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Mithras, Rome’s All-Conquering Saviour
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Mithras, the ‘Persian’ Sun god, slaying the primordial bull, from a Roman marble altar, about 3rd century AD . The Sun crowns his brow and the zodiac portrays the mystery behind all religions. When Mithras kills the bull he brings into being all creation, with special mention for the sky and planets. Astrology has always been closely associated with all religions and the Signs sculptures and exquisite zodiac stained glass window at Chartres cathedral testify to the prominence it held in the medieval and renaissance Christian church.
Despite very ancient origins, the cult of Mithras essentially presented the Roman empire with a new god for the new age of Pisces, adopted only about 130 AD. The cult featured sacrifices but Mithras was a Saviour-god and rebirth was also important, rivalling the central Christian ideas, including resurrection. Mithraism rivalled Christianity for two hundred years.
Christianity has abandoned the ancient religious practice of sacrifice to invoke the attention and benevolence of heaven and worshippers alike. By presenting an image of the ultimate human and divine sacrifice at the centre of faith. An image continually re-emphasised in the sacrament of the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ. Uninitiated observers have seen the Eucharist as a cannibalistic ritual. The celebration feast on the flesh of the sacrificial animal was the essential finale to all sacrifices.
The spirit of sacrifice with its elements of holiness and self-denial are characteristic of the sign of Pisces and its Twelfth House, (Key to Signs and Houses) and feature strongly throughout the last age.
Similar images of Mithras show ears of wheat instead of blood issuing from the sacrificial wound. Wheat was a symbol of resurrection and rebirth in Egypt long before this symbolism was adopted by Christianity (Jn.12. 24 and I Cor.15. 37 ).
Mithraism featured sacred meals of bread and water or wine, as well as baptism. Remarkably like Christ, Mithras was born to a virgin mother in a humble cave and adored by shepherds, even Magi, the sacred astrologers, who were the priests of Persia, Mithras’ home.
The Birthday of Mithras, on 25th December, as the Sun begins a new year, just after the Winter Solstice, was taken over by the Christians for Christ’s Birthday, Christmas Day, when Christianity replaced Mithraism as the official religion of the Roman empire, under Constantine after 312 AD . Similarly pagan festivals on Midsummer’s Day were replaced by the Festival of John the Baptist.
The great St Augustine of Hippo actually declared that the priests of Mithras worshipped the same God as the Christians. With so many common features, who copied ? Mithraism appears to have developed almost simultaneously with the writing of the Gospels which gave final shape to the Christian myth. It is difficult to suggest which may have copied but these features were far from unique in a fertile time for new mystery cults such as these. Both may have borrowed from other sources. Imitation was ever the way of the sages.
As Sol Invicta, the Unconquered Sun, Mithras was only really popular among the Roman army and without imperial support after Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, his faith quickly disappeared.
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