Ulrich Wendlandt - firstname.lastname@example.org
Die Eleusinischen Mysterien, (Eleusinien) (Griechische
Religion), große Feste der Demeter
(Ceres), ihrer Tochter Proserpina, und des mit beiden in
enger Verbindung gedachten Bacchus, wiewohl die Verehrung des
letzteren Gottes bei diesen Festen nicht gleich alt mit der
der beiden erstgenannten Gottheiten war.
Der Name ist
genommen von der Stadt Eleusis in Attika, deren fruchtbare
Ebenen frühzeitigen Betrieb des Ackerbaues veranlaßt hatten,
welcher dann zur Verehrung der in der Tiefe der Erde waltenden
Gottheiten aufforderte. Als Eleusis mit Athen zu einem Staate
vereinigt wurde, breitete sich dieser Gottesdienst nach Athen
aus und wurde einer der glänzendsten Hauptbestandteile des
eigentümlichen Festbrauchs der Athener. Was diesen Festen
ihre besondere Anziehungskraft verlieh, und sie am
berühmtesten machte, sind die damit verbundenen Mysterien,
oder geheimnisvollen Einweihungen, durch welche die darein
Aufgenommenen zu einer geschlossenen Verbrüderung wurden;
aber gerade über das Innerste dieser Gebrauche haben wir nur
die unzulänglichsten Nachrichten, da die Eingeweihten in der
Regel das ihnen unter den heiligsten Verpflichtungen
auferlegte Geheimnis auf das Strengste bewahrten.
Mysteries of Eleusis
The aim of this essay is to present before the reader
translations of the ancient writings relating to the
Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece. No modern scholars could
justly impose their opinion of these most mysterious and holy
rites on the contemporary reader as too little is known to
give a complete and well-informed picture in summary. The
strict secrecy, though practiced for two thousand years, has
not been significantly violated, and we shall never know, save
through clairvoyance transcending centuries, what the
initiates actually experienced in the final beatific vision.
Therefore we are forced to rely on the obscure statements of
those who were initiated and the ignorant and often prejudiced
judgments of those who were not initiated.
The Eleusian Mysteries were an ancient Greek religion
in which initiates celebrated a communion between gods and
men. The Eleusinian Mystery was an annual celebration of a
fertility cult, over which the goddess Demeter presided. Any
Greek citizen could be initiated into the cult - but only once
in a lifetime. The "Greater Mystery" was celebrated
in the Fall in a sanctuary at Eleusis, bordering the Rarian
Plain, near Athens. For nearly 2000 years the annual
celebration was held. Never the secret of the mystery was
revealed. Initiates passed the night together in the
darkened telesterion or initiation hall, where they
beheld a great vision which was "new, astonishing,
inaccessible to rational cognition." Of the experience,
they could only say that they had seen ta hiera, "the
holy" - it was forbidden by law, under penalty of death,
to say more (Wasson et al, 1978). Plutarch recorded that
Alcibiades was sentenced to death for profaning the Mysteries
in Athens. Ruck (1981) proposed that Socrates was also
executed for revealing the Mysteries.
She is mother nature; goddess of the harvest, fertility, and
she is specificially associated with wheat. She has a gentle
character, but once her ire brought about a disaster. Hades
fell in love with Demeter's daughter, Persephone, and went to
Zeus for permission to marry her. Zeus would not offend his
brother with an outright refusal, but knowing that Demeter
would not wish her daughter committed to Tartarus, he answered
that he neither gave nor withheld his consent. This was enough
for Hades. As Persephone was picking flowers newar Eleusis,
the earth opened, and Hades in his chariot drawn by black hors
es carried the shrieking girl down to Tartarus. Demeter
searched in vain for her daughter, until Triptolemus, who had
seen the abduction, told his story. Demeter was so angry, that
instead of returning to Olympus, she wandered about the earth
forbidding any plants to yield fruit, until the race of humans
The worship of
Demeter at Eleusis became one of the most important cults in
Greece. Festivals in honor of the goddess were attended by
rites so secret that the penalty for initiates who betrayed
the secrets was death. The ceremonies, the Eleusian mysteries,
were held twice a year, with the ceremonies in September
having more importance than the ones in March. In September
candidates were initiated. Initiation was open to all, Greeks
and barbarians, freemen and slaves , on the condition that
they had not committed the sin of murder. The ceremony lasted
several days from first purification to initiation night. The
hereditary priest, whose families were as old as the sanctuary,
led the initiates through the ceremony to the darkened center
room of the sanctuary which was suddenly illuminated to reveal
some secret and sacred object. Eleusinism brought its
followers a hope of survival after death that probably was
accompanied by moral obligations.
main reason that visitors go to Eleusis today is because of the
presence of an ancient cult of Demeter (see Pausanias
1.36.3). This is the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries,
which lasted here for more than two thousand years. In 392
A.D., the Roman Emperor Theodosius finally decided that he needed
to put an end to all the pagan rituals and he had the doors at Eleusis
closed. The site was abandoned a few years later when the
pesky Goths invaded. If you go to Eleusis today a plan
of the site is an absolute necessity to understand the entire
site. You will need to make sure that you locate the Greater
Propylaea once you enter the site gates. A large paved
forecourt leads up to it. A set of Roman triumphal arches
has also been reerected on either side of the forecourt. To
the left of the path you can see highly decorated sewer grates cut
from marble. Once you make your way further into the site
you will pass through the Lesser Propylaea. You can
see the deep indentations where the wheels of carts have cut away
at the marble over the centuries. At this point do not miss
the fragments from the Lesser Propylaea which show sheaves of grain
and poppies (pictured above). There is also a cave
to the right where Pluto supposedly returned Persephone to earth. You
will then enter the Telesterion, the Temple of Demeter,
where the mysteries actually occurred. The plan of the Telesterion
is a confused mass of columns and walls to most visitors, but you
can still sit on the steps cut away on two sides of the building's
interior. There are many other interesting archaeological
remains at the site, but I will stop my description here.
If you continue through the Telesterion you will arrive at the small
museum, the next stop on our tour. By the way, I hope that
they have cut the grass recently when you go because the first time
I visited the site I could hardly walk around since the grass was
so tall and determining the layout with my maps was not easy.
settlement of Eleusis was founded in ca. 2000 B.C. on the
slopes of the hill, and during the Mycenaean period it
developed into a large fortified settlement, mostly due to its
strategic position. During this period the
cult of Demeter was introduced, as the worship of a deity
connected to nature and the growing of cereals. The continuity
of Demeter's cult is attested until Roman times, by the
erection of successive temples on the east side of the hill.
In the 8th
century B.C. the sanctuary aquired a panhellenic character,
and in the time of Solon, the Eleusinian Mysteries were
established as one of the most important Athenian festivals.
During the tyranny of Peisitratos the
sanctuary and the settlement were enclosed with a massive
fortification wall reinforced with towers. Splendid buildings
were erected during the Classical
and Roman periods, but with the spread of Christianity and
especially after the invasion of the Ostrogoths, the sanctuary
Museum of Eleusis
museum was designed by J. Mousis, and was built in 1889 in
order to house the excavation finds from the site. The
westernmost, sixth room is a later addition.
Mensaje de los Misterios Eleusinos para el mundo de hoy
(The Message of the Mysteries of Eleusis for the world of
Cualquiera de los que pueblan esta
tierra que haya contemplado estos misterios, será bendecido,
pero cualquiera que no haya sido iniciado y no haya recibido
su parte del rito, no habrá recibido lo mismo que los demás,
una vez muerto y viviendo en el moho donde el sol se pone.
Así dice el poema épico
conocido como "El Himno Homérico a Demeter" Los
misterios referidos aquí son los de Eleusis, los mas
importantes de la Grecia antigua. Durante casi 2000 años,
desde aproximadamente 1500 a.c. hasta el siglo IV d.c., estos
se celebraban en Eleusis, Grecia, en honor a la diosa Demeter
y su hija Perséfone.
THE MYSTERY OF THE ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES BEEN SOLVED?
In ancient Greece near Eleusis, about 20 kilometers north-west
from Athens, a special event was celebrated every September.
According to the tradition the goddess Demeter was said to
have been reunited here with her daughter Kore, who was also
known as Persephone, after she had been kidnapped by the god
of the underworld Pluto.
The festival of
the mysteries took place twice a year, in spring and in autumn,
but the former was not so great and important as the latter.
The mysteries, whose origins date to the prehellenic era,
became particularly popular when Eleusis came under
sovereignty of Athens. In the 5th century B.C. telesterion -
the great hall of mysteries was built there. In this building
the most important part of the ritual is supposed to have
occurred: the ingestion of the kykeon, the mysterious
sacrament that caused in participants intensive psychic
changes, which cleared their souls, and made them accept death
not so much as harm as a blessing, as one of the ancient
diarists reported. In the late Roman period the mysteries no
longer took place every year, and the cult was finally
destroyed in 395 A.D. or the year after it when the troops of
Alaric demolished the temple at Eleusis.
mystery of the Eleusinian mysteries pertains to the nature of
the kykeon - the mixture drunk by initiates at the autumnal
Eleusinian festival. It was no doubts of palpable nature, so
that something was drunk in telesterion in reality and not
only in effigy as some historians supposed. This is well
supported by the infamous scandalous event that took place in
415 B.C. when the powerful political and military leader of
Athens Alkibiades stole the kykeon at Eleusis and entertained
by it himself and his friends.
of the kykeon were revealed in the seventh century B.C. in the
so called Homeric Hymn to Demeter (it was written by an
anonymous poet and not by Homer) as follows; water, barley and
blechon or glechon - a fragrant Mediterranean mint, probably
Mentha pulegium or Mentha aquatica (Rätsch, 1992). This is
the only known reference to the composition of the kykeon and
it seems somehow incompatible with the secret tightly guarded
by the two hierophantic families who were in charge of making
it and dispensing at Eleusis. After all, if the recipe for the
kykeon had been as simple as that mentioned in the Homeric
Hymn, many in ancient Greece would have been mixing their own
kykeon, which was, of course, not the case..
attempted to solve the Eleusinian mystery according to the
Hymn to Demeter directed their attention to barley since few
if any mints are psychoactive. Barley has been known to have
been infested like other grains by rust - ergot fungus (Claviceps
purpurea and Claviceps paspali) since ancient times. Many
written testimonies exist about that. Ergot does have
established psychedelic effects, it is after all the source of
lysergic acid, the precursor of many psychedelic substances,
among them LSD. It seemed only natural that the parasitic
fungus growing on barley rendered to the Eleusinian sacrament
its psychedelic power. The theory that the kykeon derived its
psychoactive effects from ergot was proposed at the Second
International Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms near Port
Townsend, WA on October 28, 1977, by R. Gordon Wasson, Albert
Hofmann and Carl A. P. Ruck. Next year appeared the famous
book The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the
Mysteries by the same authors.
Throughout 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
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.
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 Greek myth, Demeter is the daughter of the deities Cronus
and Rhea and is the sister of Zeus. She commonly appeared as a
grain goddess, but her influence eventually grew to include
almost all vegetation, making her into an earth mother figure.
Demeter was represented by many objects, ranging from ears of
grain to flower baskets and pigs. Demeter was worshipped as
Ceres in Rome, but all of the myths and rituals were based on
the Greek traditions.
In the central
myth, Kore (called Persephone by the Romans), the daughter of
Demeter was kidnapped by Hades and taken to his kingdom, the
underworld. As Demeter searched for her daughter, she
neglected the grain and harvests, causing a great famine.
Along her journeys, Demeter came to the city of Eleusis. There
she befriended the royal family. When the queen refused to let
Demeter grant immortality to her son, Demeter revealed her
true identity to the people of Eleusis. She demanded that the
city build a temple to house her and their worship of her
became the Eleusinian Mysteries.
In the Fields Of Eleusis
The Homeric tale of the rape of Persephone forms the prototype
of the Greek mystery school as found at Eleusis. The school
survived for hundreds of years, and has been written about
many times. Central to the mystery is a question about the
role of the ceremonial drink called kykeon used to
produce the visionary awakening known as epoptia. The
Greek myth is complex, but the players have well-defined roles.
I will touch only the highlights here. It is a story of an
abducted child, lost innocence, and the making of a new Queen.
Consider Persephone to be your inner child in this shortened
version of the story.
Eleusinian Mysteries: Healing and Transformation
Stations of the
represent the "stations" through which the Mystai were
required to pass on their initiatory travels to Eleusis.
Although there is some dispute from text to text as to the order
of their occurrence in the nine day journey to Eleusis, authors
seem to agree upon the nature and symbolism of the stations (or
Assembly: Fifteenth (some say the nineteenth) day of Boedromion
Purification-attended to by the "Hydranos" Priest of
Purification: Journey to the Sea (Rhetoi-place favored by the
Eleusinians here it was said that salt water flowed to the sea)
the 16th. day of Boedromion
Offerings for Demeter as the Sorrowing One, (a sow, barley, fish
(mullet) . Prayers for women and children.
procession in honor of Asklepios, god of healing on the
eighteenth day of Boedromion. Libation (trygetos)offered to
Dionysius and to other gods. Preparation of the Kykeon. Carrying
of sacred baskets, chest of sesame, carded wool, salt,
pomegranates , poppies, a serpent, boughs of ivy and cakes.
5. Day of Iacchus
(Dionysos' alter-ego), Divine child of Zeus (Hades) and Demeter
(Persephone). Revelry - procession by sacred fig tree. Day of
Torches. Bridge of Jests. Through 'mystical entrance' to Eleusis.
Dance with the fifty daughters of Ocean, stars and moon. Games
are celebrated. Tying of Kroke on the right hand and left foot.
Myrtle branches. Women carry the Kykeon.
6. Day of Rest:
Sacrifice and Purification preparation.
7 & 8.
Initiation Ritual: Dromena [things Done]; Legomena [Things
Said]; Deicymena [Things Shown]. Vision of ineffable things [a
golden serpent, an egg, and the phallus and Persephone [Queen of
the Dead]. Those who entered the Telestarion for the Vision [Epoptai]
fasted for nine days, drank the Kykeon - fermented barley and
mint drink probably containing 'Ergot' (the mold which grows on
wheat that is the base for LSD).
Marriage enacted by Heirophant and Priestess.
- The vision of
the 'great fire'. Birth in fire by Brimo of Brimos.
- Elevation of a
single grain of wheat.
- Libations to
the 'pourings of plenty'. Hye - Kye. "Flow - Conceive".
Carlos Parada - email@example.com
has been initiated at Eleusis or has read what are
called the Orphica knows what I mean." [Pausanias,
Description of Greece 1.37.4]
Eleusis is the place, where the cult of the goddess Demeter
existed many centuries and where the most famous religious
festival, called the Eleusinian
mysteries were performed in the honour of this deity.
According to the "Homeric Hymn to Demeter" (7th c. BC.),
when the goddess Demeter was desparetely looking for her
daughter (=Kore) Persephone
-kidnapped by Aidoneus (Hades)-
during her wandering she came to the city Eleusis.
The sanctuary and
its cult have roots in the Mycenaean period (1500 - 1425 BC.).
The ritual was originally local and it could have had probably
from the beginning an agrarian aspect. The Athenians established
this cult as Panhellenic during the period of Peisistratus. It
was florishing under the Roman supremacy until the proscription
of the cult by Theodosius and the destruction of the sanctuary
by the Goths about 400 AD.
The name "Eleusinian
mysteries" is connected with two Greek words eleusis,- eos
- arrival, tó mystírion - secrecy. The people
were arriving to this place to performed secret rites. The
mysteries were kept in absolute secrecy, so it was strictly
forbidden to talk about them under penalty of death.
Nevertheless we have some informations from the different
sources - many reflections in the literature, the epigraphical
evidence, the archaeological findings (architectonical,
sculptural, paintings on the vases, votive objects, cult vessels)
related to the Eleusinian religious rites. All of these
materials are used for the reconstruction of events.
and the Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were one of the most sacred rites of
the ancient Greeks. It was forbidden for initiates to speak
openly of exactly what transpired during the sacred ritual, and
the proceedings remain shrouded in mystery today. However, some
hypotheses have been advanced which fit the available data, and
some of these ideas have mycotheological significance.
A lengthy and
quite convincing argument for the role of entheogens -- and most
likely mycologically-based ones -- in the Mysteries was made by
Gordon Wasson and others in The
Road to Eleusis. It
may be significant that the mythological originator of the
Eleusinian mysteries was named Erysibe -- "ergot"
(Claviceps purpurea). This is a fungus which grows on
wheat, and from which an assortment of medicinal, hallucinogenic,
and poisonous substances may be derived.
suggested a different fungal source for the kykeon, a Panaeolus
mushroom containing psilocybin
and related substances.
GREEK VIEW OF THE AFTERLIFE AND THE UNDERWORLD: THE ELEUSINIAN
Recent excavations at the site of Eleusis
(M.B Cosmopoulos, University of Manitoba)
map showing location of Eleusis
List of buildings
at Eleusis (Perseus)
List of literary
passages mentioning Eleusis (Perseus)
Mystery religions traditionally set in opposition to Homeric
concepts of the Underworld and the Afterlife.
Three major mystery religions offer hope of immortality via
- Initiation: myein,
mysteria and teleia.
- Achieve a
state of enthousiasmos (en theos).
Eleusinian Mysteries center around the Demeter and
- Exact nature
of the mysteries unknown.
- Cult accepted
women, slaves and foreigners, as well as citizen males.
Nine-day festival held once a year in September.
- Days 1-4:
arrival, purification, sacrifice and feasting in Athens.
- Day 5:
Procession to the Telesterion
- Days 6-7:
Initiation at Eleusis.
- ---- dromena
- ---- legomena
- ---- deiknymena
- Day 8: Rites
to the Dead.
- Day 9: Return
Although we do not know the exact nature of the mysteries,
it is clear that for the initiants the fear of death was
removed, and death was seen not simply as an end, but also a
The city of Eleusis
(birthplace of Aeschylus)
is located 22 km W of Athens
on a ridge above the bay of Eleusis
and at the S side of a large plain. The site has been occupied
since the Early Bronze
Age and the acropolis fortified at least as early as the Late
Bronze Age. The location commands the land routes from
Athens to the Peloponnese
and NW Greece.
The sanctuary of Demeter
is located within the city
walls of Eleusis,
occupying the area between the E slope of the acropolis and the
E fortification wall, and is isolated from the rest of the city
by a separate cross-wall at the NE. Within the sanctuary another
cross-wall, breached by the Lesser Propylaia
divides the N area of the priests' dwellings and administration
buildings from the sacred inner peribolos. The main
architectural features of the inner sanctuary are the
Kallichoron or sacred well, the cave of Pluto
adjacent to a triangular court and the Telesterion of Demeter
(an almost square building that could seat 3000) where the
secret initiation rites were completed and entrance to the
uninitiated was forbidden on pain of death. An anaktoron or
separate shrine was maintained within the Telesterion. From the
outer sanctuary the Greater Propylaia
opened onto the grand Sacred Way which joined the sanctuary to Athens.
Edward A. Beach - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Eleusinian Mysteries, held annually in honor of Demeter and
Persephone, were the most sacred and revered of all the ritual celebrations
of ancient Greece. They were instituted in the city of Eleusis,
some twenty-two kilometers west of Athens, possibly as far back
as the early Mycenaean
period, and continued for almost two thousand years. Large crowds
of worshippers from all over Greece (and later, from throughout
the Roman empire) would gather to make the holy pilgrimage between
the two cities and and participate in the secret ceremonies, generally
regarded as the high point of Greek religion. As Christianity began
to spread, the Mysteries were condemned by the early Church fathers;
yet the rites continued for hundreds of years more and exercised
considerable influence on the formation of early Christian teachings
Our sources of
information regarding the Eleusinian Mysteries include the ruins
of the sanctuary there; numerous statues, bas reliefs, and
pottery; reports from ancient writers such as Aeschylos,
Sophokles, Herodotus, Aristophanes, Plutarch, and Pausanias--all
of whom were initiates--as well as the accounts of Christian
Clement of Alexandria,
Tertullian, and Astorias. Yet for all this evidence, the
true nature of the Mysteries remains shrouded in uncertainty
because the participants did, with remarkable consistency, honor
their pledge not to reveal what took place in the Telesterion,
or inner sanctum of the Temple of Demeter. To violate that oath
of secrecy was a capital offense. (Aeschylos, for example, once
had to fear for his life on account of coming too close to
revealing forbidden truths.) For these reasons, scholars today
must make use of circumstantial evidence and inferences, with
the result that there is still no consensus as to what did or
did not take place. Hence, we shall sometimes be forced to
engage in the tentative weighing of alternative hypotheses,
without always reaching definite conclusions.
Festival at Eleusis
Demeter, the goddess of corn and fertility, was seduced by a
mortal called Iasion. Infuriated, Zeus killed Iasion with a
thunderbolt and made love to Demeter himself. The result of this
union was a daughter, Persephone.
Hades, "god of the Underworld, asked Zeus for Persephone as
his wife. Zeus agreed, but, thinking that Demeter would not
accept the match as she would lose her daughter forever to the
Underworld, assisted Hades in Persephone's abduction. He asked
Gaia to send up many lovely flowers near where Persephone dwelt,
whilst she was picking them with her friends, Hades came up from
the Underworld in a chariot and took the poor girl back with him.
Demeter searched the world for many days and nights in the guise
of a mortal. At every town she visited, she told men the secrets
of the harvest...Demeter threatened famine to the earth unless
her daughter was returned; but Persephone had eaten several
pomegranate seeds which meant that she would have to stay in
Hades for one-third of the year, during which period Demeter
refused to allow the crops to grow. Festivals were held for the
return of Persephone every spring. At Eleusis, Demeter leant her
winged chariot, drawn by dragons, to the youth Triptolemus; he
was to use it every year to scatter seed over the earth."
Tour of Eleusis
The virtual tour of Eleusis actually begins in Athens, at the
City Eleusinion near the agora (ancient marketplace). Try to
imagine that you have come there with a large group of other
initiates, as shown above. (Note the presence of both men and
women, slave and free: the mysteries of Eleusis were open to
all, provided they understood Greek.) Most of you are carrying
torches--both to commemorate Demeter's torch-lit search for
Persephone, and because much of your trip to Eleusis (which is
14 miles away) will take place by night.
All that remains
of the City Eleusinion nowadays is a few sorry pieces of stone,
most of the year covered in weeds. The thousands who pass by
them on their way to the Agora Museum below are usually unaware
that they are walking by one of the holiest sites in ancient