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Title: The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites
Author: Wright, Dudley, 1868-1949
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Past Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, U.S.A._






     1. Temple of Artemis Propylæa.
     2. Outer Propylæon.
     3. Inner Propylæon.
     4. Temple of Demeter.
     5. Outer Enclosure of the Sacred Buildings.
     6. Inner Enclosure.


At one time the Mysteries of the various nations were the only vehicle
of religion throughout the world, and it is not impossible that the very
name of religion might have become obsolete but for the support of the
periodical celebrations which preserved all the forms and ceremonials,
rites and practices of sacred worship.

With regard to the connection, supposed or real, between Freemasonry and
the Mysteries, it is a remarkable coincidence that there is scarcely a
single ceremony in the former that has not its corresponding rite in one
or other of the Ancient Mysteries. The question as to which is the
original is an important one to the student. The Masonic antiquarian
maintains that Freemasonry is not a scion snatched with a violent hand
from the Mysteries--whether Pythagorean, Hermetic, Samothracian,
Eleusinian, Drusian, Druidical, or the like--but is the original
institution, from which all the Mysteries were derived. In the opinion
of the renowned Dr. George Oliver: "There is ample testimony to
establish the fact that the Mysteries of all nations were originally the
same, and diversified only by the accidental circumstances of local
situation and political economy." The original foundation of the
Mysteries has, however, never been established. Herodotus ascribed the
institution of the Eleusinian Mysteries to Egyptian influences, while
Pococke declares them to have been of Tartar origin, and to have
combined Brahmanical and Buddhistic ideas. Others are equally of opinion
that their origin must be sought for in Persia, while at least one
writer--and who, in these days, will declare the theory to be
fanciful?--ventures the opinion that it is not improbable that they were
practised among the Atlanteans.

The Eleusinian Mysteries--those rites of ancient Greece, and later of
Rome, of which there is historical evidence dating back to the seventh
century before the Christian era--bear a very striking resemblance in
many points to the rituals of both Operative and Speculative
Freemasonry. As to their origin, beyond the legendary account put forth,
there is no trace. In the opinion of some writers of repute an Egyptian
source is attributed to them, but of this there is no positive evidence.
There is a legend that St. John the Evangelist--a character honoured and
revered by Freemasons--was an initiate of these Mysteries. Certainly,
more than one of the early Fathers of the Christian Church boasted of
his initiation into these Rites. The fact that this is the first time
that an attempt has been made to give a detailed exposition of the
ceremonial and its meaning in the English language will, it is hoped,
render the articles of interest and utility to students of Masonic lore.

As to the influence of the Mysteries upon Christianity, it will be seen
that in more than one instance the Christian ritual bears a very close
resemblance to the solemn rites of the Latin and Greek Mysteries.

The Bibliography at the end does not claim to be exhaustive, but it will
be found to contain the principal sources of our knowledge of the
Eleusinian Mysteries.













_Past Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Iowa._

Few aspects of the history of the human spirit are more fascinating than
the story of the Mysteries of antiquity, one chapter of which is told in
the following pages with accuracy, insight, and charm. Like all human
institutions, they had their foundation in a real need, to which they
ministered by dramatizing the faiths and hopes and longings of humanity,
and evoking that eternal mysticism which is at once the joy and solace
of man as he marches or creeps or crowds through the welter of doubts,
dangers, disease, and death, which we call our life.

Once the sway of the Mysteries was well-nigh universal, but towards the
end of their power they fell into the mire and became corrupt, as all
things human are apt to do, the Church itself being no exception. Yet at
their best and highest they were not only lofty and noble, but elevating
and refining, and that they served a high purpose is equally clear, else
they had not won the eulogiums of the most enlightened men of antiquity.
From Pythagoras to Plutarch the teachers of old bear witness to the
service of the Mysteries, and Cicero testified that what a man learned
in the house of the Hidden Place made him want to live nobly, and gave
him happy thoughts for the hour of death.

The Mysteries, said Plato, were established by men of great genius, who,
in the early ages, strove to teach purity, to ameliorate the cruelty of
the race, to exalt its morals and refine its manners, and to restrain
society by stronger bonds than those which human laws impose. Such being
their purpose, he who gives a thought to the life of man at large will
enter their vanished sanctuaries with sympathy; and if no mystery any
longer attaches to what they taught--least of all to their ancient
allegory of immortality--there is the abiding interest in the rites,
drama, and symbols employed in the teaching of wise and good and
beautiful truth.

What influence the Mysteries had on the new, uprising Christianity is
hard to know, and the issue is still in debate. That they did influence
the early Church is evident from the writings of the Fathers--more than
one of whom boasted of initiation--and some go so far as to say that the
Mysteries died at last, only to live again in the ritual of the Church.
St. Paul in his missionary journeys came in contact with the Mysteries,
and even makes use of some of their technical terms in his Epistles, the
better to show that what they sought to teach by drama can be known only
by spiritual experience. No doubt his insight is sound, but surely drama
may assist to that realization, else public worship might also come
under ban.

Of the Eleusinian Mysteries in particular, we have long needed such a
study as is here offered, in which the author not only sums up in an
attractive manner what is known, but adds to our knowledge some
important details. An Egyptian source has been attributed to the
Mysteries of Greece, but there is little evidence of it, save as we may
conjecture it to have been so, remembering the influence of Egypt upon
Greece. Such influences are difficult to trace, and it is safer to say
that the idea and use of Initiation--as old as the Men's House of
primitive society--was universal, and took different forms in different

Such a study has more than an antiquarian interest, not only to students
in general, but especially to the men of the gentle Craft of
Freemasonry. If we may not say that Freemasonry is historically
descended from the instituted Mysteries of antiquity, it does
perpetuate, to some extent, their ministry among us. At least, the
resemblance between those ancient rites arid the ceremonials of both
Operative and Speculative Freemasonry are very striking; and the present
study must be reckoned as not the least of the services of its author to
that gracious Craft.


The Eleusinian Mysteries and Rites



The legend which formed the basis of the Mysteries of Eleusis, presence
at and participation in which demanded an elaborate form or ceremony of
initiation, was as follows:--

Persephone (sometimes described as Proserpine and as Cora or Kore), when
gathering flowers, was abducted by Pluto, the god of Hades, and carried
off by him to his gloomy abode; Zeus, the brother of Pluto and the
father of Persephone, giving his consent. Demeter (or Ceres), her
mother, arrived too late to assist her child, or even catch a glimpse of
her seducer, and neither god nor man was able, or willing, to enlighten
her as to the whereabouts of Persephone or who had carried her away. For
nine nights and days she wandered, torch in hand, in quest of her child.
Eventually, however, she heard from Helios (the sun) the name of the
seducer and his accomplice. Incensed at Zeus, she left Olympos and the
gods, and came down to scour the earth disguised as an old woman.

In the course of her wanderings she arrived at Eleusis, where she was
honourably entertained by Keleos, the ruler of the country, with whom,
and his wife Metanira, she consented to remain in order to watch over
the education of Demophon, who had just been born to the aged king and
whom she undertook to make immortal.

     Long was thy anxious search
     For lovely Proserpine, nor didst thou break
     Thy mournful fast, till the far-fam'd Eleusis
     Received thee wandering.

                                _Orphic Hymn._

The city of Eleusis is said to derive its name from the hero Eleusis, a
fabulous personage deemed by some to have been the offspring of Mercury
and Daira, daughter of Oceanus, while by others he was claimed as the
son of Oxyges.

Unknown to the parents Demeter used to anoint Demophon by day with
ambrosia, and hide him by night in the fire like a firebrand. Detected
one night by Metanira, she was compelled to reveal herself as Demeter,
the goddess. Whereupon she directed the Eleusinians to erect a temple as
a peace-offering, and, this being done, she promised to initiate them
into the form of worship which would obtain for them her goodwill and
favour. "It is I, Demeter, full of glory, who lightens and gladdens the
hearts of gods and men. Hasten ye, my people, to raise, hard by the
citadel, below the ramparts, a fane, and on the eminence of the hill, an
altar, above the wall of Callichorum. I will instruct you in the rites
which shall be observed and which are pleasing to me."

The temple was erected, but Demeter was still vowing vengeance against
gods and men, and because of the continued loss of her daughter she
rendered the earth sterile during a whole year.

     What ails her that she comes not home?
       Demeter seeks her far and wide;
     And gloomy-browed doth ceaseless roam
       From many a morn till eventide.
     "My life, immortal though it be,
     Is naught!" she cries, "for want of thee,

The oxen drew the plough, but in vain was the seed sown in the prepared
ground. Mankind was threatened with utter annihilation, and all the gods
were deprived of sacrifices and offerings. Zeus endeavoured to appease
the anger of the gods, but in vain. Finally he summoned Hermes to go to
Pluto and order him to restore Persephone to her mother. Pluto yielded,
but before Persephone left she took from the hand of Pluto four
pomegranate pips which he offered her as sustenance on her journey.
Persephone, returning from the land of shadows, found her mother in the
temple at Eleusis which had recently been erected. Her first question
was whether her daughter had eaten anything in the land of her
imprisonment, because her unconditional return to earth and Olympos
depended upon that. Persephone informed her mother that all she had
eaten was the pomegranate pips, in consequence of which Pluto demanded
that Persephone should sojourn with him for four months during each
year, or one month for each pip taken. Demeter had no option but to
consent to this arrangement, which meant that she would enjoy the
company of Persephone for eight months in every year, and that the
remaining four would be spent by Persephone with Pluto. Demeter caused
to awaken anew "the fruits of the fertile plains," and the whole earth
was re-clothed with leaves and flowers. Demeter called together the
princes of Eleusis--Triptolemus, Diocles, Eumolpus, Polyxenos, and
Keleos--and initiated them "into the sacred rites--most venerable--into
which no one is allowed to make enquiries or to divulge; a solemn
warning from the gods seals our mouths."

Although secrecy on the subject of the nature of the stately Mysteries
is strictly enjoined, the writer of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter makes no
secret of the happiness which belonged to all who became initiates:
"Happy is he who has been received unfortunate he who has never received
the initiation nor taken part in the sacred ordinances, and who cannot,
alas! be destined to the same lot reserved for the faithful in the
darkling abode."

The earliest mention of the Temple of Demeter at Eleusis occurs in the
Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which has already been mentioned. This was not
written by Homer, but by some poet versed in Homeric lore, and its
probable date is about 600 B.C. It was discovered a little over a
hundred years ago in an old monastery library at Moscow, and now reposes
in a museum at Leyden.

In this Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Persephone gives her own version of the
incident as follows: "We were all playing in the lovely
meadows--Leucippe, and Phaino, and Electra, and Ianthe, and Melitê, and
Iachê and Rhodeia, and Callinhoe, and Melobosis, and Ianeira, and
Acastê, and Admetê, and Rhodope, and Plouto, and winsome Calypso, and
Styx, and Urania, and beautiful Galaxamê. We were playing there and
plucking beautiful blossoms with our hands; crocuses mingled, and iris,
and hyacinth, and roses, and lilies, a marvel to behold, and narcissus,
that the wide earth bare, a wile for my undoing. Gladly was I gathering
them when the earth gaped beneath, and therefrom leaped the mighty
prince, the host of many guests, and he bare me against my will, despite
my grief, beneath the earth, in his golden chariot; and shrilly did I

The version of the legend given by Minucius Felix is as follows:
"Proserpine, the daughter of Ceres by Jupiter, as she was gathering
tender flowers in the new spring, was ravished from her delightful abode
by Pluto; and, being carried from thence through thick woods and over a
length of sea, was brought by Pluto into a cavern, the residence of
departed spirits, over whom she afterwards ruled with absolute sway. But
Ceres, upon discovering the loss of her daughter, with lighted torches
and begirt with a serpent, wandered over the whole earth for the purpose
of finding her, till she came to Eleusis; there she found her daughter,
and discovered to the Eleusinians the plantation of corn."

According to another version of the legend, Neptune met Ceres when she
was in quest of her daughter, and fell in love with her. The goddess, in
order to escape from his attentions, concealed herself under the form of
a mare, when the god of the sea transformed himself into a horse to
seduce her, with which act she was so highly offended that after having
washed herself in a river and reassumed human form, she took refuge in a
cave, where she lay concealed. When famine and pestilence began to
ravage the earth, the gods made search for her everywhere, but could not
find her until Pan discovered her and apprised Jupiter of her
whereabouts. This cave was in Sicily, in which country Ceres was known
as the black Ceres, or the Erinnys, because the outrages offered her by
Neptune turned her frantic and furious. Demeter was depicted in Sicily
as clad in black, with a horse's head, holding a pigeon in one hand and
a dolphin in the other.

On the submission of Eleusis to Athens, the Mysteries became an integral
part of the Athenian religion, so that the Eleusinian Mysteries became a
Panhellenic institution, and later, under the Romans, a universal
worship, but the secret rites of initiation were well kept throughout
their history.

Eleusis was one of the twelve originally independent cities of Attica,
which Theseus is said to have united into a simple state. Leusina now
occupies the site, and has thus preserved the name of the ancient city.

Theseus is portrayed by Virgil as suffering eternal punishment in Hades,
but Proclus writes concerning him as follows: "Theseus, and Pirithous
are fabled to have ravished Helen, and to have descended to the infernal
regions--i.e. they were lovers of intelligible and visible beauty.
Afterwards Theseus was liberated by Pericles from Hades, but Pirithous
remained there because he could not sustain the arduous attitude of
divine contemplation."

Dr. Warburton, in his _Divine Legation of Moses,_ gives it as his
opinion that Theseus was a living character who once forced his way into
the Eleusinian Mysteries, for which crime he was imprisoned on earth and
afterwards damned in the infernal regions.

The Eleusinian Mysteries seem to have constituted the most vital portion
of the Attic religion, and always to have retained something of awe and
solemnity. They were not known outside Attica until the time of the
Median wars, when they spread to the Greek colonies in Asia as part of
the constitution of the daughter states, where the cult seems to have
exercised a considerable influence both on the populace and on the
philosophers. Outside Eleusis the Mysteries were not celebrated so
frequently nor on so magnificent a scale. At Celeas, where they were
celebrated every fourth year, a hierophant, who was not bound by the law
of celibacy, as at Eleusis, was elected by the people for each
celebration. Pausanias is the authority for a statement by the
Phliasians that they imitated the Eleusinian Mysteries. They maintained,
however, that their rendering was instituted by Dysaules, brother of
Celeus, who went to their country after he had been expelled from
Eleusis by Ion, the son of Xuthus, at the time when Ion was chosen
commander-in-chief of the Athenians in the war against Eleusis.
Pausanias disputed that any Eleusinian was defeated in battle and forced
into exile, maintaining that peace was concluded between the Athenians
and the Eleusinians before the war was fought out, even Eumolpus himself
being permitted to remain in Eleusis. Pausanias, also, while admitting
that Dysaules might have gone to Phlias for some cause other than that
admitted by the Phliasians, questioned whether Dysaules was related to
Celeus, or, indeed, to any illustrious Eleusinian family. The name of
Dysaules does not occur in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, where are
enumerated all who were taught the ritual of the Mysteries by the
goddess, though that of Celeus is mentioned:--

     She showed to Triptolemus and Diocles, smiter of horses
     And mighty Eumolpus and Celeus, leader of people,
     The way of performing the sacred rites and explained
         to all of them the orgies.

Nevertheless, according to the Phliasians, it was Dysaules who
instituted the Mysteries among them.

The Pheneatians also had a sanctuary dedicated to Demeter, which they
called Eleusinian, and in which they celebrated the Mysteries in honour
of the goddess. They had a legend that Demeter went thither in her
wanderings, and that, out of gratitude to the Pheneatians for the
hospitality they showed her, she gave them all the different kinds of
pulse, except beans. Two Pheneatians--Trisaules and Damithales--built a
temple to Demeter Thesuria, the goddess of laws, under Mount Cyllene,
where were instituted the Mysteries in her honour which were celebrated
until a late period, and which were said to be introduced there by Naus,
a grandson of Eumolpus.

"Much that is excellent and divine," wrote Cicero, "does Athens seem to
me to have produced and added to our life, but nothing better than those
Mysteries by which we are formed and moulded from a rude and savage
state of humanity; and, indeed, in the Mysteries we perceive the real
principles of life, and learn not only to live happily, but to die with
a fairer hope." Every manner of writer--religious poet, worldly poet,
sceptical philosopher, orator--all are of one mind about this, that the
Mysteries were far and away the greatest of all the religious festivals
of Greece.



The Eleusinian Mysteries, observed by nearly all Greeks, but
particularly by the Athenians, were celebrated yearly at Eleusis, though
in the earlier annals of their history they were celebrated once in
every three years only, and once in every four years by the Celeans,
Cretans, Parrhasians, Pheneteans, Phliasians, and Spartans. It was the
most celebrated of all the religious ceremonies of Greece at any period
of the country's history, and was regarded as of such importance that
the Festival is referred to frequently simply as "The Mysteries." The
rites were guarded most jealously and carefully concealed from the
uninitiated. If any person divulged any part of them he was regarded as
having offended against the divine law, and by the act he rendered
himself liable to divine vengeance. It was accounted unsafe to abide in
the same house with him, and as soon as his offence was made public he
was apprehended. Similarly, drastic punishment was meted out to any
person not initiated into the Mysteries who chanced to be present at
their celebration, even through ignorance or genuine error.

The Mysteries were divided into two parts--the Lesser Mysteries and the
Greater Mysteries. The Lesser Mysteries were said to have been
instituted when Hercules, Castor, and Pollux expressed a desire to be
initiated, they happening to be in Athens at the time of the celebration
of the Mysteries by the Athenians in accordance with the ordinance of
Demeter. Not being Athenians, they were ineligible for the honour of
initiation, but the difficulty was overcome by Eumolpus, who was
desirous of including in the ranks of the initiated a man of such power
and eminence as Hercules, foreigner though he might be. The three were
first made citizens, and then as a preliminary to the initiation
ceremony as prescribed by the goddess, Eumolpus instituted the Lesser
Mysteries, which then and afterwards became a ceremony preliminary to
the Greater Mysteries, as they then became known, for candidates of
alien birth. In later times this Lesser Festival, celebrated in the
month of Anthesterion at the beginning of spring, at Agra, became a
general preparation for the Greater Festival, and no persons were
initiated into the Greater Mysteries until they had first been initiated
into the Lesser.

With regard to Hercules, there is a legend that on a certain time
Hercules wished to become a member of one of the secret societies of
antiquity. He accordingly presented himself and applied in due form for
initiation. His case was referred to a council of wise and virtuous men,
who objected to his admission on account of some crimes which he had
committed. Consequently he was rejected. Their words to him were: "You
are forbidden to enter here; your heart is cruel, your hands are stained
with crime. Go! repair the wrong you have done; repent of your evil
doings, and then come with pure heart and clean hands, and the doors of
our Mysteries shall be opened to you." The legend goes on to say that
after his regeneration he returned and became a worthy member of the

The ceremonies of the Lesser Mysteries were entirely different from
those of the Greater Mysteries. The Lesser Mysteries represented the
return of Persephone to earth--which, of course, took place at Eleusis;
and the Greater Mysteries represented her descent to the infernal
regions. The Lesser Mysteries honoured the daughter more than the
mother, who was the principal figure in the greater Mysteries. In the
Lesser Mysteries, Persephone was known as Pherrephatta, and in the
Greater Mysteries she was given the name of Kore. Everything was, in
fact, a mystery, and nothing was called by its right name. Lenormant
says that it is certain that the initiated of the Lesser Mysteries
carried away from Agra a certain store of religious knowledge which
enabled them to understand the symbols and representations which were
displayed afterwards before their eyes at the Greater Mysteries at

The object of the Lesser Mysteries was to signify occultly the condition
of the impure soul invested with a terrene body and merged in a material
nature. The Greater Mysteries taught that he who, in the present life,
is in subjection to his irrational part, is truly in Hades. If Hades,
then, is the region of punishment and misery, the purified soul must
reside in the region of bliss, theoretically, in the present life, and
according to a deific energy in the next. They intimated by gorgeous
mystic visions the felicity of the soul, both here and hereafter, when
purified from the defilements of a material nature and consequently
elevated to the realities of intellectual vision.

The Mysteries were supposed to represent in a kind of moral drama the
rise and establishment of civil society, the doctrine of a state of
future rewards and punishments, the errors of polytheism, and the Unity
of the Godhead, which last article was afterwards demonstrated to be
their famous secret. The ritual was produced from the sanctuary. It was
enveloped in symbolical figures of animals which suggested a
correspondence which was utterly inexplicable to the uninitiated.

K.O. Müller, in his _History of the Literature of Ancient Greece_,

"All the Greek religious poetry treating of death and the world beyond
the grave refers to the deities whose influence was supposed to be
exercised in this dark region at the centre of the earth, and were
thought to have little connection with the political and social
relations of human life. These deities formed a class apart from the
gods of Olympus and were comprehended under the name of the Chthenian
gods (gods of the underworld). The mysteries of the Greeks were
connected with the worship of those gods alone. That a love of
immortality first found a support in a belief in these deities appears
from the fable of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. Every year at the
time of harvest, Persephone was supposed to be carried from the world
above to the dark dominions of the invisible King of Shadows, and to
return every spring in youthful beauty to the arms of her mother. It was
thus that the ancient Greeks described the disappearance and return of
vegetable life in the alternations of the seasons. The changes of
Nature, however, must have been considerable in typifying the changes in
the lot of man; otherwise Persephone would have been merely a symbol of
the seed committed to the ground and would not have become queen of the
dead. But when the goddess of inanimate nature had become queen of the
dead, it was a natural analogy, which must have early suggested itself,
that the return of Persephone to the world of light also denoted a
renovation of life and a new birth in man. Hence the Mysteries of
Demeter, and especially those celebrated at Eleusis, inspired the most
elevated and animating hopes with regard to the condition of the soul
after death."

No one was permitted to attend the Mysteries who had incurred the
sentence of capital punishment for treason or conspiracy, but all other
exiles were permitted to be present and were not molested in any way
during the whole period of the Festival. No one could be arrested for
debt during the holding of the Festival.

Scarcely anything is known of the programme observed during the course
of the Lesser Mysteries. They were celebrated on the 19th to 21st of the
month Anthesterion, and, like the Greater Mysteries, were preceded and
followed by a truce on the part of all engaged in warfare. The same
officials presided at both celebrations. The Lesser Mysteries opened
with a sacrifice to Demeter and Persephone, a portion of the victims
offered being reserved for the members of the sacred families of
Eumolpus and Keryce. The main object of the Lesser Mysteries was to put
the candidates for initiation in a condition of ritual purification,
and, according to Clement of Alexandria, they included certain
instructions and preparations for the Greater Mysteries. Like the
Eleusinian Mysteries, properly so called, they included dramatic
representations of the rape of Persephone and the wanderings of Demeter;
in addition, according to Stephen Byzantium, to certain Dionysian

Two months before the full moon of the month of Boedromion,
sphondophoroi or heralds, selected from the priestly families of the
Eumolpides and Keryces, went forth to announce the forthcoming
celebration of the Greater Mysteries, and to claim an armistice on the
part of all who might be waging war. The truce commenced on the 15th of
the month preceding the celebration of the Mysteries and lasted until
the 10th day of the month following the celebration. In order to be
valid the truce had to be proclaimed in and accepted by each Hellenic

All arrangements for the proper celebration of the Mysteries, both
Lesser and Greater, were in the hands of the families of Eumolpides and
Keryces. These were ancient Eleusinian families, whose origin was traced
back to the time when Eleusis was independent of Athens, and the former
family survived as a priestly caste down to the latest period of
Athenian history. Its member possessed the hereditary and the sole right
to the secrets of the Mysteries. Hence the recognition by the State of
the exclusive right and privilege of these families to direct the
initiations and to provide each a half of the religious staff of the
temple. The Eumolpides held so eminent a place in the Mysteries that
Cicero mentions them alone, to the exclusion of the Keryces.

Pausanias relates that, following a war between the Eleusinians and the
Athenians, when Erectheus, King of Athens, conquered Immaradus, son of
Eumolpus, the subdued Eleusinians, in making their submission,
stipulated that they should remain custodians of the Mysteries, but in
all other respects were to be subject to the Athenians. This tradition
is disputed by more modern writers, but it was accepted by the Athenians
and acted upon generally, and the right of the two families solely to
prepare candidates for initiation was recognized by a decree of the
fifth century B.C., the privilege being confirmed afterwards at a
convention between the representatives of Eleusis and Athens. The
Eumolpides were the descendants of a mythical ancestor, Eumolpus, son of
Neptune, who is first mentioned in the time of Pisastrus. On the death
of Eumolpus according to one legend, Ceryx, the younger of the sons, was
left. But the Keryces claimed that Ceryx was a son of Hermes by Aglamus,
daughter of Cecrops, and that he was not a son of Eumolpus.

The members of the family of Eumolpides had the first claim upon the
flesh of the sacrificed animals, but they were permitted to give a
portion to any one else as a reward or recompense for services rendered.
But when a sacrifice was offered to any of the infernal divinities, the
whole of it had to be consumed by the fire. Nothing must be left. All
religious problems relating to the Mysteries which could not be solved
by the known laws were addressed to the Eumolpides, whose decision was

The meaning of the name "Eumolpus" is "a good singer," and great
importance was attached to the quality of the voice in the selection of
the hierophant, the chief officiant at the celebration of the Mysteries
and at the ceremony of initiation, and who was selected from the family
of the Eumolpides. It was essential that the formulæ disclosed to the
initiates at Eleusis should be pronounced with the proper intonation,
for otherwise the words would have no efficacy. Correct intonation was
of far greater importance than syllabic pronunciation.

An explanation of this is given by Maspero, who says: "The human voice
is pre-eminently a magical instrument, without which none of the highest
operations of art can be successful: each of its utterances is carried
into the region of the invisible and there releases forces of which the
general run of people have no idea, either as to their existence or
their manifold action. Without doubt, the real value of an evocation
lies in its text, or the sequence of the words of which it is composed,
and the tone in which it is enunciated. In order to be efficacious, the
conjuration should be accompanied by chanting, either an incantation or
a song. In order to produce the desired effect the sacramental melody
must be chanted without the variation of a single modulation: one false
note, one mistake in the measure, the introversion of any two of the
sounds of which it is composed, and the intended effect is annulled.
This is the reason why all who recite a prayer or formula intended to
force the gods to perform certain acts must be of true voice. The result
of their effort, whether successful or unsuccessful, will depend upon
the exactness of their voice. It was the voice, therefore, which played
the most important part in the oblation, in the prayer of definite
request, and in the evocation--in a word, in every instance where man
sought to seize hold of the god."

Apart from a "true voice" the words were merely dead sounds. The
character of the voice plays an important part in many religions. The
Vedas contain in them many invocations and hymns which no uninitiated
Brahman can recite: it is only the initiate who knows their true
properties and how to put them into use. Some of the hymns of the
_Rig-Veda_, when anagrammatically arranged, will yield all the secret
invocations which were used for magical purposes in the Brahmanical
ceremonies. Some Parsees pay much attention to what is called _dzád dwá_
or "free voice." It is recorded in Moslem tradition that a revelation
came to the venerated Arabian prophet resembling "the tone of a bell."
The effects which low, monotonous chanting produce on nervous people and
children are well known. Even animals and serpents are amenable to the
influence of sound.

The hierophant was a revealer of holy things. He was a citizen of
Athens, a man of mature age, and held his office for life, devoting
himself wholly to the service of the temple and living a chaste life, to
which end it was usual for him to anoint himself with the juice of
hemlock, which, by its extreme coldness, was said to extinguish in a
great measure the natural heat. In the opinion of some writers celibacy
was an indispensable condition of the highest branch of the priesthood;
but, according to inscriptions which have been discovered, some at any
rate of the hierophants were married, so that, in all probability, the
rule was that during the celebration of the Mysteries and, probably, for
a certain time before and after, it was incumbent on the hierophant to
abstain from all sexual intercourse. Foucart is of opinion that celibacy
was demanded only during the celebration of the Mysteries, although
Pausanias states definitely otherwise. In support of Foucart it may be
stated that among the inscriptions discovered at Eleusis there is one
dedicating a statue to a hierophant by his wife. It was essential that
the hierophant should be a man of commanding presence and lead a simple
life. On being raised to the dignity he received a kind of consecration
at a special ceremony, at which only those of his own rank were
permitted to be present, when he was entrusted with certain secrets
pertaining to his high office. Prior to this ceremony he went through a
special purificatory rite, immersing himself in the sea, an act to which
the Greeks attributed great virtue. He had to be exemplary in his moral
conduct, and was regarded by the people as being particularly holy. The
qualifications of a hierophant were so high that the office could not be
regarded as hereditary, for it would have been an exception to find both
father and son in possession of the many various and high qualifications
regarded as essential to the holding of the office. The robe of the
hierophant was a long purple garment; his hair, crowned with a wreath of
myrtle, flowed in long locks over his shoulders, and a diadem ornamented
his forehead. At the celebration of the Mysteries he was held to
represent the Creator of the world. He alone was permitted to penetrate
into the innermost shrine in the Hall of the Mysteries--the holy of
holies, as it were--and then only once during the celebration of the
Mysteries, when, at the most solemn moment of the whole mystic
celebration, his form appeared suddenly to be transfigured with light
before the rapt gaze of the initiated. He alone was permitted to reveal
to the fully initiated the mystic objects, the sight of which marked the
completion of their admission into the community. He had the power of
refusing admission to those applicants whom he deemed unfit to be
entrusted with the secrets. He was not inactive during the intervals
between the celebrations of the Mysteries. It was his duty to
superintend the instruction of the candidates for initiation, who for
that purpose were divided into groups and instructed by officials known
as mystagogues. The personal name of the hierophant was never mentioned.
It was supposed to be unknown, "wafted away into the sea by the mystic
law," and he was known only by the title of the office which he bore.

An interesting inscription was found some years ago at Eleusis, engraved
on the base of a statue erected to a hierophant: "Ask not my name; the
mystic rule (or packet) has carried it away into the blue sea. But when
I reach the fated day, and go to the abode of the blest, then all who
care for me will pronounce it." One of his sons had written below this
inscription, after the death of the hierophant: "Now we, his children,
reveal the name of the best of fathers, which, when alive, he hid in the
depths of the sea. This is the famous Apollonius." There is extant an
epigram by a female hierophant, which runs: "Let my name remain
unspoken: on being shut off from the world when the sons of Cecrops made
me hierophantide to Demeter, I myself hid it in the vasty depths."
Eunapius, in _Vita Maxim_, says: "I may not tell the name of him who was
then hierophant, for it was he who initiated me." The manner in which
the name was committed to the sea was either by the immersion of the
bearer or by writing the name on a leaden tablet, which was cast into
the sea. The holy name, by which the hierophant was afterwards known,
was derived from the name of some god or bore some ritualistic meaning.
Sometimes the hierophant was known simply by the title of his office
with the addition of his father's name. The rule as to the public
mention of the former name of the hierophant was occasionally
transgressed, and there is the instance of the atheistic philosopher
Theodorus addressing a hierophant by his discarded name of Lacrateides,
and also of Deinias, who was put into prison for the offence of
addressing a hierophant by his discarded family name.

Lucian refers to this in one passage in _Lexiphanes_: "The first I met
were a torch-bearer, a hierophant, and others of the initiated, haling
Deinias before the judge, and protesting that he had called them by
their names, though he well knew that, from the time of their
sanctification, they were nameless, and no more to be named but by
hallowed names."

In the Imperial Inscriptions we find the titles substituted for the
proper names.[1] The hierophant was compelled to avoid contact with the
dead in the same manner as the Cohanim of the Jewish faith, and with
certain animals reputed to be unclean. Contact with any person from whom
blood was issuing also caused impurity. He was assisted by a female
hierophant, or hierophantide--an attendant upon the goddess Demeter and
her daughter Persephone. She also was selected from the family of the
Eumolpides and was chosen for life. She was permitted to marry, and
several inscriptions mention the names of children of hierophantides. On
her initiation into this high degree she was brought forward naked to
the side of a sacred font, in which her right hand was placed, the
priest declaring her to be true and holy and dedicated to the service of
the temple. The special duty of the female hierophant was to superintend
the initiation of female aspirants, but she was present throughout the
ceremony and played some part in the initiation of the male candidates.
An inscription on the tomb of one hierophantide mentions to her glory
that she had set the myrtle crown, the seal of mystic communion, on the
heads of the illustrious initiates, Marcus Aurelius and his son,
Commodus. Another gloried in the fact that she had initiated the Emperor

Next in rank to the hierophant and hierophantide came the male and
female dadouchos, who were taken from the family of the Keryces. They
were the torch-bearers, and their duty consisted mainly in carrying the
torches at the Sacred Festival. They also wore purple robes, myrtle
crowns, and diadems. They were appointed for life, and were permitted to
marry. The male dadouchos particularly was associated with the
hierophant in certain solemn and public functions, such as the opening
address to the candidates for initiation and in the public prayers for
the welfare of the State. The office was frequently handed down from
father to son. Until the first century B.C. the dadouchos was never
addressed by his own personal name, but always by the title of his

The hierocceryx, or messenger of holy tidings, was the representative of
Hermes, or Mercury, who, as the messenger of the gods, was indispensable
as mediator whenever men wished to approach the Immortals. He also wore
a purple-coloured robe and a myrtle crown. He was chosen for life from
the family of the Keryces. He made the necessary proclamations to the
candidates for initiation into the various degrees, and in particular
enjoined them to preserve silence. It was necessary for him to have
passed through all the various degrees, as his duties necessitated his
presence throughout the ceremonial.

The phaidantes had the custody of the sacred statues and the sacred
vessels, which they had to maintain in good repair. They were selected
from one or other of the two sacerdotal families.

Among the other officials were: The liknophori, who carried the mystic
fan; the hydranoi, who purified the candidates for initiation by
sprinkling them with holy water at the commencement of the Festival; the
spondophoroi, who proclaimed the sacred truce, which was to permit of
the peaceful celebration of the Mysteries; the pyrphoroi, who brought
and maintained the fire for the sacrifices; the hieraules, who played
the flute during the time the sacrifices were being offered--they were
the leaders of the sacred music, who had under their charge the
hymnodoi, the hymnetriai; the neokoroi, who maintained the temples and
the altars; the panageis, who formed a class between the ministers and
the initiated. Then there were the "initiates of the altar," who
performed expiatory rites in the name and in the place of all the
initiated. There were also many other minor officials, by the general
name of melissæ--i.e. bees, perhaps so-called because bees, being makers
of honey, were sacred to Demeter. The diluvian priestesses and
regenerated souls were called "bees." All these officials had to be of
unblemished reputation, and wore myrtle crowns while engaged in the
service of the temple.

The officials; whose duty it was to take care that the ritual was
punctiliously followed in every detail, included nine archons, who were
chosen every year to manage the affairs of Greece. The first of these
was always the King, or Archon Basileus, whose duty at the celebration
of the Mysteries it was to offer prayers and sacrifices, to see that no
indecency or irregularity was committed during the Festival, and at the
conclusion to pass judgment on all offenders. There were also four
epimeletæ, or curators, elected by the people, one being appointed from
the Eumolpides, another from the Keryces, and the remaining two from the
rank and file of the citizens; and ten hieropoioi, whose duty it was to
offer sacrifices. It may be worthy of remark here that Epimenides of
Crete, who flourished about the year 600 B.C., is said by Diogenes
Laertius, in his life of that philosopher, to have been the first to
perform expiatory sacrifices and lustrations in fields and houses and to
have been the first to erect temples for the purpose of sacrifice.

The sacred symbols used in the ceremonies were enclosed in a special
chamber in the Telestrion, or Hall of Initiation, known as the
Anactoron, into which the hierophant alone had the right to penetrate.
During the celebration of the Mysteries they were carried to Athens
veiled and hidden from the gaze of the profane, whence they were taken
back to Eleusis. It was permitted only to the initiated to look upon
these "hiera," as they were called. These sacred objects were in the
charge of the Eumolpides family.

Written descriptions, however graphic or eloquent, convey but a faint
impression of the wonderful scenes that were enacted; Aristides says
that what was seen rivalled anything that was heard. Another writer has
declared: "Many a wondrous sight may be seen and not a few tales of
wonder may be heard in Greece; but there is nothing on which the
blessing of God rests in so full a measure as the rites of Eleusis and
the Olympic games." For nine centuries--that period of time being
divided almost equally between the pre-Christian and Christian
eras--they were the Palladium of Greek Paganism. In the latter part of
their history, when the restrictions as to admission began to be
relaxed, and in proportion to that relaxation, their essential religious
character disappeared, they became but a ceremony, their splendour being
their principal attraction, until finally they degenerated into a mere
superstition. Julian strived in vain to infuse new life into the
vanishing cult, but it was too late--the Eleusinian Mysteries were dead.

The Athenians were pious in the extreme, and throughout the period that
initiation was limited to that race the reputation of Eleusis was
maintained, although pilgrims from various and remote parts of the world
visited it at the season of the Mysteries. When the Eleusinian Mysteries
were taken to Rome, as they were in the reign of Hadrian, they
contracted impurities and degenerated into riot and vice; the
spirituality of their teachings did not accompany the transference or it
failed to be comprehended. Although the forms of initiation were still
symbolical of the original and noble objects of the institution, the
licentious Romans mistook the shadow for the substance, and while they
passed through all the ceremonies they were strangers to the objects for
which they were framed.

In A.D. 364, a law prohibiting nocturnal rites was published by
Valentinian, but Praetextatus, whom Julian had constituted governor of
Achaia, prevailed on him to revoke it, urging that the lives of the
Greeks would be rendered utterly unsupportable if he deprived them of
this, their most holy and comprehensive festival. Much has been made by
some writers of the fact that the ceremonies were held at night, but in
the early days of Christianity also it was the custom for Christians to
forgather either at night or before daybreak, a circumstance which led
to their assemblies being known as _antelucani_ and themselves as
_lucifugæ_ or "light-haters," by way of reproach. About the beginning of
the fifth century Theodosius the Great prohibited and almost totally
extinguished the pagan theology in the Roman Empire, and the Eleusinian
Mysteries suffered in the general destruction. It is probable, however,
that the Mysteries were celebrated secretly in spite of the severe
edicts of Theodosius and that they were partly continued through the
dark ages, though stripped of their splendour. It is certain that many
rites of the pagan religion were performed under the dissembled name of
convivial meetings, long after the publication of the Emperor's edicts,
and Psellius informs us that the Mysteries of Ceres existed in Athens
until the eighth century of the Christian era and were never totally

The Festival of the Greater Mysteries--and this was, of course, by far
the more important--began on the 15th of the month of Boedromion,
corresponding roughly with the month of September, and lasted until the
23rd of the same month. During that time it was unlawful to arrest any
man present, or present any petition except for offences committed at
the Festival, heavy penalties being inflicted for breaches of this law,
the penalties fixed being a fine of not less than a thousand drachmas,
and some assert that transgressors were even put to death.

[Footnote 1: From two inscriptions found at Eleusis it would appear that
it was customary to make the name public after the death of the
hierophant. It seems also to have been the practice to make the name
known to the initiate under the pledge of secrecy. Sir James Frazer
thinks that the names were, in all probability, engraved on tablets of
bronze or lead and then thrown into deep water in the Gulf of Salamis.]



The following is the programme of the "Greater Mysteries," which
extended over a period of ten days. The various functions were
characterized by the greatest possible solemnity and decorum, and the
ceremonies were regarded as "religious" in the highest interpretation of
that term.

FIRST DAY.--The first day was known as the "Gathering," or the
"Assembly," when all who had passed through the Lesser Mysteries
assembled to assist in the celebration of the Greater Mysteries. On this
day the Archon Basileus presided over all the cults of the city, and
assembled the people at a place known as the Poikile Stoa. After the
Archon Basileus, with four assistants, had offered up sacrifices and
prayers for the welfare of Greece, the following proclamation was made
by the Archon Basileus, wearing his robe of office:--

"Come, whoever is clean of all pollution and whose soul has not
consciousness of sin. Come, whosoever hath lived a life of righteousness
and justice. Come all ye who are pure of heart and of hand, and whose
speech can be understood. Whosoever hath not clean hands, a pure soul,
and an intelligible voice must not assist at the Mysteries."

The people were then commanded by the hierophant to wash their hands in
consecrated water, and the impious were threatened with the punishment
set forth in the law if they were discovered, but especially, and this
in any case, with the implacable anger of the gods. The hierocceryx then
impressed upon all the duty of observing the most rigid secrecy with
respect to what they might witness, and bade them to be silent
throughout the ceremonies, and not utter even an exclamation. The
candidates for initiation assembled outside the temple, each under the
guidance and direction of the mystagogue, who repeated these
instructions to the candidates. Once within the sacred enclosure all the
initiates were subject to a purification by fire ceremonial. All wore
regalia special to the occasion. This is evident from the wording of
inscriptions which have been discovered, but particulars of the regalia
are wanting. We know that extravagant and costly dresses were regarded
by Demeter with disfavour, and that it was forbidden to wear such in the
temple. Jewellery, gold ornaments, purple-coloured belts, and
embroideries were also barred, as were robes and cloths of mixed
colours. The hair of women had to fall down loose upon the shoulders,
and must not be in plaits or coiled upon the head. No woman was
permitted to use cosmetics.

SECOND DAY.--The second day was known as _Halade Mystæ_, or "To the sea,
ye mystæ," from the command which greeted all the initiates to go and
purify themselves by washing in the sea, or in the salt water of the two
consecrated lakes, called Rheiti, on what was known as "The Sacred Way."
The priests had the exclusive right of fishing in these lakes. A
procession was formed, in which all joined and made their way to the sea
or the lakes, where they bathed and purified themselves. This general
purification was akin to that practised to this day by the Jews at the
beginning of the Jewish year. The day was consecrated to Saturn, into
whose province the soul is said to fall in the course of its descent
from the tropic of Cancer. Capella compares Saturn to a river,
voluminous, sluggish, and cold. The planet signifies pure intellect, and
Pythagoras symbolically called the sea a tear of Saturn. The bathing was
preceded by a confession, and the manner in which the bathing was
carried out and the number of immersions varied with the degree of guilt
which each confessed. According to Suidas, those who had to purify
themselves from murder plunged into salt water on two separate
occasions, immersing themselves seven times on each occasion. On
returning from the bath all were regarded as "new creatures," the bath
being regarded as a laver of regeneration, and the initiates were
clothed in a plain fawn-skin or a sheep-skin. The purification, however,
was not regarded as complete until the following day, when there was
added the sprinkling of the blood of a pig sacrificed. Each had carried
to the river or lake a little pig, which was also purified by bathing,
and on the next day this pig was sacrificed. The pig was offered because
it was very pernicious to cornfields. On the Eleusinian coinage the pig,
standing on a torch placed horizontally, appears as the sign and symbol
of the Mysteries. On this day also some of the initiated submitted to a
special purification near the altar of Zeus Mellichios on the Sacred
Way. For each person whom it was desired to purify an ox was sacrificed
to Zeus Mellichios, the infernal Zeus, the skin of the animal was laid
on the ground by the dadouchos, and the one who was the object of the
lustration remained there squatting on the left foot.

THIRD DAY.--On the third day pleasures of every description, even the
most innocent, were strictly forbidden, and every one fasted till
nightfall, when they partook of seed cakes, parched corn, salt,
pomegranates, and sacred wine mixed with milk and honey. The Archon
Basileus, assisted again by the four epimeletæ, celebrated, in the
presence of representatives from the allied cities, the great sacrifice
of the Soteria for the well-being of the State, the Athenian citizens,
and their wives and children. This ceremony took place in the Eleusinion
at the foot of the Acropolis. The day was known as the Day of Mourning,
and was supposed to commemorate Demeter's grief at the loss of
Persephone. The sacrifices offered consisted chiefly of a mullet and of
barley out of Rharium, a field of Eleusis. The oblations were accounted
so sacred that the priests themselves were not permitted, as was usual
in other offerings, to partake of them. At the conclusion of the general
ceremony each one individually sacrificed the little pig purified in the
sea the night before.

The hog of propitiation offered to Frey was a solemn sacrifice in the
North of Europe and in Sweden, down to modern times, the custom has been
preserved by baking, on Christmas Eve, a loaf or cake in the form of a

FOURTH DAY.--The principal event of the fourth day was a solemn
procession, when the holy basket of Ceres (Demeter) was carried in a
consecrated cart, the crowds of people shouting as it went along, "Hail,
Ceres!" The rear end of the procession was composed of women carrying
baskets containing sesamin, carded wool, grains of salt, corn,
pomegranates, reeds, ivy boughs, cakes known as poppies, and sometimes
serpents. One kind of these cakes was known as "ox-cakes"; they were
made with little horns and dedicated to the moon. Another kind contained
poppy seeds. Poppy was used in the ceremonies because it was said that
some grains of poppy were given to Demeter upon her arrival in Greece to
induce sleep, which she had not enjoyed from the time of the abduction
of Persephone. Demeter is invariably represented in her statues as being
very rotund, crowned with ears of corn, and holding in her hand a branch
of poppy.

FIFTH DAY.--The fifth day was known as the Day of Torches, from the fact
that at nightfall all the initiates walked in pairs round the temple of
Demeter at Eleusis, the dadouchos himself leading the procession. The
torches were waved about and changed from hand to hand, to represent the
wanderings of the goddess in search of her daughter when she was
conducted by the light of a torch kindled in the flames of Etna.

SIXTH DAY.--Iacchos was the name given to the sixth day of the Festival.
The "fair young god," Iacchos, or Dionysos, or Bacchus, was the son of
Jupiter and Ceres, and accompanied the goddess in her search for
Persephone. He also carried a torch, hence his statue has always a torch
in the hand. This statue, together with other sacred objects, were taken
from the Iacchion, the sanctuary of Iacchos in Athens, mounted on a
heavy rustic four-wheeled chariot drawn by bulls, and, accompanied by
the Iacchogogue and other magistrates nominated for the occasion,
conveyed from the Kerameikos, or Potter's Quarter, to Eleusis by the
Sacred Way in solemn procession. It was on this day that the solemnity
of the ceremonial reached its height. The statue, as well as the people
accompanying it, were crowned with myrtle, the people dancing all the
way along the route, beating brass kettles and playing instruments of
various kinds and singing sacred songs. Halts were made during the
procession at various shrines, at the site of the house of Phytalus,
who, it was said, received the goddess into his house, and, according to
an inscription on his tomb, she requited him by revealing to him the
culture of the fig; particularly at a fig-tree which was regarded as
sacred, because it had the renown of being planted by Phytalus; also
upon a bridge built over the river Cephissus, by the side of which Pluto
descended into Hades with Persephone, where the bystanders made
themselves merry at the expense of the pilgrims. At each of the shrines
sacrifices and libations were offered, hymns sung, and sacred dances
performed. Having passed the bridge, the people entered Eleusis by what
was known as the Mystical Entrance. Midnight had set in before Eleusis
was reached, so that a great part of the journey had to be accomplished
by the light of the torches carried by each of the pilgrims, and the
nocturnal journey was spoken of as the "Night of Torches" by many
ancient authors. The pitch and resin of which the torches were composed
were substances supposed to have the virtue of warding off evil spirits.
The barren mountains of the Pass of Daphni and the surface of the sea
resounded with the chant, "Iacchos, O Iacchos!" At one of the halts the
Croconians, descendants of the hero Crocon, who had formerly reigned
over the Thriasian Plain, fastened a saffron band on the right arm and
left foot of each one in the procession. Iacchos was always regarded as
a child of Demeter, inasmuch as the vine grows out of the earth. Various
symbols were carried by the people, who numbered sometimes as many as
from thirty to forty thousand. These symbols consisted of winnowing
fans--the "Mystic Fan of Iacchos," plaited reeds and baskets, both
relating to the worship of the goddess and her son. The fan, or van, as
it was sometimes called, was the instrument that separates the wheat
from the chaff, and was regarded also as an emblem of the power which
separates the virtuous from the wicked. In the ancient paintings by
Bellori two persons are represented as standing by the side of the
initiate. One is the priest who is performing the ceremony, who is
represented as in a devout posture, and wearing a veil, the old mark of
devotion, while another is holding a fan over the head of the candidate.
In some of the editions of Southey's translation of the _Æneid_ the
following lines appear:--

     Now learn what arms industrious peasants wield
     To sow the furrow's glebe, and clothe the field:
     The share, the crooked plough's strong beam, the wain
     That slowly rolls on Ceres to her fane:
     Hails, sleds, light osiers, and the harrow's load,
     The hurdle, and _the mystic van of God._

The distance covered by the procession was twenty-two kilometres, but
Lycurgus ordered that if any woman should ride in a chariot to Eleusis
she should be mulcted in a fine of 8,000 drachmas. This was to prevent
the richer women from distinguishing themselves from their poorer
sisters. Strange to relate, the wife of Lycurgus was the first to break
this law, and Lycurgus himself had to pay the fine which he had
ordained. He not only paid the penalty, but gave a talent to the
informer. Immediately upon the deposit of the sacred objects in the
Eleusinion, at the foot of the Acropolis, one of the Eleusinian priests
solemnly announced their arrival to the priestess of the tutelary
goddess of Athens--Pallas Athene. Plutarch, in commenting upon lucky and
unlucky days, says that he is aware that unlucky things happen sometimes
on lucky days, for the Athenians had to receive a Macedonian garrison
"even on the 20th of Boedromion, the day on which they led forth the
mystic Iacchos."

SEVENTH DAY.--On the seventh day the statue was carried back to Athens.
The return journey was also a solemn procession, and attended with
numerous ceremonies. Halts were again made at several places, like the
"stations" of Roman Catholic pilgrimages, when the inhabitants also fell
temporarily into line with the procession. For those who remained behind
at Eleusis the time was devoted to sports, the combatants appearing
naked, and the victors were rewarded with a measure of barley, it being
a tradition that that grain was first sown in Eleusis. It was also
regarded as a day of solemn preparation by those who were to be
initiated on the following night. The return journey was conducted with
the same splendour as the outward journey. It comprised comic incidents,
the same as on the previous day. Those who awaited the procession at the
bridge over the Athenian river Cephisson exchanged all kinds of chaff
and buffoonery with those who were in the procession, indulging in what
was termed "bridge fooling." These jests, it is said, were to recall the
tactful measures employed by a maidservant named Iambe to rouse Demeter
from her prolonged sorrowing. There is a strange contradiction in the
various statements made by the ancient writers as to what was
permissible and what was forbidden during the ceremonies. Demeter, when
in search of her daughter, broke down with fatigue at Eleusis, where she
sat down on a well, overwhelmed with grief. It was strictly forbidden to
any of the initiated to sit down on this well lest it should appear that
they were mimicking the weeping goddess. Yet the mimicking of the jests
of Iambe were part of the ceremonial of the Mysteries. According to the
ancient writers the "jests," so-called, would be regarded to-day as in
bad taste.

     Having thus spoken, she drew aside her garments
     And showed all that shape of the body which it is
        improper to name--the growth of puberty.
     And with her own hand Iambe stripped herself under
        the breasts.
     Blandly then the goddess laughed and laughed in her
     And received the glancing cup in which was the

During the Peloponnesian war the Athenians were unable to obtain an
armistice from the Lacedæmonians who held Decelea, and it became
necessary to send the statue of Iacchos and the processionists to
Eleusis by sea. Plutarch says: "Under these conditions it was necessary
to omit the sacrifices usually offered all along the road during the
passing of Iacchos."

EIGHTH DAY.--The eighth day was called Epidaurion, because it happened
once that Æsculapius, coming from Epidaurius to Athens, desired to be
initiated, and had the Lesser Mysteries repeated for that purpose. It
therefore became customary to celebrate the Lesser Mysteries a second
time upon this day, and to admit to initiation any such approved
candidates who had not already enjoyed the privilege. There was also
another reason for the repetition of the initiatory rites then. The
eighth day was regarded as symbolical of the soul falling into the lunar
orbi, and the repeated initiation, the second celebration of that sacred
rite, was symbolical of the soul bidding adieu to everything of a
celestial nature, sinking into a perfect oblivion of her divine origin
and pristine felicity, and rushing profoundly into the region of
dissimilitude, ignorance, and error. The day opened with a solemn
sacrifice offered to Demeter and Persephone, which took place within the
peribolus. The utmost precision had to be observed in offering this
sacrifice as regarding the age, colour, and sex of the victim, the
chants, perfumes, and libations. The acceptance or rejection of a
sacrifice was indicated by the movements of the animal as it approached
the altar, the vivacity of the flame, the direction of the smoke, etc.
If these signs were not favourable in the case of the first victim
offered, other animals must be slain until one presented itself in which
all the signs were favourable. The flesh of the animal offered was not
allowed to be taken outside the sacred precincts, but had to be consumed
within the building. The following is said to have been an Invocation
used during the celebration of the Mysteries:--

     Daughter of Jove, Persephone divine,
     Come, blessed queen, and to these rites incline;
     Only-begotten, Pluto's honoured wife,
     O venerable goddess, source of life:
     'Tis thine in earth's profoundities to dwell,
     Fast by the wide and dismal gates of hell.
     Jove's holy offering, 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 forms 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.

NINTH DAY.--The ninth day was known as the Day of Earthen Vessels,
because it was the custom on that day to fill two jugs with wine. One
was placed towards the East and the other towards the West, and after
the repetition of certain mystical formulæ both were overthrown, the
wine being spilt upon the ground as a libation. The first of these
formulæ was directed towards the sky as a prayer for rain, and the
second to the earth as a prayer for fertility.

The words used by the hierophant to denote the termination of the
celebration of the Mysteries-_Conx Om Pax_: "Watch and do no evil"--are
said to have been Egyptian, and were the same as those used at the
conclusion of the Mysteries of Isis. This fact is sometimes used as an
argument in favour of the Egyptian origin of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

TENTH DAY.--On the tenth day the majority of the people returned to
their homes, with the exception of every third and fifth year, when they
remained behind for the Mystery Plays and Sports, which lasted from two
to three days.

The Eleusinian Games are described by the rhetorician Aristides as the
oldest of all Greek games. They are supposed to have been instituted as
a thank-offering to Demeter and Persephone at the conclusion of the corn
harvest. From an inscription dating from the latter part of the third
century B.C. sacrifices were offered to Demeter and Persephone at these
games. They included athletic and musical contests, a horse race, and a
competition which bore the name of the Ancestral or the Hereditary
Contest, the nature of which is not known, but which it is thought may
have had its origin in a contest between the reapers on the sacred
Rharian plain to see which should first complete his allotted task.

The ancient sanctuary in which the Mysteries were celebrated was burnt
by the Persians in 480 or 479 B.C., and a new sanctuary was built--or,
at least, begun--under the administration of Pericles. Plutarch says
that Corcebus began the Temple of Initiation at Eleusis, but only lived
to finish the lower rank of columns with their architraves; Metagenes,
of the ward of Xypete, added the rest of the entablature and the upper
row of columns, and that Xenocles of Cholargus built the dome on the
top. The long wall, the building of which Socrates says he heard
Pericles propose to the people, was undertaken by Callicrates. Cratinus
satirized the work as proceeding very slowly:--

     Stone upon stone the orator has pil'd
     With swelling words, but words will build no walls.

According to some writers the Temple was planned by Tetinus, the
architect of the Parthenon, and Pericles was merely the overseer of the
building. We are told by Vitruvius that the Temple at Eleusis consisted
at first of one cell of vast magnitude, without columns, though it was
probable that it was meant to be surrounded in the customary manner; a
prostyle, however, only was added, and that not until the time of
Demetrius Phalereus, some ages after the original structure was erected.
It is probable that the uncommon magnitude of the cell, added to the
various and complicated rites of initiation to the Eleusinian Mysteries,
of which it was the scene, prevented its being a peristyle, the expense
of which would have been enormous. The Temple was one of the largest of
the sacred edifices of Greece. Its length was 68 metres, its breadth
54,66 metres and its superficial area 3716,88 square metres. The
monumental altar of sacrifice was placed in front of the facade, close
by the eastern angle of the enclosure. According to Virgil the words
"Far hence, O be ye far hence, ye profane ones," were inscribed over the
main portal.

In the fourth century of the Christian era the Temple of Eleusis was
destroyed by the Goths, at the instigation of the monks, who followed
the hosts of Alaric.

The revenues from the celebrations must have been considerable. At both
the Lesser Mysteries and the Greater Mysteries a charge of one obole a
day was demanded from each one attending, which was given to the
hierophant. The hierocceryx received a half-obole a day, and other
assistants a similar sum. In current coinage an obole was of the value
of a fraction over 1 1/4d.



Two important facts must be set down with regard to the Mysteries:
first, the general custom of all Athenian citizens, and afterwards of
all Greeks generally, and eventually of many foreigners, to seek
admission into the Eleusinian Mysteries in the only possible
manner--viz. by initiation; and, second, the scrupulous care exercised
by the Eumolpides to ensure that only persons duly qualified, of
irreproachable--or, at any rate, of circumspect, character passed the
portals. In the earlier days of the Mysteries it was a necessary
condition that the candidates for initiation should be free-born
Athenians, but in course of time this rule was relaxed, until eventually
strangers (as residents outside Athens were called), aliens, slaves, and
even courtesans, were admitted, on condition that they were introduced
by a mystagogue, who was, of course, an Athenian. An interesting
inscription was discovered a few years ago demonstrating the fact that
the public slaves of the city were initiated at the public expense. From
historical records we learn that Lysias was enabled without difficulty
to secure the initiation of his mistress, Metanira, who was then in the
service of the courtesan Nicareta. There always prevailed, however, the
strict rule that no one could be admitted who had been guilty of murder
or homicide, wilful or accidental, or who had been convicted of
witchcraft, and all who had incurred the capital penalty for conspiracy
or treason were also excluded. Nero sought admission into the Eleusinian
Mysteries, but was rejected because of the many slaughters connected
with his name. Antoninus, when he would purge himself before the world
of the death of Avidius Cassius, elected to be initiated into the
Eleusinian Mysteries, it being recognized at that time that none was
admitted into them who was justly guilty of heinous immorality or crime.

Apollonius of Tyana was desirous of being admitted into the Eleusinian
Mysteries, but the hierophant refused to admit him on the ground that he
was a magician, and had intercourse with divinities other than those of
the Mysteries, declaring that he would never initiate a wizard or throw
open the Mysteries to a man addicted to impure rites. Apollonius
retorted: "You have not yet mentioned the chief of my offences, which is
that, knowing, as I do, more about the initiatory rites than you do
yourself, I have nevertheless come to you as if you were wiser than I
am." The hierophant, when he saw that the exclusion of Apollonius was
not by any means popular with the crowd, changed his tone and said: "Be
thou initiated, for thou seemest to be some wise man that has come
here." But Apollonius replied: "I will be initiated at another time, and
it is (mentioning a name) who will initiate me." Hereon, says
Philostratus, he showed his gift of prevision, for he glanced at the one
who succeeded the hierophant he addressed, and presided over the temple
four years later when Apollonius was initiated.

Persons of both sexes and of all ages were initiated, and neglect of the
ceremony came to be regarded almost in the light of a crime. Socrates
and Demonax were reproached and looked upon with suspicion because they
did not apply for initiation. Persians were always pointedly excluded
from the ceremony. Athenians of both sexes were granted the privilege of
initiation during childhood on the presentation of their father, but
only the first degree of initiation was permitted. For the second and
third degrees it was necessary to have arrived at full age. The Greeks
looked upon initiation in much the same light as the majority of
Christians look upon baptism. So great was the rush of candidates for
initiation when the restrictions were relaxed that Cicero was able to
write that the inhabitants of the most distant regions flocked to
Eleusis in order to be initiated. Thus it became the custom with all
Romans, who journeyed to Athens to take advantage of the opportunity to
become initiates. Even the Emperors of Rome, the official heads of the
Roman religion, the masters of the world, came to the Eumolpides to
proffer the request that they might receive the honour of initiation and
become participants in the Sacred Mysteries revealed by the goddess.

While Augustus, who was initiated in the year 21 B.C., did not hesitate
to show his antipathy towards the religion of the Egyptians, towards
Judaism and Druidism, he was always scrupulous in observing the pledge
of secrecy demanded of initiates into the Eleusinian Mysteries, and on
one occasion, when it became necessary for some of the priests of the
Eleusinian temple to proceed to Rome to plead before his tribunal on the
question of privilege, and in the course of the evidence to speak of
certain ceremonial in connection with the Mysteries of which it was not
lawful to speak in the presence of the uninitiated, he ordered every one
who had not received the privilege of initiation to leave the tribunal
so that he and the witnesses alone remained. The Eleusinian Mysteries
were not deemed inimical to the welfare of the Roman Empire as were the
religions of the Egyptians, Jews, and ancient Britons.

Claudius, another imperial initiate, conceived the idea of transferring
the scene of the Mysteries to Rome, and, according to Suetonius, was
about to put the project into execution, when it was ruled that it was
obligatory that the principal scenic presentation of the Mysteries must
be celebrated on the ground trodden by the feet of Demeter and where the
goddess herself had ordered her temple to be erected.

The initiation of the Emperor Hadrian (who succeeded where Claudius had
failed, in introducing the celebration of the Mysteries into Rome) took
place in A.D. 125, when he was present at the Lesser Mysteries in the
spring and at the Greater Mysteries in the following autumn. In
September, A.D. 129, he was again at Athens, when he presented himself
for the third degree, as is known from Dion Cassius, confirmed by a
letter written by the Emperor himself, in which he mentions a journey
from Eleusis to Ephesus made by him at that time. Hadrian is the only
imperial initiate, so far as is known, who persevered and passed through
all three degrees. Since he remained at Eleusis as long as it was
possible for him to do so after the completion of his initiation, it is
not rash to assume that he was inspired by something more than curiosity
or even by a desire to show respect.

It is uncertain whether the Emperor Antonin was initiated, although from
an inscription it seems probable that he was and that he should be
included in the list of imperial initiates. Both Marcus Aurelius and
Commodus, father and son, were initiated at the same time, at the Lesser
Mysteries in March, A.D. 176, and at the Greater Mysteries in the
following September. Septimius Severus was initiated before he ascended
the throne.

There was, as stated, three degrees, and the ordinary procedure with
regard to initiation was as follows:--

In the month of Anthesterion, the flower month of spring, corresponding
with February-March, an applicant could, if approved, become an initiate
into the first degree at the celebration of the Lesser Mysteries and
take part in their celebration at the Eleusinion at Agra, near to
Athens. The ceremony of initiation into this first degree was on a far
less imposing scale than the ceremony of initiation into the second and
third degrees at the Greater Mysteries. The candidate, however, had to
keep chaste and unpolluted for nine days prior to the ceremony, which
each one attended wearing crowns and garlands of flowers and observed by
offering prayers and sacrifices. Immediately previous to the celebration
the candidates for initiation were prepared by the Mystagogues, the
special teachers selected for the purpose from the families of the
Eumolpides and Keryces. They were instructed in the story of Demeter and
Persephone, the character of the purification necessary and other
preliminary rites, the fast days, with particulars of the food
permissible and forbidden to be eaten, and the various sacrifices to be
offered by and for them under the direction of the mystagogues.

Without this preparation no one could be admitted to the Mysteries.
There was, however, neither secret doctrine nor dogmatic teaching in
this preliminary instruction. Revelation came through contemplation of
the sacred objects displayed during the ceremonies by the hierophant,
the meaning of which was communicated by means of the mystic formulæ;
but the preparation demanded of the initiates, the secrecy imposed, the
ceremonies at which the initiates assisted, all of which were performed
in the dead of night, created a strong impression and lively hope in
regard to the future life. No other cult in Greece, still less the cold
Roman religion, had anything of the kind, or approaching to it, to
offer. Fasting from food and drink for a certain period before and after
initiation was essential, but the candidates did not attach to this act
any idea of maceration or expiation of faults: it was simply the
reproduction of an event in the life of the goddess, and undergone in
order that the body might become more pure. Bowls or vases of
consecrated or holy water were placed at the entrance of the temple for
the purposes of aspersion. In cases of special or particular impurity an
extra preparation extending over two or three days longer became
necessary, and unctions of oil or repeated immersions in water were
administered. The outward physical purity, the result of immersion prior
to initiation, was but the symbol of the inward purity which was
supposed to result from initiation. One of the duties of the mystagogues
was to see that the candidates were in a state of physical cleanliness
both before and throughout the ceremony. According to inscriptions which
have been discovered there appear to have been temples or buildings set
apart for the cleansing of candidates from special impurities.
Initiation into the Lesser Mysteries only permitted the neophyte to go
as far as the outer vestibule of the temple.

In the following autumn, if of full age and approved by the hierophant,
the neophyte could be initiated into the Greater Mysteries, into the
second degree, that of Mysta. This, however, did not secure admission to
all the ceremonies performed during the celebration of the Greater
Mysteries. A further year, at least, had to elapse before the third
degree, that of Epopta, was taken, before he could see with his own eyes
and hear with his own ears, all that took place in the temple during the
celebration of the Mysteries. Even then, there was one part of the
temple and one portion of the ceremony which could be entered and
witnessed only by the hierophant and hierophantide.

According to Plutarch, Demetrius, when he was returning to Athens, wrote
to the republic that on his arrival he intended to be initiated and to
be admitted immediately, not only to the Lesser Mysteries, but to the
Greater as well. This was unlawful and unprecedented, though when the
letter was read, Pythodorus, a torch-bearer, was the only person who
ventured to oppose the demand, and his opposition was entirely
ineffectual. Stratocles procured a decree that the month of Munychion
should be reputed to be and called the month of Anthesterion, to give
Demetrius the opportunity for the initiation into the first degree. This
was done, whereupon a second decree was issued by which Munychion was
again changed into Boedromion, and Demetrius was admitted to the
Mysteries of the next degree. Philippides, the poet, satirized
Stratocles in the words: "The man who can contract the whole year into
one month," and Demetrius, with reference to his lodging in the
Parthenon, in the words: "The man who turns the temples into inns and
brings prostitutes into the company of the virgin goddess."

The design of initiation, according to Plato, was to restore the soul to
that state from which it fell, and Proclus states that initiation into
the Mysteries drew the souls of men from a material, sensual, and merely
human life and joined them in communion with the gods. "Happy is the
man," wrote Euripides, "who hath been initiated into the Greater
Mysteries and leads a life of piety and religion," and Aristophanes
truly represented public opinion when he wrote in _The Frogs_: "On us
only does the sun dispense his blessings; we only receive pleasure from
his beams; we, who are initiated, and perform towards citizens and
strangers all acts of piety and justice." The initiates sought to
imitate the allegorical birth of the god. The epoptæ were supposed to
have experienced a certain regeneration and to enter upon a new state of
existence, and they were fantastically deemed to have acquired a great
increase of light and knowledge. Hitherto they had been exoteric and
profane; now they had become esoteric and holy.

Jevons, in his _Introduction to the Study of Religion,_ says that no
oath was demanded of the initiate, but that silence was observed
generally as an act of reverence rather than as an act of purposed
concealment. There seems, however, to be conclusive evidence that an
oath of secrecy was demanded of and taken by the candidates for
initiation, at any rate, into the second and third degrees, if not into
the first degree. Moreover, there are on record several prosecutions of
citizens for having broken the pledge of secrecy they had given.
Æschylus was indicted for having disclosed in the theatre certain
details of the Mysteries, and he only escaped punishment by proving that
he had never been initiated and, therefore, could not have violated any
obligation. A Greek scholiast says that in five of his tragedies
Æschylus spoke of Demeter and therefore may be supposed in these cases
to have touched upon subjects connected with the Mysteries, and
Heraclides of Pontus says that on this account he was in danger of being
killed by the populace if he had not fled for refuge to the altar of
Dionysos and been begged off by the Areopagites and acquitted on the
ground of his exploits at Marathon. An accusation was brought against
Aristotle of having performed a funeral sacrifice in honour of his wife
in imitation of the Eleusinian ceremonies. Alcibiades was charged with
mimicking the sacred Mysteries in one of his drunken revels, when he
represented the hierophant; Theodorus, one of his friends, represented
the herald; and another, Polytion, represented the dadouchos; other
companions attending as initiates and being addressed as mystæ. The
information against him ran:--

"Thessalus, the son of Cimon, of the ward of Lacais, accuseth
Alcibiades, the son of Clinian, of the ward of Scambonis, of
sacrilegiously offending the goddess Ceres and her daughter, Persephone,
by counterfeiting their Mysteries and showing them to his companions in
his own house, wearing such a robe as the high priest does when he shows
the holy things; he called himself high priest; as did Polytion
torch-bearer; and Theodorus, of the ward of Thyges, herald; and the rest
of his companions he called persons initiated and Brethren of the
Secret; therein acting contrary to the rules and ceremonies established
by the Eumolpides, the Heralds and Priests at Eleusis."

Alcibiades did not appear in answer to the charge, and he was condemned
in his absence, an order being made that his goods were to be
confiscated. This occurred in 415 B.C. and the incident created quite a
panic, as many prominent citizens, Andocides included, were implicated.
"This man," said the accuser of Andocides, "vested in the same costume
as a hierophant, has shown the sacred objects to men who were not
initiated and has uttered words which it is not permissible to repeat."
Andocides admitted the charge, but turned king's evidence, and named
certain others as culprits with him. He was rewarded with a free pardon
under a decree which Isotmides had issued, but those whom he named were
either put to death or outlawed and their goods were confiscated.
Andocides afterwards entered the temple while the Mysteries were in
progress and was charged with breaking the law in so doing. He defended
himself before a court of heliasts, all of whom had been initiated into
the Mysteries, the president of the court being the Archon Basileus. The
indictment was lodged by Cephisius, the chief prosecutor, with the
Archon Basileus, during the celebration of the Greater Mysteries and
while Andocides was still at Eleusis. Andocides was acquitted, and it is
stated that Cephisius having failed to obtain one-fifth of the votes of
the court, the result, according to the law, was that he had to pay a
fine of a thousand drachmas and to suffer permanent exclusion from the
Eleusinian shrine. Diagoras was accused of railing at the sanctity of
the Mysteries of Eleusis in such a manner as to deter persons from
seeking initiation, and a reward of one talent was offered to any one
who should kill him or two talents to any one who should bring him
alive. The Greek talent was of the value of about £200.

An ancient theme of oratorical composition and one set even in the sixth
century of the Christian era ran:--

"The law punishes with death whoever has disclosed the Mysteries: some
one to whom the initiation has been revealed in a dream asks one of the
initiated if what he has seen is in conformity with reality: the
initiate acquiesces by a movement of the head; and for that he is
accused of impiety."

Every care, therefore, was taken to prevent the secrecy of the Mysteries
from being broken and the ceremonial becoming known to any not
initiated. Details have, nevertheless, come to light in various ways,
but chiefly through the ancient writings and inscriptions. Step by step
and piece by piece the diligent researcher has been rewarded by the
discovery of disconnected and isolated fragments which, by themselves,
supply no precise information, but, taken in the aggregate, form a
perfect mosaic. Though it was strictly forbidden to reveal what took
place within the sacred enclosure and in the Hall of Initiation, it was
permissible to state clearly the main object of initiation and the
advantages to be derived from the act. Not only was the breaking of the
obligation of secrecy given by an initiate visited with severe,
sometimes even with capital, punishment, but the forcing of the temple
enclosure by the uninitiated, as sometimes happened, was an offence of
an equally impious and heinous character. By virtue of the unwritten
laws and customs dating back to the most remote periods the penalty of
death was frequently pronounced for faults not grave in themselves,
although the forcing of the temple enclosure was, of course, a grave
crime, but because they concerned religion. It was probably by virtue of
those unwritten laws that the priests ordered the death of two young
Arcananians who had penetrated, through ignorance, into the sacred
precincts. They happened inadvertently to mix with the crowd at the
season of the Mysteries and to enter the temple, but the questions asked
by them, in consequence of their ignorance of the proceedings, betrayed
them, and their intrusion was punished with death. This was in 200 B.C.,
and Rome made war upon Philip V of Macedonia on the complaint of the
government of Athens against that king who wished to punish them for
having rigorously applied the ancient laws to those two offenders, who
were found guilty merely of entering the sanctuary at Eleusis without
having previously been initiated. No judicial penalty, however, was
meted out to the fanatical Epicurean eunuch who, with the object of
proving that the gods had no existence, forced himself blaspheming into
that part of the sanctuary into which the hierophant and the
hierophantide alone had the right of entry. Ælianus states that a divine
punishment in the form of a disease alone overtook him. Horace declared
that he would not risk his life by going on to the water with a
companion who had revealed the secret of the Mysteries.

The two days prior to initiation into the second and third degrees were
spent by the candidates in solitary retirement and in strict fasting. It
was a "retreat" in the strictest sense of the word. Fasting was
practised, not only in imitation of the sufferings of Demeter when
searching for Persephone, but because of the danger of the contact of
holy things with unholy, the clean with the unclean. This also is one of
the reasons why it was held to be impious even to speak of the Mysteries
to one who had not been initiated and especially dangerous to allow such
unclean and profane persons to take any part, even that of a viewer, in
the ceremonies. Hence the punishment meted out by the State was in lieu
of, or to avert, the divine wrath which such pollution might bring on
the community at large.

At the entrance to the temple tablets were placed containing a list of
forbidden foods. The list included several kinds of fish--the
whistle-fish, gurnet, crab, and mullet. In all probability the
whistle-fish is that known as _Sciæna aquila_, a Mediterranean fish that
makes a noise under the water which has been compared to bellowing,
buzzing, purring, or whistling, the air bladder being the
sound-producing organ. The fish was greatly esteemed by the Romans.
There is a large _Sciæna_, not _aquila_, though very like it, in the
Fish Gallery of the British Museum (Natural History) opposite the
entrance from the Zoological Library. The whistle-fish and crab were
held to be impure, the first because it laid its eggs through the mouth,
and the second because it ate filth which other fish rejected. The
gurnet was rejected because of its fecundity as witnessed in its annual
triple laying of eggs, but, according to some writers, it was rejected
because it ate a fish which was poisonous to mankind. It may well be
that other fish were interdicted, but Porphyry was probably exaggerating
when he said that all fish were forbidden. Birds bred at home, such as
chickens and pigeons, were also on the banned list, as were beans and
certain vegetables which were forbidden for a mystical reason which
Pausanias said he dare not reveal save to the initiated. The probable
reason was that they were connected in some way with the wanderings of
Demeter. Pomegranates were, of course, forbidden, from the incident of
the eating of the pomegranate seeds by Persephone.

The candidates were carefully instructed in these rules before the
beginning of the celebration. Originally the instruction of the
candidates was in the hands of the hierophant, who, following the
example of his ancestor, Eumolpus, claimed the privilege of preparing
the candidates as well as that of communicating to them the knowledge of
the divine Mysteries. But the continually increasing number of
candidates made it necessary to employ auxiliary instructors, and this
particular work was handed over to the charge of the mystagogues, who
prepared the candidates either singly or in groups, the hierophant
reserving to himself the general direction of the instruction. In the
course of the initiation ceremony certain words had to be spoken by the
candidates, and these were made known to them in advance, although, of
course, apart from their context.

Admission to the second degree took place during the night between the
sixth and seventh days of the celebration of the Mysteries, the
candidates being led blindfolded into the temple and the ceremony opened
with prayers and sacrifices by the second Archon. The candidates were
crowned with myrtle wreaths, and, on entering the building, they
purified themselves in a formal manner by immersing their hands in the
consecrated water. Salt, laurel-leaves, barley, and crowns of flowers
were also employed in the purification. The priests, vested in their
sacerdotal garments, then came forward to receive the candidates. This
initial ceremony took place in the outer hall of the temple, the temple
itself being closed. A herald then came forward and uttered the
proclamation: "Begone ye profane. Away from here, all ye that are not
purified, and whose souls have not been freed from sin." In later years
this formulary was changed, and in its stead the herald proclaimed: "If
any atheist, or Christian, or Epicurean, is come to spy on the orgies,
let him instantly retire, but let those who believe remain and be
initiated, with good future." It was the final opportunity for the
retirement of any who were not votaries who had by chance entered the
precincts: if discovered afterwards the punishment was death. In order
to make certain that no intruders remained behind all who were present
had to answer certain specified questions. Then all again immersed their
hands into the consecrated water and renewed their pledge of secrecy.
The candidates for initiation then took off their ordinary garments and
put on the skins of young does. This done, the priests wished them joy
of all the happiness their initiation would bring them, and then left
the candidates alone. Within a few minutes the apartment in which they
were was plunged in total darkness. Lamentations and strange noises were
heard; terrific peals of thunder resounded, seemingly shaking the very
foundations of the temple; vivid flashes of lightning lit up the
darkness, rendering it more terrible, while a more persistent light from
a fire displayed fearful forms. Sighs, groans, and cries of pain
resounded on all sides, like the shrieks of the condemned in Tartarus.
The novitiates were taken hold of by invisible hands, their hair was
torn, and they were beaten and thrown to the ground. Then a faint light
became visible in the distance and a fearful scene appeared before their
eyes. The gates of Tartarus were opened and the abode of the condemned
lay before them. They could hear the cries of anguish and the vain
regrets of those to whom Paradise was lost for ever. They could,
moreover, witness their hopeless remorse: they saw, as well as heard,
all the tortures of the condemned. The Furies, armed with relentless
scourges and flaming torches, drove the unhappy victims incessantly to
and fro, never letting them rest for a moment. Meanwhile the loud voice
of the hierophant, who represented the judge of the earth, could be
heard expounding the meaning of what was passing before them, and
warning and threatening the initiates. It may well be imagined that all
these fearful scenes were so terrifying that very frequently beads of
anguish appeared on the brows of the novices. Howling dogs and even
material demons are said actually to have appeared to the initiates
before the scene was changed. Proclus, in his _Commentary on
Alcibiades_, says: "In the most holy of the Mysteries, before the
presence of the god, certain terrestrial demons are hurled forth, which
call the attention from undefiled advantages to matter." At length the
gates of Tartarus were closed, the scene was suddenly changed, and the
innermost sanctuary of the temple lay open before the initiates in
dazzling light. In the midst stood the statue of the goddess Demeter
brilliantly decked and gleaming with precious stones; heavenly music
entranced their souls; a cloudless sky overshadowed them; fragrant
perfumes arose; and in the distance the privileged spectators beheld
flowering meads, where the blessed danced and amused themselves with
innocent games and pastimes. Among other writers the scene has been
described by Aristophanes in _The Frogs_:--

     _Heracles_. The voyage is a long one. For you will come directly to
     a very big lake of abysmal depth.

     _Dionysos_. Then how shall I get taken across it?

     _Heracles_. In a little boat just so high: an old man who plies
     that boat will take you across for a fee of two oboles.

     _Dionysos_. Oh dear! How very powerful those two oboles are all
     over the world. How did they manage to get here?

     _Heracles_. Theseus brought them. After this you will see serpents
     and wild beasts in countless numbers and very terrible. Then a
     great slough and overflowing dung; and in this you'll see lying any
     one who ever yet at any place wronged his guest or beat his mother,
     or smote his father's jaw, or swore an oath and foreswore
     himself.... And next a breathing of flutes shall be wafted around
     you, and you shall see a very beautiful light, even as in this
     world, and myrtle groves, and happy choirs of men and women, and a
     loud clapping of hands.

     _Dionysos_. And who are these people, pray?

     _Heracles_. The initiated.

It was regarded as permissible to describe certain scenes of the
initiation, and this has been done by many writers, but a complete
silence was demanded as to the means employed to realize the end, the
rites and ceremonies in which the initiate took part, the emblems which
were displayed, and the actual words uttered, and the slightest
contravention of this rule rendered the offender liable to the strongest
possible condemnation and chastisement.

In the course of the ceremony the hierophant asked the candidates a
series of questions, to which written answers had been prepared and
committed to memory by the candidates. The holy Mysteries were revealed
to them from a book called _Petroma,_ a word derived from _petra_, a
stone, and so called because the writings were kept between two cemented
stones which fitted in to each other. The Pheneatians used to swear by
and on the Petroma. The domed top held within it a mask of Demeter which
the hierophant wore at the celebration of the Mysteries, or during part
of the ceremonial. The garments worn by the initiates during the
ceremony were accounted sacred and equal to incantations and charms in
their power to avert evils. Consequently they were never cast off until
torn and tattered. Nor was it usual, even then, to throw them away, but
it was customary to make them into swaddling clothes for children or to
consecrate them to Demeter and Persephone.

Admission to the third degree took place during the night between the
seventh and eighth days of the celebration of the Greater Mysteries.
This, the final degree, with the exception of those called to be
hierophants, was known as the degree of Epopta. Exactly in what the
ceremonial consisted, save in one particular presently to be described,
is unknown. Hippolytus is practically the only authority for the main
incident of the degree. Certain words and signs were, however,
communicated to the initiated which, it was stated, would, when
pronounced at the hour of death, ensure the eternal happiness of the

The most solemn part of the ceremony was that which has been described
by some writers as the hierogamy, or sacred marriage of Zeus and
Demeter, although some have erroneously referred to it as the marriage
of Pluto and Persephone. During the celebration of the Mysteries the
hierophant and hierophantide descended into a cave or deep recess and,
after remaining there for a time, they returned to the assembly,
surrounded seemingly by flames, and the hierophant, displaying to the
gaze of the initiated an ear of corn, exclaimed with a loud voice: "The
divine Brimo has given birth to the holy child Brimos: The strong has
brought forth strength." The scene was dramatic and symbolical, and
there could have been nothing material in the incident. The torches of
the multitude were extinguished while the throng above awaited with
anxious suspense the return of the priest and priestess from the murky
place into which they had descended, for they believed their own
salvation to depend upon the result of the mystic congress. The charges
brought against the Eleusinian Mysteries of rioting and debauchery
during their Grecian history are brought by those who were not permitted
to share their honours, or who were prejudiced in favour of some other
form of religion. In the opinion of the majority of contemporary writers
these charges were wholly gratuitous, and they maintain that the
Eleusinian Mysteries produced a sanctity of manners and a cultivation of
virtue. They could not, of course, make a man virtuous against his will
and Diogenes, when asked to submit to initiation, replied that
Pataecion, a notorious robber, had obtained initiation.

"The Athenians," says Hippolytus, "in the initiation of Eleusis, show to
the epoptæ the great, admirable, and most perfect mystery of the epoptæ:
an ear of corn gathered in silence." The statement is so clear as to
leave no doubt whatever on the subject; indeed, it has never been called
into question. The presentation of the ear of corn was regarded as a
special, indeed the most important, feature of the Mysteries of Eleusis,
and it was reserved for the final degree. Much has been made of this
incident by many who can see no beauty in pre-Christian or non-Christian
systems of religion, their comments being based mainly on a statement of
Gregory Nazianus, who stands almost alone in discerning lewdness in the
Eleusinian ceremonial. He says: "It is not in our religion that you will
find a seduced Cora, a wandering Demeter, a Keleos, and a Triptolemus
appearing with serpents; that Demeter is capable of certain acts and
that she permits others. I am really ashamed to throw light on the
nocturnal orgies of the initiations. Eleusis knows as well as the
witnesses the secret of the spectacle, which is with reason kept so

Apart from this isolated statement the Eleusinian Mysteries have not
been charged, as many other ancient rites were, with promoting and
encouraging immorality. In his account of the doings of the false
prophet Alexander of Abountichos, Lucian describes how the impostor
instituted rites which were a close parody of those celebrated at
Eleusis, and he narrates the details of the travesty. Among the mimetic
performances were not only the epiphany and birth of a god but the
enactment of a sacred marriage. All preliminaries were gone through, and
Lucian says that but for the abundance of lighted torches the marriage
would actually have been consummated. The part of the hierophant was
taken by the false prophet himself. From the travesty it is evident that
in the genuine Mysteries, in silence, in darkness, and in perfect
chastity the sacred marriage was symbolized and that immediately
afterwards the hierophant came forward and standing in a blaze of
torchlight made the announcement to the initiates.

The name _Brimo_, expressed at full length _Obrimo,_ seems to be a
variation of the compound term _Ob-Rimon_, "the lofty serpent goddess."

     The birth of Brimo; and the mighty deeds
     Of the Titanic hosts; the servitude
     Of Jove; and the mysterious mountain rites
     Of Cybelè, when with distracted pace she sought
     Through the wide world the beauteous Proserpine;
     The far-fam'd labours of the Machian Hercules;
     Th' Idèan orgies; and the giant force
     Of the dread Corybantes; and the wanderings
     Of Ceres, and the woes of Prosperpine:
     With these I sung the gifts of the Cabiri;
     The Mysteries of Bacchus; and the praise
     Of Lemnos, Samothrace, and lofty Cyprus,
     Fair Adonean Venus; and the rites
     Of dread Ogygian Praxidicè;
     Arinian Minerva's nightly festival;
     And Egypt's sorrow for the lost Osiris.

                                   _Orphic Hymn._

Dr. Jevons maintains that this ear of corn was the totem of Eleusis, and
this view has been adopted by M. Reinach, who says: "We find in the
texts a certain trace not only of the cult but of the adoration and the
exaltation (in the Christian meaning of the word) of the ear of corn."
But he has omitted to quote the texts on which he relies for this
assertion. It would be interesting to know why, among all the plants
which die and revive in the course of a year, wheat was chosen for
preference, why the ear more than the grain, why it should be emphasized
that it was gathered, for what reason the spectacle was reserved for the
epoptæ, and in what manner it secured or ensured for the individual a
blissful existence after death. The demonstration presupposes that the
preceding rites were leading up to this supreme display.

After this demonstration the epoptæ partook of barley meal flavoured
with pennyroyal, as a solemn form of communion with Demeter. According
to Eustathius, the compound was a kind of thick gruel, half-solid,
half-liquid. This done, each of the initiated repeated after the
hierophant the following words: "I have fasted, I have drank 'cyceon.' I
have taken from the cystos, and after having tasted of it I placed it in
the calathos. I again took it from the calathos and put it back in the
cystos." This formula, notwithstanding its length, is said to have been
the password leading to the third degree.

Justin Martyr gives the oath of initiation as follows: "So help me
heaven, the work of God who is great and wise: so help me the word of
the Father which he spake when he established the whole universe in his

With this ceremony the third degree ended, save that the epoptæ were
placed upon exalted seats, around which the priests circled in mystic
dances. The day succeeding admission into the final degree was regarded
as a rigorous fast, at the conclusion of which the epoptæ drank of the
mystic cyceon and ate of the sacred cakes.

According to Theo of Smyrna, the full or complete initiation consisted
of five steps or degrees, which he sets out as follows:--

"Again, philosophy may be called the initiation into true sacred
ceremonies, and the tradition of genuine mysteries; for there are five
parts of initiation; the first of which is previous purgation, for
neither are the Mysteries communicated to all who are willing to receive
them, but there are certain characters who are prevented by the voice of
the crier, such as those who possess impure hands and an inarticulate
voice, since it is necessary that such as are not expelled from the
Mysteries should first be refined by certain purgations, but after
purgation the tradition of the sacred rite succeeds. The third part is
denominated inspection. And the fourth, which is the end and design of
inspection, is the binding of the head and fixing the crown, so that the
initiated may, by this means, be enabled to communicate to others the
sacred rites in which he has been instructed. Whether after this he
becomes a torch-bearer, or an interpreter of the Mysteries, or sustains
some other part of the sacerdotal office. But the fifth, which is
produced from all these, is friendship with divinity, and the enjoyment
of that felicity which arises from intimate converse with the gods.
According to Plato, purification is to be derived from the five
mathematical disciplines, viz. arithmetic, geometry, stereometry, music,
and astronomy."

Apuleius is represented as saying to himself:--

"I approached the confines of death; and, having crossed the threshold
of Proserpine, I at length returned, borne along through all the
elements. I beheld the sun shining in the dead of night with luminous
splendour: I saw both the infernal and the celestial gods. I approached
and adored them."

Themistius represents initiation in the following words:--

"Entering now the mystic dome, he is filled with horror and amazement.
He is seized with solicitude and a total perplexity. He is unable to
move a step forward; and he is at a loss to find the entrance to that
road which is to lead him to the place he aspires to. But now, in the
midst of his perplexity, the prophet (hierophant) suddenly lays open to
him the space before the portals of the temple. Having thoroughly
purified him, the hierophant now discloses to the initiated a region all
over illuminated and shining with a divine splendour. The cloud and
thick darkness are dispersed; and the mind, which before was full of
disconsolate obscurity, now emerges, as it were, into day, replete with
light and cheerfulness, out of the profound depth into which it had been

The fee for initiation was a minimum sum of fifteen drachmas (a drachma
being of the value of 7 3/4d.), in addition to which there were the
usual honoraria to be bestowed upon the various officials, to which
reference has already been made. Presumably, also, gifts in kind were
made to the principal officials, for an inscription of the fifth century
B.C., found at Eleusis, reads:--

"Let the Hierophant and the Torch-bearer command that at the Mysteries
the Hellenes shall offer first-fruits of their crops in accordance with
ancestral usage.... To those who do these things there shall be many
good things, both good and abundant crops, whoever of them do not injure
the Athenians, nor the city of Athens, nor the two goddesses."

The Telestrion or Hall of Initiation, sometimes called "The Mystic
Temple," was surrounded on all sides by steps, which presumably served
as seats for the initiated while the sacred dramas and processions took
place on the floor of the hall. These steps were partly built in and
partly cut in the solid rock; in later times they appear to have been
covered with marble. There were two doors on each side of the hall with
the exception of the north-west, where the entrance was cut out of the
solid rock, a rock terrace at a higher level adjoining it. This was
probably the station of those not yet admitted to full initiation. The
roof of the hall was carried by rows of columns which were more than
once renewed. The Hall itself did not accommodate more than four
thousand people. The building was perhaps more accurately described by
Aristophanes, who called it: "The House that welcomed the Mystæ," and he
carefully distinguished it from the Temple of Demeter. It was not the
dwelling-place of any god, and it, therefore, did not contain any holy
image. It was built for the celebration of a definite ritual, and the
Eleusinian Hall of Initiation was therefore the only known _church_ of
antiquity, if by that term we mean the meeting-place of the

Mr. James Christie, in his work on _Greek Vases,_ contends that the
phantasmal scenes in the Mysteries were shown by transparencies, such as
are yet used by the Chinese, Javanese, and Hindus.



Life, as we know it, was looked upon by the ancient philosophers as
death. Plato considered the body as the sepulchre of the soul, and in
the _Cratylus_ acquiesces in the doctrine of Orpheus that the soul is
punished through its union with the body. Empedocles, lamenting his
connection with this corporeal world, pathetically exclaimed:--

     For this I weep, for this indulge my woe,
     That e'er my soul such novel realms should know.

He also calls this material abode, or the realms of generation,

               a joyless region,
     Where slaughter, rage, and countless ills reside.

Philolaus, the celebrated Pythagorean, wrote: "The ancient theologists
and priests testify that the soul is united with the body for the sake
of suffering punishment, and that it is buried in the body as in a
sepulchre"; while Pythagoras himself said: "Whatever we see when awake
is death, and when asleep a dream."

This is the truth intended to be expressed in the Mysteries. Sallustius,
the neo-Platonic philosopher, in his treatise _Peri Theon kai Kosmou_,
"Concerning the gods and the existing state of things," explains the
rape of Persephone as signifying the descent of the soul. Other writers
have explained the real element of the Mysteries as consisting in the
relations of the universe to the soul, more especially after death, or
as intimating obscurely by splendid visions the felicity of the soul
here and hereafter when purified from the defilements of a material
nature. The intention of all mystic ceremonies, according to Sallustius,
was to conjoin the world and the gods. Plotinus says that to be plunged
into matter is to descend and then fall asleep. The initiate had to
withstand the dæmons and spectres, which, in later times, illustrated
the difficulties besetting the soul in its approach to the gods, so also
the Uasarian had to repel or satisfy the mystic crocodiles, vipers,
avenging assessors, dæmons of the gate, and other dread beings whom he
encountered in his trying passage through the valley of the shadow of
death. Pindar, speaking of the Eleusinian Mysteries, says: "Blessed is
he who, on seeing those common concerns under the earth, knows both the
end of life and the given end of Jupiter."

Psyche is said to have fallen asleep in Hades through rashly attempting
to behold corporeal beauty, and the truth intended to be taught in the
Eleusinian Mysteries was that prudent men who earnestly employed
themselves in divine concerns were, above all others, in a vigilant
state, and that imprudent men who pursued objects of an inferior nature
were asleep, and engaged only in the delusion of dreams; and that if
they happened to die in this sleep before they were aroused they would
be afflicted with similar, but still sharper, visions in a future state.

Matter was regarded by the Egyptians as a certain mire or mud. They
called matter the dregs or sediment of the first life. Before the first
purification the candidate for initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries
was besmeared with clay or mud which it was the object of the
purification to wash away. It also intimated that while the soul is in a
state of servitude to the body it lives confined, as it were, in bonds
through the dominion of this Titanic life. Thus the Greeks laid great
stress upon the advantages to be derived from initiation. Not only were
the initiates placed under the protection of the State, but the very act
of initiation was said to assist in the spreading of goodwill among men,
keep the soul from sin and crime, place the initiates under the special
protection of the gods, and provide them with the means of attaining
perfect virtue, the power of living a spotless life, and assure them of
a peaceful death and of everlasting bliss hereafter. The hierophants
assured all who participated in the Mysteries that they would have a
high place in Elysium, a clearer understanding, and a more intimate
intercourse with the gods, whereas the uninitiated would for ever remain
in outer darkness. Indeed, in the third degree the epoptæ were said to
be admitted to the presence of and converse with the goddesses Demeter
and Persephone, under whose immediate care and protection they were said
to be placed. Initiation was referred to frequently as a guarantee of
salvation conferred by outward and visible signs and by sacred formulæ.

The Lesser Mysteries were intended to symbolize the condition of the
soul while subservient to the body, and the liberation from this
servitude, through purgative virtues, was what the wisdom of the
Ancients intended to signify by the descent into Hades and the speedy
return from those dark abodes. They were held to contain perfective
rites and appearances and the tradition of the sacred doctrines
necessary to the perfection or accomplishment of the most splendid
visions. The perfective part, said Proclus, precedes initiation, as
initiation precedes inspection.

"Hercules," said Proclus also in _Plat. Polit_., "being purified by
sacred initiations and enjoying undefiled fruits, obtained at length a
perfect establishment among the gods"; that is, freed from the bondage
of matter ascending beyond the reach of its hands.

Plutarch wrote:--

"To die is to be initiated into the great mysteries,... Our whole life
is but a succession of errors, of painful wanderings, and of
long-journeys by tortuous ways, without outlet. At the moment of
quitting it, fears, terrors, quiverings, mortal sweats, and a lethargic
stupor come and overwhelm us; but, as soon as we are out of it, we pass
into delightful meadows, where the purest air is breathed, where sacred
concerts and discourses are heard; where, in short, one is impressed
with celestial visions. It is there that man, having become perfect
through his new initiation, restored to liberty, really master of
himself, celebrates, crowned with myrtle, the most august mysteries,
holds converse with just and pure souls, and sees with contempt the
impure multitude of the profane or uninitiated, ever plunged and sinking
itself into the mire and in profound darkness."

Dogmatic instruction was not included in the Mysteries; the doctrine of
the immortality of the soul traces its origin to sources anterior to the
rise of the Mysteries. At Eleusis the way was shown how to secure for
the soul after death the best possible fate. The miracle of
regeneration, rather than the eternity of being, was taught.

Plato introduces Socrates as saying: "In my opinion those who
established the Mysteries, whoever they were, were well skilled in human
nature. For in these rites it was of old signified to the aspirants that
those who died without being initiated stuck fast in mire and filth; but
that he who was purified and initiated should, at his death, have his
habitation with the gods."

Plato, again, in the seventh book of the _Republic_ says: "He who is not
able by the exercise of his reason to define the idea of the good,
separating it from all other objects and piercing as in a battle through
every kind of argument; endeavouring to confute, not according to
opinion but according to evidence, and proceeding with all these
dialectical exercises with an unshaken reason--he who cannot accomplish
this, would you not say that he neither knows the good itself, nor
anything which is properly demonstrated good? And would you not assert
that such a one when he apprehended it rather through the medium of
opinion than of science, that in the present life he is sunk in sleep
and conversant with delusions and dreams; and that before he is roused
to a vigilant state he will descend to Hades, and be overwhelmed with
sleep perfectly profound?"

Olympiodorus, in his MS. Commentary on the Georgias of Plato, says of
the Elysian fields: "It is necessary to know that the fortunate islands
are said to be raised above the sea.... Hercules is reported to have
accomplished his last labour in the Hesperian regions, signifying by
this that, having vanquished an obscure and terrestrial life, he
afterwards lived in open day--that is, in truth and resplendent light.
So that he who in the present state vanquishes as much as possible a
corporeal life, through the exercise of the cathartic virtues, passes in
reality into the fortunate islands of the soul, and lives surrounded
with the bright splendours of truth and wisdom proceeding from the sun
of good."

The esoteric teaching was not, of course, grasped by all the initiates;
the majority merely recognized or grasped the exoteric doctrine of a
future state of rewards and punishments. Virgil, in his description, in
the _Æneid_, of the Mysteries, confines himself to the exoteric
teaching. Æneas, having passed over the Stygian lake, meets with the
three-headed Cerberus. By Cerberus must be understood the discriminative
part of the soul, of which a dog, by reason of its sagacity, is an
emblem. The three heads signify the intellective, dianoetic, and doxatic
powers. "He dragg'd the three-mouth'd dog to upper day"--i.e. by
temperance, continence, and other virtues he drew upwards the various
powers of the soul. The teaching of the Mysteries was not in opposition
to the ordinary creed: it deepened it rather, revived it in a spiritual
manner and gave to religion a force and a power it had not hitherto

The fable of Persephone, as belonging to the Mysteries, was properly of
a mixed nature, composed of all four species of fable--theological,
physical, animistic, and material. According to the arcana of ancient
theology, the Coric order--i.e. that belonging to Persephone--is
twofold, one part supermundane and the other mundane.

Proclus says: "According to the rumour of theologists, who delivered to
us the most holy Eleusinian Mysteries, Persephone abides on high, in
those dwellings of her mother which she prepared for her in inaccessible
places, exempt from the sensible world. But she likewise dwells with
Pluto, administering terrestrial concerns, governing the recesses of the
earth and imparting soul to beings which are of themselves inanimate and

The Orphic poet describes Persephone as "the life and the death of
mortals," and as being the mother of Eubuleus or Bacchus by an ineffable
intercourse with Jupiter. Porphyry asserts that the wood pigeon was
sacred to her and that she was the same as Maia, or the great mother,
who is usually claimed as the parent of the Arkite god Mercury.

According to Nösselt the following may be taken as the meaning of the
myth of Demeter and her lost daughter: "Persephone, the daughter of the
all-productive earth (Demeter), is the seed. The earth rejoices at the
sight of the plants and flowers, but they fade and wither, and the seed
disappears quickly from the face of the earth when it is strewn on the
ground. The dreaded monarch of the underworld has taken possession of
it. In vain the mother searches for her child, the whole face of nature
mourns her loss, and everything sorrows and grieves with her. But,
secretly and unseen, the seed develops itself in the lap of the earth,
and at length it starts forth: what was dead is now alive; the earth,
all decked with fresh green, rejoices at the recovery of her long-lost
daughter, and everything shares in the joy."

Demeter was worshipped in a twofold sense by the Greeks, as the
foundress of agriculture and as goddess of law and order. They used to
celebrate yearly in her honour the Thesmorphoria, or Festival of Laws.
According to some ancient writers the Greeks, prior to the time of
Demeter and Triptolemus, fed upon the acorns of the ilex, or the
evergreen oak. Acorns, according to Virgil, were the food in Epiros, and
in Spain, according to Strabo. The Scythians made bread with acorns.
According to another tradition, before Demeter's time, men neither
cultivated corn nor tilled the ground, but roamed the mountains and
woods in search for the wild fruits which the earth produced. Isocrates
wrote: "Ceres hath made the Athenians two presents of the greatest
consequence: corn, which brought us out of a state of brutality; and the
Mysteries, which teach the initiated to entertain the most agreeable
expectations touching death and eternity." The coins of Eleusis
represented Demeter in a car drawn by dragons or serpents which were
sometimes winged. The goddess had two ears of corn in her right hand or,
as some imagined, torches, indicating that she was searching for her
daughter. George Wheler, in his _Journey into Greece_, published in
1682, says: "We observed many large stones covered with wheat-ears and
bundles of poppy bound together; these being the characters of Ceres."
At Copenhagen there is a statue representing Demeter holding poppies and
ears of corn in her left hand. On a coin of Lampsacus of the fourth
century B.C., Persephone is described in the act of rising from the

According to Taylor, the Platonist, Demeter in the legend represents the
evolution of that self-inspective part of our nature which we properly
determine intellect, and Persephone that vital, self-moving, and animate
part which we call soul. Pluto signifies the whole of our material
nature, and, according to Pythagoras, the empire of this god commences
downwards from the Galaxy or Milky Way.

Sallust says that among the mundane divinities Ceres is the deity of the
planet Saturn. The cavern signifies the entrance into mundane life
accomplished by the union of the soul with the terrestrial body.
Demeter, who was afraid lest some violence be offered to Persephone on
account of her inimitable beauty, conveyed her privately to Sicily and
concealed her in a house built on purpose by the Cyclops, while she
herself directed her course to the temple of Cybele, the mother of the
gods. Here we see the first cause of the soul's descent, viz. her
desertion of a life wholly according to intellect, occultly signified by
the separation of Demeter and Persephone. Afterwards Jupiter instructed
Venus to go and betray Persephone from her retirement, that Pluto might
be enabled to carry her away, and, to prevent any suspicion in the
virgin's mind, he commanded Diana and Pallas to bear her company. The
three goddesses on arrival found Persephone at work on a scarf for her
mother, on which she had embroidered the primitive chaos and the
formation of the world. Venus, says Taylor, is significant of desire,
which, even in the celestial regions (for such is the residence of
Persephone until she is ravished by Pluto), begins silently and
fraudulently in the recesses of the soul. Minerva is symbolical of the
rational power of the soul; and Diana represents nature, or the merely
natural and vegetable part of our composition, both ensnared through the
allurements of desire.

In Ovid we have Narcissus, the metamorphosis of a youth who fell a
victim to love of his own corporeal form. The rape of Persephone,
according to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, was the immediate consequence
of her gathering this wonderful flower. By Narcissus falling in love
with his shadow in the limpid stream we behold the representation of a
beautiful soul, which, by prolonged gaze upon the material form, becomes
enamoured of a corporeal life and changed into a being consisting wholly
of the mere energies of nature. Plato, forcing his passage through the
earth, seizes on Persephone and carries her away, despite the resistance
of Minerva and Diana, who were forbidden by Jupiter to attempt her
deliverance after her abduction. This signifies that the lapse of the
soul into a material nature is contrary to the genuine wish and proper
condition. Pluto having hurried Persephone into the infernal regions,
marriage succeeds. That is to say, the soul having sunk into the
profoundities of a material nature, unites with the dark tenement of the
material body. Night is with great beauty and propriety introduced,
standing by the nuptial couch and confirming the oblivious league. That
is to say, the soul, by union with a material body, becomes familiar
with darkness and subject to the empire of night, in consequence of
which she dwells wholly with delusive phantoms and till she breaks her
fetters is deprived of the perception of that which is real and true.

The nine days of the Festival are said to be significant of the descent
of the soul. The soul, in falling from her original, divine abode in the
heavens, passes through eight spheres, viz. the inerratic sphere and the
seven planets, assuming a different body and employing different
energies in each, finally becoming connected with the sublunary world
and a terrene body on the ninth. Demeter and the foundation of the art
of tillage are said to signify the descent of intellect into the realms
of generation, the greatest benefit and ornament which a material nature
is capable of receiving. Without the possibility of the participation of
intellect in the lower material sphere nothing but an irrational and a
brutal life would subsist.

But, according to some writers, the initiates into the third degree were
taught that the gods and goddesses were only dead mortals, subject while
alive to the same passions and infirmities as themselves; and they were
taught to look upon the Supreme Cause, the Creator of the Universe, as
pervading all things by His virtue and governing all things by His
power. Thus the meaning of _Mystes_ is given as "one who sees things in
disguise," and that of _Epopt_ as "one who sees things as they are,
without disguise." The Epopt, after passing through the ceremonial of
exaltation, was said to have received Autopsia, or complete vision.
Virgil declared that the secret of the Mysteries was the Unity of the
Godhead, and Plato owned it to be "difficult to find the Creator of the
Universe, and, when found, impossible to discover Him to all the world."
Varro, in his work _Of Religions_, says that "there were many truths
which it was inconvenient for the State to be generally known; and many
things which, though false, it was expedient the people should believe,
and that, therefore, the Greeks shut up their Mysteries in the silence
of their sacred enclosures." The Mysteries declared that the future life
was not the shadowy, weary existence which it had hitherto been supposed
to be, but that through the rites of purification and sacrifices of a
sacramental character man could secure a better hope for the future.
Thus the Eleusinian Mysteries became the chief agent in the conversion
of the Greek world from the Homeric view of Hades to a more hopeful
belief as to man's state after death. Tully promulgated a law forbidding
nocturnal sacrifices in which women were permitted to take part, but
made an express exception in favour of the Eleusinian Mysteries, giving
as his reason: "Athens hath produced many excellent, even divine
inventions and applied them to the use of life, but she has given
nothing better than those Mysteries by which we are drawn from an
irrational and savage life and tamed, as it were, and broken to
humanity. They are truly called _Initia_, for they are indeed the
beginnings of a life of reason and virtue."

Secrecy was enjoined because it was regarded as essential that the
profane should not be permitted to share the knowledge of the true
nature of Demeter and Persephone, as if it were known that these
goddesses were only mortal women their worship would become
contemptible. Cicero says that it was the humanity of Demeter and
Persephone, their places of interment, and several facts of a like
nature that were concealed with so much care. Diagoras, the Melian, was
accounted an atheist because he revealed the real secret of the
Eleusinian. Mysteries. The charge of atheism was the lot of any who
communicated a knowledge of the one, only God. Pindar says, referring to
the Mysteries: "Happy is he who has seen these things before leaving
this world: he realizes the beginning and the end of life, as ordained
by Zeus"; and Sophocles wrote: "Oh, thrice blessed the mortals, who,
having contemplated these Mysteries, have descended to Hades; for those
only will there be a future life of happiness--the others there will
find nothing but suffering."


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