rich in fruit,
rich in grain.
the world, in earlier ages, cultures developed ceremonies and rituals
of initiation within their spiritual traditions. Across the Mediterranean
region, these practices evolved into sophisticated religions of their
own. What differentiated the newer mysteries from their primitive forebears
was the central premise that individuals had the right to make personal
choices and opinions regarding spiritual belief.
The concept of religious individualism was seeded by the mysteries of Orpheus, known as the Orphic tradition. The Orphic school never developed a wide scale following in Greece, but must be credited with establishing respect for individual views. It was upon this ground work that the Eleusinian mysteries would grow and prosper.
youthful Persephone was gathering roses and lilies, violets and crocuses,
hyacinths and narcissuses, when the earth sundered and Pluto, ruler of
the Underworld, arose from the ground. The god seized the maiden and carried
her off to the lower realms for his bride. Deep in grief, her mother Demeter
traveled the land until Apollo, the sun god, related the fate of her daughter.
The Earth Mother retired to Eleusis and in her sorrow withheld the blessing
of growth from all the seeds of the earth.
- From traditional Greek lore.
Demeter and her daughter Persephone were associated with fertility and harvest. They were also representative of the feminine call to men of the wonders of domestic bliss. To farmers, the favor of the pair was crucial. Pre-season sacrifices and offerings of first fruits were widespread. The harvest festivals were celebrated only by women, and much of it remained secretive.
This sense of true mystery surrounding the rites of Demeter and Persephone has been long debated. Yet, it seems natural considering the great mystery contained in the processes of birth, growth, death and regeneration. These are the primary aspects of life which the pair govern.
Demeter and Persephone
Eleusinian Mystery Initiation
Image: Rhey Cedron
The rites of Eleusis were the most influential of the Mystery religions. These ceremonies were accessible to both sexes. What initiates came away with was a sense of security in the afterlife, and a sense of bounty guaranteed in this world. Above all, Demeter was a provider, a premier mother. Through the rituals, regeneration of growth on earth was secured by mortal union with the goddess. Less of a secretive mystery, than intimate participation in the cycles of life.
"In all ages of which we have any literary records, we find a tradition of a recondite knowledge which could not be disclosed to any save to those who had undergone the severest tests as to their worthiness to receive it. This knowledge was very generally known under the term of the Mysteries..."
- William Kingsland
The Foundation Stones are introductory features about subjects which will be treated at great length within the Historic Mysteries branch of Earthlore.
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