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Mithra slaying the bull.

The Cult of Mithra: Sacred Temples, and Vedic Legends, and Ancient Armenian Understanding

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Mithra was the god of light, purity, goodness, and truth and occupied an important place in the faith of the ancient Aryans.

The Spread of Mithra

There are various opinions on the spread of the Mithra (or Mithras, Mitra) cult, but the most reliable one is the first written protocol about the Mithraic cult from 14th century BC.

In the treaty text signed between the powerful kingdom of Mitanni (Mitanni was situated in the North of Armenian Plateau) of king Shativaza (unknown-1350 BC), and the Hittite king of Suppiluliuma (1380-1346 BC) we can see the name of Mithra. So the Mithraic cult was mentioned in Persian cuneiform inscriptions and in the Indian Vedic texts since the fourth century BC.

As a result of the religious revolution of Ardashir II , the Sassanid King of Persia in 395 AD, the cults of Mithra and Anahita, the Iranian goddess, were imported to Persia and combined with Zoroastrianism. In the first century BC the cult of Mithra penetrated into Rome, and in the third century AD this religion had become international and spread from India to the Black Sea, from the Balkans to Britain and Spain. There are more than four hundred Mithraic temple ruins throughout Europe.

So at first, in fourth century BC this cult spread from the Armenian Plateau to South Persia and India and in first century BC to North-West Europe.

Temples of Mithra

In Upper Armenia, the main temple of Mithra (or Mihr) was built in the village of Bagaritch, Derjan region (eastern Turkish territories). The temple of Garni was also dedicated to the cult of Mithra.

The Temple at Garni dedicated to Mithra.

The Temple at Garni dedicated to Mithra. (Via Lilit Mkhitaryan)

In the city of Artashat, Mithraic temple ruins have been unearthed which were built from black marble and reconstructed in the first century AD by Tiridates I, King of Armenia of the Arsacid Dynasty. A statue of Mithra sits near the tomb of Antiochus I on Mount Nemrut (southeastern Turkey). He can be seen sitting on the left side of Aramazd, creator god in pre-Christian Armenian myth.

Mithra statue at Nimrut. (Via Lilit Mkhitaryan)

In the ancient Armenian “Daredevils of Sassoun” epic we can also see the character of Mithra.

In ancient sculptures Mithra was often portrayed as a powerful young man with a Phrygian or Armenian cap who kills a sacred bull , called the tauroctony.

Statue of the god Mithras killing a bull in the thermal s mithraeum in archaeological excavations of Ostia Antica – Rome . ( Equatore /Adobe Stock)

In the Armenian pantheon Mithra was the god of the light and purity. It’s believed that a temple dedicated to Mithra also has been found in Armavir, the ancient capital of Armenia.

The cult of Mithra began to disappear in the fourth century BC.

Mithraic Legends

According to Armenian ancient beliefs, 365 saints are living in the heart of the Sun and each of them is the owner of one day of the year, appointed in order to prevent evil.

It is said that within the salty sea (Lake of the Van), there was a rock, and when heaven was darkened the light fell on the rock and shortly after Mithra was born. He was naked except for the Phrygian hat on his head and he held a torch in his left hand which illuminated the world. By killing the bull, Mithra was creating the world from its parts.

Mithra rising from the rock. Rome, marble, 180–192 AD

Mithra rising from the rock. Rome, marble, 180–192 AD ( Public Domain )

Strabo chronicled that during the ruling of Achaemenid Empire the Armenian Satrap donated 20,000 horses to the annual Mithra celebration. The observations dedicated to Mithra were celebrated by Armenians in the Month of Areg, which coincided with Iranian month of Mithra. The Armenian seventh month is named Mehekan and each month’s eighth day was called Mithra.

Born of Rock

Mithra, the god of light , kindness, and contracts was indeed born from the very rock—this characteristic is affirmed by archaeological finds and the Geghard temple in Armenia, which is carved into the rocky landscape.

In 1953-54 during research in Eskikale (Turkey) a tunnel was unearthed which reached depths of 160 meters (525 feet) consisting of a long mountain slope ending with two circular rooms. It is similar to the tunnel at Bagaritch in Upper Armenia with the temple complex dedicated to Mithra.

From the mythological point of view, tunnels are the place of birth of Mithra, as it said, “the beam, separated from the star, penetrates into the depths of the tunnel, giving birth to Mithra, from where he ascended to heaven.” The carved temple of Geghard has also been seen as the birthplace of Mithra during the pre-Christian period.

A rock-cut chamber within the temple of Geghard, 13th century Armenian monastery.

A rock-cut chamber within the temple of Geghard, 13th century Armenian monastery. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The Cult of Mithra in Vedic Texts

In Vedic texts Mithra is the god who protected the Sun and is always mentioned with Varuna. In Indian sources Mithra is the god of love, light, tenderness, and sunshine. The closeness and affection of Mithra and Varuna is inseparable and stable. Varuna is the god of heaven and night. Mithra is the god of light, sunshine, and day. These gods of night and day are fellows in cult rituals. Varuna is also the god of waters and seas and is the husband of Varun, god of wine.

Varuna

Varuna ( Public Domain )

Vedic texts are notable for the main ritual of the Mithraic cult, such as sacrificing a bull, which penetrated to Europe. One of the noblest gods is Soma (in Avesta, the primary collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism, he is named Haoma instead). Soma is the god of invincible power, the god who cures all the diseases. It is Soma who gave life, wealth, and wish fulfillment.

In Sanskrit, the name Soma is used for the Moon. They are the same only by name, however, as all the characteristics of the Moon are attributed to a goddess of plants. So, they believed the moon presided over healing plants and thus sacrificed oblations and offerings in worship rituals.

Also Soma is the name of a sacred plant. A strong alcoholic beverage loved by the gods and dedicated to the gods was made from the leaf of this plant. During rituals, priests drank this beverage in order to come close to and join with the gods. Soma was the life deity and life essence, and even though the gods received their eternity from this beverage, mortal men could attain temporary ‘eternity’ by drinking the beverage too, allegorically meaning the joining with the God and Essence.

According to legend a riot arose between the gods. The god Shiva got involved in the formidable fighting and in one stroke divided the god Soma in two, which demonstrates the tradition of the sacred bull killing.

In other versions of the story, the gods decided to kill Soma. The god Wayuu ordered the execution and asked for help from Mithra-Varuna. Mithra refused to help and said, “I wish love, boon and affection to everybody.” But in the end Mithra agreed to participate in ritual killing to benefit from the sacrifice. After the killing they crushed Soma between two stones. It was Mithra’s responsibility to spill part of his Soma juice on the ground, from which the plants and the animals would germinate.

In pictures and sculptures of the bull sacrifice ritual, Mithra is often seen turning his face and eyes away, indicating the god’s rejection or distaste in completing this action. But the bull is the source of life, and the ritual is necessary.

Top Image: Marble relief carving of the God Mithra (Mithras) slaying the mystic bull. Source: Reimar /Adobe Stock

Unless otherwise noted, images courtesy Lilit Mkhitaryan.

By Lilit Mkhitaryan

References

Alishan Gh., “Ancient beliefs or heathen religion of Armenians”

Avdalbegyan T., “Mithra in Armenians, Armenological researches”

Topchyan B., “Mithraism”

Nersisyan H., “Pre-Christian Armenian Gods”

Comments

Hello Ms. Mkhitaryan,

That was truly fascinating article to read on the one hand; I consider this a Blessing from God to be able to read all of these intriguing articles by Ancient Origins.

I've began reading 2 particular Bible Books Enoch and Jubilees I'm starting to notice that a majority of these Articles including yours Ms. Mkhitaryan is giving a lot of Credit to Enoch and Jubilees.

I've come to learn so much from various articles alike.

Coming back to Mirtha I was making a point to study the description of him, that was given however, I noticed that the Romans carved out an image that he had two light bears' that lighted the path as he went, I also could see that the light bears resembled 2 boys who were either Mithras servants or His 2 Son's.

A 3rd Mirthas image portrays him suffocating a donkey or a horse for some reason? The last Mirtha image shows him standing alone all by himself, I couldn't find any quivers of Arrows behind his back. The Romans said that he was an skilled Archer and yet at the same time it appears that he also made use of a Trident. Which brings me to another question just how many deities ran around with Tridents?

When I was young and searched through our big family Bible, I always went directly to the pictures; I liked looking at the incredible miniature versions of those famous paintings in Europe that depicted Biblical Heroes and times of Infamy between The Pages of The Bible.

One picture that I can still remember is of the angel Lucifer the son of the morning star having landed on Earth after being kicked out from Heaven after, The War He Started because He wanted The Throne of God for himself. In the picture those Angels that fought alongside Lucifer were thrown out and landed on Earth as well. What stands out to me in this picture Lucifer has a Trident in his Hand it appears that it didn't work what a shock to him.

The description of Mirtha in Persia is different from The Romans picture perfect Mirtha in Persian present day Iran. Apparently, this Mirtha may have had the head of a Boar but a body of a Human. I admit I saw the updated version of Hell-Boy with thatvfreaky Boar head but, after reading Enoch's special passage "The Book of Giant's that idea doesn't seem so farfetched Bibilically speaking. The Bible for Me is A Book of The Impossible.

Anyone that reads a Sacred Book whether it be that of Buddhism, or Hinduism, or even Islam just to name a few and a person accepts the Things Made Known in that Book then that Individual is saying Yes I Believe in what This Sacred Text is teaching about then You of your own Free Will is saying Yes to the Impossible, That Impossible can take place.

In the manner after, The Bible I'm beginning my knowledge of Enoch, and Jubilees as a fledgling but, what I'm talking about is covered by Enoch and of course your probably wondering what I'm even speaking of?

Enoch makes reference to how 200 hundred Rebellious angels labeled as The Son's of God saw The Daughter's of Man...who were led by 10 Captain's over these 200 angels including,10 Lieutenant's who left their abode in Heaven came to Earth and polluted All of God's Creation.

So from humanity; by marrying Human Women to corrupting all thing's in nature on Earth; that had the "Breath of Life" in them, in a manner and a variety of ways one can not even imagine or would really want too.

Going back to that boar headed god who somehow was transferred into looking like and average human with one exception he was some kind of god. I can say where The Boar side came from but, that would be a hard pill to swallow.

Those 200, rebellious Angels are to blame for that.

What happened the angels began experimenting with the animal's both domestic and wild life altering their appearance their physical manifestations that would cause All of Us to runaway from Them because their appearance would so terrifying.

Look at the deities of Egypt how All but, 1 deity have the face and heads of animal's. I know the general conception is that they are something that didn't agree with their stomachs and wound up carving Anubus the Jackel god of embalming, Anukis probably his consort, Hermanubus messenger alike, Isis with wing's that quite possibly is that of falcon like wing's they were very popular birds in those days.

Then of course their is India with the half-elephant; Half-Human body then in Sumeria Lion headed deities, Fish like deities Half-fish, Half-Human Oranus, on the other hand Dagon actively worshipped by The Philistines back in Canaan.

The Events made known through Enoch Tells Me personally; that they did take place which means these half-animal Half-humans really walked The Earth. This is One of the reasons why The Early Christian Church Papal Rome and The Protestant Reformation Movement kicked Enoch, Jubilees, and another Bible Book Jasher that I neglected to mention These Biblical Piece scared the Living Daylights out of them and yet Papal Rome didn't mind using The Image of Satyrs and Fauna to say this is what Lucifer looks like nowadays because of Sin and that Sin is ugly looking.

Before I go I have 2 more Being's to discuss.

The First, a week back I checked in New to see what's been found and read about a temple that had been dug up by a team of archeologist in Turkey, which was once called Mesopotamia.

While reading on the temple it was dedicated to the god of war and his name was Ningirsu but, then I saw its figure etched in to the temple wall (for some reason reminded me of glass windows on churches with figures of angels imprinted in the glass), I made my screen bigger to make sure that I was seeing, what I was seeing sure enough there was no mistaking the tell-tell image of a human like figure with wing's.

Ms. Mkhitaryan Ningirsu is one of the 200 hundred Rebellious angels made mention in Enoch I don't doubt the fact that is his name I just think that's his last name his first name is Azazel.
In Accordance to Enoch Azazel introduced War to Mankind he taught men to make weapons for War and to Commit War.

Genesis Chapter 6 sums up Enoch's eyewitness report "Violence filled The Earth and all in Man's Heart was Evil" it was so bad on Earth that God was sorry He ever made Man.

This is an opinion on my part so it isn't coming from The Bible at least not yet; till I find a Scripture that backs my opinion. There wasn't any killing being done on Earth after Cain murdered His brother Abel Earth's inhabitants had that harsh lesson as and example when one is murdered unjustly. Then those Angels came along and changed Earth for The Worst not The Best. So Azazel Ningirsu was worshipped as the god of war. The other reason why I know he's a fallen angel.

Because in Heaven there are only 2 types of Angels that has wing's Cherubs and Seraphims. The Cherub's have 2 wing's some wing's resemble that of butterflies & moth's others Eagles and Falcons. So Azazel Ningirsu is an Cherub angel.

The second point that I wish to address is the Canaan deity baal. Baals name comes up many times throughout, The Bible.

So I've come to learn that Baal has many name's.

Names that I would classified as first name last, such as baal, baalek, baal-Cheroith, baal-peor, and elthabaal.

How can there be so many baals?

The name baal comes from Another angel out of the 200,

Baraquiel/Baal so Azazel taught war Baraquiel/baal had something to do with astrology, since he was relegated to the role as weather deity; not sure how the astrology comes' in to Play with weather.

Interesting I do know who baals human wife was asheroth where more familiar with her Greek name Hera. So asheroth/hera was married to Baraquiel/Jupiter/ Zeus. I think that baals/asheroth children was named after their Sire Baraquiel so there was baal-Cheroith, baal-peor, an Ethabaal, Chemosh, and finally Molech. Then again Molech is probably the name of another fallen angel.

So what I'm getting at now I know Mirtha, Azazel Ningirsu, baal and Asheroth alongside of their children baal-cheroith, baal-peor, and Ethabaal did live long ago and I believe it because The Bible Book's Enoch, Jubilees, and Jasher testified that these events took place.

So that's all I have to say Ms. Mkhitaryan about The Mirthas Article look forward to reading more.

I believe the bull is symbolic of the astrological age of Taurus.

What I find interesting is the reluctant sacrifice of the bull by Mithras. That would mean he was identified with what we call the stellar constellation Orion as he confronts nearby Taurus. I'm guessing, then, that the Pleiades would be symbolic of the blood or Ka of the slain Taurus.

perhaps the bull represents a prehistoric civilization which vanished in the "Great Flood" circa 9500BC. from the High Caucuses a new civilization would expand into the void through Anatolia
& the Levant & outward. The darkening of the heavens may refer to the eclipse which marked the event("Great Flood")

I thought Mithras was related to Apollo, the Roman Sun God that was worshipped by Constantine the great during the 4th Century BCE?

Moonsong's picture

There was no mention of the cult of Mithras in Italy – specifically in Rome. Last year I visited Rome and there were a couple of statues and shrines both in the catacombs beneath the city and in the suburban ancient ruin of Ostia Antica. Intersting to see how the cult of worship spread.

- Moonsong
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A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world ~ Oscar Wilde

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