From the Greek word muein, to shut the mouth, and mustes, an initiate: a term for what is secret or concealed in a religious context. Although certain mysteries were probably part of the initiatory ceremony of the priests of ancient Egypt, we are ignorant of their exact nature, and the term is usually used in connection with certain semi-religious ceremonies held by various cults in ancient Greece.

The mysteries were secret cults, to which only certain initiated people were admitted after a period of preliminary preparation. After this initial period of purification came the mystic communication or exhortation, then the revelation to the neophyte of certain holy things, the crowning with the garlands, and lastly the communion with the deity. The mysteries appear to have revolved around the semi-dramatic representation of the life of a deity.

It is believed that these mystic cults were of pre-Hellenic origin, and that the Pelasgic aboriginal people of Greece strove to conceal their religions from the eyes of their conquerors. However, it is interesting to note that for the most part the higher offices of these cults were in the hands of aristocrats, who, it may be reasonably inferred, had little to do with the strata of the population that represented the Pelasgic peoples.

Again, the divinities worshiped in the mysteries possess for the most part Greek names and many of them are certainly gods evolved in Greece at a comparatively late period. We find a number of them associated with the realm of the dead. The Earth-god or goddess is in most countries often allied with the powers of darkness. It is from the underworld that grain arises, and therefore it is not surprising to find that Demeter, Ge, and Aglauros are identified with the underworld. But there were also the mysteries of Artemis, of Hecate, and the Cherites— some of which may be regarded as forms of the great Earth mother.

The worship of Dionysus, Trophonious, and Zagreus was also of a mysterious nature; however it is the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries that undoubtedly are the most important to the occult student, and though archaeological findings (such as vase-painting) it has been possible to glean some general idea of these. That is not to say that the heart of the mystery is revealed by any such illustrations, but that these, supplemented by what the Christian fathers were able to glean regarding these mystic cults, give useful hints for further investigations.

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