The Mysteries of Mithras by Payam Nabarz
I have read The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz. I can straight away say that it is a great book full of valuable insights. As loyal readers of my book reviews will know, I have been interested in the Mithraic mysteries for quite some time now, and we have encountered Mithraism in many other book reviews. Thus, reading this book was a natural next step.
A note on terminology: Mithra is the Persian God; Mithras is the Roman God. One could, of course, say that they are the same God. Iran (land of the Aryans) and Rome share Indo-European (Aryan) roots, so it is to be expected that they have similar Gods. However, for the sake of academic precision, the difference is worth keeping in mind.
Love, Sun, Friend
In the introductory chapter, the author shares the following interesting insight; namely, that the name Mithra has three meanings in Farsi – love, sun, and friend. In the Roman Cult, Mithras wrestles with Sol and thereafter becomes his friend – in certain depictions they appear side by side. In the same chapter the following is said regarding the friendship aspect of Mithra:
‘Mithra is the beloved, with whom the Magi seek union. He is seen as the protector of the Aryan nations, giving victory to “those who lie not unto Mithra.” He is the warrior deity carrying the “hundred knotted mace,” from whom all demons flee in fear.’Payam Nabarz – The Mysteries of Mithras. Page 5.
This is similar to Thor, who is also a friend and protector of mankind. Moreover, the author notes that Zoroastrian priests, to this day, carry the mace of Mithra as a symbol of fighting evil (this is a powerful image!). He also notes that when Zoroastrianism ascended to become the dominant religion of Persia, Mithra made the transition from the old religion to the new due to his popularity with the people. Some good old syncretism at work!
The Tauroctony – Mithras and Perseus
The Tauroctony (pictured above) is a familiar picture. The author shares the following wisdom in regard to interpreting the symbolism.
‘The bull that Mithras kills is his ego, the aim of all followers of Mithras. Mithras always looks away from the bull while stabbing him, just as Perseus looked away from the Gorgon when he decapitated her. One who looked upon the Gorgon would turn to stone; that is, the ego would turn the heart and the soul to stone. In order to overcome this ego (nafs in Sufism), one must turn the head (the intellect) away, because the intellect is unable to overcome the ego.’Payam Nabarz – The Mysteries of Mithras. Page 41.
My own interpretation of Perseus and Medusa is simply the overcoming of one’s weaknesses. The garment pictured below is available here: LegioGloria.com
Mithraic Influence on Christianity
In the chapter titled thus, the author lists some similarities between Mithraism and Christianity – the most notable one being the birthday of Mithras and Jesus, the 25th of December. In this chapter, two epic quotes are included, from the Great Magical Papyri and Revelation respectively. As I have noted before, quotes like these are always a pleasure to read. Moreover, regarding the description of Mithras: the mystery cult was heavily influenced by astrology (hence the astrological references).
‘Mithras having a bright appearance, youthful, golden-haired, with a white tunic and a golden crown and trousers, and holding in his right hand a golden shoulder of a young bull: (seven stars of the Plough) this is the Bear which moves and turns heaven around, moving upward and downward in accordance with the hour. Then you will see lightning-bolts leaping from his eyes and stars from his body.’– The Mithraic Liturgy from the Great Magical Papyri
‘And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.Revelation
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow;
and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.’
Aside from their shared birthday, the author also notes that (among other things) both were born of a virgin and that both had worshippers who were baptized, called themselves ‘brothers,’ and held Sundays sacred. Another interesting thing to note is the following: in Icelandic Magic (review), Stephen E. Flowers mentions that the Our Father prayer may have been used by the Cult of Mithras as well.
The Beautiful Goddess
Speaking of epic quotes, the following beautiful passage appears in the chapter Meditations and Initiations:
‘On the throne sits a Lady in silver and gold garments, proud and tall, an awe-inspiring warrior woman, as terrifying as she is beautiful. Tall and statuesque she sits, her noble origins evident in her appearance, her haughty authority made clear and commanding through a pair of flashing eyes. A crown of shining gold rings her royal temples, bejeweled with eight sunrays and one hundred stars; it holds her lustrous hair back from her beautiful face.’Payam Nabarz – The Mysteries of Mithras. Page 128.
The Zoroastrian Primordial Bull
As I noted in Podcast Episode 29. Fehu, Uruz, the Primordial Beast, bulls and cows have a special place in the Indo-European heart. In Germanic cosmology, Audhumbla is the primordial cow that gives nourishment to Ymir, the primordial giant. The author notes that in Zoroastrian tradition, the first animal in the world was a white bull as bright as the moon. The bull is, of course, central to the Mithraic mysteries as well.
The Phrygian Cap
The author shares the following quote illuminating quote in regard to the iconic Phrygian cap (as seen in the Tauroctony):
‘Mithra’s Phrygian cap originated from Phrygia, a centre of Mithraism in Anatolia, the capital of which was Konya. It was worn there by manumitted slaves, and Mithra’s wearing of the cap denotes his freedom from slavery of the lower self.’Massoud Homayouni – The Origins of Persian Gnosis
On a personal note, I have contemplated whether or not to release a red Phrygian cap for Legio Gloria. There are two aspects to the matter; I do not want to wear anything associated with the destruction and evil of the French Revolution, but I do want to wear a cap associated with the glorious Mithraic mysteries. I am inclined to release such an item because of the following reason: the Mithraic mysteries came before the French Revolution. Furthermore, wearing it as a statement that one has overcome one’s lower self is indeed a good thing. We will return to the topic at a later time!
As already noted, The Mysteries of Mithras is an interesting book that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in the Mithraic mysteries, or indeed esoteric matters in general. It is 164 pages and written in accessible language. It also contains some beautiful poetry in addition to practical instructions for rituals.
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