Eleusinian Mysteries

Eyridiki Sellou | Apr 8, 2024

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The Eleusinian mysteries (Ancient Greek: Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) were mystery religious rites celebrated annually at the shrine of Demeter in the ancient Greek city of Eleusis. They are the "most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece." Underlying them was an ancient agrarian cult, and there is some evidence that they derived from religious practices of the Mycenaean period.

The mysteries depicted the myth of Persephone's abduction from her mother Demeter by the underworld king Hades, in a three-stage cycle; the descent (loss), the search and the ascent, with the main theme being Persephone's ascent (άνοδος) and reunion with her mother. It was a major festival during Hellenic times and later spread to Rome. Similar religious rites appear in Near Eastern agricultural societies and Minoan Crete. The Eleusinian mysteries, like Orphism and the Dionysian mysteries, have their remote roots in protohistory, from Cretan, Asian, and Thracian traditions, enriched and integrated into a new religious horizon.

The rites, ceremonies and beliefs were kept secret and constantly preserved from antiquity. For the initiated, Persephone's rebirth symbolized the eternity of life flowing from generation to generation, and they believed they would have a reward in the afterlife. There are many paintings and pieces of pottery depicting various aspects of the Mysteries. Because the Mysteries involved visions and the evocation of an afterlife, some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a coherent set of rituals, ceremonies and experiences that spanned two millennia, came from psychedelic substances. The name of the city, Eleusís, appears to be pre-Greek and is probably a counterpart to the Elysian Fields and the goddess Ilithyia.

Eleusinian Mysteries (Greek: Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) was the name of the mysteries of the city of Eleusis. The name of the city is pre-Greek and may be related to the name of the goddess Ilithyia. Its name Ἐλυσία (Elysia) in Laconia and Messene probably connects it to the month of Eleusinios and Eleusis, but this is subject to debate. The ancient Greek word "mysteries" (μυστήριον) means "mystery or secret rite" and is related to the verb mueō (μυέω), meaning initiation into the mysteries, and the noun mustēs (μύστης), meaning an initiate. The word mustikós (μυστικός) means "connected with the mysteries," or "private, secret" (as in modern Greek).

The Mysteries are related to a myth concerning Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility recounted in the Hymn to Demeter of the Homeric Hymns. Its dating is disputed but it is certainly believed to predate at least the mid-6th century BCE.

Mythical origins and their foundation

The foundational text of the Mysteries of Eleusis, which recounts both its myth and foundation, is the Hymn to Demeter placed as the second hymn in the Homeric Hymns collection (c. 650 BCE). According to the hymn, Demeter's daughter Persephone (also called Kore, "maiden") was charged with painting all the flowers of the earth when she was captured by Hades, the god of death and the underworld. He took her to his realm of the underworld. Distraught, Demeter searched everywhere for her daughter.

During her wanderings, Demeter took refuge with the king of Eleusis, Celaeus, in the form of the old woman Doso. After being forced to reveal herself by Queen Metanira, leaving the palace, the goddess asked Metanira to erect a shrine to her with an altar from where she could teach her rites to men. Having built the sanctuary, Demeter took refuge there and, still angry at the disappearance of her daughter Persephone, from there caused a drought that desolated the whole earth, generating famine and thus preventing the gods from receiving sacrifices from men. In vain, Zeus sent her messages to return to Olympus, but she replied that she would ascend the mountain of the gods and end the famine only if she could see her daughter again. Finally, Zeus relented and allowed Persephone to return to her mother.

Having found her daughter, Demeter agreed to re-establish vegetation on Earth and return to Olympus, but not before teaching her Mysteries to Diocles, Triptolemus, Celeus and Eumolpus.

André Motte identifies the opening phase of the Hymn to Demeter as the core element of the initiatory teaching: when Kore picks up the daffodil she becomes a woman, the bride of Hades who explains to her that "down here" she will reign "over all beings that live and move"; thus not over a realm of shadows as represented in Homer. Kore's ascent also corresponds to the return of vegetation to the earth.

Eleusinian rites were already taking place before the Hellenic invasion (Mycenaean period, about 1600-1200 BC). According to some scholars, the cult of Demeter was founded around 1550 BC. Excavations have shown that there was a private building under the Telesterion of Eleusis in the Mycenaean period, and it seems that originally the cult of Demeter was private. In the Homeric Hymn, the palace of King Celeus is mentioned. One line of thought by modern scholars has been that the Mysteries were intended to "raise man above the human sphere into the divine and secure his redemption by making him a god and thus conferring immortality." Comparative study shows parallels between these Greek rites and similar ones, some of them older, in the Near East. Such cults include the Isis and Osiris mysteries in Egypt, the Adoniac of the Syrian cults, the Persian mysteries, and the Phrygian-Kabirgian mysteries.

Some scholars argued that the Eleusinian cult was a continuation of a Minoan cult, and that Demeter was a poppy goddess who brought the poppy from Crete to Eleusis. Some useful information from the Mycenaean period can be gleaned from studying the cult of Despina, (the precursor goddess of Persephone), and the cult of Ilithyia who was the goddess of birth. The megaron of Despina at Lycosura is quite similar to the Telesterion at Eleusis, and Demeter is united with the god Poseidon, bearing a daughter, the unnamed Despina (the lover). In the cave of Amnissus in Crete, the goddess Ilithyia is linked to the annual birth of the divine child, and is connected with Enesidaon (the shaker of the earth), who is the chthonic aspect of Poseidon.

The Eleusinian inscriptions refer to "the Goddesses" accompanied by the agricultural god Triptolemus (probably the son of Gaea and Oceanus), and "the God and the Goddess" (Persephone and Pluto) accompanied by Eubuleus who had probably led the way back from the underworld. The myth was depicted in a three-phase cycle: the "descent," the "quest," and the "ascent" (Greek "anodos") with contrasting emotions from sorrow to joy that lifted the mystery to exultation. The main theme was Persephone's ascent and reunion with her mother Demeter. At the beginning of the festival, the priests filled two special vessels and poured them out, the one facing west and the other facing east. People looking toward heaven and earth shouted a magical nursery rhyme "rain and conceive." In a ritual, a child was initiated into the hearth (the divine fire). The name pais (child) appears in Mycenaean inscriptions, It was the ritual of the "divine child" who was originally Pluto. In the Homeric hymn, the ritual is connected to the myth of the agricultural god Triptolemus. The nature goddess survived in the mysteries in which the following words were spoken, "The mighty Potnia bore a great son." Potnia (Linear B po-ti-ni-ja: lady or mistress), is a Mycenaean title applied to goddesses. and probably a translation of a similar title of pre-Greek origin. The high point of the celebration was "an ear of grain cut in silence," representing the power of new life. The idea of immortality did not exist in the mysteries at first, but initiates believed they would have a better fate in the underworld. Death remained a reality, but at the same time a new beginning like the plant growing from the buried seed. A depiction of the old palace of Festus is very close to the image of Persephone's "anodes." A deity without arms or legs, she grows from the ground and her head turns into a large flower. According to Mylonas, the small mysteries were held "as a rule once a year at the beginning of spring in the month of flowers, the Antesterion," while "the Great Mysteries were held once a year and every four years were celebrated with special splendor" in what was known as the penteteris. Kerenyi agrees with this assessment: "The Small Mysteries were held in Agrai in the month of Antesterion, our February ... The initiates were not even admitted to the epopteia in the same year, but only in September of the following year. " This cycle continued for about two millennia. In the Homeric hymn of Demeter, King Celeus is said to have been one of the first people to learn the secret rites and mysteries of her cult. He was also one of her original priests, along with Diocles, Eumolpus, Polyxenus and Triptolemus, son of Celeus, who had supposedly learned agriculture from Demeter.

Under Pisistratus of Athens, the Eleusinian Mysteries became pan-Hellenic, and pilgrims flocked from Greece and beyond to participate. Around 300 BCE, the state assumed control of the Mysteries; they were controlled by two families: the Eumolpids and the Kerykes. This led to a huge increase in the number of initiates. The only requirements for membership were freedom from "blood guilt," which means never having committed murder and not being a "barbarian" (thus being able to speak Greek). Men, women and even slaves were admitted to initiation.

They were also widespread in Rome, and even Cicero, the emperors Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius (who had Herod Atticus as his mystagogue), Gallienus and Julian took part.

The mysteries represented the myth of Persephone's abduction from her mother Demeter by the king of the underworld, Hades, in a cycle of three phases, the "descent" (the loss), the "search" and the "ascent," where the main theme was Persephone's "search" and her reunion with her mother. The rite was divided into two parts: the first, "little mysteries," was a kind of purification that took place in the spring in the month of Antesterion; the second, "great mysteries," was a consecratory moment and took place in the fall in the month of Boedromion (September-October). The ceremony was meant to represent rest and the perpetual awakening of rural life.

The rites were also partly dedicated to Demeter's daughter Persephone, as the alternation of the seasons recalled the alternating periods Persephone spent on earth and in Hades. Rites, ceremonies and beliefs were kept secret. Initiates believed that they would receive their just reward after death. The various aspects of the Mysteries are depicted on many paintings and ceramics. Because the Mysteries included visions and invocations to a life beyond death, some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries derived from psychedelic agents, linked to the use of bread made from "ergot," that is, rye contaminated with the fungus claviceps purpurea. The Pharsalus bas-relief also shows Persephone and Demeter in the act of exchanging mushrooms traceable to the genus psilocybe.


To participate in these mysteries one had to swear the vow of secrecy. There were four categories of people who participated:


The outline below is only a summary; much of the factual information about the Eleusinian Mysteries was never written down. For example, only the initiates knew what the kiste, a sacred trunk, and the kalathos, a basket with a lid, contained.

Hippolytus of Rome, one of the Fathers of the Church writing in the early 3rd century, in Refutation of All Heresies that "the Athenians, while initiating people into the Eleusinian rites, show even to those who are admitted to the highest degree to these mysteries, the powerful, the marvelous and the most perfect secret suitable for an initiate into the highest mystical truths: he gathered an ear of corn in silence."

Little mysteries

There were two Eleusinian mysteries, the Great Mysteries and the Little Mysteries. According to Thomas Taylor, "the dramatic spectacles of the Small Mysteries occultly signify the miseries of the soul subjected to the body, so those of Death intimated, by the mystical and splendid visions, the happiness of the soul both here and hereafter, purified from the defilements of material nature and constantly elevated to the realities of intellectual vision." According to Plato, "the ultimate project of the Mysteries...was to bring us back to the principles from which we descended, ...a perfect enjoyment of the good

The Small Mysteries had taken place in the month of Antesterion under the direction of the archon king of Athens. To be introduced to initiation, participants had to sacrifice a piglet to Demeter and Persephone and then ritually purify themselves in the Illisos River. Upon completion of the Small Mysteries, participants were considered mystai ("initiated") worthy of witnessing the Great Mysteries.

Great mysteries

The Great Mysteries took place in the month of Boedromion-the third month of the Attic calendar, falling in late summer-and lasted ten days.

The first act (on the 14th of Boedromion) was to bring sacred objects from Eleusis to the Eleusinion, a temple at the base of the Acropolis in Athens.

The first day of the "Great Mysteries," called Agyrmos "the gathering," on the 15th of Boedromion, was celebrated in Athens at the Eleusinion furnished for the purpose with sacred objects (Ιερά hierà) from the sanctuary of Eleusis solemnly transported there the previous day. In the agora the initiates would gather, accompanied by the Athenian mystagogue they would receive instructions from the hierophant who, among other things, invited those who had been guilty of murder and those who did not speak the Greek language to leave. The hierophants would declare the prorrhesis, the beginning of the rites, and by completing the sacrifice "here the victim" (hiereía deúro).

On the second day, the 16th of Boedromion, a procession went to the coast (ἄλαδε μύσται, "to the sea, O you initiates") where the new adepts, always accompanied by the guardian already initiated into the Mysteries, bathed at the Phalerus and where at the same time they washed a piglet that would be sacrificed and eaten on their return to the city; from this time the adepts were forbidden to feed until their arrival, on the fifth day, at Eleusis.

On the third day, the 17th of Boedriomon, in the presence of city authorities not only from Athens, the Archon Basileus (Ἄρχων Βασιλεύ) and his consort performed a great sacrifice to Demeter and Kore (Persephone). the participants took part in the Epidauria, a festival for Asclepius-named after his main shrine at Epidaurus. It celebrated the hero's arrival in Athens with his daughter Hygieia and consisted of a procession leading to the Eleusinion, during which the mystai apparently remained at home while a great sacrifice and all-night feast (pannykhís) took place.

On the fourth day, the 18th of Boedriomon, there was a procession and sacrifice to Asclepius.

At dawn on the fifth day, the 19th of the month of Boedromion, an imposing procession moved from the agora of Athens, passing through the "Sacred Gate" of the Ceramic, to reach in the evening, then with the beginning of the 20th day, the village of Eleusis located twenty kilometers to the west. Ordinary citizens, as well as guardians and neophytes, accompanied the priestesses who brought back the sacred vessels to the sanctuary at Eleusis. Throughout the journey along what was called the "Sacred Way" (Ἱερὰ Ὁδός, Hierá Hodós), with swinging branches called bacchoi, the participants in the procession intoned a chant of which we know only the title: Iacchos (Ἴακχος), alternating it, on the occasion of crossing the river Cephysus, with exchanges of joking and obscene mottos, refraining from taking food or drink. It is certain, therefore, that every Athenian participated in the procession and not only the initiates of the Mysteries, from which we infer that this part of the cult was by no means secret. René Guenon informs us about the fact that on the way to Eleusis, and thus on the occasion of the ritual along the sacred way, one passed by a quagmire (probably the present Reiton Lake, see the figure opposite) where the laymen fell into it, a sign that their initiation lacked real requirements to proceed further.

Upon arriving at the sanctuary (τεληστήριον, Telestèrion) of Eleusis, the worshippers separated from the other participants and, by the light of flashlights, entered the courtyard in front of the sanctuary, where they purified themselves in the pools and where the women danced around the fountain of Callicorus. The vigil lasted all night (pannychis), perhaps to commemorate Demeter's search for her daughter. Having then entered the sanctuary, they would break their fast by drinking the chyceon.

Then, on the 20th and 21st of Boedromion, the initiates would enter a large hall called the Telesterion; in the center of which was the Anaktoron ("palace"), which only hierophants could enter and where sacred objects were kept. Up to two thousand people could sit among the bleachers of the Telesterion. The presence of such a large number of participants required the presence of a large group of priests and attendants. The Eleusinian religious hierarchy was divided not only at various levels but also according to duties. The hierophant was assisted by two priestesses called Hierophantides. There were also other figures such as the dadouchos ("the flashlight bearer") and the hiérocéryx ("the sacred herald"), but also the "altar priest," the "servant of the goddesses," the "priestess of Demeter," the "priestess of Pluto," and other figures, each with specific functions.

Before the mystai could enter the Telesterion, they would have to recite, "I fasted, drank the ciceone, took it from the basket (" box ") and after working it, I put it back into the calato ("open basket"). Probably the ritual basket symbolized the underworld and the initiate, upon discovering it, descended to the Underworld. As a result of this mysterious manipulation of the sacred objects, the initiate was born again and considered himself from now on as adopted by the goddess.

The remaining part of the initiation rite turns out to be "secret" therefore unknown to us. However, historians of religions offer hypotheses of a reconstruction of it from "pagan" authors (who are more reluctant to provide information) but also Christians (who may conversely not be well informed). It is widely assumed that the rites within the Telesterion included three elements:

Combined these three elements were known as aporrheta ("unrepeatables"), the penalty for disclosure was death. Athenagoras of Athens, Cicero and other ancient writers mention that it was for this crime (the playwright Aeschylus was allegedly tried for revealing the secrets of the Mysteries in some of his plays, but was acquitted. The prohibition against evoking the ritual sense of the Mysteries was thus absolute, which is probably why we know almost nothing about what was going on.

Regarding the climax of the Mysteries, there are two modern theories. Some believe that it was the priests who revealed the visions of the holy night, consisting of a fire that represented the possibility of life after death and various sacred objects. Others believe that this explanation is insufficient to account for the power and longevity of the Mysteries, and that the experiences must have been internal and mediated by a potent psychoactive ingredient contained in the chycone drink. (See under "entheogenic theories.")

Following this section of the Mysteries was the Pannichis, an all-night feast accompanied by dancing and merriment. Dances were held in the Rario, which was rumored to be the first place where grain grew. A bull sacrifice was also held late at night or early in the morning. On that day (the 22nd of Boedromion), the initiates honored the dead by pouring libations from special vessels.

On the 23rd of Boedromion, the Mysteries ended and everyone went home.

The description of ritual according to Eliade

Mircea Eliade writes, "On the first day the festival took place in the Eleusinion of Athens, where the sacred objects (hiera) had been solemnly transported from Eleusis the day before. On the second day the procession made its way to the sea. Each initiation aspirant, accompanied by a guardian, carried a piglet, which he washed in the waves and sacrificed on his return to Athens. The next day, in the presence of representatives of the Athenian people and other cities, the archon basileus and his bride would perform the great sacrifice. The fifth day marked the climax of the public ceremonies. A huge procession set out at dawn from Athens. The neophytes, their guardians and numerous Athenians accompanied the priestesses who brought the hiera back to Eleusis. Toward the end of the afternoon the procession would cross a bridge over the Kephisios and there masked men would hurl insults at the leading citizens. At nightfall, with lighted flashlights, pilgrims would enter the outer courtyard of the sanctuary. Part of the night was devoted to dancing and singing in honor of the goddesses. The next day the initiation aspirants fasted and offered sacrifices; about the secret rites (the teletes) we can, however, only make a few assumptions. The ceremonies that took place outside and inside the telesterion probably referred to the myth of the two goddesses. It is known that the initiates, with flashlights in their hands, imitated Demeter wandering with torches in search of Persephone.

Mircea Eliade recalls how the Hymn mentions two types of initiation: the first related to Demeter's reunion with Persephone, and the second concerning Deophon's failure to become immortal. Thus after Deophon's failure to immortalize Demeter reveals her identity and after her reunion with her daughter she resolves to communicate the Mysteries to men, which do not, however, correspond to their deification in life but to bliss ("blessed," ὄλβιος), post-mortem, for the initiated.

Also part of the ritual was a reading performed on two stone tablets bound like a book and called petroma from πέτρα (petra) stone.

In 170 CE, the Temple of Demeter was sacked by the Sarmatians but was rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius was then allowed to become the only layman who had ever entered the anaktoron. As Christianity gained popularity in the fourth and fifth centuries, the prestige of Eleusis began to fade. Rome's last pagan emperor, Julian, reigned from 361 to 363 after about fifty years of Christian rule. Julian attempted to restore the Eleusinian Mysteries and was the last emperor to be initiated.

The Roman emperor Theodosius I closed the shrines by decree about 30 years later, in 392 AD. The last remnants of the Mysteries were swept away in 396 A.D., when Arian Christians under Alaric, king of the Goths, destroyed and desecrated the old sacred sites. The closing of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the 4th century is reported by Eunapius, historian and biographer of the Greek philosophers. Eunapius was initiated by the last legitimate Hierophant, who had been commissioned by Emperor Julian to restore the Mysteries, which had by then fallen into disrepair. According to Eunapius, the last Hierophant was a usurper, "the man from Thespie who held the rank of Father in the Mysteries of Mithras."

According to historian Hans Kloft, despite the destruction of the Eleusinian Mysteries, elements of the cult survived in the Greek countryside. There, the rites and religious functions of Demeter were partly transferred by farmers and shepherds to St. Demetrius of Thessalonica, who gradually became the local patron of agriculture and "heir" of the pagan mother goddess.

There are many paintings and pieces of pottery depicting various aspects of the Mysteries. The Eleusinian Relief, from the late 5th century B.C., on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens is a representative example (figure above). Triptolemus is depicted receiving seeds from Demeter and teaching humanity how to work the fields and cultivate crops, with Persephone holding her hand above his head to protect him. Vases and other works of relief sculpture, from the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries BCE, depict Triptolemus with an ear of corn, seated on a winged throne or chariot, surrounded by Persephone and Demeter with pine flashlights. The monumental Proto-Attic amphora from the mid-7th century B.C., depicting the beheading of Medusa by Perseus and the blinding of Polyphemus by Odysseus with his companions on his neck, is housed in the Archaeological Museum of Eleusis and is located within the archaeological site of Eleusis.

The Niinnion tablet, which is in the same museum, depicts Demeter, followed by Persephone and Isaac, and then the procession of initiates. Next, Demeter is seated on the cist inside the Telesterion, with Persephone holding a flashlight and introducing the initiates. The initiates each hold a bacchoi. The second row of initiates was led by Isaac, a priest who held flashlights for ceremonies. He is standing near the omphalos while an unknown woman (probably a priestess of Demeter) sat near the cyst, holding a scepter and a vessel full of ciceon. Pannychis is also depicted.

In Shakespeare's The Tempest, the mask Prospero conjures up to celebrate Miranda and Ferdinand's triumph echoes the Eleusinian Mysteries, although he uses the Roman names for the deities involved - Ceres, Iris, Dis and others - instead of the Greek. Interestingly, a play so rich in esoteric imagery of alchemy and hermeticism should draw on the Mysteries for its central sequence of masks.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) borrowed terms and interpretations from late 19th- and early 20th-century classical literature in German and French as a source of metaphors for his recasting of psychoanalytic treatment into a spiritualistic ritual of initiation and rebirth. The Eleusinian mysteries, particularly the qualities of Kore, figured prominently in his writings.

Dimitris Lyacos in the second book of the Poena Damni trilogy with People from the Bridge, a contemporary and avant-garde work focusing on the return of the dead and the myth of return combines elements of the Eleusinian mysteries and early Christian tradition to convey a vision of collective salvation. The text uses the symbol of the pomegranate to suggest the residence of the dead in the underworld and their periodic return to the world of the living.

Octavio Vazquez's symphonic poem "Eleusis" draws on the Eleusinian Mysteries and other Western esoteric traditions. Commissioned by the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores and the RTVE Symphony Orchestra, it was premiered in 2015 by the RTVE Orchestra and conductor Adrian Leaper at the Teatro Monumental in Madrid.

With regard to the proper meaning of the Mysteries of Eleusis, Ugo Bianchi dwells on two passages inherent to them, where on the one hand it is confirmed that the word "blessed" (olbios, ὄλβιος) opened the liturgical acclamation but also that the mysteries were a transmission of knowledge for the benefit of the initiate, revealing the deep meanings of the experience of living.

Numerous scholars have proposed that the power of the Eleusinian Mysteries came from the operation of ciceone as an entheogen or psychedelic agent. The use of potions or filters for magical or religious purposes was relatively common in Greece and the ancient world. Initiates, sensitized by their fasting and prepared by previous ceremonies (see set and setting), may have been propelled by the effects of a potent psychedelic potion into revelatory mental states with profound spiritual and intellectual implications. In opposition to this idea, other skeptical scholars note the lack of solid evidence and emphasize the collective rather than individual character of initiation in the Mysteries. Indirect evidence in support of the enteogenic theory is that in 415 B.C. the Athenian aristocrat Alcibiades was condemned because he parodied the "Eleusinian mystery" in a private home.

Many psychoactive agents have been proposed as the significant element of ciceone, although without consensus or conclusive evidence. These include ergot, a fungal parasite of barley or rye grain, which contains the alkaloids ergotamine, a precursor to LSD, and ergonovine. However, modern attempts to prepare a ciceone using ergot-parasitized barley have yielded inconclusive results, although Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin describe both ergonovine and LSA to be known to produce LSD-like effects, albeit with many side effects that LSD does not possess.

Psychoactive fungi are another candidate. Terence McKenna speculated that the mysteries centered on a variety of Psilocybe. Other enteogenic fungi, such as amanita muscaria, have also been suggested. A recent hypothesis suggests that the ancient Egyptians cultivated Psilocybe cubensis on barley and associated it with the deity Osiris.

Another candidate for the psychoactive drug is an opiate derived from the poppy. The cult of the goddess Demeter may have brought the poppy from Crete to Eleusis; it is certain that opium was produced in Crete.

Another theory is that the psychoactive agent in ciceone was DMT, which is found in many wild Mediterranean plants, including Phalaris and acacia. To be orally active it must be combined with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor such as Syrian rue (Peganum harmala), which grows throughout the Mediterranean.

J. Nigro Sansonese, using the mythography provided by Mylonas, recently (1994) speculated that the Mysteries of Eleusis were originally a series of practical trance initiations involving proprioception of the human nervous system induced by breath control (similar to samyama in yoga). Samsonese speculates that the kisté, a box containing sacred objects opened by the hierophant, is actually an esoteric reference to the initiate's skull, inside which sacred light is seen and sacred sounds are heard, but only after instruction in trance practice. Similarly, the seed-filled chambers of a pomegranate, a fruit associated with the foundation of worship, esoterically describe the proprioception of the initiate's heart during trance. If this were true, however, it would make Alcibiades' condemnation far less plausible.


  1. Eleusinian Mysteries
  2. Misteri eleusini
  3. ^ Isocrate, Panegirico XXVIII.
  4. ^ Ugo Bianchi, Misteri di Eleusi, Dionisismo e Orfismo, in Julien Ries (a cura di), Le civiltà del Mediterraneo e il sacro, collana Trattato di Antropologia del sacro, vol. 3, Milano, Jaca Book, 1992, p. 271.
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. ^ Martin P. Nilsson, Vol I, p. 470
  7. ^ a b c Dietrich (1975) The origins of Greek Religion. Bristol Phoenix Press pp. 166, 167
  8. ^ a b c Walter Burkert. (1985)Greek Religion. Harvard University Press. p. 285
  9. On désignait du nom d’Éleusinies, en grec ancien : τὰ Ὲλευσίνια, une fête de Déméter, distincte des Mystères, célébrée un peu avant eux, et comportant des concours. La seule appellation des Mystères d’Éleusis en grec ancien et à l’époque classique est bien : τὰ μεγάλα μυστήρια[1].
  10. a b Castrén, Paavo & Pietilä-Castrén, Leena: ”Eleusis, Eleusiin mysteerit”, Antiikin käsikirja, s. 146. Helsinki: Otava, 2000. ISBN 951-1-12387-4.
  11. a b c d Darling, Janina K.: Architecture of Greece, s. 165–168. Reference guides to national architecture, ISSN 1550-8315. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. ISBN 0313321523. Teoksen verkkoversio.

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