Mystery cult

Mystery cult

Mystery Religions, Sacred Mysteries or simply Mysteries , were "religious cults of the Graeco-Roman world, full admission to which was restricted to those who had gone through certain secret initiation rites." [citation|chapter=Mystery Religions|title=Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language|year=1995
editor-last=Crystal|editor-first=David|location=Cambridge|publisher=Cambridge UP|chapter-url=


The term "Mystery" derives from Latin "mysterium", from Greek "musterion" (usually as the plural "musteria" "μυστήρια"), in this context meaning "secret rite or doctrine." An individual who followed such a "Mystery" was a "mystes" "one who has been initiated," from "myein" "to close, shut," a reference to secrecy (closure of "the eyes and mouth" [citation|last=Newberg|first=Andrew|year=2001|title=Why God Won't Go Away|location=New York|publisher=Ballantine|page=56] ) or that only initiates were allowed to observe and participate in rituals. [citation|chapter=Mystery|title=Online Etymology Dictionary|year=2001|editor-last=Harper|editor-first=Douglas|location=Lancaster, Pa.||chapter-url=] Mysteries were often supplements to civil religion, rather than competing alternatives of such, and that is the reason these are referred by many scholars as "mystery cults" rather than religions. [citation|last=Iles Johnson|first=Sarah|chapter=Mysteries|editor-last=Iles Johnson|editor-first=Sarah|title=Ancient Religions|page=99|location=Cambridge|publisher=Belknap Press/Harvard UP|year=2007|id=ISBN 978-0-674-02548-6]

The Mysteries were thus cults in which all religious functions were closed to the non-inducted and for which the inner-working of the cult were kept secret from the general public. Although there are no other formal qualifications, mystery cults were also characterized by their lack of an orthodoxy and scripture. Religions that were practiced in secret only in order to avoid religious persecution are not by default Mysteries.

The Mysteries are frequently confused with Gnosticism, perhaps in part because Greek "gnosis" means "knowledge." The "gnosis" of Gnosticism is however distinct from the "arcanum", the "secret wisdom" of the Mysteries: while the Gnostics hoped to acquire knowledge through divine revelation, the mystery religions presumed to have it, with "mystes" of high rank revealing the possessed wisdom to "acolytes" of lower rank.

Mystery cults classified as such

The term 'mystery cult' applies to a few of the numerous religious rituals of the eastern Mediterranean of late classical antiquity, including the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries, the Orphic Mysteries and the Mithraic Mysteries. Some of the many divinities that the Romans nominally adopted from other cultures also came to be worshipped in Mysteries, so for instance Egyptian Isis, Thracian/Phrygian Sabazius and Phrygian Cybele.citation|last=Hall|first=Manly P.|title=The Secret Teachings of all ages|page=21|year=1928|location=San Francisco|publisher=s.p.|url=]

"Plato, an initiate of one of these sacred orders, was severely criticized because in his writings he revealed to the public many of the secret philosophic principles of the Mysteries."



Further reading


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • mystery cult — noun see mystery I, 1d …   Useful english dictionary

  • mystery religion — Any of various secret cults of the Greco Roman world. Derived from primitive tribal ceremonies, mystery religions reached their peak of popularity in Greece in the first three centuries AD. Their members met secretly to share meals and take part… …   Universalium

  • Mystery (disambiguation) — A mystery or mysteries are something secret, unexplainable, obscure or puzzling. It can refer to:Mystery (something unexplained in science: physics, history etc.)Mystery genre*Mystery (fiction), the most common modern use of the term, is a genre… …   Wikipedia

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 — Also known as MST3K MST 3000 Format Comic science fiction Created by Joel Hodgson …   Wikipedia

  • Mystery film — is a sub genre of the more general category of crime film and at times the thriller genre. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues,… …   Wikipedia

  • Cult of Crime —   …   Wikipedia

  • Mystery Men — Directed by Kinka Usher Produced by Lawrence Gordon Lloyd Levin Mike Richardson …   Wikipedia

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 video releases — Mystery Science Theater 3000 is an American TV show which aired between 1988 and 1999. This page summarizes video tape and DVD releases of episodes of the show. Episodes were initially released by Rhino Entertainment, with the rights later being… …   Wikipedia

  • Mystery Park — was an amusement park located near Interlaken, Switzerland. After the park was momentarily closed until further notice owing to financial difficulties, it re opened for a short period before being definitively closed in November 2006. The park… …   Wikipedia

  • Cult of the Cobra — film poster by Reynold Brown Directed by Francis D. Lyon …   Wikipedia

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.