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Dadoukhoi: Torch Bearers

By Elani Temperance

[Snip] The cult of the Eleusinian mysteries is probably the best known mystery cult of ancient Hellas. We might not know a great deal about what, exactly, went on during the rites, but we know that for Athens–and far beyond–the nine day Eleusinia (Ἐλευσίνια) festival in honor of Demeter and Persephone was one of the most important of all times. I’ll tackle the Eleusinian mysteries in two weeks, when we get to the ‘E’s, but for now let me suffice in saying that the Eleusinian mysteries, which had festivals throughout the year, were tied to agriculture through Demeter’s refusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Theia while her daughter Persephone is with Hades, and to the afterlife and Underworld through Persephone’s return to the surface of the earth after her mandatory stay with Hades has ended.

One of the titles of the officiants within the Eleusinian mysteries was ‘Dadoukhos’ (Δᾳδοῦχος): torch bearer. They were ranked after Hierophants, and the office was inherited through several Athenian family lines. Torch bearers literally carried torches in processions, they oversaw the nighttime rituals, and represented several key moments in the mythology surrounding the Eleusinian mysteries.

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