In Ancient Greece, the sanctuary of the city of Eleusis, located on the outskirts of Athens, had a sacred value, as the Greeks believed that this place was connected to two Olympian deities: Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The first was considered the goddess of agriculture and abundance in nature, while the second was a deity associated with the underworld. Eleusinian Mysteries
In order to worship the two goddesses, some sacred rituals were performed, known as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Those who have studied these cults claim that their remote origin may have come from Ancient Egypt. In any case, rituals with similar characteristics existed in other ancient civilizations.
The rituals that took place in the Eleusinian sanctuary were not integrated into the official religion, as they were secret cults and beginners were committed not to reveal any type of information about such rituals.
While the official rituals were forbidden to those who had no right to citizenship, as well as foreigners or women, any person could participate in the Eleusinian rituals. There was only one requirement for participation : not to have been accused of murder. Eleusinian Mysteries
An enigma for historians
The conserved sources are very scarce. Chief among them is the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. On the other hand, Plato, Aristotle and later Pausanias and Cicero made some mention of the Eleusinian rituals. Later, Christian theologians harshly criticized this type of worship because they considered them to be pagan traditions contrary to the Holy Scriptures.
While there is more to this cult than certainty, researchers have come to the following conclusions. Those who began the ritual for the first time (the mystai) had their eyes covered. The person who organized the ritual was a hierophant or high priest, who in turn was assisted by two priests.
The ritual took place in September and consisted of two parts: a ritual contemplated by all participants and a secret part that took place inside the sanctuary. It is very likely that animal sacrifices were performed there and that some kind of potion was drunk. Eleusinian Mysteries
Finally, it is believed that living in the sacred space connected the participants with the deities and with their own spirit.
About the purpose of this cult there are several interpretations. They say it has relationship with the afterlife, specifically hoping to get some kind of privilege in the afterlife. Other scholars claim to be related to the search for abundance in earthly life.
The ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms could explain the enigma of the Eleusinian cult
The secret rituals were developed for approximately 2000 years and banned from the fourth century IV d. C when polytheism was in the process of dissolution . Eleusinian Mysteries
There are two hypotheses about what really happened in the sanctuary of Eleusis
For some researchers, it is very likely that the beginners took some kind of hallucinogenic substance and because of that they experienced a spiritual connection that is difficult to explain in rational terms.
Others deny this hypothesis and claim that the ritual consisted of a nocturnal theatrical performance accompanied by music, in which an instrument was used to invoke the gods. Eleusinian Mysteries