Eleusinian Mysteries

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The Eleusinian Mysteries (Greek: Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance. These myths and mysteries were probably passed to Greece during the Mycenean period (c.1800-1200 BC)[1] and it is believed that they were established in 1500 BC.[2] Some scholars argued that the cult was a continuation of a Minoan goddess worship.[3] The mysteries cult lasted for two thousand years. It was a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spread to Rome.[4] The name of the town, Eleusís, is a variant of the noun έλευσις, éleusis, arrival.

The rites, ceremonies, and beliefs were kept secret, as initiation was believed to unite the worshipper with the gods and included promises of divine power and rewards in the afterlife.[5] There are many paintings and pieces of pottery that depict various aspects of the Mysteries. Since the Mysteries involved visions and conjuring of an afterlife, some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries came from psychedelic agents.[6]

Contents

Mythology of Demeter and Persephone

The Mysteries seem to be related to a myth concerning Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility as recounted in one of the Homeric Hymns (c. 650 B.C.). According to the hymn, Demeter's daughter Persephone (also referred to as Kore, "maiden") was gathering flowers with friends, when she was seized by her uncle, Hades, the god of death and the underworld, with the consent of her father Zeus. He took her to his underworld kingdom. Distraught, Demeter searched high and low for her daughter. Because of her distress, and in an effort to coerce Zeus to allow the return of her daughter, she caused a terrible drought in which the people suffered and starved. This would have deprived the gods of sacrifice and worship. As a result, Zeus relented and allowed Persephone to return to her mother.[7]

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