Mithras Reader Volumes I and II

An Academic and Religious Journal of Greek, Roman and Persian Studies

edited by Payam Nabarz

published by Twin Serpents Press

Vol I, PB, £24.95, 100pp

Vol II, PB, £15.55, 104pp

reviewed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review

As I received these two volumes together I decided to cover them both in the same review, though I shall consider the contents of each volume in turn to give them the attention they deserve.  Both follow the same style, being divided into three sections, followed by reviews at the end.  The sections are Academic Papers, Arts and Religious Articles, a template which works well to provide a wide range of material with something for most people.

Volume I begins with Continuity and Change in the Cult of Mithra by Dr Israel Campos Mendez, a study of the links and contuinty between the Persian (Iranian) god Mithra and Mithras as worshipped by the Romans in their mysteries.  Exploring in detail both the similarities and differences, Dr Mendez presents a step-by-step argument for continuity that avoids leaps of faith and relies on solid facts and logical deductions to present a substantial and enjoyable argument.  The second paper is an Introduction to Classes of Manichean. Mithraism and Sufiyeh by Dr Saloome Rostampoor.  This piece compares and contrasts the similarities and differences between the different religions, whilst providing background information on the religions, such as the appropriate commandments, and makes for a fascinating comparison.

The essay Entheos ho syros, polymathes ho phoinix: Neoplatonist approaches to religious practice in Iamblichus and Porphyry by Sergio Knipe is for me the highlight of Volume I.  This overview of the religious approaches of these two key magickal philosophers is fascinating and extremely lucid and enjoyable.  Particular emphasis is given to Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Killing Animals and On the Mysteries of Egypt by Iamblichus to illustrate their diverging approaches, whilst indicating their significance to future schools of thought.  If you are unfamiliar with these two giants of the past, this article provides an ideal introduction to some of their most significant ideas.

The final essay in this first section Mithraism and Alchemy by David Livingstone looks at the alchemical connections in the Mithraic ladder of initiation, drawing on the writings of figures such as Zosimus of Panopolis to explore the connections of these two diverse areas through the planetary symbolism inherent in both.  The second section contains a number of pictures showing exhibits from the For example Mithras exhibition by Farangis Yegane, which explore the symbolism of the myths contained within Mithraism through her paintings and installations.

Section 3 begins with an article by Guya Vichi on his relationship with Mithra, which resulted from a meditation, and includes an Ode.  This is followed by a Hymn to the Sun by Katherine Sutherland and a piece by Payam Nabarz on the Mithras Liturgy with the Orphic Hymns.  This latter piece is a practical rite of planetary magick, which combines the original source material with inspiration to fill in the gaps and ensure a flow which makes sense and provides a suitable catharsis for the dedicant.

Volume II follows the same format, and Section 1 starts with the essay Factors determining the outside projection of the Mithraic Mysteries by Dr Israel Campos Mendes.  This paper focuses on the social factors within the Mithraic mysteries, including their relevance within the Roman legion structure.  By concentrating on the social dynamic we are reminded of the function of the mystery cult beyond the mystery, and this is a thought-provoking paper.  The next essay is The Mithras Liturgy: cult liturgy, religious ritual, or magical theurgy? by Kim Huggens.  By studying the evidence Kim Huggens argues convincingly and precisely that the ritual may well be a rite for use by magicians who had ascended through the seven grades.

Section 2 includes more images from the For example Mithras exhibition by Farangis Yegane, as well as a striking Mithras-Phanes image by James Rodriguez, photographs of the Temple of Mithra in Garni (Armenia) by Jalil Nozariand a depiction of Mithras by Robert Kavjian.  Section 3 contains a range of invocations and poetry to entrance and delight the reader.  These include a Mithras Sol Invictus invocation by M. Hajduk, a translation of Sappho’s Ode to Aphrodite by Harita Meenee, and the poems Norooz Phiroze by Farida Bamji, Disappearing Shrines and Moving Shrines by S. David, and The Sleeping Lord by Katherine Sutherland.  This section reaches a climax with Payam Nabarz’s article The right handed handshake of the Gods, emphasising the significance of this act through the ages, as well as Mithra’s role as god of contracts and agreements.

These readers represent the top end of the publications being produced today, exploring as they do the latest academic thought, artistic impressions and personal experiences, presented in three streams which each offer their own flavour and pleasures.  In a field where rehashing third hand and lack of originality is all too common, these works are a refreshing change and well worth purchasing for your bookshelf, to be stored on the shelves for books that actually get read!