What Was The 'Mystery' In The Ancient Mystery Religions?

MrRING

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I hear this referenced quite a bit in regards to ancient religious beliefs - what exactly was the Mystery in the Mystery Religions, or cults?
 

chockfullahate

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why they believed it in the first place?
 
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Anonymous

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Well you had to join to find out. That is why much of what they believed is no longer with us. Because the religions died out and what they "knew" died with them. Though I have heard christianity refered to as a "mystery religion" I think most of them had ressurection myths. I am not sure... I am by no means an expert on religions. Just remember it being discussed in one of my mythology classes.
 

Philo_T

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I always took that to mean that "mystery religions" were set up like your typical illuminati-infested masonic lodge. That is, the proles were fed any old bullshit that got them to do what the inner circle wanted. Only once you had advanced far enough in the hiearchy did you find out the true beliefs of the religion. (I'm not neccessarily implying any conspiracy or disinformation -- just control of "information".)
 
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Anonymous

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Yes! Now You Too Can Be A God!

Revealing that we're all (at least those who have been initiated into the Mysteries), simply divine, Dahling!

:p
 

Jerry_B

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IIRC, it refers to the fact that the initiation rites were a closely guarded secret - to this day it's not completely known what went on in many of them. However, it's thought that that the rites associated with the Eleusian mystery religion was a re-enactment of Orpheus' journey into the Underwold, mixed in with alot of heavy symbolism to do with rebirth and renewal, Spring, etc.. It wsn't the same as Masonic rites, as the purpose and central tenets of the cult was revealed during these initation rites. (One should remember that Masonic stuff is heavily influenced by Christianity and thus is not a good comparison to older religions).
 
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Anonymous

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My understanding is that mystery religions are known as such because they are "faith-based" on intangible mysteries.

You have got your basic Zeus - we know his origin, we know his duties and manifestations - rules the rest of the gods, throws lightning bolts.

You got your Tezcatlipoca - the jaguar god of the Aztecs. In worship, they cut out the hearts of prisoners for oferings. Makes sense - jaguars love raw organ meat.

Then you got your Y___h. Not only do we not know what he looks like because iconography is forbidden, worshippers can't even speak or write his name. What does he do? Everything. Where did he come from? Always.

I have also heard the keeping the rites secret bit.
 
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Anonymous

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Mystery Religions

JerryB has nailed this one I think. 'Mystery' Religions in the west seem to have gained currency in the late Roman Republic as deteriorating personal circumstances for many individuals, at all levels of society, called in to question the efficacy of existing 'Classical' beliefs. The latter were inherited Etruscan Deities which governed every facet of life through divination and appeasement of the gods, simply in an attempt to foretell their mood swings . . . and your impending fate. Essentially you abdicated your free will . . . not only that, your destiny was pre-determined anyway . . . you had no guarantee of salvation since it was in the lap of the gods. This was a religion with little 'feeling'.

When, as an opressed individual you become 'hopeless' there is a natural tendency to desire something better in another life, (since this one is presumably a living hell !) . . . enter the Mystery Cults. Imported from the East, these were regarded as 'Pathetic' religions incorporating; suffering, sorrow and salvation. All feature 'Saviour' Gods (e.g. Mithras, Bacchus, Isis etc.) promising eternal salvation after some form of resurection.

The Mystery 'bit' has been described by other contributors but as an example the 1st century BCE initiation to Mithraism was performed in seven lengthy stages after which the initiate would receive a sign of the cross on his forehead; the body and blood of the sun-god (in the form of bread and wine) and celebrate the birth of Mithras on 25th December.

The advantage to worshippers of these cults was that the temples were open daily instead of just on public holidays (100+ per year in the Empire).

Archaeologically, the temples of these cults (e.g. the 5 Mithraeums in Britain) would seem to have an enclosed ambulatory (internal aisle hidden from outside view) hence I suppose, the term 'Mystery', however . . . as a postscript, read this article from the University of trieste regarding a church mosaic recently discovered

. . . The presence of mosaic illustrations in the basilica of Aquileia representing mushrooms with psychotropic properties indicates that some religious rites of early Christianity, which were probably linked to mysterial cults meant to be kept secret, were related to the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances facilitating mystic ecstasy. It still remains to be seen, however, whether these ecstatic techniques were a common heritage of all early Christian churches or whether they were known and practiced only within some heretic groups of Christians. Roman authorities repeatedly accused early Christians of practicing sorcery by using hallucinogenic substances (Origen, Contra Celsum, I,68; VI,38) [16]. However, Irenaeus (130-200 A.D.) bishop of Lyon, maintained that only heretic churches, thus also the gnostic churches, made use of hallucinogens within magic rites (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, I,13-15; I,24-25) [17].
The identification of pictures reproducing hallucinogenic mushrooms in the premises of an ancient Christian church may help us to understand some aspects of those mysterious rites or of the so-called "discipline of the arcanum" [18] characterizing the most ancient Christian liturgy that, by definition, had to be kept secret and handed down orally to initiated disciples only.

Copyright © Franco Fabbro --draft-- comments are welcomed at [email protected]



Amen . . . Sorleyboy
 

lopaka

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Putting this here, rather than announcements, FWIW. Hope it's not too off-topic. I can't really tell whether this is some cheesy tourist show or something more informative. And sorry, Mr. R.I.N.G., Rome, Italy...not Rome, Georgia. ;)



Greek, Roman cults at Colosseum

- Rome, July 24 - The ancient mystery cults that Greeks and Romans followed in the privacy of their plush homes or the shadows of dank caves are being illuminated at the Colosseum in an impressive light-and-sound show. More than 70 works including statues, frescoes, ritualistic objects and private altars bear testimony to the increasing popularity of Dionysan, Eleusine, oracular, Orphic and Mithraic rites as adepts reached for meaning and salvation outside organised religion .

A series of marble heads from Calabria illustrate the Eleusine mysteries, related to fertility .

Adepts were devoted to two goddesses, Demeter the grain goddess, and her daughter Persephone, also known as Kore (the Maiden). Demeter gave the Greek city of Eleusis two things: grain as the basis of civilisation and the mysteries which held the hopes of a happy afterlife. The exhibition contains an array of representations of the massively popular god of wine, ecstasy and fertility, Dionysus .

Bacchanalian orgies devoted to the god are perhaps the most famous examples of secret rites. They were suppressed by the Roman senate in 186 BC .

Sculpted maenads - frenzied women who tore the god to pieces - are a highlight of the show. They are linked with bas reliefs depicting the related Orphic mystery, which stems from the legend of Orpheus who tragically turns back to see if his wife Eurydice is following him from the Underworld and thus consigns her there forever. The exhibition also contains several statues of the eastern deities Romans embraced from the 2nd century AD: Cymbele the earth goddess, the Egyptian divinities Isis and Osiris, and the Persian god Mithras .

Unlike other rites such as Christianity, these were increasingly tolerated as a form of political control over the Roman people .

Some believe Mithras - and also Dionysus - made it easier for Romans to eventually accept Christianity .

As early as their so-called archaic age, the Greeks had 'borrowed' Isis and Osiris, identifying them with Demeter and Dionysus .

Osiris married his sister Isis, who like him symbolised the passage of time and entry into the afterlife. Many Roman sanctuaries with Egyptian gods and 'Egyptianising' priests were later established, particularly the temple of Isis at Rome under Caligula. Mithras - whose famous depiction as he slays a mythically powerful bull is one of the other stand-out statues on view - was an ancient Indo-Iranian deity, found from the Bronze Age onward. The cult, which was brought back from the East by Roman legionaries, held its initiations in caves and had sacrificial meals there .

The exhibition concludes with a series of Mithraic objects that demonstrate how later Roman rites tended towards monotheism .

The Secret Rite: Mysteries in Greek and Rome has just opened and runs until January 8 .


© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved 2005-07-24 14:14
http://ansa.it/main/notizie/awnplus/eng ... 40820.html
 

dreeness

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The secret or sacred names of deities probably played an important role in mystery religions. There would be certain sacred/secret things about various gods that would be closely guarded by the High Priest or Royal Smart Person or whatever. The idea of a mystery religion probably started when there was only the oral tradition to transmit information about the religion, without any means of writing things, there would have been years of painstaking memorization for aspiring men of the cloth, or men of the antelope or whatever the case happened to be. The seriousness and sacredness of "getting it right" would naturally lead to a feeling of separateness and secrecy among the initiates.
 

Pandemicus

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In his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970), John M. Allegro argued that the Jewish religion was descended from fertility cults that ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms (Amanita Muscaria) as part of their ceremonials/initiations. He suggests that as the religions developed, the use of psychedelic mushrooms as a gateway to spiritual enlightenment was “covered up” by using different words, and alternative naming to describe the processes of the ceremonials/initiations. According to Allegro therefore, the “Mystery” in mystery religions is the use of psychedelics and ritual to promote spiritual enlightenment.

Allegro was a respected academic and an important (if controversial) member of the Dead Sea Scrolls translation team, but nevertheless he was subjected to scathing personal abuse from fellow scholars after the publication of the Sacred Mushroom. To the best of my knowledge, however, he never recanted the views held in his book. Allegro died in the mid-80s.


The Sacred Mushroom is based on etymological evidence, so only scholars of ancient middle east languages can make a fair judgment on the rigour of Allegro’s argument. I’ve never came across a rebuttal of Allegro’s ideas, but its such a specialized field that I suppose any rebuttal would only be found in specialist journals beyond reach of most laymen. For what its worth, I’ve read most of Allegro’s published work on his Dead Sea Scrolls translations, and he strikes me as an honest scholar is who is not afraid to challenge orthodox opinion if he feels new evidence has been uncovered.
 

mossy_sloth

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I've never read the book, but it sounds interesting.

I did find two reviews of it on the JSTOR site, however registration is needed.

IF anyone is interested in looking up the hard copies of the reviews they can be found here:

Review by Akos Ostor in American Anthropologist, Vol 73, No. 6 (Dec., 1971), pp 1369-1370.

and

Review by Lindsey P. Pherigo in Church History Vol 4., No. 2 (Jun., 1971), pp 202-203.

The reviews are caustic to say the least. However now I really want to read the book!
 

Yithian

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This is an intensely interesting interview that ranges over a number of aspects of drug use in the ancient world but returns repeatedly to the nature of the Eleusinian Mysteries and the likely presence of ergot as the psychoactive element that powered the key experience.

This is the book that explores the matter:
https://www.amazon.com/Immortality-Key-Uncovering-History-Religion/dp/1250207142


(I also enjoyed the chat about Santa).
 
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