The Mithraeum as tableau vivant. A Preliminary Study of Ritual Performance and Emotional Involvement in Ancient Mystery Cults
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The so-called mystery cults invested heavily in emotional experiences in which a feeling of closeness to the divine was the ultimate goal of the initiate. The way this divine closeness was established and envisaged differed from cult to cult. The first part of this contribution discusses ritual, myth, and ritual performance in elective cults and argues that rituals inspired by the cults' sacred narrative played a crucial role in establishing a feeling of closeness to the divine. Following Paul Connerton, I argue that by re-enacting the narrative, those who take part in the cult become contemporaries with the mythic event. The second part of the article sets out to reconstruct the religious experience of the worshippers of Mithras. It can be shown that architecture, iconography, and ritual acts all played a part in actualising the mythological narrative, thereby establishing a collective identity as well as a strong and personal relationship between the individual participant and his god.