The Mysteries

by Jennifer Guimaraes

From the beginnings of time itself, man has dreamed of seeking the answers to Mysteries - mysteries of birth, life, magic, and death. It's easy to understand why so many ancient civilizations established cults to honor the mysteries, or why they were held in such high esteem.The definition of Mystery can be argued. One 14th century definition states: "A religious truth that one can know only by revelation and yet still, cannot fully understand." Ah, such is life and death! Living Myth and Mystery! Dionysos Teletarches, (lord of the initiations) was no stranger to being associated with Mystery cults.To understand what was taught in the Mysteries, we can rely on a great deal of evidence, spanning both modern and ancient eras, through literature and archeology. Yet the best source of knowledge is personal experience itself. The Mysteries were often marked confidential, and restricted, and the only way to truly know the answers to this mystery and/or the mystery of what was happening at the rituals, was to become an initiate yourself. Many references, such as the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, stress this point. The main focus at the rites of the mysteries was hope for an after life. No one wanted to be blind, and hopeless when facing death. To say that there is nothing but eternal gloom and woe, gives little meaning to life.To be initiated gave promise, for with death, there is rebirth. Dionysos, being the God of growing things, himself half human, at one point experienced death and resurrection himself. Who better to represent life after death than he? Dionysos, the God who saves his faithful initiates, with a promise of hope! Celebrations of Life are easily assumed within the Mysteries. From the frenzied dance of the Maenads, to the procession of the sacred phallus, the public festivals of the community already, and the private sacred rituals of the mysteries themselves - there were many ways to honor Dionysos. Some note a certain modern Shamanistic quality to the rites of Dionysos. This is evidenced through the altered states caused by wine or other substances, dramatic portrayals of the myths, even the occasional orgy. These paradoxical celebrations of life are very much still valid, and a way to attain Initiation into the Mysteries of the God are still possible in our modern world today.

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