Introduction to Interpreting the Mysteries: Old Ways, New Ways


in The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216130
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191712128 | DOI:
Introduction to Interpreting the Mysteries: Old Ways, New Ways

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This introductory chapter provides an introduction to interpreting Mithraism as a mystery cult. The sense in which ‘religion’ is used is defined. Old methods are contrasted with a new method that focuses on cognition, on how the initiate gets to know his religion through apprehending ‘images, suppositions, and representations’. A summary description of the cult's religion is given in terms of ‘axioms’, instantiated in ‘motifs’ (e.g. descent and ascent), operating in ‘domains’ (e.g. the sublunary world), on ‘structured sites’ (e.g. the mithraeum), in ‘symbolic modes’ (e.g. ritual action), by means of a ‘symbolic idiom’ (i.e. ‘star-talk’). The axioms postulated for Mithraism are (1) deus sol invictus Mithras (the cult title of the god), and (2) ‘harmony of tension in opposition’.

Keywords: religion; cognition; axioms; motifs; domains; structured sites; symbolic modes; symbolic idiom

Chapter.  7056 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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