In this detail from a red-figure vase, Hermes leads Persephone from the Underworld, led by Hekate with torches (or perhaps an iconic Demeter with her Aetnean torches) as (another iconic representation of) Demeter waits with her scepter in hand.
Stations of the Eleusinian Mysteries
These activities represent the "stations" through which the Mystai were required to pass on their initiatory travels to Eleusis. Although there is some dispute from text to text as to the order of their occurrence in the nine day journey to Eleusis, authors seem to agree upon the nature and symbolism of the stations (or events) themselves.
1. Agrymos Assembly:
Fifteenth (some say the nineteenth) day of Boedromion
- attended to by the "Hydranos" Priest of Purification: Journey to the Sea (Rhetoi-place favored by the Eleusinians here it was said that salt water flowed to the sea) the 16th. day of Boedromion
Offerings for Demeter as the Sorrowing One, (a sow, barley, fish (mullet) . Prayers for women and children.
4. 18th Day Boedromion:
Solemn procession in honor of Asklepios, god of healing on the eighteenth day of Boedromion. Libation (trygetos)offered to Dionysius and to other gods. Preparation of the Kykeon. Carrying of sacred baskets, chest of sesame, carded wool, salt, pomegranates , poppies, a serpent, boughs of ivy and cakes.
5. Day of Iacchus
(Dionysos' alter-ego), Divine child of Zeus (Hades) and Demeter (Persephone). Revelry - procession by sacred fig tree. Day of Torches. Bridge of Jests. Through 'mystical entrance' to Eleusis. Dance with the fifty daughters of Ocean, stars and moon. Games are celebrated. Tying of Kroke on the right hand and left foot. Myrtle branches. Women carry the Kykeon.
6. Day of Rest:
Sacrifice and Purification preparation.
7 & 8. Initiation Ritual: Dromena
[things Done]; Legomena
[Things Said]; Deicymena
[Things Shown]. Vision of ineffable things [a golden serpent, an egg, and the phallus and Persephone [Queen of the Dead]. Those who entered the Telestarion for the Vision [Epoptai] fasted for nine days, drank the Kykeon - fermented barley and mint drink probably containing 'Ergot' (the mold which grows on wheat that is the base for LSD).
* Divine Marriage enacted by Heirophant and Priestess.
* The vision of the 'great fire'. Birth in fire by Brimo of Brimos.
* Elevation of a single grain of wheat.
* Libations to the dead.
the 'pourings of plenty'. Hye - Kye. "Flow - Conceive".
0. Prior to Retreat - Agrymos
1. Tying of Cord of Aspirations
/ taking of a new (mythic) name
* Bridge of Jests / Drinking of The Kykeon
* Silence & Fasting
2. Pilgrimage to the Sacred Way
(awake with prayers for women an children)
* Honoring Asclepius as the God of Healing
* Grieving with Demeter:
* Sacrifice ('blood' of anger) to Raging Demeter Erinys
* The Kallichoron -('salt' of sorrow) to Sorrowing Demeter
* Purification - Alade! to the sea
* Sacrifice (pig)
* The Night of Speaking with the dead
3. Synthema and Rite of Kroke
* Trusting Ariadne - The Labyrinth
* Oracle of the Earth
* Trance Dance
* The Telestarion/The Vision of Ineffable Things
Eleusinian Mysteries initiation, Hope collection
As to the climax of the Mysteries, there are two modern theories. Some hold that the priests were the ones to reveal the visions of the holy night, consisting of a fire that represented the possibility of life after death, and various sacred objects. Others hold this explanation to be insufficient to account for the power and longevity of the Mysteries, and that the experiences must have been internal and mediated by a powerful psychoactive ingredient contained in the kykeon.
Following this section of the Mysteries was the Pannychis, an all-night feast accompanied by dancing and merriment. The dances took place in the Rharian Field, rumored to be the first spot where corn grew. A bull sacrifice also took place late that night or early the next morning. That day (22nd Boedromion), the initiates honored the dead by pouring libations from special vessels.
On 23rd Boedromion, the Mysteries ended and everyone returned home.