Eleusinian Mysteries


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Eleusinian Mysteries

(ĕlyo͞osĭn`ēən), principal religious mysteriesmysteries,
in Greek and Roman religion, some important secret cults. The conventional religions of both Greeks and Romans were alike in consisting principally of propitiation and prayers for the good of the city-state, the tribe, or the family, and only secondarily of the person.
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 of ancient Greece. The mysteries may have originated as part of an early agrarian festival peculiar to certain families in Eleusis. The Athenians later (c.600 B.C.) took over the ceremonies. Because the mysteries were secret, little is known of them. Presumably fasting and ritual purification in the sea took place before the large procession from Athens to Eleusis. The rites, which fundamentally celebrated the abduction and return of Persephone, symbolized the annual cycle of death and rebirth in nature as well as the immortality of the soul. It was believed that they had originally been instituted in Eleusis by Persephone's mother, Demeter. Dionysus was also much honored. The festival at Eleusis, known as the Greater Mysteries, was celebrated in the early fall, at sowing time. Another festival, the Lesser Mysteries, was held in the early spring at Agrae.

Bibliography

See G. E. Myloras, Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries (1962, repr. 1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Eleusinian Mysteries

 

a religious festival held in Attica, in ancient Greece, in honor of the goddess Demeter and her daughter the goddess Persephone (Kore).

The cult of Demeter and Persephone was one of the most ancient agricultural cults. The Eleusinian mysteries, celebrated from earliest times in Eleusis, became an Athenian state festival after Eleusis was incorporated into the league of Attic states in the late seventh century B.C. Regardless of sex and social position, all of the citizens of Athens, including slaves, had the right to be initiated into the mysteries, which were celebrated in late September or early October. The ritual included a solemn procession along the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis and the mysteries proper, which consisted of representations of Demeter’s sorrow at the loss of her daughter, her search for Persephone, and her joy upon Persephone’s return. The details of the Eleusinian mysteries, which apparently included pantomime and the recitation of sacred texts, are unknown.

REFERENCES

Novosadskii, N. I. Elevsinskie misterii. St. Petersburg, 1887.
Foucart, P. Les Mystères d’Eleusis. Paris, 1914.
Deubner, L. Attische Feste [2nd ed.]. Berlin, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Eleusinian Mysteries

Lesser Eleusinia in February-March; Greater Eleusinia in September-October
In ancient Athens, the Eleusinia was the most celebrated of all religious ceremonies. Often referred to as the Mysteries because anyone who violated the secrecy surrounding the festival rites would be punished by death, the Eleusinia consisted of two celebrations: The Greater Eleusinia was observed for a week or more in September or October; the Lesser Eleusinia was observed in early spring. Those who had been initiated at the lesser mysteries were allowed to participate in the greater mysteries the following year, when the secrets of the festival would be revealed to them.
The Eleusinia was based on the legend of Demeter, a goddess associated with the harvest, and her daughter Persephone, who was carried off by Pluto to live in his underground kingdom. Although the secrecy that accompanied the Eleusinian mysteries has made it difficult to reconstruct exactly what went on there, it is believed that they were intended to encourage a bountiful growing season. The men and women who were initiated during these ceremonies were believed to live happier and more secure lives, and when they died, they were granted a place in the Elysian Fields, the mythical place where the souls of the virtuous went after death.
CONTACTS:
Tufts University, Department of the Classics
321 Eaton Hall
Medford, MA 02155
617-627-3213; fax: 617-627-2896
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SOURCES:
AtticFest-1981, pp. 139, 192
ClassDict-1984, p. 220
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 512
EncyRel-1987, vol. 5, p. 83
OxClassDict-1970, p. 716
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Eleusinian Mysteries

ancient religious rites; its secrets have never been discovered. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 305]
See: Mystery
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Demeter's revelation in Eleusis is a confirmation of the sacred character of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the centre of which Persephone or Kore is placed.
(7) To this list of innovations that Makron introduced, this article will demonstrate that we can add one more: he painted the earliest known representation of Dionysos as an initiate into the Eleusinian Mysteries.
After all the riddles and conundrums posed to her by a variety of Wonderland tutors since leaving the great hall, Alice, like an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries, has acquired many life lessons.
At the outset, Lucius prays to Venus and Ceres and Proserpine, the tutelary deities of the Eleusinian mysteries, to restore his human form.
Here we might think him mastered by the spell Of Dionysus, lately intertwined With winnowing-fans and a new clientele Mad keen for any psychotropic smell Of Eleusinian mysteries. Resigned No longer to drop anchor, but to dwell For keeps in this safe haven, he'd the blind Sooth-sayer now to thank who'd once divined, Way back, how no port in a storm could quell His storm-tossed soul.
The story may be read as a perverse revisiting of the Eleusinian mysteries as initiation ceremonies for the cult of Demeter and Persephone, the disrupted nuptials and the resonance of the economic with human sacrifice.
The 23 essays in this collection include discussions of mystery and secrecy in The Secret Revelation of John, the Sethian books of the Nag Hammadi library as secret books, esotericism and Evagrius of Pontus in the Egyptian desert, the secret of an early Christian mystical experience, mystery and secrecy in Paul, a suggestion on the origins of Christological fish symbolism, initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, the Mithras Liturgy as mystery and magic, and the secret hymn in Hermetic texts.
These conclusions about death are reinforced when Reno meets members of a secret society who perform their own personal death dramas in rites loosely based on the Eleusinian mysteries. Resurrections are based on the story of Lazarus, who failed, after he was resurrected, to report any afterlife because he had experienced none.
Additionally, the Eleusinian Mysteries allowed foreigners to participate in festivals featuring public feasting.
Mr Bowden examines the Eleusinian mysteries, those of the Kabeiroi and the gods of Samothrace, the 'mother of the gods', Dionysus, Isis, and Mithras.