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date: 07 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The Mysteries of Eleusis in ancient Greece were the foremost sect of the mystery religions that dominated the eastern Mediterranean sphere for almost 2,000 years. The staying power of the Eleusinian rite stemmed from its convincing presentation of an otherworldly drama about the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. Initiates endured a harrowing experience in darkness that somehow evoked death, before seeing beatific visions, the climax of which was the appearance of the goddess manifest as light. How was the apparition of the goddess conjured? This study surveys extant epigraphical and archaeological information to formulate a research question: could the anaktoron have acted as a box of light, a fire illuminating figurines and projecting their images out into the darkened telesterion? A set of experiments was performed that confirmed the operational feasibility of an ‘Eleusinian Projector’. The appearance of the goddess as light can be explained physically as well as mythologically.

Keywords: Eleusis, mysteries, hierophant, Persephone, anaktoron, telesterion, optics, camera obscura, image projection, Eleusinian Projector

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