Mythman's Major Olympian Gods






 The Eleusian Mysteries was one of Greece’s most important and intriguing festivals. It was associated with Demeter and in fact held in her honor.

"I am Demeter, revered by all, the power most useful for gods and men," she said, making herself known to the people of Eleusis. To honor her they raised a temple and thus were born the Eleusian Mysteries.

The Mysteries gave the initiates higher hope for this life and for the afterlife. They are connected to Demeter's journey to the Underworld to retrieve her daughter Persephone. This celebration of harvest was held every five years for nine days in September-October.

We know very little about the Mysteries, as all participants were sworn to secrecy. The candidates for initiation purified themselves in the sea and then the procession followed the sacred path from Athens to Eleusis, arriving at the sanctuary by nightfall. There, they spoke these words:

"I have fasted, I have drunk kykeon,
I have completed my tasks
and put the objects in the wicker basket
and the rush basket."
(Clement of Alexandria, Prokeptic, II, 21)

(Kykeon was barley water flavored with mint, and it was the first nourishment that Demeter had prepared for herself when she broke her fast following her daughter's loss.)

The spoken words were followed by secret rites carried out in silence, completing the first part of the initiation. Here is a nice description from The Wordsworth Dictionary of Mythology:

"The 'mysteries' are so called because their secrets have been very well guarded. Was the symbolic task the search for a rudimentary mill for grinding corn - seen as a step in the progress of civilization - or, indeed, the performance of sexual acts? It is still not known. The second phase of the initiation was a spiritual experience. The ancient philosopher Aristotle expressed it clearly: 'The initiates were not meant to learn anything, but rather, to experience certain emotions and moods.'

Finally, as Demeter again took her place among the immortals, the initiates returned to Athens and to the life they had left for a short time. The Eleusian Mysteries were only an interlude in the life of the city, an interlude where men, women and slaves found themselves awarded the same status, devotees of a single cult, following the same path. It was a brief and controlled hiatus in the political life of the country.

Demeter was worshipped in Crete, Delos, Argolis, Attica, the western coast of Asia, Sicily and Italy, with her worship consisting in a great measure in orgiastic mysteries.

The sacrifices offered to her consisted of pigs, which were considered the symbol of fertility, bulls, cows, honey-cakes, and fruits.

Her temples were called Megara, and were often built in groves in the near vicinity of towns.

The Romans received the worship of Demeter, to whom they gave the name of Ceres, from Sicily.

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