Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Eleusinian Mysteries

  • David A. LeemingEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_199

The mystery cult of Eleusis had roots in ancient initiation rituals of the divine child, in the person of the pais aphhestias(“boy of the hearth”). In the myth of Demeter and Persephone, after Persephone is abducted by Hades, her mother, Demeter, allowed the earth to become infertile and barren as she searched everywhere for her lost daughter. In Eleusis she disguised herself as a nurse maid and cared for the child Demophon, son of the king there. When she attempted to give the child immortality by dipping him into fire, she was discovered and had to reveal herself as Demeter. A temple was built for the goddess at Eleusis and in time the mystery cult evolved there. By sometime in the sixth century BCE, the cult was taken over by the city state of Athens and involved secret initiation rites in an inner sanctum facing which was a magnificent hall. A priestess of Demeter lived in the sanctuary. The rites began with a ritual bath and 3 days of fasting, followed by a procession to...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Graf, F. (1987). Eleusinian mysteries. In M. Eliade (Ed.), The encyclopedia of religion (Vol. V, pp. 83–84). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Jung, C. G., & Kerenyi, C. (1949, 1959). Essays on a science of mythology: The myth of the divine child and the mysteries of Eleusis. Princeton, NJ: Bollingen. 1971.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA