Our Lady of Celestial Fire

Greater (Eleusinian) Mysteries: 6th Day (Initiation)

October 4

(Greek) Ancient: 15–21 Boedromion (the festival begins on the full moon and continues to the third quarter)
In origin the Great (Eleusinian) Mysteries were a festival for the autumn sowing. They are, of course, mysteries, so some things about them remain concealed, in particular, the contents of the Sacred Kistai (boxes) and the actual initiation of the Mustai (Initiates). Anyone can be initiated, regardless of age or sex.

The festival is conducted by the Archon Basileus and four assistants. Two of these, the Hierophantes and Dadoukhos (Torch Bearer) wear the ependutes (a long-sleeved tunic ornamented at the hem and shoulders), headband and Thracian knee-boots; they carry one or two long torches. Further, there are Mustagogoi (Initiate Guides), who guide individual postulants, often their friends, through the initiation.

6th day: Initiation
On the day of Initiation sacrifices of corn meal are made to the Two Goddesses. In sympathy with Demeter when She mourned the absent Kore, the postulants fast and prepare themselves mentally for the sacred rite. Towards evening, like Demeter when She accepted the drink from Meteneira, the postulants drink the Kukeon (mixed drink), comprising water, barley meal and pennyroyal. (There is debate about the ingredients of the Kukeon, but this is the formula given in the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter,” ll. 208–9.)

The initiation, which lasts through the night, takes place in a closed building called the Telesterion (Initiation Place); in its center is the Anaktoron (House of the Anax = King), the “Holy of Holies” to which no-one but the Hierophantes (Revealer) is admitted. The specifics of the initiation are, of course, secret, and have not been revealed to this day (though a great deal of conjecture has been published). However, they involve Things Said, Things Done and Things Revealed. There is music, song and speech; there are ritual actions; there are revelations by torch light. Thereby the Mustai participate in the Demeter’s joy at the restoration of Persephone. The effect of the Mysteries on the initiate is profoundly transformative. Even the clothes worn during the initiation are consecrated thereafter.

The Epoptai (Those Who Have Seen) are the initiates of the highest level (who must have been Mustai for at least one year), who have beheld the supreme symbol of Demeter, as Triptolemos, the first Mustes, beheld it, and they have witnessed the Hieros Gamos (Sacred Marriage) of Demeter and Zeus.