The sanctuary dedicated to the Kabeiroi, the Kabeirion as it was called,
was established on the cape of Chloi, exactly opposite the famous Kabeirion of
Samothrace. The Kabeirion
of Limnos was well known in
ancient times. Celebrations used to take place here till the early Christian period.
The cape is quite steep and so unapproachable to most people, to those who did
not have the right to participate in the mysterious celebrations. The high wall
which was built on the landward side made the sanctification area impossible to
reach. Telesteria and rooms used for initiations were constructed on two terraces.
Repositories accepted the rich offerings. The Kabeirian mysteries lasted 9 days.
During these 9 days all the fires were put out on the island and the sacred boat
sailed to Delos, which was
the island of Apollon, the god who was thought to be the god of light, in order
to bring the new light. Till the return of the ship, life on the island was rather
unnatural: People did not cook food and the family never sat altogether around
the table. They used to invoke the gods who where believed to live under the earth.
The day when the sacred ship arrived, bringing the light from Delos,
was a day of celebration. This light symbolised the new, purified bellow the Kabeirion
- were it is said to be Philoctetes cave - praying for a renovated life.
This text (extract) is cited June 2003 from the Lemnos Provincial Government tourist pamphlet (1997).
The religious ceremonies that were held in honor of the Kaveri were
called "Kaverian Sacraments" . They were held at the holy altar of the Kaveri
that was built at cape Chloe opposite of Ifestia. During the Hellenistic period
the worship of the Kaveri took international character and people from all over
the world came to the centers of worship like Lemnos, Samothrace and Thive.
Unlike the sacraments of Elefsis the initiations were free for men, women and children from all nationalities, free and slaves. The initiations were done when the group or the individual decided to appear to the gods and not only during the period of festivals. Something like the Christian baptism. The public ceremonies were almost similar to those of other sanctuaries. Therefore sacrifices of animals to the gods were done, prayers and dedications.
The main event was the festival of "porphyria", where the discovery of fire came to life and as tradition believes it was done in Lemnos. The trades-union of metalworkers played a specific role. They climbed the hill of Mosihlon where they lit a clean and "uninfected" flame with a copper object ie a copper mirror which they held opposite the sun, something like todays feeling of the Olympic flame.
After 175 BC when Lemnos became a member of Delos alliance, the new light was taken from the holy altar of Delos. For nine days they extinguished all the fires of the island and they sent a ship to Delos to bring the new light. During the waiting period, the people called upon the underground gods until the ship arrived and Ifestos triumphed.
This text is cited Jan 2004 from the Limnos Medical Association URL below.
Cabeiria (ta kabeiria). The mysterious rites of the Pelasgic gods known as the
Cabeiri, celebrated in the islands lying between Euboea and the Hellespont, in
Lemnos, Imbros, and especially in Samothrace. This worship was also known on the
adjacent coasts of Europe and Asia Minor, at Thebes and Andania in Greece, and,
according to Strabo (iv.), in an island near Britannia. Like the Elensinia, an
almost complete secrecy had been maintained as to the ceremonies and teaching
of these mysteries. Yet we know the names of the gods; and, from an examination
of the various forms under which we find them, Lenormant has been able to discover
what he calls a Cabeiric group. They are four in number, thus differing essentially
from the Phoenician Kabirim, who, as their Semitic name shows, are also "great
gods", but are eight in number, representing the planets and the universe
formed from their union. The names of the Samothracian Cabeiri, as revealed by
Mnaseas of Patara and Dionysodorus, two historians of the Alexandrian Age, are
Axieros (=Demeter), Axiokersa (=Persephone), Axiokersos (=Hades), Casmilos (=Hermes).
Sometimes the two goddesses blend in one, viz. Earth (Varro, L. L. v. 58); sometimes
as Aphrodite and Venus; but to most of the Romans they represent Juno and Minerva
( Serv. ad Verg. Aen.iii. 12). Axiokersos appears further as Zeus, Uranus, Iupiter,
Apollo, Dionysus-Liber; and Casmilos as Mercurius or Eros. The group is a primal
mother goddess, whose issue are two divinities, a male and a female, from whom
again springs a fourth, Casmilos, the orderer of the universe.
Herodotus (ii. 51) is the first historian who mentions them. Though known while Athens was flourishing (Aristoph. Pax, 277), it was not till Alexandrian times that they really became famous. During this period Samothrace was a sort of sacred island, as it was under the Roman dominion, for the idea was prevalent that the Penates (Serv. ad Verg. Aen.ii. 325 Verg. Aen., iii. 12Verg. Aen., viii. 619) were identical with the gods of Samothrace. Legend told how that Dardanus, Eetion, or Iasion, and Harmonia, wife of Cadmus, were children of Electra and Zeus; that Iasion was given the mysteries by Zeus, married Cybele, and begat Corybas; and after Iasion was received among the gods, Dardanus, Cybele, and Corybas brought the mysteries to Asia. The legends vary in details, but almost all agree in making Dardanus and Iasion sons of Zeus and Electra, and connecting the Samothracian mysteries with them. It is to be remarked, in passing, that, while legend brought the mysteries from Samothrace to Asia, there can be hardly any doubt that the passage was the other way (cf. Strabo, x. 472); for the whole tenor of the worship is Asiatic. We have many inscriptions of Romans who were initiated (C. I. L. iii. 713-721), and we hear besides of other Romans of high position who were initiated, among them probably Cicero (Nat. Deor. i. 42, 119). Throughout the Roman period the Cabeiric mysteries were held in high estimation, second only to the Eleusinian, and they were still in existence in the time of Libanius.
From the earliest times, the Pelasgi are said to have sacrificed a tenth of their produce to the Cabeiri in order to be preserved from famine. The chief priest was probably the hierophantes mentioned by Galen (iii. 576); and the purifying priest koes or koies. The basileus of the inscriptions was the highest eponymous magistrate of Samothrace. As in all mysteries, the votary must be purified in body and mind before initiation; and thus we have some evidence of auricular confession. But, as far as we know, there was not any special preparatory intellectual training required. Women and children appear to have been admitted as well as men. Of the religious ceremonies themselves we may say we know nothing. They consisted of dromena kai legomena. We hear of dances by the pii Samothraces, and the priests who executed these dances were called Saoi (?). The Romans, who traced their Penates to Samothrace, referred their Salii to these Saoi. There were two classes of votaries-- the mustai and the mustai eusebeis, mystae pii--the latter being apparently those initiated for the first time. In the Samothracian mysteries, sacra accipere (paralambanein ta musteria), which is the regular phrase for primary initiation, seems to be applied to the higher grades. But the whole matter is quite obscure and unsettled.
The scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius tells us that the initiated wore a purple band (tainia) round their waist (which reminds us of the Brahminical thread); that Agamemnon quelled a mutiny of the Greeks by wearing one; and that Odysseus, who wore a fillet for the band, was miraculously saved in shipwreck. Preservation in times of peril, and especially in perils on the sea, was the chief service that the Cabeiri were supposed to render to those who called on them by name, and none knew their names except the initiated. It was the electric fires of the Cabeiri that, according to the legend, lighted on the heads of the Dioscuri during the Argonautic voyage. Diodorus further says, in the course of an important discussion on the Cabeiri (v. 47-49), that those who were initiated became more pious, more righteous, and in every respect better than they were before. On the basis of this, Lenormant thinks it probable that the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future life was inculcated, though, with Lobeck, we may well suppose that no more is necessarily implied than the impulse to virtue, which is always united with religious emotion excited by impressive and gracious ceremonies (Cf. Apoll. Rhod. i. 917).
The initiations at Samothrace took place at any time from May to September, in this differing from the Eleusinian and more resembling the Orphic Mysteries. There appears, however, to have been a specially great ceremony at the commencement of August ( Lucull. 13).
From the manner in which Cicero speaks of the Samothracian mysteries in the passage already cited, it is probable that he was initiated. He says of their ceremonies, quibus explicatis ad rationemque revocatis, rerum magis natura cognoscitur quam deorum. And the Cabeiri themselves do appear to be symbols of the creation of the world. From the primeval mother emanate or differentiate themselves two elements--matter (earth) and force (especially fire, celestial and terrestrial). Indeed, the name Cabeiri appears to mean "the Burners", from kaiein, and by the action of the former on the latter the ordered world is generated. The etymological identity of the Pelasgian with the Phoenician Cabeiri is doubted by Lenormant; the name of the latter being from a Semitic root, which in Arabic appears as kebir, "great". Many hold that all the ceremonies of the Cabeiri, and those of the other mysteries, were pure inventions of the priests, nothing more than mere stories about gods. The reader, with regard to this phase of the subject, is referred to the article Mysteria.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Sep 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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