Theodism


Theodism, or Þéodisc Geléafa (Old English: “tribal belief”) is thought by some to be a variant or sister movement of US Ásatrú. Theodsmen themselves do not consider Theodism as a variant of Asatru and contend that the two religions are very different. The term Theodism encompasses NormanAngleContinental SaxonFrisianJutishGothicAlemannic,SwedishDanish and other tribal variants. Þéodisc is the adjective of þéod ”people, tribe”, cognate to Dutch/deutsch.

Irminsul

While having some commonalities with the Ásatrú movement following McNallen, Theodism primarily derived its origins as a reaction to Wicca. In 1971, Garman Lord and other practitioners of Gardnerian Wicca founded the The Coven Witan of Anglo-Saxon Wicca. Theodism is focused on the lore, beliefs and social structure – particularly the concept of thew(Old English þeaw) or “customary law” – of various specific Germanic tribes. The main distinction between Theodism and other modern manifestations of Germanic Neopaganism along with pre-Christian religions, the Theodish are also attempting to reconstruct aspects of pre-Christian Germanic social order (including sacral kingship).

King

In general, Théodish religious festivities are referred to as ‘fainings’ (meaning ‘celebration’). As a rule, there are two sorts of rituals; blót and symbelHúsel is technically part of blót. Symbel is normally held after the feast, inasmuch as it is custom not to have food present.

Garman Lord formed the Witan Theod in Watertown, New York, in 1976. A few years later, the Moody Hill Theod emerged as an offshoot of the Witan Theod. In 1988 the Winland Rice was formed as an umbrella organization of Theodish groups. Gert McQueen, Elder and Redesman of the Ring of Troth, was successful in lobbying the U.S. Army Chaplain’s Corps to adopt guidelines for recognizing heathen religions and Theodish belief in particular.

The Winland Rice dissolved in 2002. In 2004, Garman Lord stated that the religion of Theodism does not work in practice, dissolving Gering Theod and declaring Theodism as defunct. Several groups that have continued to call themselves Theodish. Axenthof Thiad originated in the early 1990s as the Fresena Thiad and part of the Winland Rice. In 2005, Gerd Forsta Axenthoves changed the name to Axenthof Thiad. Eric Wodening founded Englatheod in July 2007, while Sweartfenn Theod was founded, by Jeffrey Runokivi, in December 2007. Both groups practice Anglo-Saxon Theodism, and have members that have belonged to both the Winland Rice and the Ealdriht. In New York, the New Normannii Reik of Theodish Belief was founded in 1997 and is led by Dan Halloran but in 2009 many members split off and formed the Arfstoll Church of Theodish Belief, White Marsh Theod, and Álfröðull þjóð.

One famous follower of Theodism is New York City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran.

Polytheism


When i search for polytheism on Tumblr i get a whole lot of not so educated Abrahamic “monotheistic” bullshit, rewriting history and explaining what is wrong with it.

Too bad.

1. To refer to polythistic religions as primitive is not only bigotry but outright stupid.

These are customs and cultures that in many cases where around in one form or another for thousands of years before two guys invented Christianity in Rome (and no, neither was named Jesus and only one of them even met him).

2.Abrahamic “monotheists” (i only consider certain forms of Islam as truly monotheistic. Christianity is a text book case of soft polytheism….just like most forms of Hinduism) like to spell God with a capital “G” when its a monotheistic God, and with a “g” when its a polytheistic God. That says a lot.

3.Romantic shrines to pagan Gods, supposedly Germanic, built in Victorian times or during the nazi romanticism are NOT part of any culture, Germanic or otherwise.

Well. Now there is a post by a polytheist, about polytheism tagged “Polytheism”

Clearing Up Misconceptions that New Heathens May Have


New Heathens almost always encounter other Heathens on-line first, prior to meeting actual Heathens face-to-face in real life. Based on the behavior of many of the Heathens you encounter on-line, it would be easy to falsely conclude that all heathens are angry, mean people who like to argue and belittle other people. One might mistakenly conclude that the biggest problem facing Heathenry are the “hoards and hoards of racist” people calling themselves Heathen. One might start to incorrectly believe that Heathernry can take place on the internet. One might falsely conclude that the Prose and Poetic Edda are basically the Heathen Bible. One might sadly conclude that there is only one-true-way within Heathenry, and we’re debating and working hard to develop and define that one-true-way.

As easy as it would be to come to these conclusions, all of these conclusions would be essentially false.

REAL HEATHENS ARE A GENEROUS AND HOSPITABLE PEOPLE

Our Heathen ancestors put great important on their own families and their own local communities. But they held generosity and hospitality as important strengths of a man’s character. A man who knew how to be a generous host, and how to treat his guests well, would earn himself great respect among his peers.

Modern Heathens focus on their families and their kindred, living in Frith and cooperation within their trusted Innangarth, or trusted inner circle. While focus closely on family, kindred, and friends, they also understand the importance of extending hospitality to heathens traveling through or visiting their local area or kindred.

A man’s reputation, or Gefrain, is based on his deeds, how much he accomplishes, his generosity, his hospitality, and his honor. There is nothing about Asatru or Heathenry that encourages meaningless anger or pointless confrontations. But,on-line Heathenry is rife with keyboard cowboys that seem to delight in tearing other people down, name-calling, and being as confrontational as possible. This says much more about the nature of the internet and the nature of these people, than it has to do with Heathenry itself.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF HEATHENS ARE PROUD OF THEIR ANCESTORS

Heathens are proud of their history, their culture, and their ancestors. We feel that we share a connection with our ancestors by blood, by culture, and by Orlog, a part of the Heathen soul that is passed from parent to child. This pride is a positive pride, and does not involve hatred for other cultures or a need to tear other cultures down in favor of our own.

Some mistake this positive pride as somehow being “racist.” You’ll find that most “Folkish” Heathens don’t even use the word “Race,” in reference to their beliefs…because pride in one’s ancestors is not about “Race.” This on-going “racist” debate and name-calling is decades old within Heathenry, and has gotten us no where. It is an enormous distraction from anything constructive and positive. It should be noted, that this “racist” debate, is almost exclusively something that takes place on-line. It is an internet phenomenon, and utterly pointless.

Racism is not specifically a Heathen problem. Racism is not the problem of any one particular group. There are Racists within every religion. Christian Racists. Muslim Racists. Jewish Racists. Hindu Racists. Even Wiccan Racists.

Jotun’s Bane Kindred has been to scores of face-to-face heathen gatherings. The topic of “Race” or “Racism” never comes up at these gatherings, and is a complete non-issue within real Heathenry. It is only on-line that self-appointed “crusaders,” harp on this topic constantly. In so doing, they give the issue more time and attention that it deserves. Listening to these proverbial “Chicken Littles” on-line, one would think that Racism was a major problem within Heathenry…and that the sky is falling. I doubt they realize it, but their constant feeding and attention of this non-issue, gives this non-existent internet bogey-man a life of its own.

Rather than running about telling people what we aren’t, we should be focusing our time on telling people who we are, and why. We should explain why we honor our ancestors, and how important they are to us. What few “racist” Heathens there are, cease to have any real impact when we ignore and shun them as a topic, and focus our time and energy on moving forward.

REAL HEATHENRY TAKES PLACE FACE-TO-FACE

Real Heathenry is about community, gathering as a people, shaking a man or woman’s hand, looking them in the eye, hearing their voice, telling stories, getting to know each other. Its letting your kids play together. Letting your spouses get to know each other. Its about laughing at dumb jokes, and telling stories from your life. Its about mingling Wyrd…and taking the measure of another person, and finding them of worth.

Real Heathenry is about actually DOING something. Reading, scholarship, communication, discussing various beliefs, and even debating approaches to our Folkway are important. But, we are our deeds. What have you done? What are you doing? What will you do?

Starting, growing, and maintaining kindreds is a way of bringing Heathenry home. You build close-knit bonds of Frith with other Heathens that then become part of your Innangarth, or trusted inner circle. Gathering with other Heathens and living in Frith with them, allows for collective Luck to be built, and for great things to be accomplished. Our children get to know and play with other Heathen children. And we establish Heathen communities that draw other members of our Folk home to their ancestral Folkway.

These things can only happen face-to-face. We should never mistake internet interactions and acquaintances as “real.” They are just pixels on a screen, and these pixels flicker out when the machine is unplugged.

THE POETIC EDDA AND PROSE EDDA ARE HISTORICAL TEXTS

The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda are both historical texts, written by men. Both texts were actually written down by Christian men. The Poetic Edda was an attempt by Christians to record in writing the old poetry of their oral storytelling culture. The Poetic Edda was written by Snori Sturleson in order to preserve enough knowledge about Norse mythology and the meanings of poetic kennings, to preserve the poetry forms of the North. Heathens understand that these books are not “the word” of our Gods.

We include the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda among our Lore, a collection of primary sources we look to for information about the religion, ways, and world-view of our ancestors. We also include among this Lore, the Icelandic Sagas, Beowulf, and other contemporary writings of the time. But none of these books are “scripture.”

But you will encounter Heathens that read the poetry recorded in the Poetic Edda as scripture. They will quote it, and interpret it as literal truth, without any critical thought as to how and when they were recorded, and by whom. They quote information in the Prose Edda, as if what Snori Sturleson wrote is exactly what all Heathens thorughout history believed of our Gods and Goddesses, and the Nine Worlds. Yes, information from both the Poetic and Prose Eddas is important and well worth considering. But both sources are the works of men, and not the works of our Gods.

Other religions have their Holy Books, which they proclaim are the direct “Word” of their god. But our Heathen ancestors did not have a written tradition, nor a holy book. And modern Heathens also do not have a holy book.

TRIBAL VARIANCES ARE ACKNOWLEDGED AND EXPECTED

The ways of our Ancestors varied greatly from tribe to tribe, location to location, century to century, and even among various levels of society. The same situation exists today within modern Heathenry. There was no “one-true-way” among our ancestors and there is no “one-true-way among modern Heathens. We live in different regions, we have different backgrounds and upbringings, we have different life experiences, different personalities, different interests, and different ways of interpreting things we read and learn.

One of the great strengths of grassroots, local kindred-based, tribal heathenry is the understanding among various tribes that they can have unity of purpose and work together, without having unified beliefs or practices.

But, you will encounter Asatruars and Heathens who feel they are right, and everyone else is dreadfully wrong. Heathens who believe that the goal of the Reconstruction of our ancestral Folkway, is to rediscover the “one-true-way” of our ancestors. These Asatruars and Heathens debate angrily over details, denigrating and insulting all those that do things differently than they do, and they seem completely oblivious to the fact that the never was “one-true-way” of Heathenry.

When you look at the behavior of these elitists who insist there was one-true-way, and that they specifically are the ones that have found it, and that everyone else is wrong…does it not feel eerily familiar of the desert faiths, with their one-true-way?

Our ancestors did not act in this way, and I’m always amazed when people who claim to be the most well-read and learned among us, act in a way that is so contrary to how our ancestors would have approached their own ancestral Folkway.

BEST WAY TO CLEAR UP MISCONCEPTIONS

The best way to clear up these internet-oriented misconceptions is to meet or gather with other heathens face-to-face.  If there is a kindred or tribe within traveling distance of where you live, arranged to visit them or attend one of their meetings.  If there is no kindred or tribe within traveling distance, do some research on Heathen Gatherings…and attend one.  There is nothing like meeting with or gathering with other heathens, to give you better insight into the reality of Heathenry…rather than what lurks in the internet shadows.

Mark Ludwig Stinson

Jotun’s Bane Kindred

Temple of Our Heathen Gods

http://www.heathengods.com/

(Source: facebook.com)

Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush -Don’t Give Up


in this proud land we grew up strong
we were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

no fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
but no one wants you when you lose

My other blogs and Twitter


My other blogs and Twitter: http://westernmystery.tumblr.com/ Hermeticism, Theurgy, Thelema, Freemasonry, Heathenry, Golden Dawn, OTO, Ceremonial Magick, Kabbala, Enochian, Yoga, Paganism, Rosicrucianism, Esoterica, Alchemy, Voudoun, Santeria and more http://fornsed.tumblr.com/ Viking Age, Archeology, History, Anthropology, Scandinavia, Germanic tribes, Asatru, Heathenry, Anglo - Saxon faith, Vikings, Norse, Culture,Mythology and more http://jazzage.tumblr.com/ Vintage, 1920´s, Flappers, Charleston, Jazz, Gangsters, Prohibition, Movies, Music, Fashion, Hairstyles, Make Up, Attitudes and more https://marcelgomessweden.wordpress.com/ Personal blog. Longer articles http://twitter.com/#!/MarcelIoPan Twitter Yup, i´m whoring myself out!

My other blogs and Twitter:

http://westernmystery.tumblr.com/

Hermeticism, Theurgy, Thelema, Freemasonry, Heathenry, Golden Dawn, OTO, Ceremonial Magick, Kabbala, Enochian, Yoga, Paganism, Rosicrucianism, Esoterica, Alchemy, Voudoun, Santeria and more

http://fornsed.tumblr.com/

Viking Age, Archeology, History, Anthropology, Scandinavia, Germanic tribes, Asatru, Heathenry, Anglo – Saxon faith, Vikings, Norse, Culture,Mythology and more

http://jazzage.tumblr.com/

Vintage, 1920´s, Flappers, Charleston, Jazz, Gangsters, Prohibition, Movies, Music, Fashion, Hairstyles, Make Up, Attitudes and more

http://marcelgomes.tumblr.com/

Personal blog.

http://twitter.com/#!/MarcelIoPan

Twitter

Yup, i´m whoring myself out!

 

Religion as a Christian concept


 Religion as a Christian concept The social constructionists In recent years, some academic writers have described religion according to the theory of social constructionism, which considers how ideas and social phenomena develop in a social context. Among the main proponents of this theory of religion are Timothy Fitzgerald, Daniel Dubuisson and Talad Assad. The social constructionists argue that religion is a modern concept that developed from Christianity and was then applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures and European pre Christian cultures.

The social constructionists

In recent years, some academic writers have described religion according to the theory of social constructionism, which considers how ideas and social phenomena develop in a social context. Among the main proponents of this theory of religion are Timothy Fitzgerald, Daniel Dubuisson and Talad Assad. The social constructionists argue that religion is a modern concept that developed from Christianity and was then applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures and European pre Christian cultures.

Similar views to social constructionism have been put forward by writers who are not social constructionists. George Lindbeck, a Lutheran and a postliberal theologian, says that religion does not refer to belief in “God” or a transcendent Absolute, but rather to “a kind of cultural and/or linguistic framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought … it is similar to an idiom that makes possible the description of realities, the formulation of beliefs, and the experiencing of inner attitudes, feelings, and sentiments.” Nicholas de Lange, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, says that “The comparative study of religions is an academic discipline which has been developed within Christian theology faculties, and it has a tendency to force widely differing phenomena into a kind of strait-jacket cut to a Christian pattern. The problem is not only that other ‘religions’ may have little or nothing to say about questions which are of burning importance for Christianity, but that they may not even see themselves as religions in precisely the same way in which Christianity sees itself as a religion.”

Similar views to social constructionism have been put forward by writers who are not social constructionists. George Lindbeck, a Lutheran and a postliberal theologian, says that religion does not refer to belief in “God” or a transcendent Absolute, but rather to “a kind of cultural and/or linguistic framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought … it is similar to an idiom that makes possible the description of realities, the formulation of beliefs, and the experiencing of inner attitudes, feelings, and sentiments.” Nicholas de Lange, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, says that “The comparative study of religions is an academic discipline which has been developed within Christian theology faculties, and it has a tendency to force widely differing phenomena into a kind of strait-jacket cut to a Christian pattern. The problem is not only that other ‘religions’ may have little or nothing to say about questions which are of burning importance for Christianity, but that they may not even see themselves as religions in precisely the same way in which Christianity sees itself as a religion.”

Liber Al vel Legis


1904 Apr 8 – British occultist and writer Aleister Crowley began transcribing The Book of the Law, a Holy Book inThelema.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”

“Love is the law, love under will”

Alex Sanders


 Alex Sanders (June 6, 1926 - April 30, 1988), born Orrell Alexander Carter, was an English occultist and High Priest in the Neopaganreligion of Wicca, responsible for founding the tradition of Alexandrian Wicca during the 1960s. Historians have considered him to be one of the most significant figures in the history of the religion, who was noted for bringing it to greater public attention through his publicity seeking efforts and for the various innovations that he introduced into the faith. Being raised in a working class family, he was introduced to esoteric ideas by his mother and grandmother from a young age, and as a young man began working as a medium in the local Spiritualist Churches before going on to study and practice ceremonial magic. In 1963, he was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca before founding his own coven, through which he merged many aspects of ceremonial magic into Gardnerianism, falsely then trying to pass off this tradition, Alexandrianism, as a hereditary tradition that had been handed down to him by his grandmother. Alex Sanders, in full ritual garb  Wicca Sanders’ first contact with Wicca was in the early 1960s, through correspondence and meetings with Patricia Crowther. In September 1962, he succeeded in convincing the Manchester Evening News to run a front-page article on Wicca. This publicity had several unfortunate side-effects for Sanders, including the loss of his job at the library and estrangement from the Crowthers, who considered him a troublesome upstart and refused to initiate him. He was eventually initiated by a priestess who had been a member of the Crowthers’ coven, and with whom Maxine Sanders later worked for several years. It was rumoured that Alex copied the Wiccan Book of Shadows in a Gardnerian’s garage while a party was going on in the house, however according to Maxine he copied his book from his initiator’s book in the normal manner. Soon afterwards, he joined a Gardnerian coven led by Pat Kopanski, which dissolved just over a year later. Sanders worked with several covens, including one led by a priestess called Sylvia. Eventually she and several others left the group amicably, leaving Alex to continue as High Priest. During this period the coven worked at Alex’s home at 24 Egerton Road North, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. Sanders continued to attract media attention which brought him more followers. By 1965 he claimed 1,623 initiates in 100 covens, who apparently elected him to the title of King of the Witches.

 

 

Alex Sanders (June 6, 1926 – April 30, 1988), born Orrell Alexander Carter, was an English occultist and High Priest in the Neopaganreligion of Wicca, responsible for founding the tradition of Alexandrian Wicca during the 1960s. Historians have considered him to be one of the most significant figures in the history of the religion, who was noted for bringing it to greater public attention through his publicity seeking efforts and for the various innovations that he introduced into the faith.

Being raised in a working class family, he was introduced to esoteric ideas by his mother and grandmother from a young age, and as a young man began working as a medium in the local Spiritualist Churches before going on to study and practice ceremonial magic. In 1963, he was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca before founding his own coven, through which he merged many aspects of ceremonial magic into Gardnerianism, falsely then trying to pass off this tradition, Alexandrianism, as a hereditary tradition that had been handed down to him by his grandmother.


Alex Sanders, in full ritual garb

Wicca

Sanders’ first contact with Wicca was in the early 1960s, through correspondence and meetings with Patricia Crowther. In September 1962, he succeeded in convincing the Manchester Evening News to run a front-page article on Wicca. This publicity had several unfortunate side-effects for Sanders, including the loss of his job at the library and estrangement from the Crowthers, who considered him a troublesome upstart and refused to initiate him.

He was eventually initiated by a priestess who had been a member of the Crowthers’ coven, and with whom Maxine Sanders later worked for several years. It was rumoured that Alex copied the Wiccan Book of Shadows in a Gardnerian’s garage while a party was going on in the house, however according to Maxine he copied his book from his initiator’s book in the normal manner.

Soon afterwards, he joined a Gardnerian coven led by Pat Kopanski, which dissolved just over a year later. Sanders worked with several covens, including one led by a priestess called Sylvia. Eventually she and several others left the group amicably, leaving Alex to continue as High Priest. During this period the coven worked at Alex’s home at 24 Egerton Road North, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. Sanders continued to attract media attention which brought him more followers. By 1965 he claimed 1,623 initiates in 100 covens, who apparently elected him to the title of King of the Witches.

 

Gerald Gardner


 Gerald Brousseau Gardner (June 13, 1884 - February 12, 1964), who sometimes used the craft name Scire, was an influential EnglishWiccan, as well as an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist, writer, weaponry expert and occultist. He was instrumental in bringing theNeopagan religion of Wicca to public attention in Britain and wrote some of its definitive religious texts. He himself typically referred to the faith as “witchcraft” or “the witch-cult”, its adherents “the Wica”, and he claimed that it was the survival of a pre-Christian pagan Witch cult that he had been initiated into by a New Forest coven in 1939. Gardner spent much of his life abroad in southern and south-eastern Asia, where he developed an interest in many of the native peoples, and wrote about some of their magical practices. It was after his retirement and return to England that he was initiated into Wicca by the New Forest coven. Subsequently fearing that this religion, which he apparently believed to be a genuine continuance of ancient beliefs, would die out, he set about propagating it through initiating others, mainly through the Bricket Wood coven, and introduced a string of notable High Priestesses into Wicca, including Doreen Valiente, Lois Bourne, Patricia Crowther and Eleanor Bone. He would go on to develop his own variant of the Craft that has come to be named after him, Gardnerian Wicca, which combined the teachings that he had received from the New Forest coven with additional ideas taken from a number of disparate sources, including Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, mediaevalgrimoires and the writings of the occultist Aleister Crowley, a man whom Gardner knew personally. He also published two books on the subject of Wicca, Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), along with a couple of novels, and ran the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft on the Isle of Man, which was devoted to the subject. For this, he has left an enduring legacy on the modern Wiccan and Neopagan movement, and is frequently referred to as “the Father of Wicca”.

Gerald Brousseau Gardner (June 13, 1884 – February 12, 1964), who sometimes used the craft name Scire, was an influential EnglishWiccan, as well as an amateur anthropologist and archaeologistwriterweaponry expert and occultist. He was instrumental in bringing theNeopagan religion of Wicca to public attention in Britain and wrote some of its definitive religious texts. He himself typically referred to the faith as “witchcraft” or “the witch-cult”, its adherents “the Wica”, and he claimed that it was the survival of a pre-Christian pagan Witch cult that he had been initiated into by a New Forest coven in 1939.

Gardner spent much of his life abroad in southern and south-eastern Asia, where he developed an interest in many of the native peoples, and wrote about some of their magical practices. It was after his retirement and return to England that he was initiated into Wicca by the New Forest coven. Subsequently fearing that this religion, which he apparently believed to be a genuine continuance of ancient beliefs, would die out, he set about propagating it through initiating others, mainly through the Bricket Wood coven, and introduced a string of notable High Priestesses into Wicca, including Doreen ValienteLois BournePatricia Crowther and Eleanor Bone. He would go on to develop his own variant of the Craft that has come to be named after him, Gardnerian Wicca, which combined the teachings that he had received from the New Forest coven with additional ideas taken from a number of disparate sources, including Freemasonryceremonial magic, mediaevalgrimoires and the writings of the occultist Aleister Crowley, a man whom Gardner knew personally.

He also published two books on the subject of Wicca, Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), along with a couple of novels, and ran the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft on the Isle of Man, which was devoted to the subject. For this, he has left an enduring legacy on the modern Wiccan and Neopagan movement, and is frequently referred to as “the Father of Wicca”.

Mystery Cults


MYSTERY CULTS

 

Mystery religionssacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved toinitiates.[1] The main characterization of this religion is the secrecy associated with the particulars of the initiation and the cult practice, which may not be revealed to outsiders. The most famous mysteries of Greco-Roman antiquity were the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were of considerable antiquity and predated the Greek Dark Ages. The popularity of mystery cults flourished in Late AntiquityJulian the Apostate in the mid 4th century is known to have been initiated into three distinct mystery cults. Notable among these late cults was the Mithraic Mysteries.

Due to the secret nature of the cult, and because the mystery religions of Late Antiquity disappeared after the 4th century (Theodosius I closed the Eleusian sanctuaries by decree in 392 AD), the details of these religious practices are unknown to scholarship, although there are educated guesses as to their general content-

Mithraeum

Mithraeum, a place for the worship of Mithras

DEFINITION

The term “Mystery” derives from Latin mysterium, from Greek musterion (usually as the plural musteria μυστήρια), in this context meaning “secret rite or doctrine.” An individual who followed such a “Mystery” was a mystes (a mystic) “one who has been initiated,” from myein ”to close, shut,” a reference to secrecy (closure of “the eyes and mouth”[4]:56) or that only initiates were allowed to observe and participate in rituals. The Mysteries were thus cults in which all religious functions were closed to the uninitiated and for which the inner-working of the cult were kept secret from the general public.

 

Dionysian

Place for Dionysian worship at Pompeii

CHARACTERISTICS

Mystery religions form one of three types of Hellenistic religion, the others being the imperial cult or ethnic religion particular to a nation or state, and the philosophic religions such asNeoplatonism. This is also reflected in the tripartite division of “theology” by Varro, in civil theology (concerning the state cult and its stabilizing effect on society), natural theology(philosophical speculation about the nature of the divine) and mythical theology (concerning myth and ritual).

Mysteries thus supplement rather than compete with civil religion. An individual could easily observe the rites of the state cult, be an initiate in one or several mysteries, and at the same time adhere to a certain philosophical school. In contrast to the public rituals of civil religion, participation in which was expected of every member of society, initiation to a mystery was optional within Graeco-Roman polytheism. Many of the cultic aspects of public religion are repeated within the mystery, sacrifices, ritual meals, ritual purifications etc., just with the additional aspect that they take place in secrecy, confined to a closed set of initiates.

This is important in the context of the early persecution of Christians: Christianity was seen as objectionable by the Roman establishment not on grounds of its religious tenets or cultic practice, but because early Christians chose to consider their new faith as precluding the participation in the imperial cult, which was seen as subversive by the Roman establishment.

The mystery cults offered a niche for the preservation of archaic religious ritual, and there is reason to assume that they were very conservative. The Eleusian Mysteries persisted for more than a millennium, more likely close to two millennia, during which period the ritual of public religion changed significantly, from the archaic cult of the Bronze to Early Iron Age to the Hero cult of Hellenistic civilization and again to the imperial cult of the Roman era, while the ritual performances of the mysteries for all we know remained unchanged. “They had, more often than not, come up from a barbarous underworld. They were singularly persistent. The mysteries at Eleusis near Athens lasted for a thousand years; and there is reason to believe that they changed little during that long period.” For this reason, what glimpses we do have of the older Greek mysteries have been taken as reflecting certain archaic aspects of common Indo-European religion, with parallels in Indo-Iranian religion in particular, by Janda (2000).

Face

The mystery cults of Greco-Roman antiquity include the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries and the Orphic Mysteries. Some of the many divinities that the Romans nominally adopted from other cultures also came to be worshipped in Mysteries, so for instance Egyptian Isis, Persian Mithraic Mysteries Thracian/Phrygian Sabazius and Phrygian Cybele.