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5998RE: [ANE-2] Re: Greek Mystery Religions

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  • sbudin@camden.rutgers.edu
    Sep 5, 2007
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      The two best places to look for this kind of rite are the
      Eleusinian mysteries and Orphic cult of Dionysos.

      Regarding the Eleusinian cult, it appears (although it is often
      difficult to say because of all the secrecy that accompanied the
      mystery cults) that the rites were predicated on Persephone's/Kore's
      descent to the underworld (as bride of Hades) and her return to the
      "land of the living." Technically, Kore does not die (the Greek
      deities generally don't, although see below), but she does cross the
      boundry of Hades into death, which was uncommon for deities (the only
      other god to do so was Hermes Psychopompos). Mortals did it all the
      time, of course, but they seldom got to go back...

      Perhaps more interesting in this account is the Orphic tale of
      Dionysos, which is somewhat different from the standard, Homeric
      versions. According to the Orphic tradition, Dionysos was the son of
      Zeus and Zeus' daughter Persephone. Hera, Zeus' wife, was not
      thrilled about Zeus' fondness for the boy, so she induced the Titans
      to lure him away from his nurse, to kill, and to eat him. Which they
      did. (So, yes, he was pretty much dead). Athena, however, saved his
      heart, which Zeus used to recreate/reincarnate Dionysos. Zeus also
      killed the Titans with a thunderbolt, and used their ashes to create
      humans (memories of Enuma Elish/Atrahasis should be ringing now).
      Humans, then, are the product of evil, dead Titans who had the
      spiritual element of Dionysos running through their guts and veins
      just as they were killed. Thus, Dionysos forms the spiritual aspect
      of humanity. The rites of Dionysos are intended to help humans shed
      their evil material aspect (Titans) and to purify their Dionysian
      spiritual side.

      So, in both cases there is a deity who goes to the underworld or
      who actually dies, and the cult is heavily involved with that deity's
      transition from world of death to world of life. There is some
      evidence that the Eleusinian rites may go back into the Bronze Age, to
      judge from the remains at Eleusis, but the rites are mentiond in the
      "Hymn to Demeter" which can be dated back to the 6th century BCE (thus
      reasonably Pre-Pauline). While the Orphic texts that survive are
      later (3rd or 2nd century BCE, I believe), there are references to the
      rites in Euripides' "Bakkhai", dating back to the 5th century BCE.

      On the Eleusinian mysteries (other than the books I mentioned
      before, although note that Cosmopoulos's book has the Bronze Age
      evidence for Eleusis) you may want to look at H. Foley's book on _The
      Homeric Hymn to Demeter_ and the works of Kevin Clinton. For
      Dionysos, the standard work is W.K.C. Guthrie's _Orpheus and Greek
      Religion_, plus the previous bibliography. Another interesting
      consideration is the Derveni Papyrus, on which there are several
      recent publications.

      All Best, -Stephanie Budin


      Quoting "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried@...>:

      > Dear All,
      >
      > Are there (pre-Pauline) mystery religions in which the initiate participates
      > in the death and resurrection of the god? Can anyone direct me to these?
      >
      > Thanks for your help.
      >
      > Liz Fried
      >
      > Ann Arbor
      >
      >
      >
      >
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