Religion Past and Present

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(486 words)

[German Version]

The basic meaning of the Greek root μυ/my is “to close”; the noun μύστης/mýstēs, “initiate,” refers to the oath by which initiates swore not to give away the content of the rites. The basic form of the Greek mysteries is the cult of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis in Attica (from the 7th cent. bce). Its rites were directly imitated elsewhere in the Greek world, for example Pausanias II 14.1 (Keleiai); VIII 15.1–4 (Pheneus). However, the term “mysteries” itself is extremely imprecise in the classical period. It is best to speak not of “mysteries/mystery religions” but of variou…

Cite this page
Gordon, Richard L., “Mysteries”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 09 August 2022 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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