web analytics THE MYSTERIES - MYSTÍRIA - ΜΥΣΤΗΡΙΑ
in Ancient Greek Religion

Ύε! Κύε!

 "It is likely that those who established the mystic rites for us were not inferior persons but were speaking in riddles long ago when they said that whoever arrives in the underworld uninitiated and unsanctified will wallow in the mire, whereas he who arrives there purified and initiated will dwell with the Gods. There are indeed, as those concerned with the Mysteries say, many who carry the thyrsus but the Bacchants are few." (Πλάτων Φαίδων 69 c-d, trans. G.M.A. Grube, 1970, as found in the volume entitled Plato: Complete Works, Hackett Publ. [Indianapolis, IN USA], where this quotation may be found on p. 60.)

"...she (ed. Dimítir) showed the conduct of her rites and taught them all her Mysteries, to Triptolemus and Polyxeinus and Diocles also, -- awful Mysteries which no one may in any way transgress or pry into or utter, for deep awe of the Gods checks the voice. Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these Mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom." Homeric Hymn Εἲς Δημήτραν 475-479, trans. H. G. Evelyn-White, 1914, in the book entitled Hesiod:, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 57, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA) and William Heineman (London).

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Mystíria (Mysteria or Musteria; Gr. Μυστήρια, ΜΥΣΤΗΡΙΑ, from μύω, "to close, be shut," of the eyes) Pronunciation: mees-TEE-ree-ah. 

The Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (The Fifth King) tells the story of how Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) creates a new generation of beings --- our generation --- who have an immortal soul but whose bodies are subject to decay, violence, and death. When one's body deteriorates, the soul is eventually reborn in a new body which must continue this cycle, over and over again...a painful circle of births (κύκλος γενέσεως). This mighty God, indeed the father of both Gods and men, has created a universe of great beauty, but we live with unrelenting sufferings. Why would Zefs create such a flawed world? It is because he has created the best world which is possible, constrained by natural laws. At its creation, Zefs realized these difficulties and conceived a solution; he would father a child who would teach mortals the means of escaping the cycle of rebirths. This child is Diónysos (Dionysus; Gr. Διόνυσος). The Goddess Rǽa (Rhea; Gr. Ῥέα) taught Diónysos the Mysteries and it is from these teachings that he accomplishes the intent of his father. [1]

Mystíria is the Greek word for what is commonly called The Mysteries or Mystery Religion. In simplest terms, Mystíria refers to the ultimate and deepest teachings and practices of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, and this includes the Philosophía (Philosophy; Gr. Φιλοσοφία). The Mysteries are sacred teachings, rites, and initiations to develop the progress of the soul; such progress is Arætí (Arete; Gr. Ἀρετή), the source from which arise all of the various things we commonly call virtues. Mystíria is a means of accelerating the natural progression of the soul, a development which ascends of its own volition, but at an impossibly slow pace. Mystíria is for those who wish to venture fully into Ællinismόs, to put the religion completely into practice, and to accomplish something significant with one's life. Mystíria pierces through the mask of thriskeia (= religion; Gr. θρησκεία), journeying beyond the outside shell of religion to the very core of what is actually important, transforming our practice from one which worships Gods for personal gain into a religion which is significant, illuminating, and of great depth. Mystíria is not outside of and independent from the rest of the Greek religion, but, rather, consists of teachings within the body of Ællinismόs, teachings which are central to it. The Mysteries are, in fact, the very heart of Ællinismόs, without which the entire tradition is superficial.

Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) is regarded as the founder of all Mysteries.
[2] Mystíria is intimately connected with the rites of Diónysos (Gr. Διόνυσος) and that of Dimítir (Demeter; Gr. Δημήτηρ) and her daughter Pærsæphóni (Persephone; Gr. Περσεφόνη). The most prominent of the formal Mysteries from antiquity are the Ælefsínia Mystíria (Eleusinian Mysteries; Gr. Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) but there were other great sanctuaries which taught Mysteries and there were also independent itinerant teachers who promulgated them.   

Orphismós, the teachings of Orphéfs and the heart of the Mystíria, is also the root of philosophy. Orphism attempts to explain the origin and nature of the Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος) as natural phenomenon based on the interaction of material substances rather than something beyond nature. Orphismós presents the concept of the elements, Earth and Water, providing the foundation of the pre-Socratic natural philosophers, and major aspects of the Mysteries can be found overtly and covertly in the dialogues of Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) and in the writings of the philósophi (philosophers; Gr. φιλόσοφοι) who came after him; this can be seen in the ideas concerning the soul and reincarnation as well as the establishment of the philosophical foundation supporting the achievement of Virtue as laid out in the dialogues. In contemporary Greece, the Mystíria have become integrated within the tradition and philosophía (philosophy; Gr. φιλοσοφία) such that the whole of established practice is referred to as the Orphic-Pythagorean-Platonic tradition.

The Mystíria are thought of as a secret tradition. This is because these teachings are not for the profane, but for those of pure heart. In reality, much of the teaching is "self-secret" because the profane or unprepared cannot understand them, as is stated by the composer of the Derveni Papyrus:

"His (ed. Orphefs) poetry is something strange and riddling for people. But Orpheus did not intend to tell them captious (ed. meant to confuse) riddles, but momentous things in riddles. Indeed, he is telling a holy discourse from the first and up to his last word. As he also makes clear in the well-chosen verse: for having ordered them to put doors to their ears he says that he is [? not legislating] for the many...[? but only for] those pure in hearing..." [3]


Controversy:

Some contemporary practitioners of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός) are adverse to the Mysteries. This is not true with practitioners of the religion inside Greece, as can be attested by anyone who has actually spent time there and met, face-to-face, teachers and students of repute.

Some of the attacks on the Mysteries come from Hellenic reconstructionist groups. These are people who, generally, belief that the ancient religion perished centuries ago and are trying to revive the religion by reconstructing its practices from ancient sources. Reconstructionists in the United States rightly rely on antique sources for justification of their beliefs and practices, but they also depend heavily on secondary scholarship. Many disparaging ideas regarding the Mysteries were promulgated in the 1800s and early 20th century by scholars such as John Bagnall Bury in his book, A History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great, 1900, until recently a common textbook in schools.
[4] Bury associates "Orphism" with an invasion of oriental ideas into Greek culture, rule by aristocracy, domination by a priestly class, and subordination of reason to irrationality. He see the teachings of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) as a religious system that relied on superstition and he contrasts Orphism with Greek scientific inquiry, an inquiry which he equates with philosophy and reason, positioning philosophy in opposition to Orphic teaching. Regarding the latter criticism, Bury points to the Orphic Theogony as an example of an unscientific explanation of the Kózmos. He interprets this theogony purely on its surface level, seemingly not even vaguely suspicious that there could be a more profound interpretation; if he had so much as a hint of any such intuition, he did not reveal it in this book. Contemporary scholarship is, perhaps, more congenial to Orphic teaching, but, nonetheless, many of the 19th century ideas persist to this day.

Some of the typical objections to Mystíria fall into the following categories: 1) Objection to the teaching on the Deification of the Soul, Ækthǽohsis (Ektheosis; Gr. Ἐκθέωσις), and the conviction that such an idea must involve great ývris (hubris; Gr. ὕβρις), insolence; 2) that the Mysteries are not conventional or consistent with the the rest of the Hellenic tradition; 3) that correct understanding of the Mystíria is inaccessible because the traditions were cut off, and that consequently, contemporary ideas about the Mysteries must necessarily be misled reconstructions; and 4) the belief that people who claim to practice the Mysteries have confused these teachings with common and superficial superstition
.

These criticisms reveal a mistaken conception of the Mysteries either as they existed in antiquity or as they exist in contemporary Greece. As is stated in the opening section of this essay, Mystíria is the deeper meaning of Ællinismόs. By this definition, rejection of Mystíria is as though one was saying that thriskeia (Gr. θρησκεία) is sufficient. Thriskeia is a word usually translated as "religion." Thriskeia is the outward manifestation of a religious belief-system, the rituals, the vestments of the priests/priestesses, the incense, etc. But it must be clearly understood that if these things are the actual body of a religion, such thriskeia can be taught to a monkey. The perspective of Mystíria is that thriskeia is only an aspect of Ællinismόs, and for those who wish to truly live the tradition and put Ællinismόs fully into meaningful practice, one must go beyond thriskeia to the Mysteries.



1
) Criticism of the teaching of the Deification of the Soul:  Is this hubris?   

One of the principle points of attack of Mystíria is the teaching regarding the Deification of the Soul, Ækthǽohsis (Ektheosis; Gr. Ἐκθέωσις). It has even been proposed that the doctrine of deification does not have its roots in antiquity or that its contemporary interpretation is a distortion of what has been taught by the ancient philosophers. In response to this criticism and to help the reader make a more informed judgement, visit this page of citations: Deification of the Soul: Sources.

Deification bears similarity to Hindu beliefs or the Buddhist nirvana, i.e. to become a Buddha oneself, through work over many lifetimes. The beliefs of these other systems, as in the Mysteries, involve an understanding of reincarnation, what is called in the Hellenic language palingænæsía (palingenesía; Gr. πᾰλιγγενεσíα) or mætæmpsýkhohsis (metempsychōsis; Gr. μετεμψύχωσις). This process has been called a sorrowful circle of rebirths (Gr. κύκλος γενέσεως) from which escape is remote. It is a painful experience to be reborn over and over, only to die again either through old age, sickness, or violence. As mentioned at the beginning of this essay, Zefs (Zeus) conceived a solution: through his son Diónysos and the Mysteries he teaches, one can break the cycle. This solution, a great gift from our Father, is our birthright. One who has broken the cycle no longer is confined to a mortal body; such a soul is free. This is the deification of the soul and it is our right and inheritance. 

What is a God? There are many qualities of deity, but one definition which applies to this conversation may be summed up in this statement: a God is an immortal soul which does not have and will never again have a mortal body. We also have immortal souls, but it is our ephemeral bodies which make us mortal, because these bodies are subject to death. In addition, after losing our bodies, we have no choice but to attain a new body, and this cycle recurs endlessly; and it is not a voluntary cycle, but it is natural one and inevitable. If people who practice the Mysteries desire deification, what this means is that they desire freedom from this involuntary cycle. It is not that they desire great power of any kind. And how do we prepare for such an experience? By learning about the religion, by worshiping the Gods, by increasing wisdom, and by developing Virtue. In reality, those who properly practice our religion are not actually struggling to become Gods, they are struggling to become good people. And to glorify the ego is not conducive to becoming a good person, for we are striving for truth and the truth is that we are like grains of sand in a vast desert, or drops of water in an immense ocean. 

So is deification ývris (hubris; Gr. ὕβρις)? No; the opposite. Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) is the principle God of deification and he is the principal protector of the Mysteries. He is the Destroyer who slays the multi-headed ýdra (hydra; Gr. ὕδρα) of ego. Therefore, it is the very destruction of ývris, the absolute annihilation of exaggerated self-importance that is the mark of one who is at the brink of deification, not the other way around. It is the humble but noble soul who exemplifies the Mysteries, one who embodies all the qualities of perfect piety and supreme Arætí (Arete; Gr. Ἀρετή).


2) Are the Mysteries part of the traditional Hellenic polytheistic tradition?

Some scholars and some contemporary Hellenic groups outside of Greece position the Mysteries far apart from mainstream Hellenic tradition. This posture cannot be supported. Perhaps the most obvious demonstration of the acceptance of the Mysteries in the ancient world is the fact that Ælefsís (Eleusis, modern Elefsina; Gr. Ἐλευσίς), the site of the most famous of the Mystery cults, the Ælefsínia Mystíria (Eleusinian Mysteries; Gr. Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια), flourished for 2000 years and likely many more, and its requirement of secrecy, was actually protected by Athenian law, and that vast numbers of individuals of every status were initiated, from rulers to slaves. Ælefsís was a pan-Hellenic sanctuary to which people came from the entire Greek world and beyond to be initiated. To go to Ælefsís and receive initiation was the dream of all pious Greeks. 

Yet another testament of the ancient acceptance of the Mystíria is the ubiquity of Orphic eggs and other Orphic symbols. Such symbols are found everywhere in the ruins of ancient archaeological sites, and very prominently in some of the most important quarters of the Hellenic world. Most notably, Orphic symbols can be found at Dælphí (Delphi; Gr. Δελφοί), the very seat of the ancient religion, the holy sanctuary of the great oracle, the utterance of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) who is the voice of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) himself. 

Reconstructionists usually give precedence to the Thæogonía (Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία) of Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος), pointing out that this text is older and therefore more traditional than Orphic texts, but this view is not held by all scholars and was not the view of all Greeks from antiquity. W.K.C. Guthrie remarks:

"Among the many names to which theogonical and cosmogonical writings were attached, two, as is rightly remarked by the Christian apologist, stand out, Orpheus and Hesiod. The other writers whose names I have quoted (ed. theogonies of Akousílaos of Árgos [Acusilaus; Gr. Ἀκουσίλαος], Æpimænídis [Epimenides; Gr. Ἐπιμενίδης] of Knohssós [Knossos; Gr. Κνωσσός], and Phærækýdis [Pherecydes; Gr. Φερεκύδης] of Sýros [Gr. Σύρος]) were always known to be later than Hesiod, who was sometimes regarded as the father of this kind of composition. Herodotus thought him so, and there were others too who doubted the authenticity of the theogony of Orpheus. The weight of that ancient name, however, was not taken away from it, and this must have suggested to many of the ancient world that, if not the poems, at least the stories which they told belonged to a time before Hesiod and Homer himself." [5] 

So, Guthrie is saying that it is likely that the Orphic theogonic mythology pre-dates that of Isíodos (Hesiod) and the writings of Ómiros (Homer; Gr. Ὅμηρος). Guthrie goes on to say that the content of the Orphic theogony can be found in Neoplatonic writings and even Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) himself.

"In their (ed. the Neoplatonists) commentaries therefore they made a point of illustrating a sentence of Plato, whenever they could, by a quotation from the Orphic poems."  [5] (This is but one illustration that Bury's criticism of Orphism [see above] as standing in opposition to philosophy [and scientific inquiry] is not correct.)  

It is interesting to note that the Dærvǽni (Derveni; Gr. Δερβένι) papyrus, an Orphic text, is the oldest surviving manuscript from Greek antiquity.


3) Has the tradition of the Mysteries been so severed from antiquity that it cannot be legitimately be practiced in the contemporary world?

Some individuals take the position that the Mysteries were lost to antiquity because of the secrecy of the traditions themselves in combination with Christian repression and various historic events, such as the forced closing of the sanctuary of Ælefsís (Eleusis; Gr. Ἐλευσίς) in 380 CE by Theodosius I.
[6] This author suggests that precisely because it has an ancient tradition of secrecy, the core of the Mystíria were ideally positioned to survive.

It is further believed by some that Mystíria cannot be safely and legitimately restored because the Mysteries are easy targets for distortion by charlatans and superficial individuals. Of course, a similar argument can be made for all practice of Ællinismόs. Nonetheless, there are those who believe that the Mysteries should not be reconstructed. It seems that the argument follows from the reconstructionist position that the religion can only be reconstructed from legitimate information gleaned from antique literature, but this scenario is absurd if the genuine Mysteries are currently existing and have succession with antiquity. In other words, why would you need to reconstruct something which already exists? If for no other reason than the existence of an unbroken line of Platonic philosophers from antiquity, the Mystíria have in this way...at the very least....survived, for the Mysteries are embedded in the dialogues as is well known, but beyond this, there seems to be more.

In all honesty, the presence of people teaching the Mysteries in Greece is known. The issue is more of continuity and authenticity. When confronted by those who claim continuity, skeptics are unable to believe that such continuity is possible. It is difficult to prove the unbroken continuance of something that has been deliberately concealed. From this author's experience, the desire to substantiate continuity is not a pressing consideration with those in Greece who practice the Mysteries, especially when those demanding such substantiation are belligerent and unfriendly to the tradition. Those who practice Mystíria seem to be only interested in individuals who want to practice the religion, , people who are genuine, sincere, and appropriate, people who can discern by their own reasoning and sensitivity the immense beauty of these teachings and the truth which, when understood, is self-evident.

Nonetheless, it should be known that the initiations and content of the great sanctuaries of the Mysteries such as those at Ælefsís have been lost. We are making no claim to be privy to this knowledge. In particular, the great mayeia (Gr. μᾰγεία), the genuine magic of the Mysteries that requires intimate knowledge of the Natural Laws: this has been lost, a phenomenon which was even acknowledged in the later years of antiquity. So, what remains? We have the echoes of the past.....but these are very powerful echoes. Much can be found in the philosophers and much in the hearts of those who attempt to practice the remnants which have been passed down. Those who practice the way of Arætí (Arete; Gr. 
Ἀρετή) are already practicing the Mysteries, for, as has been previously stated, the Mystíria are none other than the deepest meaning of our religion. And for those who claim that you cannot legitimately practice the Mysteries: you are wrong: the Mysteries are the birth rite of all sentient beings. They were devised by Zefs himself as a solution to the sufferings of all creatures, to free us from the painful cycle of births.

4) Are the Mysteries steeped in magic and superstition?

The reader should not be misled by preconceptions that have been layered on the word mystery. The contemporary associations regarding this word do not reflect the original understanding of Mystíria. The Mysteries are not an eclectic hodgepodge of anything unusual and bizarre. The Mysteries have nothing to do with any common notions of magic and are devoid of superstition. If your interest is in subjects such as divination, astrology, necromancy, casting spells, witchery, or anything similar, you will find nothing of interest here. Although there is a type of magic which is discovered in the Mysteries, and is known to have been practiced by the ancient priests of the Mysteries, this magic bears no similarity whatsoever to any common notion of magic as is understood today. Contemporary Hellenic communities have endured impostors who claim to be adherents of the Mysteries, individuals who practice any variety of "occult sciences." Much of the trepidation regarding Mystíria has these experiences as its source. Genuine Mystíria is protected from such pollution. Those reconstructionists who are simply trying to protect our religion from charlatans who give Ællinismόs a bad reputation should be commended, but wholesale rejection of the Mysteries is an over-reaction and the result of misunderstanding.

Contrary to these distortions, Mystíria is the root of clear thinking and genuine philosophy, particularly the thread which flows from Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) through Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας), Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης), Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), and beyond.
[7] The Mysteries transcend the superficial interpretation of mythology and anchor Ællinismόs on solid ground.

  

For a list of terms concerning the Mysteries, please visit this page: 

Glossary of Hellenic Mystery Religion


For a list of terms specifically associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, please visit this page:

Glossary of the Eleusinian Mysteries


For a general description of the Ælefsínia Mystíria (Eleusinian Mysteries; Gr. Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια):


NOTES:

A list of abbreviations used on this website may be found at the bottom of this page: GLOSSARY HOME.

[1] Apollódohros (Apollodorus; Gr. Ἀπολλόδωρος) Library (Gr. Βιβλιοθήκη) 3.5.1.

[2]  In the words of W. K. C. Guthrie:

"As founder of Mystery-Religions, Orpheus was the first to reveal to men the meaning of rites of initiation (teletai).  We read of this in both Plato and Aristophanes." (Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1906; found in the 1993 Princeton Univ. Press edition on p. 17.)

Also, in Pausanias' Guide to Greece 1: Central Greece, 9.30.4, trans. Peter Levi in 1971; found here in the 1979 Penguin Books edition, pp. 371-2:  

"In my view Orpheus outdid his predecessors in beautiful verse, and obtained great power because people believed he discovered divine mysteries, rites to purify wicked actions, cures for diseases, defenses against the curses of heaven."  

Pausanias implies a connection between the teachings of Orpheus and the Eleusinean Mysteries in 1.37.3-4 from the same translation by Levi, p.104-5:  

"Across the Kephisos .... A small shrine built along the road is called the shrine of the Bean man.  I am not sure whether he was first to grow beans, or they simply named a hero like that because the discovery of beans cannot be traced to Demeter.   Those who know the mystery of Eleusis and those who have read Orpheus will know what I am talking about." 

In a note to this section concerning the 'Bean Man', Levi points out that 

"There is a mysterious ancient Pythagorean, Orphic, and Eleusinian prohibition of bean-eating..."

Again from Pausanias:   

"Anyone who has already made a serious study of poetry knows the hymns of Orpheus are all extremely short, and even if you take them together not numerous. The Lykomidai know them and sing them at their mysteries. These beautiful verses are second only to the hymns of Homer, and even more honoured by the Gods." The Lykomidai were the hereditary family of torch-bearers at Eleusis.  (Ibid. Pausanias Guide to Greece I 9.30.5-6, Peter Levi, pp. 373-4)

Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodoros Siculus; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης) states:  

"But when Heracles had made the circuit of the Adriatic, and had journeyed around the gulf on foot, he came to Epirus, whence he made his way to Peloponnesus. And now that he had performed the tenth Labour he received a Command from Eurystheus to bring Cerberus up from Hades to the light of day. And assuming that it would be to his advantage for the accomplishment of this Labour, he went to Athens and took part in the Eleusinian Mysteries, Musaeus, the son of Orpheus, being at that time in charge of the initiatory rites." (Diódohros Sikælióhtis Library of History 4.25.1, trans. C.H. Oldfather, 1935; found here in the 2006 Loeb/Harvard edition of Diodorus Siculus II LCL 303 on pp. 423-245.)

The teachings of Orphéfs and his student (possibly son) Mousaios (Musaeus; Gr. Μουσαῖος) are also intertwined in the Ælefsinian Mysteries as well. From the Parian Chronicle (also called the Parian Marble) translated by Gillian Newing, Fragments 12-15:   

"From when Demeter, coming to Athens, [invented] the seed corn, and the [first festival of ploughing time was celebrated, under the instruction of T]riptolemus, son of Celeus and Neaira, 1146 years, when Erechtheus was king in Athens.  From when Tripto[lemus reaped the corn which] he sowed in the Rarian plain called Eleusis, 1[1]45 years, when [Erechtheus] was king of Athens.  [From when Orpheus ____] made known his own poetry, the rape of Kore and the search of Demeter and [the seed created by her and the mult]itude of those receiving the corn, 1135 years when Erechtheus was king of Athens. [From when Eumolpus _____] instituted the mysteries in Eleusis and made known the works of the [father of M]ousaios, [11______, when Erechthe]us son of Pandion [was king of Athens]."  (These translations can be found on the Ashmolean website: http://www.ashmolean.org/ash/faqs/q004/q004009.html

In the play Rísos (Rhesus; Gr. Ῥῆσος) by Evripídis (Euripides; Gr. Εὐριπίδης)

"And yet I and my sister Muses make your Athens great in our art, and by our presence in the land; and it was Orpheus, own blood cousin to this man you have slain, who first instructed your people in the rites of mystery and secrets revealed; last, it was we the sisters who with Phoebus educated Musaeus, your great and respected citizen, so he surpassed our other pupils."  (Evripídis Rísos 941-948, trans. Richard Lattimore 1958; found here in Vol. IV Euripides of the 1959 edition of The Complete Greek Tragedies published by Univ. of Chicago Press, p. 127.)

[3] The Derveni Papyrus, Col. 7, trans. by Gábor Betegh in the book of the same name, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge UK), 2004,  p. 17.

[4]  See A History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great by J.B. Bury, 1900, Chapter VII, Section 12, Religious Movements in the Sixth Century. It is worth reading the entire chapter.

[5]  Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1906; found in the 1993 Princeton Univ. Press edition on pp. 71-72.

[6]  George E. Mylonas elaborates on this subject in his excellent book about Ælefsís:

"...Theodosios, towards the end of the fourth century (379-395), issued strict laws against secret cults, and these must have affected the fortunes of the Sanctuary (ed. Ælefsís). Evidently even the administrative arrangements of the cult were interfered with, since the last high priest of Eleusis, the last Hierophant, was not from the family of the Eumolpids as prescribed by tradition, nor was he even an Athenian or an Eleusinian, but a citizen of Thespiai, a follower and priest of Mithras. A great part of the Sanctuary was perhaps destroyed by the hordes of Alaric, when in the year 395 they invaded and devastated Attika.  By the end of the fifth century of our era, however, the Sanctuary seems to have been completely destroyed the the Early Christians, who built their church near the ruined temple of the Mysteries and buried their dead in the sacred area.  Crosses, scratched especially upon the marble pavement of the Greater Propylaea, mark this transformation of the "temenos of the word" into a wasteland and serve as the funeral symbols of a glorious cult which served humanity for almost two thousand  years..."  (Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries by George E. Mylonas, 1961; found in the 1969 Princeton University Press edition on pp. 8-9)

[7]  Excerpt from Thomas Taylor's introduction to The Theology of Plato by Proclus:  

"I rejoice in the opportunity which is afforded me of presenting the truly philosophic reader, in the present work, with a treasure of Grecian theology; of a theology, which was first mystically and symbolically promulgated by Orpheus, afterwards disseminated enigmatically through images by Pythagoras, and in the last place scientifically unfolded by Plato and his genuine disciples."  (The Theology of Plato: Proclus, from the introduction by Thomas Taylor, 1816; found here in the 1999 Prometheus Trust edition, Vol. VIII of The Thomas Taylor Series, on p. 1)

Próklos states

"For all the Grecian theology is the progeny of the mystic tradition of Orpheus; Pythagoras first of all learning from Aglaophemus the orgies of the Gods, but Plato in the second place receiving an all-perfect science of the divinities from the Pythagoric and Orphic writings."  (The Theology of Plato: Proclus, Book I, Chapter 5, Ibid. Taylor, p. 64)


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 


PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.


SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages: 

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