Who was Mithris?
He was born on December 25th. He was known as the “son of god.” He was visited by three “wise men” at his birth. He was sacrificed and then resurrected. “He” was Mithris, a mysterious pagan entity worshiped by the Romans in a “mystery” cult.
Actually only that last statement is guaranteed true. The others? Maybe, maybe not. See, there’s a lot of overlapping that went on. The cult of Mithris, aka Mithras, had been around for a long time, but it was really blossoming at about the same time that Christianity was first catching fire, and one seems to have influenced the other, or they both influenced each other. Some modern critics, in an effort to discredit Christianity, have argued that it borrowed all its familiar tropes from the Mithris Cult, but this is demonstrably false. (In the 200s, Christian author Justin Martyr said it was the other way around, complaining that the worshipers of Mithris had started copying Christian ceremonies.) In actuality, very little is known today about the worship of Mithris, and little seems to have been known even then, save by the worshipers themselves.
The shadowy origins of Mithraism do mirror Christianity in one respect. The early Christians had to worship in secret, underground, often literally, to avoid detection. The worshipers of Mithris seem to have sought out this seclusion also, but not from necessity so much; rather because they just wanted their rites to remain secret. Considering how little we truly know about the cult, they were largely successful. It does seem that the cult was focused on the stars, astrological in nature, and favored by Roman soldiers.
If the Mithris initiates WERE copying the Christian Eucharist, were their practices of “eating the body” and “drinking the blood” of their god also merely symbolic? It’s tantalizing to imagine these guys, down in some dark cavern somewhere, drinking REAL blood. But it probably never happened. Or if it did, there’s no evidence to support it.
By the way, yes, the Mithras from the White Wolf vampire game is indeed based on Mithris, but he’s purely fictional. Sorry about that.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!