An overview of Mithraism, the ancient Roman mystery religion popular in the Roman Legions
• Provides a comprehensive history of Mithraism, including its influence on Christianity and Islam
• Includes rituals, meditations, and teaching tales for readers who wish to follow the Mithraic path
• Studies the evolution and divergence of the Eastern (Persian) and Western (Roman) forms of Mithraism
The Mysteries of Mithras presents a revival of the magical practices and initiatory system of Mithraism, the ancient Roman mystery religion that was immensely popular in the Roman Legions from the late second century B.C. until A.D. 400 and was taken to every corner of the Roman Empire. As the last pagan state religion in Europe, it was the most important competitor to early Christianity and heavily influenced Christian doctrine and symbolism. The parallels between Christianity and ancient Mithraism are striking--for example, the god Mithra was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25.
Payam Nabarz reveals the history, origins, and spiritual and philosophical tenets of Mithraism and its connections to Christianity, Islam, and Freemasonry. He also describes the modern neo-pagan practice of Mithraism in evidence today and for readers who wish to adopt the Mithraic path, he includes seven of its initiatory rituals and meditations, as well as orations and teaching tales, that open the door to the seven Mithraic grades of passage.
The seven meditations in this chapter are designed to help the spiritual seeker develop a deeper understanding of the Mithraic mysteries, an understanding that is based on personal experience, as well as to achieve the seven degrees of initiation. Each meditation can be used as self-initiation or as part of group initiations. It is helpful to orient yourself to the meditations beforehand, so that when you undertake the initiation, you are fully prepared and able to give yourself to the experience.
After every meditation, you need to take a few moments to bring yourself back to the here and now and become grounded. Say your thanks to Mithra and whatever company you find yourself in, and do the meditation in reverse, until you are back to where you started. Then open your eyes slowly, and try to eat and drink something.
I. Corax Meditation and Initiation In this first stage of Mithraic initiation, the Corax or Raven degree, the initiate falls under the influence of the planet Mercury. The first initiation symbolizes the death of the initiate and his rebirth into the spiritual world. By entering the first stage you leave the cares of the material world and enter upon a spiritual life.
Find a place, indoors or outdoors, where you will not be disturbed. An appropriate time would be just before sunrise. An appropriate day would be a Sunday, or the sixteenth of the month, which is a day dedicated to Mithra. Use any paraphernalia that you find have a helpful effect on your meditation, such as candles, music, and incense. The more your physical conditions resemble the conditions in the meditation, the better. For example, a real bonfire just before sunrise on the top of a hill would enhance the experience.
In preparation for the guided visualization you begin by imaging yourself as the Raven. Simply let yourself go and enjoy the sensations of flight and of seeing the world below you from a bird’s eye view. In your flight toward the mountain, if you find that you are feeling tired or unable to carry on, return consciousness to your body slowly and concentrate on your breathing. In this meditation you are beginning to explore both the astral and physical worlds in this body.
You are standing at the bottom of a hill. It is very late at night. It is a clear night, and if you look up at the sky you can see the moon having almost completed its night journey into the west.
Say: Nama (hail) to Corax, under the protection of Mercury!
Behind you is a dense pine forest. The grass under your feet is wet, and there are small patches of snow on the ground.
Looking up at the top of the hill, you see there a flicker of light. You start walking up the hill to find the source of this light. It is a long walk, yet you seem not to get tired, and the air becomes even fresher as you ascend. The sounds of the forest begin to fade away. The last sound you hear is the voice of an owl, saying “Hoo.”
You are halfway up the hill now, yet still you cannot see the source of the light; so you increase your pace. As you near the top you can hear a chant, the words of which you can’t make out, but you feel ever stronger, and you reach the top easily.
A great bonfire is burning, its flames reaching several feet into the air, and you can smell a strange yet pleasant incense. A group of people are sitting around the fire and chanting: Ya Doust Mithra.
You join the chant. (Time passes.)
One of the men stands and faces east, toward a mountain range in the far-off distance. He is welcoming Mithra.
[Note: The Avestan “Hymn to Mithra” can be recited here (see appendix A).]
As the first rays of the sun come over the distant mountain and fall into the vast valley beneath, you see in the distance heading toward you a golden chariot driven by four white horses: MITHRA rides across the sky, heading toward the hill. You look around and see that the snow patches are all melting away and the grass is growing under your feet. The land is waking up. A dried-up tree further along on the hill suddenly begins to grow, leaves budding, and while you are looking at it, the tree blossoms.
The sound of horses brings your attention back to the sky. As you look up, the chariot is almost above the hill now. Mithra looks down and smiles at the gathering. As the chariot passes overhead, all your companions rise into the air, and you too, after vibrating “Mithra” with all your magical will, rise into the air, following Mithra as he rides across the sky.
The Landscape below turns green and the trees blossom; you pass over a herd of cows, whose udders become full of milk as Mithra’s company flies over.
Another mountain range lays ahead; before it there is a great lake, and flocks of sheep are drinking from it.
As you fly over the lake you look at your own reflection in the water: you see a Raven.
Say thanks to Mithra and company and go backward through the meditation until you return to your starting place at the bottom of the hill. Ground yourself and bring your attention back to present circumstances.
Payam Nabarz, a Persian-born Sufi and practicing Dervish, holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University and is carrying out postdoctoral research there on genetics and cancer. He is a Druid in the Grove of the Order of the Bards, Ovates, and Druids; a member of the Golden Dawn Occult Society; and a revivalist of the Temple of Mithras. He lives in England.
"A refreshing study of an often-neglected subject. From the conventional to the controversial, the broad scope of this book and its valuable contribution to Sufi, Mithraic, and Zoroastrian studies attempts to get to the very heart of the matter."
– Karen Ralls, author of The Templars and the Grail
“. . . a book that is part history-primer, part practical guide ‘designed to help the spiritual seeker develop a deeper understanding of the Mithraic mysteries,’ and perform initiation rites and Mithraic liturgy.”
– Publishers Weekly, July 2005
"For those interested in paganism, Witchcraft, the supernatural, and Wicca, among other topics, this book offers some keen insights into a very old religion that Christianity was able to eventually subdue, absorb, and eliminate as competition. . . . A fine book, one you will enjoy and one you will be talking about with friends."
– Lee Prosser, Ghostvillage.com, Oct 7, 2005
"In his breakdown on the Mithraic liturgies Doctor Nabarz has successfully researched the intricate levels of the ritual and also heroically deciphered the language of the aforementioned iconography of Mithras to give us a first class series of ceremonies. . . . Whether the reader is a historian or even a practitioner of esoteric studies, this well presented work is a joy to read. I am delighted it now lives on my shelves."
– Professor Roland Rotherham, Touchstone Magazine, Nov 2005
". . . brilliant and compelling . . . . A highly entertaining and informative read by a lucid writer. Highly recommended."