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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Eleusinian Mysteries

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

You've probably heard the story of Persephone's abduction to the Underworld by Hades and her mother Demeter's frantic search for her. But what if the original story was a little different from that? Instead of the young goddess being taken against her will and needing to be rescued, what if she descended to the Underworld of her own free will, to aid and guard the spirits of the dead during the fallow season when she wasn't needed in the World Above? And what if her mother didn't frantically search to find her, but simply went to where she already knew her daughter was, in order to let her know it was time to ascend from the Underworld?

The Persephone-and-Demeter story was enshrined in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were so popular they survived from classical times several centuries into the Christian era. It's possible that the Eleusinian Mysteries began in the pre-Greek era, perhaps in Minoan Crete and/or mainland Greece among the people who lived there before the arrival of the Indo-European Mycenaeans (check out Karl Kerenyi's book Dionysos for some interesting theories along these lines).

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Just Like the Vampires Rise

Over dinner one night, a witch friend and I were discussing the Russian Easter liturgy which the two of us had recently attended

(No, we hadn't gone to collect hosts to desecrate—Orthodox don't use hosts—but rather to observe and be instructed by a liturgical masterpiece, one of humanity's truly great rituals. If you want to experience what the Mysteries of Eleusis felt like, you really need to check out Orthodox Easter.)

Memorably, the service is punctuated again and again by the Resurrection troparion, the holiday's leitmotif:

 

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down Death by death,

and upon those in the tombs

bestowing life.

 

By the end of the four-hour service, you've heard this chant scores, if not hundreds, of times. You really can't help but know it.

Rising to get something from the kitchen, my friend spontaneously improvises a parody troparion:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mystery Night

It may be that in this time of Plague, tonight, on this Eve of Spring—whether in wisdom or in fear, who shall say?—the Rites of Spring will go uncelebrated.

Or will they?

Hear now my story.

 

September 27, 480 BCE: Mystery Night, the night on which, since time immemorial, people have gathered in Eleusis in Attica to celebrate the Mysteries of the Barley Mother and her daughter, the Nameless Bride.

But this year Eleusis and its sanctuary lie empty. The plains of Attica have been devastated by the invading Persians, and the people of Attica have evacuated to mountain refuges.

It so happens that on that day, two Greek turncoats in pay of the Persian king—Dikaios, son of Theokydes, and Demaratos of Sparta—see a great cloud of dust on the Attic plain, as if raised by the feet of 30,000, and hear massed voices shouting the holy cry: Iakkhos! Iakkhos!

But in the midst of the cloud they see nothing and no one.

What is this? asks Demaratos, who had not been initiated into the Mother's Mysteries.

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If the Secret of Eleusis Were Revealed to You, What Would You Do?

 A Thought Experiment

 

Here it is: the only surviving text of the Mysteries of Eleusis, unlawfully committed to writing by the last hierophant after the destruction of the Sanctuary in 394 ce. After 1600 years, the Secret of Eleusis is finally revealed.

You are now the sole guardian of antiquity's most sacred mystery, knowledge of which (it is said) confers immortality.

What do you do now?

Do you guard the Mystery, or do you pass it on?

If the latter, how? Publicly, or in secret?

Do you publish the mystery, thus earning the praise of scholars everywhere, but also revealing it to the eyes of the unworthy?

Or do you remount the Mysteries? Publicly or privately? If so, how?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    If the knowledge of the mystery gives immortality, then I would be obligated to guard the secret. Immortality is not something one
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Well... If I'm told outright by my initiator why I was ready and worthy for this revelation ( I was old enough/smart enough/decent
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    How so?
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Well...how was *I* deemed worthy to receive revelation?... It would depend on that...

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Beholding Mystery

If I had to compare our Samhain to anything, it would be to the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Of course, the comparison is inexact, and maybe even a little misleading. Certainly we did not—consciously, at any rate—structure what we do on the ancient Mysteries of the Barley Mother. In fact, although we've been enacting this ritual for more than 30 years now, the analogy with Eleusis has only just occurred to me: interestingly, as I attempted to describe it to a first-time guest.

Really, though, such a resemblance is hardly to be wondered at. That Mystery should variously speak a like tongue in different times and places should surprise no one.

As such, the immemorial principle of Holy Silence obtains. There's much that I cannot tell, nor would I if I could.

But this much I may say.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Eleusinian Impact

Ye gods.

In 37 years, we've done a lot of Samhains together. But none like this one.

Naked and cold in the dark, in the cave.

Then the light flares, and the Mystery is revealed.

Of course, I already knew what the Mystery was; Hell, I'd helped write the ritual.

And still, it hit me like a thunderbolt, like love, with an impact frankly Eleusinian.

The mystery revealed in the dark. You see it, and you know that it's true.

True.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Over and over, all around the wold, Samhain reveals itself. Happy new year, dearest!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Amazing how similar our experiences were! There were few of us and it was cold and rainy, so instead of climbing the hill I once

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Demeter, Gaia, and the Sacred Marriage

 

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