The Great Festivals of Athens
What follows at Eleusis? The "mysteries" are "mysteries" still; we cannot claim initiation and reveal them. There seem to be manifold sacrifices of a symbolic significance, the tasting of sacred "portions" of food and drink—a dim foreshadowing of the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist; especially in the great hall of the Temple of the Mystæ in Eleusis there take place a manner of symbolic spectacles, dramas perhaps one may call them, revealing the origins of Iacchus, the mystical union of Persephone and Zeus, and the final joy of Demeter.
This certainly we can say of these ceremonies. They seem to have afforded to spiritually minded men a sense of remission of personal sin which the regular religion could never give; they seem also to have conveyed a fair hope of immortality, such as most Greeks doubted. Sophocles tells thus the story: "Thrice blessed are they who behold these mystical rites, ere passing to Hades' realm. They alone have life there. For the rest all things below are evil." And in face of imminent death, perhaps in hours of shipwreck, men are wont to ask one another, "Have you been initiated at Eleusis?"
A Day in Old Athens : Start Page / Table of Contents
The Greek Word Library
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