MYSTERIES (Gr. from vino, to close the lips or eyes), also called Teletai, Orgia, or, in Latin, Initia, designate certain rites and ceremonies in ancient, chiefly Greek and Roman, religions, only known to, and practiced by, congregations of certain initiated men and women. at appointed seasons, and in strict seclusion. The origin, as well as the real purport of these mysteries, which fake no unimportant place among the religions festivals of the classical period, and which, in their ever-changing nature, designate various places of religious development in the antique world, is all but unknown. It does seem, indeed, as if the vague speculations of modern times on the subject were an echo of the manifold interpretations of the various acts of the mysteries given by the priests to the inquiring disciple—according to the lights of the former or the latter. Some investigators, themselves not entirely free from certain mystic influ ences (like Creuzer and others), have held them to have been a kind of misty orb around a kernel of pure light, the bright rays of which were too strong for the eyes of the multi tude; that, in fact, they hid, under an outward garb of a certain portion of the real and eternal truth of religion, the knowledge of which had been derived front seine primeval, or, perhaps, the Mosaic revelation; if it could not be traced to certain (o• uncertain) Egyptian, Indian, or generally eastern sources. To this kind of hazy talk, however (which we only mention because it is still repeated every now and then), the real and thorough investigations begun Lobeek, and still pursued by many compe tent scholars in our own day, have, or ought to have, put an cud. There cannot be anything more alien to the whole spirit of Greek and Roman antiquity than a hiding of abstract truths and occult wisdom under rights and formulas, songs and dances; and, in fact, the mysteries were anything but exclusive, either with respect to sex, age, or rank, in point of initiation: It was only the speculative tendency of later times, when Poly theism was on the wane, that tried to symbolize and allegorize these obsenre, and partly imported ceremonies, the bulk of which had undoubtedly sprung from the midst of the Pelasgian tribes themselves in prehistoric times, and which were intended to represent and to celebrate certain natural phenomena in the visible creation. There is certainly no reason to deny that some more relined minds may, at a very early period, have endeavored to impart a higher sense to these wondrous performances; but these ean only be considered ns solitary instances. The very fact of their having to be put down in kites days as public nuisances in Rome herself, speaks volumes against the occult wis dom inculcated iu secret assemblies of men and women.
The mysteries, as such, consisted of purifications, sacrificial offerings, processions, songs, dances, dramatic performances, and the like: The mystic formulas (Delleanniena, Dramena. L(vomena, the latter including the Liturgies, etc ) were held deep secrets, and coull only he communicated to those who had passed the last singe of preparation in the mystagogue's baud. The kohl which the nightly secrecy of these meetings, together
with their extraordinary worship, must naturally have taken upon minds more fresh and childlike than our advanced ages can boast of, was increased by all the mechanical contrivances of the effects of light, and sound which the priests could command. Mys terious voices were heard singing, whispering, and sighing all around, lights gleamed in manifold colors from above and below, figures appeared and disappeared; the mimic, the tonic, the plastic—all the arts, in fact, were taxed to their very utmost to make these performances (the nearest approach to which, in this country, is furnished by transfer mation-seenes, or sensation-dramas in general) as attractive and profitable (to the priests) as could be. As far as we have any knowledge of the plots of these mysteries as scenic representations, they generally brought the stories of the special gods or goddesses before the spectator—their births, sufferings, deaths, and resurrections. Minty were the out ward symbols used, of which such as the PhnlIns, the Thyrsus, flower hasisets, mystic boxes, in connection with special deities, told, more or less, their own tale, although the meanings supplied by later ages. from the Neo-platonists to our own day, arc various, and often very amazing. The most important mysteries were, in historical times, those of Elcusis and the Thesmophorian, both representing—each from a different point of view—the rape of Proserpina, and Cerc's search for her: the Thesmophorian mysteries being also in a manner connected with the Dionysian worship. There were further, those of Zeus of Crete—derived from a very remote period—of Bacchus himself, of Cybele, and Aphrodite—the two latter with reference to the mystery of propagation, but celebrated in dilonetrienlly opposed ways, tile former culminating in the self-mutilation of the worshiper, the latter in prostitution. Further, the mysteries of Orpheus, who. in at certain degree, was considered the founder of all mysteries. Nor were the other gods and goddesses forgotten: Hera, Minerva, Diana, Hecate, nay, foreign gods like Mithras (q.v.), and the like, had their dne secret solemnities all over the classical soil, and svItith ersosver Greek and partly Roman) colonists took their Lares and Penates all over the antique world. The beginMng of the reaction in the minds of thinking men, asminst this mostly gross and degenerated kind of veneration of um oral powers and instincts, is market! by the period of the lIesiodie poems; and when, toward the end of the classic-al periods, the mysteries were no longer secret, but public orgies of the most shameless kind, their days were numbered. The most subtle metaphysicians, allegoriie and sym bolize as they might, failed in reviving them, and in restoring them to whatever prime val dignity there might have once been inherent in them.