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Mystery Cults of the Ancient World Hardcover – April 4, 2010
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"Greek and Roman men and women by the thousands, even millions, chose to be initiated into religious cults amid strict vows of secrecy; remarkably, not a single voice from antiquity has ever spilled the beans. Despite centuries of scholarly probing, the exact words, visions, benefits, or promises revealed during these closely guarded rituals remain unknown. This important book presents a sensible, convincing account of what these occasions may have offered their participants; how they related to mainstream, public traditions; and what the mysteries likely entailed. . . . Well-organized by cult types, splendidly illustrated, and jargon-free, the book deserves a wide readership."--Choice
"This book should be on the bookshelf of every thinking pagan, from the most scholarly reconstructionist to the most insouciant eclectic. What we need to know--and what it abundantly reveals--is why mystery cults were (and still are) important. . . . [A]s a guide to pre-Christian classical Paganism, this book is unsurpassed."--Barbara Ardinger, Witches and Pagans Magazine
"Students and generalist readers, as well as classicists looking for basic information on mystery cults, will find much useful information here. . . . [T]his is an eminently readable, enlightening overview of a fascinating topic and will become the go-to generalist resource . . . on ancient mystery cults."--Bronwen L. Wickkiser, American Journal of Archaeology
"Mystery Cults of the Ancient World is clearly written and highly accessible both to scholars and interested general readers alike. . . . Bowden's multi-discipline approach to studying the value of these cults in people's lives, rather than an attempt to piece together a list of rituals or practices from scattered sources, is refreshing."--Carey Fleiner, Canadian Journal of History
Top Customer Reviews
In his introduction, Bowden discusses two types of religious experience, the imagistic and the doctrinal. The imagistic experience involves infrequent, dramatic, ecstatic events, such as might occur at a voudun ceremony (my example, not his), where the doctrinal approach involves more regular, repetitive rituals, such as going to a synagogue or a mainstream christian church every week. He places mystery cults firmly in the former category. But he does not ever really expand on this overall theme. Instead he just presents a series of mystery cults and their practices, as far as they were known. (Eleusinian, the Great Gods of Samothrace, other assorted littler cults of Greece and Asia Minor and some minor independent practioners, the Magna Mater, Dionysius, Isis, and Mithras). In the last chapter he again refers briefly to these two types of religious experiences and discusses Pentecostal churches which practice snake-handling as modern day examples of a mystery cult.
The book's last paragraph is a quote from a journalist reporting on his experience in a snake-handling church. And with that quote Dr. Bowden comes closer to capturing a sense of the actual people who participated in these cults than he does in the whole rest of the book.
The main ancient religions were overtly practiced, with ceremonies and sacrifices in the open, during the day. The cults explored here, however, secreted themselves away for their practices which were often held at night.Read more ›
Pg. 47-48: "There is also the importance of Persephone at Eleusis. She is Queen of the Underworld... We have already seen in the Introduction that the references to a happy afterlife do not imply that the Eleusinian Mysteries were explicitly concerned with the afterlife... We can also see that the Queen of the Underworld had little to do with the Mysteries either."
WHAT...!!?? The Queen of the Underworld, abducted by Hades (Death), had little to do with the afterlife or the Eleusinian Mysteries...??? Please read the 'Homeric Hymn to Demeter' for yourself, and explore the amazing iconography on the 4-foot tall vase in the New York Metropolitan Museum.
Pg. 161: "Isis was at times accompanied not by Osiris but by the god Sarapis. Scholars debate the origins of Sarapis, whose name is derived from Apis, a god who took the form of a bull..."
HUHHH...?!!! The name Serapis comes from Osir-Apis, with Osiris, the Egyptian king of the dead (equivalent to the Greek Hades), incarnating as the oracular bull Apis. Serapis was the Greek amalgam of Osiris and Hades, and his 3-headed dog Cerberus also guarded the gate to the afterlife, as shown on coins of the Roman emperors Trajan, Hadrian (see 'customer images'), Caracalla, etc. In other words, Serapis = Osiris = Hades (Pluto).
The hero Heracles was said to have been initiated at Eleusis before his trip to the underworld to bring back the 3-headed hellhound Cerberus. Why would Heracles need the Eleusinian Mysteries for his trip to the world beyond unless they were "explicitly concerned with the afterlife?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In the past decade, several books have come out that look at a variety of mystery cults. This one is aimed at a popular audience more than the others. Read morePublished 2 months ago by DAJ
Bowden's "Mystery Cults of the Ancient World" is comprehensive and well researched. He investigates what we know of the different mystery cults in Greek and Roman times and how... Read morePublished on December 28, 2012 by Don Gakusei
I'M A TEACHER IN GREAT AND ANCIENT RELIGIONS, THIS BOOK WAS VERY USEFULL FOR MY CLASSES AND MY WORK, EASY TO UNDERSTAND.I AM GLAD I BOUGHT IT.Published on October 31, 2010 by Maria Luisa de la Rosa Preve