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Mysteries

(486 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L.
[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 “my…

Mystery Religions

(3,778 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. | Betz, Hans Dieter | Felmy, Karl Christian | Brüske, Gunda | Stolz, Michael | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. The Christian Cult and the Mysteries – III. Art History I. Religious Studies Modern discussion of the Greek mysteries goes back to the material collected by the Dutch scholar Jan de Meurs (1619), which served as the main source for I. Casaubon's argument that the Early Church borrowed but changed some terminology and institutions from the mysteries ( Exercitationes, 1655). The belief that there was a specific religious phenomenon, “the mystery cults of antiquity,” that could be compared directly with the practice…

Mysticism

(17,207 words)

Author(s): Brück, Michael v. | Gordon, Richard L. | Herrmann, Klaus | Dan, Joseph | Köpf, Ulrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. The Concept – II. Religious Studies – III. History – IV. Philosophy of Religion – V. Practical Theology – VI. Islamic Mysticism – VII. Hindu Mysticism – VIII. Taoist Mysticism I. The Concept The concept of mysticism is closely linked to the development of the history of religion in Europe and the term must not be taken and applied uncritically as a general term for a phenomenologically determined group of phenomena in other religions (see also II, 3 below). Attempts at definition are either phenomenolog…

Mystagogy

(1,551 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. | Felmy, Karl Christian | Tebartz-van Elst, Franz-Peter
[German Version] I. Greco-Roman Antiquity – II. The Orthodox Church – III. Practical Theology I. Greco-Roman Antiquity Mystagogical theology is a useful term for the doctrine of the so-called “Platonic underworld,” the main features of which are: a dualistic view of the cosmos (Dualism); a clear distinction between an absolutely good supreme being and an often feminine demiurgical principle; a negative view of material existence; a fundamental change from philosophical to mythical discourse, and belief in a s…

Mithras

(2,056 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(Μίθρας/ Míthras, Μίθρης/ Míthrēs). [German version] I. Persia A Hittite treaty with the Mitanni (14th cent. BC) contains the earliest evidence of Mithras ([1. No. 16]: Mitra). In the oldest literary evidence, the Indian Ṛg Veda, Mitra is the god who together with Varuna is responsible for upholding the ṛta, the cosmic order. Likewise, in Iran Mi θ ra is one of the most important yazata (gods), who leads people ‘on the path of aša, order’ ( Yašt 10,86; [2. 114f.]), and guides a multitude of social relations such as agreements, friendship, marriage and blood kinship ( Yašt 10,116f.). In thi…

Selene

(441 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Σελήνη/ Selḗnē, Μήνη/ Mḗnē, cf. Latin Luna [1]). In Greece in the Archaic and Classical Periods the moon (thought of as female), although generally known as the nocturnal counterpart of the sun (Helios/Sol), was barely personified (Personification): she is neither present as a deity either in the epic tradition, where night (Nyx) virtually replaces S., nor (with two exceptions) in the elegiac and lyric poets. Hesiod seems to fit S. into his cosmology almost as an afterthought, namel…

Cottyto

(343 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(Κοτυτώ; Kotytṓ; variant Kótys/Κότυς, Kottṓ/Κοττώ; Lat. Cottyto). [German version] A. General Traditionally considered variants of the name of a Thracian-Phrygian goddess who was honoured in orgiastic rites and whose festivity, the Kotytia, was celebrated in Corinth and Sicily in the Greek world [1]. However, it is probable that the Corinthian-Sicilian cult was part of the calendar of rural celebrations and should be differentiated from the putative Thracian cult [2]. Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) [German version] B. The Corinthian-Sicilian cult According to the Suda (s…

Luna

(1,084 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) | Angeli Bertinelli, Maria Gabriella (Genoa)
[German version] [1] Roman Goddess of the moon Latin for moon. Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) [German version] A. Overview Deity as well as celestial body, L. was considered the subordinate (female) counterpart to Sol, the sun. In Roman etymology, the name derives from the Latin lucēre, ‘to shine’ (Varro, Ling. 5,68; Cic. Nat. D. 2,68), in modern etymology from the feminine form of the corresponding adjective * louqsna (connected to Lucina , cf. losna in Praeneste, CIL I2 549). Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) [German version] B. Public cult and temple The Roman antiquarians believed…

Molpus

(170 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Μόλπος/ Mólpos). In the local legend of Tenedos, according to some sources M. is a flute-player from Colonae in the Troad whose false testimony was partly responsible for the banishment of Tennes, the son of Cycnus [2], when Tennes was accused by his stepmother Philonome of attempted rape (Plut. Quest. Graec. 28; schol. Lycophr. 232). Older sources (‘Heraclides’ = Aristot. fr. 611,22 Rose; Lycophr. 232-239; Conon FGrH 26 F 1; as well as Paus. 10,14,2) do not mention M. According t…

Molpoi

(512 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Μολποί/ Molpoí). Term for the members of a society responsible for performing the paean at public sacrifices, documented almost exclusively in the towns of the Ionic Dodecapolis (especially Miletus and Ephesus) and their colonies. Although colleges of M. are only sparsely attested, the number of personal names formed from Μολπ- in the Ionic Aegean [1], the Dodecapolis (e.g., Hdt. 5,30,2; IEph 4102) and the Milesian colonies (e.g., SEG 41, 619, Olbia) indicates their political and …

Magic doll

(426 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] Loose term for an anthropomorphous statuette made from a variety of different materials for specific ritual purposes. The conceptual condition for such statuettes, which function as signs or images of a physical and social existence, is the context-contingent abolishment of the difference between living creatures and objects that are incapable of self-determination [1]. Such statuettes were used for beneficial as well as harmful purposes in the ancient Oriental empires, while in M…

Zagreus

(351 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Ζαγρεύς/ Zagreús). The name Z. (or 'Dionysus Z.') is used as a useful if also problematic term for Dionysus, the son of Zeus (and the daughter of Zeus Persephone) who, according to the Orphic anthropogony (Orphism), had been killed and eaten as a small child by the Titans. Ancient lexica cite Callimachus's Aítia (fr. 43,177) as the sole source for the epiclesis of Dionysus Z.; but this is not used until the 6th cent. AD (in Ps.-Nonnus, Commentaria in Greg. Naz. Serm. 5,30 Nimmo Smith) in the context of the Z. myth. The name, which…

Curetes

(1,030 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Κουρῆτες; Kourêtes, Lat. Curetes). Mythological beings who protect the infant  Zeus from his father  Kronos by hitting their spears against their shields in order to drown out his screams (Callim. H. 1,51-53; Apollod. 1,1,6f.) or to deter the father (Str. 10,3,11). Most sources locate the scene in the cave of  Dicte on Crete, others locate it on  Ida [1] (e.g. Epimenides, FGrH 457 F 18, Aglaosthenes of Naxos, FGrH 499 F 1f., Apoll. Rhod. 1,1130, cf. Callim. H. 1,6-9). In one variati…

Cautes, Cautopates

(221 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Καύτης, Καυτοπάτης; Kaútēs, Kautopátēs). Antithetical pair of companions of  Mithras, associated with a large number of attributes, e.g. burning torches [1]. The etymology is disputed, the most plausible being the derivation from old Iranian * kaut ‘young’ [2]. Already the earliest iconographic representation displays them as complementary opposites [3]. They are the ‘twin brothers’ who are nourished by Mithras' water miracle (Mithraeum of Santa Prisca, Rome). The only literary documentation (Porph. de antro Nympharum 24 with conjecture Arethusa, p. 24,14…

Caelestis

(290 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] Latin name for the female counterpart of the highest Punic-Berber deity  Saturnus. The earliest iconographic portrayal, on the denarii of Q. Caecilius Metellus 47-46 BC, show C. as a lion-headed figure, genius terrae Africae (RRC 1. 472, no. 460. 4. pl. LIV). Literary sources describe her as the city goddess of Carthage; C. was also the protective goddess of Thuburbo maius, Oea and probably of other towns; ruler of the stars in the heavens, and of the Earth with all its produce and its inhabitants, as well as of …

Magical papyri

(1,407 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] I. General information Loose term for the constantly increasing body of Graeco-Egyptian magic texts (standard editions: [1; 2], since then, newly published texts in [3]). The most important distinction is to be made between the handbooks (until now more than 80 published copies) on papyrus, which contain the instructions for acts of magic, and directly used texts (at least 115 published copies) on papyrus, metal (lead tablets), pottery shards, wood, etc., corresponding to the extant …

Theoi Megaloi, Theai Megalai

(494 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(θεοὶ μεγάλοι/ theoì megáloi, θεαὶ μεγάλαι/ theaì megálai, Latin di magni). [German version] I. General Term for a variety of deities or groups of gods in the Greek world. A distinction is made between deities or groups of gods for whom the adjective 'great' was used as an honorary epithet (e.g. Megálē Týchē, Theòs hýpsistos mégas theós) and those whose cultic nomen proprium was 'Great God' or 'Great Gods', such as the TM in Caria (SEG 11,984; 2nd cent. AD). Inscriptions record a broad range of use between these two poles. Often the TM are deities or groups…

Anaetis

(258 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Ἀναῖτις; Anaîtis). Iranian goddess. The Avestic name, Aredvī-Sūrā-Ānāhitā, goddess of the waters, consists of three epithets (e.g. anāhitā = untainted). The Indo-Iranian name was probably Sarasvatī, ‘the one who possesses the waters’. Yašt 5 describes her as a beautiful woman clad in beaver skins, who drives a four-horse chariot. She cleanses male sperm and the wombs of animals and humans, brings forth mother's milk, but also bestows prosperity and victory. Promoted in Achaemenid times (Berossus, FGrH 680 F11); in an undefined phase previously, she…

Sol

(1,794 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) | Wallraff, Martin (Bonn)
(the Roman sun god, Greek Ἥλιος/ Hḗlios). I. Graeco-Roman [German version] A. General summary Although S. is one of the few undisputed Indo-European deities of the pantheon (cf. Gallic sulis, Gothic sauil, Old High German sôl, Greek *σαέλιος/* sawélios = ἥλιος/ hḗlios; [1]), the public cult of the sun played only a subordinate role in Rome and the Greek world, until the time that political developments led to an affinity between S. and the concept of monarchy (ruler cult). Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) [German version] B. Roman Republic According to Varro, the cult of the 'Sun'…

Priests

(4,255 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | Quack, Joachim (Berlin) | Niehr, Herbert (Tübingen) | Haas, Volkert (Berlin) | Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) | Et al.
[German version] I. Mesopotamia From the 3rd millennium to the end of Mesopotamian civilization, the staff of Mesopotamian temples consisted of the cult personnel in the narrower sense - i.e. the priests and priestesses who looked after the official cult in the temples, the cult musicians and singers - and the service staff (male and female courtyard cleaners, cooks, etc.). In addition, there was the hierarchically structured administrative and financial staff of the temple households, which constit…
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