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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology

MYSTERIES (aka 'Mystery Religions')

Secret religious cults that flourished during the Hellenistic period, involving adoration of various deities and rites of spiritual transformation and rebirth.   In a broader sense, the term 'mysteries' is also applied to esoteric teachings and the rites of secret societies outside the classical world.   'Mystery' derives from the Greek myein, 'to close', and refers to the closing of the lips or the eyes.   The mystes, or initiate, was required to keep the secrets of the cult.   The content of the rites remains a secret, but the large numbers who underwent the initiation, often lasting several days, were promised eternal life in the afterworld through re-birth or redemption.

The Eleusinian Mysteries, the most popular and influential of the Greek cults, centred on the worship of Persephone and her mother; Demeter, the grain Goddess.   The rites were intimately linked to the cycle of fertility of the Earth.

The Dionysian mysteries, the second most important Hellenistic cult, centred on Dionysus (Bacchus), the Thracian bull-god and ruler of the dead and souls, who became the god of the vine and vegetation.   Immortality could be obtained through communion with him in Ecstatic rites apparently involving consumption of wine and the raw flesh of a sacrificed animal (see SACRIFICE), and sex.

In the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, the Egyptians observed a mystery play of succession, the death of a pharaoh and the succession of another, with a funeral ritual of mummification and burial in which the dead would be mystically joined in the Underworld by Osiris.

The Mithraic mysteries were a male cult of Persian origin centred on the slaying of a bull by Mithra, god of light and beneficence, which guaranteed the fruitfulness of the earth.   The initiates consumed bread and water, representing the body and blood of the divine bull.   Initiates were believed to be under the divine protection of Mithra, who would protect their souls from darkness.

The elements and purpose of the ancient mysteries - resurrection to eternal life - have been preserved, or at least reconstructed, in the rites of Wicca, Asatru and Neo-Paganism.


OTHER RESOURCES:
WAS THE NEW TESTAMENT INFLUENCED BY PAGAN RELIGION? in the ARTICLES Section of this Site
WAS THE NEW TESTAMENT INFLUENCED BY PAGAN PHILOSOPHY? in the ARTICLES Section of this Site


RESOURCES FROM OTHER CHRISTIAN SITES:
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CHRISTIANITY, THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AND THE MYSTERY RELIGIONS at Ankerberg Theological Institute
PAUL AND THE MYSTERY RELIGIONS at Probe Ministries
DID CHRISTIANITY STEAL FROM MITHRAISM? at Come Let Us Reason Together Ministries
IS THE BIBLE PLAGARIZED FROM OTHER RELIGIONS? at Come Let Us Reason Together Ministries


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PLEASE NOTE:
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc



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