Tools

Appendix on the Greek Mysteries

Meaning of the Term “Mysteries.”—The term is applied to certain religious rites, the details and meaning of which are kept secret from all except those who have been formally initiated. Μυστήριον is derived from μύειν, to close the lips (cp. mute, mutter), and thus the idea of secrecy is contained in the word itself. Clement suggests three derivations different from this,1 but they are plainly no more than random guesses. Rites analogous to the Greek Mysteries are found among primitive peoples all over the world. In Greece, however, the Mysteries reached a high degree of development, and proved themselves able for many centuries to provide some satisfaction to the cravings of men for communion with the divine.

Origin of the Mysteries.—The Mysteries are generally connected with the gods called chthonic, i.e. earth divinities, whose worship goes back to a time before the arrival of the anthropomorphic gods of Greece. M. Foucart holds that the Eleusinian Mysteries were

  • 1See p. 31.
379