Maid and Demeter; and the priests alone are allowed to
catch the fish in them. The Rhiti were of old, as I am apprised, the
boundary between the Eleusinians and the rest of the Athenians.
(I, 38:1)
After the initiates crossed the bridge by the lakes of Rhiti, there was a
special ceremony known as krokosis, from the legendary Krokos, the
first dweller of the territory, whose descendants had the privilege of
tying a woolen kroke or ribbon of saffron color, around the right hand
and the left leg of each of the mystai. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 256)
Somewhere in here the famous Phryne once made an exhibition of her
beautiful body, recounted by Athenaeus.
At the great assembly of the Eleusinia and at the festival of Poseidon, in
full sight of the whole Greek world, she removed only her cloak and let
down her long hair before stepping into the water. (The Deipnosophists
XIII, 591a)
Another unusual woman and her claim to fame is mentioned by
Nor did the son of Mene, Musaeus, master of the Graces, cause Antiope
to go without her meed of honor. And she, beside Eleusis's strand,
expounded to the initiates the loud, sacred voice of mystic oracles, as
she duly escorted the priest through the Rarian plain to honor Demeter.
And she is known even in Hades.
(Ibid. 597d)
After the pause, the procession continued by torchlight across the
Eleusinian Kephisos. On this bridge men with heads covered hurled
insults against important citizens participating who went by in silence.
According to Mylonas, purpose of these gephyrismoi, as they were
called, seems to have been apotropaic---to pile insults on exalted
persons so that they would be humbled and not be visited with the
jealous reactions of evil spirits. This abuse seems to have been done in
a spirit of merriment, and the procession with torches lit reached the end
of the Sacred Way in a joyful mood where Iacchos was then received at
the court in a playful way. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 256-257) Singing and
dancing went well into the night as seen in Euripides' Ion.
Chorus: Daughter of Demeter, goddess of highways, queen as thou art
of haunting powers of darkness,... I blush for that god of song, if this
stranger is to witness the torch-dance, that heralds in the twentieth
dawn, around Callichorus' fair springs, a sleepless rotary in midnight
revels, what time the star-lit firmament of Zeus, the moon, and Nereus'
fifty daughters, that trip it lightly o'er the sea and the eternal rivers' tides,
join the dance in honor of the maiden with the crown of gold and her
majestic mother;
(1048-1049, 1079-1086)
Then the crowd finally dispersed to seek shelter in hostels near the
Sanctuary of with friends. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 257)

Even after almost 2,000 years of annual celebration, the Eleusinian
Mysteries seemed to have maintained their purity and potency, for
Zosimos' account of Emperor Valentinian's attempt to end them in 364
CE brought a refusal from the proconsul of Greece, Praetextatus who
declared that this ban would make the life of the Greeks unlivable
because they hold the whole human race together, indicating that they
still stood as the foundation of Greek religion and the unity of Hellenic
peoples. This Hierophant ordered that the sacred Mysteries be
celebrated according to the ancient tradition in disobedience of the
Emperor's edict.

The resentment felt upon it was heightened by the time it happened in,
for the garrison was brought in on the twentieth of the month of
Boedromion just at the time of the great festival, when they carry forth
Iacchus with solemn pomp from the city to Eleusis; so that the solemnity
being disturbed, many began to call to mind instances, both ancient and
modern, of divine interventions and intimations. For in old time, upon the
occasions of their happiest successes, the presence of the shapes and
voices of the mystic ceremonies had been vouchsafed to them, striking
terror and amazement into their enemies; but now, at the very season of
their celebration, the gods themselves stood witnesses of the saddest
oppressions of Greece, the most holy time being profaned, and their
greatest jubilee made the unlucky date of their most extreme calamity....

While a candidate for initiation was washing a young pig in the haven of
Cantharus, a shark seized him, bit off all his lower parts up to the belly
and devoured them, by which the god gave them manifestly to
understand, that having lost the lower town and seacoast, they should
keep only the upper city.  (Phocion 28)
In art Persephone sometimes appears rising out of the earth as the
personification of the young grain sprouting in the spring. A coin of
Lampsacus of the fourth century CE is a good example and is described
by Percy Gardner in Types of Greek Coins. Nilsson in his Greek Folk
Religion explains the Corn Maiden emerging from the ground
surrounded by three satyrs dancing who strike the ground with their
hammers as a common practice of smashing the clods of earth after
plowing which is done before the grain sprouts. (p. 53-54)

"Beautiful indeed is the mystery given us by the blessed gods:
death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing."
Inscription found at Eleusis

"Blessed is he who has seen these things
before he goes beneath the earth;
for he understands the end of mortal life,
and the beginning (of a new life) given of God."
Pindar Fragment 102

"For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions
which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life,
none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries.
For by their means we have been brought out
of our barbarous and savage mode of life
and educated and refined to a state of civilization;
and as the rites are called "initiations,"
so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life,
and have gained the power not only to live happily,
but also to die with a better hope."
Cicero Laws II, xiv, 36

"Amen, amen, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
Jesus in Gospel According to John 12:24

In 1860, when Lenormant undertook his excavations at Eleusis, he made
careful inquiries concerning this Agia Demetra – a saint unknown to the
calendar.  An Albanian papas or priest, who was said to be 114 years old
and was certainly a centenarian, told him the tale here summarized:
St. Dhimitra was a charitable old woman, who lived at Athens.  She had a
daughter of wondrous beauty:  none so fair had been seen since
mistress Aphrodite.  One day as the girl was combing her hair, which
was golden in color and reached to the ground, a Turkish aga from the
neighborhood of Souli saw her and fell in love with her.  He was a
wicked man and a magician.  When she rejected his advances he
resolved to carry her off to his harem.  So one Christmas night, while
Dhimitra was at church, the aga burst open the house foor, seized the
maiden, and despite her cries of distress rode off with her on his horse.  
The horse was a marvelous creature:  it was black with fiery nostrils and
could in a single bound spring from east to west.  In a few moments it
carried the ravisher and his victim into the mountains of Epeiros.  
Dhimitra on her return from church was broken hearted at the loss of her
daughter.  She asked the neighbors, who, dreading Turkish vengeance,
dared not to tell what they knew.  She question the Tree that grew in
front of the house, but the Tree could give no information.  She enquired
of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, but all in vain.  At last the Stork that
nested on the roof of her house said:  We have long been living side by
side.  You are as old as I am, and have always been kind to me.  Once
you helped me to drive off a bird of prey, which wanted to steal my little
ones.  So I will tell you what happened.  A Turk on a black horse has
carried off your daughter towards the west. “Come, I will help you look
for her.”  They set out together over the snowy mountains.  But those
whom they met by the way either mocked at them or gave no answer to
their questions.  Dhimitra wept and wailed, and men – since they do not
care for sorrow – closed their doors against her.  On reaching Lepsina
(Eleusis) she fell, overcome with fatigue; indeed she would have died
had not Marigo, wife of Nicolas the khodja-bachi or headman of the
village, seen her by the roadside and taken her in.  In return for the
hospitality of Nicholas and Marigo, Dhimitra blessed their fields and
made them fruitful.  Nicolas’ son, the smartest pallikar in the district,
pursued the quest on condition that he might wed the stolen girl.  
Accompanied by the faithful Stork, he walked for many days, and one
night in the heart of the mountains found forty dragons watching a great
cauldron, which was boiling on a fire.  He lifted the cauldron with one
hand, lighted a torch at the fire, and replaced the pot.  The dragons,
astonished at his strength, took him with them to help in getting
possession of a maiden kept by a magician in a very high tower.  
Nicolas’ son drove nails into the tower, climbed up withdrawing the nails
after him lest the dragons should follow, and squeezed through a
narrow window at the top.  He then told the dragons to do the same.  
This gave him time to kill them one by one as they entered and to throw
their bodies down on the other side of the tower where there was a large
courtyard and magnificent garden and castle.  He afterwards went down
into the tower and found Dhimitra’s daughter.  While he was making love
to her, the aga fell upon him, and they wrestled together.  The aga
transformed himself into a lion, a serpent, a bird of prey, a flame, and in
these various disguises struggled for three days, till at last he slew and
quartered the young pallikar.  He then forced the daughter of Dhimitra to
yield to his desires, though he had hitherto respected her virginity.  But
in the night the stork flew off, fetched a magic herb, and rubbed it on the
lips of the dead youth:  whereupon he came to life again and attached
the aga with greater fury than before.  He invoked the aid of the
Panaghia, vowing that, if successful, he would become a monk in the
monastery of Phaneromeni (in Salamis.)  He thus prevailed and
overthrew his adversary.  The stork pecked out the aga’s eyes and also
a white hair from his black topknot – the hair upon which the magician’s
life depended.  The pallikar brought the girl back to Lepsina just at the
beginning of spring, when the flowers first appear:  he then became a
monk in accordance with his vow.  St. Dhimitra with her daughter quitted
the place and no one knows where they have gone; but ever since,
thanks to her benediction, the fields of Lepsina have been fertile.
For, if they profess to know how to bring down the moon, darken the
sun, induce storms and fine weather, and rains and droughts, and to
make the sea and land unproductive, and so forth, whether they
arrogate this power as being derived from mysteries or any other
knowledge or consideration, they appear to me to practice impiety, and
either to fancy that there are no gods, or if there are, that they have no
ability to ward of any of the greatest evils.

The character of the Mysteries, featuring a myth presented within the
cult, is highly unusual for a Greek cult, and this too would be consistent
with a hypothesis the extraordinary innovation occurred, which required
extraordinatry cult personnel with very special functions.

Blessed is he who goes beneath the earth having seen these things.  He
knows the end of life, and he knows its god-given beginning.

The mysteries of Deo commemorate the amorous embraces of Zeus with
his mother Demeter, and the wrath of Deo - I do not know what to call
her for the future, mother or wife - on account of which she is said to
have received the name Brimo; also the supplications of Zeus, the drink
of bile, the tearing out the heart of the victims, and unspeakable
obscenities.  The same rites are performed in honor of Attis and Kybele
and the Korybantes by the Phrygians, who have spread it abroad how
that Zeus tore of the testicles of a ram, and then brought and flung them
into the midst of Deo=s lap, thus paying a sham penalty for his violent
embrace by pretending that he had mutilated himself.  If I go on further to
quote the symbols of initiation into this mystery they will, I know, move
you to laugher, even though you are in no laughing humor when your
rites are being exposed.  AI ate from the drum; I drank from the cymbal; I
carried the sacred dish; I stole into the bridal chamber.@  Are not these
symbols an outrage?  Are not the mysteries a mockery?  But what if I
were to add the rest of the story?  Demeter becomes pregnant; the
Maiden (Kore) grows up; and this Zeus who begat her has further
intercourse, this time with Persephone herself, his own daughter, after
his union with her mother Deo.  Totally forgetful of his former pollution
Zeus becomes the ravisher as well as the father of the maiden, meeting
her under the form of a serpent, his true nature being thus revealed.  At
any rate, in the Sabazian mysteries the sign given to those who are
initiated is Athe god over the breast,@ this is a serpent drawn over the
breast of the votaries, a proof of the licentiousness of Zeus.  Persephone
also bears a child, which has the form of a bull.  To be sure, we are told
by a certain mythological poet that
the bull begets a snake, the snake a bull; On hills the herdsman bears
his mystic goad-
the herdsman=s goad being, I think, a name for the wand which the
Bacchantes wreathe.  Would you have me also tell you the story of
Persephone gathering flowers, of her basket, and how she was seized
by Aidoneus, of the chasm that opened in the earth, and of the swine of
Eubouleus that were swallowed up along with the two deities, which is
the reason given for the custom of casting swine into the sacred
caverns at the festival of the Thesmophoria?  This is the tale which the
women celebrate at their various feasts in the city, Thesmophoria,
Scirophoira, Arretophoria, where in different ways they work up into
tragedy the rape of Persephone.  

Yet how can we wonder if Tuscans, who are barbarians, are thus
consecrated to base passions, when Athenians and the rest of Greece - I
blush even to speak of it - possess that shameful tale about Deo? It tells
how Deo, wandering through Eleusis, which is a part of Attica, in search
of her daughter the Maiden, becomes exhausted and sits down at a well
in deep distress.  This display of grief is forbidden, up to the present
day, to those who are initiated, lest the worshipers should seem to
imitate the goddess in her sorrow.  At that time Eleusis was inhabited by
aborigines, whose names were Baubo, Dysaules, Triptolemos, and also
Eumopos and Eubouleus.  Triptolemos was a herdsman, Eumolopos a
shepherd, and Eubouleus a swineherd.  These were progenitors of the
Eumolpidai and of the heralds (Kerykes), who form the priestly class at
Athens.  But to continue; for I will not forbear to tell the rest of the story.  
Baubo, having received Deo as a guest, offers her a draught of wine and
meal (kykeon).  She declines to take it, being unwilling to drink on
account of her mourning.  Baubo is deeply hurt, thinking she has been
slighted, and thereupon uncovers her secret parts and exhibits them to
the goddess.  Deo is pleased at the sight, and now at last receives the
draught - delighted with the spectacle!  These are the secret mysteries of
the Athenians!  These are also the subjects of Orpheus= poems.  I will
quote you the very lines of Orpheus, in order that you may have the
originator of the mysteries as witness to their shamelessness:
This said, she drew aside her robes, and showed a sight of shame; child
Iacchos was there, and laughing, plunged his hand below her breasts.  
Then smiled the goddess, in her heart she smiled, and drank the
drought from out the glancing cup.
And the formula of the Eleusinian mysteries is as follows: AI fasted; I
drank the draught; I took form the chest; having done my task, I placed
in the basket, and from the basket into the chest.@  Beautiful sights
indeed, and fit for a goddess!  Yes, such rites are meet for the night and
torch fires, and for the Agreat-hearted@ - I should rather say empty-
headed - people of the Erechtheidai, with the rest of the Greeks as well,
Awhom after death there await such things as they little expect.@  
Against whom does Heraclitus of Ephesus utter this prophecy?  Against
Anight-roamers, magicians, Bacchantes, Lenaean revelers, and
devotees of the mysteries.@  These are the people whom he threatens
with the penalties that follow death; for these he prophesies the fire.  
AFor in unholy fashion are thy initiated into the mysteries customary
among men.@

Heraclitus said:
The real constitution of things is accustomed to hide itself.
(Diels 211)
When Erichthonius died and was buried in the same precinct of Athens,
Pandion became king, in whose time Demeter and Dionysus came to
Attica. But Demeter was welcomed by Celeus at Eleusis, and Dionysus
by Icarius, who received from him a branch of a vine and learned the
process of making wine.
(Apollodorus III, xiv, 7)

Such, then are the myths which the Cretans recount of the gods who
they claim were born in their land. They also assert that the honors
accorded to the gods and their sacrifices and the initiatory rites
observed in connection with the mysteries were handed down from
Crete to the rest of men, and to support this they advance the following
most weighty argument, as they conceive it: the initiatory rite which is
celebrated by the Athenians in Eleusis, the most famous, one may
venture, of them all, and that of Samothrace, and the one practiced in
Thrace among the Cicones, whence Orpheus came who introduced
them---these are all handed down in the form of a mystery, whereas at
Knossos in Crete it has been the custom from ancient times that these
initiatory rites should be handed down to all openly, and what is handed
down among other people as not to be divulged, this the Cretans
conceal from no one who may wish to inform himself upon such
matters. Indeed, the majority of the gods, the Cretans say, had their
beginning in Crete and set out from there to visit many regions of the
inhabited world, conferring benefactions upon the races of men and
distributing among each of them the advantage which resulted from the
discoveries they had made. Demeter, for example, crossed over into
Attica and then removed from there to Sicily and afterwards to Egypt;
and in these lands her choicest gift was that of the corn and instructions
in the sowing of it, whereupon she received great honors at the hands of
these whom she had benefited.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 77)

The mysteries, then, are mere custom and vain opinion, and it is a deceit
of the serpent that men worship when, with spurious piety, they turn
towards these sacred initiations that are really profanities, and solemn
rites that are without sanctity.  Consider, too, the contents of the mystic
chests; for I must strip bare their holy things and utter the unspeakable.  
Are they not sesame cakes, pyramid and spherical cakes, cakes with
many navels, also balls of salt and a serpent, the mystic sign of
Dionysos Bassareus?  Ar they not also pomegranates, fig branches,
fennel stalks, ivy leaves, round cakes and poppies?  These are their holy
things!  In addition, there are the unutterable symbols of Ge Themis,
marjoram, a lamp, a sword, and a woman=s comb, which is a
euphemistic expression used in the mysteries for a woman=s secret
parts.  What manifest shamelessness!  Formerly night, which drew a veil
over the pleasures of temperate men, was a time for silence.  But now,
when night is for those who are being initiated a temptation to
licentiousness, talk abounds, and the torch-fires convict unbridled
passions.  Quench the fire, thou priest.  Shrink from the flaming brands,
torchbearer. The light convicts your Iacchos.  Suffer night to hide the
mysteries.  Let the orgies be honored by darkness.  The fire is not acting
a part; to convict and to punish is its duty.

But the Phrygians, he says, also call him Athe green ear that is
harvested,@ and the Athenians also, following the Phrygians, when they
make the initiations of Eleusis and display to the beholders that great
and wondrous and most perfect mystery which is to be beheld there is
silence, a harvested ear. Now this ear is for the Athenians too the great
and perfect Illuminator coming from the uncharacterized one; likewise,
the hierophant himself, who is not indeed castrated, like Attis, but is
made a eunuch with hemlock and is separated from all carnal
generation, when he celebrates the great and unutterable mysteries by
night at Eleusis under a brilliant light, calls out and proclaims these
words: AA holy child is born to the Lady Brimo, Brimos@ - that is, to the
Strong One, the Strong Lady, he says, means the spiritual birth, the
heavenly higher (birth); and strong is the man who is born in this
fashion.  And the mystery aforesaid is called Eleusis and Anactoreum;
Eleusis, he says, because we have come, we who are spiritual, flowing
down from above, from Adamas - for eleusethai he says, means Ato
come@ - and Anactoreum because of our ascent on high (ano).  This, he
says, is what the devotees of the Eleusinian cult call the great mysteries;
for it is the custom that those who have been initiated into the lesser
should again be initiated into the great ones; for Agreater dooms gain
greater destinies.@  For the lesser mysteries, he says, are those of
Persephone here below, and of these mysteries and the road that leads
there, which is Abroad and wide@ and leads those who are perishing to
Persephone, the poet also says: ABut beneath it is an awesome
pathway, cavernous and clayey; but this is the best that leads to the
pleasant grove of glorious Aphrodite.@  This means, he says, the lesser
mysteries of birth in the flesh; and when men have been initiated into
these they must wait a little before they are initiated into the great,
heavenly ones.  For those who are allotted those dooms, he says,
receive greater destinies.  For this, he says, is the Agate of heaven,@
and this is the Ahouse of God,@ where the good God dwells alone,
where no unclean person, he says, shall enter no psychic (unspiritual),
no carnal man, but it is reserved for the spiritual alone.@  

The Lesser Mysteries, which took place towards the end of winter in the
month of flowers, the Anthesterion, were a condition for entry into the
Greater Mysteries, which took place in the autumn. The first stage of the
initiation at the Lesser Mysteries was the sacrifice of a young pig, the
animal sacred to Demeter, which was symbolically to take the place of
the initiate=s own death.  This, as in the Thesmophoria, follows the
Orphic variant of the myth, mentioned by Lucian, which associated the
death of the pig with the rape of Persephone.

Plutarch=s famous record of his impressions of a mystery festival:  First
labyrinthine turnings and arduous gropings, various unsuccessful and
perilous passages in the darkness.  Then before the rite itself; all
manner of terrors, shuddering and trembling, silence and terrified
amazement.  After this a wonderful light bursts forth, friendly landscapes
and meadows receive us, voices and dances and the splendor of sacred
songs are disclosed to us.   (Todd, could the pillars of the Telesterion
have formed the basis for a labyrinth?)

The Christian usage of the word mysterion emphasizes a particular
meaning; namely that of a divine action or essence which is by its very
nature Aineffable.@  Here we may mention the use of the words
mysterion, mysteria in the Gospels, particularly in Luke 8:10, Matthew 13:
11 and Mark 4:11, where we find almost identical formulations: ATo you
(i.e, the disciples) is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven
(or Aof God.@) And the passage in Luke continues: ABut to the rest (the
mystery) is given in parables, that seeing they may not see and hearing
not understand.  Now the parable is this: AThe seed is the word of God.

But if there is any point on which all witnesses agree, it is that the climax
of the Eleusinian Mysteries was not a ritual, or anything which the
mystes did or physically experienced, but a vision.   The supreme rite is
called epopteia.  All the beatitudes refer to it and to it alone.  AHappy is
he who has seen it!@ says the Homeric Hymn, directly relating the
vision to the assurance of a favored lot in the other world.  As all
witnesses agree, everything was a preparation for this vision.

Aristotle (fragment 15) says expressly that the mystai were not meant to
learn anything, but to suffer an experience and to be moved.

Iamblichus (Myst. 3.2) regards the state between sleeping and waking as
particularly favorable to the reception of divine visions.
Dionysus:        Now, by the Gods, besides these there should be
whoever learned Kinesias= pyrrhic dance.

Herakles:        Next a breathe of pipes will surround you, you=ll see a
shining light, just like up here, then myrtle groves, and happy choirs of
men and women mixed who loudly clap their hands.
Dionysus:        And who are these?

Herakles:        These are the Mystic celebrants.

Chorus:        Awake, for it has come tossing torches in hand,
Iacchos, Oh Iacchos,
the light-bringing star of our nocturnal rite.  
Now the meadow brightly burns.  
Old men=s knees start to sway.  
They shake away their pains
and the long cycles of ancient years.  
Through your holy rite.  
Beaming with your torch,
lead forth to the flowering stretch of marsh
the youth that makes your choruses, o blessed on!

Chorus:        Let him be mute and stand aside from our sacred dances
who has no experience of mystical language, or has not cleansed his
Who never has seen and never has danced in the rites of the noble
Nor ever has been inducted into the Bacchic mysteries of beef-eating
Or who takes delight in foolish words when doing this is ill-timed,
Whoever does not eliminate hateful factionalism, and is disagreeable to
the citizens,
but kindles and fans civil strife, in his thirst for private advantage:
Whoever takes bribes when guiding the state through the midst of a
Or betrays our forts or our ships, smuggles contraband from Aegina
As Thorycion did, that wretched collector of taxes
Sending pads and sails and pitch to Epidauros
Or persuades anyone to send supplies to the enemies ships,
Or defiles Hekate=s shrine, while singing dithyrambs,
Or any politician who bites off the pay of the poets
For being ridiculed in the ancestral rites of Dionysus.
All these I warn, and twice I warn, and thrice I warn again,
stand aside from our mystical dances; but as for you: arouse the song

and the night-long dances, that belong to our festival here.

Chorus:        Demeter, mistress of our holy rites,
be present now
and preserve your song and dance.
And grant that I may sport and dance the livelong day in safety.

Old Woman:        When I was at the Mysteries of Eleusis in a carriage,
someone made eyes at me; he was so jealous that he beat me the whole
of that day.

(The scene changes to the interior of the Thesmophorion.
Mnesilochus:        Look, Thratta, at the cloud of smoke that arises from
all these lighted torches.  Ah! Beautiful Thesmophorae! Grant me your
favors, protect me, both within the temple and on my way back!  Come,
Thratta, put down the basket and take out the cake, which I wish to offer
to the two goddesses.  Mighty divinity, oh Demeter, and thou,
Persephone, grant that I may be able to offer you many sacrifices; above
all things, grant that I may not be recognized.

But a man may be ignorant of (2) what he is doing, as for instance when
people say Ait slipped out while they were speaking@ or Athey were not
aware that the matter was a secret@ as Aeschylus said of the
Electra:        O Pelasgia, I take up the dirge, doing bloody outrage on my
cheeks with white nail, and beating on my head; these are the portion of
Persephone, fair young goddess of the nether world.  Let the Cyclopian
land break forth into wailing for the sorrows of our house, laying the
steel upon the head to crop it close.  This is the piteous, piteous strain
that goes up for those who are about to die, once the battle-leaders of

On this lake they enact by night the story of the god=s sufferings, a rite
which the Egyptians call the Mysteries.  I could say more about this, for I
know the truth, but let me preserve a discrete silence. Let me preserve a
discrete silence, too, concerning that rite of Demeter which the Greeks
call Thesmophoria, excepts as much of it as I am not forbidden to
The daughters of Danaus were those who brought this rite out of Egypt
and taught it to the Pelasgian women; afterwards, when the people of
the Peloponnese were driven out by the Dorians, it was lost, except so
far as it was preserved by the Arcadians, the Peloponnesian people
which was not driven out but left in its home.

When Demeter came to our land, in her wandering after the rape of Kore,
and being moved to kindness towards our ancestors by services which
may not be told save to her initiates, gave these two gifts, the greatest in
the world -- the fruits of the earth which have enabled us to rise above
the life of the beasts, and the holy rite which inspires in those who
partake of it sweeter hopes regarding both the end of life and all eternity
- our city was not only so beloved of the gods but also so devoted to
mankind that, having been endowed with these great blessings, she did
not begrudge them to the rest of the world, but shared with all men what
she had received.  The mystic rite we continue even now, each year, to
reveal to the initiates; and as for the fruits of the earth, our city has, in a
word, instructed the world in their uses, their cultivation, and the
benefits derived from them.

Practicing the holy rites of Coty...One, holding in his hands the pipe, the
labor of the lathe, blows forth his fingered tune, even the sound that
wakes to frenzy.  Another, with brass-bound cymbals, raises a clang...
the twang shrills; and unseen, unknown, bull-voices mimes in answer
bellow fearfully, while the timbrel=s echo, like that of subterranean
thunder, rolls along inspiring a mighty terror.

Lo, the house is frenzied with the god, the roof revels, Bacchant-like.
Where in the west, is the bowl wrought by Hephaestus, the bowl of thy
sire, speeding wherein he crosseth the mighty, swelling stream the
girdleth earth, fleeing the gloom of holy night of sable steeds.

ABut I too have a seal, as a guard, upon my lips.@
ATake ye stand in a ring about yon altar and a gleaming fire, and with
your band grouped in a circle offer up your prayers.@

The graves of the children of Aras are, in my opinion, on the Arantine Hill
and not in any other part of the land.  On the top of them are far-seen
gravestones, and before the celebration of the mysteries of Demeter the
people look at these tombs and call Aras and his children to the libations.

Celeae is some five stades distant from the city, and here they celebrate
the mysteries in honor of Demeter, not every year but every fourth year.  
The initiating priest is not appointed for life, but at each celebration they
elect a fresh one, who takes, if he cares to do so, a wife.  In this respect
their custom differs from that at Eleusis, but the actual celebration is
modeled in the Eleusinian rites; The Phliasians themselves admit that
they copy the Aperformance@ at Eleusis.

But the mysteries of the Great Goddesses were raised to greater honor
many years later than Caucon by Lycus, the son of Pandion, an oak-
wood, where he purified the celebrants, being called Lycus= wood.  That
there is a wood in this land so called is stated by Rhianus the Cretan:
By rugged Elaeum above Lycus= Wood.
That this Lycus was the son of Pandion is made clear by the lines on the
statue of Methapus, who made certain improvements in the mysteries.  
Methapus was an Athenian by birth, an expert in the mysteries and
founder of all kinds of rites.  It was he who established the mysteries of
the Cabiri at Thebes, and dedicated in the hut of the Lycomidae a statue
with an inscription that amongst other things helps to confirm my
This inscriptions shows that Caucon who came to Messene was a
descendant of Phlyus, and proves my other statements with regard to
Lycus, and that the mysteries were originally at Andania.  And it seems
natural to me that Messene should have established the mysteries
where she and Polycaon lived, not anywhere else.

To Epaminondas in his difficulty it is said that an ancient man, closely
resembling a priest of Demeter, appeared in the night and said: AMy gift
to thee is that thou shalt conquer whomsoever thou dost assail; and
when thou dost pass from men, Theban, I will cause thy name to be
unforgotten and give thee glory.  But do thou restore the Messenians
their fatherland and cities, for now the wrath of the Dioscuri against
them hath ceased.@
This he said to Epaminondas, and revealed this to Epiteles the son of
Aeschines, who had been chosen by the Argives to be their general and
to refound Messene.  He was bidden by the dream, wherever he found
yew and myrtle growing on Ithome, to dig between them and recover the
old woman, for, shut in her brazen chamber, she was overcome and well-
nigh fainting.  When day dawned, Epiteles went to the appointed place,
and as he dug, came upon a brazen urn.
He took it at once to Epaminondas, told him the dream and bade him
remove the lid and see what was within.  Epaminonodas, after sacrifice
and prayer to the vision that had appeared, opened the urn and having
opened it found some tin foil, very thin, rolled like a book.  On it were
inscribed the mysteries of the Great Goddesses, and this was the pledge
deposited by Aristomenes.  They say that the man who appeared to
Epiteles and Epaminondas in their sleep was Caucon, who came from
Athens to Messene, the daughter of Triopas at Andania.

When the mysteries were recovered, all who were of the priestly family
set them down in books.      
The people of Pheneus have also a sanctuary of Demeter surnamed
Eleusinian, and they perform a ritual to the goddess, saying that the
ceremonies at Eleusis are the same as those established among
themselves.  For Nause, they assert, came to them because of an oracle
from Delphi, being a grandson of Eumolpus.  Beside the sanctuary of
the Eleusinian has been set up Petroma, as it is called, consisting of two
large stones fitted one to the other.
When every other year they celebrate what they call the Greater Rites,
they open these stones. They take from out them writings that refer to
the rites, read them in the hearing of the initiated, and return them on the
same night.  

There is also in the painting a jar, and an old man, with a boy and two
women.  One of these, who is young, is under the rock; the other is
beside the old man and of a like age to his.  The others are carrying
water, but you will guess that the old woman=s water-jar is broken.  All
that remains of the water in the sherd she is pouring out again into the
jar.  We inferred that these people too were of those who had held of no
account the rites at Eleusis.  For the Greeks of an earlier period looked
upon the Eleusinian mysteries as being as much higher than all other
religious acts as gods are higher than heroes. .

They are acting just like the celebrants of the Corybantic rites, when
they perform the enthronement of the person whom they are about to
initiate.  There, as you know, if you have been through it, they have
dancing and merrymaking;  .
And I fancy that those men who established the mysteries were not
unenlightened, but in reality had a hidden meaning when they said long
ago that whoever goes uninitiated and unsanctified to the other world
will lie in the mire, but he who arrives there initiated and purified will
dwell with the gods.  For as they say in the mysteries, Athe thyrus-
bearers are many, but the mystics few@ and these mystics are, I believe,
those who have been true philosophers.@  

Philosopher as like one initiated (long section.)

But now I must investigate how it comes about that so many names
have been used of one and the same thing, and the theological element
contained in their history.  Now this is common both to the Greeks and
to the barbarians, to perform their sacred rites in connection with the
relaxation of a festival, these rites being performed sometimes with
religious frenzy, sometimes without it; sometimes with music,
sometimes not; and sometimes in secret, sometimes openly.  And it is in
accordance with the dictates of nature that this should be so, for, in the
first place, the relaxation draws the mind away from human occupations
and turns the real mind towards that which is divine; and secondly, the
religious frenzy seems to afford a kind of divine inspiration and to be
very like that of the soothsayer; and thirdly, the secrecy with which the
sacred rites are concealed induces reverence for the divine, since it
imitates the nature of the divine, which is to avoid being perceived by
our human senses; and, fourthly, music, which includes dancing as well
as rhythm and melody, at the same time, by the delight it affords and by
its artistic beauty, brings us in touch with the divine, and for this for the
following reason; for although it has been well said that human beings
then act most like the gods when they are doing food to others, yet one
might better say, when they are happy; and such happiness consists of
rejoicing, celebrating festivals, pursuing philosophy and engaging in
music; for, if music is perverted when musicians turn their art to sensual
delights at symposiums and in orchestric and scenic performances and
the like, we would not lay the blame upon music itself, but should rather
examine the nature of our system of education, since this is based on
And on this account Plato, and even before his time the Pythagoreans,
called philosophy music; and they say that the universe is constituted in
accordance with harmony, assuming that every form of music is the
work of the gods...Now most of the Greeks assigned to Dionysus,
Apollo, Hekate, the Muses, and above all to Demeter, everything of an
orgiastic or Bacchic or choral nature, as well as the mystic element in
initiations; and they give the name AIacchus@ not only to Dionysus but
also to the leader-in-chief of the mysteries, who is the genius of
Demeter.  And branch-bearing, choral dancing, and initiations are
common elements in the worship of these gods.

On the road between the Tralleians and Nysa is a village of the Nysaens,
not far from the city Acharaca, where is the Plutonium, with a costly
sacred precinct and a shrine of Pluto and Core, and also the Charonium,
a cave that lies above the sacred precinct, by nature wonderful; for they
say that those who are diseased and give heed to the cures prescribed
by these gods resort thither and live in the village near the cave among
experienced priests, who on their behalf sleep in the cave and through
dreams prescribe the cures.  These are also the men who invoke the
healing power of the gods.  And they often bring the sick into the cave
and leave them there, to remain in quiet, like animals in their lurking-
holes, without food for many days.  And sometimes the sick give heed
also to their own dreams, but still they use those other men, as priests,
to initiate them into the mysteries and counsel them.  To all others the
place is forbidden and deadly.

Otto made so bold as to assume in his study that true miracles were
performed in the Mystery Night of Eleusis.  This contention was
tantamount to a challenge.  He called upon his readers to considered the
scattered allusions of the experiences - the pathe - of the initiate at
Eleusis from a new standpoint and to experiment with the idea, which
Otto took very seriously, that those who participated in the Mysteries
may have experienced what they believed to be an authentic divine
epiphany.  Otto may be said to have been a precursor in the Dutch
scholar K.H.E. de Jong, who had already interpreted the classical
passage in Plato=s Phaedrus (250c) as indirect evidence that spirits
were made to appear at Eleusis.

The proud Athenian, Isocrates, summaries the value of the Eleusinian
When Demeter came to our land, in her wandering after the rape of Kore,
and, being moved to kindness towards our ancestors by services which
may not be told save to her initiates, gave these two gifts, the greatest in
the world - the fruits of the earth, which have enabled us to rise above
the life of the beasts, and the holy rite which inspires in those who
partake of it sweeter hopes regarding both the end of life and all eternity,
- our city was not only so beloved of the gods but also so devoted to
mankind that, having been endowed with these great blessings, she did
not begrudge them to the rest of the world, but shared with all men what
she had received. The mystic rite we continue even now, each year, to
reveal to the initiates; and as for the fruits of the earth, our city has, in a
word, instructed the world, in their uses, their cultivation, and the
benefits derived from them.
(Panegyricus 28-29)
The Romans attempted to suppress certain rituals of the Greeks, but
Cicero points out to us how these most sacred mysteries were allowed
to remain, having given so much to mankind.
M: Then what will become of our Iacchus and Eumolpidae and their
impressive mysteries, if we abolish nocturnal rites? For we are
composing laws not for the Roman people in particular, but for all
virtuous and stable nations.
A: I take it for granted that you make an exception of those rites into
which we ourselves have been initiated.

M: I will do so indeed. For among the many excellent and indeed divine
institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to
human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by
their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage
mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as
the rites are called "initiations," so in very truth we have learned from
them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live
happily, but also to die with a better hope.
(Cicero Laws II, xiv, 36)
In Apuleius' Metamorphoses, Psyche calls upon the mother goddess for
aid and describes many of the events from myth and ritual.
Psyche cast herself before the goddess, wetting the holy feet with tears
and sweeping the ground with her tresses. Amid a thicket of
supplications she asked for the favor of Ceres:
'By your right hand of Plenty, I implore you. By your joyous Ceremonies
of Harvest; by your Mystery enclosed in Osier-baskets; by the winged
Gig of your familiar Dragons; by the Furrows of the Sicilian Glebe, the
Rape of the Chariot, the Earth that yields not up its own, the Descent
into the Night of the Nuptials of Proserpine, and the Ascent into the light
of the Maiden's Restoration; by all the other Symbols which the
Sanctuary of Eleusis in Attica preserves in Silences - stand by your
suppliant Psyche in the hour of her deep need. Permit me, at least for a
few days, to shelter myself among the layers of wheat until the passage
of time mitigates the raging rancor of the mighty goddess, or until an
interval of rest refreshes the body that daily stress has now exhausted.'
(Apuleius Metamorphoses VI, 2)
However, in his De Natura Deorum, Cicero refers to the mysteries as
being more scientific than religious.
I say nothing of the holy and awe-inspiring sanctuary of Eleusis, "where
tribes from earth's remotest confines seek Initiation," and I pass over
Samothrace and those "occult mysteries which throngs of worshippers
at dead of night in forest covert deep do celebrate" Lemnos, since such
mysteries when interpreted and rationalized prove to have more to do
with natural science than with theology.
(Cicero De Natura Deorum I, 52)
The ancient Greeks very likely understood the correspondence between
the cycles of plant life and human reincarnation, as analogous natural
and spiritual laws. Plotinus discusses the spiritual understanding of the
earth and plant life.
If the earth transmits the generative soul to growing things - or retains it
while allowing a vestige of it to constitute the vegetal principle in them -
at once the earth is ensouled, as our flesh is, and any generative power
possessed by the plant world is of its bestowing: this phase of the soul
is immanent in the body of the growing thing, and transmits to it that
better element by which it differs from the broken off part no longer a
thing of growth but a mere lump of material.

But does the entire body of the earth similarly receive anything from the

Yes: for we must recognize that earthly material broken of from the main
body differs from the same remaining continuously attached; thus
stones increase as long as they are embedded, and from the moment
they are separated, stop at the size attained.

We must conclude, then, that every part and member of the earth carries
its vestige of this principle of growth, an under-phase of that entire
principle which belongs not to this or that member but to the earth as a
whole: next in order is the nature (the soul-phase), concerned with
sensation, this not interfused (like the vegetal principle) but in contact
from above: then the higher soul and the Intellectual Principle,
constituting together the being known as Hestia (Earth-Mind) and
Demeter (Earth-Soul) - a nomenclature indicating the human intuition of
these truths, asserted in the attribution of a divine name and nature.
(Fourth Ennead IV, 27)
Thus Demeter relates to the soul rather than the mind. Plutarch also
discusses the soul and mind in relation to the goddesses, and how
purification and purgation follow death.
The result of soul and body commingled is the irrational or the affective
factor, whereas of mind and soul the conjunction produces reason; and
of these the former is source of pleasure and pain, the latter of virtue and
vice. In the composition of these three factors earth furnishes the body,
the moon the soul, and the sun furnishes mind to man for the purpose of
his generation even as it furnishes light to the moon herself. As to the
death we die, one death reduces man from three factors to two and
another reduces him from two to one; and the former takes place in the
earth that belongs to Demeter (wherefore "to make an end" is called "to
render one's life to her" and Athenians used in olden times to call the
dead "Demetrians"), the latter in the moon that belongs to Persephone,
and associated with the former is Hermes the terrestrial, with the latter
Hermes the celestial. While the goddess here dissociates the soul from
the body swiftly and violently, Persephone gently and by slow degrees
detaches the mind from the soul and has therefore been called "single-
born" because the best part of man is "born single" when separated off
by her. Each of the two separations naturally occurs in this fashion: All
soul, whether without mind or with it, when it has issued from the body
is destined to wander in the region between earth and moon but not for
an equal time. Unjust and licentious souls pay penalties for their
offenses; but the good soul must in the gentlest part of the air, which
they call "the meads of Hades," pass a certain set time sufficient to
purge and blow away the pollution contracted from the body as from an
evil odor. Then, as if brought home from banishment abroad, they savor
joy most like that of initiates, which attended by glad expectation is
mingled with confusion and excitement. For many, even as they are in
the act of clinging to the moon, she thrusts off and sweeps away; and
some of those souls too that are on the moon they see turning upside
down as if sinking again into the deep. Those that have got up, however,
and have found a firm footing first go about like victors crowned with
wreaths of feathers called wreathes of steadfastness, because in life
they had made the irrational or affective element of the soul orderly and
tolerably tractable to reason; secondly, in appearance resembling a ray
of light but in respect of their nature, which in the upper region is
buoyant as it is here in ours, resembling the ether about the moon, they
get from it both tension and strength as edged instruments get a temper,
for what laxness and diffuseness they still have is strengthened and
becomes firm and translucent. In consequence they are nourished by
any exhalation that reaches them, and Heraclitus was right in saying:
"Souls employ the sense of smell in Hades."
(Plutarch The Face of the Moon 28)
Orpheus in his hymns, sang to fumigate the bad odors with incense and
purify the soul.
To the Terrestrial Hermes
O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine
Of Dionysus, parent of the vine,
And of celestial Venus, Paphian queen,
Dark-eyelash'd Goddess of a lovely mien:
Who constant wand'rest thro' the sacred seats
Where Hell's dread empress, Proserpine, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way,
When Fate decrees, to regions void of day.
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly,
Or lulls to slumb'rous rest the weary eye;
For Proserpine, thro' Tart'rus dark and wide,
Gave the for ever flowing souls to guide,
Come, blessed pow'r, the sacrifice attend,
And grant thy mystics' works a happy end.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )
Taylor quotes Proclus who also makes the distinction between
terrestrial and celestial gods.
Hence, there is a terrestrial Ceres, Vesta, and Isis, as likewise a terrestrial
Jupiter and a terrestrial Hermes, established about the one divinity of the
earth, just as a multitude of celestial Gods proceeds about the one
divinity of the heavens. For there are progressions of all the celestial
Gods into the Earth: and Earth contains all things, in an earthly manner,
which Heaven comprehends celestially. Hence we speak of a terrestrial
Bacchus and a terrestrial Apollo, who bestows the all-various streams of
water with which the earth abounds, and openings prophetic of futurity.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus p. xxxiii)
Pindar explains how the pure light of the soul remains after death, and
how even during life when the body sleeps it may give knowledge of the
future. His metaphor for having realized this transcendent reality is
clearly a reference to the mystic grain.
... having, by happy fortune, culled the fruit of the rite that releases from
toil. And, while the body of all men is subject to over-mastering death, an
image of life remains alive, for it alone comes from the gods. But it
sleeps, while the limbs are active; yet, to them that sleep in many a
dream it gives presage of a decision of things delightful or doleful.
(Pindar Fragment 96)
Pausanias tells how Pindar received a communication in a dream from
the Goddess of the underworld, and then after passing on, sent a song
to a living person through a dream.
When his fame was spread abroad from one end of Greece to the other,
the Pythian priestess set him on a still higher pinnacle of renown by
bidding the Delphians give to Pindar an equal share of all the first-fruits
they offered to Apollo. It is said, too, that in his old age there was
vouchsafed to him a vision in a dream. As he slept Proserpine stood by
him and said that of all the deities she alone had not been hymned by
him, but that, nevertheless, he should make a song on her also when he
was come to her. Before ten days were out Pindar had paid the debt of
nature. But there was in Thebes an old woman, a relation of Pindar's,
who had practiced singing, most of his songs. To her Pindar appeared
in a dream and sang to her a hymn on Proserpine; and she, as soon as
she was awake, wrote down all the song she had heard him singing in
her dream. In this song, amongst the epithets applied to Hades is that of
'golden-reined,' obviously in reference to the rape of Proserpine.
(Pausanias IX, 23:3-4)
The dreamer is able to visit the underworld or the "other side" to
communicate with the dead, yet when wake and alive is usually not
aware of the soul realm. Heraclitus expresses this by calling such a
person "the sleeper."
A man in the night kindles a light for himself when his vision is
extinguished; living, he is in contact with the dead, when asleep, and
with the sleeper, when awake.
(H. Diels 236)
Realizing that in dreams the awakened soul may visit the inner realms,
Orpheus sings:
To the Divinity of Dreams
Thee I invoke, blest pow'r of dreams divine,
Angel of future fates, swift wings are thine.
Great source of oracles to human kind,
When stealing soft, and whisp'ring to the mind,
Thro' sleep's sweet silence, and the gloom of night,
Thy pow'r awakes th'intellectual sight;
To silent souls the will of heaven relates,
And silently reveals their future fates.
Forever friendly to the upright mind,
Sacred and pure, to holy rites inclin'd;
For these with pleasing hope thy dreams inspire:
Bliss to anticipate, which all desire.
Thy visions manifest of fate disclose,
What methods best may mitigate our woes;
Reveal what rites the Gods immortal please,
And what the means their anger to appease;
For ever tranquil is the good man's end,
Whose life thy dreams admonish and defend,
But from the wicked turned averse to bless,
Thy form unseen, the angel of distress;
No means to check approaching ill they find,
Pensive with fears, and to the future blind.
Come blessed pow'r, the signatures reveal
Which heav'n's decrees mysteriously conceal,
Signs only present to the worthy mind,
Nor omens ill disclose of monstrous kind.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )
Seneca indicates that the Eleusinian Mysteries continually helped the
ancient Greeks to grow spiritually.
There are holy things that are not communicated all at once: Eleusis
always keeps something back to show those who come again.
(Quaestiones Naturalis VII, 30:6)
Yet the silence in which these mysteries were wrapped is difficult to
penetrate. In Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus the Chorus exclaims:
Haply by the shores loved of Apollo, haply by that torch-lit strand where
the Great Goddess cherish dread rites for mortals, on whose lips the
ministrant Eumolpidae have laid the precious seal of silence;
(Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1048-1053)
Later Oedipus himself speaks of the required silence, and tells how to
hand them down from generation to generation.
But for your mysteries which speech may not profane, you shall mark
them for yourself, when you come to that place alone; and when you are
coming to the end of life, disclose them to your heir alone; let him teach
his heir; and so thenceforth.
(Ibid. 1526-1534)
Oedipus at Colonus was produced in 405 BC, one year after Sophocles'
death. Thus in this play Sophocles is able to express his deepest
thoughts about death, as Oedipus faces the situation. Oedipus goes off
to his death, calling upon Persephone.
This way - hither, this way! - for this way does Guiding Hermes lead me,
and the goddess of the dead.
(Ibid. 2556-1558)
Here again the terrestrial Hermes leads the man to the gods. A
messenger describes the ritual symbolic of initiation performed by
Oedipus before his death.
And then he called his daughters, and bade them fetch water from some
fount, that he should wash, and make a drink-offering. And they went to
the hill which was in view, Demeter's hill who guards the tender plants,
and in short space brought that which their father had enjoined; then
they ministered to him with washing, and dressed him, as use ordains.
(Ibid. 1595-1602)
Theseus consoles the daughters of Oedipus and asks them not to
mourn the death of a blessed one.
Weep no more maidens; for where the kindness of the Dark Powers is
an abiding grace to the quick and to the dead, there is no room for
mourning; divine anger would follow.
(Ibid. 1750-1753)
Sophocles gives the reason why in a fragment.
Thrice happy are those of mortals, who having seen those rites depart
for Hades; for to them alone is it granted to have true life there; to the
rest all there is evil.
(Sophocles Fragment 719)
An inscription found at Eleusis agrees.
Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is
for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing.
(S. Angus tr. The Mystery Religions and Christianity p. 140)
Scholiast On Aristophanes reveals that not only was death not feared,
but that initiation could help the soul that has passed on to realize its
divine nature.
It was the common belief in Athens that whoever had been taught the
Mysteries would, when he died, be deemed worthy of divine glory.
Hence all were eager for initiation.
(Scholiast on Aristophanes The Frogs 158)
Thus as Pindar expresses it, initiation could be the beginning of divine
Blessed is he who has seen these things before he goes beneath the
earth; for he understands the end of mortal life, and the beginning (of a
new life) given of god.
(Fragment 102)
Jesus explains the immortality of the soul and the sovereignty of God in
the symbols the Greeks understand due to the mysteries.
Some of those going up so that they might worship at the feast were
Greeks; therefore these approached Philip, the one from Bethsaida of
Galilee, and asked him saying, "Lord, we wish to see Jesus." Philip goes
and tells Andrew; Andrew and Philip go and tell Jesus.

And Jesus answers them saying, "The hour has come so that the
human son may be glorified. Amen, amen, I tell you, unless a grain of
wheat falling into the earth dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears
much fruit."
(Gospel of John 12:20-24)
Thus Jesus explained that death is a rebirth. Paul explains the
resurrection by the symbol of a seed dying in the earth in order to grow
into celestial life.
But some one will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of
body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to
life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a
bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a
body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed is its own body. or not
all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals,
another for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial bodies and
there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the
glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and
another of the moon, and another glory of the star; for star differs from
star in glory.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable,
what is raised is imperishable, It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it
is raised a spiritual body . If there is a physical body, there is also a
spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living
being;" the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual
which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was
from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was
the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of
heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the
image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of
heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the
sovereignty of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
(I Corinthians 15:35-50)
The individual's soul, which is the seed of God, becomes one with God
as the seed becomes a tree. Jesus gives the parable.
And he said, "Thus is the sovereignty of God: as a person might throw
seed on the earth, and might sleep and rise night and day, and the seed
sprouts and lengthens, though one does not know how. By itself the
earth bears fruit, first grass, then an ear, then full grain in the ear. And
when the fruit is ripe, immediately one sends the sickle, for the harvest
has arrived."

And he said, "How shall we describe the sovereignty of God, or by what
parable may we compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which when it is
sown on the earth, is smaller than all the seeds of the earth, and when in
is sown, comes up and becomes greater than all the vegetables, and
produces great branches so that the birds of heaven can dwell under its

And by many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were
able to hear; and he did not speak to them without a parable, but
privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

And he said to them on that day as evening came, "Let us go over to the
other side." And leaving the crowd they take him along as he was in the
boat, and other boats were with him. And a great whirlwind occurs, and
the waves broke into the boat, so that now the boat was being filled. And
he was in the stern sleeping on a pillow.

And they awake him and say to him, "Teacher, don't you even care that
we are perishing?"

And waking up he reprimanded the wind and said to the sea, "Be quiet!
Shut up!" And the wind ceased, and it became very calm. And he said to
them, "Why are you such cowards? How come you have no faith?"
(Gospel of Mark 4:26-40)
As they cross to the other side, symbolically through the veil of death,
the disciples become afraid and cry out to Jesus in fear of dying. But
Jesus has shown the way through stormy death and proven the truth by
his own resurrection, Once the soul is purified of its other bodies, it is
able to pass back and forth between earthly life and the heavenly realm,
which is on the other side or within the inner realms of consciousness.

Orphic Hymns

A Hymn to Proserpine by Orpheus:
Daughter of Jove, Persephone divine,
Come, blessed queen, and to these rites incline:
Only-begotten, Pluto's honored wife,
O venerable Goddess, source of life:
'Tis thine in earth's profundities to dwell
Past by the wide and dismal gates of hell.
Jove's holy offspring, of a beauteous mien,
Avenging Goddess, subterranean queen.
The Furies' source, fair-hair'd, whose frame proceeds
from Jove's ineffable and secret seeds.
Mother of Bacchus, sonorous, divine,
And many-form'd, the parent of the vine.
Associate of the Seasons, essence bright,
All-ruling virgin, bearing heav'nly light.
With fruits abounding, of a bounteous mind,
Horn'd, and alone desir'd by those of mortal kind.
O vernal queen, whom grassy plains delight,
Sweet to the smell, and pleasing to the sight:
Whose holy form in budding fruits we view,
Earth's vig'rous offspring of a various hue:
Espous'd in autumn, life and death alone
To wretched mortals from thy pow'r is known:
For thine the task, according to thy will,
Life to produce, and all that lives to kill.
Hear, blessed Goddess, send a rich increase
Of various fruits from earth, with lovely peace:
Send Health with gentle hand, and crown my life
With blest abundance, free from noisy strife;
Last in extreme old age the prey of Death,
Dismiss me willing to the realms beneath,
To thy fair palace and the blissful plains
Where happy spirits dwell, and Pluto reigns.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )
The subject requires that I should narrate the rape of the Virgin.
(Ovid Fasti IV, 417-418)
Now Calliope bore to Oeagrus or, nominally, to Apollo, a son Linus,
whom Hercules slew; and another son Orpheus, who practiced
minstrelsy and by his songs moved stones and trees.  And when his
wife Eurydice died, bitten by a snake, he went down to Hades, being fain
to bring here up and he persuaded Pluto to send her up.  The god
promised to do so, if on the way Orpheus would not turn round until he
should be come to his own house.  But he disobeyed and turning round
beheld his wife; so she turned back.  Orpheus also invented the
mysteries of Dionysus, and having been torn in pieces by the Maenads,
he is buried in Pieria.

In my opinion Orpheus excelled his predecessors in the beauty of his
verse, and reached a high degree of power because he was believed to
have discovered mysteries, purifications from sins, cures of diseases,
and means of averting divine wrath. . .Some say that Orpheus came to
his end by being struck by a thunderbolt, hurled at him by the god
because he revealed sayings in the mysteries to men who had not heard
them before.  

It is impossible to conclude how significant an influence Orphism had
on Eleusis for there is no solid evidence for it or against it. Pausanias
says this of the renowned mystic:
In my opinion Orpheus was a man who surpassed his predecessors in
the beauty of his poetry, and attained great power because he was
believed to have discovered mystic rites, purifications for wicked deeds,
remedies for diseases, and modes of averting the wrath of the gods....
But some say that Orpheus was struck dead by the god with a
thunderbolt on account of certain revelations which he had made to
men at the mysteries.
(IX, 30:4-5)
The varieties of mystical experience hymned by Orpheus often are
related to Demeter, Persephone, and Dionysus (translated Ceres,
Proserpine, and Bacchus respectively) and refer to mystic rites or
Telete, which means the celebration of the Mysteries from teleo, to make
perfect. (Mylonas Eleusis p. 320) Although not necessarily used in the
Eleusinian Mysteries, these hymns give one the feeling of a comparable
mysticism We have already given "To Proserpine," "To Pluto," and "To
Ceres," and all of the following refer directly to Bacchus, Demeter
(Ceres), or Persephone (Proserpine); the first is complete, the rest
selections. These were sung by devoted mystics to their gods.
To Amphietus Bacchus
Terrestrial Dionysus, hear my pray'r,
Rise vigilant with Nymphs of lovely hair:
Great Amphietus Bacchus, annual God,
Who laid asleep in Proserpine's abode,
Her sacred seat, didst lull to drowsy rest
The rites triennial and the sacred feast;
Which rous'd again by thee, in graceful ring,
Thy nurses round thee mystic anthems sing;
When briskly dancing with rejoicing pow'rs,
Thou mov'st in concert with the circling hours,
Come blessed, fruitful, horned, and divine,
And on this sacred Telete propitious shine;
Accept the pious incense and the pray'r,
And make prolific holy fruits thy care.
To Bacchus
Of Jove and Proserpine occultly born
In beds ineffable; all-bless'd pow'r,
Whom with triennial off'rings men adore.
Immortal daemon, hear my suppliant voice,
Give me in blameless plenty to rejoice;
And listen gracious to my mystic pray'r,
Surrounded with thy choir of nurses fair,
To the Nereids
Give plenteous wealth, and bless our mystic rites;
For you at first disclosed the rites divine,
Of holy Bacchus and of Proserpine,
To the Nymphs
With Bacchus and with Ceres hear my pray'r,
And to mankind abundant favor bear;
Propitious listen to your suppliant's voice,
Come, and benignant in these rites rejoice;
Give plenteous seasons and sufficient wealth,
And pour in lasting streams, continued health.
To Semele
Whom Proserpine permits to view the light,
And visit mortals from the realms of night.
Constant attending on the sacred rites,
And feast triennial, which thy soul delights;
When thy son's wondrous birth mankind relate
And secrets pure and holy celebrate.
Now I invoke thee, great Cadmean queen,
To bless thy mystics, lenient and serene.
To Adonis
Descended from the secret bed divine
Of Pluto's queen, the fair-hair'd Proserpine.
'Tis thine to sink in Tartarus profound,
And shine again thro' heav'ns illustrious round
Come, timely pow'r, with providential care,
And to thy mystics earth's productions bear.
To the Curetes
Fam'd deities the guards of Proserpine,
Preserving rites mysterious and divine:
To the Seasons
Invested with a veil of shining dew,
A flow'ry veil delightful to the view:
Attending Proserpine, when back from night
The Fates and Graces lead her up to light;
When in a band harmonious they advance,
And joyful round her form the solemn dance.
With Ceres triumphing, and Jove divine,
Propitious come, and on our incense shine;
Give earth a store of blameless fruits to bear,
And make these novel mystics' life your care.
To Nereus
Great daemon, source of all, whose pow'r can make
The sacred basis of blest Ceres shake,...
Send to thy mystics necessary wealth,
With gentle peace, and ever tranquil health.
To Love
Of all that Ceres' fertile realms contains,
By which th'all parent Goddess life sustains,
Or dismal Tartarus is doom'd to keep,
Widely extended, or the sounding deep;
For thee all Nature's various realms obey,
Who rul'st alone, with universal sway.
Come, blessed pow'r, regard these mystic fires,
And far avert unlawful mad desires.
To Corybas
By thee transmuted, Ceres' body pure
Became a dragon's savage and obscure.
Avert thy anger, hear me when I pray,
And, by fix'd fate, drive fancy's fears away.
More selections refer to mystic rites. (Ibid.) To Orpheus the whole
cosmos is alive and divine.
To the Sun
Propitious on these mystic labors shine,
And bless thy suppliants with a life divine.
To the Moon
Shine on these sacred rites with prosp'rous rays,
And pleas'd accept thy suppliants' mystic praise.
To the Stars
These sacred rites regard with conscious rays,
And end our works devoted to your praise.
To Latona
Hear me, O queen, and fav'rbly attend,
And to this Telete divine afford a pleasing end.
To the Daemon
O holy blessed father, hear my pray'r,
Disperse the seed of life-consuming care,
With fav'ring mind the sacred rites attend,
And grant to life a glorious blessed end.
To the Muse
Commanding queens, who lead to sacred light
The intellect refin'd from Error's night;
And to mankind each holy rite disclose,
For mystic knowledge from your nature flows....
Come, venerable, various pow'rs divine,
With fav'ring aspect on your mystics shine;
Bring glorious, ardent, lovely, fam'd desire,
And warm my bosom with your sacred fire .
To Aurora
For all the culture of our life is thine.
Come, blessed pow'r and to these rites incline:
Thy holy light increase, and unconfin'd
Diffuse its radiance on thy mystics' mind
To Themis
Honor'd by all, of form divinely bright,
Majestic virgin, wand'ring in the night.
Mankind from thee first learnt perfective rites,
And Bacchus' nightly choirs thy soul delights;
For the God's honors to disclose is thine,
And holy mysteries and rites divine.
Be present Goddess, to my pray'r inclin'd,
And bless thy Telete with fav'ring mind.
To Death
Hear me, O Death, whose empire unconfin'd
Extends to mortal tribes of ev'ry kind.
On thee the portion of our time depends,
Whose absence lengthens life, whose presence ends.
Thy sleep perpetual bursts the vivid folds
By which the soul attracting body holds:
To Mnemosyne or the Goddess of Memory
The consort I invoke of Jove divine,
Source of the holy, sweetly speaking Nine;
Free from th'oblivion of the fallen mind,
By whom the soul with intellect is join'd.
Reason's increase and thought to thee belong,
All-powerful, pleasant, vigilant and strong.
'Tis thine to waken from lethargic rest
All thoughts deposited within the breast;
And naught neglecting, vig'rous to excite
The mental eye from dark oblivion's night
Come, blessed pow'r, thy mystics' mem'ry wake
To holy rites, and Lethe's fetters break.
To Heaven
Propitious on a novel mystic shine,
And crown his wishes with a life divine.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )