Some Notes on MYSTERIA

1. Originally referred only to the secret celebration or secret worship available only to initiates of Eleusian mysteries of Demeter.

Synonyms: telete or orgia (orgy)

2. Any secret cult or ritual of initiation

3. Reveals or mysterious divine wisdom available only to a select few.


association of mysterium and sophia
association of religion and philosophy

Phenomenology of Mysteries
arcane cults and rituals
"things done, things said, things shown"

Some Theories of Mysteries
dying and rising divinities ((Wilhelm Mannhardt)
nature-myth theory of fertility/vegetation
rites of passage (Mircea Eliade)
ritual of early food cultivators (Adolf E. Jensen)
concept of "slain god"
Death or sacrifice of female divinity who was source of cultivated vegetation.

Greek Mysteries:
Eleusinian Mysteries (Demeter)
Dionysian Mysteries
Orphic Mysteries

Oriental (Eastern) Mysteries:
Cult of Cybele (Phrygia)
Cult of Isis (Egypt)
Cult of Sarapis (Egypt)
Cult of Mithras (Persia)

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at

Return to Course Syllabus for ISSI402 Classical Mythology and Religion
Return to Monmouth College Department of Classics Homepage