Eleusinian mysteries


Eleusinian mysteries
the mysteries, celebrated annually at Eleusis and Athens in ancient times, in memory of the abduction and return of Persephone and in honor of Demeter and Bacchus.
[1635-45]

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Most famous mystery religion of ancient Greece.

It was based on the story of Demeter, whose daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Hades. While searching for her daughter, Demeter stopped at Eleusis, revealed her identity to the royal family, and taught the natives her rites. The Greater Mysteries were celebrated in autumn, beginning with a procession from Athens to the temple at Eleusis. This was followed by a ritual bath in the sea, three days of fasting, and completion of secret rites. Initiates were promised personal salvation and benefits in the afterlife.

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      most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece. According to the myth told in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the earth goddess Demeter (q.v.) went to Eleusis in search of her daughter Kore ( Persephone), who had been abducted by Hades (Pluto), god of the underworld. Befriended by the royal family of Eleusis, she agreed to rear the queen's son. She was, however, prevented by the queen's unknowing interference from making the boy immortal and eternally young. After this occasion, she revealed her identity to the royal family and commanded that a temple be built for her into which she retired.

      According to the Hymn to Demeter, the Mysteries at Eleusis originated in the two-fold story of Demeter's life—her separation from and reunion with her daughter and her failure to make the queen's son immortal. After Eleusis was incorporated, the city of Athens took responsibility for the festival, but the festival never lost its local associations.

      The Mysteries began with the march of the mystai (initiates) in solemn procession from Athens to Eleusis. The rites that they then performed in the Telesterion, or Hall of Initiation, were and remain a secret. Something was recited, something was revealed, and acts were performed, but there is no sure evidence of what the rites actually were, though some garbled information was given by later, Christian writers who tried to condemn the Mysteries as pagan abominations. It is clear, however, that neophytes were initiated in stages and that the annual process began with purification rites at what were called the Lesser Mysteries held at Agrai (Agrae) on the stream of Ilissos, outside of Athens, in the month of Anthesterion (February–March). The Greater Mysteries at Eleusis was celebrated annually in the month of Boedromion (September–October). It included a ritual bath in the sea, three days of fasting, and completion of the still-mysterious central rite. These acts completed the initiation, and the initiate was promised benefits of some kind in the afterlife.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Eleusinian Mysteries — Topics in Greek mythology Gods Primordial gods and Titans Zeus and the Olympians Pan and the nymphs Apollo and Dionysus Sea gods and Earth gods Heroes Heracles and his Labors Achilles and the Trojan War …   Wikipedia

  • Eleusinian mysteries — El•eu•sin′i•an mys′teries [[t]ˌɛl yʊˈsɪn i ən[/t]] n. pl. anq the mysteries, celebrated annually at Eleusis and Athens in ancient times, in memory of the abduction and return of Persephone and in honor of Demeter and Dionysus • Etymology:… …   From formal English to slang

  • Eleusinian mysteries — /əljuˌsɪniən ˈmɪstriz/ (say uhlyooh.sineeuhn mistreez) plural noun (in ancient Greece) the famous mysteries and festival celebrated at the city of Eleusis and later Athens and elsewhere, in honour of Demeter (Ceres), Persephone, and Dionysus …   Australian English dictionary

  • Eleusinian mysteries — the mysteries, celebrated annually at Eleusis and Athens in ancient times, in memory of the abduction and return of Persephone and in honor of Demeter and Bacchus. [1635 45] …   Useful english dictionary

  • ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES —    rites, initiation into which, as religiously conducive to the making of good men and good citizens, was compulsory on every free born Athenian, celebrated annually at Eleusis in honour of Demeter and Persephone, and which lasted nine days …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES —    information about these RITES, which took place as part of a MYSTERY RELIGION at Eleusis near Athens, is fragmentary and unreliable. Initiation lasted two years and involved vows of secrecy. The CULT was suppressed in the fourth century A.D …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Eleusinian mysteries — [ˌɛlju: sɪnɪən] plural noun the annual rites performed by the ancient Greeks at the village of Eleusis near Athens in honour of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone …   English new terms dictionary

  • Eleusinian — El eu*sin i*an, a. [L. Eleusinius, Gr. ?.] Pertaining to Eleusis, in Greece, or to secret rites in honor of Ceres, there celebrated; as, Eleusinian mysteries or festivals. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Eleusinian — [el΄yo͞o sin′ē ən] adj. 1. of Eleusis 2. designating or of the secret religious rites (Eleusinian mysteries) celebrated at the ancient Greek city of Eleusis in honor of Demeter and Persephone …   English World dictionary

  • Mysteries — Mystery Mys ter*y (m[i^]s t[ e]r*[y^]), n.; pl. {Mysteries} (m[i^]s t[ e]r*[i^]z). [L. mysterium, Gr. mysth rion, fr. my sths one initiated in mysteries; cf. myei^n to initiate into the mysteries, fr. my ein to shut the eyes. Cf. {Mute}, a.] 1. A …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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