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IRANIAN RELIGIONS & BELIEFS: MITHRAISM

Mithras and Mithraism


 

By: Payam Nabaraz

 

ABSTRACT: Worship of Mithras dates back approximately 4,000 years to Persia, which is now modern Iran. He was known by his followers in Asia and Europe as Mithra, Mitra, Mihr, and other names. Romans living in the eastern part of the empire encountered Mithraism and began adopting it, especially soldiers. The height of its popularity came in the third and fourth centuries AD, after which it faded away because of a decree banning all non-Christian rituals.

The religion carries a sense of mystery today because few writings about it have survived, thanks to an oral tradition of passing its secrets only to new initiates. It never adopted its own version of the Bible, so there is no venerated text that can be the basis for research. It was likely an all-male religion, and archeologists have found the remains of many mithraea (plural; singular: mithraeum), or places of worship, scattered throughout the lands once encompassed by the Roman Empire.

Rome itself may have contained as many as 700 mithraea, although only a fraction of them have been identified, ad the city is home to over 100 Mithraic inscriptions, more than 75 pieces of sculpture, and many other signs that the religion once flourished there. Many Romans worshipped Mithras as a god of truth and honor, using the handshake as a goodwill gesture between parties who wanted to demonstrate their faith in each other.

An image of Mithras killing a sacred bull, known as a tauroctony, was the most common representation of the god. It was found anywhere that worshippers gathered. Images of a serpent, a scorpion, a dog, and a raven were also commonly found in a mithraeum. Devotees of Mithraism progressed through seven ranks during their time in the religion, although few ever reached the upper three levels, which were reserved for official positions of power.

 


 

THE last state pagan religion in Europe was Mithraism. The worship of Mithras, the Invincible Sun god was practised all over the Roman Empire, including the British Isles. The Temples in London and along Hadrian Wall can still be seen today as well some remains in Wales and York. There is no written formal documentation of the Western style of Mithraic Mysteries, the Roman 'Cult of Mithras'. The underground Temples and their paintings, statues and few anti-pagan documents by early Christian are all that remain.

 

Mithra/Mitra is the prototype to Roman Mithras to whom there are several hymns in Hindu and Zoroastrian holy texts. This gives us some insight into the energy of this deity before it became fused with the great mass of Graeco-Roman magical ideas. The evolution of this deity from god of the green land, wild pastures and the solar light to one of that Invincible Sun god, who moves the cosmos by slaying constellation Taurus, has been the subject of much interest to historians and magicians.

 

Roman Mithras was perhaps the greatest rival to early Christianity for many reasons. As well as being a popular pagan religion practised by the Roman Army, Mithraism had many similarities to Christianity. Mithras was born of a virgin, remained celibate, his worship involving baptism, the partaking of bread marked with a cross and wine as sacrificial blood, held Sundays sacred and Mithras was born on 25th of December. Mithraist called themselves 'brother' and were led by a priest called 'father' (Pater). The symbol of the father were a staff, a hooked sword, a ring and hat.

These similarities frightened the early Christian leaders - that almost 500 years before arrival of Christ all of the Christian mysteries were already known. To combat this, Christian witters said that the Devil knew of the coming of Christ in advance and had imitated them before they existed in order to denigrate them. As Christianity gained strength and became the formal religion of the Roman Empire, the 'Cult of Mithras' was one of the first pagan cults to come under attack in the fifth century; Temples of Mithras, like most other pagan Temples, were destroyed and Churches build on them.

 

 

Mithras in Britain

The Mysteries of Mithras remained in Britain for sometime after the Christianisation of Rome, and in his 'Song of the Macrocosm' (Canu y byd mawr) the Bard Taliesin (6th century A.D.) demonstrates his initiatory knowledge of the 'Cult of Mithras'.

 

Sir James Frazer proposed that indeed Taliesin the Bard (6th century AD) was a Mithraic initiate. The 'Song of the Macrocosm' certainly contains some Mithraic Lore and Taliesin the historical figure was versed in many of the magical lores of the British Isles. Therefore its not surprising that he was also familiar with Mithraic Mysteries. Another interesting connection between the Invincible Sun god and Celtic lore is proposed by John Matthews in 'Taliesin: Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland'.

 

In the Language of trees, the Ogham alphabet could be accreditated to god Ogma Cermait (Honey-Mouthed), Grain-aineach (Sun faced), or Trenfher (Strongman, Champion), a son of the great god Dagda and Goddess Danu. In Gaul he was called Ogmios and was worshipped as a god of light and learning. "In an inscription found at Richborough, Ogmios is depicted with rays of light coming from his head and holding the whip of Sol Invictus". All three titles of Ogma certainly do link in with the rites of Mithras and the inscription in Richborough also supports a link. However what is not clear is if the link derives from the original Mithra, that is with the spread of Indo-European people or from the introduction of Mithras with the Roman Empire, that is Ogma possibly gained some Mithraic characteristic during the Roman Empire as he already showed some parallels with Mithras.

 

A special grade was created as the movement went underground at the end of 4th century AD. The grade of 'Chryfii' meaning "hidden ones" is inscribed in a Mithraeum in Rome. This was to insure the lore was not totally lost, and it is during this time we see the Mithraic lore return to the Middle East with all of its new Greeco-Roman based knowledge. The spread amazingly went all the way to Korea and finally reached Japan in 612AD. By modifying it to fit local customs and adapting to each new culture, the lore survived and Mithras was worshiped from Hadrian's Wall in England in the West all the way to Japan in the East. The Invincible Sun God lived up to its title and survived all ihis adversaries.

 

The possibility of Taliesin the Bard (6th century) being a Mithraic initiate also adds weight to the way lore was preserved by fusion with local customs and remained hidden by being one with the masses.

 

Findings of local Goddess statues and other Celtic religious artifactsin the Mithraic Temples (Mithraeums) along Hadrian's Wall suggest the male-only imagery of the cult had shifted and was again fusing with local custom and deities. It is perhaps a romantic notion to think that as Christianity overcome paganism within Britain, the remaining pagans of different traditions gathered in the well -rotected walls of the underground Mithraeums to pull together - Druids (or proto-druids) alongside Mithraists invoking their gods of solar lights to stop the destructions.

 

One way of unlocking the mysteries that have been lost is perhaps by looking at the where it started, the old land of Persia. In the same way Christianity overcame Mithraic mysteries and all paganism in the west, what was left of the original Mithra was dissolved by rise of Islam in the East. However the magical current of the Invincible Sun god survived despite the rise of Christianity and Islam. In the East Mithra was fused with Islamic lore and became part of mystical branch of Islam, Sufisim.

 

 

The Myths of Mithras and iconography

Deciphering the meaning of the paintings and statues that survived in Europe has been a challange to many academics in the field and the works of Speidel and Ulansey have shed light to much of the iconography. The various interepretations of the iconography all point to a deep cosmology within the tradition.

 

 

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Birth of the Invincible Sun God:

According to Persian traditions, the god Mithras was actually incarnated into the human form of the Saviour expected by Zarathustra. Mithras was born of Anahita, an immaculate virgin mother once worshipped as a fertility goddess before the hierarchical reformation. Anahita was said to have conceived the Saviour from the seed of Zarathustra preserved in the waters of Lake Hamun in the Persian province of Sistan. Mithra's ascension to heaven was said to have occurred in 208 B.C., 64 years after his birth. This birth took place in a cave or grotto, where shepherds attended him and regaled him with gifts, at the winter solstice. This is based on a older myth about birth of Mithra, that his magical birth at the dawn of time was from a rock from which he formed himself using his Will. He holds in his hand a dagger and a torch. A statue from Housesteads shows Mithras being born from the rock while the twelve signs of the zodiac surround him, showing his image as a stellar god who rules the cosmos even at his birth. A serpent sometimes shown to be coiled around of the Mithras or birth stone/egg.

 

After his birth he challenged other forces when the world was young. His battle with the Sun resulted in the formation of a friendship and Mithras was bestowed with rays/crown of the Sun. Christians adopted this date as Christ's birthday in the Fourth century of the common era, according to Sir J.G. Frazer in his work The Golden Bough: 

 

"the festival of Christmas, which the church seems to have borrowed directly from its heathen rival. In the Julian Calendar, the 25th of December was reckoned as the winter solstice, and was regarded as the nativity of the Sun, because the day begins to lengthen and the power of the Sun increases from that turning point of the year. ... Mithras was regularly identified by his worshippers with the Sun... The [Christian] Gospels say nothing of the day of Christ's birth, and accordingly the early church did not celebrate it."

 

The New Catholic Encyclopaedia records" (Vol. III, p.656, 1967 ed.).:

 

"The birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the Sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithras celebrated the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Invincible Sun). On December 25, 274, [Roman Emperor] Aurelian had proclaimed the Sun God the principal patron of the Empire and dedicated a temple to Him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the Sun was particularly strong at Rome.

 

 

The Hunt

Some images survive with Mithras on horseback with bow and arrow in hand hunting a stag whose horn is the crescent moon. Mithras is accompanied by a lion, snake and a dog. This too might be a star map, however no one has been able to interpret it yet.

 

 

Tauroctony ( Bull-slaying scene)

 Mithras presides over the changing of the seasons and the movement of the heavens themselves. In the ancient cult Mithras was represented by the constellation Persus, who changes the position of the celestial sphere by 'slaying' the constellation Taurus (the Bull). At the spring equinox Mithras moves the earth back into Aries, raising lots of energy and power. At the autumn equinox this position is reversed bringing Scorpio back into Libra and balancing sexual energies.

 

The Bull Slaying was the central icon within the Western form of Mithraism and was present within every Temple. Here all the mystery of this tradition comes togethers, showing its Persian origins and the incorporation of Roman astrology and Greek mythology, giving rise to a esoteric path that must have had an everlasting impression on those who were prepared to follow its path. The Bull that Mithra kills is his ego, which is the aim of all followers of Mithra. "The lower self or ego (nafs ammare in sufisim) is symbolised by a Bull or cow which must be sacrificed in order that the spirit may come to life by Sohravadi in his treaties "on reality of Love" and by Mawlana in Masnavi and Qoran 2:67" (Dr. Masoud Homayouri, Origin of Persian Gnosis).

 

The scene shows Mithras facing away from the Bull with one foot on the back of the bull, one hand holding the bull's head and other hand stabbing the bull in the neck where blood pours forth. Around him there is a dog, a raven, a scorpion, a snake, a lion and a cup and an ear of wheat is growing from the tip of the bulls tail. The cloak of Mithras is the night sky with stars and the signs of the zodiac surround the whole scene. The symbols of the seven planets are present. The two torch bearers of Mithras stand at either side of the bull slaying scene. The central mystery represents the constellation Persus (Mithras), Taurus (Bull), Canis Minor (dog), Hydra (snake), Corvus (raven), Scorpio (scorpio). The wheat is the star Spica (the brightest star in Virgo). The blood is the Milky Way. The two torchbearers Cautes and Cautopates symbolise the equnioxes; Cautes torch is pointing upward - the spring equniox, while Cautopates torch is pointing down -autumn equniox.

The meaning of the this star map lies within the procession of equnioxes. At the present time the spring equinox occurs when the sun leaves the constellation of Pisces; in time, the equinox will be in the constellation of Aquarius, bringing the Age of Aquarius. In Graeco-Roman times the spring equniox was in Aries, and the autumn equinox in Libra. Before that, the spring equinox was in Taurus and the autumn equinox in Scorpio, 4000 BC - 2000 BC. This also means the summer solstice was in Leo (lion) while the winter solstice was in Aquaries (cup).

 

The whole Bull slaying scene is therefore the representation of the 'heavens' as we moved from Age of Taurus to Age of Aries. That is, the constellation Persus, which is above constellation Taurus, leads to the image of Mithras killing the bull, bringing an end to Age of Taurus by moving the entire universe. In a time when magic and science was based on a geocentric cosmos, with earth fixed in space and everything going around it, the procession could only be understood as a movement of the entire cosmos rather than earth. Mithras therefore became the Kosmokrator (cosmic ruler). The blood of bull is the Milky Way, the pathway which souls ascend and decend to genesis. The slaying of the constellation Taurus by the constellation Persus is perhaps one of the greatest star maps left to us. It shows the gnostic notion of overcoming of ego and uniting with the subconscious, a whole new dimension and one that can be observed in the cosmos. Mithras presides over the changing of the seasons and movement of heavens themselves.

 

Mithras is asked by the sun to kill the Bull, but his reluctant to do this. The Raven, messenger of the Sun, comes to him again with the message. Mithras goes into the field and captures the Bull and with his strength lifts the back legs of the bull over his shoulder and drags him to the cave of his birth. The crescent moon over the bull suggests its connection to the moon. When Mithras kills the bull, from his blood comes the wine and all plants that cover the earth. The tail became wheat which gives our bread. The seed and the genitals of the bull are taken to the moon goddess and purified giving rise to all animals. By slaying the first Bull, life comes onto the earth.

 

That Mithras looks away from the bull while slaying it is significant. Persus, too, looked away from the Gorgon when he decapitated her for whoever looked upon the Gorgon would turn to stone. That is, the ego would turn the heart and the soul of into stone. In order to overcome the ego(nafs) one has turn the head (intellect) away as the intellect is unable to overcome the ego. It is only when we look with our hearts, that is Mithra is my only crown, that the battle can fought. It is only on the path of Mithra (love) with the guidance of the Father who has already slayed the Bull that we can decapitate our own Gorgon, before it turns us to stone. The Tauroctony demonstrate literally that Love moves the Universe. This is perhaps one of the greatest mystery within the Cult of Mithras.

 

 

Sol and Sol Invictus

The new life on earth was growing slowly due to drought and Mithras as the mediator between heaven and earth was asked to resolve this. However this meant a conflict with the sun who was burning the land. The battle between the sun and Mithras results with Mithras overcoming the sun and becoming the Invincible Sun. Sol kneels in front of Sol Invictus while Mithras holds constellation the Great Bear in one hand, emphasising his power as the stellar god who moves the cosmic pole as well being responsible for the procession of equinoxes. They then become friends and shake hands.

 

 

The Miracle of the Rock

Mithras was a archer god and by firing an arrow into the a rock face of a mountain, causes water to pour forth. The drought ends. The rock represents the clouds and the clouds the cave or the universe.

 

 

The Sacred meal

The remains of the bull is brought by the torchbearers of Mithras, Cautes (dawn, spring equinox) and Cautopates (dusk, autumn equinox) to a meal where sun and Mithras sit together, and this was imitated by the followers of Mithras where Pater represented Mithras, Heliodromus the sun and other initiates sat around and shared the sacred meal.

 

 

The Ascension

After the meal Mithras gets into the Sol's horse drawn chariot and heads to the sky or the ocean to fulfil his role as the comsic ruler (Kosmokrater).

 

 

Origins of Mithraic Mysteries

"The oldest source of Persian Gnosis is to be found in Mithraism, an ancient Persian spiritual path, which began in Eastern Iran many thousands of years ago". (Dr. Masoud Homayouri, Origin of Persian Gnosis). Mithra is an Indo-Iranian god, worshipped at least as early as 1400BC. In Hinduism he is praised as the binomial Mitra-Varuna. A hymn is also dedicated to him alone in Rig Veda (3.59). He is the Lord of Heavenly Light, protector of truth, and is invoked when a contract or oath is taken.

 

In Persia Mithra was the protector god of the tribal society until the Zoroastar's reformation of Persian polytheism (628-55BC). Mithra, like the rest of the gods and goddess of the Iranian Pantheon, was stripped of his sovereignty, and all his powers and attributes were bestowed upon Ahura Mazda. However due to his popularity we see in the Avesta (Mehr Yasht) Ahura Mazda saying to Zoroster: "Verily, when I created Mithra, the Lord of Wide Pastures, I created him as worthy of sacrifice, as worthy as prayer as my self Ahura Mazda."

 

In the Avesta, Mithra or Mehr (translation: love, sun) is the protector of the Aryan nation, giving victory to those who lie not unto Mithra. He is the warrior deity carrying the hundred knotted mace from whom all demons flee in fear. In a Yashet 6 during a prayer to sun Mithra is mentioned again and referred to as a friend: "...I will sacrifice unto that friendship, the best of all friendships, that reigns between the moon and the sun"

 

Mithra is also found in Chinese mythology, where he is known as The Friend. Mithra is represented as a Military General in Chinese statues, and is considered to be the friend of man in this life and his protector against evil in the next.

 

In the west Mithra is best known as cult of Mithras which had an immense popularity among the Roman Legions, From late 1st century BC until 4th century AD. During which it came under the influence of Greek and Roman mythologies. However like other mystery traditions of that period (the Eleusinian mysteries and Isian mysteries) the Mithraic cult maintained secrecy and its teaching were only revealed to initiates. Remains of Mithraic temples can be found through out the Roman empire, from Palestine across north of Africa, and across central Europe to North of England.

 

 

The Rites of Mithras

There were seven degrees of initiation, these degrees allowed the neophyte to proceed through the seven celestial bodies. Allowing the reversing of the human souls descend into the world at birth. Ascending the seven heavens and walking through Milky Way and returning to the origin of the Soul. The initiates worked with the four elements and seven planetary energies. The initiations involved purifications and ordeals.

 

The first degree was of corax (Raven) under Mercury. This stage symbolized death of neophyte. In ancient Persia it was a custom to expose dead bodies to be eaten by ravens on funeral towers. Raven as symbol of death can also be seen in some tarot packs as card 13 instead of Grim Reaper. At this stage the neophyte dies and is re-born into a spiritual path. A mantra was given to him to repeat and his sins were washed away by baptism in water.

 

The next degree is of Nymphus(male-bride) under Venus. The neophyte wears a veil and carries a lamp in his hand. He is unable to see the light of truth until the veil of reality is lifted. He is vowed to the cult, and becomes celibate for at least duration of this stage. He is a bride(lover) of Mithra. He also offers a cup of water to the statute of Mithra, the cup is his heart and the water is his love.

On reaching Miles (solider) under Mars, the neophyte had to kneel naked (casting off old life), blindfolded with hands tied. (In similar manner of Wiccan initations) He was then offered a crown on the point of a sword. Once crowned, his binds were cut with a single stroke of the sword and blindfold removed. This represented his liberation from bondages of the material world. He would then remove the crown from his head and placing it on his shoulder, saying: "Mithra is my only crown" (Fanz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra). This also symbolizes the removing the head itself, allowing Mithra to be the guide. The meaning of the first part of Taliesin's Song of the Macrocosm refers to this and his initation.

 

At this stage the neophyte starts the real battle against his lower self, a solider is one actively struggles with the real enemy. The stage of Leo (lion) is first of the senior degrees and is under Jupiter. He is entering the element of fire. Therefore the lions were not allowed to touch water during the ritual, and instead honey was offered to the initiate to wash his hands and anoint his tongue. The lions carry the food for the ritual meal that was prepared by the lower grades to the ritual feast, and take part. Lions duties included attending the sacred altar flame. The ritual feast represented Mithras last supper of bread and wine with his companions, before his ascend to the heavens in Suns chariot.

 

The degree of Perses (Persian) under moon, "The initiate to this grade obtained through it an affiliation to that race which alone was worthy of receiving the highest revelations of wisdom of Magi" (Fanz Cumont, Rapport sur une mission a Rome, in Academic des inscrition et Belles-Letters, Comptes Rendes, 1945 p.418). The emblem for this stage was a harpe, the harpe that Persus decapitated the Gorgon. Symbolizing the destruction of the lower and animal aspect of the initiate. The initiate was also purified with honey as he was under the protection of the Moon. "Honey is associated with purity and fertility of the moon as this was, in ancient Iran believed to be the source of honey, and thus the expression of honey-moon denotes not the period of a month after marriage, but continued love and fertility in married life." (Dr. Masoud Homayouri, Origin of Persian Gnosis).

 

In grade of Heliodromus(sun runner) under sun, the initiate imitates Sun at the ritual banquet. Sitting next to Mithra (Father), dressed in red, color of sun, fire and blood of life. Highest grade was of Pater (father) under Saturn. He was Mithras earthly representative, light of heaven embodied, the teacher of congregation which he lead, wearing a redcap and as well as a "red baggy Persian trousers, carrying a staff symbol of his spiritual office" (Charles Daniels, Mithras and his temples on the Wall). Mithra also presided over changing of seasons and the movement of heavens themselves, The scene of Mithra slaying a bull represents, "the precession of the equinoxes; Mithra was in effect moving the entire universe" (Professor David Ulansey, The origins of Mithraic Mysteries). Mithras represented by constellation Persus changes the position of the celestial sphere by slaying constellation Taurus and moving the earth into constellation Aries at spring equinox, this miracle of Mithra is product of Roman astrologers and a latter development that is not seen in Iran to the same extent. However the celebration for changing of seasons was carried out both by western and eastern followers of Mithra: Nou-roz (spring equinox), Mehregan (autumn equinox), Shab-Yalda (winter solstice) and summer solstice.

 

As Christianity gathered momentum and eventually became the Roman Empires state religion, Mithraism was not tolerated. The Apologist saw it as a "satanic transversty of the holiest rites of their religion." Fanz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra). Nevertheless Catholicism has preserved some of the outer form of Mithraism to name some; the timing of Christmas, Bishops adaptation of miters as sign of their office, Christians priests becoming Father despite Jesus specific proscription of the acceptance of such title (Matthew 23:9), and "the Mithraic Holy father wore a red cap and garment and a ring, and carried a shepherds staff. The Head Christian adopted the same title and outfitted himself in the same manner." (William Harwood, Mythology's Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus). While the outer appearance of Mithraism can be detected in Catholicism, some traces of the inner teachings of Mithraism can be found in Sufisim, therefore study of Sufisim allows a new insight into Mithraism, and possibly vice versa.

 

My attempt here is to interpret Mithraic Mysteries using sufi symbolism and show some parallels between these two esoteric traditions, that both originated from Persia but separated by several centuries. The poetic concepts we observe in sufi literature can be seen in physical events during Mithraic rites.

 

The first stage, that of Raven, is the rebirth of the neophyte into a spiritual path (Tariqat); his sins are washed away and a mantra given to him. A common step among esoteric paths, and not limited to sufisim.

 

In stage of male-bride, the neophyte offers a cup of water to a statute of Mithra. The cup is his heart and the water is his devotional love, through this offering he hopes to receive wine (Divine Love) into his cup later on the path, after many trails. When he reaches lion stage he would drink the wine.

 

The male-bride as name suggests is setting out to become a bride/lover of Mithra, remembering that Mithra is Love, the neophyte begins his journey toward the Divine Wedding with the Beloved as known in sufisim. His inability to become united with his Beloved at an early stage of his journey is demonstrated by him carrying a lamp while wearing a veil. This veil needs to be lifted before he could see the light, the source of which he carries in his own hands and yet unable to see. In words of Hafez:

Between lover and Beloved there is no veil,

Hafez! Thou thyself art thy own veil

Rise from this between .

 

The degree of solider (Miles) was given to those who taken up the spiritual battle against the ego (nafs), the struggle with lower self. During the rite the neophyte is crowned while in bondage of the material world, he is given the kingdom of this world, but he rejects the crown and once his binds were cut, he removes the crown saying: "Mithra is my only crown".

 

The removing of crown also symbolises an attempt to remove the head (intellect) itself, allowing Mithra to be the guide, significance of which becomes clear in latter stages. Followers of Mithra came from different backgrounds centurions, merchants, slaves and even emperors. All were equal in this brotherhood despite their social standing, this was demonstrated by nakedness of the neophyte during the initiation at this stage.

 

In end of the initiation for Miles degree a mark was branded on him. "This indelible imprint perpetuated the memory of the solemn engagement by which the person under vow contracted to serve in that order of chivalry which Mithraism constituted" (Fanz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra).

 

To reach degree of lion demonstrated ones long standing commitment to the order and making real progress on the path. Their duties included attending the altar flame and setting up the ritual meal(sofreh). They were in element of fire and made no contact with opposite element. The lions were engulfed by the fire of love and no trace remained of water of intellect. They said to have growled like lions and moved strangely (from point of view of those who prosecuted them). This emphasis that the lion or crow mask were not just props but also acted as part of shamanistic aspect of the religion. The ordeals of fire, water, heating and cooling all point to the shamanistic nature of the mysteries. The presence of a ordeal pits in Carrawburgh Mithaerum suggests these were even carried out even on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. The ordeal pit would be have been covered by stone slabs, resulting in the initiate being engulfed by earth.

 

During the ritual meal they would drink wine, their cup which they offered their devotional love with at the male-bride stage is now filled with Divine Love (Esheg). The bread is flesh of the bull in whose death there was life. In degree of Persian (Perses) the initiate tries to make a rapport to Persia, become part of the chosen people, so to speak. In Greeco-Roman mythology Perses is the son of Persus, and as in the west the cult of Mithras associated constellation Persus with Mithra, the title of Pater (Father) for the seventh grade make sense. Most importantly emblem for this stage is the harpe that Persus used against the Gorgon. The Gorgon is the ego which initiate is been fighting with since solider degree. He drank the wine in lion degree and he is ready to face the great the monster with in, and with guidance of the Persus (the Father, one who has already decapitated his own gorgon), the initiate takes the harpe and tries to destroy his ego. This can be liken to St George slaying the dragon or Gilgamesh killing Humbaba. A common theme in many paths, however here it is seen as a fusion between eastern and western mythology. Title of Heliodromus (Sun runner) would be reserved for one who has seen the sun, and is close to it (sun is another word for love or Mithra in Farsi). In the ritual meal the initiate of this grade would sit next to Mithra himself (Father).

 

The highest grade was of Father (pir-e moghan), which was Mithras' earthly representative, teacher of all the other grades; he would pour the wine in the cup of the lions and provide the guidance to finally die before you die and overcome the ego.

 

 

Revival of Mithras in 20th Century

Like all other branches of neo-pagan revival, a great deal of reinvention has occurred. There are no kitchen initiations here or secret texts: Mithra is lord of the Truth and its important to admit that. Some of the magical current has survived perhaps through fusion with Sufism, Christian gnosticism, the Catholic Church, its influence on several local forms of magical lore were there was a Temple, and some folk customs. We will never know really how successful the 'Chryfiis' were in taking the movement underground, it depends on each individual and on how they put the fragmented pieces together and formulating their own speculation. The work with the Energy is what matters, rather than any one theory. The key to entering the tradition is simple - all that's needed is to call with a open heart upon Mithra (The Friend, Love, Sun). In other words to "say 'Friend' and enter".

 

The Mithraic Liturgy from Greek Magical Papyri (350C.E.) clearly demonstrates that Mithras was a deity invoked alongside other deities. The Mithraic Liturgy, which is the working of a magician in 4th centaury AD, shows how Ananke (Goddess of Necessity), Pronoia (Providence), Psyche (Soul) are invoked alongside Mithras for the particular magical working of the writer. This is the earliest magical writing in the West in connection with Mithras that can be authenticated. It is in effect a single spell and only sheds light on the working of one magician who was a Mithraic initiate as well perhaps of several other cults. This liturgy is used excessively in the modern revival, however due to its length and intensity simpler versions are now available.

 

Another text which is used by new revival is the 'A Song to Mithras' from Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill. (In Songs from Books and verse this poem is subtitled 'Hymn of the XXX Legion: Circa A.D. 350'.) In which the spirit of Mithraism can seen.

 

This beautiful poem is a great contribution to path of Mithras. However this not the only place where Kipling's poetry is been used in the pagan revival, the May Eve song in the Wiccan Book of Shadows is also was written by Kipling.

 

Mithras is also encountered in the autoerotic 7th degree of OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) and the homoerotic 11th degree of OTO. The 11th degree was an addition by A. Crowley to the original OTO system. However it does emphasis one aspect of modern Mithraic movement, which has attracted many gay pagans. In a same way that some Dianic covens are single sex and have strong feminist presence. Some Mithraic groups are male mystery groups only. In the Gnostic Mass, which is the origin for some of the wording in the Wiccan Great Rite, there is also a mention of Mithras.

 

'Io Io Io IAO Sabao Lord Abrasax, Lord Meithras, Lord Phallos. Io Pan Io Pan Pan Io Pan Io Mighty One, Io Deathless One, Io Immortal One, IAO. Hail Phallus, Hail All-Devourer, Hail All-Begetter...'

This is the final invocation in opening the veil of the Gnostic Mass, Meithras has the power of seven letter for the seven planets and his valueis that of 365. Becoming the ruler of the earth cycle of a year, connecting the energies together.

 

 

Conclusion

For me Mithras is an essential part of Male Mysteries. One who is invoked along side other masculine deities, this bestillustrated by the following chant which I wrote as part of a Beltaine invocation: Pan, Mithras, Herne, Cernunnos, Ra. This encompass all currents within male mysteries, and depending on particular working Cernunnos can be replaced by Koronos, with little change to the sound. In that particular ceremony those who wanted to raised the gods energy used the above chant, while those who wanted to raise the goddess energy used the well known Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Innana chant. The two energy raised within the circle were united by Wine and Cake. Therefore the Invincible Sun god can be incorporated into the fire festivals, and is not limited to the Solar festivals.

 

Mithras is invoked and worshipped by men and women across the world, as depicted in many Mithraerums the cloak of Mithras is the star filled sky. In the word of the Mithraic liturgy: 'I am a Star, wandering about with thee (Mithras), and shining forth out of the deep.'

 

 

Acknowledgments

Guya and Sun Center in Italy, Katon Shual and Oxford Golden Dawn Occult Society, Oxford Temple Of Mithras, OPC, MF, KNP and all whose who walk the Path.

 

Sources

Hymn to Mithras - Mithras: God of the Morning

Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the wall!

'Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all'

Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,

Mithras, also a solider, give us strength for the day!

Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat,

Our helmets scorch our foreheads; our sandals burn our feet,

Now in the ungrit hour; now ere we blink and drowse,

Mithras also a solider, keep us true to our vows!

Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main,

Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!

Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn

Mithras also a solider, keep us pure till the dawn!

Mithras, God of Midnight, here where the great bull dies,

Look on thy children in darkness. Oh take our sacrifice!

Many roads Thou has fashioned: all of them lead to the Light,

Mithras, also a solider, teach us to die aright.

 

Rudyard Kipling

Song of the Macrocosm:

I praise my Father

my God, my strength,

who infused in my head

both soul and reason,

who, to keep guard over me,

did bestow my seven senses,

from fire and earth, water and air:

the mist and flowers,

the wind and trees,

and much skilful wisdom

has my father bestow on me.

One if for instinct,

two is for feeling,

three is for speaking,

four is for tasting,

five is for seeing,

six is for hearing,

seven is for smelling.

As I have said,

seven heavens there are

above the astrologer's head,

and three companies (parts) of the sea;

the sea beats on the strand,

the sea is great and wonderful,

the world itself likewise.

On high, God made

the planets:

He made the Sun,

He made the Moon,

He made Mars,

He made Mercury,

He made venus,

(He made Veneris)

He made Jupiter,

Seventhly, He made Saturn.

The good God made

five zones of the earth,

for as long as it lasts:

the first is formed cold,

the second is formed cold,

the third is formed hot,

injurious to flowers,

unpleasant and hurtful.

The forth is paradise,

which people shall enter.

The fifth is temperate,

the habitable part of the universe.

Into three it is divided,

Into determined regions:

the first is Asia,

the second is Africa,

the third is Europe,

blessed by baptism,

lasting until doomsday

when everything will be judged.

He made my awen

with which I praise the king.

I am Taliesin,

I have the prophet's voice.

Continuing until the end

for Elffin's deliverance.

 

 

 

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Extracted From/Source: Lughnasa 1999

 

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