“Libenter enim suffertis insipientes cum sitis ipsi sapientes.”
The cult of Mithraism is a topic about which you can't believe everything you read.
- Deleted comment: Especially here.
Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you that almost none of this is true. Mithraism could not have influenced Christianity or Christmas, because
- Mithraism was a Roman invention not a Persian one, and therefore could not have been brought to Bethlehem by wise men from the East.
- Mithraic nativity scenes depict goatherds and Magi, not shepherds and Magi.
- The festival of Mithrasmas only became popular in Rome in the 2nd or 3rd century AD, well after the Christian Apostles began writing letters to the Romans.
Is it at all conceivable that a new age fad of 3rd century AD Rome influenced a serious religion born in 1st century Judea? I would have thought even a head-banging ignoramus could see that the answer is clearly NO. If there was any influence at all, it went in the other direction.
- 1 Beliefs and practices
- 2 Influence of other religions on Mithraism
- 3 Rise and decline of Mithraism
- 4 Websites and sources
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 See also
- 7 External Links
Beliefs and practices
Mithras and the Bull
The cult's best known icon is the figure of the Mithras cutting the throat of a bull. A number of interpretations have been offered by the headbangers, most of them based on discredited 19th century comparative mythology rather than on thorough knowledge of the language and culture of ancient Italy.
It is too often forgotten that Roman geographers and generals routinely dismissed the cultures of other nations as excretum tauri (feces of the bull), yet this is the vital clue to our understanding of the icon of Mithras the bull-slayer.
The answer, clearly, is that Vespasian regarded ancient Israelite monotheism and messianism as a complete load of bull-shit. Nero and Caligula took a similar view of early Christianity, and that is why they worshipped Mithras so fervently.
- Deleted comment: Wasn't Nero 1st century, like Vespasian? I thought you said Mithraism was a 3rd century AD fad?
What I said was, the festival of Mithrasmas appears to have become popular in the 2nd or 3rd century. I do wish you could pay attention.
Blood of the Bull
An ancient and partially destroyed Mithraist hymn book contains the following enigmatic lines:
- Are you washed?
- Are you washed?
- Are you washed
- in the blood
- of the Bull?
According to Mithraism, the good god Sol sent Mithras to Earth to counter the works of the bad god Arimanus, also called Saturn or Shaitan. Shaitan had shat on this world, copiously and thoroughly, so that flies, demons and barbarians could breed in his dung. The Earth had become filthy, and there was only one substance that could cleanse the muck away: blood.
The bull of Mithras thus represents both pollution and purification. Because it is a messy animal, producer of excrementum tauri, it is the beast of Arimanus. Yet its blood is the great sauce of redemption, without which the victory picnic of Mithras and Sol could not take place.
Some internet nerds see parallels here with Christian eschatology, and some have actually claimed that Mithraists performed a rite vaguely like baptism. This is the so-called Taurobolium - bathing in the blood of a sacrificed bull, to wash away the marks of personal transgressions, e.g. the lipstick from an extramarital affair.
This theory may be dismissed as bloody nonsense, however, because Mithraists met in nasty little underground chambers, places far too small to get a bull inside. The meeting places did contain little hand basins, but certainly not bathtubs large enough for the sort of ceremony imagined.
- Deleted comment: However, the recently discovered Crypta Balbi mithraeum is very large and has an indoor jacuzzi so big that worshippers could not only bathe in bull's blood, but could scrub each other's backs while doing so.
Prior scholarship has already determined that taurobolium was not a part of Mithraism. Period. Taurobolium was NOT, was NOT, was NOT, a part of Mithraic rituals.
Serpent and dove
The Mithraic bull-slaying scenes, or taurochtonies, often include a number of other creatures, including a snake beneath the bull, and a bird up in the top left corner. This is a visual representation of the precept: "Be like a serpent, but look like a dove." Cult members were taught to be gentle and polite, especially to anyone whose throat they planned to cut if they mentioned the Ayahuasca.
Birth of Mithras
According to his cultists, Mithras was born out of a fecund sock (Latin: soquix genetrix). This tale was probably devised to explain or justify the odd custom of hanging stockings by the chimney on the night before Mithrasmas. (See section below.) Historically, though, the Mithrasmas soquix is just another of the practices that the Mithraists took over from the midwinter festival of some earlier religion, probably Christianity.
Mithraists to this day get terribly peeved at the slightest suggestion about anything done with Mithras' momma by the Roman soldier Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera. They insist that the hypothesis of a miraculous foot-knitwear origin of Mithras is historically much more plausible, and some even treat it as established fact.
Some websites will tell you that shepherds came to honor Mithras immediately after his birth; but this is actually quite wrong. In nativity scenes in the Roman mithreums, the only visitors shown (apart from Magi) are goatherds.
- Deleted comment: They do look like shepherds, though.
They may look like shepherds to the untrained, but all critical historians agree that they are goatherds.
In some of the scenes, there are some weapons lying around Mithras when he is born. But they are not gifts. Mithras was "born" with them, you see. There are also some other divinities flying around, but there is no conclusive evidence to show that the weapons were given by the divinities. As I may have mentioned, Mithras was actually born with them.
The Christian festival of Christmas was almost certainly the model for the Mithraic feast of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti Pornografi, literally Day of Birth of the Invincible Sun and Fun-giver, also known as Mithrasmas.
Mithreums, museums, and mathedrals
The Mithraists also practised a form of eucharist and had sacraments plagiarized from the early Catholics. They performed their rituals in many small temples called "mithreums" (or, more correctly, "mithraeums"), a lesser number of medium-sized temples called "musaeums", and a few very big ones called "mathaedrals". The mithraeums, musaeums, and mathaedrals were all built underground, as the ancient cultists seem to have hoped to remain anonymous – just like many of the characters who write about Mithraism on the internet today, and probably for very similar reasons. They were also famous, or rather infamous, for appropriating the places of worship of other cults.
Professional standards of Mithraic priesthood shed an interesting light on the question of direct or indirect influence from other religions.
Many priests were actually pedophiles, while others misappropriated temple funds to pay for expensive vices. They maintained their hold over the cult by methods like:
- Emotional witnessing by new and zealous converts.
- Prolonged repetitive chanting to numb the intellect.
- Control over cult members' reading material.
- Sophistry, circular logic, and outright deceit.
Influence of other religions on Mithraism
In the heyday of Mithraism, cult members used to put stickers on their chariots saying stuff like "Mithras rocks!", "Sol's Sole Son", and "the One True Myth". Yet serious historians are unanimous that Mithras is not in fact one, but an amalgamation of many.
Viewed historically, Mithras is a most likely one of many to follow prototype similar to various individuals including Teacher of Righteousness and Apollonius of Tyana, and the dying-and-rising gods of the day, but in addition Sol, Ray, Ra, Amun, Amum-Ra, Rama, Lama, Dionysus, Ottis, Geb, Nut, Isis, Osiris, Horus, and Bel, not to mention my personal favorite Jesus Christ. After hearing Christian accounts of the Resurrection, some Mithraists even brashly claimed that Mithras was taken to heaven in a divine chariot, complete with his human body, at the end of his earthly life.
Why, then, did they adapt so many characters into Mithras? It appears to have been a rather clumsy attempt to have a wider appeal (something for everyone) and ease of conversion (you can continue with your previous belief even after converting to Mithraism) and to be able to claim that "Our god is better than yours" (He's got everything your god has, and more).
Dishonest apologists for Mithraism will explain away these similarities by claiming that actually everyone else plagiarized from them. For example, the famous early Mithraic apologist Mustin Jartyr was horrified to find the rituals of his cult being practiced by an earlier group. He invented an explanation that the bad god Arimanus had gained foreknowledge of the future rituals of Mithraism, and in order to confound future Mithraists, caused the same rituals to be practiced elsewhere before Mithraism came into being. Pretty weak, isn't it?
Modern cultists sometimes say Mustin Jartyr was mistaken in thinking that the other group was earlier. Present day Mithraists have also claimed that they, 19 centuries later, are better informed than Mustin, who lived just about a century after the events.
Although it is easy to dismiss most claims about influence of Mithraism on other religions, it has to be acknowledged that the Hindus copied from Mithraists the silly practice of putting a mark on the forehead, and the Freemasons learned from them the clandestine bonding ritual of the hand-shake.
Rise and decline of Mithraism
Before Mithras studies became a rigorous discipline, amateur historians were uncertain whether the religion was first practised by Mesopotamian astronomer-priests, neo-Platonist occult philosophers, or Sicilian pirates. Some thought the "teaching" was brought to Rome by wise men called Magi (or Mullahs) who came from Iran or Pakistan or some such place. All these theories are now completely discredited. 
There are several more recent theories...
- According to the anti-cult specialists at Mossad, Mithraism was invented in AD 66 by emperor Nero's catamitus (i.e. assistant).
- According to those at the KGB, in AD 84 by former emperor Caligula's Incitatus senator (i.e. horse).
- According to the CIA, in B.C. 567 by Paul of Tarsus. The Pakistani ISI reports that the first Mithraic Mathedral was also in Tarsus.
- According to MI5, Mithraism is a Zionist conspiracy.
The CIA's view that Mithraism was founded in Tarsus, sixth century BC, is extremely interesting, but only as evidence of what's happening to the US administration under its current President. The theory itself may safely be discounted, however, as it's clear that Mithraism was modeled to a large extent on Christianity, and therefore could not have existed before Christ. The Zionist conspiracy theory is also quite untenable, as the Jews of the epoch of Herod the Great had other and nastier things to do than worship some creep in a dunce cap.
So the only really plausible origin scenarios are those involving either Caligula's equine consul Incitatus or Nero's pretty-boy. Whichever of these two it was, they kept their role in the cult a secret, as it would not have enhanced the reputation of either of them. Such, at any rate, is the current consensus of Mithras studies specialists.
- Deleted comment: What about the name Mithras though? You're not going to tell me the Romans invented that?
Kindly stop this harassment, moron. If you interfere with this article again, I'm reporting you to the duck-block department of this wiki. If that doesn't work, I'll write to Saint Nicholas himself. You know what you'll get next Yuletide? A soquix full of anthracite! How would you like that, Trollikins?
Actually, though, I'm glad you mentioned that point about the name.
The founders of the cult lacked the intelligence to think of an original epithet for the newly invented god of their newly invented religion. Instead they used the name of an obsolete Persian divinity called "Mithra". A final "s" was added to the name in order to evade the lex talionis, as the copyright and trade mark laws were called back then.
Despite which, the holders of the original Mithra franchise didn't like what had happened. The result was a vicious, albeit brief flamum bellum (exchange of threatening messages) between Rome and Parthia, followed by an undisclosed settlement. After which Caligula and the Parthian king Tiridates had a great big feast together (drinking to the point of vomiting, in honor of themselves, each other, and their vacuous gods) before staggering off to the Circus Maximus to watch lions mauling saints.
Decline of Mithraism
Nonetheless, not all Romans understood the need for the ban, or "War against Mithrasmas" as it was dubbed by the satirists, and the Mithraic feast was made legal again in a famous edict by Constantius' successor, the political opportunist Flavius Julianus. "Romans just want to have fun," Julianus declared. "Even if some middle class intellectuals say it's theologically incorrect."
Role of Theodosius
Theodosius the Great was a very popular emperor. Conservative senators liked his position on family values, while liberals were impressed by his theological correctness. Under his administration, happy groups of Christian volunteers filled the streets. They demolished the buildings where idols had been kept and orgies had been held, and they made bonfires of the appalling nonsense they found there: the naughty comics, pseudoscientific books, and general new age baloney. Watching all this fun, even many Pagans saw the light, and began to celebrate Christmas and Easter again, instead of Mithrasmas and the absurd festival of Attis.
Websites and sources
Readers of this encyclopedia need to be very careful when looking at internet material about Mithraism. There are an estimated three million sites that rabbit on about Mithras, but only one or two reliable ones.
Misinformation on the net
People who set up websites about the Mysteries of Mithras fall into 4 main groups:
- There are well-educated people — those fortunate enough to know something about Latin, Greek, patristics, and geometry — who find legitimate intellectual exercise in the study of an ancient superstition.
- But there are also people out there with AGENDAS. Some don't believe in any gods at all, they're just using one cult as a stick to bash another.
- Others are actually Mithraic revivalists, whose aim is to brainwash you while you are young and impressionable. They will make their mithraic mumbo jumbo "set" into your brain while your thought patterns are still in a formative stage and you will be stuck with it for life. They do it because they think doing so will wash away their impurities. Then, when you grow up, you too will begin to do the same thing like a robot slave clone, and so on... It is like a charming, self-perpetuating mind virus. Be on your guard. They have charming stories, charming images, charming music, charming personalities (until you cross them), charming morals (which are meant for others to follow), charming rituals and impressive networks of underground mathedrals.
- Finally, we have the block-heads — writers whose intentions may be good, but who lack either the aptitude or the education to distinguish between reliable sources and sources contaminated by agenda-pushing.
Mithridatic wars are wars between Mithraic scholars and would-be scholars about how to interpret the data. They are conducted under the auspices of the Holy Inquisition and appropriately involve a lot of flaming.
The struggle is a glorious one, when viewed from the right perspective. Some of the details, however, may impress the general reader as messy and gory, so a blow-by-blow account will not be given here.
Suffice to say that the chief crusader is King Richard Clor-de-Lion, formerly Sir Richard Gordon. Would-be scholars vanquished so far: Belgian Franz Cumont (posthumously), M. J. Vermaseren, L. A. Campbell, David Ulansey, David Jonathan, ADH Bivar and even the French headbanger Attilio Mastrocinque. A few of the would-be scholars have won redemption by asking King Richard to translate them, or by dedicating their books to the lion-king. All others experience the wrath of a hero to whom language and geographical barriers are no obstacle.
A lot of evidence about the Mithraists' iconography, liturgy and general illiteracy was found at the Dura mithraeum. Unfortunately, some Mithraic sect staged a daring theft and "disappeared" it from the high security vaults of Yale University before it could be published.
That is why we have to keep relying on Mossad, KGB, CIA and MI5. These four top spy agencies have dedicated specialists collecting evidence about Mithraism past and present, its connection with the Taliban, and its infiltration of Wikipedia.
- Rager Pious is a modern exponent of the time-hallowed traditions of European scholasticism, who has endured much online persecution from Druids, Satirists and the like.
- See: Anon, loc cit, ISBN q.v.
- While Pakistan was clearly not the origin, it is true that Mithraism nowadays gets promoted online by Pakistani youths with criminal agendas.
- I could cite a lot of names here, but I'm sure they'd mean little or nothing to the average reader of this encyclopedia. Seriously, I wonder why I even bother, sometimes.
- See above.
- Both created by me.
The following links, originally inserted here by one of the trolls, are good examples of the sort of material we've warned you against.
- Mithra: The Pagan Christ
- Happy Birthday to Horus, Attis, Mithra, Krishna, Dionysus,Tammuz, Saturn/Cronos,Wittoba of the Bilingonese,Gentaut and Quexalcote of Mexico,Thor son of Odin,Xamolxis of Thrace and the Divine Child Happy Birthday!