The Eleusinian Mysteries

The festival of the Elusinian mysteries was held every year in honour of Demeter, goddess of grain, and her daughter Persephone. Initiates into the mysteries were promised life after death.

The Eleusinian mysteries were rites that honoured Demeter, goddess of grain, and her daughter Persephone. The great festival, the Mysteria, was held at harvest time in the town of Elusis, near Athens, where Demeter herself was said to have established them. Dionysos also played a role at Elusis, but his significance is uncertain.

The mysteries gave their initiates the hope of life after death. In the mysteries, resurrection is symbolized by Persephone, who dies every fall when her dread husband Hades comes to reclaim her, but returns to life and her mother's side in the spring.

Nothing is higher than these mysteries. They have sweetened our characters and softened our customs; they have made us pass from the condition of savages to true humanity. They have not only shown us the way to live joyfully, but they have also taught us how to die with good hope.
Cicero. De Legibus

The great festival at Eleusis lasted nine days. There were feasts, processions and dancing. Animals, mainly pigs, were sacrificed, and libations (drink offerings) were poured. On the fifth day there was a great march from Athens to Eleusis, followed by a day of fasting and purification. At the great Eleusis temple, the Hierophant (interpreter) presided, aided by two preistesses who played the roles of Demeter and Persephone in the rites.

At Eleusis worshippers, for a fee, became Initiates of the mysteries, by attending a sacred and secret rite. There were degrees of initiation, and worshippers could return in subsequent years to attain higher levels of blessedness. Sadly, the mysteries remain mysterious; the worshippers kept most of their secrets. It is recorded that an important part of the rites included showing the worshippers hieroi, sacred things, including baskets of Demeter's grain.