Throughout history, from ancient times until today, the motif of the “dying god”, the god who dies and resurrects, appears in variations in the cosmology and rituals of the religions.
...From the primary misconception of the hunter-gatherer man that earth is of female gender since she gives birth, and the open-air orgies of the hunter-gathering group in order to impel the sky to cast his sperm –rain– on earth so as to inseminate her, up to the worship of Cybele and the self-castration of the initiates to amplify the fruitfulness of earth, ritually burying their genitals...
...From the flashy myths of Tammuz of Mesopotamia, up to the rituals of the Egyptian Osiris in order to amplify the Nile’s floods, and the, scattered within the mysteries, purification acts...
...From the week-long anguish for the loss of the turned-Greek Adonis, the laments around his bed, the procession of his flower decorated coffin, and his final resurrection in an explosion of joy, up to Christianity...
...a multitude of dying gods is unfolded in this small masterpiece of a book which ‘widens’ only as much as it is needed and focuses on the essence of the mysteries, lightening in this way the unshown and diligently forgotten root of religions.
- The texts of the book are provided only for its reading, and for no other use.
- Parts in different colour delimit selected parts of the text and are presented in this form only on the site, not in the printed book. Of course reading them, as important as it may be, doesn’t substitute the feeling of reading the whole book.
In ancient Greek the term mystery means secret, mystic, inexplicable, unsaid (what cannot or shouldn’t be said). In Hesychius’ lexicon mysteries are defined as unsaid and inexplicable. And in Suda’s lexicon mysteries are defined as such: mystery was called the myein [initiating (μυείν)] by the hearers and none of this explaining. And myein is, closing the mouth.
The mysteries are the revelation of the god or the gods and demons through initiation, which render the initiated now into them capable of communicating with the gods or demons and thus easily obtaining their help in his efforts to survive on earth. In reality the mysteries are the initiation into the transcendent world of the gods and demons.
But initiation is performed to make man capable of ensuring the help of the god or the gods. Thus initiation, which forms the essence of the mystery, is directly connected to the rituals which were supposed to ensure the help of the gods. And those rituals were unbreakably bound with the mysteries.
When we are talking about mysteries we mean both the initiation and the rituals for the help of the gods.
For those who are initiated into the mysteries of the transcendent world of the spirits, it is forbidden to announce them to others, non-initiated, they should close their mouth..
Whoever dares to violate this condition, is punished by death both from the gods and from their representatives in this world, the priesthood. Thus, Aeschylus was threatened with death because he was accused of revealing in his tragedies some of the unsaid of the Eleusinian mysteries. And to save himself from the death sentence he claimed that he had never been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries and therefore revealed no secret.
All the religions of the world have mysteries, since the main, the basic aim of every religion is man’s communication with god. To understand the meaning and the significance of the mysteries we should start from some mysteries that take place today: the mysteries of the Christian church, which are the ceremonies through which the “divine grace” is transmitted to the believers. At least, this is what they believe.
The very rites, form what we call the tangible point of the mysteries.
Through these rites the “divine grace” mystically passes and reaches the believers. And of course in this way people are reborn to the transcendent world of the spirits and the gods. How exactly the “divine grace” passes to the believers, cannot be specified. It is a secret, a mystery. The believers are supposed to feel, to sense the euphoria, the rebirth, without being able to determine how exactly the “divine grace” passed to them. They just say that they feel this delight. The Christian church acknowledges seven mysteries, the most important of them being the Eucharist. The other six are: baptism, chrismation, repentance, ordination, marriage and holy oil. The Eucharist is the mystery which is acted out on the altar during mass. Through words and actions the “divine grace” transforms the “wine and holy bread” into the blood and the body of Jesus Christ. And these transmuted, tangible elements transport the “divine grace” into the believers who receive the communion of the “holy sacraments”. We don’t judge here the importance for believers of receiving communion of the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. We just stress that through this ritual they believe that man acquires the “divine grace”, he is deified, reborn into the world of god.
The mysteries are the vehicles, the way through which the initiated can communicate with a god or the gods. In these rituals, in these doings [in Greek drómena] (words and actions) they believe man is reborn by the power of god and takes new dimensions, now that through deification (the “divine grace” in this case) he becomes part of the divine essence, since he now brings some elements of this essence, and of course he is united with the god, for the sake of whom the mystery is carried out. At Eucharist the union of the initiated believer with the god takes place the moment of the Holy Communion which is the utmost tangible point of the mystery for the union of man with god. In the ancient mysteries the deification, meaning the union of man with god is usually performed at the so-called unveilings.
At the performance of the mysteries only the initiated take part, only the ones who have been reborn and are part of the divine essence. Even today that Christians are now initiated, since they have performed the mysteries of the baptism, chrismation, holy oil etc. from infanthood, the priest, before performing the Eucharist, asks the catechumen to get out of the church, to cross to the narthex, so that he carries out the mystery. And he insists, even today, that during the performance of the mystery not even a single non-initiated, still catechumen, should be present.
In the mysteries of all times and all religions men seek the help of the gods. And they seek this help since man captured the idea of the all-powerful gods and their transcendent world. But the mysteries didn’t always exist. The mysteries appear in a sufficiently evolved cultural stage of man and surely after food-production and the creation of settlements and towns. The concept of the gods, the spirits and a transcendent world that exists beyond tangible capabilities of man, constitute the necessary prerequisite for the existence of the mysteries.
Basic element in the performance of the mysteries was the circle of the initiated. In carrying out the mysteries, though, the non-initiated were also taking part. No mystery could be performed if there weren’t any initiated.
The initiation was something similar to the Christians’ catechesis. The initiands entered into the transcendent world of the spirits and the gods with the help of special teachers.
They were taught what the Christian catechist teaches about his own religion.
In all the countries of the Middle East, wherever mysteries took form, the “wisdom” about the transcendent world of the spirits and the gods has been recorded. In Mesopotamia the book “Enuma Elish” written on plates was the basic element to initiation. Clearer and more accurately we know the initiation or catechesis in Egypt. The related texts were written in the hieratic writing-form that few of the priesthood knew. In the beginning of the 3rd century BC, when the Ptolemeans ruled Egypt, the renowned books of the Egyptian Wisdom were deciphered and translated to Greek by Manethona, the last initiator of the God Toth or Thoth, with the help of the Greek priest of Eleusis, Timotheo. In their Greek rendition these texts were named “Hermetic Texts”, since Toth or Thoth was named in Greek, Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-greatest Hermes).
Eighteen almost intact discourses have survived, one separate book entitled Perfect Discourse, or Asclepius in its Latin translation, and many extracts of other lost speeches.
The Hermetic Texts are the perfect initiation, the route through which man enters the world of the supreme spirit. Of course this is the perfect initiation. At the lower temples the initiation couldn’t reach this level.
So there were degrees of initiation. In the Greek temples that performed mysteries (Eleusis, Samothrace, Dion etc.) the initiation appears not to surpass the fourth degree.
The last Greek initiator and hierophant Pythagoras, who finally also rose to be a great philosopher rationalizing a great part of this knowledge, also initiated up to the fourth degree.
The Hermetic Texts referred to the initiation beyond the fourth degree and were taking man off the earth to the sky. The initiators who reached the renowned community of Hermes Trismegistus, of Toth or Thoth of Egypt, have passed the four degrees of initiation that the temples usually had. And for this, all the great initiators of the Helladic world, of Aegean and the main Greece stressed in every solemnity that man’s completion could only take place in the temples of Egypt. The four degrees of initiation, in Eleusis, in Samothrace (Cabirian Mysteries), in the Orphic Mysteries or in the Mysteries of Dionysus, were finally connected to the Egyptian initiation. It wasn’t by chance that the great initiators of the Greek world, Orpheus, Ferekides, Epimenides and Pythagoras completed their initiation in Egypt.
But in Egypt also went many exquisite scientists and wise men to conclude their knowledge. In Egypt went the greatest of wise men (legislator) Solon of Athens, but also the first of the philosophers Thales of Miletus and even Plato, even though they couldn’t reach the highest degree of initiation.
Real or objective world is what our perception grasps, what we can capture by one of our senses or by the means provided today to man by science. And transcendent is the world beyond the real world, reached only by intuition.
Man stands out from the kingdom of animals by logic. Logic is shaped by the primate which will evolve to man under the tremendous pressure of the environment. The species which will develop its logic in order to survive, uses the first tools. By that use, but mostly with the creation of even the simplest tools, the species which will become human has achieved some sort of logical sense, has made its first step into logic. The perfection of these tools and the experience by their use further develop logic.
With his broadened logic he is now driven to practical research which opens up new horizons. He is trying to understand his environment so as to react in a positive way. During his research he realizes that beyond what he sees with his senses (objective or real world), there is something else that his senses cannot capture. He feels its existence but he cannot give its dimensions and its image. It was the transcendent world, the world beyond his senses. The concept of this world is offered to him by the living and the dead species. The dead animal and man himself when dying, keeps for a while all the characteristics of the living, but isn’t alive, doesn’t move, doesn’t eat. Something is gone from inside the living species and it becomes dead. This ‘something’ is impossible to be specified. This ‘something’ that is lost is the spirit. And the spirit forms the basis of the transcendent world.
The spirit (it is of no importance which name man gives to it when first seizing it) exists behind every form of life. And when it parts, the living creature dies.
This spirit, the soul or god or demon is only perceivable through logic which can’t, however, prove its real existence. With his logical judgment he understands that life is movement, growth, the sense he has for the rest of the world.
So, living matter has two elements: material, which becomes perceivable with one of the senses (today also with scientific instruments), and non-material, which isn’t tangible and is understood as a logical process of the material world’s data.
It is something that must exist, but isn’t apparent. And because it exists behind every form of life, it is logically concluded, that there is another world, the world of the spirit, which moves the real world.
The next step of man is the awareness of the everlastingness of the spirit.
Plenty of clues convince him about the everlastingness of the spirit. The whole nature which had life was eternal. The most important, though, was his dreams. He saw dead people in his dreams moving, walking, talking, that is, living. So the spirits have the form of the living and aren’t lost after the death of the living body. The spirits abandoning living matter are everlasting. And since “man is the measure of everything”, the spirits were apprehended in the form of human.
From the concept of the spirit, man easily reached the concept of god.
Gods were powerful spirits ruling the objective world. Man, faced by the hostile environment asked for the help of the powerful spirits. Because spirits and gods were conceived as anthropomorphic creatures, to approach them could be done in the same way someone approaches a human being: with invocations, petitions, supplications, prayers, offerings of gifts and sacrifices, but also with deception.
The spirits/gods in fact are not friendly to man. But there are also spirits which are terrible enemies of man. They are the spirits which cause illnesses. These spirits aren’t soothed by anything. To save the patient they must be expelled. In this case man becomes a threat.
The two forms of approaching the spirits, in the way the primitive man seized them are still preserved in the Christian church even today. I always make comparisons to today’s situations to better explain the older ones. Thus we say that prayers, petitions and offers continue as a practice of the Christian church. But even aversive practice, through which primitive man believed to cure diseases, survives in the renowned exorcisms. And this, even though science today has solved the issue of diseases. Exorcisms have to do with cases of epilepsy that science hasn’t dealt with. And the priests-exorcists are trying to expel the evil spirit, Satan as they say, from the patient’s body.
The transcendent world which was a conception of the primitive man, tens of thousands of years ago, forms the basis of every modern religion. Primitive man seized the transcendent world as the logical explanation of the real world.
And today this conception remains substantial for the religions of the eras to come.
The general frame of this transcendent world was shaped in the hunter-gathering groups many tens of thousands of years ago. And the main contributors forming this frame were the renowned “wise-men”, magicians, or healers, for whom the name shaman is used today, because this is the name that they used until today for their “wise-men”, the primitive hunter-gathering groups which lived in Siberia.
These “wise-men”, magicians and healers are also the first to communicate with the spirits/gods.
The primitive “wise-men” of the hunter-gathering group were the guards of the knowledge gathered by the primitive group. They were the ones confirmedly capable of the preservation of this knowledge and, at the same time, for the process of this knowledge. Since the spirit was the secret of life, knowledge should also derive from the same source. Besides, knowledge should touch the source of life. The spirit should reveal the secrets of knowledge to the “wise-man”. The ability of gathering and processing knowledge was something which surpassed the common human frame, the common human measure.
The one who did all this had within him the “divine grace”. The “wise-men” and shamans are considered even today bearers of the god, saints, bearers of the spirit.
The “wise-man” or shaman communicates with the spirits and ensures the knowledge needed by the group to survive. They are the first in-betweens of gods and men. These seem to initiate the young of the group to the knowledge of the gods and the spirits and, in extension, to the objective knowledge needed by the group. The basic feature of the “wise-man” is his ability to ecstasize. They believed that inside their ecstasy they communicated with the gods and that the inarticulate words they pronounced during their ecstasy were divine messages.
During the last phase of the last Glaciers era (approximately 30,000 years ago) we have the renowned civilization of the Cave-paintings. Cave-paintings were found in several caves of S. France, Spain, N. Africa, but also in Italy and Greece. It is the utmost civilization of the hunter-gathering groups.
Cave-paintings which impress even the specialised artists of our time cover all the knowledge needed by the hunter-gathering group. The caves were the first schools of knowledge. There the “wise-men” gathered the young ones and explained to them, initiated them, revealed to them the knowledge. And since knowledge was the expression of the god’s spirit, they introduced the young ones to the god, they initiated them to the gods. The cave-paintings were in the depths of the caves and many times in inaccessible places. The “wise-men” called there the young men, often into the darkness, lightened only by torches, and there in front of their impressive images explained to them how they should hunt, where they should hit the animal, how to carve it into pieces but also how to collect honey and even how to cure diseases.
Somewhere here, in the caves with the impressive pictures, we should seek the basis of the mysteries. There, in front of the impressive cave-paintings the “wise-men” (shamans) communicated with the spirits and carried their knowledge (the divine grace) to their young fellowmen. And also in these caves they asked for the gods’ help for men. Mysteries are beginning to take shape in these places. Here the first “wise-men” entrapped the spirits, so as to reveal their secrets to men. And because of this they were also magicians. Contacting the spirits was also magic. Magic is the technique through which the spirit is entrapped and is called to reveal its secrets to man.
Knowledge was unveiled through a magic technique.
In the cave-paintings, the portrayal of knowledge is a technique of magic. Magic is also all that the “wise-man” was doing or saying to be understood by those who listened to him. The transmission of knowledge is initiation into the world of the spirit. The known mysteries of antiquity are the extension, on other levels and other capabilities, of the wise-man’s practice of magic. The cave-paintings and all that the “wise-man” said or did to become understood, was what we would call today the tangible points of the mystery, or the doings (drómena, actions, events) as they called them in the ancient mysteries.
A really revolutionary leap takes place in the mind of the people of the hunter-gathering groups, when they capture the idea that earth is a female creature, since it gives birth as all females do.
The earth is alive and every year it gives birth to fruits on which animals and men feed. Every form of life depends on the fruits that the earth bears. It was a really revolutionary thought which left its seal deeply on the succeeding thoughts of man and on the civilization he will create. The earth gives birth.
But in order to give birth, earth had to have intercourse with some male, because only in this way it could gestate. Taking this opportunity we must stress that for the ancients the sexual union was a holy act. The genitals, were called in Greek “aedia” (αιδοία) which means venerable. I use Greek to specify some things, because the mysteries are also known to us in Greek. Similar is the expression in all the languages and all the nations. So, the earth, in order to give birth, should come in sexual intercourse with some male. People knew that the earth gives birth, grows grasses and shoots when it receives the rain of the sky. Through this observation they came to the conclusion that rain was the sperm that fertilized the earth. And rain came from the sky. Thus, the rain was the sperm of the sky.
The Sky, the spirit of the sky, is a male deity. These thoughts are made by the “wise-men” of the hunter-gathering groups and in succession they become property of the group.
Life depends on vegetation, on the gestation and the deliverance of the earth. From observation they knew when approximately it should rain so that the earth would produce good fruits. But the sky wasn’t always raining, it also had periods of harsh rainlessness. People of the hunter-gathering groups would reach desperation if it didn’t rain. This meant that the sky didn’t want to come in sexual intercourse with the earth. And people begged, pleaded it to cast its sperm, they offered gifts and sacrifices so as to cajole it. We mustn’t forget that man captured the spirits/gods in the form of human and similarly he tried to approach them.
Also, they had already reached the conclusion that in order for the spirits to reveal the mysteries of knowledge, they should trap them, that is, they should use the “doings” or tangible points: exercise magic, which was the means which led to the spirit. And also they had realized the sense of homeopathy which forms the basis of magic of all times.
People had noted that they themselves were turned on sexually when they saw others around them falling in love. And also they were turned on when seeing even other animals falling in love. It was a proof of homeopathy. And at some point they thought that the sky could be provoked to have intercourse with the earth if it saw humans falling in love on the earth. It was also a way for the sky to be trapped to cast its sperm on earth. In this frame what we call fertilizing imitative magic takes form. And this procedure is again conducted by the “wise-men”. The whole of the hunter-gathering group in periods of rainlessness devoted themselves with passion to sexual exercise in order to tempt (homeopathic magic) the sky. They are the so-called orgies, on the organized forthcoming mysteries. In the frame of this practice is also placed the fabrication of women idols with stressed sexual characteristics. Archaeologists call these effigies, primitive Aphrodites. And these effigies which exist in all longitudes and latitudes of the earth represented organs of magic, aiming at the entrapment of the spirit/god.
To these primitive thoughts all human groups on earth seem to end up, with some variations of course. Because we meet elements of the fertilizing imitative magic everywhere. And this deep sense of the primitive man will also form the basis, the core, of all the religions of the world. The means of entrapment of the sky is magic. And the magic is called imitative, because it is exercised based on the principle of homeopathy. And finally, it is done for the fertilization of the earth.
The remnants of this practice are the litanies of the Christians in cases of rainlessness, throughout which they gaudily carry about the icon of Mary, which takes the place of the primitive Aphrodite in a more spiritual dimension.
In every kind of magic, the central figure is the “wise-man” (the magician or shaman).
He was the one who had inside him the “divine grace” and could communicate with the gods. This divine grace was acquired by him or it was immanent in him. A sample that he had this grace seemed to be the ecstasism. Characteristic models of this type are the Homeric oracles, but also the great therapists, as Asclepius. The potentials that they had exerting their role, depended upon their ability to communicate with the spirits. And those who reached the peak of their power became gods. This happened with the great therapist Asclepius in Greek mythology. With the introduction of the fertilizing imitative magic many elements of the old life are overturned. In the procedure of exercising the imitative fertilizing magic many people take part, which needed to be initiated, needed to obtain the “divine grace” of talking with the gods. The initiation will become the most substantial part of the mysteries. And the initiation is an element of magic. The completion of the initiation is secured by a symbolic act. In the Christian church, the initiation is completed in the Eucharist and is secured by the symbolic act of Communion. The Eucharist transforms the “bread and wine” in the chalice, into the body and blood of Christ. With Communion the believers, henceforth initiated, eat symbolically the body and drink the blood of Christ, thus securing the divine grace, performing god-eating, symbolically now. Once this act used to be performed naturally.
We will talk about initiation in the actual mysteries. The fertilizing imitative magic is the prehistory of the mysteries. The mysteries are the evolution of the fertilizing imitative magic in an historical period and under another environment: the food-production and the creation of settlements. The “wise-man” (magician or shaman) will take a new form in the new world, he will become the priesthood.
The life of man, the only logical creature on the face of the earth, changes dramatically during the 8th millennium BC. For about two and a half million years, the logical being had lived as a parasite of nature, a life not that much different from the life of the cleverest animals. For sure, scarce are the traces that witness his passage on earth. Assured testimonies are some roughly-cut stone tools and some traces of fire before 600,000 years. In the last phase of the last ice age, man marks steady progress: he makes more trimmed tools, domesticates the dog, which becomes his loyal companion and leaves behind him the impressive civilization of the cave-paintings that shows a truly higher cultural level. But he doesn’t cease to be a parasite of nature. Even the headmost man of the cave-paintings with his impressive ideas remains a parasite of nature. He has to seek his food where nature produces it.
He hunts animals where they are. He stays basically and mainly in caves, even if, at some point, he knows how to make tents and live in them.
In the period of the cave-paintings’ civilization, the moving space of the hunter-gathering groups becomes steadier and because of this we have a more permanent settlement. The cave-paintings testify that in the space around the caves there was a, more or less, permanent residence of people. People groups increased in number and, having sufficient food, some could be fed without participating directly in the quest of food (the young, the old, “wise-men” etc.). The education of the young by the elders had also started in this period. And towards the end of this happy for the hunter-gathering group era, the first basic myths have been created. And yet man still remained nature’s parasite.
During the last Ice Age (80,000-10,000 BC) the seas descended about 100-200m. below their today’s level, while huge icebergs were formed on the N. hemisphere. Ice reached the borders of the Mediterranean which had been drained in its biggest part and had turned into a land of lakes, since the waters were drawn from Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean. The Mediterranean and Sahara (to limit ourselves to our area of interest) were sub polar regions with plenty of rainfall, rich vegetation and an abundance of animals. It was here now the heaven of the hunter-gatherer man. This heaven stretched till Arabia and the Persian Gulf, which was then much different than it is today.
Then came the melting of the glaciers (around 10,000 BC) and the dramatic change of the climate. Innumerable volcanoes spring up from the shores of the Atlantic to the Himalayas, the ice melts and the water of the seas rises to its today level, destroying animals, plants, but also humans. Some are saved on the top of the mountains which are now islands. The Mediterranean, a sea now again, separates Europe from Africa. Fires destroy the forests and ice draws back to its nowadays boundaries. Animals, those saved by natural catastrophes, leave for the sub polar zone. They are followed by the dynamic hunters who were saved after abandoning the place of the cave-paintings! The changing of the climate doesn’t happen suddenly, even though we have areas with sudden changes. North Africa, in spite of the catastrophe from the terrible earthquakes continues to have water for many years. Undoubtedly till 4,000 BC in the desert area of the Sahara we have civilizations of cave-paintings or rock-paintings. And from W. Europe animals and people slowly withdraw towards the N. and NE. following the zone of rains which also retreats. Those who draw back from W. Europe will reach the limits of the Inner Sea (Carpathians).
In the area of the M. East which has been devastated by fires, remain the weak people who, in order to survive, eat snakes, small rodents (mice, hares etc.), but even seeds of wild grains which spring on the burned land, and the rodents also eat.
In approximately two thousand years, after the melting of the glaciers, the weak man who couldn’t follow animals to their escape northwards, learned how to cultivate the earth. And a little bit more to the north, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, some will domesticate the first breeding animals which will secure man’s food.
Exactly these two incidents, the cultivation of the land and the domestication of animals for breeding (goats, sheep, calves, chickens etc.) form a huge leap of man which is the greatest revolution earth has known, except of course the one taking place today with the technological revolution of our era, which will surpass food-production. A human, from being a nature’s parasite becomes its tamer, its rapist, its master. With the cultivation of the earth he forces the earth to produce what man needs. The same goes for the breeding of the domesticated animals. The result of this tremendous revolution it that men grow largely in numbers, locate permanently near the cultivated areas, make settlements and, very fast, even cities.
The earth’s scenery changes dramatically. The traces of man’s presence become intense. Cultivations need rain, a lot of rain for the new life to spring. And this is true even for the areas which have the capability of watering, which the social, now, man discovers very quickly. The first societies are formed, with settlements, villages and towns. Here we have the beginning of really the first historical civilization.
Man creates tools for agriculture, pots for servicing the needs of the society which lives in settlements, villages and towns. A further expansion of knowledge leads to the acceptance that the new life comes forth from the inside of the earth. The seed is sowed and is buried in the earth to sprout, receiving the rain, the sperm of the sky. Death and resurrection are the circle of life, which is forever repeating. And the basic factor of this circle of death-resurrection is the rain.
The more human society grows in numbers, the more the need for the production of food will increase. And for food to be produced, rain is needed. The sky must cast its sperm on earth. And since people were convinced from tradition that they can provoke the sky to rain with the fertilizing imitative magic, it became the main concern of society. In former times the fertilizing imitative magic was performed when there was rainlessness. Now it is necessary during specific times of the year. When the fields are seeded, rain is immediately required. The time of seeding, is chosen because of the rain period, but no one is ever sure if it’s going to rain immediately when they want it to. So, seeding is combined with rituals of fertilizing imitative magic. Equally necessary is the rain in spring when the plants must grow. Again people think of the fertilizing imitative magic. In spring and autumn the fertilizing imitative magic is necessary for shepherds, since the grass must come out. From the primitive “shaman”, man had also inherited the initiation. To get near god he should be cleared from every iniquity. To reach god, as the initiation promised, he should perform purification, fast, cleanse himself etc. Everything is a symbolic act. And then the initiation followed, because only the initiated could affect the god. All of this is valid even now. Only that in the food-productive world, knowledge multiplies with a speed that the hunter-gatherer couldn’t even imagine. In this frame, deep sociological changes will shape priesthood and that, in turn, will shape the closed circle of the initiated and the mysteries.
Permanent settlements, villages and towns are created. The group, growing in numbers, splits into separate settlements near the cultivated land, but the crop is common. The crop is kept in a central storehouse and must be tended to so that it doesn’t rot.
The crop is equally split to all the members. Also, the food-production creates a division of labor. While the main part of the small or large society cultivates the land, someone has to manufacture pots and tools, which now are in great variety and demand technical knowledge. Others continue to go hunting.
Some administrate the storehouse and finally steer the productive procedures. The storehouse is the temple-sanctuary (hiero) of the small or the large society, because it stores the food inside it. And since men are needed for its administration, a special caste is created, which will be named priests (hiereis - men of the temple), because they work in the temple-sanctuary of the social group, which is also the storehouse with the food.
The food-production was conceived and actualized by the “wise-men” of the hunter-gathering group who brought together the necessary knowledge and processed it. These also formed the core of the priesthood in the new state.
They became a caste, which guides the group (the community now) to labor, while the knowledge it gathers increases. They also administrate the storehouse/temple.
Priesthood is the guard of knowledge. And since the field of knowledge expands with the new data, priesthood, forming into a caste, utilized its preoccupation with knowledge so as to take a relevant position in society’s structure. The society splits up into occupations. Men of each occupation become specialized. Distinct groups stand out; the creators of tools, the creators of pots, which are now necessary for the conservation of the production, but also separate groups of cultivators and cattlemen. Expertise is different and the needed knowledge is more specialized. Priesthood gathers all this knowledge, so that it can steer all activities. Priesthood also takes care of the performance of the fertilizing imitative magic, which now isn’t carried out randomly (whenever there is rainlessness), but systematically and at certain times of the year, depending on the needs of cultivation. And of course it wasn’t possible to regulate all of the cultivation or other occupation groups to perform the magic which was considered necessary for the success of the cultivation. So the performance of the fertilizing imitative magic was undertaken exclusively by the temples. And now exactly its performance becomes a sacrament, a mystery.
Priesthood dresses knowledge with flashy myths. Myths, as a special form of expression are creations of the hunter-gatherer man, but then they were simple and were invented exclusively so that knowledge would become understood. Even in our days small children have difficulty in assimilating logically expressed knowledge. And in order to assimilate it we use the fairytale or, in our age, an image. For primitive people, myth and image (cave-painting) played a similar role. Priesthood doesn’t care, though, for the popularization of knowledge, but for its occultation. So, the myth becomes dark, but with shiny ornaments. The meaning of the myth, the true knowledge was only known to the initiated, which now formed the priesthood. To the broad public only the myth was given. The initiation in these myths, the revelation of these secrets, was a very important matter. Priesthoods in the great civilizations of the M. East made knowledge a seven-sealed secret, and with the term seven-sealed, we speak literally. In Egypt seven degrees of initiation were necessitated by the initiated to reach full knowledge.
Close to the seven degrees were two more. Whoever reached these degrees became son of god. So the mysteries are the initiation of man into the world of the gods and the acquisition of the mysterious power which enabled the initiated to live, he also, in the world of the gods. The Christians call these powers “divine grace”, while in older religions it was called “deification”. The now initiated into the mysteries obtained this mysterious power through some rituals and symbolic acts. In the Eleusinian mysteries the highest ritual was the Greater Mysteries (epopteia), which was the third and last phase of the mysteries. At the epopteia only the initiated from the earlier years took part, not the ones who were initiated on the year the mysteries were held. And epopteia closed with the Unveilings (apokalyptiria): they opened the two sacred baskets (kistes) and showed to the initiated ones their content. The initiated touched them and were deified. For the Christians, the equivalent is the mystery of Eucharist when the initiands (catechumen) must exit the temple and only old believers remain. And deification, the transfer of the divine grace, takes place with Holy Communion.
So, the mysteries are the rituals for the fruitfulness of the earth. From this point of view they are the expansion of the fertilizing imitative magic. They are performed substantially from the closed circle of the priesthood, the ones initiated into them. Around the temples, women now gathered for the needs of the temples, hierodules (hiero-dules, temple-slaves) performing sacred prostitution. Even the Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem had a special place where the hierodules who finally performed the mysteries lived. All of the M. East’s temples had hierodules for performing the mysteries.
The doings of the mysteries were practically the representation of the flashy myths, with which the priesthood covered knowledge, in general, and, more specifically, the gods.
In the doings there were words and actions. The doings were basically performed by the men in the temple and the initiated participated.
Basic element of the mysteries in all of the M. East is the “dying god”, the god who dies and resurrects. It is the basic symbolism of the seeding and the sprouting, of the burial and the resurrection. And this “dying god” is the central character in the doings of the mysteries. This form of “dying god” was transferred by the Christians in the face of Jesus Christ. And the doings of the mysteries of the “dying god” are almost intact in the rituals of the Holy Week about the passions and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And this person, who is everywhere male, follows a female figure, mistress, spouse, sister. There is also the case of the mother watching the “dying god”.
In the Aegean and in Greece the scenery somehow changes. The “dying god” is of female gender (Persephone for the Eleusinian mysteries), and her resurrection is achieved by her mother (Demeter).
In the M. East the resurrection of the “dying god”, is achieved by the mistress (Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Cybele, Aphrodite) or the sister/wife (Isis for Osiris, Anath for Baal). The most important “dying gods”, are Tammuz or Dumuzid in Mesopotamia, Adonai (Adonis) and Baal in Syria/Palestine, Telipinu and Attis in Asia Minor. In the Aegean, “dying gods” are Kadmilus, Dionysus and Persephone. The last one specifies a different category of mysteries. Kadmilus and Dionysus are placed among the more general frame of the relevant gods of vegetation in the M. East.
In the general frame of the male “dying god” Christianity is also placed. Christ is put to death and on the third day is resurrected at the peak of the natural spring. The resurrection is spring itself. All the frames which are presented in the doings of the ancient mysteries are also presented in Christianity during the week of passions (Holy Week).
Out of the female deities, mistresses are Inanna or Ishtar in Mesopotamia, Astarte and Astaroth in Syria and Cybele in Asia Minor. Sister/wife is Isis. Mother is Demeter and Virgin Mary.
All the mysteries are held in the season of seeding but also at springtime, when a lot of rain is needed for the “fruitfulness” of the earth, exactly in the same period that in the earlier years the fertilizing imitative magic took place so that it would rain and the crops would grow (for the sake of “earth’s fruitfulness”). The doings in the mysteries are exactly the burial and the resurrection of the “dying god”, which symbolizes the seed that falls on the earth and sprouts. Priesthoods formed impressive myths about the “dying gods” that comprise essentially the doings of the mysteries.
“Dying gods” mushroomed in all the evolved food-productive societies almost identical in their symbolism, but with some changed myth.
The oldest mysteries, according to the historical data we have so far, are those of Tammuz or Thammuz or Dumuzid  in Mesopotamia (Sumer, Akkad and Babylonia). In Sumer the mistress which finally resurrects him was called Inanna, while in his Babylonian version the female deity was called Ishtar. Virtually they are two different names of a single deity which is described as queen of the skies and it is the Mother Earth.
As it happens in all of the mysteries, the sacred ceremony of the mysteries of Tammuz was not saved. Yet, they were so impressive that they enthralled even the foreigners who arrived in Mesopotamia. Even the most fanatically theocratic people of antiquity, the Jews, when dragged like captives in Babylon, were bewitched by the mysteries of Tammuz or Thammuz. Prophet Ezekiel in the name of Yahweh (Jehovah) accuses Jews’ women participating in the mysteries, in the laments for Tammuz, of disrespecting the unique god. So, prophet Ezekiel says that Yahweh told him : “And He said to me, turn and there you’ll see the biggest detestations that they are doing. And He brought me to the threshold of the gate of the house of the Lord, the one to the north and, behold, there women were sitting lamenting Tammuz”. And for this sin, Yahweh has been enraged and is not going to give clarity to them. About the doings of the mysteries, only fragmental parts of the myth survived, in plates partially destroyed. And one registration was saved in Sumerian and another one in Akkadian (Babylonian). Both of them present gaps regarding the real role of Tammuz or Dumuzid. And in both plates it is described the “Descent of Inanna (or Ishtar) to the Underworld”. It isn’t specified why exactly she does it. In the Babylonian registration the explanation is given. To bring, to resurrect the lover of her youth, Tammuz. In the doings, what was performed was the representation of the myth registered in the plates “The descent of Inanna (or Ishtar) to the underworld” together with the parts missing from the ones we have, and where it was surely described how and why Tammuz had descended to the underworld. There was a myth-poetic text, like the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which formed virtually the poetic text for the Eleusinian doings. The archetypal myth is the Sumerian one, but more perfect, from every point of view, is the Babylonian (Akkadian) one, and this one we present (in the way, of course, that it is saved). 
To the land of no return, to the kingdom of Ereshkigal, Ishtar, the daughter of Sin, turned her thought. Indeed, the daughter of Sin turned there her thought, to the dark palace where lives Ereshkigal, to the house, from where whoever enters is not going to get out, to the road from where there is no turning back, to the house where the light is forbidden to enter, where their food is the dust, and mud is their side dish, (where) no one has light and they stay in the dark, (where) they wear for clothes birds’ feathers, (where) on the doors and on the bolts lays dust.
As Ishtar reached the gate of no return she said to the guard of the gate these words: “O! Guard open the door, open the door that I may enter. If the Gate you do not open that I may enter I will break the Gate, I will overturn the crossbars and its doorpost I will crash and take it down and I will raise the dead, now gone from life, and more will be the dead than the living”. And the guard opened his mouth and said to the eminent Ishtar these words: “Wait my lady don’t throw it down. Your name I will announce to the queen E[reshkigal]”. And the guard entered and said to Eresh[kigal]: “In front [of the gate] stands your sister Ishtar. The one who supports the great festivals, who troubles the deep (waters) in front of the k[ing] Enki”. As Ereshkigal heard all this she yellowed as the cut myrica  while her lips blackened as a bruise from a Kuninu reed. What brought her heart here? What made her come to me? Perhaps water she should drink with the Anunnaki? Perhaps mud she should eat for bread and dirty water drink for beer? Perhaps she should mourn those who left their widows behind them? Perhaps she should mourn the young girls who by force were taken away from their lovers knees, [or] should she mourn the tender children that had been lost before their time came? “Go on, so, guard of the gate, open her the gate and accept her according to the old rules.” And the guard moved forward to open to her. “My Lady come in and Kutu will rejoice for you. And the palace of the land of no return will rejoice at your presence”. And when she was entering the first gate and from her head the great crown he removed “Why [she said to him], guard did you remove the great crown from my head?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
And when to the second gate she was going to enter, from her ears her earrings he removed.
“Guard why my earrings dο you remove?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
And when to the third gate she was going to enter, her chains he removed from her neck. “Guard why my chains from my neck dο you remove?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
And when to the fourth gate she was going to enter, her breast jewels he took. “Guard why my breast jewels did you take?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
And when to the fifth gate she was going to enter, her belt with the gems he removed from her waist. “Guard why my belt with the gems did you remove from my waist?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
And when to the sixth gate she was going to enter, he took her bracelets from her hands and feet. “Guard why did you take my bracelets from my hands and feet?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
And when to the seventh gate she was going to enter, he took even the cloths off her body.
“Guard why did you remove even my clothes?” “My Lady enter, these are the laws of her who rules the underworld”.
As soon as Ishtar descended into the land of no return, Ereshkigal saw her and stood before her. And Ishtar without thought ran to her. Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak these words to her vizier Namtar. “Go on Namtar lock [her] [in] my [palace] and unleash against Ishtar, the sixty sufferings. The suffering of the eyes [counter to] her [eyes], the suffering of the sides [counter to] her [sides], the suffering of the heart cou[nter to her heart], the suffering of the feet cou[nter to] her [feet], the suffering of the head cou[nter to her head]. Counter to every part of her, [to her whole body]”.
When dame Ishtar descended to the land of no return, the bull sprung not upon the cow, the ass impregnated not the jenny, in the street the [man impregnated not] the maiden. Man stayed [in (his) room and the girl in her own] [.........]..........[..........].
The other side of the plate:
The courage of Papsukkal the vizier of the great gods decreased a lot, his face [clouded]. He dressed himself in gloomy cloths and let his hair grow. Papsukkal moved forward and arrived, crying, in front of his father Sin and the tears were watering his eyes in front of the king Ea. “Ishtar went to the Underworld and still hasn’t returned. And since Ishtar descended to the land of no return the bull springs not upon the cow, the ass impregnates not the jenny, in the street the man impregnates not the maiden, the man is sitting in (his) separate room and the maiden in hers”.
Ea in his wisdom captured a thought and created Asusunamir, a eunuch. Stand up Asusunamir and move on, to the gate of the land of no return. The seven gates of the land of no return will open for you. When Ereshkigal will see you, she will rejoice for your presence. And when her heart calms down, she will become pleasant. And then ask her to take a vow to the great gods. (And then) raise your head and remind her the skinbag with the water of life. “Dame, please let them give to me the skinbag with the water of life. The water of which I must drink”. When Ereshkigal hears these words, she will show that she feels sorrow and will bite her finger. “You’re asking me for something that you shouldn’t ask. Come close Asusunamir and a curse I will tell you very great: Let food of the city of Gutan be your food. Water to drink from the sewers. Let the shadows of the walls be the place you’ll be staying. The threshold be your residence. Intoxication and thirst let play upon your cheeks”.
And then Ereshkigal opened her mouth and said (these) words to her vizier Namtar: “Stand up Namtar and knock at Egalzina. with your foot. Adorn the threshold with a coral-stone. Bring Anunnaki from there and let them sit on their golden thrones. Spray Ishtar with the water of life and send her away from me”.
And Namtar moved forward, knocked at Egalzina with his foot, adorned the threshold with a coral-stone, took out Anunnaki and let them sit on the golden thrones, sprayed Ishtar with the water of life and took her away from her. And when she passed the first gate in order to get out, her cloths were given back to her, so as to get dressed, and when she reached the second gate, as she was getting out, the bracelets from her hands and feet were returned to her, and when she reached the third gate, to get out, the belt with the gems for her waist was returned to her, and when she reached the fourth gate to get out her breast jewels were returned to her, and when she reached the fifth gate to get out the chains of her neck were returned to her, and when she reached the sixth gate to get out her earrings were returned to her, and when she reached the seventh gate to get out the great crown of her head was returned to her. “If she doesn’t give the demanded ransom bring her back. As for Tammuz the lover of her youth, wash him with clean water and dab him with soft oil. Dress him in red cloths and make him play the pipe made of lazulite. Let the whores  cheer [him] up”. [When] Belili who was forg[ing] her jewels [....] [and] her lap was filled with “stones-eyes”.
Hearing the noise of his sister, Belili threw the jewels [...]. And thus the “stones-eyes” filled [...]. “Only my brother won’t hurt me the day Tammuz will come to me. And when, along with him will come the pipe made of lazulite and the ring made of Carnelian stone, and when, along with him will come to me the men and the women who mourn, the dead one can also rise and smell the incense”.
In the Sumerian registration the myth appears to be larger in size and also presents some important differences. We note that the Sumerian registration is a lot older than the Babylonian one. Yet that registration also has many gaps, so that it lacks completeness .
In Sumerian, also, the Queen of the Skies, Inanna decides to descend to the Underworld, the world from where there is no return. The reasons that force the Queen of the Skies to get down where her sister Ereshkigal reigns, aren’t explained. The Queen of the Skies is adorned for this purpose from the seven cities where she had temples. And names the ornaments by every city in which there was a temple of Inanna. Similarly, in the Sumerian registration, Inanna had given order to her Vizier about how she should rescue her if she didn’t return in three days.
We note here that Christ is also resurrected on the third day, in the corresponding Christian mysteries.
On the third day, her vizier Ninshubur, as she had commanded her, went firstly to Enlil  and asked him to save the Queen of the Skies, but Enlil refused to help. The same also did Nanna, so Ninshubur went to Enki, the god of wisdom, who helped her, exactly as in the “Descent of Ishtar into the Underworld”.
The happening of Inanna and Dumuzid starts with her release from the Underworld. As she is released from the Underworld, she is escorted by the dead, ghosts and deities who lived in the Underworld. Followed by the crowd of these ghosts Inanna was wandering from town to town. As she was passing from the towns where her temples were, several deities showed up and rushed to bow to her. The first one to show up was her vizier Ninshubur. The ghosts wanted to kidnap her to the Underworld, but Inanna explained to them what she had offered her and asked them not to hurt her. Then Inanna and her terrible escort went to the city of Umma, where she met the protector god of the city, Shara, who rushed, him also, to bow to her. Once again the demons of the Underworld are threatening, to take him down into the Underworld, but once again Inanna holds them back. She continues her course to the city of Bantimpira where was the temple of Inanna, Homuskalamma. There the god-protector of the city, Latarak, rushes to bow to her. For one more time the demons of her escort tried to drag him to the Underworld, but Inanna held them back. She continues her course towards another city the name of which is destroyed on the plate. Perhaps it is Erech, where the main temple of Inanna was, the renowned Kullab, which lied near the city. And here the most impressive scene of all the myth takes place.
In Kullab the god-protector of the city, Dumuzid, refuses to bow and fall to the feet of Inanna. He was standing to the highest throne and was indifferent to the presence of Inanna. And then Inanna turns over Dumuzid to the hands of the demons, obviously to take him to the Underworld. Dumuzid bursts into tears and begs the solar god Utu to save him from the demons. And here the text is cut. We don’t know what happens next and we don’t know how it ends. We don’t know how Dumuzid was resurrected. Because Dumuzid is Tammuz and with his Resurrection the mystery is completed.
And on the “Descent of Ishtar into the Underworld” we have a similar myth. When Ishtar descents she has no specific purpose. Tammuz doesn’t seem to be in the Underworld. In the myth of Ishtar she herself comes out of the Underworld without of course bringing Tammuz along with her. The Plates present, there also, big gaps. Large texts are missing. The combination of the two texts gives us a better picture of the whole ritual of the mystery.
The Descent of Inanna or Ishtar into the Underworld is not for bringing back the “Lover of her youth” since he isn’t there. From Inanna we know that Dumuzid was in Kullab. There Inanna had found him when she crossed with the Underworld’s demons. And there she gave order to take him to the Underworld. The same must have happened with Tammuz. At some point Ishtar gave the order to shut Tammuz in the Underworld. And afterwards she herself, Inanna or Ishtar, resurrects the lover of youth. And with his resurrection, the sprouting of spring, starts joy and euphoria in the world.
With the Descent of Inanna or Ishtar into the Underworld, the season of winter is noted, when nature is deadened. And exactly for this, there is no explanation of the descent of the goddess into the Underworld. It is the natural consequence of time. While ascending to the Upper world, the goddess imprisons into the Underworld her lover, husband and brother, that is, she leaves the seed as a pledge as it is stressed in some verses of the descent of Ishtar. The seed will sprout and will come out alone into the Upper world. We do not know if in the plate’s texts there was interference of the goddess to the Resurrection, to the sprouting of the seed. The most probable is that we wouldn’t have interference. The seed sprouted by itself. And Inanna or Ishtar, is filled with joy seeing the young sprout springing up. And she must take care of it, ensure the rain for it, so that it will grow up and give fruits.
The mysteries of Tammuz and Dumuzid were a presentation of what is mentioned at the descent of Ishtar or Inanna into the Underworld, together with all that is missing from the plates that were found. In the first part, of the descent of Ishtar or Inanna into the underworld, the winter is symbolized, when the earth deadened. Ishtar or Inanna died and were resurrected by the magic spraying, that is by the rain. Ea or Enki apart from being god of Wisdom he is god of the sweet waters. He had the power to resurrect nature, to give life to the earth.
In continuance comes the myth of the “dying god”. Tammuz or Dumuzid by decision of his mistress or wife and sister is imprisoned in the Underworld. The seed is thrown to the earth. And it will be resurrected to a new life, by sprouting. The new life, the Resurrection is the sprouting.
The doings of the mysteries of Tammuz or Dumuzid are the representation of the myth with highest point the delivering of Tammuz or Dumuzid to the demons of the Underworld. From similar cases of “other dying gods” we know that with the disappearance of the “dying god” aridness follows throughout earth. Vegetation is destroyed, animals perish and then there is nothing neither for offerings to the gods, nor for the people to eat.
And then gods and humans seek the lost god of vegetation, the “dying god”. And when he is found again and they bring him back to life (Resurrection, or sprouting) life starts over again, the rains bring sprouting, animals multiply and all of nature celebrates. It’s the spring. At the doings, the representation of the burial and the resurrection takes place, as in the Holy Week, when Christians perform a representation of the passions of burial and close with the Resurrection. Exactly like this were the mysteries of Tammuz or Dumuzid. The seventh day was the Resurrection, the sprouting in an explosion of joy. It was the moment where the mystery came to its climax. The hierodules/prostitutes performed the fertilizing imitative magic. What Christianity preserved as the symbolic kiss of love after the Resurrection and that in the Ancient Greek mysteries, Cabirian, Orphic, Dionysian and Eleusinian were called orgies and was a frenetic eroticism in the fields, to prompt the Sky to cast his sperm on the earth (the rain).
The ancients believed absolutely in this practice. The Christians who kept the whole practice of the ancient mysteries as a symbolic expression, perform symbolically this practice without having realized what exactly their symbolism means, whether it is called Holy Communion or whether it is called kiss of love.
The text registered as “Descent of Ishtar into the Underworld” is part of a greater text where the mystery of Tammuz was described in every detail. In the text there are a series of magic rituals which seemed to form part of the effort to accomplish earth’s fertility.
Tammuz is the symbolism of the seed sowed into the earth. And the whole ritual which takes place, the doings of the mystery, aim in amplifying the productive capacity of the earth. In the descent of the goddess to the Underworld (symbolism of the winter) the earth is desolated, while in the ascent of the goddess and the “lover of her youth” Tammuz, the whole of nature is resurrected.
Believers who take part in the performance of the mystery mourn when the goddess is tied down to the underworld and burst in demonstrations of joy when the goddess with Tammuz appears again on the earth. And then the fertilizing imitative magic follows. When they dress up and adorn the now resurrected Tammuz, the goddess orders the “whores to cheer him up”.
It is the performance of the fertilizing imitative magic, which takes place here with the hierodules of the temples and the initiated of the priesthood.
Common people will take part in the wild of the resurrection, but know not the symbolism. The initiation, the revelation of the secret isn’t happening in this ritual.
Nothing was saved to show us exactly how the initiation takes place and the confirmation of the transfer of the divine grace.
The performance of the mysteries for the fruitfulness of the earth is done everywhere from the initiated and the hierodules/prostitutes of the temples. Common people participate, without reaching the unveilings which close the ceremonies.
The great secret, the mystery, is held by the initiated and the hierodules. And in the final phase, which in the Eleusinian mysteries was called “Epopteia” not even the initiands were taking part, that is the ones who hadn’t completed their initiation.
About the initiation into the mysteries of Tammuz or Dumuzid we do not have specific clues. Perhaps the great Epos “Enuma Elish” gives some meaning to the initiation.
The same stands for almost all the mysteries. An exception is the Egyptian mysteries, where we don’t have the clear doings, but we have the initiation, somehow fragmental, but surely the extracts reveal the essence of the initiation.
About the initiation in general there is a special chapter at the end of this book. The material of the initiation is included in the so-called Hermetic Texts, texts saved in a greek rendition, done by the priest of Egypt Manethona, and the Greek priest of Eleusinian, Timotheo.
Center of the mysteries of Egypt, which are performed as everywhere for the fruitfulness of the earth, is Osiris and his wife and sister Isis, goddess of magic, personification of the earth. Osiris is a “dying god” but very different from Tammuz.
In Egypt the fertilization power of the earth is the Nile River with its floods and its canals which distribute its waters. The canals are created by humans. So Egyptians give to Osiris all these characteristics. The purpose of the mysteries is for the floods to become richer and for the canals to be sustained.
Osiris has different attributes: He is the king of Egypt who taught the Egyptians the cultivation of the earth. He becomes a “dying god” because he is murdered by his brother Set (Typhon for the Greeks), to take his kingship.
The adventure of the dead god in the Nile, his discovering, his transportation to Egypt and his cutting into pieces by Set define its clearly Egyptian character. The victory over Set won Osiris’ son, Horus.
Osiris himself after being cut into pieces doesn’t come back to life, but becomes the judge of the souls in the Underworld with the name Khenti-Amentiu.
So Osiris is the central character of many and dissimilar rituals. The same goes for Isis who holds the art of magic, which is used even by the gods.
With Osiris and Isis many rituals of various forms are connected. One of them is the “mystery” for the fruitfulness of the earth. And in this ritual he becomes a “Dying god”. The special researcher of Middle Eastern Mythology, Samuel Henry Hooke  writes:
Three main elements form the basis of the multifold subject of myths and rituals having Osiris as the central figure. The first one is the political element. The myth of the conflict between Osiris and his brother Set, echoes, that is, the collision between the Upper and Lower Egypt, which finally led to the creation of a united kingdom. The second one is the agricultural element. Osiris is a vegetation god. As Tammuz does, he is the god who dies with the withering of vegetation and is reborn with its blooming. The third one is the eschatological element. Osiris is Khenti-Amentiu, the ruler of the Underworld. He is the president of the court which decides for the future of the souls. From this point of view, as it is obvious, he is directly connected with the complex rites of the embalmment of the dead.
A summary of Osiris’ myth is included in the treatise-essay of Plutarch “About Isis” and it is generally accepted that Plutarch draws information from early Egyptian sources, as the Texts of the Pyramids. So according to these elements Osiris was a civilizing hero who taught the ancient Egyptians the art of agriculture and the elaboration of metals (metalworking). According to the myth, Osiris was the son of the earth god Geb, having goddess Isis as sister and wife, co-governor in Egypt and helper to his humanitarian acts. The 28th year of his reign he was murdered by his brother Typhon – so Plutarch names god Set.
During a feast, Set with seventy-two more followers, initiated into the conspiracy, provoked his brother supposedly for fun to get inside a box which immediately afterwards he threw into the Nile. The box with the precious load floated on the Nile, drifted up to the estuary of the river in Tanis in the Mediterranean and finally ended up in Byblos. Because of this incident of the myth, Osiris is called “drowned” in the Pyramids’ Texts.
Isis, full of sorrow, searches everywhere for her husband, reaches Byblos someday, where she finds the box, puts the dead body of Osiris inside a coffin and transports it to Buto.
Below we provide the myth of Osiris as a “dying god”, as given by Plutarch: 
This myth, that they tell, after removing the completely useless and superfluous, is as such: They say that Rhea secretly mated with Cronus and that Helios (Sun) noticing this, put a curse on her not to be able to give birth in any month and in any year. But Hermes falling in love with the goddess received satisfactory care from her, so afterwards played pessus (checkers) with the moon, won from it the seventieth part of its every luminous appearance, from these seventieth parts subtracted five days, and added them in the three hundred sixty days of the year, which now the Egyptians name epagomenas, meaning added, and celebrate these as the birth days of the gods.
And during the first day they say that Osiris was born and at the moment of his birth a voice has heard announcing that the lord of the Universe is being born. Others claim that a Pamilis, while filling water, heard a voice form the temple of Zeus in Thebes , which ordered him to announce with all the power of his voice that Osiris, the great king, the benefactor of the Universe was born, and for this Cronus handed over Osiris to him, who raised him and, to honor him, they celebrate the festival of Pamilias, similar to ours Phallophorias . During the second day Aroeris or Apollo, which many call elder Horus, on the third day Typhon, not in the proper month and through the natural way, but hitting his mother’s side, tore it and with a single jump he came out. On the fourth day Isis was born in moist places, on the fifth one Nephthys, who is also called Teleutin and Aphrodite, or also Nike by some others. And they add that Osiris and Aroeris had Hellion as father, Isis had Hermes, Typhon and Nephthys, Cronus, for this the third day of the epagomenas, is considered a black-letter day as the birth day of Typhon, the kings weren’t handling any state matter, nor were they taking care of their body before nighttime. They also say that Nephthys was married to Typhon and that Isis and Osiris possessed by mutual love, before coming out from their mother’s belly, in the dark they had intercourse as a husband and wife. Some also say that from this union Aroeris was born, which the Egyptians call elder Horus and the Greeks call Apollo.
When Osiris rose on the royal throne, immediately relieved the Egyptians from their miserable and ferocious lives, taught them agriculture, set laws and taught them to honor and respect the gods. Afterwards, running around the whole of the earth soothed people’s mores and most rarely was forced to turn to the power of weapons, he usually attracted almost everyone through persuasion, through the allurement of speech and through music. For this, Greeks believed he was the same one as their Dionysus. Typhon during the absence of Osiris, dared not to innovate in anything, because Isis was most watchful and ran the kingdom with a lot of firmness, but when he returned, he weaved a conspiracy attracting seventy-two men conspirators and having as an accessory a queen who came from Ethiopia, the so-called Aso. And after secretly obtaining the size of Osiris’ stature and making according to this a larnax, beautiful and luxuriously adorned, brought this to the symposium, to which he had invited Osiris.
All the invited, watching, marveled and were fascinated by it, and Typhon, joking, promised to give it as a gift, to the one of the symposiasts, who, lying inside it, should have the same size as the larnax.
So, while everyone tried in turn and no one adjusted to it, Osiris entered and also lay there. Then, at once, the conspirators ran and threw on it the cover and others firmed it with nails, others with hot and melted lead shut the sides of the cover, brought the larnax with Osiris closed inside it to the river Nile and pushed it towards the sea through the Tanaic mouth, which, for this reason, the Egyptians consider despiteful up to this day, and refer to it in horror.
And they say that all this happened on the seventeenth day of the month Athyr, the month during which the sun goes through Scorpio, and on the twenty-eighth year of Osiris kingship. Others say that he didn’t reign, but he lived for this number of years.
And because the first ones to realize what happened were the Pans and the Satyrs, residing both around the land of Chemmis, and they spread the news, for this up to this day the sudden terror and fear of the crowd, is called panic. Isis, when she was informed of what happened, there where she heard the tragedy, she immediately cut [in Greek: copto] one of the tentacles of her hair and wore a mournful uniform, in that place, moreover, is the town which, up to this day, is called Coptos, though others think the name means privation, because the Egyptians call the privation “coptin”. And while running through all places, being possessed of tremendous anxiety, there was no man she wouldn’t ask for information. Thus, she met some children, who she asked about the larnax, and these had seen by chance and said through which mouth of the river they pushed that box to the sea the friends of Typhon. From this incident, comes the opinion of the Egyptians that children are endued with divining power and consider presages of great importance their voices, when they play in the court of the temples and say whatever in chance. And when Isis learned that Osiris loved her sister Nephthys and accidentally had sexual intercourse with her, because he thought she was Isis herself and saw as a proof the lotus wreath, which he placed by the side of Nephthys, she started searching for the child (which its mother left unprotected right after its birth for the fear of Typhon). And when after many troubles and many difficulties she found it with the help of dogs, and raised it, it became a follower and guard of Isis, he was named Anubis and it is said that he guards the gods, as the dogs guard the people.
Then she was informed about the larnax, that it was washed up from the waves near the town of Byblos and that it slowly set on a bush, which in a short time reached such a height and showed such a magnificent growth that its trunk enclosed and completely covered the larnax and hid it inside its shank. In addition, the king of the country taken over by admiration for the size of the plant, ordered to cut the trunk, which included the larnax and created a pillar to hold up the roof of his palace. Isis, which, they say, learned all this from a divine revelation, came to Byblos and sat by a spring, humble and shedding tears, talked to no one but only the maidservants of the queen would she greet and nurse taking care of their hair and passing on to them a wonderful scent, a scent that came out of her body. So when the queen saw her maidservants, whose hair and body gave out a divine aroma, she was taken over by the desire to see the foreigner. So, Isis, being invited and becoming a friend of the queen, was appointed by her, nurse of her child. And they say that the king was called Malcander, the queen Astarte, while others call her Saosis and others Nemanus, which corresponds to the Greek name Athenais.
And Isis was feeding the child putting in its mouth her finger instead of her breast, and during the night put it in the fire so as to burn everything mortal inside its boby  and she herself, transformed to a swallow flew around the pillar and cried over Osiris, until the queen, hiding and seeing her baby in the flames let out cries, but deprived in that way her child from immortality. Then the goddess revealed herself and asked the pillar, which supported the roof, and after they took it down and she got it, she easily cut the trunk, closed it in a glass and filling it up with scent gave it to the kings. This wood is even today in the temple of Isis in Byblos and it is honored by its inhabitants. The goddess embraced the larnax and, lamenting, burst out into such cries, that, by fear, died the smaller of the kings’ children, and she, being escorted by the older one, entered a ship together with the larnax and sailed away. And because during the rising of the sun a high wind was blowing from the river Phedron, the goddess in anger completely dried out its current.
And when she found herself alone in the desert, she opened the larnax and with her face onto his face cried and kissed it everywhere. And because the son of the king silently came close from behind her and saw what was happening, Isis, realizing that, turned around and threw against him such a terrifying look, that the king’s child couldn’t bare it and he died of fear. Still, others describe his death in a different way, saying that he fell in the sea as previously stated. And he is honored by the Egyptians, because of the goddess, and it is he, who the Egyptians chant in their symposiums, under the name of Maneros. For others the child’s name was Palestin or Pelousios and the city of Pelousion took its name from him and it was built by the goddess, while Maneros, who the Egyptians sing, they say was the one who first invented music. Others again say that Maneros isn’t the name of a man, but an expression in current use in symposiums and feasts, meaning “let the symposiums end in good”, because this is what the word Maneros means, a word which is often repeated by the Egyptians. Likewise, the effigy of a dead, which they carry around inside a box and show it off, isn’t, as some believe, a representation of Osiris’ death, but they present in symposiums this ungraceful joke, because they think that in this way they prompt the symposiasts to treat the current goods and enjoy life, because before long they will all be dead as the carried around effigy.
When Isis went to see her son Horus, who was being raised in Buto, she left the larnax away from the city, in a place unreachable to the human eyes. But Typhon while hunting in the night under the light of the moon, accidentally found the larnax and recognizing Osiris’ body cut it into fourteen pieces, which he scattered. Isis, when she heard about it, got on a boat made of papyrus and floating around the marshes, she was trying to find them. For this, since then, those floating on boats made of papyrus aren’t attacked by crocodiles, either because they are afraid of the goddess, or because they respect her. And they say that because of the following reason there are many tombs of Osiris in Egypt, that is, because Isis each piece of Osiris’ body that she found, she buried where she found it. Yet others don’t accept this, but say that she made many effigies of Osiris and gave one to each city pretending that she was giving its real body, so as to be worshiped by more, and moreover for the reason that if Typhon won over Osiris and wanted to find Osiris’ tomb, he wouldn’t be able to achieve it, because many tombs would be mentioned and pointed at him. And only the genitals (aedio) from Osiris’ pieces Isis didn’t find, because Typhon immediately threw them into the Nile and fish ate them, medjed (oxyrhynchus) and the scaled fagros, fish which the Egyptians disdain in the greatest degree. But the goddess created a replica of the aedio and established the phallus, for which even today the Egyptians perform a religious rite.
Then, Osiris came from Hades to his son Horus and taught him the art of war and practiced him in it. After this he asked him “Which thing he thinks as most beautiful”. “For someone to help” answered Horus “his father and mother, should they suffer any injustice”. Osiris also asked him “Which animal he thinks as most useful to men, who go to war”. And because Horus said “the horse”, Osiris was surprised and, wondering, he asked to learn, “Why didn’t he choose the lion over the horse”. “Because”, said Horus, “the lion is useful to him, who is in need of help, while the horse breaks though the enemy, forces it to flee, and kills it”. Osiris was overwhelmed with delight from those answers, because he understood that his son was very well prepared for war. It is also said that not only many Egyptians, leaving Typhon were joining the army of Horus, but also that the concubine of Typhon called Thourkis came to him, while a snake, which was chasing her, was cut from Horus’s people, and in remembrance of this event, up to this day they carry before them during their meetings a rope and cut it in pieces. The battle lasted many days and Horus won, yet Isis receiving Typhon tied up, not only didn’t she kill him, but untied him from his bonds and let him free. But Horus, enraged, hit his mother and took off her head the symbols of royalty, but Hermes placed on her a helmet made of boas head. And when Typhon raised a lawsuit against Horus and accused him of being an illegitimate child, Horus with the help of Hermes was proclaimed by the gods a genuine son and won Typhon in two more battles. Concerning Isis, she also mated with Osiris after his death and gave birth to a premature son, asthenic in his legs, named Harpocrates…………
Primarily worth mentioning is what it is said about the graves of Osiris, whose body is said to be buried in many places. So they say that the small town of Diochetis is nominally mentioned to have the real grave, but, on the other hand, mainly in Abydos the richest and more powerful Egyptians are buried, because they pride to have a tomb in the same place as Osiris. Whereas in Memphis Apis is fed, who is an idol of Osiris’ soul, and so, obviously, his body must also be buried there, and others translate the name of the city as port of happiness, others as tomb of Osiris. And the small island near Philae is usually inaccessible to everyone and unapproachable, and no birds rest on it, nor fish come close, yet, on a certain day, priests sailing there, offer mortuary sacrifices and adorn with a wreath the tomb of Osiris, which is shadowed by a plant of mithidis, whose height surpasses the greatest olive tree.
And while in Egypt many Osiris’ tombs are mentioned, Eudoxus claims that his body is buried in Busiris, because Busiris was his homeland. But, no need of other proof does Taphosiris have, since its very name denotes the tomb of Osiris. And I leave out the cutting of wood and the tearing of a linen fabric and libations offered to the dead, because with them many mysteries are mingled, unknown to us.
The myth of Osiris as a “dying god” is represented during the performance of the “mysteries”. Of course, Plutarch doesn’t also give the ceremonies which follow the representation. None of the ancient writers mentions these.
They are sacred and unsaid and they aren’t permitted to be revealed. Undoubtedly among the rituals are also the Pamilias, corresponding to the Phallophorias, which take place in the Hellenic world and are a basic element of the Kaveirian mysteries.
Isis in Osiris’ mysteries possesses the magic and can with her power resurrect Osiris, while Inanna or Ishtar seek the magic power. Isis for the Greeks was identified with the Earth-Demeter, even though the myth, in the case of Demeter, isn’t connected with the floods and with the Nile as the fertilization power of the earth. Osiris is identified with Dionysus. The Greek mysteries in their final formation will take very much from the Egyptian ones but will transplant them in Greece.
The rituals which are acted out during the representation of the central myth are almost the same in all the “dying gods” and also in Christ. It is the Holy Week of Christianity, which ends with the Resurrection, with the sprouting of the earth. These rites take place in the beginning of the spring, when nature wants more rains, more sweet water (“water of life” according to Ishtar) for the vegetation to grow.
Mysteries take place not only in the spring but also in autumn with the seeding, when, similarly, rain is needed.
“Dying gods” with mysteries about the earth’s fruitfulness, exist in all the nations of the Middle East. More or less they are similar to each other, since everywhere they symbolize the same thing and they have the same aim. The two basic models of “dying god” are Tammuz and Osiris. All of the other “dying gods” have their own characteristics but, in depth, you recognize common characteristics with one of the two: Tammuz or Osiris. Except for Egypt, where the fertilizing god of the earth is the Nile and the “dying god” takes special characteristics, all the others seek the rain of the sky.
In Palestine the “dying god” is Baal who will also reach Crete in the form of Minotaur. Baal is different than Tammuz, because he isn’t the lover of the goddess (mother earth), but a great god who dies or disappears and afterwards he is resurrected.
Baal’s myth is known to us today by the renowned plates of ancient Ugarit . These plates are also semi-destroyed and we lack the continuity of the myth. And of course we also have scattered information from the “Old Testament” (Exodus), where the Jews were unfaithful to Jehovah and worshiped Baal in the form of the Bull.
On the semi-destroyed plates of Ugarit, Baal was son of the great god of creation El (which means Lord) or Bull-El. So, Baal is the god of the Creation of the world. He often has the appellation “rider of the clouds” or Hadad (god with the thunders and lightnings). He conflicts with his brother Yam Nahar, god of the rivers and the sea which often destroy the production, while Baal controls the beneficial, always, rain for cultivations. The surviving plates don’t say how and why he died. We lack the continuity.
On the plates of Ugarit it is mentioned that Baal came to conflict with Mot, the god of aridness and the Underworld, to whom until then Baal was paying tax. In this conflict it seems that Baal is killed.
Messengers reach El (Bull-El) and announce that Baal is dead and that he went to the Underworld, as did Tammuz. El, the father of the gods, laments and along with him, everyone laments. His sister and wife Anath searches for him everywhere and finally finds him, carries him to mount Zaphon and makes him a splendid funeral.
In the myth of Baal, the god of vegetation stays away from the world for seven years.
Here, we are reminded of the elements of the Egyptian tradition about the seven lean cows referred in the Old Testament, the seven boys and the seven girls demanded by the Minotaur etc. But there are also some completely prototype elements. Anath, the sister and wife of Baal, exterminates Mot with magic rituals, burns him, grinds him in the hand-mill and seeds him on the earth. It’s a symbolism about wheat and how it is used.
Here there is another gap on the plates. The dream of El comes next, in which he sees that Baal lives. He informs Anath and she, having the sun goddess Sapas as a helper, seeks Baal everywhere while the consequences of aridness are described in dark colours.
In the end, Baal is found and returns to his throne in a burst of joyfulness.
Mot also returns to life. And the two opponents restart their mortal fight.
The myth of Baal is basically influenced by the myth of Tammuz, but has also taken elements from the myth of Osiris.
The disappearance of Baal (death) and his resurrection by Anath form the base of one of the most impressive mysteries in the ancient world.
Another element found in the myths of Baal and relating with the mysteries of the god is of great importance for the Aegean world.
According to an extract on a semi-destroyed plate, Anath, sister and wife of Baal searches for Baal. They tell her that he had gone hunting. Anath runs near him. When they meet, they also meet sexually, Baal in the form of a bull, and Anath in the form of a cow. It is actually the carrying of the mystery in the Minotaur of Crete. The extract which is saved closes with Anath announcing to Baal the birth of their child.
“And she went on Arar, on Arar and Zaphon and happy on the mount of Occupation shouted out loud to Baal. ‘Receive Baal pleasant information, receive you, Son of Dagan . A wild bull [was born] from you Baal, a buffalo from the rider of the clouds. Ave Baal, almighty.’ ”
All these remind us of the Minotaur of Crete where his worship has been transferred and the rituals entailed by his mysteries, and of Apis of Egypt (Epaphus for the Greeks) who appears, from time to time, in the form of a bull.
This myth deals with the same theme as does the myth of the descent of Tammuz into the underworld and the myth of the disappearance of Baal in the Ugaritic mythology. The disappearance of the god produced a shortage of every form of life, both of vegetation and of cattle. This myth must have been widely spread and must have had an exceptional multiformity, since many gods disappear and, among them, the solar god. But the main text, upon which this presentation is based, has the god Telepinus as its protagonist. The myth can also be classed among the ritual myths, since it includes a special rite for securing the return of the vanished god.
The beginning of the text is destroyed so we do not know the cause of the god’s anger. The thread of the story is taken up at the point where the rage of Telepinus is described. He is depicted as putting his left shoe on his right foot and his right shoe on his left foot, implying that he was so confused, that he did not know what he was doing. Telepinus goes away far into the steppe and disappears there. He is overcome with fatigue and falls asleep. Then the effects of his absence are described: a mist covers the county, in the fire-places the logs are stifled, at the altars the gods are neglected, the sheep don’t look after their lambs, nor the cow its little calf. Everywhere drought and famine.
Men and gods perish from hunger. The storm god becomes anxious about his son, Telepinus, and starts searching everywhere for him. The sun god sends out the swift eagle but it returns unsuccessful. The goddess Hannahannas urges the storm god to do something. So he goes to the house of Telepinus and batters at the gate but he only succeeds in breaking his hammer. Seeing that the god isn’t there, he retires from the quest. But the goddess Hannahannas suggests once again to send out the bee in search. The storm god mocks at the idea and says that the bee is too small to succeed in such a difficult enterprise, in which the great gods have failed. Hannahannas, however, defying the words of the god charges this mission to the bee, ordering it to sting the hands and the feet of Telepinus, to smear wax on his eyes and feet, to purify him and then lead him to the gods. The bee, after a long and painful search, found Telepinus and did as the goddess had ordered. The god woke up from his deep sleep, more enraged than ever, and the gods were at a loss. Then the sun god spoke and said: “Man, go fetch him! Let him go to the spring Hattara on mount Ammuna. Let him move alone. With the eagle’s wings, let him move.” Some kind of ritual seems to be implied here, but the meaning remains obscure. After a break in the text, in which Kamrusepas, the goddess of healing, seems to have been summoned, her ritual of purification is described. Telepinus returns, borne on the eagle’s wings and brings along with him thunder and lightning. Kamrusepas calms him and soothes his rage. She orders a sacrifice of twelve rams. Torches are kindled and extinguished, symbolizing the soothing or the god’s fury. A spell is then pronounced, apparently by the man mentioned previously, intended to banish all the evil spirits of the rage of Telepinus into the underworld. The concluding words are: “The door-keeper has opened the seven doors, has unlocked the seven bolts. Down in the dark earth there stand bronze cauldrons, their lids are of abaru metal, their handles of iron. Whatever goes in there comes not out again. It perishes therein. Let them also receive Telepinus’s rage, anger, malice and fury and not come back again into the light!”.
The text ends with the return of Telepinus and the restoration of prosperity. Telepinus cares for the king and the queen and provides them with enduring life and vigour. An interesting feature of the conclusion of the ritual is the erection of a pole before the god, from which the fleece of a sheep is suspended. The closing lines of the text explain that the pole with its suspending fleece signifies abundance of sheep, wheat, wine, cattle, long life, and many children.
A parallel to this pole may be seen in the pole decorated with foliage often depicted in Assyrian and Babylonian seals with attendant figures on each side of it engaged in some kind of ritual act.
These are the principal Hittite myths. Other fragmentary myths have also been found, of which Dr. Gurney has given an account in his excellent Pelican book “The Hittites”, but those here described will give sufficient illustration of the character of the Hittite mythology. They show clear dependence upon Babylonian mythology, and also show how much of Greek and Western mythology and folklore has its roots in this curious Hittite material.
Another “dying god” is Adonis, who is the lover of Aphrodite or Astarte for the region of Syria. Ancient Jews who couldn’t pronounce the name of Yahweh gave the appellation Adonai to their god, which means Lord. Lord is also the meaning of the Phoenician Adon.
Adonis, like Tammuz, is mortal and the lover of the great goddess. The myth claims Adonis to be the son of the Assyrian king Theias or the king of Phoenicia, Phoenix and of Myrrha or Smyrna. The worship of Adonis started at Syria-Phoenicia, but passed on to Cyprus, where instead of Astarte, he is presented as the lover of the turned-greek form of Astarte, Aphrodite, which is corresponding to Ishtar. In Cyprus he becomes the son of Cinyras and Smyrna, who was Cinyras’ daughter. Because the mother of Smyrna boasted that her daughter was more beautiful than Aphrodite, Aphrodite made Smyrna fall in love with her father and have sexual intercourse with him, after getting him drunk. When her father sobered up he pursued her, but Zeus or Aphrodite felt sorry for her and transformed her to the aromatic plant which carries the same name. From the trunk of the plant, Adonis came out, whom the nymphs raised and Aphrodite fell in love with. According to a tradition, the love of Aphrodite caused the jealousy of her other lover, Ares or of her husband Hephaestus who send against him a wild boar, who killed him. Aphrodite mourned him greatly.
Persephone also fell in love for Adonis and this is why she was keeping him in the Underworld. Finally, with Zeus interference, Adonis spent half the year with Aphrodite and the other half in the Underworld. In this, we are reminded of Persephone of the Eleusinian mysteries.
Even though his myth is simple, Adonis became the center of the most impressive ritual of “dying god”. This ritual (mystery) was spread in all of the Middle East and at the Aegean.
There were no temples and other worshiping elements. The predominant characteristic was the mourning for his loss and the joy for his resurrection. The ritual’s formula is basically taken by the Christians on the celebrations of Good Friday, lamentation for his loss, procession of his coffin, which was decorated with flowers, and so on.
During its procession the laments would continue and flowers were thrown to it, while women lamenting him were holding small penises. His resurrection was celebrated in the same way as the Christian Easter.
Even though there were no special temples dedicated to Adonis, the performance of the mystery was taking place each and every year at spring with a wide participation of the agricultural folk masses.
In the Hellenistic years they took a spectacular form and their ritual act is literary copied by the Christians on the week of passions. In Ptolemaic Alexandria the celebrations about Adonis were a great event. The poet Theocritus in his “Bucolics” also includes a poem entitled “Syracusan women or Women at the Adonia” where a festival of Adonis in Alexandria is described. The poem, which is written in the form of a dialogue, starts with the preparation of the women to go to the ritual, where too many people are crowded. In the festival a singer sings a hymn to Adonis and Aphrodite.
Be quiet, Praxinoe, for Adonis she’s gonna sing us now
the singer, the outstanding one, the daughter of Argos,
the one, awarded at the dirge, on the year that passed.
Something good she’s gonna say; look at her, sharpening the voice.
Lady, who at Golgi you desire and at Idalion mount
and at the high Eryx to play, Aphrodite,
forever soft-footedly, they bring to you each year,
through the Acheron, your Adonis, the Hours
these the most slow-paced of the immortal gods,
who bring to all the mortal ones something good when they come.
You, Aphrodite, beautiful, daughter of Dion,
Berenice you turned from mortal to immortal,
dripping to her breasts divine ambrosia,
and Arsinoe, her daughter, as beautiful as Helen,
for your sake, o, renowned you and adored,
richly and palatially is celebrating Adonis.
Around him lay fruits of all the trees
and flowers wonderful and fresh, inside of silver baskets
and in all-golden jars myrrh from the land of Syria.
Around him delicacies that the women make
with art, mixing together flowers and white flour
and others of clear oil and sweet honey,
resembling every kind of bird and serpent by his side.
The fresh aniseed has weaved blossomed pavilions,
new-born erotes, timidly fluttering around,
as do the little nightingales, which just begun to fly
testing their wings from branch to branch.
Behold, gold everywhere and eagles of ebony and ivory
carrying on their wings, the cupbearer of Zeus,
behold, and there upon what carpets are, softer than sleep itself.
Now, Miletus will speak, and now Samos will say:
“For your sake Adonis two beds have now been set”.
On the first one Adonis lies, on the other, Aphrodite.
But no kissing broiders his downy lips.
Let Aphrodite enjoy her husband now;
and we, we shall bring him, before the day will break,
with twilight’s freshness, out, to the seashore,
and there, with hair undone and naked breasts,
all together we will start the lithe song.
“Adonis, you’re the only one, from all the demigods
that both to Hades you reside, and to the world you come.
No one else your grace had, not even Agamemnon,
nor Ajax, the hero, nor even Hector himself,
the first one from the twenty children of Hecuba.
Nor even Patroclus, nor Pyrrhus, he
who returned as winner there from Troad.
Nor all of Lapiths, nor them
the sons of Deucalion, nor even Pelops’ sons
and not the Pelasgians, residing in Argos,
none of them had such grace.
Sympathize us, Adonis, and come again next year
and show yourself to us, happy and pleased.
Always welcomed will it be your coming”.
Did you hear, my Praxinoe, how wise the girl is?
Truly good-fortuned she is for all the songs she knows
and even more good-fortuned for her sweet voice.
But time has come, it seems to me, for us to return home.
My husband is dinnerless and easy on his anger,
and when hungry he is, woe betide to whoever stands before him.
Dear Adonis, ave! And when you come again,
happy and rejoicing may you find us all.
The Latin writer Julius Firmicus Maternus on the 4th century AD, who became a Christian, in his treatise “De errore profanarum religionum” which is dedicated to Constans and Constantius, talking about the representation of the “divine tragedy of Adonis”, he says that it lasted one week and included his death, the funeral lamentation and his resurrection. Women mourned around a bed on which they have placed an effigy of Adonis. So we have exactly the Holy Week of the Christians.
In a moment the lamentations stopped, the priest anointed the mouths of everyone present in the rituals and whispered, as if not wanting to be heard, the words: “Have courage, initiates of the god, you have been saved. There is for you salvation from the pain.” After the anointment and the words of the priest came the resurrection in an outburst of joyfulness from all the initiated.
On a completely different base were shaped the mysteries of the Great Mother or Cybele or Kybebe or Rhea of Asia Minor, but also of the Persian goddess Anahita. In the same frame move the mysteries of other local goddesses of Asia Minor, like Ma the goddess of the mythical Amazons and the Ephesian Artemis. The mysteries here are characterized as bloody, since the whole ritual also includes bespattering the statue of the goddess with the blood of a bull (taurobolium) or of a ram (rambolium). Cybele is also known with the names Agdistis, Dindimene, Sipilene. And as followers of hers are regarded the Corybantes, the Kouretes, the Satyrs and the Pans. The center of the worship was Pessinus of Asia Minor. The goddess’s worship passed soon into the world of the Aegean as Rhea. In the mysteries of Cybele (and of the other similar goddesses) we have the basic characteristics of the mysteries, “the dying god” the great lover of the goddess, combined with some symbolic form of human sacrifice.
Cybele, and the other goddesses with similar mysteries, is the personification of wild nature. She is also called “Skyey mother” or Dindimene and she is accompanied by lions and wild animals. The mysteries of Cybele aim at the fruitfulness of the earth. Cybele’s myth lightens somehow the meaning of the mysteries.
According to a version, Cybele was born from Zeus’s sperm that fell on the earth.
Cybele was born androgynous (hermaphrodite). And because the gods were afraid of this hermaphrodite demon, castrated him, cutting off his male organ. So, from the male organ of Agdistis, which fell on the earth, an almond tree sprang which grew fast and gave nice fruits. The daughter of the river Sangarius cut an almond, the most beautiful one, and put it in her bossom. The almond disappeared but the daughter of Sangarius got pregnant. The child she brought into the world was tended by a he-goat. When it grew up, it became a handsome man, Attis, with whom Agdistis fell in love. Attis’ relatives decided to marry him to the daughter of the king of Pessinus. During the wedding, Agdistis appeared, made Attis go mad and he cut off his genitals. Attis’ father-in-law-to-be, did the same. Agdistis repented for what she did and pleaded with Zeus to make the body of Attis immortal, that is, not to rot. So, Attis is the mortal lover of the Great Mother, as is Tammuz of Ishtar. But here he does not die to be resurrected.
He doesn’t become “the dying god”. He cuts off alone his genitals, he is self-castrated, to offer his virility to the earth, so that it can give fruits.
The priesthood of Cybele, the initiated into her mysteries are eunuch, all of them. And this is their particularity. Each year, young men who are initiated into the mysteries castrate themselves, burying their genitals in the earth. And since every year young men were castrated, during the performance of the mysteries, the number of eunuchs was increasing.
The castrated initiated are called Galli and in the roman years numbered tens of thousands.
The believers of Cybele and of her mysteries, who reach the point of castrating themselves and, indeed, do so with a stone tool, deal with the fertilizing imitative magic from a different angle and this is why they differ. They are the followers of the, so-called from the newer researchers, “seed-king”, the man who is literally sacrificed during the performance of the magic. This human sacrifice seems to be a widespread practice in the ancient food-productive societies. It was a form of homeopathic magic. The great priestess of the temples of the earth, symbolizes the goddess herself, the Mother Earth. She had sexual intercourse with one or more young men for a specific time period. They are the male lovers of the goddess, among which someone stands out, the one that today’s researchers will name “seed-king”. This exquisite young man will be sacrificed at the end and will be buried face-down in the earth, so as to transfer to it the sexual power which fertilizes the land. It is surely something different from the fertilizing imitative magic which aims to the rain of the sky. Here the fertilizing power of the earth is enforced. Such human sacrifices have been located in various places of the Middle East.
The cults of the Great Mother of Asia Minor (Cybele, Ma, Anahita, Kybebe, Ephesian Artemis etc.) are those which continue the tradition of the “seed-king” but which, at some moment, replaced the sacrifice with self-castration. For the fertility of the earth, the genitals of the lover were important and not his whole body. Thus, human sacrifice was replaced by self-castration.
Each year during the performance of the mysteries and inside an atmosphere of ecstasy, which seems to be achieved with the use of hallucinogens, the young men who will sacrifice their genitals for the fertility of the earth, perform a group self-castration with stone knives. The great mysteries of Cybele took place in the beginning of the spring.
Their aim was the fruitfulness of the earth. The performance of the mysteries was the representation of the myth of Attis. They lasted 13 days in total. The mysteries started on March 15th with the rite of cannophori (reed-bearers), a rite in which the believers brought reeds with them. It was the representation of the finding of Attis by Cybele into the reeds, and ended with a sacrifice for a good harvest.
Days of fasting and purifications followed, before reaching the main doings of the mysteries. It is the moral preparation of the believers. With the purifications and the fast they send away the evil spirits from their bodies. It was the period when Attis disappeared.
On March 22nd the believers with the wooden statue of the goddess on a chariot rushed out to the surrounding mountains and valleys in search of the missing Attis. There were the moments of agony.
They are escorted from musical instruments and make orgiastic dances. Thus, they discover Attis dead. According to the myth he was killed by a wild boar.
Then they cut a pine-tree from the woods. The dentrophori (tree-bearers), the priests of the goddess, deck the tree with woolen threads and violets, while on the trunk of the tree they tie the effigy of a man.
Violets were the flowers that sprung from the body of Attis, when he castrated himself. And with the decked tree and laments for the loss of Attis they return to the goddess’ temple.
The decorated tree symbolizes the dead Attis. It is something like the funeral bed of the Christian mysteries of burial and resurrection.
March 23rd passes in deep mourning for the dead Attis. And from one side lament is heard for the loss of Attis, from the other with trumpets they chase the evil spirits so as to be able to move on to the main part of the mysteries, which is called Day of Blood.
On March 24th takes place the apex of the mysteries, in the space of the temple.
The High Priest of the goddess, performs an evocative ritual during which he ecstasizes (the most possible is that drugs were used, opium, from a poppy which is self-sown in Asia Minor).
Through orgiastic dances, music and of course some supportive techniques (opium) the priests of the goddess, the renowned Galli, castrated in older rituals offer blood to the goddess. First comes the high priest who throws with his hands blood on the wooden statue of the goddess. The other Galli hit cymbals and drums, play pan-flutes and horns and dance frenzy dances where they reach raving ecstasy. Of course they must achieve this with the help of drug substances. And on the crazy logic of their ecstasy, they hit (pierce) their bodies with knives for blood to come out, with which they bespatter the wooden statue of the goddess and the decorated tree, the dead Attis. In that phase the new Galli must be castrating themselves. In this way they replaced the older human sacrifice.
And of course they ritually bury the male organs of the self-castrated. It was the high moment of the Cybelean mysteries. It was the moment where the priests of the goddess lived in the out-of-logic world of spirits, without feeling pain from their injuries. Late on the night of March 24th priests (Galli), neophytes and believers, after lamenting and suffering to exhaustion, change mood. It was the moment of the Resurrection of Attis. Suddenly in the dark of the night a light ignited, the light of the resurrection.
They opened the tomb of the god and the resurrection of Attis was announced. And resurrectional music and hymns followed. The high priest gave some balm to the believers (something like the Eucharist of the Christians) and softly whispered in their ears the glad tidings of resurrection and salvation.
On March 25th which was the day of the spring equinox, the Resurrection of Attis was celebrated. This celebration of the resurrection was called Hilaria (joy). Sallustius (the younger) compares this celebration with a carnival. Believers wandered disguised around the city and could say and do whatever they wanted. It corresponds to the orgies in the Eleusinian mysteries or in the other mysteries in the world of the Aegean. And it is also the kiss of love of the Christians right after the resurrection. In the Orthodox Church it is the celebration of love which takes place on the midday of the Easter Sunday.
On March 26th everyone calmed down. Celebrations had finished and they rested.
March 27th is the last day of Cybele’s mysteries. The believers formed a pomp around the oxcart which dragged the statue of the goddess and were taking it for purification. They washed it and then they carried it to the temple of the goddess. The washing was performed by the high priest of the goddess, who was dressed in purple. On its way back to the temple, they decorated the statue and the carriage with new flowers.
At the mysteries of Cybele which were performed in Rome the imperial years, the pomp for the purification of the silver statue of the goddess were following the lords and the Patricians who preceded and then came drummers and the crowd of the believers. The Romans have close relations with Cybele from whom they believed that they descended.
The mysteries, that is, the rituals for the fruitfulness of the earth, were performed all around the world by a closed circle of initiated which formed a separate community inside the society. In the Middle East these communities of the initiated lived near the temples, formed part of the temples.
In the world of the Aegean, yet, the initiated weren’t detached from society, they lived inside it. Yet they brought some distinctive sign, some symbol, which was also a periapt at the same time. And they recognized each other with some secret passwords or gestures.
What was common, in all the initiated, was that they kept “undisclosed” the secrets of their initiation. Even the ones who will finally abandon the circle of the initiated, won’t dare to reveal the initiation. Klemes of Alexandria, one of the fathers of the Christian church, who became a persecutor of the ancient cult, was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, but never dared to reveal the content of the initiation. He spoke of the doings, for what took place in front of the eyes of non-initiated also, but dared not reveal the main initiation.
From the elements that we have today, it seems that in the world of the Aegean there were no written data about the initiation. In the other countries of the Middle East the myths that the hierophants explained to the initiated were written, as in “Enuma Elish” in Babylon or the myths of Baal and of other mystic divinities. Only in Egypt the whole of the initiation with its explanations are written down. Still, there they had kept it in the older hieroglyphics and it was guarded in the depths of the temples.
These elements of initiation were rendered in Greek by the last of the great initiators Manethona, with the help of the, initiated in Eleusis, Timotheo.
They are the “Hermetic Texts”. Of course they were rendered in the Greek spirit. However the “Hermetic Texts” are the texts of the highest initiation. So, we do not have a text with the initiation of the first four degrees, which takes place in the Aegean.
Common to all the mysteries is the fact that for someone to be able to pass into the circle of the initiated, someone already initiated should introduce him, someone who would obviously be responsible for him in the closed community of the initiated. He was what we would call today “godfather”, the one who would guide the neophyte in all the course of his initiation .
The candidate for the initiation should be prepared and have accepted that he would expel the “wild character” that all the non-initiated have, a character defined by delusions, superstitions and weaknesses. In other words he should accept that he was dying as the man he was then, and that he would be reborn into a new condition. So, he was also accepting for himself death and resurrection.
Of course, it’s all symbolic. Something similar takes place in the procedure for someone to become a caloyer (monk) in the frame and the practice of the Christian church. The test and the procedure for someone to be considered a monk have the exact same elements to those of the man to be initiated into the mysteries. In the case of the monks, but also for the ones high in the hierarchy of the Christian church, death and resurrection are symbolized by the abortion of their old name and the acceptance of a new name, which has the meaning of rebirth (resurrection) into the world of the god.
The godfather of the candidate had investigated, before presenting the young to the initiation, that he would accept all this.
Afterwards, the candidate entered the procedure of purifications. He should expel from the body and the soul every impurity, every evil. The purifications are necessary for the entrance of the candidate into the initiation, and also in every stage of the initiation, for the passing from one stage to the other.
Purifications included cleaning the body and the soul with baths and also fasts. Because they believed that the evil spirits, which caused illnesses and held the soul of the man captive into the matter, entered the human body through food, man should discard from his body all these elements, therefore the evil spirits would also be discarded and the soul would be liberated so as to be able to fly towards the god.
In the last stage of the initiation, man should have erased every material desire and to only see now with the eyes of the soul.
Essentially, the purifications are elements of imitative magic, which is a vital element in the whole procedure of the mysteries.
In this stage, before the initiation really starts, man discards from him any metal, any ornament. A symbolic act that he discards every desire which had to do with his old self.
And something else needs to be mentioned in this stage. To the candidate for initiation it was stated flatly that he cannot and should not change anything from what he will be taught. In the temple of Ptah or Fthah was carved in big letters the phrase: “Not a word should be changed from what you will learn here”. And in another spot there was another phrase: “You shouldn’t replace one thing for another. Beware, no personal ideas should be presented. Try to learn with the strict method of your instructor”.
So, one is the truth, the one your instructors will teach you and nothing is going to change. It’s the same saying that is included in the phrase of the Christian religion, stating that “not a single iota will be changed in all eternity”.
Truth isn’t revealed in a single moment. The neophyte learns the truth little by little. And because of this there are several stages or degrees in the initiation.
In Eleusis there were three stages, expressed with the Lesser Eleusinian, the Great Eleusinian and the Greater Mysteries (Epopteia). After the completion of the first degree of initiation, the initiand could take part in the Lesser Eleusinian.
After the completion of the second degree, the initiand takes part in the Great Eleusinian. With the completion of the initiation (third degree), the initiate now, participated to the Epopteia, where the mystery of life was revealed to him and the believers were deified through a ritual.
It’s something that, in the Christian religion, is identified with the communion of the holy sacraments.
These degrees of initiation corresponded to the mysteries of Isis in Egypt. Yet in Egypt the initiation continued to another level which was called Osiris’ mysteries. Apuleius in his “Metamorphoses” writes after his initiation to Isis: “Something new and unexpected I learned then, even though I already participate in the mysteries of the Goddess, that there is a powerful god, the father of all the gods, the invincible Osiris, for whom I still haven’t learned much. And they explained to me that in spite of the close connection among the two of them (Isis and Osiris), in spite of the unity of the two deities, there is substantial difference between the two initiations” .
During the initiation the neophyte must perform one or more symbolic journeys, which are followed by corresponding enthronement ceremonies. An enthronement ceremony (thronismos) was a kind of baptism. The initiand sat down in the center of the temple and around him the priesthood was chanting hymns and performed magic rituals (aversive and precatory). The symbolic journey is in essence the descent to Hades and its end, which is the return to the light, is the resurrection. It is the greatest test of the neophyte. And the enthronement ceremonies correspond to the baptism of the Christian religion.
After passing the adventure of the symbolic journey, the initiand receives the first symbol of the initiation, he becomes an initiate to some degree. In every degree of initiation he gets some other distinctive mark. He gets the symbol of the initiation during the enthronement.
The symbolic journey is the journey into the Underworld. The neophyte is led to a dark place where he sees no light and he is left there alone.
It is the moment of thinking, of knowing himself. It is the great difficulty. In Egypt the neophyte was led through dark corridors that frightened him.
In some mysteries the journey into the Underworld took place in a dark cave.
In this way were the mysteries of Zeus performed in Crete and of Mithras in Persia.
The trip into the Underworld was usually terrifying for the neophyte. It was accompanied by noises in the dark, screams and ghosts. It all tested the endurance of the neophyte. The resurrection was the rise of the neophyte into a luminous place, where everything was pleasant and suffused with light. At this point the thronismos (enthronement ceremony) took place, the baptism of the neophyte, where he received the title of the initiate. The neophyte, after performing new purifications, he would sit on a “throne” and around him the initiated would gather, performing ritual dances with corresponding music. It was a form of a doxology. The new purifications have something similar to the purifications Ishtar performed in the mysteries of Tammuz (Mesopotamia), when her sister, Ereshkigal, released her.
The same purifications were also performed in Osiris mysteries, when his wife and sister, Isis, found the murdered body of Osiris. Isis cleaned the limbs of Osiris with aversive magic actions and words, so as to drive away from him the traces of death. The same thing happens in the case of the neophyte.
Before he is proclaimed an initiate so as to enter the community of the initiated, he is cleansed from the traces of death which touched him in his celebrated journey. After the purifications, comes the enthronement which is accompanied by a doxology. The neophyte played the doings of the normal mysteries as we will mention in the specific mysteries. Immediately after the enthronement and the doxology, the symbols of the specific initiation were given to the neophyte.
In every mystery there was a special symbol. And, in parallel, they taught him the various symbols through which the believers recognized one another.
And these symbols were gestures and words. They were gestures like the symbol of the cross, that the Christians perform with the hand. And the symbolic gesture of the cross was once the sign of recognition of the first Christians.
The most common gesture in the various mysteries was the brachium in right angle in front of the chest (sign of the mysteries of Isis and Osiris) or over the head (sign of the initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries).
There were many other gestures of recognition among the initiated. They also used words according to the well-known sign and countersign.
The neophyte passed symbolically into death, through the dark where he was enclosed. Thus he expelled his old self, together with all the sins he had committed and he was resurrected, he was reborn in a new existence. He realized this new existence in the darkness of the grave, like the seed which is thrown into the earth and there it finds the strength to spring into a new life. All this course, watches the initiand in his every step.
Thus, the rebirth of the initiand after his symbolic death, is the work of the initiator, who takes here the place of the father for the neophyte. It is exactly what it is also done at the baptism in the Christian church.
The godfather who gives the name to the child is its spiritual father. The baptism which is performed in the infantile age is the replacement of the journey into the Underworld. The child is immerged into the baptismal font, a symbolic act which means the burial and then the resurrection with the new name given by the godfather.
In the ancient mysteries the godfather accepted the neophyte after his enthronement almost like the godfather takes today the neophyte, after his baptism, in his hands.
The initiator/godfather embraces the neophyte in a way which suggests that he is born by him.
After the enthronement (that is, the baptism) and the doxology which followed, the godfather/initiator undertook now the initiation of the neophyte. Until that moment the neophyte knew very little and the things he knew were in symbolic myths impossible to understand rationally.
Julian, the so-called Apostate, emperor of Byzantium, who wished to restore the ancient religion says characteristically about the initiation myths: “Initiation’s enigmata were invented so that the wonderful Truths of the Mysteries do not reach pure and naked the ears of the believers and thus they went covered in symbols”. And Macrobius, talking about the symbolism of the mysteries says: “You can’t reach the meaning of the Mysteries but only through the dark roads of the Symbolism. Nature doesn’t present itself naked not even to the very initiated! Only those who stand out for their wisdom can interpret these Secrets. The others must restrain themselves into respecting the things of the Initiation, which are symbolic images”.
And Protinus, writes the followings, concerning the symbols: “In the mysteries it is forbidden to reveal the secrets to those who haven’t been initiated. The initiation is secret and for this it shouldn’t become known to those who didn’t have the happiness to accept it”.
And Iamblichus, says about the symbols: “Hear now, according to the spirit of the Egyptians, the noetic interpretation of the Symbols. Take away the representations of the symbols, that have been stamped only in your imagination or that you have learned from what you’ve heard. And focus on the truth”.
The purifications which accompany the initiation, can be done with various means and are always followed by words of purely aversive magic for the preparation of the neophyte, so that they release him from the evil spirits, and supplicatory words after the purification, so that the gods or the specific god help the soul of the neophyte to see the light of the truth. Purifications are performed with water (baths of the body and holy water) and particularly sea water, with fire (purifying fire), with fasts, with the sieve (in the way that with the sieve we clear the wheat from the tares). Thus they believe that they can purify man, even with some herbs and complicated magic recipes.
Isis was the great witch, to whom even the gods appealed.
The initiation starts right after the first enthronement (the first baptism). The initiator who brought the neophyte, before the enthronement, embraces him in a way that shows that the neophyte came out of his embrace. The new man was reborn by his initiator.
We know that the initiation had various levels which practically formed degrees or classes of a school. The neophyte really passed with tests from the one degree to the other.
For what exactly was the initiation and its degrees, we can shape an idea from the renowned school of Pythagoras in Croton.
We said that the initiation and its content was a seven-sealed secret and no initiated revealed it. We only know the initiation in the highest degree, the initiation of those meant for hierophants and great initiators, which is the renowned “Hermetic texts”. But this doesn’t solve the problem of initiation of the common initiated. The “Hermetic texts” start where the common initiation stops.
In the ordinary initiation, which reaches up to the third or fourth degree, the initiated doesn’t enter the world of the gods, doesn’t live in the transcendent world of the spirits. Through a crack he faces this world of spirits. The simple initiation doesn’t reach the world of the gods. Doesn’t manage to denude the myth and see the essence hiding behind the flashy dresses of the myth. The initiated can raise above objective reality, but doesn’t reach the luminous world of the spirit, of the gods.
He is released from the material bonds and tries to penetrate the transcendent world. He is still a human. The hierophant has taken a huge leap and has entered the luminous transcendent world.
The simple initiated still sees it from afar and has to make a great effort to get there. This is achieved with the higher initiation, for Egypt, with the “Hermetic texts”.
In the Eleusinian and the Kaveirian mysteries, the initiation reaches up to the revelation of the mystery of life. The initiation doesn’t move further. Further initiation can be found in Egypt or in the priesthoods of the Middle East. For the other priesthoods we don’t know much, whereas for the Egyptian we know a great deal thanks to Manethona.
We said earlier that three are the greatest of the initiators in the Aegean’s world: Cadmus, Orpheus and Pythagoras. And of these only Pythagoras is useful for studying the initiation.
Pythagoras, before reaching Egypt where he was proclaimed a great hierophant and head priest, he was initiated in the Orphic and the Cabirian mysteries and had Ferekides as his teacher, who had gone to Egypt and had reached the degree of the hierophant.
He leaves for Egypt on 525 AD, initiated to the three or four degrees that the Cabirian or Eleusinian can initiate to, and will return again to the world of the Aegean or, for the better, settle in Croton of S. Italy where he will institute an initiation for the simple initiated. Even if he were a hierophant he wouldn’t try to create other hierophants there.
Pythagoras apart from a hierophant he is also the first to take the title of a philosopher in the Hellenic world. Wisdom for the ancient world was the knowledge of the transcendent world and life. Pythagoras was the friend of this wisdom which he revealed to his students.
Pythagoras created a school according to the model of the separate communities located in Egypt. One of these Schools of Egypt was the one guarding the “Hermetic texts”.
The school of Pythagoras was an attempt of this kind. And of course revealed what the simple initiated should learn.
Contrary to the initiation at the temples where the mysteries were performed, Pythagoras systemized this knowledge in a rational way. Thus the revelation of these secrets ends up being a philosophy and a logic expression, not a transcendent judgment.
It is undoubtedly the qualitative difference of Pythagoras from every previous initiator.
Pythagoras placed logic where his previous hierophants (Cadmus, Orpheus, but even his teacher Ferekides) demanded spiritual gaze and asked from the neophytes to open the eyes of their souls.
The school of Pythagoras was a perfect initiation up to the third of fourth degree.
In reality Pythagoras speaks also for the fourth degree, since four were the classes, the degrees in his school. Logical expression opens to us the way of initiation.
We will try to observe the teaching of Pythagoras to understand what initiation means. This is for now, because in the end of our adventure to the mysteries of the ancient world, we will focus particularly on Pythagoras and his life. For now we will talk only about his school at Croton and not for the shaping of Pythagoras himself and his role in the mysteries of the whole of Greece.
When Pythagoras returned, from his captivity in Babylon, to his country, Samos, and tried to create a community of initiated, similar to the ones which existed in Egypt, his compatriots not only refused to accept it, but also chased him. Samos was a rich city at that era and couldn’t accept the strict ascetic life demanded by Pythagoras.
Thus, Pythagoras was forced to sell his belongings in Samos, take with him his mother that was still alive, and abandon his native land. Prompted by his acquaintance from the Persian court, doctor Democedes from Croton of S. Italy, Pythagoras settled to Croton, where he found proper ground for his plans.
So, at Croton, Pythagoras created the community of the initiated in parallel with a school from which the initiated would graduate.
His school was a clear initiation according to the standards of the mysteries. The choice of the students and his teaching formed a full circle of initiation. Similarly to the mysteries, in the school and the community of Pythagoras the mouths were closed.
The community was living together, like the latter Christian monasteries.
Centers of this community was the temple of Demeter and the temple of Apollo. The place was enclosed and in its entrance there was the phrase: “Εκάς οι βέβηλοι” (“Away the profane”).
At school, that is, at the initiation, the young students passed through a test before being accepted. The young pupil should have been recommended by an initiated or by his parents, similar to the way it happened in the other mysteries.
From a first examination they judged the intellectual ability of the young. If he was worthy of it, the young entered the gym of the community. The trial lasted several days. They let the young choose his occupation but they watched his every demonstration. The young should get accustomed to self-discipline.
The candidate student of the school passed the test of death and resurrection in a way similar to all the mysteries. The young was closed in a dark cell where he stayed for a day with one jug of water and a crust of bread. And they assigned him to solve in the silence and the dark a difficult problem. After this test, they took him out and altogether, those who had passed the test, welcomed him. And all together asked the answer that the neophyte had found, making fun of his answers. It was a trial of the neophyte’s character.
If he couldn’t stand it and he burst into an unacceptable reaction he was dismissed from the school, before he would even become a member.
After this trial the neophyte passed to the main initiation, which had four degrees or four classes of lessons.
In the first degree it is what Pythagoras called “Muse of silence”. It is the time during which the neophyte must evolve intuition, must open the eyes of the soul.
The teachers (because some initiated soon evolved into being a teacher), explained to the young the role of the mother and the father in life, and compared them to Demeter or the Great Mother (the Earth) and the father Zeus or the Sky which fertilized the earth. The young students were taught that in the face of the mother and the father they honored the Great Mother (the Earth) and the Sky, Zeus, who fertilized the earth so that it would give men the goods of life. On this he left the young to think a lot.
At the first stage of initiation (at the first class), Pythagoras developed friendship among the students. The initiated will form a community bound with unbreakable friendship, with complete discipline to the superiors and to the laws of the gods. Here he clarified that gods were the same in all of the people, under whichever name they were worshipped.
The main effort of Pythagoras was to convince the neophytes about the harmony of the world, about the order of the world, which is controlled by the gods, and for the need of man to come near, to reach the world of the gods, so as to find there the truth. In order to find the way to the transcendent world he should deliver his soul from the bonds of the earth. Introspection, “knowing oneself” was the persistent effort of man. The light of the divine world should lighten their route. Therefore, each young, focused his entire thought there. In the first stage, the young should realize gods as the transcendent world. And also that from this transcendent world originates the soul he has inside him. The soul is a divine breath trapped in the matter. When the teachers were convinced that they had opened the eyes of the soul, they passed him to the second level, the second degree of initiation.
In the first degree, also called exoteric, the pupils have been initiated into the concept of god and of the soul as a divine breath which must find the way to the transcendent world. In the second degree, also called esoteric initiation, we have the stage of Purification. In this stage Pythagoras calls the initiands “mathematicians”, because he connects mathematics with the birth of the gods. The order of the transcendent world is given. It is the frame of the transcendent world. Center of the initiation is the divine couple from which the gods are born, and of course also the god creator of the world. The Great Mother, is identified with the earth, no matter which name she has in the many nations. In this stage the initiand completes his acquaintance with the transcendent world, the world of the gods, to whom the soul must aim because from there it originates. Pythagoras interpreted the whole of the theogony with numbers. And, finally, those who reached the conclusion of this stage were called Mathematicians.
In the third degree of initiation, also called “completion”, there are details about the evolution of the soul. It is the stage of Cosmogony. The second stage was Theogony. Here he explained to them how the creator god, who was created in Theogony, creates the material world. The world is created by the power of the soul, the universal soul. Thus, initiation, which started with the revelation of the gods, with the explanation of the myths for the gods (Theogony), concluded with the explanation of the myths of the creation of the world.
Pythagoras talked about the soul which is the mover of the matter and isn’t lost after death. He believed in reincarnation and said that the soul’s destination was to pass to the world of the gods and unite with the spirit.
Yet, because it has been deceived by the matter and has lost its power to fly to its clear destination, it wanders from reincarnation to reincarnation, until it finds the power to fly. And this exactly was the purpose of the initiation.
In the context of the creation of the world and the story of the soul he gave a virtual creation of the stars – in the form of what we call today ‘astrology’. He also claimed that the great initiators can remember the previous lives that their soul has lived.
When the soul reaches the level of the initiator and hierophant, it has already found the way of returning to the world of the light. But to reach this level, strenuous effort, righteous life, self-control are needed so as to be able to keep life into virtue. So this third degree of initiation was the story of the soul and its redemptory effort.
In this degree of initiation, Pythagoras was teaching about the birth of life, about love and about the marriage from which comes the life, the new life, the birth. It is assumed that in the previous course of the initiation the soul has been purified. It is the moment of the Sacred Marriage of the Mysteries. It is now the moment that the initiated has understood evil and good, he masters himself, he sees with the eyes of the soul the transcendent world and can overcome every obstacle, so that the soul may gain its complete freedom.
So, the initiation was the revelation of Theogony, which is the creation of the utmost spirit, of Cosmogony, which is the work of the creator god who had been created by the utmost spirit, of course with the help of the soul, which also is a creation of the utmost spirit, and of the earthly life, who has the marriage in its center, and the birth of a child, of a new person, as its outcome.
Equipped with this knowledge, the initiated was a master of himself and was seeing with the eyes of the soul the course towards the light.
We must note that Pythagoras is the greatest of the Initiators in the Greek world and virtually third in chronological order after Cadmus and Orpheus.
With Cadmus we have the reformed Kaveirian Mysteries, with Orpheus the so-called Orphic and Dionysian. Pythagoras will interfere with both of these mysteries, but also with the Eleusinian, which are a different case. Pythagoras passed from Eleusis and the Hierophant offered him the primacy in the performance of the mysteries, but also passed from Delphi where he reformed the temple, degrading the Pythoness, the Holies and the Saints and appointing new ones. He also passed from Dodona where it seems that he made similar interferences.
Pythagoras, before leaving for Egypt, was initiated in the Kaveirian and had the renowned Ferekides as his teacher, who was also one of the great initiators.
Both the initiation and the performance of the mysteries are connected with a multitude of actions of purification and purgation. The idea that the man who wants to approach the gods must purify himself, is very old. We find cleansing or purification even in the hunter-gatherer man, from the moment he grasps the idea of the spirit and, in extension, of the gods.
The purpose of the purification was to cleanse the man’s soul from dirt, the unclean elements and the evil spirits which seduced it when it was pulled away from the divine mind and was tied up with the matter, so as to find again its way towards the divine world, to apprehend the divine and, of course, to become able to bind it into doing what they seek for with the mysteries.
For purification various means are used, always in the spirit of the imitative magic, which is a dominant idea in religion since when it was invented, until our time. The purification is always performed with exorcisms, invented in the age-old years and preserved until today. Exorcisms are performed by the priests with words and with various means. And means for purification are: water, ash, oil, wine, smoke, urine, fire and many others, like the sieve which they carry about over the human body.
The dominant material medium used in purification is definitely water and, in most cases, seawater which has cathartic properties for the human body. The use of these mediums is accompanied with words of aversive magic, in order to have the effects that they believe they achieve.
Thus, the candidate for initiation, was bathed with clear water, while the priest pronounced words, often incomprehensible to the candidate, saying virtually that in the way the water cleanses the body’s dirt, it should also cleanse the evil spirits from the man’s soul.
Aversive for the evil spirits was considered the blood from the fatlings of the sacrifices, and the ash, always accompanied by aversive words or prayers. The strongest medium for the expulsion of the evil spirit was fire, which is used in many ways in purification ceremonies.
Another basic element are the fasts. Fasts were the way to expel the evil spirits and free, thus, the body from its weight.
Fasts are a standard method of purification because they believed that together with the food evil spirits also entered the human body. Herodotus says that the Egyptians always fasted three days a month, cleansed themselves with emetics and enemas because they believed that all of the human diseases derived from the food they were eating. Thus, fasting is a basic element of purification.
With fasting the body becomes humble and man is focused on his soul and on the god.
Fasting was imposed after someone’s death, to everyone in the house of the dead, because they believed that the spirit of evil had touched everything that was in the house. Therefore if they ate they would also put into their body the evil spirit. Demeter also fasted when Pluto abducted her daughter (Persephone) and for this the initiated into the mysteries were also fasting during the performance of the Eleusinian mysteries. There were two types of fasting: partial and full. In the partial fast the initiated refrained from certain types of food and in the full fast they refrained from every kind of food. Full fasting was kept during the performance of the mysteries in Eleusis, in remembrance of the fast of Demeter. And the full fast lasted one day, from morning to night.
Pythagoras, the greatest of the initiators and hierophants of antiquity, specified the purification with these commands, as recorded by Diogenes Laërtius: Chastity is achieved by purifications, baths, perirrhanterions, with purifications in case of funeral or postpartum woman or any other kind of miasma, not to eat meat of carrions, thrushes, eggs, oviparous animals and broad beans, as well as all that the priests making the rites determine. Abstention, fasting and all kind of purifications are necessary elements to the initiation and in the performance of the mysteries.
Other means (of aversive magic) were the beatings, up to whipping, combined with aversive phrases, as it happens even today in the renowned exorcisms of the Christian religion.
With the purifications they believed that man relieved himself from the evil spirits and his soul could, thus, free, take the way leading to the god, listen to the divine word.
Purifications are made by the believers before the performance of the mysteries. They fast, bathe, perform rites of imitative and aversive magic before heading for the great rite of the mysteries. It’s the same with what the Christians do today in the period of the great celebrations. Before Christmas they have established the “great fast”, a fast of forty days (14/11-24/12) and before Easter, the feast of the springtime mysteries, we have the “great fast” of fifty days. Also before the 15th of August (celebration of the Assumption of Mary) they have set a fifteen-days long fast. It was the time of the end of the reaping and the threshing for the ancient people. Finally, they also have a “great fast” in the beginning of the reaping, in the month of June.
The practice of the ancient mysteries is preserved intact in Christianity. Taking this opportunity we must stress that the great celebrations of Christianity are positioned exactly on the rites of the great mysteries. And, to a great extent, they copy the old mysteries.
An utmost point of purification is considered the acknowledgement in front of the gods and their hierophants, of the crimes or sins committed by the one who would enter the initiation. It is what today the newer religions call confession.
To pass into the initiation he should cleanse himself from the dirt of his wrongdoings. After confessing his sins, the priesthood took care of the cleansing from the dirt with several aversive magic ceremonies, as it is performed even today by the confessor priests in the Christian religion. For the big crimes, the purification rituals were complicated. An idea for these rituals we have from the myth of Orestes after the killing of his mother and the purification of Hercules, after the killing of the children of Molione.
Plutarch reports that when Lysander went to Samothrace, at the temple of Cabeiri to ask for an oracle, the priest stopped him at the entrance and asked him to confess firstly the greatest of the crimes he had committed (the “most unlawful” one). Lysander asked him: “This, is demanded by you or by the Gods?”. The priest answered to him: “By the Gods”. And Lysander said to him: “Then why do you prevent me from passing? If they ask me to, I will say it to them.”
It is obvious that even for someone to enter the temple, purification was needed, confession of his crimes and his purgation from the priest.
Complete initiation led now the initiate into ecstasy. The initiate really lived in the transcendent world of the spirit.
He didn’t live in the real world of the senses. He was in a state similar to this of the ascetics of the newer religions or even the contemporary mystics.
Accomplishing ecstasy passes virtually from four stages:
i) Remotion from the perceivable world. Man lives in the world of fantasy with minimal contacts with the real world.
ii) Afterwards, passions perish. It is the time of absolute peace.
iii) In the next stage the senses vanish.
iv) Personal conscience disappears, thus the initiate is identified with the god and his soul unites with the mind of the initiation in Hermes Trismegistus. Of course this is something very few achieve. They are the great Hierophants.
The achievement of ecstasy must be done with the will of man and continuous exercise, as the ascetics do. Of course there were people who could easily be self-ecstasized. These were considered carriers of the divine spirit from the age-old years.
Under this category also come the epileptics, but these were carriers of an evil spirit. People who easily fell into ecstasy, were used from the ancient years as go-betweens of the gods, mostly as oracles.
These people were supposed to speak with the gods.
In some mysteries, like that of the Great Mother of Asia Minor, Cybele, technical means are also used for ecstasizing, as the poppy (opium) or hashish, but this isn’t a general rule. In the oracle of Delphi, Pythia fell into ecstasy as soon as she touched with her hand the sacred lebes and its sacred tripod.
Of course, there was a systematic psychological preparation.
In the mysteries ecstasism isn’t used as a practice. Ecstasism concerned the initiators and the hierophants, the founders and the guides of the mysteries. In the mysteries, the initiands as well as the common people, the participants in their performance, shouldn’t be ecstasized, since the hierogamy (holy-marriage) would be performed from the hierophant and the orgies from the believers.
With the initiation and the purifications the initiates are reborn into a new existence. This is a conscious state where man really enjoys something new inside him. It is what the believers also feel in the newer religions in their great celebrations: Easter, Christmas etc. Christians, let’s say, even today live, through the rituals, the passions but also the resurrection of Christ.
The Resurrection is a redemptory situation. On the whole route from the passion to the Resurrection they move in a melancholic spiritual mode.
The same also happened with the ancient tragedies in the theaters. Here we had a similar course, by watching them they reached redemption, catharsis (purification), as Aristotle describes it, with the solution of the whole drama. We shouldn’t forget that tragedy came out of the Greek mysteries and that the great tragedian Aeschylus was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, irrelevant that he refused it so that he wouldn’t be sentenced for breaking the vow of silence.