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MITHRAISM


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MITHRAISM


gotten, though the Greek and Roman ones were hab- itually used. Ahura Mazda and Spefita Armaiti gave birth to a great number of lesser deities and heroes: -Artagnes (Hercules), Sharevar (Mars), Atar (Vulcan), Anaitis (Cybele), and so on. On the other hand there was Pluto, or Ahriman, also begotten of Infinite Time. This Incarnate Evil rose with tlie army of darkness to attack and dethrone Oromasdes. They were however thrown back into hell, whence they escape, wander over the face of the earth and afflict man. It is man's duty to worship the four simple elements, water and fire, air and earth, which in the main are man's friends. The seven planets likewise were beneficent deities. The souls of men, which were all created to- gether from the beginning antl which at birth had but to descend from the empyrean heaven to the bodies prepared for them, received from the seven planets their passions and characteristics. Hence the seven days of the week were dedicated to the planets, seven metals were sacred to them, seven rites of initiation were made to perfect the Mithraist, and so on. As evil spirits e\'er lie in wait for hapless man, he needs a friend and saviour who is M i t h r a . Mithra was born of a mother-rock by a river under a tree. He came into the world with the Phry- gian cap on his head (hence his designa- tion as Pileatus, the Capped One), and a knife in his hand. It is said that shep- herds watched his birth, but how this could be, considering there were no men on earth, is not ex- plained. The hero- god first gives battle to the sun, conquers him, crowns him with rays and makes him his eternal friend and fellow ; nay, the sun becomes in a sense Mithra's douljle, or again his father, but 'HXios Mi0pas is one god. Then follows the struggle be- tween Mithra and the bull, the central dogma of Mithraism. Ahura .Mazda had created a wild bull which Mithra pursued, overcame, and dragged into his cave. This wearisome journey with the struggling bull towards the cave is the symbol of man's troubles on earth. Unfortunately, the bull escapes froni the cave, whereupon .Ahura Mazda sends a crow with a message to Mithra to find and slay it. Mithra re- luctantly obeys, and plunges his dagger into the bull as it returns to the cave. Strange to say, from the body of the dying bull proceed all wholesome plants and herbs that cover the earth, from his spinal marrow the corn, from his blood the vine, etc. The power of e.vil sends his unclean creatures to prevent or poison these productions but in vain. From the bull pro- ceed all useful animals, and the bull, resigning itself to death, is transported to the heavenly spheres. Man is now created and subjected to the malign in- fluence of Ahriman in the form of droughts, deluges. and conflagrations, but is saved by Mithra. I'inally man is well established on earth and Mithra returns to heaven. He celebrates a last supper with Helios and his other companions, is taken in his fiery chariot across the ocean, and now in heaven protects his fol- lowers. For the struggle between good and evil con- tinues in heaven between the planets and stars, and


on earth in the heart of man. Mithra is the Mediator {iUcriTir}!) between God and man. This function first arose from the fact that as the light-god he is sup- posed to float midway between the upper heaven and the earth. Likewise a sun-god, his planet was sup- posed to hold the central place amongst the seven planets. The moral aspect of his mediation between god and man cannot be proven to be ancient. As Mazdean dualists the Mithraists were strongly inclined towards asceticism: abstention from food and absolute continence seemed to them noble and praiseworthy, though not obligatory. They battled on .Mithra's side again.st all impurity, against all evil within and with- out. They believed in the immortality of the soul; sinners after death were dragged to hell; the just passed through the seven spheres of the planets, through seven gates opening at a mystic word to Ahura Mazda, leaving at each planet a part of their lower humanity until, as pure spirits, they stood before God. At the end of the world Mithra will descend to earth on another bull, which he will sacrifice, and mixing its fat with sacred wine he will make all flrink the beverage of iiiiniortality. He will I lius have proved himself .Vaharsps, i. e. "never conquered ". WoHSHip. — There were seven tlegrees of initiation into the Mithraic mysteries. '1 he consecrated one (mi/xtes) became in succession crow (nirax), occult {cry- pliius), soldier(mi7es), lion {leo), Persian (I'erses), solar mes- senger (heliodromos) , and father (paler). On solemn occasions they W'ore a garb ap- propriate to their name, and uttered seum. Home sounds Or performed

gesturesin keepingwith whattheypersonified. "Some flap their wings as birds imitating the soimd of a crow, others roar as lions ", says Pseudo-Augustine (Qusest. Vet. N. Test, in P. L., XXXIV, 2214). Crows, occults and soldiers formefl the lower orders, a sort of cate- chumens : lions and those admitted to the other degrees were participants of the mysteries. The fathers con- ducted the worship. The chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called " Pater Patrum" or "Pater Patratus." The members below the degree of pater called one another " brother," and social distinctions were forgotten in Mithraic unity. The ceremonies of initiation for each degree must have been elaborate, but they are only vaguely knowm — lustrations and bathings, branding with reel- hot metal, anointing with honey, and others. A sacred meal was celebrated of bread and hnnmd juice for which in the West wine was substituted. This meal was supposed to give the participants super- natural virtue. The Mithraists worshipped in caves, of which a large number have been found. There were five at Ost la alone, but thoy were small and could perhaps hold at most 200 persons. In the apse of the cave stood the stone representation of Mithra slaying the bull, apiece of sculpture usually of mediocre artistic merit and always made after the same Pergamean model. The light usvially fell through openings in the top as the caves were near the surface of the ground. A hideous monstrosity representing Kronos was also