The thought of death has relentlessly pursued a person throughout history. People think about her, are afraid and try in every possible way to know her, since death is a kind of bridge between the real and the other world.
Probably the most famous and widespread cult among the ancient peoples was the culture of fertility, a dying and resurrecting nature, which from pagan times then organically merged into well-known Christian subjects and rituals. The so-called mysteries were associated with this cult among some peoples. Celebrations with secret rituals to which as many people as possible tried to join.
The most ancient and less well-known were the Egyptian mysteries dedicated to the dying and resurrecting god Osiris. The heyday of the cult of this god dates back to about 1800 BC. In the city of Solemn procession with the funeral boat of Osiris Abydos, special mysteries were celebrated. They were of two types: the first were more public and were dramatized fragments of the myth of Osiris. The latter were extremely classified and closed. Quite scanty information about them is given by the works of the Greek historian Herodotus (1st century AD) and some fragments of the "Pyramid Texts" written right on the walls of tombs around 2500 BC.
A well-known myth tells that the great Osiris once ruled Egypt very justly and wisely. He taught people agriculture, crafts, and god worship. All this time, next to him was his wife and sister Isis, as well as his brother Set, who insidiously built a plan behind Osiris's back to overthrow him. And then one fine day, at a feast, Seth came up with entertainment - all guests were invited to lie down in a specially prepared chic coffin (it was very beautiful and decorated with many precious stones). To the one who will have a coffin in size, Seth promised to give it. When Osiris lay in the coffin, Set slammed the lid and threw the sarcophagus into the Nile. Osiris died naturally.
Isis, learning about what had happened, hurried to Byblos, to take the remains of her husband from the coffin, hoping to resurrect him, but Seth was ahead of her. He cut the deceased into 14 pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. However, Isis, who grieved inconsolably for her husband and brother, managed to find the pieces and revive Osiris. This allowed her to miraculously conceive and give birth to the son of Horus - the defender of people from evil and the continuer of her father's work. In the future, Horus was able to take revenge on Set and kill him. It was the scenes from this myth that the priests and the first so-called actors acted out in front of the public during public mysteries. At the end of this part of the festivities came the climax - the rise of the Jed column. It was crowned with four capitals and feathers, which allegorically represented Osiris. At first, the column lay on the ground, symbolizing the dead god,and when the column was placed in a vertical position, it meant resurrection. After that, a solemn procession brought in a boat with a statue of Osiris, carrying it around the people, and then it was again taken to the temple. There, the secret part of the mysteries continued, the introduction of people to the higher knowledge of life and death, about which nothing is known for certain. Incidentally, the publicly performed mystery scenes from the myth of Osiris are considered the ancestors of theatrical performances. As you know, theater as a world phenomenon was created in Greece. Greek tragedies are still classic examples of this genre, and they took their origin in the secret mysteries that were transferred from Egypt to ancient Hellas.There, the secret part of the mysteries continued, the introduction of people to the higher knowledge of life and death, about which nothing is known for certain. Incidentally, the publicly performed mystery scenes from the myth of Osiris are considered the ancestors of theatrical performances. As you know, theater as a world phenomenon was created in Greece. Greek tragedies are still classic examples of this genre, and they took their origin in the secret mysteries that were transferred from Egypt to ancient Hellas.There, the secret part of the mysteries continued, the introduction of people to the higher knowledge of life and death, about which nothing is known for certain. Incidentally, the publicly performed mystery scenes from the myth of Osiris are considered the ancestors of theatrical performances. As you know, theater as a world phenomenon was created in Greece. Greek tragedies are still classic examples of this genre, and they took their origin in the secret mysteries that were transferred from Egypt to ancient Hellas.and they took their origin in the secret mysteries that were transferred from Egypt to ancient Hellas.and they took their origin in the secret mysteries that were transferred from Egypt to ancient Hellas.
There were two well-known cults of dying and resurrecting nature. One was in Elivsin and was dedicated to the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The festivities that took place there are known as the Elivsin Mysteries. The Dionysian Mysteries, the second in importance, did not have any special center of the worship of God. They took place all over Greece, Crete, Thrace.
The Elivsin Mysteries are considered the most classic. Although until now it has not been possible to completely reconstruct all the actions that took place behind the closed doors of the temple. From about 700-400 BC crowds of pilgrims flocked from all over Greece to the city of Elivsin in early September. At this time, 10 days in a row, festivities were held in honor of the goddess of fertility Demeter.
As in the Egyptian Mysteries, the holiday in Greece began with a colorful procession. The procession moved first from Elivsin to Athens, and then back. For several days, the priests and mystics (initiated in the mysteries) acted out scenes of their life of Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The most famous myth about the goddesses is set forth in Homer's "Hymn to Demeter". He tells how one day Hades, the god of the underworld and the underworld, saw the young Persephone picking flowers, and fell in love with her without memory. He began to ask the hand of his daughter from Demeter, but did not want to give Persephone in marriage to a dark god. Then Hades kidnapped the girl and hid her underground. Demeter wandered the earth for nine days with lit torches, looking for her daughter. On the tenth day, exhausted and saddened by the loss, she wandered into Elivsin, where King Keleus took her in. His daughters amused the goddessmaking you forget about grief. In gratitude for this, Demeter became the nurse of Clay's son. She gave him ambrosia and tempered him in fire to make him immortal.
When the frightened king saw this, she had to reveal her divine guise. Then Kelei decided to erect a temple to the goddess Demeter, who finally, before leaving, taught the king to conduct the mysteries. While the goddess was grieving, the land stopped yielding and was covered with snow. Hunger and devastation reigned everywhere. The gods were afraid that all people would perish, and there would be no one to offer sacrifices to the gods. They ordered Hades to return Persephone to her mother. Before her return, the underground god forced his wife to swallow 3 pomegranate seeds as a guarantee of their love. Because of them, Persephone was obliged in due time to return to her husband in the afterlife. Now she spent two-thirds of the year with Demeter and then nature was rampant, yielding crops, and one-third of Persephone spent with Hades. Then the mother goddess was in grief and winter reigned on the earth.
On the fourth day of the festivities, sacrifices, fasting and preparations for the solemn return to Elivsin began. Priests, mystics, singers and musicians set out early in the morning, and reached the sanctuary of the goddess late at night, by torchlight. The mysteries themselves took place in the last 2 nights, and what was on them is still unknown to anyone. All those who passed through the sacrament pledged to be strictly silent. We can judge how well this vow was observed by the scant information that has come down to us.
The main thing in the mysteries was the passage of the initiates, the spiritual path of Persephone. Her dying and resurrection. Archaeological excavations and some known data have shown that the main thing on the days of communion was a certain special drink, kykeon, which was prepared from a mixture of water, flour and spices. Some characteristics of the festivities suggest that a certain hallucinogen was added to the drink, which gave the participants of the mysteries a really real experience of death and rebirth from the kingdom of Hades. It was a kind of cleansing of the soul and familiarization with the mysteries of life.
Those who had gone through the mysteries could no longer be afraid that after death they would fall into the dark dungeons of the underworld, that they would now certainly be sent to the Elysian fields (an analogue of the Christian paradise). Some people believed that without a mysterious initiation it is generally impossible to get into the afterlife. Souls who have not gone through the mysteries will have to wander eternally above the earth in search of tranquility. For example, the Greek myth about the twelfth feat of Hercules is known, to whom King Eurystheus ordered to bring him the terrible three-headed dog Cerberus, who guarded the entrance to the underworld of Hades. Hercules, before going there, was initiated into the Elivsin mysteries, otherwise he could not go to Hades. It can be assumed that during the ceremony he was given some kind of instructions on how to get to the "next world" and return back. We know that Hercules did it quite well.
The funeral nature of the mysteries is also proved by the clothes of the myst, dyed in purple, and purple in the ideas of the Greeks was associated not only with the holiday, but also with death. The myrtle wreaths that adorned the heads of the priests were one of the attributes of the afterlife: it was assumed that the souls of the dead could dwell in the myrtle groves. Special bowls, ears of various cereals and torches were also obligatory attributes of the holiday.
Through the Eliwsian mysteries, people overcame the fear of death, acquired knowledge hidden from the uninitiated and established a kind of connection between the two worlds, earthly and underground (afterlife). Thus, the ancient myth and mysteries formed the basis of the idea of the immortality of the soul, which gave hope to many people regardless of social status.
The Dionysian Mysteries were the second most popular in Greece. Dionysus (middle name Bacchus or Bacchus) was the god of grapes, winemaking and holidays, but in his ancient incarnation he was still the god of dying and resurrecting nature. The archaic name of Dionysus was Zagreus. His father, the great Zeus of Crete, gave his son power over the world. This very much hurt the pride of Zeus's wife, Hera, because Zagreus, who received power, was not her son, but the son of Persephone. Hera set mighty titans on Zagreus-Dionysus, and they lured the boy with toys, tore him to pieces and ate him. Angry Zeus incinerated the killers of his son, and from one remaining piece, Apollo revived Zagreus-Dionysus again.
In the Dionysian Mysteries (they were also called the Cretan Mysteries at the location of the most extensive festivals), as in all the previous ones, the scenes of the torment of Dionysus from the terrible myth were first played out. The participants rudely tore the bull with their teeth, screaming and screaming, wandered through the forests. It is reported that sometimes the sacrificial animal was alive during this terrible ritual. The priest carried a chest and said that the heart of a god lies inside. The cacophony created by the musical instruments seemed to imitate the sounds of Zagreus's rattles.
Since Dionysus was often represented in the form of an animal: a bull or a goat, the use of communion with the help of meat meant union with the deity, by the betrayal of his flesh (these ancient roots of the Mysteries can be discerned in the rituals of Christians - cf. "flesh and blood of Christ" in communion) … The Dionysian sacraments were also associated with ideas about the afterlife, the hope for a better future for the deceased soul, and funeral rites. True, in contrast to the Eliwsian mysteries, where the funeral rite and solemn processions were imbued with extreme tragedy, here the ceremonies of the bacchantes (participants) were extremely emotional, sometimes excessively fun. The well-known word bacchanalia originates precisely in the Dionysian mysteries.
In contrast to the mysteries of Demeter, the Bacchic sacraments did not have permanent priests or specific sanctuaries, and were available to more common people. Orgies in honor of God were known even in Macedonia and Thrace. The cult of Dionysus was a cult of wine, fun, rejection of a monotonous, boring life, a riot of freedom. Women who devoted themselves to this god during the time of the Mysteries were called Maenads and Bacchantes, and men who dressed in goatskins were called satyrs and strongmen. It was they who acted out scenes from the life of Dionysus and were the main characters. True, the kul and the Dionysian mysteries were condemned even in ancient times for excessive debauchery and frenzied fun, to which members of the cult and initiated mystics were attached.
The Slavs also had their own rituals, which were of an obvious mystery nature. Although very little remained of the real sacraments, which had a deep sacred meaning associated with the cycle of life and death, but the fact that such festivities were held suggests that in ancient times they were similar to the Greek mysteries. For example, plowing a village in the event of a mass death of livestock and to protect against evil forces. This rite is described by Snegirev and some other researchers of Slavic beliefs. The ceremony was somewhat similar to the Dionysian mysteries. Especially in their procession of half-naked, distraught women who sang a special conspiracy song.
The night procession assigned roles as follows: in front were three girls with the image of St. Blasius, the patron saint of cattle (in pagan times it was the god Veles) and with candles. Behind them are three widows. After them a plow was dragged, but so that a trace would certainly remain on the ground. They walked around the whole village with her, asking Mother Earth to protect her from mortal dangers - that is, from death. Then one woman sat on a broom and rubbed the trail. Then people with scythes, sickles, and other household and household implements, with torches returned home, and on the way jumped over fires kindled right there. The procession was accompanied by shouts and special songs. A deeper study of the Slavic mysteries is hampered by the lack of sufficient archaeological data and other information about paganism, many of which were simply destroyed during the baptism of Rus.
The modern world has not gone so far from the ancient past. Indeed, even now, almost each of us to one degree or another was a participant in the mysteries. Baptism, communion and funeral, in their essence, are just the sacraments associated with the mysteries. The main idea that unites all these actions is the hope for a better future after death, penetration into the secrets of life, touching another world, which may have no boundaries or class divisions. As you know, death equalizes everyone, but people have always wanted to overcome fear of this all-consuming element, and therefore seek to prepare themselves, albeit with the help of such strange actions as mysteries.