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The Eleusian Mysteries

  • Date Submitted: 03/09/2014 09:44 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 43.9 
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The Eleusinian Mysteries were a widespread celebration that took place annually to honor the story of Demeter and Persephone. Despite high levels of participation, the details concerning the core rituals were kept in complete secrecy. In order to participate in the mysteries, an individual had to be initiated. Almost anyone was eligible as long as they were pure enough: not a murderer or a barbarian. This notion of purity was also common among other ancient practices, such as sacrifice.   I believe the secrecy associated with the mysteries had to do with a religious stratification of society. I think it was understood that the initiated were a level above common mortals. They no longer feared death, and they were blessed with “the initiation rites which offer sweeter hopes about the end of life and all eternity…(Warrior 11.22).” The ritual triggered an epiphanic moment, which allowed them to understand an afterlife-related realization that the uninitiated were unable to comprehend. Because of exclusive nature of the central rituals, we do not know many specifics today. Our only sources stem from references made in ancient literature.
I think the initiated drew inspiration from mythical literature when forming their secretive rituals. Many aspects of the mysteries mirrored Demeter’s actions during her search for Kore. In one part of the procession to Eleusis, the initiated were subjected to ritual insults and mockery in order to ward off evil (Warrior 11.28). This mimics the efforts put forth by Iambe to make Demeter smile, which are described in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter: “…until devoted Iambe, intervening with jokes and many jests, moved the holy lady to smile and laugh and have a propitious heart (202 – 204).” An additional parallel exists between Metaneira offering a silent Demeter hospitality and the overall silence regarding the mysteries. They kept their activity hidden just as Demeter veiled her identity.
Another portion of the celebration involved the...


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