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Phrygian priests of the Great Mother sacrificed the repro-
ductive principle in her honour. At even the Neophytes
partook of a cake made of roasted and pounded sesame-
seeds and honey. The symbolism of all seeds and seed-
plants in the Mysteries is similar and obvious, as noticed
in the case of the pom^anate ; and agreeably with this,
we find that the sesame cake was an Attik wedding

Fourth Day. — The Basket Procession. The Kalathos,
or mystic hand-basket of Demeter, containing pomegra-
nates and poppy seeds, was carried in procession in the
sacred ox-drawn cart. The accompanying crowds shouted
* Hail Demeter ! ' whilst behind walked the Kistophoroi,
each bearing a small box or chest, histe^ cista^ which
contained salt, wool, pomegranate-seeds, ivy, and little
round cakes.^ Ptolemaios Philadelphos introduced the
Eleusinian ritual into Alexandria, on which occasion
Kidlimachos composed his famous' Hymn to the Basket.
The symbols represented, somewhat protoplasmically, the
germs of things.

Fifth Day. — The Torch Procession. Towards night
on this day there was a procession of the Mystics, bearing
torches, and headed by the Dadouchos, or Torch-bearer,
who was the first of the three assistants of the Hiero-
phant, and sjonbolised the Sun, to the temple at
Eleusis, where they passed the night. The ritual of the
day is very interesting as showing the exact circumstances
under which Dionysos was introduced to the Mysteries.
In the Homeric Hymn, as was noticed, it was Dionysos

* Aristoph. Eirene. 869. became connected. (Of. Juv. Mtmdi.

" One kind of these was called Ox- 811). Souidas remarks, ' They call

cake, made with little horns and it Ox/ haun ; In toc. BcuthebdomoB.)

dedicated to the Moon (Hesych. in Is this our bun P
voc. Bous)f with whom Persephone

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who, as Helios with his all-seeing eye of light, assisted the
Goddess in her search by informing her who had carried
away her Daughter. But in Hellas Dionysos is not at first
conspicuous in a solar phase, as the place of the solar god
was already well occupied by the Aryan Apollon, and
therefore when, for the reasons and in manner above
noticed, he was introduced into the drama of Eleusis, he
appears as apparently unconnected with Pelios. In this
day's ritual neither Helios nor lakchos is visible eis
nominibus. The former has disappeared from the scene ;
the latter has not yet arrived on it : and so we have the
Torch-bearer as the Protagonist. Now the Torch-bearer,
as we have seen, is Dionysos himself, and of course it
will be observed that this torch-procession was a re-
presentation of the night search of Demeter, assisted by
Dionysos, leader of the igneo-starry choir, bearing the
torch which he held up to the Mother on the moimtains.
Torches suggest the night, and the sun with still greater
force the day, but both appear in the Homerik Hymn,
and show that the search of the Goddess was con-
tinued without cessation. Both day and night are full
of meaning in the symbolism; on the other hand, it
is the cheering influence of the solar-torch, for day is
only night kept at bay by the torch of lakchos, which
makes the earth bring forth and bud, and so assists in re-
covering Persephone, the lost beauty-splendour ; and, on
the other. Night is a mighty nurturer of all things, which,
wrapped in the sable folds of her star-fringed mantle, can
rest and increase in peace. The Sun, too, in some respects
is a nocturnal as well as a diurnal divinity, and is busy in
the Under- world until again, as Hyperion, the Climber, the
Winged Disk of mysterious potency, he * scales high
heaven, exulting like a god,' or giant-athlete.^ 'The
nights,' says Hesiod, ' belong to the blessed gods ; and the

■ Psalm f xix. o.

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Orphik Poet calls night the source of all things, to denote
that productive power, which, as I have been told, it
really possesses; it being observed that plants and animals
gi'ow more by night than by day. The ancients extended
this power much further, and supposed that not only the
productions of the earth, but the luminaries of heaven
were nourished and sustained by the benign influence of
the night.' ^

Sixth Day. — The Day of lakchos. On this day, as
noticed,^ the statue of Dionysos-Iakchos, torch in hand
and crowned with myrtle, was carried along the Hiera
Hodos, or Sacred Way, from the Kerameikos, or Potter's
Quarter, to Eleusis, accompanied by the lakchogogoi, or
lakchos- leaders, also myrtle-crowned, who danced and
sang and beat upon their tympana^ or kettle-drums.
They made a brief halt at a spot marked by an EQera
Syke, or Sacred Fig-tree, and then proceeding, entered
Eleusis by the Mystike Eisodos, or Mystic Entry. On
this day, the twentieth of Boedromion, the solemnity of the
ritual reached its height ; and Dionysos, as we saw in
Euripides, hastens from Kastalia to lead the universal
dance in honour of the golden-crowned Damsel and her
awfiil Mother.^ The starry-faced Ether and the Moon
begin the dance, and all natiure follows ; and the starry-
Ether is but Dionysos in his spotted starry robe, the
* pattern of things in the heavens.' And how does the
dance honour the Two Goddesses of life? Because it
exhibits, to use modern terminology, the rhythm and
continuity of motion and the persistence of force, and is
thus the great Hfe-manifestation. Motion being a special
manifestation of Hfe, and dance, * the poetry of motion,'
of orderly and harmonious Ufe, hence is derived the
simple yet profound and beautiful symbohsm by which all

> R. Payne Knight, Worship of Priapus, 106.

« Sup, IV. iu. 1. » Ion, 1074 et $eq.

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things are said to dance in honour of the mighty embodi-
ment of kosmic being. An ancient bronze, which in Payne
Knight's time was at Strawberry Hill among the many
curiosities and objects of art collected by Horace Walpole,
represents in a remarkable manner the union and harmony
of the Demetrian and Dionysiak cults. Demeter is
seated with a cup in one hand, various fruits in the other,
and a small buU in her lap. The Earth-mother, it will
be observed, is thus herself possessed of wine and the
grape, which she brings forth equally with other food for
the service of man ; while the tauromorphic Dionysos,
emblem of productiveness and of the vigour of the
natural life, nestles to her as his patroness and superior.^
But the votaries of Eleusis have reached the entrance to
the temple of Demeter, which was a square building of
about 200 feet on each side, commenced by Iktinos, the
architect of the Parthenon, and finished by Philon about
B.C. 315. A herald thereupon dismissed the general
crowd by solemn proclamation (*Procul, procul ite
profani I '), and the Mystics were then admitted into the
illimiined interior of the shrine, a process termed Phota-
gogia, or the Leading-to-the-hght. They were next ad-
monished to draw near * with hearts sprinkled from an
evil conscience and bodies washed with pure water,* and
having repeated the solemn oath of secrecy, holy mysteries
were read to them out of a sacred book called Petroma,
because it consisted of two stones closely joined together.
At Pheneos, in northern Arkadia, was a temple of
Demeter Eleusinia, where the same mystic ceremonies
were performed as at Eleusis ;^ and near the temple were
two large stones closely joined together, and called
Petroma, between which were preserved the mystic
writings. These at the Greater Mysteries were taken out

* Worship of Pt-iapm, 72. PI. viii. ^ Paus. viii. 14.

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and read to the neophytes, and replaced at night. Oaths
were usually sworn on the Petroma ; and inside, besides
the sacred writings, was kept a mask of Demeter Kidaria,
which the priest having put on invoked the infernal
powers by striking with rods upon the ground.^ Pausa-
nias is here unusually communicative about the mysteries,
and the passage is of very considerable interest and im-
portance, it being remembered that the ceremonies of
Pheneos and Eleusis were similar, a fact of which
Pausanias, himself an Epopt,* was well qualified to judge.
The reading being finished, the Mystics severally confessed
to the Hierophant, and were strictly examined by him on
numerous matters, but especially with regard to fasting
and chastity, both of which were indispensable pre-
requisites to initiation. Answers were given according to
a set form, and this part of the ceremony having been
duly observed, the Aspirants were admitted to the mystic
Sekos, or Enclosure, which adjoined the temple, and was
of considerable size, large enough indeed to contain the
crowd of a theatre.^ They were further prepared for the
performance by partaking of a cup ' craftily qualified,'
being an imitation of the celebrated * Miscellaneous Potion'
given to Demeter on her visit to Eleusis,* and called
Kykeon, meaning primarily that-which-is-stirred-up, and
hence the state of confusion produced by drinking.
Such was the drugged preparation given by Kirke to the
companions of Odysseus.^ Poppies were an ingredient of
it, and this ' presented to each mystic before the shows
began, might have contributed more to that confusion of
intellects than the awful appearance of the objects exhi-
bited.'^ Deeply excited and agitated by all they had

» Paufl. viii. 15. » Od, x. 234 et se^.

' Ibid. i. 37, 38. • Christie, Disqumtions upon the

' Strabo, ix. i. Painted Greek Vases^ 37.

* ffi/mn. eis Dem. 208.

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gone throiigh, ready to believe anything and everything,
in that state of abstinence which is, or is supposed to be,
most favourable to the reception of supernatural displays,
with their minds more or less affected by drugs, and their
whole being permeated with the impression and expecta-
tion of a revelatiou of the more-than- mortal, they were
allowed TO SEE. This is the Autopsia or Personal In-
spection, the Crown of Mysteries, the Epopteia or Divine
Beholding, which was used as a synonym to express the
highest earthly happiness, and he who had enjoyed it
became an Epoptes, or Contemplator, beyond which this
world could give him nothing. But what saw they?
naturally exclaims the reader. Before attempting to give
some answer to this question, let us for a moment consider
this august phraseology irrespective of what the Epopts of
old saw or thought they saw. The extraordinary suita-
bility of the language of the Mysteries to the Christian
religion is as evident as remarkable. The mind can con-
ceive no higher idea than to behold the Invisible God in
peace, a privilege which implies a likeness of nature ; for
the Apostle declares that those who will see Him as He
is, i.e., anthropomorphically displayed in His Eikon, or
Personified Idea, will be like Him; and that this very
hope stimulates them to aim at infinite purity and perfec-
tion.^ T here can be no more godlike aspiration th an the
desire of Being like Gk)d. So could the delighted astro-
nomer exclaim on making his great discoveries that he
entered into the mind of the Creator and read His thoughts,
which naturally are not as man's. * All men,' says Home-
ros, ' yearn after the gods.' * Thou hast made us for
Thyself,' says S. Augustin, * and we cannot rest till we
rest in Thee.' The ancient Patriarch Job, in a noble and
familiar declaration of faith, which certain moderns have
vainly attempted to twist into something comparatively

» 1 John iii. 2, 3.

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petty and meaningless, states his emphatic belief in the
Autopsia : ' In my flesh I shall see Gkxi, Whom 1 shall see
for myself^ and mine eyes shall behold, and not another ; '
and this beUef in a Zeus Soter, and in His ultimate
epiphany or manifestation to His worshippers, is called
' the root of the matter/ ^ The anthropomorphic element
and idea in religion is at present disparaged and attacked ;
people begin and end their creed with a Final Cause, a
Great Unknown. But belief which contains no more
than this is essentially valueless and unpractical Amen,
the Hidden God, will remain for ever hidden until anthro-
pomorphically revealed. Gods who are only afar off are

The gods who haunt
The lucid interspace of world and world,
Where never creeps a cloud, or moves a wind,
Nor ever falls the least white star of snow,
Nor ever lowest roll of thunder moans.
Nor sound of human sorrow mounts to mar
Their sacred everlasting calm I

Such gods, or again a mere pantheistic Dionysos, * ever-
lastingly within creation * as its inmost life, omnipresent
and omniactive,' • Erikepeios forsooth, Spring- time-
garden-growth, are truely valueless ; and no wonder that
men should begin to doubt the propriety of praying to
them. This vast subject cannot be further deait with
here. I merely mention it to illustrate the grandeur of
the concepts to which the Eleusinian initiation naturally
gives rise. Let us never be beguiled out of our faith in a

1 Job xix. 26-8. I am weU aware and explicatkm of Qen, xiv. {CEdipm

that in certain quarters the Book of Judaicm. Dissert. Two). ' A man

Job is called a poetical allegory, and may «ay.'

is said to have been composed in the ' Instead of creation being within
time of Solomon or later. Sed ei in>- him. Vide sup, II. iii. d.
cumbtt probatio qtU dicit. Vide ' Rev. Wiuiam Knight in Con-
Sit W. DrummoncTs sage treatment temporary Heview, Dec. 1873.

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Personal Divinity, but, holding fast to the anthropomor-
phic principle, say with the ' divine Poet ' : ^ —

That each, who seems a separate whole.
Should move his rounds and fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fall

Remerging in the general Soul,

Is faith as vague as all unsweet ;

Eternal form shall still divide

The eternal soul from all beside ;
And I shall know Him when we meet.

And we shall sit at endless feast.

Enjoying each the other's good ;

What vaster dream can hit the mood
Of Love on earth ?

But to return to the Mysteries, and to the question,
What was seen there ? The priest at Pheneos, and also
apparently at Eleusis, put on the mask of Demeter Ki-
daria. The Kidaria was an Oriental head-dress ^ distin-
guished by a peculiar peak or prominence in front, closely
connected with and probably being a species of the
homed head-dresses still worn as tokens of rank, wife-
hood, etc., in parts of Syria. Demeter being a purely
Aryan divinity, is never, so far as I am aware, represented
as horned; but in her phase as Kidaria, wearing the
peaked or pointed head-dress, an Oriental addition to the
goddess, she approaches as nearly to Artemis Tauropolos,
or to Astarte, as the anthropomorphic principles of Hellas
will allow. It seems, so to speak, to be the result of
taking the Semitic bull in her lap. Kidaris is also the
name of an Arkadian dance,^ so that it is sufficiently

' A term api^edlw Mrs. Browning in Ealdeo-Assjrian Kudum (vide

to the Laureate. Vide Cantetnporan/ Itecord$ of the Pastf v. 112).
llevieWf Dec. 1873, 160. » Athen. xiv. 7.

« In Hebrew Kefer (Esth. vi. 8) ;

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evident that at Pheneos the Demetrian votaries danced, in
honour of the Mother and the Dau<^hter, adorned with
these peaked head-dresses. This reminds ns of the dances
of the Satyroi, the horned attendants of Dionysos.^ Next,
as to the mask, prosopon^ or prosopeion. ' The tragedian
was increased to a collossal stature by his mask, which
not only represented a set of features much larger than
those of any ordinary man, but was raised to a great
height above the head by a sort of elevated frontlet or
fore-top, rising in the shape of the letter ^.' ^ This &t)ntlet
corresponds with the peak of the kidaris^ and on the
Attik stage was covered with the tire, or periwig. The
Hierophantes, or Shower- of-sacred-things, being thus ha-
bited, he next invoked the Infernal, or Nether, Divinities,
by striking with rods upon the ground, i.e. knocked at
the door of their house, a most ancient and natural mode
of invocation. Thus Althaia, the mother of Meleagros,
called upon the rulers of the Under- world : —

With her hands
Beating the solid earth, the nether pow'rs,
Pluto and awful Proserpine, implor'd.'

Sacred mysteries, as a matter of course, could only be
shown through the eye or the ear, and the latter having
already been filled with them by means of the reading
from the Petroma, it remained to astonish the eye ; this
was to be efiected by means of displays of a theatrical and
illusory character. As of coiu^e, but at the same time a
circumstance too generally unnoticed, the programme of
the entertainment varied greatly in different ages ; numer-
ous novel ideas being imported in later times from Kam
and the East, and the stage appliances by degrees becom-

* AmoDget the North American ' Theatre of the QreekSy 248.

iDdians the < Bu£^lo dance' was per- ' //. ix. 568, Earl of Derby's

formed by homed votaries, (Oatlini Translation.
North American Indians^ ii. 12)^).

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ing more elaborate as the element of deception and un-
reality grew stronger. It is sufficiently evident that at
the commencement of the Epopteia the nerves of the
Mystics were tried, it may be severely, by more or less
tenible appearances ; which, as noticed, Aristophanes
seems to refer to when he represents Dionysos as meeting
with the spectral Empousa near the happy meadow where
the initiated were dancing as in Arkadia. The Eleusinian
dances were of two kinds, the public, which took place
openly in the meadow near the well Kallichoros,^ and the
private, which apparently were performed within the
Sekos adjoining the temple. Bearing in mind then, (1)
that these were private dances, (2) performed before the
votaries at initiation, (3) of a nerve- trying character, and
(4) after the invocation of the Infernal Divinities, let us
endeavour to realise to some extent what took place on
the occasion.* We have noticed the invocation of Althaia
as being exactly similar to that of the Hierophant, nor
was it unheeded : —

. From the depths
Of Erebus Erinnys heard her pray'r,
Gloom-haunting goddess, dark and stem of heart.

The dread Erinyes or Furies, called euphemistically Eume-
nides the Appeased, and Semnai the Venerable, are said
by Hesiodos to be the daughters of Gaia,* Earth ; by
Aischylos, of Night ; * whilst Sophokles ascribes their

^ St. Croix, RechercheB mr les which are occult.' ' The choral dance

Jtfy8^c«: Mitchell; in Bat, 326. of the stars, the orderly concert of

' The Tractate of Loukianos, Peri planets, their common miion and
OrcheseSSf 'concerning the Dance/ harmony of motion, constitute the
contains several remarks worthy of exhihition of the dance of the first-
notice. Thus he oheerves that ' no bom.' Vide also R. P. Knight, Synv-
ancient initiation can be found where Mical Language of Ancient Art and
there is not dancing/ and that 'the Mythology , sec. clxxxyii.; mp, lY.
imitative art is a certain knowledge, iii. 1.
an exhibition, a showing of things ' Theog, 185.
arcane to the mental powers, and ^ Eumen, 394.
the expression of the living things

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parentage to Earth and Darkness.^ Thus, when appearing,
they rise from the gloom of the Under-world, Phoberopes
Of-terrific-aspects,^ and Ophio-plokamoi * Snaky-haired.
* Aischylos/ says Pausanias; * was the first who [to his
knowledge] represented them with snakes in their hair ;'*
and he notices that neither their statues nor those of any
of the Infernal Divinities were dreadful in appearance, a
striking illustration of the Hellenik clinging to the anthro-
pomorphic principle, which I have so frequently occasion
to notice as an important rule in distinguishing the origin
of divinities. Now Aischylos was accused of having di-
vulged the secrets of the Mysteries, and of incorporating
incidents fi-om them in his Plays ; ^ he too provided masks
and stage dresses, and is said to have himself inserted
various peculiar choral-dances. He also wrote a play
entitled The Eleudnians^ which is supposed to have
formed the third in the Trilogy of the Thebais^ and to
have been the sequel of the Hepta epi Thebas' Almost
every word of the Play is lost, but the subject would give
tempting opportunities to an Epopt who was at all inclined
to reveal the secrets of the Sekos. It is hardly necessary
to allude in detail to his Eumenides ; suffice it to remind
the reader that he represented the Erinyes as black-bodied,
blood-dripping beings, with snakes entwined in their hair,
dwelling in evil darkness in Tartaros below the earth.
He calls them * wingless,' ^ but Euripides more naturally
represents them as * wing-bearing,' ^ and on the Vases
they sometimes appear with wings and sometimes without.
Again, they are torch-connected and torch-bearing powers,
and so are described as being ' delighted with the blazing

» Old. epi E6l6n. 40. Poik, Hist. v. 19 ; Olem. Alex. S^rom.

^ Orph. Hymn, Ixx. 10. ii. 14, ' Aischylos, who divulged the

* Ibtd, lix. 12. mysteries on the stage.'

* Paus. i. 28. » Eutnen, 61.

* Aristot Mhik. iii. 1 j Aelian, ' Orenfes, 317.

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torch/ ^ which is ^ sunless/^ as being in the Under-world,
and Athene promises to send torches to the lower regions,*
apparently in their honour. Thus a Fury is represented
on a Vase as bearing two spears in one hand and a large
and fiercely blazing torch in the other ; * and in another
representation of the ' enthroned Persephone in Hades,' a
Fury stands on her right hand, with two large torches.^
So Ovid,

Tristis Erinnys
Praetulit infaustas sanguinolenta faces.

Lastly, the Furies had a terrible malignant dance, which
they accompanied by a weird, mind-destroying hymn.^
It is especially called an * un-Bakchik dance,^ as being
joyless and accompanied with groans and weeping, and
their incantations, like those of the mediaeval witches,
made healthy life wither away,® thus being the exact
opposite to Dionysos Karpios or Erikepeios. Their
forms, Empousa-Uke, appear to change. As it showed like
an ox, a mule, a woman, or with a fire-blazing visage ;^
so they are winged and wingless, Gorgon-like and un-
Gorgon-like, dog-faced^^ and woman-faced.^^ Speaking of
the connection between the Furies and the Mysteries,
Thomas Taylor observes : * There is a passage in the
Cataphis of Lucian which very much corroborates my
opinion : " Tell me. Cynic, for you are initiated in the
Eleusinian Mysteries, do not the present particulars appear
to you similar to those which take place in the Mysteries ?
Cyn, Very much so. See then, here comes a certain
torch-bearer, with a dreadful and threatening countenance.
Is it, therefore, one of the Furies ? " It is evident from

> Eumen, 9»4. ^ Eur. (h-egleSy 319.

« Ibid. 365. « Ais. Eumm, 819.

» Und. 974. *» Ariatopb. Bat. 288 et $eq

* Smith, Class. Diet, 272. »o Eur. Orestes, 260.

* Ibid. Smaller Class. Diet 31. ^ »> Ais. Eumen, 47.

* AiB. Eumen, 316 et seq.

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this passage that the Furies in the Mysteries were of a
terrible appearance.'^ The Kataplaus^ or Sailing-to-shore,
like the Batrachoij describes a voyage across the Styx.
* It is a circumstance remarkably singular, that the
Pythagorean philosopher Numenius was, as well as
Pausanias, deterred by a dream from disclosing the
Eleusinian Mysteries. When delusive faith succeeded to
scienti/ic theology^ and divine mystery was no more, it
then became necessary to reveal this most holy and august
institution. This was done by the later Platonists.'*
Thus we are informed that 'in the most holy of the
mysteries before the presence of the god certain terrestrial
daemons are hurled forth,' • and that these spectres
appeared in the shape of dogs,* hke the dog- faced
chthonian Furies in their uncouth hateful dance. * The
dog, in general, mythically represents all utterly senseless
and carnal desires.' like Kerberos, the hell-hound, and

Seirios, * the dog-star of ruin the Greek

notion of the dog being throughout confused between its
serviceable fidelity, its watchfulness, its foul voracity,
shamelessness, and deadly madness.'^ St. Croix, follow-
ing Dion Chrysostomos, a.d. 50-117, and others, speaks

Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 25 of 38)