MYSTERIES

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MYSTERIES were, among the Greeks, and afterwards, also, among the Homans, secret religious assemblies, which no uninitiated person was permitted to approach. They originated at a Yery early period. They were designed to interpret those mythological fables and religious rites, the true meaning of which it was thought expedient to conceal from the people. They were perhaps necessary in those times, in which the superstitions, the errors and the prejudices of the people could not be openly exposed without danger to the public peace. Upon this ground they were tolerated and protected by the state. Their first and fundamental law was a profound secrecy. In all mysteries there were dramatic exhibitions, relating to the exploits of the deities, in whose honor they were celebrated. The most important Greek mysteries were, 1. the Eleu sinian (described in the article Hleusis). 2. The Samothracian, which originated in Crete and Phrygia, and were celebrated in the former country in honor of Jupiter. From these countries they were introduced among the Thracians or Pelasgians in the island of Samothrace, and extended from thence into Greece. They were celebrated sometimes in honor of Jupiter, sometimes of Bacchus, and sometimes of Ceres. (For further information respecting the Samothracian mysteries, see Cabiri). 3. The Dionysia, which were brought from Thrace to Thebes, and were very similar to the former. They were celebrated every second year. The transition of men from barbarism to civilization was likewise represented in them. The women were clothed in skins of beasts. With a spear (thyisus) bound with ivy in their hands, they ascended mount Cithseron, where, after the religious ceremonies, wild dances were performed, which ended with the dispersion of the priestesses and the initiated in the neighboring woods. They had also symbols, chiefly relating to Bacchus, who was the hero of these mysteries. These celebrations were forbidden in Thebes, even in the time of Epaminon* das, and afterwards in all Greece, as prejudicial to the public peace and morals. 4. The Orphic, chiefly deserving mention as the probable foundation of the Eleusinian, 5. The mysteries of Ms (q. v.) were not in vogue in Greece, but were very popular in Italy, particularly in Rome. An excellent work upon mysteries is St. Croix's Recherches historiques et critiques sur les Mys~ teres du Paganisme (second edition, revised by Sylv. de Sacy, Paris, 18.17, 2 vols.).