Mystery religion

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hydria by the Varrese Painter (c. 340 BC) depicting Eleusinian scenes

Mystery religions or mystery cults were religions or cults where the teachings were only known to a small group of people. These people were called mystai. Such groups were common in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

Mystery religions have the following properties:

  • Exclusive spiritual experience: Those that are initiated gain speciual (secret) knowledge, and are the only ones that are able to make certain spiritual experiences
  • The cult or religion coexists with other (official) cults or religions for the same deity
  • Religious syncretism; there are other secret teachings that are added to the official teachings about the cult of a given deity.

Today, analyzing these mystery religions is difficult, because most of them kept their mysteries.

Common motives in such cults are a dying goddess that is resurrected and becomes immortal, venerating the ancestors, venerating the mother.

Well-known mystery religiions are the Eleusinian Mysteries, Samothracean mysteries, Dionysian Mysteries, the cult of Liber pater, Mithraism, the cult of Kybele and Attis, and the Mysteries of Isis

Such cults laso played an important role in Gnosticism.