Mithra

Persian god of redemption

Mithra is to become one of the most popular mystery-gods of the Roman world, but the cult did not begin to spread widely in the Roman world until later in the first century. It was introduced, however, early in the first century BCE by Cilician pirates captured during Pompey's campaigns in Asia (c. 67 BCE). As such, it is a possibility for characters who are from the Eastern regions of Asia or who have had some contact with the farther Eastern reaches of Parthia.

Mithra is a sun-god, often identified but at other times carefully distinguished from Sol. He is a mediator between humanity and the supreme good god, Ahura-Mazda, and the staunch enemy of the evil god Ahriman, the ruler of this world. Mithra is a clear case of the mediator supplanting the message, however—Ahura-Mazda remains in the background in the Mysteries. Mithra was born from a rock; his great act in life was the slaughter of a wild bull, Ahura-Mazda's first creation, from whose blood sprang corn and other life in the world. In the hunt of the bull, Mithra was led by a raven sent from the sun, and brought a hound with him.

The mystery-cult of Mithra is open only to men. Children of age seven or older can be initiated into the lower ranks of the hierarchy, the attendants or servitors. These three grades are corax (raven), nymphus (bridegroom), and miles (soldier). The four upper ranks of "participants" make up the priesthood: leo (lion), perses (Persian), heliodromus (courier of the sun), and pater (father). In game terms, priests may be initiated into the rank of perses at third level, heliodromus at sixth level, and pater at ninth level. The patres are the true priests, who preside over initiations and ritual meals; priests of lower levels are quite free from ritual duties since the "hierarchy" of the mysteries is actually quite loose.

Members of the mysteries gather periodically to share a ritual meal commemorating Mithra's slaughter of a primordial bull and the subsequent banquet he shared with the sun-god Sol. Small groups of no more than 100 meet in spelaea ("grottoes"), sharing a meal very much like a secular private organization in the Roman world. There is no supra-local authority beyond these small groups—certainly not at this early date.

See Encyclopedia Brittanica, sv. "Mithra"; Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas, vol. 2, §§217-218; Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire, pp. 47-49, 111-122

Alignment: Lawful Good

Symbol: Many symbols: zodiac, sun, chariot, sacrifice of bull, ladder, cave, sun and moon, seven planets, winds and seasons, lighted torch

Animal: Bull

Place of Worship: Caves or underground crypts (spelaea, "grottoes")

Holy Days: 25 December (birth), 2 October (commemoration of slaying of bull ?)

Goal and Purpose of the Faith: Salvation-oriented, like everything else in the Roman world. Mithra's slaying of the bull was both a creative/cosmological act, producing life on earth, and an eschatological one, anticipating the final "Renovation" of the world and hence the salvation of the initiates of the cult. Futher, the cult is very militant in its fight against evil.

Requirements of the Priesthood

Alignment: Priests must be lawful good.

Minimum Ability Scores: Wisdom 12, Strength 12. 

Either 16+ => +5% experience; both 16+ => +10%.

Races Allowed: Priests may be of any race except dwarven, and must be male.

Nonweapon and Weapon Proficiencies: Nonweapon Proficiencies Required: Astrology. Nonweapon Proficiencies Suggested: Religion. Weapon Proficiencies Required: Short bow. Nonweapon Proficiency Group Crossovers: Priest, General, Warrior.

Duties and Rights of the Priest: Guidance, inititation of mystes (as patres), vigilance against evil and missions to fight it. No extraordinary rights.

Restrictions and Limitations: Weapons Permitted: short bow, short sword, dagger, battleaxe, knife. Armor permitted: all armor and shields. Other Limitations: Chastity is required of patres. Priests must wear a Phrygian cap in public, and all initiates wear masks at ritual meals to indicate their grade. Priests (and laity of the rank of miles) are branded on the forehead. Extreme discipline, temperance, and morality are required. Absolute secrecy regarding the rites of initiation is required on oath of all initiates.

Spheres of Influence: Major Access to All, Astral, Combat, Elemental (Fire), Sun, War. Minor Access to Creation, Guardian, Law, Protection.

Powers: Turn undead. At third level, priests can detect evil at will, up to a 60' radius. At sixth level, the priest receives a +2 bonus to his saving throws against all fire-related spells. At ninth level, the saving throw is automatic.

Followers and Strongholds:

Relations:

Requirements of the Followers

Alignment: Lawful good.

Races Allowed: Any but dwarves. Only men may be initiated, though women can and do dedicate themselves to the god. 

Restrictions: See "other limitations" of priests. The cult has particular appeal to the underclasses of the Empire, though it is primarily spread through trade and by soldiers.


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