The Dionysian Mysteries
Mycenaean—classical Greece, proto-Christianity.
The Mysteries date back to the time of Mycenaean Greece and were possibly derived from Minoan Crete, or from the Orphic Mysteries of Thrace.
'The city of Athens made the Dionysian Mysteries into a state celebration, possibly sometime in the sixth century BC,’ said Miranda. ‘Most of the wonderful plays that we have from classical Greece are from the Athenian City Dionysia and the Lenaea drama festivals of the fifth century BC. Plato was certainly aware of the Mysteries and expresses approval of them in his philosophical writings of the fourth century BC, but we don't know that much about them. In the Dionysian Mysteries, there was a High Priest and a High Priestess in Athens, with lesser priests and priestesses known as ‘keepers of cattle’ but not a lot more is known. The Mysteries date back to the time of Mycenaean Greece and were possibly derived from Minoan Crete, or from the Orphic Mysteries of Thrace. The name Dionysus appears in Mycenaean Linear B inscriptions from Pylos.'
'So both the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Dionysian Mysteries, collectively known as the Mysteries, can be traced back to the end of the Bronze Age?' mused Quintin. 'Dionysian from Bronze Age linear B inscriptions and Eleusinian from the date of the foundations of the initiation hall at Eleusis.'
'Bronze Age or even earlier,’ affirmed Miranda. ‘An online encyclopedia says that the basic ritual which accompanied the Dionysian Mysteries might have involved identification with the god Dionysus in a ritual enactment of his myth of life, death and resurrection, including some form of ordeal. This involved a ritual descent into the underworld, apparently often carried out in actual caverns.'
She looked up. 'Like the sacred caves in Crete, where:
Some cave sanctuaries were centres of worship well before the great temples were built in the towns... and have votive offerings found in them?'