Apuleius, Apologia 56
Could anyone who has any idea of religion still find it strange that a man initiated in so many divine mysteries should keep at home some tokens of recognition of the cults and should wrap them in linen cloth, the purest veil for sacred objects? For wool, the excrescence of an inert body extracted from a sheep, is already a profane garment in the prescriptions of Orpheus and Pythagoras.
Areios Didymos, Epitome of Stoic Ethics 3.604-3.662
The Stoics say that only the wise man can be a priest, while no worthless person can be one. For the priest needs to be experienced in the laws concerning sacrifices, prayers, purifications, foundations, and the like. In addition to this he needs ritual, piety, and experience in the service of the gods, and to be close to the divine nature. Not one of these things belongs to the worthless; hence, also all the stupid are impious. For impiety as a vice is ignorance of the service of the gods, while piety is knowledge of that divine service. Likewise they say that the worthless are not holy. For holiness is described as justice with respect to the gods. The worthless transgress many of the just customs pertaining to the gods, on account of which they are unholy, impure, unclean, defiled and barred from festive rites. For carrying out festive rites is, they say, the mark of a civilized man, since a festival is a time when one ought to be concerned with the divine for the sake of honor and appropriate celebration. So the person who carries out festive rites needs to have humbly entered with piety into this post.
Aristophanes, Nephelai (250-300)
Socrates: Do you want to know the truth of things divine, the way they really are?
Strepsiades: Why, yes, if it’s possible.
Soc: ….and to converse with the spirits in the clouds?
Strep: Without a doubt.
Soc: Then be seated on this sacred couch.
Strep: [sitting down]
I am seated.
Soc: Now take this chaplet.
Strep: Why a chaplet? Alas, Socrates! Would you sacrifice me like Athamas?
Soc: No, these are the rites of initiation.
Strep: And what is it I am to gain?
Soc: You’ll learn to be a clever talker, to rattle off a speech, to strain your words like flour. Just keep still.
[Socrates sprinkles flour all over Strepsiades.]
Strep: By Zeus! That’s no lie! Soon I shall be nothing but wheat-flour, if you powder me in that fashion.
Soc: Old man, be quiet. Listen to the prayer.
Aristotle, De Anima 410b
This problem affects the doctrine in the so-called Orphic poems as well; for he says that the soul, being carried by the winds, enters from the universe into living creatures when they inhale.
Celsus, Alethes Logos
If in obedience to the traditions of their fathers they abstain from such victims, they must also abstain from all animal food, in accordance with the opinions of Pythagoras, who thus showed his respect for the soul and its bodily organs. But if, as they say, they abstain that they may not eat along with daimones, I admire their wisdom, in having at length discovered, that whenever they eat they eat with daimones, although they only refuse to do so when they are looking upon a slain victim; for when they eat bread, or drink wine, or taste fruits, do they not receive these things, as well as the water they drink and the air they breathe, from certain daimones, to whom have been assigned these different provinces of nature? We must either not live, and indeed not come into this life at all, or we must do so on condition that we give thanks and first-fruits and prayers to daimones, who have been set over the things of this world: and that we must do as long as we live, that they may prove good and kind. They must make their choice between two alternatives. If they refuse to render due service to the gods, and to respect those who are set over this service, let them not come to manhood, or marry wives, or have children, or indeed take any share in the affairs of life; but let them depart hence with all speed, and leave no posterity behind them, that such a race may become extinct from the face of the earth. Or, on the other hand, if they will take wives, and bring up children, and taste of the fruits of the earth, and partake of all the blessings of life, and bear its appointed sorrows (for nature herself hath allotted sorrows to all men; for sorrows must exist, and earth is the only place for them), then must they discharge the duties of life until they are released from its bonds, and render due honour to those beings who control the affairs of this life, if they would not show themselves ungrateful to them. For it would be unjust in them, after receiving the good things which they dispense, to pay them no tribute in return.
Derveni Papyrus col. 5.3
… we will enter the prophetic shrine to enquire whether it is permissible to disbelieve in the terrors of Hades. Why do they disbelieve in them? Since they do not understand dream-visions or any of the other realities, what sort of proofs would induce them to believe? For, since they are overcome by both error and pleasure as well … disbelief and ignorance are the same thing. For if they do not learn or comprehend, it cannot be that they will believe even if they see dream-visions …
Derveni Papyrus col. 6.1-11
… prayers and sacrifices appease the souls, and the enchanting song of the magician is able to remove the daimones when they impede. Impeding daimones are revenging souls. This is why the magicians perform the sacrifice as if they were paying a penalty. On the offerings they pour water and milk, from which they make the libations, too. They sacrifice innumerable and many-knobbed cakes, because the souls, too, are innumerable.
Derveni Papyrus col. 7
People are wrong to think that Orpheus did not compose a hymn that says wholesome and lawful things; for they say that he utters riddles by means of his composition, and it is impossible to state the solution to his words even though they have been spoken. But his composition is strange and riddling for human beings. Orpheus did not wish to say in it disputable riddles, but important things in riddles. For he tells a holy tale even from the first word right through to the last, as he shows even in the well-known verse: for by bidding them ‘put doors on their ears’ he is saying that he is not legislating for the many, (but is addressing) those who are pure in hearing …
Derveni Papyrus col. 13 and 16
He swallowed the phallus of […], who sprang from the aither first.
Since in his [i.e. Orpheus] whole poetry he speaks about facts enigmatically, one has to speak about each word in turn. Seeing that people consider that generation is dependent upon the genitalia, and that without genitals there is no becoming, he used this (word), likening the sun to a phallus. For without the sun the things that are could not have become such … things that are … the sun everything ….
It has been made clear above [that] he called the sun a phallus. Since the beings that are now came to be from the already subsistent he says:
[with?] the phallus of the first-born king, onto which all the immortals grew (or: clung fast), blessed gods and goddesses And rivers and lovely springs and everything else That had been born then; and he himself became solitary
In these (verses) he indicates that the beings always subsisted, and the beings that are now came to be from (or: out of) subsisting things. And as to (the phrase): ‘and he himself became solitary’, by saying this, he makes clear that the Mind [Nous] itself, being alone, is worth everything, as if the others were nothing. For it would not be possible for the subsisting things to be such without the Mind. And in the following verse after this he said that Mind is worth everything:
Now he is king of all and will always be
…. Mind and …
Dio Chrysostom, Oration 12.33-34
So it is just as if someone were to initiate a man, Greek or barbarian, leading him into some mystic shrine overwhelming in its size and beauty. He would see many mystic spectacles and hear many such voices; light and darkness would appear to him in alternation, and a myriad other things would happen. Still more, just as they are accustomed to do in the ritual called enthronement, the initiators, having enthroned the initiands, dance in circles around them. Is it at all likely that this man would experience nothing in his soul and that he would not suspect that what was taking place was done with a wiser understanding and preparation? … Still more, if, not humans like the initiands, but immortal gods were initiating mortals, and night and day, both in the light and under the stars were, if it is right to speak so, literally dancing around them eternally.
Diogenes Laertios, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 8.19-21; 23-24
Above all, he forbade as food red mullet and blacktail, and he enjoined abstinence from the hearts of animals and from beans, and sometimes, according to Aristotle, even from paunch and gurnard. Some say that he contented himself with just some honey or a honeycomb or bread, never touching wine in the daytime, and with greens boiled or raw for dainties, and fish but rarely. His robe was white and spotless, his quilts of white wool, for linen had not yet reached those parts. He was never known to over-eat, to behave loosely, or to be drunk. He would avoid laughter and all pandering to tastes such as insulting jests and vulgar tales. He would punish neither slave nor free man in anger. Admonition he used to call “setting right.” He used to practise divination by sounds or voices and by auguries, never by burnt-offerings, beyond frankincense. The offerings he made were always inanimate; though some say that he would offer cocks, sucking goats and porkers, as they are called, but lambs never. However, Aristoxenus has it that he consented to the eating of all other animals, and only abstained from ploughing oxen and rams. The same authority, as we have seen, asserts that Pythagoras took his doctrines from the Delphic priestess Themistoclea. Hieronymus, however, says that, when he had descended into Hades, he saw the soul of Hesiod bound fast to a brazen pillar and gibbering, and the soul of Homer hung on a tree with serpents writhing about it, this being their punishment for what they had said about the gods ; he also saw under torture those who would not remain faithful to their wives. This, says our authority, is why he was honoured by the people of Croton. Aristippos of Kyrene affirms in his work On the Physicists that he was named Pythagoras because he uttered the truth as infallibly as did the Pythian oracle. And he further bade them to honour gods before demi-gods, heroes before men, and first among men their parents ; and so to behave one to another as not to make friends into enemies, but to turn enemies into friends. To deem nothing their own. To support the law, to wage war on lawlessness. Never to kill or injure trees that are not wild, nor even any animal that does not injure man. That it is seemly and advisable neither to give way to unbridled laughter nor to wear sullen looks. To avoid excess of flesh, on a journey to let exertion and slackening alternate, to train the memory, in wrath to restrain hand and tongue, to respect all divination, to sing to the lyre and by hymns to show due gratitude to gods and to good men. To abstain from beans because they are flatulent and partake most of the breath of life ; and besides, it is better for the stomach if they are not taken, and this again will make our dreams in sleep smooth and untroubled.
Diogenes Laertios, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 8.33-35
Right has the force of an oath, and that is why Zeus is called the God of Oaths. Virtue is harmony, and so are health and all good and God himself; this is why they say that all things are constructed according to the laws of harmony. The love of friends is just concord and equality. We should not pay equal worship to gods and heroes, but to the gods always, with reverent silence, in white robes, and after purification, to the heroes only from midday onwards. Purification is by cleansing, baptism and lustration, and by keeping clean from all deaths and births and all pollution, and abstaining from meat and flesh of animals that have died, mullets, gurnards, eggs and egg-sprung animals, beans, and the other abstinences prescribed by those who perform mystic rites in the temples. According to Aristotle in his work On the Pythagoreans, Pythagoras counselled abstinence from beans either because they are like the genitals, or because they are like the gates of Hades . . . as being alone unjointed, or because they are injurious, or because they are like the form of the universe, or because they belong to oligarchy, since they are used in election by lot. He bade his disciples not to pick up fallen crumbs, either in order to accustom them not to eat immoderately, or because connected with a person’s death; nay, even, according to Aristophanes, crumbs belong to the heroes, for in his Heroes he says: Nor taste ye of what falls beneath the board! Another of his precepts was not to eat white cocks, as being sacred to the month and wearing suppliant garb–now supplication ranked with things good– sacred to the month because they announce the time of day ; and again white represents the nature of the good, black the nature of evil. Not to touch such fish as were sacred; for it is not right that gods and men should be allotted the same things, any more than free men and slaves. Not to break bread ; for once friends used to meet over one loaf, as the barbarians do even to this day ; and you should not divide bread which brings them together; some give as the explanation of this that it has reference to the judgement of the dead in Hades, others that bread makes cowards in war, others again that it is from it that the whole world begins.
And he says that the world began in the likeness of an egg, and the wind encircling the egg serpent-fashion like a wreath or a belt then began to constrict nature. As it tried to squeeze all the matter with greater force, it divided the world into the two hemispheres.
Euripides, Cretans fragment 472
Son of the Phoenician princess, child of Tyrian Europa and great Zeus, ruler over hundred-fortressed Crete—here am I, come from the sanctity of temples roofed with cut beam of our native wood, its true joints of cypress welded together with Chalybean axe and cement from the bull. Pure has my life been since the day when I became an initiate of Idaean Zeus. Where midnight Zagreus roves, I rove; I have endured his thunder-cry; fulfilled his red and bleeding feasts; held the Great Mother’s mountain flame; I am set free and named by name a Bakchos of the Mailed Priests. Having all-white garments, I flee the birth of mortals and, not nearing the place of corpses, I guard myself against the eating of ensouled flesh.
Euripides, Hippolytos 948–957
Are you, then, the companion of the gods, as a man beyond the common? Are you the chaste one, untouched by evil? I will never be persuaded by your vauntings, never be so unintelligent as to impute folly to the gods. Continue then your confident boasting, take up a diet of greens and play the showman with your food, make Orpheus your lord and engage in mystic rites, holding the vaporings of many books in honor. For you have been found out. To all I give the warning: avoid men like this. For they make you their prey with their high-holy-sounding words while they contrive deeds of shame.
Marcilio Facino, Theologia Platonica 17.1
In the subjects belonging to theology the six great theologians join together: the first is Zoroaster, chief of Magi, the second Mercurius Trismegistos, the prince of Egyptian priests. Orpheus was successor to Mercurius; Aglaophamus was introduced into the sanctuaries by Orpheus. Pythagoras followed Aglaophamus in theology; Aglaophamus’ successor was Plato, who, in his works, summarized, improved and illustrated the wisdom of these men. They all veiled divine Mysteries with poetical shadows, so that they should not be communicated to the profane people. But it happened that their successors communicated the mysteries and everybody interpreted them in his own way.
Herodotos, The Histories 2.81
The Egyptians wear linen tunics with fringes hanging about the legs, called ‘calasiris’ and loose white woolen mantles over these. But nothing of wool is brought into the temples, or buried with them; that is forbidden. In this they follow the same rules as the ritual called Orphic and Bacchic, but which is in truth Egyptian and Pythagorean; for neither may those initiated into these rites be buried in woolen wrappings. There is a sacred legend about this.
Herodotos, The Histories 7.6
They had come up to Sardis with Onomakritos, an Athenian diviner who had set in order the oracles of Mousaios. They had reconciled their previous hostility with him; Onomakritos had been banished from Athens by Pisistratos’ son Hipparchos, when he was caught by Lasos of Hermione in the act of interpolating into the writings of Mousaios an oracle showing that the islands off Lemnos would disappear into the sea. Because of this Hipparchos banished him, though they had previously been close friends. Now he had arrived at Susa with the Pisistratidae, and whenever he came into the king’s presence they used lofty words concerning him and he recited from his oracles; all that portended disaster to the Persian he left unspoken, choosing and reciting such prophecies as were most favorable, telling how the Hellespont must be bridged by a man of Persia and describing the expedition. So he brought his oracles to bear, while the Pisistratidae and Aleuadae gave their opinions.
Fragments of Herakleitos
It is impossible to step twice into the same river.
A person’s character is his daimon and destiny.
It is delight or death for souls to become wet … we live their death and they our death.
A man in the night kindles/touches a light for himself because his sight is put out; when alive, while he sleeps, he touches the dead, and while he is awake he touches the sleeping.
People asleep are workers, taking part in the work of the cosmos.
Immortals are mortal, mortals immortal, living the death of those, and dying the life of these.
It is the same in: being alive and dead, awake and asleep and young and old; for these after changing are those and those again after changing are these.
They make themselves clean/pure by washing with another’s blood, as if you could clean off mud by stepping into mud. But a man would be thought mad if anyone were to see him behaving in this way. And they pray to their statues like someone talking to a house, not knowing the nature of gods and heroes.
Night-prowlers, magicians, bacchants, priestesses of the wine-press, mystics; the rites men practice in the holy mysteries are unholy.
If it were not in honour of Dionysos that they walk in procession and sing a hymn to the phallos they would be acting most shamelessly. Haides and Dionysos are one, for whom they rave in frenzy.
The Sibyl with raving mouth making utterances that lack humour, elegance and incense
Selections from the fifth book of Hippolytus Romanus’ Philosophoumena
Worshipping, however, Kyllenios with special distinction, they style him Logios. For Hermes is the Word who being interpreter and fabricator of the things that have been made simultaneously and that are being produced and that will exist, stands honoured among them, fashioned into the form of the phallos of a man, having an impulsive power from the parts below towards those above. And that this deity is a conjurer of the dead and a guide of departed spirits and an originator of souls has not escaped the notice of the poets.
This is the Christ who, he says, in all that have been generated, is the portrayed Son of Man from the unportrayable Logos. This, he says, is the great and unspeakable mystery of the Eleusinian rites, Hye, Kye! (“Rain, conceive!”) And he affirms that all things have been subjected unto him, and this is that which has been spoken, Their sound is gone forth unto all the earth just as it agrees with the expression, Hermes waving his wand, guides the souls, but they twittering follow. The poet means the disembodied spirits follow continuously in such a way as by his imagery he delineates:
And as when in the magic cave’s recess
Bats humming fly, and when one drops from ridge of rock,
and each to other closely clings.
These are, he says, what are by all called the secret mysteries which also we speak, not in words taught of human wisdom, but in those taught of the spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of god’s spirt for they are foolishness unto him.
And again, he says, the savior has declared the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you.
Jeremiah himself remarked He is a man, and who shall know him?
These, he says, are the inferior mysteries, those appertaining to carnal generation. Now, those men who are initiated into these inferior mysteries ought to pause, and then be admitted into the great and heavenly ones. For they, he says, who obtain their shares in this mystery, receive greater portions. For this, he says, is the gate of heaven; and this a house of god, where the Good Deity dwells alone. And into this gate, he says, no unclean person shall enter, nor one that is natural or carnal; but it is reserved for the spiritual only. And those who come hither ought to cast off their garments, and become all of them bridegrooms.
Concerning these, it is said, the Savior has expressly declared that straight and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there are that enter upon it; whereas broad and spacious is the way that leads unto destruction, and many there are that pass through it.
The entire system of their doctrine, however, is derived from the ancient theologians Mousaios, Linos and Orpheus, who elucidates especially the ceremonies of initiation, as well as the mysteries themselves. For their doctrine concerning the womb is also the tenet of Orpheus; and the idea of the navel, which is harmony, is to be found with the same symbolism attached to it in the Bacchanalian orgies of Orpheus. But prior to the observance of the mystic rites of Keleos and Triptolemos and Demeter and Bakchos in Eleusis, these orgies have been celebrated and handed down to men in Phliom of Attica.
And in the greater number of these books is also drawn the representation of a certain aged man, grey-haired, winged, having his penis erect, pursuing a retreating woman of azure color. And over the aged man is the inscription phaos ruentes, and over the woman peree. But phaos ruentes appears to be the light which exists, according to the doctrine of the Sethians, and phicola the darkish water; while the space in the midst of these seems to be a harmony constituted from the spirit that is placed between. The name, however, of phaos ruentes manifests, as they allege, the flow from above of the light downwards. Wherefore one may reasonably assert that the Sethians celebrate rites among themselves, very closely bordering upon those orgies of the Great Mother which are observed among the Phliasians. And the poet likewise seems to bear his testimony to this triple division, when he remarks:
And all things have been triply divided, and everything obtains its proper distinction
That is, each member of the threefold division has obtained a particular capacity. But now, as regards the tenet that the subjacent water below, which is dark, ought, because the light has set over it, to convey upwards and receive the spark borne down from the light itself is the assertion of this tenet. I say the all-wise Sethians appear to derive their opinion from Homer
By earth I swore, and yon broad Heaven above,
And Stygian stream beneath, the weightiest oath
Of solemn power, to bind the blessed gods.
Therefore, he says, when, on the people assembling in the theatres, any one enters clad in a remarkable robe, carrying a harp and playing a tune upon it, accompanying it with a song of the great mysteries, he speaks as follows, not knowing what he says:
Whether you are the race of Kronos or blessed Zeus, or mighty Rheia, Hail, Attis, gloomy mutilation of Rheia. Assyrians style you thrice-longed-for Adonis, and the whole of Egypt calls you Osiris, celestial horn of the moon; Greeks denominate you Wisdom; Samothracians, venerable Adam; Haemonians, Korybas; and the Phrygians name you at one time Papa, at another time Corpse, or God, or Fruitless, or Aipolos, or Green Ear of Corn that has been reaped, or whom the very fertile Amygdalos produced— a man, a musician.
This, he says, is multiform Attis, whom while they celebrate in a hymn, they utter these words:
I will hymn Attis, son of Rheia, not with the buzzing sounds of trumpets, or of Idaean pipers, which accord with the voices of Kouretes; but I will mingle my song with Apollon’s music of harps, “evohe, euan,” inasmuch as you are Pan, as you are Bakchos, as you are shepherd of brilliant stars.
Julian, Orations 7.25
It is absurd of you, my young friend, to think that any tax-gatherer, if only he be initiated, can share in the rewards of the just in the next world, while Agesilaus and Epameinondas are doomed to lie in the mire.
You must abstain from the pleasures of sex, from beans, from heart. May you be holy in the temple: not cleansed with water but purified in spirit.
Jerome, Against Jovinianus 2.14
Eubulus who wrote the history of Mithras in many volumes, relates that among the Persians there are three kinds of Magi, the first of whom, those of greatest learning and eloquence, take no food except meal and vegetables. At Eleusis it is customary to abstain from fowls and fish and certain fruits. Euripides relates that the prophets of Jupiter in Crete abstained not only from flesh, but also from cooked food. Xenocrates the philosopher writes that at Athens out of all the laws of Triptolemus only three precepts remain in the temple of Ceres: respect to parents, reverence for the gods, and abstinence from flesh.
Jerome, Against Jovinianus 2.13
Chaeremon the Stoic, a man of great eloquence, has a treatise on the life of the ancient priests of Egypt who, he says, laid aside all worldly business and cares and were ever in the temple, studying nature and the regulating causes of the heavenly bodies; they never had intercourse with women; they never from the time they began to devote themselves to the divine service set eyes on their kindred and relations, nor even saw their children; they always abstained from flesh and wine, on account of the light-headedness and dizziness which a small quantity of food caused, and especially to avoid the stimulation of the lustful appetite engendered by this meat and drink. They seldom ate bread, that they might not load the stomach. And whenever they ate it, they mixed pounded hyssop with all that they took, so that the action of its warmth might diminish the weight of the heavier food. They used no oil except with vegetables, and then only in small quantities, to mitigate the unpalatable taste. What need, he says, to speak of birds, when they avoided even eggs and milk as flesh. The one, they said, was liquid flesh, the other was blood with the colour changed? Their bed was made of palm-leaves, called by them baiae: a sloping footstool laid upon the ground served for a pillow, and they could go without food for two or three days. The humours of the body which arise from sedentary habits were dried up by reducing their diet to an extreme point.
Lampridius, Vita Alexandri Severi 29
This was his manner of life: as soon as there was opportunity—that is, if he had not spent the night with his wife—he performed his devotions in the early morning hours in his lararium, in which he had statues of the divine princes and also a select number of the best men and the more holy spirits, among whom he had Apollonius of Tyana, and as a writer of his times says, Christ, Abraham, and Orpheus, and others similar, as well as statues of his ancestors.
Marinus of Samaria, The Life of Proclus 18-19
Proclus made use of the noble purificatory practices which woo us from evil, that is lustrations and all of the other processes of purification whether Orphic or Chaldean, such as dipping himself into the sea without hesitation every month, and sometimes even twice or thrice a month. He practiced this discipline, rude as it was, not only in his prime, but even also when he approached his life’s decline; and so he observed, without ever failing, these austere habits of which he had, so to speak, made himself a law … As to the necessary pleasures of food and drink, he made use of them with sobriety, for to him they were no more than a solace from his fatigues. He especially preached abstinence from animal food, but if a special ceremony compelled him to make use of it, he only tasted it, out of consideration and respect. Every month he sanctified himself according to the rites devoted to the Mother of the Gods by the Romans, and before them by the Phrygians; he observed the holy days observed among the Egyptians even more strictly than did they themselves; and especially he fasted on certain days, quite openly. During the first day of the lunar month he remained without food, without even having eaten the night before; and he likewise celebrated the New Moon in great solemnity, and with much sanctity. He regularly observed the great festivals of all peoples, so to speak, and the religious ceremonies peculiar to each people or country. Nor did he, like so many others, make this the pretext of a distraction, or of a debauch of food, but on the contrary they were occasions of prayer meetings that lasted all night, without sleep, with songs, hymns and similar devotions. Of this we see the proof in the composition of his hymns, which contain homage and praises not only of the gods adored among the Greeks, but where you also see worship of the god Marnas of Gaza, Asklepios Leontukhos of Askalon, Thyandrites who is much worshipped among the Arabs, the Isis who has a temple at Philae, and indeed all other divinities. It was a phrase he much used, and that was very familiar to him, that a philosopher should watch over the salvation of not only a city, nor over the national customs of a few people, but that he should be the hierophant of the whole world in common. Such were the holy and purificatory exercises he practiced, in his austere manner of life.
Marinus of Samaria, The Life of Proclus 28
But since, as I said before, by his studies on this subject, Proclus had acquired a still greater and more perfect virtue, namely the theurgic, passing beyond the theoretic step, he did not conform his life exclusively to one of the two characteristics suitable to divine beings, but to both: not only did he direct his thoughts upward to the divine, but by a providential faculty which was not merely social, he cared for those things which were lower. He practiced the Chaldean prayer-meetings and conferences, and even employed the art of moving the divine tops. He was a believer in these practices, in unpremeditated responses, and other such divinations, which he had learned from Asklepigenia, daughter of Plutarch, to whom exclusively her father had confided and taught the mystic rites preserved by Nestorius, and the whole theurgic science. Even before that, according to the prescribed order, and purified by the Chaldean lustrations, the philosopher had, as epoptic initiate, witnessed the apparitions of Hekate under a luminous form, as he himself has mentioned in a special booklet. He had the power of producing rains by activating, at the right time, a particular rite, and was able to deliver Attica from a terrible drought. He knew how to foresee earthquakes, he had experimented with the divinatory power of the tripod, and had himself uttered verses prophetic about his own destiny.
[Melito] of Sardis, Apology 45
But touching Nebo, which is in Mabug, why should I write to you; for, lo! all the priests which are in Mabug know that it is the image of Orpheus, a Thracian Magus. And Hadran is the image of Zaradusht, a Persian Magus, because both of these Magi practised Magism to a well which is in a wood in Mabug, in which was an unclean spirit, and it committed violence and attacked the passage of every one who was passing by in all that place in which now the fortress of Mabug is located; and these same Magi charged Simi, the daughter of Hadad, that she should draw water from the sea, and cast it into the well, in order that the spirit should not come up and commit injury, according to that which was a mystery in their Magism. And in like manner, also, the rest of mankind made images of their kings, and worshipped them, of which I will not write further.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.37.4
It is impossible to attribute the discovery of beans to Demeter; whoever has seen the initiation at Eleusis or has read the so-called Orphica knows what I am talking about.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.22.7
I have read verse in which Mousaios receives from the North Wind the gift of flight, but, in my opinion, Onomakritos wrote them, and there are no certainly genuine works of Mousaios except a hymn to Demeter written for the Lykomidae.
Olympiodoros, Commentary on the Phaedo 10.3.13
Plato paraphrases Orpheus everywhere.
Plato, Euthydemos 277d
They are doing just the same thing as those in the rite of the Korybantes do, when they perform the enthronement ceremony with the one who is about to be initiated. In that situation too there is some dancing and playing around, as you know if you have been initiated.
Plato, Laws 6.782
Again, the practice of men sacrificing one another still exists among many nations; while, on the other hand, we hear of other human beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might not stain the altars of the gods with blood. For in those days men are said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things.
Plato, Laws 854ac
And, in accordance with our rule as already approved, we must prefix to all such laws preludes as brief as possible. By way of argument and admonition one might address in the following terms the man whom an evil desire urges by day and wakes up at night, driving him to rob some sacred object– “My good man, the evil force that now moves you and prompts you to go temple-robbing is neither of human origin nor of divine, but it is some impulse bred of old in men from ancient wrongs unexpiated, which courses round wreaking ruin; and it you must guard against with all your strength. How you must thus guard, now learn. When there comes upon you any such intention, betake yourself to the rites of guilt-averting, betake yourself as suppliant to the shrines of the curse-lifting deities, betake yourself to the company of the men who are reputed virtuous; and thus learn, partly from others, partly by self-instruction, that every man is bound to honor what is noble and just; but the company of evil men shun wholly, and turn not back. And if it be so that by thus acting your disease grows less, well; but if not, then deem death the more noble way, and quit yourself of life.”
Plato, Meno 81a
There were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also and many another poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one’s life in the utmost holiness. ‘For from whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again; from them arise glorious kings and men of splendid might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining time men call them sainted heroes.’
Plato, Republic 2.364a–365b
But the most astounding of all these arguments concerns what they have to say about the gods and virtue. They say that the gods, too, assign misfortune and a bad life to many good people, and the opposite fate to their opposites. Begging priests and prophets frequent the doors of the rich and persuade them that they possess a god-given power founded on sacrifices and incantations. If the rich person or any of his ancestors has committed an injustice, they can fix it with pleasant things and feasts. Moreover, if he wishes to injure some enemy, then, at little expense, he’ll be able to harm just and unjust alike, for by means of spells and enchantments they can persuade the gods to serve them. And they present a hubbub of books by Musaeus and Orpheus, offspring as they say of Selene and the Muses, according to which they arrange their rites, convincing not only individuals but also cities that liberation and purification from injustice is possible, both during life and after death, by means of sacrifices and enjoyable games to the deceased which free us from the evils of the beyond, whereas something horrible awaits those who have not celebrated sacrifices.
Plutarch, Life of Caesar 93
The Romans have a goddess whom they call Good, whom the Greeks call the Women’s Goddess. The Phrygians say that this goddess originated with them, and that she was the mother of their king Midas. The Romans say that she was a Dryad nymph who married Faunus, and the Greeks say that she was the Unnameable One among the mothers of Dionysos. For this reason the women who celebrate her rites cover their tents with vine-branches, and a sacred serpent sits beside the goddess on her throne, as in the myth. It is unlawful for a man to approach or to be in the house when the rites are celebrated. The women, alone by themselves, are said to perform rites that conform to Orphic ritual during the sacred ceremony.
Plutarch, Sayings of the Spartans 224d
This is his retort to Philip, the priest of the Orphic mysteries, who was in the direst straits of poverty, but used to assert that those who were initiated under his rites were happy after the conclusion of this life; to him Leotychidas said, “You idiot! Why then don’t you die as speedily as possible so that you may with that cease from bewailing your unhappiness and poverty?”
Plutarch, Symposiacs 2.3
When upon a dream I had forborne eggs a long time, on purpose that in an egg (as in a Carian) I might make experiment of a notable vision that often troubled me; some at Sossius Senecio’s table suspected that I was tainted with Orpheus’s or Pythagoras’s opinions, and refused to eat an egg (as some do the heart and brain) imagining it to be the principle of generation. And Alexander the Epicurean ridiculingly repeated, —
To feed on beans and parents’ heads
Is equal sin;
as if the Pythagoreans covertly meant eggs by the word ϰύαμοι (beans), deriving it from ϰύω or ϰυέω (to conceive), and thought it as unlawful to feed on eggs as on the animals that lay them. Now to pretend a dream for the cause of my abstaining, to an Epicurean, had been a defence more irrational than the cause itself; and therefore I suffered jocose Alexander to enjoy his opinion, for he was a pleasant man and excellently learned. Soon after he proposed that perplexed question, that plague of the inquisitive, Which was first, the bird or the egg? And my friend Sylla, saying that with this little question, as with an engine, we shook the great and weighty question (whether the world had a beginning), declared his dislike of such problems. But Alexander deriding the question as slight and impertinent, my relation Firmus said: Well, sir, at present your atoms will do me some service; for if we suppose that small things must be the principles of greater, it is likely that the egg was before the bird; for an egg amongst sensible things is very simple, and the bird is more mixed, and contains a greater variety of parts. It is universally true, that a principle is before that whose principle it is; now the seed is a principle, and the egg is somewhat more than the seed, and less than the bird; for as a disposition or a progress in goodness is something between a tractable mind and a habit of virtue, so an egg is as it were a progress of Nature tending from the seed to a perfect animal. And as in an animal they say the veins and arteries are formed first, upon the same account the egg should be before the bird, as the thing containing before the thing contained. Thus art first makes rude and ill-shapen figures, and afterwards perfects every thing with its proper form; and it was for this reason that the statuary Polycletus said, Then our work is most difficult, when the clay comes to be fashioned by the nail. So it is probable that matter, not readily obeying the slow motions of contriving Nature, at first frames rude and indefinite masses, as the egg, and of these moulded anew, and joined in better order, the animal afterward is formed. As the canker is first, and then growing dry and cleaving lets forth a winged animal, called psyche; so the egg is first as it were the subject matter of the generation. For it is certain that, in every change, that out of which the thing changes must be before the thing changing. Observe how worms and caterpillars are bred in trees from the moisture corrupted or concocted; now none can say but that the engendering moisture is naturally before all these. For (as Plato says) matter is as a mother or nurse in respect of the bodies that are formed, and we call that matter out of which any thing that is is made. And with a smile continued he, I speak to those that are acquainted with the mystical and sacred discourse of Orpheus, who not only affirms the egg to be before the bird, but makes it the first being in the whole world. The other parts, because deep mysteries (as Herodotus would say), we shall now pass by; but let us look upon the various kinds of animals, and we shall find almost every one beginning from an egg, — fowls and fishes; land animals, as lizards; amphibious, as crocodiles; some with two legs, as a cock; some without any, as a snake; and some with many, as a locust. And therefore in the solemn feast of Bacchus it is very well done to dedicate an egg, as the emblem of that which begets and contains every thing in itself.
Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Foods 2.45
That is why even sorcerers have thought such advance protection and purification necessary; but it is not effective in all circumstances, for they stir up wicked daimones to gratify their lusts. So holiness is not for sorcerers, but for godly men who are wise about the gods, and it brings as a guard on all sides, for those who practice it, their attachment to the divine. If only sorcerers would practice it constantly, they would have no enthusiasm for sorcery, because holiness would exclude them from enjoyment of the things for the sake of which they commit impiety. But, being filled with passions, they abstain for a little from impure foods, yet are full of impurity and pay the penalty for their lawlessness towards the universe: some penalties are inflicted by the beings they themselves provoke, some by the justice which watches over all mortal concerns, both actions and thoughts. Holiness, both internal and external, belongs to a godly man, who strives to fast from the passions of the soul just as he fasts from those foods which arouse the passions, who feeds on wisdom about the gods and becomes like them by right thinking about the divine; a man sanctified by intellectual sacrifice, who approaches the god in white clothing, with a truly pure freedom from passion in the soul and with a body which is light and not weighted down with the alien juices of other creatures or with the passions of the soul.
Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Foods 2.50
Priests, diviners and all men who are wise in the ways of religion instruct us to stay clear of tombs, of sacrilegious men, menstruating women, sexual intercourse, any shameful or lamentable sight, anything heard which arouses emotion; for often even unseen impurity disturbs those officiating at the rites, and an improperly performed sacrifice brings more harm than good.
Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Foods 2.61
The best offering to the gods is a pure intellect and a soul unaffected by passion; it is also appropriate to make them moderate offerings of other things, not casually but with full commitment. Honors to the gods must be like the front seats given to good men, and like standing up for them to sit down, not like paying taxes. If a man can say, Íf you remember my good deeds and love me, long since dear one you repaid my favor, it was for this I showed you favor first’ surely a god will be satisfied with this. That is why Plato says (Laws 716d; 717a) ‘it is right for a good man to sacrifice and always to be in conversation with the gods by prayer and dedications and sacrifices and all forms of worship’ but for a bad man ‘great effort about the gods is in vain.’ The good man knows what must be sacrificed, from what one must abstain, what should be eaten and from what offerings should be made; the bad man, bringing to the gods honors suited to his own disposition and what he wants, acts impiously.
Porphyry, On Abstinence From Animal Food 4.16
In the Eleusinian mysteries, likewise, the initiated are ordered to abstain from domestic birds, from fishes and beans, pomegranates and apples, which fruits are as equally defiling to the touch, as a woman recently delivered, and a dead body But whoever is acquainted with the nature of divinely-luminous appearances knows also on what account it is requisite to abstain from all birds, and especially for him who hastens to be liberated from terrestrial concerns, and to be established with the celestial Gods.
Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Foods 4.6-8
Chaeremon the Stoic, therefore, in his narration of the Egyptian priests, who, he says, were considered by the Egyptians as philosophers, informs us, that they chose temples, as the places in which they might philosophize. For to dwell with the statues of the gods is a thing allied to the whole desire, by which the soul tends to the contemplation of their divinities. And from the divine veneration indeed, which was paid to them through dwelling in temples, they obtained security, all men honouring these philosophers, as if they were certain sacred animals. They also led a solitary life, as they only mingled with other men in solemn sacrifices and festivals. But at other times the priests were almost inaccessible to any one who wished to converse with them. For it was requisite that he who approached to them should be first purified, and abstain from many things; and this is as it were a common sacred law respecting the Egyptian priests. But these philosophic priests having relinquished every other employment, and human labours, gave up the whole of their life to the contemplation and worship of divine natures and to divine inspiration; through the latter, indeed, procuring for themselves, honour, security, and piety; but through contemplation, science; and through both, a certain occult exercise of manners, worthy of antiquity. For to be always conversant with divine knowledge and inspiration, removes those who are so from all avarice, suppresses the passions, and excites to an intellectual life. But they were studious of frugality in their diet and apparel, and also of continence and endurance, and in all things were attentive to justice and equity. They likewise were rendered venerable, through rarely mingling with other men. For during the time of what are called purifications, they scarcely mingled with their nearest kindred, and those of their own order, nor were they to be seen by anyone, unless it was requisite for the necessary purposes of purification. For the sanctuary was inaccessible to those who were not purified, and they dwelt in holy places for the purpose of performing divine works; but at all other times they associated more freely with those who lived like themselves. They did not, however, associate with any one who was not a religious character. But they were always seen near to the gods, or the statues of the gods, the latter of which they were beheld either carrying, or preceding in a sacred procession, or disposing in an orderly manner, with modesty and gravity; each of which operations was not the effect of pride, but an indication of some physical reason. Their venerable gravity also was apparent from their manners. For their walking was orderly, and their aspect sedate; and they were so studious of preserving this gravity of countenance, that they did not even wink, when at any time they were unwilling to do so; and they seldom laughed, and when they did, their laughter proceeded no farther than to a smile. But they always kept their hands within their garments. Each likewise bore about him a symbol indicative of the order which he was allotted in sacred concerns; for there were many orders of priests. Their diet also was slender and simple. For, with respect to wine, some of them did not at all drink it, but others drank very little of it, on account of its being injurious to the nerves, oppressive to the head, an impediment to invention, and an incentive to venereal desires. In many other things also they conducted themselves with caution; neither using bread at all in purifications, and at those times in which they were not employed in purifying themselves, they were accustomed to eat bread with hyssop, cut into small pieces. For it is said, that hyssop very much purifies the power of bread. But they, for the most part, abstained from oil, the greater number of them entirely; and if at any time they used it with pot-herbs, they took very little of it, and only as much as was sufficient to mitigate the taste of the herbs.
It was not lawful for them therefore to meddle with the esculent and potable substances, which were produced out of Egypt, and this contributed much to the exclusion of luxury from these priests. But they abstained from all the fish that was caught in Egypt, and from such quadrupeds as had solid, or many-fissured hoofs, and from such as were not horned; and likewise from all such birds as were carnivorous. Many of them, however, entirely abstained from all animals; and in purifications this abstinence was adopted by all of them, for then they did not even eat an egg. Moreover, they also rejected other things, without being calumniated for so doing. Thus, for instance, of oxen, they rejected the females, and also such of the males as were twins, or were speckled, or of a different colour, or alternately varied in their form, or which were now tamed, as having been already consecrated to labours, and resembled animals that are honoured, or which were the images of any thing that is divine, or those that had but one eye, or those that verged to a similitude of the human form. There are also innumerable other observations pertaining to the art of those who are called mosxofragistai, or who stamp calves with a seal, and of which books have been composed. But these observations are still more curious respecting birds; as, for instance, that a turtle should not be eaten; for it is said that a hawk frequently dismisses this bird after he has seized it, and preserves its life, as a reward for having had connexion with it. The Egyptian priests, therefore, that they might not ignorantly meddle with a turtle of this kind, avoided the whole species of those birds. And these indeed were certain common religious ceremonies; but there were different ceremonies, which varied according to the class of the priests that used them, and were adapted to the several divinities. But chastity and purifications were common to all the priests. When also the time arrived in which they were to perform something pertaining to the sacred rites of religion, they spent some days in preparatory ceremonies, some indeed forty-two, but others a greater, and others a less number of days; yet never less than seven days; and during this time they abstained from all animals, and likewise from all pot-herbs and leguminous substances, and, above all, from a venereal connexion with women; for they never at any time had connexion with males. They likewise washed themselves with cold water thrice every day; viz. when they rose from their bed, before dinner, and when they betook themselves to sleep. But if they happened to be polluted in their sleep by the emission of the seed, they immediately purified their body in a bath. They also used cold bathing at other times, but not so frequently as on the above occasion. Their bed was woven from the branches of the palm tree, which they call bais; and their bolster was a smooth semi-cylindric piece of wood. But they exercised themselves in the endurance of hunger and thirst, and were accustomed to paucity of food through the whole of their life.
This also is a testimony of their continence, that, though they neither exercised themselves in walking or riding, yet they lived free from disease, and were sufficiently strong for the endurance of modern labours. They bore therefore many burdens in the performance of sacred operations, and accomplished many ministrant works, which required more than common strength. But they divided the night into the observation of the celestial bodies, and sometimes devoted a part of it to offices of purification; and they distributed the day into the worship of the gods, according to which they celebrated them with hymns thrice or four times, viz. in the morning and evening, when the sun is at his meridian altitude, and when he is declining to the west. The rest of their time they devoted to arithmetical and geometrical speculations, always labouring to effect something, and to make some new discovery, and, in short, continually exercising their skill. In winter nights also they were occupied in the same employments, being vigilantly engaged in literary pursuits, as paying no attention to the acquisition of externals, and being liberated from the servitude of that bad master, excessive expense. Hence their unwearied and incessant labour testifies their endurance, but their continence is manifested by their liberation from the desire of external good. To sail from Egypt likewise, was considered by them to be one of the most unholy things, in consequence of their being careful to avoid foreign luxury and pursuits; for this appeared to them to be alone lawful to those who were compelled to do so by regal necessities. Indeed, they were very anxious to continue in the observance of the institutes of their country, and those who were found to have violated them, though but in a small degree were expelled from the college of the priests. The true method of philosophizing, likewise, was preserved by the prophets, by the hierostolistae, and the sacred scribes, and also by the horologi, or calculators of nativities. But the rest of the priests, and of the pastophori, curators of temples, and ministers of the gods, were similarly studious of purity, yet not so accurately, and with such great continence, as the priests of whom we have been speaking. And such are the particulars which are narrated of the Egyptians, by a man who was a lover of truth, and an accurate writer, and who among the Stoics strenuously and solidly philosophized.
Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras 33
While his friends were in good health Pythagoras always conversed with them; if they were sick, he nursed them; if they were afflicted in mind, he solaced them, some by incantations and magic charms, others by music. He had prepared songs for the diseases of the body, by singing which he cured the sick. He had also some that caused forgetfulness of sorrow, mitigation of anger, and destruction of lust.
Proklos, Commentary on the Timaios 3.296.7
The happy life, far from the roaming of generation, that is desired by those who, in Orpheus, are made initiates of Dionysos and Kore in order to ‘cease from the circle and enjoy respite from disgrace.’
Proklos, Commentary on the Republic 2.167.17-23
The capacity to hear the voices of daimones is provided to some by the priestly power, to others by their natural constitution … some can even hear things that are inaudible to all mortal hearing and see things invisible to mortal sight.
Proklos, The Theology of Plato 7.27
Timaios being a Pythagorean follows the Pythagorean principles, though in truth these are Orphic traditions. For what Orpheus delivered mystically through arcane narrations, these Pythagoras learned, being initiated by Aglaophemos in the mystic wisdom which Orpheus derived from his mother Kalliope. For these things Pythagoras says in the Sacred Discourse.
Sibylline Oracles 8.47-49
Where the tribe of Rhea or Kronos or Zeus and all the rest, whom you revered, soulless demons, shades of the faded dead, whose tombs ill-fated Crete will have as a boast, celebrating enthronement for the senseless dead.
Suidas s.v. Ἀποτεθρίακεν
Meaning plucked, made smooth. But properly pruned fig-trees; for thria [“fig-leaves”] are the leaves of the fig-tree. Aristophanes writes, “which of the Odomanti has unpetalled his prick?” The Odomanti are a Thracian people. The Thracians used to pluck and smooth their genitals and had them circumcised. They say Judaeans are the same. Also attested is the participle ἀποτεθρυωμένοι [“they having gone to pieces”], meaning they having gone savage. This is said in a metaphor from rushes, tethrua, which are wild and sterile plants.
Suidas s.v. Hêraïskos
Hence his life also reached such a point that his soul always resided in hidden sanctuaries as he practiced not only his native rites in Egypt but also those of other nations, wherever there was something left of these. Heraiskos became a Bakchos, as a dream designated him and he traveled widely, receiving many initiations. Heraiskos actually had a natural talent for distinguishing between religious statues that were animated and those that were not. For as soon as he looked at one his heart was struck by a sensation of the divine and he gave a start in his body and his soul, as though seized by the god. If he was not moved in such a fashion then the statue was soulless and had no share of divine inspiration. In this way he distinguished the secret statue of Aion which the Alexandrians worshiped as being possessed by the god, who was both Osiris and Adonis at the same time according to some mystical union. There was also something in Heraiskos’ nature that rejected defilements of nature. For instance, if he heard any unclean woman speaking, no matter where or how, he immediately got a headache, and this was taken as a sign that she was menstruating.
Suidas s.v. Sarapio
For Isidore said that never in fact could he persuade him to meet another man, especially because when he grew old he no longer came out frequently from his own house; he lived alone in a truly small dwelling, having embraced the solitary life, employing some of the neighbors only for the most necessary things. He said that Sarapio was exceptionally prayerful, and visited the holy places in the dress of an ordinary man, where the rule of the feast led him. For the most part he lived all day in his house, not the life of a man, but to speak simply, the life of a god, continually uttering prayers and miracle-stories to himself or to the divinity, or rather meditating on them in silence. Being a seeker of truth and by nature contemplative, he did not deign to spend time on the more technical aspects of philosophy, but absorbed himself in the more profound and inspired thoughts. For this reason Orpheus was almost the only book he possessed and read, in each of the questions which came to him always asking Isidore, who had achieved the summit of understanding in theology. He recognized Isidore alone as an intimate friend and received him in his house. And Isidore seemed to observe in him the Kronian life of mythology. For that man continued doing and saying nothing else but recollecting himself and raising himself, as far as he could, towards the inward and indivisible life. He despised money so much that he possessed nothing whatever but only two or three books (among these was the poetry of Orpheus); and he despised the pleasures of the body so much that straightway from the beginning he offered to the body only what is necessary and alone brings benefit, but of sexual activity he was pure throughout his life. And he was so little concerned about honor from men that not even his name was known in the city. He would not have been known subsequently, if some one of the gods had not wished to make him an example for mankind of the Kronian life. He used Isidore as an heir, having no heir from his family, nor supposing that anyone else was worthy of his property, I mean the two or three books.
Concerning sacred men and sacred women. The scribe of the magistrates is to administer the following oath, then and there, to those who have been designated sacred men, who pour the blood and wine when the [offerings] are kindled, that no one may be remiss: “I swear, by the gods for whom the mysteries are celebrated: I shall be careful that the things pertaining to the initiation are done reverently and in fully lawful manner; I myself shall do nothing shameful or wrong at the conclusion of the mysteries, nor shall I confide in anyone else; rather, I shall obey what is written; and I shall administer the oath to the sacred women and the priest in accordance with the rule. May I, by keeping the oath, experience what is in store for the pious, but may one who breaks the oath experience the opposite.” If someone does not wish to take the oath, he is to pay a fine of one thousand drachmai, and in his place he is to appoint by lot another person from the same clan. The priest and the sacred men are to administer the same oath to the sacred women in the sacred area of Karneios on the day before the mysteries, and they are to administer an additional oath as well: “I also have lived purely and lawfully with my husband.” The sacred men are to fine one who does not wish to take the oath one thousand drachmai and not allow her to celebrate the things pertaining to the sacrifices or participate in the mysteries. Rather, the women who have taken the oath are to celebrate. But in the fifty-fifth year those who have been designated sacred men and sacred women are to take the same oath in the eleventh month before the mysteries.
Regarding transferral. The sacred men are to hand over, to those appointed as successors, the chest and the books that Mnasistratos donated; they also are to hand over whatever else may be furnished for the sake of the mysteries.
Regarding wreaths. The sacred men are to wear wreaths, the sacred women a white felt cap, and the first initiates among the initiated a tiara. But when the sacred men give the order, they are to take off their tiara, and they are all to be wreathed with laurel.
Regarding clothing. The men who are initiated into the mysteries are to stand barefoot and wear white clothing, and the women are to wear clothes that are not transparent, with stripes on their robes not more than half a finger wide. The independent women are to wear a linen tunic and a robe worth not more than one hundred drachmai, the daughters an Egyptian or linen tunic and a robe worth not more than a mina, and the female slaves an Egyptian or linen tunic and a robe worth not more than fifty drachmai. The sacred women: the ladies are to wear an Egyptian tunic or an undergarment without decoration and a robe worth not more than two minas, and the [daughters] an Egyptian tunic or a robe worth not more than one hundred drachmai. In the procession the ladies among the sacred women are to wear an undergarment and a woman’s wool robe, with stripes not more than half a finger wide, and the daughters an Egyptian tunic and a robe that is not transparent. None of the women are to wear gold, or rouge, or white makeup, or a hair band, or braided hair, or shoes made of anything but felt or leather from sacrificial victims. The sacred women are to have curved wicker seats and on them white pillows or a round cushion, without decoration or purple design. The women who must be dressed in the manner of the gods are to wear the clothing that the sacred men specify. But if anyone somehow has clothing contrary to the rule, or anything else of what is prohibited, the supervisor of the women is not to allow it, but the supervisor is to have the authority to inflict punishment, and it is to be devoted to the gods.
Oath of the supervisor of the women. When the sacred men themselves take the oath, they also are to administer the oath to the supervisor of the women, before the same sacred men: “I truly shall be careful concerning the clothing and the rest of the things assigned to me in the rule.
Sylloge2, 939, 2-9
It is not permitted to enter the temple of the Lady Goddess with any object of gold on one’s person, unless it is intended for an offering; or to wear purple or bright colored or black garments, or shoes, or a finger ring. But if one enters wearing any forbidden object, it must be dedicated to the temple. Women are not to have their hair bound up, and men must enter with bared heads. No flowers are to be brought in at the mysteries; no pregnant women or nursing mothers are to have any part. If anyone wishes to make an offering, let it be of olive, myrtle, honey, grains of barley clean from weeds, a picture, a white poppy, lamps, incense, myrrh, spice. But if anyone wishes to offer the Lady Goddess sacrificial animals, they must be female and white …
Theophrastos, as quoted in Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Animal Foods 2.24
There are, moreover, three reasons altogether for sacrificing to the gods: to honor them, to give thanks, or from need of some thing. We ought to offer the gods the first-fruits of all we receive, for it is their generosity that makes our living possible. Further we honor the gods because we want evil to be averted from us and those we love or for an increase of good things, or out of gratitude because they have benefited us in the past or simply to honor their condition of goodness.
Theophrastos, On The Superstitious Man
It is apparent that superstition would seem to be cowardice with regard to the spiritual realm. The superstitious man is one who will wash his hands and sprinkle himself at the Sacred Fountain, and put a bit of laurel leaf in his mouth, to prepare himself for each day. If a marten should cross his path, he will not continue until someone else has gone by, or he has thrown three stones across the road. And if he should see a snake in his house, he will call up a prayer to Sabazios if it is one of the red ones; if it is one of the sacred variety, he will immediately construct a shrine on the spot. Nor will he go by the smooth stones at a crossroads without anointing them with oil from his flask, and he will not leave without falling on his knees in reverence to them. If a mouse should chew through his bag of grain, he will seek advice on what should be done from the official diviner of omens; but if the answer is, ‘Give it to the shoemaker to have it sewn up,’ he will pay no attention, but rather go away and free himself of the omen through sacrifice. He is also likely to be purifying his house continually, claiming that terrible Hecate has been mysteriously brought into it. And if an owl should hoot while he is outside, he becomes terribly agitated, and will not continue before crying out, ‘O! Mighty Athena!’ Never will he step on a tomb, nor get near a dead body, nor a woman in childbirth: he says he must keep on his guard against being polluted. On the unlucky days of the month– the fourth and seventh– he will order his servants to heat wine. Then he will go out and buy myrtle-wreaths, frankincense, and holy pictures; upon returning home, he spends the entire day arranging the wreaths on statues of the Hermaphrodites. Also, when he has a dream, he will go to the dream interpreters, the fortune-tellers, and the readers of bird-omens, to ask what god or goddess he should pray to. When he is to be initiated into the Orphic mysteries, he visits the priests every month, taking his wife with him; or, if she can’t make it, the nursemaid and children will suffice. It is also apparent that he is one of those people who go to great lengths to sprinkle themselves with sea-water. And if he sees someone eating Hecate’s garlic at the crossroads, he must go home and wash his head; and then he calls upon the priestesses to carry a squill or a puppy around him for purification. If he sees a madman or epileptic, he shudders and spits into his lap.
Xenophon, Symposium 4.46-49
At this, someone said, “Hermogenes, please explain who your friends are and demonstrate how great their power is and their care for you, to justify the great pride you have in them.”
“Alright. It is quite plain that both Greeks and barbarians believe the gods know everything of the present and the future. In any case, all cities and all cultures use diviners to ask the gods what they should or should not do. It is also plain that we believe they can do both good and evil. In any case, everyone prays to the gods to prevent evil and to grant then blessings. It is these all-knowing and all-powerful gods, who are my friends, so that they look over me, never letting me out of their sight, neither at night nor by day, no matter where I go or what I am doing. They also know in advance what will happen after any action, and send me messengers in sounds and dreams and birds to show what I should and should not do. When I follow these, I have never regretted it; but when I have not believed them, I have suffered for it.”
And Socrates said, “There is nothing unbelievable in these claims. But I should like to know what service you offer them to keep them so friendly.”
“Well, by Zeus,” said Hermogenes, “a very inexpensive one. I praise them, which costs nothing; I always give them back a bit of what they give to me; as much as possible, I avoid foul language; and I never willingly lie when I have sworn them as witnesses.”
“By Zeus,” said Socrates, “if it is for being like this that the gods give you friendship, then it seems the gods are pleased by nobility.”